Thanksgiving in 2020?

You’ve heard the jokes about 2020. But it has been a rough year for very many. Can we really give thanks? Listen to Psalm 75.

Thank God that his name is near. Thank God, even in adversity. A good deal of conflict lies in the background as you read this Psalm. Perhaps you struggle to find reasons for thanksgiving. But the reaction of the Psalmist is—to thank God. It begins with corporate thanksgiving, and at the end a grateful individual speaks for the people. The Holy Spirit included it in the Scriptures for you and me to use as well.

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Watch Your Words!

How often have you said something—and immediately wished there were a rewind button you could push and edit out what you just said? Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 12:33–37.

Your words can condemn you. You have to give account for every careless word. God himself calls you to account. Jesus’ “But I tell you…” emphasizes the importance of what he says. The setting for evaluating your words is the day of judgment. God himself is the judge in that venue. You may consider your words unimportant. God’s evaluation differs. We think of words as idle or careless. Walk through a mall, and listen to people chatter or talk on their phones. You might be more concerned if you knew that all of your words were being recorded. God himself remembers what you say. You are God’s people, living in a culture that is deeply divided, a world in which accusations of lying are leveled by multiple sides. As God’s pople, guard against repeating something, just because it is directed against those with you you have strong disagreements. Make sure you are speaking the truth. Even in Christian circles you hear mocking language directed at fellow believers with whom the speaker disagrees. Evil words incur God’s judgment.

Evil words reveal an evil heart. The setting involves words spoken against the Messiah. The Pharisees were plotting how to kill Jesus, verse 14. They said that his miracle of healing the demoniac was done by the power of Beelzebub, verse 24. Evil words like these come from an evil heart. Jesus uses a variety of word pictures. These are bad trees with bad fruit. They are a brood of vipers. (Jesus reserves language like this for the persistently unrepentant, the hypocritical. He echoes the language of John the Baptist.) They are evil men bringing evil from within them. Words flow out of the heart. Yes, words can be crafted and even false, but especially unguarded words can be revealing. By nature all of us are totally depraved. That depravity not only mars our hearts, but it seeps out in the language that one uses.

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The Kingdom Has Come upon You

Matthew has described Jesus through the quotation from Isaiah that speaks of his gentleness. He will not break a bruised reed. But he goes on in Matthew 12:22–32 to warn you: don’t confuse gentleness with weakness.

Recognize the Spirit’s working in Christ. The Spirit empowered Christ for his work. Matthew presents the healing of the blind and mute demon possessed man briefly, and then focuses on the reaction and Jesus’ response. Recognize the messianic implications of the healing. Some were astonished, and asked whether this couldn’t be the Son of David, could he? (The question reflects perplexity.) Christ had been baptized with the Holy Spirit at the beginning of his public ministry, Matthew 3;16,17. His miracles, especially the miracles of casting out demons, are manifestations of the presence of the messianic kingdom, Acts 10:38. Some deny these messianic implications, instead attributing Christ’s work to the power of Satan. Jesus shows that this position is inherently self-contradictory. “Jesus ascribed all His power and grace, the gra­cious words, the saving acts, to the possession of the Spirit (Matt. 12:28; Lk. 4:18; Acts 10:36–38). And, through qualifying Him in this manner for achieving His Messianic task, the Spirit laid the foundation for the great Pentecostal bestowal of the Spirit afterwards, for this gift was dependent on the finished work.” (Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology, p. 345)

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The Chosen Ruler

By Tuesday night we may have an idea who will fill the office of President of the United States for the next few years. What kind of character will this person have? I’m not telling you how to vote nor what my vote is. But Matthew 12:15–21 describes a ruler who does not fit the mold of those running for president or for other offices in the election this week.

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“Prepare As You Come to the Table”

Yellow warning signs become so familiar that you begin to tune them out. Perhaps you’ve become too familiar with the warnings associated with the Lord’s Supper such as those found in 1 Corinthians 11:27–28. But the warnings are important, because there are dangers involved, as well as great blessings.

Beware of failing to prepare. Do not sin against the body and blood of the Lord. Paul, who had not been present at the first Lord’s Supper, quotes what the Lord had revealed to him. About the bread, Jesus said, “This is my body.” As he gave the cup he said, “This is my blood.” There is something solemn and mysterious about that. But the Corinthian love feast had degenerated into chaos. The feast started out as a fellowship meal, but slipped into a combination of hunger and drunkenness. This church (which receives no praise from Paul on this account, verse 17) treated the Lord’s Supper as an ordinary meal. The problems here grew out of the party spirit evident earlier in the book. Don’t treat the Lord’s Supper as something superstitious or magical. The doctrine of transubstantiation led to veneration of the elements, which became a form of idolatry. Do not treat the sacrament casually, as Corinthian church did. This is not just an ordinary meal. Do not come merely out of habit or custom. Do not come if you are not trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ. This meal is a proclamation of the Lord’s death. In coming you express your trust in the perfect sacrifice of Christ. If you do not yet trust, wait until you do before you come. If your life contradicts your profession, make getting that straightened out your priority.

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