Compensation (Matthew 10:41)

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Jesus is preparing His disciples to go into the harvest field. Having told His   disciples the spiritual principle of ripples, Jesus tells them the spiritual principle of compensation; “Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward.”

In the upside down and twisted way of life we have since the Fall of humankind, a person earns their reward for effort toward a task. It might be called a wage or a salary or cash-for-service or piecework or by some other term, but it is very clearly compensation. You earn what you get for doing something. 

Of course, that compensation is not always in direct proportion to what you’ve done. There are inequalities. While for the most part, those who do much get much, it is also true in our world that sometimes those who do hardly anything get most, and those who do most everything get almost nothing. 

We see those inequalities in every field of work. Some sports players give the very best of their bodies and youth to the game and get basically nothing. Others find their way to the spotlight and earn hundreds of millions of dollars. Some who enter the world of finance labor all their lives for a meager income. Others find their way to the top of the salary chain. The same is true in the fields of arts, medicine, science, education, etc. This is part of God’s judgment on fallen society, where inequality is seemingly a function of chance much more than effort. 

As a result the human system of compensation results in poverty alongside excessive wealth. This itself mandates another inequality – the need for some to give a far greater proportion of their wealth than most to benefit those who lack. 

In God’s Kingdom there are no real inequalities because our compensation is related only to our faithfulness in honoring Him. Jesus tells us that any who receive a prophet on account of who they are receive the prophet’s reward, and likewise those who receive the righteous man on account of their rightousness. The prophet and the righteous are about Christ’s cause. So, just as receiving the one who Christ sends results in receiving Christ and therefore the one who sent Christ – so also receiving the one about Christ’s cause results in a receiving the same reward as the one who was commissioned in Christ’s cause. That is, they receive Christ. They earn the right to know His presence, His peace and His power, and one day to look upon His face. This is the true genius of God’s system of compensation. That those who purpose to honor Him will be blessed with Him, and along with Him, all that He represents and does. Those who do not honor Him simply will not. 

What we ‘get’ is only what God speaks over us. He alone is the creator and our creator, and He alone assigns skills and ability, and He alone rules over circumstance. So the stuff we typically think of when our fallen minds think about wages and compensation is but the smallest of blessings God provides. The real blessing is Himself, which He gives to all who faithfully honor Him. 

Every temporal hardship will earn a more than adequate eternal compensation.

M.S. Mills

APPLICATION: Thankfulness

The God who numbers the hairs on your head also watches over you. A cup of cold water given in His Name cannot go unrewarded. In what manner then will He reward a life of faithfulness?  Let us thank God for the daily opportunity to demonstrate faithfulness to Him. 

Butterflies (Matthew 10:40)

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One of the wonderful things about Jesus is that He often gives away profound spiritual   principles in His everyday teaching. In fact, even that is a spiritual principle of itself; Those who walk very closely with God (and so have God’s thoughts in their mind) will often share those thoughts in off-hand comments. This is one of the significant blessings of hanging around godly people. Profound things and life-changing truths are bound to be shared through normal conversation! How much more so then, when Jesus is speaking!

In the course of teaching His disciples about the value of following Himself, Jesus says, “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me.” The truth of that statement is obvious to all who have entered the Kingdom of God through Jesus Christ. They “received” someone who told them the Gospel. They then “received” Jesus, and as a result of knowing Jesus have “received” God Most High. 

Each reception – each welcome – brought on another subsequent and more significant welcome. Like a pebble thrown into still water, every decision we take has implications that ripple out. In the physical, such implications lessen as they ripple out. In the spiritual realm, those implications grow larger the further they ripple out; A decision to welcome a Gospel messenger leads to a decision to hear the Gospel, which leads to a decision to accept the Gospel, which leads to a decision to receive Jesus as Lord, which leads to one ultimately meeting and ‘receiving’ God Himself, which leads to a profoundly changed eternity. This is truth. The principle that underlies such a truth is also truth.  

In the mid 1963 Edward Lorenz published a paper based on findings gathered after a startling discovery. He had previously entered some computer data into a program he was using to simulate weather patterns. It was the same data he had previous entered, but he made a single very small change to one of the twelve variables the program worked on. “To his surprise, that tiny alteration drastically transformed the whole pattern his program produced, over two months of simulated weather. The unexpected result led Lorenz to a powerful insight about the way nature works: small changes can have large consequences. The idea came to be known as the “butterfly effect” after Lorenz suggested that the flap of a butterfly’s wings might ultimately cause a tornado.” Edward’s work on chaos theory would fundamentally change the way we understand our world. Small changes can have large unintended results.

Every time we pray, there is a change in the heavenly realms. Every prayer for His Kingdom come is a piece of evidence in God’s courtroom. Every prayer for a circumstance or a need that we lift up to heaven is a scent in His nostril that calls to His mind a situation, person or place needing His action. Every prayer of praise is a fragment of a mirror that reflects some of the light of His glory to those all around. 

