There are a lot of different ways to do life. Most people live their lives according to themselves. We don’t want other people telling us how to live our life.
However, we believe that the best life is one that is lived according to Jesus. Jesus said:
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
“I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)
If that’s true, we should want to live our lives according to Jesus.
We are going to dive into Matthew chapter 9 and look at four different encounters that Jesus had with people that help us understand life according to Jesus.
Book of Matthew – Context
The Bible can be divided up into two large sections – the Old Testament and the New Testament.
The Old Testament is the part of the Bible that looks forward to the coming of Jesus.
The New Testament starts when Jesus shows up on the scene in the flesh.
Matthew is categorized as ‘a Gospel’ which means it’s a sort of biography of the good news of Jesus and the news that Jesus brought. There are four of these gospels in the New Testament.
Matthew was written by one of Jesus’ disciples as a first-hand account of his life, it is the first book of the New Testament, and really acts as a link between the Old and New Testaments.
Matthew quotes the Old Testament more than any other Gospel because the book was written for a 1st Century Jewish audience, not a 21st century Canadian audience. So if there are things that you don’t understand when reading, you gotta dig a little!
By Matthew 9, Jesus’ birth, baptism and beginning of his ministry has been recorded. Jesus was healing the sick, performing miracles, and his teaching was gaining him notoriety while also putting him in the crosshairs and on the naughty list of the religious leaders of the day.
By the time we catch up with Jesus in Matthew 9, Jesus really couldn’t go anywhere without drawing a pretty large crowd.
1 Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. 2 Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”
3 At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”
4 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? 5 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 6 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” 7 Then the man got up and went home. 8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.
What a story! To be known one way, and then to have a radical transformation like this brand new start on life.
And ‘brand new’ is how life works according to Jesus.
The Apostle Paul, was writing to a church in the New Testament and said it this way:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
A relationship with God through Christ doesn’t incrementally improve your life. It changes everything. It changes your now and changes your eternity.
And there is only one way to access a relationship with God that brings about this brand new start.
And we already covered it. In Matthew 9:2, it says this:
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9:2)
Faith is the key and the only way into a relationship with God. It’s not only what starts our relationship with God, but keeps us in relationship with God.
Without faith it is impossible to please God . (Hebrews 11:6)
What is faith?
Faith isn’t a feeling
Faith isn’t manufactured in our minds
Faith is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-10) and it’s anchored in the person of Jesus. It’s a gift that assures us that God is who he says he is and that he’s in charge even when it doesn’t look like it.
Your spouse had a rough day, and you came home and said the wrong thing.
Perhaps you are in a tough financial spot, but choose to spend money in a way that harms you even further.
Maybe you want to get your health back on track but still choose to sacrifice sleep for tv, and real food for junk food.
We all, from time to time, make bad situations worse. We can trace this self-destructive tendency right back to the first humans – Adam and Eve. Not only do they disobey God and choose to do that which they were explicitly told not to, but then, they hide from God! It’s one thing to do something wrong; it’s another thing to do something wrong to try and cover the wrong thing that you did. That always makes a bad situation worse.
How to have the worst year ever:
You don’t want to have a bad year. And this series we’re about to jump into is about helping you avoid spiritual self-sabotage.
Because there are things that you ARE in control of. I know it might not feel like it all the time. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we can’t control everything. But there are some things that you can control.
And your spiritual life is one of those things.
Listen to what King David had to say about this in Psalm 103.
1 Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
David is talking himself into worship here. He’s saying, “soul, you listen to me, you will praise the Lord. I am choosing to worship, and I will command my soul to attend to God. I’m going to draw near to him because that’s my choice”.
Sometimes, we need to do that.
Sometimes you don’t feel thankful, but you can still choose to be thankful.
Sometimes you don’t feel generous; you can still choose to be generous.
Sometimes you don’t feel like praying; you can choose to pray still.
Why? Because there are things that you are in control of. And you are in control of your spiritual life.
1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
A central theme in this passage is change.And God is in control of all the change. He isn’t surprised by change. It’s God’s design to change things. And not just something “out there” – it’s God’s design to change you!
Spiritual maturity isn’t about staying the same. Stagnation isn’t God’s design for your life. God’s plan for your life and spiritual maturity comes through change.
And so the question is, what needs to change for you to change?
If you don’t have a resolution or goal lined up, or even if you do, what if this is the question that prompted that goal: what do I need to change to look more like Jesus?
My challenge to you is to spend some time with the Lord today or tomorrow – find 10 minutes or set aside an hour and bring this question before God: What do I need to change to be more like Jesus?
You are in control of your spiritual life. Don’t sabotage yourself and make a bad situation worse.
What needs to change for you to change? What do you need to change to look more like Jesus?
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:26-33)
What does it mean to say “God is great”?
We say that someone is ‘great’ or someone is the GOAT (greatest of all time) when we compare them to someone else in the same field. So when someone says that Michael Jordan is the GOAT or Lebron James is the GOAT, you know exactly what they mean. Compared to all the other players, across all time, they are the best. The greatest to have ever played the game of basketball.
To think about greatness properly, you need some baseline, something to compare to. But you can’t compare apples and oranges. You have to compare something or someone in the same field or category.
So who do you compare God to? Who is in his category?
In the Old Testament, Moses said:
For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome…(Deuteronomy 10:17)
The Bible, time and time again, describes God as ‘great’:
For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God. (Psalm 86:10)
Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! (Psalm 150:2)
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. (Psalm 145:3)
God’s greatness is not something we’ll ever comprehend fully because we are categorically different from God. You and I are bound by an immense amount of limitations – inherent in humanity.
The strongest person in the world reaches a point where they can’t lift one more pound. There’s a limit.
