Teaching at the Tree is communicated in a practical, easy to understand way that is relevant to your everyday life. It’s not religious jargon, just the truth of God’s word presented in a loving and challenging way.
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Matthew 15:10-20 (NLT)
Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “Listen,” he said, “and try to understand. It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.”
Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?”
Jesus replied, “Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted, so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.”
Then Peter said to Jesus, “Explain to us the parable that says people aren’t defiled by what they eat.”
“Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.”
The Pharisees were religious leaders who knew about God, they just didn’t know God. The disciples were being trained by Jesus, and He would reveal Himself to them in a personal way…relational and life changing. Jesus made it clear to the disciples that who you listen to affects you. “Blind guides” is a very insightful label that Jesus gave those who knew a bunch of rules, but were blind to the power of a changed heart. Jesus clearly wants His disciples to know that real change and real life begins in the mind and heart.
We all can all talk like a Christian much faster than we can act like a Christian. All effective change starts in the heart.
1. Every stronghold in our life began with a thought. In fact, here are the steps it took for anything to become a stronghold in your life:
If you have an addiction, those steps were taken. If you are in an improper relationship, those steps were taken. If you are gripped and entangled with anything that is robbing you spiritually, it followed that sequence. Something as common as unhealthy eating choices follow that pattern. Everything that eats away our spiritual power begins with a thought. We can’t stop thoughts, but we can stop considerations. The moment thought intersects with consideration, the battle begins.
2. Voids must be filled. The key to power in our spiritual lives rests solidly on what we fill the void in our heart with. What I fill my heart and mind with is exactly what will come out. It’s a spiritual law as sure as gravity is a physical law. I can’t expect to have words of wisdom in a moment of crisis if I have not filled my mind and heart with the words of wisdom of Jesus. Whatever I have meditated on will come out in a moment of pressure.
3. This is a very stark list that Jesus gave in verse 19:
For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. This clearly emphasizes that what is allowed to grow inside our heart produces acts from murder to gossip. It all has one central incubator…our heart. None of us ever outgrow this danger. The heart has to be carefully protected for our entire earthly lives. What practical guard do you need to put in place to protect what goes in your heart?
4. Take inventory. What do you secretly think about that you would be mortified if it were known? Our passage today warns of the outcome if we don’t confess and repent of our thoughts, and allow God’s power to change the way we think.
Proverbs 4:23-27 (NLT)
Guard your heart above all else,
for it determines the course of your life.
Avoid all perverse talk;
stay away from corrupt speech.
Look straight ahead,
and fix your eyes on what lies before you.
Mark out a straight path for your feet;
stay on the safe path.
Don’t get sidetracked;
keep your feet from following evil.
The book of Proverbs includes a collection of writings from ancient Eastern sources, but most of the book is written by King Solomon, the wisest man to ever live besides Jesus (1 Kings 4:29). The proverbs in the book are short sentences or sayings that teach the reader morals, values, and wisdom or “the right way” to live drawn from life experiences. This interesting book, which is divided into four sections, often contrasts wise living verses foolish thinking. The above verse is from the introductory section, and is written from the perspective of a father giving wise instructions to his son on the ways of life. The father is giving him practical knowledge and skill on how to live in a world that honors God and others.
We always want to examine what we allow our eyes to see and our ears to hear, because if we are not proactive in this, it can quickly affect our mind and heart. Our mind is how we think about a situation but our heart is how we truly feel. If I believe in something with my heart, then my actions will reflect that belief. The Apostle Paul said “for it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved (Romans 10:10). We want our hearts to be pure, so we avoid arguing with others and using bad language. We must be careful who we allow in our lives as friends and what we do with our time. God wants us to focus on our goals in life and not fall into temptation. He wants us to consider wise council and to always seek His Word before making difficult decisions in life. God wants us to trust Him with our whole heart and not mimic the actions of this world. Like the wise advice of the father in this proverb speaking to his son, we want to please our heavenly Father in the choices we make and living healthy Christian lives.
Luke 10:38-42 (ESV)
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
On the surface, this passage seems to be a call to abandon service for the contemplative life. It seems Jesus is saying to forgo any work, and just spend time praying and studying, because that is the “best” thing to do. But Jesus’s rebuke of Martha is more subtle and more challenging than that. Martha is doing good work. She is caring for multiple guests and preparing everything that needs done to host this famous Rabbi, His disciples, and possibly even a large crowd. It takes a lot of work to prepare and care for that situation well. It would honor God to handle that situation well.
But a few things happen here. One, it says Martha was distracted. Service can be a blinder if we let doing things for Jesus trump the relationship with Jesus. Because Martha said yes to serving, she missed the best thing standing right in front of her…Jesus. Busyness kept her from recognizing a better path in that moment, it kept her from seeing what would be good for her and everyone else around her. Second, her busyness was self-assigned (and this is my imagination reading into the gaps of the text). Jesus didn’t ask her to do all that she was doing. I am sure Jesus was appreciative of the care, but more so, He wanted time with Martha. Lastly, her busyness led her to self-righteousness and jealousy. Martha was a little ticked she had to do it all by herself, and who would blame her? But Jesus would not let her self-imposed service rob Mary from choosing the “best” thing, the “first” thing.
Martha lost sight of the fact that service flows out of relationship. This is what Jesus wanted Martha to understand…that loving Jesus comes before serving Jesus.
Colossians 3:1-3 (NLT)
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.
From a prison cell, Paul wrote this book (letter) to a group of believers he was getting reports about, but had never met. He wrote to them so they would not fall victim to false teaching. Paul knew that knowing the truth about Jesus and the power of the gospel would be the best protection against deception. The false teachers at Colosse had attacked the supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus.
They had attempted to seduce believers into thinking true spirituality is found in more knowledge or rules. Paul knew from experience that Jesus was as deep in God as you can go.
Putting Jesus first means you take the time to get to know who you were created to be, and let go of the rules in your subconscious mind telling you how you should behave. To truly put Jesus first, you have to let go of what others think, and follow Him and learn of Him.
1 Corinthians 8:9-13 (ESV)
But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
At this time in history, people offered meat to idols and false gods as a sacrifice. Many of the “educated” men in Corinth believed that because they knew there were no false gods, it was okay for Christians to eat the meat that others had left as a sacrifice to their gods. Paul steps in and tells them that they need to be careful…other people are watching them. There were people in their community who had lived their lives believing in the false gods, and had just become Christians. They were less mature in their relationship with the one true God, and in the above scripture, are referred to as “weak in conscience.” It doesn’t mean they weren’t as smart as the next guy; they just were less mature in their faith. When they ate the meat that the other Christian men had deemed acceptable, which they had previously known as unacceptable, it caused them issues in their conscience. Even though they had given up their old beliefs, it had been engrained in them that meat sacrificed in this way was not to be eaten.
Paul lays it out like this to the Corinthians: Even if it’s good for you, it may not be good for the guy next to you. If you are causing injury to his conscience, you need to back off, so your brother doesn’t stumble or fall. What’s safe for you may be quite dangerous for the person next to you. We need to judge our actions in the context of how it affects those around us.