Perception (Matthew 12:42)

‘The Visit of the Queen of Sheba’ by Sir Edward John Poytner, Photo by Wikipedia Commons

Jesus has accused the Pharisees and teachers of the law of leading a wicked  and  adulterous generation. To drive home His point, He used the example of Nineveh. The people of Nineveh had repented when Jonah preached to them. But now someone far, far greater than Jonah was present, and yet the people were rejecting Him. Jesus summarizes that tragic reality with a prophetic word, “The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.” 

The Pharisees and teachers of the law could not miss that point. They well knew what 1Kings 10 records, “When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relation to the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions. Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan—with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones—she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind. Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her. When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the Lord, she was overwhelmed. 

She said to the king, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard. How happy your men must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Praise be to the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king, to maintain justice and righteousness.” 

Even the spiritually blind Pharisees would’ve made a series of realizations from that Scripture. Firstly, that the Queen of Sheba had heard of Solomon and came to grill him with questions, just as the Pharisees had heard of Jesus and came to ask Him questions. Solomon had answered the Queen’s questions astutely, just as Jesus had answered the Pharisees. 

Secondly, the Queen had seen Solomon’s greatness through the success he had as king, just as the Pharisees had seen Jesus’ success through the healings and deliverances He had done. 

It is the last point that sticks. The Queen had come to the reasonable conclusion that Solomon was surely blessed of God. All that she had heard was true, and she gave God glory. But on that point the analogy with the Pharisees breaks down. For they did not come to a reasonable conclusion as the Queen had. They did not praise God for His blessing or for what He had done or was doing as the Queen had done. 

They instead rejected what they saw and heard. They rejected Jesus and aligned themselves with God’s enemy. Subsequently, the Queen will one day look at that generation and condemn it for having so obviously made not just a poor decision, but an overtly foolish one. 

Psalm 34 exhorts God’s people, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!” Those who look for God find Him, and find that He is good. But those who look only to justify themselves find nothing but fault.

The pure in heart shall see God; but those who are in love with evil cannot see the fulness of the Godhead dwelling bodily in Jesus. They guess, and reason, and blunder. Jesus is to them a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence.

Charles Spurgeon

APPLICATION: Thankfulness

Praise God that He allows all who look to find Him. Will we recognize Him and give Him praise for who He is and what He has done? It is up to us to see what history will one day see as obvious! 

People (Matthew 12:41)

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Jesus knows that God’s message spoken in God’s time by God’s prophet will  have the  result that God wants. But what God wants is nothing more than a witness of Himself. The response of the people is entirely dependent on the condition of their own hearts. Sadly, their hearts are not always open to Him. Some will have already considered Him and rejected His offer of forgiveness, even before the offer is made verbally. 

That won’t stop God from sending them witnesses, or even from witnessing to them Himself through story, Scripture and circumstance. But to those who persist in rejection God has harsh words indeed, “The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.”

Jesus said that after being insulted by the Pharisees, and now they and the scribes (teachers of the law) have come to ask Him for yet another miraculous sign. But He knows their hearts. He can see that they really just want fodder for more pointless debate among themselves, and opportunities to level inane technical accusations against Him. His response is to point out that only the circumstance of the resurrection will be given to them, just as only the circumstance of Jonah was given to the men of Nineveh.

When Jonah got out of the fish, God spoke to him again and told him to finish the job He had commanded him to do in the first place. He was to go to Nineveh – the chief city of the enemy of Israel – and preach repentance. So Jonah reluctantly went. 

Nineveh was a huge city. It took three days to walk through it in a straight line. Jonah – who had just endured the tremendous trial and miracle of surviving three days in the depths of the sea in the belly of a huge fish – preached a fire and brimstone message of “repent or perish”. The Scripture records what happened, “On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.” To Jonah’s great shock, the people actually listened to his incredibly simple message. The whole city turned from their wickedness and repented. An entire generation was saved and the city was spared.  

For Jonah, that was actually problematic. Jonah used to be highly esteemed as a prophet in his hometown. 2Kings 14:25 tells us that Jonah successfully prophesized in Israel. He was recognized for it. His calling as a prophet was as solid as they come. In fact, one might well surmise that the reason Jonah ran from God’s command to go to Nineveh was that he knew that going to Israel’s enemies and prophesying to them would result in their salvation, which would make him a stench back home in Israel. His personal honour as an esteemed individual among his countrymen would be ruined. 

The one who sends is always greater than the one who delivers the message. Jesus is infinitely greater than Jonah. For not only was Jesus God in the flesh, but Jesus was also willing to go to His enemies, and even die for them (Rom 5:8). Yet in spite of all that, not all who hear of Christ are willing to listen to His message. So if the resurrection is not enough to make the sinner believe, there is no more recovery than there would’ve been for Nineveh had they not repented. 

That many who are called by the gospel do not repent or believe in Christ, but perish in unbelief, does not arise from the want of the sacrifice of Christ offered on the cross, nor from its insufficiency, but from their own fault.

The Synod of Dort (1619)

APPLICATION: Thankfulness

Praise God that He receives every sinner who repents.

City Witness (Matthew 12:38-40)

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Many have asked, “Apart from demonstrations of love and kindness, how do  you best  witness to the unbelieving?” Yet God’s testimony to the unbelieving is very clear, and Jesus makes it even clearer, “Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.” He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

The book of Jonah is a book that drips with the revelation of God. It opens with God speaking and it closes with God speaking. The text of the book is a goldmine of exquisite Hebrew language structures that testify of its origin. The words of the book detail God acting through all manner of circumstance in Jonah’s life. It is as clear a revelation as you could ever hope for of God and His work among the unrepentant. Yet to the unbelieving, it is nothing more than a fishy story. 

Jesus says His own testimony to the unbelieving is similar. God speaks through Christ’s birth, death and resurrection. The actual words Jesus uses are a goldmine of wisdom, with layer upon layer of meaning. The text of His story (the Gospels) spell out His work through all manner of circumstance (both that of Christ and that of those He impacted). Most importantly, Jesus promises His own experience of death and resurrection will be like Jonah’s. Recall that Jonah drowned in being thrown overboard while at sea and spent three days in the fish before it vomited him to dry land. Jesus here is prophesying that He will die and spend three days in the grave before being resurrected.

The point is that God’s voice, work and words are obvious to those who have faith, but to those who refuse Him, His voice, work and words are but colorful stories without practical application. When something as significant as being rescued by a fish three full days from land doesn’t count as impactful truth, neither will Jesus’ own resurrection. There simply is no point to performing more signs and wonders for people who have already rejected Him. The physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is enough.

In this life we have but 24 hours a day and a little more or less than 25000 days. We must pour our effort into reaching those who have not rejected Jesus in that limited time. Pouring effort into those who have heard the resurrection story and dismissed it is wasting time and resources that could be better used to reach a whole generation. 

That doesn’t mean we stop witnessing to lost family and friends. No – the passion God drives us to, and the lifetime relationship we have with them allows for a much more prolonged individual witness of Christ. But if we want to reach a generation, we are far better off to preach and teach to those who have not yet heard. To those who know nothing of Him or His Words. They must be our focus if we are to reach another generation for His glory. 

It doesn’t matter how much a church may say that she is being missional; she is not fully missional in the biblical sense if she is not pursuing both mission at home (traditionally called evangelism) among her native reached people as well as being an engaged sender in support of missionaries to the unreached.

John Piper

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Every Christian has a call to both witness to the reached as well as witness to the unreached. 

Signs (Matthew12:38-39)

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Jesus came to towns and villages all through Israel, Samaria and disparate  points in the  Gentile areas of the Decopolis, Tyre and Sidon. That such places had the opportunity to ask Him their questions is a profound honor. To be sure, it is not an honor given to every town. It is not a privilege extended to every religious leader. 

