Matthew 18:33 “Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?”
Peter thought he was being very generous by offering to forgive his brother seven times in one day, but Jesus said he should forgive him 490 times in one day. It would be impossible to have someone sin against you 490 times in one day. Jesus is actually saying that there should be no limit to our forgiveness.
When we are offended or hurt, we often feel justified in holding a grudge. The Old Testament law expressed this when it stated, “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth”, Exodus 21:23-25. Until the offense was paid, we did not feel free to forgive. However, God dealt with all men’s offenses by placing sin upon the perfect Savior who was judged in place of every sinner of all time. To demand that others now earn our forgiveness is not Christ like. Jesus died for every man’s sins, extending forgiveness to us while we were yet sinners, and we should do the same.
The main thrust of this parable is that when we have people who wrong us, we should remember the great mercy that God has shown to us and respond in kind. Any debt that could be owed to us is insignificant compared to the debt we were forgiven. We should have compassion on others as Christ had on us.
If God expects us to forgive our brother who has trespassed against us 490 times in one day (actually an unlimited number of times), certainly He who is love will do no less with us.
The forgiveness that we have received from the Lord is infinitely greater than any forgiveness we could ever be asked to extend toward others.
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Luke 9:23 “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
Self-denial is an important part of the Christian life. Jesus sacrificed His life for us and He demands that we die to ourselves that we might experience the new life He has provided. We do this first by recognizing that we can’t save ourselves by our own effort and, second, by trusting God – not self – for salvation. Then daily, we need to deny our own wisdom and seek God’s wisdom and direction for our lives.
Self-denial is only good when we are denying ourselves for the singular purpose of exalting Jesus and His will for us in some area of our life. Some have made a religion out of self-denial and find pleasure in their denial – not in Jesus’ lordship. This leads to legalism and bondage, which Paul condemned as will worship, Colossians 2:23. We are told not only to deny ourselves, but to “deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus.”
The cross is what Jesus died on. There are circumstances in our lives which, like the cross of Jesus, give us the opportunity to die to ourselves each day. These are not things like sickness, poverty, etc., for which Jesus’ atonement provided redemption, but rather things like persecution (which we are not redeemed from) and the constant battle between our flesh and our born again spirit. The cross that we must bear is to take God’s Word (which is His will) and exalt it above our own will in each situation every day.
Mark 8:17 “And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened?”
Just a few days before this instance, hardened hearts caused Jesus’ disciples to be amazed when they saw Jesus walk on the water to them. Here, Jesus’ statements reveal some of the characteristics of someone with a hardened heart.
First, a hard heart keeps us from perceiving spiritual truths. This is why everyone in a church service hears exactly the same message yet, some will receive while others won’t. It’s not the Word that is the variable, but rather the condition of the hearts. A hard heart stops spiritual perception.
Second, a hardened heart stops us from understanding spiritual truth. When a person doesn’t understand God’s Word, Satan finds no resistance when he comes to steal it away.
Third, a hard heart keeps us from remembering. This isn’t to say that we can’t recall facts or scriptures. As related in Mark 8:19-20, the disciples remembered the facts of the two miraculous feedings, but they had forgotten any spiritual lessons they might have learned. Likewise, some people can quote scripture or remember what the sermon was about, but they can’t perceive the spiritual life in the message or retain what they did perceive.
A hardned heart blinds us to any spiritual perception and keeps us thinking only in the natural realm. Small faith and a hardened heart are the same. Hebrews 3:12-13 parallels an evil heart of unbelief to a hardened heart. It takes great faith to keep our heart sensitive to God. Seek Him with your whole heart today.
Jesus Tried Her Faith
Matthew 15:26 “But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread and cast it unto the dogs.”
It is very clear in scripture that Jesus was sent to fulfill God’s covenant to the Jews. However, it was equally clear that Jesus would open up faith unto the Gentiles. Jesus certainly knew this, and had already ministered to numerous Gentiles without the apparent disdain that we see here with the Syro-Phoenician woman. Jesus could not have been forced into ministering to this woman’s daughter if it was not His will to do so. Therefore, His silence and rough answer to this woman must have been designed to accomplish a positive result.
