The Cost of Discipleship; Ch 8:18-22

The Cost of Discipleship

V18-22 The cost that it requires to follow Jesus is not cheap nor superficial.  It is an occupation where an individual must forsake all.  Jesus was not about the miracles per se but about the establishment of His Father’s kingdom, inviting those who would have the faith to come.  They needed to come willing to forsake all allegiances to family and personal desires.

Miracles of Healing: Ch8:1-17

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Miracles of Healing

V1-4 – The Leper

This was the first recorded healing of an Israelite of leprosy since Miriam in Numbers 12:10-15.  Leprosy was a highly contagious and deadly disease.  Under Old Testament ceremonial law, carriers were excluded from the camp or town.  Many were exiled to caves in nearby hills.  There are two lessons that we can extract from this exchange;

  1. Faith is the belief that God can do something, not necessarily that He will do it.  When the leper said, ‘if you are willing’  he was a handing the control of the situation over to the divine prerogative.
  2. That leprosy is an illustration of sin in a person’s life.  Leviticus 13 shows us this picture: like leprosy sin lies deeper than the skin (v 3); it spreads (v 7); it defiles and makes everything unclean (v 44-45); it separates one from God and man (v 46); and it is dealt with by fire (v 52).

Israel was described in Isaiah 1:5-6 as a leprous nation.  How symbolic was it of Christ to make his first miracle for an individual the cleansing of an Israelite from leprosy.  First to the Jew, then to the Gentile.  By touching the man, Jesus Himself was ceremonially unclean, yet He is the only one that can touch us to cleanse us.  Jesus was illustrating His future redemptive work on the Cross.  Cleansing the man of leprosy illustrates that Christ is able to make anyone ceremonially clean, that is, purified of sin and able to be accepted by the Father.

V5-13 –  The Centurion

The second miracle is for a Roman centurion – a Gentile.  Jesus didn’t discriminate those who needed His mercies; He was sympathetic and caring to anyone with faith.  This too is symbolic of the principle; to the Jew first, then the Gentile.  In both instances that Matthew records a healing of a Gentile (see also Matt 15:21-28) Jesus healed from a distance.  This may have been because of the spiritual state of Gentile belief.  Ephesian 2:12-13 tells us that they are ‘far off.’

Christ honoured the faith of the centurion and used it as an illustration of warning to the Jews.  One day even those who are presumptuous of entering the kingdom because they are descendants of Abraham will not and Gentiles will instead take their place.

V14 – Peter’s Mother-in-Law

Jesus uses this opportunity to show that He is Lord over all sickness; serious ones such as leprosy and palsy, as well as a fever, as here with Peter’s mother-in-law.  As an act of gratitude she served Him.  Christians should do the same.  Our gratitude should be expressed in the serving of our Lord through impacting our local and global communities.

V15-17 – The Many

Matthew writes further of Jesus’ miraculous healing ministry.  Sickness and demonic oppression are results of the curse under the Fall.  The curse of the garden is inherent in the lives of all of humanity.  Only Jesus could take upon Himself, as He went to the Cross our diseases and illnesses.

The Testing of Righteousness; Ch 7:13-29

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The Testing of Righteousness

V13-14 – The Test of Two Gates – Self Denial

The path of righteousness is a narrow and difficult way.  It is a way that is paved through the laying down of selfish desires resident in the heart and working to have them conform to the righteous calling of the Saviour.  It is a test of self-denial, and one where the Christian lives a life seeking the approval of Christ and not the acclaim of man.

V15-20 – The Test of Two Prophets – Spiritual Fruit

Jesus contrasts two types of prophets with trees.  He warns of those who come proclaiming the way of the Lord but are there simply for themselves, whether that be fame, money or status – this comes to fruition within the parables later in this chapter.  Jesus says that we will be able to discern them by the fruit that they bear.  This fruit is seen in

  1. The fruit of the Spirit; Christian character
  2. The fruit of their lips; Christian testimony (Gal 5:22-23)
  3. The fruit of holy living; Christian lifestyle (Rom 6:22)
  4. The fruit of good works; Christian ethics (Col 1:10)
  5. The fruit of lost souls won to Christ; Christian mission (Rom 1:13)

V21-23 – The Test of Two Disciples – Intimacy

A verbal confession of faith must ring true within the heart.  The heart is the place of initimacy.  Without a pure relationship with God whatever works we are able to accomplish while using His name will amount to nothing.  2 Cor 4:3-4 says that Satan, the god of this world has blinded many, deceiving them into believing they are ‘saved’ when in fact they are not.

