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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Day 49: Matthew 21:23-46 & Psalm 50 - What Sin is Worse than the Fear of Man?

Today's Reading: Matthew 21:23-46 & Psalm 50

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What Sin is Worse than the Fear of Man?

"And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds,
because they held him to be 
a prophet." - Matthew 21:46

The Bible warns us against the fear of man for good reason. The fear of man can paralyze us from doing what is right and honoring God because we're afraid of the opinions, words or potential actions of others. When we allow the opinions and even the threats of other shape our actions, we are serving people and not God. That is definitely sin and is a serious potential snare for all of us.

And yet there is even something worse than the fear of man, and the chief priests and the Pharisees display this graver sin in today's passage. In fact, in this passage, this other sin is so serious and so deadly that it is the sinful fear of man that restrains the religious leaders from sinning worse. It is the fear of man that keeps them from openly condemning John the Baptist as a false prophet and from openly arresting Jesus. When fear of man is a protection, you know you're dealing with a serious sin.

So what was their sin? Spiritual pride. 

The chief priests and Pharisees thought they had all the right answers, the right methods and the right to rule God's people. They sought to use their positions within the community of God's people to serve themselves, to enrich their personal fortunes and to advance their social standing.

Two days ago, we discussed what it takes to be great in God's kingdom. We saw then that worldly models of leadership and self-centered definitions of greatness are completely out-of-keeping with God's kingdom. We also observed that the church has repeatedly failed to seek leaders according to God's definition.  Today, we see in these passages the danger of leading out of spiritual pride.

The spiritual pride of the religious leaders kept them from bowing their knees to worship Jesus and receive eternal life. It condemned them, as God gave them what they wanted. When we are living out of spiritual pride, the worst thing that can happen to us is for us God to give us what we want. We will reject what is good for us and greedily choose what will ultimately destroy us. 

Heavenly Father, forgive us for our pride, for thinking too highly of ourselves. Keep our hearts from the deadly grip of spiritual pride and grant us humility before You instead. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Prayer Based on Psalm 50:

Psalm 50 is a psalm in the form of a covenant lawsuit, in which God summons His people to bring charges against them. He brings charges against two groups of people who have forgotten God: 

1. Those who are His children but who are just going through the religious motions and not truly thanking God from the heart. (vv. 12-15)
2. Those who lived among His people and called themselves His but who were wicked and hated discipline and were living in open rebellion against Him. (vv. 16-18)

It is not clear exactly which sins put someone in category #1 vs. category #2, but this much is clear: When God calls us to repent and charges us with a lack of thanksgiving, the right way to pray this psalm is to repent and to give thanks.

Heavenly Father, we know our hearts too well. We are sick with the thought of how quickly we forget You. We see the lack of thanksgiving in our hearts. We know our own inclination toward sinful rebellion. We confess to You that we do not remember You, do not honor You, do not thank You and do not obey You as we should.

Father, please forgive our sin. Please have mercy on our forgetfulness of You. Forgive our desire for rebellion and our resistance to thanksgiving.

Thank You for being our God. You have created us and You sustain us. You bless us with life and every amount of goodness and pleasure and delight we enjoy is life is a loving gift of Your grace: beautiful spring weather, good food, music, family, flowers blooming, laughter and more. Thank You for all of it! Thank You most of all for Your Son, who is everything we truly need and is our souls' satisfaction. Let us rest contented, delighted, grateful in You. We praise You. Give us the grace to never forget You. In Jesus' name, Amen.    

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