Thoughts on Devotions – LD31
Q. 83 What are the keys of the Kingdom? Q. 84 How does preaching the Gospel open and close the Kingdom of Heaven? Q. 85 How is the Kingdom of Heaven closed and opened by Christian discipline?
DeYoung, in The Good News We Almost Forgot, titles this chapter “The Keys of the Kingdom.” He discusses preaching of the Gospel and church discipline as the two keys. Preaching proclaims that the Kingdom is open to all who would receive Christ, while discipline (blocking full participation in the sacraments) is meant to be a wake up call for Christians who stray from faithfully following Christ, with the goal of repentance.
Monday: When Peter acknowledged the Jesus was the Messiah Jesus said that this knowledge and trust which can only come from God and that this truth becomes the means or key by which people can enter heaven.
Matthew 16:13-19 When Jesus came to the area of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They answered, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven! And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.”
Tuesday: The primary task for the church is to preach the Gospel. The Holy Spirit generates faith in the believer upon hearing the promise of God for redemption through the saving work of Jesus Christ. Those who do not believe reject God's plan of salvation.
2 Cor. 2:14-17 But thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and who makes known through us the fragrance that consists of the knowledge of him in every place. For we are a sweet aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing - to the latter an odor from death to death, but to the former a fragrance from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? For we are not like so many others, hucksters who peddle the word of God for profit, but we are speaking in Christ before God as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God.
Wednesday: Both believers and non-believers need to hear the Gospel preached repeatedly. The Gospel calls non-believers to put their faith in Christ, but it also proclaims to believers that even though they continue to struggle with and fall into sin, they must continually look to Christ as the only way that they can stand as righteous before God. This promise serves as an assurance and comfort to all who put their trust in Christ.
Romans 7:22-8:1 For I delight in the law of God in my inner being. But I see a different law in my members waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Thursday: Whether people outright reject the God's way of salvation, or whether they live in a way that is at odds to the Gospel message, even though they may profess to be a Christian, the “key” of the Gospel message announces judgment for all who do not place their trust completely in Christ – i.e., they are outside of the Kingdom.
Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness,
Romans 2:3-5 And do you think, whoever you are, when you judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself, that you will escape Godʼs judgment? Or do you have contempt for the wealth of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, and yet do not know that Godʼs kindness leads you to repentance?
Friday: Preaching is one of the keys of the Kingdom. Church discipline is the other. Church leaders use discipline to warn those who are either teaching or living in a way contrary to the Gospel that they are in peril with the goal of repentance and inclusion back into the fellowship (i.e., restored to full communion). Discipline is also meant to protect the rest of the church from such influences that might cause others to stumble.
2 Thess. 3:14-15 But if anyone does not obey our message through this letter, take note of him and do not associate closely with him, so that he may be ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
Saturday: Jesus teaches us to care for other Christians by lovingly showing them if they are living in sin. If they are unwilling to listen, we are to go with others to encourage them to return to following Jesus. If they still refuse to listen the church as a whole is to be told of the problem and church leaders are to go to call the person back. If they refuse to repent the church is to treat the person as though they are not a church member – i.e., they are welcome to hear the preaching of the Gospel, though they will not be able to participate in the sacraments. The goal is the protection of other church members from false teaching and influence, as well as the member under discipline showing repentance so that they can return to full membership.
Matthew 18:15-18 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you, so that at the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. If he refuses to listen to the church, treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector. “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.
Reading between the lines...
We don't have to be witty or wise in order to share our faith – even a babe can do it! The testimony to the world that God wants come from “babes” - little children, unsophisticated, simple trusters – that is the witness that God wants. We should not ask whether we are mature enough, but whether we are meek enough to share my faith. Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple – he violently opposed what the leaders had allowed to develop – yet right after this the blind and lame present themselves to him for healing. Jesus' actions polarize people – the weak and the strong have very different reactions. When Jesus opposes the strong, the weak flock to him – his strength is employed in their liberation – and the “vindictive enemy” is defeated.
Matthew 21:14-16 The blind and lame came to him in the temple courts, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the experts in the law saw the wonderful things he did and heard the children crying out in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant and said to him, “Do you hear what they are saying?” Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ʻOut of the mouths of children and nursing infants you have prepared praise for yourselfʼ?”
Psalm 8:2 From the mouths of children and nursing babies you have ordained praise on account of your adversaries, so that you might put an end to the vindictive enemy.