V24-29 – The Test of Two Foundations – Obedience and Trust

Two men have the same building materials and the same desire; to build a house of shelter.  For all appearances they are the same.  When the testing came, so did the difference.  The man who built his house on solid ground was the one who lasted.  The individual who frames his life and centers his heart around a proper relationship with Christ will stand.  See Matt 16:18; 1 Cor 10:4; 1 Peter 2:4-8; contrast with 1 Cor 3:12-15.

The Believer and Their Walk; Ch 7:1-12

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The Believer and Their Walk

V1-5 – The Believer’s Approach to Judging

The Christian view of judging others can be a very contentious issue.  Firstly there are those who prohibit church discipline contrary to Matthew 18:15-18, 1 Cor 5, 2 Thes 3:11-15 and Gal 6:1-5.

Here Jesus is talking about the godly way to approach faults in others.  We must have taken the time to remove the sin and hindrances from out own lives before we can effectively help others to deal with their sin.  Note the use of the word ‘eye’; it is the spiritual outlook of a person.  We may test others by their fruits (v 15-20) but we must take care not to gossip or fault-find concerning a person’s motives.  (See Rom 14, 1 Cor 4:5)

V6 – The Believer’s Approach To Discernment

We must be careful.  Here is a principle of the gospel that can apply to all areas of one’s life.  There will be things that are holy – precious promises, circumstances, and revelations that God has deposited in the lives of those He loves.  The pearls of truth are precious.  While we are to preach the good news of the gospel globally and freely, the precious pearls of deeper truth should be handled with care.  There will be some who will not handle them well, nor respect the preciousness of them.

V7-12 – The Believer’s Approach To Petitioning Heaven

The Christian is able to come to God as a child to a father.  Note the language of verses 9-11.  Christ gives us three keys to the attitude of prayer as we petition heaven.

  1. Ask: We are to approach the Father humbly and with an acute awareness of our need and dependence as God’s provision.
  2. Seek: We are to come to God seeking His wisdom and strength because we are unable to met the heart change that God requires on our own.  The transforming grace of God must be coupled with our desire and actions to acknowledge and implement the change of a holy life.
  3. Knock: As one who knocks on the door without an answer, we must persist with our petitions to the Father.  We must trust that God will give us ‘good’ things; things that will exalt his sovereignty and place us closer to the feet of Jesus.

Jesus institutes the ‘golden rule’ of loving your neighbour (see Lev 19:18) and treating others as you would have them treat you.

The Believer and Wealth; Ch 6:19-34

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The Believer and Wealth

V19-24 – The Believer’s Approach to Material Possessions

The second part of this discourse focuses on the way a believer should approach material possessions.  Again, this is a heart matter, for where we place the priorities in out lives, there will be a reflection of the things we value most.  We cannot look in two directions.  The eye is referring to the outlook of the heart, which must be focussed on God.  See Abraham and Lot Gen 13:5-18.  Remembering that no man can serve two masters, where is our treasure?  Is it bound up in earthly good or heavenly destiny?

V25-34 – The Believer’s Approach Applying These To The Heart

Worrying about material things is a foolish pursuit.  The preacher in Ecclesiastics declared it all vanity.  Life is more than food and clothing.  God’s provision and care is shown in nature through the birds (v26), the lilies of the field (v30) and the unbeliever (v32).  The key verse is to seek first the kingdom of God in order for Him to supply our every need.  We do this by having heart that want to give God

  1. Our time, with prayer and scripture reading
  2. Our serving, in the house of God and the needs of our community
  3. Our finances, giving our portion to the Lord
  4. Our decisions, putting Him with the midst of our choices

The Believer and Worship; Ch 6:1-18

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The Believer and Worship

V1 – The Believer’s Relationship To God

For the believer, this relationship is the one from which all others flow.  The conduct of out relationship with God must be for God to oversee and not people.  When we parade our relationship with God before others, then we lose the focus of the sacredness of the Lord and concentrate on the approval of others.  No man can serve two masters.  This verse continues to show that the issues facing a believer are issues of the heart.

The next part of the discourse (v 2-18) deals with three further areas that have their wellspring in the heart; giving, praying and fasting.

V2-4 – The Believer’s Approach To Giving 

When a believer gives it should be done in secret, again to focus on the Lord, and not on the approval of man.  The motive for these people is the praise of others and not the approval of the Father who sees in secret.

