Today, Chuck Swindoll warns us that overexposure to spiritual things can cause unwanted outcomes.
Am I becoming a cynic? Am I showing signs of Pharisaism? In fact, if you're involved like many, Sunday after Sunday, week after week, month after month, sermon after sermon, Bible study after Bible study, you are in this hothouse of exposure.
You realize how treacherous cynicism is. If you get annoyed and turned off by fake piety, well, you're in good company. The Bible shows us Jesus had little patience for those who reveled in self-importance, especially when they misrepresented the grace of God. Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll will describe a prickly showdown between Jesus and the religious leaders of His day. The Pharisees were dripping with smugness.
With the intent of sabotaging His growing popularity, they challenged Jesus to perform another miracle. We'll begin today as Chuck recounts the story in Matthew chapter 12. You have a Bible near you or with you, please open to the 12th chapter of Matthew. We're looking at the last 13 verses of this 12th chapter. I will tell you before we get into it, it's a tough section of scripture.
It's one of those that makes me sort of think about calling in sick on Sunday. But I didn't do that. It's not for the faint hearted as you will see. And you will, after we finish the reading, realize what I mean by it. Because Jesus is at His very best, which means it includes moments of real mystery, profundity, where He never tells people what they want to hear, but what they need to hear. And in this case, He's talking to people who despise Him and are planning for His murder.
So keep that in mind. And it may help you with some of the things we'll uncover. Matthew 12, beginning at verse 38. I'm reading from the New Living Translation. One day, some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said, teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority. Jesus replied, only an evil adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign. But the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. The people of Nineveh will stand up against this generation on Judgment Day and condemn it, for they repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone greater than Jonah is here, but you refuse to repent. The Queen of Sheba will also stand up against this generation on Judgment Day and condemn it, for she came from a distant land to hear the wisdom of Solomon.
Now someone greater than Solomon is here, but you refuse to listen. When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert seeking rest but finding none. Then it says, I will return to the person I came from. So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before.
That will be the experience of this evil generation. As Jesus was speaking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside asking to speak to him. Someone told Jesus, your mother and your brothers are outside and they want to speak to you. Jesus asked, who is my mother and who are my brothers? Then he pointed to his disciples and said, look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother. You're listening to Insight for Living.
To study the book of Matthew with Chuck Swindoll, be sure to download his Searching the Scriptures studies by going to insightworld.org slash studies. And now the message from Chuck titled, Miraculous Signs, Evil Spirits, Startling Statement. It's unfortunate that the Bible is so silent. Here's what I mean by that. We have words that we can read and we do. And we have events that we can trace. And we're able to do that thanks to maps and other resourceful tools we can use. We can read the words, we can trace the events, we can even study the ideas, but everything is so without sound. And so all we have is words on a page and we cannot tell much from the words themselves about the spirit of things at the moment.
Unless, of course, we are on it day after day after day, hour after hour, and kick our imagination. Let me give you an example. Let's say you send me an email around noon one day and you say, I asked our teenage son before he goes to school this morning to make sure that he picks up his room and makes his bed. And he responded, okay, mom, I'll do that. Now, when I read those words, I'm impressed.
I never had a teenage kid that would, well, I mean, sometimes they did, but not often. It sounds too good. But what I don't have is the sound. Now, if I had a video clip and if I had audio sound in this, I would be able to see, Sam, don't forget to clean your room and make your bed before you go to school this morning. Okay, mom.
Same words. But now you've got aggravation, impatience, disrespect, anger, sarcasm, which you weren't able to see if all you had were just the words. Now, where am I going with all of this? Look at verse 38 in your Bible, in Matthew 12, and then followed by 39.
I'm going to ask you if all you had were words, does it seem to flow nicely? One day, some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said, teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority. Jesus replied, only an evil adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign, but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah. Does that seem a little unusual?
Does it seem like he's kind of killing a roach with a shotgun? I mean, when you look at it, does it seem overreaching? I mean, they're just asking for a sign. No, they're not. See, that's what you get when all you do is read words on a page and you don't remember and you don't kick your mind into the setting called the context to understand why Jesus would answer like that.
First of all, look at who he's talking to. They are the scribes and the Pharisees. They are the most self-righteous individuals on the planet. They are so impressed with themselves. They're holier than thou attitude. Furthermore, they're skeptics. They've already tipped their hand where we read in the same chapter verse 14.
Look at it. These are the same ones the Pharisees called a meeting to plot, how to kill Jesus. So they're on a plan toward setting him up to find a reason to wipe him out.
He knows that. In fact, next verse, Jesus knew what they were planning. Now they didn't know that he knew what they were planning. So they're involved in this tit for tat dialogue.
And Paul tells us in first Corinthians one that the Jews always want a sign. They want to see the proof. They want to see evidence.
They have had proof after proof, evidence after evidence. They have seen miracles. They have watched the lame healed. They have seen the blind receive sight. They have watched situations.
A lame hand has now been made whole and they're saying, how about one of your signs again, teacher? That's the spirit of it. And he catches it. And he isn't intimidated by it. He sees the cynicism. And so he answers them as to what they were, not so much what they wanted. He calls them an evil adulterous generation, not here, but later. And yet again, a third time because he knew them.
He knew them to be cynics. In fact, he says, you know your Bible better than anyone else around. You know the story of Jonah. As Jonah was in the belly of the great fish three days and three nights, so will the son of man be in the heart of the earth. Verse 41, the people of Nineveh will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it for they repented of their sins after they heard Jonah. Did you realize, by the way, that the most significant revival in the history of the Old Testament was at Nineveh, the entire city, the Ninevites, after hearing the message of Jonah.
Remember the story? He makes this amphibious landing. He gets to Nineveh.
He announces the message of doom that's going to come. And the Lord uses his words, though they were spoken with a bad motive, admittedly, but he uses the words and the people repent. They repent. Jesus said, you remember the people of the Ninevites?
They repented having heard just the message of Jonah. You have seen me at work. You have heard my words. You know where I stand. You know what I'm about.
And you have attributed my work to the work of Satan. Remember that, by the way. He doesn't stop with that. He says, now someone greater than Jonah is here. And by the way, they hated that. When you're cynical, you don't want to hear again how wrong you are, how you have misjudged the one who is speaking. A greater than Jonah is here, but you refuse to repent. The Ninevites repented. You won't.
They're dripping with cynicism. Look at the next. The Queen of Sheba will also stand up against this generation on Judgment Day and will condemn it. She came from a distant land, best I can figure about 1200 miles. The Queen of Sheba on her own came to meet with King Solomon. And we read, she came from a distant land to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Now someone greater than Solomon is here, but you refuse to listen. She came from a distance, didn't even know Solomon personally.
When she was there, she was impressed with his wisdom and she listened to what he had to say. You've been around me day after day, week after week, month after month, and you still refuse to listen to what I'm teaching. You refuse to listen. Now if you read all of this, and hopefully I've read it correctly, and the spirit of it correctly, you realize how treacherous cynicism is. And I believe it grows out of overexposure mixed with an unteachable spirit. It can happen in a college classroom, it can happen in a seminary, it can happen in a church. So there's a crucial question that comes to the surface, if I may pause and apply this at this moment.
It's this. You have to ask yourself, no one else can answer for you, am I becoming a cynic? Am I showing signs of Pharisaism? Let me tell you why I ask that, or I ask you to ask yourself that.
Sunday after Sunday, in fact if you're involved like many, through the week, week after week, week after week, week after week, month after month, month after month, class after class, class after class, sermon after sermon, Bible study after Bible study, and you are in this hothouse of exposure. Now I'm going to probe. Are you any different than you were a year ago? Are you any more patient? Are you more thoughtful? Are you more forgiving, more teachable, more willing to acknowledge needs in your own life?
Or is it just another study, just another sermon, just another class? I'm not the first one to realize that these individuals were out of place in asking for a sign. FF Bruce writes, the demand was impudent, hypocritical, insulting. How many signs do you need to be convinced that I'm Messiah?
For you, never enough. Because when you're a cynic, you don't really want evidence. You want a reason to prove it wrong, which is part of their MO.
That's where they were going. Now, look at 43 through 45. Look at the verses. Without any words of setting them up, without any segue, we call it, no transitional statement, look at this. Jesus continues after saying, but you refuse to listen. When an evil spirit leaves a person and goes into the desert seeking rest but finding none, then it says, I will return to the person I came from. So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept and in order. Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself and they all enter the person and live there so that person is worse off than before. What?
I mean, doesn't it make someone else besides me go? Did my kids cut some part of my Bible out of in between verses 42 and 43? What is this about? What is with the demon coming in and out?
What is it about bringing seven back or bringing a seven with him so that they enter this individual is worse off than who is the person? Think. Remember when you are reading your Bible, you need to read it like your dog gnaws on a bone. You want to look down and say it's, it's, it's, it's done dog. There's nothing left on them.
You, you turn it over, you work over it, you imagine, you put yourself in the setting. Otherwise you're like most people in the world. That's another part of the Bible nobody will ever understand. Wait, is that the Bible's fault or have you become a little cynical?
Maybe worse. I want to suggest that in the context, the person would be the Pharisee, any one of them. And they're the ones who said that he has a demon and he does his work of miracles with the power of Satan. When in fact, they were the ones oppressed of demons. They were the ones wicked enough to be speaking for the enemy himself. Now, how could I possibly say that because they look so righteous.
One man writes this as he introduces us to Pharisees. They live by rules and regulations, but those manmade standards led them further and further from God. Turn them into self-sufficient, self-righteous religious officials who saw themselves as above all others. Having no need for repentance, when Jesus came with his message and model of true righteousness, they resented him and they resisted his message. They were reformed on the outside, but unchanged within. Then this closing line, which is profound. There is, there's never been a group of men more committed to a demanding religious and moral code than they and never a group so far from God.
That's right. But an individual is this self-sustaining, this unteachable, this cynical. The blindness is profound.
It's easy to make villains of the Pharisees because their insidious behavior was destructive. And we've set aside several minutes to hear some closing comments from Chuck, so please stay with us. You're listening to Insight for Living. To learn more about this ministry, please visit us online at insightworld.org. For the entire year, we're walking through a brand new verse-by-verse study through the Gospel According to Matthew. Keep in mind if you've missed any portion of this study, you can catch up by going to our website.
All the details are at insight.org slash listen. And then if you're searching for something to complement your daily reading in the Bible, let me point you to a resource that's been helpful to thousands of readers. I'm referring to Chuck's encouraging book called Finding God When the World's on Fire. We're living through a season of intense uncertainty. In our lifetime, we've never witnessed this level of tension, not only in regard to the culture wars, but a global pandemic that's changed the course of history. All this commotion has caused many people to live in fear. But Chuck reminds us that God knows about our stress. And not only that, God has provided a way to conquer fear with courage and hope. That's the theme of this inspirational book, Finding God When the World's on Fire. And you can purchase a copy right now by going to insight.org slash store. Or call us.
If you're listening in the U.S., dial 1-800-772-8888. Chuck, back to you. The Pharisees were spiritual outlaws. They were bandits, like bank robbers. They had a way of ripping off the treasury of joy. These religious thugs made up all sorts of untenable rules and tight regulations that were impossible to follow.
And then they looked down their noses with pride and disgust when people failed to keep those rules and regulations. Legalism, their first love, is an exhausting lifestyle. Plus, it sucks the joy right out of anyone who aspires to a grace-filled life. Well, in Matthew chapter 11, Jesus specifically targeted an audience of battle-weary warriors who found the legalistic lifestyle impossible to sustain and exhausting when they tried. Jesus opened his arms and said to them, Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and you will find rest for your souls. The rest that Jesus offered that day and still offers to you and me today is different than you might think. He's not talking about wiping sweat from your brow after your morning jog. He's not offering a vacation or a good night's sleep.
It's far more than that. Jesus pinpointed your soul. You see, his invitation penetrates your inner self, that mysterious, all-important place within us that represents the spiritual core of our being. This is the focal point of everything we do at Insight for Living Ministries. Our goal is to teach the Word of God so that the Spirit of God can accomplish what no one else can do. We want to see Jesus liberate all who listen to Insight for Living, liberate from the tyranny of religious legalism. And so today, I'm appealing to your shared vision to bring men and women around the world to this same place of freedom and grace in Jesus that you and I enjoy. You've heard us mention the importance of June 30.
Well, it's far more than an accounting deadline. God could use your generous donation to deliver his message right into the heart and soul of individuals right now. And I can assure you, everything you give will allow us to share the good news of Jesus, who said, come to me, all you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and you will find rest for your souls. All right, thank you, Chuck.
And let me explain how you can respond. The quickest and most convenient way to give is to visit our website. You'll find us at insight.org. Or call us if you're listening in the U.S., dial 1-800-772-8888.
That's 1-800-772-8888. Thank you for your generous support of Insight for Living. You're invited to join us again tomorrow when our study in Matthew continues right here on Insight for Living. You're invited to join us again tomorrow when our study in Matthew continues right here
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