December 8, 2016

Today you should read: Matthew 4:12-25
Are you trying to change in order to follow Jesus or are you following Jesus and allowing Him to change you? This is a very important question to ask yourself today. More often than not we take the position and mentality that we cannot follow Jesus because He is so good and wonderful (He is God), so we put off following Him until we are good enough. Maybe this is you today. This could be a sin that you are consumed by. God is calling you back to Him to repent and you keep saying no because of the guilt and shame that you are consumed by.

Do you think the disciples that are called in this passage were perfect? Absolutely not! At this point they weren’t even nearly as “good” as they are later when we see how they are in the book of Acts. The important thing for us to glean from this is that Jesus calls them to follow and they immediately do that. Jesus is calling you today to commit to follow Him. The disciples did this and Jesus changed them. You do not have to fix yourself before following Jesus. You cannot fix yourself. So it is a wonderful blessing that Jesus is gracious enough to allow us to follow Him. The biggest encouragement that I can give you today is to trust in the Holy God that is calling you to follow Him because He is calling you just as you are, and He truly wants to change you.

Will you follow Him today? However that looks for you.

By: Dakota Gragg

December 7, 2016

Today you should read: Matthew 4:1-11

I hope you’re enjoying Matthew so far! Today’s reading is about the temptation of Christ.

A couple of important facts about temptation:

  • God doesn’t tempt us. Jesus was tempted by the devil.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. (v.1)

  • But God does allow it; nothing comes into the life of a believer that God doesn’t first get His approval.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.  Romans 8:28

In this passage we see the three temptations of Christ that correspond directly to the temptations we experience.

For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.  1 John 2:16

TEMPTATION 1:  Craving for Physical Pleasure (v.2-4)

…turn these stones into bread – aren’t you hungry?

  • How does Satan use your flesh to tempt you?  
  • What are your greatest temptations of the flesh (or physical)?

TEMPTATION 2:  Pride (v.5-7)

…if you are the Son of God… then you will… (prove it)

  • How does your pride trip you up most often?  

TEMPTATION 3:  Craving for everything we see (v.8-10)

…I’ll give you everything you see

  • How does materialism tempt you?

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.  Hebrews 4:15

  • How does knowing this bring you peace?

Jesus life was designed and recorded to show us how to live.  So… how did HE handle temptation?  The same way EVERY time …as it is written!

You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.  John 15:3

I have hidden your word in my heart 
that I might not sin against you.  Psalm 119:11

How can a young man keep his way pure? 
By living according to your word.  Psalm 119:9

  • Undoubtedly you will face temptation today – how will you handle it?  The same way you have been?
  • What can you learn from today’s reading that will change that?

By: Tim Parsons

December 6, 2016

Today you should read: Matthew 3

Jesus said this about John the Baptist later in the book of Matthew:

Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Matthew 11:11

What a thing to say about someone. If Jesus Himself gives you that kind of recommendation you can bet you’re getting whatever kind of job you want. But, what was John’s “job” on this earth? We find it in our text today: John’s role was to call people to repent of their sins and point them to the one who could deliver their salvation, namely Jesus. At this point John’s preaching is exclusively to Jewish people. This is important to note because the idea that they needed to repent individually of their sins to receive God’s mercy would have been foreign and frankly offensive to them. In the Jewish mindset they weren’t under God’s wrath because they were children of Abraham (they were a part of God’s chosen people Israel). But, John debunks that myth when he says:

And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Matthew 3:9

Basically, don’t think that you are exempt from God’s wrath just because of your family heritage, because even children of Abraham who don’t repent and turn to Jesus are subject to God’s judgement of their sin. The baptism that John was doing in the Judean wilderness was a sign of the repentance those people had experienced by confessing their sins personally to God. It also pointed them forward to a greater baptism that would supersede the baptism of John now that Jesus had come. When they placed their faith in Jesus as their Messiah and received the Holy Spirit as the down payment of their inheritance they would be baptized to signify that they belonged to Christ. For us today, the act of baptism signifies the repentance and salvation that has already occurred in our hearts. Baptism itself is not a continuation of our salvation; it is a clear sign that salvation has already taken place.

