Matthew 11 opens up with an interesting dialogue between the disciples of John the Baptist and Jesus. John, who is in prison, sends a couple of his disciples to ask Jesus the question, "Are you the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?" This seems like a strange question coming from John the Baptist, doesn't it? Here was a man - a prophet, in fact - who, when he saw Jesus in John 1, was shouting to the crowds, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!"
Even more astounding than that, however, is Jesus' response to John's disciples. As He always is with His children, Jesus' response is so gentle, so loving, and so reassuring. His simple response is "Just go tell John what you hear and what you see." What had they seen and heard? According to the words of Christ, it was the blind receiving sight, the lame walking, the lepers cleansed, the deaf hearing, the dead being raised, and the poor having the Gospel preached to them. Take note of something very important in Jesus response: He does not tell them that these are things that are happening, rather, He says, "Just tell John what YOU hear and see."
It raises an interesting question for me: What have I heard and seen from Jesus in my own life lately? If Jesus issued this same challenge to me, what would my response be? What am I hearing from Jesus and what am I witnessing Him do in my life and the lives of those around me? The words of Christ here present a serious challenge to the casual Christian, the Christian who does not commune regularly with the Lord. It is very much akin to a relationship with a spouse: unless I am actually talking and listening to my spouse I certainly won't have any idea what is actually going on in their life; everything I know of them will be what I learned some time in the past. We shouldn't expect our relationship with the Lord to be any different.
What are YOU hearing from Jesus? What are YOU seeing from Christ? Hebrews 2:1 tells us that "we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it." What an incredible warning! If we are not paying attention to what the Lord is doing, then we have reason to believe that we will actually drift away from what God is saying to us. If you are having a difficult time coming up with something that the Lord has done lately in your life, revisit how much time you spend with Him. The best response that we can give to those who are curious about Jesus is the same response that Christ Himself gives here when He is approached. "Well, let me tell you about what I've seen and heard Jesus doing lately..."
Last night my wife and I watched a movie about a devoted, hard-working family man who made one mistake that ruined his life. He had a well-paying job, a good family, and a bright future, but all of that came crashing down when he slept with a woman one time and she became pregnant and gave birth to his child. By the end of the movie he was unemployed and unwelcomed at home. What a change one mistake, one poor decision, or one moment of weakness can make in the course of a life.
I remember as a boy in rural Arkansas watching Razorback football games. If the Razorbacks were having a good year, the entire state of Arkansas was beaming. Well, 1998 was going to be a great year. We had a quarterback in Clint Stoerner that was breaking every record in the books, and a wide receiver in Anthony Lucas that was catching everything he was thrown. We were undefeated and leading the number one team in the country, the Tennessee Volunteers, with 1:30 left on the clock. A first down was all we needed to secure victory. Then, suddenly and unexpectedly, the center stepped on Stoerner's foot on a bootleg and he fumbled the ball. It was recovered by Tennessee, and they scored a touchdown with 28 seconds left on the clock to win the game. That was the end of Clint Stoerner. To this day, Clint Stoerner is remembered for the "Stumble & Fumble".
There are countless other examples. Benedict Arnold - though he was a brave and intelligent commander, as evidenced by his capture of Fort Ticonderoga - is remembered only as a traitor. Richard Nixon - though he opened the door to diplomatic relations with China and created the EPA - is known for his resignation due to the Watergate scandal. Bill Buckner - though he was an MLB All-Star and batting champion - is remembered for his error in the 1986 World Series. More recently it was Bob Coy - the founding pastor of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale who was a gifted Bible teacher and under whose pastorate the church had grown to 30,000 - who will likely be more remembered for his extramarital affair than his fruitful ministry.
These are just a few famous examples, and we all have others in mind that could be added to the list. It highlights the truth that each of us is no more than temporal flesh and blood and can be tempted and fall at any moment. This is why James, the brother of Jesus, wrote in James 1:13-15:
"Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death."
Death is always the result of sin, and James makes it clear that sin is the result of our human minds and bodies yielding to our own lusts. It is when we take our eyes and attention off of Jesus and put them on worldly things that we want - be it bodily gratification, money, power, or material possessions - that we begin walking the dark path to sin and ultimately death. It is absolutely imperative that we take every thought captive and keep our eyes and focus on Christ or else we will join the ranks of those men and women remembered for their moment of weakness.
John classifies everything in this world as being either "the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, or the pride of life", which, he says, "is not from the Father". Perhaps a good question to ask ourselves when contemplating a decision is this: "Is the reason I want to take this particular course of action a result of the lust of my eyes, the lust of my flesh, my own pride, or because it is the will of Christ?" One moment of weakness is all it takes for the enemy to completely destroy us, and it all begins with one thought towards something we desire that is not of Christ. It ought to humble us how fragile and vulnerable we are apart from the security and safety we have in Jesus Christ. Keep your eyes on the prize, which is always and only Christ, so that, at the end of the day and the end of your life, you can say like the Apostle Paul said to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:7-8, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing."
Each week this blog will be updated with a word for the week from my current studies.