That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. "Teacher," they said, "Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her? Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead-have you not read what God said to you, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?' He is not the God of the dead but of the living." When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.
What will happen when one dies and goes to heaven? The Sadducees don't believe that the dead would resurrect and be with God eternally. Therefore they asked this question with the intention of putting Jesus in a difficult spot, but they committed a few fundamental errors. First, when we are in heaven, we will no longer living in earthly pattern, without eating, drinking, nor marriage. In other words, when we are in heaven, we no longer have physical needs, but we will be united in the Holy Spirit.
Secondly, when we are in heaven, our eyes will be set on Jesus Christ, not any other person. Our relationship with the Lord will far exceed our relationships with others. In fact, when we are in heaven, it will be impossible for us to focus on others, because we will be totally attracted by the Lord, to a point we would neglect relationships with others and focus on the Lord. When we are attracted by the Lord, our relationships with others will start to vanish.
Thirdly, our God is the God of the living, not God of the dead. In other words, do not worry about death, but live well for Him today, which is more important. We are often concerned about afterlife, but in reality, we ought to be more concerned with how we live our life today. Do you know the God who created you? Do you understand His will for you? Our God is not only the God of Abraham, He is also the God of Isaac and Jacob. Every generation needs to know God for themselves, it is not about you having a spiritual mother or a wife that is fervent to the Lord; it is about whether you come before God and get to know Him.
Jesus rebuked the Sadducees by saying "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God." Many of us have the same problem - We don't understand what God said in the Bible, and we don't understand the power of the Spirit. No wonder we often can't experience the grace of God in our daily lives. May God have mercy on us so that this won't happen to us!
Pray with Pastor Tong
Dear Lord, I thank You, for You are not God of the dead, but you are God of the living. You reign in all circumstances. May You draw us near You so that we can overcome any circumstance and attack from the evil one. I thank You and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, Amen!
Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. "Teacher," they said, "we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?" But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, "Whose image is this? And whose inscription?" "Caesar's," they replied. Then he said to them, "So give back to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
Caesar was the king of the Roman Empire. When the Pharisees asked Jesus that question, they are not seeking His opinion, but rather tempting Him. If Jesus said ones should pay tax, they could accuse Jesus for giving offerings to Caesar not to God before the Jews. If Jesus said not to pay tax, they would have an evident of Him not obeying the Roman Laws. So regardless how Jesus replied, they would be able to accuse Him. But Jesus was wise in saying, "give back to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."
There are two main points in the response from Jesus. First, "give back to Caesar what is Caesar's." This means that we ought to fulfill our worldly responsibility, for the Lord did the very same. When Jesus wanted to get baptized, John the Baptist asked how He could baptize Jesus. But Jesus said, "It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." The Lord never teaches us to avoid worldly responsibilities such as taxation or civic duty. In fact, we should fulfill our responsibilities in these areas, so that others can see the righteousness of God through us, if not, we are bringing shame to the name of the Lord.
Secondly, "give to God what is God's." This means we should give God our hearts. God cares about whether we love Him much more than taxation. If we love God, He will teach us how to live our lives. When Peter had no money to pay tax, Jesus taught Him to go fishing, and He found money in the fish's mouth for tax. Dear brothers and sisters, do you give to God what is God's? Many times we excel at fulfilling our worldly responsibilities but forget about our spiritual responsibilities. When God asks us to tithe, are we doing it willingly? To give God 10% among all that He has given to us financially is a principle that He has determined. May the Lord give us a gentle heart to obey His commandment!
Pray with Pastor Tong
Dear Lord, may You teach us how to exalt You in our daily life and to give You our hearts. Help us to have good testimonies on Earth so that Your name is glorified. I thank You and I pray all these in the victorious name of Jesus, Amen!
"Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, 'How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?' the man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
When many refused to attend the wedding banquet, the king asked his servants to invite people to the banquet on the street corners, therefore the banquet was filled with all kinds of people. When the king asked why that man was not wearing wedding clothes, we might ask: is it possible that he doesn't have wedding clothes? Well, others might not have wedding clothes as well, but the king has prepared wedding clothes for them. When he invited the guests to the banquet, the wedding clothes needed are prepared for them; what the guests need to do is to put on the wedding clothes when they arrived.