The smartest person in the world will run up against something they don’t know. There’s a limit.
The fastest person in the world can’t be everywhere at once. There’s a limit.
Because we are created, we have limitations. All created things do. And it’s almost impossible even to imagine someone not having limits.
Someone all powerful: Someone who can create life with their words. Someone who speaks stars are made. (The LORD merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born. – Psalm 33:6)
Someone all knowing: Someone who doesn’t just breathe stars but knows each by name. With 10 billion galaxies in the observable universe with 100 billion stars in each galaxy. Could you imagine someone knowing all 1 billion trillion stars by name? (He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. – Psalms 147:4)
Someone who wasn’t bound by time: Someone who could be perfectly present, everywhere, at all times. (Where can I go from your Spirit? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. -Psalm 139:7-8)
God is so beyond us that it makes you wonder if it’s even possible to know Him. The only way for us to know an infinitely great God is if God chooses to reveal Himself to us.
And Christmas is God revealing himself through Jesus. If you want to know what God is like, examine Jesus. Jesus is God in the flesh.
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. (John 14:1-9)
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him. (Colossians 1:15-19)
Unless God chooses to reveal Himself, we have no chance of knowing Him. And God has done this perfectly in Jesus. In all His greatness.
God revealed His omniscience, His all-knowing reach as Jesus taught and amazed the crowds with His knowledge.
God revealed His omnipotence, his all-powerful ways as Jesus performed miracles and mighty works.
God revealed His omnipresence, his ability to be at all places at all times as Jesus walked the earth and ascended to heaven, but also promised that He would be with us till the end of the age (Matt 28:20).
So here’s what this means for you: you can know God today. And God wants you to know Him because God loves you.
That’s the promise of Christmas.
How can you know God? Through faith in Jesus. By believing that Jesus, and Jesus alone, made a way and removed all obstacles to God. That Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.
And by putting your faith in Jesus, you can know this unfathomable God. This God that doesn’t have limits.
You think He doesn’t have enough forgiveness in Him for your situation? He does. He’s that great.
You think He doesn’t have enough care or kindness to pay attention to your life? He does. He’s that great.
You think He doesn’t have enough grace for you because you used it all up on the last time you screwed up. He does. He’s that great.
You don’t think He could use someone like you? His love and purpose for your life know no bounds. He’s that great.
You don’t think He can provide a miracle for your situation? He can! His power is never-ending. He’s that great.
Whatever situation you find yourself in today, know that God is great. And that this great God loves you. And Christmas is the evidence of that.
Everyone, regardless of when they started work for the day, received the same wage.
This doesn’t seem “fair,” but it’s also not “unfair.” The landowner was good to his word to the workers who showed up early. He just was really generous to the workers who showed up late.
The landowner operates in a whole different category than the fair/unfair paradigm.
And that’s a good thing. This parable is talking about eternity, salvation, and heaven. And when it comes to those things, you don’t want God to be fair. You don’t want to get what you’re owed.
For all have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)
We have all ‘missed the mark.’ The ‘glory of God’ was revealed in Jesus.
No one, besides Jesus, has lived a perfectly moral life. We have all done things we know we ought not to have done, and we haven’t done things we know we should’ve. We have ignored God trying to get our attention. We have done things wrong to ourselves, to others, and God. This is the definition of sin. Why does that matter?
For the wages of sin is death… (Romans 6:23a)
Sin creates a relational barrier from the Author of Life, which results in our death.
We want God to be like the landowner in Matthew 20. We don’t want to get what we deserve. We want grace.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
God is better than fair!
Why is life unfair?
Although we don’t know the answer in full, we know that it can’t be because:
God doesn’t love us.
God doesn’t take evil or suffering seriously (the cross proves that).
God is better than fair. He gives us that which we don’t deserve. The wages of our sin is death. Our sin leads us to relational separation with God. But the grace and gift of God is eternal life in Jesus, that starts now and lasts forever for those who put their faith in trust in Him.
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. (Romans 12:16)
Throughout Paul’s letters, he continually warns churches to flee from pride (Ephesians 4:1-2, Philippians 2:3)
This isn’t contained to just Paul. This is a theme throughout the entirety of Scripture.
Christian tradition and history ranks ‘pride’ as the chief sin.
CS Lewis said: “Make no mistake about it; pride is the great sin.”
Why is pride so bad?
Because pride cannot coexist with loving others.
CS Lewis said this: “Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, contentment, or even common sense.”
Pride tricks you into thinking you’re better than others and you can’t really love someone that you think you’re better than.
If there is a division to be found, pride is at the centre of it. Because that’s what pride does. Pride drives disunity.
How to drop your ego
One thing to know
One thing to do
One thing to pray
One thing to know:
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment. (Romans 12:3)
The key to sober judgement is knowing the basis for your self-worth: your identity in Christ. If it’s in anything else – pride will pop up.
One thing to do:
Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.(Romans 12:16b)
Black or white, rich or poor, male or female, young or old (add in any other category you’d like) – each and every person was created in the image of God and is loved by God. Each and every person is designed by God and has intrinsic value solely because they are God’s and loved by Him.
“We need not be ashamed to converse with the lowly in whom God died for.” – Matthew Henry
What does it take for you to associate with people who don’t look like you, don’t believe like you, and have a different opinion than you?
Who do you need to say sorry to?
Who do you need to serve?
Who do you need to invite over to your house?
What channel do you need to stop watching, which account do you need to stop following that keeps driving pride and creating disunity in your life?
One thing to pray:
Lord, help me to see others the way you see them.
Our lens for looking at people can get pretty foggy, pretty quick. But when we see them through the lens of God and his love shown through Jesus, pride and a ‘better than you attitude’ disappears quickly.