They might be small things, and certainly from a limited human vantage point they seem insignificant things. All the same, they lead to very large consequences!

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust Him for His grace;

Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast, Unfolding every hour;

The bud may have a bitter taste, But sweet will be the flower.

William Cowper

APPLICATION: Intentionality

What small change can you make to your weekly schedule that might just have an outsized impact in eternity? 

Freedom (Matthew 10:39)

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A popular verse to quote to those who want to ‘find themselves’ as they mature is Jesus’   comment immediately following His teaching on worthiness. He said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  The quote is usually given at face value to those who are looking for happiness in all the wrong places. The intention behind giving it is to gracefully note that all they really need to do is find Jesus, and the impact and significance of their lives will become clear (making their existential search moot). Yet to quote it with this intention is to lift the words of Jesus out of context. Jesus isn’t talking here to those who haven’t found Him. In fact, this verse is in the middle of His commissioning of the twelve disciples. Jesus is speaking this quote to those who do know Him, have committed themselves to Him, have left everything behind to follow Him and are preparing to go on a missionary journey for Him. 

The context is that Jesus is speaking about His own worth. That knowing Him and following Him and obeying Him – even unto suffering and death – is worth losing everything else. Recall how He just said, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Seen in context, the meaning of His statement about loosing our lives for His sake becomes clearer. 

The reader must then ask, “Why would Jesus say that to those who have left everything to follow Him?” The answer to that question is hidden in the wider context of the full text of Matthew’s Gospel. In 4:20 we read of Simon and Andrew, “At once they left their nets and followed him.” In 4:22 we read of James and John, “…immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” So we know that the disciples have left their careers, and in some cases their families, so that they could follow Jesus. Yet it is not until chapter 19 that Peter could confidently say, “We have left everything to follow you!” Here in chapter 10 they are not there yet

The reality is that we really haven’t left everything until we have literally left everything. Leaving something significant to follow Jesus is not the end of the journey. It is the beginning. To leave family and business and career behind is but the first step. 

To walk on further with Jesus you will have to cross your internal reluctance barrier, and bring the Gospel (which is within yourself) to those who do not have it yet. To do that you have to leave your insecurity behind. You have to leave your fear behind. You have to leave your comfort behind. You have to leave all the security your own culture gives you behind, and go

Jesus was preparing His disciples for missionary service. To do that effectively, they’d have to step forward in faith in ways they had not done before. 

The application of that lesson to our lives is as obvious as the day is long. Jesus’ comment hangs ever before us. Are we ready for the next step in following Him? Because to take that next step, we first have to loose something of ourselves. 

True freedom is freedom to be my true self, as God made me and meant me to be. But God made me for loving, and loving is giving, self-giving. Therefore, in order to be myself, I have to deny myself, and give myself in love for God and others. In order to be free, I have to serve. In order to live, I have to die to my own self-centredness. In order to find myself I have to lose myself in loving. I have read somewhere that Michelangelo put it beautifully in these words: ‘When I am yours, then at last I am completely myself.’ For I am not myself until I am yours.

John Stott

 APPLICATION: Intentionality

Read John Stott’s quote again. Let that idea sink into your soul, that today you might live more for Christ than you ever have before. 

Worthiness (Matthew 10:37-38)

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Every relationship is built on trust. When that trust is fractured, the relationship is in   serious danger. That is because trust is to relationships what bones are to the body. A fractured bone is a serious problem that cannot be ignored. It gives immediate rise to concern for the life of the body. If the fracture is severe, the body is at risk of going into shock – a life-threatening condition of itself. If the fracture results in bleeding (internal or external), that body is still at risk of death, even if shock doesn’t immediately set in. Fractures can also give rise to infection. At the very least, it takes a long time to heal. These things are also true when the trust in a relationship is fractured. 

For these reasons, someone who is not trustworthy is considered “not worthy” of the other. This is a fundamental fact that even the courts in the land recognize. It is obvious to all that a spouse who is not consistently faithful is not worthy of their partner. An employee who is dishonest in their dealings is not worthy of their employer. The circumstances of each case may be different (that is, the reason given for the breach of trust), but the fact that the breach is ‘life-threatening’ and probable cause for permanent separation is a given. It is just impossible to reconcile with any who repeatedly give in to their predilection for breaking the fundamental trust so key to a relationship. 

The same could be said for our relationship with Jesus. Those who violate His trust by putting a different relationship ahead of Him are not worthy of Him, and likewise those who prioritize their own comfort. To this very point Jesus said, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

Jesus is not saying that we should disown or otherwise destroy our family relationships. He is saying that any who choose any other relationship – even that of parents or children – over that with God, are not worthy of a relationship with God. 

