Do as I say, not as I do

Good Morning Bible Journal Family!

Keep reading daily and living out God’s word.   Developing yourself and others requires time in His word.  Ephesians 4:11-12 says So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.

Today’s Reading Matthew 23 and Psalm 96

Matthew 23:4-5 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

I  heard growing up the phrase, “Do as I say, not as I do” many times at different occasions.  So in most cases what did I do? I didn’t listen and did it anyway, often learning the hard way. So in fast forwarding time, now there are times when I have say to my own children, students, family, friends, and others,  “Do as I say, not as I did.”  Mostly because I learned the hard way and trying to spare some pain.

Some of us learn by listening, while others learn by doing and failing or succeeding. God has provided us His perfect living word and provided us a perfect model of these words in His son, Jesus.  There are other places in the bible where we find those who didn’t follow, or made up their own version of the law. As we continue to read through Matthew we get to Matthew 23 where Jesus warns us about the hypocrisy in the Pharisees.  It’s hard to believe that those who were so familiar with the word and could probably reference and quote whole books of the bible would lose sight of God. Not even  realizing they were in the presence of His son Jesus. To the point of trying to disprove Him or get Him to say something wrong(which He never did). The Pharisees had such wonderful knowledge of the law but lacked the true relationship needed. There are so many times where I wish I could just remember that “just right” verse for that moment to share with someone.   But I realize that wasn’t the only thing that was holding back these teachers of the law. Often they could put made laws above Gods.  They told the rules to everyone but when it came down to them it wasn’t happening. Rules that were followed were to make them look better and not about the focus being on God.

When I think about the Pharisees I wonder why they couldn’t take off blinders and realize they were in the presence of our Lord. Honestly, I wonder why at times my blinders can be on too.  Do I practice what I preach? Is there times I don’t even say anything? In my humble reflection, I think about sharing of God’s living word. Am I focusing and Him or myself.  God has already promised you a place in heaven with Him and it won’t be based on what we do or don’t do. Am I  acting out of convenience for myself or my present circumstance. am I dropping the ball just like a Pharisee.  Do I put things on others and not willing to help out of selfishness? As we read through these living stories I’m given a daily reminder of making sure it’s not about me, it’s about God.  It’s not about me, it’s about others.  It our earthly lives it can be easy to get caught up in the

In our earthly life we have to be careful to what people ask us to do.  Is it what they want? Is it what we want? Ultimately,  is it what God wants? As I reflect on these words I try to remind myself of the true meaning of why we do things.  Is it for myself or for others. If we go back to the acronym JOY (Jesus, Others, Yourself) are we talking in our homes and workplaces about Jesus=1st, Others = 2nd, Yourself= 3rd  Oh how I can mess up this order sometimes.  Are we acting these characteristics of Jesus out in lives? You may be the only Christian that person runs into today.  One additional reminder question to reflect on says Matthew 23:28 “In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside…

Psalm 96:3 Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples.

 

Dear God,

Thank you for your truth.  Thank you for washing us clean. Your word continues to shape and form our lives. Our prayer is to not make anything about us, but about You and your word.  That as we go about our days with the true meaning of what we do, how we do it, and who we do it for, leading us all back to you and your love.  Keep our communion in you close so we know who we live our life for.  I pray our words match our actions and always represent you, in which we give you all the glory.

Amen

The only example we should follow is His.  John 13:15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

Good, Good Father

Today’s reading is Matthew 20 and Psalm 93.

As we read Matthew 20:1-16 about the laborers who worked in the vineyard and were paid the same wage regardless whether they started working at the beginning or the end of the day, I have a feeling of great gratitude. I’m thankful were serve a great God who doesn’t care what we’ve done and when we give our life to him, but only that we give our life to Him.

