Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Straightening up

Luke 13:10-17…

Here was a woman who had a disability, she couldn’t stand up straight, but it didn’t stop her from coming to the synagogue to worship. Even after 18 years of being bound up by Satan her love for God and His Word trumped the physical and emotional pain. Yet it seems so easy for us to find one sorry excuse to stay home from church, rather than find one of the many reasons to go. This woman wouldn’t be held back, but we say we just don’t feel like it. If our prayers go unanswered for a week, we punish God by missing the next.

Jesus could have just gone home after teaching, but He calls out to her, a woman, which would be a scandal in itself. He is breaking the rules of etiquette.

After He heals her, the religious leaders were indignant. He is breaking the rules of ministry. But Jesus exposes their hypocrisy. In their supposed zeal, they show their hearts. They do what needs to be done on the Sabbath day; they are not so strict as to restrict common duties. They don’t call that sinful work. Accordingly, they should care more about a hurting person than a thirsty animal. Ironically, the whole idea of the Sabbath was rest, release, and so the Lord’s words, “Woman, you are freed from your disability” are perfectly in line with God’s will.

Also, this was not just about being hypocritical in their application of Sabbath Law; it was an indication of their disregard for women. They weren’t just rejecting Jesus and His work, they were rejecting her. But men and women are both heirs of God's promises (Galatians 3:27-29). We are to treat each other with dignity and respect, as Jesus demonstrates here.

It is the influence of Satan that tries to keep people from “straightening up”, but it is the nature of Jesus to bend our wills and break the rules when it comes to redemption over religion.  

Monday, June 29, 2020

Warning label

Luke 13:6-9…

God is looking for the fruit of repentance (Matthew 3:8). Jesus’ warning that the Jews must repent or perish had a nearly immediate, terrible fulfillment. Within a generation, many perished in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. This serves as a warning to everyone (Romans 11:22). The problem isn’t man-made disaster or natural disasters; the problem is sin.

God hates sin, and will punish both individual sinners and nations. The fact that God doesn’t seem to punish sins and sinners immediately doesn’t mean that He approves of the sin, or that He will always allow it to go on without consequence, it is that He is merciful and allowing time to repent. We are now in the “grace period”, but Jesus is reminding us that we are on borrowed time. We need to repent now. I am talking to you, Christian.

Every individual and every nation will be found guilty when measured by the standard of God’s perfect righteousness. But Jesus came to put away the eternal consequences of sin (Hebrews 9:26-28). We’ve been extended a season of grace to become fruitful, so we’ve got to be fruitful. Repentance means we turn from sin, faith means we follow Jesus, spiritual fruit is the result. And don’t be fooled; no fruit, no root.

Jesus was explaining that disasters remind us that no one escapes death, and that we all may die at any time (Luke 13:1-5). Therefore repentance must be our priority, because no one will escape His judgment. The goodness of God has kept the wrath of God from you for now, not forever (Romans 2:4-5). People presume on God’s goodness and think they can just play the game of their lives any old way they want to. Jesus is telling us all: no way.

The fig tree couldn’t know it only had a year left, and neither can you. You can’t afford to wait another minute because you don’t know when your time will be up. The greater the space left for repentance, the greater the wrath of God that is stored up if we don’t.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

The call of calamity

Luke 13:1-5…

We don’t like to admit it, but disasters are always around us. Sometimes they become more prominent because of their proportion or proximity.  How should we process these things?

Jesus speaks clearly to the matter, citing two well-known instances. One was caused by man, the other by nature. Jesus was warning the disciples against presuming to directly trace the effects of a specific sin to a specific disaster. He wasn’t saying that these people were innocent, but that all are guilty before God. He turns the question from “why did this happen?” into “what does this mean to me?” and from “what about God?” to “what about me?” The tragedies of today and tomorrow speak 4 things to us.

It speaks of reality. We live in a fallen world where these things will happen. We are supposed to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15 / 2 Corinthians 1:4). But we don’t have to grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Amidst all the calamity, catastrophe, chaos, and confusion, that is the larger point. Are you anchored in eternal reality?

It speaks of revelation. Disasters reveal His reign. He is the Creator and Sustainer (Colossians 1:15-17 / Hebrews 1:2-3). Judgment is coming (2 Peter 3:10-13). We don’t need to judge others, we need to pray for them and to show mercy, and part of that mercy is bringing the gospel message. Are you revealing the eternal truth to others?

It speaks of repentance. This is both our ongoing state of repentance (vs.3), as well as our initial repentance (vs.5). Disasters are most often sudden, and unexpected. Jesus tells us to repent otherwise we might die suddenly and in a state of unbelief. Those who died didn’t think they would die soon; we can suppose that most of them were not ready. Are you remaining ready?

It speaks of redemption. If we do repent we will not suffer eternal death, but receive eternal life. In the midst of destruction, we can hear God’s merciful plea to be reconciled to Him. Don’t turn on Him in anger, and don’t turn away from Him in fear, but turn to Him in faith. Then no matter what happens, you will avoid the ultimate disaster (John 6:37).

Calamities are bound to happen. The question is do you hear what they are saying?  

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Time to pay up

Luke 12:57-59…

Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? If someone owes a sum of money, but they can’t pay it, eventually their creditor takes them to court. The case is clear; they will lose in court and then be sentenced to prison until the debt is fully paid. This is why people try to settle out of court. They try and come to an agreement with the creditor. They will appeal for mercy, since if the case goes before the judge it is sure to go against them.

The longer you wait the harder it gets. How can you pay the bill, if you don’t have the currency? Think about this in terms of sin, and with God as creditor. If you know that you are subject to judgment, then you need to plead for mercy now while there is still time to receive mercy.

Thankfully, we have a gracious friend who will pay the bill. Jesus is God’s offer of mercy. He can foot the bill with His own blood. We can come to Him, humbly acknowledging our debt (Romans 3:23 / 1 John 1:5-10). We can reach out in repentance (Psalm 51:17 / Isaiah 57:15, 66:2) and receive mercy and forgiveness through Him. We are fools if we don’t.

Friday, June 26, 2020

The forecast of faith

Luke 12:54-56…

We pay attention to a weather forecast; it is an educated perspective based on certain patterns. The same goes for an economic forecast, and so on and so forth. People are interested in patterns, and they pay attention to forecasts so that they can make proper plans. However, most people fail to discern spiritual patterns. They don’t plan based on the most important forecast.

Jesus is encouraging us to pay attention. Just as it is reasonable to draw conclusions about the weather from making simple observations, He is saying that we should also be able to draw certain conclusions about the times we are living in from observing what is going on around us. He was talking to the religious crowd about His appearance as Messiah, and He would later talk to His disciples about His reappearance at the end of the age.

This applies to our current spiritual life. If we believe certain things are going to happen we act in certain ways, make certain preparations, take certain steps, and we think and watch for certain things. Are we paying attention to the way we are trending (Psalm 1:1-6)? Whatever seeds you are planting, watering, and fertilizing in the soil of your life should tell you what you can expect as a harvest (Galatians 6:7-8). It doesn’t take a prophet to watch the grass grow.

Are you maturing? Do you realize in your heart that God is the one who is bringing you through the seasons of life (Psalm 23:1-6)? Can you help other people see the patterns in their own lives and give a forecast in certain situations (1 Chronicles 12:32)? Can people come to you for advice and get real wisdom?

If we say we are Christians, we ought to be paying close attention to our ways, our witness, our worship, and the Word. Jesus is coming again. The signs of the times are here. It is time to get right with God (Hebrews 12:25-29). 

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Fire starter

Luke 12:49-53…

I came to cast fire… The ministry of Jesus ignites division. It calls for a radical decision to be made, and making this decision will divide families and households. It will be politically incorrect because it doesn’t allow for alternatives. If we decide for Jesus, our decision will not make everyone happy and won’t lead to everyone liking us. It is most often quite the opposite (2 Timothy 3:12), and your decision will depend on who is lighting the fires of your passion (James 4:4 / John 15:23 / 1 John 2:15-16).

They will be divided… Jesus ignites fire for God and fire against God. God’s Word does not come back void (Isaiah 55:11), but that doesn’t mean it works according to our imaginations; not everyone who hears it obeys it (Romans 10:16). It works in the sense that it separates the true from the false, it causes repentance or rebellion. This is the division.

The Word of God reveals the heart (Hebrews 4:12-13). When sinners are confronted and condemned by the Word of God and urged to repent, it acts as a fire and a hammer which seeks to shatter their hard hearts (Jeremiah 23:29). The mission of the Messiah is the process of refining and separating the godly from the ungodly (Malachi 3:2).

The fire is a revelation, but in the end its effect is different for Christians (1 Corinthians 3:15) than it is for unbelievers (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). The truth about us, rebellion or repentance, comes not when we see the light, but when we feel the heat.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The seed of greed

Luke 12:13-21…

Covetousness is the seed of greed and the dew of discontent. When we are trying to be satisfied with stuff, we are going against the will of God. The man recognizes Jesus’ authority, but He rebukes him because his request actually reveals the man’s covetous heart.

Covetousness comes in many forms but basically it is craving something that is not rightfully yours, or wanting something you don’t really need so much that it turns your heart to it rather than God. The Bible does not condemn riches, but it does sharply rebuke trusting in them and the pursuit of materialism. Covetousness is idolatry (Colossians 3:5 / Ephesians 5:5). We put something ahead of God and we act out of that impulse towards impurity. Whatever you consume has a way of consuming you. Covetousness will eat you up inside: you feed, and feed, and feed it, but it is never satisfied (James 4:1-3).

It is generally impossible for you to become satisfied until you learn to become content. To covet or to be greedy means that you are not satisfied with what God has provided for you and you constantly want more, even at someone else’s expense. It was the sin of Satan (Isaiah 14:12-14). It was the sin of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:6). It was the sin of David (2 Samuel 12:1-8). It was the sin of the Pharisees (Luke 16:10-14). Covetousness is not about money only (1 John 2:16). We want what God has or think we deserve what God gives to others.  Paul says it was “Thou shall not covet” which made him aware of his own sinfulness (Romans 7:7-8). Surely what was true of Paul is true of us all.

We want to feel secure, so we try and find it in stuff. We fail to notice the bigger issue of being held accountable before God. If you seek to know and to please God in all things, whatever the outcome, it will be the best outcome possible (Psalm 37:4 / Matthew 6:33 / Romans 8:28). If you seek yourself and your own goals, whatever the outcome, it will be pointless and empty, fading, and pregnant with spiritual poverty.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Hypocrisy hurts you

Luke 12:1-12…

In the midst of a very large and somewhat hostile crowd, Jesus teaches His disciples, and us, about the problems associated with hypocrisy. This is what the Pharisees were an example of. They were inconsistent, deceived, and they practiced deliberate deception.

We can be hypocritical to achieve praise. The problem is that covering up one’s heart by outward appearance is sheer folly. It is futile to think that you can get away with it. The truth cannot be hidden for long. You will be exposed (1 Timothy 5:24-25).

We can be hypocritical to avoid persecution. We are afraid of what people might think or do. They might indeed do terrible things, but Jesus tells us that in the long run they cannot harm us like God could if He wanted to. He has the greater power (Hebrews 2:14-15). Therefore we ought to fear God rather than men. Now this is not a call for an unhealthy fear; this is about who our allegiance is with. God loves His children, and He knows them and their situations perfectly. We should thankfully and graciously accept that. God has us on His mind.

Our lives are to be lived as a testimony to God’s grace. We must speak out in behalf of our Lord, not shrink back. We must not deny the power of the gospel and its exclusive claims. Jesus is not speaking of a believer losing his salvation, but about people who will or will not believe. He is calling on bold witnessing which calls on men to publically identify with Christ (Acts 2:38-39 / Romans 10:9-10), even in times of persecution. But how can we call upon people to publicly profess their faith in Christ if we are trying to conceal our own faith?

Jesus knows that many people will be rejected, and some even martyred. But we are to be more intent upon proclaiming the gospel than defending ourselves. The right words will come if the time ever happens upon us. Then we won’t have time to be hypocritical. 

Monday, June 22, 2020

Truth for dinner

Luke 11:37-54…

Jesus knew right what He was doing when He went in and did not do according to the religious custom. He was setting up a “teachable moment”. We would all do well to heed the lessons.

He calls the religious leaders out as a group who is hypocritical, reminds them that God is more concerned about the heart than the hands, and calls on them to repent. They needed to learn to live from the inside out.  Purity on the inside is what causes true piety on the outside, because out of the heart flow the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23).  Otherwise, it is all for show.

He then goes even further to say that their disciplined giving does not give them a license to neglect the most important things (Micah 6:6-8). Their desire to appear important does not mean that they meet the marks of what is truly holy. Their appearance may conceal their corruption to some, but people were still defiled by having been with them. This, of course, really made the leaders’ blood boil. 

He then says that all they are is talk; they don’t do what they teach. They don’t even do anything to help people’s burdens; they just place more burdens upon them. They aren’t concerned with ministry to people, just mastery over them (1 Peter 5:2-3).   

Jesus now links them in the biblical line of persecutors, even though they deny it (Jeremiah 2:30 / Matthew 23:29-30). They are just like the people who pretended piety before them. They are responsible for their rebellion against God. By their legalism, they had kept people from learning God’s love, and they had not learned themselves. If you can’t learn, your own knowledge will destroy you. They were a hindrance to holiness not a help.   

They did not receive the correction (Proverbs 17:10, 28:26, 29:1 / Ecclesiastes 7:5); they did not want the truth.

The question is, do you (Galatians 4:16)?