Love Won the Day

God’s Word: Matthew 26:36-45

Jesus knew that death was approaching, and He rose to meet it (verse 46). Jesus didn’t plan on running the opposite way. He met His betrayer head on. He could have ran. He could have rebelled, but He didn’t. Instead, He waited in the Garden before His time came and death knocked on His door. One willing volunteer was prepared to take on the sins of the world.

But it was a struggle. Even Jesus struggled to accept His Father’s Will. Jesus asked His Father to come up with ‘a plan B’. But there was no other way. This Son was honest with His Father; Jesus poured out His heart in His Father’s Presence. He voiced His raw emotions and didn’t bottle it up. The prayer He offered was both painful and tear-filled; it was full of blood, sweat, and tears. Jesus went as far as sweating drops of blood as He cried out to His Father to find another way to bring reconciliation.

We know the end to this story; Jesus allowed His heart for His people to overrule His head. Logic was telling Him to refuse to accept God’s Will but love was telling Him to stay. The Father and Son had never spent a second apart but they both endured separation so that love could win the day. This selfless Man trusted that God knew best even though He knew it would cost Him His life.

After Jesus wrestled with God in prayer, His final word was ‘Your will be done’ (Matthew 26:42). This was His life’s anthem. History hinges on this one word, ‘nevertheless’ (verse 39). Despite Jesus’ struggle to accept death He still went through with it. Even though it wasn’t what Jesus wanted to sign up for, He signed the contract, the Covenant, with His blood. That one Man made history.

I find it reassuring that not even Jesus was immune to feeling overburdened. He felt that the cup He was asked to drink was too bitter to taste. But because of love Jesus drank the cup of God’s judgement, wrath, and fury. Jesus had no thought for Himself. Surrender cost Him His rights and His life.

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The Price of Sacrifice

God’s Word: Matthew 26:6-13

You can’t put a price on sacrifice. A free gift may not cost us anything, but the unselfish act of service can cost the giver dearly. Think of Mary, the sister of Martha, who anointed Jesus with alabaster oil. It may not sound much, but this one act of selfless kindness stood out to Jesus because it showed Him that Mary couldn’t put a price on sacrifice. Mary wasn’t willing to give so much, but no more, she gave everything for Jesus.

Jesus was the honoured guest at a dinner party when Mary anointed His head and His feet. There was no expense spared. Every penny was poured out as a sacrifice. Mary went as far as breaking the alabaster jar and emptying all of its contents on Jesus. This woman of faith showed that she believed Jesus was a Royal, the long-awaited Messiah, as she chose to anoint Jesus. She didn’t keep even a drop of perfume for herself but emptied every last drop on Jesus as a freewill offering.

Jesus didn’t ask her to go to all that expense; the desire was deeply rooted in her heart. Mary mustn’t have believed in living with regrets because she grabbed the chance to give Jesus all she had. This servant-hearted disciple must have thought long and hard about offering Jesus her most prized possession, realising that if she didn’t give Jesus her all, she would have always wished she had given Him more.

The cost of Mary’s gift is quite something today, never mind back then. Her gift amounted to more than 300 denarii, that’s more than a full year’s wages. It must have taken Mary years to save up enough to make the buy. Alabastar jars were so valuable in the first century that they were often bought as investments, Mary could have made money for herself but she chose not to.

Imagine if you worked double shifts back to back for a total of 365 days before you decided to blow all of it in one day. Imagine if you emptied your bank account, signed off a cheque, or gave all of your life savings, to one solitary cause. No-one would blame you for saving some of your hard-earned cash for yourself.

But this isn’t how Jesus saw things; He didn’t think that Mary’s offering was a waste that could have been spent on better things. He appreciated it as it was, an act of devotion. Mary went to great lengths to prove that she loved Jesus; you don’t need a second look to see that. When the disciples witnessed the scene they didn’t hold back on their opinion when they should have held their tongues and examined their hearts. They thought that the offering was a waste and the money could have gone to a more worthy cause. Mary could have used the money to set up a charity, spending the money on feeding the poor, bringing healing to the sick, and comforting orphaned children.
If this story took place today the disciples may have thought that the money could have been invested into a rehab centre, medical clinic, school for the blind or homeless shelter. But Jesus valued Mary’s quiet act of devotion, more than anything else she could have poured the money into. The lesson in this is that there’s no sacrifice too great. Jesus paid the price for our Salvation, a price that all the money in the world can’t cancel out.

