Faithlife Sermons

O You of Little Faith

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Introduction

At some point, you just have to decide, don’t you? There are certain moments in life and decisions in life in which there is no middle ground position. You have to decide that it’s either going to be this way, or it’s going to be that way. You can date her and date her and date her, but at some point, you’ve just got to decide, is she going to be your wife or not? I know of some people who manage to stretch out a four year degree over about 12 years because they just aren’t sure what they want to do. But, at some point, you just have to choose, don’t you? Many people come to Christ and then they go back to their life and their old friends are there and the old things that they did with their friends and the ways that they passed time, and they go back and they realize that they’ve got to decide. They’ve got to choose. The longer that they follow after Jesus the more clear it becomes that they won’t be able to run after Jesus with all of their hearts and try to keep those old habits so close at hand. They have to decide, once and for all, what their lives will be built upon.
For the disciples in , the day of decision has come. From here on the crowds and the Pharisees, are going to become increasingly hostile toward Christ. They have witnessed Jesus do miraculous things, and they have known from him a love that is patient, kind, and longsuffering. But, Matthew has pointed out to us that the disciples are at least sympathetic toward the Pharisees and are worried when they believe that they have offended them. They still don’t seem certain as to what exactly to make of Jesus. They are yet to identify him as the Christ. But, it is clear. They are going to have to choose. They are going to have to decide if they’re going to press on with Jesus, or if Jesus’ way of discipleship is too extreme and to radical. Some consider to be the most important chapter in all of this Gospel. It is at hinge point in Jesus’ ministry as He presses on ever closer to the cross.

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The Pharisees and Sadducees Came to Test Him

“And the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test him.” Jesus gets on to a boat, and after a remarkable and merciful ministry in Gentile country, he heads back into a predominately Jewish region. And, waiting on him is a group of Pharisees and Sadducees, as though they were expecting him and are ready to pounce. And, this is an interesting contingency of people. The Pharisees and Sadducees despised one another. They were both Jewish, but they had completely different views of the Jewish faith and completely different outlooks on life. This is the democrats and the republicans of Jesus’ day. They served together on the ruling council, called the Sanhedrin, which was often filled with tension and division. But, here they appear united. Very likely, they have been sent out from the Sanhedrin with the purpose of putting this ministry of Jesus finally to rest, and so they are brought together by their common hatred for Jesus. After all, nothing brings people together like a common enemy.

They Asked for a Sign

“they asked him to show them a sign from heaven” Having come to Jesus, they make a demand of him. They demand from him a sign from heaven that proves that He is in fact the Messiah and not just another miracle working prophet. And, Jesus rebukes them for it. Jesus says, "You may understand how to read the weather by looking at the sky, but you cannot see God when He is right in front of your face." What other signs could they possibly see? There are people being carried to Jesus on a mat that are walking away from Jesus with perfect legs. There are people that are terminally sick and on the edge of death that Jesus is healing by merely speaking on their behalf. There is some 40,000 people between Galilee and the Decapolis that can give testimony to the fact that Jesus miraculously fed them. Not only that, but for these religiously educated men, it should be even more clear. Jesus has healed in exact fulfillment of and 35 so that even the Gentiles are praising the God of Israel, just as God said would be the case with the Messiah. So, what other sign could they see? The Messiah had come, but they did not see him. They wanted a sign from Jesus, tempting him to justify himself to them by some miraculous means, when Jesus, following the will of his Father had already given them more signs with more witnesses than they could count. In fact, it is fair for us to say that Jesus himself in his virgin birth and ministry of mercy was the sign himself, but they had totally missed it. Their hearts were too hard.
Having come to Jesus, they make a demand of him. They demand from him a sign from heaven that proves that He is in fact the Messiah and not just another miracle working prophet. And, Jesus rebukes them for it. Jesus says, "You may understand how to read the weather by looking at the sky, but you cannot see God when He is right in front of your face." You're looking for a sign, and there are signs everywhere. The lame are walking, the mute are talking, the blind are seeing, the hungry are eating, exactly as Isiah had said that they would. It was right in front of their faces, and yet they could not perceive it. They were asking for a sign from Jesus to justify his claims to be the Messiah, and yet they were missing all that was right in front of him. The Messiah had come, but they did not see him. They wanted a sign from Jesus, tempting him to justify himself to them by some miraculous means, when Jesus, following the will of his Father had already given them more signs with more witnesses than they could count. In fact, it is fair for us to say that Jesus himself in his virgin birth and ministry of mercy was the sing himself, but they had totally missed it. Their hearts were too hard.
What other signs could they possibly see? There are people being carried to Jesus on a mat that are walking away from Jesus with perfect legs. There are people that are terminally sick and on the edge of death that Jesus is healing by merely speaking on their behalf. There is some 40,000 people between Galilee and the Decapolis that can give testimony to the fact that Jesus miraculously fed them. Not only that, but for these religiously educated men, it should be even more clear. Jesus has healed in exact fulfillment of and 35 so that even the Gentiles are praising the God of Israel, just as God said would be the case with the Messiah. So, what other sign could they see?The Messiah had come, but they did not see him. They wanted a sign from Jesus, tempting him to justify himself to them by some miraculous means, when Jesus, following the will of his Father had already given them more signs with more witnesses than they could count. In fact, it is fair for us to say that Jesus himself in his virgin birth and ministry of mercy was the sing himself, but they had totally missed it. Their hearts were too hard.
APPLICATION: How sad it is to be so close to Jesus and not see him? How sad it is to be so close to God doing such a miraculous work in your generation and not be apart? It keeps me up at night that there a people in here every week that hear the truth about Jesus and witness the miraculous working of Jesus and yet don't perceive it. What would it take for you to listen? What would it take for you to humble yourself before God? What would it take for you to finally stop running away from him and just surrender your life to him? He is all around you! Won't you see it?

