Grace Has Come

Grace Has Come

Daily Reading: (Luke 2:10-11):

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord”

“Don’t be afraid”, let us start there. The angel realizes that his presence among the shepherds has startled them and caused them to be afraid.  Shepherds were tough characters who encountered a lot of dangerous predators. Predators mostly attack at night. So, when the angel appears they would have already been on high alert. Scripture says in Luke 2:8: “shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night” when all of a sudden out of nowhere in the darkness of night this is what happens next, an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.”The Greek word for terrified is “phobeo” and it is where we get the English word “phobia” from. Take a moment and think about what kinds of things in the past year have unexpectedly entered your life that caused you to be afraid.

The angels had a word to remove their fear, a message of love and one of grace. This same word will deliver you from all of your fears. “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” It is the Good News, the Gospel that will remove your fear and the Gospel is for “all people” (Luke 2:10).

The Gospel will drive out fear. Most of our fears come out of a newfound need. I have a health situation with the need to be healed. I have bad news that has come from a family member, they have a need for a new job.  Someone broke into our home, I am afraid it will happen again, there is a need for security. The announcement is that when Jesus arrived, grace has come. When we go back to Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” “Peace has come to earth!” Jesus Christ is the way to peace.

Whatever you need, grace has come so that you might not lack any good thing. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things” (Romans 8:32). Hebrews 4:16 has become your opportunity: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

It is so hard to believe that God’s favor rests upon you and your life, when troubling things happen. When bad happens to you, listen to those angelic words, “do not be afraid.” Romans 8:28 says, “And we know…”, there is something that we know and believe in and can trust. While we don’t know what will happen to us in our daily lives as James 4:14 says that “you do not even know what will happen tomorrow” and that is why bad news can catch us off guard. Paul says, “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God. There will not be an absence of trouble in life, Jesus told His disciples “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Fear may enter in, but we can join the company of the heavenly hosts and praise God. We can have peace in trouble because Jesus has given us His peace.

May Christmas fill you with joy, grace has come! Whatever it is that you need, the greatest gift, Jesus Christ is your supply. Do not fear whenever bad things happen, for God’s favor is upon you, you are highly favored by God and so all things will work together for your good. Praise God in every situation because Christ is with you and He gives you the victory.

You Can’t Hang on the Law

Daily Reading: (Matthew 22:37-39):

“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

What prompted Jesus’ reply? We learn in Matthew 22:34 that “Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together to tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

So, to begin with we have to back it up even further and see how Jesus silenced the Sadducees and why that might have embolden the Pharisees to ask Jesus a question as well?

It all starts in Matthew 22:23: “That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question.” We are presented with a hypothetical from the Sadducees, in an attempt to try and argue their belief system of why there can be no such thing as the Resurrection.

Because they don’t believe in the Resurrection (Matthew 22:23)they use a hypothetical situation of a woman having seven different husbands to show how messy it might be in the Resurrection, “whose wife will she be?”

It is important to notice that if there was no Resurrection, death would still have victory over us and we would all remain dead as a result of our sins, so what would the point of this argument even be (Matthew 22:23)? We’d all be in our graves.

So, Jesus says not only is the Resurrection real but….

At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30).

What you might not know is that not only did the Sadducees not believe in the Resurrection they also didn’t believe in angels (Matthew 22:30).

“But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

Did you catch that? God is referred to by both Sadducees and Pharisees as the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”. All three of those men are dead, yet God is the “God of the living”, so they must have been resurrected to life (Matthew 22:32).

So now the Pharisees have a question. “Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

This question (Matthew 22:35) was founded on the false opinion that there are relative rankings of importance among God’s commandments. All of God’s commands are important, but they all have the common denominator of love. The law of the land was the law of love. But think about this we don’t need all 613 of them for us to be shown up. Have you ever done these two perfectly all the time?

I think maybe the most important part of what Jesus said is actually the last part and that is the part that is often ignored: “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

The word “hang” (kremannymi) is the same word used for “one hanging upon a cross.”

You can’t hang on the Law. Some people try to. The only one who can hang on the Law must be blameless and pure. His name is Jesus. Jesus sums up the entirety of the law with 2 Commandments that we all went 0 for 2. We failed at following the Law. So, Jesus hung our law failings on Himself so that we might be given His life and truly live. 

Take Up Your Cross

Take Up Your Cross

Daily Reading: (Luke 9:23): Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”   

How do you react to this text? “Whoever wants to be a disciple of Jesus must… take up their cross daily and follow Him.” The way I have heard this verse commonly and incorrectly used is in the preaching of self-denial. If this were true then the Gospel would not be good news. If we had a bad day or screwed up and didn’t properly deny ourselves, well I guess we’re just not a disciple of Jesus anymore. If this were the case it would mean that Christ’s death on the cross was not needed. It would also mean that the more you deny yourself the holier you’ll be. But go ahead and deny yourself from anything and everything and that won’t make you anymore righteous or holy, Isaiah 64:6 tells us that.

Another problem with this interpretation of preaching self-denial as a way of becoming righteous is that it will leave you anxious and insecure. “Have I denied myself enough?” Jesus suffered and die on the cross so that we might be free from this sort of religious way of life.

So, when we come to Luke 9:23 we must ask two very important questions if we really want to understand what Jesus is saying.

  • Question 1: Who is Jesus talking to in this verse?
  • Question 2: What Covenant are we now living in?

In verse 18 it says- “Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” this progresses until we get into our verse.  If you want an even clearer answer where you don’t have to back up a few verses to understand who Jesus is referring to just read Matthew’s version (16:24).

The disciples were still living in the Old Covenant system. The New Covenant we live in was enacted after the death of Jesus. One purpose of the Old Covenant was to make it absolutely clear that no man is righteous before God and that no one can save himself (Romans 3:10–11, 20). “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” There are no off days if you are living according to your righteousness. The ultimate purpose of the Old Covenant was to point people to Christ: “The law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian” (Galatians 3:24–25). The Old Covenant established our guilt before God and our need for a Savior.

So. the correct translation of what Jesus is saying in Luke 9:23 happens as we continue moving forward in the text in the next two verses, verses 24 and 25.

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self” (Luke 9:24-25)?

When Jesus says, “Follow me,” he’s saying the way to salvation is through Him and His cross. In the New Covenant taking up your cross daily doesn’t make sense and is impossible to do because you were already crucified (Galatians 2:20). I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me… (Gal 2:20a). The reason most Christians struggle to live the Christian life is they look at Luke 9:23 and are trying to die daily, they do not know they have already died with Christ.

“To deny yourself” (Luke 9:23) means to trust Jesus instead of self. Live each and every day out of the glorious relationship you have with the Lord. This Greek word “deny” (aparneomai) is to forget one’s self, lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests. This denial of self is the same thing for all Christians that the cross was for Jesus, namely, the submission to God’s will, not one’s own will.So, in our text Jesus made the cross central. Our Lord’s death was an absolute requirement and precondition of human redemption. As long as the will of man opposes the will of the Lord, salvation for that individual remains impossible.

Two or Three Gathered…

Daily Reading: (Matthew 18:20):

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

You must have heard this before, but where? Not in a sermon typically. Perhaps when you were praying with other believers. What many have done is to take this verse to mean is that prayer with more people means an increase in the likely to gain God’s attention. This is not what Jesus is talking about here.

The truth of this passage is really good news because while it is powerful and important to pray together, in my greatest times of need, when an emergency situation arises, I don’t necessarily have the luxury of calling everyone over for a middle of the night prayer. Does that mean that when I pray by myself, God is not with me or will hear me? Does it mean that my prayer will be less powerful when I cry out to God alone and in distress? Jesus said on the Sermon on the Mount the following:

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).

Do I need at least two or three people, should I just always pray in secret, by myself? Obviously, context is important but the simple answer is. Pray all the time (1 Thessalonians 5:17) with others and by yourself.1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 is the greatest and most simple instruction for prayer. When should I pray…always! How should I pray? Rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. Pastor Matt I am supposed to give thanks in a bad diagnosis at the doctors office. How does that work? You aren’t giving thanks for the cancer because that is not from God. Thank Him that He is your Prince of Peace, and that His peace will arise in you and still the storms in your life. Thank God for being in the situation with you. Thank you for His divine healing made available to you in Jesus’ name.

