RSS

Is God inclusive or exclusive?


Exclusive Is God inclusive or exclusive? Both! He wants all to be saved but there are “steps of faith.” Peter proclaimed the clear answer in 2 Peter 3: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Churches today are less and less likely to ask “What does the Bible say?” and more likely to ask, “What does the community want?” We need to be reminded that the church belongs to the Lord, not the community. The church is uniquely His and was designed to be His servant to take His gospel to a lost and dying world.

Truth has become trivial, irrelevant. Realize that 72% of Americans between the ages of 18-25 now believe that there is no such thing as absolute truth!

David F. Wells, God in the Wasteland, “We have turned to a God that we can use rather than to a God we must obey; we have turned to a God who will fulfill our needs rather than to a God before whom we must surrender our rights to ourselves. He is a God for us, for our satisfaction – not because we have learned to think of him in this way through Christ but because we have learned to think of him this way through the marketplace.
   “In the marketplace, everything is for us, for our pleasure, for our satisfaction, and we have come to assume that it must be so in the church as well. And so we transform the God of mercy into a God who is at our mercy.”

Jesus once asked regarding John the Baptizer, (Matthew 11:7) “As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?” A reed is a symbol of instability; it pictures that which yields to other forces.

On the other hand, Paul described the church as the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). The imagery here is that of a solid, immovable foundation. It is a question that the church of today must ask. Are we a “reed shaken in the wind,” or are we the “pillar and ground of the truth”?

Real Love – Real love doesn’t leave another person in error. Real love takes the time to show them the error of their way:  (Galatians 6:1) “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.”
(2 Timothy 2:24-26) “And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. {25} Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, {26} and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”

inclusion-wordle11Jesus was exclusive! (John 14:6) “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Unless you believe that I am He (John 8:24) “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.””

One Gospel  – (Galatians 1:6-9) “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– {7} which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. {8} But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! {9} As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!”

 
 

Thinking About Leaving Your Church? Not So Fast…by Ben Giselbach


This is an article I wanted more to see.

Sam and Jennifer Johnson just returned from their 2-year anniversary trip. While traveling, they attended a congregation that had a great preacher. His sermons were passionate, dynamic, and interesting. When they returned to their home congregation, they noticed just how dull their own preacher really is. Now in his late sixties, his sermons are predictable, long, difficult to follow, and he has no plans on retiring.

Jack, the deacon over the bus ministry, is upset that his elders have not purchased a newer church van. The current van, a 1997 Dodge Ram with 240,000 miles on it, is now unreliable. It’s had a rough life of senior trips, benevolence, youth events, and regular Sunday morning routes. Now, the bottom of this ugly van is rusted out, the transmission has been rebuilt twice, and the gas mileage is terrible. Yet the elders still won’t sell it and buy a new one. And Jack is the one delegated to drive the van most of the time.

Conflict-ResolutionMarilyn, a 56-year-old single woman, loves to decorate for events. This past month, however, the Vacation Bible School planning team did not choose the theme she wanted this year. She already had several decorations and prop ideas for the theme she suggested, and now thinks to herself, “They knew what I wanted, but decided to go with a more boring theme. How could they do this to me? They just don’t care! I don’t think I can work with these people.”

What do these people all have in common? They are all thinking about leaving their church.

No, they are not upset about moral compromise, false doctrine, or spiritual infidelity within the church. Marilyn, Jack, and the Johnsons are simply suffering from a ‘consumer’ mentality. They have contributed emotionally and financially to their respective congregations, and now expect a return on their investment. “What is the church doing for me?” is the unspoken attitude.

Their stories illustrate the common reasons people decide to leave: personality conflicts, hurt feelings, pride, and selfish preferences. People rarely leave over legitimate biblical issues. When things get difficult, their grievances start multiplying. “I’m not being fed here.” “The elders don’t do anything.” “They aren’t using me.” “There aren’t enough activities for my kids.” “I’m tired of all the hypocrites.” “The elders won’t listen to me.”

Sound familiar?

Yes, the church has plenty of people whose lives do not resemble the life of Christ. There are elders who abuse their authority or are really bad at leading. Big decisions are sometimes made haphazardly and without the consent of others. And there are plenty of personality conflicts, power fights, and relationship squabbles. The temptation to find refuge in a “stronger” congregation can be very appealing.

But the church is not a business, and you are not a consumer. You are Christian who is part of a community – a church family that is imperfect. Your commitment – not your circumstances – to the body of Christ is what matters the most. Regardless of whether your circumstances are delightful or dreadful, it is your dedication to Christ that should determine whether you should stay or go.

“But you don’t understand. My church has a lot of problems!” Yes, and so do you. So do I. We were slaves to sin, and now – by the grace of God – we have been rescued (cf. Eph. 2:8-9; Luke 15:11-32). For the rest of our Christian walk, we will be in a state of transformation into the image of Christ (Rom. 12:2; Gal. 2:20). If Christ is committed to us, despite our shortcomings, should we not be committed to His Bride, despite her human imperfections?

More than likely, church problems aren’t keeping you from becoming more like Christ. It is your commitment to building up the church (1 Cor. 14:12), despite her problems, that is making you more like Christ.

Would Christ have you run away from your church the moment a bad decision is made? Or would He ask you to be His light in the period of darkness?

“They aren’t using me.” Maybe you haven’t been given the job you want. But maybe that is because you could serve a greater role doing something else.

“I’m not being fed here.” Maybe you are confusing real spiritual growth with faux spiritualism. Maybe you are relying too much on the church, rather than your own study of the Scripture, to grow closer to God.

“The elders don’t do anything.” Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. What they need, however, is your encouragement. “The elders won’t listen to me.” Maybe you just need to learn to be submissive to their decisions (Heb. 13:17).

“There aren’t enough activities for my kids.” Then you need to step up and help with the children’s ministry at your church. If you think of church as a daycare for your kids, you have other problems to deal with.

“I’m tired of all the hypocrites.” If your brother or sister is wrestling with sin, then they need you to help them overcome their inconsistencies (cf. Heb. 10:24-25). They need the encouragement and support of faithful Christians like you. The last thing they need is for strong Christians to flee.

God has given us His church, and through it His grace transforms us (Titus 2:11-12). Christians are to build one another up (1 Thess. 5:11), but that can only happen if we are committed to one another.

Think twice about leaving. Perhaps your congregation needs you now more than ever before. And perhaps fleeing the moment the road gets bumpy will keep you from maturing in an area in which you need to grow spiritually the most.

When It Is Time To Leave
[A few days ago I wrote, “Thinking About Leaving Your Church? Not So Fast.” It has generated quite a bit of traffic, and many of you have written some very good responses, both publicly and privately. Some readers have asked: When, if ever, is it okay to leave?]

The disease of consumerism is a plague within the Lord’s church. Since we stop shopping at stores that no longer carry the products that we want, and since we stop eating at restaurants that change the recipe of our favorite menu items, we think we should leave our congregation when things no longer go our way.

Yet, consumerism – “The church owes me for my patronage” mentality – is foreign to what God wants for His church. The moment we became Christians, the Lord added us involuntarily to His church (cf. Acts 2:38, 47). Since we have been raised with Christ, we are now seeking what is best for Him and His kingdom, not ourselves (Matt. 6:33, Col. 3:1-4:6). The local congregation of Lord’s church needs us (Heb. 10:24-25, 1 Cor. 14:12), and when we leave for petty reasons, we are guilty of abusing – not building up – the Bride of Christ (cf. Eph. 5:23, 25-27, 30). If Christ is dedicated to me despite my imperfections (1 John 1:7-2:1), I need to be dedicated to His church despite her human imperfections.

