“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor,
When Jesus began his famous sermon on the mount, the Bible says that he was talking to his disciples - in other words - his followers (Matthew 5:1). These words were geared specifically for those who had given up everything to follow him, and they still apply to his disciples today.
Have you ever wondered why the people in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth got so angry with him over a few little words? He had just finished reading the following to them:
“The spirit of the L-rd GOD is upon me; because HaShem hath anointed me to bring good tidings unto the humble; He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the eyes to them that are bound; To proclaim the year of HaShem’s good pleasure” (Isaiah 61:1, 2, JPS).
Now here is the interesting thing about these verses: In the Tanakh, the verses above are similar to what Jesus would have initially read. But in the Christian Bible, a few words are changed, and added, which I have highlighted:
I want to take you on a journey today of how events might have transpired after Jesus’ time in the wilderness. One of the things I like to do when reading the Gospels is to open them all up on Biblegateway.com in different tabs. That way I can get a complete picture of events as they transpired. After Jesus had defeated Satan in the wilderness, for example, we get a full picture of what He did next.
Did you ever notice what Jesus filled up on before he went into the wilderness for forty days? For that matter, did you notice why he went into the wilderness? In Luke 4:1 we get the answers to both of these questions:
Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.
Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit before he went into the wilderness and it was this same Holy Spirit who then led him into the wilderness. How interesting, don’t you think? Without the Holy Spirit, he would have succumbed to Satan’s temptations. Yet without the Holy Spirit, he would not have felt compelled to go into the wilderness in the first place.
When John the Baptist came on the scene encouraging people to repent of their sins and be baptized he was like a throw-back to the prophets of old. The people of Israel had not seen a prophet like John in over 400 years, and suddenly there he was preaching repentance with baptism and announcing that “someone” was coming whose sandals he was unworthy to untie (John 1:27). Servants would untie the sandals of anyone entering a home, to wash their feet of dust. John placed himself lower than a servant and yet every one of the four Gospels begins their account of Jesus’ life with John’s testimony. Jesus said of him, “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11, NKJV).
Read Ephesians 3:1-21
Paul talks about a "mystery" in Ephesians three which was revealed to him and the other apostles and prophets of that time, that was hidden from the "sons of men" (children of Israel) that went before them. The mystery of course was that the Gentiles (all those who weren't Jewish) would now, because of Christ, be partakers in the same blessings God had promised the Jews (Ephesians 3:6-7). In Ephesians chapter two, Paul goes into great detail on what that unity for humanity now meant.
Paul believed (and rightly so) that he was called specifically to preach this message of unity to all Gentiles (Ephesians 3:8). This was a unique ministry for him in particular, because he was formerly a very religious, dogmatic Jew. Clearly, his experience of meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus changed his life forever. God had taken the most unlikliest of men to preach a new message of redepemption that was now inclusive. No one was left out of God's plan for humanity. All were now given the same opportunities, the same blessings, the same promises as the Jews. This was the mystery of Christ that was revealed to Paul and the other apostles.
Paul also believed that the mystery of Christ was something that, when accepted, created a unique fellowship or community of believers, who then had a specific responsibility to make the mystery known. Some have implied that Ephesians 3:10 means the church has authority over "rulers and authorities" in heavenly places. But a careful examination of the text reveals something far different. And we also discover once again, how the NIV has distorted scripture. This is what Ephesians 3:10 says in the KJV:
To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
This is how the NIV translates Ephesians 3:10:
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.
You can see how the NIV has added words to the text and twisted them to mean something that seems to imply that the church is making the wisdom of God known to "spiritual" beings in the heavenly places. This is just not so and it is inconsistent with the surrounding text.
The word for "principalities" that Paul used is archē which means "a beginning" and the word used for "powers" is exousia and means "authority". In other words, what Paul is saying here is that the manifold wisdom of God that begins and has authority in the heavenly places is now made known to the church. For anyone to translate this as to mean that now the church was teaching heavenly beings or had power over them, would be inconsistent with what Paul has written so far in this letter. For he is trying to stress to the Gentiles the privileges they (all believers) now have in Christ. Imagine! Because of Jesus, we have access not only to God, but He reveals His wisdom and shares it with us. How? Through His Holy Spirit! 1 Corinthians 2:7-16 further illustrates this point. The mystery of God is that we, through His Holy Spirit, now have the mind of Christ, and with that comes knowledge and wisdom to discern Scripture and have deep truths revealed to us, which those without the Holy Spirit are not privy to.