Pray always with other believers whose prayers can bring encouragement and comfort and also pray by yourself. God hears you and is with you and your prayers are powerful with or without others. “The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect” (James 5:16).

So, going back to our original text- what is up with that statement that when there are two or three gathered that Jesus says He is with them? Jesus is not saying we need to have three people to be with us in prayer in order for it to be worth Jesus time to show up. Did you know that in Matthew 18:20 Jesus wasn’t talking about prayer?It wouldn’t make sense if He was.

So, what was Jesus talking about if it wasn’t about prayer? In Matthew 18, He’s referring to an important part of Old Testament Law, the part about church discipline.

Jesus is explaining that if you have an issue with someone in the church…

  1. Talk to him or her privately about it.
  2. If they don’t want to hear it…Take two or three believers with you

*The heart of this approach is restoration. 

You know there is a chance he/she might not even be aware of the wrong they did. The word fault here is the Greek word (elegchō) meaning bring to light, expose it (privately). Bring the Word of God, who is the Light of the World into their situation to bring them to repentance, a change a mind about what they’ve done and are doing. If they listen to you, you have won them over. This is a Greek metaphor which means you have helped them escape from evil. You helped them from continuing to sin in that area and sin is destructive and it not only hurts them it hurts others as well.

“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:18-20).

Jesus is giving His disciples instruction (Matthew 18:1) about restoring someone who has gone astray (verses 12-14), and offering forgiveness (verses 23-35), and in between these parables of the wandering sheep and unmerciful servant, how the process of reconciliation works (verses 15-20). God assures us that as we go through the process of bringing our brother or sister in Christ back into the fold of the church, God will be a part of it and bless us for it.

I know that ultimately we want to put a number on how many times we should be willing to go through this process with someone. How many times if someone has wronged us should we extend forgiveness? That is what Peter is thinking and asks and that might be your next question too.

“Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

70×7= 490. 490 is the numerical value of the biblical Hebrew word “tamim” which means to “complete,” “perfect,” or “finished.” A person who chose not to forgive will live a less than abundant life or incomplete life that lacks a true understanding of the “finished” gracious work of the cross.

When it comes to forgiveness toward an offender remember how greatly and how much you have been forgiven.

The Way Over Temptation

The Way Over Temptation

Daily Reading: (1 Corinthians 10:13):

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

There is nothing that can come into your life that you have to give into. God always provides the Way out

There was a list put together of the 5 most common quotes that people think are in the Bible.[1]

The number one quote people think is in the Bible is: “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” In fact, just the opposite is found. The world is filled with people who are dealt more than they can handle. And, surprisingly, the Bible is also filled with people who were given more than they could handle.

The apostle Paul wrote:

“For we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).

There will be times when you will be given something far beyond your ability to endure and the reason for it is so that you won’t rely on yourself but on God. God wants us to hand our great burdens over to Him. He doesn’t want us to rally more of our own strength. He wants us to rely solely on His strength which is far superior than what we could muster up ourselves.

There is a point in why God might allow the more than I can handle moments of life. We humans have a tendency to think that we can do everything on our own, don’t we? Our pride has a way of dragging us down:

“Pride goes before destruction, an arrogant spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). To keep us grounded in the reality of our need for a Savior, God graciously allows us to see just how much we can’t handle.

So, while the Bible doesn’t say God won’t give you more than you can handle- the Bible does say He has provided the way for us in every temptation.

“But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).  In the Greek it doesn’t read “a way” out.  If it was a way to escape, we would not know what that way would be. That is a problem. That is a problem for someone battling depression who doesn’t see a way out. The Greek doesn’t say “a way out” the Greek says “the way out”.  “The” points to something very definite, it points us to the Way, it points us to Jesus Christ (John 14:6). 

The word “bear” or endure depending on which translation you are using is hupophero. What is hupophero? It is actually two Greek words placed together and gives us a great word picture. Hupo means under. Phero is to be born along on a river. When you place the two words together you get: “An under-current of a river carrying someone away, carried safely away from danger”.

God makes the way of escape that you may be born, carried safely, away from danger (hupophero) and He does this through the Way (Jesus). The context for how God does this is in verse 16, communion.