As I ponder this in amazement, I can’t help but wonder why he is so loving and gracious? For all parents reading this, think of a time when your young children had a really bad day and you were at your wit’s end. As bedtime nears you are not sure if you can take any more of it and if they are like our kids there must be caffeine in the bathwater because they become even more rambunctious and listening goes out the window during and after bath. You then tuck them into bed to say good night, and they say in the sweetest little voice, “Daddy/Mommy…I love you.” Your heart then instantly melts. You forget the recent scolding and headaches they just caused you, and you realize deep down your love for them is unconditional. Why? Well, I believe it is because they are yours and you created them. Check out Matthew 20:15. The vineyard owner says, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” God is telling us we belong to Him. He is our Heavenly Father and our one and true Creator. When you or others can’t imagine how God can forgive many past sins and potentially nearly a lifetime of separation from Him in some cases, we need reminded that we are His and He created us so His love is unconditional forgetting past mistakes. He only wants us to come back like the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. As a side note, this why the role of an earthly father is so important, God created us to model His love so that our kids can see it through us.

This week in our church we studied Joshua 2 where Rahab, a prostitute, helped the Israelite spies entering Jericho, even though she was a pagan and lived a life even pagans would believe to be wrong. We learn in Matthew 1:5 that she later became part of the lineage of Jesus! Talk about a redemption story! The Bible is truly full of them with this being just one example. Our Pastor Mike Baker said, “You can never get so far from Jesus that He can’t save you.” I would also add that you can never get so far from Jesus that He can’t use you for something positive and big. Outsiders become insiders through Jesus, and we are all outsiders to God through our sin …even Christians(Romans 3:23). Pastor Mike said, “Jesus came for outsiders like Rahab and all of us.”

I can’t help but think of the lyrics to the song, “Good, Good Father.” The lyrics not only say, “You’re a good, good Father, it’s who you are.” The lyrics also say, “I’m loved by you, it’s who I am.” Isn’t that awesome? You may feel like a failure. Maybe you have a failed marriage or relationship, troubled kids who make you feel like a poor parent, professional shortcomings, financial challenges or even a fallout in relationship with your siblings or earthly parents whose love and approval you deeply yearn for. There is no question these situations are hard and painful. Thankfully, these lyrics are so true though as the Scriptures remind us countless times. He created us and not only is He good, but only Him and His love matters. This is who we are. His love, and His love only, defines us. His love is unconditional. Praise God!

As we read Matthew 20, we can also likely think of a family member or friend who is a non-believer, and we are reminded it’s not too late, no matter how old they are, and no matter how many times we have witnessed to them and feel like we’ve been unsuccessful. If they are still on this Earth, they can still be saved. Through these Scriptures today, God laid on my heart an elderly man with failing health who both my Dad and I have witnessed to. This man has done so much good in his life and is a wonderful person, but know John 14:6 to be the truth. These scriptures gave me hope for him and reminded me it’s not too late. He can still be saved! I must not give up. I must continue to pray for him and speak with him again.

I pray this has touched you in some way. Maybe you can relate to Rahab and this reminded you that you can be used for God’s purpose still and only His love defines you, or maybe it re-invigorated you to pray for and witness to a non-believer you know who can still be saved. Either way, we can all be very thankful we have a “Good, Good Father.”

Salvation Test

In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.  – 1John 3:10

The NIV starts verse 10 out this way, ‘This is how we know’.  All throughout Scripture, obedience and love are the hallmarks of a true believer.  1 John 3:10 answers the question every believer should test themselves on: how do I know that I am saved?

God assures believers of their salvation through the Spirit. (1John 3:24)  A believer’s renewed heart compels them to obey the will of the Father in obedience to His word and to love God and others in deed and truth.  The presence of Christ in a believer is unmistakable to them over time.

And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. – 1John 3:24

Obedience and love.  Like all of Scripture, 1 John chapter 3 continues to return to these two hallmarks of a believer.  As you read through today’s Scripture: 1 John 3 and Psalm 41, be on the lookout for these.  As you enjoy the fellowship of Christ today, feel the Spirit leading you to obedience and love.  

If you have not committed your life to Christ, placed your trust in Him alone and repented from trusting in all other promises, imagine for a moment what your day would be like if you had.  Your whole life made new.  Ever going with a Companion who will reign in your heart and will never leave you.  A companion who is Master over all, King of Kings, who leads you beside still waters in righteousness, who makes you to lie down in green pastures. 

 

You only get married twice, once.

Last weekend I had the honor to officiate a wedding “do over” for a couple who first married each other in 1997, but divorced several years ago. I’ve known this couple (Jamie and Jalynn Schnur) since the moment they met in 1993. 