Humility is an important ingredient of faith. This woman was a stranger to the covenants of promise and had no right to demand anything. Jesus’ silence and then comparison of her to a dog would certainly have offended an arrogant person, and it is possible that for this very reason, Jesus tried her faith. Jesus didn’t need to do this with the centurion in Luke 7:6-7 because the centurion had already humbled himself.
An integral part of faith is seeking God alone with your whole heart. If we are concerned about what people think and gaining their approval (or honor), we will never take a stand in faith for anything. After all we might be criticized for it. This one thing has probably stopped as many people from receiving from God as anything else. You cannot be a “man-pleaser” and please God at the same time. Satan uses persecutions to steal away God’s Word and, thereby, stop our faith. To see faith work, we must say with Paul, “…let God be true, but every man a liar;…”, Romans 3:4.
Taking Off The Masks
Mark 7:6 “He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.”
This is the biblical definition of a hypocrite, “someone whose words and heart (actions) don’t agree.” A hypocrite may act the part of a Christian or he may talk like Christ, but he won’t do both. When both confession and action from the heart are consistent with God’s Word, there is salvation, Romans 10:9-10.
The word “hypocrite” comes from the Greek word “hupokrites,” meaning “the playing of a part on the stage; an actor.” It was a custom for Greek and Roman actors to use large masks, when acting, to disguise their true identity. Hence, hypocrisy became “the feigning of beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess; insecurity” (American Heritage Dictionary).
The dictionary defines “dissimulate” as “to disguise under a feigned appearance.” The Greek word means “without hypocrisy, unfeigned.” It has become customary in our society to conceal our real feelings behind a hypocritical mask. Although we should be tactful and not purposely say things to offend people, there is a time and a place for speaking the truth, even if it isn’t popular.
In Leviticus 19:17, the Lord said, “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.” This verse is saying that if we fail to rebuke our brother when we see sin approaching, then we hate him. Many people have concealed their true feelings about evil under the pretense of, “I just love them too much to hurt their feelings.” The truth is, they just love themselves too much to run the risk of being rejected. That’s hypocrisy. Motives – not actions – are usually what makes a person a hypocrite. Let God’s love be your motivation today and everyday.
Salvation – A Relationship
Mark 6:54 “And when they were come out of the ship, straightway they knew him,”
The word “know” can mean many things from as little as “to perceive with the senses or the mind” to a much deeper meaning of “a thorough experience with.”
This knowing, then, is not just intellectual, but a personal, intimate understanding. Jesus defines eternal life as knowing God the Father and Jesus Christ. Eternal life is having an intimate, personal relationship with God the Father and Jesus the Son. This intimacy with God is what salvation is all about. Forgiveness of our sins is not the point of salvation. This intimacy with the Father is. Of course, Jesus did die to purchase forgiveness for our sins because unforgiven sins block us from intimacy with God. Sin was an obstacle that stood between God and us. It had to be dealt, with and it was. But anyone who views salvation as only forgiveness of sins and stops there is missing out on eternal life.
Salvation was intended to be presented as the way to come back into harmony with God. Instead, it has often been presented as the way to escape the problems of this life and later the judgment of hell. It is possible to get born again with that kind of thinking, but more often than not, people who get saved through that type of ministry view the Lord as someone to help them through times of crisis and not someone to know in an intimate way. Jesus died for us out of love, John 3:16, – a love that longed to have intimate communion with man.
Most non-believers are so occupied with their “hell on earth” that they don’t really think or care about their eternal future. They are fed up with religion. They are looking for something that will fill the emptiness inside. Only an intimate relationship (eternal life) with our Father can do that. We need to tell them.
Matthew 14:30 “But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.”
The reason Peter began to sink was because of his fear. In verse 31 Jesus used the word “doubt” in reference to Peter’s fear. Fear is simply negative faith or faith in reverse. Where did this fear come from? Second Timothy 1:7 says, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love, and of a sound mind.” It didn’t come from God. This fear was able to come upon Peter because he took his attention off of Jesus and put it on his situation.