On Your Terms or God’s?

“An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign” Now, for those of us who are familiar with the work of Jesus and his disciples in the New Testament, this rebuke of someone seeking a miracle from Jesus is a bit confusing. Jesus even says, “an evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign.” Did we not just see the Canaanite woman approach Jesus for the purpose of seeking a miracle? And, Jesus commended her for having great faith! In fact, Jesus had just performed a remarkable miracle by feeding 10,000-15,000 people with seven loaves of bread. Jesus doesn't seem reluctant to perform miracles. So, why does he so strongly rebuke the Sadducees and Pharisees here and not the Canaanite woman earlier? This is key for us understanding how we should approach God in requesting him to do miraculous things in our lives, which I believe is an appropriate reason for calling on God. So, what's the difference? The Canaanite woman approached Jesus because of her faith, and the Phar/Sads approached just because of their unbelief. The Canaanite woman came to the Lord because she was wholly dependent upon Jesus and had complete trust in him. It was either miracle from Jesus or death for her daughter. And, she was certain that Jesus could and would heal her. But, the Phar/Sads come to Jesus as a means of testing him. In fact, the word 'test' here is the exact same word that is translated as 'tempt' in , when Satan tempts Jesus in the wilderness. So, they aren't coming because they have confidence in Jesus; they are coming because they want Jesus to prove himself to them in their way and on their terms, because of how skeptical and unbelieving they are toward Jesus. If signs were all that were needed to assure that the Phars/Sads here, perhaps, Jesus would have obliged, but the truth is that it takes more than seeing signs to love Jesus.
APPLICATION: Signs are often our way of telling God that we want him to come to us on our terms. If you are like the Phars/Sadds here and are looking for a sign to obey and submit to Christ, you will not obey. If you say, "God, I will share my faith with my friend, if you will show me some kind of sign, or I will go on mission to Salt Lake City if you will just cause my pencil to levitate for 5 seconds, or I will give generously to support my Christian brother in need if you will just put it on my husband's heart at the same time," you are, in reality, saying, "God, I am looking for every possible reason not to do what I know I should. Out of the numerous of ordinary reasons that you have given me to do this, I will only actually obey and do it, if you show me one extraordinary or miraculous reason, and it should be the reason that I choose and recognize." Brothers and sisters, you should share your faith with your friend because God has commanded you to do it! You should go to Salt Lake City on mission because God has already commanded you to do it! You should give generously to those in need because God has already commanded you to do it! What kind of faith requires a sign? What kind of faith requires that God prove himself? Obey in faith and trust that Jesus will miraculously provide! Obey in faith and trust that Jesus will supply! Are you living on God’s terms, or are you demanding that God lives on yours?
Now, for those of us who are familiar with the work of Jesus and his disciples in the New Testament, this rebuke of someone seeking a miracle from Jesus is a bit confusing. Did we not just see the Canaanite woman approach Jesus for the purpose of seeking a miracle? And, Jesus commended her for having great faith! In fact, Jesus had just performed a remarkable miracle by feeding 10,000-15,000 people with seven loaves of bread. Jesus doesn't seem reluctant to perform miracles. So, why does he so strongly rebuke the Sadducees and Pharisees here and not the Canaanite woman earlier? This is key for us understanding how we should approach God in requesting him to do miraculous things in our lives, which I believe is an appropriate reason for calling on God. So, what's the difference? The Canaanite woman approached Jesus because of her faith, and the Phar/Sads approached just because of their unbelief. The Canaanite woman came to the Lord because she was wholly dependent upon Jesus and had complete trust in him. It was either miracle from Jesus or death for her daughter. And, she was certain that Jesus could and would heal her. But, the Phar/Sads come to Jesus as a means of testing him. In fact, the word 'test' here is the exact same word that is translated as 'tempt' in , when Satan tempts Jesus in the wilderness. So, they aren't coming because they have confidence in Jesus; they are coming because they want Jesus to prove himself to them in their way and on their terms, because of how skeptical and unbelieving they are toward Jesus. If signs were all that were needed to assure that the Phars/Sads here, perhaps, Jesus would have obliged, but the truth is that it takes more than seeing signs to love Jesus.