But is it ever appropriate to leave your congregation and attend another? Yes.

Knowing when to leave is a matter of judgment. But that does not mean the Bible does not have anything to say about the matter. I like the advice of Jonathan Leeman in his book, Church Membership: How The World Knows Who Represents Jesus. He writes:

All of us, at times, will be called to endure humbly a leader’s mistakes and sins. Nonetheless, should you find yourself in a church were the leadership is characteristically abusive, I would, in most cases, encourage you to flee. Flee to protect your discipleship, to protect your family, to set a good example for the members left behind, and to serve non-Christian neighbors by not lending credibility to the church’s ministry. (p. 118)

I believe you should leave when the leadership is characteristically abusive. The key word is “characteristically,” meaning “indicative of character or typical of personality.” The fruit of the spirit is characterized by longsuffering (Gal. 5:22), meaning we need to lovingly endure the occasional human blunders of our otherwise godly leaders (cf. Heb. 13:17). Such mistakes are not characteristic of penitent, spiritual men who simply want to shepherd the flock of God (Acts 20:28). In other words, mistakes are the exception, not the norm, for godly leaders.

Yet, things that characterize an abusive leadership include (a) lacking of respect for the silence of the Scriptures in matters of religion and worship, (b) depending on charm or passive aggression rather than God’s Word and prayer, (c) playing favorites, (d) using extreme forms of communication (tempers, silent treatment), (e) speaking often and quick to pompously bloviate, (f) rarely serving others in secret, (g) teaching others without grounding them in God’s Word, and (h) emphasizing outward conformity rather than genuine repentance and contrition in spirit.

I understand the above characteristics are sometimes subjective. So here are some more specific qualities of an abusive leadership which, I believe, require you no choice but to leave.

Flee Your Church

1. When leaders teach blatant false doctrine (Gal. 1:7-9)

If elders are teaching or endorsing flat out error, and refuse to repent, it is time to leave. Staying to ‘fight’ may not be as fruitful as the statement you make by leaving. Of course, make sure you are leaving over a specific scriptural issue, not merely a matter of opinion.

2. When leaders tolerate outright error from those who teach (Rom. 16:17)

When we no longer hold to “one faith” (Eph. 4:5), we are no longer unified in the apostle’s teaching (John 17:20-21). When elders permit ‘alternate views’ to be taught within the assembly, it is time to leave.

I have experience with one church that permitted a man to teach an entire class on the subject of the Holy Spirit, wherein he taught obvious untruths about how the Spirit leads Christians & non-Christians alike, and how the Spirit supposedly still gives Christians miraculous abilities today. I know of another church that would permit a sermon on Matthew 19:9 so long as an ‘alternate teaching’ to what Christ taught was presented.

In cases like these, I would suggest leaving immediately in order to protect your family and to set a good example to the rest of the church.

3. When leaders no longer demand holiness (1 Cor. 5; 2 Thess. 3:6, 14)

If a church not longer expects saints to live like saints (1 Cor. 1:2; John 17:17), you must leave. Any church that tolerates open, impenitent sin among its members is no true church of God (1 Cor. 5:12-13).

I know of several churches that refused to discipline a man and a woman who had no scriptural right from God to be married (cf. Matt. 19:9). I know of another congregation that refused to discipline a man for living with a woman – as though they were husband and wife – though they were not married. And I know of still another congregation who tolerates a member (because she is a major financial supporter of the church) who openly supports the LGBT agenda. All of these serve as examples of downright wickedness.

If any of this describes your church, my advice is to leave immediately. I fear there will be many who will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and hear Him ask, “Why did you continue to attend that congregation when you knew they had lost their first Love?” (2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 2:4).

And When It Is Time To Leave…

1. Don’t burn bridges. Chances are – if you were building the relationships within the church community that God wanted (1 Cor. 12:25; Eph. 4:25) – you will still encounter members of that church from time to time. You’ll see them at the grocery store, at weddings, at funerals, at ballgames, and maybe even at family reunions. Do what you can to keep those meetings from being awkward. Try to leave your congregation on the best terms possible.

2. Leave graciously. Any time someone leaves a congregation (e.g. moving to a new address or graduating school), it is a painful experience. The pain is exacerbated when someone leaves for doctrinal reasons. Fight feelings of bitterness and anger. The temptation to leave a gaping wound will be strong. However, recognize that vengeance does not belong to you (Rom. 12:19). Rather, if the church – particularly the eldership – is guilty of abuse, then it has the judgment of the Lord to fear. Leave with gentleness, and let the Lord handle how they have treated His Bride.

3. Tell the elders why you are leaving. This is deeply important. Too many just ‘drop out’ from attending without telling anyone why or where they have gone. This makes the job of shepherding much more difficult (cf. Matt. 18:12-14). If you tell the elders you are leaving and why, maybe they can repent or clear up a misunderstanding or miscommunication. Maybe they need to learn from you. Since the Lord will judge them for their mistake (Heb. 13:17), the loving thing to do is expose their error before that Day.

4. Make it a ‘clean cut.’ If you’re going to leave, then leave. Don’t fade away, slowly dropping your commitments and relationships. If you are part of that church family, then be part of the church family. If you are leaving, then leave completely. Place yourself under another faithful, godly eldership as soon as possible so they can watch over your soul. (Read: Yes, Local Church Membership Is Essential)

5. Keep praying for the congregation you left. Pray for your former elders. Pray for the sheep still in their perilous care. Pray that those who are guilty of abuse will come to repentance. Pray for reconciliation.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 16, 2019 in Church

 

“Why Have A Family?”


big-family “Somewhere between the youthful energy of the teenager and the golden twilight years of a woman’s life there lives a marvelous and loving person known as a mother.”

“A mother is a curious mixture of patience, tolerance, kindness, understanding, discipline, industry, purity, and love.

“A mother can be at the same time both lovelorn counselor to a heartsick daughter and the head football coach to an athletic son. A mother can sew the tiniest stitch in the material for that dainty party dress, and she is equally experienced in threading through the heaviest noon-day traffic with a large SUV.”

“A mother is the only creature on earth who can cry when she’s happy, laugh when she’s heartbroken, and work when she’s sick. A mother is as gentle as a lamb and as strong as a giant. Only a mother can appear so weak and helpless, and yet at the same time, can put the fruit jar lid on so tightly that even dad can’t get it off.”

A mother is a picture of helplessness when dad’s around, and a marvel of resourcefulness when she’s all alone. A mother has the angelic voice of a member of the celestial choir when she’s singing a lullaby to that baby held tightly in her arms, and yet that same voice can dwarf the sounds of an amplifier when she calls the boys in for supper. A mother has the fascinating ability to be almost everywhere at once and she, alone, can somehow squeeze an enormous amount of living into an average day.”

“A mother is old fashioned to her teenager; she’s just mom to the third-grader; she’s mama to her little two-year old. There’s no greater thrill in life than to point to that wonderful woman and proclaim to the whole world – that’s my mother.”

We want to say some things this morning that go much beyond honoring mothers, though we will do that…we’re honoring God, who created for us that special creation – woman – and who placed into woman these wonderful qualities!