This week’s post is an edited version of my message from the wedding…

Father God, thank you for bringing us here today. Please bless the words that will be spoken in this ceremony, may they glorify you, may they be used to strengthen marriages, and to get a better glimpse into your character. We ask for a blessing on this marriage and this family. In Jesus name. Amen.

The reconciliation, the restoration, the second chance that has occurred here is fascinating. We are part of something very special and rare. Many people will say that divorce is like a death. In some ways it is because marriage is an entity, and divorce brings an end, a death, to that entity. While weddings symbolize the beginning of something, this wedding also symbolizes the end of something. The end of separation, the end of the divorce. This wedding is unique.

Like Jamie and Jalynn say “you only get married twice, once”.

Jalynn shared with me that while it would have been easier (and less expensive) for them to jet off for a private ceremony, they wanted to share this time, this event, this gesture with friends and family because they wanted all of us to be a part of it. To learn from it.

She wants to do this to “put a bow on it”. They’ve come a long, long way together and they wanted to cross this finish line in the presence of friends and family.

Several years ago I was hanging out with Jamie and Jalynn, and the thought popped into my head to ask them, “how is your marriage?” – but I chickened out. I made excuses.

  • didn’t want to intrude
  • didn’t want to offend
  • I’m sure it is fine
  • none of my business

Except as a friend who had known them as a couple longer than anyone, it was absolutely my business. I knew in my heart there was something wrong but I didn’t do anything intentional to address it. A missed opportunity at best, and I bet I’m not the only one here today who could have been a better friend.

The beautiful thing is that it is all ok. These two have learned how to forgive; there has been a lot of hurt along the way. The hurt piles up, but only in true forgiveness can there be true reconciliation and healing. Jalynn shared with me that toward the end of her father J.C.’s life, he grew more and more into a man who was all about forgiveness; both in words and action. That same theme, forgiveness, is part of the Schnur reconciliation both with each other, and with those who may have been part of their pain in the past.

Who in your life right now needs you to step up, lean in, and offer love, a listening ear, words of encouragement, a shoulder to cry on, prayer, wisdom, financial support or forgiveness? Whether it be a marriage on the rocks, a troubled teenager, a lost soul, or someone you know is hurting. Who will step up to intervene?

If something stirs in us to even ponder saying something, then we’ve been called. We were not put on this earth merely to satisfy our own pleasures and desires. We as humans, made in the image of God were put here to live out our lives for His glory, and how we respond to those in need is a reflection of our inward hearts. Jamie and Jalynn were blown away by the response to their wedding and see that as a symbol of how we feel about them. Most of us have no idea how important we are to other people. Let’s all start sharing more with others how important they are to us.

Consider Jesus of Nazareth. His miracles were well documented with his first being the turning of water into wine at a wedding feast. He performed miracles not to glorify himself but to glorify his father in Heaven; he raised people from the dead, walked on water, healed the sick, helped the blind to see, and in the end he offered the ultimate sacrifice as a substitute for the penalty we deserve for our sin; he offered his very life.

Matthew chapter 22 documents Jesus’ response to the question “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39)

We have the same call with what we’ve been given as far as intellect, strength, and our resources such as time and money. We are called to offer this love to our friends, family, and people we may never even know personally. Don’t miss the opportunity as it will not last. We know people are counting on us. How will we respond today?

A few years ago while talking to Jamie about “joy”, sadly at that time he said “there’s no joy Jon, none”. That broke my heart; there were lots of broken hearts during those times.

But there is hope… JOY HAS RETURNED! 

There is gratitude and gratefulness for the second chance. Few people get this opportunity. Jamie and Jalynn have a new perspective and are doing this for the right reasons. They are both ready; their family is ready. They’ve rebuilt something together that now stands on more solid ground than ever before. They don’t seek to be perfect on their own; they seek to learn from mistakes, let the past be the past, and move on. Life is precious and too short to take any other approach.

Today there’s love, restoration, respect, trust, laughter, forgiveness, passion, peace, patience, kindness, and goodness. There is communication. There are tears of joy.

And that’s what we are here today to celebrate; this is a reunion of friends and family, so let’s get on with it and make it official, let’s put a bow on it.

