READING THE RED WORDS: Matthew Chapters 3 – 7 NLT

Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?” But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.
Matthew 3:13‭-‬15 NLT

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’” Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’ Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.” “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’ Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.
Matthew 4:1‭-‬11 NLT

From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near. One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people! And they left their nets at once and followed him.
Matthew 4:17‭-‬20 NLT

One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down. His disciples gathered around him, and he began to teach them. “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth. God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied. God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God. God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way. “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven! “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell. “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. “When you are on the way to court with your adversary, settle your differences quickly. Otherwise, your accuser may hand you over to the judge, who will hand you over to an officer, and you will be thrown into prison. And if that happens, you surely won’t be free again until you have paid the last penny. “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your hand—even your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. “You have heard the law that says, ‘A man can divorce his wife by merely giving her a written notice of divorce.’ But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery. “You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord.’ But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one. “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow. “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Matthew 5:1‭-‬48 NLT

Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. “Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is unhealthy, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is! “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money. “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Matthew 6:1‭-‬34 NLT

Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. “Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you. “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him. “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets. “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it. “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash. When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law.
Matthew 7:1‭-‬29 NLT

Who’s your daddy?

I ask you friend, to gladly listen to this message, expecting something that might touch your heart today.

Jesus told them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, because I have come to you from God. I am not here on my own, but he sent me.  Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me!  For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.  So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe me!  Which of you can truthfully accuse me of sin? And since I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me?  Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God. But you don’t listen because you don’t belong to God.”
John 8:42-47 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.8.42-47.NLT

It can be  a hard pill to swallow when the Word of God shines light on your heart’s true desires of you are not yet freed from the slavery of sin – if you are not yet repenting of your sin – if you are not yet resisting relation and evil. But a Christ makes it clear that this is not a one foot in and one foot out circumstance. We have one Father,  one master, one Lord over our lives and we are the ones who demonstrate that choice in the testimony our lives.

Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings.  And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.  A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.  Jesus told them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, because I have come to you from God. I am not here on my own, but he sent me.  Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me!  For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.  So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe me!  Which of you can truthfully accuse me of sin? And since I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me?  Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God. But you don’t listen because you don’t belong to God.”
John 8:31-32, 34-36, 42-47 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.8.31-47.NLT

There are many who do not gladly listen to the Word of God. There are those who deny it. There are those who claim it by name but do not value it enough to listen to it and apply it to their lives. There are those that know some of what it says and run from it because they believe it is going to take things away from them that they want to cling to. There are those that pick and choose what they can use to back up their own opinions. There are those that study and try to obey in fear and obligation and confess in guiltandshame, hoping they can keep themselves out of hell for the sins that hold them captive. But how few listen to the Word of God, gladly understanding that He is for them and not against them – that His Word is meant to be a light unto our feet to keep us upon the narrow path of a life lived today, with God, as a free Son of God, not as a slave to sin.

So we must examine our deceitful hearts,  and cling to this Word of God, that is sharper than a two edged sword cutting down to the root of our sickness – and allow it to cut away those things of sin and death – and cast it away from our life today – praying that it be bound and cast into the eternal flames to never return to this place that is now the temple of the Holy Spirit – praising God as we encounter the trial that will prove our faith in His power to overcome – and praising God when He proves Himself faithful and true in overcoming sin in our lives and delivering us as a free Son of God, no longer a slave.

And when the Word of God continuously proves itself true in the evidence of our lives – will we then not cling to it like a valuable treasure that we have found? Will we not sell everything we have to possess it? Will we not gladly give up our old lives as we experience the new?

For why of a man truly knows the value of a treasure,  would he trade it for a curse and a debt that is not his to pay? If a man truly knew the great value of royalty, would He trade it for slavery?

But how many do not know in their hearts the truth? How many have heard the words, have seen the rituals and the practices, have felt the condemnation,  guilt,  and shame, have smelled the stench of religion – but have never laid their hearts upon the sweet aroma of the truth of the Word of God?

Yes,  many ears are closed,  many eyes are veiled to the truth. It is our job,  church, to restore sight to the blind, to speak the message of truth so that they might recognize His voice and return to Him.

Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name.  But you don’t believe me because you are not my sheep.  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me,  for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.  The Father and I are one.”
John 10:25-30 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.10.25-30.NLT

And what is the proof we bring that we are His and that His message is true? Let our lives be a testimony to His saving power. Let them look at our lives and know that we have been changed by His touch. “The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name.” Let this be your guiding light today, children of God,  that the proof is in the work you do in His name – loving and serving your fellow man,  walking in the Spirit,  not in the flesh – gladly listening to the Word of God.