We live at a time when many young couples are considering the obstacles they face in marriage and the difficulties the world presents and are choosing not to have children. It causes us to ponder the question today: why have a family?

Certainly, it’s not to satisfy our own selfish ambitions. They take time and there are problems…many couples believe they’re “too busy” for children and the New Testament shows us this attitude in Mark 10:13-16: “People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. {14} When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. {15} I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” {16} And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.”

  • The disciples felt Jesus was too busy for the children
  • Jesus showed that He was not…and was indignant toward this attitude
  • And He tells each of us today that we should “be like children” in order to enter the kingdom of God

Why have children?

Because God has planted in me the intense need to love and care for someone else.

 One writer: “The fullest human life is one that takes a chance on being committed to another human being.”

Children provide us with a constant opportunity for personal growth toward self-fulfillment. They furnish a unique and inescapable demand for giving of ourselves! What is means to be a family is most beautifully expressed when two people accept all the risks of having children, knowing that they will always “be on call.”

We are all blessed to be around children; they teach us so much:

– honesty – wonder of discovery   – open   – quick to forgive  – forget completely

Having children gives the Mom and Dad a complete understanding of just how much God loves us!

Psalms 103:13: “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;”

When our children make really big, bad mistakes—our response to their repentant heart teaches us that God responds to our sins in the same way.

Children also teach us how to treat another young Christian:

1 Thessalonians 2:7-8: “…but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. {8} We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.”

 And fathers learn so much as we watch our wives care for the children:

“In the realm of self-giving, a mother’s love makes the wealth of even the most devoted father look pale. Lovingly, she accepts the pain of child bearing. Selflessly, she exerts the energy and invests the time it takes to care for her home and family. Untiringly, she sits at the bedside of her sick child. Willingly, she gives us comforts and luxury to help provide for her child’s education. And with every gift of herself she is enriched – mothers have much for which to be proud.”

By experiencing the love their parents give them, our children learn how to love. This is important because loving is contrary to many of the basic drives of our flesh …without loving, our children are left with a primary need unmet.

“The family is the one place on earth where you can be accepted when you seem to have made a wreck of your life, the one sanctuary where you are valued when you are old, the one refuge where you have worth when you can no longer produce.”

Seen on a church sign:

If evolution is true, how come mothers still have only two hands? — Donna Waldeyer, Paoli, Pennsylvania, Christian Reader, “Lite Fare.”

 Four basic ingredients for building positive relationships (these are true in a spiritual family, too!)

  1. Mutual respect

Problems between human beings of any age are usually the result of a lack of respect. Parents often complain that their children don’t respect them, but don’t realize that respect must be earned.

Nagging, yelling, hitting, talking down, begging, and doing things for children they can do for themselves all show lack of respect.

Think for a moment: as your child grows older, do you require them to knock before entering your bedroom but feel free to barge into theirs? It’s a sign of a lack of respect.

 2. Taking time for fun

We live in a hectic modern pace, and this is often overlooked. An hour of positive relationship is worth several hours of conflict. Take time for fun! Spend time with each child, often!

  1. Encouragement

We must believe in our children if they are to believe in themselves. To feel adequate, children need frequent encouragement – it’s our way to tell and show them “how they are doing” in a world that is often very critical and at a time when they are very self-conscious.

  1. Communicating love

How often do you tell your children, by words and actions, that you love them…unconditionally? To feel secure, each child must have at least one significant person to love and to be loved by.

 Expect a lot from them

  1. In the home – teach them to do what they’re capable of doing.
  2. At school – they must respect authority and appreciate an education
  3. In worship – be sure they’re holding the songbook and at least making the effort in areas where they can participate…if they bring materials to read or work with during a sermon geared to the adult…be sure it’s a Bible story or Bible-based workbooks
  4. Evangelism- visitation – have them make a visit with you when they’re young and it’s fun and before they learn to be afraid

 A perspective from a two-year old:

“I heard you say you don’t understand two year olds, so let me explain. When I’m in the high chair and I say ‘up’ it really means ‘down.’ Or sometimes it means ‘I don’t want milk, I want juice’ unless you give me juice in the first place…then I want milk.

“When I say ‘out’ and you open the door for me, the reason I throw a fit is because I want to stay in, unless I can go outside naked.

“I really don’t like to go for walks if I can’t ride in the stroller, unless you put me in the stroller. Then, I want to walk, or else be carried…or maybe scream a little.

“Oh, and one more thing: when you ask ‘do you have to go to potty’ and I say ‘no’ it really means ‘yes.’…but I like to wait to tell you about it in the car or in the grocery store.” Sincerely, you beloved two year old.

We should daily work ourselves out of a job and live each moment with our child with the goal of giving them back to God!

Psalms 127: “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. {2} In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat– for he grants sleep to those he loves. {3} Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. {4} Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. {5} Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.”

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 12, 2019 in Family

 

A study of Forgiveness: A Guiding Principle in the Issue of Love – Luke 7:36–50


“A person who is forgiven little shows only little love”

The present passage contrasts the attitudes of a sinful but repentant woman and the self-righteous. It needs to be studied carefully, for self-righteousness is a serious sin. It is both common and damning.

Simon, a Pharisee, invited Jesus to dinner. Note several things. Simon invited Jesus to his house, but he did not extend to Jesus the common courtesies (Luke 7:44-46). He was rude to the Lord. He was not even sure Jesus was a prophet, much less the Messiah (Luke 7:39).

Why then did he invite Jesus to his house? We do not know; nothing is said as to why. The best speculation is that Simon enjoyed the company of celebrities, and he had heard so much about Jesus that he wanted to meet and talk with Him on an informal and friendly basis.

Jesus ate with both sinners and religionists (Pharisees) (Luke 5:29-30). No one was excluded from His attention or love, even when they lacked the common everyday courtesies and respect (Luke 7:44-46). He sought every man.

The house of Simon was a house of the rich. The rich always had an open courtyard, usually in the center of the house; that is, the house was built around an open courtyard. Sometimes the host would allow the public to stand around in the courtyard and listen to the discussions, in particular when a rabbi or some celebrity was the chief guest.

Notice the attitude of the repentant. The woman was a sinner, a prostitute. She demonstrated what a sinner has to do in coming to Jesus.

She sensed a desperate need. She was either convicted of her sin while hearing Jesus or else she had heard Him before and came under heavy conviction. His plea for men and women to repent and prepare for the Kingdom of God pierced her heart. She knew she was a sinner: unclean, lost, condemned. The guilt and weight of her sin was more than she could bear. She ached for forgiveness and cleansing, for freedom and liberty.

She approached the Lord despite all. She knew that the public scorned and gossiped about her, and the so-called decent people wanted nothing to do with her. What would Jesus do—He who said, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest….” (Matthew 11:28-30)?

She knew that if she was recognized, the Pharisee might throw her out of the house. He knew about her (Luke 7:39). She thought about the situation, and her thinking turned into hope, and her hope into belief. Surely He who offered such an invitation would receive her.

Before anyone could stop her, she rushed to Jesus and stood behind Him at His feet. (Remember, in the East people reclined to eat. They rested on their left arm facing each other around the table with their body and feet extending out away from the table.)

She surrendered to the Lord in utter humility. Standing there, she was overcome with conviction and emotion. She fell at Jesus’ feet weeping—so broken that tears just flowed from her eyes. She unwound her hair and wiped and kissed Jesus’ feet. Seldom has such love and devotion been shown Jesus.

