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Posted By Nan

Matthew 7:24-27 part 1
We are coming to the verses that form the summation of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. This is the point where Jesus tells those who would be His disciples that it is important to hear His words and act on them, or in other words obey them, live by them, be grounded in them. To demonstrate the importance of grounding ourselves in His teaching, he likens the person who acts on His words to a wise man who builds a house on a solid rock foundation. Because the house has a firm foundation that does not move, it can withstand storms and floods. But the person who fails to act on His teaching He likens to a foolish man who builds his house in the sand with no firm foundation so that it is easily blown over or washed away when the troubles of life come.
This concept is spoken of in Proverbs 10:25 which speaks of the whirlwind passing and destroying the wicked but not so the righteous, because they have an everlasting foundation. (Amplified Bible).
It is also the foundation of Psalm 125. Verse1 speaks of those who trust in, lean on and confidently hope in the Lord. The Lord (described here in the Amplified Bible as Mount Zion) cannot be moved, instead He stands fast forever.
The symbolism of clinging to the rock in times of trouble is a much used one in Christianity. But we should cling to that rock at all times. We should be grounded there, able to withstand everything life throws at us. The house with solid foundations may suffer external damage due to the storm, but it will still be on solid foundations at the end of it. So we in life may be battered and bruised by the things that happen to us and the spiritual attacks we endure, but if we stand firm in Jesus we will still have that inner strength that allows us to still be standing at the end of it.
William Barclay, in his Daily Study Bible on Matthew has the following comments to make:
He writes that Jesus demanded two things of His disciples to ensure their lives had sure foundations and could withstand all the tests of life.
The first was that the disciple should listen. He considered that people do not know Jesus and do not know what He said and taught when He was on earth. It is also sadly true that many Christians, because they lack of consistent prayer life and focus on Jesus have never learned to listen to Him. Sadly, the pressures of the modern world and the agendas of many churches, do not allow the leaders of those churches to have a strong prayer life. To serve God, a leader must spend several hours in prayer and contemplation of the Bible. Yet few church leaders do that. If the leaders do not hear Jesus, how can those who come to them to learn? Yes, a church leader has a responsibility to listen to Jesus and know Him well and many fall short of that. We also have an individual responsibility as Christians to have our own personal relationship with Jesus. It does not matter whether we attend a church where the leader does not have a good relationship with Jesus or whether we have decided to be part of the Ekklesia of believers rather than an established church. We are all responsible for our own relationships with Jesus. It is lovely to be able to fellowship with fellow Christians, but if the churches you come in contact with are more interested in the Sunday takings, or the bums on seats rather than knowing and following Jesus, then maybe that is not a suitable place to fellowship. So search the internet, there are so many true believers out there. Observe those around you, you may well find other like minded Christians in your own area that you can get together with occasionally to share your faith. Above all, know God well, know the scriptures well so that you will not be led astray by those individuals or churches that do not know God well and do not follow Him but instead follow secular pursuits.
The second thing Jesus asked will be discussed in the next blog.

