How do we know when we really know God, or when He knows us? By Pastor Don
I love Bible Studies, I don’t think I have ever attended a boring one. Fridays are wonderful because we fellowship over a potluck lunch, then study the Word. We are fed so well with the Word and good food that time seems to fly by. Today one of our members asked Pastor Don the above question. Pastor Don pointed out that he always prays before teaching Bible study, then listens over our conversations, and God usually confirms what Pastor Don is to teach. This was the topic.
Pastor Don pointed out that if we trust God, God will confirm where He is leading us. Sometimes though, we ask the wrong question. God may give us the answer for another question we asked a while ago, and we mistake the answer for our current situation. We tend to forget that God does not work for us, He isn’t at our beck and call, He isn’t our employee. He is much bigger than our needs and immediate situation.
In answer to the above question, Pastor Don directed us to Matthew 16
Jesus will show us there are people who THINK they know God, but they don’t.
Matthew 16:1 Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from Heaven.
They are coming to God Himself and stating they know God and trying to ascertain if Jesus knows God. They are asking the WRONG question.
Matthew 16:2-3 He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red; and in the morning, it will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ “Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.”
Jesus points out that they are asking the wrong question. The Pharisees and Sadducees are asking questions from what they know intellectually and from the carnal mind. They can tell the weather from the sky, the trouble is that they are focused on their circumstances. They are not seeing the bigger picture of what God is doing, historically and prophetically. They are missing the whole shooting match. Wanting the signs and wonders, but not realizing that is not where God is.
Pastor Don pointed out that lately today’s periodicals are trying to come to terms with God. There are articles about how the Big Bang wasn’t the ultimate Big Bang, dinosaur discoveries that supposedly bring back the dates of creation. They are trying to figure out what the truth is. But they are looking for God in all the wrong places. They aren’t asking the important question: Let’s prove God. We are not omnipotent like God is, for we do not know what is going on in life prophetically. God is in charge, and he is above everything on earth. In an aside, Pastor Don pointed out that God is even above the election results that will come about by this upcoming election. Pastor Don told us to do our duty and vote.
Matthew 16:4a A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.”
What was the sign of Jonah? Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights and faced death, burial, and resurrection. This is a reference to what would happen in Jesus’ life on earth – death, burial and resurrection. Pastor Don pointed out that in marriage a wife and/or a husband, as well as any person on earth, faces death, burial and then resurrection of their circumstances. They die to self, the old self is buried, and what emerges is a new person, in the new role.
So many struggle to find out what God wants in their life. So often they are struggling to find out where God is or struggling to yield to God. They are struggling for things or position. Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. If they just focused on God, their struggles would sort themselves out.The important thing is to seek the Kingdom of God, the rest is fluff and God will take care of our needs. God is our stable foundation.
Matthew 16:4b And He left them and departed.
The Pharisees and Sadducees did not get what Jesus was teaching. They did not realize that Bible prophecy was being fulfilled in front of them. Signs and wonders were not the important issue. Jesus foretold in Matthew 16:4 his death, burial and resurrection. THAT was the important sign.
In this instance Jesus was fishing for those who could believe in faith. That is the beauty of the Gospel. We serve the meal (the gospel) to everyone, and minister to whom ever is left. They make the choice. Do they know God, or want to know God, or not. If not, we move on and cast our net somewhere else.
Matthew 16:5-7 Now when His disciples had come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. Then Jesus said to them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” And they reasoned among themselves saying, “It is because we have taken no bread.”
Pastor Don asked us what was the mistake that the disciples made in this passage? The mistake is that they REASONED AMONG THEMSELVES. They had the Savior there, and instead they relied on their own reason instead of asking Jesus what He meant. When we reason among ourselves, we will come to wrong conclusions.
Matthew 16:8 But Jesus being aware of it, said to them, “O, you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread?”
Pastor Don stated this is an indictment against the Body of Christ, where we often go wrong. When we reason among ourselves from our worldly choices, we don’t get to the place to find a sound answer. We are not to guess what the answer might be. They had a relationship with the Lord, they should have gone to the source for the answer. So often, when we don’t understand something in our lives, we turn to others to try and puzzle out the answer. We need to first go to God, then if God directs us to someone, go to them.
If Jesus had gotten out of the boat, they would have reasoned among themselves and come to the wrong conclusion. Why, because they were asking the wrong question. Jesus wasn’t talking about bread, he was talking about the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
If you have a problem or don’t understand something that is going on in church, if you are part of a praise team or on some other team that serves the church and there is a problem or misunderstanding, rather than going to lots of people and talking, go to the leader of the group and ask them directly, in the right spirit. If more people did that in the church, more things would get done in a peaceful and orderly manner.
As it is, Jesus will now answer their question, but notice that there is a bit of an edge to the words Jesus used. He says, “O, ye of little faith – and points out that He wasn’t talking about BREAD, but about leaven.
They were not the NOUN of the sentence, in verse 6 Jesus was talking about the Pharisees and Sadducees. The disciples were not in that group of people, so why were they putting themselves into it, assuming that they did something wrong. What makes them so egotistical that they have to put themselves into the center of the discussion, when Jesus was not talking about them?