 V5-15 – The Believer’s Approach To Prayer

Note the wording here is ‘when you pray.’  It is an expectation from heaven that Christian walk is a prayerful walk.  Prayer is the conduit between the believer and the Father, made possible through the sacrifice of Jesus.  It is a vital and necessary tool in the Christian walk.  Jesus warns about appearing prayerfully pious in public, yet neglecting the fellowship of the secret place.  Jesus considers these people hypocrites and warns of three different errors and sins when praying.

  1. Praying to be heard by others (v 5-6)
  2. Praying mere words with empty repetition (v 7-8) See 1 Kings 18:26; Acts 19:34; Mk 14:39; 2 Cor 12:8; Ps 136; Isaiah 6:3)
  3. Praying with sin in the heart (v 14-15)

V16-18 – The Believer’s Approach To Fasting

The Old Testament taught about various fasts although the only fast required by law was the one on the Day of Atonement.  Again, the wording says, ‘when you fast’, stipulating that it is a requirement of the Christian walk.  See Joel 2:13 and Isaiah 58:5.

Fasting is to provide an avenue for God to move in a believer’s life, speaking to circumstances and attitudes.

Anger, Lust, Deception and Retaliation; Ch 5:21-48

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Anger

V21-26 – The law stated that you should not murder.  Jesus compares anger with murder and calls on those who are angry to account.  He is fulfilling the 6th commandment, and raising it to the Law of Love.  Jesus instructs the angry one to seek reconciliation through taking the first step in making peace, otherwise it will continue to escalate into much more complicated terms.

Lust

V27-32- Adultery was a severe breach of the law.  Firstly it violated the trust and love of another person and secondly it broke the marriage covenant (Mal 2:14) which reflected the relationship between God and Israel.  Jesus also endorsed the 7th commandment, and again raised it above the physical expectation of conforming to the law, making it an issue of the heart.  The lustful intent begins from within.  Although important, it is not about the outward appearance (as the Pharisees would adhere to) but maintaining a purity of heart and thought, maintaining faithful adherence to one’s spouse, whether current or future.  Even things of great importance should be forsaken if it allows the person from sin.

Deception

V33-37 –  Jesus elaborated here on the swearing of oaths and the value of one’s word.  Jesus took the principle of oath taking found in Lev 19:12 and again clarified its meaning; simply that we should not lie under any circumstances.  Our conduct should be so full of Christ and His righteousness that our word, whenever we speak, is full of integrity.

Retaliation

V38-48 – Jesus again sheds light on the heart issue of revenge, retaliation and our conduct towards our enemies.  The Law of Retaliation found in Duet 19:20-21 taught that the punishment should fit the crime and it set boundaries and limitations on the retributions that the offender would suffer.  The scribes and Pharisees developed the principle of hating one’s enemies from Lev 19:18.  Jesus elevated the requirements, correcting the interpretation, and dealing with the issues of the heart.  We are not to treat our enemies as they treat us, for where would the higher calling of Christ’s gospel and the Law of Love be?  No, instead we are to make allowances in four areas.

  1. Physical attacks (v 39)
  2. Legal suits (v 40)
  3. Government demands (v 41)
  4. Financial requirements (v 42)

Jesus leaves this part of the discourse encouraging His followers onto the path of maturity / perfection.  See 1 Pet 1 and Gal 5:22-23.

Jesus Fulfils The Law; Ch 5:17-20

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Jesus Fulfils The Law

V17-20- Jesus came not to nullify the Law (the Torah and the prophets, see Matt 13:35 cf Ps 78:2) but to fulfil.  Simply He came to fulfil, expand upon and clarify the Old Testament.  Jesus completed the Law in several ways.

  1. He obeyed it perfectly
  2. He is the fulfillment of the types and prophecies
  3. He is the one to whom the sacrificial law pointed to
  4. He moved the focus of the Christian life from outward and external constraints to the circumcision of an inward life

The Pharisees took pride in the outward manifestation of the LAw and the Prophets while Jesus called His followers to work from the inward (that is, the heart) to the outward (that is, works).  God no longer requires the outward conformity of a person to the Law but an inward change in the heart and motivations to do good works of the gospel.  This is not instead of the Law, but raises it above the Law where our lactions and relationship with God are underscored by an attitude and expression of love, first to God, then to others.  This was the paradigm shift in the kingdom that the Pharisees rejected.

Jesus then addresses four areas of internal sin that would hinder a person from experiencing the full freedom of the Saviour’s kingdom.  The four aspects show that Jesus validates the law and raises the standards higher, to an attitude of the heart and thereby ‘exceeding the standards of the scribes and Pharisees’ who insisted on such conformity to the law and appearance of obedient works.