John 11:23-44 — The one who calls forth the dead

Yes, we will eventually finish this chapter.  But not today.  It’s a passage that is so totally rich in truth.

When Jesus told Martha that her brother would rise again, she said,

I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.  (24)

But Jesus answered,

I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;  and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. (25-26)

In other words, “The resurrection is not simply a time in the future when the dead will be raised.  I am the resurrection.  I am the one that raises the dead and gives them life.  And if you believe in me, you will never truly die.”

Jesus proved that moments later by raising Lazarus from the dead.  And just as he called Lazarus out from the grave, so will he call all who have put their faith in him.

The apostle Paul tells us,

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  (I Thessalonians 4:16)

And again,

Listen, I tell you a mystery:  We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed– in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.  (I Corinthians 15:51-53)

Lazarus was only raised temporarily.  He would die again.  But when Jesus raises us, we will be raised in an immortal and incorruptible body.

How about you?  Do you know what will happen after you die?  Do you know that you have eternal life?  Jesus is the resurrection and the life.  If you believe in him, you will never truly know death.  Only a new beginning.

Jesus asks you the same question he asks Martha.  “Do you believe this?”

May you answer as she did,

I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God. (27)

Posted in Gospels, John, New Testament | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

John 11:17-44 — Uncovering our pain before Jesus

So often in our lives, we go through pain and hurt, but instead of dealing with it, we bury it.  We try to ignore the pain.  Or we cover it over with other things, busyness, food, pleasure, or whatever else we can find.  But the pain becomes like a rot in our souls, eating away at us from the inside out.

What can we do?

Mary and Martha had to go through that.  Their brother had died.  Worse, they knew that if Jesus had only come sooner, Lazarus wouldn’t have died.  But for reasons they couldn’t understand, Jesus delayed his coming.  And so they went through feelings of pain at the loss of their brother, and perhaps feelings of betrayal by Jesus.

And both said the same thing when they finally came face to face with him.  “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, it is possible that when Martha said this, she meant it not in an accusing manner, but as a way of saying, “I still believe in you.  I’m not turning my back on you.”

With Mary, however, I don’t think there can be any doubt that she said it with lots of pain and hurt in her voice.  And when Jesus saw this, John tells us,

He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.  (33)

Why?  Part of it may have been the empathy he felt for Mary.  But another part of him may have also been hurt by her lack of faith in him.  We see the same response in verse 38 when other people started to question his failure to come in time to help Lazarus.

So he went to the place where Lazarus was buried, and he told Martha,

Take away the stone (39a)

Martha’s response was very understandable.

But, Lord…by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.  (39)

But Jesus replied,

Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?  (40)

Martha was reluctant.  There seemed no point in rolling away the stone.  Lazarus was dead and gone.  But she obeyed, and Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

What can we learn from this?

What hurts or pains have you buried in your heart?  What bitterness do you hold to in your heart because of it?  Bitterness toward others?  Bitterness even toward God?

Jesus says, remove the stone.  Uncover the pain and bitterness in your heart.  It’s rotting there.  So uncover it.  And if you will just believe in Jesus, you will see the glory of God in your life.

The question is:  “Will you?”

Posted in Gospels, John, New Testament | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Luke 11:7-10 — Walking by the light

When Jesus made the decision to go back to Judea to see Lazarus, his disciples objected, saying,

But Rabbi…a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?  (8)

Jesus’ answer is very striking.

Are there not twelve hours of daylight?  A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light.  It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.  (9-10)

What is Jesus saying here?  As long as he followed his Father’s will, he would be fine.  As long as he trusted his Father’s leading, he would not stumble.  It’s the person who fails to do either that falls into trouble.

It’s the same with us.  We talked yesterday about how Jesus wants more than anything for us to trust him.  And when we choose to believe him and follow him, we’ll see things as they really are.  We’ll see his love for us clearly despite our circumstances.  We’ll see our trials for the temporary things that they are.

But when we walk apart from he who is the Light of the world, we find ourselves stumbling around in discouragement and despair because of all the trials and hurts that we go through.

How about you?  How clearly are you seeing?

Posted in Gospels, John, New Testament | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Luke 11:1-45 — That we might believe

This is one of the most famous miracles Jesus performed, and I’ve spoken on it at church more than once.  But as I read it through this time, these words strike me:

So that you may believe.   (15)

We see this theme again and again throughout the passage, and it was the whole purpose for everything that Jesus did in it.

Later he challenged Martha,

Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?  (40)

Again, when he prayed at Lazarus’ tomb, he said to his Father,

I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.  (42)

And at Lazarus’ resurrection, John tells us,

Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.  (45)

If there is one thing that Jesus wants us to learn, it’s to trust him.  And all that we go through in life, with all the the struggles and pain we endure, is directed toward that end.

Sometimes we ask God, “I love you.  Why is this happening to me?  Do you really love me?”

That’s what I see in the first part of this passage.  It talks about Mary’s great love for Jesus.  That she was the one who would later pour perfume on him and wipe his feet with her hair.  And because she loved Jesus and thought he loved her, she immediately called for Jesus when her brother Lazarus got sick.  She had no doubt that he would come.

And indeed, it said, Jesus loved her, her sister Martha, and Lazarus.  So…he stayed where he was another two days.  The NIV says, “but he stayed.”  But it is probably more accurately translated, “So he stayed,” and most literal translations (KJV, NASB, ESV among others) do translate it that way.

Why did he stay?  Because he wanted all those involved to learn to trust him.   By waiting and letting Lazarus die, everyone’s faith was taken to a higher level when Jesus raised him from the dead.

Sometimes we wonder why God remains silent.  Why our prayers seem to go unanswered.  Mary and Martha probably felt that way.

“Why isn’t Jesus coming?”

Yet Jesus wanted to challenge them to trust him even more than they already did.

I look at Martha’s words.  I’ve always thought that her words were a bit bitter that Jesus had waited.  Now I’m not so sure.  Could it not be that her words were of pure faith?  That she was saying, “Jesus, I know that you could have healed my brother had you been here sooner.  But I still trust in you.  Even now, I believe God is with you and will do anything you ask.”  (21-22)

Was she saying that she believed Jesus would raise Lazarus?  No.  Her later words (verse 39) prove otherwise.  But I think she was saying, “Even though you didn’t do what I had hoped this time, I will still come to you with my needs in the future.  I haven’t lost faith in you, Jesus.”

But Jesus challenged her, basically saying, “Have you already given up on this situation?  Don’t.  Your brother will rise again.  I am the giver of life, and have power to give it to anyone I please.  He who believes in me, though he may die, will live.  And whoever believes in me will never truly die.  Do you believe this?”  (23-26)

Martha answered yes, but I don’t think she had a clue as to what Jesus meant.  Even so, she said, “I believe in you.  I believe you are God’s Son.”  (27)

What do we call that kind of faith?  The faith of a child.  We will not always understand Jesus’ words.  We may not always understand his actions (or lack of them).  But will we still say, in the face of our confusion, in the face of our disappointments, “I still believe in you?”

Martha had to come to grips with that question at Lazarus’ grave.  “Do I trust Jesus enough, despite all that happened, to do what he asks.”  But when she did, when she decided to put her trust in him, she saw God’s glory.

And so will we.  The same question Jesus asked Martha, he asks us.

Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?  (40)

How will you respond?

Posted in Gospels, John, New Testament | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Luke 17:7-10 — Our attitude in service

We all like a pat on the back.  A “Well done” after we do something.  But is that why we serve?  For the praise of others?  For the praise of God even?

Do we feel underappreciated when it doesn’t come?  Or even upset?

Jesus gives a very interesting illustration here.  He says,

Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep.  Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’?  Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’?  Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do?  So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’  (7-10)

What is Jesus saying here?  That God does not appreciate our efforts?  That he won’t reward the work we’ve done?  No.  From other passages we do see that he appreciates and rewards the work we do.

But I think there are a couple things to remember here.

First, as long as we are on this earth, there is always work to be done.  There is no room to be resting on our laurels.  There’s even less room to be looking for those laurels.  Rather, we are to continue doing the things that God has called us to do.

Second, no matter what work we’re doing, no matter our position in the kingdom, we serve solely because of the grace of God.  We are unworthy to receive anything from God.  Certainly, we’ve done nothing to earn our salvation.  But that God would use us despite our faults, our weaknesses, and our failures, can also only be seen as God’s grace.  More, God gave us the gifts and talents that allow us to serve.  He gave us the strength and the wisdom.  And if we’ve received all these things, do we really have any room for pride?  As Paul wrote,

For who makes you different from anyone else?  What do you have that you did not receive?  And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?  (I Corinthians 4:7)

So as long as we live, let us continue to do the things that God has called us to do.  Humbly.  Faithfully.  And remembering that we do so solely because of his grace towards us.

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Luke 17:3-6 — Forgiveness

As I was reading this passage, something new struck me as I was reading the ESV.

Jesus is, of course, talking about forgiveness here.  He said,

If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.  (3 — NIV)

This is a key point about forgiveness.  There is no room for seething, or holding in your anger for long stretches of time when someone hurts you.  Jesus tells us to confront them about it.  Now you may want to hold off a bit before you talk to them if you need to calm down, but to just let your anger build is definitely not a good thing.  And Jesus says that if they apologize, forgive them.

Jesus then takes it further.  The ESV puts it this way,

And if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him. (4)

In the King James Version, it says,

Thou shalt forgive him.

In short, this is not just a simple suggestion to forgive.  It’s a command.  Jesus isn’t saying, “If he apologizes, you might want to consider forgiving him.”

He’s saying, “Forgive!”

The disciples’ response?

Increase our faith!  (5)

I think a lot of us feel this way.  “Lord, my hurt is so deeply rooted, I don’t know if I can forgive.  Increase my faith so that I can forgive.”

Jesus answered,

If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.  (6)

Jesus is saying here, it doesn’t matter how deeply rooted your hurt may be, it can get rooted out.  And you don’t require a whole lot of faith either.  What matters is not how much faith you have, but who you have your faith in.  Jesus is the great healer, and no matter what hurt you may have, he can bring healing.

The question then is not a matter of the amount of willpower you have to change yourself.  None of the commandments God gives us is.  None of us have the power to change ourselves and make ourselves perfect.  But Jesus can.  So don’t turn to yourself and try to will yourself to forgive.  Turn to Jesus and ask for his healing and his help.  And by putting your faith in him, you will see miracles happen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Luke 17:1-3 — Causing others to fall

Just a quick note:  I’m currently on vacation back home in Hawaii.  So, I may or may not be blogging every day as usual.  We’ll see how things fall out.

Speaking of falling, Jesus says here,

Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come.  It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.  (1-2)    

Those words are heavy enough.  Jesus then lends even heavier weight to them, saying,

So watch yourselves.  (3)

I don’t know about you, but those words give me pause.  I have a 5 year old daughter who certainly qualifies as a “little one.”  What kind of father am I to her?  I do my best, but I’m far from a perfect father.  Yet she is watching me.  Am I being a good example to her?  Or am I doing things that would cause her to fall.

As I think of that, I can only say, “God have mercy on me, a sinner.”

But what of the other people in my life?  My wife?  My coworkers.  The people at church, especially the younger Christians, but all that I come into contact with.  Do I cause any to fall because of my actions?  Because of my attitudes?

How about you?  What kind of person are you to those around you?  Do you help them to come closer to Christ?  Or do you cause them to stumble into sin?