There was only one thing that could make a prostitute enter a Pharisee’s home—desperation. She was gripped with a sense of lostness, of helplessness, of urgency.

The loosening of her hair to wipe Jesus’ feet was forbidden of women in public. She must have been so desperate she was totally oblivious to the onlookers. The point is this: she was surrendering her heart and life to the Lord, begging Him to forgive her. She was so broken she was unable to speak, but Jesus knew her heart. Words were not necessary (Luke 7:47-48).

She loved much, giving her most precious possession. Perfume was highly valued by women of that day. Apparently, by describing the perfume as he does, Luke is stressing the expense of the perfume and the great sacrifice she was making. It was probably the most costly possession she had, so she was giving it to her Lord. However, there is something more important here. Note what she did with the perfume. She anointed her Lord; anointed His feet in a supreme act of humility and love and surrender.

The behavior of the self-righteous man revealed several things.

  1. The man was considerate, but self-righteous. Note, he only thought these things; he would not say them publicly lest he embarrass his guests. (How like the self-righteous!)
  2. The man considered himself better. He felt he was better than the sinful woman, so he would never allow her to touch him. He would keep his distance, ignore, and have nothing to do with her. But note something else. He considered his judgment and knowledge, opinions and behavior to be better than others. He expected others (Jesus) to judge and act as he did. He thought that if Jesus only knew who the lady was, then He would reject her.
  3. The man sensed no need for forgiveness and repentance. He thought of himself as good enough in two areas.
  4. He was good enough in religion. Note he was a Pharisee, a man who had given his life to practice religion. If anyone was ever good enough, he should have been.
  5. He was good enough in behavior. He was well behaved, decent and moral, just and equitable, respected and highly esteemed. He was not immoral; in fact, he would have nothing to do with immorality. He had not and never would commit a sin that would be publicly condemned. Therefore, he felt as though he had done nothing for which he needed forgiveness.

Jesus told a parable about two debtors. Note several things that say much to the self-righteous.

  1. Jesus announced that He had something to say, something critically important. Undivided attention was needed. Every self-righteous person needs to listen and listen closely.
  2. Jesus was a prophet and more—He was the Son of God; therefore, He not only knew the people who were sitting around Him, He knew their every thought. Note that from this point on, Jesus was answering the thoughts of Simon. Simon had never said a word about Jesus not knowing who the woman was nor about his own question about Jesus being a prophet. Simon had only been thinking these thoughts “within himself” (Luke 7:39).

Jesus is the Son of God; therefore, what a man thinks pales into insignificance when facing the One who knows all thoughts, including what one really thinks and feels within. Jesus knows the truth of every thought and feeling within a man. If a person is self-righteous, Jesus knows it. If a person is repentant, truly repentant, Jesus knows it. No one hides anything, no feeling, no thought from Him.

  1. The meaning of the parable is strikingly clear. A glance at the verses and points in the outline show this. Note how clearly the parable illustrates the grace of God in freely forgiving sin (salvation) (cp. Ephes. 1:7; Ephes. 2:8-9; 1 John 1:9; 1 John 2:1-2).

What was the overwhelming need of the self-righteous? To really see Jesus, who the repentant say He is. Note what Jesus asked Simon, “Seest thou this woman, this repentant?” The repentant had much to teach the self-righteous about Jesus. The repentant really sees Jesus, who He really is.

  1. Jesus was the One who deserved more than common courtesies. The host usually showed respect by providing water for the guests to wash their dusty, sandaled feet. The kiss was the accepted greeting among friends, and oil was usually given for honored guests to refresh themselves after travelling under the hot sun. It was expensive, so it was usually reserved for honored guests.
  2. Jesus deserved more than common respect (water); He deserved a worshipful respect. He was seen as Lord and was respected as Lord by the repentant. He was the One who alone could meet the needs of the human heart; therefore, He was the One who was to be worshipped. The self-righteous needed to learn this.
  3. Jesus deserved more than a common greeting; He deserved a humble, brokenhearted greeting. He was approached with a sense of unworthiness and humility. The repentant saw the worthiness of Jesus and grasped something of His awesome person as the Son of God and as the sovereign Lord of the universe; therefore, He was the One to whom all men owed their allegiance, the One who alone had the power to forgive and accept men. The repentant saw Jesus as the One who alone could help her, the One who alone had the power to help, so the repentant approached Jesus and greeted Him with a deep sense of humility and unworthiness. The self-righteous needed to learn this.
  4. Jesus deserved more than a common gift; He deserved a sacrificial gift. He was seen as the hope and Savior of one’s life, so the repentant gave Jesus her life, all she was and had. The repentant surrendered her life and gave the most precious gift she had to anoint her Lord. The self-righteous needed to learn this.
  5. Jesus was the One who had the power to forgive sins. Three simple facts are imporant here.
  6. The woman’s sins were many. Jesus did not overlook her sins, nor the seriousness of them. After all it was her sins and the sins of others that brought about His humiliation, His having to come to this sinful world and to die for the sins of men. However, He forgave her sins despite their awfulness. Every sinner should note this carefully.
  7. Self-righteousness sensed the need for little forgiveness; therefore, the self-righteous loved little. The self-righteous had only a formal, distant relationship with God. His relationship was cold, having only a small sense of sin and sensing only a little need for forgiveness. It was enough to have Jesus present at his table (the table was about the only place many acknowledged His presence).

The self-righteous approach to God…

  • has only a little sense of sin; therefore senses only a little need for forgiveness.
  • is blinded to man’s state of sin, to man’s true being, that of being short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23).
  • has little sense of the need for special mercy and grace, is blinded to God’s Sovereign Majesty and Person.
  • has only a formal, distant relationship with God, has little personal relationship with God.
  • gives little honor to God, makes little sacrifice for God.
  1. Jesus forgave sin. He had the power to forgive the sins of this repentant.
  2. Jesus was the One whom people needed to ask about.
  3. Jesus was the One who did save the repentant. The woman believed Christ to be the Savior, the One who could forgive her sins. Therefore, Christ saved her.

Could two people be more different? He is looked up to. She is looked down on. He is a church leader. She is a streetwalker. He makes a living promoting standards. She’s made a living breaking them. He’s hosting the party. She’s crashing it.

Ask the other residents of Capernaum to point out the more pious of the two, and they’ll pick Simon. Why, after all, he’s a student of theology, a man of the cloth. Anyone would pick him. Anyone, that is, except Jesus. Jesus knew them both. And Jesus would pick the woman. Jesus does pick the woman. And, what’s more, he tells Simon why.

Not that Simon wants to know. His mind is elsewhere. How did this whore get in my house? He doesn’t know whom to yell at first, the woman or the servant who let her in. After all, this dinner is a formal affair. Invitation only. Upper crust. Crème de la crème. Who let the riffraff in?

Simon is angry. Just look at her—groveling at Jesus’ feet. Kissing them, no less! Why, if Jesus were who he says he is, he would have nothing to do with this woman.

One of the lessons Simon learned that day was this: Don’t think thoughts you don’t want Jesus to hear. For Jesus heard them, and when he did, he chose to share a few of his own.

Simon invites Jesus to his house but treats him like an unwanted step-uncle. No customary courtesies. No kiss of greeting. No washing his feet. No oil for his head.