Today’s reading links: Hebrews 7 & Psalm 15

5 Essentials for Christian Growth

Have you ever seen a W.W.J.D. bracelet?  If you’re wondering, it stands for ‘what would Jesus do?’  When I was growing up my friends and I all wore them.  We had them in all different colors.  We wore them inside out and upside down.  We were all about our W.W.J.D. bracelets.  

I always thought W.W.J.D.  was a great reminder to do the right thing.  Growing up there are so many choices that we are faced with.  Finding the right answer was not always easy but this bracelet seemed to at least start us looking in the right direction.

As a Christian grows up they hope to mature in Christ.  They hope to have the right answers and make the right choices more than they did when they were young.  This is what happens when a Christian matures.  Scripture is clear that Christ followers will grow (2Peter 3:18, 1Peter 2:2, 1Timothy 4:15, Ephesians 4:15, 1Corinthians 13:11, Colossians 2:6-7, 2Corinthians 3:18) From our reading today, Philippians 1:9-11 reveals to us the 5 essentials for Christian growth. That is, the 5 ways the Spirit works in us as we follow Christ.

  1. Love

We love because He first loved us. (1John 4:19)  It is no surprise that the first essential to Christian growth is love.  After all, love is the greatest attribute of a follower of Christ. (John 13:35)  In a world that tosses around this word seeking to destroy its meaning, it is always a good idea to return to the truth to test our definition of this defining characteristic of our faith in Jesus.

Agape is the word here translated as love. It is a self-sacrificing love.  Later in Philippians 2:1-8, Paul gives one of the fullest descriptions of agape love in the Bible. One statement from this scripture stood out to me, “…but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”  What would our lives look like if everyone’s interest were always placed above our own?

Love is not blind.  Quite the opposite love is very perceptive, very discerning.  True love produces obedience that requires knowledge of the truth.  (John 14:15, John 14:21, John 14:23, John 15:10, 1John 3:24)  Here is a list of 1236 commands from the New Testament.

And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;
Philippians 1:9

  1. Excellence

Verse 10a begins, ‘that ye’ or ‘so that’ in the ESV, indicating that the first point is foundational to the second.  The word here ‘approve’ is ‘dokimazo’, meaning to allow, examine, prove, and discern.  The love of God, with its foundation in the Word (commands), not only helps us discern right from wrong but helps us discern what is best from what is only good.  God’s will is not good, it is perfect. (Romans 12:2)  Love and the Word help us find what is excellent.

When John Wesley went away to Oxford his mother wrote the following in a letter to him: “Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off the delight for spiritual things, whatever increases the authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin.”

That ye may approve things that are excellent;
Philippians 1:10a

  1. Integrity

Verse 10b also begins with ‘that ye’ or ‘in order to be’ in the ESV, again making clear the continued progression of the text.  The word ‘sincere’ is ‘eilikrines’ and carries with it ideas of cohesiveness, oneness and unity.  What would our lives look like if everything touched everything else and ‘gelled’ as it were with no offences?  Does Christ touch every part of your life?  Is there any part of your life that you are keeping for you?  

that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.
Philippians 1:10b

  1. Good works

Verse 11a begins with ‘being’ or ‘having been filled’ in the ESV, a perfect passive participle in the Greek indicating something that happened in the past and is continuing here and now.  It is essential that we understand the progression of this Scripture.  The fruit’s appeal is instant gratification but trying to skip ahead or jump right to the fruit is a lie.  The fruit itself is not something to strive for in a direct sense.  The fruit is the byproduct of the spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23)  Forced fruit without the leaven of love is legalism.  

Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ
Philippians 1:11a

  1. Glory of God

Verse 11b begins with ‘unto’ or ‘to’ in the ESV, this is the purpose clause, it answers the question ‘why?’.  The most important essential is the glory of God.  Indeed it is the reason for the others.  

For a time I thought of reversing this list so that it would begin with God’s glory and end with love.  Though I decided against it, the reason was that it all actually starts here, with the end in mind.  

Our heart attitude is what sets all growth in motion, through the grace of Christ and the power of the Spirit.  Glory to God.  Glory to God is on the believer’s heart.  If God’s glory is our focus the Spirit will be at work in us, helping love abound in us, producing in us spiritual excellence, personal integrity, and genuine good works all to God’s glory.

