Sunday, January 17, 2016, 6:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “You Raise Me Up.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Matthew 22:15-22 (NASB). Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said. And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any. Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.” And they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” And hearing this, they were amazed, and leaving Him, they went away. They Plotted Together When we are preaching the full gospel message of our salvation, i.e. the whole counsel of God (See: Ac. 20:27), we will come under the attack of Satan and his messengers, which may well be leaders within the Christian church or some others who call themselves Christians. How they treated Jesus Christ, they will treat us also. If they laid traps for him, they will do the same to us. If they hated him, they will hate us also. If they accused him falsely, they will accuse us, as well. We can expect to be challenged fiercely, criticized, ostracized, persecuted and rejected for our faith in Jesus Christ, and because we teach what is in accord with sound doctrine, if we are teaching the whole counsel (will) of God in relation to the gospel of our salvation. Satan will do everything within his power to try to destroy our witness for Jesus Christ, and to try to discredit us and the full gospel message. Our enemies may use smooth talk, and try to butter us up (flatter us), hoping they will gain our trust and confidence and that we won’t be on our guard, and that we will be tripped up in our words and will fall into their trap. They may even appear as though they are on our side, and as though they agree with us, and then they may lay their trap in hopes to trip us in our words. Or, they may come against us, “guns blaring,” with forceful attacks and false accusations to try to rile us, and to try to get us to respond in anger and to not choose our words judiciously and carefully. So, we need to be on our guard against Satan’s evil schemes against us, so we are not taken by surprise, and so we don’t respond unwisely to these traps which are being laid for us for the very purpose to destroy us (to ruin us). One of their ploys to trap us in our words may be for someone to come to us seeking our advice, acting as though they respect us, honor us, and value our wise counsel. What they say about us, in their attempts to let us feel as though they honor us, may even be accurate, truthful and without embellishment. Yet, this, too, may be a trap. Satan knows no bounds in what he will try in order to discredit us and to get us to fall into his many traps. We don’t need to be afraid of what Satan may do, though, but we do need to daily exercise much biblical discernment and wisdom, testing what we hear, and praying to the Lord for guidance and direction, and for the Lord to give us the right words to say in response. Jesus is a wonderful and perfect example to us in the exercise of much prudence and spiritual perception, and in speaking his words with care and with wisdom. These men who came to Jesus were, thus, spies, sent to him for the sole purpose to try to trip him up. Many such people exist in our world today, as well as our government encourages the citizens of the USA to spy on family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors, etc., and to report back what they hear to the government. I am most certain there are spies everywhere on the internet, on Christian discussion sites, as responders to our blogs, and on social media sites, etc., whose sole mission it is to try to trip up Christians in what they say so as to discredit them and to attempt to destroy their witness for Jesus Christ. There are spies, as well, in the gatherings of the church. “Some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves” (Gal. 2:4). Now, in that case, it was those who wanted to bring the believers back under the law, but today it is primarily those who want to bring followers of Christ back into slavery to sin. Yet, we have been set free from sin, so how can we live in it any longer? Opposing Sides It would appear, from what I have read in Bible commentary on this passage of scripture, that the Pharisees and Herodians were on opposite sides of this issue as to whether or not to pay these taxes. So, apparently what we have here are two groups of people who oppose each other on the tax issue joining forces together against Jesus Christ. They were, in essence, asking him to take sides. Only their objective was much more sinister than that. Depending on how he responded to the question, should he answer either way, i.e. with a “yes” or a “no,” they would find a way to discredit him, which was their ultimate goal. It potentially could have been a lose-lose situation for him had he not been perceptive of their evil intentions and exercised much shrewdness in his response. That tactic is still used today against Christians. Look at the news and social media, for example. All the time we, as the people of the world, are being bombarded with messages of hatred, bigotry, rebellion, prejudice, violence, dissension, factions, and the like. The powers that be, I believe, like to pit us one against the other – Black and White, Republican and Democrat, Muslim and Christian, Conservative and Liberal, “Deep” and “Soft” religiously, and what they term as “extreme” in our faith and those who are “moderate” in their beliefs and practices. As I have observed, opposing forces may actually join together against Christians, in order to attempt to destroy them. As well, similar people, who are on the same side, may fake opposition or may pretend to take different sides of an issue in hopes that they may get some Christian to fall into their trap, and to trip him or her up. Because so many Christians here in America watch TV religiously, and believe whatever their government leaders and the media tell them, they easily fall prey to these tactics. When I used to be on one social media site, it would disturb me greatly when many who called themselves Christians believed whatever the news was telling them, without question, and then they would end up fighting each other, sometimes viciously, over things that may not even exist in reality. Some of the hatred spewing forth from them, as God calls “hatred,” was so disheartening, especially in the political realm or in the area of racial prejudice or animosity towards those they have been taught are their enemies. We have to be aware that we do have a real enemy out there and his name is Satan. And, his goal is to destroy us, even if he has to divide and conquer us. So, beware, be wise, and don’t believe everything you read, hear or see. Be discerning and spiritually perceptive, and don’t let the devil get a foothold in your life. What is God’s Jesus did not take sides. He would not fall into their trap. If the likeness on the coin and the inscription was that of Caesar, then they should give to him what is due him. And, they should give to God what is God’s. So, what is God’s? Everything that is of him and for him! God is our creator, our king, our Lord, and our Savior. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, he did not die merely to rescue us from hell and to promise us heaven when we die. He gave his life up for us that we might no longer live for ourselves but for him. We were bought with a price, so we are to honor God with our lives. When we come to faith in Jesus Christ, we die with Christ to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24; cf. Ro. 6). Paul said we have an obligation, not to the sinful nature to live according to it, but to live and walk in the Spirit of God, according to the ways of God. He said that if we live according to the sinful nature, we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live, because those who are being led by the Spirit of God are those who are the children of God (See: Ro. 8:1-14). Jesus taught the same message (Lu. 9:23-25; Jn. 10:27-30). Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). We are called of God to be holy, i.e. set apart from (different, unlike) this sinful world, because we are being transformed into Christ’s likeness; because we are becoming like Jesus. Because of God’s mercy to us in bringing us salvation, we are to present our lives to God as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, which is our reasonable service of worship of him. We are to no longer be conformed to the ways of this sinful world, but we are to be transformed in heart and in the renewing of our minds, of the Spirit of God, so that by our lives we reveal what is God’s good, pleasing and perfect will for us (See: Ro. 12:1-2). Do Not Fear! So, if you are coming under attack because you stand on the word of God, and you adhere to what is of sound doctrine, and you teach the whole counsel of God, and not a diluted version of the gospel of Jesus Christ, then don’t get discouraged. Don’t give up! Stand strong in the strength of the Lord, and be of courage! And, keep on telling the people the truth, because the truth is what will set them free. YOU RAISE ME UP / Brendan Graham / Rolf Lovland You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas I am strong, when I am on your shoulders You raise me up to more than I can be.