"The unfolding of your words gives light ..." (Psalm 119:130a)

Category: Gospel of Matthew

The Lonely Road of True Fellowship

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)


William Barclay was correct: “A man had to be prepared to be lonely in order to be a Christian.” (The Gospel of Matthew, 1:107). A.W. Tozer also asserted that “Most of the world’s great souls have been lonely.”

Indeed, how could it be otherwise? Tozer declared in another place that “The Christian, the genuine Christian, realizes that he is indeed a lonely soul in the middle of a world which affords him no fellowship.”

This world is no friend of grace, nor of those who live by and offer it. There is a reason Jesus put “peacemakers” just before “persecuted” when enumerating His Beatitudes. Yet Jesus’ words do speak of a deeper fellowship than the world can offer, indeed, a fellowship that is truly found only in the world’s rejection. It is fundamentally a communing fellowship with the King Himself. To the rejected, despised, persecuted and reviled, Jesus promised a present experience (“is”) of “the kingdom of heaven.” Which at least means that such folk get to come under that special reign and relationship with the King Himself right now, in the present. Jesus’ words may mean more than simply that, but they do not mean less.

There is then (marvelously, but only secondarily) down this painful road also the fellowship that is found with “the prophets who were before you.”

Again, I affirm that Barclay was correct: “A man had to be prepared to be lonely in order to be a Christian.” But he was also correct when he then later wrote, “… no man ever suffers persecution alone; if a man is called upon to bear material loss, the failure of friends, slander, loneliness, even the death of love for his principles, he will not be left alone, for Christ will be nearer to him than at any other time. …. When a man has to suffer something for his faith, that is the way to the closest possible companionship with Christ.” (1:113, 114)

Is it possible that your present hardship is not an evidence of Jesus distancing Himself from you, but, quite the contrary, an evidence that He is drawing near to you? Is it possible that current distress is only God’s answer to your prayer to know Him more deeply?

John J. Murray, was speaking about God’s plan for building our character, but I wonder if his words do not also fit with this matter of bringing us into true fellowship with Himself: “We might be tempted to ask whether God can [give us true intimacy with Himself] without suffering. That is a hypothetical question. He has not chosen to do so.” (p.15, Behind a Frowning Providence)


The Veil Torn. Heaven Opened.

At the precise moment that Jesus died “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split” (Matthew 27:51).  And thus heaven is opened to us “by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh” (Hebrew 10:20). Now “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil” (Hebrews 6:19).

I recently listened with great blessing to this message by the late Rev. Keith M. Bailey as he unfolded the marvels of the torn veil and an open heaven. I know you’ll be as blessed as I was: The Veil Torn. Heaven Opened.


The Magi’s Worship

“… magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.'” (Matthew 2:1b-2)

One of my favorite Christmas carols ends with the exhortation: “Come and worship, Come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King!”  Notice, however, who it was that came to worship the newborn King.  It wasn’t the religious scholars of Israel (vv.4-6), it was pagan, Gentile astronomers.  Their worship of the Christ becomes a good model for ours.

The worship of the magi was passionate—pursuing Christ from as far as 1000 miles away (v.2).  They had only seen His star in the sky, but they were hungry for a peek at this new King.  What are you passionately pursuing this Christmas?  The magi were in passionate pursuit of the most compelling Person ever to live.  Are you?

The worship of the magi was also joyful—“when they say the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (v.10).  Because they were seeking Jesus with such intense desire, anything that would point them toward Him was an object of joy to them.  The phrase literally means “they rejoiced with a great joy exceedingly!”  These guys were beside themselves.  Can I ask you, what brings that kind of joy to your life?  Honestly, is it Christ?

The worship of the magi was also wholehearted—“they . . . saw the Child . . . and they fell down and worshiped Him” (v.11).  Literally its, “Falling down they worshiped.”  His majesty was such that they were thrown upon their faces before Him.  These men were religious leaders back home.  They carried political clout in their homeland.  They knew protocol in the presence of an earthly king, but what to do in the presence of the King of kings?  No posture was appropriate before this King but to be on one’s face.

I also notice that the worship of the magi was sacrificial—“and opening their treasuries they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh” (v.11b).  These were no doubt men of means, but these gifts cost them something.  Like David, they refused to offer to God worship that had cost them nothing (1 Chron. 21:24).

A few questions for reflection:

  1. How does the worship of the magi compare to the response of Herod and the Jewish religious leaders?
  2. Why were some moved to worship and others to rebellion?
  3. How and why is that true still today?

“O Come, All Ye Faithful”

Lo, star-led chieftans, Wise men, Christ adoring,

Offer Him gold and frankincense and myrrh;

We to the Christ-child Bring our hearts’ devotion.

O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him,

O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

Make some time to sing and pray this week, making sure to worship Christ for who He is.

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