Or, in modern terms, no one opened the door for him, took his coat, or shook his hand. Count Dracula has better manners.

Simon does nothing to make Jesus feel welcome. The woman, however, does everything that Simon didn’t. We aren’t told her name. Just her reputation—a sinner. A prostitute most likely. She has no invitation to the party and no standing in the community.

But people’s opinions didn’t stop her from coming. It’s not for them she has come. It’s for him. Her every move is measured and meaningful. Each gesture extravagant. She puts her cheek to his feet, still dusty from the path. She has no water, but she has tears. She has no towel, but she has her hair. She uses both to bathe the feet of Christ. As one translation reads, “she rained tears” on his feet (v. 44 msg ). She opens a vial of perfume, perhaps her only possession of worth, and massages it into his skin. The aroma is as inescapable as the irony.

You’d think Simon of all people would show such love. Is he not the minister of the church, the student of Scripture? But he is harsh, distant. You’d think the woman would avoid Jesus. Is she not the woman of the night, the town hussy? But she can’t resist him. Simon’s “love” is calibrated and stingy. Her love, on the other hand, is extravagant and risky.

How do we explain the difference between the two? Training? Education? Money? No, for Simon has outdistanced her in all three.

But there is one area in which the woman leaves him eating dust. Think about it. What one discovery has she made that Simon hasn’t? What one treasure does she cherish that Simon doesn’t? Simple. God’s love. We don’t know when she received it. We aren’t told how she heard about it. Did she overhear Jesus’ words “Your Father is merciful” ( Luke 6:36 esv )?

Was she nearby when Jesus had compassion on the widow of Nain? Did someone tell her how Jesus touched lepers and turned tax collectors into disciples? We don’t know. But we know this. She came thirsty. Thirsty from guilt. Thirsty from regret. Thirsty from countless nights of making love and finding none. She came thirsty.

And when Jesus hands her the goblet of grace, she drinks. She doesn’t just taste or nip. She doesn’t dip her finger and lick it or take the cup and sip it. She lifts the liquid to her lips and drinks, gulping and swallowing like the parched pilgrim she is. She drinks until the mercy flows down her chin and onto her neck and chest. She drinks until every inch of her soul is moist and soft. She comes thirsty and she drinks. She drinks deeply.

Simon, on the other hand, doesn’t even know he is thirsty. People like Simon don’t need grace; they analyze it. They don’t request mercy; they debate and prorate it. It wasn’t that Simon couldn’t be forgiven; he just never asks to be.

So while she drinks up, he puffs up. While she has ample love to give, he has no love to offer. Why? The 7:47 Principle. Read again verse 47 of chapter 7 : “A person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”

Just like the jumbo jet, the 7:47 Principle has wide wings. Just like the aircraft, this truth can lift you to another level. Read it one more time. “A person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” In other words, we can’t give what we’ve never received. If we’ve never received love, how can we love others?

But, oh, how we try! As if we can conjure up love by the sheer force of will. As if there is within us a distillery of affection that lacks only a piece of wood or a hotter fire. We poke it and stoke it with resolve. What’s our typical strategy for treating a troubled relationship? Try harder.

“My spouse needs my forgiveness? I don’t know how, but I’m going to give it.”

“I don’t care how much it hurts, I’m going to be nice to that bum.”

“I’m supposed to love my neighbor? Okay. By golly, I will.”

So we try. Teeth clinched. Jaw firm. We’re going to love if it kills us! And it may do just that.

Could it be we are missing a step? Could it be that the first step of love is not toward them but toward him? Could it be that the secret to loving is receiving? You give love by first receiving it. “We love, because he first loved us” ( 1 John 4:19 nasb ).

Long to be more loving? Begin by accepting your place as a dearly loved child. “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us” ( Eph. 5:1–2 niv ).

Want to learn to forgive? Then consider how you’ve been forgiven. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” ( Eph. 4:32 niv ).

Finding it hard to put others first? Think of the way Christ put you first. “Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God” ( Phil. 2:6 nlt ).

Need more patience? Drink from the patience of God ( 2 Pet. 3:9 ). Is generosity an elusive virtue? Then consider how generous God has been with you ( Rom. 5:8 ). Having trouble putting up with ungrateful relatives or cranky neighbors? God puts up with you when you act the same. “He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked” ( Luke 6:35 niv ).

Can’t we love like this?

Not without God’s help we can’t. Oh, we may succeed for a time. We, like Simon, may open a door. But our relationships need more than a social gesture. Some of our spouses need a foot washing. A few of our friends need a flood of tears. Our children need to be covered in the oil of our love.

But if we haven’t received these things ourselves, how can we give them to others? Apart from God, “the heart is deceitful above all things” ( Jer. 17:9 niv ). A marriage-saving love is not within us. A friendship-preserving devotion cannot be found in our hearts. We need help from an outside source. A transfusion. Would we love as God loves? Then we start by receiving God’s love.

We preachers have been guilty of skipping the first step. “Love each other!” we tell our churches. “Be patient, kind, forgiving,” we urge. But instructing people to love without telling them they are loved is like telling them to write a check without our making a deposit in their accounts.

No wonder so many relationships are overdrawn. Hearts have insufficient love. The apostle John models the right sequence. He makes a deposit before he tells us to write the check.

First, the deposit: God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. ( 1 John 4:9–10 nlt)

And then, having made such an outrageous, eye-opening deposit, John calls on you and me to pull out the checkbook: “Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other” (v. 11 nlt).

The secret to loving is living loved. This is the forgotten first step in relationships. Remember Paul’s prayer? “May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love” ( Eph. 3:17 nlt ). As a tree draws nutrients from the soil, we draw nourishment from the Father. But what if the tree has no contact with the soil?

I was thinking of this recently as I helped our daughter Tonia disassembled her Christmas tree (we have used a fake one for years). She had removed the ornaments and I helped carry out the tree, and sweep up all the needles. There are thousands of them! The tree is falling apart. Blame it on bad rooting. For two weeks this tree has been planted in a metal bowl. What comes from a tree holder?

Old Simon had the same problem. Impressive to look at, nicely decorated, but he falls apart when you give him a shove or two.

Does bumping into certain people leave you brittle, breakable, and fruitless? Do you easily fall apart? If so, your love may be grounded in the wrong soil. It may be rooted in their love (which is fickle) or in your resolve to love (which is frail). John urges us to “rely on the love God has for us” ( 1 John 4:16 niv, emphasis mine). He alone is the power source.

Many people tell us to love. Only God gives us the power to do so.

We know what God wants us to do. “This is what God commands: … that we love each other” ( 1 John 3:23). But how can we? How can we be kind to the vow breakers? To those who are unkind to us? How can we be patient with people who have the warmth of a vulture and the tenderness of a porcupine? How can we forgive the moneygrubbers and backstabbers we meet, love, and marry? How can we love as God loves? We want to. We long to. But how can we?

By living loved. By following the 7:47 Principle: Receive first, love second.

Want to give it a try? Let’s carry this principle up the Mount Everest of love writings. More than one person has hailed 1 Corinthians 13 as the finest chapter in the Bible. No words get to the heart of loving people like these verses.

And no verses get to the heart of the chapter like verses 4 through 8 .

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. ( niv )

Several years ago someone challenged me to replace the word love in this passage with my name. I did and became a liar. “Gary is patient, Gary is kind. Gary does not envy, he does not boast, he is not proud.…” That’s enough! Stop right there! Those words are false. Gary is not patient. Gary is not kind. Ask my wife and kids. Gary can be an out-and-out clod! That’s my problem.

