DAILY DISCIPLINE #8
By Colleen Donahue
"Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: 'I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.' "
Storytelling is an ancient art. From early centuries the Chinese and other cultures used stories as a creative and simple method for relating important truths and information. These were stories about everyday life that anyone (however simple) could understand and retell. Thus with uncomplicated simplicity generations have heard and retold life's truths.
When Jesus began teaching and preaching at age 30 He used this same age-old technique. In fact, the Bible says, "He did not say anything to them without using a parable." Our wise teacher knew that life changing-truths from His Father could best be told using simple stories.
Most of us have grown up hearing these short parables (some only two verses long!) in Sunday school. Perhaps a few of us, however, have taken time to glean the specific truth from each story and learn to retell it so they can be passed on to family and friends. This month I challenge you to look carefully at those old Bible stories called.......
Day 1- Matthew-13:3-8/ 18-23 "The Sower"
The Word of God is the seed that God wants to plant in the soil of our hearts. His word is truth and in order to grow must be planted in good soil. Good soil is that heart attitude eager to know, understand, and live by the truth of God. Jesus tells us that only a quarter of the Word read, preached, taught, or studied, will land on good soil. Three-quarters of God's word will land on:
The Path -- where the evil one can quickly snatch the Word away from us.
Rocky places -- where the Word is received with joy but without soil, it can't take root and at the first sign of trouble is forgotten.
Thorny Ground-- where the Word gets choked by all the worries of life until it's practically dead to us.
Now, the main question Jesus wants us to answer is:
What is the ground of your heart like for receiving truth?
Day 2- Matthew 13:24-30 / Matthew 13:36-43 "The Wheat and the Tares"
One of the main complaints of the non-believer would go something like this: "The church is full of hypocrites and so I don't want any part of it." In many ways they are right. Even in Christ's church will be those who really don't believe, have ulterior motives for being there, and in time show themselves for who they really are. Jesus' message is to leave them there. Who knows, but that they might repent and get right with Him. The question we must ponder is this:
Will God's children be able to grow up in an environment without evil men and influences? Christ's answer is clearly, "No". They will always be there, even in the church. And that's why in scripture we are constantly told to "be on our guard".
Day 3- Matthew 13:31-32 "The Mustard Seed"
Can God use, what seems to us, very little faith to do great works for Him?
Day 4- Matthew 13:33 "The Leaven"
This parable answers two questions:
How can God's Kingdom grow?
How can God's Kingdom be corrupted?
If you are the only Christian in your workplace, you can act like "leaven" among your colleagues. Just by being there, your influence, words, and actions can pervade the atmosphere. The Spirit of Jesus in you can steadily move out to touch and change the lives of others.
But Jesus also warned his disciples to "be on their guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Just as Christ's Spirit in us can change a whole workplace, so also can the influence of evil in a person.
Therefore the idea of leaven is a small amount, deposited in one place, and working silently until all the mass is brought under its influence.
Day 5- Matthew 13:44 "The Hidden Treasure"
Is God worth giving everything we've got?
Day 6- Matthew 13:45-46 "The Pearl of Great Price"
Is finding the truth worth everything to you?
Day 7- Matthew 13:47-50 "The Drag Net"
Will all men have the same destiny?
Day 8- Matthew 18:23-35 "The Unmerciful Servant"
What is God's promise to us if we do not forgive a man for the wrong he has done us?
The man with the bigger debt is you and I. Our Heavenly Father has forgiven all our sins done against Him and our fellow men. Therefore God wants us to forgive the smaller debt our fellow men have done against us.
Day 9- Matthew 20:1-16 "Laborers in the Vineyard"
When God deals justly with men will it necessarily be "fair" in man's eyes?
Day 10- Matthew 21:28-32 "The Two Sons"
Is it possible that the despised class of "sinners" will be saved before the religious and self-righteous people?
Some talk like they are Christians but don't act like one. Others don't claim anything and yet they live by Christ's Spirit and do God's will.
