The Search

Jesus didn’t come with 10 commandments, he taught with parables. These are not illustrations to help the teaching he had given, they are far more than that.

“The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”

The parables of Jesus were given to create a search from within the hearer and a longing for more. Through them they are the beginning of the desire for the Spirit which is needed in all followers of Christ. Jesus quotes from Isaiah 6 where the prophet is starting out on his ministry to a people who are blind and not searching for God. The search is important. It is not about following rules. It is about the desire and passion of the heart not to lock them out of the kingdom but to entice them into it. If God simply told the people the secrets and then they rejected them then their judgment would be even greater. So in His love He dangles imagery in order for them to search. They can at least say ‘we didn’t respond because we didn’t understand’ rather than ‘we understood but we didn’t want you’.

He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.” (Matthew 13 v 11-13)

The parable is the key and once the person begins to ask questions and as they ponder and think through the parable then the key is being turned in the door.

Therefore the key (the parable) opens the door to the secret or also known as the mystery. The secret/mystery is the revelation from God; you would only have known this because God had revealed it to you.

For example in the parable he has just given, the key is: what is the seed? Search for that, find that and it unlocks the whole secret/mystery of the kingdom.

The gospel is an invitation for a pilgrimage.

Rule-keepers are one thing but pilgrims are better.

5 lessons for those who want to see success – from a farmer who knows.

A familiar story perhaps but which still holds great lessons for those who desire success with the message that they carry. In the story, the farmer is Jesus and also us. The seed the farmer sows is the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ.

“Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (Matthew 13 v 3-9)

  • Expectancy. The farmer is carrying seed, the life-form, small yet powerful, he will receive a harvest, this is why he is sowing, there is expectation and desire. Believe in the seed in your hand. Have confidence in your message.
  • Whoever. The farmer scatters indiscriminately. Not in neat rows. The strategy is to throw the seed not to first think where it is going. There doesn’t seem to be much mapping of the area going on: paths, shallow soil, thorns and weeds, good soil, they all got the seed. A committee would have highlighted where not to throw the seed and that is where the farmer threw it.
  • Extravagance. The farmer seems wasteful of the seed. He seems to have more seed than he needs; there is an abundance of seed. He hasn’t counted it out. It is a picture of a farmer’s hand sowing liberally and almost carelessly.
  • Persistent. The farmer isn’t perturbed by the failure of the seed to grow or by the birds, the sun or the thorns that act as enemies against the growth of the seed. Everywhere gets the seed. There is no failure in the scattering.
  • Celebrate. The farmer yields a harvest. Sometimes it is 30%, 60% and even 100% of what is sown. They are all called a crop. There is no disappointment in the size of the crop.

3 important factors for the change that is needed

Some want to be a world-changer when they haven’t changed their own bed in years.

Some really haven’t a clue what to do so make changes every day creating a trail of confusion.

Some will never change for to change is to be humble.

“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore.” (Matthew 13 v 1-2)

Here are 3 important factors for the change that is needed:

  • Success follows change if the change has indicators of intent that are understoodwent out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him.

Sitting was the position for teaching. The people saw Jesus move from the house to the lake but his posture led them to understand what he was going to do. The exact place could also have indicated what Jesus was going to do. This is now known as the Cove of the Parables or the Cove of the Sower, a horse-shoe amphitheatre shape sloping down to the shore with amazing acoustics.

Change is necessary but it has to be understood for people to follow it.

  • If you’re willing to change your position then you will be able to continuehe got into a boat and sat in it.

It was probably Peter and Andrew’s house that most of chapter 12 is set in and this is probably their boat also. Their boat became a pulpit.

Some people will say today they cannot continue. Bad news has arrived; it is how they feel or they are afraid of tomorrow. The truth is you can continue if you are willing enough to change your position, use your imagination with what you have and gain a different perspective.

  • It may be necessary that you are the only who should changewhile all the people stood on the shore.

Only Jesus got into the boat. I seem to spend half my life listening to people wanting everyone to change but themselves. Yet if only those that desire change actually changed their own position even just one inch then things would be so much better. Everyone wants change but not many want to change.

3 things to do when it’s been one of those days!

“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake.” (Matthew 13 v 1)

As we have seen over the last several days it was quite a day! They had brought to the house where Jesus was staying a demon-possessed blind and mute man. He had defeated Satan in that man’s life and set him free. He then faced the blasphemy charges and the scorn of the Pharisees and all along the crowds who needed rescuing from this religious legalistic system were watching. The house was full of people, expectations and tensions were high. Then his mother turns up with his brothers! It was one of those days!

And in one simple verses Matthew details for us 3 things that Jesus did and which we can adopt:

  • Change that day …. “that same day”

Some things can’t wait. Not even till tomorrow. You need to make a decision based on what is good for you. This is your day not ‘theirs’ and you have to steward it for yourself. Don’t lose it to the selfish agenda of another.

  • Change your environment …. “went out of the house”

Don’t hang around toxic cultures for too long. Look after yourself. When you enter into a situation always know where the exit points are.