What would you ask if you knew that someone had just come to your town – someone who could do all things? Someone for whom nothing seemed to be impossible. Someone who had raised the dead. Someone who had said profound things. Someone who could heal the incurable and solve the impossible. Would you want to be healed? Would you want clarification on a point of theology? Would you want to be instructed in some better way of living, some better way to glorify God and live right in His sight? Would you want to know some deep thing about the past, or some insight into the future?  The questions that come to mind are many, and none of them are trifle. 

But in one place that did not happen. In this particular town, the leaders showed up and asked Him something different. “Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.”  

It’s so ludicrous it’s almost hard to believe. The leaders of one Jewish town came to Jesus and instead of asking God in the flesh to answer a profound question, they asked Him to entertain them. Worse, they asked it because they didn’t believe or trust Jesus. They wanted “evidence” that would be entertaining to watch. They wanted “evidence” that could be fodder for judgment – so they could gather and debate as to the sufficiency of the evidence. But Jesus knows that that their judgment is already rendered. That they “need more evidence” is evidence itself that they have chosen not to believe. “He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign!” 

Everyone knew that if someone proclaimed a prophesy and it did not come to pass, that ‘prophet’ was false. The Pharisees and teachers of the law also knew that Moses had given specific instruction about how to tell if someone who is able to do signs and wonders is from the Lord. Moses had written, “If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer.”

All that Jesus did, He did to honor God the Father. He did not do any miracle just for miracle’s sake. He did not perform any sign or wonder with a doubtful goal in mind. He is right to call the Pharisees wicked and adulterous. Their ask for yet another miracle does not demonstrate faith. It just reveals the corruption of their hearts.  

Unstaggering faith requires no crutch. God’s word is worthy of your trust

Charles Spurgeon


Has not God repeatedly shown Himself worthy of our trust? Let us worship in His presence by faith.

Judgment (Matthew 12:36-37)

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It is not just unbelievers who stand before judgment after death. All humankind has   sinned, ipso facto all humankind has committed treason against God Most High. Do not be fooled into thinking that the evil one has not laid an accusation against you in God’s court. You have been accused of sin, and you will be brought to God’s court on your death and judged for that sin. As Jesus said, “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” 

Jesus says that for the Christian there is hope. A firm hope – even a solid expectation – of acquittal. For the Christian has confessed Christ, and the Word of God says, “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” You are saved when you confess Christ, because the records will show it. Better yet, Jesus will confess you to the Father just as you witnessed of Him to others, “I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God.” 

Every soul will stand in the courtroom of God and before the assembly of the angels. With the Father presiding, they will have to give account of the words they spoke over creation. They will have to give account for the words they spoke as they looked at those made in the image of God Most High. For the words said in love, and also the words said in anger, and especially for the careless things said when your guard was down and your heart was revealed. 

Yet for the Christian there is a defence. For those who have believed on Jesus as Lord and so communicated that belief to others made in His image will find they have a defender in that court. Jesus will rise and confess that they belong to Him – that He has bought them with the sacrifice of His own blood. They belong to Him and so are no longer bound by the law of sin and death. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” On account of His ownership, they have upon them a righteousness that is above the law. “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Consequently, for the Christian there will be acquittal. But for those who have not believed and so have not acknowledged Christ before others, there will be no such acquittal. They will stand accused with nothing but their own record of sin to speak for them.

Wherever we turn in the Bible, we find that Judgement Day is coming. The authors of the Bible lived with constant and keen awareness of the reality of that day, and, to live well, we must do the same.

Roger Ellsworth

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ, who not only forgives us and testifies that we belong to Him, but receives all who call upon Him until that last day! Christian, who are you bringing that glad news to today? 

Carelessness (Matthew 12:36)

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You can tell a lot about the worldview of a person by the way they talk. The   words they use when they speak, the way they put their thoughts together and what they speak for or against all point to how they interpret the world they inhabit in both body and mind. So when Jesus tells the Pharisees, “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken,” we learn something about Him. 

We read that sentence and know that He believed in a literal day of judgment. Moreover, He believed that what we say and how we say it will have a rather significant impact on what happens during that day of judgment! That’s not something to be overlooked. Jesus is God the Son. He knows what He is talking about – in fact, He is The Authority on such things!