And for years that was my problem with this paragraph. It set a standard I could not meet. No one can meet it. No one, that is, except Christ. Does this passage not describe the measureless love of God? Let’s insert Christ’s name in place of the word love, and see if it rings true.

Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind. Jesus does not envy, he does not boast, he is not proud. Jesus is not rude, he is not self-seeking, he is not easily angered, he keeps no record of wrongs. Jesus does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Jesus always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Jesus never fails.

Rather than let this scripture remind us of a love we cannot produce, let it remind us of a love we cannot resist—God’s love.

Some of you are so thirsty for this type of love. Those who should have loved you didn’t. Those who could have loved you didn’t. You were left at the hospital. Left at the altar. Left with an empty bed. Left with a broken heart. Left with your question “Does anybody love me?”

Please listen to heaven’s answer. God loves you. Personally. Powerfully. Passionately. Others have promised and failed. But God has promised and succeeded. He loves you with an unfailing love. And his love—if you will let it—can fill you and leave you with a love worth giving.

So come. Come thirsty and drink deeply. The person who comes to Christ must come with a broken and contrite heart.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 9, 2019 in Forgiveness

 

Six Things To Remember When We Are Treated Unfairly


How do you react when someone treats you unfairly? Let’s say someone double crosses you or cheats you. Maybe someone lies about you and your reputation is damaged. Perhaps your boss chews you out for something you know you didn’t do or singles you out because he doesn’t like what you stand for. What is your typical response? Do you…

unfair

  • Retreat into a depression?
  • Withdraw from human interaction?
  • Look for a way to get even?
  • Vow that you’ll never do anything nice for anyone again?
  • Cheat the next guy down the line because you conclude that it’s a dog-eat-dog world?
  • Become so cynical about the world that you no longer enjoy life?

These responses are all too common. As Christians, we are called by God to be different from the world and this is one area where that difference can really show.

 THE FIRST THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT THIS LIFE ISN’T FAIR.

I suppose some of you might think it is redundant for me to say that, but it never ceases to amaze me that so many Christians get so upset when things don’t come out even.

Whoever said that this life was fair, anyway? I’m not aware of any Bible verse that teaches such a thing. Of course, God will ultimately even things out at the judgment – a point the Bible makes often – but in the here-and-now there are no guarantees. In fact, in a fallen world like ours, with mankind corrupted by a sinful nature and God allowing freedom of choice, it only follows that things are not going to be fair all the time.

Yet, it bugs us, doesn’t it? It bugs me! The bad guy sometimes wins. The criminal gets off Scot-free. The ladder climber who steps on everyone in his path gets the penthouse. The politician lies and gets away with it because the economy is good.

I’m not suggesting here that we shouldn’t do whatever we can when we can to make things right. I’m simply saying that sometimes making things even is beyond what we can do. At that point, so that we don’t go insane at the unbalanced nature of it all, we need to remember that we live in a fallen world and until God redeems this place from the curse and removes sin, it’s not always going to be fair.

I’m not recommending defeatism or fatalism here. I’m simply trying to be realistic. Don’t set your expectations too high. In this life, no matter how you live or what you do, life isn’t always going to be fair.

Matthew 20 teaches us that lesson: a worker who worked only one hour received the same pay that another worker who had been there sincer 9 a.m. received!

 THE SECOND THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT WHAT HAPPENS IN YOU IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU.

Things are going to happen in this life that we are powerless to change. We usually cannot rearrange someone else’s behavior toward us, nor can we undo the moments in which someone has hurt us. Maybe it can be prevented next time, but once it has happened, it has happened. There is no backing up.

If we keep reliving the unhappy moment and devote endless hours to appealing the verdict of a wrongdoing in our minds, we will be left spent and miserable. Though it is sometimes hard to see, time passed in the courtroom of our mind trying the case over and over is really time wasted. Even though we’re sure the verdict is guilty, there is usually no way to bring about justice in this life without becoming guilty ourselves. Our best (and sometimes only) recourse is to ask the Lord to change our inner life – to use this evil to bring about good in us.

We’ve seen that Joseph knew this truth. For all that was done to him by his brothers, he could have died a bitter and unhappy man. He didn’t do that though. At some point along the way he decided he would concentrate his energies on being the best person that he could be for God in whatever circumstance he found himself. Over the process of a lifetime, because of this attitude, God could take him from a pit to a palace. One has to wonder how different it might have been had Joseph chosen to spend endless hours licking his wounds and rehearsing his hurts. After 23 years of living with this choice of betterness rather than bitterness, as his brothers stood before him in a position where revenge could have been a snap-of-the-fingers away, his verdict was this: “…you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…”

Suppose you hold a glass of water as you walk towards me. I carelessly (or deliberately) bump into you. Whatever you have in the glass will probably spill out.

That is the way our lives are. When we are bumped, whatever is inside comes out. For most of us, an injustice done to us personally is a very jarring bump. Sadly, it is disgraceful sometimes the things that spill out.

God wants the things inside the glass cleaned up. From time to time He will allow us to be bumped, sometimes quite forcefully and unjustly, to reveal what is there. A life where the work of the Holy Spirit has been neglected will reveal a cup full of hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissention, faction, and envy. God wants all of that to change. What happens in you is far more important than what happens to you.

THE THIRD THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT GOD IS WATCHING TO SEE WHAT YOU WILL DO.

There is more happening when an injustice is done to us than just the unpleasantness of the moment. God is watching to see what we will do and He sees it all, from beginning to end. As the Scripture clearly reveals, He is testing us. There are so many verses on this subject that I hesitate to pick just one, however, there is a passage that I have found quite helpful at such times. Maybe it can help you.

(1 Pet. 2:19-20) says, “For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.  But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.”

God is watching to see how we handle unjust suffering.  So what does God want us to do when we suffer unjustly? These verses tell us that it finds favor with God if we “bear up under the pain of unjust suffering.” When we suffer, lets make God proud by enduring the pain and handling it properly.

THE FOURTH THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT YOU MUST NOT BOW TO BITTERNESS.

All of us need to set some standards for ourselves. We need to draw the line in the sand and say, “Beyond this point I will not go – not for comfort – not for security – not for revenge – not for anything!

 Paul wrote to the Ephesians “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Eph. 4:31).

 You see there is no part of “all” that allows for an exception. God wants all the bitterness out of you and me.

 ILLUSTRATION:

A doctor told a man that he had rabies. Upon hearing the diagnosis, he took out a piece of paper and started writing on it. The doctor thought, “Oh, he must be making up his will,” so he asked, “What are you doing, making up your will?” The man said, “No, I’m just writing down every person I’m going to bite.”

 Sadly, that is how some folks handle injustice. They are so bitter that they bite everyone else around them. We must never bow to bitterness.

 solidarityTHE FIFTH THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT WHAT YOU DO IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN HOW YOU FEEL.

God has spelled out what our behavior is to be in the kind of situation we’re discussing in many places in Scripture. I’ll mention just a few:

 Matthew   5:44 says, “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you…”

 Luke   6:27-28 says, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…”

Romans   12:20 says, “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink..”

