The Sin of Pride

In his narrative on the life and teaching of the Lord Jesus, Luke describes the conspiring of the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders against Messiah. Their goal was to try to discredit the Lord before the crowds listening to His teaching and preaching in the courts of the Temple Mount.

20Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be honest. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. 21So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. (Luke 20:20-21).

They sent spies (v.20) and were hoping that they could catch Him out by using His own words and teachings against Him. Jesus had silenced them once already and spoken a parable which focused on their plans to kill Him (Luke 20:1-19). Their response was to look “for a way to arrest Him immediately” (20:19). Why immediately? Their religious money-making schemes were threatened. Jesus had overthrown the tables of the moneychangers and stopped them selling in the Temple Courts. Those in power, the religious elite, could not give up; there was too much money, power, and authority at stake. They decided that they would come at Jesus again; this time, it would be on the issue of taxation imposed on Israel by the Roman authorities. If they could get Him to say something against paying the tax, they could tell the Roman governor that He was a rebel against the state and should be executed.

They assembled together certain individuals that were good actors. Some of the leaders were sent to keep a close watch on Him, no doubt taking note of His every word. In verse 21, Luke calls them spies. They were sent to appeal to His pride by flattering Him, attempting to gain trust among His followers before asking their questions. (The word translated “pretended” (Verse 20) in the NIV, comes from the Greek word hypokrinomai, which means to play the role of an impersonator or actor. We get the word hypocrite from the root of this word. The enemy masks his motives by using flattery to appeal to a man’s pride. They were hoping that Jesus would not detect their true motives or see where they were going with their questions by inflating His pride. It was a classic misdirect! A man or woman can be blinded to the enemy’s attack by his or her own pride. Many a minister has passed the test of outright sin but fallen easily to the sin of pride. CS Lewis wrote about this in his book, Mere Christianity. Lewis wrote:

If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong. The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual; The pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and backbiting; the pleasures of power, and of hatred. For there are two things inside me competing with the human self which I must try to become; they are the animal self, and the diabolical self; and the diabolical self is the worst of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig (a person who demonstrates an exaggerated conformity or propriety) who goes regularly to church may be far nearer hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it’s better to be neither.[1]

Pride is one of God’s greatest enemies. Pride is what caused Satan to fall (Isaiah 14:12-17). If you would like to please your enemy, just begin to admire yourself. Pride is so hard to see in ourselves but easy to see in others. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. There will always be grace issuing from our lives if we will seek the best for others rather than elevating self. Jesus never gave in to a spirit of pride for one minute. Christ took every opportunity to humble Himself and show us the way. See Him as He washed the dirty grimy feet of the disciples. Watch Him as He touched the leprous. He was not worried that men would see Him weeping over Lazarus even when He knew that He would raise him from the dead. He would look for the lowest seat when He was invited to a meal. There was none humbler than the Lord Jesus. Be careful of the sin of pride.

Taken from the series on the Book of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 54. Luke 20:20-47. Questions About Eternity. Keith Thomas

[1] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (New York: Macmillan, 1986).

The Authority of Jesus Questioned

We are continuing our meditations on the last week before the crucifixion. After Christ had overturned the money changers tables in the Court of the Gentiles in the temple precincts, the Chief Priests and leaders felt that the situation was getting out of their control with the crowd hanging on to Jesus’ every word (Luke 19:48). Their jealousy and fear of losing their financial empire made them acknowledge that their efforts to stop Christ’s popularity had little effect. They said, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him” (John 12:19). They decided that they had to try to undermine the people’s faith in Christ’s spiritual authority. They would ask Him about His certificate of ordination to be a Rabbi. What religious school had taught Him, and under whose authority was He doing these things? Of course, they knew that He had attended no “seminary” or “yeshiva” and that He had no formal authority from men. This tactic, they thought, would discredit and undermine the people’s faith in Him. Before the multitudes of people, they interrupted His teaching.

1One day as he was teaching the people in the temple courts and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. 2“Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?” 3He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me, 4John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or from men?” 5They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ 6But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.” 7So they answered, “We don’t know where it was from.” 8Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things” (Luke 20:1-8).

