Archive for January, 2018

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The Earth weighed in the balance © by Ross Cochrane using Blender

Matthew 19:27-29 – WHAT ON EARTH IS JESUS TALKING ABOUT – Part 4

My grandson looked at the image above and when I asked him what he thought it was about, he said, “Jesus is better than the world”. That’s exactly what it is about and about judgment.

The rich young ruler refused to follow Christ. Jesus says it is impossible for a rich man to get into heaven without God’s help. Here was a young man, with his life full of potential, blessed with riches, living a good life and gifted with leadership going away sorrowful, rich and without eternal life because he would rather follow the pursuits of the world.

The first question that comes to Peter’s mind is “What about us?” So Peter says to Jesus, “We’ve given up everything to follow You. What will we get?” (Matthew 19:27 NLT).

I guarantee he didn’t expect the answer he received.

“Yes,” Jesus replies, “and I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon His glorious throne, you who have been My followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 

And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for My sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:28-29 NLT).

WHAT ON EARTH IS JESUS TALKING ABOUT?

Let’s continue to break this down.

  1. THE WORLD WILL BE MADE NEW (see Part 2)
  2. CHRIST WILL SIT UPON HIS THRONE

Throne speaks of Rulership and particularly Judgment. Is this the Great White Throne mentioned in Revelation? It appears to be a throne of judgment.

Matthew 25:31-33 takes up the same language and indicates a future time by saying “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit upon His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in His presence, and He will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at His right hand and the goats at His left.

Christ is coming again, but this time to judge the world.

  1. ISRAEL WILL BE A DISTINCT, TRIBAL NATION

Interesting. Israel exists today but not the 12 tribes. Neither did they exist at the time this statement was made. They had been dispersed throughout the nations, lost in the ocean of humanity across the face of the earth. So, will this happen in the future? Does this take place on earth? Is this talking of the Jewish remnant of scattered tribes all over the world who will somehow be united?

The message of this passage is not about Israel as such but about reward for following Christ and judgment for not following Him. Jesus doesn’t explain the details.

Some scholars have supposed that Jesus is talking about the Church, i.e. those who have believed in Christ, judging unbelievers rather than Israel.

Jesus puts His words together carefully. Somehow, I can’t help thinking that God is not finished with Israel yet.

  1. THE APOSTLES WILL HAVE A DISTINCT ROLE IN SHARING WITH CHRIST IN HIS RULERSHIP AND JUDGMENT OF THE 12 TRIBES OF ISRAEL

But hang on! There are no longer 12 Apostles. Is Paul included or Matthias? (Acts 1:12-26). Hopefully not Judas! Is Jesus describing rulership roles in heaven somehow? Isn’t Christ the only one qualified to rule and judge? In what way do they judge the tribes – for their unbelief?

One thing is certain, the Apostles will have positions of honor and authority as a reward for the sacrifice they made to be obedient and follow Christ. Jesus doesn’t explain the details, but 1 Corinthians 6 indicates that all believers will have a similar role.

1 Corinthians 6:2-3 says, “Don’t you realize that someday we believers will judge the world? … Don’t you realize that we will judge angels?”

Jesus came to save the world, but that’s because when He returns to the earth, He will come as a judge.

John 3:13-18 (NLT) says, “… everyone who believes in Him (Jesus) will have eternal life. For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.” 

The takeaway truth in Matthew 19:28-29 is that in knowing Christ there is great reward but not knowing Christ brings great loss. The Bible is clear about both. The Love of God offers Salvation from judgment. The Justice of God demands that you either trust in Christ to pay the price for your sin or pay the price of justice. 

The invitation of Matthew 19 is for every one of us to recognize our need for Christ and that we are unable to navigate this world or the next without Him.

Pastor Ross

 

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Wave of Judgment © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Matthew 19:29 – WHAT ON EARTH IS JESUS TALKING ABOUT? Part 3

He called out to the others, urging them to catch the wave. “I can see the beach. We can maneuver away from the rocks. They were all experienced surfers. Even without surfboards, they could ride the wave in. They would survive.

The wave came, powerful and relentless. He knew that he would drown unless he could harness the energy of that wave and ride it all the way into shore, traveling in trim across its face, interacting with its power in order to be saved.

They were all too tired, weary from being in the water too long but now they were moving away from the clear line of sand. This would be their only chance. They must take it while there was still opportunity.

The wave rose above him. In perfect harmony with its rise and rhythm, He positioned himself to gain the lift and forward movement to skim across its face. He could feel the embrace of the water beginning to drag him forward and then he was racing in towards the beach.

Gripped by its sheer, enormous power he was now funneling through the water, just avoiding a wipeout by maneuvering in harmony for greater speed.