As I made my way through this study I realised that there was one simple answer to that question ‘What would Jesus do?’ Jesus brings glory to the Father.

unto the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:11b

God, may our eyes be single for You. Amen.

 

Study sources:

Lost Letters

Have you ever talked with someone about things in their life that were hurting them? It could have been alcohol, drugs, abuse, lying, meanness… the list can go on.  Maybe you have taken it even a step further and intentionally took time to mentor, coach, or were directive and intentional about sharing steps to help lead that person to a place that would change their life for the positive. Prayerfully eternal changes.  Really, a life closer to God.

If you have children I know this is part of our daily parenting.  Besides our own children who we will leave our biggest impact on, who are you filling into? Who are you guiding, planting seeds of hope, and eternal future?  Personally,  I know I can and need to be more intentional in my conversations and recognize the need from others. To be more courageous in sharing God’s love. I plan to use some of the tips shared yesterday from Jillian in The Last Word is Love.

Next question, has there been a time where you were mentoring and it seemed like it had worked? Like it was all good.  Coaching success!  Then unfortunately, you find out they are back to their old ways.  The bad habit had crept back in and the pressures of our worldly desires or influences took hold and brought them back to where they were, maybe worse.  Then to top it off, the person you were pouring into was making negative comments about you and your motives.  I personally can relate, I’ve been on both sides of this fence.  Most of my younger years the wrong side of the fence. This is where Paul was when he started to write 2 Corinthians. Paul was feeling saddened, frustrated, displeased at the church he had founded just four years earlier. He thought they had listened and his previous letter giving specific instructions to moral issues. In this letter Paul shows courage to speak up to those who were slandering him and his ministry, Paul defends our God against those who were twisting the truth.

In referring to a couple study bibles on the themes for 2 Corinthians here are reflecting points as we read and reflect.

  • Suffering/Trials – Paul had experienced it all.  Suffering, persecution, he paid a price for service to Christ and the gospel. 2 Cor. 6:3-13,  2 Cor. 11:16 -33. Reminder – God is faithful. He will provide the strength we need for any trial.
  • Giving – 2 Cor. 8 and 9 Paul lays out detailed ways of giving. Reminder for us is our giving and generosity of whatever helps those in need and allows them to thank God.
  • Sound Doctrine/Apologetic’s – Paul shares how to represent Christ. The boldness to share the gospel and boast in the grace that we have all received.  Paul does all this with Love.  2 Cor. 12:7-10

As we read through 2 Corinthians notice how Paul affirms, defends, and stands up to false teachers. Corinth was full of people who wanted to do everything their own way.  Making others look bad by talking about them.  Paul reminds them, he reminds us, that they are a new creation, ambassadors for Christ. 2 Cor. 5:17-20.  That in all the stress, anxieties that they go through, that we go through, it is encouraging to know that God has a divine plan for us to be part of His eternal kingdom.  So our mission while in this temporal world is to point others that way and to please Him.  2 Cor. 5:9

I recently read that Paul had written 2 other letters to the Corinthians and now they are physically lost.  Let’s not lose these and their instructions for us.

 

Dear Father,

As we read your word today we pray for the courage of Paul to always want to please you.  To be ambassadors for you and to let others know about the grace you have given us and them. That these worldly desires that the Corinthians face and we face today are temporal, and that the indescribable gift of a “new creation” covered by Your love is available to everyone.  We pray for obedience in all we do and a heart that will boast of Your love and goodness always.  We pray to listen and follow Your will until the day you come to take us home to you. Amen

 

References:

Tyndale Life Applications Study Bible

The Jeremiah Study Bible

Love Well

Today, we are reading Romans 13 together.  This chapter is relatively short – only 14 verses – but it is full and rich in content.  I’d like to focus on the second half of the chapter, in which Paul encourages us to love God, each other, and ourselves well.

Romans 13:8 reads, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”  When I first read this, I was confused by the idea that we owe each other our love.  After I thought about it a bit more, though, I remembered a conversation in which   Jesus answers a scribe’s question regarding which commandment is most important.  Jesus says,  “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel:  The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this:  ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no other commandment greater than these.”  (Mark 12:30-31) To love, therefore – God first, and then our neighbor – is the greatest commandment, and it is by loving that we fulfill the law.

