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Our DAILY GOSPEL DEVOTIONAL is the story of Jesus from Incarnation to Ascension. This is a chronology and harmony of the gospel accounts in which the ongoing narrative and doctrinal context are carefully considered. In one year we reflect on every passage of every gospel.
May God bless you as we follow the disciples on the journey through the earthly life of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The question of authority

Mark 9:38-41 / Luke 9:49-50…

This is an occasion for Jesus to discuss His authority and its delegation. The disciples are suspicious of this exorcist who claimed Jesus’ name, whose faith resulted in miracle-working. Yet the exorcist is not using Jesus’ name as a magic spell, but because he knew and believed Jesus. The truth was that those in the immediate company of Jesus were not the only faithful disciples; there were obviously people taking the words of Jesus and putting them into practice.

This is not about unbelievers, or those who think they can take their own path. Jesus is abundantly clear about people who may look right but not actually be right (Matthew 7:24-27). There are people who are not actively opposing Him, but who are not in active fellowship with Him. Jesus is saying this man is not against us because he was teaching the truth. As God, Jesus knew this, or He would not have accepted him (Matthew 12:30). Anyone being kind to a follower of Christ in those times would have to be a believer himself (Hebrews 10:32-34).  In Matthew 25:31-46 the Lord told us that the same conditions will prevail at the end of the age.

The person closest to Jesus may not be the person used by Jesus at certain moments and in certain instances. Again, this is about humility. “In Jesus name” is not some magical incantation; it is representative of our being under His authority. You can only exercise authority to the extent that you are under authority. Demons know that; do you (Acts 19:13-16 / James 2:19)?


Friday, May 27, 2016

The greatness of humility

Matthew 18:1-5 / Mark 9:33-37 / Luke 9:46-48…

We should not think that Jesus is simply speaking about how we might lack the purity of a child’s heart. The words of the Lord here are more radical than that.

In today’s society children are safeguarded and seemingly more valued than in Jesus’ day. When numbers of people were tallied, children were not usually included in the count. The parent was always the model for the child, not the other way around. This isn’t about the purity or sincerity of children but about their lowliness, their humility. The small, powerless child is at the opposite extreme from greatness.

Children know instinctively that they are pretty much powerless unless there is a parent around. They don’t necessarily want to be great; they want to be with someone they can trust. Therefore, they turn themselves over to their parents. That is what God wants, for us to trust and treasure Him, like a child to His loving father or mother.

Submission, servant leadership, and good stewardship are how the mature model this. It is humility, trusting in God despite worldly wisdom and concern (1 Peter 4:19).  In the eyes of the world, the greatest is the one who has no one over him. In the kingdom of God, Jesus said that whomever would be the greatest would be the servant of all (Mark 10:43-44).

Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me. Jesus is also speaking of accepting the hard to accept person. Children are dependent, require care, create a burden, and they are a great responsibility. The greatness of humility is about receiving this type of person.

Yes, all this may be difficult, but if we will humble ourselves, the Lord will lift us up (James 4:10 / 1 Peter 5:6). Like a little child in His arms. 


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Fishing and freedom

Matthew 17:24-27…

There is no tax on the treasure God bestows upon us in Christ. We are free men (John 8:32 / 2 Corinthians 3:17 / Galatians 5:1), but we must not use this as an occasion of license (1 Peter 2:16). Rather, we are to let love limit our liberty for the sake of others (1 Corinthians 9:19).

Jesus questioned the validity of this particular tax, but He taught His followers to pay the tax anyway (Matthew 22:17-22/ cf. Romans 13:7). Jesus was making a claim. He asserts His divine son-ship, and asserts that He is even freer from taxation than the sons of earthly kings. He was exempt from the temple tax (Nehemiah 10:32-33) because His Father was the Lord of the temple. Jesus was greater than the temple (Matthew 12:6), but He recognizes its place and supports its purpose. He is the ultimate authority yet He serves and does not subvert the principle of authority. How about you?

We live in a world with earthly obligations and influences. Our responsibility to be good citizens and to participate in society is essential. We reflect our commitment to Christ badly if we are not people of integrity. Having the right is not the same as being right. You can have the right to do something but not exercise it properly. It depends on what you’re fishing for, the souls of men, or the satisfaction of yourself.