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Current study: Spiritual Warfare

13 October 2012

Week 41 - Thursday and Friday

October 11
     Matthew 8:5-13; 11:1-30
     Luke 7
October 12
     Matthew 12:22-50
     Mark 3:22-35
     Luke 8:19-21; 11:14-54

The more I reread Jesus’ story, the more amazed I am that people didn’t recognize Him. How could they see all His miracles and not believe? But Jesus tells us that others will come who are not Him, and people will believe on that person. Even His family thought He was crazy. Wow!

The story of the Centurion’s servant is very interesting. First of all, it’s unusual for a ruling person to care so much about the people under him, but in that time it was unexpected to see a Gentile concerned about his Jewish subjects. Part of the reason the Centurion told Jesus not to come to his house is that he recognized it would render Jesus ceremonially unclean. As Jesus said, it was his astounding faith that caused Jesus to heal. Have you noticed that Jesus healed through the faith of the sick person or those who cared about them? Jesus wasn’t looking for money, or for fame. He wanted to help those who came to Him humbly, trusting that He could do what He promised.  And when He healed the widow’s son, the people acknowledged that God had visited His people. This didn’t sit well with the Scribes and Pharisees, who saw Jesus as a rogue preacher who was upsetting their legalistic system.

I find it interesting to note that Jesus acquiesced to the Centurion’s request that He not come to his home, but when He healed the widow’s son, He touched the coffin. For the Centurion, Jesus showed that as God He was capable of healing from a distance (Psalm 107:20), but for the widow, Jesus showed His compassion by His physical touch. Touching any part of a dead person led to ceremonial defilement (Leviticus 21:11), but Jesus (our High Priest) was unafraid to touch. His very touch swiped away the death and defilement of the widow’s son, just like His death and resurrection sweeps away defilement for those who believe on Him.

John the Baptist was in prison, but his followers told him of Jesus’ activities. John sent a contingent to Jesus to ask if He was the One. Jesus didn’t answer directly, but instead showed His power by healing. He then told John’s disciples to go and tell what you have seen. Jesus was demonstrating that He was the One prophesied in Isaiah 35:5-6 and 61:1 (this was the Scripture Jesus partially read in the temple),

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn. Isaiah 61:1-2 (ESV)

among other places.  Jesus also made sure to let the people know that John the Baptist was the one that Malachi spoke of:

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.  Mal 3:1 (ESV)

The Pharisees, who should have known better, became jealous of Jesus and accused Him of blasphemy. Imagine – the “pastors” of the day, who had the benefit of extensive theological training, didn’t understand their own Scripture and refused to acknowledge Jesus as Messiah. We see that today in some of the “liberal” churches who say that Jesus was a man and deny His virgin birth and Godhood.

The alabaster jar is a beautiful picture of true repentance and forgiveness. It’s not about the cost of the jar, because God doesn’t put a price on salvation. The only way this woman could think of to show Jesus that she was repentant was to anoint Him with a jar of costly oil. Simon, embarrassed because he thought Jesus was clueless as to the woman’s occupation, made sure that He was aware. Jesus rebuked Simon, telling him that the woman offered Him the courtesies Simon refused. Jesus was contrasting Simon’s hard heart and legalism with the woman’s sorrow and honesty. It made me stop to think about my attitude toward people who are … not as pleasant … as others. If an unwashed, or drunk, or influenced by drugs, or other “not so nice” person walked into my church, would I legalistically look away and pretend they weren’t there so I wouldn’t have to soil my hands? Would I want them to sit in the back where they wouldn’t be seen? Or would I show compassion to them and welcome them into the family, just as Jesus welcomed this prostitute, if they are seeking a new life?

I know of two churches in our local area. Both are large and well known. I know both of these incidents from personal experience.

In one instance, a person came to the church seeking to know more about God, but this person was wearing a t-shirt with an inappropriate message. The ushers in the church seated this person in the back and made it known through their actions that this person was not properly dressed. This person left the church, saying that the church was hypocritical.

In another instance, a person came to the church seeking to know more about God, but this person had purple spiked hair, dressed in “goth”, wearing black lipstick, etc. this person walked up to the front to sit. After the singing, the entire worship team and assistant pastors sat near this person. This happened week after week, and finally this person was loved into the kingdom.

Which church was more like Simon, and which more like Jesus?

We’ve all heard the phrase blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and many people worry that as Christians they can fall into that sin. What is this unpardonable sin? John MacArthur puts it this way:

Even a Pharisee such as Saul of Tarsus could be forgiven for speaking “against the Son of Man” or persecuting His followers, because his unbelief stemmed from ignorance (1 Tim. 1:13). But those who know His claims are true and reject Him anyway sin “against the Holy Spirit” because it is the Holy Spirit who testifies of Christ and makes His truth known to us (John 15:26, 16:14, 15).

The only unpardonable sin is rejection of Christ! What a relief that is for people who think that God can’t possibly save them because they have been so terrible. God will forgive anything – except a failure to accept the free gift of salvation through Christ Jesus.

Jesus really riled up the Scribes and Pharisees when He called them to task about their legalism. They were happy to look religious on the outside, but Jesus saw their hearts and told them that they needed to be clean on the inside. They didn’t like that (and we don’t like that either!) There was much muttering and plots to get rid of this person who was upsetting the religious balance.

I want to leave you this week with one verse as we ponder Jesus’ message to the Pharisees. He wanted them to turn from their legalistic religiosity and become clean inside. I pray that you have done that – have you accepted God’s free gift of salvation? If you have not, or if you’re not sure, talk to a pastor or send me an email. It’s the most critical decision of your life. Jesus plainly tells how to be blessed:

“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Luke 11:28 (ESV)

As always, I look forward to hearing your comments and insights. We’re less than 100 days away from finishing our challenge. Hard to believe the year is nearly gone. I pray that when you reflect on this year, a highlight is taking the time to read the entire Bible.

See you next week.

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