COMMITTED to train men and women
to have minds for the Lord Jesus,
hearts for the truth, and
hands that are skilled to the task.

Sermons on Matthew

JESUS TRIUMPHANT

THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS which is a compilation of 31 letters written by a SENIOR DEMON NAMED SCREWTAPE TO HIS NEPHEW, WORMWOOD, a Junior TEMPTER.
Screwtape reveals the Enemy’s intentions:
“Now it may surprise you to learn that in His (the Enemy’s) efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favorites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else. The reason is this. To us a human is primarily food; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of selfhood at its expense.
But the obedience which the Enemy demands of men is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really DOES want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself – creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His.
We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become SONS. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; HE IS FULL AND FLOWS OVER. Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself; THE ENEMY WANTS A WORLD FULL OF BEINGS UNITED TO HIM BUT STILL DISTINCT.” C.S. Lewis “The Screwtape Letters”
“One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth.”

Dr. Michael Heiser comments on this topic:
“First Peter 3:14-22 has Jesus descending to these “spirits in prison” to tell them they were still defeated, despite his crucifixion. God’s plan of salvation and kingdom rule had not been derailed – in fact, it was right on schedule. The crucifixion actually meant victory over every demonic force opposed to God. This victory declaration is why 1 Peter 3:14-22 ends with Jesus risen from the dead and set at the right hand of God – ABOVE ALL ANGELS, AUTHORITIES AND POWERS. The messaging is very deliberate and has a supernatural view of Genesis 6:1-4 at its core.”

Application
Perhaps you’ve been told a narrative counter to the New Testament testimony concerning the miraculous, bodily resurrection of Jesus. But the fake news pushed by the Jewish leaders then and by so many academics in the secular and religious leaders today, demand a closer analysis.
• The empty tomb is a fact of history.
• That the Jewish leaders alleged that the body was stolen is an implicit admission of the fact that was not there.
• The early, widespread, and numerous independent eyewitness accounts of encountering the resurrected Jesus are impossible to ignore.
Ultimately, however, accepting the truth of the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus IS AN ACT OF FAITH.

FIRST THINGS FIRST – part II

The author Scott David Allen in his book “Why Social Justice Is Not Biblical Justice” on pages 56-58 explains the ideological differences between Social Justice movement and the Biblical Worldview.
CORE TENETS OF IDEOLOGICAL SOCIAL JUSTICE CONTRASTED WITH THE BIBLICAL WORLDVIEW:
What is ultimately real?
• SJ: The human mind defines what is ultimately real.
• BWV: The God of Genesis 1:1 defines ultimate reality: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
Who are we?
• SJ: Creatures whose identity is wholly socially determined. We are products of our race, sex, and gender identity.
• BWV: Creations and image bearers of a good, holy, and loving God with inherent dignity and immeasurable worth.
What is our fundamental problem as human beings?
• SJ: OPPRESSION: White, heteronormative males have established and maintained hegemonic (dominance or control over all facets of society) power structures to oppress and subjugate women, people of color, and sexual minorities.
• BWV: REBELLION: All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Our rebellion against God has resulted in broken relationships – between God and man, between man and his fellow man, and between man and his creation.
What is the solution to our problem?
• SJ: REVOLUTION: Oppressed victims and their allies must unite to unmask, deconstruct, and overthrow these oppressive power structures, systems, and institutions.
• BWV: THE GOSPEL: On the cross, God incarnate bore the punishment we deserved for sinful rebellion in order to show us a mercy we could never deserve. His death on the cross and His resurrection opened the way for the reconciliation of all our broken relationships.
How can we be saved?
• SJ: Victims are morally innocent and do not require salvation. Oppressors can never be fully pardoned, but partial salvation is available if they confess their complicity in oppression and support the revolution.
• BWV: “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. … everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” ( Roman 10:9, 13)
What is our primary moral duty?
• SJ: To stand in solidarity with, protect, and defend the oppressed: women, people of color, sexual minorities (LGBTQ+),etc.
• BWV: To love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength ( which involves living in obedience to all that Christ commanded) and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
How do we know what is true?
• SJ: The notions of objective truth, reason, logic, evidence, and argument are discredited tools that oppressors employ to maintain their hegemony. We gain knowledge of “truth” through victims, who, based on their lived experience of oppression, have greater insight than oppressors. This is referred to as Standpoint Epistemology.
• BWV: Divine Revelation: (1) God’s written Word (2 Tim. 3:13); (2) the “law written on our heart,” or human conscience (Romans 2:15) and God’s revelation in creation (Romans 1:20). To this we apply our God given capacity for reason, logic, discussion, and debate to assemble and weigh evidence in pursuit of truth.
Who has ultimate authority?
• SJ: Victims are the final authority. The claims of victims based on their subjective, lived experiences must be believed without question.
• BWV: God ( and His revealed Word in Scripture) is the final authority.
Is there a future, final judgement?
• No. There is no god who will return to punish the wicked and reward the upright. Rather, injustice must be rooted out here and now by those with the power to do so.
• Yes. Jesus will return and accomplish perfect justice. He will preserve all that is good and rid the world of all that is evil. Until then, He extends mercy and forgiveness to sinful people.

AT THE CROSSROAD

Ravi Zacharias
“The Camera had won the battle OF SEEING AND BELIEVING. The world, and America in particular, was foundationally transformed. The zeal of young, combined with the material means that their parents had fought to give them and the invasiveness of the medium of television, made for a powerful overthrow of the reigning worldview.
The battle was carried into the universities, whose own academic experts were flaying America, and the intelligentsia hit hard at political demagoguery, as they called it.
…And all this was reflected in the arts as rock stars changed the mathematical rules of music and discord became entertainment. Noise became deafened to reason.
…At the time, most people failed to understand the power of the media to change their views and reshape their thinking. Instead of viewing the world THROUGH the medium of television, they allowed the medium TO DEFINE THE WORLD FOR THEM.”

In the same book “WHY JESUS” Ravi goes on to explain:
“There is a war raging. It is the battle for thought and belief through a weapon of mass deconstruction. In that battle, it is not firepower we need to fear as much as it is electronic power. From the conscious to the subconscious we are in its grip. From wars in different lands to battles for moral acceptability, the television set has won the day. I stress this because I believe that almost none of the NEW SPIRITUALITIES would be so pervasive if it were not for the genius and built-in distortion of television. It reinforces what WE WANT TO BELIEVE, and if what WE WANT TO BELIEVE is WHAT WE ARE TOLD TO BELIEVE THROUGH THE MEDIUM, no amount of logic or argument can shake that conviction. Whichever way you want to look at it, television – and now viral media – is the SHAPER OF EVERYTHING WE THINK AND BELIEVE.”

The word translated “healthy” is “HAPLOUS” which means “motivated by singleness of purpose so as to be open and above board, single, without guile, sincere, straightforward.”

