Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Matthew 12:22-37 "Willful Carelessness"

Like Satan in John Milton's Paradise Lost we sometimes cry out, "Darkness, be thou my light" (from Michael Green's Message of Matthew commentary). We know a better way, but we take the other way deliberately, with eyes wide open. In chapter 12 of Matthew's Gospel some of Jesus' opponents seem to be making the same mistake:

12:22-29: Careless Conclusions - Upon Jesus casting out a demon, two reactions spring from the crowd. One group of people are astonished and wonder if this is the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of David (see 2 Sam. 7). Another group, the Pharisees, conclude that Jesus must be in league with evil powers. Jesus brushes off their accusations, noting (as Michael Green writes), "Satan is very much in business and he does not self-destruct." Hence, if Satan's kingdom looks to be under attack, just maybe a greater kingdom (the Kingdom of God, see Isa. 9:6-7) has come to overthrow evil and set Satan's captives free (us).

12:30-32: Careless Contempt - While Jesus is still talking to the willful Pharisees, he notes the danger the Pharisees are putting themselves in for refusing to acknowledge God's presence and power among them. It's one thing to miss the basic facts of Jesus (the Son of Man, see v. 32); it's a totally different thing to reject God in full awareness. Only the Spirit of God could have done these miracles and to reject such power leaves these belligerent Pharisees under God's judgment.
    A Word of Caution: There have been people who think they have committed "Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit" at some point in their life and thus have no opportunity or second chance to repent and find salvation through Jesus Christ. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is a willful, deliberate, and ongoing rejection of Jesus Christ, the Gospel, and the Spirit's work in one's life. Any person who still has an ounce of remorse, regret, hope, and desire to know God is probably not guilty of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Even those who have done something as gross as this: http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/story?id=2833103&page=1
See also: http://www.challies.com/articles/challenging-the-blasphemy-challenge

12:33-37: Careless Words - Jesus' final rebuke of the Pharisees is a nice summary of the entire debate. Their condemnation is not so much based on this one conversation but on the permanent, ongoing state of their heart. Out of a person's heart, humans speak and reveal their true character. Thus, the Pharisees are a "brood of vipers" and evil to the core, based on their own blasphemous words and behavior, despite seeing God at work among them. We may think the words that flow from our lips mean nothing, but they just maybe the litmus test of our true heart condition and of our future destiny in heaven or hell.

Our response:
  1) Watch your words. Think back over the past few days. What do the words coming from your lips tell you about yourself? Are you condemning others? Are you speaking words that glorify God or disparage His character or His church?
  2) Then, seek change at the roots. What comes out of your mouth is only a symptom of a more polluted source. Proverbs 4:23 tells us to guard our hearts above all other things for out of it flow the springs of life (or death). We need real, deep change. This requires that we submit our hearts over to Jesus Christ. We cannot clean up our hearts; we can only clean up the exterior facades of our lives. Hebrews 3:12 tells us to "See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns from the living God." So today, believe in Christ. Give your sinful heart over to Him. As you think on the glorious cross of Calvary, joyfully end your rebellion and submit every facet of your life over to Jesus Christ.

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