 
Posted By Nan

Matthew 7:21-23
In the last section I spent some time talking about how to be wary of false prophets and how to identify the fruit of the spirit in people’s lives. These next three verses talk about what we need to get into the Kingdom of Heaven. It is not sufficient to just acknowledge Jesus as our King and Saviour and the Son of God. We also must seek to do God’s will. To seek God’s will we must have a personal relationship with God through Jesus. We must spend time in prayer, seeking a relationship with God and we must read our Bibles and be familiar with them. It is not enough to go to a Bible Study, Church Service or other Christian meeting and walk away content we have done enough for the time being and can forget about God until the next time. We must live every moment with a desire to seek God. We need to be willing at any moment to seek God, be willing to see God in everything around us, be prepared to ask God for advice on the way we should behave. We need to delight in Jesus. As Keith Green put it, we must be “bananas” for Jesus. If we do not spend time getting to know God through Jesus then how can He know us?
Matthew 25:31-46 relates the passage about the Sheep and the Goats. In this passage, Jesus talks about the time when He will come in his glory to judge all people. At that time He will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. To the sheep He will say “welcome” and bring them into His Kingdom. To the goats He will say I never knew you and will cast them into hell. He relates that He will tell the sheep that they gave him water when thirsty, food when hungry, welcomed Him despite Him being a stranger, clothed him, tended Him when sick and visited Him when in prison. Jesus then relates that the sheep will say “when did we do that” and Jesus will reply that whatever they did for His people they did for Him. It is not enough to believe in Jesus. We must do more. We must seek to have a relationship with God through Jesus and seek to do what He commands us to do. If we turn our backs on those in need when God has asked us to help them, then we are being goats.
So aim to be a sheep and follow the good shepherd. Remember, as His sheep we will know His voice. John 10 is a good summary of Jesus’ teaching on the Good Shepherd whose voice His sheep know and the bad shepherds who seek to lead the sheep astray. Those who know the Good Shepherd’s voice are not led astray. So be on your guard against the false prophets, seek Jesus more than daily through prayer and reading the Bible, and seek to do the will of God.

 
Posted By Nan

Matthew 7:15-20 part 3
In the last blog I spent a lot of time talking about people in churches and the responsibility of leaders.
Jesus never hesitated to correct and often chastise the religious leaders of His time. In doing that He was acknowledging that they had the responsibility to teach the people how to relate to God and they were failing in that responsibility. After Jesus ascended to heaven He sent the Holy Spirit to “write the word on their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33-34). Prior to this time the Holy Spirit only came on special people appointed by God, such as Moses, David and the prophets. These leaders had a responsibility to lead the people and guide them into the correct faith. The trouble is that by the time of Jesus’ arrival on the earth, the religious leaders had long since stopped listening to God and had instead created intricate and unworkable regulations to surround people with in an effort to keep them following God. Without faith all the work in the world will not save. Instead our actions should be the result of our faith. (James 2:14-26). The religious leaders failed in their responsibility to teach the people to love God. When Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to all believers, how we related to God became our Individual responsibility, and it still is. There is a temptation in a group to blindly follow the leader and let them do all the worrying. If the leader is a bad one that will be very likely7 to happen. A good leader however, will encourage people to take responsibility for their own lives. If Christians group together and form some sort of community, be it a church or fellowship, then those who lead the group are responsible for their leadership and what that does to the faith of those they lead. The individual still has responsibility but the person who has accepted leadership also carries responsibility. Sadly many leaders fail in the most important teaching, that of teaching their congregations the importance of an individual relationship with God. Instead they fill the people with the belief that to be “practising Christians” they need to attend church every Sunday. Far better to never darken the door of a church and have an individual relationship with God, than have no relationship with God and only visit church on Sunday. A good leader should be challenging the congregations to build that relationship and challenging them when the leader can see there are deficiencies in that relationship. Instead of getting caught up with the interpretation of Scripture there should be an emphasis on individual relationships.
Sadly, more false prophets are found in churches than outside them and there are many Pharisees in churches who don’t listen to God and stifle those who will give God’s messages in the interests of their own secular empire. This is what Jesus was warning against in this passage. So how do you protect yourself against false prophets? Read your Bible at least daily and spend time in prayer with God. Develop that individual relationship. Seek a deeper knowledge of Jesus. Allow the Holy Spirit to work in your life. When you encounter someone claiming to speak about God, seek God’s counsel on the validity of their message. It is much easier than you think to reject false prophets but much harder than you think to accept the genuine prophets. After all, they are the ones who are often challenging you to change what you are doing. Remember, if you like to be part of a church, being a practising Christian is not about going to church on Sunday. It is about reading your Bible, praying and seeking Jesus daily.