Tom Landry, the legendary coach of the Dallas Cowboys and a committed follower of Jesus, said: “The job of a coach is to make men do what they don’t want to do, in order to be what they’ve always wanted to be.”

Blaise Pascal, the French mathematician and philosopher, wrote:
“There are only three kinds of persons; those who serve God having found him; others who are occupied in seeking him, not having found him; while the remainder live without seeking him and without having found him. The first are reasonable and happy; the last are foolish and unhappy; those between are unhappy and reasonable.”

REVOLUTIONARIES FOR JESUS

Robert Maginnis in his book “Collision Course – The fight to reclaim our Moral Compass before it’s too Late” writes:
“Even though the pain of the cultural revolution is especially acute at present, the truth is it started decades ago when the so-called progressives began planning the gradual destruction of America. Their achievements were gradual such as removing God from the public square, making our public schools into leftist brainwashing machines that teach children to hate God, country and their parents.”

HARVARD UNIVERSITY
“Let every student be plainly instructed and consider well that the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus, which is eternal life and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.
Everyone shall so exercise himself in reading the Scriptures twice a day that he shall be ready to give such an account of his proficiency therein.” Harvard student directives, 1643
YALE UNIVERSITY
“In all, have an eye to the great end of all your studies, which is to obtain the clearest conception of Divine things and to lead you to a saving knowledge of God in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Thomas Clapp, Yale President 1740

Yale’s Requirements:
“All scholars are to live a religious and blameless life according to the rules of God’s word, diligently reading the Holy Scriptures, and constantly attending all the duties of religion.
Yale student regulations, 1745

PRINCETON UNIVERSITY
“Every student shall attend worship in the college hall morning and evening and shall attend public service on the Sabbath. There shall be assigned to each class certain exercises for the religious instruction. And no student belonging to any class shall neglect them.
He is the best friend to American liberty who is the most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion and who sets himself with the greatest firmness to bear down on profanity and immorality of every kind. Whosoever is an avowed enemy of God, I hesitate not to call him an enemy of this country.”
John Witherspoon, President of Princeton University

What one generation tolerates; the next generation will embrace.” John Wesley

The following letter from college student Marcy Musgrave in the editorial section of the Dallas Morning News on Sunday, May 2, 1999.
“Generation NEXT has some Questions. I am a member of the upcoming generation – the one after Generation X that has yet to be given a name. So far, it appears that most people are rallying behind the idea of calling us Generation Next. I believe I know why. The older generations are hoping we will mindlessly assume our place as the “next” in line. That way, they won’t have to explain why my generation has had to experience so much pain and heartache. “What heartache?” you say. “Don’t you know you have grown up in a time of great prosperity?” Yea, we know that.
Believe me, it has been drilled into our heads since birth. Unfortunately, the pain and hurt I speak of can’t be reconciled with money. You have tried for years to buy us happiness, but it is only temporary. Money isn’t the answer, and it is time for people to begin admitting their guilt for failing my generation. I will admit that I wasn’t planning to write this. I was going to tuck it away in some corner of my mind and fall victim to your whole “next” mentality.
But after the massacre in Littleton, CO, I realize that as a member of this generation that kills without remorse, I had a duty to challenge all of my elders to explain why they have allowed things to become so bad. Let me tell you this; These questions don’t represent only me but a whole generation that is struggling to grow up and make sense of this world. We all have questions; we all want explanations. People may label us Generation NEXT, but we are more appropriately Generation “WHY?”
“Why did most of you lie when you made the vow of ‘til death do us part’?
Why do you fool yourselves into believing that divorce really is better for the kids in the long run? Why do so many of you divorced parents spend more time with your new boyfriend or girlfriend than with your own children? Why did you ever fall victim to the notion that kids are just as well off being raised by a complete stranger at a daycare center than by their own mother or father? Why do you look down on parents who decide to quit work and stay home to raise their children? Why does the television do the most talking at family meals? Why is work more important than your own family? Why is money regarded as more important than relationships?
Why is ‘quality time’ generally no longer than a five-to-10 minute conversation each day? Why do you try to make up for the lack of time you spend with us by giving us more and more material objects that we really don’t need? Why does your work (in the form of a cell Phone, laptop computer, etc.), always come with us on vacations? Why have you neglected to teach us values and morals? Why haven’t you lived moral lives that we could model our own after? Why isn’t religion one of the most important words in our household? Why do you play God when it comes to abortion? Why don’t you have enough faith in us to teach us abstinence rather than safe sex? Why do you allow us to watch violent movies but expect us to maintain some type of childlike innocence? Why do you allow us to spend unlimited amounts of time on the Internet, but still are shocked about our knowledge of how to build bombs? Why are you so afraid to tell us ‘NO’ sometimes? Why is it so hard for you to realize that school shootings, and other violent juvenile behavior, result from a lack of your attention more than anything else? Call us GENERATION NEXT if you want to, but I think you will be surprised at how we will fail to fit into your neat little category. These questions should, and will, be asked of the generations that have failed us.” Marcy Musgrave, a junior at Texas A&M University

“Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.” Vladimir Lenin

Ravi Zacharias in his book “Jesus among Secular God’s” (2017) makes this observation regarding Europe:
“I will go so far as to say that the West is on the verge of collapse at the hands of its own secular intellectuals. It is only a matter of time. The Christian faith brings with it convictions by which to stand and build a moral framework. The secular thinker, with his implicitly amoral assumptions, imagines that knowledge without a moral base has enough sustaining power. It simply doesn’t.
Watch Europe cower under the heel of Islamists who have not forgotten that they were stopped from overtaking Europe and beaten back by Charles Martel thirteen centuries ago. Now, with patience and the clever control of demographics and a gullible media, they stand by, ready to one day take over the structures and edifices built by a different ethic and a different belief system. It is only a matter of time, and they are in no hurry. Thirteen centuries ago, Europe was able to stop the theocratic Islamic tidal wave BECAUSE IT HAD A FAITH TO DEFEND. The value-less culture of today will not be able to withstand the attack.”

The same year (2017) Douglas Murray published the book titled: “The Strange Death of Europe”
He starts the Introduction with these words: “Europe is committing suicide. Or at least its leaders have decided to commit suicide. Whether the European people choose to go along with this is, naturally, another matter.”

The Latin for radical is ‘RADIX’ which means “to cut to the root”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. warned: “If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.”

WE BOW TO A HIGHER AUTHORITY

February 6, 2009, the National Religious Broadcasters adopted what they called:
“A Declaration of Unity in the Gospel”
“We fully accept our charge to faithfully obey the command of Christ to preach the Gospel, even if human governments and institutions attempt to oppose, constrain, or prohibit.”

John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, wrote:
“WE must not mind insulting men, if by respecting them we offend God.”