The Sign of Jonah

“no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah” Jesus would give them a sign, but He would do it on his terms and not theirs. Jesus knew the hardness of their hearts, and Jesus knew the depths of their blindness to the truth. And so, he pointed them forward to the sign that was to come. This is really remarkable. Jesus points them ahead and tells them to look for the sign of Jonah. He's pointing them to the resurrection. Remember Jonah spent three days in the belly of the fish before he was puked out on the beach to preach to Nineveh. And, Jesus says that it will be so with him also. As Jonah spent three days in the belly of the fish so will Jesus spent three days buried in the belly of the earth, but He will rise again. Jonah was delivered from a deserved, near death so that the Ninevites might be saved; Jesus will be delivered from an undeserved, but literal death so that we might be saved. As Jonah was verified as a prophet of God by his deliverance from the fish, Jesus will be verified as the Son of God, the Savior of the world by his deliverance from the grave. "And isn't that an interesting sign to give to both the Sadducees and to the Pharisees. The Pharisees were devoted from this day forward to making sure that Jesus was killed. The Sadducees didn't even believe in the resurrection. And yet the sign that Jesus was going to give them, was the sign of His power of resurrection." (Lig Duncan)
We are of a position, this morning, that is far greater than that of the Pharisees and Sadducees in . Just as Jesus called for the Pharisees and Sadducees to recognize the signs of his day, I call for you to do the same. We aren't looking forward to the resurrection in anticipation; we are looking back to the resurrection in confirmation. He has risen! He is alive! The grave could not hold him down! Death could not remain victorious of him. We know that!
We are of a position this morning that is far greater than that of the Pharisees and Sadducees in . Just as Jesus called for the Pharisees and Sadducees to recognize the signs of his day, I call for you to do the same. We aren't looking forward to the resurrection in anticipation; we are looking back to the resurrection in confirmation. He has risen! He is alive! The grave could not hold him down! Death could not remain victorious of him. We know that! And the glorious reality of the resurrection will work itself out in our lives in one of two way: 1) It will create in us a longing for the return of Christ and our own resurrection. Jesus' resurrection is the first fruits of our own resurrection, Paul tells us. It is proof that we won't always be beaten down by cancer and deteriorated by age. It is proof that one day God will wipe the very last tear from our eyes. It is proof that one day we will no longer be prone to depression or feel shame or know fear. Jesus' resurrection is proof that we really will be able to enjoy him forever in glory! And so, we look back to the sign of Jonah, we look back at the resurrection, and we begin praying with John with unapologetic fervency, "Come, Lord Jesus! Come! Come so that I can know real freedom! Come so that I can finally put this guilt and shame and pain behind me! Come so that I can really rest in you! Come so that I can enjoy you and this season of tribulation can finally end! Come so that babies are no longer aborted and marriage is no longer corrupted! Come so that everyone will finally bow down and declare you as Lord! Come so that your enemies might finally realize their shame and guilt! Come, Lord Jesus, come! Fulfill your promise!
APPLICATION: And, if you miss this most glorious sign, it will only increase your accountability in the judgement. Remember back to . Jesus tells Capernaum, a Jewish city that had bore witness to the miracles of Jesus, that the judgement will be harsher for them than it will be for Sodom, who God wiped from the earth in judgement with fire and sulphur. Can you imagine the judgment for the one who is on this side of history and knows the truth about Christ and has heard the truth about Christ week in and week out only to continue living as though it never happened? Can I just be real with you for a second? I stay awake at night with some of your faces in my mind wondering what will have to be said for you to repent. I stay awake at night thinking of teenagers that I know have not surrendered their lives to Jesus. I stay awake at night thinking of husbands that are yet to really give their whole lives to Jesus. This morning, can you not see the truth? Can you not discern the sign of the times? What will God have to say to you? What must you hear to repent? What must you hear to realize that your way will destroy you, and Jesus' way will save you. Please come! Please come to Jesus that you may face the Resurrections joy and not its judgement.
2) But, the other way that this will play out is that it will only increase your accountability in the judgement. Remember back to . Jesus tells Capernaum, a Jewish city that had bore witness to the miracles of Jesus, that the judgement will be harsher for them than it will be for Sodom, who God wiped from the earth in judgement with fire and sulphur. And yet, we can all say what Capernaum could not say. We know about the resurrection. We know that Jesus really did this! We know that there were more than 500 witnesses to the truth of Jesus' resurrection. We know that Rome and the Jews raced trying to figure out how to suppress the truth. We know that Jesus said that he would descend into the earth for 3 days only to rise in triumph. Can you imagine the judgment for the one who is on this side of history and knows the truth about Christ and has heard the truth about Christ week in and week out only to continue living as though it never happened. Can I just be real with you for a second? I stay awake at night with some of your faces in my mind wondering what will have to be said for you to repent. I stay awake at night thinking of teenagers that I know have not surrendered their lives to Jesus. I stay awake at night thinking of husbands that are yet to really give their whole lives to Jesus. This morning, can you not see the truth? Can you not discern the sign of the times? What will God have to say to you? What must you hear to repent? What must you hear to realize that your way will destroy you, and Jesus' way will save you. Please come! Please come to Jesus that you may face the Resurrections joy and not its judgement.