The wedding clothes mentioned here refer to a righteous robe. Bible mentions that God clothes us with righteousness. We were all unrighteous sinners who have no use before God. But God had mercy on us by His invitation to join His banquet and enjoy His grace. The grace of God enables us who are unworthy to have a portion in Christ's salvation. God sent Christ to substitute us in His punishments to sins, so that we can be called righteous before God. This is like God grants us with a righteous robe, or wedding clothes, so that we can be clothed.
The salvation of Christ is free to us. There is no price to pay, but we do need to individually receive it. We must receive His gift of salvation with a humble heart. In other words, we are to wear the righteous clothes that God has granted, if not we could neither see Him nor stand before Him because of our sinful nature. The wisdom and righteous of man cannot stand before God. God has prepared the wedding clothes, or righteous robe for us, and all we need to do is to put them on so that we can partake in His grace. Dear brothers and sisters, are you willing to be humble and receive His grace today?
Pray with Pastor Tong
Dear Lord, I thank you, for you have prepared grace for us even when we are unworthy of it. You will grant us all kinds of grace and we only need to be willing to receive! May You help us to turn to you with a humble heart in order to receive all your grace. I thank you and I pray all these in the mighty name of Jesus, Amen!
Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. Then he sent some more servants and said, 'Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle has been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.' But they paid no attention and went off-one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city."
A king prepared a banquet and invited many to come. The banquet represents all the abundant grace that God has prepared for us in Christ. But in the parable many refused to come, just like many neglect the invitation of God today, and as a result, they cannot enjoy the grace that God has prepared for them.
There are a few reasons that cause people to neglect. First, they do not understanding the true need of their lives. The true need refers to the fact that we all live in darkness and are in need of the salvation of Jesus Christ. When ones do not see that they have needs, they wont come to God to seek the answer to their needs. The biggest problem among human being is sin. As long as the problem of sin is not dealt with, it is impossible to have true satisfaction, peace, or joy. The problem of sin cannot be solved by ourselves. Many mistakenly thought that they can save themselves, that's why many times we hear people say "I will believe when I am a better person" or "If I believe, I will strive to be a perfect Christian." Statements like this result from not understanding that ones need help from the Lord to solve the problem of sin. Ones that live in the bondage of sins cannot break the bondage by our own strength, which is why God send his son to this world. Because Jesus is a sinless savior, we can enjoy all the grace from God in Him; He has suffered the consequence of sin upon the cross, so that we can enjoy the salvation and satisfaction in God.
Secondly, they do not understand that life is indeed very short. If we truly understand that life is short, we would all be smarter investors that would not seek temporary investments and profits. Only when we understand that only eternal investment in God can bring us eternal life, we will come to God and seek His help. May God help us not to be foolish and choose to stay afar from God and His grace.
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, I thank You, for You came to seek us first, for You came to grant us grace. May You give us a gentle and humble heart so that we can turn to You and seek Your grace, thereby receive Your abundance. I thank you and I pray all these in the mighty name of Jesus, Amen!
Jesus said to them, "Haven't you ever read what the Scriptures say, " 'The stone the builders didn't accept has become the most important stone of all. The Lord has done it. It is wonderful in our eyes'? "So here is what I tell you. The kingdom of God will be taken away from you. It will be given to people who will produce its fruit. Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces. But the stone will crush anyone it falls on." The chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus' stories. They knew he was talking about them. So they looked for a way to arrest him. But they were afraid of the crowd. The people believed that Jesus was a prophet.
Jesus said, "The stone the builders didn't accept has become the most important stone of all." It means that God will do the work of building in our lives. For a house is to be stable, it needs to have a good foundation. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us that there were two kinds of buildings: one that was built on top of sand, and the other that was built on top of rocks. When rain comes down, water rises, and wind blows on the house, the one built on the sand will collapse, while the one built on the rock will not. Jesus Christ is the most important stone in our life. The most important stone represents the foundation. The Lord is not only the source of life, He is also the reason our lives are stable and do not waver. Where do you build your foundation of belief? If it is built upon our connections, or upon our circumstances, or even upon pastors, then when our connections change, or circumstances change, or when pastors are down, then your belief will collapse. If you build the foundation of life upon Jesus, then there is nothing in the world that will disappoint you, weaken you, or make you go back and fall.
What's the purpose of building lives for Christians? Verse 43 says that it is so that we will produce fruit. Moreover, produce the fruit that will transform our lives. When you come to God, it is not important how you are currently, but what you will be after God transforms you into. Similarly, remember that when you meet brothers and sisters, it is not important how they are now, but how God will transform them into. God wants to build up our lives so that we'd take on the image of Jesus Christ more and more. Peter's name was Simon; when he started following the Lord, the Lord said, "Simon, your name will be called Peter.", i.e. the rock. Peter of the Gospels, when he started following the Lord, his temperament were not stable, not like Peter the rock at all. But the Peter you see in Peter 1 and 2, is a truly spiritually mature, and stable rock.