Like the children of Israel, we must understand that turning to Christ through repenting of our sin is a personal step that each of us has to make. It isn’t enough that we come from a good Christian family; our heritage won’t get us to Heaven. We must personally turn from our sin and turn to Jesus for our salvation. In this passage today, that is exactly what John the Baptist is directing us to see. Also, that once we accept Christ we should be baptized as a symbol that we have experienced the grace of God and we are now going to live our lives for Him. If you are a believer who has never been baptized I urge you to consider strongly following Christ in obedience through baptism. You have an opportunity this week at East Campus! If you’re interested this Sunday (12/11) in being baptized please contact Todd today.

By: Matt Mofield

December 5, 2016

Today you should read: Matthew 2

Who is King?

It being the holiday season, we are going to not only hear the story of Matthew 2 repeated, but we’ll also see a variety of Nativity Scenes depicting part of this story. We are all familiar with the basic plot points: wise men show up to bring gifts to the baby king, Herod gets jealous and kills the toddlers in Bethlehem while Jesus, Mary and Joseph had fled to Egypt and returning to Nazareth when the coast was clear.

However, as Paul Harvey would say, it’s time for the “rest of the story.” In Matthew 1, the Gospel writer is trying to establish Jesus as the King of the Jews. After all, Jesus is in the line of David through whom God made an irrevocable covenant in 2 Samuel 7. Matthew will also provide many OT prophecies and allusions pointing to Jesus as the fulfillment of the Messianic expectation.

If we were first century Jews sitting around the fire reading Matthew 2, many elements would jump off the page. First and foremost, Herod was not a nice guy. “Herod was a mean, paranoid, narcissist—‘After frequent disputes with Caesar Augustus, the emperor uttered his famous pun that he would rather be Herod’s pig (hys) than his son (huios)’” (NAC). Why? Because it is known through extra-biblical sources that this Herod (yes, there were other Herod’s) put many people to death, including immediate family members, who he thought were trying to usurp his throne. How ironic is it, then, for three (maybe) Persian (probably) wise men to show up bringing gifts to a “new” king of the Jews. This is like walking up to a uniformed police officer offering to sell scalped tickets—bad idea.
Matthew does a great job pointing to Jesus’ kingship. However, what I want to focus on are the reactions—the same reactions we find toward Jesus today. Herod, when he heard about Jesus, reacted with worry and rejection. He immediately began plotting how to preserve his power and prominence.

The wise men, however, reacted with worship. Looking at the gifts they brought, these items were not what one would give to a carpenter’s son, they are gifts for royalty. We love to break them apart—the gold symbolizes Jesus purity and perfection, frankincense points to God’s presence like the incense in the temple, and myrrh was used for embalming, pointing to Jesus’ death. While that may have been in the mind of the wise men, we don’t really know. What we can definitively say is that these items were hugely expensive, expensive enough to provide a family of three enough wealth to travel to Egypt for a number of years to hide.

The question we should be asking ourselves from this story is, who is the king of my life? If Jesus is king of my life, it’s going to cost something—comfort, control, acceptance from peers, or maybe even my life. What does it look like for Jesus to be king of your life? That’s the question we should be asking ourselves each day.
In God’s timing, funny as it often is, you all will be reading this the day before I go to teach this exact passage to a group of college students. I’d love it if those who read this would take a second and hit the “leave a comment” button and answer this question, “Wherever you’re at in your life right now, what would you want a bunch of college students to know about making Jesus King of their lives?” I’d love to get 100% response on this. Keep it short because I don’t have much time. I think it will be really neat for them to get to hear the wisdom from the Body of Christ! I look forward to reading your responses.

By: Tyler Short