Heeding the Master’s Word
By the end of this month we will be beginning what may well be a two year study of Matthew’s Gospel. At five major points in the Gospel we will pause for around six weeks to consider some of the topics Matthew brings up in his account of the life of Jesus. Even before we begin this study, we must deal with a crucial issue that plagues our culture and churches today. The issue is Authority. Matthew writes primarily to a Jewish audience, attempting to establish the authority of Jesus as our Messiah, and our Lord. He uses genealogies, fulfilled prophecies, miraculous events, parables, and teaching; all to implore each of us to examine our attitude towards Jesus. If Jesus has authority as the divine Son of God, then we must heed what he says letting his Word change our lives!
None have mastered what it means to heed to Jesus’ authority. Every time we carelessly spew out anger at the driver in front of us, or let our gaze linger too long on a person of the opposite gender, or even when we live as we should, but doing so self-righteously; then we prove that our hearts are still in rebellion towards the authority He has. Jesus demands not only outward acknowledgement but a heart obedience going so far as to demand of the Rich Young Ruler the very thing his heart could not give up (Matthew 19:16-33). Not only do we prove our rebel hearts in every act of inward defiance, but we also prove our faithlessness in his authority when we bemoan the events and politics of the day. Though I love my country and will be found on November 2nd at the voting booth, rest assured I do not place any hope or faith in the leaders that will be elected on that day. When Jesus says in Matthew 28:18 that all authority has been given to him he includes the United States in that equation. Leaders and political philosophies will come and go but King Jesus will still be on the throne. For us to have a new morning in America, we must turn from hoping in politics and recognize from where our light comes (Matthew 5:14-16). Unfortunately even we who are in the church have hidden the true source of our light, the SON, under a basket comprised of good works, a relevant inoffensive gospel, and lip service. The beauty of Christ’s authority is that no matter what country, no matter what government, with any amount of persecution, if our King is Jesus, then we can place our hope and rest assured in him. Finally we very often reject the authority of Christ when we refuse to allow his Word by the Spirit to reform us. If Jesus truly came to fulfill all that was written (Matthew 5:18) then what was written most assuredly affect us.
I am reminded of Jesus’ Parable of the two sons in Matthew 21:28-32 which follows a dispute over Jesus’ authority. Jesus shares this parable about two sons whom their father asks to go work for him on a given day. One immediately refuses and the other immediately accepts his father’s requests. Later that day the first who had refused reconsidered and went to the fields to work while the other never showed up. Obviously the first brother is the one who truly heeded his father’s authority because of his obedience. Refusing to heed Jesus’ Word leads to destruction, hell, and eternal death; but just like the older brother to consider his Word, reflect upon it, be transformed by it, and obey is the way to life. So what did Jesus ask of us in his Word? Our Lord and Savior authoritatively calls us to repent of our sinfulness putting it to death on his cross. He asks us to surrender and trust him at his Word that says we can be raised up to a new life free from sin in him. Every time we deny ourselves and allow his Word to reform our thinking and practices we prove that we live in this newness of life.
To close I think we should reflect upon Jesus’ authoritative Commission given at the end of Matthew’s Gospel in chapter 28:18-20. Since Jesus has all authority, everywhere, in all people groups, then we must go to every nation, every place, and every group preaching the gospel and making disciples using his revealed Word. Think of how revolutionary this must have seemed to a group of Jewish believers. Out there in every tribe, nation, and tongue are those bound for an eternal hell who might believe if they simply hear the good news. Surely this thought must have overwhelmed the early church since the task overwhelms my mind even today! How did the early church face this task? They trusted Jesus at his Word and went out on mission for him in every way they could. This Thanksgiving thank God for a church that responds to Christ’s Word and seeks to be on mission. The early church in Acts also sent missionaries. As we approach the Christmas season begin praying about how God will lead you to give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. When we go out faithfully as a church and give sacrificially to this special offering, we trust Jesus at his Word that the best gift we can ever experience is another heart surrendered to our Savior Lord.