Chapter 28: Levi-Matthew

March 4, 2007

I like challenging passages; ones that I am tempted to dodge, dismiss, or rationalize. Passages like this keep me honest, which I value.

“So every soul is tested as to whether the desire for temporal good or for fellowship with Christ is strongest.”  DA278.

Temporal good. Not temporal immorality or greed or self-exalting status. Even good things can pulls stronger than Christ due to our shortsighted nature. And this happens all the time with Christians; we desire Christ because of His blessings, and what is wrong with that? I’m struck by how much of my church and my prayer is about receiving blessings from God–be it forgiveness, peace, faith, freedom from condemnation, fulfilling relationships, financial security, or purposeful life. We need to know that these things are given, and we are attracted to Christ because of what He can do for us, but our feeling good is not God’s highest priority. He longs that our desires are always in the right order. Remaining in contact with Jesus requires that our previous desires are completely replaced by divine desires. “How can this be?” (Nicodemus). But Jesus did it with Matthew, and I have to believe that the same change is being effected in me–even if I’m slow on the uptake.

How did it happen for Matthew? What can we learn from him to be set up for the same change? I think one of the keys is here:

“He was accustomed to the exclusiveness of the rabbis and had no thought that this Great Teacher would notice him.” DA277

Matthew had thought one way about God’s system, and Christ shattered his thinking. We need the same shattering of our own thoughts that Christ effected in Matthew. It may not be at the same point–we tend to think we are more deserving of Christ’s attention than Matthew was–but on every point, spiritual life runs on a different system then every worldly realty. We believe in rewards and consequences, individuality, that every question has answers. These things can’t be reconciled with spiritual truth.

This is the meaning of Jesus’ metaphor of the new cloth sewn on old garments. It was not God’s purpose that John the Baptist modify his teaching to fit teachings of the Jews. Such was the misunderstanding of John’s disciples.  Neither had Jesus come to clean up Jewish teaching. The lesson extends to us: Jesus has not come to fix our natures. All that matters is a new creation. (Realize that death is required–this is serious transformation). Shriveled hearts must be remade, not remodeled. Again, by man’s system we would try to make a better Christian. But all that counts is a changed Christian.

“Their hearts had become contracted, like the dried-up wine skins to which He had compared them. While they remained satisfied with a legal religion, it was impossible for them to become the depositories of the living truth of heaven.” 

Are you a depository of the living truth of heaven? I want to be, but I realize self dies hard. I have asked it that it be put to death, and I believe God is taking me there. I also see that the extent of my change strongly correlates to intentional Scripture study. How else might God change our thinking if we have limited contact with His thinking?

God bless your relationship with Jesus this week.

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One Response to “Chapter 28: Levi-Matthew”

  1. Carla said

    I too was struck my the line “So every soul is tested as to whether the desire for temporal good for for fellowship with Christ is strongest.” DA 273

    It is a test that God has really been putting to me the last month or so. I have had to make decisions that required self to die and I feel that these decisions will continue.

    As I read the last paragraph of this chapter, I was reminded just how important lack of self is to God. “Man must be emptied of self before he can be, in the fullest sense, a believer in Jesus.” DA 280 As you noted, Bible reading, intentional reading, is really necessary as I empty myself of self and fill myself up with God.

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