Archive for November, 2017
“As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts…” (1 Chronicles 28:9).
Eliminating laziness, procrastination, destructive habits, and the accompanying negative emotions of life is best accomplished when faith is the driving influence upon the mind—the place where choices and decisions are made. Faith in Christ brings forth the transforming work of the Holy Spirit; empowering us as free-will moral beings to exercise the discipline necessary to be victors instead of victims. For areas of life where we are not disciplined it is only because we have decided to not be. The mind of faith chooses to impose itself upon the human condition.
“All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do” (Exodus 24:3).
This was the collective cry of the Hebrews upon hearing from Moses the guidelines that would regulate their covenant with God. Verbal assent is a start but, in the end, the greater expectation and the truest test of belief is to be seen in our doing.
“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 foremost commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).
God’s governing Law has both vertical and horizontal dimensions; responsibilities to God and to one another. We cannot choose to focus on one at the exclusion of the other. It is a symbiotic relationship; each is incomplete with out the other. If you are serious about you and Him, it will effect you and me.
“The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him” (Mark 3:6).
While the Pharisees and Herodians opposed one another, they were united in their efforts to silence Jesus. Such is the history of those portending to be the people of God; the inevitable stoning and killing of any prophetic voice disruptive to their self-satisfied and affluent existence. Herein lies the difference between faith and religion—Faith hungers for the Truth that will transform and inform its life, while religion is content with the lies that keep it comfortable.
“When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them” (Matthew 21:45).
Since knowledge and understanding carries with it the burden of responsibility, there truly is a bliss of ignorance. The tragedy of those ensconced in long-held religious practices, characterized by the chief priests and the Pharisees, is that they understand the parables told by Jesus, see themselves within them and, yet, refuse to let go of the religious traditions that hold them hostage. In the absence of transformation and renewal, understanding becomes the indictment.
“Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them, but afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son’” (Matthew 21:36-37).
The actions of the landowner, to continually send slaves and, ultimately, his own son into an awaiting slaughterhouse, should not be extrapolated to an understanding of God as some naive, bumbling, ineffectual buffoon. Everything in this parable, from the murderous actions of the vine-growers, to the unfathomable carelessness of the landowner, is exaggerated to capture the patience of God in dealing with willful human rebellion. The parable far exceeds what is considered ordinary; that we might catch a glimpse of his extraordinary grace.
“There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey” (Matthew 21:33).
That the Landowner has gone on a journey is to entrust his people with an extraordinary opportunity. As free-will moral beings, with the resources afforded us by the graces of a loving Father, we are empowered to make the choices and decisions necessary to reflect a commitment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and our desire to be a unique and distinctive people. We are not hapless victims left to the circumstances of chance but, rather, through the rigors of faith and the fruit of self-discipline, we predicate the life we desire to pursue and live.
“Listen to another parable, ‘There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey’” (Matthew 21:33).
The motivation of God’s engagement with his creation is always rooted in love. This is captured in the six verbs utilized in this first line in the parable of the Landowner. God’s love has gone to great lengths to provide everything necessary to flourish as the people of God in an alien land. Comprehending this love is key to a pursuit of faith that is rewarding, enriching, fulfilling, and enduring. Without this understanding, only a religion of fear remains.
“Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I am speaking today in your hearing, that you may learn them and observe them carefully” (Deuteronomy 5:1).
This preface to the Ten Commandments serves notice of the expectation that a redeemed people be a moral people. Whether the positive “You shall” or the negative “You shall not,” each one prescribes the moral codes that undergird and provide understanding to the question “How shall we then live?”
“And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God. So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Exodus 2:24-25).
History bears testimony to the faithfulness of God’s provision. The God we worship, who created the world, delivered Israel, inspired the prophets, who was incarnationally birthed into this world and will come again has the authority to keep his promises and meet our needs.