We Brought No Bread

"We brought no bread" Having rebuked the Pharisees, Jesus goes to the other side of the Lake with his disciples to teach them there. When they get there, Jesus says, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadduccees." And, the disciples respond with, "But, we don't have any bread." The response of the disciples is troubling on a couple of different fronts. First of all, they totally miss what Jesus is saying. And, it's a striking miss. A couple of times now, we have seen the disciples miss what Jesus was saying, even though what Jesus is saying is not exactly cryptic. Their response here would be like you telling your wife that she's 'hot' and her reminding you of how long she's been telling you to fix the air conditioner. Jesus is clearly speaking metaphorically here, and the disciples totally miss it. But then, even their miss reveals something troubling. They're still worried about bread! Now, if you're new with us and haven't been with us very long, let me catch you up. Jesus has literally just fed like 40,000 people, over two different occasions in two different locations with 9 loaves of Jewish Rye. The disciples themselves had went around with baskets and picked up all of the bread that was left over, showing not only Jesus' remarkable ability but also his remarkable generosity. And yet now, in the shadows of these two miraculous feedings the disciples are still like, "We don't have any bread! What are we going to do?"
"We brought no bread" Having rebuked the Pharisees, Jesus goes to the other side of the Lake with his disciples to teach them there. When they get there, Jesus says, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadduccees." And, the disciples respond with, "But, we don't have any bread." The response of the disciples is troubling on a couple of different fronts. First of all, they totally miss what Jesus is saying. And, it's a striking miss. A couple of times now, we have seen the disciples miss what Jesus was saying, even though what Jesus is saying is not exactly cryptic. Their response here would be like you telling your wife that she's 'hot' and her reminding you of how long she's been telling you to fix the air conditioner. Jesus is clearly speaking metaphorically here, and the disciples totally miss it. But then, even their miss reveals something troubling. They're still worried about bread! Now, if you're new with us and haven't been with us very long, let me catch you up. Jesus has literally just fed like 40,000 people, over two different occasions in two different locations with 9 loaves of Jewish Rye. The disciples themselves had went around with baskets and picked up all of the bread that was left over, showing not only Jesus' remarkable ability but also his remarkable generosity. And yet now, in the shadows of these two miraculous feedings the disciples are still like, "We don't have any bread! What are we going to do?"