The religious leaders thought they had Him. All the people looked on, awaiting Jesus’ response. Jesus replied with a question for them. If they would answer His question, He would answer theirs. “The baptism of John; was it from heaven or from men?” (v. 4). This put the religious elite into a difficult position because they had rejected John the Baptist’s preaching of repentance for Israel (Luke 7:29-30). Jesus did not evade their question. He used the question to expose the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. In commenting on this passage, William Barclay writes:

He asked them to answer the question, “Was the authority of John the Baptist human or divine?” The point is that their answer to Jesus’ question would answer their own question. Everyone knew how John had regarded Jesus and how he had considered himself only the fore-runner of the One who was the Messiah. If they agreed that John’s authority was divine then they had to agree that Jesus was the Messiah, because John had said so. If they denied it, the people would rise against them because John the Baptist had been perceived as a prophet. Jesus’ answer in fact asks the question, “Tell me—where do you yourself think I got my authority?” He did not need to answer their question if they answered his.

Fearing the crowds, whom they assumed would side completely with them, the religious leaders were humiliated when Jesus would not answer their question. What could they say? They hadn’t believed John’s message about repentance and being ready for the Messiah, but they also knew that most of the people that stood before them had. They did not want to risk inciting a heated debate, perhaps leading to mob reaction. They had to back down before all the people. The lesson for us is to not harden our hearts against the Messiah, but to believe and trust Him. He has all the authority in the world.

Taken from the series on the Book of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 53. Luke 20:1-19: The Parable of the Vine-Growers. Keith Thomas

Who Is the God of This Age?

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4).

We are in the midst of an unseen battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil. This war is being fought on a spiritual plane over control of the human race. The majority of the population of planet earth has had the cloak of deception placed over them. They cannot see the good news as to what Christ has done in redeeming (buying back) men from the grip of the god of this age. Satan is the god of this age, an evil angel that chose to rebel against God and drew away with him an army of angels and demons after himself. His chief tactic against you and me is a strategy of deception to keep you from seeing that the Bible is the Word of God. The Bible is a compilation of 66 books that tell the story of the creator of the world, who loves us so much that He paid the penalty of sin by dying on a cross as the just payment of our debt of sin.

There are many so-called gods in this world, how does one tell who is the true God? The Bible tells us that there are only two kingdoms, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. Satan has used religion against God. He knows that there is a missing piece that is absent from the jigsaw of your life—a part of your inner nature that cries out for the true God. Satan has served up different religions on earth in the hope that he can satisfy the search for God that you have. That’s why our passage today describes Satan as the god of this age blinding the minds of unbelievers. We can tell who is the true God by the fruit that comes from the tree of the belief system of whatever god you have listened to in the past. In the passage below, Jesus tells us to look at the outflow of a person’s life to see if there is evidence of true spiritual life—God’s life:

16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit (Matthew 7:16-18).

True Christianity is about receiving the gift of God, eternal life, into the core of your being. The result of receiving this impartation of the gift of God is that your life becomes “a good tree,” and bears “good fruit.” What does good fruit look like? The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Jesus contrasts the two kingdoms that are at war. Satan is pictured as a thief whose plan is to steal what God wants to freely give you—the gift of eternal life in Christ. Satan wants to kill you and destroy you from ever being a threat to his kingdom. On the other side of this war, we see that Jesus Christ came to give you the gift of God’s life, eternal life, and the kind of life that is lived to the full.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10).

Have you received this free gift of eternal life? There is nothing you can do to earn it. It is not worked for; it is a gift that one receives from the hand of God. Why don’t you ask Him to come into your life? Turn from serving self and Satan to serve the Living God. Receive the gift of eternal life today. Here’s a prayer you can use:

Prayer: Lord of Heaven and Earth, I come to you today acknowledging and believing that you are the true God and have sent Jesus into the world as my substitute for sin. I turn from my sin today. Come into my life and make me new. I receive today your free gift of eternal life in your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you for all that you have done for me at the cross. Amen!

If you sincerely prayed that prayer to God—welcome to the family of believers all over the world! Keith Thomas

Angels Watching Over You

For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways (Psalm 91:11).

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:14).

The writer of the Book of Hebrews in the Bible states that God knows ahead of time just who will take up God’s free offer of the gift of Salvation, and that He assigns an angel to them, even before they actually commit their lives to Christ. The creator God, the Lord of all the Earth, lives outside of time and acts inside of time on the basis of what He knows you will do with the gift of God—the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus. If you are a believer, or will be in the future, an angel of God has been assigned to you. You might have noticed that the passage above says that the angels are sent to those who will inherit salvation—future tense. This angel sent to you is a ministering (serving) spirit sent to serve you. The Bible has many instances of angels serving God and His people down through the ages. We don’t talk to the angels or reach out to them—we talk to God about whatever we are going through, and He instructs His angels as to what to do. Of course, there are evil angels as well. Satan is an evil angel that heads up an army of evil angels that are opposing God and seeking to corrupt and destroy God’s greatest creation—Man. Most of the time the angelic beings are not seen, but occasionally God has let men see just how many are on our side

