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How would you define a ‘real’ Christian? Ask the Lord to show you how to be really real.


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Bible passage: Matthew 12:22–37


Jesus and Beelzebul(A)

22 Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see.(B) 23 All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”(C)

24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul,(D) the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”(E)

25 Jesus knew their thoughts(F) and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan(G) drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? 27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul,(H) by whom do your people(I) drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God(J) has come upon you.

29 “Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.

30 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.(K) 31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.(L) 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age(M) or in the age to come.(N)

33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.(O) 34 You brood of vipers,(P) how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks(Q) what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”(R)



New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society


Audio Bible passage


The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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Transformation
Sometimes, Christians are defined by negatives – in my childhood it was a long list including not smoking, drinking, swearing, dancing, playing cards or gambling. And for the Pharisees, it included not doing the unexpected, not challenging the status quo of religion.

But what does Jesus do? The astonishing (v 23). And the challenging. He speaks about transformation from deep inside – again, challenging the perceived view that what you did, how you kept the law, was what God required (v 35). Jesus talks of being fruit inspectors (v 33), illustrating that what comes from the heart shows what the heart is truly like – because it is where every part of life originates.

Christlikeness
It’s not what we are like – what we say, what we do – at church and on Sundays; it’s what we are like the rest of the week – at work, at home, driving on the motorway, stuck in a queue at the checkouts, faced with too much to do and too little time in which to do it.

That’s when the good fruit (vs 33–37) shows: a real transformation by the power of the Spirit into Christlikeness. Without that, the Spirit is quenched and hindered (vs 31,32). It’s not what you do, it’s who you really are that matters.

Penelope Swithinbank

Respond


‘If a sudden jar can cause me to speak an impatient, unloving word, then I know nothing of Calvary love. For a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, however suddenly jolted’ (If, Amy Carmichael).


Deeper Bible study


The opposition towards Jesus’ ministry continued to grow. While the crowds were amazed at what Jesus did and wondered if he was the Son of David, the Pharisees attempted to discredit him. As on another occasion (Matt 9:32–34), they were convinced that Jesus was not from God and accused him of collaborating with Satan in performing acts of exorcism. This must have been a very painful moment for Jesus. The religious authorities misunderstood him and accused him of being used by Satan, when in point of fact he was rightly doing God’s will.

Unlike his earlier decision to withdraw from the Pharisees and their plot to kill him (vs 15–21), this time he decided to respond to them. First, he showed the absurdity of their charge – because a kingdom, city or household cannot stand if it is divided against itself. Second, Jesus pointed out the severe consequences that awaited the Pharisees if they continued to attribute his ministry to the power of Satan and to deny the power of the Spirit that was at work. He issued a strong warning to the Pharisees that their sins would not be forgiven if they persisted in their blasphemous accusation. Finally, Jesus warned the Pharisees of their behaviour and speech. By calling them a ‘brood of vipers’ and ‘evil’ (v 34), he exposed their evil intention and turned the tables on them by accusing them of being in the same league as Satan.

Jesus’ severe warning is not less applicable for us today. The author of Hebrews also repeatedly warns us against drifting away and departing from God, against disobedience and dullness, and against deliberately sinning and defying God (Heb 2:1–4; 3:12–15; 4:11–13; 5:11 – 6:6; 10:26–39; 12:25–29). The danger for us to be like the Pharisees is as real today as in the days of Jesus.

Kar Yong Lim

The sin with no delete button


Blaspheming the Spirit
Jesus’ saying about the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (vs 31,32) can cause sensitive Christians great anxiety. For this reason we should interpret it carefully within the context in which it was spoken. 

Dabbling in the dark arts
Jesus is responding to the slander of the Pharisees. They alleged that he was able to drive out demons only because he was empowered by Beelzebul, the prince of demons (v 24). ‘Beelzebul’ – literally ‘Lord of Heaven’ – was slang for Satan. 

Jesus’ accusers are charging him with dabbling in the dark arts. His defence is that the charge is illogical. Satan, the arch-demon, is not stupid. He would do nothing to break the grip of his underlings over those they hold captive (vs 25,26). 