And so Paul ends Ephesians three with a heartfelt prayer for the Ephesians that we can all take to heart - that God would strengthen them, through His Holy Spirit. That Christ would dwell in their hearts through faith and that they would be rooted and grounded in love, able to comprehend the extent of God's love for them and to know the love of Christ, so that they may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:14-19). And through the mystery of His Holy Spirit we are all united with the same purpose - to grow in faith and in service to Jesus Christ our Lord.
Read Ephesians 2:11-18
Last Monday we learned through Paul's letter to the Ephesians who we are in Christ and that trying to "work" our way into heaven is a futile task, for our salvation is secured through faith and God's grace alone, not by works.
Paul has driven home the point to the Ephesians who they were in Christ and who they are now. He calls them Gentiles, which in the Old Testament meant anyone who was not Jewish. Which, by implication, meant they were a heathen or pagan nation who did not worship the one true God. Paul used the term "Gentile" with the Ephesians to distinguish between Jews who had converted to Christianity and pagans who had converted to Christianity. It was the pagans (Gentiles) who had the hardest time believing that God would just accept them without them doing something in return. After Paulmakes it clear they were saved through faith he then goes on to remind them how both Jews and Christians are now united because of Jesus.
Paul explains that the promises of the covenant God made with the Jews, now also, because of Jesus, were promises extended to Gentiles as well. But, while the Jews were seen as a holy nation, set apart by God as His prized possession (Exodus 19: 5-6) they still had the same problems the Gentiles had - they continually sinned against God. They needed a Saviour! So Jesus became the mediator for both Jew and Gentile. Jesus, as Paul says, broke the dividing wall between the two groups (Ephesians 2:14) so that the two would become one in Him. And it is through Jesus that we are made whole again, reconciled to God and have His Holy Spirit living within us. Through Jesus we all have access to God. And because His Holy Spirit is available to all, we are united as we grow into a kingdom of priests for God. Imagine the possibilities! The world would actually know peace! This is why it is so important for those of us who know Jesus to share Him with as many people as possible. So that His kindgom will come! And we who believe and trust in Jesus Christ will become a holy nation dedicated in service to the one true God. Come Lord Jesus come!
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22, NKJV).
Read Matthew 5:27-32
Continuing on with Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, today we look at what Jesus had to say about adultery and some of the strange things he said in regards to that topic.
It is interesting to note that when you look up the word "adultery" in Strong's Concordance you get the standard definition of the word which is "to have unlawful intercourse with another's wife". But you also get this definition, "A Hebrew idiom, the word is used of those who at a woman's solicitation are drawn away to idolatry, i.e. to the eating of things sacrificed to idols."
So what did Jesus say about adultery in general? Like he did with anger, he looks at the intent of the heart. As he did with anger when he equated it as being the same as murder, he says that when a man looks lustfully at a woman it is the same as committing adultery with her. The intent of the heart is what is looked at here and to drive that point home Jesus added the following:
"If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell" (Matthew 5:29-30, NKJV).
So did Jesus literally mean that he wants us to pluck out and cut off our body parts? Not at all! Jesus is using the eye and the hand as a metaphor for how dangerous it is to give into the sin of adultery. What Jesus implies is that if your right eye is infected with disease then the logical thing to do would be to pluck it out. Likewise, if your hand is diseased and it is spreading the logical thing to do would be to cut it off. His point is not that one should literally pluck out their eye, or cut off their hand but that one should recognize that the source of lust comes from within the mind and heart of man, not from the physical organ itself. It is when we allow those lustful thoughts to fester that they grow and are acted on, thus resulting in sin. Jesus is teaching that men and women need to bring their lust under the control of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus goes on to discuss divorce and how the sin of the heart (wanting what it can't or shouldn't have) results in adultery. In fact, he stressed that those who are married should never divorce unless the sin of sexual immorality (fornication) is present. I talked about the meaning behind fornication in another post and why it was so important to abstain from it. The point is clear, lust begins in the mind or flesh (as does all sin) and weaves its way into the heart, infecting the whole body. Once the mind begins to make excuses for why it's okay to sin, then it has no trouble convincing the heart of following through. God looks at the intent of our hearts (Jeremiah 17:9-10), so if we do not bring our desires under the total control of the Holy Spirit then we are allowing sin to reign in our lives and ultimately saying to God, "I don't want to be obedient to you. You are no longer in charge of my life." And God will do as you ask and leave you to your own desires (Romans 1:24-25; Psalm 81:11-12). This is why we are told time and time again in scripture to run from sin because it destroys not just your relationship with God, but in the case of adultery, it destroys whole families. This is why Jesus put it so bluntly, because in the end it would be better to lose a limb than to see the destruction the sin of adultery can wreak.
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