O You Of Little Faith

"O you of little faith" This is the fourth and final usage of the phrase, "O you of little faith," in the gospel of Matthew. And, who did Jesus address it to each and every time? His disciples. The disciples have just witnessed Jesus feed 10's of thousands with practically nothing, and now they are worried about whether or not they have bread. And, Jesus wasn't even asking them about bread!
"O you of little faith" This is the fourth and final usage of the phrase, "O you of little faith," in the gospel of Matthew. And, who did Jesus address it to each and every time? His disciples. In , Jesus asks if God clothes the grass of the fields, will he not much more ensure that they are clothed? In , waves are rocking the boat of the disciples back and forth, and Jesus is sleeping soundly. They wake Jesus in the midst of sheer hysteria, and Jesus asks, "Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?" In , Peter steps out of the boat and water is crashing on his legs and he is defying every Law of Physics by stepping on top of the water as though it is dry ground. Then, he is overcome by fear and the waves, and when Jesus takes hold of him, he says, "Why did you doubt, O you of little faith?" And now, we're seeing it again, aren't we? The disciples have just witnessed Jesus feed 10's of thousands with practically nothing, and now they are worried about whether or not they have bread. And, Jesus wasn't even asking them about bread!
APPLICATION: It's easy for us to look at the disciples and to see them as faithless cowards, but the truth is that this is testimony of everyone of Jesus' disciples then and now. Our faith is not big, but little! Aren't you glad that Jesus doesn't save you and love you in proportion to the size of your faith? You have a coworker that explains how they cannot understand why anyone would give their lives willingly for Jesus, and you shrink down as though Jesus is someone to be embarrassed of. What if Jesus saved us in proportion to that type of faith? Jesus calls us to share his love with a friend we've known for years, and we back down as though telling them about Jesus isn't the greatest act of love and kindness we could show them. What if Jesus loved you in proportion to that type of faith? Jesus saves us and loves us not in proportion to our faith, but in proportion to his faithfulness, which is infinite! Jesus does not love you the way that you love him; He loves you the way that He has always loved you, before the foundations of the earth, with an infinite, unconditional, irrevocable, redeeming, debt-paying love! If you are his child, He will never love you more, and He will never love you less. You are not working for more love or better love; you have his complete and perfect love already! So now, you can work and press on in joy, not bondage, BECAUSE of love NOT FOR love.
APPLICATION: And, all of you disciplemakers. Please see what making disciples requires. It requires patience. Patience is the cross that disciplemakers carry. Disciplemaking requires you repeating yourself over and over. It requires you forgiving your disciples for their failures and continually pointing them back toward faithfulness. You are not leading people of heroic faith, but fledgling faith. Be patient. Be long-suffering. Take up your cross of patience and help them press on.

Beware of the Leaven

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” And so, Jesus repeats himself after having clarified that he’s speaking metaphorically, ‘beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ He’s warning them against the false teaching of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. And, what’s fascinating is that the teaching of the two groups are so different. They are really from polar opposite spectrums of the Jewish faith. The Pharisees were conservatives, always adding rules to God’s law and basing their relationship with God on strict rule following that even went beyond the word of God. The Sadducees, on the other hand, were mostly made up of wealthy people and because they don’t believe in the resurrection, they were self-indulgent, believing that you better live your best life now. Where the Pharisees added to the word of God, the Sadducees took away from it, only upholding the first five books as being God’s words, not the prophets or psalms. And, Jesus is telling them to beware of anyone who mixes human, man-made doctrine with the pure and perfect word of God (Calvin).
And, in these two groups, we see basically every distortion of the Gospel summarized. Every Gospel distortion falls either into the category of adding to God’s word or taking away from God’s word. And, Jesus is warning his disciples because he knows how appealing these teachings will be to them. Like leaven they will taste sweet. Like leaven they will start small and quickly permeate all of their teachings and lives. Corruptions of the gospel start small and feel good. The prosperity gospel says that if you’ll give to Jesus he’ll give you so much more. Doesn’t that sound good? Doesn’t that taste sweet? The liberal gospel says that we should make the Bible more relevant and focus on helping people. Doesn’t that sound good? Doesn’t that taste sweet? The forgiveness gospel says that Jesus is anxiously waiting every second to offer you forgiveness of all of your sins so that now it no longer matters how you live. Doesn’t that sound good? Doesn’t that taste sweet? Brothers and sisters, it's an indictment on our cultural Christianity that many of the fastest growing churches are the ones in which you aren't really sure what they even believe. It's churches that do not identify themselves theologically or by the words of Scripture, but by flashy productions and good advertising.
Corruptions of the gospel start small and feel good. Prosperity gospel. Liberal theology. Easy believism. It's an indictment on our cultural Christianity that many of the fastest growing churches are the ones in which you aren't really sure what they even believe. It's churches that do not identify themselves theologically or by the words of Scripture, but by flashy productions and good advertising.
APPLICATION: Brothers and sisters, if you are to be a disciple of Jesus, it matters what you believe! It matters whose teachings you accept and whose teachings you reject! Do not accept every good sounding doctrine. Do not accept every sweet tasting gospel. For they may very well be be leaven. They may be a poison camouflaged as truth. It is no small thing to misunderstand or misrepresent the God that you have sold out your life to. What you believe matters! Guard your hearts, church! Don’t be blown to and fro by every smooth talking preacher or sweet-sounding book. Delight in the truth! Delight in the law of God! Delight in what He has actually said and who He actually is! For He is far greater and He is far sweeter and He is far more glorious than any imagination of man! Love him as He really is, disciples of Jesus. Love him as He really is.
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