J. Vernon McGee once made this statements about the prophet Daniel who suffered persecution for his faith:
“The reason the lions didn’t eat him is because he was three-fourths backbone and the rest gristle!”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe observed:
“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”
In 1931, Philosopher Aldous Huxley wrote the novel ‘BRAVE NEW WORLD”
He wrote this book before world war II.
“There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be DISTRACTED FROM ANY DESIRE TO REBEL by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution.” Aldous Huxley

Yuri Alexandrovich Bezmenov, a former KGB agent who defected to Canada in 1970.
Here’s how Bezmenov described the state of a “demoralized” person:
“As I mentioned before, exposure to true information does not matter anymore,” said Bezmenov. “A person who was demoralized is unable to assess true information. The facts tell nothing to him. Even if I shower him with information, with authentic proof, with documents, with pictures; even if I take him by force to the Soviet Union and show him [a] concentration camp, he will refuse to believe it, until he [receives] a kick in his fan-bottom. When a military boot crashes his balls then he will understand. But not before that. That’s the [tragedy] of the situation of demoralization.”
It’s hard not to see in that the state of many modern Americans. We have become a society of polarized tribes, with some people flat out rejecting facts in favor of narratives and opinions.
Once demoralization is completed, the second stage of ideological brainwashing is “destabilization”. During this two-to-five-year period, asserted Bezmenov, what matters is the targeting of essential structural elements of a nation: economy, foreign relations, and defense systems. Basically, the subverter would look to destabilize every one of those areas in the United States, considerably weakening it.
The third stage would be “crisis”. It would take only up to six weeks to send a country into crisis, explained Bezmenov. The crisis would bring “a violent change of power, structure, and economy” and will be followed by the last stage, “normalization.” That’s when your country is basically taken over, living under a new ideology and reality.
This will happen to America unless it gets rid of people who will bring it to a crisis, warned Bezmenov. What’s more “if people will fail to grasp the impending danger of that development, nothing ever can help [the] United States,” adding, “You may kiss goodbye to your freedom.”

ESCAPING THE DECEPTION

Let us go on a fast-paced history journey:

In 1932 Aldous Huxley wrote the novel: “Brand New World”
In it he made the prediction that mood enhancing drugs and genetic engineering will be a part of our life.
Several decades later in 1950, antidepressants were first popularized to the masses, and in 1972 the first DNA manipulation was announced.

In 1948 Novelist Ray Bradbury wrote the book: “Fahrenheit 451”
He envisioned a world in which people were tuned into TVs and tuned out to each other.
Decades later, iPods, cellphones, and earbuds would take the world by storm.

In June of 1949 British novelist George Orwell wrote the book: “1984”
In it he warned against a world in which the government spies on its citizens. It would take us only about sixty-five years to realize he was right.

October 2, 1959 the Emmy Award-winning TV series called “The Twilight Zone”, written and produced by Rod Serling was launched.
He wrote over 80 episodes that were filled with a mix of comedy and superstition.
Here is what the author said:
“This is not a new world: It is simply an extension of what began in the old one. It has patterned itself after every dictator who has ever planted the ripping imprint of a boot on the pages of history since the beginning of time. It has refinements, technological advancements, and a more sophisticated approach to the destruction of human freedom. But like every one of the super states that preceded it, it has one iron rule: ‘LOGIC IS AN ENEMY, AND TRUTH IS A MENACE.”

In all these novels and TV series and movies, the writers and filmmakers sounded the alarm bells HOW DECEPTION WILL BE THE WEAPON OF CHOICE TO BRING EVERYONE INTO SLAVERY.

John Whitehead in his book “Battlefield America” published in 2015, writes:
“How do you get a nation to docilely accept a police state? How do you persuade a populace to accept metal detectors and pat downs in their schools, bag searches in their train stations, tanks and military weaponry used by their small town police force, surveillance cameras on their traffic lights, police strip searches on their public roads, unwarranted and forced blood draws at drunk driving checkpoints, whole body scanners in their airports, and government agents monitoring their communications?
Try to ram such a state of affairs down their throats, and you might find yourself with a rebellion on your hands. Instead, you bombard the citizenry with constant color-coded alerts, terrorize them with reports of shootings and bomb threats in malls, schools, and sports arenas, desensitize them with a steady diet of police violence, and mesmerize them with entertainment spectacles (what the Romans used to refer to as “Bread and circus” distractions) and electronic devices, while selling the whole package to them as being in their best interests.
ll the while, the American people remain largely oblivious to the looming threat of their freedoms, eager to be persuaded that the government can solve the problem that plague us, whether it is terrorism, an economic depression, an environmental disaster, OR EVEN A VIRAL EPIDEMIC.”

HOW CAN SUCH A THING BE HAPPENING RIGHT UNDER OUR OWN NOSES? HOW IS IT POSSIBLE THAT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE NOT SEEING IT ALL FOR WHAT IT REALLY IS?

Nazi Field Marshal Hermann Goering was one that was on trial. At one point during his trial he made this remark:
“It is always a simple matter to drag people along whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy.
All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.”
On July 18, 1925 Adolf Hitler wrote the book: “MEIN KAMPF”
“The very first essential for success is a perpetually constant and regular employment of violence.”

I quoted earlier Rod Sterling who is the screen writer for the TV series “The Twilight Zone”.
“We’re developing a new citizenry. One that will be very selective about cereals and automobiles BUT WON’T BE ABLE TO THINK.”

We live in an electronic concentration camp. Call it what you will, the meaning is the same: in our quest for less personal responsibility, a greater sense of security, and no burdensome obligations to each other or to future generations, we have created a society in which we have NO TRUE FREEDOM.

Before we take a closer look at the letter the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Colossae, let me give you a quote from Dallas Willard found in his book “The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God”
“Their union with Jesus allows them now to be a part of his conspiracy to undermine the structures of evil, which continue to dominate human history, WITH THE FORCES OF TRUTH, FREEDOM, AND LOVE. We can quietly and relentlessly align ourselves with these forces, wherever they are, because we know what is cosmically afoot. To overcome evil with good, in the apostle Paul’s words is not just something for an individual effort here and there, is actually what will come to pass on this earth. The power of Jesus’ resurrection and his continuing life in human beings assures of this.”
“If cheap propaganda stunts does not secure the compliance, open threats will suffice. (here goes the freedom: the second force)
For instance, in the US, city mayors and local politicians have threatened to “hunt down”, monitor social media and jail those who break lockdown rules.”

JESUS IS IN THE CRISIS

The Lebanese Christian author Charles Malik in his book “CHRIST AND CRISIS” writes:
“Are you perplexed? Do you “feel” the crisis? Do you “feel” something profoundly wrong, both in your life and in the affairs of the world? Do you as it were “hold your heart in your hand”, fearing that at almost the next moment something terrible is going to break out -both in you and the world? Have you reached the state where you simply do not quite trust the processes of the world (including nature, science, economics, politics, and even the best good will), suspecting that there is in them a flaw somewhere, a false note, an immanent principle of darkness, destruction, and death?
He wrote that book in 2015!

