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Tribute to John the Baptist: Matthew 11:7-24

Tribute to John the Baptist: Matthew 11:7-24
“7) As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8) But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces! 9) But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. 10) This is the one about whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, Who will prepare Your way before You.’” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭11‬:‭7‬-‭10‬ ‭
Jesus now pays an extended tribute to John the Baptist. Just as John introduced the Lamb of God to Israel, Jesus was bidding farewell to the last of the great Old Testament Prophets. The Batton was being passed on and something new was about to come.
Few things more graphically portray the transitional significance between the Old and New Covenants like the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus the Lamb of God. The four Gospels are the bridge between the two.
John thundered from the Law; Jesus pointed to grace and truth. John was tough and rugged; Jesus was meek and ordinary. John pointed to works; Jesus pointed to faith. The contrast between the two could go on and on.
But one fact stands out, the two were never in conflict. John came to prepare the way for the Messiah. He was willing to decrease and allow Jesus to increase. He fulfilled his mission.
Converts to the ministry of John the Baptist persisted well into the book of Acts as illustrated by the conversion of some of his final followers in Acts 19:1-7. His influence was felt all the way to Ephesus.
In Matthew 11:11-24, Jesus used the overlap of their two ministries to pronounce strong judgement on the unrepentant from that generation. Those who remained unmoved by the combined message and ministry of both John the Baptist and the Messiah were without excuse. They were more deserving of Judgement than Tyre, Sidon and even Sodom. They were the recipients of much truth and light, yet they stiffened their hearts and turned a dull ear.
One can only guess the judgement deserving of later generations who had the benefit of the full death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. What about the generation that received the completion of the New Testament? But wait, what about the generations that received multiplied translations of the Bible into thousands of languages? But wait, what a about our generation with modern media that offers the Bible for free electronic download… plus countless devotionals and sermons, we stand without excuse before God?
Our generation has been the recipient of more truth and light than any previous generation and I haven’t even mentioned Christian radio or television. I dare extend the words of Jesus and say that we are without excuse and deserving of judgement!
We must now wrestle for a moment with Matthew 11:12; “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.” What does that mean?
I dare not claim full understanding, but the god of this world has always hurled his frontal attack against Israel and the church. (Study 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 & Revelation 12:17) The times of the end will see this confusion, deception and apostasy intensify. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-17; 2 Timothy 3:1-4:8) Be prepared for much opposition to the truth in our days as false teachers increase and a call to biblical holiness decreases. The god of this world is trying to hijack Christianity as a vehicle to export his devious and debase morals in modern society. Do not be deceived!
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global

Contrast of Two Ministries: Matthew 11:2-6

Contrast of Two Ministries: Matthew 11:2-6
“2) Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3) and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” 4) Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5) the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6) And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.”” Matthew‬ ‭11‬:‭2‬-‭6‬ ‭
We now come to an intriguing text. It appears that Jesus was falling short of the expectations of John the Baptist. John was in prison and was disappointed about the reports filtering back to Him about the message and ministry of Jesus.
Notice what Jesus said to the disciples of John; “4) … Go report to John what you hear and see;” The ministry of Jesus included more than preaching, it was also accompanied with deeds of compassion and miracles. He cared deeply for people.
This was a stark contrast to the style of John the Baptist as recorded in Matthew 3:1-12. He came preaching a message of repentance with little regard for the needs of the people. It was the ultimate “turn or burn” approach. It appears that he never performed a miracle but preached the Law without compromise and called people to repentance. The only emotion he displayed may have bordered on anger, but God used him greatly. Like Elijah, he was gifted at preaching the Law.
So why the stark contrast between John the Baptist and Jesus? I believe John 1:17 gives us a huge clue; “17) For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” The contrast between the approach of John the Baptist and Jesus was a demonstration of the difference between the Law and grace. Both pointed people to God but had radically different ways of presenting Him.
A change was taking place. The Old Covenant based on the Law and the New Covenant looking forward to the Promised ministry of the Holy Spirit were laid out in perfect contrast in the two ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus from Nazareth.
John pointed to the wrath of God, Jesus was the expression of the love of God. John was applying the Law to judge sin, Jesus fulfilled the Law to establish a way for God to forgive sin.
Read carefully John 3:17; “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.” Jesus was about to take the sins of the world upon Himself and be judged in the place of humanity.
John preached a gospel of repentance based on the Law. Jesus preached a gospel of forgiveness based on His coming work as the Lamb of God. The irony is that John was the one who introduced Jesus to Israel as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. (See John 1:29-34)
Understandably, John was very calcified in his style and approach to ministry. He was the ultimate example of a preacher of the Law. He preached in the spirit and power of Elijah.
But please note that he and that ministry approach both died as the Lamb of God was preparing to go to the cross! The ministry of condemnation based on the Law was coming to an end. The ministry of the Spirit of life was about to begin. (Please study 2 Corinthians 3:1-18) Notice that the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Jesus fully appreciated the ministry of John the Baptist, but He did not adopt his approach. It was the perfect conclusion to the end of the era of the Law. It was time for the age of grace and the indwelling Holy Spirit to begin. One thing stood between these two administrations of God… the Lamb of God needed to go to the cross.
John’s public ministry ended in Prison. The ministry of Jesus endured the cross, passed through the grave and left behind and empty tomb. He is the resurrection and the life! (John 11:25) What an apt summary of the ministry of death and the ministry of life.
We could spend much more time on the contrast between these two ministries. They speak volumes on the difference the Old and the New, the Law and the Spirit and works versus faith. Sufficient to say the focus of the New Testament is on the ministry and Message of Jesus Christ.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global

The Dynamic Balance: Matthew 11:1

The Dynamic Balance: Matthew 11:1
“When Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples, He departed from there to teach and preach in their cities.” Matthew‬ ‭11‬:‭1‬
Studying the Bible is like digging for gold, if you move to quickly you can miss some amazing nuggets. Such is the case with this verse. Two important insights are gained from this verse.
First, Jesus balanced two activities in His ministry. He divided His time between teaching His followers and reaching new people.
Churches stagnate and become introverted when they hide behind their walls and focus only on their own small group. Jesus practiced both “in reach” and “out reach.” He worked constantly on both fronts. Balancing these two activities is the key to a dynamic ministry.
Do not brush over the significance of this point. Herein is a key component to the success and failure of many ministries. Camp out on this verse until you build this balance into your life and ministry.
But second, notice how the verse ends; “He departed from there to preach and teach in their cities.” I may be reading a bit into this, but it seems the wording “in their cities” may be significant. Jesus followed the momentum. He went to spots people came from. They represented open doors and warm contacts.
By this point, He was getting numerous invitations to go and preach. He was sowing the seeds of the gospel very broadly. He was saturating broad regions with His message. He was the headline story. He was in every conversation. Something unusual and profound was happening.
So why does Matthew 11:1 intrigue me? I have been a life long student of the phenomenon we sometimes call revival and awakening. Though some elements like prayer are missing in this narrow verse, we do see definite signs that the winds of revival were beginning to blow.
How far were they blowing? Well, the next verse says that John in prison heard of the works of Christ! If I have my geography correct, Jesus was still ministering in Galilee and Decapolis, but John was in prison in Jerusalem. Word of mouth was quickly traveling over 100 miles.
When God does something fresh and powerful, news begins to spread. Jesus was quickly ascending to the pinnacle of His public ministry. The seeds He was sowing were about to change the course of human history.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global

Being a Chanel of Blessing: Matthew 10:40-42

Being a Chanel of Blessing: Matthew 10:40-42
““40) He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. 41) He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. 42) And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”” Matthew‬ ‭10‬:‭40‬-‭42‬ ‭
Jesus now changes His tone on the theme of the fate of His Disciples. Though there will be hardships in this world, there will also be blessings and Divine provision for the consecrated followers of Jesus.
He will supernaturally move people to care for His own. Sometimes the promptings are so strong they cannot be ignored. We have witnessed God work in many extraordinary ways over the years.
But this text includes a unique promise. God will reward those who become the supply chain for His faithful workers. Jesus says in these verses that it is just as if they are ministering directly to Him. What we do for His own we are doing for Him!
Over the years we’ve been privileged to be on both sides of these principles. We’ve both been the recipient of God’s provisions and we’ve been the supply. Often we become the conduit in between. Many times God merely wants us to pass on blessings to others with urgent needs.
This involves listening to the Holy Spirit and a very non-Western view of stewardship. It includes debt free living, frugal spending and viewing all money as belonging to the King.
This is also when the miracles start happening. When God finds trustworthy and frugal people and organizations to help deliver the supply to the needs, He opens the storehouse in heaven.
This is one of the founding values of GoServ Global. We exist to deliver Hope. We deliver people and resources to the point of need and share the gospel in the process.
What God is doing is Supernatural. We are merely the conduit. Go to our web page and scan the many stories. Thank you for being part of the growing story.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global

Take Up Your Cross: Matthew 10:38-39

Take Up Your Cross: Matthew 10:38-39
“38) And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39) He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew‬ ‭10‬:‭38‬-‭39‬ ‭
We now have a picture of the scope of devotion Jesus expects from His followers. Being a Christian is not a matter of ease or convenience. To the contrary, being a Christian has cost many people their lives.
The picture Jesus painted was to make the conscious decision to take a spot on a Roman cross be willing to die for the love of Jesus. Such was the fate of anyone guilty of insurrection against Rome. Such was the fate that soon awaited Jesus Himself.
But these verses also carry another application. Following Jesus leads into a whole new way of life. It involves forsaking self and sinful dreams, goals and ambitions. It brings about new behaviors, actions, attitudes and character. Following Jesus involves forsaking your ways and embracing God’s ways.
Jesus may have had Isaiah 55:6-12 in mind as He uttered Matthew 10:38-39. When we come to Jesus we exchange our ways for His ways. We give up our small plans to embrace His enormous plans for our life.
The trade off is not even close. Isaiah 55:9 says; “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
We can now stand back and see the full scope of Matthew 10:39. If you selfishly cling to your life here and now… you loose everything; but if you let go of your ways and seek Jesus… you find true life.
I consciously wrestled with this early in my Christian life. I was double minded. I wanted Jesus but also had dreams and ambitions of my own. I wanted to go to trade school and pursue a career in the building trades. I loved architecture and drafting. But the Holy Spirit was nudging me toward Bible College and world missions.
This was not a salvation calling, it was a calling to dedicate my life to serving God. One path was predictable, paid well and offered comfort and worldly security. The other path was uncertain, meant living by faith and was full of self sacrifice.
As I laid it out before the Lord, He spoke to me much like He did to Simon, Andrew, James and John in Matthew 4:18-22. He simply whispered “Follow Me.”
I emptied out my small savings account and headed off to Bible College. That was in the fall of 1976. Apart from a few stretches of pastoring churches that included guaranteed housing and salary, we pursued a path of world missions and trusting God to raise up monthly supporters or provide in other miraculous ways.
He has opened amazing doors both here in the United States and around the world. GoServ Global is a significant part of that story, but it is much broader.
I shudder to see how different my world would be had I picked the door marked “self ambition.” But there is more.
I have discovered it is a daily decision to pick up my cross and die to self. It is only to easy to be serving God while focused on self.
No matter the career path God leads you down, there is a cross waiting every day. Sin, selfishness, bondages, bad attitudes, twisted character and hidden agenda’s all need to be nailed to the cross. Walking with Jesus changes everything about you.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global.

No More Shallow Relationships: Matthew 10:37-39

No More Shallow Relationships: Matthew 10:37-39
““37) He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38) And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39) He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew‬ ‭10‬:‭37‬-‭39
Many read this in a negative light. It almost creates a tension and competition between loving God or your family. I view it in a slightly different light. I believe He is saying that our relationship with Christ can become the most valuable and precious relationship in this life. It can surpass all other relationships. In fact, we can come to the point of loving Christ more than life itself.
Paul touched on this surpassing value in Philippians 3:7-11. His relationship with Jesus eclipsed the meaning and value of everything else in this life.
The important thing to understand is that this is not reckless devotion to a cause you were programmed into like a mercenary. The relationship with Jesus is saturated with Agape love.
Early in my Christian life these verses troubled me. I had virtually no relationship in my life based on unconditional love. I was wounded. Over time, my growing love relationship with Jesus brought healing and soon became the source of love that started overflowing to others.
The text now comes alive with a profound observation. The word Jesus used for family love is “phileo.” But the love we can share with Jesus is “Agape.” It’s a much higher form of love.
Here is the point, if you merely have “phelio” love toward Jesus you relationship is shallow. It cannot go deeper than any human relationship. But when someone is born-again the Holy Spirit begins to pour out Agape love within them. (Romans 5:5)
Watch carefully, from that point forward “Agape” love becomes our new fuel for relationships. It’s not a competition between family and God. It’s the opportunity to move all relationships deeper into Agape love. Jesus becomes the endless source of Agape love.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global

The Great Divide: Matthew 10:34-36

The Great Divide: Matthew 10:34-36
““34) Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35) For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 35) and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.” Matthew‬ ‭10‬:‭34‬-‭36‬
Jesus did not come to bring peace on earth, because many reject Him and refuse to submit to Him. In some cases the hatred is so severe they will kill family members who claim to be Christians. This is true in communism, Islam, some branches of Hinduism and extreme secular humanism. In many places, a decision to follow Jesus Christ is a death sentence.
This point has always baffled me. Why would faith in someone so loving and good be met with such hostility and violence? The only answer is the god of this world is active, evil and deadly. Those who are in the darkness hate the light.
It takes huge love, faith a courage to show compassion and share the gospel in some places. Few people are opposed to humanitarian efforts until Jesus and the gospel are added. In many places, those are fighting words. Darkness hates the light. The gospel can either heal or divide.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global

The Enemy of Faith: Matthew 10:26-31

The Enemy of Faith: Matthew 10:26-31
““26) Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27) What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. 28) Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29) Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30) But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31) So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” Matthew‬ ‭10‬:‭26‬-‭31‬
Jesus now identifies the greatest enemy of faith. Many turn away from Jesus and the gospel because of fear. They fear ridicule, persecution, physical harm and death.
This is the number one reason people decide not to go on mission trips. I constantly get the question; “Is it safe!” I think the safest place to be in in the center of God’s will! They respond with all kinds of irrational comments. “What if the airplane crashes, or there is political upheaval, or a mob attacks us?”
My response, “these things happen in everyday life apart from serving God.” The last I looked there were riots in our cities, violence, irrational mass shootings, car accidents, cancer, sickness and death. Why do you think serving God exposes you to more danger than daily life in a fallen world?
Three times in this context Jesus said, “Do not fear!” I purposed years ago to live by faith and not fear. I recognize God is good and sovereign and cares for HIs own. All of us will one day face our own morality. I would rather die serving Jesus than live serving self and the world.
Apart from Gods power to protect us, according to Hebrews 1:14, God also assigns angels to watch over us. I have had many experiences of Divine protection and intervention. I believe we are more than safe “in Christ” until He calls us home!” If you doubt me, read what Paul said about this subject in Romans 8:31-39.
Our hope and focus should be on eternal life beyond here and now. That’s why Jesus said; “28) Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
We are to have a holy reverence for God that overcomes our fear of the enemy. Fear actually defines our true view of God. Any area in our life where fear is on the throne, God is not!
If God counts the hairs on our head, He must have an extreme interest in the details of our life. He loves and cares for us more than the sparrows.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global

More Like Jesus! Matthew 10:24-25

More Like Jesus! Matthew 10:24-25
““24) A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. 25) It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!” Matthew‬ ‭10‬:‭24‬-‭25‬ ‭NASB
Jesus now touches on the goal of discipleship; “25) It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master…” Years ago I wrote a note in the margin of my Bible next to this verse, it simply says, “My goal is to become more like Jesus!” I have not reached that goal, but the Holy Spirit has helped me make measurable progress. I am no longer the man I used to be! Every Christian should have that testimony.
By God’s grace, we become more like Jesus both in character and conduct. If you claim to be a Christian and there is no change in your life, your claim is empty. It is false. Something is tragically wrong!
How can I say that? 2 Corinthians 5:17 says; “Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” If that is not your testimony, there has been no conversion in your life!
We also become like Jesus in terms of the way the world treats us. This is a two way street. The transformed believer no longer accepts the morals and values of the world either. This often bring scorn, ridicule and rejection.
This often paves the way for an amazing mystery. None Christians might openly scorn believers while inwardly craving the light, fruit of the Spirit and hope within them. Over the years many of my harsh critics have embraced the gospel.
At some point the ways of the world leave people empty and broken. Sin is a harsh taskmaster. Eventually, many come to the point of not being able to live with the person they have become!
Suddenly, they begin to search for forgiveness, agape love, inner joy and peace. Only Jesus Christ and the gospel can forgive the sin, heal the inner brokenness and restore them to newness of life.
At the point of salvation when the Holy Spirit comes in, things begin to change. Soon they hunger and thirst to be more like Jesus. It will be a journey, but this quest will not be disappointing.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global

The Unseen Enemy of Good: Matthew 10:21-23

The Unseen Enemy of Good: Matthew 10:21-23
““21) Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22) You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. 23) “But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.” Matthew‬ ‭10‬:‭21‬-‭23‬
Some scholars herein see Jesus predicting the severe persecution that was going to come to the early Jewish Christians. Notice that the wording here is specifically focused on Israel; “23)… you shall not finish going through the cities of Israel, until the Son of Man comes.”
If you study the early Jewish church up until the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, this describes exactly the conditions they endured. The early Jewish believers lost everything and many fled from village to village trying to escape the persecution.
Ok, I struggle with some wording in the text, such as the end of verse 23 where it says “until the Son of Man comes.” That sounds like the second coming of Christ. So how can we understand this verse?
Many times prophetic words have double application in the Bible. The description can apply to the immediate recipients of the word, but also apply to a future time. Such may be the case with this context.
The destruction of the Temple in 70 AD caused many Orthodox Jews to abandon the temple system of worship. Why? The temple was gone. Many of the persecutors of Messianic Jews suddenly had their eyes opened about “the Son of Man” and embraced Jesus. This sudden and catastrophic event caused many to became Christians.
But I believe there is also a future fulfillment in this text. The end times will again be focused on Jerusalem and intense persecution of both Jews and Christians. The atrocity perpetrated by the anti-Christ will be ended by the return of the Son of Man. This scene is laid out in the book of Revelation.
This parallel between the early church and the end times was so dramatic that the early Christians believed the book of Revelation literally applied to them. They thought they were living in the end times.
No matter your understanding of these verses, Jesus paints a stunning contrast in this Chapter that defies understanding. It applied to both Himself and to His followers. Let me elaborate for a moment.
Despite the fact that Jesus performed many miracles and manifest the power of God over and over again, He was rejected, persecuted and ultimately crucified. Why would anyone reject such amazing love, miracles and … “good!” It defies explanation.
I always lock up on this point when reading the life and ministry of Jesus as recorded in the four gospels. There seems to be an unseen and irrational enemy of good. Yet, He made it clear that the same would happen to His followers.
Look at the comparison. Matthew 10:5-15 lays out the authority of Christ and miraculous powers given to the followers of Jesus and the church. They would perform great signs and wonders in His name. But then Matthew 10:16-23 flips the coin and reveals the persecution and even martyrdom that Christians will endure because of their faith in Christ. The same puzzling paradox exists.
I confess, my natural mind cannot comprehend how such great love and power focused on amazing good can be so viciously hated and rejected by the world. But, the kingdom of darkness has always vehemently opposed the kingdom of light.
In a sense, this chapter lays out a contrast between love and hate, good and evil, hope and despair and ultimately God and Satan. This battle has always existed. The Bible consistently paints this picture on the canvas of reality. Let me say it again, there seems to be an unseen and irrational enemy of good in this world.
The atheist who has a view of reality based on naturalism has no answer for this phenomenon. They believe mankind is the highest evolved creature and has the propensity to create a perfect world apart from “God.”
But their hope of an earthly utopia has always been smashed. It was crushed by WWI and WWII. Their belief in the innate goodness of man apart from any notion of the existence of God constantly escapes them. For some reason, evil always shows up to stomp on their agenda.
I believe the biblical view of this tension between good and evil, light and darkness, God and Satan is self evident in the world. From our vantage point in history, the god of this world has only a short time to deceive and hurt humanity before the Son of Man returns.
Though we are commissioned to minister the gospel with great love, authority and power… persecution will come. We will be treated exactly as Jesus was treated. Embrace this truth: this present world is not our home, we are just passing through. (See Philippians 3:20-21)
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global