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Posted By Nan

Matthew 7:6
This verse has always intrigued me so I have been really looking forward to studying it so that I can understand it fully. To me it always seemed to suggest exclusivity. According to Barclay the early church interpreted this verse in two exclusive ways. One is the way of the Jews who had become Christians. They wanted to maintain the purity of the Jewish faith, believing it to be above all other faiths. These were the ones who wanted all believers to be circumcised and accept the Law. They were the ones Paul often argued with. Another misuse of the verse was by the early church and it was actually an effort to keep the church pure, so it did have a positive benefit for that time. When the church was first establishing itself, the only faith that had a strict moral code was Judaism. Now there were the Christians and they were drawing many people from outside Judaism into the Christian faith. Out in the Gentile world there was widespread immorality. The church needed to maintain a strict moral code to establish the Christian faith. Much as the church of today needs to take a stand against falling moral standards in the general community, the church then needed to be firm in its adherence to the moral code of the Christian faith. So this verse was used to justify moral purity and the insistence that only those who had been baptised and had presumably demonstrated a depth of faith to reach that point, could take part in The Lord’s Supper.
So this verse had a temporary application in the early church. However, when Jesus spoke these words in His Sermon on the Mount that was not the application He had in mind. So what was it?
It is suggested in some commentaries that the verse is potentially mistranslated as Hebrew had no written vowels so words written in Aramaic were only consonants. This would potentially cause mistranslations to slip in. In Hebrew, Parallelism is a common literary device where two clauses that mirror each other are run together. It has been suggested that the original word translated as holy comes from the same set of vowels as the word ear ring. If that is so then the original verse reads “Give not an ear ring to the dogs; Neither cast ye your pearls before swine”. This may sound strange but there are literary conventions in Hebrew that supply a good argument for this being the correct interpretation of the original word. I am not much interested in those arguments but if you are, then a good place to read more is Barclay’s Daily Study Bible of Matthew.
Barclay, along with other commentators, suggests that the meaning of this verse is that not everyone is able to receive the message of the good news of Jesus Christ. Some people’s minds are shut to the message for various reasons. It is possible that in time such people will be able to hear the message but maybe not just now. All we as Christians can do is to live lives that reflect Jesus and glorify God. We must maintain a readiness to witness to others if they ask and to be able to pray for those who do not accept the word. A note of caution on praying for others, you will not always see the results of your prayers. Some of the people you pray for may come to faith when you no longer have contact with them. Some of the people you pray for may never come to faith. Be patient.
This is what I believe Jesus is saying in this verse. Do not beat yourself up over the people who do not accept Jesus, despite your sincere prayers and loving witness. Maybe they are just not ready or may never be ready, to receive Jesus.

Posted By Nan

Matthew 7:1-5
Today I am looking at verses 1 to 5. They are pretty straightforward.

We are not to judge others. We are not to judge situations. We are not to pass judgement on another person. We are not to interpret a person’s actions and give an opinion of them. We are not to delight in spreading malicious gossip as that involves destroying another person’s good name and judging that person. We are not to become so caught up in our own virtuousness that we fall into the habit of looking down on others and not noticing our own sin. We are not to judge the homosexual, the prostitute, the drug taker, the adulterer or anyone else as though their sin is worse than ours. It isn’t. We have all sinned and Jesus does not consider one sin worse than another. We are not to sit back in our fat complacency and feel very satisfied at how good we are and how sinful others are and that we are way better than that because we go to church every Sunday or read our Bibles, or listen to Christian music, or say grace before meals or pray daily or occasionally. We are to be humble and remember that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and that we are justified freely by Jesus' redeeming act of dying on the cross (Romans 3:24). We are to remember that for every sin we see another person doing, we have also sinned and Jesus does not give us the right to judge. Rather He asks us to remember that He died on the cross - something we will be remembering this Friday - to pay for all our sin. We are to approach His throne only to ask for forgiveness for our own sins and allow others to approach the throne to seek their own forgiveness.

May Jesus give you a humble heart and may this Friday be a day for you to reflect on the totally underserved and gracious gift Jesus gave us in dying for our sins.

Posted By Nan

Matthew 6:25-34
This section summarised what Jesus has been saying in the previous sections. We are to seek the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness first and trust that our life, what we will eat and drink, what we will wear, where we will live will be supplied to us. That is easier said than done! I find it extremely hard when things are really bad and someone is treating me badly to see why God would want to help me. When I was an abused child, when I was bullied and tormented at school, He never intervened to stop the horrible abuse so why should I trust Him? If He didn’t look after me then, why would He look after me now? Intellectually I know that I do not always see Him at work in my life, that a life of faith is not necessarily going to be easy, but my emotions say why should it be incessantly awful? I don’t have an answer for this, other than it is these times that I must cling to the Rock, to Jesus and I must lean one hundred per cent on my faith in God and God’s promises that say He will never allow me to face anything His grace cannot help me survive, that He will never allow things to happen to me that are not for my good. I would like to say that I can happily accept all bad things and praise God in all circumstances, but I can’t. I can choose to give praise to God, hoping that someday I will feel that praise and I can cry in despair wondering when I will see the good in an awful situation. I can also feel extremely humble at what Jesus faced on the cross. At what he faced alone because when He took on my sin, He was separated from God. I can be humbled at the thought that Jesus is with me, even when it doesn’t feel that way. And I can come broken to the throne and throw myself at Jesus’ feet and rest there, secure in His love and the love of my Father, God. And when I am rested, I can take tentative steps out into that horrible world, holding His hand like a little child, gazing up into his wonderful eyes, and know He is with me and He loves me and He is my defender.

