Posts Tagged ‘Repentance’

Wrecking Ball 2

Breaking and Smashing © by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 2:10 – BREAKING AND SMASHING AT EASTER – Part 2

THERE IS NO OTHER KING

Philippians 2:5-11 (NLT) speaks of Christ, humbled by dying on the Cross, but then it goes on to say “… Therefore, God elevated Him to the place of highest honor and gave Him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

So when have we ever seen this happen? Every knee bowing down? Not yet. There have always been those who don’t believe in Christ and refuse to come under His authority. Through the centuries there have always been those who opposed Christ and His followers. Has the book of Philippians in the Bible got it all wrong? No!

GOD IS PATIENT, BUT …

The Bible describes our present time as a time of God’s grace. 2 Peter 3:9-10 (NLT) explains “The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. BUT THE DAY OF THE LORD WILL COME as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.” 

So the Bible is clear that this prophetic time of judgment hasn’t yet taken place. God is giving the nations time to repent, but one day Christ will return with swift judgment as a victorious ruler.

Jesus is not King of one nation only, but every nation. The rebellion of empires or our individual sin against him in no way diminishes His authority and power. His humble servanthood in no way diminishes His dominion and intention to return as the conquering King.

TO WHOM DO I OWE MY ALLEGIANCE?

“Now then, you kings, act wisely! Be warned, you rulers of the earth!” (Psalm 2:10 NLT).

So these words are the culmination of an angry promise and warning. Surprisingly, it is a plea from a heart of grace. David says, “Don’t be fools. Act wisely. Be warned.” How are they to act wisely? They have a choice. Submit or be annihilated. Not much of a choice? If they only realized that it’s the choice of a drowning man. Grab the rope and be saved or die. Judgment will come whether you do or not. Fall from a plane without taking the parachute you’ve been offered will have inevitable consequences.

As an ancient king, David could have simply gathered his army and gone against these rebellious kings and brought them to justice, but he doesn’t. He gives them time to consider their future. Before the storm comes, a moment of grace.

In the same way, the Bible uses this Psalm to say that God’s purpose is not to take pleasure in judging us, but to save us from inevitable judgment. Judgment was never intended for us according to the Bible. It is intended for the final judgment of the devil and his angels. Our mutiny leaves us out in the storm but there is shelter in Christ.

Before Jesus came, John the Baptist prepared the way by saying, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2) and Jesus continued to say exactly the same thing (Matthew 4:17).

The voice of love still invites us to respond in love and repentance to the King of kings.

Pastor Ross

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Matthew 18:1-4 – “THE GREATEST” QUALITIES

Matthew 18:1-4 is an invitation to find your true identity but it will mean some rewiring of assumptions about what is great. Greatness is not a wall designed to keep people out. It is not a pyramid to keep people in. The qualities of “the greatest” will include…

SERVANTHOOD

Jesus doesn’t deny authority in the Kingdom of Heaven, but it is coming under authority that is important. Luke 22:26-30 (NLT) Jesus says “But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as One who serves. “You have stayed with  Me in My time of trial. And just as My Father has granted Me a Kingdom, I now grant you the right to eat and drink at My table in My Kingdom. And you will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  

It is not a sense of entitlement but seeking out the best in others that is powerful. No-one can exercise authority without coming under authority. Servanthood is true greatness. He invites us into another person’s world.

HUMILITY AND OBEDIENCE

“Jesus called a little child to Him and put the child among them. Then He said, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven’” (Matthew 18:2-4 NLT).

Humble enough to turn aside, come and obey when Jesus calls. Greatness involves humble obedience. Humility admits our dependence on Christ and enables us to realise our potential in Him. To enter into Christ’s kingdom realm demands that we become like a child for it is only in doing so that we can become a child of the king.

RECEPTIVE AND TRUSTING

The child responded to the call of Christ. “Turn…” Turn like the child turning to listen to Him and come to Him. Become like a little child. Compliant to the things of God in our lives, it will involve being vulnerable enough to trust.

RISK TAKING AND FAITH

With faith, there will always be an element of risk. Children are not conscious of inherent dangers and a child may like showing off, but to come into a group of adults at the request of Jesus shows courage, risk-taking, and faith.