Lord God, you know my heart.  You know my failures.  You know the people I’ve caused to fall, intentionally or not.  Lord, forgive me.  Change me.  Reshape my heart.  My attitude.  My actions.  Let people draw nearer to you because of me.  Let them not fall because of me.  In Jesus name, amen.

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Luke 16:19-31 — The reality of hell

Hell.  It is not the most pleasant of topics.  And yet Jesus taught on it.  And in this passage he makes it very clear that it exists, and what’s more, describes what it is like.

First, it’s place of torment.  You see this idea all throughout the passage from beginning to end.  More, it’s a place of conscious torment.  There’s no idea in this passage that people’s consciousness is wiped out upon entry to hell.  Rather, people are conscious of their situation and just how awful it is.

Second, there is a chasm that cannot be crossed between the righteous and the unrighteous.  Once you are in hell, there is no way out.  There can be no repentance at that point.

Third, it’s so awful that no one wants to be there, nor do they want their loved ones there.  Sometimes, in Japan, people don’t want to become Christians because if they do, they have to face the reality that their grandparents or parents that have already passed away are in hell.  But listen to the rich man’s plea.

Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers.  Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.  (27-28)

Abraham told them this was impossible.  That even if he allowed it, his brothers had already rejected God’s word to them, and they still wouldn’t believe even if someone came from the dead to warn them.

Ironically, another man named Lazarus did rise from the dead as a testimony to the people that Jesus was truly the Son of God.  But Jesus’ enemies rejected him anyway, and plotted to kill not only Jesus, but Lazarus as well.

But the point is, this man did not want his family to join him there.  And I don’t think anyone wants their loved ones to join them in hell either.  So if you or your friends are refusing God’s salvation because your loved ones are in hell, remember this man’s words.  They don’t want you to join them.

How can we avoid hell?  Only by putting our faith in Jesus.  By believing that he died on the cross for our sins and that he rose again.  By making him your Lord and Savior.

Some people say, “How can a loving God send people to hell?”

What they don’t understand is life without God is hell.  Without the Source of life, love, joy, and peace, how can you call that situation anything but hell?

God doesn’t send people to hell so much as people choose to go there.  They choose to turn their backs on the Source of all that makes life worth living.  And when they do, when they cut themselves off from Him, what do they have left?  Only despair.  And that is hell.

How about you?  Will you turn to the Source of life?  Or will you turn your back on Him?  It’s your choice.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Luke 16:19-31 — When we fail to prepare

This is one of the most graphic depictions of the afterlife, probably because it’s the most personal.  In particular, it is a graphic picture of what hell will be like.

Many people think that this was an actual incident, the reason being that this is the only story Jesus tells which names a person.

Whether it is a true story or not, I don’t know, but it is a clear warning to those who fail to prepare for eternity.  It is, in fact, the bookend to this chapter, which starts with a story of a person who did prepare for his future albeit through shady means.

Jesus starts the story by talking about a rich man who lived in luxury.  He had no needs or wants unfulfilled, and therefore never gave a thought to his future.  Nor did he give a thought to the people around him.  There was a man named Lazarus that he passed by day by day.  Lazarus was a beggar, and my guess is that it was through no fault of his own.  But through illness or perhaps some other problem beyond his control, he was reduced to begging for a living.  Lazarus longed just for the crumbs from this rich man’s table, but the rich man never gave him a moment’s notice.  And so they lived.

When their time came, Lazarus was escorted to Abraham’s side where he was comforted, but the rich man descended to hell where he was in torment.  And when he cried out for relief, Abraham responded,

Childremember that during your life you received your good  things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. (25)

What was Abraham saying?  This man had spent his whole life enjoying his life on earth.  He accumulated wealth, he enjoyed pleasure, and generally did whatever he pleased.  But he did not prepare for eternity.  Lazarus, on the other hand, though he had nothing on this earth, indeed, though he suffered greatly while on earth, nevertheless prepared himself for eternity.  And so when the time came, Lazarus received comfort, while the rich man suffered in agony.

The problem with the rich man was not his riches.  The problem was that he had not prepared for eternity.  He had not, as Jesus put it, used the wealth he had been given in such a way that he would be welcomed into eternal dwellings with God.  (Luke 16:9)

Let us not be foolish as this man was.  Let us remember that this life is but a breath, and that we need to prepare for eternity.  For if we don’t, we will suffer his fate.

How about you.  Are you prepared for eternity?

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Luke 16:15-18 — Justifying ourselves

One major problem of the Pharisees was that they were so self-righteous.  They were so proud of keeping every little rule there was that they couldn’t see the sin that was so obviously there in their lives.  And when their sin was pointed out, they found ways to justify themselves and their actions.

So Jesus told them,

You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts.  What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.  (15)

In this case, Jesus was condemning them for their love of money.  The Pharisees, as I mentioned in the last blog, justified this love by saying, “But this is God’s blessing for my being so righteous.”

Yet in their hearts, money had become their idol.  They loved it more than God.  The only thing they perhaps loved more than money was the praise of those around them.  So when they “generously” gave to the needy around them, they made sure to let everyone know about it.

But though these things may be highly valued by people, Jesus said they are detestable in God’s sight.  Money and the praise of others are not bad in themselves, of course.  But when they become the purpose for our lives, when they become our gods, then they become a stumbling block in our relationship with God.

The Pharisees found other ways to justify their actions.  They placed burdens on the people with all their rules and regulations that they added to the law of God, all the while finding loopholes for themselves, and patting themselves on the back for finding them.

Jesus pointed out one example in their ideas on adultery.  Certain Pharisees, in order to get around the law against adultery, divorced their wives in order to marry other women.  But Jesus told them,

Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.  (18)

The worst thing they did, however, was disassociating themselves from “sinners” instead of reaching out to them.  They used the law as an excuse to condemn people instead of trying to save them, and in doing so, they shut the door to the kingdom in people’s faces.  (Matthew 23:13)

Even so, Jesus said people were forcing their way past the Pharisees into the kingdom of God.  The very people that the Pharisees rejected were being touched by Jesus and were pressing their way past the Pharisees and their legalistic rules into the kingdom.  (Luke 16:16)

How about you?  What’s in your heart?  Are you outwardly righteous, when all the while you’re justifying the evil in your heart?

Are you so self-righteous that you can’t see the evil in your heart?

Let us not be blind as the Pharisees were.  Rather, let us ask Jesus to remove the scales that blind us to the sin in our lives, and to tear down the walls of pride that would keep us from him.

 

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Luke 16:13-15 — Who or what we serve

The god of Money is very big in our society.  Many people long for it.  They work for it.  They even give their lives for it.  But Jesus tells us here,

No servant can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and Money.  (13)

I’ve mentioned before, this one is tough for me, especially when it comes to giving.  And the question I have to ask myself is, “Who or what am I serving?”

Am I serving money?  Trying to do all I can to earn and then hold on to my money?  Or is money simply a tool I’m using in order to serve God?  Does God have access to my wallet anywhere and at any time?

If he doesn’t, I’m not serving God.  I’m serving money.  And that’s idolatry.

That was the problem of the Pharisees.  And when they heard Jesus, they sneered at him.  In those days, having wealth was a sign of their goodness.  The feeling was, “God only blesses the righteous.  Since I have all this money, I must be righteous.”

On the other hand, this caused the Pharisees to look down on every one else who was not wealthy, including Jesus.  So not only did they commit the sin of idolatry, but the sin of pride was also deeply embedded in their hearts.

How about you?  Are you proud of what you have?  Are you making what you have your god?  Is your service to this god, keeping you from being generous and touching the lives of those around you for the sake of God’s kingdom?

Who or what are you serving?

 

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Luke 16:10-12 — Being faithful

While Jesus praised the dishonest manager in his story for at least planning for his future, he also criticized him, saying,

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. (10)

Jesus is saying here, “Be careful who you trust.  Don’t hand over large responsibilities to just anyone.  Watch them.  Give them smaller responsibilities to start with and see how they respond.  If they are faithful, give them larger ones.  But if they are not, then you know that they cannot be trusted.”

But lest we stop at judging other people, Jesus goes on to say,

So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?  And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?  (11-12)

God has given us resources here on earth, money among other things.  Are you being faithful with it?  Do you keep in mind that this money is not really your own?  Rather it belongs to God who has blessed you with the talents and strength to work and earn money?  You don’t truly own the money you have.  You are simply managing it.

And if you are not faithful with your money, what makes you think that God will give you responsibilities in other areas, particularly in ministry?  Not just formal ministry, like being a pastor, although I mean that too.  But ministering to the people around you at home, at work, at school or wherever you may be.  As members of his kingdom, we are all called to do what we can to touch people with the love of God.  And when we do, this has eternal rewards.

But can God trust you to do these things, if you are not faithful with the temporal things he has given you?

How faithful are you with the things God has given you?  Can God trust you?

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Luke 16:1-9 — Securing our future

Everyone desires security for their future.  But how many of us really plan for it?  Not just in terms of life here on earth, but in terms of eternity?

This story Jesus tells is a very unusual one, because he uses an evil man to illustrate a point on how we should live.

This man had apparently been embezzling money from his employer, and his employer called him to account for it.  As a result, the man was going to lose his job.  He got his “30 days notice” and during that time, he fretted about what he could do to secure his future.  He didn’t want to do hard manual labor, nobody was going to hire him for white collar work after being fired for embezzlement, and he didn’t want to beg.

So he made a plan.  He lowered the debt of those who owed his employer money so that when he was fired, they would welcome him into their homes and take care of him.

The weird thing?  His employer commended him for looking out for his own future.  (After which he undoubtedly said, “Now, get lost!”)

Jesus then said,

For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.  (8)

In other words, non-Christians are often very shrewd in how they use their money and position to deal with people and so secure their future.  How much more as Christians, should we use the money and positions we have to secure ours?  Again, I’m not simply speaking in terms of life here on earth, but in terms of eternity.

This man used his position to gain friends that would welcome him when he entered the next stage of his life.  In the same way, Jesus said,

I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.  (9)

What is Jesus saying here?  Use the resources God has given you to win people into His Kingdom.  For if you do, when you reach heaven, and all the money you earned is but dust on this earth, all the people you reached with the gospel will welcome you there.  More than that, Jesus himself will welcome you, and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

But if you use your money solely to indulge yourself, no one will be there to meet you when you reach heaven.  And when Jesus comes to meet you, he will call you to account for all you’ve done.  What will be left of all you accomplished on earth when he does?  As Paul said,

If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.  It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.  If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.  (I Corinthians 3:12-15)

How about you?  What kind of life are you securing for yourself?

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Luke 15:11-24 — The extravagance of God’s grace

This is perhaps the most famous of Jesus’ parables in the Gospels.  Yet it must have been utterly shocking to the Pharisees.

For here in this story was just the type of person they despised.  Here was a young man, who turned his back on his father, and basically said to his face, “I wish you were dead.”  (For only after a father died did his sons usually receive their inheritance).

He then went off squandering all his money on wild living.  He was greedy, self-indulgent, and perverse in every way.

And then a famine hit, and the young man was left, poor, desolate, and friendless.  Nobody would lift a finger to help him, and he was left trying to scrape by with the worst of jobs, taking care of pigs (an unclean animal by God’s law).  Things were so bad, that he wanted to eat what the pigs ate.

That’s the deception of sin.  It brings you pleasure for the moment, but in the end brings death.

Finally, the young man came to his senses, and he realized, “Even my father’s servants live better than this.  There’s no possible way that he could ever accept me as a son.  I’ve burned too many bridges.  But if he’ll just accept me as a servant…”

And so he trudged home.

