Matthew

Tuesday Devotional: Matthew 11

bibleRead Matthew 11:1-18

If we cry out for the living God we must be prepared to receive the living God as He is, not as we want him to be.  If our desperation leads us to cry out for a savior we must be prepared to receive the savior as He is.  A starving person will not pass on food because it has not been cooked to their liking.  A drowning person will not refuse assistance because of a person’s hair color.  Be careful when you cry out to God.  To cry out to God is to be heard by the living God and the living God desires to answer you back.  However, it is the living God that desires to respond and not our idea of the living God.  The living God comes with mercy for all people, conviction of sin for all people and true life offered in the name of the one and only Messiah, Jesus Christ.  Count the cost.  When you cry out to God from your grief, suffering and desperation be prepared to be met by a God that has loved you longer than you know and desires to love you for eternity.  This is good news.  However, be prepared to be met by a God that places a demand on your life to be Holy because He is Holy.  The living God demands that you die to yourself and take up your cross and follow His son step after step.  When you cry out to God you will be heard.  He hears you.  He also desires to dwell within you, talk to you and guide you into His presence.  The living God knows your cry before you cry it.  This is good news.  However, the living God knows that you need saving from yourself more than you need anything else.  And he offers you the only savior powerful enough to defend and rescue you from yourself and his name is Jesus.  God knows more about you than you ever can.  He also is more aware of your suffering than you will ever know.  But to be saved by Jesus is to give up your life for Him.  To be saved is to for once quit in the most gloriously liberating way possible.  Stop resisting how God desires to save you and have ears to hear and eyes to see that He is saving you!

 

 

Tithing: Just Giving

coins

The root of our discontentment toward tithing is our selfish obsession with money that we view as our own. If we view what we have as something that belongs to us, that we guard, tithing becomes increasingly difficult as a result of this possessiveness. However, according to God, the truth is that what we see as “ours” is not ours at all.

Uprooting this possessiveness and ownership is like a game of connect the dots. For example, if I view my car as mine, and thus for no one else to drive, I must ask myself “how I was able to purchase the car?” A job. How did I get the job? Hard work and studying. How did I obtain the skills to work for the job that ultimately paid for the car? And so on and so forth…

The fact is the money we hoard does not belong to us. It has been given to us by God, for us to use in this world for his glory. In the same way that we are suspicious about someone asking for our money unless they can prove to us that in some way our money will eventually return to us with investment capital, God has simply invested in us with the intention to provide us opportunities to reinvest what he has given, to produce capital for the Kingdom of God. As Jesus illustrated in Matthew 25, what we have in this world is given to us simply to reinvest for the corporate good of the Church, not for our own personal and private profit.

Matthew 25:14-30 

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

“‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For 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. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

 Tithing is based on a foundation of love and trust and without love and trust we are left anxiously insecure. Our insecurity with tithing illuminates our insecurity with our relationship to God.

Tithing is established in Genesis 14, when Abram meets Melchizedek:

Genesis 14:17-24

After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodomcame out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
   Creator of heaven and earth.
And praise be to God Most High,
   who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything. The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.”

But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’ I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me—to Aner, Eshkol and Mamre. Let them have their share.”

Aside from the mysterious nature of this King of Salem, the impulse for Abram to give the King a tenth of what he worked for in the previous battle is even more surprising. To the reader this is akin to working overtime, and then handing a tenth of the hefty paycheck to a random stranger on the street. It defies financial logic. Unless, that is, Abram viewed what he had as not his own. Abram knew that the victory on the battlefield was not his own but was God’s. Thus, everything that came as a result of that battle was God’s also. In the end, to Abram, keeping everything to himself would have been as shocking to him as it is for us to see him parting with the tenth to Melchizedek. To Abram, giving to the King-Priest was entirely justified, whereas to keep everything for himself would have been the definition of injustice.

 

Communion: The Command

communion-bread-and-wine

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For the next few weeks we will be discussing Communion.  Four aspects of Communion are central, necessary for us to understand if we profess faith in Jesus Christ.  We will find that a study of Communion reveals:

1) The Command of Jesus Christ

2) The Provision of Jesus Christ

3) The Sacrifice of Jesus Christ

4) The Legacy of His Church

This week’s reflection discusses the command of Jesus Christ as it relates to Communion.