FOCUS ON CHRIST

Focus demands not being distracted by a false sense of entitlement but fixing our attention on what Christ is asking of us. It means a deliberate disassociation with self-centredness. The child made Jesus the centre of his or her attention and in doing so came under His authority.

And the invitation is to come as a Child comes, at the sound of Jesus’ voice, with all our gifts, motivations, abilities, potential, personality, and limited experience, to Jesus. Position depends on responding to His calling. God’s purposes replacing worldly ambition is a powerful influence.

SUBMISSION AND FAITH

Position, power, prestige, fame, wealth and ambition come into perspective under the authority of Christ. Am I motivated by pride or by a desire to submit myself to Christ? The motivation is all important.

Was it pride and covetousness that made them ask this question about who is the greatest? Self-importance and envy get in the way of our calling and position in Christ. It seems they were being contentious about who would lead them, who would be greatest and have the most authority.

Perhaps they were jealous of Peter or John or James. Perhaps it is just political wrangling over the best candidate. Whatever motivated the question, it was not indicative of a childlike faith.

The invitation is clear for those who would find their true identity and purpose.

“I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.(Matthew 18:4 NLT)

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Matthew 18:1-4 – A FALSE SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT

“Then His disciples began arguing about which of them was the greatest.” (Luke 9:46, see also Matthew 18:1 and Mark 9:34)

Perhaps they never grew up. Perhaps as children, they demanded their way and threw tantrums if they didn’t get what they wanted when they wanted it. Now they are still in constant competition and expect “special treatment” because they think they deserve it.

They have tasted that sense of being unique and have been involved in the amazing miracles of Jesus, after all. But their narcissistic sense of entitlement begins to shorten their focus to a few centimetres as they stumble over one another with arrogant disregard. It’s all about me! I am the greatest!

Lord, You decide. They don’t realise that their question to Jesus is selfish and demanding. Somehow the world revolves around them and others must meet their needs.

They try to impose their unrealistic expectations upon Jesus with overdramatic flair, willing to bully their way into the kingdom with their manipulative and egotistical mindset. “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” they ask Him, vying for His attention and approval at the expense of each other (Matthew 18:1 NLT).

Their voices are raised, and their question is aggressive and demands self-serving endorsement. They will go to any lengths to prove which one is better than the rest. Surely Jesus will pick me and take away the threat of competition.

Each of them expects it will be them, especially Judas, James and John and none of them really expects to have to negotiate or compromise. They each have priority and will be very upset if Jesus doesn’t recognise their greatness. They crave his admiration and want to assert their dominance over the others.

Jesus helps them become less self-absorbed and more self-aware. He challenges their false beliefs in themselves and their false sense of entitlement. He gets them to take their eyes off themselves and include others in their world. He gives them a whole new paradigm by getting them to be open to new ways of thinking.

They have been excessively preoccupied with personal power and prestige and their pride is in danger of destructive mindsets and behaviour. They have a grandiose fantasy of their own success, brilliance and ability. Jesus gives them back their true identity.

Perhaps the disciples and I need to repent of a false sense of entitlement in our thinking. There are lots of nuances to repentance, but this kind of Kingdom demands that we turn around and trust in Christ (Matthew 4:17) because a spiritual kingdom involves coming under the authority of Christ. Our greatness is derived from our response to Him, and not based on our misguided sense of being deserving.

“Jesus called a little child to Him and put the child among them. Then He said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:2-4 NLT).

Judas obviously didn’t take Christ’s teaching on board (John 12:4-6). He did not repent and become a child of God but became one whose thinking aligned more with the devil (John 6:70-71).

I am not entitled to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. I don’t deserve it. The invitation Jesus gives me is not about entitlement but about being converted from distorted ways of thinking about greatness, and also to be converted to a new way of life in Christ. The principles for entering the Christian life are the same as those for living it. Repent from your sins and become like little children.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:53-58 – HOW TO MISS THE POINT ENTIRELY ABOUT JESUS – Part 21

Carpenter's Workshop

“Put it on the shelf for a while. You can always revisit it later with fresh eyes.” At least that’s what I tell myself when I get stuck with a writing project. Unfortunately it takes a while for me to revisit it. Well, not this time! Before Christmas I will be finished my first book and then I can move on to other things. The illustrations will be beautiful and the storyline will be compelling. At least I hope so. How will I know when I have finished? I’ll cross that bridge later.

