Clothed in Jesus.

“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:11-14)This passage continues Matthew’s coverage of the confrontations between Jesus and the religious rulers of the Jews. The parable of the wedding feast demonstrates that these rulers have rejected Him and so have rejected the Kingdom of God. Now the Lord will open His Kingdom, will offer grace and mercy to those the Jews tried to keep out: the pagans and Gentiles. But this is not cheap grace. The Kingdom of Heaven may be a joyous celebration but, as the example of the treatment of the man who was not properly clothed shows us, no one can come into that Kingdom as they are, with all their sins and their own religious beliefs or practices. 

What Jesus tells us is that, although the Lord desires to call all unto Himself, only those who are clothed with the righteousness of Christ can enter His Kingdom, no matter how good, noble or popular they are. This is very difficult for many people to accept in our present day considering the popular view that most people go to heaven or its equivalent regardless of their religious beliefs or moral character. In the world, moral character is not determined these days by referring to Biblical standards or even the 10 commandments. Goodness is determined by what is popular or how nice a person is, or how generous and friendly. But as Jesus says, we must be clothed in His righteousness, not our own.

Trinity Lutheran Hicksville

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Christ the Cornerstone.

“Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the Scriptures: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes”? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.'” (Matthew 21:42-44)
The day after Jesus confronted the rulers of the Jews, He related a series of parables that told them in no uncertain terms that they were outside of God’s kingdom. This parable about the vineyard was a prophetic history lesson that drew on the image of Israel as the vineyard of the Lord. As with the image in Isaiah 5, the people of God behaved with great wickedness and rebellion. They refused to obey God and routinely rejected His prophets and teachers. Ultimately, they would even reject His Son and put Him to death.

Because of this rejection, Jesus proclaimed that the Kingdom of God would soon to be open to the weak, the downtrodden, the unclean and the sinners as well as Gentiles, not the religious or the self-righteous Pharisees and their followers. Rather, as the quotes from Psalm 118 and Isaiah 8:14-15 tell us, since Jesus is the cornerstone of the Kingdom of God, those who oppose or reject Him will be broken and crushed into dust and blown away like chaff. No wonder the Pharisees were angry with Him.
The same is true today of self-righteous individuals. They are in and of the world. They may value fame, wealth, pleasure and power as paradigms of true life, but those who exalt self or others and reject Jesus will not enter God’s Kingdom. Their deeds, writings, and pronouncments will be forgotten and useless. Only those who come to faith in Jesus, acknowledging their sin and weakness will live forever in the presence of the Lord.

Jesus’ Authority

“And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” (Matthew 21:23-27)
In this chapter, Jesus confronted the Pharisees, the religious rulers of the Jews. They resented His popularity among the Jewish people. Their animosity increased enormously in a short space of time because they felt threatened by His challenges to their authority. Earlier He confronted them when He entered Jerusalem in triumph and the people hailed Him as King and Messiah. Jesus increased their outrage when He chased the moneychangers out of the temple area. He then refused to tell the Pharisees the basis for His authority for doing what He did because their request was insincere, designed only to trip Him up and gather information to use against Him.
When we speak to people in the world about Jesus, they often feel uncomfortable. They resent Him. They challenge His authority and His existence as well as the Scripture itself the avenue of God’s truth and wisdom because these threaten their self-centered worldview. They maintain that they alone, not God, not anyone, determine how they should live and what they should do with their lives. Such people may make us uncomfortable because we do not know how to answer them. Yet we should ask them on what authority do they base their beliefs? On what basis should they or anyone live a good life? On what basis should they do good to others rather than ill? What authority do they use to make any decisions about ethics or morality? We who have faith in Christ have Him as our authority. Over two millennia He has provided stability and peace to millions who trust in Him. Can the world make any such claim?
Trinity Lutheran Hicksville

Sour Grapes.

“What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? As I live, declares the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die. Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?” (Ezekiel 18:1-4)
The proverb to which the Lord refers is what the people of Judah in exile in Babylon felt: they were being punished for the sins of their fathers and ancestors not their own. The sins of Judah had reached their peak in Ezekiel’s generation. The punishment was well earned, for the sins of the fathers had repeated themselves in the children. They did not realize the extent of their own sin. They had no idea that they had done wrong, no clue that what they were still engaging in their detestable idolatry and immorality.

The underlying motivation for making such a statement was that the Lord was unfair and unjust. The same statement about God being unjust and unfair is often made today. Why should we suffer for sins committed by others? The Lord, however, is fair and just. He judges each one separately according to his own deeds and sins, not the sins of others, though we often suffer because of the sins of others. In addition, we all tend to repeat the sins of those we respect, fear or emulate such as parents, other family members, teachers, celebrities, and politicians. They are supposed to set a godly example for us but often lead us astray.
In the Kingdom of God, no one can blame someone else for their sinfulness nor for the punishment it brings. Faith with its accompanying repentance and righteousness will remove the ultimate penalty of eternal separation from God. Those who refuse to repent, who continue in wickedness and excuse their sins as “lifestyle choices” will find only condemnation for their sinful ways. It is up to the church to be prophetic and warn them of the danger before it is too late.

Trinity Lutheran Hicksville

Kingdom Economics

Trinity Lutheran Hicksville“And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.” (Matthew 20:11-16)

In this chapter Jesus says some things that are antithetical to what the world, our culture, our society values. The parable of the workers in the vineyard alone is enough to knock people for a loop and cry out against such injustice and stupidity. Those who came to work later in the day were obviously shiftless idlers and goldbricks, lacking in ambition, skill and productivity. It is both unjust and poor business for this man to pay all his hired hands the same amount of money for differing amounts of work!

Although this parable shows the different economics of the Kingdom of God, the real message that Jesus conveys is about God’s mercy. Everyone who comes to repentance through faith in the blood of Jesus finds forgiveness. That includes liars, selfish, self-righteous people and ourselves as well as those who we think “deserve” no mercy or less mercy than we: drug addicts, alcoholics, murderers, rapists, perverts, prostitutes, sodomites, politicians, celebrities etc. Jesus rewards any and all who humbly come to Him by faith. Therefore rather than voice our outrage and complaints about the blatant immorality of sinners who seem to prosper, we ought really to pray for them to come to faith. Without Christ they will lose everything.

Forgive.

“Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.'” (Matthew 18:21-22)
In this passage Jesus teaches a lesson on the necessity of forgiveness. Jesus tells His disciples, He tells us that we have a duty to forgive, an obligation, a responsibility to forgive those who have offended or sinned against us, primarily to those within the fellowship of the Kingdom of God.

Doesn’t this agitate you? If someone came and cursed you and belittled you seventy-seven times in one day, you would have to forgive him. Once you could do this, two or three times maybe, but by the fourth time most of us would be ready to smack that person around. Maybe you have felt that something someone did to you was unforgivable, or someone did something evil to one of your loved ones, your wife, your son or daughter, your parents, or perhaps a friend. How would you feel toward a person who abused your child? How would you feel about someone who has murdered or accidentally killed someone you love? Would you think to yourself “I can’t forgive that person? That person did something that was unforgivable?” Despite how we may feel about forgiveness, Jesus tells us that we have an obligation to forgive those who injure us.
What Jesus wants us to do is what he did for us. Didn’t He forgive us while we were still sinners? Didn’t He forgive those who crucified Him? He did not wait for our response before He took steps to forgive us. Since we are forgiven in this manner, we ought also to do the same.
Forgiveness is the choice of the injured party. In forgiveness, I no longer require or expect the offender to change. Reconciliation is dependent on both parties acknowledging the truth about the behavior. This is impossible if offenders continue in the offensive behavior, especially if they are emotionally abusive or hostile. I cannot be reconciled into a relationship that is harmful to me. Forgiveness does not mean that I cannot set boundaries on the relationship to avoid further injury.
Forgiving does not mean that I forget the injuries, deny or minimize them. Forgiveness does not ignore the pain, the emotional hurt or the seriousness of the offense. Forgiving means that I relinquish my desire to exact judgement. When we withhold forgiveness it is almost always because we want justice. But that justice has already been satisfied on the cross. I must let go of revenge: the debt owed me cannot be repaid. Which of the offending party’s sins were not forgiven at the cross? If we continued in unforgiveness any longer, we would be making a mockery of the cross.

Forgiveness is the duty of every Christian. God has canceled an enormous debt of sin for each of us. We have no right to withhold forgiveness of a debt which is minuscule in comparison.
Trinity Lutheran Hicksville

Respect the Government.

This post will be especially appropriate today because of the widespread disrespect for our government and our president. While our governing authorities are far from perfect and even corrupt, the Lord has placed them in authority over us. We must respect and obey just laws while disobeying those that are unjust. Though I do not engage in protests or demonstrations, and think believers should not be involved in such, those Christians who do so must always refrain from violence and breaking the just laws about such assemblies.
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.” (Romans 13:1-3a)

When we read the first verses of Romans 13, we see that what Paul says is fairly obvious and straightforward. There are no hidden meanings, no secret codes. Consequently these words rankle us in America, depending on who is in power. Paul tells us that we have an obligation to respect government and obey the law. Why?

First of all, governments are in power by the providence of God. They derive their authority from Him. Thus obedience to them is obedience to God. Failure to obey government shows disrespect for God’s authority.

In addition, governments are ministers of God to punish evil doers. As long as we are good, do not break the law, do not cheat on our taxes we have nothing to fear. The law holds no terror for those who do good. We must submit to governments and laws for they can exact just wrath and punishment on us as the sword of the Lord.

The final reason to do good and obey government is for the sake of our own conscience. Many of us like to disobey if we think we won’t get caught. Who’s going to know if we cheat on income tax, or steal something in a store or at work when no one is looking? And yet our conscience will condemn us in the sight of God Who sees all.

So we must subject ourselves to the law, deliberately surrender ourselves to its authority. This submission involves respecting those in authority, obeying the law and paying taxes. What Paul does not tell us here is what to do if the government sanctions things that are evil, or commands us to do things that are sinful. Many people use all sorts of excuses to avoid obeying. Some even claim that they do not want to pay taxes as a protest against the oppressive tyrannical policies of an evil Satanic government. Why support or even obey such a government?

But didn’t Jesus Himself command us to do so? Didn’t He say, give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s? By saying this, He upheld the authority of the government of Rome, an ungodly, cruel and oppressive power. Jesus maintained that government, even an evil power such as Rome, is also a force for good. Governments protect the rights, property and lives of private citizens from anarchy, violence, robbery, assault and murder, not perfectly, but they do. We must obey laws that are just and fair, but are not obliged to obey those that are sinful or opposed to the Kingdom of God.

Trinity Lutheran Hicksville