Thursday, August 07, 2014, 8:01 a.m. – the Lord Jesus put the song in mind, “My Jesus, I Love Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Matthew 11:7-30 (NASB). A Messenger As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces! But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, Who will prepare Your way before You.’ Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. (NASB) The subject matter is John the Baptist. Although he had disciples, and many came to him for baptism, not all fell in love with John. He was strange to them; out of the ordinary. He didn’t do things conventional ways. John was not one who was easily swayed by public opinion. He didn’t go with the crowd. He didn’t follow the latest fads or the most current vogue in how to grow his ministry in order to draw in large crowds of people, and in how to please his audience in such a way so that they would want to come back. He knew who he was. He knew who he was called of God to be, and he knew the seriousness of the task that was before him, and he did not falter or waver in unbelief or in trying to be crowd pleaser. He was not a man of reputation, i.e. he didn’t try to make a name for himself. He didn’t plaster his picture all over the place big and bold in order to draw people to himself. He was humble and submissive to God and obedient and faithful to his calling, even in the face of rejection and persecution. He was not a wealthy man, either. He lived in abject poverty. He was not in it for the fame or the money. He made no profit off of his ministry. His goal was to please God and to do what he told him to do, and nothing else motivated him other than love for his fellow man. Jesus said John was a prophet, but more than a prophet. John was prophesied concerning in the Old Testament. He was the Elijah that was to come. He was called of God to be a messenger of God ahead of Jesus Christ to prepare the way for him. An Example Set John set a great example for us for how we should live our lives here as strangers on this earth. Scripture says we are to come out from the world and to be separate; no longer conformed to its ways. God said we are to be holy as he is holy. Holy means to be set apart (unlike; different) from the world, and we are to be set apart to God and to his service. If we have been born of God through faith in Jesus Christ, and his Holy Spirit now dwells within us, and we are Christ’s Body, the temple of the Holy Spirit, then we are Christ’s representatives to the people around us. We are his witnesses. We are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. By our lives, our actions and our words we should be spreading throughout the earth the teachings of Jesus Christ and those of the apostles. As well, we should be safeguarding, upholding and defending the truth of God’s Holy Word against all evil and opposing forces, in particular against all that would malign the word of God and would try to bring it into disrepute, or that would try to distort the truths of scripture in order to deceive and to persuade people to follow after lies. We should also be maintaining and continuing in our walks of faith with Jesus Christ, and we should not be guilty of straying from his word or from our pure devotion to him. We should be faithful and steadfast in faith. Our very lives, as well as our words, should be influencing the world around us away from lifestyles of sin, and to faith in Jesus Christ – to repentance and obedience to his commands – all in the power and working of the Spirit of God within us. This (above) is truly the meaning behind verse 12, where it states that “the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.” Some interpret this that this is speaking about those coming against the kingdom of God, yet in context, it does not lend itself to that interpretation. In context, this is speaking of John as a messenger of God, preparing the way for Christ, and of the prophets who came before him, who were also God’s messengers. These men, in the power of God, advanced the kingdom of God forcefully, i.e. persuasively, powerfully, insistently, and urgently, and with much determination, faithfulness, and purpose of heart and mind. And, this is what we should be doing, too, as Christ’s Body, his representatives, and his messengers in this world. Wisdom Proved Right “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, and say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” (NASB) Have we, in this generation, lost our ardent concern for the lost people of this world, or for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are living just like Jesus Christ did not set them free from sin? Do we not feel grieved in our spirits when the gospel of Jesus Christ is brought into disrepute, or when it is so diluted that it hardly resembles the word of truth anymore? Do our hearts not burn within us when there is so much deception going on in this world, and within the church, and when so many people believe the lies so readily without discernment? Where are the John the Baptists of the world? Where are the prophets like John, and the messengers of God like the apostles? Where are the Tozers who, although he was human, spoke boldly the words of truth and without apology for what the word says? So many people in this generation, even within the church, are so caught up in the trappings of this world that they are blinded to their spiritual condition. There is not much difference between them and the people outside of faith in Jesus Christ. They claim to know Christ, but their hearts are far from him. Their worship of God is in form only, and they follow rules and teachings made up by human beings, and do so over and above the teachings of Christ and his apostles. Many are deceived because they believe everything they see and hear from the ungodly of this world, and even from ungodly and unprincipled leaders within our churches. They don’t test what they hear against the word of truth. If it looks good, and sounds good, and it appeals to their human flesh and sinful desires, and/or if it targets their emotions, they go with it, often without reservation or justifiable prudence. Many are these people in the world and within the worldly church who are like this generation Jesus spoke about here. They don’t understand why we, who are following our Lord, don’t do the same things as them. They may even heap abuse upon us because we are unlike the world around us, and we do stand out, and we are different – strangers in this world. They may even try to tempt us to do what they do, mock us when we don’t bite, and even criticize us for our non-participation with them. As well, they may reject us and falsely accuse us of things we are not guilty of, but they will do so out of ignorance and unbelief. They may twist our words and our actions to suit their purposes in order to try to discredit us, but to no avail, because God is for us, his word is going out from us, and it will not return empty. Amen! My Jesus, I Love Thee / William R. Featherstone / Adoniram J. Gordon My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine; for thee all the follies of sin I resign. My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art thou; if ever I loved thee, my Jesus, 'tis now. I love thee because thou hast first loved me, and purchased my pardon on Calvary's tree; I love thee for wearing the thorns on thy brow; if ever I loved thee, my Jesus, 'tis now. I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death, And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath; And say, when the death-dew lies cold on my brow, If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now. In mansions of glory and endless delight; I'll ever adore thee in heaven so bright; I'll sing with the glittering crown on my brow; if ever I loved thee, my Jesus, 'tis now.