Call to Action

Matthew 7

matt 7 24

I have been taught that a good speech should always end with a call to action.  What this is depends on the type of speech.  A speech given by an election candidate will usually end by telling people they need to vote.  A product placement speech or demonstration will end with a way to buy the product.  Often a sermon will end with a life application.

As we look at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, we see that Jesus ends with a call to action.  He has given us some other actions to take throughout this passage, but let’s look at this final section and see how we should respond to this sermon.

Let’s start by looking at Matthew 7:21-23:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, an in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

So, making the assumption that the goal is to be in the kingdom, Jesus says our action is to do the will of God.  This is obviously more than actions that we do.  Many times in chapters 5-7, Jesus talks about our thoughts, attitudes, and reasons for doing things being as important as the actions we take.

Jesus continues in verse 24 by saying, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.”  Again, the key here is to act on the words that Jesus has spoken.

The call to action is to put all the things that Jesus taught into action, which includes our thoughts and attitudes.  I encourage you to spend some more time reading through Matthew 5-7, and reflect upon seeking God, his righteousness, and his kingdom.  As we seek these more, the actions will follow.

-Andrew Hamilton

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Worry

Matthew 6

matt 6 27

I worry about things.  Big things or little things, or sometimes nothing at all.  As I mentioned in a previous devotion this week, I have a plan for things.  When things don’t go according to plan, I stress out, and at times let my worry and anxiety take over.  In the last week or so, I have had a series of issues with my house that have really caused me to worry.  First our freezer broke.  Then something caused our propane tank to go from 30% full to empty very quickly.  Then the heat for our house started having problems.  I have been extremely anxious over all of these problems.  So, when reading over Matthew 6 and trying to decide what to write about, I thought that the section I needed to learn from was the section on worrying.

So, what I am writing today is aimed at myself, and I hope you can also gain something from it.

In Matthew 6:25, Jesus tells us:

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

He then compares us to the birds, to lilies, and to grass. God takes care of all of these items, and we are so much more valuable to God than these things.  Yet, we worry about these things, and try to handle them all on our own.

What good does worrying do us?  Worrying makes it hard to sleep.  It makes it hard to concentrate.  It makes us irritable and upset.  It can give us ulcers.  I can’t think of one thing that worrying actually accomplishes, but I can come up with a whole list of things it hinders.  Verse 27 sums this up nicely.  “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?”  In fact, worrying can only decrease hours in our life.

I think we all know that worrying is bad, and that we should trust in God more and release our problems to him.  I know it, and yet I still struggle with this frequently.  So, what do we do?

Jesus sums this section up with two verses, 33 and 34:

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

I often hear each of these verses talked about individually.  I don’t remember ever looking at them together.  However, they are together.  If we seek the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, all the things we worry about will be handled in God’s perfect method as well.  If we focus on God, we do not need to worry about all the other stuff.

So, I am not going to encourage you to stop worrying, because I don’t think that is the answer.  I encourage you to seek the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness.  Seek it fervently so that you do not have time or room in your life for worry.   This ties back to Matthew 5:6, earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”  Hunger and thirst for righteousness….I believe this is the cure for worry.

-Andrew Hamilton

Knowing Scripture

Matthew 4

Matt 4 4

It always impresses me when someone can quote scripture that is appropriate to the situation at hand, especially when they can quote it word for word, and know the reference.  Being impressed isn’t really because of their knowledge, but because if they can quote exactly what is in scripture, and tell me where to look it up and get more information means that I can know the truth from the Bible.

In Matthew 4, Jesus has spent 40 days and 40 nights fasting.  I think that would make it very difficult to remember anything clearly.  However, when tempted, Jesus is able to quote the necessary scripture to answer the temptations brought to him by the tempter.  When tempted with food, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”  For each of the other temptations, Jesus again quotes Old Testament scripture that answers the temptation directly.  Because of these answers, the devil leaves Jesus.

How awesome is the power of scripture.  We can rebuff temptation with scripture in the same way Jesus did.  However, it requires us to know scripture, to memorize it.

I often find myself being able to paraphrase things, and maybe being able to get somewhere close to where it is found.  If given time, I can find it.  While this is helpful, it often falls short of what I need.  When I am having a difficult time, or trying to help someone, it is frustrating not being able to find the verses needed to help with the problem.

I encourage you to learn and memorize scripture.  Jesus is our example, and he knew the scriptures.  We should all follow that example.

-Andrew Hamilton

 

John the Baptist

Matthew 3

Matt 3 3

Matthew 3 revolves around John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus.  He was sent to prepare people for Jesus.  Jesus’s ministry was really radical when compared to what had been taught previously.  We will see more of that in future chapters.  John started that radical teaching here.

First though, we are introduced to John the Baptist and then in verse 3 we read a prophecy from Isaiah.

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
‘Make ready the way of the Lord,
Make His paths straight!’”

Again, this would have probably been a prophecy taught about the coming Messiah, and so the Jewish people of the time would need to see how this is fulfilled to believe Jesus was their Messiah. Obviously, a lot of them still did not believe, but for the ones that did, they needed to see each of these prophecies fulfilled.

John was baptizing people as they confessed their sins.  There are some similarities between baptism and some of the ritual cleansing listed in the old testament.  However, even with that, this was a huge departure from what people had ever done before.   Never before had people come to an individual, and not even a priest, to confess sins and then be immersed in the water.