All along the way, he rehearsed in his heart what he would say to his dad.

Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.  (18-19)

Perhaps as the Pharisees heard this, they had one of two thoughts.

One might have been, “Well, if he grovels enough, maybe, just maybe the father would be kind enough to accept him as a servant, but I kind of doubt it.”

The other might have been, “No way!  After all he did?  There could never be forgiveness for that!”

They must have been shocked to hear what Jesus said next.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.  (20)

To a Jew in those days, it was considered undignifying for a man his age to go running pell-mell for any reason.  To hear that a father would abase himself for such a wretched son was unthinkable.  But that is exactly what happened.  And when he reached his son, he threw his arms around him and kissed him.  His son was dirty, his clothes were probably ragged, he probably smelled, and yet this father ignored all this in showing his love for his son.

And when his son tried to give his rehearsed speech, his father would even listen to it.  Instead, he cried out,

Quick!  Bring the best robe and put it on him.  Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it.  Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.  (22-24)

Such is the extravagance of the grace and love of God.

The Pharisees never conceived of a God like this.  And so as they looked upon the “sinners” around them they despised them.

But Jesus let them know that God longs for the sinners to return to him.  And when they do, he doesn’t despise them.  Rather, he embraces them and celebrates.

How do you view God?  As a stern Father?  As a critical God that is always lecturing?  That will only forgive if we grovel?

That’s not the God Jesus taught.  So as we look at the lost around us, let us take on the character of our Father, not the Pharisees.

And if you yourself are lost, and wondering if God could possibly accept you after all you’ve done, remember that he can and he will.  Remember that his love and grace toward you is extravagant, and he’ll freely give them to you if you’ll only turn to him.

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Luke 15:1-10 — Seeking the lost? Condemning the lost?

In this passage, we see the one big difference between Jesus and the Pharisees.  And it is unfortunately one of the big differences between God and a lot of people that call themselves Christians today.  The Pharisees condemned those who were lost.  Jesus sought to save them.

Jesus had just spent some time with the Pharisees, and now he went back to the people he usually hung out with, the “sinners.”

And because of that, the Pharisees condemned Jesus saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  (2)

The Pharisees were a people that did everything they could to keep from being “contaminated” by sinners.  They would never entertain a “sinner” at their home, and they would never dream of even visiting a “sinner’s” house.  To the extent it was possible, they would avoid having any business dealings with them, and it was their ideal to avoid them entirely.

No wonder then that they were shocked at how openly Jesus welcomed the sinner.  And so Jesus told them three parables, two of which we’ll look at today.  One was of a lost sheep, and how it was so valuable that the shepherd went out to seek it.  And when he found it, Jesus said,

He calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’  (6)

Jesus then told the Pharisees,

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.  (7)

Imagine for a moment if the Pharisee had been the shepherd.  What would he have done?  He would have condemned the sheep.  “How stupid could that sheep be straying off like that.  Well let him get what he deserves.  He deserves to die.”

But Jesus never thought that way.  Rather, he sought to save the sheep, even to the point of giving his life for them.

This way of thinking was totally foreign to the Pharisees.  But it shouldn’t have been.  Had they read the prophets, they would have seen that is exactly the way God is.  It was, in fact, the whole point of the book of Hosea.

Jesus then told a story about a woman who had lost a coin.  Most likely, this was part of a head-dress worn by married women.  It was made up of 10 silver coins, and was somewhat like our wedding ring today.  If you can imagine a woman losing her wedding ring, that’s the kind of feeling this woman had.  And so she searched every corner of the house until she found it.  In the same way, God searches throughout every corner of creation for those who are lost in their sin.  And Jesus said when God finds them, “there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God.”  (10)

That’s God’s attitude.  But how about you?  When you see the “sinner,” do you simply condemn them?  Or do you go out of your way to try to save them?

Let us not be like the Pharisees that condemned, but like our Savior who saved us.

Posted in Luke, New Testament, Old Testament | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Luke 14:25-35 — Counting the cost

As the large crowds followed Jesus, I wonder if Jesus was searching their hearts as to why they were following him?

Were they following him because of the miracles?  Because of his great teachings?  Or was it truly because they believed he was the Messiah and wanted to follow him?

And so he issued a very strong challenge, saying,

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.  And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.  (26-27)

 In other words, “Are you really wanting to be my disciple.  To be my disciple is costly.  It may cost you your family and even your very life.”

Jesus never promised that life would be easy if we followed him.  In fact, he promised exactly the opposite.  Carrying a cross wasn’t pleasant.  Neither the carrying of it, nor what happened when you finally put it down.  But Jesus said that unless you carry that cross, unless you are willing to suffer whatever trials you may go through because you’re following him, you cannot be his disciple.

Easy words?  No way.

He then challenged us to count the cost of following him.  We are to count the cost in two ways.  First, the cost of following him.  And he compared it to a person building a tower.  If a person doesn’t count the cost beforehand, and cannot complete the tower, everyone will ridicule him.  In the same way, anyone who starts following Jesus and then gives up because it’s too hard will be put to shame.

But there’s another cost to count.  The cost of not following him.  Jesus said,

Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king.  Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?  If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.  (31-32)

The truth of the matter is, we are either at peace with God or at war with him.  You may not think you’re at war with God, but if you choose to reject Jesus, that’s exactly what you are.  The Bible says that God sent his Son to reconcile us to himself.  But there’s no need for reconciliation where there is peace.

So Jesus tells us, “Think very carefully whether you can really afford to be at war with God.  When a king considers warring against another nation, they take into account if they can possibly win.  And if they can’t, they do all they can, as quickly as they can, to make peace.”

We need to do the same.  Although in our case, God has already sent out the peace offerings.  But it has to be on his terms, and that’s by accepting Jesus’ payment for your sins on the cross.  If you accept it, you will find life.  But if you reject it, and you die in that rejection, you will find out just how terrible the enmity between you and God is.

So make peace with God while you still can.  God has called us to be salt in this world.  To flavor our world with his love and his light.  Don’t be cast out as worthless because you chose to reject him instead.

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Luke 14:15-24 — Excuses

In warning the Pharisees not to just assume they will enter the kingdom, Jesus, as he often did, told a parable.

It was a story of how a man invited people to a great banquet.  In those days, they didn’t have watches, so while the day of the banquet was known, the time never was until someone came to your door saying, “The banquet is ready.  Please come.”

But when that day came, person after person declined to come.  And the excuses were all unacceptable.  One person said he couldn’t come because he had just bought a field and had to go see it (as if he had been stupid enough to buy a field without looking at it first).

Another said he had just bought some oxen and wanted to try them out.  In other words, “I have a new toy.  I don’t have time to come your banquet.”

A third said, “I just got married, so I can’t come.”  Certainly being recently married was a great thing, but no reason for not going to the banquet.  Perhaps he could have even invited his wife.

How often do people give these types of excuses when the Holy Spirit comes knocking on the door?

They say, “I’m too busy right now.  I’ve got other things that are demanding my attention.”

Or they get distracted by the things of this world, their money and possessions, and they say, “I want to enjoy all these things first.  Maybe some other time.”

Or they let family get in the way.  “What will my wife say if I become a Christian?  What will my parents say?  It’ll cause too much disruption in my relationships with them if I become a Christian now.”

But none of these are acceptable excuses.  And the danger is, while other invitations may come, the invitation that you’ve got here and now may very well be your last.  You don’t know how long you will be here on earth.  You could be in an accident and die tomorrow.  So don’t make excuses.  Choose to accept it now.  For as the apostle Paul wrote,

 I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.  (2 Corinthians 6:2)

 

 

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Leave a comment

Luke 14:15-24 — When we reject Jesus

After Jesus mentioned how God would reward the generous in the resurrection of the righteous, one of the guests at the dinner said,

Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.  (15)

This man was referring to the great banquet that will be held someday when the Messiah comes into his kingdom.  And as he said this, I’m sure every man at that table said, “Amen,” fully expecting to be at that table when God’s kingdom came.

The ironic thing?  They were having dinner with the Messiah right at that very moment and didn’t recognize him.  More than that, they rejected him as Messiah and eventually had him crucified.

As a result, they would be locked out of the kingdom, while all those they looked down upon, the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind, the very people they locked out of their own feasts, would be allowed into the kingdom.  More than that, those sinners they despised and the Gentiles they thought unworthy of the kingdom would all find a place in the kingdom, while they would be left out.

So many people want to go to heaven, but like these Pharisees, want no part of Jesus.  Instead they rely on their own concept of righteousness to get them into heaven, while looking down on all those that fail to meet that standard.  And like these Pharisees, when their time comes, they will find the gates of heaven closed to them, while those they despised will enter.

How about you?  Are you trying to get into heaven, even expecting to go to heaven, when all the while, you’re rejecting the one who is the only way into heaven?  Only those who put their faith in Jesus and his work on the cross will enter.  So put aside your pride and come to Jesus.  For as he himself said,

I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.  (John 14:6)

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Luke 14:12-14 — Giving

As Jesus looked around the room, I wonder what kind of people he saw?  A lot of people were invited to this dinner, and I would guess that he was the only one who was not considered at least moderately well off.

And so he said,

When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.  But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.  Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.  (12-14)

Two things strike me here.  Although this “prominent” pharisee undoubtedly gave alms to the poor, I strongly doubt he ever invited any of these poor to his dinners.  At another guess, I doubt if the thought of entertaining the poor to a dinner at his house had ever even crossed his mind.

Why not?  Probably because he was more interested in gaining the admiration of his friends and the people around him for his house and the food he served.  He was more interested in hanging out with his friends and furthering his reputation among them than reaching out to the hurting around him.

Many times, we give tithes to the church, but use the rest of our money solely for ourselves.  We think that now we’ve given our tithes to the church, our “duty” to God is discharged in terms of money.  But God calls us to be givers.  Not just inside of church, but outside the church.  And if you can give to help someone you know in need, God will bless you.

The second thing that strikes me is our attitude in giving.  Are we giving expecting to be given back?  Or do we give freely of what God has given us, expecting nothing in return?  Jesus makes it clear here that it is the latter that God blesses.

I have to admit, I struggle with giving.  I’m not a natural giver.  But if we are to be like Jesus, we need to learn to give as he did:  sacrificially, expecting nothing in return, helping those who are hurting.

What kind of giver are you?

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Luke 14:7-12 — Humility

In this passage, we see a cultural issue that we don’t really see so often in Western culture, if at all.  Jesus noticed at the meal he was at, that people were jockeying for the best seat.  Generally, the person sitting to the right of the host was the most important, while the person to the left was the second most.  And the further away you were from the host, the less important you were.

So Jesus told them, “Don’t fight for the best seat.  If you do, the host may ask you to go down to a lower seat, and you’ll be humiliated.  Instead take the least important seat.  Then if the host deems you worthy of a higher position, you will be exalted in front of everyone.”

Like I said, we don’t really face that situation nowadays.  But so often, in the church, people look for the “higher positions.”  It may be as a teacher, or worship leader, or other high-profile position.

But don’t be so wrapped up in trying to attain these positions.  Be humble enough to serve in lower positions.  It may be setting up the room for worship service.  It may be greeting people at the door.  Be faithful in those things.  And at the proper time, when the Lord thinks you’re ready and deems you worthy of a higher position, he’ll give you that opportunity.

But if you’re always criticizing those around you, saying, “I’m better than him.  I’m better than her.  Why are they in that position and I’m not?” you will be cast down.