Mark Sayers in his book “Reappearing Church” writes:
“Our cultural crises show us the consequences of what happens when we try and take over the controls of the world.
To the contrite heart, the humble, the meek in spirit, God’s presence is received as waves of love. Yet for the proud, the rebellious, the autonomous, the individuals and systems that wish to continue Adam and Eve’s rebellion to reanimate the project of Babylon, to reach for progress without presence – for such people and systems, those same waves of love that are God’s presence are experienced as judgment.”

In 1966 Lesslie Newbigin published a book titled: “Honest Religion for Secular Man”
“After Christ had humiliated the power and principalities upon the cross, the sacred order of the world was exposed. It was either God’s unmediated presence or nothing.
As a Christian I see this process of secularization as an extension of the prophetic attack, in the name of the living God, upon all structures of thought, patterns of society, idols whether mental or metal, which claim sacred authority”.

THERE ARE TWO PLANS

JESUS CAME TO PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM.

Chuck Swindoll in his commentary on this text writes:
“For many years, faulty information had been taught by the religious aristocracy. With unquestioned authority, these religious leaders twisted the meaning of Holy Scripture, offered interpretations that were simply wrong, and demanded applications that were frankly impossible. Not content to let God’s Word speak for itself, they added to the commandments of God and required that everyone obey their additions without hesitation.
When Jesus sat down and delivered His illustrious Sermon on the Mount, jaws must have dropped as His audience heard an entirely different interpretation, delivered in an entirely different mode of communication.”

Dr. Michael Heiser in his book “Supernatural” writes:
“Though Eden was lost, God intends that it be restored. Ultimately, his rule – his kingdom – will return in its full scope when Jesus comes back and God creates a new heaven and earth (one that, in Revelation 21 and 22 looks a lot like Eden.)
In the meantime, we can spread the truth of God and the gospel of Jesus everywhere. We can also represent God to everyone we meet and in every place. We are God’s agents to restore Eden in the here and now, looking forward to the day when Jesus brings that plan to a climax.”

John Stott says it this way in his commentary on Matthew:
“Christian righteousness is greater than pharisaic righteousness because it is deeper, being a righteousness of the heart.
The righteousness which is pleasing to him is an inward righteousness of MIND AND MOTIVE.”

AN EXCITING OPPORTUNITY

Then, Jesus makes these remarkable statements:
• You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
• You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
• In the same way, LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE BEFORE OTHERS, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Remember, Jesus spoke these words to a crowd that has lost hope. It is easy to lose hope when things don’t look good and uncertainty and fear is dominating our very lives.

Mark Sayers in his book “The Disappearing Church” has a chapter titled:
Creative Minorities: Going Deep
“The huge tree wins the race by doing something counterintuitive. While the others fight for space, air, and light, it goes underground. While the others head upwards pushing through the surface, it goes deep. While the others pursue, visibility at the expense of stability, the tree remains underground, hidden, building powerful roots. The deep underground foundation grown by the tree ensure that it is connected to deep and unseen sources of water, nutrients, and life. Once these are secured, growth can then happen.
The tree is willing to lose the initial battles in order to win the war.”
“In our culture, which corrodes and seduces us, which erodes commitments, faith, and covenant, we need to be like the tree. The response to a culture built on superficiality, which reduces the world to a shallow secularity, is depth. We need sources of life and sustenance not found in the adulation or respect of the public. In our culture which rips at roots, which tears at foundations, we need depth, we need roots, and we need foundations.”

Richard Foster once said:
“The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”

CHRISTIAN COUNTER-CULTURE

This account shows everyone is living the same life on Instagram by Cara Curtis —
“When scrolling through your Instagram feed, do you ever feel like you’re getting déjà vu? This is probably because people seem to be living the same life on Instagram.
Whether it’s a perfectly shot piece of avocado toast alongside an artistic looking latte or a breathtaking image of someone jumping from a waterfall, it’s been done before. A million times.
Long before over-sharing online was a normal thing to do, humans have always been attracted to tourist destinations to capture the perfect photograph.
I think we’re all guilty of it to some extent, but now, instead of taking home a gift shop souvenir and relaying your trip to your close friends, people post every detail of their lives online to hundreds of followers who they may not necessarily even know.
Because of this urge to document our lives in real time, originality is becoming a thing of the past and a new-age of copycatting is creeping up on us.”

Before we go to our text, let me read from a chapter titled “the Instagram Life”
“Every society has a way of transmitting its values to the young. Some societies do it through religious festivals or military parades. One of the ways we do it is through a secular sermon called the commencement address……Many young people are graduating into limbo. Floating and plagued by uncertainty, they want to know what specifically they should do with their lives. So, we hand them
• THE GREAT EMPTY BOX OF FREEDOM.
The purpose of life is to be free. Freedom leads to happiness! We’re not going to impose anything on you or tell you what to do. We give you your liberated self to explore. Enjoy your freedom!
The students in the audience put down the empty box because they are drowning in freedom. What they’re looking for is DIRECTION. What is freedom for? How do I know which path is my path?
So we hand them another big box of nothing –
• THE BIG BOX OF POSSIBILITY!
Your future is limitless! You can do anything you set your mind to! The journey is the destination! Take risks! Be audacious! Dream big! But this mantra doesn’t help, either. If you don’t know what your life is for, how does it help to be told that your future is limitless? That just ups the pressure. So they put down that empty box. They are looking for a SOURCE OF WISDOM. Where can I find the answers to my big questions.
So, we hand them
• THE EMPTY BOX OF AUTHENTICITY.
Look inside yourself! Find your true inner passion. You are amazing! Awaken the giant within! Live according to your own true way! You do you!
This is useless too. The “you” we tell them to consult for life’s answers is the very thing that hasn’t yet formed. So they put down that empty box and ask, “What can I devote myself to? What cause will inspire me and give meaning and direction to my life?”
At this point we hand them
• THE EMPTIEST BOX OF ALL – THE BOX OF AUTONOMY.
You are on your own, we tell them. It’s up to you to define your own values, No one else can tell you what’s right or wrong for you. Your truth is to be found in your own way through your own story that you tell about yourself. Do what you love!
You will notice that our answers take all the difficulties of living in your twenties and make them worse. The graduates are in limbo, and we give them uncertainty. They want to know why they should do this as opposed to that. And we have nothing to say except. Figure it out yourself based on no criteria outside yourself. They are floundering in a formless desert. Not only over their heads.

David Brooks “The Second Mountain – The quest for a Moral Life”
The author summarizes the big SIM TO NOWHERE with these words:
“The average American has seven jobs over the course of their twenties. A third of recent college graduates are unemployed, underemployed, or making less then $ 30,000 a year at any given moment. Half feel they have no plan for their life.
These are peak years for alcoholism and drug addiction. People in this life stage move every three years. 40% move back in with their parents at least once. They are much less likely to attend religious services or join a political party. People in their odyssey years tend to be dementedly optimistic about the long-term future. 96% of 18-24-olds agree with the statement “I AM VERY SURE THAT SOMEDAY I WILL GET TO WHERE I WANT TO BE IN LIFE.”
But the present is marked by wandering, loneliness, detachment, doubt, underemployment, heartbreaks, and bad bosses, while their parents go slowly insane.”

You still don’t believe it; let me give you one more example written by the same author:
“When enough people are going through this phase at once, you end up with a society in which everything is flux. You end up with what the Polish philosopher Zygmunt Bauman calls “liquid modernity.” In the age of the smartphone, the friction costs involved in making or braking any transaction or relationship approach zero. The Internet is commanding you to click on and sample one thing after another. Living online often means living in a state of diversion. When you’re living in diversion you’re not actually deeply interested in things; you’re just bored at a more frenetic pace. Online life is saturated with decommitment devices. If you can’t focus your attention for thirty seconds, how on earth are you going to commit for life?
Such is life in the dizziness of freedom. Nobody quite knows where they stand with one another. Everybody is pretty sure that other people are doing life better. Comparison is the robber of joy.”
“You know that at some point you should sit down and find some overall direction for life. But the mind wants to wander from the meaty big questions, which are completely daunting and unanswerable, to the diverting candy right on your phone – the tiny dopamine lift.”
All of this points in one direction; INTO THE DITCH. Political freedom is great. But personal, social, and emotional freedom – when it becomes an ultimate end – absolutely sucks. It leads to a random, busy life with no discernible direction, no firm foundation, and in which, as Marx put it, all that’s solid melts to air. It turns out that freedom isn’t an ocean you want to spend your life in. Freedom is a river you want to get across so you can plant yourself on the other side – and fully commit to something.”

Dallas Willard in his book “Divine Conspiracy” writes:
“Perhaps many people will find that they are already humble. Just be humble, they say. But such a way of reading the beatitudes also gives various other kinds of people automatic access to the kingdom of heaven in terms nicely suited to them – especially if they have a distant God and not a present King. If they are not in a position to be humble, they perhaps can mange to mourn, or be meek, or become persecuted, and then one of the other Beatitudes will, on the interpretation in question, take over to secure their blessedness.

THINGS ARE ABOUT TO CHANGE

Dallas Willard in “The Divine Conspiracy”
Bar-Code Faith
Think of the bar codes now used on goods in most stores. The scanner responds only to the bar code. It makes no difference what is in the bottle or package that bears it, or whether the sticker is on the ‘right’ one or not. The calculator responds through its electronic eye to the bar code and totally disregards everything else. If the ice cream sticker is on the dog food, the dog food is ice cream, so far as the scanner knows or cares.
On a recent radio program a prominent minister spent fifteen minutes enforcing the point that ‘justification’, the forgiveness of sins, involves no change at all in the heart of personality of the one forgiven. It is, he insisted, something entirely external to you, located wholly in God himself.
His intent was to emphasize the familiar Protestant point that salvation is by God’s grace only and is totally independent of what we may do. But what he in fact said was that being a Christian has nothing to do with the kind of person you are. The implications of this teaching are stunning.
The theology of Christian trinkets says there is something about the Christian that works like the bar code. Some rituals, some belief, or some association with a group affects God the way the bar code affects the scanner. Perhaps there has occurred a moment of mental assent to a creed, or an association entered into with a church. God ‘scans’ it, and forgiveness floods forth. An appropriate amount of righteousness is shifted from Christ’s account to our account in the bank of heaven, and all our debts are paid. We are, accordingly, ‘saved’. Our guilt is erased. How could we not be Christians?
For some Christian groups the ‘account’ has to be appropriately serviced to keep the debts paid up, because we really are not perfect. For others – some strong Calvinist groups – every debt past, present and future is paid for at the initial scan. But the essential thing in either case is the forgiveness of sins. And the pay-off for having faith and being ‘scanned’ comes at death and after. Life now being lived has no necessary connection with being a Christian as long as the ‘bar code’ does its job.

R.T. France in his commentary gives us the answer:
“These large “crowds” are said to “follow” Jesus, the same term which in verses 20 and 22 denoted the first disciples’ total change of lifestyle….
A radical commitment to accompany Jesus.
Yet as the narrative progresses, we shall find only a few who are Jesus’ constant and committed companions, while a less easily defined “crowd” comes and goes. This wider group represents a pool of possible “full-time” recruits, but generally their “following” seems to be more sporadic and temporary.
The verb “follow” alone is not therefore a sufficient indication of full-scale discipleship. Mark 3:7-8 is perhaps more exact in describing this interprovincial crowd as simply “coming to” Jesus.”

Michael Heiser in “Supernatural” writes:
“The members of God’s family have a mission: to be God’s agents in restoring his good rule on earth and expanding the membership of his family. We are God’s means to propel the great reversal begun in Acts 2, the birth of the church, the body of Christ, until the time when the Lord returns.
As evil had spread like a contagion through humanity after the failure of the first Eden, so the gospel spreads like an antidote through the same infected host. We are CARRIERS of the truth about the God of gods, his love for all nations, and his unchanging desire to dwell with his family in the earthly home he has wanted since its creation. Eden will live again.
Everything we do and say matters, though we may never know why or how. But our job isn’t to see – it’s to do. Walking by faith isn’t passive – its purposeful.”

THE NAZARETH MANIFESTO

Christopher Wright in his book “The Mission of God”, writes:
“The reign of YHWH, when it would finally come, would mean justice for the oppressed and the overthrow of the wicked. It would bring true peace to the nations and the abolition of war, the means of war, and training for war. It would put an end to poverty, want and need, and provide everyone with economic viability (under the metaphor “under his own vine and fig tree”). It would mean satisfying and fulfilling life for human families, safety for children, and fulfillment for the elderly, without danger from enemies, and all of this within a renewed creation free from harm and threat. It would mean the inversion of the moral values that dominate the current world order, for in the kingdom of God the upside down priorities of the beatitudes operate and the Magnificat is not just wishful thinking.”

J.D. Green in his book “Christology in Cultural Perspective”
“As Jesus stood on trial before the highest political-religious authority in all Jewish society, he calmly took to himself the identity of the “Daniel’s Son of Man”, whose authority would ultimately overthrow the beast of oppressive and persecuting powers (Daniel 7).
No wonder the chief priest tore his robes and cried blasphemy. It just won’t do when the chief priest is cast in the role of chief beast. Jesus’ radical claims and teachings were not just bursting old wineskins; they were enough to burst some political blood vessels.”
Matthew 4:17
From that day Jesus began TO PREACH, saying: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

John McArthur in his commentary on this verse writes:
“Jesus preached His message with certainty. He did not come to dispute or to argue, but to proclaim, TO PREACH. Preaching is the proclamation of certainties, not the suggestion of possibilities.”
“Repent involves a change of opinion, or direction, of life itself. To repent is to have a radical change of heart and will – and, consequently, of behavior.”