But doesn’t the fact that Jesus died on the cross in our place mean that we are no longer slaves to the law?  Yes:  Jesus’ death on the cross put an end to the ritual sacrifices that we read about in the Old Testament.  However, Paul is writing AFTER Jesus’ death on the cross, and Paul tells us to continue to love each other.  Why?  We are to love each other BECAUSE Christ sacrificed Himself for us.

Whew!

But wait – there’s more.  Did you see the end of the commandment in Mark 12:31?  We are to love our neighbor as ourselves (emphasis mine).  That might be the most difficult part of all, right?  I know that I am harder on myself every single day than I am on those around me.  So how can we practice loving ourselves well?  I’m convinced that one of the best ways we can do this is to cultivate rest.  We are a culture that extols busyness – we often wear our busy days as a badge of achievement or of honor.

Instead of perpetuating the culture of busyness, I’d like to encourage you to practice pausing each day.  If you’ve never done this before, start small.  Just a few minutes, five or ten – go for a slow walk outside, read a few pages of a book, or simply sit and be still.  I know that this can be hard.  It is hard for me to remember to even take that pause – and then it can be difficult to actually be still, or to read, or to walk slowly in the middle of a busy day.  But I can also tell you from personal experience that it helps.  Traditionally, Sunday afternoons have been my rest times.  But I rarely took the time to rest at all during the week, at least until it was time to go to sleep.  I’m finding, though, that taking even one short pause during the day resets my brain and renews me, allowing me to finish the rest of the day in a more peaceful state of mind.  It helps to slow the tide of busy back to a more manageable, healthy pace.  When we walk through life unrushed and unhurried, we have more margin to love those around us well.

Will you try this with me?

What We Cannot Do For Ourselves…

Today’s reading is from Romans 3.

The word grace is defined by dictionary.com as “the freely and unmerited favor and love of God.” I’ve also heard it put that God’s grace means he will love us no matter what. Dictionary.com also defines a gift as “something given voluntarily without payment in return.” We learn in Romans 3:24 that we “are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.” Google defines redemption as “clearing a debt.” Romans 3:23 tells us, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:20 says, “For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight.”

Typically a writer should wait until the end to put all the pieces together in a summary, but this is big enough that I feel compelled to do it now. Put plainly, no one is without sin, and no one receives the favor, love, and forgiveness of God by doing good works. We receive God’s love and have all our sins erased though confession of sin and faith in the one who first loved us when we didn’t deserve it, his son Jesus Christ. That’s all we have to do to get right with God? Yep…that’s it. Praise God!

In his Book If, Mark Batterson puts into perspective God’s forgiveness by reminding readers of the story in Matthew 18 when Jesus equivalates God’s forgiveness to a master who forgave his servant 10,000 talents.  One talent was 180 months or 15 years of wages. Therefore, a debt of 10,000 talents was 150,000 years or 2,332 lifetimes of wages of debt forgiven! This puts things into perspective of how no number of good works during our lifetime could make us righteous before God. Thinking of what God has done for us which he did not have to do and the fact that this is something we could not do for ourselves is enough to move me to tears often.

Let’s stick to the definition theme here. Merriam-Webster’s website defines righteous as “free from guilt or sin.” Mark also discusses in If that our sins are transferred into Christ’s account and paid in full when we confess our sins through Jesus’ death on the cross, but that’s only half of it. A second transfer occurs that we often forget. Jesus Christ’s righteousness is then deposited into our account with God calling it even! Not only does God not see our sin, he sees the righteousness of his son Jesus who was without sin in us. This is told to us in 2 Corinthians 5:21. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we may BECOME the righteousness of God.”

How does all this change how we should live today knowing these things?