To ignore God’s call is to commit idolatry to God’s face. It really doesn’t matter why we’re ignoring His call, just that we are choosing another relationship over that with Him. It likewise doesn’t matter what God’s call is – whether it is to live here or there, or to do this or that, or even to suffer and die. God’s call must be preeminent. This is how we demonstrate our worthiness to know Him and to one day gaze upon His face. We must be completely loyal and completely obedient. “[Jesus] insists on such a fierceness of loyalty to himself that the significance of normal bonds and commitments, and specifically family ones, is undercut. The ties that bind are relativized in favour of a newly found, more fundamental tie.”  

That truth is obvious even when we are first presented with the Gospel. To say yes to Jesus is to say no to all else. But that truth also has application every day of our lives, for it is lived out in the daily decisions we make, and it is seen in the trends of those decisions over time. 

The truth is that we’d be turned off if he was less demanding. Why is it that we tend to stay away from “cheap” stuff? Because we feel that those things that place a low demand on our wallet are inferior. […] God demands that we love him even more than those nearest and dearest to us. That tells us something about his worth.

Alan P. Stanley

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Are you putting Jesus first today? How will you keep Him ‘first’ today? 

Endurance (Matthew 10:34-36)

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Jesus came to save sinners. This much is true, as 1Tim testifies, “Here is a  trustworthy  saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” 

As with everything God does, there are multiple viewpoints to His actions. To one it means this, to another it means that. Even the act of saving sinners can be seen as clearly uprooting the plans of the evil one. Saving sinners means decimating the customer base of drug pushers and pornographers. It means mass abandonment to the co-workers of thieves and gang leaders. It may even be seen as the threat of job insecurity to detectives and the judiciary!  That much is also true, for when Jesus returns and sets up His Kingdom, there will be no more immorality, greed or vice. What even will be the need for pharmacists and doctors, “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality[?]” 

Multiple viewpoints are one thing, but multiple purposes are another. The Scripture records, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” So it is not only a salvation that Jesus comes to usher in. It is also a destructive work. Just as salvation has implications to our great benefit and the blessing of society as a whole, so also His destructive work has implications. Jesus said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “ ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’” 

Jesus quotes the prophet Micah. Micah lived and worked during a time of societal collapse. A time not unlike our times, when the compass of society is thrown away and people call wicked ‘good’ and the good, ‘wicked’. Any who dare to stand up for God’s standard are immediately labeled enemies of society. One commentator wrote, “Tragically many within our own society today have fractured, fragmented, and hostile families that seem bent on self-destruction.” Kenneth L. Barker wrote that in 1999, but the same could be said at any point in the timeline of the godless. The implication of Christ coming into a household through only part of the family (an individual or couple) in a spiritually divided family is that the household immediately has a divided loyalty. Some are for God. Some are not. A division occurs. The sword is doing its work. Enemies are made. 

It is true that Jesus gives us peace. But “Jesus’ peace does not preclude wars between nations, conflicts among unbelievers, or the persecution of Christians which Jesus has already predicted. In fact, not only does Jesus not come to eradicate all human conflict but he actually promises hostility.” 

This is the price of choosing to serve the King; the prince of this world immediately deploys his servants and the ignorant against you. Advances for His Kingdom inside of you and outside of you rarely come without spiritual attack. To this end the mature disciple arms themselves with the Word of God, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

If you have not faith enough in the power of the gospel, if you have not faith enough in the promises of God, if you have not faith enough in the power of prayer, then be in earnest in asking for more faith—such faith as will stand firm in the day of temptation, of trial, of conflict, of opposition.

Henry D.M.S. Jones

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Are you able to stand in the day of testing? How are you preparing yourself for that day?

Facing Mortality (Matthew 10:34)

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The story of the birth of Jesus is a story of great news and much celebration,  “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”  

It is story of celebration because in this way the Prince of Peace entered our world – the only One who can give us peace. As Jesus later said, “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you.” It is not an overstatement to say that the whole reason Jesus came to die for us on the cross is that He might establish a lasting and eternal peace for us. Yet for all the peace Jesus does give us, He does not come to give peace to the system we are under. In fact, He said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

The paradox of that comment is underwritten by the rest of Scripture. On the one hand Jesus is obviously about the work of salvation, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” On the other hand, Jesus is also obviously about a destructive work. 1 John 3 says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” 

To this the Scripture testifies, “…the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.”  And, “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.” Indeed, the heavenly beings worship God in glory for it, saying, “The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great— and for destroying those who destroy the earth.” 

So there is peace – much peace – for those on whom God’s favor rests. There is great peace for all those who repent of their wickedness and turn and call on His Name. Both Old and New Testaments affirm, “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 

But on those who refuse to repent – on those who refuse to turn from their wicked ways and deny the King of Kings His rightful place in their lives – to them comes destruction. Not mere frustration or a significant setback, but total destruction. And destruction by the very One who was sent to save them, no less.  

On the last day, Jesus Christ will be glorified in us on account of what we have become by his grace, and we will be glorified in him on account of what he has done for us.

D.A. Carson

APPLICATION: Intentionality

In light of the coming end, we must do all we can to reach all we can. Who are you speaking to about salvation in Christ?