May God help us to gladly allow God to change us in our lives. No matter how many successes or failures we had in the past, we completely hand them over to God, so that He can work in our lives and make us reflect his glorious beauty.
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, we thank you because you continually perform the work of building in our lives. You are also the most important stone of a house in building our lives. When lives are built upon your body, they are stable and unshakable. May your Spirit strengthen our confidence and help us to rely upon you to have victorious lives. I thank you and I pray in the glorious name of Jesus, amen!
"Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. 'They will respect my son,' he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, 'This is the heir. Come, let's kill him and take his inheritance.' So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end," they replied, "and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time."
When Jesus was preaching this parable, the Pharisees knew right away that He was talking about them, because Lord was telling them a familiar story in a background that is familiar to them. The landowner in this story is Father God, and the tenants are the generations of leaders among the Israelites. God gave them a mission and asked them to fulfill His will by accomplish the mission. The servants are the generations of prophets sent by God to the Israelites, who revealed God's will on His behalf. The prophets condemned the sins of the Israelites, but the Israelites refused to repent. They even killed the servants, who were the prophets of God. That's why the Lord said in Matthew 23:35-36: "And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation."
Jesus then talked about the son of the landowner, who represents Himself. The Lord was sent to the world so that Israelites can turn back to God; however, they ended up killing the son of the landowner. The Lord prophesied that He would be killed, and when the Pharisees heard it they knew that Jesus was rebuking them. They nevertheless didn't repent, but their hearts became even harder. May God have mercy on us; when He rebukes us, let us have a softened heart; help us not to be like the Pharisees, whose hearts hardened when the Lord rebuked them, and ended up falling and perishing on God's path. Let us turn back to Him and repent our sins, welcome the Holy Spirit to come in and renew us, and let us once again turn back to God.
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, we thank you because you often remind us and rebuke us with the prophets, and you correct us with your word. May the Lord grant us a softened heart, so that we will turn back to you and let your will be done in our lives. I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!
"What do you think about this? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.' " 'I will not,' the son answered. But later he changed his mind and went. "Then the father went to the other son. He said the same thing. The son answered, 'I will, sir.' But he did not go. "Which of the two sons did what his father wanted?" "The first," they answered. Jesus said to them, "What I'm about to tell you is true. Tax collectors and prostitutes will enter the kingdom of God ahead of you. John came to show you the right way to live. And you did not believe him. But the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. You saw this. But even then you did not turn away from your sins and believe him.
Jesus taught us that obedience in our daily life is more precious than sweat words. When we serve God and follow God, it is very easy to say, "Lord, we love you." But in real life, we may never follow Him. Our spiritual lives seem out of touch and yet we don't see anything wrong. Just like the second son, saying he would go to father, but did not in the end, their problem is that they took belief too lightly and casually, regarding it as merely words, no need to take it seriously. May the Lord help us not be self-righteous. On the surface, the second son was very obedient, being pious in meetings and services. But in fact, he did not follow God's words. On the contrary, while the elder son was sometimes disobedient, he was in fact the real obedient one.
In other words, if we only sing and say God's words, but do not follow God's will, no matter how righteous you feel, it's nothing to God. On the other hand, even though prostitutes are less righteous than you and I, but they listen to the gospels of Jesus, repent, and thus are more righteous to God. May God help us being obedient not only in words, but in our lives as well. If we are disobedient, God cannot use us as His vessels. We have to totally sacrifice ourselves on the altar of God, allowing Him to use us.
There is too much formalism in the church. What God really values are not our words, but our hearts and deeds. Do we really follow God's words in our daily lives? If we do not, may God shine upon us, forgive our disbelief, so that we can turn to Him once again. Prostitutes and tax collectors, are the ones despised by this world. They are sinner in our eyes. Because they are obedient, turning back to God, the Lord call them righteous. May God have mercy on us, not to be bound by outward appearance and formalism, but simply follow Him obediently every day.
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, we thank you. May you help us be the elder son, not the second son, in our daily lives. May we happily follow your words so that Your will can be fulfilled through us. Prayer and thanks in the glorious name of Jesus, amen!