1) The Command of Jesus Christ

Communion has its roots with Jesus Christ on the night before his execution. Jesus Christ and his Apostles sat together, shared fellowship and “broke bread.” As the final hours of his earthly ministry were coming to a close, Jesus took the opportunity to clarify what was going to happen to him and what his Apostles in turn were going to be called to do. Aside from instructing them in continuing to spread the Gospel and loving one another, Jesus illustrated his upcoming sacrifice on the cross by using bread and wine found on the table.

Jesus proceeded to show that the bread that was broken was a symbol of his body that would soon be broken for them and for the world in his crucifixion. He then took the cup of wine prophesied that soon his blood would be spilled as he was sacrificed as a sin offering for the transgression of sin brought into the world since “the fall.”

Matthew 26:17-30

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?” Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You have said so.” While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

After using the bread and the wine in the same way that the Jews commemorated their rescue from the slavery from Egypt, Jesus commanded the Apostles to remember his upcoming sacrifice with the bread and wine to commemorate how he rescued them from the enslavement of sin.

 

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit: the Power of the Cross

The Reflection Series for this month is adapted from Reasoning the Rest, which you can read or download from the main menu. This month, we’re reflecting on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Read along with this series here. 

The Power of the Cross

The cross is and has always been the sign of Christianity. Today it is unmistakably synonymous with the Christian church. However, while the cross has always and must always be the sign of the faith, the overexposure of the cross without true understanding poses an important question. Do we really understand the cross?

We see crosses blanketing city skylines atop churches that fail at living out the gospel. We see people wearing the cross on necklaces and earrings who openly profess no desire to submit to God. We see athletes drop to their knees following some athletic feat, pointing to the sky and making the sign of the cross on their chest, who place more faith in their athletic equipment and contracts than the Holy Word of God. With so many misrepresentations surrounding us on a daily basis, it is easy to see how the message of the cross has gone misunderstood. In fact, for many Christians, the looming cross on the wall of a Church often evokes much more fear and obligation than peace and joy.

From this landscape of misunderstanding and misrepresentation concerning the cross, the understanding that emerges from  the baptism of the Holy Spirit appears distinctly different. Upon being baptized in the Holy Spirit, the cross is no longer a marketing symbol or burden. The cross suddenly is seen in the light in which it was originally meant to be seen.

This light illuminates more than just wood and metal. This light illuminates pain, the unbelievable pain Jesus endured hanging on the cross. This light illuminates sacrifice, the costly sacrifice Jesus paid for the sake of saving us from the pain and suffering that we rightly deserve and he had no obligation to undertake in our stead. The light also illuminates the sacrifice that God the Father experienced in seeing his own son endure the suffering we deserved, in feeling separation from a son that he had always had intimate fellowship with, a son who had never done anything wrong. Lastly, this light illuminates love, the love of God to see such beauty within us, despite the layers of sin, that to lose his own son was worth seeing us back in unity with him. The love to never give up or let us out of his reach. The love to know how deeply we need a Father to guide us.

This love is not just sacrificial, but is an invitation. The beginning of the end. The start of something new. The cross leads to the tomb and ultimately ends in resurrection and new life, a new life we are given as a result of the cross. The baptism of the Holy Spirit isn’t simply an outward manifestation of the supernatural. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the only thing that can open the eyes of our heart to see the reality of the cross, beyond what our physical eyes have always seen.

This is why I speak to them in parables:
‘Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.’
In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’
But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

Matthew 13:13-17

The baptism of the Holy Spirit opens our spiritual eyes to see the cross in the power that it truly possesses.

Serving the King: Priorities

Many characteristics may define a Christian life.  Many things may be signs that someone truly lives their faith in correspondence with the Gospel.  In this reflection series, we’ll explore how different Scriptures emphasize service as a defining character trait of the Christian.

Service can be defined as what you do for something or someone.  But in the Gospel context, service is much larger than that.  Service, according to the teaching of Jesus, is a way of life.  More than an aspect Christian character, it IS Christian character.  In these reflections, we’ll discover five elements of service that please God.