Posted By Nan

Matthew 6:19-24
This blog continues a discussion of verse 24. At the end of the last blog I mentioned the basis of the teaching contained in this verse was three great principles. The first is that all things belong to God. (Psalm 21:1, 50:10-12). Throughout His ministry, Jesus taught that we can buy, sell, even alter things but we cannot create. Everything in this world, everything we have is from God. He has the ownership we are merely allowed to use those things. When you rent a house, you are expected to treat the house the way the owner wants you to treat it. When you rent a car, the rental company sets out guidelines on what you are allowed to do with the car. Likewise, God gives us possessions and we have a responsibility to treat them as God wants them to be treated.
The next principle Jesus taught was that people are more important than possessions. When we buy our cheap products made by poorly paid and treated workers in developing countries we are supporting the companies that place their profits above the duty God has given to us to value human life more highly than possessions. Many people speak of the horror of the industrial revolution and the poor pay and conditions that workers, many of whom were children, suffered under. Yet those conditions exist today for many people in the world. The human greed for possessions far outweighs our responsibility to honour God’s principle that people are more important than possessions. If you look through the first five books of the Bible you will see in every teaching of God, in every instruction given to the people, this principle. In fact all three principles taught by Jesus are found there.
The last principle Jesus taught was that money and possessions is always a subordinate good. It is not that these things are bad, it is that the love of them is bad. (1 Timothy 6:10). Listening to the news this morning I saw two examples of that love of money being used by the people who possessed it to control and manipulate others. That is really sad, because the two people have lost themselves to the master of mammon instead of the master who saves. It is lovely to see those sadly rare examples of wealthy people who see their wealth as a responsibility that they must be careful to use properly.
So it is not wrong to be wealthy and have possessions. However you need to consider how those possessions have been acquired. Did you gain your possessions at the expense of honesty and honour? Did you cheat, smash, in some way gain advantage over a weaker rival to gain your possessions? Did you gain your wealth by serving it instead of more important duties, such as your family? If you have possessions do you use them? Some people have possessions simply to own them. Others use them for their own purposes, even to harm others. Then there are those who use them to help others. Which one is using their possessions according to Jesus’ principles?
So in this simple verse of two sentences there is so much we need to learn and consider.

Posted By Nan

Matthew 6:19-24
Today’s blog is concentrating on verse 24. This is the verse where Jesus tells his disciples that they cannot serve two masters because they will love one and hate the other. He ends by specifying that we cannot serve God and money. In the Amplified Bible the word mammon is used. In Hebrew this means material possessions. It is defined in my dictionary as meaning “Wealth regarded as an evil influence or false object of worship and devotion.” In the Amplified Bible the words “deceitful riches, money, possessions or whatever is trusted in” are used. I live in an area that is very new and is still being built. The developer sells the area as one where dreams can come true and you can live in your home with everything and make your friends jealous. I find that disquieting. So much advertising talks about buying something “because your friends will be jealous”. On television programs people are seen justifying their love of a house with “my friends will be so jealous”. We have switched from being a society that takes joy in personal satisfaction to one that needs others to be jealous of what we have. What this is saying is that Mammon has become our God. We no longer value things because they lead to a feeling of satisfaction. We value things because it makes us look better than others. If that is how many people see things then who is their master?
According to Barclay (The Daily Study Bible Matthew) the original words for serve and master are slave and absolute ownership. He believes the final sentence in verse 24 should be translated as “No man can be a slave to two owners”. In the world of Jesus’ time, a slave was considered an object, something to be owned, and not a person who had rights. The master of the slave could do anything with that slave, even kill him. The slave also had no time that was his own. Every moment of his life belonged to his master. If we look at this from a perspective of our relationship with God then we must recognise that He is our master. As a Christian this is a full time way of being. He belong to God absolutely and owe Him all our time. Being a Christian is one hundred percent or nothing. We cannot choose to be a Christian every Sunday for a church service and then do what we want for the rest of the week. It is all or nothing. So the person who buys a house in my area and delights in the jealousy inducing aspects of the house is serving the master of mammon not God.
The basis of this teaching is three great principles. Due to lack of space, these principles will be discussed in the next blog. I will be visiting my daughter over the weekend so will not be posting a blog on Saturday. The next blog will be next Wednesday.



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