In verse 7 we see that even Pharisees and Sadducees were coming for baptism.  I have no idea why they would have wanted to be baptized, and in the little bit of searching I did, could not find an explanation.  No matter the reason, we see John call them a brood of vipers, and warn them of what Jesus is going to do.  This is the first confrontation we see with the Pharisees or Sadducees, and it sets up what we can expect between them and Jesus.

The end of the chapter, starting in verse 13 shows us the baptism of Jesus.  Jesus comes to John to be baptized.  John does not feel worthy to baptize Jesus, but I think does it out of obedience.  He recognized the authority of Jesus and that it is necessary to obey Jesus’s requests.

Verses 16 and 17 show a super natural acknowledgement of who Jesus is from God.

After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and [i]he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and[j]lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is [k]My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

If anyone present had any doubts before that, this should have erased them.  However, it seems like the Pharisees and Sadducees were probably still there, and as a whole, they did not believe.

What does it take for us to believe?  We have the whole Bible and know the beginning, middle, and end of the story.  This should be an easy answer for us with everything we know.  So, if we believe, are we being like John the Baptist?  Are we a forerunner for Jesus to people who don’t know him?  Are we preparing the way for people to come to know Jesus?

-Andrew Hamilton

Obeying Immediately and Without Questions

Matthew 2

Matt 2 14

How do you deal with situations where you have to completely change what you had planned?  I always think I have a long term plan for my life.  When it doesn’t work out, or I have to change something, I don’t always deal well with it.

I want to look at how Joseph reacts to some very difficult situations.  I am going to jump back to Matthew chapter 1 for the first example.  Joseph found out Mary was pregnant and planned to divorce her quietly.  Then, he is visited by an angel, and was told in Matthew 1:21-22, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a Son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”  So, first Joseph plans to marry Mary.  Then, when she is pregnant, he plans to divorce her quietly.  So, his plans have already been messed up once before being visited by the angel.  He is given a message from God.  How does he react?  By everything we see in scripture, it appears Joseph just listened to what God told him through the angel, and accepted it.  That is amazing faith and obedience.

The second example is after the visit from the magi.  This was probably one to two years later.  We don’t have any real information about the life of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus during this time, but most likely they had settled into a routine and things were fairly normal.  Then, after the Magi visit, Joseph receives another message from an angel. Matthew 2:13 record this message to Joseph, “Get up!  Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.”  Again, his reaction was swift and decisive.  Matthew 2:14 says, “So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt.”  He didn’t even wait till morning but left immediately.

Then, sometime later, an angel appeared to Joseph a third time.  This time he was told, “Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead” in Matt 2:20.  So, he went back to Israel, but because he was warned in a dream, they went to Nazareth.  Again, there are no signs of questioning, just doing what he was told.

I have never been spoken to by an angel, so I don’t know how I would react in that situation.  However, I have received direction from God in some pretty clear ways.  I questioned what I was being told because it did not fit into my plans.  So, I know that this immediate obedience is extremely difficult, but when we put all our trust in God, it is possible.

-Andrew Hamilton

Know Your Audience

Matt 1 22

Matthew Chapter 1

I remember in high school English classes the teachers talking about knowing your audience.  I really enjoyed math and science classes, but English and literature classes were a different story.  I really didn’t like figuring out the audience, the theme, symbolism, etc.  However, I now know that in at least some cases, the teachers were correct.  You gain a lot of extra understanding when you know the primary audience for a book.  I say primary audience in this case because I firmly believe that all of the Bible was written to everyone who will take the time to read it or listen to it.  However, the author had a primary audience they were writing to at the time.

Each gospel was written for a different primary audience.  Matthew was writing to the Jews who had a good knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures.  They would have learned the prophecies regarding the Messiah and were looking towards the fulfillment of those prophecies.

The first chapter of Matthew starts with the genealogy of Jesus.  This is the first step to showing that Jesus is the Messiah they are looking for.  Several prophecies are fulfilled in this.  The first is that the Messiah is a seed of Abraham (Gen 22:18).  The Messiah is a descendent of Isaac (Gen 21:12) and a descendent of Jacob (Num 24:17), and a descendent of Judah (Gen 49:10).  Then, skipping a few generations, the Messiah is from the line of Jesse (Isaiah 11:10) and David (Jeremiah 23:5).  All of these names are listed in the genealogy of Jesus recorded in the first seventeen verses of Matthew.

They may not have each known every one of these prophecies, but the people who first read or heard the gospel of Matthew probably knew at least some of them.

After we finish looking at the genealogy, Matthew moves on to the birth of Jesus.  Compared to the gospel of Luke (which was written primarily to the Greeks), the account of the birth of Jesus is very brief.  Why would this be?  It goes back to the primary audience, and what was necessary to show Jesus is their Messiah.

Matthew basically tells that Mary was going to have a baby, Joseph was told about it and listened to what an angel said to him, and Mary remained a virgin until Jesus was born.  Matthew then quotes an Old Testament prophecy from Isaiah 7:14 in Matthew 1:23: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.”

We can read scripture and learn tons without understanding who the primary audience was at the time each book was written.  However, understanding the audience, culture, etc., can add a whole new dimension to our understanding.

-Andrew Hamilton