 

It isn’t particularly difficult to figure out what these verses say we must do. The difficult part is our feelings, isn’t it? Why is it so hard…

  • To get on our knees and pray for that person whose carelessness or neglect caused us so much pain?
  • To go down to the store and buy a gift and send it to that person whom we know must hate us?
  • To say something that blesses them rather than cursing them under our breath?

The answer is simple. Every feeling in our bodies is screaming that it isn’t right!

Ah! We’ve come to an important crossroad in this matter. We’ve come to the place where we learn whether we’re serious about our faith or not. The true Christian will strive to do what is right even if his/her feelings aren’t in favor of it.

Many of us have yet to learn this very important part of our faith. Doing the right thing isn’t always the thing that makes us feel good at the moment.

Many of the things God has called us to do require us to go against our feelings for the moment. “Love your enemies?” Who feels like doing that?

But, you see the Christian knows that actions lead, feelings follow. Want to see an example?

 John   3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son….”

 God loved us so much that He gave His Son. How do you suppose that made God feel? Was He jumping for joy when His Son hung suffering on the cross? What do you think would have happened had God acted on His feelings that day rather than His loving commitment to offer a way for the world to be saved?

The right thing isn’t always the thing that feels good at the moment. Actions lead, feelings follow. Where did the good feelings come in then, when Jesus died on the cross? They came later, after the sacrifice had been made and people were coming to God because of what Jesus did!

Hebrews   12:2 says exactly that: “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross…”

 The joy followed the cross. It didn’t come prior or during. Likewise, the good feelings that result from our doing right usually come after the act, not before. If we wait around in the beginning, hoping to get our feelings to go along with our actions, we’ll seldom do what is right.

How about it?  Are you returning good for evil? Are you turning the other cheek when it is appropriate? Are you walking the second mile? Are you praying for that person who has hurt you so? Are you, like God, allowing whatever blessings you have in your life to fall on the just and the unjust, or are you selective, based on the records you’ve kept of wrongs done against you? Are you blessing rather than cursing? (The word “bless” in this case means literally, “to speak well of.”)

 “But I don’t feel like it!” Welcome to the world of discipleship. It’s that way for all of us.

 THE SIXTH THING TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN TREATED UNFAIRLY IS THAT YOU ARE STILL THE BIGGER DEBTOR.

In (Matthew 18), Jesus tells the story of a man who owed a king ten million dollars. There was no way he could pay his debt and in that day, there was no bankruptcy – only debtor’s prison or slavery. As he was about to be thrown into prison, he begged the King to give him another chance and more time to pay. The King listened to his pleading and felt mercy for him. He didn’t just give him more time to pay. He completely forgave the debt. The man walked away free.

You probably know the rest of the story. As soon as he got home he found someone who owed him a few hundred dollars. The man didn’t have the money, so this man who had just been forgiven a debt of millions of dollars had his own debtor thrown into prison. After all, it’s only just. “It’s what the man had coming for what he did to me. He should learn to pay his debts on time! It’s his fault. Fair is fair, right?”

Then the King got word of the whole thing. He was angry and resummoned the man he had forgiven just a short time before. To make the long story short, he called the unforgiving man “wicked” and reinstated his millions of dollars of debt. The man went to prison until he could pay it off – which, of course, was never. He went to prison for the rest of his life.

Then Jesus said, “So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”

 My friends, no matter whom might wrong us, we are still the bigger debtor. We always will be. God has forgiven a huge debt that we could never pay on our own. Because of that, is it really that much for God to ask us to overlook some of these hurts we experience here? I think not.

 Are you one who feels you must even the score here? Then expect God to even the score on you when you get to judgment.

 CONCLUSION 

A certain tenant farmer had worked hard for many years to improve the production of the land he leased. Then something happened that caused him to become very bitter. When it was time to renew his lease, the owner told him he was going to sell the farm to his son who was getting married. The tenant made several generous offers to buy it himself, hoping the man’s decision would be reversed, but his pleading got nowhere.

As the day drew near for the farmer to vacate his home, his weeks of angry brooding finally got the best of him. He gathered seeds from some of the most pesky and noxious weeds he could find. Then he spent many hours scattering them on the clean, fertile soil of the farm, along with a lot of trash and rocks he had collected.

To his dismay, the very next morning the owner informed him that plans for his son’s wedding had fallen through, and therefore he would be happy to renew the lease. He couldn’t understand why the farmer exclaimed in agonizing tones, “What a fool I’ve been!”

 Try as we might to even up the score when we’re treated unfairly, the result for us will be the same as it was for that tenant farmer. At the end, we’ll exclaim, “What a fool I’ve been!”

 

Crisis and change often bring people to times of self-examination and reflection and even prayer


Crisis and change often bring people to times of self-examination and reflection and even prayer. It was just such a time for young Isaiah when he went to the temple to pray (Isaiah 6:1-9). 

King Uzziah’s reign had begun with such promise, but unfortunately, pride overtook Uzziah and he presumed to do, in the temple, what was forbidden. He was struck with leprosy and he died, not in the palace, but the leper ward.

Any crisis, even a small one, can be an opportunity for a fresh vision of God. If we consider what Isaiah saw, it might help our spiritual eyesight. Like Isaiah, we can find new inspiration and renewed commitment.

John 15:5 (45 kb)Isaiah saw his Lord: It was a time of reverence. He needed to see God. He had placed so much confidence in a visible king that he had previously felt little need to reach out to the invisible king. He saw God in all His majesty; God was “high and exalted.” 

He saw God in His power: “The train of his robe filled the temple.” He also saw God in His holiness. The seraphs, covered in humility, sing “Holy, holy, holy.” The seraphs’ song underscores the fact that we have a holy God.

In our desire to stress the love of God, we should never rob Him of His awesomeness.

Isaiah saw his sin: It was a time of repentance. This is a natural reaction after coming to terms with the holiness of God. When we capture a vision of God, we must be willing to see ourselves as we really are, even if it grieves us. It is a refreshing thing to see that Isaiah mentioned his own sin before he mentioned the sin of his neighbors.

Isaiah saw his own sin and said, “I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.”

Isaiah saw his cleansing: It was a time of restoration. God did not deny Isaiah’s sinfulness, but he did provide an escape. A seraph took a coal from the altar, where the sacrifice for sin was made, and seared Isaiah’s lips, sterilizing them.  There was no reason for Isaiah to continue to feel unworthy. He had been made pure.

Isaiah saw his mission: It was a time of recognition. When God says, “Go!” we go. There is no debating. We don’t say, “There he is, send him.” We don’t worry about how the people will respond. Isaiah was warned ahead of time that the people would not respond as they should. [1]

It doesn’t matter what the people do, we must be faithful. God sent the people a message not because they wanted it, but because they needed it. The message Isaiah would bring his people was the message he had received. There is forgiveness and purpose with God, if you will just turn your life over to his care and authority.

There is change and chaos in the world, but I say to you, “God is still on the throne.” If you doubt it, just look around. He might be closer than you think. Maybe you can say, “I saw the Lord, high and exalted, and that has made all the difference.”

How does God reveal Himself?  One way is in nature. David proclaimed that ”The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. {2} Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. {3} There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. {4} Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, {5} which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. {6} It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.” (Psalms 19:1-6)

Paul lays a heavy responsibility upon every human being, who can learn at a stated level that he is left without excuse if he does not respond with a changed life:  “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, {19} since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. {20} For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. {21} For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:18-21)

The Apostle Paul taught us that God reveals something about His holy standards through man’s conscience. (Romans 2:14-16) Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, {15} since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) {16} This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

But none of these give us very many particulars about God’s personality or nature. We need something more. We need to have Him talk with us. And He does that, not through spooky voices or mystical experiences, but through Scripture.