The accusation is also prejudiced. The Pharisees do not brand as sorcerers their own followers who practice exorcism (v 27).  

'Spirit of God'
Yet Jesus’ practice is distinct. It is by the Spirit of God that he, the Servant of the Lord, drives out demons (v 28; see v 18 and Isaiah 42:1).

Those who commit the unforgivable sin of attributing this divine power to Satan (vs 31,32) do so without any qualms. They are hardened sinners. Sensitive Christians are not, so their fears are misplaced.

Fergus MacDonald

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The Cross has said it all – Matt Redman (from Ps 103)
Matt Redman & Martin Smith
Copyright © 1995 Thankyou Music

He is good
Kate Cooke
© 2009 Vineyard Records (UK/Eire)
www.vineyardrecords.co.uk


Comments
  • Sue Hanson | Thursday, 08 March 2018

    I looked at the words of Amy Carmichel and felt sick at heart. How often my words condemn and are unloving. Lord bless my speech today and may I say nothing that will hurt or harm any with whom I come in contact.

  • David Forbes | Friday, 09 March 2018

    Dread to think of all the words ive uttered being paraded in front of me too

  • Graham Fuller | Friday, 09 March 2018

    Sue and David, those word brought me up sharp and memories come flooding back from the past about times when I’ve been far from loving and Christlike, not just in words but in my attitude to others. I thank God that he forgives and restores me through Jesus. Praise his name.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Friday, 09 March 2018

    How would you define a real Christian. One whose left this earth and gone to heaven. Or one whose heart is changing day by day, year by year. Or one who others look at and say 'I wish I had what he had'. Or is it simply one who can say 'I'm not where I want to be but I thank God I'm not where I used to be?

  • David Forbes | Friday, 09 March 2018

    I checking out the bit about blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Greater minds than mine remind me that these words are primarily directed to the Pharasees who are refusing to attribute Jesus's miracles as evidence that the long awaited Messiah had arrived. Instead they rejected who He was and labelled him a devil worshipper. In doing this they were blaspheming against the Holy Spirit, the person of the trinity who's role among others is to convict sinners and testify to Gods love and grace in Jesus Christ. These Pharasees in rejecting Jesus despite him defeated Satan and performing miracles casting out those still demon possessed were not only blaspheming Jesus but the Holy Spirit.

  • Angela Munday | Friday, 09 March 2018

    Jesus has shown us what a Christian is........"For whatever is in your heart determines what you say.....Jesus is wholly in union with God. There can be no divisions in lives dedicated to God's indwelling. " The Greek word for devil is 'diabolis' which means split or divided ( literally 'thrown apart' ).

  • Jack Russell | Friday, 09 March 2018

    Given that Jesus spoke this way and that the indwelling of the Spirit is present in everyone born of the Spirit, to what degree should the believer when lied about speak out as Jesus did in this passage and to what degree should the believer be "nice".

  • Angela Munday | Friday, 09 March 2018

    Here is a prayer I have for this day and maybe it will help..."Warrior God, Crucified Christ, teach me how evil is really overcome. Do not let me be part of the problem, but the beginning myself of the answer." Amen

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Friday, 09 March 2018

    JACK the aim is to get to where we can say 'I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me....' Gal 2:20 then, whatever anyone has said cannot penetrate or allow Satan access. Kick a dead man and he won't feel a thing.

  • Roger Hall | Friday, 09 March 2018

    Firstly, thanks a lot WL for putting me right about John Donne. He was able to paint a very gloomy picture of the Heaven which is really full of Joy and the immense Glory of God. Even one sinner on repenting will start a great song of Joy in heaven! Now we can return to the accusation that Jesus was accused of being the devil. I find that His Blood availed for those who gave in to the devil. Again and again and again. Jesus our precious Redeemer. His Blood was shed and shed and shed for me.

