Musings on Matthew

December 16, 2009

On Monday, True North finished going through the book of Matthew on Scripture of the Day. As we began this journey through the first gospel, I was preparing to preach a sermon in which the main idea was “Christianity it all about Christ.” With this thought central of my mind, I longed more than ever to sit at the feet of Christ by reading about his life and found myself hungry each day for another bite of Matthew.

The feast on Matthew may be over now, but the digestion is only beginning. This morning, I wanted to take some time and capture in writing some of my thoughts from the past month of SOTD before they fly away.

Perhaps the main idea that stood out to me from taking a close look at Christ in Scripture was this: reading about Jesus life THEN should strengthen my faith NOW.

Matthew reveals two major responses to Jesus: faith and unbelief. The main personifications of unbelief are the Pharisees–so caught up in their system of works righteousness and spiritual pride that they fail to see the Messiah. The disciples also display flashes of unbelief in moments of doubt, fear, or misunderstanding.

On the other hand, examples of faith appear all over this book, from the Magi who travel the world to see Christ to the little old lady who pushes through the crowd to just touch the edge of Jesus’ robe to Peter when he confidently proclaims Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” More than examples, faith is also central to the teaching of Jesus.

So the question I must ask myself after reading through Matthew–which is the same question anyone who encounters Jesus in Scripture must ask–is, “What is my response: unbelief or faith?” Even more precisely, how will my faith be strengthened because of what I have learned about Jesus?

Two specific things stood out to me in response to this question. The first is an increased commitment and fervor to wage the war against sin. Jesus described this fight in the most radical terms (gouging out your eyes and taking up your cross.) Do I view my fight against sin this way? And after seeing Jesus revealed in the Word, am I so enraptured with him that I will gladly sacrifice anything to be with him?

The second proper response is prayer. Jesus makes it clear that faith and prayer go together. Not only should faith drive me to spend more time in prayer, it should affect the way I pray. Faith (as opposed to doubting) describes proper prayer; these kind of prayers will be confident and fervent.

I am grateful for God’s Word and how it reveals God’s Son! Join us as we read through John on Scripture of the Day!

I don’t know how it happens, but whenever I run, I hear music. A steady beat from a piano and synthesized percussion builds into a beautiful melody. Nowhere can I run and avoid this occurrence, but it is heightened when I run at the beach. For the life of me, I cannot figure out who is following me and playing the theme from Chariots of Fire every time I run.

Or maybe it is just playing in my head.

I am sure I am not alone in my experience, because it seems that whenever you see someone running (especially in slow motion) someone will invariably start humming the tune. However, while everyone knows the song, not many know the movie…or the story it tells.

Chariots of Fire tells the story of a group of youth British athletes as they prepare for the 1924 Olympic Games while giving particular attention to two of them: Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell. After the famous opening scene, we first meet Abrahams, a young Jewish man entering a fine English university with a chip on his shoulder. He sees the whole world as against him, and he is out to win (or as he puts it, “Run them off their feet.”)

In contrast to Abrahams, Eric Liddell is introduced. Instead of being out to prove himself when he runs, Liddell runs because he believes God has given him the ability to do it, and “when runs, he feels God’s pleasure.” Above everything else (including running), he commits himself to his God.

Through the telling of the story of the Olympic games we see two very different men. The desire to win consumes Abrahams. Every loss destroys his confidence and fear racks his mind as he prepares for the final race. On the other hand, Liddell faces a different predicament. When the preliminary heats for the 100 meters are scheduled for a Sunday, Liddell chooses to honor his conviction to not run on the Sabbath. Even when he is placed before the Prince of Wales, he will not compromise.

Both Liddell and Abrahams end up winning gold medals (Abrahams in the 100m; Liddell in the 400m). But contrast appears yet again in victory. Abrahams’ victory seems to be a joyless occasion, and he shuns his teammates for a drunken conversation with his trainer. In Liddell’s victory, we see joy, a reunion with his family, and the satisfaction of knowing that he honored his God.

The movie provides so much more than a powerful melody that runs through my mind, it also encourages me. Worldly success is not the goal of this life; bringing glory to God is. And only when we live our lives for his pleasure will we experience true pleasure ourselves.