And if you are not there yet, friend – if you have not yet received the baptism of the Holy Spirit of Christ who lives in you – count the cost of following Christ faithfully in this dark world,  and know the cost of denying Him separated by your unbelief for eternity – confess your brokenness to the Lord Jesus Christ – repent of your sinful ways – and all Him to come into your life to guide you and teach you and unveil your eyes to the truth of His mercy,  grace, and glory. And hold on tight for the ride of your life, as you lay hold of the only treasure worth having,  the only inheritance that lasts, the only family that brings royalty and freedom.

Arise, child of God, and hear the Word of God,  listen intently, for in it wisdom is found more valuable than gold.

Are you taught by God?

As it is written in the Scriptures, ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.
John 6:45 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.6.45.NLT

This is refering to the book of Isaiah telling what to expect in the coming Kingdom of God that would be ushered in by the Messiah:

I will teach all your children, and they will enjoy great peace.
Isaiah 54:13 NLT
http://bible.com/116/isa.54.13.NLT

In the book of Matthew,  Jesus warns us to call no one c teacher,  because He is to be our only teacher:

And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah.
Matthew 23:10 NLT
http://bible.com/116/mat.23.10.NLT

In the book of, John,  Jesus tells us about the Spirit of Truth that is to come

John 16:13 ESV
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

And Jesus clarifies further when, He describes the gift of the Holy Spirit that we who are followers of Christ receive:

John 14:26 ESV
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

You see, He doesn’t tell us to seek out a great, charismatic preacher or teacher and dedicate ourselves to them. No, in fact He warns us about putting our trust in them and says that we should trust only in Him:

Psalm 118:8 ESV
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.

Jeremiah 17:5 ESV
Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.

And this is because men aren’t meant to be as much teacher as messenger, sharing the Word of God and what they to learn from the Holy Spirit’s guidance in their own lives. But since you cannot easily confirm the source of anything they claim to be “from God”, we must test it against what we know is from God.

2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. As a result, many Jews believed, as did many of the prominent Greek women and men.
Acts of the Apostles 17:11-12 NLT
http://bible.com/116/act.17.11-12.NLT

We aren’t supposed to blindly follow what a religious leader tells us, this can be very dangerous with the false teachers who are like wolves amongst the sheep. We aren’t just supposed to read the Bible as a self help guide to try to figure it out for ourselves either. We are to be taught by God.

So how do I start being “taught by God”? First, you must surrender your heart to Jesus Christ and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Salvation is not just a water baptism, but being reborn as a new creation with Christ living inside you. It isn’t signing up for a religion, and it isn’t buying your get out of hell free card with a one time prayer. It is deciding to do this life,  hand in hand with Christ who loves you,  forgives,  you,  and wants to teach you and change you moment by moment,  day by day, to be more like Him.

Then, you must be willing to seek His wisdom and to listen, and to examine and test what you hear against the truth of the Word of God. Yes, this requires accepting that the Word of God is Truth. It takes accepting that God knows better than you what is good and acceptable for your life. It takes seeking not only what is acceptable,  but what is holy and will bring God glory and honor. It takes putting God’s will first as the center of your life.

Then you must be willing to repent and put it into action. This isn’t a mind game, learning it in our heads but not applying it in our lives – that is empty religious practice and sacrifice. God desires the change in our hearts that results in a changed life, a changed perspective,  a humbling to remain teachable at the feet of the master.

Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Matthew 9:13 NLT
http://bible.com/116/mat.9.13.NLT

We aren’t to practice traditions of men and man made ideas as commandments from God. If you are participating in a church that tell you that you must follow their traditions, or that you must be taught by their leader, or that God recognizes them differently than He recognizes you, test them against the Word of God,  find them false,  and abandon these dens of deceit where they feed off of the lambs like wolves,  or like hirelings who kill the sheep to fatten their own bellies,  instead of sacrificing for, and suffering for, and feeding and providing for the sheep as Christ gave the example of the Good Shepherd.

Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition.  You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’ ”
Matthew 15:3, 6-9 NLT
http://bible.com/116/mat.15.3-9.NLT

I encourage you, friend. Examine where you are receiving your teaching. Examine who you have laid your trust upon. Is it a man? Or are you being taught by God?

Get it from the source. Examine and test it against the Word of God.

I pray that we can all continue to stay out of the way and simply be the messengers receiving and then delivering the Word of God as humble and faithful servants – not teachers who thinks themselves yet wise or righteous or completed works. I too need to remain teachable, and listening, and growing.

Sign me up for the fiery trials. Really? Yes, really.

Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4, Romans 8:18, 1 Peter 4:12-19, 2 Corinthians 4:8-10.
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The daily fiery trials of the Lord burning the old away, and refining our lives with conviction and repentance is neither comfortable nor easy nor without leaving scars – but He proves Himself by never leaving us, and by healing the wounds where the disease was cut out.

Continue reading “Sign me up for the fiery trials. Really? Yes, really.”