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A Cup of Cold Water

God’s Word: Matthew 25:31-46

A cup of cold water may not sound like much, but it means much to Jesus. Giving someone a cup of cold water is an act of hospitality. When we grasp that extending kindness to those around us is an act of worship in His eyes; this transforms the way we live. We can turn anything we put our hand to, into an act of service. Let this Truth shape the way you live, know that even the smallest acts of kindness counts for something in His Kingdom. When we have the mentality that everything we do can bring honour to God we’ve mastered the secret. The secret of how to be a disciple is found in forgetting about yourself and choosing to focus on others instead. It’s about taking a step back, submitting, bowing down, melting away… When we do good, and do it in the name of God, we’ve hit gold.

But, what if we run from this? What if we know what we should do, but refuse to do it? Sin and rebellion aren’t just doing what’s wrong; they’re being stubborn in doing what’s right. We’re wrong in thinking that sin is only actively doing something that’s not right. Sin can be passive; it can be quiet and lazy. It can have a ‘I can’t be bothered’ mentality. It encompasses failing to do good as well as breaking His commands. Turning a blind eye, choosing to look the other way and turn your back on someone makes God’s nose itch. He can’t stand it. Why? Because needy people are being ignored. When you neglect your duty as a Christian, when you ignore someone’s needs, this reveals the root of your problem. This is it: a heart that doesn’t beat out of love and compassion. If your veins don’t pulse with love and compassion there’s something seriously wrong with your heart.

The antidote to this: treat everyone as if they were Jesus. Treat everyone as if they were Jesus in disguise. It will turn your every move into an act of service and devotion. Jesus could be dressed up in an oversized coat, ripped jeans, wearing sandals as shoes in the middle of winter. Or, He could be that primary-school kid who spends their lunch-time alone. Have you ever thought that it could be the colleague you can’t bear to be around, your relative who you wish you had lost long ago or that guy who professes to be a Christian but hasn’t signed up in agreement with your beliefs. It could be the elderly woman who stands in the queue behind you, the young girl with the flat tire, or the mother of two who is struggling to carry her shopping to the car. Jesus could be in disguise. You never know where He could be or what face He could be wearing.

Give and don’t expect to get. This is the rule we should live by. True religion is this: caring for those in need- the desperate, depressed, lonely and isolated. All of these people need Jesus, and this is why they need you. Look around you. Do you see a need? Do something.

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Playing it Safe

God’s Word: Matthew 25:14-30

A wasted opportunity. Will that be what you see when you look back on your life? Don’t look back on this life in regret, because that’s no way to live. Live each day as if it was your last opportunity. Live every day as if it was your last chance. Don’t play it safe. This doesn’t bring God any glory. We have a responsibility to serve God using the tools He’s given us, instead of storing them up for future use. Who’s to say that the future will come? Tomorrow isn’t a promise; it could disappear before it arrives. If you’re trying to play it safe your plan could backfire on you.

The Master in this story is Jesus and the servants represent Christians who are given different levels of responsibility, depending on their ability. This wasn’t unusual for wealthy landowners to entrust their property to their servants when they went away on business. The servants in this story acted as stewards. Their job description was to look after what belonged to their Master. Verse 17 sets the record straight; it was ‘his lord’s money’, it wasn’t his. The servant had a responsibility to invest his Master’s money. He should have banked on it, instead of burying his head in the sand.

We’re meant to be caretakers. We’re meant to use the talents we’re been entrusted with. No matter how much or little we have in our care we’re meant to throw our heart and soul into His work. The talents we find ourselves with are on loan to us, and Jesus expects something in return for them: faithfulness.

The Master didn’t have any favourites. He knew not to give any of his servants more than they could handle. God knows you; He knows how much you can take without become overburdened. Don’t look around you and become jealous of what others have been given. It has nothing to do with you. Stay focused on the task at hand; don’t become occupied with what others are doing. The question isn’t what those around you are doing with their talents, but how well are you using what you have? You should perform to the very best of your ability, using the resources that you have available wisely. Forget about everyone else and focus on what’s in front of you.