In the Old Testament book of 2 Kings there is a story of a king reigning in Aram who was angry because his actions and intentions were somehow being made known to the armies of Israel. He could not understand how Israel knew everything he was doing, and everything he plotted (2 Kings 6:8-10). He thought that he had a spy among his leaders. His problem was that Israel had a man of God, Elisha, who lived his life in such a way that he was able, by the Spirit of God, to know the very words that the King of Aram spoke in secret to his generals (2 Kings 6:11-12). God was revealing these things to Elisha, who was very aware of the unseen realm, and who had an intimate and powerful prayer life, which gave him this special insight.  When the King of Aram found out about Elisha’s gift, he was so enraged that he sent his army to the town where Elisha lived, hoping to kill or capture him:

14Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city. 15When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked. 16“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” 17And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 18As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, “Strike these people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked (2 Kings 6:14-18).

When Elisha’s servant looked at the size of the army of Aram around and about the city, he began to lose heart. Things looked hopeless when seen only from an earthly perspective. But all was not as it seemed. There were spiritual forces around Elisha and Gehazi, his servant, which the young novice to the things of God was unaware of. Elisha prayed for his servant’s eyes to be opened to the unseen angels in the spiritual realm around them. All of a sudden, at the prayer of Elisha, he saw beyond this physical world to the reality of the spiritual forces of God that were previously hidden from him, angelic beings that were much more powerful than the army of Aram. He saw the armies of heaven protecting and surrounding the prophet of God, available to serve him in whatever way the prophet prayed. The enemies of Israel were defeated with one display of God’s power at the prayer of Elisha. We too, as servants of the Living God, have angelic hosts that protect us. It’s about time you called upon the Lord to help you in what you are going through. Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (delivered) (Joel 2:32). Keith Thomas

Whose Side Are You On?

You are in the midst of a battle that rages all around us. This battle is being fought on two planes of existence, the visible realm and the invisible realm. On earth there are many kingdoms that are at war with one another, each of them trying to gain some kind of upper hand against the other, think China vs. Taiwan, India vs. Pakistan, Arab against Jew, but in reality these struggles on earth are part of a bigger cosmic battle for dominion over the souls of men and women. In the unseen realm there are only two kingdoms that are at war with one another. You are in one of these kingdoms—either the kingdom of God or the kingdom of Satan. The kingdom of Satan is using a great deal of deception and ignorance to blind men to the truth. He has been doing this for several thousand years and has become quite expert at it. This division and struggle among nations and people groups is Satan’s plan to deceive you away from the true spiritual battle as to who will rule you—whose side are you on? Jesus put it this way:

30“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters (Matthew 12:30).

Are you with Jesus Christ? How do you know that you have crossed over to the Kingdom of God’s side of this battle? How can you be sure that when you die you will go to be with Him?

13For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves (Colossians 1:13).

You might be living under communist rule or under Islamic Sharia Law, but who owns your soul? Have you made a divine transaction with the Living God and crossed over from the dominion of darkness to trusting Christ with your soul? What do I mean by a divine transaction? Jesus said that unless a man is “born again” (John 3:3) he cannot see the kingdom of God. Satan has so deceived the world that until you give your life to Christ and receive the gift of eternal life, you cannot see the things of Christ and live in the power of the Spirit of God. Being born again is receiving the gift of life from the Lord Jesus. It is a gift. Jesus came to give us life:

27My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand (John 10:27-29).

This gift of eternal life cannot be earned or worked for. It is a gift you are given when you repent of sin (turn the direction of your life over to God) and believe or trust in Christ to live for Him. The apostle Paul in the Book of Ephesians also speaks about this gift of life:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

In the West, we celebrate Christmas. It is a time when we remember the coming of Christ to give us the gift of eternal life. We celebrate by giving one another gifts. Even if our children do something really bad the day before Christmas, we still give them a gift on Christmas Day—why? Because a gift is not dependent on what a person does, it is dependent on the love and grace of the giver. A gift is not earned; otherwise it is not a gift. God is the giver of this gift and no matter what you have done, how severe your sin is—you can receive this gift from God. Go to Him and with your whole heart, abandon your old life and receive the gift of eternal life from the Lord Jesus—the giver of every good gift! Keith Thomas