(Heather’s note, in my insecurity I find myself doing this, assuming, when a correction is stated, that somehow it applies to me too. It doesn’t in many instances, but I fret and worry. Guess it comes down to trying to listen more closely to others and to God, so that I make fewer mistakes in interpretation.)
Why are we so quick to assume we are guilty and put ourselves on the chopping block of life? Bad things happen to good people. Satan makes random selections in his wandering to and fro on the earth, and when we put ourselves on the chopping block, it gives satan a chance to tear us down. Sometimes we Christians give satan too much credit. Satan can’t be everywhere. We demonize our circumstances in error. Pastor Don pointed out that a tree fell down across the road to his property. He realized it fell because of the amount of rain we had, the flooding we had, and it was natural that the root structure was weakened, especially because of the beavers that are near his house which blocked a culvert and caused the flooding. He could have tried to turn the natural situation into an attack of the devil by asking himself what trees represented and found a passage in the Bible about the trees clapping hands, and then tell himself that he wasn’t worshipping enough and that is why the tree fell down. Sometimes circumstances are just circumstances.
Someone at our study asked how do we discern if it is a spiritual thing or just a matter of fact that something happened, or if we have it wrong. How can we know if it is of the Lord, if it is a wrong conclusion that we come to, or if we have missed it completely. Pastor Don said that we have to improve our hearing. If it is about me Daddy (God) will say so, we may not want to hear what He is saying, and if we need to hear it, God will keep saying it until we get it. We have to trust in the Lord, He can get through to us, if not in one circumstance, in the repeating of circumstances until we get it.
In verse 8 when Jesus says, “Oh, ye of little faith,” this is not what I am talking about. He then addresses the correct question, not the question that they were asking in verse 7.
We do this all the time with God. We ask Him questions and it is the wrong question, not what God is dealing with us about.
We ask God a question about X, Y, Z and God is giving us an answer for A. We take the answer for A and come to a wrong conclusion about X,Y,Z.
For example, if the job situation in our area is poor, we may decide in our own understanding to move to Ohio, and then ask God which of the three houses we looked at in Ohio is the house we should buy. But that is the wrong question – God never told us to move. Maybe God wanted us to stand on the promise that He would supply all our needs. Unless God tells us to move to Ohio, which of the three houses in Ohio are the best one to buy is moot, and certainly not the right question to ask God.
(For all my Ohio Xangians, Pastor Don went to college there and has inlaws in Ohio, so that is probably why he used this state.) So regarding the question of Ohio, after asking God the question about the houses and meditating and praying, what if you get 1 Thessalonians 5:22-24 Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.
You may assume that God is answering the Ohio houses question and come away with great joy saying, “God will do it in OHIO!!!!!” But God wasn’t answering your X, Y, Z question, he was answering your A question.
Sometimes when we ask a question of God it seems He is silent, not answering. It is for this very reason that He does not say anything, God knows that we will apply the answer to our A question to our X, Y, Z question and come to the wrong conclusion. So He remains silent to protect us.
What the 1 Thessalonians passage is saying, is that God has a plan. If we stay silent and rely on Him, he will clear a pathway for us to supply all our needs. He will open up doors and lead us. How easy it is to miss God. Some of us hang out a fleece. The problem with a fleece is that satan also knows about our fleeces and may imitate the response to keep us from doing God’s perfect will.
In order to know if an answer is of God we have to know God, know God’s Word, know God’s character, and then operate within that knowledge.
Matthew 16:9-11 “Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up? Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up? How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?–but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
Jesus points out to the disciples that He did not speak to them regarding bread or provision, they should have realized Jesus could supply whatever they needed. Instead, Jesus was telling them not to be like the Pharisees and the Sadducees, not to ascribe to their leaven. Then the disciples got what Jesus was saying.
Matthew 16:12 Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Jesus was talking about sinful doctrine, majoring in the minors of legalism. The Pharisees and Sadducees forgot Hosea 6:6 For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. The Pharisees and Sadducees were into a form of worship, but not of relationship.
This is what is wicked about idol worship. We focus on the miracles of God, and not on the presence of God. Asking for a sign is not a relationship. We end up wanting more and more signs and wonders.With a sign we notice the power of God, but may not notice the person of God. Jesus was disapproving of the disciples because they should have known His character better than that.
As a believer, the worst thing we could do is think that we have God all figured out. Pastor Don said God is much bigger than his understanding of God, and that is the way it should be. We are all going to miss the mark at times, not make right choices. But God is there, bigger than us, to guide us to where we should be.
Given most of the disciples were from the Northern regions, they would not have even been close to the Pharisees and Sadducees, because they looked down on the Israelites from the North, thinking that they were second class citizens. Remember it was asked how anything good could come out of Nazareth. They were guilty of SPIRITUAL REDUCTION.
Jesus did big signs and wonders, the disciples saw them, but Jesus wasn’t about the signs and wonders, he had a purpose for what He was doing, and was leading the people to that purpose. It wasn’t about the signs and wonders.
Matthew 16:13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the son of Man, am?”
As a result of the above discussion, he now initiates a discussion. Because they have put themselves at the center of a discussion that did not involve Him, He now wants them to realize more about Him, that He is God’s anointed.
Matthew 16:14 So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
That is what some say, now Jesus asks them, who do you say I am.
Matthew 16:15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Pastor Don said he would have loved to have been there at this time to see how long it was between the question in verse 15 and the answer — was it 10 seconds, 20 seconds or a long one minute or more.
Matthew 16:16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
Because of this answer, Jesus will change Simon Peter’s name to Peter. There is something about a person’s name that tells about them, and in those days names were very revealing about the character of a person. Simon was a person of common understanding, that is why we have Simple Simon met a pie man, and Simon says. It implies that Simon was not a rocket scientist. But Simon Peter moved here in this verse from carnal knowledge about Jesus to a spiritual revelation about who Jesus is. That is why Jesus changed his name to Peter.
We know God because God first knew us, and chose to reveal Himself to us. If we refuse to seek God, then God will not reveal Himself to us. That is why those who profess to doubt God are still doubting – it is because they are not seeking and God is not revealing Himself to them.
Matthew 16:18-19 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
It is the same for us, when we realize that Jesus is our rock we are new creations in Christ, and we too have the keys of Heaven, and the power to bind and loose. The reason we can know the above verse applies to us, is verse 20
Matthew 16:20 Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.
So that means, since the disciples obeyed Jesus, if we get the revelation that Jesus is the Christ, that Jesus is the Son of God, it is because God reveals it to us. Those whose names are not written in the book of life will not have this revelation. They will deny Jesus.
So how can we know we know that we know who Christ is? It is because we have the keys of heaven and the ability to bind and loose.
If someone gives you the title deed to a car and the car keys, and says on my word I am giving this car to you, it is yours. How do you know if they are telling the truth? You check out the deed, put the key in the ignition and see if it fits and drive off. If you can drive off they were telling the truth. Faith without works is dead.
Today, the Body of Christ is in trouble. There are a lot of people who know Jesus as Lord but they don’t know Him fully.
2 Timothy 3:5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
The Pharisees and Sadducees had an external form of godliness. They kept all the rules, knew the Scripture, and did all the right things, but they did not know Him. We do not put our full trust in Him.
The gates of hell will not prevail against Him. We have to cast our faith on Him, and use the keys to the Kingdom here on earth, which is why they were given to us. So often we give excuses and refuse to use the keys given to us. We set up a system of righteous behavior, but not apply the power He gave us. We then end up in trouble.
In Scriptures, Jesus uses two examples – the one is the separating of the sheep and the goats. When we are lead by satan to accept wrong teachings, we end up being like the goats. Jesus will say, “I never knew you.” Remember, as C.S. Lewis (I think) said, if you want to poison a dog, you don’t feed him a large amount of poison – the dog will refuse. Rather you give him a little bit of poison in a piece of good meat and then keep adding more poison. (I know some of you are dog lovers and I am sorry to use this example, but it is probably the best way to describe the process). So satan will make sure we get a tiny lie fed to us, if we accept that lie, then another tiny lie until we don’t notice that we have strayed far from the truth.
One of the buzz words of today is an example of how this works – TOLERANCE – we get used to a little adjustment to the truth of God’s word, and then a little more, and a little more until we get so far from the truth.
Another example is Jesus telling the parable of the 10 virgins – all are virgins (Christians), but only five had oil in their lamps. The ones without the oil ended up on the outside when the bridegroom came. The instructions were to BE READY, and in those days at a wedding party that meant oil in the lamp.
We cannot measure who knows God on the basis of good works, knowledge, signs and wonders. Only their response to the revelation of Who is Christ is what sets people apart. We are expected to be fruit tasters and testers, for by their fruits we shall know them.
Good people can be good, but not know God. It is easy to be good when things are going well – how does a person respond under pressure? How do we know we know God?
Relationship has a context of communication. Are you listening to the Holy Spirit within? Are you listening to your conscience? Are you teachable? Do you realize that when you sin in secret that God knows?
Pastor Don then went into an aside pointing out that some of us can situate our lives so that we can separate ourselves from people who irritate us, but that is not always the best thing to do. It is those irritations that help us know where we are weak in our walk with God. Pastor Don talked about how he was at college in, yes – Ohio, and he came home and complained about the people, how they weren’t sophisticated like New York City people, how they didn’t know jazz, wore jeans, etc. His dad pointed out to him that you have to make your own happiness wherever you are. You have to decide to know the people around you and make peace with them. It is the same in our lives, we have to make our happiness in spite of circumstances. Real Joy is not dependant on circumstances.
Well, this was a long study but soooo good. I couldn’t figure out how to split it into two parts so I hope you do not mind the length. If you want to (I didn’t type out the text, you might want to read Matthew 24 and 25 so that you can see more about how Jesus will judge).
Hoping you have a blessed Sunday.
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