Jesus humbled himself in this way his entire time on earth.  He didn’t demand to be made king.  Nor did he demand to have the best of everything even though he was certainly worthy of such things.  Instead, he remained humble, taking the role of a servant all the way to the cross.

And now Paul says,

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (9-11)

So let us be like Jesus, remaining humble and serving where we can.  And in due time, God will lift us up.

 

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Luke 14:1-6 — Arguing people into belief

Jesus was not only a master teacher, he was a master debater.  We see it here, when once again he confronts the Pharisees with the “legality” of healing someone on the Sabbath.

The thing that strikes me here is the Pharisees’ response.  When Jesus questioned them about whether it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath, Luke tells us,

They remained silent. (4)

Jesus then healed the man, after which, he looked at them and asked,

If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?  (5)

Their response?

They had nothing to say.   (6)

Which just proves the old adage, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”   :)

But I think it proves something else.

After all their confrontations with Jesus, he had argued them into silence.  There was not one thing they could say to argue with him.  He had won the argument.  Does that mean they then changed their minds about the matter and about Jesus.  Not at all.  Rather, they continued to seek to kill him.

The point is that you cannot argue people into believing.  You can lay out all the logical arguments about why a person should believe in Jesus, or why the Bible is true, or why Christianity is true, and you might even win the argument.  As with Jesus, you might leave them completely without defense.  But there are some people who simply won’t believe, regardless the arguments, and regardless the proof.

I heard a story once about a debate that occurred on NBC radio between a Christian and some non-believers.  And the non-believer said, “The problem with you Christians is that you’re always quoting the Bible to prove the Bible.  That’s circular reasoning.  You can’t do that.”

The Christian replied, “Who told you it’s one book?  Actually it’s 66 different books, written by about 40 different authors, over a period of over 1000 years.  So if I use one author of the Bible to prove what another author said, this is not circular reasoning.  This is using independent sources to prove my point.”

The non-Christian said, “No…no…no.”

The Christian replied, “Are you saying no because you actually have proof to back up what you’re saying, or because you don’t believe it.”

The non-Christian said, “I don’t believe it!”

The non-Christian had no argument he could give against what the Christian had said.  He was left silent.  But I have no doubt that he went on to use that very same argument with the next Christian he met, hoping that the Christian didn’t have an answer for it.

Am I saying that we shouldn’t debate with unbelievers or answer their questions or challenges?  Absolutely not.  Peter wrote,

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  (I Peter 3:15)

There are some true seekers out there with legitimate questions.  And presented the answers, they may come to belief in Christ.  But let us never deceive ourselves into thinking we can argue people into the kingdom of God.

Only by the Holy Spirit will their hearts be opened.  So don’t just stop at giving answers to people’s questions.  Pray for them.  Because ultimately, it is the Spirit that will change people’s hearts and save their souls, not our arguments.

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Luke 13:33-35 — What God longs to do, what he won’t do, what he can’t do

This is one of the more poignant portions of scripture.  After dealing with the Pharisees, Jesus weeps,

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!  Look, your house is left to you desolate.  I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’

All throughout Israel’s history, they had rejected the Word of the Lord and the prophets that shared it.  And now, Jesus was saying that judgment was coming.  The temple would be destroyed yet again (which happened in 70 A.D.) and the Jews would be dispersed until the 20th century.  And only when Israel as a nation accepts Jesus as Lord will they see him again.

But what does this mean for us?  I think we see several things in this passage.  What God longs to do, what he won’t do, and what he can’t do.

What does God long to do?  He longs to draw us into a close and intimate relationship with us.  A loving relationship in which he cares for us as a hen cares for its chicks, and we find peace, satisfaction, and joy.

What will God not do?  He will not force us to accept him.  He told the Jews, I longed to draw close to you, but “you were not willing.”  God will not force himself upon us.  And if we choose to reject him, he will accept our decision.

What can’t God do?  He can’t give us a life of joy, satisfaction, and peace without him.  Not won’t.  Can’t.  Because we were designed for a relationship with him.  And as long as we are apart from him, there will always be a missing piece in our soul.  We can try to fill it up with many things, money, possessions, jobs, or relationships.  But none can fill the piece that a relationship with God can complete.  Instead, we will ultimately be left desolate.  Because that’s what life is without God.  Desolation.  Without love, because God is love.  Without peace, because God is peace.  Without joy, because God is joy.

And you will never truly have these things until the day you say in your heart, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

How about you?  Have you accepted Jesus as Savior in your life?  Or have you been spending your life trying to find love, joy, and peace without him.  That kind of life will leave you desolate.  You will only find true satisfaction in a relationship with him.  Won’t you accept him today?

Lord, I admit that I have turned my back on you.  I have been trying to live life without you, and it’s left me empty, desolate.  Forgive me.  I believe you died on the cross to take the punishment for my sin, and I believe he rose again.  I accept you as my Lord and Savior.  Now draw me close in a relationship with you.  In Jesus name, amen.

 

 

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Luke 13:31-33 — Refusing to give in to fear

It is very easy to tell other people not to be afraid, it’s another thing to live it.  Yet, that is exactly what Jesus did.

Some Pharisees came up to him saying,

Leave this place and go somewhere else.  Herod wants to kill you.  (31)

Were these Pharisees sincere about their concern for Jesus?  It’s possible.  Certainly at least one Pharisee, Nicodemus, seemed to be pro-Jesus.  There could have been others.

But I have my doubts.  Nothing that we see about Herod in his reactions to Jesus give us the impression that he had an interest in killing him.  When Herod first heard about Jesus, he thought it might be John the Baptist raised from the dead.  And it says in Luke 9 that he tried to see him.  See him…not kill him.

When Herod actually got the chance to see Jesus, it seems he was more interested in seeing Jesus perform magic tricks than anything else.  (Luke 23:8)  This is not to say Herod wasn’t a danger.  He was.  But it’s my guess is that these Pharisees were hoping to frighten Jesus away by exaggerating the current danger that Herod posed.

So Jesus replied,

Go tell that fox, ‘I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’  In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day–for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!   (32-33)

In short, “Buzz off.”

Why did Jesus call Herod a fox?  A fox was considered sly and dangerous.  But at the same time, it was symbol of a worthless and insignificant person.

Jesus took his own counsel to be as wise as a serpent.  To not simply ignore the dangers that were out there, but to be aware of them and to be cautious.  At the same time, however, he refused to give into the fear of people.  They could only destroy the body, not the soul.  On top of that, Jesus knew the time had not yet come for him to die.  So he determined to keep on doing his Father’s will.

We need to do the same.  People may oppose us when we choose to live for God.  Some of them are very cunning, and some are very dangerous.  We do need to watch out for them, because they can cause us great harm if we’re not careful.

So while we should be wary, let us not fear them.  Let us not fear rejection.  Let us not fear anything that they might do to us. Rather, let us keep pressing on, doing the things God has called us to do.

As the writer of Hebrews said,

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  (Hebrews 12:2-3)

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Leave a comment

Luke 13:22-30 — Before it’s too late

None of us like to think about hell.  And none of us like the idea that anyone is going to hell.  We’d like to think that everyone (or almost everyone) will go to heaven someday.

Perhaps that’s the feeling this person had when he came up to Jesus and asked,

Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?  (23)

Perhaps as he asked this, he was thinking, “Can’t it be easier?  Can’t we let more people into the kingdom of heaven?”

Let’s think about the context of the situation for a moment.  The person asking this was a Jew.  In asking this, I don’t think he had any thought in his mind that the Gentiles could be saved.

Rather, as a Jew, he was thinking about how tough it would be for him to be saved.  After all, if you looked at the “religious people” of the day, you had to be thinking of people like the Pharisees, people who studied the law, and tried to keep every rule both God-made and man-made.

And as he looked at the Pharisees and other religious folk, he must have been thinking, “This is impossible.  I can’t possibly live like the Pharisees.  And Jesus once said that our righteousness has to surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees!”

But Jesus doesn’t salve his worries.  Instead, he said,

Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.  (24)

In short, “Yes, only a few people will be saved.”

He then warns,

Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’  But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ (25)

In other words, we only have a limited time in which to enter the narrow door, that is, we only have our lifetime here on earth.  If we die before entering, it is too late.

What is the door?  Jesus answered that in the book of John.  He said,

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.  (John 10:9)

Only through a relationship with Jesus, by believing in his work on the cross, and putting our faith in him will we be saved.

Jesus warned the Jews,

There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.  People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.  Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.  (28-30)

Many Jews thought that just by being a Jew they would be saved.  Others thought by keeping the law they would be saved.  But Jesus warned that while others who would receive him as Savior would enter the kingdom, many Jews would be left outside because they rejected him.  They thought they would be first in the kingdom.  But they would be left out entirely.

Many people today feel the same way as the Jews.  They feel like because they were born in a Christian family, they are Christians.  Or by going to church and doing a lot of good things, that makes them a Christian.

But those things are not enough.  Jesus is the gate, and only by him can you be saved.

Won’t you enter before it’s too late?

 

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Luke 13:20-28 — The need to be watchful

I wrote on this passage when we came across it in Matthew (the same illustration is used twice, though probably on different occasions).

The more I look at it, however, I wonder if perhaps Jesus didn’t mean something else than what I first said.  Knowing Jesus and how he often uses multiple meanings for the same illustration (Matthew 5:23-26 and Luke 12:54-59 for example), perhaps he meant more than one thing.

But I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this possibility because it is a very important one.  Jesus said,

What shall I compare the kingdom of God to?  It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.  (20-21)

If there is one consistent picture throughout the Old Testament, it is the idea of yeast and impurity or sin.  One of the pictures of the Passover meal was the unleavened bread.  What happened to that bread?  It was broken and eaten, giving (physical) life to those who ate.

Why was it unleavened?  There was, of course, the practicality of the matter.  The Jews had to prepare to leave Egypt quickly, and so God told them to cook bread without yeast as it would bake faster.

But there is another very important reason.  Jesus called himself, “The bread of life.”  And later, at the Passover meal, Jesus took the bread and broke it, saying, “This is my body given for you.”  (Luke 22:19)

When Jesus died on the cross, he didn’t do so for any sin he had committed.  Like the Passover bread, he was completely free of impurity or sin.  But his body was broken for our sins.  He took our sins upon himself and took the punishment for our sins.  And now, if we eat of this living bread, in other words, if we believe in him and put our faith in his work on the cross, we will have eternal life.

But getting back to the point, yeast is always used as a picture of sin and impurity.  Yet here, Jesus uses the picture of yeast spreading throughout bread to illustrate the kingdom of God?

Why?  The answer is scary.  It is very possible for corruption to spread among God’s people.

You don’t believe me?  Just look at what’s happening in America today.  The Episcopal church started allowing gay marriages last year, and just this past week, the Presbyterian church allowed the same.

That’s just the moral side.

Throughout the centuries, we’ve seen corruption come into the church in terms of who Christ is.  You have people disclaiming the virgin birth, the resurrection of Christ, and his deity, all the while claiming to be Christians.

How can they do this?  By discrediting the very word of God.  And of course, by discrediting the Word of God, it becomes easy for moral corruption to creep into the church as well.

Jesus warned us about this.  He talked about Satan sowing weeds among the wheat.  Among the evil that Satan plants in the world is the false doctrine that he also spreads within the church itself.  (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43)

And Jesus warns in the latter part of this passage of people who claim to know Christ, but don’t.  So he tells us,

Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.  (24)

What is my point?  Be watchful.  Be careful of what your pastors are saying.  Be careful of the people you listen to on podcasts or on the radio.  Be careful of what you read.  If what you hear and read is consistent with God’s word, accept it and obey it.  If not, reject it.  If you’re not watchful, corruption can easily spread into your hearts and minds.