To this very point Jesus testifies, “For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.” Jesus only said what he heard the Father say, and He only said it the way the Father told Him to say it. That wasn’t because Jesus didn’t have a mind of His own. It is because Jesus knew that the words He said and the way He said them were enormously impactful; Firstly because He was saying them in earshot of the Father (who hears all things and knows all things), so He would want to honor God who hears by the Words He said. Secondly because He was saying them before those made in the Father’s image. To say anything that would be unlike the Father to those made in His image would be disrespectful to the Father who made them. Thirdly because Jesus Himself was incarnate in human form, so what He says would and should be taken as reflective of the Father’s heart, for He bore the Father’s image. And finally because Jesus was mindful that what He said must not grieve the Spirit of God who lived within Him. 

Just as those things are true for Him, they are true for us. What we say is also in earshot of the Father. What we say we say to the benefit or hurt of those who hear them, who are made in His image. What we say is reflective of the one whose image we ourselves bear, and it either honors or grieves the Spirit of God who lives in us. So then, how very careful we should be with our words! Yet we have one more reason than Jesus did to be careful in what we say and how we say it; we will have to give account for what we say. 

Our careless words are the words we speak when unprompted. They are the unguarded words that spill out from our lips when we have dropped our filter. Though we often regret them or claim they are not true, they ironically are the words that most clearly display the true condition of our soul. So when you hear them coming out of your mouth, pay attention. If they do not reflect the Father, repent. If they do, rejoice. 

But do not let them out often, or they will be your undoing. Say what the Father tells you to say. Say it the way the Father tells you to say it. Let the Father be just as glorified in what we say as He is in what we do. 


Watch your words and hold your tongue; you’ll save yourself a lot of grief.

Proverbs 21:23 from The Message Version

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Let your every word be one of kindness, grace, love, compassion and every fruit of the Spirit.

Unfiltered (Matthew 12:34-35)

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It the early 1800’s it was said, “Food makes the man, want of it the  fellow.” It was a  rather pithy way of saying that our bodies are made up of the nutrients we take in (food) and our character made up of the challenges we overcome (hunger). But while memorable, it is only partly true. Our character is far more than the sum of struggles past. It is a sum of our own decisions and thoughts. Decisions and thoughts that we have collected over our years, including what came from those struggles. For even difficult circumstance and infliction do not become us – they only present us with a choice in how to respond. The decision to respond and the line of thought that it followed are what gets stored in the back corners of our minds. When later circumstance dictates, we respond by pulling those thoughts and decisions back out, applying them through word and action. We all innately understand that – our unfiltered words are but the exercise of the material we have intentionally stored up. 

In the age of Twitter and Instagram, society is inundated with unfiltered words. The character of those who tweet and post indiscriminately is obvious to all. In fact, it is often the very reason they do tweet and post. They are looking for validation of who they are. Yet even while they do that, they dismiss the idea that those words reflect their character. When confronted, they say they “misspoke” or “made a mistake”. Their character – so obviously on display for all to see – does not get refined by repentance, but rather hardened by denial. 

How should the godly respond? Jesus had no misgivings about calling a spade a spade. Addressing the Pharisees who had just maligned the Spirit of God, His words reveal God’s character even as they also reveal the Pharisee’s character. They demonstrate Jesus as having the same character the Father revealed for millennia through the prophets (indignation at injustice and anger at those who claim to represent Him while holding to internal wickedness). Jesus responds with a sharp call to the Pharisees to recognize how they look to God Most High, followed by His focus on the poison they’ve built their lives on, “You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.” 

It is a clear call to repentance. It is the same call they heard from John the Baptist, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance,” and the same call they would’ve read in Isaiah’s scroll, “Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him.” 

Our filtered words reveal our thoughts. But our unfiltered words reveal our character. Let us be careful then, to pay as much heed to what comes out of our mouths as what goes in them.

Unwholesome talk is like vomit; it spews out of the depths of your being and makes a nasty mess wherever it lands. Sometimes it makes you feel better, but it’s an unpleasant experience for whoever happens to be in the way!

Henry & Richard Blackaby

APPLICATION: Intentionality

May God grant that we adjust our character through repentance before we are shown by our words to have need to adjust our character through repentance!

Trees (Matthew 12:33)

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No one during His lifetime considered Jesus an arborist, and Jesus never  claimed to be  such. So when He says something about trees, He is not meaning to give a lesson in agriculture; “If you grow a healthy tree, you’ll pick healthy fruit. If you grow a diseased tree, you’ll pick worm-eaten fruit. The fruit tells you about the tree.” (MSG)

Jesus is speaking about our lives. Each of us gets to choose what kind of life we want to live, and by that choice we choose what the result of our lives will be. A poor choice results in poor outcomes. A good choice results positive outcomes. While that outcome is ultimately our destiny, the choice we are making is repeatedly demonstrated in season by what we produce. 

Arguably the first thing people produce from their lives is the fruit of their lips. People who are making good choices say things that build up and bless those around them. Their words encourage you toward God and all that God’s Kingdom is. Their words will inspire, motivate, support and encourage “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” They encourage and foster holiness. People making bad choices spew forth bad things. Their words will inspire, motivate, support and encourage “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy.”

When He said “The fruit tells you about the tree”, Jesus was speaking to a group of people (Pharisees) who had just accused Him of being full of the devil. In saying so, they had blasphemed the Spirit of God, by which Jesus was speaking and acting. That is why He prefaced His comment with, “If you reject the Son of Man out of some misunderstanding, the Holy Spirit can forgive you, but when you reject the Holy Spirit, you’re sawing off the branch on which you’re sitting, severing by your own perversity all connection with the One who forgives.” (MSG) To Jesus – and to all who listen attentively to His Word – the Pharisees had clearly demonstrated by the fruit of their own lips that they were full of that which was impure and unholy. 

A tree feeds on the soil it finds itself in. As it grows, the food it eats (in the form of the minerals and nutrients it absorbs) becomes part of it. So it is with people. We are effectively products of that which we feed upon. If we feed upon unclean things, our character becomes unclean. If we feed upon clean things, we produced “good fruit”. That’s why Paul wrote, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Paul wasn’t pushing the power of positive thinking – he simply understood what Jesus meant about being a good tree, and he was telling us how to grow into a good tree so that we might produce good fruit. 

Much of the insight of holistic medicine rings true because we always knew it. Is it news that we are what we eat?

Kathryn Lindskoog

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Financial professionals tell us is a good idea to periodically examine how we’re spending and investing our money.  Fitness coaches tell us it is good idea to periodically examine our exercise regime. Nutritionists tell us it is a good idea to periodically examine our physical diet. The same principle holds for our mental and spiritual sides. Christian, what are you feeding yourself? 

Blasphemy (Matthew 12:31-32)

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When the Lord proclaimed His Name to Moses, God said, “The Lord, the  Lord, the  compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” So that the Lord is compassionate and gracious is without doubt. That He forgives is without doubt. All through the Old Testament and New we find occasions when God is asked to forgive fallen ordinary people, and He always does. Even when He is asked to forgive grievous sin, He does. Murderers (Moses and Paul), adulterers (David), drunks (Noah), liars (Abraham and Isaac), deceivers (Jacob) and fools (Samson) – all of them find God gracious and merciful and forgiving when they look to Him. 

One could come to the conclusion then that there is no sin that God will not forgive. Indeed, it certainly could even be stated as such. But Jesus Himself noted that there is one thing that God will not forgive, “And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”

Blasphemy is “Profane or contemptuous speech or writing about (or action toward) God.”  To blaspheme is to insult God to the point of cursing Him. One might do that by equating God Most High to be nothing more than an idol, or by refuting His character to those who witness for Him. Of course people do that all the time, because they do not know God. Those who do not know God say all kinds of foolish things about God, and do all manner of foolish things to provoke God. These things, Jesus says, are forgivable offenses. They can be washed away by the blood of Christ. But blasphemy of the Spirit is not a forgivable offence. That is because the Spirit is only recognized by what He does (for we cannot see His form), and what He does is act in divine power. In fact, every evidence of the Spirit of God is a power encounter with God. It is undisputable evidence of God’s presence and God’s character. So to be present to such (as we were on the day of our salvation) – and yet deny God all the same – is to blaspheme God to His face, and that after He has moved to save you. 