Resting on the surface of sheer force, he felt the fingers of fluid motion driving him forward in a delicately balanced roller coaster ride up and down the wave, cruising in to the shore.

He looked back for the others but none of them had followed his lead and he knew that the very wave that could have saved them had instead judged their reluctance to move by swamping them beneath the depths of the ocean. They had fought to get to the surface again but their opportunity was lost.

Jesus says, “Ride the wave with Me.” The rich young ruler refused to follow Christ. Jesus says it is impossible for a rich man to get into heaven without God’s help. Here was a young man, with his life full of potential, blessed with riches, living a good life and gifted with leadership going away sorrowful, rich and without eternal life, swamped by the very wave that could have saved him.

The world is drowning. The last wave is coming, but there is only one wave left before we go under. To refuse to ride it in to the shore and be saved is to be judged by the same wave that could save us. It’s inevitable.

John 3:35-36 (NLT) says “… anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.”

Pastor Ross

 

 

 

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What on earth? © Image created by Ross Cochrane on Blender and GetPaint.net

Matthew 19:24-29 – WHAT ON EARTH IS JESUS TALKING ABOUT? Part 2

The rich young ruler refused to follow Christ. Jesus said it was impossible for a rich man to get into heaven without God’s help.

Peter must have thought, Well, if it is impossible for this young man, blessed with riches, living a good life and gifted with leadership to receive eternal life then what about us?” So Peter says to Jesus, “We’ve given up everything to follow You. What will we get?” (Matthew 19:27 NLT).

“Yes,” Jesus replies, “and I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon His glorious throne, you who have been My followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 

And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for My sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life (Matthew 19:28-29 NLT).

But what on earth is He talking about? 

So let’s break this down one step at a time.

  1. THE WORLD WILL BE MADE NEW

Is this a reference to how history changed dramatically after the death of Christ and because of the influence of the early Church the gospel spread, or is this a totally new creation of the world in a future time, a new heaven, and earth?

The death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ had a huge impact on the world. It set the renewing process in motion starting with the renewing of the lives of those who believed in Christ and, according to Jesus, will one day culminate in the renewing of the world into a new heaven and earth.

Isaiah 65:17 says,  Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore.”

It’s all part of a continuum and Jesus outlines the unfolding of history up until the end times. We haven’t seen the full implications of the renewal yet. When Jesus answers a question, He doesn’t mess around but notice that His answer is an overview of the plans of God for the world.

When Peter is talking to the crowds in Acts 3:19-21, he says Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and He will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah. For He must remain in heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago through His holy prophets.” Peter once again gives an overview. Changed lives … changed earth.

2 Peter 3:11-13 says Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, He will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth He has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.”

Revelation 21:1-5 says Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among His people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. God, Himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” The culmination of the renewal process.

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” What I tell you is trustworthy and true.” 

And then there is Romans 8:18-23 which says, Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who His children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time...”

Christ invites you to be a part of the renewal of the end times. This renewal comes from knowing Christ. Every time someone gives their life to Christ they are included in the renewal plans of God which will inevitably culminate in an entire renewal of the planet itself. The invitation of Matthew 19 is to choose to be included in that plan.

Pastor Ross

 

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What on earth…? © Image by Ross Cochrane using Blender and GetPaint.net

Matthew 19:27-29 – WHAT ON EARTH IS JESUS TALKING ABOUT? Part 1

It’s interesting that one of the questions that come to our minds when we give our lives to Christ is WIIFM? (What’s in it for me?). What compensation will I receive for my sacrifice of everything? Like you can invest in sacrifice. Like following Jesus isn’t fulfillment enough.

In Matthew 19:27 the rich young ruler has just walked away with sorrow in his heart, unwilling to forsake his riches to follow Christ. Jesus tells His disciples how impossible it can be for a rich person to receive eternal life and come under the authority of God.

Peter must have thought, Well, if it is impossible for this young man, with his life ahead of him, blessed with riches, living a good life, and gifted leader to receive eternal life then what about us?” So Peter says to Jesus, “We’ve given up everything to follow You. What will we get?” (Matthew 19:27 NLT). Apparently, even for Peter, following Christ is not return enough?

One thing is always sure about Peter. He doesn’t worry too much about appropriateness. Caution and tact aren’t obvious character traits in Peter.

Is Peter being mercenary or just wanting assurance about whether he and his fellow disciples will have eternal life? Is that why Jesus holds back from rebuking Peter directly for having selfish motives?

YOU CAN INVEST IN SACRIFICE

In fact, Jesus says you can invest in sacrifice.

“Yes,” Jesus replies, “and I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon His glorious throne, you who have been My followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 

And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for My sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life (Matthew 19:28-29 NLT).