So as the apostle Paul wrote,

Test everything.  Hold on to the good.  (I Thessalonians 5:21)

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

John 10:22-42 — When seeing is not believing

A lot of times, people say, “I’ll believe in God if he appears to me and talks to me.”  There is a fatal flaw with this line of reasoning.  God did appear.  He did talk to us.  He walked among us.  He performed miracles.  He said words that left all his opponents speechless and without argument.  And people still didn’t believe in him.  The point?  If you are determined not to believe, you won’t believe whether God appears to you or not.  You’ll convince yourself you were dreaming or hallucinating or something else.  People don’t reject God because they can’t believe, but because they don’t want to believe.

That’s what you see in this passage.  The Jews came up to Jesus and said,

How long will you keep us in suspense?  If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.  (24)

Jesus replied,

I did tell you, but you do not believe.  The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me.  (25)

Jesus to this point had healed the sick, made lame people walk, blind people see, healed leprosy, and even raised the dead.  How people could see these things, especially in light of the prophesies they’d studied all their lives (Isaiah 53:4 and 61:1-2 among others), and not believe is inconceivable to me.  But they didn’t.

Jesus got even clearer with the Jews.  He said,

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.  (27-30)

Who can give eternal life?  Only God can.  Yet Jesus promised just that.  He went further than that, saying that he and the Father were one.  What did he mean by that?  The Jews understood.  He was saying that he was God himself in human flesh.  Their response was immediate.  They tried to kill him, saying,

We are not stoning you for any of these [good works you've done]…but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.  (33)

That they understood Jesus correctly is only enforced by what he said next.  He pointed to scripture at how God called a bunch of unjust judges “gods,” because of the position of authority they held over the people.  And Jesus basically said, “If God called these people ‘gods,’ how much more worthy am I of that title as his one and only Son.”

Fathers and sons always share the same nature, whether they be human, animals or whatever.  So if Jesus is God’s Son, what does that make Jesus?

He then again pointed to his life.  First, how he lived his life, doing all the things that God does, and then on top of that, again, the miracles he performed.  The Jews saw all these things.  They knew all these things.  And they still rejected him.  Why?

I don’t know.  Perhaps it was because all Jesus said and did went counter to what they thought he should be.  But instead of changing their way of thinking, they turned their backs on him.

People do the same today.  They encounter Jesus, but he is not at all what they expect or want him to be.  Or the things he says offends them because he confronts them with their sin and they don’t want to change.  So instead of changing, they reject Jesus.

How about you?  Are you hiding behind the excuse that you need to see God to believe in him?  Seeing isn’t always believing.  Chances are that if you are intent on disbelieving, you won’t believe.  At the very least, be honest about that.  Don’t deceive yourself on that point.  But my prayer is that you would go beyond being honest, and start softening your heart to Jesus.  Because only in doing so will you truly find life.

Posted in Gospels, John, New Testament | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Luke 13:10-17 — To set people free

Old ways of thinking die hard.  You’d think that by now, the Jewish leaders would start to understand that healing on the Sabbath was not wrong.  They had tried time and again to argue the point with Jesus, and time and again, they were left speechless by his responses.

But as I look at this passage, two words strike me.  They’re words that embody the reason for Jesus’ ministry here on earth.  The two words?

Set free.

When Jesus saw the woman, he said to her,

Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.  (12)

And when he was defending his actions to the synagogue ruler, he said,

Should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?  (16)

What can we learn from this?  Jesus is more interested in setting people free than us keeping a bunch of religious rules.

Here was a woman who had been bound by Satan for 18 years and living in total misery.  And yet, this ruler had had little sympathy for her during those years.  If he had, he probably would have responded with joy at her healing.  Instead, he scathingly rebuked Jesus for “breaking the rules.”

Jesus, on the other hand, had compassion on her from the moment he laid his eyes on her.  He saw how Satan had kept her in bondage all those years, and it was his deepest desire to set her free.  So he reached out to her, touched her, and she was healed.

How about you?  Are you so wrapped up in trying to keep religious rules, that you fail to see the people in bondage around you?  That you fail to have sympathy for them even if you do see them?  That you fail to reach out with God’s love and power that they might be set free?

You can keep all the rules, but if you have no compassion or mercy in your heart for those Satan has bound, if you are not doing what you can to help set them free, you’re just like that synagogue ruler.   And like that ruler, you will stand ashamed before Jesus some day.

May we each day look with compassion at the people around us who are bound by Satan.  May we each day reach out with the love of Jesus that they might be set free.

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Luke 13:1-9 — Taking a hard look at ourselves

I suppose it’s only natural that after Jesus talked about the need for being reconciled to God before the coming judgment, that someone would bring up an incident that had just happened.  Apparently, the Roman governor Pontius Pilate had just ordered the deaths of a number of Galileans as they were offering their sacrifices.  He then mixed their blood with that of the sacrifices.

The implied question:  “Are you talking about people like this, Jesus?  They must have been pretty bad to have been judged by God like this.”

But Jesus replied,

Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?  I tell you, no!  But unless you repent, you too will all perish.  (2-3)

He then pointed out another disaster that had recently occurred, this one an accident.  He continued,

 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them–do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no!  But unless you repent, you too will all perish.

What is Jesus saying?  We could waste a lot of time trying to figure out why things happen.  “Were these people that perished worse sinners than others?  Why did God allow this to happen?”

But ultimately, the real question we need to ask ourselves is this:  “Just like these people who perished, one group at the hand of a wicked man, and the other group in a seemingly meaningless accident, all of us will die someday.  And none of us know when.  We may think we have all the time in the world, but our life can be taken in an instant.  Am I ready?”

The rich man in Jesus’ parable in Luke 12 was not.  The people who had just died in those two tragedies may or may not have been ready.  But it’s too late to worry about them.  What about you?  Are you ready?

Jesus then told a parable of a man who had planted a fig tree but which after three years had yet to bear fruit.  He determined to cut it down, but the man in charge of the vineyard asked him to give it a bit more time.  He would do everything he could to make it bear fruit (fertilize it, etc.) and after another year, if it bore no fruit, then they would cut it down.

We see here two things, God’s judgment and mercy.  God desires to see fruit in our lives, the fruit of salvation that he bought with his Son’s blood.  And it would be easy for him to quickly just chop down any tree, any person that does not quickly bear fruit.  But he is patient, continually working in people’s hearts that they might be saved.

But ultimately, the day will come when judgment cannot be put off any longer.  And if you are not ready, if you are not bearing fruit, you will perish for all eternity.

So let us not worry about, “Why did this atrocity happen?  Or why did this disaster occur?”  Instead, let us realize that our life could be cut short at any time.  And let us ask ourselves, “Am I ready?”

 

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Luke 12:54-59 — Reconciling ourselves with God

It’s been interesting going through the gospels and looking at the teachings of Jesus, because as I’ve mentioned before, Jesus often repeats what he says, but in different contexts.

In the Sermon on the Mount, he admonished the people to make things right with others as soon as possible.  Otherwise, they might get dragged into court and judged, and at that point, it will be too late to make things right.  (Matthew 5:25-26)

Jesus basically uses the exact same words here, but this time, he’s using it on a much higher plane.  Here, he is not talking about our relationship with others, but with God.

He first criticizes the people because they could tell what the weather would be like by the signs that they saw.  But when the clearest sign of God’s presence was right there in front of them, Jesus Christ himself, they couldn’t recognize him.  Not only that, they were fighting against the very things he was teaching.  But in doing so, they were putting themselves at odds with God, and were in very real danger of judgment.

So Jesus told them,

As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled to him on the way, or he may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison.  I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.  (58-59)

Here Jesus is warning them, “Make your peace with God now.  Because if you don’t judgment is coming.”

How about you?  Are you at peace with God?  There’s only one way:  through a relationship with Jesus Christ.  He died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins, and only if we put our trust in him and his work will we be reconciled with God.  

And so as the apostle Paul said,

We implore you on Christ’s behalf:  Be reconciled to God.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  (II Corinthians 5:20-21)

 

 

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Luke 12:49-53 — The fire of the gospel

Fire can be a terrifying thing, especially in a forest.  The speed with which it can spread and the damage it can cause can be incredible.  But fire can also do positive things for a forest.

Among other things, fire can remove debris, opening it up to the sunlight, and thus allowing the soil to be nourished.  It also burns up excess underbrush allowing the remaining trees to take in more of the soil’s nutrients, causing them to become stronger.  In addition, it kills insects that prey on trees, and helps rid the forest of diseases.

In short, fire can cleanse and bring life.

Jesus told his disciples,

I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!  (49)

What fire was that?  Many people debate on the meaning, but I believe it is the fire of the gospel.  How was it kindled?  Jesus tells us in the next verse.

But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!  (50)

I think it’s pretty clear that the baptism Jesus was referring to was his death.  He makes another reference to this later when James and John ask to be his right hand men in the kingdom (Mark 10:38).

By his death and subsequent resurrection, the fire of the gospel was lit.  And like a fire, it spread rapidly, cleansing the souls of people and giving them life, their sins forgiven, and their relationship with God restored.

But Jesus also knew that fire can burn and cause pain.  So he warned his disciples as he did once before,

Do you think I came to bring peace on earth?  No, I tell you, but division.  From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three.  They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.  (51-53)

The same fire that cleanses is also painful to the touch.  And some people don’t want any part of that.  When their conscience is singed by the fire of the gospel, they recoil.  Instead of letting it purify them, they run.  More, they fight against anyone who tries to bring the gospel into their lives, even members of their own family.

That’s what Jesus is talking about here.

But as much as we may suffer from the rejection we may receive from others, even from members of our own family, remember that Jesus suffered much more when he died on that cross.

So as the writer of Hebrews put it,

Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  (Hebrews 12:3)

And let us carry the torch of the gospel forward that it may cleanse and bring life to those it touches.

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Leave a comment

Luke 12:35-48 — Being ready

Jesus closes up his warnings against hypocrisy, greed, and desiring the things of this world with one last admonition.  Be ready for his return.

He told his disciples,

Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.  It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. (35-37)

In other words, we should never be caught unaware when Jesus returns.  Our hope should be so set on him, that we are quick to respond to his call when he comes.

I must admit though, that too many times, I am not ready.  It’s so easy to get distracted by the things of this world.  And Jesus warns us,

But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk.  The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of.  He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.  (45-46)

We often say that we believe Jesus could come at any time, but do we truly believe it?  How often, without ever voicing it, do we live like Jesus will never come back.  And so we start mistreating our brothers and sisters in Christ, gossiping about them, insulting them, and hurting them.  Or we start getting soaked up in the pleasures of this world.  Jesus says that if that happens, we will be judged.

He says,

That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows.  But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows.  From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.  (47-48)

Put another way, the more you know, the more you will be held accountable.  But don’t think that just because you don’t know you can plead ignorance.  Jesus makes it clear here that you should have known.  That you should have made the effort to find out what he expects.  You may be punished less than the person who knew, but you still will be punished.

But that’s the negative.  Jesus also says,

Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time?  It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns.  I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.  (42-44)

If we are faithful, if we are doing the things that God has called us to do when he comes back, we will be rewarded.

How about you?  Are you doing the things now that God has called you to do?  Are you being faithful?  Are you ready?

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Leave a comment

Luke 12:13-34 — What this life is all about

What is this life all about?