Christopher Wright writes:
“A change of political or economic or geographical landscape, a change of government, a change of social status may all be beneficial in themselves, but they will be of no eternal benefit unless the spiritual goals of exodus are also met. So to change people’s social or economic status without leading them to saving faith and obedience to God in Christ leads no further than the wilderness or the exile, both places of death.”

DO YOU BELIEVE?

Carmen Joy Imes in her book “Bearing God’s Name” writes:
“Matthew’s gospel breaks neatly into five blocks of teaching, mimicking the five books of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy).
These five blocks of teaching are preceded by an introductory story in which Jesus’ life is in danger because King Herod, like Pharaoh, is killing Jewish babies. To escape, his parents take him to Egypt. It’s an inside-out Exodus story. When the coast is clear, they return to Palestine, retracting Israel’s journey from Egypt to the promised land. Next, we fast forward to Jesus’ adulthood, where he passes through the waters of baptism in the Jordan, reminding us of Israel’s crossing both the Red Sea and the Jordan.
After this, Jesus is sent by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days, where he reenacts Israel’s wilderness wanderings.”

Baptism does not produce salvation in this text, Rather, it corresponds to something that does, THE DEATH OF JESUS (v 19) and the RESURRECTION (v 21)
“Baptism saves” if one makes a decision; a pledge of loyalty oath,
a public proclamation of who is on the Lord’s side in the cosmic war between good and evil.
Every Baptism is therefore a reiteration of the past and future doom of the Watchers in the wake of the gospel and the kingdom of God.
Early Christians understood the typology of this passage and its link back to 1 Enoch and Genesis 6:1-4.
This is why early baptismal formulas included a renunciation of Satan and his angels. Baptism was anything but routine. It was a symbol of spiritual warfare.” Dr. Michael Heiser “Reversing Hermon”

Who is Azazel?
We find the Biblical text in Leviticus 16:7-10
“And Aaron shall take the two goats, and he shall present them before Yahweh at the tent of assembly’s entrance. Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for Yahweh and one for Azazel. And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot for Yahweh fell, and he shall sacrifice it as a sin offering. But the must present alive before Yahweh the goat on which the lot for Azazel fell to make atonement for himself, to send it away into the desert to Azazel.”

R.T. France
“His Father is testing him in the school of privation, and his triumphant rebuttal of the devil’s suggestions will ensure that the filial bond can survive in spite of the conflict that lies ahead.”

Dr. Michael Heiser in the “Unseen Realm” makes this comment about that temptation:
“Had Jesus given in, it would have been an acknowledgment that Satan’s permission was needed to possess the nations. It wasn’t. Satan presumed power and ownership of something that, ultimately, was not his but God’s. The messaging behind Jesus’ answer is clear: Yahweh will take the nations back by his own means in his own time. He doesn’t need them to be given away in a bargain. Jesus was loyal to his Father.”

A NEW BEGINNING

Christopher Wright in his book “The mission of God” asks the question:
“How big is our Gospel? If our gospel is the good news about God’s redemption, then the question moves on to, “How big is our UNDERSTANDING OF REDEMPTION?
Where do we turn in the Bible for our understanding of redemption?
If you would have asked a devout Israelite in the Old Testament period “Are you redeemed?” the answer would have been a most definite yes. And if you had asked “How do you know?” you would be taken aside to sit down somewhere while your friend recounted a long and exciting story – THE STORY OF EXODUS.”
Christopher Wright is referring to Exodus 6:6: Say therefore to the people of Israel, “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will REDEEM you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.

Repent is not a feeling, repent is an ACTION.
Repentance speaks of a CHANGE OF DIRECTION,
NOT A SORROW OF HEART.

Michael Heiser in “Unseen Realm» comments on this chapter:
“In Isaiah 40:1 we learn that God is the speaker. He issues four commands. All four commands are grammatically plural in Hebrew. That means that Yahweh is commanding A GROUP. The group cannot be Israelites or a collective Israel, since it is Israel that Yahweh is commanding the group to comfort, speak to, and call. You should know the identity of the group by now: THE DIVINE COUNCIL.”

“In response to the commands in Isaiah 40:1-2, a lone response comes:
A VOICE IS CALLING IN THE WILDERNESS, “CLEAR THE WAY OF YAHWEH! MAKE A HIGHWAY SMOOTH IN THE DESERT FOR OUR GOD!” (Isaiah 40:3)

Michael Heiser comments on this scene:
“Like the prophet of old, John the Baptist has “stood in the council and answered the call. To a Jew familiar with the Old Testament, the pattern would not be lost. As had been the case at the time of Isaiah, Yahweh’s council had met in regard to the fate of an apostate Israel. Isaiah had been sent to a spiritually blind and deaf nation. The calling of John the Baptist tells the reader that Yahweh’s Divine Council is in session again, only this time the aim is TO LAUNCH THE KINGDOM OF GOD WITH THE SECOND YAHWEH, NOW INCARNATE, AS ITS POINT MAN.”

FEARLESS LIVING

“It is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and what not. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.
It’s because he is smart.”
The reported asked: “So what’s he doing now?”
Scalia replied: “What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.” Antonin Scalia

In May 2016 the GUARDIAN, a highly respected British daily news, published this report:
“We live with an epidemic of anxiety. In 1980, 4 percent of Americans suffered a mental disorder associated with anxiety. Today half do. The trends in Britain are similar. A third of Britons will experience anxiety disorder at some stage in their life, with an explosion of reported anxiety among teenagers and young adults. Anxiety, depression, self-harm, attention deficit disorder and profound eating problems afflict our young as never before.
Anxiety has always been part of the human condition – as has depression and tendencies to self-harm – but never, it seems, on this scale. A number of trends appear to be colliding. This is an era when everyone is expected to find their personal route to happiness at the same time as the bonds of society, faith and community – tried and tested mechanisms to support wellbeing – are fraying. Teenagers in particular – fearful of missing out – are beset by a myriad of agonizing choices about how to achieve the good life with fewer social and psychological anchors to help them navigate their way. Who can blame them if they respond with an ever rising sense of anxiety, if not panic?”

THE HOPE FOR THE NATIONS

Carmen Joy Imes “Bearing God’s Name”
“The Israelites lived in a time when people were desperate to know what the gods were saying. Since the god’s didn’t normally SPEAK audibly as you and I do, priests were trained to read the signs they left in the natural world. Sometimes they manufactured situations in which the gods could reveal things to them, such as the elaborate rituals in which they dropped oil or flour into water and interpreted the results. They sacrificed animals and studied their livers or intestines for clues what the gods were thinking or what they would do next.
They watched for strange births of newborn animals with defects. THEY STUDIED THE STARS. They contacted the dead, doing whatever it took to forecast the future or discern the will of the gods. An answer was not guaranteed. Sometimes they simply could not figure out what the gods wanted.”