Wow! That was unexpected! But what kind of reward is this? Strange kind of reply. 12 disciples, 12 thrones, 12 tribes. How are the Apostles judges over the 12 tribes of Israel? Are the tribes going to be re-established? Is this a metaphorical picture or is Jesus being sarcastic or exaggerating to get a point across and if He is, what is He trying to say? Is this a future prophecy?

WHAT ON EARTH IS JESUS TALKING ABOUT?

What about the hundred times in return? In what way? The apostles would experience persecution and execution. How is this a hundred times as much return for the sacrifice they have made? Sure, eternal life afterward is more return than anyone could hope for, but what is Jesus getting at?

Some commentaries suggest that all this judging of the 12 tribes on 12 thrones happened with the early Church with the Apostles judging Israel by the inclusion of the Gentiles and ushering in the understanding of the New Covenant. Others suggest this is somehow linked to the writing of the New Testament. How they arrive at this, I don’t know. It seems to me if Jesus meant all that, He would have said it.

BUT WHAT DID HE MEAN?

I’m left with more questions than answers with this reply of Jesus. Perhaps you are too. So in the next few blogs I am on a quest to discover what on earth Jesus is talking about? I invite you to come with me. 

Pastor Ross

 

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Under New Management © Image created with Blender and Paint.net by Ross Cochrane

Matthew 19:24-26 – WHAT DO I GIVE UP TO FOLLOW CHRIST?

Jesus tells the rich young ruler, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me” (Matthew 19:21 NLT). 

All his possessions? Is Jesus trying to say that the idea of treasure in heaven rather than riches on earth gives me a greater perspective concerning my money? How do I define rich?

The reward of following Him is invaluable so I don’t want to get this wrong.

In Matthew 19:24 (NLT) Jesus makes an outrageous statement. He says “I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”  

So, it is impossible for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven! The rich young ruler was not willing to choose between riches and following Christ. He was a good living man but eternal riches weren’t as appealing as the earthly kind.

So, no-one who follows Christ can be rich, according to Jesus? 

In Matthew 19:25, 26 (NLT) The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked. 

Why are the disciples astounded? Apparently, they presume that riches equate with the blessings of God and therefore it would be easier, in their way of thinking, for a rich man to be saved. A good living person like the rich young ruler seems like the perfect candidate for salvation.

Jesus looks at them intently and says, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible” (Matthew 19:26 NLT).

Finally, there’s hope for you who are rich! Jesus says it’s impossible for a rich man to be saved, but adds that with God, everything is possible. He deals with human impossibilities. It doesn’t depend on us but upon Him.

Riches should speak of possibility but they are often a liability, depending on whether you submit your life to Christ or not. Those who are in the Kingdom of God ie those who have come under the authority of Christ as King of kings, see the possibility for using riches for the purposes of God for every aspect of life. Those who are not in the Kingdom of God ie who have not come under the authority of Christ, can be consumed by the love of money for more selfish pursuits and sometimes damaging purposes, devoid of the wisdom and direction of God.

Do I have to give away everything to the poor in order to follow Christ? 

No. But when I submit everything I have to His rulership, I am willing to do all He desires with whatever there is in my life for His purposes. What He asks of me may be quite different to what He asks of you.

Coming to Christ means recognising that you have nothing to offer God. You come to him without merit. Despite outward riches and even a good life, our sin has left us destitute. We come to God with empty hands to be saved by grace.

So, the invitation of Matthew 19:24-26 is to do with the Kingdom of God, i.e. It is an invitation to come under the authority of Christ as King of kings and obey His commands concerning your riches, status, abilities and talents, gifting, experience, heart motivations, personality etc. That’s the point! That’s the invitation.  Everything I possess and all that I am is Under New Management.

Submission of everything in our lives to Christ (coming under His Kingdom authority) leaves us in a place where we can receive the grace of God and be saved. Boasting in any way that somehow we had something to do with it is not an option. It comes from Christ alone. It is based on what He has done on the Cross, not on what we bring to the table. 

What do I give up to follow Christ? Everything. It is in giving up our trust in ourselves and instead, submitting ourselves to Christ that we find the truest riches and live life to the full. 

Pastor Ross

 

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Eye of the Needle © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Matthew 19:23-26 – KHALID, THE EYE OF THE NEEDLE, AND THE CAMELEER

“What if I am too late and the Cameleer will not see me?” Khalij the camel said absently to himself as he increased his pace. Sweat was beginning to seep through his hairy white hide but he still looked splendidly dressed for the journey and he knew he would be presentable for entrance into the city.

Was this the city and the Cameleer he was searching for? “Perhaps I am close”. Surely soon he would find rest. He felt the heavy load of the grain and valuable wares in his saddlebags as he ascended towards the city and Khalij knew he must arrive before sunset or the gates would be closed. Time was running out.

Passing many poor souls along the way who were also on a quest for entrance into the city, Khalij noticed they had scarce resources of food or water to continue their journey. A shabby, dirty looking donkey and lama approached him and begged him for food and water but he ignored their noisy requests. There was always someone who wanted his wares and although he had more than enough, he needed to hurry on. Not today. Best not to get involved.

On reaching the final approach to the gate, tired from the pace he had been keeping, Khalij saw another camel coming his way. His backpacks also were full and the colorful, intricately designed mat on his back laced with gold and indigo indicated he was of high station.

By this time he could see that the gate had been closed, and so Khalij greeted the camel and asked, “Where you not able to enter the city, brother camel?” The young camel looked down at the ground and continued on his way without a word. It was a little disconcerting to see the sadness in his eyes as he retreated down the road.

Khalij reached the locked gate and bellowed up to the walls but no-one came. Noticing a small hole in the huge gate, he looked through and was surprised to see a Cameleer approaching. Was this the Cameleer he had longed to find? “Cameleer”, he said, “I have come to see You. I have heard so much of Your city. What must I do to enter in?”

“What makes you think you are good enough to gain entrance to this holy city”, said The Cameleer.

“I assure you”, Khalij said confidently, “Since my childhood, I have been recognized as a leader among camels. As an albino camel, in all the lands where camels roam, I am considered rare and highly revered. I am dressed in the finest attire and bring with me valuable trade and items for sale.”

“But I detect that in your voice that there is still something missing from your life that brings you on your quest”, said the Cameleer.

“Yes, I am told that Your city will give me the answers concerning my destiny,” said Khalij, not giving away too much. Was this the Cameleer?

“To gain entrance you will need to come through this small door I have constructed just for you.” said the Cameleer. “You will need to follow my instructions carefully and it will be the most humbling experience of your life, but the choice is yours”.

Khalij looked as the Cameleer opened a small door. He had not noticed that this door was constructed within the larger gate.

“With all respect, I fear I shall not get through such a small door as this”, he said.

“The door was designed just for you, Khalij. I have been waiting for you. Come.”

When the Cameleer called him by name, there was something so compelling in the His voice that tentatively, Khalij began to move towards the doorway. He could see that he would need to bow down and then crawl through on his knees but the space was impossibly small; the eye of a needle. What if he were to get stuck half-way?

Bowing his head and crawling part way, he was prevented from making any further progress by his saddlebags.

Khalij said, “I cannot possibly get through without first setting down my saddlebags and then I fear my wares may be stolen by those behind me.”

“You have no need of saddlebags in My City, Khalij,” said the Cameleer. “Give your wares to the poor and come, follow Me. You will find rest and all the provisions you need for your soul.”

It was then that Khalij understood the sadness in the eyes of the rich young camel he had passed on the way. Such emptiness after so long a journey. He had gone away with riches but not rest for his soul.

Khalij thought for some time, trying to assess what would be the biggest decision of his life. He had come so far and he sensed that his quest was coming to a close. Must he also lose all for which he had worked for?

Within the deepest part of his being, he felt that somehow he could trust the Cameleer. With surprising relief, he threw off his saddlebags and began distributing his wares to the poor and hungry who gathered at the gate.

Then he faced the doorway. Once again he bowed his head and got to his knees, crawling towards the small opening. And then halfway through it happened. Suddenly he was stuck! He began to panic. Bellowing and twisting his neck, he tried to kick but his legs were pinned. In an ungainly stumbling crawl, he tried to back out and found, to his relief, it was easy. He must get out!

Khalij was almost out of the confined space that had trapped him when the Cameleer spoke softly and looked into Khalij’s eyes.“Khalij, come. Follow Me. This doorway was made for you. If you keep your eyes on Me and listen to My voice then you will enter the eternal city. I can open closed doors and make what you consider to be an impossibly small space an entrance. But the choice is yours.”

But this would take a miracle, Khalij thought. Gazing up at the Cameleer, Khalij was infused with what he could only call an irrational confidence and trust in the Cameleer. For some unknown reason, he decided to try once again. He inched his way, carefully listening to each instruction given by the Cameleer.

Inch by inch, he began to realize that it was as if this doorway was made only for him. It also occurred to him that the Cameleer was completely filling the Cameleer-sized place in his heart. It was a strange thought. “I am found in Him and He is alive in me”. Only in submitting himself to the Cameleer could progress be made. It would remind him constantly in the endless days ahead of what it meant to follow the Camelier.

“Your name was Khalij, meaning Gulf,” said the Cameleer, “because your wealth and status created a gulf between you and your relationship with Me. Now you shall be called Khalid, meaning Eternal,” said the Cameleer. “This name was always intended for you for I knew that one day you would come to Me, not without great difficulty, to find the eternal city and the door to eternal life.”

So Matthew 19:24 says “I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” 

Pastor Ross

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