Fear or doubt cannot “just overcome” us. We have to let it in. If Peter had kept his attention on Jesus, the author and finisher of his faith, Hebrews 12:2, he wouldn’t have feared. In the same way that faith comes by hearing the Word of God, Romans 10:17, fear comes by hearing or seeing something contrary to God’s Word. We would not be tempted with fear or doubt if we didn’t consider things that Satan uses to minister fear and doubt. The wind and waves didn’t really have anything to do with Peter walking on the water.
He couldn’t have walked on the water apart from Jesus even if it had been calm. The circumstances simply took Peter’s attention off of his Master and led him back into carnal thinking. Likewise, Satan tries to distract us with thinking about our problems.
Peter’s faith didn’t fail him all at once, as can be seen by the fact that he only “began” to sink. If there had been no faith present, he would have sunk all at once and not gradually. This illustrates that the entrance of fear and the exit of faith do not happen instantly. There are always signs that this is happening. If we will turn our attention back to Jesus, as Peter did, He will save us from drowning. No problem is too big for God. We should cast our care about the problem over on God and just keep our eyes on Jesus, the Word.
Matthew 14:29 “And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.”
This one word “come” was spoken by the one who made all things, John 1:3, and it had just as much power in it as the words that were spoken at creation. This is where the power came from for Peter to walk on the water. Likewise, any word spoken to us by God carries in itself the anointing and power it takes to fulfill that word, if we will release it by believing it and acting on it.
We need to not only know God’s power, but the greatness of God’s power, and then the exceeding greatness of God’s power. This exceeding greatness of God’s power is towards us. That means that it is for us and our benefit. Some people get glimpses of God’s power, but very few have the revelation that it is for us and at our disposal. It doesn’t do us any good to believe that God has power if we don’t believe that it will work for us. This great power of God is effectual only for those who believe. We must believe to receive, or if we doubt, we do without.
Despite all the criticism that might be leveled at Peter in this instance, he did walk on the water. There were eleven other disciples in the boat and although they clearly saw Jesus and Peter walking on the water, they still did not participate. One of the important steps in receiving a miracle from God is to leave the security of your natural resources (get out of your boat) and put yourself in the position where there has to be a miracle from God to hold you up. God is no respecter of persons, Romans 2:11. Any of the disciples could have walked on the water, if they would have asked and gotten out of the boat.
Rest And Re-Fire
Mark 6:31 “And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.”
Jesus often separated Himself from others so that He could spend time with the Father. Here, we see Jesus calling His disciples apart for rest and leisure. Many zealous Christians have neglected the needs of their physical bodies and have, therefore, cut their ministries short through death or severe illness. Likewise, many have failed to take the time to be still and know God, Psalm 46:10. This will also cut your ministry short through non-effectiveness. One of Satan’s deadliest weapons against those involved in ministry is busy-ness. We must balance our time ministering to others with our time of being ministered to by our Father. If the devil can’t stop you from “getting on fire” for God, then he’ll try to stop you by getting you “burned out.”
Remember, the reason Jesus and His disciples were going to this remote place was to get away from the multitude for awhile and rest. This rest was not optional, but rather, a necessity. Jesus and His disciples were taking a much needed vacation. However, the multitude followed them and their vacation ended even before it began. Surely, Jesus and His disciples were just as disappointed as you or I would have been. But instead of anger or bitterness, Jesus was moved with compassion.
Later on in the evening, Jesus went up into a mountain and prayed until the fourth watch (3 to 6 a.m.). The Lord intends for us to take care of these physical bodies as can be seen by Jesus’ actions in taking His disciples aside for rest. But when this purpose was frustrated by the demands of the ministry, Jesus gave priority to the spirit man and stayed up all night praying and getting the spiritual rest He was needing. We should follow His example and always put the needs of the spirit ahead of the needs of the flesh.