They are God’s words to us. They were given by the breath of His mouth: (Matthew 4:4)  Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, {17} so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Peter 1:20-21)  Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. {21} For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

In the Bible God tells us what He is like. We learn how He thinks, how He feels, and how we can expect Him to act. If we want to know God, we must begin by opening the Bible and reading what He has to say about Himself.

But God is infinite, and we are finite human beings. How can the finite ever really understand the infinite? How can the human ever truly know the divine?

It seems that God must reveal Himself to us in some way more personal than mere written words if we are ever to know Him genuinely. And that is exactly what He did through Jesus Christ. (John 1:14-18)  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. {15} John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'” {16} From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. {17} For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. {18} No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. (Hebrews 1:1-3)  In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, {2} but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. {3} The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Jesus Christ is the out-shining of God’s glory and the perfect expression of God’s essential being. To know Him is to know God. Jesus Himself made that claim when He said: “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him. (John 14:7).

While Jesus has returned bodily to Heaven, God has given us both the inspired record of His life as well as the spiritual faculties we need to know Him personally. We can know Christ just as intimately as if we walked with Him on earth as His first disciples did. And to know Him is to know God.


[1] Sermon Outlines For Seekers by J. Michael Shannon.
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 2, 2019 in Sermon

 

The Need For Patience—James 5:7-11


7  Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.
8  You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
9  Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.
10  As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
11  Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

James again directs his remarks to his brothers in Christ. The patience that he calls for requires them to wait under duress. James tells his brothers to be patient, even in the midst of injustice.

The believers need to endure, trust in God through their trials, and refuse to try to get even for wrongs committed against them . But patience does not mean inaction. There is work to be done—serving God, caring for one another, and proclaiming the Good News.

There is an end point, a time when patience will no longer be needed—the Lord’s coming. At that time, everything will be made right. The early church lived in constant expectation of Christ’s return, and so should we. Because we don’t know when Christ will return to bring justice and remove oppression, we must wait with patience

We need patience in every area of life…we spend a lot of our lives waiting…which forces us to develop patience

A lot of your life is spent waiting. As a little kid, you wait to start school, then you couldn’t wait until you got out of school, then you couldn’t wait to fall in love, then couldn’t wait to get married, then couldn’t wait to get a job, then couldn’t wait to have kids….. we spend a lot of our lives waiting.

There are many things in life that test our patience: freeways, supermarket lines, doctors’ offices, irritating people.  We hate to wait.

We’re going to look at what James has to say on How do you develop patience? You need patience in every area of your life. In this passage, James uses the word “patience” or “perseverance” 6 times.  He uses 3 illustrations to teach us when, why, and how to be patient.

Don’t judge the Lord by his unfinished work. Be patient till he unveils the perfect pattern in glory. Await the “end of the Lord.”  F. B. Meyer

WHEN SHOULD I BE PATIENT?  James says there are three special times when you need that extra dose of patience:

  1. When circumstances are uncontrollable: a lot of life is beyond your control?

You cannot keep your thumb on everything. James uses a farmer as an example of when circumstances are uncontrollable. v. 7 “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient.” 

Part of the job description of being a farmer is you do a lot of waiting: waiting to till, to plant, to prune. Yet more than the factors of waiting on things to do are the factors that the farmer has no control over-weather, rain, heat, the economy, labor practices. You too deal with a lot of uncontrollable factors-circumstances-in life. 

Have you noticed that even when we realize a situation is beyond our control, we still try to control it? We do that by worrying. We think that worry will control a situation. To worry about something you can change is dumb, to worry about something you can’t change is useless. Either way you shouldn’t worry. We need patience in uncontrollable circumstances.

Standing firm is difficult in the face of temptation, persecution, problems, trials, and suffering. This challenging phrase literally means “be patient and strengthen your hearts”

8  You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

9  Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.

These believers, facing persecution from the outside and problems on the inside, may naturally find themselves grumbling and criticizing one another. James doesn’t want them to be filled with resentment and bitterness toward each other—that would only destroy the unity they so desperately need. Refraining from grumbling is part of what it means to be patient (5:7).

  1. When people are unchangeable.

When people won’t change. He gives an example of the prophets. Look at v. 10: “My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience.”

What was the duty of prophets? To help people change,  bring them back to God, to be different in their behavior. Have you noticed that people resist change?

Do you have anybody in your life right now who refuses to change? You know how difficult it is to live with that kind of person?

We need patience with people. Joyce Lander calls these “irregular people”-they are people who only see their own way. They may never change. What are you going to do about it? James says, have patience.

The word “patience” in the Greek is the word “macrothumos”-“macro” meaning “long” & “thumos” (from which we get the word “thermometer”) meaning “heat”. It literally means “it takes a long time for you to get hot”.

You’ve got a long fuse, you don’t blow up. If you’re going to be a success with people, you have to learn patience.  If you’re going to be successful parents, you have to have a long fuse. Spouse. Christian. In your service.

  1. When problems are unexplainable.

The classic example is in v. 11, “You have heard of Job’s perseverance.”

Job played in the Super Bowl of suffering. He won the championship. He was the wealthiest man that had lived to then-had everything going for him. In a 2 day period, everything fell part. He went bankrupt, his children were murdered, he got an incurable, disease that was very painful.

You think you’ve got problems! He lost his family, his friends, his finances. He was suffering materially, physically, socially. His wife comes to him and says, “Curse God and die!” And that was his support system!

God allowed the devil to take away everything in his life except a nagging wife. The worst part of Job’s suffering was that he had absolutely no idea why it was happening. There was no apparent reason for his misfortune. Of all people, Job had the privilege to say, “Why me?”

Life is not fair! God never said it would be fair. A lot of things in life just don’t make sense. Maybe we’ll never understand on this of heaven.

Job didn’t understand. In all of that unexplained problem, Job maintained his faith. Sometimes we just can’t figure out our problems. When circumstances are uncontrollable, when people are unchangeable, and when problems are unexplainable you really need patience. 

WHY BE PATIENT?

  1. Because God is in control. “Be patient & stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” v. 8.

3 times in this passage, James says, the Lord’s coming is near. That is the ultimate proof that God is in control. Nothing can stop it. The Bible talks more about Jesus’ 2nd coming-when He comes back to judge the world-than it does about His 1st coming.

God is in control of history.  God’s purpose for your life is greater than any problem you’re facing right now. 

God is in control. Though a situation may be out of my control, no circumstance is out of God’s control. 

Although I can’t control everything that happens in my life, God can, so I ought to trust Him.

And because God is in control and everything is working out, be patient.  Job persevered. God’s timing is perfect, He’s never late. Some of you are experiencing a real delay right now but God’s delays never thwart His purpose.

  1. God rewards patience. v. 11a “As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered.”

The second half of Job’s life was more blessed than the first half. God doubled everything he had.

It pays to be patient. There are all kinds of rewards. Your character grows, you get along with people better, you’re happier, you reach your goals. 

There are lots of benefits of being patient.  God rewards it. But not just on this side of eternity, but on the other side you’re going to be rewarded.

 

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 29, 2019 in Encouragement

 
 
%d bloggers like this: