Archive for September, 2017
“When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate” (Genesis 3:6).
Let’s face it…sin is attractive. Otherwise it wouldn’t be tempting. Sin always portrays itself as something delightful, desirable, alluring, and attractive. The key to victory is seeing beyond the pleasurable possibilities of the moment to the long term; beyond the temporal to the eternal; remembering that what we are after is the hereafter.
“They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him” (Mark 3:2).
While Jesus affirms the Sabbath as something for doing good (2:27-28), pharisaical types, instead, evolve to a place of thinking that God’s favor is to be found in their nitpicking advocacy for religious minutiae. Instead of battling the obvious sharks that devour peoples lives, they send in schools of minnows to gnaw away and antagonize them all the more. Jesus’ issue with the religious leaders isn’t the rules, but Who rules. When rules become more important than relationships, processes more than people, or ritual more than renewal, you have missed the Who.
“No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins” (Mark 2:22).
Those who have answered the call of Christ — to follow after him, while at the same time clinging to or imposing upon others the necessity of Old Testament observances and customs — have grossly misunderstood the freshness, uniqueness, and revolutionary rule of God in Christ Jesus. The old brought only condemnation and exclusion. Not only is it incompatible with the new, but both are ruined when combined. The gospel isn’t God’s patchwork or an attempt at reformation; it is the full expression of his redemptive purposes, revealed in Christ Jesus.
“And Jesus said to them, ‘While the bridegroom is with them, the attendants of the bridegroom cannot fast, can they? So long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast’” (Mark 2:19).
When God reveals himself to a new generation and inspires them in ways that are fresh, unfamiliar, and outside your experience, does it evoke anticipation, joy, excitement, celebration? Or do you find yourself sinking deeper into religious despair, offering a depiction of piety filled with doom and gloom? While religion most often looks like a funeral service, the life of faith is more akin to a spirited wedding reception. Don’t let present day Pharisees, the purveyors of solemn and joyless religion, deprive you of the joy that is to be yours as the bride of Christ.
“The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners’” (Luke 5:30)?
In Jesus’ day, dining customs, and those around your table, factored into how you were known. An Ancient Near Eastern proverb says, “I saw them eating and I knew who they were.” The Pharisees were a distinctive group, based partly upon the exclusiveness of their associations. In contrast, the distinctive identity of Christ’s church is evident in her inclusiveness; that whosoever will may come. When sitting at the Lord’s table you can never be just a spectator. You come as one who has either answered the call, “Follow Me,” a tax collector, a sinner, or a critic. Which are you?
“When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples’ ‘Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners’” (Mark 2:16)?
If not intentionally focused outward, our supposed faith can breed a spirit of religion that focuses on “us” and no one else. In contrast to such exclusive associations, all desiring to follow Jesus in his missional task understand this to be a charge fulfilled not within the community of the saints but the company of sinners; that his redeeming presence is most evident not in the glory of our stained glass sanctuaries but, rather, the ruggedness of a cross and the brokenness of the human condition.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
The irony of grace is that it cannot be claimed for oneself and then withheld from others. That we are actual recipients of God’s mercy is seen in how we offer it to others. One cannot pass through heaven’s narrow gate bulging with bitterness.
“Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21).
Revenge or recovery? Justice or mercy? Condemn or pardon? When others have hurt us, wronged us, offended us, lied about us, or mistreated us the natural tendency is to become bitter, resentful, and vengeful. Forgiveness is never easy. It’s hard, unnatural; it is supernatural. The attitude of unforgiveness, however, becomes the cancer of our soul. Of all the destructive emotions, none is equal to hate. For every minute you hate, you lose sixty seconds of happiness. Whoever it is; whatever it is, forgive, move on, and start living again.
“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).
The immature awaken with a certain set of assumptions regarding the world and the day before them. Plans are built upon these assumptions. Experience, however, teaches the mature that any number of things can occur that would seek to knock you off-rhythm. Faith is what enables us to be comfortable with being uncomfortable; that adversity need not be adversarial. Worship of the Most High keeps you in rhythm when at your lowest.
“How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me” (Psalm 13:2).
“Real” wrestling is vastly different from “fake” wrestling. To be victorious in “real” wrestling demands an indomitable will and a level of strength and conditioning beyond imagination. It requires athletic maneuvering; grappling to find the advantage of angle and leverage necessary to get a pin or score a point. “Fake” wrestling is staged and the victor predetermined. To be sure, life often takes us to the mat; the struggle is real. We grapple daily with grief, disappointment, brokenness, guilt, depression, or any number of faceless, but very real opponents seeking to pin us down. Even so, faith has given us a predetermined advantage. Faith will lead you to ultimate victory because faith never quits. When you refuse to quit, you cannot be defeated.