Monday, November 29, 2021
Saturday, November 27, 2021
Thursday, November 25, 2021
Saturday, November 20, 2021
Friday, November 19, 2021
Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 10:7-15 (audio not yet posted).
And as ye go, preach, saying the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 10:7).
In Matthew 10 Christ sends out the twelve apostles to minister in his name. The opening words in this “First Great Commission” are very similar to the way the “Second Great Commission” will begin, as Christ says, “Go ye therefore and teach all nation…” (Matthew 28:19).
The verb for “to preach” (kerussō) means to proclaim or to herald. The content of the preaching was, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This is exactly what Christ preached as he began his public ministry (see Matthew 4:17).
At the heart of that message is Christ’s declaration that in his coming to this world, in the Word being made flesh, the rule and reign of God is now a present reality.
Men who had previously asked, “Who is God?” or “What is his will?” could now look to the man Jesus of Nazareth and see the presence of God.
Consider the apostle John’s words in John 1:18, “No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” Later in John’s Gospel, Philip will say to the Lord Jesus, “shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us” (John 14:8), and Christ will respond, “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (v. 9). The secret of Christianity is that when you look at Jesus, you see God. When you know Jesus, you know God. When Christ is present, God is present.
Notice also that Christ called upon his apostles first to go and preach. This indicates the primacy and priority of preaching.
Christ did not say to the apostles, “And as ye go, put on dramatic performances.” He did not say, “And was ye go, organize musical performances or multi-media presentations.” He did not say, “And as ye go, set-up philosophy seminars, or build counseling centers or even hospitals.” He sent the apostles out first as preachers.
In 1 Corinthians 1, the apostle Paul will later write that “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (v. 21).
We are not the apostles, but this commission to go and preach that the kingdom of heaven is at hand in the man Jesus Christ is still our priority (cf. 2 Tim 4:1-2).
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Friday, November 12, 2021
Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 10:1-8.
Now the names of the twelve apostles are these…. (Matthew 10:2).
Let me offer at least five observations on Matthew’s listing of the twelve (Matthew 10:2-4):
First: Though Christ had many disciples, even thousands, who were following him, he set apart but twelve to special service as apostles.
The number twelve had he spiritual significance (cf. Matt 19:28). It also tells us that Christ as a true man had close friendships. The Gospels tell us that even beyond the twelve he had a special bond with three disciples (Peter, James, and John), and John’s Gospel tells us that perhaps his closest friend was John himself, the beloved disciple.
This reminds us that the Christian faith is a common faith. We are not islands. We do not go it alone. We need fellow travelers on this journey to aid us on the way. We need fellow laborers. Many hands make light work.
Second: Though Jesus had women disciples (followers) during his ministry (Mary and Martha of Bethany, for example), the twelve were all men. Only men were set apart to this extra-ordinary office, just as only men will be set apart to the offices of elder and deacon (cf. 1 Timothy 3). Men and women are spiritual equals before God, but they are not the same. God, in his wisdom, requires that only qualified men service as officers.
Third: Many of these men were brothers in the flesh. How wonderful it is when siblings share a like precious faith in the Lord.
Fourth: One of the twelve betrayed Christ. One wonders what power was given to Judas. Did he preach sermons, cast out demons and heal the sick in Christ’s name? This reminds us that one can have the name of disciple and even fill an office in the church and yet be unconverted. That should make us tremble.
Fifth: These were ordinary men whose lives were changed by their encounter with and calling to serve Christ. They included fishermen, a tax collector, and a political zealot.
It has often been given as a proof both for the truth of the Christian faith and the reality of the resurrection, that these ordinary men turned the world upside down. In Acts 4:13, Luke records the reaction of the religious leaders to the preaching of the apostles, as they perceived “they were unlearned and ignorant men” but “they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” It remains true today that when men are around Jesus, they are transformed by him.
These men were even willing to lay down their lives for Christ. James the son of Zebedee was the first apostle to die as a martyr (see Acts 12:1-2). Christ himself prophesied that Peter would lay down his life (see John 21:18-19).
You don’t lay down your life for a fairy tale or a myth, but you will gladly lay it down for the truth of God.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Wednesday, November 10, 2021
Friday, November 05, 2021
Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 9:36-38.
But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd (Matthew 9:36).
Matthew records, “he was moved with compassion on them.” Note: He did not turn to them with annoyance, with disgust, or with disdain, but with compassion.
That English phrase here for “he was moved with compassion” is encompassed in just a single word in the Greek original: esplagchnithē. This verb means to be deeply moved inwardly with compassion or pity. This is the first of five times this verb will appear in Matthew (cf. Matt 14:14; 15:32; 18:27; 20:34).
At its root is the Greek word for the inward parts of the persons [splagchnon]. We would say the bowls or the gut. We might render it, “When Christ looked upon this mass of sinful and broken humanity encompassing him, he felt for them in his gut.” The apostle Paul uses this term several times in his letters in reference to the bowels of compassion of Christ (see e.g., Phil 1:8; 2:1).
Matthew next provides even a further detail, explaining the cause of Christ’s compassion:
First, “they fainted.” The verb here for “faint” in the traditional text comes from the verb ekluō. The root means to loose or destroy, with a prefix meaning “out from.” We could literally render it as “worn out.” The marginal note in the Cambridge KJV suggests it could be rendered, “were tired and lay down.” That would be something like “to collapse.”
Second, they “were scattered abroad.” This is a pastoral image and leads to the next description: They were “as sheep having no shepherd.” This draws on one of the richest metaphors we have in the Scriptures to describe the relationship between God and his people. God himself is the Shepherd and his people are the sheep or the flock (cf. Psalm 23:1; Psalm 95:7). Yet, these people have no pastor.
This description teaches us that Christ is not unmoved when he looks upon a mass of sinful humanity. He feels for us and our plight, even in the gut. He sees that we are fainting, worn out, scattered, here, there, and yonder. And he does not leave us where we are, but he comes to seek us till he finds us.
Those who work in various fields of human care-giving (whether nurses, physicians, social workers, counselors, etc.) sometimes talk about “compassion fatigue.” Minister can speak this way too. In our worst moments, we might say something like, “This job would be great if it weren’t for these people always bothering me.”
Think of the multitudes who surrounded Christ. Then, consider this: Christ never experienced or experiences compassion fatigue.
If you are a believer, when you were fainting, disoriented, lost and scattered, Christ looked upon you with compassion and drew you to himself. There are some of you in such a state right now upon whom he is working, drawing you with cords of kindness.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff