Milk it, but don’t twist it (Matthew 18:19-20)

 

TwistedScriptureGraphic_1CGod’s Word is dripping with the riches of His trustworthy character, holy commands, sure promises, sweet rewards and more.  So He wants His people to squeeze out every drop for their growth and joy in the Lord Jesus.

The Bible is not always easy to chew, though.  Yes, there are tender morcels for babes in Christ. But there is a lot of meat and potatoes, too.  These need to be eaten slowly, ensuring that we don’t miss a single bite. Some passages may need to be chewed over and over to savor and digest them more fully. Occasionally, something may be hard to swallow, so we might even tend to avoid them or try to make substitutes to His Living Water and the Bread of Life (Jeremiah 2:13, John 6:48)   If you’ll read the referenced passages in context, it’s easy to see that this is true.

But if God has served it up, we can believe that eventually it should be part of our diet toward maturity in Him. Let’s look at Matthew 18:19-20, for example.

“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

You’ve probably heard people quote this verse as a reason to get two or three people to agree with you “In Jesus’ name” to increase your chances of God answering a particular prayer. But that is a substitute of what the Lord has served up here. He has something entirely different and far better for us.

Just before this familiar verse, Jesus had been teaching His disciples about how to relate to a fellow believer who had done them wrong. Talk about hard to chew! Few of us enjoy conflict, and those who seem to enjoy it are not particularly enjoyable to the rest of us. It’s hard to know how to live with people who have sinned against us, especially if they are fellow followers of Christ.

So the Lord gives His disciples (and us) some specific steps to follow.

First, go to the person and talk to them about the offense. This gives the other person a chance to say they’re sorry and be more loving in the future (or clarify a misunderstanding). But if we don’t go to them, nothing will change -except maybe the hurt, bitterness or numbness that will grow inside us.

Second (if in fact they did do something wrong and will not admit it and repent), TAKE ONE or TWO WITNESSES with you. Witnesses are people who have first hand knowledge of the situation, so they can reinforce the facts, not just perception or even distortions of the truth.

For the purposes of this particular blog, I’m going to stop and focus on this second step. But I encourage you to read the rest of the Lord’s recipe for restoring damaged relationships with each other and with the Lord.

Maybe you’ve already done the math from the words that I capitalized above.

Remember how Matthew 18:19-20 references “two or three” that gather to pray in Jesus name? That’s the one person going to talk to the alleged offender and the one or two witnesses. To make it even clearer, that’s 1 + 1 (or 2) = 2 (or 3) gathered together for the difficult task of restoring a resistant fellow believer to a right relationship with God and their brother or sister. And they need Jesus’ help.

That’s why they’re praying. They’re asking for His good will to be done and for His authority and power to do it. That’s what “in His name” means.

Whether the alleged offender needs a softened heart to confess, repent and be restored to those he or she may have wounded in Body of Christ or whether the rest of the believers need the loving strength to stand for the Lord and not stand for the stubborn sinner’s behavior – either way, they will need Jesus to do what they cannot.

This is what Matthew 18:19-20 truly means. This is real food for God’s people. This is real hope unlike the common twisted interpretation of “get some other believers to agree with a prayer for a promotion, a healing etc. and use this magic phrase to move God’s heart or to twist His arm”.

If we have to gang up on God for Him to listen to our prayers, that implies that He doesn’t hear your individual prayers. But God’s Word clearly shows that He does listen to those prayers (Luke 18:13). If we have to use magical phrases to really connect with Him, then He only hears those who know the insider language. But God’s Word clearly says that He even hears the groaning of our heart when we don’t know what to say (Romans 8:23).

If taken completely out of context, Matthew 18:19-20 could seem to say that God hands out free candy to whoever knows the right way to ask. But that kind of spiritual diet is no better for us than that kind of God.

The real Living Water and Bread of Life is powerful, nourishing, authoritative about His diet for His people and far sweeter for their long term growth and strength in Christ.

Milk His Word for every drop, but be careful not to swallow substitutes. God loves His people and has given the Scriptures to feed them. You might even need somebody to help you cut up some of the meat or recommend certain portions for your immediate dietary needs. That’s okay. That’s part of being a member of Jesus’ Body. We all need each other to help us feed on and enjoy Him.

I pray this is helpful to you. If so, you can subscribe to tools4trenches.net/ and receive all future written and video blogs.

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tools4trenches.net offers a wide variety of written and video resources on the whole of Scripture for whole living in Jesus Christ. Unless indicated, all resources are the creation of Jeff Dillard and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs or practices of organizations in which he works or worships.

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