The parable begins with the King throwing a banquet for his Son's wedding – God is the King, Jesus is the Son, and the Kingdom of Heaven is a joyful wedding feast thrown by the Father for the Son. Modern royal weddings have a dress code; in Bible times, a RSVP was received in person by a servant and wedding clothes would be provided by the Host – there was no excuse for not showing up and not being properly dressed. In the parable people ignore the invitation and even abuse or kill the summoning servants – they show hatred for the King and his Son. Jesus parable is a retelling of the OT story. After those initially invited refuse, people off the street are invited in. Then someone without wedding clothes is found among the guests. He has refused to put on the clothes that were provided and he is thrown out. He has refused to acknowledge the occasion. Heaven is a party, but it is a God's party in celebration of his Son – it is not a celebration of abstract blessing and general pleasures. The chosen do not celebrate the supper, they celebrate the Son. If we do not acknowledge Jesus we are not chosen. The question in the parable is not whether we belong to a secret guest list but whether we belong to God's people here and now. The chosen love the King, they are happy to be clothed by him – we must look to our bridegroom, Christ – if we belong to him, we belong to the chosen.
Matthew 22:2-14 “The kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to summon those who had been invited to the banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ʻTell those who have been invited, “Look! The feast I have prepared for you is ready. My oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.”ʼ But they were indifferent and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest seized his slaves, insolently mistreated them, and killed them. The king was furious! He sent his soldiers, and they put those murderers to death and set their city on fire. Then he said to his slaves, ʻThe wedding is ready, but the ones who had been invited were not worthy. So go into the main streets and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.ʼ And those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all they found, both bad and good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the wedding guests, he saw a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. And he said to him, ʻFriend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?ʼ But he had nothing to say. Then the king said to his attendants, ʻTie him up hand and foot and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth!ʼ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Give honor to whom it is due – your identity is not tied up with this question. If we belong to God we have the security to be citizens in the world while still maintaining our identity as a one who belongs to God.
Matthew 12:15-17 But he saw through their hypocrisy and said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” So they brought one, and he said to them, “Whose image is this, and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesarʼs.” Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesarʼs, and to God the things that are Godʼs.” And they were utterly amazed at him.
The world hates leaders who don't practice what they preach. Jesus uncovers the doings of pretentious religious leaders – and the first accusation is that they don't practice what they preach. Does Jesus practice what he preaches – yes, he has an integrity and transparency is beyond human standards.
Luke 23:34 But Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they donʼt know what they are doing.”
Usually in saying the “blind leading the blind” we are referring to the ignorance of a leader, but Jesus applies the phrase to the pharisees – they are not ignorant, but it is their hypocrisy and not practicing what they preach that blinds them. We do not see and evaluate ourselves accurately because we justify ourselves, which then shapes our view of everything else. To square our sin on one hand with our need to project a pious veneer we will have to lie and present an false front. We loose our ability to see and live in unreality. We are naturally lost and Christ has come to find us. Our ability to lead others away from the pit is based on our ability to admit that that is where we belong.
Matthew 23:16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ʻWhoever swears by the temple is bound by nothing. But whoever swears by the gold of the temple is bound by the oath.ʼ
The Pharisees act as heaven's gatekeepers, yet by their actions show that they themselves are excluded. They are worried about keeping the details of the law, yet ignore justice and mercy. Jesus makes fun of these leaders – and in Aramaic does a word play on gnat and camel. The religious leaders have a lack of proportion when it comes to judging the seriousness of issues. We need to ask ourselves in what way are we similar and fall into the same problem – losing perspective on issues. Are we concerned about God's concerns – justice, mercy and faithfulness.
Matthew 23:23-24 “Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You give a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you neglect what is more important in the law - justice, mercy, and faithfulness! You should have done these things without neglecting the others. Blind guides! You strain out a gnat yet swallow a camel!
How did the Pharisees get their perspective so out of whack? They made the same errors that we are prone to make. They focused on externals rather than their spiritual purity. All of their efforts were focused on appearances. Nothing was devoted to unseen efforts that might produce real maturity and holiness. What is our own measure of spiritual health? We all have a fountain of uncleaness, so how do we “clean the inside of the cup”? An internally focused Christian will end up with the same problems as the one with external focus, so what is the solution? Only in Jesus can
become truly clean and the our self-focus becomes irrelevant. We can than focus on service to others rather than keeping up appearances.
Matthew 15:19-20 For out of the heart come evil ideas, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are the things that defile a person; it is not eating with unwashed hands that defiles a person.”
Ezekiel 36:25-29a I will sprinkle you with pure water and you will be clean from all your impurities. I will purify you from all your idols. I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you; I will take the initiative and you will obey my statutes and carefully observe my regulations. Then you will live in the land I gave to your fathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God. I will save you from all your uncleanness.