  1. We don’t do good works and live how God wants us to live to earn God’s grace and love. We do good works in response to God’s love and grace.
  2. We do not boast or brag of anything we do (Romans 3:27). We can only boast of his grace and tell others of our faith in him.
  3. Since no one receives the righteousness of God based on works, family lineage, race, financials status, or social status, but only through faith in Jesus, we view ourselves as better than no one else. We see everyone as a child of God who is loved by God the same as us. We realize that everyone has a desperate need to come to faith in, and have a relationship with, Jesus Christ.
  4. We live different. We live life fearlessly because we have the righteousness of Jesus in God’s eyes through faith in him. We know he’s on our side and wants the best for us no matter what. Subconscious doubts about God’s love can culminate is many fears daily, but when know of God’s abundant love and are absolutely sure of it, we can live life without worries or anxieties about today or the future.

Please say this prayer with me today..

Dear God,

                I’m sorry for my many sins. I thank you for your gift of grace through faith in your son Jesus and his death on the cross. I thank you that your mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23) and that you see me as righteous like Jesus only through confession and belief in him. Because of what Jesus did, help me to do good so that everyone can know you and see your love through me. Help me to not draw attention to these works, except for so that everyone will know the love you showed on the cross. Help me to remember each day that I can take risks and live a fearless life to be all you have called me to be because you have made me righteous like Jesus through faith in Him. Amen.

Testimony 101

During Paul’s time in Israel, the law was that capital punishment was reserved for the Roman government, except for one condition. The Jewish religious leaders could execute a prisoner if the prisoner desecrated the Temple. Now Paul did not do anything to desecrate the Temple but since this was the only way to kill him they manufactured an accusation that he did.

Even though it was not the law that inviting a gentile into the temple was a capital punishment crime, their accusation that Paul had done this was a way to extended the requirements for capital punishment to Paul by association. That is, he brought a gentile into the Temple and the Gentile desecrated it so, therefore, Paul caused the Temple to be desecrated and so we can kill him. To put it simply they were out to take Paul’s life.

This is a tough situation to be in, yet Paul’s heart focused on the mob and desired to see them saved. To this end, he delivered His testimony.

And from this account we find a playbook for how he gave his testimony:

  1. He accepted the situation was from God.
  2. He created an opportunity to give his testimony. 21v37 & 40
  3. He did what he could to create common ground and win his audience.  22v1-5 &12
  4. He exalted the LORD so that if the people rejected, they were rejecting God, not him. He made it all about God, not him. 22v6-11
  5. He avoided suffering. (this was a particularly interesting point. 22v25 (The sermon below talks about how Paul didn’t have what the pastor called a ‘martyr complex’)
  6. Love governed his attitude. Throughout he was focused on what he could do for the mob.

 

I often listen to sermons to prepare for these posts. These 6 points are from Paul’s Arrest Part Four: the Attitude of Paul by John MacArthur

A Lesson from the First Missions Trip

Some believe there is a reason that in this account of the first great missionary move of the church there is both the presence of a false convert and a true believer. Perhaps one of the lessons here is that this is a reality of ministry. (Matthew 13:24-30)

Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ unto them. (Acts 8:5) After hearing and seeing the miracles, Simon, the Sorcerer, having in the same city proclaimed to be great and having been given heed as the same, believed and was baptized proclaiming Christ. (Acts 8:9-13) Simon the Sorcerer, after witnessing a new miracle, the laying on of hands by the apostles that the believers might receive the Holy Spirit, desired this power for himself and offered to pay the disciples to procure it. (Acts 8:18-19) The Apostles exposed him as false and rebuked him. (Acts 8:20-23)

Here we see the intention of Simon’s heart. Apparently he was not interested in God because solely because he loved God in the true sense of the word, that is; loving someone for what you can do for them, but instead, for a selfish, lustful desire, that is; “loving someone” for what they can do for you. He seemingly was not interested in God except that he might procure the power of God. Except that he might then use this power for himself and sow to the flesh more and more. (Galatians 6:7-8) In this case, Simon the Sorcerer seemed interested in the power of God to fuel his prideful quest of being great among the people. It was found out that is was really all about him and not God.

Perhaps some good questions to reflect on and return to:

  • Do we love God for what we can do for Him (serve Him) or are we more interested in what He can do for us? Are we more interested in God or His stuff (blessing, etc.)? In your heart (your deepest and most subtle desires); Are you for God or is God for you? ‘For’ here being in the useful sense of the word. 
  • Do we love others for what we can do for them or what they can do for us?

Painting: Rembrandt, The Baptism of the Eunuch, 1626