Oct. 17, 2010 INTRODUCTION – What we are seeing increasingly as we travel through the pages of the gospel of Matthew is a clash between the kingdom of darkness ruled by Satan and the kingdom of God ruled by the risen and very active King Jesus.
What all of us experience every day as well – is the ongoing clash of these two kingdoms. Even if God has reached down and rescued you and delivered you from the kingdom of darkness by His amazing grace; the world, the flesh, and Satan and his demons will continue to seek to deceive and distract and divert and even to destroy you until the day you are with the Lord.
I want to answer three questions this morning from Matthew ch. 12 to help you fight this battle well ; and here’s the first one.
I. Why asking for a sign or miracle was evil vs. 38-42 (Let’s read the passage)
By this time Jesus had done a number of signs or miracles. So what’s the big deal with doing one more?
I have a list of 35 distinct or unique miracles or signs that Jesus performed while He was on the earth. All of them met a need – such as when He turned water into wine at the wedding where the wine had run out; or when He healed a Roman official’s son etc. The only exception was when He walked on the water to get to the boat the disciples were in. Even in that case the need perhaps He met besides that being the quickest way to get to them, was strengthening their faith in His deity. Now Jesus did far more than 35. But the Holy Spirit led Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to only record 35 or so of them in detail.
Some say that these signs were only necessary in the life and ministry of Christ to authenticate that He was indeed the Son of God. And that we should not seek them today.
But is that really the case? Two reasons why that line of thinking does not fly.
1. The apostles and disciples – the early church – prayed for signs and wonders. Turn with me to Acts. 4:23-31
2. Signs and wonders played a huge role in the growth and expansion of the early church. And they should today as well.
Do you know that there are at least 17 times in the book of Acts, which by the way – is the history book of what happened after Jesus Christ rose from the dead and ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father in heaven. 17 x’s where miracles not only met a need, but also led people to place their faith in Christ. Let’s look at one example in Acts 9:32-35
Is there anyone here who came to Christ at least partially because of a sign or wonder or miracle that God did for you or for someone you know and care for?
So if signs and wonders are so integral to the way of Christ with His church, why does Jesus rebuke the Scribes and Pharisees for seeking a sign? Let me suggest 3 reasons.
1. There was no great need to meet or problem to fix with those who asked.
2. They had demonstrated time and time again that they were rejecting Jesus’ person and message. Jesus knew that one more sign would not make any difference.
3. Basically they were just curious to see something exciting; their motive was almost a voyeuristic kind of desire; and it’s possible that they knew He wouldn’t do one for them; and thus they could tell people He was unwilling or perhaps unable to do one.
Was calling them “an evil and adulterous generation” unfair? No it wasn’t – because they had shown a hardness of heart and callousness toward human need time after time. These religious leaders were not only rebellious themselves; but they were leading others away from the only one who could save them from their sins.
So Jesus says the only sign He will give them is the sign of Jonah the prophet. And this was a sign that would not take place for some weeks or months down the road – – and that is the sign of Jesus being crucified and laid in a tomb, where -like Jonah – He stayed for several days, and then rose from the dead, similar to how Jonah rose from the belly of the sea monster or great fish.
By the way, I want to say two quick things about Jonah and the sea monster (please note it does not say whale). First by Jesus referring to this account – we know that He believed it really happened. Second, when you get home – google “Was Jonah really swallowed by a great fish? Some pretty good articles therein explaining how this could have easily happened – especially since God made it happen.
Speaking of the book of Jonah, here is another statement from Jesus verifying that in His mind everything in the book of Jonah was true. If you have never read it, Jonah was a prophet that God raised up to go preach to the city of Nineveh – that if they did not repent and turn to God, their whole city would be destroyed. He refused to go, because he knew that Nineveh was an exceedingly wicked city, and in his mind they deserved to be judged and punished, and certainly didn’t deserve God’s mercy and forgiveness. That is where the big fish came in as Jonah needed some attitude adjustment, and where better to work on that than in the belly of a big sea monster, whether it was a whale or shark or giant Nemo.
Well Jonah repented of his disobedience and went to Nineveh and preached to them, and wonder of wonders – this exceedingly wicked and violent city repented from the top down – and for a time God poured out mercy instead of judgment. So Jesus is rebuking the Scribes and Pharisees because here they are – the religious leaders of God’s chosen people and they are unwilling to repent. And they even have the very Son of God preaching to them – doing a host of miracles along the way – as contrasted to Jonah, who we might call a grudgingly somewhat obedient prophet – born in sin like the rest of us.
The Queen of the South (vs. 42) traveled a great distance probably on a camel to see King Solomon’s riches and hear of his wisdom; and he was just a man whose flaws became increasingly clear towards the end of his reign. How much greater is Jesus, who never sinned, whose wisdom was infinite, and who exemplified justice and righteousness in everything He said and did?? That’s why Jesus called them an “evil and adulterous generation.”