Serving with Priorities (Matthew 5)

The teachings of Jesus Christ, found throughout the Gospel narratives, are the foundation on which a Christian builds her life. These teachings are most concentrated in the Sermon on the Mount.  This sermon holds such well-known commands as, “Do not judge,” “Love your neighbor,” and “Turn the other cheek.”  The teachings of Jesus come fast in this passage, and are overwhelming in their expectations.  If you don’t read it carefully, the famous sermon may be nothing more than a peaceful evening with the “good shepherd” on a grassy hillside, everyone holding hands while breathing deep sighs of contentment.  But if we really consider the life this sermon called Jesus’ disciples to live, one can imagine that those sighs of contentment as shocked gasps.   How could anyone be expected to live that way?  If we realize this, Jesus might possibly respond, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God,” as he does in Mark 12.  The reason being that to understand these standards are impossible leaves room to believe that the only way to achieve such impossible standards is through power greater than our own.  In fact the only way to meet the standards found in this famous sermon is to be drawn to the power of God, not the power of self-will.

Matthew 5:23-24

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

In the previous three readings we explored three issues directly pertaining to the idea of serving God.  First, we found that we must serve with obedience.  Second, we must serve recognizing God’s power.  Third, we must always be prepared to suffer in service as our “suffering servant” served and modeled before us.  In all of these scriptures, what we read were descriptions of what God wants from our service.

The fascinating aspect of Matthew 5 is that here we finally hear the voice of God speaking through Jesus Christ about service. God says that when we come to serve him, we must be motivated, inspired and focused on serving God alone, devoted to serving him and nothing else.  Jesus tells the people that if there is anything else that occupies any space in our hearts or minds, we might as well take the offering, set it down, go take care of our “more important business” and then come back and serve.

Today, it is not unusual to find a church on any given Sunday at any given location filled with people who have set aside a one or, for the “high-level Christians,” a two-hour block in their weekly schedule for God.  Our world is fast-paced and full of obligations.  We have many things to do and have little time to get anything done.  In this environment people find it increasingly difficult to “make time” for God.  Unfortunately, this includes our time as we take our seats at church.

While many of us face schedules and commitments that require much of our energy, time and attention, we pride ourselves on our ability to multi-task.  Multi-tasking is a great skill when the objective is to complete several tasks in the least amount of time.

But the danger of becoming a professional multi-tasker is that we become so proficient at occupying our time with multiple tasks at once that we lose our ability to determine when one task deserves our complete and undivided attention.  For example, the idea of ” family time” has suffered increasingly over the past 20 years.  The amount of quality time that families spend with one another with no distractions whatsoever has been on a steady decline, a trend that may be attributed in some ways to “busyness” and “multi-tasking.”

When you don’t give your undivided attention to something or someone you hold to be important to you, the quality of that relationship will suffer and the relationship will ultimately lose that sense of importance.

From this perspective we can better understand the demand of Jesus that we take care of certain issues before approaching the altar with offerings.  When we come to God preoccupied with a thousand different things, we are doing the equivalent of starting an important discussion with a close friend and then immediately answering a seemingly trivial phone call while “sharing” this “quality time.”

Being raised in a Christian household gave me many impressions, assumptions and ideas about how to live a Christian life.  However, what I understood was superficial at best when it came to who God actually claims to be and what he specifically desired from me as a Christian.  I believed God was the egotistical, power-hungry “man upstairs” who, without much proof or explanation of his true existence, wanted me to trust him with everything and believe that the basis of this demand was loving and in my best interest.  I believed what he wanted from me was regular church attendance, prayer and the practice of impossible standards, many which are noted in Matthew 5.

When I at last read through the entire Bible, I did not find the God I expected to find.  This God was not obsessed about the things I thought he would be.  In regards to service and worship, like the verses in Matthew 5, God clearly states that he would rather have no offering, no church attendance and no money from a so-called “Christian” if those things came with a divided focus and a divided heart.  I discovered that God’s desire was to have all of my heart, but not if I was unprepared and unwilling to give it all away.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus demands many things from those who choose to follow him.  He desires service, a level of commitment to his promise of transformation that seems impossible.  However, without a fully prepared heart and mind to pursue this new life, Jesus would rather we not accompany the offering into his presence.

 

Tuesday Devotional: Matthew 1

Read Matthew 1bible

Over the course of life one develops certain expectations.  We develop standards and scales by which we measure everything we encounter, about people, about ourselves, about life in general.  Often these expectations are not misguided or unreasonable.  They are based on our personal experience of patterns that we in turn come to expect.  We rely on these expectations, although at times they confine rather than liberate us.  For many, the expectation when approaching the word of God is that two things will be inevitable.  First, the words will be uninteresting and irrelevant.  Second, the presence of God will be present only to the imagination.

At first glance of the New Testament, in Matthew 1, those expectations seem to be verified with the famous “begats.”  A list of difficult names to pronounce that, without background knowledge, feels distant and unnecessary.  However, upon closer examination of this list one discovers a rather different message.  Found within this list of begats is a range of people who, when grouped together, make up the complete and complex spectrum of human character, background, status and record.  This list is best represented with one word: “imperfection.”  This list of begats, that introduces the world to the life of Jesus Christ and the Gospel, not only defies the expectations that the word of God will be uninteresting and irrelevant, but exceeds even the best of expectations implied by a gospel of blessing and salvation.  This list is the open-door policy of a God who has been gathering his people long before we personally emerged into this world, a God who does not seek a people cut out of a perfect cloth.  Rather, He has been seeking to gather a people honest with their imperfections and totally overcome by his perfection.  This list actually defies the idea that God’s presence and influence are only of the mind by presenting a God pursuing his people personally and directly throughout the ages.  The quotation from Isaiah confirms this: the son of the virgin will not only be the savior of the world but will be “Immanuel,” “God with us.”  This chapter, from the list of begats to the declaration of Immanuel, shows that the God of the Heavens has always been with us. His desire is to always be a God “with us.”

ASK: Matthew 7

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This update is from the February 7th meeting of ASK Daegu. Each member contributed something to the message that follows. We pray that our group encourages you in the same way that it encouraged all of us.

All relationships have standards. These standards are either met and produce healthy relationships, or are abandoned, forgotten and produce chaos. When we enter into a relationship, there are things we inherently expect from the other person involved. When our expectations are met we feel fulfilled and satisfied, but when the person fails to meet our unspoken yet implied expectations we feel hurt and betrayed.

If we approach our relationships with people this way, why would our approach to God be any different?

While many people, after reading a chapter like Matthew 7, turn to God and demand an explanation for why His standards are so high, this response highlights the default of the human heart: to resist holiness as a result of sin and to find someone besides ourselves to blame. We are quick to blame God for creating impossibly high standards when the real question is, why are our standards so low? And why are we so intimidated by a challenge to be better than what we think we could ever be? Why are we so quick to write off holiness and so quick to welcome that which provides momentary satisfaction but ultimately destroys and weakens what was meant to be everlasting? Upon reading a commandment not to judge another person, why do we so quickly say, “I can’t do that. That’s impossible,” when, if we view chapter 7 through the lens of how we view our relationships with the people in our lives, we would be lying if we said that we would not impose the same standard on the people around us. We expect the people in our lives not to judge us, to answer us when we call, to bear fruit of love and peace and to be our solid foundation when our condition is less stable.

We are afraid of holiness because holiness wars against the sinfulness in all of us, and the grip of sin is strong. Sin deceives by convincing us all that although neglecting these impossible standards of God does seem to provide “freedom” and “joy,” the truth is that apart from God’s holiness as represented in Matthew 7, we are all harboring a faux sense of righteousness and goodness, that will neither satisfy nor last.

Jesus never hid anything from His disciples and through the Word remains as up front with us as he was with them. Jesus diagnoses our sinful hearts. Because he loves us, he tells us plainly that only by His power, only by following His holiness and making it our own, will we ever find the relationship with Him that will naturally extend into all of our worldly relationships, reproducing the shalom of creation and the kingdom of heaven here on earth.

Tossing in the Tide: Motivation and Jesus

It is an unfortunate thing that, in a world so diseased with self-centeredness, we tend to suspect charity or assistance.  Upon discovering that someone has gone out of his or her way to help us we ask ourselves, “why?”  “Why has this person so inconvenienced himself or herself for someone like me?”  “Why would they take time out of their schedule for me?”  “Why would they waste their money on me?”: a constant spring of doubts and suspicions that never run dry.  The question to these questions is, “why?”

In leading Bible studies the past few years, I’ve found that the most convenient places to meet are coffee shops.  A beautiful habit that arose through our Bible studies was that the duty of paying for the coffee each time passed through the hands of each member quite naturally.  No one was keeping records of who owed who, nor was there a situation where someone without money would end up coffee-less.  When coming to a Bible study we could expect three things to happen.  We would encounter the Word in its uncompromising truth, we would enjoy our fellowship together, and the coffees would be paid for.

Often we are blessed with new attendees to the Bible studies and they too fall into this system of group accountability in regards to the coffee bill.  It’s interesting to see the reaction of some people who, already approaching Bible study with hesitation and suspicion, when they find that their coffee is paid for.  The question that went unspoken but clearly read on their expression was, “Why did you do that?”  This person might then be asking, “What was the motivation to do such a thing?”  Or, in other words, “What do you want from me now?”

Today, where the Church meets the non-Church daily, there tend to be more occurrences where Christian charity is questioned and judged rather than accepted.  Some years ago, Tim Tebow swept the media off its feet due to his unusually explosive and unique style of play that almost took him and his Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl.  But the aspect of Tebow’s character that dominated the media spotlight was his openness as a Christian athlete and his love for Jesus Christ.  In one of the many stories about Tebow that dominated the media frenzy surrounding him was his charity work in various third world countries and through charitable organizations in the United States.  The astonishing thing was not that he participated in charity work, but that these instances of charity were met with an aggressive backlash of judgment and suspicion regarding his motivation, as a Christian, to do such things.

Unfortunately, there are many cases where we Christians have not helped our situation. Often, ulterior motives break the trust in selfless charity.  This is why it’s always important for a Christian to not only repent for sins committed against God but also to repent for the righteous things we presume to do for God.  We must never forget the words of Jesus when he said that, “no one is good, except God alone.”  Christians must never claim absolute possession of that which Jesus claimed to be the sole possessor.

When Christians seek spiritual leadership, we need to be aware of “motivation.”  As a young and growing Christian, or someone merely interested in Jesus, there is an ever-present awareness that more of the Bible has been unread than read, and that more questions exist than answers.  As infants in the faith, we are at our most helpless, needy and vulnerable state.  It is in this position that we most desperately and most likely seek or receive spiritual guidance.

When receiving spiritual guidance from someone, regardless if it comes from a friend, family member, pastor, mentor or stranger, we must always be aware of his or her motivation in helping us.  What drives them to help us? Why do they take such an interest in providing said assistance?  We must ask these questions, because there are many dangerous spiritual leaders in our world that are more aware of the helpless and vulnerable Christian “infants” than we are of them.  Jesus described these individuals, called “false teachers” in Scripture, in detail: “they are wolves in sheep’s clothing.”  A wolf is always on the hunt and clever in the way that it pursues its prey.  False teachers know all too well that Christian infants are trusting of and reliant on their own kind and the best way to get close is to appear close.

The apostle Peter had much to say about false prophets in the Church.  In my experience, I have found that the presence of “prophets” gets a lot of churches and Christians excited.  From time to time I hear of a church that has long been described to me as dull and boring suddenly resurrected in the presence of a guest speaker/”prophet.”  The guest is accompanied by an influx of excitement in the church. The congregation hangs on each and every word as if Jesus were actually in their presence.  Matthew 25 comes to mind when I hear about things like this:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left…

41 “Then [the King] will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

I wonder how many homeless, hungry and destitute people we Christians have judged or walked by and not welcomed into the Sunday service while providing the royal treatment to self-proclaimed prophets of God.  In response to this, Jesus might tell the “Christians,” “I never knew you.”  In these stories there seems to be unquestioned belief in the prophet and each prophecy, but few people stop the show, so to speak, to ask the question, “Why?”  “Why am I excited about this person?”  “Why do I instantaneously put so much trust in them?”

Whether in the case of a self-proclaimed prophet or a friend, we always have to ask ourselves what the motivation for the assistance is.  If the motivation is to increase the profile of the teacher, we know that the assistance is misguided and dangerous.  If the motivation is to increase the awareness of a church or congregation, we know that the assistance may be misguided or dangerous.  If the motivation is to strengthen the relationship between the helper and the helpless, the assistance may be misguided and dangerous. We learn from the scriptures that at the heart of sin is a self-centered idea of one’s relation to the world and to God.  At the heart of sin is an idea that we can be King, and ought to be served as such.  Therefore, as we tread the often rocky and tumultuous path of spiritual guidance, we must always identify the motivation of the individual providing the guidance in terms of sin and self-centeredness.

The guidance that one can trust acknowledges the one and true King.  Guidance we can trust comes from a motivation to strengthen the bond between the “lost sheep” and the “good shepherd” and no one else.  Christian fellowship and leadership primarily seeks to glorify the Father, and the Church does this simply because at the heart of helping one another is Jesus, the reason we help and the only one that has truly helped us.  Living on this foundation reveals a selflessness born of the Spirit that can truly guide and strengthen others with a genuine and natural motivation to serve.

with a genuine and natural motivation to serve