That, Jesus says, is unforgivable. Both in this present life, and in the life to come. 

People who know the presence of God by the power of God but deny God as God anyway are doing exactly what the devil himself did. There is no recovery for that. Not now, and not when this present age is replaced by the manifest Kingdom of God. 

To this point the book of Hebrews stern warns us, “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.”  And so it is, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.”

It is one of the most shameful things in the world to use love’s forgiveness as an excuse to go on sinning.

William Barclay

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Our view of who God is and what He has done for us will either lull us to shameful complacency or it will propel us to passionate and sacrificial service. 

Working at What (Matthew 12:30)

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Having directly addressed the Pharisee’s stunning and blasphemous  statement that  Jesus was casting out demons by the power of Satan, Jesus makes His own stunning statement, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.”

Most Christ-followers are actually looking for the sharp divide. We like black and white, clearly laid out lines of demarcation. We don’t mind Jesus pointing out that there is no place for neutrality in the Spiritual war. We like knowing that we are either in Jesus’ camp and not in the enemy’s camp. It is OK that He says we are either working toward the harvest by gathering with Him, or scattering the crop and making it more difficult to finish the harvest. So when we hear that comment we understand that He must be talking about the enemy. He must be talking about “them”. We hear the words, and without even really considering what He is saying, we impute righteousness to ourselves and unrighteousness to them. It even makes sense to us, because it feels good to be on the ‘right’ side of the war. 

Jesus’ wording recalls to mind His earlier comment, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” The Lord sees the harvest and is Himself actively working the harvest, but also mindful that not all His people are helping. A few are, but most are scattering and making the whole exercise much longer and more difficult than it might otherwise be. He makes this comment then not as a glib observation, but a pointed job to make us aware; If we are not with Him in what He is now doing, we are actually against Him in what He is doing! 

That is a sobering thought to most Christ-followers. For most honestly believe they are trying to live as good a life as they can. They would say that they want to live lives that are fulfilled and happy and content. They want to have a great experience of worship on a regular basis. They want to go about their days knowing and expecting God to be watching over them and helping them in all they put their hands to. They see the Christ-honoring life as just a little different from the life of the unsaved, expecting that the Lord does not mean to speak into their autonomous life choices other than to ask for the occasional prayer and perhaps a weekend service once a month. They are blissfully unaware that the reason Christ calls us to Himself is that we might be involved in what He is doing. 

He is on a mission. His mission. A mission to expand His glory by making disciples of all nations. He expects us to be likewise focused on that mission. After all, our lives are not our own. We are His creation, called to salvation by His election and redeemed by the price He paid on Calvary that we might be fully His. Our lives are not ours to live as we choose. They are to be poured out for His glory. We are called to be living sacrifices to reach all people for His honor. Even those (arguably especially those) who are of other cultures. 

If we as His people are not focused on that mission, then can we say we are truly obedient disciples? And if not, can we say we are merely on the sidelines, or are we actually and in real life against His cause? A Christian who is not doing what they can to make disciples of those around them is not unlike an employee who claims to be a diligent member of the team but doesn’t actually do any of the work; One has to ask if they are ‘for’ their employer, or just for themselves. 

To be sure, one finds examples of groups which give little or no indication that they desire either the cleansing fire of the holy flame or the empowerment of the holy wind. For whatever reason, they have not entered into the reality of the outpoured Spirit and consequently are not on mission to “Jerusalem, … Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Gilbert W. Stafford

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Let us be intentional about what we are doing. About how we spend our time, our effort and our money, so that we might do all we can to bring Christ all the glory He so richly deserves.