A Prayer to Avoid Bad Teaching Prompted by Matthew 16:6-12

Heavenly Father,

Our Savior told his disciples to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees,” by which he meant their bad teaching.  As Christ’s disciples in this present day, we are no less prone to error than those early disciples were.  Help us to avoid it.

Help us to rightly divide the Word of Truth.  Help all the teaching we give and that which we willingly receive to be free from legalism, loose practice, error in doctrine and wrong motivation.  Let us speak and believe what is true, rather than that which is convenient.  And let us simultaneously avoid excessive harshness by adding to your commands.

Let our beliefs be correct and our lives be honorable, full of grace and true to your word.

And we ask this in the name of Jesus,

Amen.

 

On taking up the cross – Matthew 16:24-28

In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, one of the requirements of all citizens is to feel good.  When they don’t, which is often, they pop pills containing a hangover-free drug called soma, which makes them feel better immediately.  The worse they feel, the more soma they take, and all is well – at least until it isn’t.  But the readily available soma never seems to run out.  For extreme happiness, say on a weekend, larger doses of soma become pleasantly hallucinogenic. 

This is not the world we live in.  Ours is old and seemingly less brave, though we can argue that it takes a lot more courage to live in it.  Our Savior set the example by walking the path of crucifixion, the same path he calls us to in Matthew 16:24-27.

2Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.

At the end of the day, or the age, really, what we want is to have followed Jesus.  Much of the time this doesn’t involve feeling pleasant, at least not in the way our flesh desires.  Crosses are not meant to be comfortable.  But there is a different type of satisfaction, a type that Huxley’s citizens were never allowed to achieve.  It’s a confidence inspired by following our Savior, of losing our lives in order to find them.  This path has a certainty to it, its satisfaction has a depth, that no amount of soma can give us.

Jim Elliot said it really well when he said, “I may no longer depend on pleasant impulses to bring me before the Lord. I must rather respond to principles I know to be right, whether I feel them to be enjoyable or not.”  

We must not forget, however, that self-denial while following Jesus is only temporary.  It’s the price we pay for discipleship, for walking near to our cross-bearing Lord.  On the other side of the resurrection, we look forward to a cross-free, existence for all eternity in a new heaven, a new earth and a New Jerusalem.

Matthew 15 Verse by Verse

Matt photoMatthew has been hinting at the fact that Jesus is the “prophet like Moses” that was foretold in Deuteronomy 18.  In this chapter the Lord begins to do Moses-like works not only for Israel, but also for the Gentiles.

Matthew 15.pdf

Matthew 15.mp3

 

A Prayer Prompted by the Stories in Matthew 15

Heavenly Father,

Some of the most religious people of Jesus’s day misunderstood both his heart and yours. Please help me to avoid making the same mistake.

Help to put aside any religious traditions or views that stand in the way of your word. And help me to avoid any concept of faith that goes soft on my own sin. I want to live a truly holy life that consistently brings glory to you.

I also ask that you would help my faith to be strong.

When I feel like I am not the kind of person that should be praying help me to remember that you want everyone to pray.  When I feel like you are ignoring my prayers, help me to be persistent. And when I feel like you will never answer my prayers, help me to be persistent again.

I understand that sometimes having great faith means being persistent in prayer.

And finally I thank you for your unending goodness and mercy toward me.

In the name of Jesus Christ,

Amen.

 

Great faith – Matthew 15:21-28

Sometimes we think of great faith as the kind of faith that prays for great things and sees amazing answers to prayer.  That is probably how great faith frequently looks, but great faith need not always look the same.  Consider the case of the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15.

21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

The greatness in the woman’s faith is not that she asked for anything more than others might ask.  The Gospels give several examples of people coming to Jesus on behalf of their children and Jesus healing them or even raising them from the dead.  He cast out plenty of demons.

Jesus commends her faith before granting her request, but only after an interaction in which Jesus seems to refuse her.  First he says nothing (v.23), then he pushes the Gentile/Jewish distinction beyond what we might even consider polite (vv. 24-26).  Her humility and persistence in the face of Christ’s seeming condescension and persistent refusal brings out his praise (v.28).

If you are like me you have several prayer requests that God has not seen fit to answer even after many years, maybe decades or most of your life.  And like me you struggle and are tempted to give up.  You might see numerous reasons why God would never answer these prayers.  “I’m not worthy.  I’m really not worthy.  God doesn’t answer prayers like these for people like me.  Why should he?”  These reasons (and I have more) sound a lot like “The Jewish Messiah isn’t about to grant the request of a Canaanite woman, is he?”  But he did.  

The point is that neither an unanswered prayer nor what looks like a humiliating refusal are the same thing as a final “no.”  Jesus used his delays to draw out further expressions of the woman’s faith.  That faith was in her all the time, but had Jesus responded quickly, none of us would have seen it and we might never know.  

Let’s be the kind of people who hang on like the devil – or better, like this Canaanite woman – with whatever faith we have and then even more.  Sometimes faith grows in its praying, its asking, humility and continuous kneeling before God.  Sometimes God’s answers come only after long delays.  A paltry, weak and sickly faith can be satisfied with quick answers, and then it may mislead us into thinking such faith is great.  In fact, great faith, like this woman’s, may be the faith that keeps asking without any answer in sight.

A Prayer Prompted by the Overall Message of Matthew 14

Heavenly Father,

I understand that some of my desires are good, some of them are bad and some of them are neutral.

As for the wrong desires, please help me to be content without ever having those desires satisfied.

As for the neutral desires, the simple and basic needs that I have, please help me to trust you for their fulfillment.

Beyond that, help me to desire you most of all.

Help me to guard and cherish my time with you.

Help me to hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Help me to long to be more like you, to want what you want and to work toward your desires and your will for me.

Make yourself my ultimate source of satisfaction.

In Christ’s name,

Amen

 

Matthew 14 Verse by Verse

Matt photoOur passage today will bring up several different types of desires and several types of satisfaction.  Some are good, some bad and some neutral.

Matthew 14.pdf

Matthew 14.mp3