Day 11- Matthew 21:33-46 "The Wicked Landowner"
The Jews had been chosen as a special nation to influence the entire world for God -- to produce fruit for God. But many within the nation of Israel set their sights to be great within themselves and therefore rejected what God wanted to do through them. In wanting to be kings themselves, they rejected Jesus, the Messiah, whom God had sent to bring back the Kingdom of God on earth.
Their rejection of God's plan opened up the Kingdom of God for all the rest of us. But if we ignore and outright reject God's Son Jesus, then we will suffer the same fate as these wicked tenants. Therefore the question we are left with is this....
What will happen at the end of life when a man has rejected all of God's servants including His Son Jesus?
Day 12- Matthew 22:1-14 "Marriage of the King's Son"
What happened to our benefit when the Jews rejected God's invitation to honor His Son, Jesus?
Note 1: When the Jews rejected God's Son, God reached out for the Gentiles to be brought into His Kingdom. Many came -- and still come. What kind of people does Jesus say filled the wedding hall? (See vs 10)
This is the same idea Jesus was sharing in his parable about the wheat and the tares (see Day 3). The church on earth will be a mixture of people until after the judgment day.
Note 2: Wedding garments
In ancient times kings and other royalty would make special garments (usually white robes) to be worn for a special occasion such as a wedding. It was expected that the guests would wear their gift. To refuse and not wear it was an expression of the highest contempt.
This man without his wedding garment is an illustration of the hypocrite in the church. Jesus has prepared a garment of salvation -- a robe of righteousness -- by his own hand and dyed in his blood. But the hypocrite refuses to wear it preferring the filthy rags of his own righteousness. He is to be blamed not for being invited, not for coming, but for refusing to be saved in the way provided by the gospel.
Day 13- Matthew 25:1-13 "The Ten Virgins"
A time is coming when Jesus will personally come back to earth for the day of judgment. The ten virgins represent the church. The ones who are wise are those prepared for the second coming of Christ. They have lived for Jesus and their lives reflect that grace and holiness. The foolish virgins represent those who profess to love Jesus but have nothing to show of his grace and holiness and therefore are unprepared to meet Him. So the question for us is:
If Jesus comes today, will you be among the wise who go into the marriage feast?
Day 14- Matthew 25:14-30 "The Talents"
Jesus is talking with us about his servants -- professing Christians. He has left earth for a time and entrusted "his property" to us. This represents abilities and opportunities for doing good. He expects we will use them to expand His kingdom. Like the parable of the ten virgins, Jesus tells us that He is coming back and there will be a reckoning or day of judgment. God will judge us not merely for doing wrong but also for NOT DOING RIGHT! Therefore, the question to ask ourselves is:
What is the result of NOT being diligent and faithful with the things God entrusts us with? (vs. 28-30)
Day 15- Mark 4:26-29 "The Seed Growing Secretly"
How does God's Word grow in a man's heart?
We do our part in sowing the seed of God's Word and then God takes over and does the rest.
Day 16- Luke 7:41-43 "The Two Debtors"
What kind of man will tend to love God the most?
Day 17- Luke 10:25-37 "The Good Samaritan"
Who is our neighbor?
Day18- Luke 11: 5-8 "The Friend at Midnight"
Is it right to be persistent in asking God for things?
Day 19- Luke 12:16-21 "The Rich Fool"
The concern Jesus is addressing in this parable is actually stated in Luke 12:15. When God blesses us it's so that we will extend blessings to others. So the question for us is:
Are we using what we have for God's purposes or are we just building bigger barns?
Day 20- Luke 13:6-9 "The Barren Fig Tree"
We are not here to take up space until we die. We are here to expand the Kingdom of God by producing good works for God. A fruit tree that bears no fruit is not only useless in itself, but it renders the ground around it useless so that other trees can't grow.
This parable speaks specifically to Jesus calling the Jewish nation to repentance so that they could be a blessing to the world. But it speaks to all of us really and begs this question:
What are the consequences of NOT BEARING FRUIT for God?
Day 21- Luke 14:16-24 "The Great Supper"
Jesus is at the home of a Jewish Pharisee when he tells this parable. God has prepared a great salvation (or banquet) for His people -- the Jews. They have been invited into the Kingdom of God but they have rejected it. Because of this rejection, the invitation has gone out to everyone else (Gentiles) at all levels of society. But still, the servants report that "there is room". Heaven is not full yet -- there is room for more and so the servants are urged to "compel them" to come. The invitation is grand and free. But when it is rejected, and people turn willfully from it, God leaves us to our chosen way. So the question this parable leaves us with is:
How do we show our lack of appreciation for God's gift of salvation and even contempt for Him?
Day 22- Luke 15:3-7 "The Lost Sheep"
When is God's joy the greatest?
Day 23- Luke 15:8-10 "The Lost Piece of Money"
When does a sinner bring joy to God?
Day 24- Luke 15:11-32 "The Prodigal Son"
How will God treat anyone of us who genuinely repents of our sin and returns to Him?
How did the older brother, who hadn't left home to squander the Father's money, respond to the Father's kindness and mercy? (vs 28)
Then, the older brother shows great contempt for the Father when he says: verse 30
He doesn't talk about his brother, but "this son of yours". In one sentence he sets himself apart from his brother and sets himself up as more righteous than his Father. This is actually the attitude of the Jewish Pharisees that Jesus is speaking with.
Day 25- Luke 16:1-9 "The Unjust Steward"
Dishonesty sooner or later leads us into difficulty as it does for the servant in this parable. Having been detected, he injures him further by securing his own interest at his master's expense. Thus one sin leads to many more. When the master finds out, he commends him not for dishonesty, but for his shrewdness or wisdom. Jesus is not condoning dishonesty but that we have used our resources to secure friendships on earth and the comfort of a home in Heaven.
And now comes the point of this story. Read Luke 16:10-15
Every one of us has a choice between two masters. We either serve THE MASTER or we serve ourselves. Who are you serving?
Day 26- Luke 16:19-31 "The Rich Man and Lazarus"
Why is it foolish to think we can live a happy life on earth without God?
Day 27- Luke 17-7-10 "The Unprofitable Servants"
Christ's disciples were like many other Jews. They were expecting the Messiah to come and set up the Kingdom of God on earth. This kingdom would then release them from their Roman oppressors. They then figured that as follows of God's Messiah they would have a special reward. Jesus in this parable sets before us what the real servant of God should expect. The Greek word for servant is "doulos". It means a voluntary or involuntary slave or bondservant.
A bondservant has five marks about him:
1. He had to be willing to have one thing after another piled on him without consideration for his own life.
2. He must be willing not to be thanked for what he did.
3. He must never charge the master with selfishness for he lives to serve the master.
4. There is no ground for self-congratulations or pride.
5. Doing and bearing all that has been put upon him was the duty of the bondservant.
Man was made to be God's bondservant. Our sin has been our refusal to be that to God. If we are honest, we are people expecting from God rather than vis versa. But the way of the cross is to serve God as a bondservant. Even the ability and grace to do God's will comes from Him. So if He chooses to reward us, it's because of His grace-- unmerited favor--towards us. In the end, we are unprofitable servants because our very best service to God is mixed with our imperfections. In this way, we "fall short of His glory" (Romans 3:23)
Jesus is asking all of us:
Are you willing to serve me with all your heart, soul, and strength without thought for yourself?
Day 28- Luke 18:1-8 "The Unjust Judge"
Should you keep praying when your prayers are not answered immediately?
Note: Verse 8 -- The real danger is not that God will fail to answer us in due time. He is always faithful. No, the real danger is that we will be discouraged, give up, and not persevere in prayer.
Day 29- Luke 18: 9-14 "The Pharisee and the Tax Collector"
This Pharisee was a prime example of pride. Why? Because a prideful person is always comparing themselves with others. It might be their quick mind, or their great skills, or their exemplary life. Prideful people are righteous in themselves -- not because they have put on the righteousness of Christ. If we persist in this lifestyle, what will God do in the end to the prideful, self-righteous person?
Day 30- Luke 19:12-27 "The Pounds"
What is the reward for multiplying what God gives to us?
What is sure to happen if we DON'T USE the gifts and talents God gives to us?
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