In the story, two of the servants doubled their money, while the other dug a hole. It wasn’t unusual for someone to safeguard their valuables by burying them, but it wasn’t the wisest decision. When the Master returned He wasn’t happy with what He found. The servants excuse, “I was afraid” (verse 25) wasn’t good enough. He could have deposited the money in the bank, but he didn’t.

Be confident in this, whatever excuse you have, won’t be accepted. God didn’t make a mistake. He didn’t give you any more than you could handle so don’t expect Him to have any sympathy for someone who shows no stick-ability. Both of the servants who multiplied what they started out with were rewarded. This goes to show that God blesses faithfulness more than fruitfulness. If you’re true to what you’ve been given care of, He will reward you. Don’t bury your talents; you can bank on the fact that God won’t reward this.

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Alarm Bells

God’s Word: Matthew 24:36-44

What’s the time? Who knows? No-one knows the day or hour when Jesus is going to make His return journey. He has a two-way ticket and no-one knows the day He will take flight. He’ll arrive to take us home before we know it, He won’t call to give us a warning or give us any more time to get ready than we already have had. We have to have our bags packed and our house in order as well as sleep with one eye open.

Jesus will arrive as an unannounced visitor. One day there will be a knock on the door and you will open it to find Jesus standing on your doorstep. “Are you ready?” will be the first question, and if your answer is anything but “yes” alarm bells will be ringing. Jesus should be a welcomed guest; He shouldn’t come as an unpleasant surprise. When that day comes we have to be ready without a moment’s notice or else we could miss the flight. Jesus won’t wait for us if we aren’t already prepared, having expected the unexpected. He could turn up at your door anytime. Today or tomorrow. Day or night.

What’s the time of His arrival? No-one knows. There’s not a straight answer to this question. All I know is we can’t be caught off-guard; we have to stay awake and keep watch. Keeping our eye on the clock serves as a reminder that we have to put our time to good use and make the most of the little time we have left. Use your time wisely. Make sure that you’re going about His business because in ‘a blink of an eye’ life as you know it could come to an end. Today is a gift and tomorrow isn’t a promise; neither belongs to us. We should use the time we have to prepare for the journey that’s ahead of us instead of ignoring the warning signs.

The date of the last day is a secret hidden from all creation. God the Father knows the hour, and no-one else. It’s a closely guarded secret. Not even the Son knows when the Father will send Him on His way. One day God will tell His Son “it is time” and with that Jesus will return for His own. You can’t timetable Him in; you can’t put a date to the Second Coming.

Keeping watch speaks of surrender. If we fall asleep we have lost sight of this, when we fall for the lie that tomorrow is ours we’re in danger. We should surrender ourselves, and our lives, to His work. We should be faithful and watchful at all times, living in expectancy instead of being caught up in the everyday. The Greek word for being ‘watchful’ is ‘gregoreo’. This means to keep alert, being on guard, standing to attention. We should stand as soldiers on the look-out. Jesus left this world to come again a second time, leaving us with an urgent call to watch out for His return and serve Him tirelessly in the meantime.

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You’re on The Guest List

God’s Word: Matthew 22:1-14

You may think you’re not good enough but knowing that you fall short shouldn’t stop you from responding to God. Listen to this; you’ve got a personal invitation from the King of kings! He’s requested your presence at His Royal Banquet and He’s waiting for your reply. Your answer is all He thinks about and He can’t wait to hear what you have to say.

The offer of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, is free. The offer is free for all: it’s indiscriminate. It’s an open invitation. It’s all-encompassing. The King doesn’t care if you think you’re undeserving or unworthy; He wants you. He wants you to join in the celebration instead of sitting out in the cold. Even if you think you’re the last person on planet earth God would ask, it doesn’t take away from the fact that an invitation fell through your letterbox and landed in your lap. If I were to throw a dinner party and could only ask four people I think I’d ask Rob Bell and Mark Driscoll (I’d love to hear one of their heated debates)! It goes without saying I’d ask Jesus, and Nelson Mandela. But, if God was to throw a dinner party and could only invite four people: you’d be one of them. He’s waiting for you to RSVP. What will it be? Answer ASAP; don’t put it off.

It was Jewish custom to send out two invitations. This was to be expected. The first asked the guests to attend, and the second was to announce that the party was about to ‘kick-start’. He’ll do anything to have you there; He’s desperate to have you on the guest list. Something you can’t ignore is not giving a “yes” or a “no” is still a refusal. And to reject the invitation is to reject the King’s celebration of His Son, in whose honour the banquet is held.

