Monday, August 20, 2018

Matthew - The Necessity of Transformation

In today’s study from Matthew 12:43-45, we take another look at these verses to see the application for the church today.

An Analogy
vv.43-45 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none.  (44)  Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished.  (45)  Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.

Many simply interpret these verses to mean that Jesus was speaking about the issue of Demon Possession. Many times, I have heard them used as a proof text to show that it is useless and unwise to cast a demon out of a lost person. However, just a casual look at the context, would indicate that Jesus was simply making an analogy for the generation of His day, and not necessarily addressing the issue of demon possession.

In these verses, our Lord is describing the generation of His day.

1. He had already described them as “evil and adulterous” (v.38-39).

2. He had already told them that the Ninevites and the Queen of the South would rise up to condemn them at the judgment (v.41-42). We have to keep it in context folks. A text out of context is a pretext. Don’t run with a pretext!

3. And now He describes them as “wicked” (12:45).

Interpretation / the Foolishness of Self-Reformation
Why did our Lord call them wicked? He calls them wicked because they were attempting self-reformation by rejecting His offer of the Kingdom. He simply uses the example of demon possession to show them the foolishness of it.

Illustration: Self-reformation is like driving a car with its front end out of line.  You can stay on the road IF you grip the steering wheel with both hands and hang on tightly.  Any lapse of attention, however, and you head straight for the ditch.

Israel erroneously thought that by “griping the steering wheel” (keeping the external aspects of the Law) they could be self-reformed and ultimately saved from the ditch. However, Jesus taught that self-reformation was not possible as that it would require keeping the Law perfectly. He was already doing that for them, but they were refusing.  Jesus had already addressed the futility of self-reformation in Matthew 5:27-28. He was trying to show them that self-reformation was not possible because the Law is spiritual and not physical (5:20-22). In other words, “The Law is broken in the heart long before it is broken by the hand.”

The Heart is Wicked
Why? - Because the “heart” is wicked. Jeremiah said that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” in Jeremiah 7:9. The truth of the matter is that the heart cannot be reformed, it must be transformed. Reformed is physical in that it is merely “a removal of faults by improved conduct”. Transformed is spiritual in that it is implies a “change of nature.” Reformed is external while Transformed is internal (Cf. Romans 12:1-2).

Our Lord’s Point
Our Lord’s point in this analogy of the Demon Possessed man is that while self-reformation is impossible, transformation is not. However, transformation is not a one-time thing; instead it’s an ongoing process. It can only come about through “sanctification.” It speaks of becoming holy. Not necessarily externally, but internally. To stop this process of transformation (sanctification) is to digress and the last may prove to be worse than the first.

Such had been the case with the Jews of Jesus’ day. Many had initially repented at the preaching of John (3:5-6). Yet, they eventually rejected Jesus and called for his crucifixion. Truly, their “last state” was “worse than the first.”

Application for the Church
The application for the church is the necessity of Transformation. There is an important lesson in the Lord’s analogy for us as well. If we aren’t careful, our “last state” could end up being “worse than our first.”

Illustration: How many of us know someone who seemingly came to the Lord and are now totally in the world worse than they were before?

There is a tremendous need for continued transformation (sanctification) in our lives. Paul said in Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  2  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Our Heart is a House
The Bible compares our heart to a house. In it can reside things that produce much harm. Our Lord said, For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:in Matthew 15:19.

But it can be the source for much good. Our Lord said in Mat 12:35, A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. In essence, when we come to Christ our heart (house) is cleansed. The writer of Hebrews said in 10:22, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” The Bible also says in Acts 15:8-9, “And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.”

Fill the House
However, after our house has been cleansed by salvation, we must immediately begin to fill it with holy things. We can’t just leave it vacant or the unholy that left will begin to slowly creep back in.

What if We Don’t?
Scientifically, nature abhors a vacuum. If we do not make the effort to fill our house with good things, then evil things are likely to return with a vengeance.

Example of the Corinthians
Consider the example of the Corinthians mentioned by the Apostle Paul. He said of them in 1 Cor. 6:11 “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” Obviously, they had been born again.

Yet later, he says of these same people in 2Co 12:20-21, For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults:  21  And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.

How about Us?
Our hearts too, if left empty, will yearn for other things to fill it. Pro 26:11 As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly. The writer of Hebrews warns in Heb. 3:12-13 “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.  But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. If we are not continually being sanctified, the writer of Hebrews says that we are capable of doing the vilest things. He lists three of them in Heb 10:26-29.

For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,  27  But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.  28  He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:  29  Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? (insulted the Spirit of grace)” 

Hebrews even warns that by so doing, we could reach the point in which it is impossible to be renewed again to repentance (Heb 6:4-6). Now, many have used this as a proof text for one being able to lose their salvation. If it is, they cannot be “resaved” according to the text. However, I believe a more accurate interpretation of the text is that they could be sent to an early grave because they have committed the sin unto death as mentioned in 1 John 5:16 that we discussed earlier. Either way, “The last state of the man is worse than the first.”

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