Barclay’s in his commentary on Matthew writes:
The Magi were originally a Median tribe. The Medes were part of the Empire of the Persians; they tried to overthrow the Persians and to substitute the power of the Medes. The attempt failed. From that time the Magi ceased to have any ambitions for power or prestige and became a tribe of priests. They became in Persia almost exactly what the Levites were in Israel. They became the teachers and instructors of the Persian Kings. In Persia no sacrifice could be offered unless one of the Magi was present. They became men of holiness and wisdom.
These Magi were men who were skilled in philosophy, medicine and natural science. They were soothsayers and interpreters of dreams.
In those ancient days all men believed in astrology. They believed that they could foretell the future from the stars, and they believed that a man’s destiny was settled by the star under which he was born.
It was not difficult to see how that belief arose. The stars pursue their unvarying courses; they represent the order of the universe.
If then there suddenly appeared some brilliant star, if the unvarying order of the heavens was broken by some special phenomenon, it did look as if God was breaking into His own order and announcing some special thing.”
It may seem to us extraordinary that these men should set out from the East to find a king, but the strange thing is that, just about the time when Jesus was born, there was in the world a strange feeling of expectation, a waiting for the coming of a king. Even the Roman historians knew about this.”
Suetonius in the “LIFE OF VESPASIAN” writes:
“There had spread over all the Orient an old and established belief, that it was fated at that time for men coming from Judea to rule the world”
Tacitus in “Histories” writes:
“there was a firm persuasion that at this very time the East was to grow powerful, and rulers coming from Judea were to acquire universal empire.”
Josephus in “Wars of the Jews” writes:
“The Jews had the belief that about that time one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth.”

Pastor Tom Doyle in his book “Dream’s and Visions”

According to BibleArcheology.org:
“Since the early days of Christianity, Biblical scholars and theologians have offered varying interpretations of the meaning and significance of the gold, frankincense and myrrh that the magi presented to Jesus, according to the Gospel of Matthew (2:11). These valuable items were standard gifts to honor a king or deity in the ancient world: gold as a precious metal, frankincense as perfume or incense, and myrrh as anointing oil.
In fact, these same three items were apparently among the gifts, recorded in ancient inscriptions, that King Seleucus II Callinicus offered to the god Apollo at the temple in Miletus in 243 B.C.E.
The Book of Isaiah, when describing Jerusalem’s glorious restoration, tells of nations and kings who will come and ‘bring gold and frankincense and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.’” (Isaiah 60:6)

YAHWEH SAVES

Biblical scholars have long ago arranged Matthews Gospel into five main sections, which they point out correspond with the five books of Moses, also known as the TORAH. The Jewish people call the entire Old Testament THE TANACH. All five main sections refer to Jesus’ teachings:

Section One: SERMON ON THE MOUNT 5-7)
Section Two: JESUS PERFORMS MIRACLES AND SENDS HIS DISCIPLES (8-10)
Section Three: PARABLES ABOUT THE KINGDOM (13)
Section Four: HOW GREATNESS WORKS IN THE KINGDOM (18)
Section Five: JUDGMENT IN THE KINGDOM TO COME (24-25)

Matthew simply states WHO JESUS IS and NOW YOU HAVE TO WRESTLE THROUGH THE IMPLICATIONS YOURSELF. Matthew is fully convinced that presenting Jesus this way to us, we will get to know Jesus and also get to know who we are.

In the Hebrew text the words used to describe the earth are TOHU and BOHU.
IN THE PHYSICAL REALM MEANS: without form and void or chaotic.
IN THE SPIRITUAL REALM MEANS: that which is nonfunctional and unproductive

John Walton in his book: “The Lost World of Genesis One” writes:
“In the Old Testament God has no needs and focuses functionality around people. Consequently, functionality cannot exist without people in the picture.
In Genesis people are not put in place until day six, but functionality is established with their needs and situation in mind.
This conclusion is further supported by the meaning of the repeated formula “it was good,” which I propose refers to “functioning properly”.
Such a conclusion is not arbitrary but based on the context.
Throughout Genesis 1 any number of possible meanings have been proposed for “good”. In the history of interpretation, it has often been understood in MORAL/ETHICAL terms or as a reference to the QUALITY OF WORKMANSHIP.
While the Hebrew term could be used in any of those ways, the context indicates a different direction. We can find out what the author means when saying all of these things are “good” by inquiring what it would mean for something NOT TO BE GOOD.
Fortunately, the near context offers us just such an opportunity: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18)
This has nothing to do with moral perfection or quality of workmanship – IT IS A COMMENT CONCERNING FUNCTION.
The human condition is not functionally complete without the women. Thus, throughout Genesis 1 the refrain “it was good”, expressed the functional readiness of the cosmos for human beings. Readers were assured that all functions were operating well and in accord with God’s purposes and directions.”

HIS NAME IS JESUS

Dr. Michael Heiser (The Unseen Realm)
“The kingdom of God had failed in the Old Testament, but it would rise from the ashes when the divine king made his appearance. The messianic king would inaugurate a kingdom that would spread throughout the earth and eventually succeed in restoring Eden.
These ideas are familiar. Less apparent, however, is the way the Old Testament characterizes the launching of God’s kingdom as a war between gods and men.”

Michael Kibbe in his book “OUR FUTURE IN THE FACE OF JESUS”
“Through the incarnation, Yahweh has come to be with his people and save them. The name “Immanuel” implies not only that God’s presence is evident in the events surrounding Jesus’ birth, but that Jesus is Yahweh himself, come to be with his people.”

Carmen Joy Imes in her book “Bearing God’s Name”
“For Jesus, CALLING on God’s name is not enough, nor is prophecy, exorcism, or miracles done in his name. The key disposition of one who truly belongs to God is a commitment to action – doing his will rather than one’s own.
The name of God is not a charm to be used at will. It is not a magic amulet to guarantee protection. Those who fail to carry out God’s will bear his name in vain. Jesus had no patience for those whose verbal proclamations do not match their agenda.
He condemns the Pharisees and scribes for having lips and hearts that contradict each other, saying that they “worship God in vain.”
They walk around wearing official religious titles, but their hearts are haughty and self-reliant.”

THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Michael Heiser in his book “The Unseen Realm” in a summary statement says:
“The kingdom of God is already a present reality but isn’t yet realized. John the Baptist announced it. He introduced its king. Jesus preached its arrival and demonstrated what life in God’s Edenic world could and would be like; no disease, no infirmity, no demonic opposition.
The New Testament makes the rebirth of a struggle thousands of years in the making. The people of God have been isolated and under foreign rule. The divine presence of the days of Moses, David, Salomon, and the prophets is nothing but memory. When angels visit Mary and Zechariah to announce the impending births of Jesus and John, centuries of divine silence are broken. Thirty years later, Judea will explode. The unseen spiritual conflict is even more volatile.
Every chapter of the New Testament provides a glimpse into this conflict. The cosmic geography of the Old Testament is evident in the New. Where Jesus goes and what he says and does when he gets there is framed by confrontation with unseen powers. The conflict pursues him unto death – as God had planned, and as Jesus provoked. THE KINGDOM OF GOD ESTABLISHES A PERMANENT BEACHHEAD AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS AND THE DOOR OF THE EMPTY TOMB.