Where’s God on your list of priorities? He should be Number One. If God is second or third place you’ve got to change this. In this story the guests had ‘other things’ to do. It sounds like they’d rather do anything but accept the invitation. They found an excuse, and stuck by it. Don’t follow their example; this is too serious to pass by. Make sure that God is at the top of your list of priorities and say “yes”.

Remember this; ‘both the good and the bad’ were invited. That includes everyone, and that includes you. God went out of His way to invite you (verse 9). He sent His messengers into the highways and the byways and rounded up everyone He could find. If you feel like you’re on the fringes or an outcast, don’t. God has not forgotten about you. You are in the forefront of His mind.

Another thing. It was the custom for the guests to wear wedding clothes that the host provided. If a guest refused to wear these clothes it was taken as an insult. We should be dressed in righteousness: even though we aren’t worthy we should accept that when we stand in His presence He clothes us in His righteousness. At the banquet there was a man who chose not to wear the wedding clothes. He wasn’t a gate-crasher; he had an invite, as we all do. When we was asked for the reason “why” he gave no answer. He couldn’t, because he didn’t have one. This man recognised his poverty and knew he was unworthy, but he was ashamed to admit it. Because of this he refused to accept God’s Grace. The man had to pay for his stubborn refusal and was thrown out of the party. Likewise, just because we know we’re unworthy doesn’t mean that we can’t accept God’s gift of free Grace.

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Falling Short

God’s Word: Matthew 19:16-22

Question: can you have eternal life on your own terms? In one word, ‘no’. But, you can have the assurance of Salvation, which is found in Jesus. You can know Salvation for yourself, knowing that you’re safe in His care and nothing can take this assurance away from you. Our sense of identity should be wrapped up in Him, having confidence in God instead of a false sense of security in ourselves.

The life of the rich young ruler was a tragedy. He was so close to Salvation, but he was blinded by his pride. Salvation was standing in front of him and he never saw it. The rich young man had his eyes fixed on other things- he was so absorbed in his quest to win eternal life that he never saw that Life cannot be earned, but only accepted. Salvation is a gift; we can never pay its price-tag so God doesn’t ask us to do anything but accept it as a free gift. But this young man didn’t know the Truth. He thought he was in competition when in fact he was striving to win a race that had nothing to do with first place and everything to do with commitment and endurance.

This young man was a grade A student. He was a high-flying scholar, a ‘know it all’ who thought he had all the answers to life’s questions, apart from one. “How can I get my hands on eternal life?” He wasn’t in the race for the right reasons; he had a hidden motive that Jesus saw as soon as He set eyes on him. This young man had a Masters in theology, as many certificates as you could imagine, and a CV that screamed “perfection”! Flawless, that’s what it looked like on the surface. But that’s not what Jesus found. This rich young man failed the test that Jesus set. This rich young man, who was used to getting full marks, failed to meet the benchmark. When Jesus took out His measuring tape it was clear that this young man didn’t measure up. His wealth, fame, popularity, intelligence, and family name weren’t enough to save him.

No matter how hard he tried, he fell short of “come follow”, he didn’t fulfil the criteria that Jesus asked for. Jesus demanded submission. The criteria is as follows, “go… sell… give”, followed closely by “come follow”. But this student walked away. He walked away from the one test that counted for eternity, and he paid for it. Where was his downfall? He wasn’t sold-out for God but instead was too absorbed in himself. This scholar was attached to his ‘wealth’, forgetting about God’s gift of eternal riches in place of his own man-made empire. This is why riches should come with a warning sign: spiritual bankruptcy. But let’s not forget that we all have ‘gods’ in our lives and they come in different shapes and sizes. Be careful what you’re worshipping; if it isn’t God you’ve got it wrong.

God asks for nothing less than this, that we’re sold-out for Him. We shouldn’t hold back but should love and serve God with our whole hearts instead of being half-hearted about it. We have to root out the sin of self-centredness from our lives. This is a long and painful process at the best of times, don’t lose heart but hang in there. This is what it comes down to: the world doesn’t revolve around us, it revolves around the Son. This is why we should take a step back and give Him room. The question that this man asked exposed his naked heart. It exposed his sin, living for himself instead of loving God. Even though he was ‘loaded’, the price of self-denial that Jesus asked for was too much for him.

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