  • Change your focus … “sat by the lake”

Within a short time the crowds were again surrounding Jesus. But for now he is sat beside the lake. The lake where most of his miracles and testimonies of salvation had taken and would take place. The lake of his joyous moments. The places for calling his disciples. There are times we all need to go and sit by such a lake.

3 things to do when it’s been one of those days!

4 differences that will determine the status quo or a new season

Jesus has just finished speaking to the crowds including the Pharisees who had accused him of blasphemy for delivering a blind and mute man from demonic possession. If that wasn’t difficult enough then here comes his family who with the help of Mark and Luke’s account want to bring Jesus into line. But let’s simply stay with Matthew’s record.

“While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.’ He replied to him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12 v 46-50)

They stand outside and send someone in with a message for Jesus to basically come out to meet them. Before the scene closes Jesus invites all those in the house to be part of his family.

There is a family outside and a family inside.

3 differences

  1. There is a difference between looking for Jesus and pursuing him.
  2. There is a difference between waiting for Jesus to come to you and pushing through the crowd to be with him.
  3. There is a difference between our move and God’s move. “We think it is a lot easier for you to come outside than we come inside.” Are we today desiring God to move upon us more than we desire to move towards Him in the obedience of gospel sharing? The next move is not God’s it is the Church’s, ours. God is waiting and so is our world.
  4. There is a difference between gracious invitation and deserved entitlement. The invitation to become the mother and brothers of Jesus when biologically you already are was not a rebuke but grace. They invited Jesus on their terms but he invited them into a new relationship. The spirit of entitlement was as prevalent as today. Entitlement because of history, of family ties, qualifications, experience, work done, gifting and skill, the list goes on. Entitlement kills a surrendered heart. Jesus invitation was gracious. “Mary and my brothers you are invited to move from being in my biological family to my spiritual family.”

 What will happen next?

The same? Status quo? Or a new season of growth and change and the presence and power of God?

These 4 differences will lead to a surrendered heart which is the path away from everything remaining the same.

3 things to remember as an exorcist

This has been quite a long section that Matthew has focused on the blind and mute man who Jesus set free from demon possession. The religious leaders never let Jesus alone always trying to trip him up and looking for more ways to accuse him of blasphemy etc. They too had their exorcists and as Torah preservers they were keen to see change in people’s lives. They have accused Jesus of serving Satan by driving out demons. In the last parable that Jesus uses to speak judgment on them we see the importance that it isn’t what comes out of a person that is as important as what enters.

‘When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, “I will return to the house I left.” When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.’(Matthew 12 v 43-45)

  • Make sure it is Jesus who owns the house.

The ESV and the literal translation of v44 is “I will return to my house”. The demon has been exorcised and has left but he hasn’t given up his rights to the house, he owns it, this life is his. We only rent this life we don’t own a thing. Jesus must be the owner.

  • What looks good may only look good.

When the demon returned to the house it looked to everyone else, swept clean and put in order. It was literally empty. Compared to having the demon previously being unoccupied looks favourable. But it isn’t. Empty could be the perfect storm. We need a life filled with God not a good life.

  • It will get worse if there is no wholesale change.

The demon finds re-entry easy but knows that this time he needs to strengthen his position so goes looking for 7 friends. Then there are 8 demons in the house and will be more resistant the next time. When the Spirit of God fills the house then there is never a re-entry. The next lot of squatters may come in larger number unless this house has a new owner.

3 ways to spot if a ‘Christian’ is genuine.

The Pharisees are accusing Jesus of blasphemy because he says he forgives sins, he associates with sinners and now he casts out demons and no priest, prophet or king has done such a thing. It is not in line with the Scriptures. He is leading people astray and so must be stopped. Their interpretation of Scripture said He was a deceiver.

“Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.’ He answered, ‘A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.” (Matthew 12 v 38-42)

They wanted to know whether Jesus was genuine. The answer Jesus gave helps us in working out whether someone is genuine.

  • Can you see the cross? Jesus is greater than Jonah. The story of Jonah is someone who ran away from being obedient to God in preaching to Nineveh and suffered the consequences of that. Jesus ran towards obedience and surrendered his life on the cross. Can you see a cross in the person? Have they a surrendered heart? Are they living for others? Do they love?
  • Can you see self-awareness? The people of Nineveh are greater than the generation of Jesus. The reluctant preacher, Jonah, didn’t give it his best, but the people did fast, repent and brought change to their lives. Albeit a temporary change it was better than the complete rejection of Jesus. Can you see self-awareness in the person? Are they wanting to be a better person or are they the finished article?
  • Can you see the pursuit of wisdom? Jesus is greater than Solomon. The Queen of the South pursued Solomon’s wisdom (1 Kings 10) and yet a greater wisdom is standing in front of these blind Pharisees. What matters the most, accolades or chasing after Christ? Can you see the battle within that person as they carry more questions than glib answers? Do they seek the character of Christ and not just their ‘calling’? Do they seek Him?