So many people wander about lost because they don’t know.  Often times they search for meaning in money, possessions, and things.

That’s what the man who asked Jesus to judge between he and his brother about their inheritance was worried about.

But Jesus told him,

A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.  (15)

He then told all the people

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.  Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.  (22-23)

Why does he say this?  For two reasons.

First, life is far more than food, clothes, or anything else you can buy in this world.  These things are temporary.  They are here one moment and gone the next.  And while buying these things may satisfy your stomach or your heart for a time, eventually, you start to hunger for more.  In other words, the things of this world will never truly satisfy.  It always leaves you longing for more.

But second, God cares about you.  He knows what you need, and if you will put him first, he will provide for you.

And if that’s the case, shouldn’t we put our priority on other things?  What then is life about?  God’s kingdom.

What is God’s kingdom?  It’s people.  People for whom Jesus died.  People whom God desperately desires a relationship with.  And that’s where our focus should be.  When we see people in physical need, we should do our best to meet those needs.  To love these people more than our own money, giving generously as God gave to us, and in so doing, storing up a treasure in heaven that will never be exhausted.

But even more importantly, we need to see their spiritual needs and reach out to them with the love of Christ.

God has given us his kingdom.  He’s given us his Son that our sins might be forgiven.  He has adopted us as his children.  So let us not waste time chasing things that are temporal.  Let us chase what is eternal.  Let us pursue our relationship with the God who loves us, and reach out with his love to those around us that they may know him too.

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Luke 12:13-21 — When our time comes

Our life is fragile.  And in an instant, it can be taken from us.  Whether it be in a car accident, an earthquake, or whatever it may be.

And on that day, when we see God, what will he say to us?

Jesus was asked by a man to make his brother divide the family inheritance.  Apparently there was some dispute on how it should be divided, but the main point was, the man was in love with money.  Perhaps his father was rich, and for years, he had dreamed of the money he would inherit when his father died.  But when that day came, he found himself on the short end of the stick, and all his dreams of comfort and luxury were dashed.

And so he came up to Jesus to try to rectify the situation.

But Jesus quickly rebuffed him, saying,

Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?  (14)

In short, “Forget it.”

And then Jesus gave the second warning in this chapter.  Earlier he had given a severe warning about hypocrisy.  Now he warns us against greed, saying,

Watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.  (15)

What was he telling the man?  Life isn’t all about things, and the comfort and luxury they might bring.

He then told a story about a man whose life was all about money and luxury.  He had had a very successful crop one year, and wondered what to do with it.  He could have given some to feed the poor.  He could have used his profit to help others in need.  But instead, he had only one thought.  Himself.

He said,

This is what I’ll do.  I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.  And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”  (18-19)

That’s the dream of a lot of people.  Retire early, and then live for themselves.  Eat, drink, and be merry!

But God told the man,

You fool!  This very night your life will be demanded from you.  Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself.  (20)

And Jesus said,

This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.  (21)

So we get back to my original question.  When your time comes, what will God say to you?  Will he say, “You fool.  You totally wasted your life on things that were not important.”

Or will he say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.  Come and share your master’s happiness!”

Lord, help me to get my priorities right.  To remember what is truly important.  Help me not to get wrapped up in things or money.  Help me not to get wrapped up solely in my hobbies or pleasure.  Instead, help me to use the time you’ve given me on this earth wisely.  Help me to use my money wisely.  Too often, I have been a fool.  Help me to be so no longer.  In Jesus name, amen.

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Luke 12:1-8 — Undercover Christian

I remember hearing a comedy sketch one time about an “undercover Christian.”  Someone for whom his faith was “a personal thing.”  Something he kept to himself.

But Jesus has another word for an undercover Christian.  A hypocrite.  An actor.  Someone who when he walks in the “Christian world,” talks and acts like a Christian.  But when he gets out in the secular world, pretends that he doesn’t know Christ at all.

But Jesus says in this passage, sooner or later, your “secret” will get out.

I heard a story of an undercover Christian here in Japan.  He prayed to receive the Lord, but was afraid of what his parents would say.  And so he determined to “show his love” for his parents by continuing to offer incense and praying at the Buddhist altar in his parent’s house.  But his secret got out.  And when it did, his father went ballistic.  He said, “You’ve been a Christian all this time, and you continued to do these things at the Buddhist ceremonies?  What kind of Christian are you?”  Instead of “enhancing” his witness by “showing his love,” it greatly damaged it.

Jesus said,

I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God.  But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God.

Does this mean that if we’ve ever disowned Jesus before others, that we’ve lost our salvation?  No.  Peter, remember, disowned Jesus three times in a time of weakness.

I remember as a junior high school and high school student also denying my faith, or at least, being silent about it, even when being asked point blank about it.

But we cannot consistently deny Christ before others and still call ourselves Christians.  Either you are a Christian, and you proclaim that fact before others, or you’re not.

One of the main points of baptism is to make that proclamation.  To tell the world who you belong to now.  And if you refuse to do that, can you really call yourself a Christian?

Let us not be undercover Christians.  But let us proclaim him who died for us and rose again.  Some will reject us if we do.  But others will find the joy that we ourselves have found.  Isn’t that worth it?

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Luke 12:4-7 — Fear, fear not

Just a brief note concerning this blog:  for the teachings of Jesus, if he repeated things (as he often did), I may or may not comment on the things he repeated, depending on if God brings something new to light in my own heart.  In most cases, if the same teaching is repeated, it should have been noted in previous blogs in the title.

As I look at this passage though, something does strike me.  Three words:  Fear.  Fear not.  Jesus said,

I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.  But I will show you whom you should fear:  Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell.  Yes, I tell you, fear him.  (4-5)

In other words, “Fear God, not people.  People, at worst, can kill you.  But God has the power to throw you into hell.  Physical death comes in an instant.  But spiritual death is forever.”

Does this mean that we are to live in utter terror that God is just waiting to nail us every time we fail?  That he takes pleasure in throwing us into hell?  No.  For Jesus also tells us.

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?  Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.  (6-7)

I think there are two things about God’s character that we always need to keep in balance.  First, his holiness.  Second, his love.

Too often, people focus on the latter while trying to forget the former.

But throughout the Bible, whenever people first see God in his glory, it is always his holiness they see first.  And not only his holiness, but their own unholiness.  The result?  Fear.  Fear because they know they deserve punishment.  Fear because they know they don’t even deserve to live.

But the second thing they always see is his love.  And time and again, the first words that come out of God’s mouth is, “Fear not.”

Jesus shows us the same thing here.  First he tells us to fear God.  God is holy.  And his holiness demands that sin be dealt with.  Anyone who doesn’t come before God and deal with his sin here on earth, will have his sin dealt with in hell later.

But that’s not God’s desire.  He truly does care for us.  He wants the best for us.  We are not just one of billions of people to him.  He knows each of us by name, and every detail about us.

He cared so much for you that he was willing to send his Son to die for your sin.  And even if you were the only person who had ever sinned, Jesus still would have died for you.

And when we truly realize that, our initial fear turns into overwhelming love for him.  We no longer need to live in fear of God or anyone else.  Because if we have put our trust in him, no matter what happens to us here on earth, our future is secure in heaven.

So let us remember the words of John who wrote,

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.  In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.  There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  We love because he first loved us. (I John 4:16-19)

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Leave a comment

Luke 12:1-3 — Hypocrisy

It’s interesting to me how Jesus used the same illustrations to bring out different points.  This passage is an example.

Earlier, when he had sent his twelve disciples out, he talked about how everything concealed would be revealed, and how all that was hidden would be made known.  There were many things that he had taught the disciples in private that the multitudes did not have access to.  But he was telling them that this was not to be the case forever.  Instead, he told them that what he had taught them in the darkness, they were to bring into the light.  And that which he whispered in their ears, they were to proclaim from the rooftops.  (Matthew 10:26-27)

Now Jesus uses these same pictures in a different context.  He told his disciples,

Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.  (Luke 12:1)

He then told them that while they may hide what is in their hearts, it eventually would be revealed.  The things that they said in the darkness, thinking that no one heard, would be heard in the daylight.  And the secret things they had whispered would be shouted out from the rooftops.

In short, you can play being the good Christian, but if there is hypocrisy in your heart, if you are saying one thing, but living another, it will come out sooner or later, either on earth or in heaven.

So let us not simply play at being righteous.  Let us be honest before God and others.  Because if we aren’t, the truth will come out and we will be revealed for what we really are.

 

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Luke 11:47-54 — When actions speak louder than words

One of the things that the teachers of the law and the Pharisees did was pay lip service to the prophets.  They even built tombs to honor them, basically saying, “We really respect these guys.  If it had been us, we would never have treated them as our forefathers did.”

But then came THE Prophet.  Not only a prophet, but the Messiah that they had been waiting for all their lives.  And they rejected him.  More, they wanted to kill him and his followers.

These actions proved what was truly in their hearts.  For if they truly had believed the prophets and honored them, they would have believed in and honored Jesus.  But they didn’t.  Instead, they began to “oppose him fiercely.”

In doing so, they took away the key to true knowledge.  And though they thought they would be accepted into God’s kingdom, Jesus said they would be turned away.  Worse, their rejection of Christ would hinder people from coming to Him because so many people mistakenly thought they knew the way to God.

How about you?  Do you claim to honor God?  Do your actions back up your words?  Or by your actions do you prove that you don’t truly honor Christ?  Do they prove that you in fact have rejected him.

It’s not enough to say the right things.  You need to live it.

Where is your heart today?

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Luke 11:45-46 — The problem with legalism

From blasting the Pharisees, Jesus turned to the teachers of the law.  Why?

Jesus told them,

And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.  (46)

In this one verse, we see the problem with legalism.

First, it loads people with guilt without any remedy in sight.  The experts of the law actually made things more difficult than they had to by adding rule upon rule to the law of God.  When, for example, the law said that you shouldn’t do work on the Sabbath, these experts made countless rules on what “work” actually meant.

For example, women couldn’t wear jewelry on the Sabbath if they went out, because it was possible they might take it off for some reason and carry it around with them.  And of course, “carrying a burden” was prohibited on the Sabbath.

You also had to be careful how far you walked.  If you walked too far (just over half a mile), you were breaking the Sabbath.

There were literally hundreds of such rules on top of the laws that God had given.  And if you broke any of them, you were considered a “law-breaker.”

People today may not have the hundreds of additional rules that these teachers of the law did, but how often do we see people put restrictions on others, not because the Bible says it, but because they personally feel it’s wrong.  “Don’t drink” (as opposed to, “Don’t get drunk).  “Don’t watch movies.”  “Don’t dance.”

All of this leads to the second problem, a judgmental attitude.  The idea that “You are not a good Christian because you don’t keep these rules.”  Along with that comes a prideful attitude because, “I keep the rules.”  But often times, while they “keep the rules,” they forget what the Pharisees did:  mercy, justice, and love.  They think they’re righteous, but in God’s eyes, they are as much a stench as the Pharisees and teachers of the law were.

But perhaps the worst problem with legalism is that all it does is tell you what is right or wrong.  It doesn’t have the power to help you do what is right or wrong.  It only judges you when you fall.  The result is people who feel the hopelessness of trying to keep all these rules.

The people in Jesus’ time were totally weighed down by these rules of the teachers of the law, and yet, if they asked the teachers of the law what to do when they failed, all they would be told is, “Do better.”

Which is, of course, no help at all.