What does communion have to do with the way of escape, the way out of my trial or temptation?

“Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:16)? There’s a condemnation in this world that was released, a divine sentence ever since Adam sinned, and the divine sentence includes sickness. Communion is the way out.

Why was Jesus scourged and beaten before being crucified? God arranged everything, why didn’t God just send Jesus straight to the cross? Because by his stripes, we are healed. God loves you and wants you well.Today, healing is your right because Jesus has paid the price for your healing. Disease has no right in your body. I am healed in Jesus’ name!” Every curse of sickness that was supposed to fall on you fell on Jesus instead. He bore every one of those stripes, so that you can walk in divine health all the days of your life. You have been given the way over what comes over you and His name is Jesus.


The Promise of Union Life

The Promise of Union Life With Jesus

Daily Reading: (2 Timothy 2:13):

“If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”

What this is saying right off the bat is that even if we sin or when we sin, Christ isn’t going to disown you, how could He? Because Christ lives in us, He is always with us and He cannot disown Himself. This verse is indirectly speaking of union life with Christ. Paul in 2 Corinthians 13:5, asks the Corinthian believers a question: “Or do you not realize about yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you?” Maybe a better starting point is to realize Christ lives in you. He is always with you, He will never leave you or forsake you and since He remains faithful, even when we mess up, Christ will never disown you for He cannot disown Himself.

The book of 2 Timothy has a lot of great verses in it. There is a website called that has ranked verses by how popular they are. 2 Timothy 3:16 ranks 9th on the list, 2 Timothy 2:15 ranks 45th. Already two verses in the top 50 in the book of 2 Timothy alone. One of my favorites, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” checks in at number 429. There are many verses in 2 Timothy that are ranked as some of people’s most favorite verses. Where does our 2 Timothy 2:13 verse rank on people’s all-time favorite Scripture verse list? 2 Timothy 2:13 is the 16,811 most popular verse. What that tells me is people don’t understand what is being said here. If we knew what this verse meant it might become your favorite verse from 2 Timothy. There is a verse, 2 Timothy 4:12 that says: “I sent Tychicus to Ephesus.” That’s all it said and that is ranked 9,552. It ranked over 7,000 spots ahead of our verse. People don’t like the verse I quoted because it is attached to a portion that absolutely frightens people because they have been misled in what is being said. Today, that all changes.

I believe one reason why 2 Timothy 2:13 is often overlooked is because it completely dismantles a works-based system of my own faithfulness. The spotlight is entirely where it should be and that is on Jesus Christ and His accomplished work for us that whatever the promise God has made, Promises of God series part 2, He is faithful to deliver on it through Jesus.

In the Gospel in Twenty Questions Paul Ellis breaks down our 2 Timothy 2:13 verse and he does it masterfully as he connects it to the entire statement.

Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (2 Timothy 2:11–13).

The “if we endure” is satisfied with the faithful one (Jesus). Jesus who did endure, lives in us and will cause us to endure and reign now.”

Why is this verse the 16,811 most popular verse? Because people don’t understand it? This new life we have in Christ is a new kind of life characterized by supernatural endurance and reigning in all things (2 Timothy 2:11-13).

“If we disown him, he will also disown us.” Paul is not talking about Christians at all, but those who reject Christ and will one day reap the consequences of their choice (2 Timothy 2:12). There’s no grace for the faithless because the faithless will not receive it.

Do you see? There are two camps in the world. There are individuals who confess Christ as Lord and those who deny Him.

If you have denied him, you may yet confess him. This provides hope for the lost and unsaved people.

If you have confessed him, you cannot deny him. This simply means we who have died with Christ cannot un-die. We who have been born again cannot be unborn. If you were to deny him, as Peter did three times, Jesus won’t disown you, for He cannot disown himself. If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself. (2 Timothy 2:13) “Keep reminding them of these things…” (2 Timothy 2:14a)

To recap, Paul says if we die with Christ, we will live, endure, and reign with him. Each follows the other and this is a trustworthy saying.Thank you, Paul Ellis, for the amazing clarity you have brought to this passage of Scripture, making it one of my favorites and hopefully one of yours as well.