3 truths about the words we use

So, do women talk more than men? You may have read how women use 20,000 words a day compared to the 7,000 that men utter. It stems back to a 1993 marriage guidance pamphlet and strangely used by Brizendine, a neuropsychiatrist in his 2006 book, which, after being challenged promised to remove the figures in future editions. Comparing all the research that has been done over the years then the difference between who uses more words is negligible.

But here is another question: what kind of words do we use? Look what Jesus says:

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognised by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.’ (Matthew 12 v 33-37)

You may be a great talker or one of the silent type. But it is what kind of words that you use that is so very important. Maybe you are waking this morning with the after effect of what someone said to you yesterday? If so then you know how staggeringly powerful words are. Here are 3 truths about the words we use:

  • Listen carefully; words can be deceptive.

A brood of vipers are the small dangerous snakes (between 10 and 30) that are birthed from the mother snake. When people heard this reference from Jesus, which John the Baptist also used, they would be thinking of the snake in their creation story (Genesis 3). From Eve to the Temptation of Christ we see the snake speaking words that are subtle, manipulative, cunning and passive-aggressive. Jesus calls them vipers because they accuse him of being a blasphemer but hide their own blasphemy. Not everything that you hear is true.

  • Linger awhile: words will reveal the heart.

Deception will not continue for long. So don’t sign your life away, don’t follow the latest charismatic communicator, wait, linger longer! The heart will emerge through the words.

The cynical heart will emerge with words that rubbish the good. The arrogant heart will emerge with zero self-awareness or desire for accountability. The rebellious heart will emerge with words that are impure and full of pride. Linger and wait for the heart to emerge.

  • Let them go: words will be judged

We have all known hurt from someone’s words. So has Jesus. Let’s not simply waste our time trying to feverishly defend ourselves at every turn. Let’s remain objective to the issues that are raised against us and do our utmost not to be destroyed by the words that we hear. Let them go, shake them off, knowing that every word that is spoken will be judged. We will either be acquitted for example, the early church would come to realise the importance of confessing ‘Jesus is Lord’ as a testimony of salvation. But also every Pharisee who swayed the crowd away from Jesus with their accusative words of blasphemy will be condemned for doing so. Words are indeed powerful and they will certainly be judged.

The Unforgiveable!

Happy Pentecost Sunday!

We celebrate today the birth of the Church as the Holy Spirit stirred and empowered us into mission.

Our next verses are not celebratory ones but words of warning from Jesus to the Pharisees and the crowds.

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (Matthew 12 v 30-32)

Jesus has set free the demon-possessed man who was also blind and mute. The Pharisees are accusing him of blasphemy and they will continue to do so. But it is them who have actually committed blasphemy.

So what is this unforgiveable sin?

Firstly, if you think you may have committed it then you haven’t!

This is a sin for the unbeliever.

The Pharisees are on the brink of committing this sin for they see the work of the Spirit and attribute it to Satan’s work.

You can accuse Jesus of many things and you will still be able to repent and find forgiveness. But if you reject the Spirit’s endorsement that the forgiveness of sins is from God and through Jesus by demonstrating exorcisms and healing then where do you actually go for your own forgiveness? If you reject this then you can’t have that. You have no place to go. If you reject the evidence and the conviction then how can you reach the place of forgiveness? You make yourself unreachable and unforgiveable.

There is no middle ground with Jesus. He is Messiah or He is not. The Pharisees had chosen and the crowds soon will.

Today Churches around the world will gather to celebrate Pentecost.

They will start their services in welcoming the Holy Spirit. They will pray that He will endorse the work of Jesus’ power to forgive sins by moving amongst them and healing those who are sick. They will hope that all will be forgiven. They will not want anyone to reject that invitation and remain unforgiveable.

Come Holy Spirit.

You have more freedom than the strong man.

The blind and mute man was not just struggling because of these infirmities but because as Matthew describes him he was demon-possessed.

Following his healing Jesus is accused of driving out the demon with the help of Satan. Jesus exposes this foolish thought and calls for them to use logical reason. He then gives a parable:

“Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.” (Matthew 12 v 29)

Our imagery comes alive.

Satan is the strong man. He has a house, his kingdom. He has possessions, one of which was this blind and mute man who was being controlled by him.

How can this ‘possession’ be rescued?

Only if someone stronger can come and tie up the strong man. Jesus has just plundered the house of Satan. He has captured this ‘possession’. How did he do it? Only because he had first tied up Satan.

Of course we know that the cross and resurrection was the downfall of Satan’s house completely. But there was already evidence from the commencement of his ministry that Jesus managed to tie the strong man up and limit his authority. For example, his temptation victories (Matthew 4) and his freedom to give God’s forgiveness to any person (Matthew 9) along with the many healings expressly revealing that he was stronger than this strong man.

Over 21 years ago my church went through a difficult time but managed to do so encouraged by a prophetic message which was this: “The Church would have to walk past a snarling dog but we must know it is chained. The dog is only barking it will not hurt us.”

Whatever you are going through today and no matter how much you are afraid, because you follow Jesus you will know he has already plundered the house of the strong man and set you free. He is still tied up. You can keep walking. You will get through. You will continue to walk in authority because that strong man is not as free as you are!