Even if you get rid of all the additional rules, and stick only to the law Moses gave the people, it still doesn’t have the power to save you.  In the end, you end up like the apostle Paul, saying,

What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?  (Romans 7:24)

But unlike the people of Jesus’ time, Paul had hope.  He said,

Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Legalism can’t save you.  The Law can’t save you.  But Jesus, through his death on the cross, can.  He took the punishment for our sin, and so Paul could say,

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  (Romans 8:1)

So let us cast aside legalism and the feelings of pride and condemnation it leads to.  Rather, let us turn to Christ and his cross.  And through it, not only will our sins be forgiven, but we will find the power to live the way God intended.

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Luke 11:37-44 — What’s in the heart

In this passage, Jesus give a blistering criticism of the Pharisees.  And basically what it came down to was what was in their hearts.

The Pharisees looked so good on the outside.  They were so careful to keep the law.  But inside, they were full of hypocrisy.  One thing Jesus pointed to was the greed that stained their hearts.  Oh, they gave their tithes to God, down to the herbs they grew in their gardens.  But when they saw a person in need, they walked by without a second glance.  Their love for money far outweighed their love for those around them.

They also were so quick to pass judgment without really looking at the situation through God’s eyes.  One example was their criticism of Jesus’ healings on the Sabbath and the unjust way they not only treated Jesus, but those he healed (John 9).  In so doing, the forgot the words of Micah who said,

With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God?  Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?  Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil?  Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?  He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the LORD require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.  (Micah 6:6-8)

Jesus called them on all of this.

But he also pointed out the stain of pride in their hearts.  That the reason they desired these positions of leadership was not to serve the people, but to be seen as important.  And because of these things, he called them unmarked graves which men walk over without knowing.

Why was so that bad?  Because graves were unclean by Jewish law.  To touch them was to make yourself unclean.  (Numbers 19:16)

So Jesus was saying to these Pharisees, “Not only are you unclean, but you make everyone you come into contact with unclean too.  Worse, these people don’t even know that they’ve been made unclean because they think you’re righteous.”

Harsh?

Yes.  But the truth often is.  And the thing is, these people needed to know that while they were fooling others, they certainly weren’t fooling God, and they were headed for disaster unless they repented.

And so are we if we are merely “clean” on the outside but filthy on the inside.  It’s not enough to do religious things.  To go to church.  To tithe to the church.  To do all these good things, while all the while you’re filled with pride, and greed, while lacking the love of God in your heart.  Not just lacking love for God, but lacking God’s love for those around you.

God sees beyond the exterior into your heart.  And he is looking for people after his own heart.

What’s in yours?

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Luke 10:38-42 — What Jesus really wants

This is another one of my favorite stories, I suppose because it shows us something that’s easy to forget.

Martha opens up her home to Jesus, but then promptly neglects him.  Why?  Because she’s too busy trying to “serve” him.  She then gets agitated because Mary’s doing nothing to help her get things ready, but instead simply sits at Jesus’ feet listening to him.

So after who knows how many hours of this, Martha marches up to Jesus, interrupts his teaching, and loudly complains,

Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?  Tell her to help me!  (40)

Imagine the uncomfortable silence after that outburst.  Mary’s head dropping, and turning red in embarrassment.  All the guests first staring at Martha, then Mary, and then at Jesus, waiting to see what he would say.

Perhaps some felt that Jesus would rebuke Mary.  After all, she really should have been helping Martha.  Back in those days, it was not very common for women to learn from a Rabbi (although we clearly see through the gospels that Jesus wasn’t one to hold to convention).

Perhaps others felt that Jesus would rebuke Martha.  After all, a woman back in those days simply did not interrupt a great Rabbi like Jesus with her petty complaints.

But Jesus did neither.  Instead, he looked at Martha, perhaps with pity, and no doubt with compassion, saying,

Martha, Martha…you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.  (41-42)

I find those words “only one thing is needed” very interesting.  The question is, “Needed by whom?”  Needed by Jesus?  Or needed by Martha?  The answer is probably both.

Martha needed time with Jesus.  She needed time to rest from her work.  Time to hear his words.  Time to learn from him and grow.  And even more than that, time to learn how much he truly valued her.

Mary chose all those things, and Jesus was happy to give them to her.

On the other hand, Jesus didn’t really need the food that Martha was preparing.  He didn’t need a perfectly clean house.  What he needed was time with Martha.  Here Martha had opened up her house to him, and yet was so busy “serving him,” she didn’t even talk with him other than giving him a cursory hello.

How about you?  Have you opened up your heart to Jesus?  And if you have, have you left him in the living room of your heart while you busy yourself with other things.  Or are you taking the time to be with him every day.  Learning from him.  Talking to him.  Spending time with him.

That’s what he wants more than anything else.  That’s what he died for.  To have an intimate relationship with you.

There’s a small booklet called My Heart, Christ’s home, which I love.  And one passage in there perfectly reflects this thought.  In it, Jesus speaks to a man, saying,

“The trouble with you is this: you have been thinking of the quiet time, of the Bible study and prayer time, as a factor in your own spiritual progress, but you have forgotten that this hour means something to me also.  Remember, I love you.  I have redeemed you at great cost.  I value your fellowship.  Now, do not neglect this hour if only for my sake. Whatever else may be your desire, remember I want your fellowship!”

May we never forget what Jesus truly desires.

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Luke 10:25-37 — Going beyond the head knowledge

As I look at this passage, there is one more thing that strikes me.

This is a story about three people that knew God’s word very well.  One, of course, was real (the expert in the law), and two were fictional (the priest and the Levite).  Is it any coincidence that Jesus used two people in his story that had the same problem as the expert in the law?

Because though all three knew the law well, though all three could probably rattle off answers to any question about the Bible Jesus gave them, it never went beyond head knowledge for any of them.  It never went to their heart as to what it all really meant.

How else do you explain the priest and the Levite in the story passing by the hurt man?  They truly didn’t understand what it meant to love God with all their heart, and to love their neighbor.  Rather, they made excuses for their failings, namely, their lack of love.

The expert of the law was the same way.  When confronted with the law, and seeing his own failings in the matter, he didn’t repent and cry out, “Jesus, what do I do?  I can’t meet the standards God has set up!”  Instead, he tried to justify himself for his lack of love and turn what Jesus meant to be an issue of the heart into an intellectual debate, asking, “Well, what does ‘neighbor,’ mean?”

So when Jesus explained the meaning, and even had the man answer his own question, he brought it back to his heart.  “Go and do likewise.”

What did the man do after that?  We don’t know.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I think the gospel writers often wrote this way to challenge us.  What are we going to do with what Jesus said?

It is not enough to have head knowledge.  It is not enough to be able to quote the Bible backwards and forwards.  You need to live it.  It needs to sink into your heart and change you.

Here’s another question.  Did the Samaritan in the story see the actions (or lack thereof) of the priest and the Levite?  This person who only had a distorted view of who God really was, who mixed his religion with false ones, what did he think of the priest and the Levite?  Particularly when he acted more godly than they did?

And when people see us, and compare us to themselves, what do they see?  Do they ask concerning us, “How can they be so loving?  How can they be so merciful?  I want to be like them.”

Or do they say, “Is that what a Christian is?  I’m better than they are.”

Let us not be merely people filled with head knowledge.  Rather let us let it sink into our hearts and live it.

Let us not simply live lives of going to church on Sunday and doing religious things.  Rather let us live lives of mercy and grace that others may see Christ in us and desire him too.

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Luke 10:25-37 — To love in deed and truth

As I read this passage, the words of John spring to mind when he said,

Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.  (I John 3:18)

We see this in the “Good Samaritan.”  How did he love in deed and truth?

First, he overcame the prejudices of his own culture.  One of the most shocking things to any Jew listening to this story was that it was probably Jews that beat up this man, and Jews, a priest and Levite no less, that refused to help this man in need.  But a Samaritan, someone who was absolutely loathed by the Jews for his mixed racial and religious background, sees the need of this Jew, and his compassion overpowers any feelings of prejudice he might have.

Which leads to the second point, his compassion led to action.  It’s one thing to look with sorrow on one who is hurting.  It is another thing altogether to actually reach out and touch that person.  What did he do?

He went to this man.  (34a)

He soothed this man’s hurt.  (34b)

He went out of his way to minister to this man’s need, taking him to an inn, and then caring for him through the night.  (34c)

He even used his own resources to take care of this man.  (35)

And Jesus tells us as he told the expert in the law, “Go and do likewise.  Have mercy on those that you see in need around you.”

It’s so easy, though, to make excuses as to why you can’t.  You’re too busy.  You probably couldn’t help even if you wanted to.  Or you’ve got more “important things to do.”

That’s probably what the priest and Levite thought.  Perhaps they thought he might be already dead, in which case, they might become ceremonially unclean (according to God’s law) if they touched him, making it impossible to carry out their duties at the temple.  And so these “duties” overcame any pity or compassion they may have had for the man.

Or maybe they just thought, “It’s not my responsibility.  I’m no doctor.  What can I do?”

Whatever their excuse, they forgot the words that God had spoken to Hosea.

I desire mercy, not sacrifice.  (Hosea 6:6)

How about you?  What do you do when you see others in need?  Do you see them, but then walk by.  Do you pray, but fail to go to them and actually do what you can to meet their needs?  Do you make excuses for why you don’t go to them.

Let us live lives of mercy, remembering that that’s the kind of heart God wants to see in us.  Let us not simply love with words or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Luke 10:1-24 — Ask…then go!

I hope you all enjoyed the Japanese lesson!  :)

Sorry about that, actually.  I have a Japanese version of this blog, and it accidentally got posted here.

At any rate, we see Jesus not only sending out the 12 disciples, but 72 others.  And he gives them pretty much the same instructions that he had given the 12 when he first sent them out.

But it’s the first few verses that strike me.  First he told them something he had said before.  He said,

The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.  (2)

Meaning, of course, that there are many people out there that are ready to hear the gospel and would believe if only we had enough workers to go out and reach them.  So Jesus said, “Pray.  Pray that God would send people out.”

But Jesus doesn’t stop by saying, “Pray.”  He immediately tells them, “Go!  I am sending you out…” (3)

And he tells us the same.  Certainly he wants us to pray for more workers.  But he wants to start with you.  He wants you to hear his call and go out to reach those around you.

Sometimes, as we go out, we fear rejection.  But Jesus reminds us,

He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.  (16)

In other words, remember that if they reject your message, they are not really rejecting you, they are rejecting me.  So don’t lose heart.  And remember also that there will be those who will listen and be saved.

He then encourages us by saying,

Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.  For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.  (23-24)

For so long, people like Moses, David, Daniel, and others longed to see the kingdom of God come with power.  And now, with Christ’s coming, we have that opportunity to see it come into the lives of the people around us.  But we will never see it unless we go out.  If we do, however, we will see his kingdom come with power in the lives of those who believe.

So don’t just pray…go!

Posted in Gospels, Luke, New Testament | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

John 10:1-21 — The good shepherd

Here we see a beautiful picture of Jesus’ relationship with us.  And he paints the picture with the imagery of a shepherd  and his sheep.

He said,

The sheep listen to [the shepherd's] voice.  He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.  (3-4)

What do we get from this?

In short, Jesus has a very personal relationship with us.  I teach in a high school, and I have to admit, with 40 students in a class, most of whom I only teach once a week, it’s hard to remember my student’s names.  It’s hard for a lot of the teachers too, as they often keep track of names with a seating chart list.

Think about trying to differentiate sheep, however.  For just about anyone, they would probably look all alike.  But the shepherd knows each sheep by name.