 
Posted By Nan

Matthew 7:15-20 part 2
Continuing on from my previous blog, I was discussing the fruit of the Spirit. So what does this have to do with false prophets? In Ezekiel 22:26 we are told that God is angry and has judged the priests for having done violence to God’s law and profaned His holy things by making no distinction between what is sacred and what is secular and by not teaching the people the difference between unclean and clean. Any pastor of a church is responsible for ensuring that the people of that church are taught the distinction between what is sacred and secular and also that the people must be taught the difference between what is unclean and clean. If a group of people in a church are showing the fruit of the sinful nature, then the pastor of that church is judges as well as the individuals. Yes, we have a responsibility to ourselves, whether we are members of a church or follow God on our own. It is up to us to be alert to the false prophets and live lives that show the fruit of the Spirit, as well as being aware of those who show the fruit of the sinful nature. However, if you are a leader of a community of Christians and you become aware of the fruit of the sinful nature in your midst then it is your responsibility to take a stand against that. It is also the responsibility of individual members of that community to take a stand against that. However, remember to ensure the beam is out of your eye first and to reach out to your fellow Christian in love and without judgement.
Another thing to note is to be careful of judging those who bring messages into the church, especially those the leaders of the church do not like. There are many messengers in churches. Some of them are the false prophets, but there are also the real prophets. Often, God will send a messenger to a Christian group. This messenger will be showing the fruit of the Spirit, in fact she will be passing on God’s message. Yet the community will condemn her and throw her out. Why? Because members of the community are showing the fruit of the sinful nature and do not want to be challenged by God’s messenger. What better way to deal with unpalatable messages than to cast out the one giving the message? Isn’t that what the Pharisees did to Jesus? Beware. If someone senior in your Christian community rejects the message of another, don’t automatically go along with that rejection. Consider the person’s message carefully and prayerfully. Check your Bible, search God, it may be the messenger is being rejected for selfish reasons (sinful nature) not Godly ones.

 
Posted By Nan

Matthew 7:15-20 part 1
Jesus warns those who will be His disciples, to be wary of the false prophets, who come dressed as sheep but are actually devouring wolves. This is a reference to Ezekiel 22:27. Looking at the verses around this it is worth noting that in 25 God condemns Israel’s false prophets who are like a roaring lion tearing the prey and devouring human lives in their greed. This continues in 26 with the priests having done violence to God’s law and profaned God’s holy things by making no distinction between what is sacred and what is secular and by not teaching the people the difference between the unclean and the clean. In 27 we are told the false prophets are like wolves that are destroying lives to get dishonest gain. In 28 we are told the priests have daubed them over with whitewash, seeing false visions and divining lies to them.
The remaining verses of this section discuss how you can fully recognise a false prophet by their fruit. Jesus reminds us that only a healthy tree can bear healthy fruit and only an unhealthy tree bears unhealthy fruit. Jesus warns that the unhealthy trees will be cut down and cast into the fire (20). If we want to protect ourselves from the false prophets we must be able to identify them by their fruit.
What fruit is Jesus referring to? In Galatians 5:22-23 we are told that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (NIV). If we are living our lives as disciples of Jesus, then we will show the fruit of the Spirit.
But what is the fruit of the sinful nature? In Galatians 5:17-21 we are told that the sinful nature is in conflict with the Holy Spirit. The acts of the sinful nature are sexual immorality, impurity and indecency, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, divisions (dissensions), party spirit (factions, sects, heresies), envy, drunkenness, sexual promiscuity and so on. Think carefully about the behaviour of others. Ask yourself. What is the right and proper thing to do? Is it OK for the young people of the church, who claim to be Christians, to live in de-facto relationships before they are married? Do you condone this or do you set a boundary around this? What about members of the church who may be sexually promiscuous, male or female? Is this OK? Do you say something if you notice this behaviour or are you too afraid of offending them? If they live this way, are they showing the fruit of the Spirit or of the sinful nature? What of the person who stirs up trouble between people in the church? Or the one who forms a breakaway group that has a different belief about the scriptures and cannot possibly get on with the rest of the church? What about the people who are feuding with each other? I could go on, but I am listing things that are described in the Bible as the fruit of the sinful nature. These are not examples of the fruit of the Spirit.
In my next blog I will be explaining what the fruit of the Spirit and of the sinful nature have to do with false prophets.

 


 
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Nan
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