II. Why religious window dressing results in devastation vs. 43-45 (read it)
Still addressing the Scribes and Pharisees and trying to help open their eyes to their dangerous spiritual condition, Jesus turns to an illustration of a man who – perhaps by the Jewish exorcists had a demon cast out of him. The demon tries to find some other being to inhabit, and because it cannot for whatever reason, it decides to return to the person it has been cast out of.
Now ideally that person would have asked and allowed God Himself to fill that void that the demon left. Ideally he would have run from the kingdom of darkness and cried out to God for the safety and security that comes from entering into His kingdom.
But that’s not what happened. Instead this man tried with self effort – based in religious pride to reform himself. He tried to do good things and not do bad things; and follow the ever growing set of religious rules and rituals the Pharisees had devised. Instead of humbling himself and placing his faith and trust in Christ to – by the power of the Spirit – transform him from the inside out; instead of asking God to forgive His sins and cleanse his heart from all defilement and make him a new creation, he chose to just focus on outward conformity to a religious system devised by proud, fleshly ,controlling men. And what was the result? Well it was a horrifying one. This demon went and found seven other demons and they all took residence in the void in this man’s life that God should have filled. And the devastation was far worse than it was before the one demon had been cast out of him.
Listen people – putting on religious bandaids, instead of allowing God to transform you by His cleansing blood – gives the devil and his demons a wide open door to come in and make your life absolutely miserable. You need to know there are many people here on the Central Coast who are preaching a window dressing gospel, whether it be the more aggressive forms of yoga, humanism, jehovah’s witnesses, or a hundred other dogmas – all of which refuse to admit they are a sinner in desperate need of a Savior.
So how can we avoid religious window dressing, and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that our life is in God’s hands; and He will be there for us every step of the way, and that the void in our hearts is increasingly filled with God; and thus that there is no room for demonic spirits?
Well that leads to our third and last question to answer this morning.
III. Why obedience to the will of God assures protection and security, & intimacy with Christ vs. 46-50
While Jesus is still speaking to the crowds, some well meaning person, who probably thought there was religious merit in being of the same nuclear family as this amazing prophet, came up to Him and informed Him that his mother and brothers were standing outside the door – seeking to speak to Him.
Perhaps Jesus saw that this person who informed him was sincere in his effort and announcement. So Jesus spoke directly to Him and asked this question: “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” As is so often the case with Jesus Christ – He answers a question with another probing question – helping us see that things are not often as they seem. Then He answers His question since that poor guy was probably going, “Look I’ve been following you for a while now, and we all know who your mother and brothers are.”
As much as Jesus truly loved and cared for His nuclear family, He is ready to introduce to us a family that is even more intimate to Him than His natural mother and brothers. And that is the family of disciples who live to know and do His will. I want to talk to you for a few moments now about the will of God.
In the scriptures we find both a general will of God that everyone is to obey; and a personal or specific will of God that is personal and unique to you from the heart of God. Both – the scriptures say are: good, acceptable or well pleasing, and perfect (Rom. 12:2)
The General will of God includes things like the following list: – that we experience sorrow for our sin that leads us to true repentance “I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. II Cor. 7:9,10
– that we abstain from sexual immorality and instead embrace sanctification or holiness – which means among other things that as a lifestyle we seek our satisfaction and pleasure and fulfillment in a relationship with God instead of in illicit sexual relationships. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; I Thess. 4:3
– “that we submit ourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution or authority, and not live in rebellion… for such is the will of God – I Peter. 2:13-15
– that we practice a lifestyle of thanksgiving – “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thess. 5:18
These are some of the passages that actually state that these things are the will of God. But in a general sense anything and everything that God expects us to be and accomplish is His will.
Specific will of God for individuals: Both what we are to become or do as far as our calling goes:
– Paul to be an apostle – “Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,” I Cor. 1:1 and where and when we are to go places or do things to fulfill God’s call or destiny on our lives. For instance Paul wanted to go to Rome to visit the church there; but He waited for the green light from God to go: “always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you.” Rom. 1:20
Pretty amazing that The Living God of the universe has a specific, personal and unique will for every single one of you. Pretty amazing that the Living God of the Universe has preserved for you and me a supernatural book that teaches you and I how to develop a relationship with Him so that we have the motivation to do all that He has recorded in His word. Pretty amazing that as you and I learn to devote our lives to knowing and doing His will we can become as intimate with Him and dear to Him as His own mother or brother was .
This is the only real safeguard from demonic possession and oppression folks. It is not a coincidence that this passage follows the one before.
Jesus knew this principle well. He said once – when the disciples were all worried about Him eating enough, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” Literal nourishment, fulfillment and inner strength came from His seeking to do the will of God. Jn. 6:38 “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
Elsewhere He said, “I delight to do Your will O my God; Your Law is within my heart.” Psalm 40:8
So what about you this morning? Would the state of your heart and inner desires be more like Jesus’s or more like the Pharisees and Scribes?
Prayer time re: proper use and seeking of signs and wonders Greater heart and resolve to do the will of God