It’s hard to fathom that in a world full of billions of people, that Jesus would know my name.  That he would actually care enough to know my name.  And not only to know my name, but to actually take the time to lead me and care for me.  To go ahead of me.  And if that weren’t enough, to be willing to lay his life down for me.  Jesus said,

I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  (11)

Think about the relative worth between a shepherd and his sheep.  By any practical measure, there’s no comparison at all.

Now consider the relative worth of the God of the universe, and…you.  Yet Jesus cared enough about you, he loved you so much, that he left everything to become a man, to suffer on a cross, and die for your sins.

I don’t know about you, but to me, that’s mind-blowing.  But that’s the love he has for you and me.

Lord Jesus, thank you that you are my shepherd.  That though there are millions of other people in this world, still you know my name.  And that even if I were the only one who were lost, you would have still died for me.  Your love is so amazing.  Help me to truly grasp it.  And help me to be a vessel of your love that others may know you and become your sheep as well.  In Jesus name, amen.

Posted in Gospels, John, New Testament | Leave a comment

John 10:1-10 — The Gate

Many people wonder, “Why does Jesus have to be the only way to God?”

The short answer:  because he said so.

Jesus told the people,

I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.  (1)

There are many people that try to tell us how to go to heaven.  The Pharisees said it was by a rigorous keeping of not only the law, but of the rules and traditions that they held to as well.  Even today, many people today try to enter heaven through their efforts.

But Jesus tells us that any one who tries to enter heaven through any other way than the gate, is a thief and a robber.  And not only do they try to grasp what they can never achieve through their own efforts, they will steal your souls and send it to eternal judgment if you follow them.  Jesus said,

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  (John 10:10a)

Here, I believe Jesus is talking about the great Thief, Satan.  But Satan will use people to try to lead us to spiritual destruction.  This is not to say that these people themselves are aiming to destroy us.  Their intentions are generally very good.  But they have been deceived themselves, and if we follow them, we’ll follow them right into the pit.

What then is the gate that we are to enter by?  Jesus said,

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.  (John 10:9)

The picture Jesus gives us here is very interesting.  When a shepherd went out into the field and put the sheep to rest, he would take them to a temporary fold that had only one entrance.  And when the shepherd went to sleep, he would sleep right at the entrance.  He literally was the gate.

Jesus is saying here that if you want to enter God’s kingdom, if you want to live a life that is truly blessed, it can only come through him.  And anyone who tells you different is a thief who will lead you to destruction.

Again, Jesus said,

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  (10a)

But then, he concludes,

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  (10b)

Do you want a full life?  A complete life?  There is only one way.  There is only one gate.  The only question is, will you use it?

Posted in Gospels, John, New Testament | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

John 9:39-42 — When you think you know it all

The irony in this passage is very thick.

The man who had been blind could see who Christ really was and worshiped him.  The people who could see all their lives, couldn’t recognize who Jesus was though he was standing right in front of their faces.  Worse, they couldn’t recognize him though they saw all his miracles, and all the arguments they tried to bring against him fell to the ground, leaving them speechless.

Why couldn’t they see?  Because they already thought they knew it all.  They “knew” what the Messiah was supposed to look like and be like.  They “knew” the truth of the Old Testament, the books of the Law and the Prophets.  All their lives, they lived in pride of that knowledge they held.  So when Jesus came and shattered all they had thought they knew, they found it hard to let go.  They found it hard to admit they were wrong.

Jesus said,

For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.  (39)

What did he mean?  He meant that he is the dividing point.  The fork in the road.  And those who humble themselves and accept him as Lord and Savior will see and be saved.  But those who refuse to let go of their pride and think they know it all will become blind to who he really is.  Not because they can’t see, but because they close their eyes to the truth.

The Pharisees this way.  They asked Jesus,

What?  Are we blind too?  (40)

So many people today say the same.  “I’m blind?  You’ve gotta be joking.  I’m an educated man.  I’m an educated woman.  I’ve experienced life.  I know.”

But Jesus said,

If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.  (41)

In short, “Yes, you are blind.  And if you were humble enough to admit it and your need for help, your sin could be forgiven.  But because you are too proud to admit what you don’t know, because you’re too proud to hear the truth that I give, your sin remains.”

And he says the same to people today.

How about you?  Do you think you know?  Or are you willing to humble yourself, and accept the truth that Jesus gives?  Are you willing to accept that Jesus himself is Truth?

Posted in Gospels, John, New Testament | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

John 9 — A picture of salvation

After Jesus healed this man blind from birth, it caused quite a stir as we see in this chapter.  But through this story, we see a beautiful picture of salvation.

We see, first of all, that this man was blind from birth.  In the same way, we also were born spiritually blind and spiritually dead.

Then Jesus came for us.  It wasn’t that this blind man sought Jesus.  Jesus sought him out, and touched him.  And though we, like this blind man, were not even seeking God, he sought us and touched us.

The man was then told to wash in the pool of Siloam, which is a symbol of baptism, both our spiritual baptism in which God washes us of our sin, and of our physical baptism in which we proclaim to the world what God has done for us.

The man now seeing, the change was so dramatic that people could barely recognize him, saying,

Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?  (8)

Some people said yes, other said it couldn’t be, and the man had to insist that it was really him.

People often respond the same way to us after we become Christians.  Sometimes the change in us is so dramatic, that people can barely recognize us, and wonder, “Is this really the same person,” giving us the opportunity to give our testimony as this man did.

Like the man, however, we often don’t know so much when we first become Christians.  But as time goes on, we start to get a clearer idea of just who Jesus is.  To this man, Jesus was first simply, “a man,” then “a prophet,” then finally, “God’s Son.”

But though we give our testimony, and though the change is undeniable, yet some people will reject not only Christ, but us.

And that’s what happened with this man.  First they tried to convince the man that Jesus was a sinner, and not from God.  But when this man could not be shaken, they rejected him.

Even then, this man’s faith was not shaken.  And when Jesus found him again, he fell at Jesus’ feet and worshiped him for the new life he had been given.

Let us be like this man.  Grateful for the change that God has brought in our lives.  Sharing boldly what we know (limited though it may be) with others.  Standing fast in the face of opposition.  And ever worshiping and seeking our Savior.

 

Posted in Gospels, John, New Testament | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

John 9:1-5 — Why did this happen to me?

Sometimes, bad things happen to people, and they wonder, “Why did this happen to me?  Is God punishing me for something I did?”

There are times when God will let us go through suffering because of our sin.  But I would say that most, if not all the time, it’s not so much that God is punishing you, as he is letting you reap the natural consequences of your actions.  Just because you are a Christian does not mean that you can sin and expect to escape the natural consequences of your actions.  There is a price to pay for what we do.  And we can hardly blame God if he does nothing to keep us from suffering those consequences.  It’s how we learn, and it’s part of the process that leads to holiness.  A refining by fire if you will.

But there are times when bad things happen to us through no fault of our own.

In this story, Jesus and his disciples came across a man who had been blind from birth.  And his disciples asked,

Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?  (2)

It was a very common belief in that day that if you were handicapped, it was because God was punishing you.  But this man was blind from birth, and so that provided a conundrum for the disciples.  Was this man blind because his parents sinned?  Did God see that he was going to sin in the future and so he made him blind from birth?  Did he somehow sin in the womb of his mother?

But Jesus answered,

Neither this man nor his parents sinned…but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.  (3)

What was Jesus saying?  He was saying that there are times when bad things happen to us, not because God is punishing us, but because God wants to do something glorious through us.

A woman named Joni Eareckson Tada immediately springs to my mind as an example.  She was a woman who in her teenage years had a diving accident leaving her quadriplegic.  Many people have prayed for her healing over the years, and yet God never healed her.  But through her, so many people around the world have been touched, and not just people with disabilities.  God wasn’t punishing her.  But through this accident, God’s work was displayed in her life in a way that would never have been done had she not had this accident.

Jesus said,

While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.  (5)

While Jesus may no longer be physically present here on earth, nevertheless, he shines his light on us that God’s glory might be revealed to us, and he shines his light through us that others may be touched as well.

So if you’re going through suffering, don’t wallow in your misery.  Rather ask God, “Shine your light on me and let your light shine through me in the midst of all this.”

And if you do, God will be glorified in you and through you.

Posted in Gospels, John, New Testament | Tagged , | Leave a comment

John 8:37-47 — Whose child are you?

Things get pretty acrimonious in this exchange between Jesus and the Jews.  And it came down to this question, “Whose child are you?”

It was a question that swirled around Jesus, and it’s possible that when the Jews protested, “We are not illegitimate children” (41), they were intimating at the rumor that Jesus himself was an illegitimate child, as Mary had gotten pregnant with Jesus before Joseph married her.  There were doubtless many questions about his true father since they had no way to know that Jesus was placed in Mary’s womb by the power of the Holy Spirit.

But to get back to the question, whose child are you?

Jesus talks about the characteristics of a true child of God.  First, they would act like Abraham did.   (39)  How did Abraham act?

He believed in God.  He trusted God implicitly.   (Genesis 15:6)

He acted on his faith.  Both in leaving his own homeland to go where God led him.  And in being willing to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice.

He had room in his heart for God’s word.  When God spoke, he listened.  Children of God are children of truth.   That is, they love the truth, and will hold to it.  Though the truth may hurt sometimes, they don’t close their ears because of it.  Rather they hear, they listen, and they grow.  (John 8:44-47)

The final characteristic of a child of God is that they love Jesus, and out of their love for him, they follow him.  (42)  How can we not love the one who gave up heaven to die on the cross for our sins.

But the Jews in this passage did none of these things, and so proved who their true father was.

How about you?  Whose child are you?

Posted in Gospels, John, New Testament | Tagged | Leave a comment

John 8:31-35 — The truth that sets free

Many times, people look at the “rules of Christianity,” and feel that they are so binding.  That they couldn’t enjoy life if they followed them.

But when Jesus tells us how we should live, he doesn’t do so to bind us up.  He does it so that we may be set free.  He told the Jews here,

If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.  (31-32)

The Jews reaction is very typical of people today.  They replied,

We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone.  How can you say that we shall be set free?

Taken in today’s context, many people say, “I’m American,” or “I’m Japanese,” (or whatever nationality they might be).  “I’m no slave.   I’m free to do whatever I like.  What do you mean, I’ll be set free if I follow Jesus’ teaching?”

But Jesus tells us,

I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.  (35-36)

Many people think that if they can sin without being captive to their conscience, that is true freedom.  But the truth is, while they may choose to sin in the beginning, eventually they become its slave and cannot stop even if they try.  Addiction to porn, gambling, drugs, and alcohol are all obvious examples of this.  But we also see people enslaved to their bitterness, or enslaved to their destructive habits that destroy their relationships, their marriages or their friendships.

But when we follow Jesus, he sets us free.  We are no longer slaves to these things.  Instead, he breaks the chains that bind us to the things that are destroying us, and he shows us a better way.  Not only that, he gives us the power to live in this new way.  He doesn’t just say, “Do it.”  He says, “Take my hand.  Let’s take it a step at a time.”

And little by little, change comes, and before you know it, you’re completely set free.

How about you?  Have you given up and said, “It’s hopeless.  I can’t stop these behaviors that are destroying me?  That are destroying my relationships?”

Jesus can set you free.  It starts with one word.  “Yes.”

“Yes, Jesus.  I believe that you love me and that your way is best.  So Lord, I want to do things your way.  Help me.”

As you say yes to him, you will find healing in your life and your relationships.  And then you will know what true freedom really is.

Posted in Gospels, John, New Testament | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment