December 12, 2019- Advent 12, Luke 12- The Fear of the Lord, Heads Up on the Eschaton, Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning

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Read Luke 12.

Jesus taught:

Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops. Luke 12:2-3 (ESV)

This is some scary business.  All of us have plenty of dirty laundry that we would be mortified to have aired in public.  All us have those things in our history that we would rather keep secret.  Jesus knew the Pharisees (like the rest of us) had plenty of dark secrets and dirty laundry they would rather not have exposed.  The error of the Pharisees, which is often our error as well, is that we think we can cover up and gloss over our sins instead of knowing that Jesus will forgive our sins if we humble ourselves and confess them to Him.

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!  Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.  Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. Luke 12:4-7 (ESV)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 9:10, Proverbs 15:33, Isaiah 11:2, Isaiah 33:6 and Micah 6:9) as we are taught in many places in Scripture. Jesus takes this truth further when he reminds us that God knows all and God has the authority to both give and take life, and to consign the unrepentant one- the fool who in his heart says there is no God- (Psalm 14:1) to eternal punishment in hell. God knows us more intimately than we know ourselves.  There is nothing we can hide from Him.

“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. Luke 12:8-12 (ESV)

Do we fear and love God enough to talk about Jesus even in times and places when it’s highly discouraged or even forbidden outright? Many of us find it hard to muster the courage to testify of Jesus because we fear the reactions that other people may have.  Yet He is the One who holds the power of life and death.

If we reject the work of the Holy Spirit in us we reject Jesus.

Jesus teaches us that He provides for us, so we shouldn’t be obsessed with gathering up stuff for ourselves.  We should seek God and His kingdom, because He is the Source of all things.

And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Luke 12:29-31 (ESV)

Where our treasure is, our heart will be there also.  Where are our hearts?

Jesus reminds us that He is going to return.  No one knows when that day or hour will come, but He tells us to be ready for His return.  Many believers don’t like to hear talk about the eschaton (the end of days) but for those who are in Christ, the eschaton is an occasion of great joy- when Jesus returns and remakes the heavens and earth.

But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 2 Peter 3:6-8 (ESV)

In this Advent season we await the return of the Bridegroom. We are living with one foot on this flawed and broken earth, and another in the heavenly kingdom.  When Jesus returns, He will remake the heavens and earth by fire.  If He were to return tonight, would He find us to be good stewards of what we have been given?

Jesus warns us that He comes to this earth not to bring peace, but to bring division. Families are divided because of faith in Him.  There are households in which one spouse believes and the other does not, or a child of unbelieving parents comes to faith- pitting their love for their family against their faith in Christ.

Jesus closes this chapter admonishing us to settle up with those to whom we owe, before it gets dragged into court and gets dirty.  The overwhelming theme here is, “fear God, repent and be forgiven.”

There is good news in this chapter, even though we have been warned about both hell fire and the eschaton.  The good news is that, by faith, we hear God’s Word and see the severity of our sins.  By faith, we pray for a healthy fear of the Lord.  We confess all of our sins to God and He brings them into the light, and forgives our sins. We repent and confess not simply to avoid hell fire, but in response and thankfulness to God for providing for all our needs, most especially our desperate need for our Savior who died on the cross to save us from all our sins.  For those who are in Christ, the eschaton will be a day of joy, when tears and death and sorrow will all be wiped away forever.

As the old spiritual goes, “Keep your lamps trimmed and burning.” We await Jesus’ Second Advent with anticipation and joy.

December 9, 2019- Advent 9, Luke 9- The Cost of Following Jesus

feeding five thousand

Read Luke 9

As Jesus sends out the twelve apostles, He instructs them:

And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics.And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. Luke 9:1-6 (ESV)

The idea was that the disciples were to stay where they were welcome and cared for, not to take advantage of their patrons, but to teach and care for those who wanted to hear the Gospel.

At this time Herod, who had recently demanded the head of John the Baptist, was hearing about Jesus.  Was this Elijah? Was it John raised from the dead?  Herod would soon find out more about Jesus.

The disciples came with Jesus to a place called Bethsaida, where thousands of people came to hear Jesus speak and to seek healing.  There was nothing to be had as far as food save for five loaves and two fish.  But Jesus insisted that the disciples feed the multitudes with the loaves and fish rather than sending them home hungry.

And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he (Jesus) looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces. Luke 9:16-17 (ESV)

The number twelve here is said to represent the twelve tribes of Israel- that we see the Bread of Life was given for the sake of the twelve tribes.  Whether or not this is true, Jesus shows us in this miracle of provision that He takes a little and as we share it, that little bit is multiplied.

Simon Peter was one of the first people to come to faith in Jesus.  “You are the Christ, the son of God!”

There is a cost to following Jesus. All of the twelve apostles suffered and died horrible deaths – Judas hung himself out of anguish for betraying Jesus to the high priests.  Peter was crucified upside down.  Only John lived to old age, and that was as an exile on the island of Patmos, where he wrote the book of Revelation.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.  For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. Luke 9:23-26 (ESV)

Following Jesus is the way of the cross.  As we live our lives submitted to His will, we have the constant conflict between what we want and what God wants.  Yet Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, even if living for Him causes us suffering here and now.

At His transfiguration, the disciples get to see who Jesus really is.  Not Elijah or Moses or John the Baptist reborn, but the Son of God.

Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray.  And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.  Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.  And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said.  As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.  And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”  And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen. Luke 9:28-36 (ESV)

Following Jesus is something we cannot do without His intervention.  We cannot follow Jesus based on our own decision or power, but only by His grace.

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:57-62 (ESV)

We pray that by the grace of God in Christ we can follow Him.  We will not always follow Him perfectly.  We sin and stumble often.  Yet as the apostle Paul reminds us, it is not in our works or what we observe or don’t observe, but in Christ we stand.

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Romans 14:4 (ESV)

 

December 8, 2019- Advent 8, Luke 8- Jesus and Women, Good Soil, His Message is for All People, Calm in the Storm

Jesus on the water

Read Luke 8,

Today we see Jesus continuing His ministry of teaching and healing.  Here Luke focuses on Jesus’ high regard for women.  There were many women who followed Jesus as disciples- Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna are named here.  In a culture that regarded women on the same level as property or livestock, this was a big deal.

As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone.

.She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed.And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” Luke 8:43-48 (ESV)

As Jesus was on His way to see Jairus’ daughter, this woman with a bleeding disease touched His garment.  He had such pity on her and her faith that He could heal her that she was immediately healed,  And Jesus went on and healed Jairus’ daughter as well.

And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. Luke 8:9-15 (ESV)

Jesus shows His disciples that His message and the Word of God is for everyone, even women and tax collectors and those who are not Jewish, but not everyone will respond to the preaching of God’s Word.  Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and we do not know who will receive that gift and who will not.

“No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.” Luke 8:16-18 (ESV)

The Good News of Jesus is meant to be shared.  We can’t help but to spread the light we have been given.  As we spread the Good News around, we continue to grow in faith and grace and maturity.

Jesus gives us a lesson about the meaning of family as well.  It’s not necessarily about our biological family, but the family of God.

Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” Luke 8:19-21 (ESV)

Jesus encourages us even more as He calms the storm.

One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?” Luke 8:22-25 (ESV)

We freak out when our circumstances seem overwhelming.  But we don’t always remember that Jesus is in control of everything,  He does have command of everything, whether we understand this or not.

One of the more intriguing accounts of Jesus healing people is of the demoniac so possessed by evil demons (“My name is Legion,” which means thousands,) that he could not be held by chains.  Jesus drives the demons into a herd of pigs, (Jews considered pigs to be unclean animals, not fit to eat) who then run off a cliff to drown themselves.  The man is made clean and coherent.

The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him. Luke 38:39 (ESV)

Most of us are called to go out into the world to our vocations- to be employees, employers, husbands, wives, mothers and fathers.  But no matter what our vocations may be we are  all called to live out our calling as believers in Jesus. Our lives and conduct should be witness to how much God has done for us.

Jesus has set us free from sin and death and our own sinful natures to that we can go out and be His witnesses.  Thank God for Emmanuel, God with us, who heals our deepest wounds and gives us the gift of eternal life.

 

December 5, 2019 – Advent 5, Luke 5- Fishing for Men, Eating With Tax Collectors, Healing a Paralyzed Man, and New Wine

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Read Luke 5.

Jesus came to save the lost and the outsiders. Jesus came to save the ones who knew but weren’t able to obey the Mosaic Law, as well as those who had never heard of the Mosaic Law.

To put it more succinctly, Jesus came to save sinners- and all human beings (except Jesus) who have ever lived were and are sinners.

And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”  And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”  And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. Luke 5:5-11 (ESV)

Imagine the fishermen’s disdain when Jesus told them to fish on the other side of the lake, when and where their experience told them, “there won’t be any fish.”  Imagine their surprise when their nets were overflowing with fish when they cast where Jesus instructed them.

Jesus chose to reveal Himself to Simon Peter, a self-admitted sinful man.

And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus,  but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus.  And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”  And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” Luke 5:18-24 (ESV)

Jesus, the One Who forgives sins- and only God can do that- says to the paralyzed man, both, “Your sins are forgiven,” which is a condition that others cannot see, and “Rise, pick up your bed and go home, ” a very visible and tangible miracle.  Of course the scribes and the Pharisees would not expect this- they knew the Law all too well, but did not understand the One who was the fulfillment of the Law.

“And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them.  And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”  And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:29-32 (ESV)

Levi, the tax collector, who in the minds and experience of the Pharisees was a sinner with a capital S, was a person that they would write off as being too far gone.  Levi was someone who doesn’t fit the parameters of the believing community.

But Jesus comes as the Great Physician, the one ministering to those who know they don’t follow the Mosaic Law, the ones who know full well they can’t save their own souls.

And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?  The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.  And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.” Luke 5:34-39 (ESV)

How could people be with Jesus and not want to celebrate? The times of trial would come for the apostles- with all but John dying violent and ignominious deaths, and even John died as a prisoner and an exile.

Jesus upended the whole system.  He came to earth because he knew that no human being could keep the Law 100%.  He came to earth knowing that He would die a horrific death on a Roman cross, because He was the only One qualified as a perfect sacrifice to take away the sins of the world.

The new wine is not familiar.  It doesn’t have the flavor of age, or the inherited hint of privilege in it.  The old wine is tastier- it’s comfortable and acceptable and safe to hide behind the old rituals and traditions and rules. But in the end, the rituals and traditions and rules of the scribes and Pharisees became whitewashed tombs that covered up all sorts of foul rottenness on the inside as Jesus points out in Matthew 23:27.  Looking good on the outside and outwardly observing traditions doesn’t get it.

Taking up one’s cross and following Jesus-drinking the new wine- isn’t going to be comfortable and it might not taste good to us in this lifetime, but Jesus is the only Way to life. It is only because of Jesus that we are called to and can embark upon the crucified life. It is a passive act for us, that Jesus does TO us.  Jesus calls, draws, acts and compels us through the Holy Spirit to follow Him.

And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:34-36 (ESV)

Simeon’s prophecy to Mary definitely comes true.  Through Jesus many do rise and fall in Israel.  The anguish of Mary’s soul as her firstborn Son died in agony for her salvation and for the salvation of all who believe, is incomprehensible.  Yet Jesus comes to us- from outside of us, through none of our merit, and brings healing, restoration and life to the unlikely, to the forgotten, to the failures. He breaks open the whitewashed tombs and exposes their filth to the light, all while lifting up the hopeless and undeserving.

 

December 1, 2019 Advent 1- Luke 1: (Formerly) Barren Women, and Two Baby Boys

mary and Elizabeth

Read Luke 1 today.  Remember that you can always come back to a part of the study.  Today’s chapter is rich in fulfilled prophecy. We learn how God works in and through His people, and that His word always does what He says it will.  “Impossible!” for us is possible for God.

Luke begins his Gospel (as well as the book of Acts) with a nod to our friend, Theophilus (literally: God-lover.)  Theophilus may have been a person’s actual name, but it was more likely a way of addressing the reader, as a learned listener who loves God and wishes to learn more about Him.

Luke was by trade a physician, so he was the type of person to notice details and to be logical and thorough.  He was a traveling companion to the apostle Paul. Luke was thought to be a Hellenic Jew, (a person of Greek descent who followed Judaism) writing to a primarily ethnically Jewish audience, so he assumed his readers would be familiar with the Temple laws and the Old Testament.

The scene of Chapter 1 opens on Zechariah and Elizabeth. Zechariah was a priest in the temple, and Elizabeth was his barren and long- suffering wife.

Zechariah is met as he serves in the temple by the angel Gabriel, who informs Zechariah that he and Elizabeth (even though she was way past menopause) were going to have a child.  He would be a child who even from before his birth would have to observe the Nazirite vow .  He would not be permitted to use alcohol or to cut his hair, among other restrictions.

 

Zechariah questioned Gabriel (which would seem to be a rational thing to do) and was rewarded with nine months of  being mute for doubting what God had to say.  God was true to His word in spite of Zechariah’s doubts- Elizabeth, the “barren,” did conceive a child.

Then the angel Gabriel pays a visit to Mary, the young girl who God has chosen to be Jesus’ mother.  Mary is another “barren” woman, but barren in the sense that she was a virgin and had never known a man.

In Protestant traditions we sort of shy away from talking about Mary, because we don’t want to put her in the place of God, but as long as we remember that Mary was a human, fallible sinner who, like us, also needed a Savior, there is no reason to hesitate to talk about her and to thank God for her and her role in the story of our salvation.

Mary’s response to Gabriel upon learning that she was to bear a son was similar to Zechariah’s – “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

Today we don’t think a whole lot about unwed or teenage pregnancies.  They happen all the time.  But in Mary’s world there was a deep shame brought on the family if a girl was found to be pregnant before her wedding was consummated.  The assumption would be that she was breaking the seventh Commandment and not staying pure until her wedding night.  The penalty for this under the Mosaic Law can be found in Leviticus 20:10 – “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” 

Mary had to be aware of the penalty for adultery. She had to know that in her present state pregnancy would be risky to her person to say the least.  She asked Gabriel about the “how,” which was understandable, but she did not question the “why,” nor did she ask, “Why me?”

Instead she listens to God’s messenger tell her of her formerly barren cousin Elizabeth and how she is already six months along. She believes Gabriel when he says, “For nothing will be impossible with God.”  When Mary travels to be with her cousin, Elizabeth, even as she knows that her purity could be questioned,  even as she knows she could be condemned as an adulteress and her life could well be in danger, she sings the beautiful faith-filled Magnificat:

And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts: he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” Luke 1:46-55 (ESV)

When Mary returns to her home after visiting with Elizabeth for several months, the time comes for Elizabeth’s child to be born.

Zechariah is finally given the ability to speak after nine long months of muteness. After the relatives wanted to argue about the child’s name, because no one in Zechariah’s family was named John,  Zechariah wrote emphatically on his writing tablet: His name is John!   Then Zechariah could speak again.

What then would this child of Zechariah and Elizabeth be?  He would be John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets- the one Isaiah spoke of (Isaiah 40:3) as the voice in the wilderness, making straight a highway in the wilderness to our God.

Out of barren women God works the impossible. One woman barren from age was enabled by God to conceive a child in the natural way, and another woman barren save for only the supernatural intervention of God, also conceives a son.   These impossible births mark the beginning of the story of salvation. Two baby boys, cousins, were brought in to the world by the providence of God- the voice in the wilderness, followed by Emmanuel, God with us.

 

 

 

November 27, 2019- To the Glory of God – 1 Corinthians 10:23-33

prayer-sinner

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.  Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.  Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 

For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.”  If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience—  I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience?  If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?   

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God,  just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 (ESV)

There is a fine line between seeking to live a sanctified life, a life that reflects one’s faith in Christ, and full blown pietism, which hearkens back to the holier-than-thou position of the Pharisee in the temple that Jesus speaks of in Luke 18:9-14.

Paul reminds us that our focus needs to stay on Jesus.  Our faith and trust need to be in Jesus rather than on whether or not we follow specific rituals or eat certain foods or hang out with certain people.

Our culture, our dinner plates, and even our habits and friends do not determine our status in the sight of God. We have no righteousness in and of ourselves, and nothing we can do (or fail to do) can justify us in the sight of God.

Our righteousness- our standing and validation before God – is outside of us.  Our Redeemer- Jesus- stands in our place.  He gives us all we need to stand. (see Romans 14:3-14)

We are reminded in the classic hymn “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”   that Christian freedom is trusting in Christ alone- not in how good we appear to be on the outside or by what we do or don’t do.

Our freedom doesn’t mean we just do whatever we want, but that we act based upon what is best for those around us and on what brings glory to God.

When we pray do we make a display for others to see how holy we are, or because we know how much we need Jesus and that He listens to our prayers?

Do we do devotions and study so we can prove how much we know, or do we study so that through hearing and consuming God’s word we are transformed by the Gospel and filled with the Holy Spirit?

When our trust is in Jesus He purifies our motives.  The Holy Spirit gives us the discernment and the concern for others so that we can love and care for others in a way that glorifies God.

There is freedom in knowing that as imperfect as we are that Jesus stands in our places.  As we confess our sins to God, we know that our sins- every single one of them- was paid for by Jesus on the cross of Calvary.  He has done it all.  All we can do is respond to Him.

Lord, Jesus we are poor tools in your hands, but by your grace you hold us up and we stand in You.  Thank you for your sacrifice to save us from our sins, so that we can live in freedom, to your glory.

November 22, 2019 – Join In, Serve All- 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

coffee together

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.  To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.  1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (ESV)

Some of the best teachers are those who haven’t forgotten how to be kids- teachers who aren’t afraid to sit down with kids, join in their play, and get dirty with them.  After all, we tend to trust those with whom we share common bonds.

Hospitality is easy when other people are like us, when we share common culture, similar world views, eat the same foods and so forth.  It’s not so easy for us when others have radically different cultures, opposing world views and other differences from us.

For Christians, Jesus is the common bond, the Author and Perfecter of our faith (so says the writer of the book of Hebrews.)  As we look to find common bonds with others we remember that we can have unity in Christ even if our cultures, world views and even languages are different.

It is helpful for us to learn about our neighbors and to actually spend time with them.  Sometimes it is good to take a moment to share a meal or a cup of coffee with someone we may not be well acquainted with.  It is no coincidence that on the Emmaus road Jesus was made known to those travelers in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:13-35)

God can use those times when we connect with others for the Gospel to shine through us so that another may hear and be brought to faith.  God can use those moments spent with others to strengthen and encourage and teach His truth to us and others.

Every person we encounter is a person for whom Jesus died.  We respond to His love when we care for others enough to share with them and step into their lives.