JESUS BROUGHT A SWORD

The sword of which He spoke is the sharpest of all implements of conflict: THE TRUTH. And those who hold it will find themselves hunted by evil. Chuck Swindoll

“Much of our Christian life is nothing more than a cheap anesthetic to deaden the pain of an empty life.” Lewis Sperry Chafer (founder of Dallas Th. Seminary)

“May not the inadequacy of much of our spiritual experience be traced back to our habit of skipping through the corridor of the kingdom like children in the marketplace, always chattering about everything, but learning the true value of nothing.” A.W. Tozer

John MacArthur in his New Testament Commentary on Matthew is quoting Mel White, the author of the book Deceived:
“Walter Mondale wrote that the pastor was an “inspiration to us all.” The Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare cited the pastor’s outstanding contribution. We are told “he knew how to inspire hope.” He was committed to people in need, he counseled prisoners and juvenile delinquents. He stared a job placement center; he opened rest homes and homes for the retarded; he had a health clinic, he organized a vocational training center; he provided free legal aid; he founded a community center; he preached about God. He even claimed to cast out demons, do miracles, and heal.”

British pastor Andrew Murray in his book: Abide in Christ: Thoughts on the Blessed Life of Fellowship with the Son of God (1864):
“It is to be feared that there are many earnest followers of Jesus from whom the meaning of (abiding) is very much hidden. While trusting in their Savior for pardon and for help and seeking to some extent to obey Him, they have hardly realized to what closeness of union, to what intimacy of fellowship He invited them when He said, “Abide in Me.” This is not only an unspeakable loss to themselves, but the church and the world suffer in what they lose.”

“The focus of a Christian’s activity is not to work hard enough to make fruit, but to keep his connection to Jesus Christ clean and strong. One way to do that is to absorb the teaching of God’s Word, the 66 books of the Bible. Read God’s Word…..think about it, apply it, talk about it with others, ask questions, commit sections of it to memory. Strength and productivity come from staying connected. However, according to Jesus, failing to remain connected to the vine leads to tragic consequences. Someone who fails to abide is someone trying to transform his or her own character in order to produce Christlike qualities without maintaining a connection to Christ. And that’s futile; it never works. In fact, it’s a perfect plan for drying up and withering away.” Chuck Swindoll

THE REQUIREMENTS FOR FREEDOM

Matthew 20:20-29 1. God Himself SOVEREIGNLY SELECTS HIS LEADERS Matthew 20:23 John 15:16 Daniel 2:20-21 Daniel 4:17 John 19:1-2 I am here neither by selection of an individual nor election of a group of 50 some million people, but by the sovereign selection of ALMIGHTY GOD. 2. God Himself SOVEREIGNLY PREPARES HIS LEADERS Matthew 20:24-29…

Where Is Your TREASURE?

When Jesus is talking about the treasure, he means the WORD OF GOD. God communicating to his creation, unlocking the mystery of who God is, why we human beings are here on earth, and how we should live on this earth.
We read the Word of God because it is God’s treasure entrusted to us. When we read in His treasure, we will get to know God better. In it our heavenly Father communicates with us, revealing to us His heart and vision for our lives. Where else could we learn about God’s holy character, or about His kingdom established in our hearts, or about the grace of God, the unconditional love of God for us. Apart from such a treasure, we would never know anything about God’s nature, God’s plan for us, God’s future for us, God’s purposes for us.
In other words, this treasure, God’s Word, shows us the way we should go. It also shows us what will happen if we do not treasure God’s advice.
The psalmist clearly points out that by treasuring His Word in our heart, we will be able to live under its daily influence and experience the blessings that come with it.
The Bible, the written word of God, is the only book in the entire world, especially the only religious book in the world where hundreds of prophecies have been recorded when they were spoken and then recorded hundreds of years later when they have been fulfilled exactly as predicted.
“My hands shook as I started to unwrap one of them. I read a few sentences. It was written in beautiful biblical Hebrew. The language was like that of the Psalms, but the text was unknown to me. I looked and looked, and I suddenly had the feeling that I was privileged by destiny to gaze upon a Hebrew Scroll which had not been read for more than 2,000 years. ” Hebrew University Professor Eliezer Lipa Sukenik
Oh, let us never come to a point to read the greatest treasure like most of the religious leaders did when Jesus walked this earth. Searching the Scripture to find eternal life, yet never understood that the very text was testifying of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

It’s Who You Are

If you would have to give a definition of who Jesus is, what would it be?
Peter simply stated: You are the Christ, the anointed one, the promised Messiah, the Son of the living God.
The apostle Paul in the letter to the Colossian church is getting all excited when he giving them a definition of who this Jesus Christ is.
Notice how valuable that treasure is. First, the man finds the treasure and immediately recognizes HOW VALUABLE that treasure is. He does not tell anyone about his find, because he is concerned that someone else would take it from him. His heart is filled with great joy as he goes and liquidates everything he owns so he can go and buy the field in which the treasure is hidden. IN OTHER WORDS, TO GET THE TREASURE, HE IS WILLING TO GIVE UP EVERYTHING ELSE.
In the second parable, the man is portrayed as a merchant, a person of great wealth. He is seeking pearls so he could resell them with a profit. However, in his search He came across ONE VERY SPECIAL PEARL OF GREAT VALUE, he also was willing to go and sell everything he owned so he could get that particular PEARL. The treasure hidden in the field and the pearl of great price are both POINTING TO THE GREATEST TREASURE OF ALL TIME, JESUS CHRIST. In order to get that treasure we must be willing to give up everything.
Today’s evangelistic sermons are full of sugar that brings the hearer to a temporary “sugar-high” only to crash a few hours and days later.
The truth is that the person who finds the treasure, who finds the pearl, never has enough to procure this treasure unless he or she is willing to let go of everything.

What Gift Will I Bring To Him?

Matthew 2:1-23 1. They were SEEKING THE TRUTH Matthew 2:2 Deuteronomy 4:29 2. They were WILLING TO PURSUE THE TRUTH—WHATEVER THE COST Matthew 2:1 Matthew 13:44-46 3. They were NOT WILLING TO GIVE UP—UNTIL THEY FOUND HIM Matthew 2:9-11 4. They came FOR THE RIGHT REASON Matthew 2:2 1.1. I Give Him FIRST PLACE IN MY LIFE Matthew 6:33 Proverbs 3:5-10 1.2.…