  • Lynda Spencer | Friday, 09 March 2018

    I, too, find myself humbled and challenged by Amy Carmichael's words. While I live here on earth I will always have the potential to hurt others in the heat of the moment, despite my best intentions. A few years ago I was jolted while a passenger in a car that had to stop suddenly, and I bit my tongue quite badly. For a good few days speaking was immensely painful, so I found myself having to really stop and think, "Is what I'm about to say really necessary, or can I spare myself the pain of trying to talk?" Since that time I have wished on more than one occasion for a painful tongue to prevent me from speaking rashly! But I have also found that a sincere and heartfelt apology as soon as possible after a slip of the tongue means a lot to those I have inadvertently hurt in an unguarded moment, perhaps especially children I have taught, and my own children. GILVIN, as you say - I am not yet where I want to be, but I'm no longer where I used to be. I am truly a 'work in progress'.

  • Kath Prior | Friday, 09 March 2018

    I love how the passage starts with a healing that takes away evil and enables a man to see and speak. I like to think he will be a contrast to the "evil man who brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him" as he would be so full of praise to God he will see good things which will be the storehouse from which he speaks good things. Imagine the first thing you see is Jesus, then the first words you speak will be praise! A wonderful image for us to start each day.

  • Barbara Sabin | Friday, 09 March 2018

    Let me no wrong or idle word unthinking say, set Thou a seal upon my lips, just for today. I too am still a work in progress. We are holding our W omen's World Day of Prayer this afternoon as snow and icy weather conditions made it impossible last week. Please hold us in prayer .

  • David Chipchase | Friday, 09 March 2018

    Jack, I agree with Gilvin's comment. I also think we have a right to defend ourselves when we are maligned. It's how we do it that counts; biting our tongues so we speak politely, assertively and with agape love.

  • David Chipchase | Friday, 09 March 2018

    Rachael thinks this event was quite a miracle so I will tell you. On Wednesday evening the traffic heading north was gridlocked. I was heading south and wanted to make a right turn into a side road. As the traffic inched (centimetred?) north, the traffic south of the intersection remained stationary so I could make the turn which I attempted only to have a motor bike travelling along the push bike lane crash into the left hand mudguard of the car. The cyclist bounced over the bonnet of the car via the windscreen and onto the roadabout a metre to the right of my car. At which point, he bounced up, looked at me and "Are you OK?" as I asked him the same thing. I am amazed he didn't have to be carted of in an ambulance. My car is a write off. Please pray for me as I work out how to replace it. The insurance won't go very far.

  • Michael Garner | Friday, 09 March 2018

    “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.“ This passage and others like it, not to mention Amy Carmichael’s words, always challenge and worry me. As far as I can see I bear both good and bad fruit and I can certainly speak words that are not of God and display many qualities that are not Christlike. So am I truly saved and reborn? Surely if I was then I would no longer be like this, my cup would be overflowing with sweet water! Add just a few grains of salt to sweet water and you’ll know the difference!

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Friday, 09 March 2018

    Saved yes MICHAEL. And still like the rest of us RENEWING your mind.. Our spirit is as perfect as Jesus's and we are in the process of dying to all that is not of Him. Rom 12:1-2

  • David Forbes | Friday, 09 March 2018

    David C. Know how u must feel re accident. Your drscription of the cyclist bouncing off your bonnet and in front of your bonnet plus their reaction "are YOU ok"? Is exactly the reaction i got. I was turning left and edging along the inside lane towards my green light while the outside was stationary at a red. A 14? yr old schoolgirl bounced off the front side panel unto my bonnet and landed under my bonnet. She did not realise the inside lane was moving and her vision of me was obscured by a large transit van she skipped in front of before colliding with the front side of my car. I pulled down the window and she said sorry while i was sure id killed someone. Only when i looked at the car later did i discover the whole front had been pushed in by her heavy schoolbag. It was a big job that went through my insurance. But the actions of those involved were almost identical . ☺. Im sure sorting it out is a nightmare . I phoned the police but noone from the scholl had reported anything invoving a car.

  • jenny singh | Friday, 09 March 2018

    We are just looking to see here if we can get the way ti recycle bin in windows 10 at http://recyclebinwindows10.com/ online.

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