How did Jesus know when it was time to finish His story telling and miracles and move on? What compelled Him to revisit His home town, Nazareth? Perhaps it was an unfinished story that needed to be told.

Like the city where I grew up, Jesus’ home town is close to a major highway. The only difference is that traffic moved a little slower in those times. Traders from all over the world passed by Nazareth. Did Jesus come into contact with them as a boy? Did He meet people of different nationalities and customs? He came into the world and it seems in those early years of His life the world came to Him, yet still they did not recognise Him, passing Him by, on route to other places to make money and a living. Not enough time to get to know Jesus for who He really was. We are all capable of missing the point concerning Jesus.

The world still passes by Jesus as wars, greed, poverty, terrorism and violence continue unabated. The Kingdom of God, the authority of Jesus, the answers for life are abandoned because of unbelief. UNBELIEF pushes Jesus away and refuses God’s wisdom and power. Unbelief builds a levy bank that redirects the flood of God’s blessings elsewhere and then complains of a drought.

He didn’t go to university and or have His masters in theology, nevertheless Jesus is THE MASTER OF THEOLOGY, the only way to God. All Jewish boys were educated in the local synagogue and of course in the home. He “grew in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and all the people” (Luke 2:52 NLT).

And so years later, He enters the same synagogue, only this time He comes as a Rabbi. Everyone is amazed, astonished and they say “Where does He get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” (Matthew 13:54 NLT). He gives them the opportunity to have their lives turned around and come under the authority of the Kingdom of Heaven. They do not take it. They MISS THE POINT ENTIRELY concerning Jesus.

Matthew 13:55, 56 says they SCOFF and say, “He’s just THE CARPENTER’S SON, and we know Mary, His mother, and His brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas.” All His sisters live right here among us. Where did He learn all these things?” John 1:10-11 (NLT) says “He came into the very world He created, but the world didn’t recognize Him. He came to His own people, and even they rejected Him.” 

Strange how differently you can view Jesus. They knew Him as just the carpenters son yet I have come to know Him as the master builder, creator of the world, with the wisdom and power to craft my very soul? As a carpenter, Jesus knew how to build a solid house on strong foundations, but He also knows how to build my life on the solid rock with a stability that only comes from knowing and trusting in Him. He worked with His hands, accurately and carefully according to a plan and places those same strong, skilled hands upon my heart to complete what He has begun according to the purposes of God.

Jesus knew how to place a corner stone and use it to align the components of a building but He is also my corner stone, the unchanging reference point for my life.

He probably fashioned a yoke for oxen but only He can say “Take My yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:29-30 NLT).

Yet Nazareth sees Jesus only as “the carpenters son”. Psalms 127:1 (NLT) says “Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted.” That’s speaking about my life. Psalms 118:22 (NLT) says “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.”

Why did He go to Nazareth? Romans 2:4 (NLT) says “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that His kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”

It seems Jesus always brings me to the place of choice concerning Him. I either reject Him or accept Him wholeheartedly. As I hear Him speak in Nazareth this morning, the course of my life depends upon my response to Jesus. Everyone of us must answer the question “Where does He get His wisdom and power?” And if it comes from God then what is my response to Jesus going to be? God bless you as you answer that question today and respond to Him in faith.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:1-17 – A BACKHOE WOULDN’T GO ASTRAY! – Part 2

A Backhoe wouldn't go astray!

Just as well He didn’t come to HOLLYWOOD. I can see some of his key people pushing back the fans who crowd in and just want to get close enough to touch the edge of his coat or get His AUTOGRAPH. The PAPARAZZI are out in force and the CRITICS are out to get Him. TV channels want exclusive INTERVIEWS. He is on the cover of TIME magazine. There’s a wax statue of Him in Madame Tussauds and He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. OPRAH wants Him on her show and little ACTION FIGURES of Him are already appearing in the shops. He has big business SPONSORS with a shoe company that makes sandals and there’s a clothing line. Eastern style is in. A BIOGRAPHY of His life and miracles is being written by 4 different authors and He has a MOVIE CONTRACT. There’s even a PERFUME brand called Nard which costs the earth with His picture on the bottle.

Wait a minute! No, this is not about “15 minutes of fame”. It’s about “sowing and reaping” longterm. It’s not “The Farmer wants a wife”. It’s the FARMER WANTS A CROP. Jesus may have achieved CELEBRITY STATUS but He is not interested in walking out on the water to IMPRESS the crowd! He is here to stir them to LISTEN to a simple message that will IMPACT their lives.

He goes and sits by the lake as people gather. How big is the crowd? I don’t know but soon it is so big that He decides to teach them from a boat. It’s no auditorium with special lighting effects, fancy sound system and huge screens to display His Bible references, but it will do.

He has already had a busy day, but now the master story teller begins and the crowd get’s quiet. The first story is pretty basic, nothing particularly riveting here. He weaves the facets of His story around a farmer who sows a crop on four different soil types with limited success. In our day it translates to a businessman who makes some bad investments and one good investment.

You know the story – a “farmer” scatters his seed in his field. Some seed falls on the HARD GROUND and birds eat it. Other seed grows in ROCKY soil, and it wilts because it doesn’t have deep roots. Some seed grows in a THORN infested area and the thorns choke the tender plants (Matthew 13:3-8). And some grows in “FERTILE SOIL” and produces a crop.

Is it only me or does anybody else in this crowd think that this farmer is fairly IRRESPONSIBLE with the way he goes about sowing his crop? I mean he hasn’t PREPARED his field very well. There’s still rocks, shallow soil and thorns, as well as some good soil. You’d think he’d clear the weeds and remove the rocks and plow the field before he sows the seed. What kind of farmer does this?

This farmer doesn’t seem all that concerned about getting rid of the OBSTACLES TO GROWTH first. He just absently scatters the seed on an UNPREPARED field. Seems like a weird thing to do. He needs to have a methodical plan if he wants to get a return. A wheelbarrow, a shovel and a pickaxe, and a backhoe wouldn’t go astray of course, but all he is interested in is scattering seed. How irresponsible and WASTEFUL is this?

Someone said “The QUALITY OF THE FIELD – determines the QUALITY OF THE YIELD.” Is he looking to sowing a crop for a harvest or feeding the birds?

The fact is that this farmer isn’t about to FORCE the soil types to do anything. He accepts me as I am but He doesn’t want me to stay that way. It seems this is a co-operative farm and by the time He sows He has already allowed ample opportunity for me to respond to the backhoe, crowbar and pickaxe. John the Baptist puts it this ways “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” … ‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming! Clear the road for him!’”   (Matthew 3:2-3 NLT)

Let’s face it – unless I change, then I’m not going to be able to RECEIVE what He is offering. It’s pretty obvious that the dirt He is talking about is me, and this is about as down to earth as you can get when it comes to describing my spiritual state. The question is have I already responded to the REPENTANCE SHOVEL until the ROCKS are removed, some HEALING SOIL SOFTENER to aerate the HARDNESS of my heart, to the pulling out of the WEEDS of bitterness until I have a receptive attitude. Jesus says in effect “I’ll do the sowing and the growing. You do the believing and receiving.”

God bless you as you allow repentance to turn the hardened, shallow and distracted parts of your heart in order to receive all that God intends for you and make your life fruitful. For me, a spiritual backhoe and crowbar wouldn’t go astray at times!

Pastor Ross

Part 14 – Matthew 12:38-41 – THE GREATEST MIRACLE OF ALL!

3 Days and Nights

A few days ago, my good friend Joe (not his real name) was taken to hospital after the antibiotics that he was taking didn’t appear to be making a discernable difference. He deteriorated quickly and after a few days, he was just a skeleton lying in bed, fighting for each breath.

I drove to work on Thursday still pleading to the Lord for a MIRACLE of healing but Joe had died around 2 am that morning, Thursday 5 November 2010 at only 91 years of age. I know that seems OLD to you, but he wasn’t. Good mates are AGELESS. He was someone I loved, a man with a deep faith, a good friend. Heaven rejoices and I am happy for him too but there is an empty space inside which tugs at my heart because I will miss him. Where was my miracle?

When the Pharisees challenge Jesus to show them a sign in Matthew 12:39-40 (NLT) it is NOT in order to see someone they LOVE HEALED, or to see people they CARE ABOUT RESTORED. They want theatrics, a circus show, for Jesus to jump through a hoop at their bidding. They have NO COMPASSION for the healing of a demonised blind man who has been unable to speak and NO CONCERN for the man with a deformed hand who was totally restored. They want DEATH to their enemies – a bolt of lightning to DESTROY the Roman oppressors or at the very least someone to lead an UPRISING. Where was their miracle?

Jesus sees right through them. He says “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet JONAH.”

What on earth has JONAH got to do with the Pharisees asking for a sign, or for that matter Joe? Well, Jesus goes on to explain, “For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.” His powerful words in Matthew 12:41(NLT) still ring in my ears – “The people of Nineveh will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they REPENTED of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone GREATER than Jonah is here – but you refuse to repent.”

The Pharisees want a SIGN, a miracle, to prove that Jesus is from God. Jesus seems to be saying “You have all the signs you need in the Old Testament Scriptures already and they all lead to Me!” He doesn’t mess around with their bad attitudes or get DISTRACTED from the essentials. He leads them to the GREATEST MIRACLE OF ALL.

When I think of the story of Jonah I think of the miracle of him being SWALLOWED by a fish and surviving for 3 days and nights. And since that is a picture of the RESURRECTION of Jesus, I want to get into working out the details of how these 3 days and nights fit in with when Jesus’ died. How was it 3 days AND 3 nights?

But it seems to me I can miss the forest for the trees if I’m not careful. The MATHEMATICS of the resurrection is not the REAL EMPHASIS of this passage. Jonah’s resurrection from the fish was a great sign, but the GREATEST MIRACLE, however, according to Jesus, is the MIRACLE OF REPENTANCE AND FORGIVENESS! A whole generation of Ninevites REPENTED because of Jonah’s message. That’s the intention of God. To see people FORGIVEN AND RESTORED to Him! Jesus, on the other hand, is faced with people who “REFUSE to repent” (Matthew 12:41).

My friend Joe knew THE GREATEST MIRACLE OF ALL. He knew the forgiveness that comes from believing in Christ as Lord and Saviour. He leaves a LEGACY OF FAITH. His legacy is a family who has come to love and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jonah says “I knew that you are a MERCIFUL AND COMPASSIONATE GOD, SLOW TO GET ANGRY AND FILLED WITH UNFAILING LOVE. You are eager to turn back from destroying people.”

God hasn’t changed. 2 Peter 3:9 (NLT) says “The Lord …does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” He loves us as we are but loves us too much to leave us that way. He wants us to respond to Him, to trust in Christ, to experience THE GREATEST MIRACLE OF ALL – FORGIVENESS and a life changed forever. The invitation He gives is to us; to participate in the MIRACLE OF REPENTANCE.

Pastor Ross

Part 13 – Matthew 12:38-42 – LIFE BEYOND THE TRAMPOLINE!

Beyond the Trampoline

I fell through a trampoline once. It was totally unexpected! One minute I was airborne and the next I was standing on the ground, wearing the trampoline like a giant torn tutu, and all my helpful family could do was laugh at me! I mention this because my granddaughter, normally so cooperative, sent a very clear message to her parents the other day. She said “NO! I won’t go!” She had been playing on the trampoline with her cousins, laughing and having such a great time that when it was time to go home, she simply refused. She was more interested in having FUN than in OBEDIENCE. She was more interested in playing games than in the implications of a world that existed beyond jumping on a trampoline. I fully understand, although my experience with a trampoline was a little more traumatic.

No doubt the Pharisees and other people around Jesus in Matthew 12:39 are also surprised and discomfited when he calls them an “EVIL AND ADULTEROUS generation” and affronted when He accuses them of “refusing to REPENT.” (Matthew 12:41-42). I mean this seems to be such a SWEEPING STATEMENT. Surely there is no need to be so CONFRONTING, so DEMANDING!

So what am I saying? Is Jesus trying to TAKE AWAY my fun? Give me the toys and the desires of my heart, Lord, but don’t demand anything from me,? How can a loving God be so judgmental and insistent? “After all I’m not a bad person. I am just having fun on my trampoline with my playmates and not bothering anyone. And I’m NOT GOING TO REPENT!” (Well, OK. Maybe not the bit about the trampoline, but you get the idea.)

Bumper sticker – “Jesus loves me just as I am, and He loves me too much to have me stay that way”. It’s not about taking away our fun. It’s about living life to the full. THE WORLD BEYOND THE TRAMPOLINE. There comes a time when our rebellion and our wanting to play games with God demands REPENTANCE! John the Baptist preached the same message (see Matthew 3:2) and so did many others who paved the way for Christ.

DENIAL – “The world isn’t all that bad!” Have you followed world news lately or walked around a video shop? We have movies that justify homosexuality, adultery and murder as entertainment and world leaders who justify their corruption as a normal part of their governance. It would seem that an “EVIL AND ADULTEROUS generation” (Matthew 12:39) is actually quite a fitting description of our world. DENIAL – “I am not all that bad.” Have you read your Bible lately? Romans 3:23 (NLT) says “…everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” And I don’t see a whole lot of REPENTANCE taking place in the lives of our generation. Lots of denial. Very little repentance.

So what is this “REPENT FOR THE END IS NEAR!” T-shirt that Jesus seems to be wearing? What is this placard He is holding? It isn’t exactly a message that stirs my heart and makes me feel good. It’s UNCOMFORTABLE to be confronted with my sin, and sometimes I want Jesus to take a much SOFTER approach. Then again “REPENT PLEASE” isn’t going to cut it with me or in an evil world. Perhaps SEARED CONSCIENCES (1 Timothy 4:2) need the encouragement of ELECTRIC SHOCK treatment!

Paul seems to sum things up. When he preached at Athens in Acts 17:30-31 (NLT) he said “God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now He COMMANDS everyone everywhere to REPENT of their sins and TURN TO HIM. For He has set a day for JUDGING the world with JUSTICE by the man He has appointed, and He proved to everyone who this is by raising Him from the dead.”

When Peter preaches to a crowd at Pentecost in Acts 2:37-38 (NLT) they responded to the message. It says “Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said …”What should we do?” Peter replied, “Each of you must REPENT of your sins, TURN to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ to show that you have received FORGIVENESS for your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

Somehow Jesus’ message is clear. There’s LIFE BEYOND THE TRAMPOLINE! It’s meant to be lived to the full. The invitation to real life, abundant life is there before you. Jesus hands it to you. You open it up and you look down to what it will cost. It says “REPENT AND BELIEVE! TURN AND RECEIVE! LET ME DIRECT YOUR LIFE”. Am I willing to pay such a price? Now that’s the choice.

God bless you Church as you affirm the message of Christ and show the fruit of repentance (Matthew 3:8), the example of a life which is responsive to the touch of God, rich and full, giving hope and incentive for repentance for others in our evil and adulterous generation.

Pastor Ross

Part 7 – Matthew 11:20-24 – SLOW COOKED OR CHAR GRILLED?

Degrees of Hell?

Are there degrees of hell? I asked my friends recently this question and one of them said, “I believe Hell is a place where the presence of God and Jesus does not exist so it must be a horrible place. However, if there is any fairness to life and death (and I really don’t believe there is) then there should be degrees of Hell…this scripture certainly makes you wonder if there is. Whatever – I don’t intend to find out personally!”

Some things in the Bible are just plain difficult to understand. Matthew 11:20-24 is one of them for me. I know, I don’t have to understand everything in God’s Word in order to believe it because I trust in God who knows what He is doing. It won’t always make sense to me. I’m glad that He is God and I am not. But Matthew 11:15 (NLT) says, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!” Lord let me hear, listen and understand Your words today.

So what is it that I don’t understand all that clearly? Let me set the scene. In Matthew 11:20 (NLT), it says, “Then Jesus began to DENOUNCE the towns where He had done so many of His miracles, because they HADN’T REPENTED OF THEIR SINS and turned to God.” They are unresponsive to Jesus, despite His many miracles.

I have no difficulty here. It makes sense. In fact what I like about this passage is the RAW TRUTH OF ITS JUSTICE MIXED WITH LOVE. Jesus isn’t the SWEET, DREAMY-EYED, EFFEMINATE MAN with a spiritual song in His voice like a “LET’S-PLEASE-EVERYONE” kind of preacher. He lays it on the line and I detect that it’s not without emotional heart wrenching sorrow at their subborn refusal to get right with God.

His LOVE COLLIDES WITH HIS JUSTICE as Jesus says “What sorrow awaits you, Korazin and Bethsaida! For if the miracles I did in you had been done in wicked Tyre and Sidon, their people would have repented of their sins long ago…”

Now here’s what I find really difficult to understand. He says emphatically “I tell you, Tyre and Sidon will be BETTER OFF on judgment day than you. … I tell you, even Sodom will be BETTER OFF ON JUDGMENT DAY THAN YOU.” (Matthew 11:22,23 NLT).

Tyre and Sidon were OPENLY WICKED and so were Sodom and Gomorrah. Ezekiel 26:7 and 28:11-24, shows that the king of Tyre was so openly wicked he was ASSOCIATED WITH SATAN HIMSELF! Korazin and Bethsaida in Jesus day on the other hand were not openly wicked. They were simply INDIFFERENT.

I’ve got to tell you, this messes with my mind. DEGREES OF JUDGMENT? DEGREES OF HELL? Sodom was a place of open homosexuality and pervertedness and destroyed in a rain of “brimstone and fire” from God (Genesis 19:24 NLT).

How can they be BETTER OFF? And if sin comes in degrees does hell come in degrees – SLOW COOK IN SHEOL, FLAME GRILLED IN GEHENNA, FAIRLY HOT, VERY HOT, MICROWAVE AND SUPERHEAT CRISPY???

When my one year old grandson takes a texta colour and draws in an expensive book, it is destructive but he DOESN’T KNOW that he shouldn’t do it. On the other hand my eldest grandson is without excuse. He knows it is wrong. He has FULL REVELATION of this rule and knows the consequences of such an action. Romans 7:7 (NLT) says “… it was the law that showed me my sin. …”

The key to Sodom, Tyre and Siddon is that despite their wickedness they WOULD HAVE REPENTED. Jesus says in Matthew 11:21 (NLT) “… For if the miracles I did in you had been done in wicked Tyre and Sidon, their people WOULD HAVE REPENTED OF THEIR SINS LONG AGO,… For if the miracles I did for you had been done in wicked Sodom, IT WOULD STILL BE HERE TODAY.”  

Are Tyre and Sidon and Sodom going to be JUDGED ON A SLIDING SCALE dependent on the amount of Revelation they had? Julie spoke to some Monks in Cambodia recently and they didn’t know who Jesus was and asked all sorts of questions. Will they be judged according to their response to Jesus based on what they know? What about those who never have the opportunity? Will they be judged on a different scale? Whooh! Overload! Too much to sort out here. Leave that til another time!

Here’s the facts – Tyre and Sidon didn’t have a Bible that ended at Revelation and didn’t even know about John 3:16. It wasn’t fully revealed to them as yet. No miracles, no message. Yet THEY WOULD HAVE REPENTED. Korazin and Bethsaida had it all and THEY WERE INDIFFERENT. Is the sin of INDIFFERENCE higher than the murderous, homosexual pervertedness and wickedness of Sodom? Jesus says it is! How will you respond to Jesus? Any sin can be forgiven except for one – the sin of indifference to Christ.

Of course Tyre, Sidon and Sodom and its people will have to answer for a lot on the day of judgment, but they will NOT have to answer for being INDIFFERENT TO JESUS and His message and miracles. To reject Jesus and what He has done on the cross for us is the GREATEST SIN OF ALL!

2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 (NLT) speaks about “…when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven. He will come with His mighty angels, in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from His glorious power.” 

Are there degrees of hell? Does Sodom end up in the same hell as those who are indifferent to Jesus? Do they still suffer for eternity to the same degree? I don’t know how all that works! The Bible doesn’t get down to specifics and I’m not God. But it sure makes me say like my friend “I don’t intend to find out personally!”

Lord teach me never to be INDIFFERENT to You or Your Word. Thankyou that there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

God bless you Church as you refuse to be indifferent to the Lord Jesus Christ and the Word of God. Be eager to embrace all that He has to say for your life today. Allow His Holy Spirit to reveal His truth to you.

Pastor Ross