Endurance . . . does anybody have it anymore? Do we cave in when the hard times comes to make is easier on us? Do we just “go with the flow” because it doesn’t require full commitment to something or someone other then ourselves (for Christians, that is commitment to Christ)? Do we compromise what we say we believe (in other words, do we even really believe what we say we believe)? If we cave in the hard times, we don’t believe what we say we believe and it’s all smoke and mirrors. Talk is cheap and easy. Endurance is not. Which do we prefer? Anybody? Here’s a great little blog post from “Thought For the Day” to get you thinking about the whole subject of endurance. Who wants to be a wuss, anyway? It’s easy to be a wuss . . . . Think about that, folks . . . ~Sara’s Musings
I hate to admit it, but all we have to do is look around and we can see our society seems to be falling apart. Divorce is so common, no one thinks anything about it. At one time, it was looked down on and now it is almost expected. No one is shocked when they hear that one of their friends is divorcing due to one spouse having an affair. Couples are refusing to remain faithful to the vows they made; students drop out of school when the studies become too tough; suicide is becoming to no longer shock anyone.
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I’m going to stick with the Old Testament lectionary passage this week. Not that Luke’s story of Mary and Martha isn’t a good one. But right now is a good time to return to the words of the prophet Amos:
This is what the Lord God showed me—a basket of summer fruit. He said, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the Lord said to me, “The end has come upon my people Israel; I will never again pass them by. The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,” says the Lord God; “the dead bodies shall be many, cast out in every place. Be silent!” Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, saying, “When…
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On Saturday, I will be celebrating my 3rd anniversary as a blogger on WordPress. On July 20, 2010, I started up this blog site without any idea of what I was going to do with it. Those first few months were very “iffy” and the posts “scattered” and without any consistent theme (other than the fact that I was–and still am–unemployed). By April 2011 I was so frustrated with it that I deleted everything I had written at that point and gave it a rest. Then, on July 8, 2011, for no particular reason and with three previously written blog posts, I fired it back up again . . . .
. . . And it just took off like the wind blows!!!!!!!! (Sort of like Forrest Gump who could run “like the wind wind blows.”) I think of “Forrest Gump” as being the quintessential “Baby Boomer” movie as it spans several very important decades in Forrest Gump’s life that made the Boomers who they are. And like Forrest Gump (played by Tom Hanks) who got a rather rough start in life but triumphed over his significant challenges regardless of how others may have felt about him, my blog site struggled at the beginning until the focus became very clear a year later and it just “took off,” and also regardless of how others may have felt about my particular take on certain “sacred cows” within the broader subject of “American Christianity.” And this is my 228th blog post that I’ve written since I fired it back up two years ago. Woo Hoo!!!
I have no particular topic in mind for this blog post other than as a celebration of three years on WordPress; however, I ran across a couple of verses this past Tuesday that I read in the book of Job on Tisha B’Av, the 9th of Av on the Jewish calendar (click on link to read my blog post on Tisha B’Av), that gave me pause for thought and consideration so I will start there.
The setting for the two verses in Job is right after all of the horrific tragedies hit Job and he was mourning in a pile of ashes (the ashes of his life pulled out from under him). After a rather lengthy dialogue between Job and his three “friends” that was going nowhere fast over the course of many chapters (see Job 3-31), we arrive at Chapter 32 where a young man named Elihu offered his advice to Job. Even though Elihu was young, he was full of God-given wisdom beyond his years, and the advice he gave to Job (see Job 32-37) was advice we can all learn from when we are in the midst of trials we just don’t understand, either.
Regarding the two verses that really stood out as I read Elihu’s monologue, the first verse is found in Job 36:18:
“Be careful that no one entices you by riches;
do not let a large bribe turn you aside.”
The older I get the more I find that money can buy just about anybody’s loyalty nowadays (although it seems an oxymoron to be able to “buy loyalty”). Loyalty to self, maybe, since money is god in America. Greed and the love of money has saturated the landscape and inundated the Church at large, and nobody seems to pay any attention to what Paul had to say to his protégé, a young pastor named Timothy, in 1 Timothy 6:10 which clearly states, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” Unfortunately, many folks in the Christian arena today in America are Biblically illiterate (in other words, they spend very little time reading or studying the Bible and applying it to their daily lives or taking seriously the basic tenets of Jesus’ teachings as well as the teachings of His disciples and including the apostle Paul). Instead, we live just like the rest of the culture while maybe going to church on Sunday morning. So why do we go to church on Sunday morning? Church attendance is not a prerequisite or guarantee to heaven. There are reasons to attend church, but as a “guarantee to heaven” is not one of them. And living like the rest of the culture all week long isn’t, either.
It seems as if our god is really money (greed, materialism) and all it can buy (people, possessions, etc.), as we certainly don’t live like we really believe the verse in Hebrews 13:5 that clearly states, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” No, we are seldom content with what we have and our society screams at us to buy “bigger, better, more, more, more.” We are never content. No matter how much we have we always want more. And we never, ever understand the truth that Jesus clearly stated when He said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” So we serve money and claim to follow after God no matter how we get the money. And if we don’t believe that, think about how often we think about money and how we can get more of it as compared to how often we think about God and how to serve Him and others instead of ourselves.
The second verse closely follows the first one and is found in Job 36:21:
“Beware of turning to evil,
which you seem to prefer to affliction.”
When we are given a choice to do the right thing but it will cost us to do so (resulting in any kind of affliction including alienation, loss of popularity, loss of status, loss of money and/or possessions, loss of our job, or any other kind of loss), do we choose the safe path that will cause us no immediate harm and keep us a part of the “status quo” even though it is “evil” and capable of destroying someone else instead? Will we just turn a blind eye or lie or say nothing by our silence when we could correct a wrong that has been done to another by speaking up in their defense? I wrote about this very topic in a recent blog post titled, “When Silence Is Not Golden.”
Let me put it another way . . . would we forsake a family member, a friend, or a colleague if it was to our own benefit–financial or otherwise–as in spreading gossip meant to demean or destroy (which is at the core of gossip), planning someone’s harm, accepting a bribe for any reason, or screwing over a colleague for a promotion or for some other type of favoritism and/or acceptance? We don’t mind afflicting others as long as it doesn’t affect (or afflict) us and especially if it will benefit us in some way. We want to be on the receiving end of the “good stuff,” not on the painful, suffering end that we inflict on others. And we don’t much care about those we afflict as long as it is not us. So we lie, cheat, steal, gossip, maim, and destroy others for our own benefit in a myriad of ways. And we even smile most of the time while we are doing it. And then we sit in a pew on Sunday (or a couch at home) and think that makes it all A-Okay.
It’s not “A-Okay” . . . .
Most folks like to think of themselves as basically good, decent folks. After all, we only harm others if they harm us first (a little “tit-for-tat,” right?) or we harm them (gossip and passive-aggressive behavior are two favorite means of harming others) because we are jealous or envious, or we want what they have, or it will benefit us in some way–financially or other, or we feel self-righteous, or judgmental, or we just feel like being mean and nasty because we can be and they have no recourse, and the list goes on and on and on ad nauseam. Yeah, we are all just basically good, decent folks at heart . . . . R-i-g-h-t . . . .
Change starts with us . . . .
Is anybody listening?
“And that’s all I have to say about that” ~Forrest Gump
YouTube Video: “Glad” & “Well All Right” by Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton and crew at Madison Square Garden:
Today is Tisha B’Av (the 9th of Av) on the Jewish calendar. It started at sundown yesterday and ends at nightfall this evening. I wrote about it a year ago and decided to repost that blog post again today (see below). It is customary to read from the books of Lamentations and Job in the Old Testament on this day known as an official day of mourning and fasting due to a series of catastrophes that occurred on this same day over a period of centuries including the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem.
Because of the Lord’s great love
we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
The Lord is good to those
whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
Posted on July 29, 2012 by Sara’s Musings
Today is Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of the month of Av on the Jewish calendar. It started at sundown yesterday and ends at nightfall tonight (which is the typical start and end of each day on the Jewish calendar). However, this particular day has powerful significance for the Jewish people and it is known as a day of mourning due to a series of severe catastrophes that occurred on this same day over a period of centuries.
Being a Gentile (non-Jewish), I haven’t given much thought to the Jewish calendar over the years in relation to our own calendar. However, in June, I stumbled upon some interesting facts regarding the Jewish calendar and came upon information about Tisha B’Av and the three weeks prior to that day–a time frame observed by religious Jews as a time of fasting, mourning and repentance that starts on the 17th day of Tammuz and leads up to the official day of mourning, the 9th of Av–Tisha B’Av.
So what exactly happened on Tisha B’Av? The following information is taken from Chabad.org:
The 9th of Av, Tisha b’Av, commemorates a list of catastrophes so severe it’s clearly a day specially cursed by G‑d.
Picture this: The year is 1313 BCE. The Israelites are in the desert, recently having experienced the miraculous Exodus, and are now poised to enter the Promised Land. But first they dispatch a reconnaissance mission to assist in formulating a prudent battle strategy. The spies return on the eighth day of Av and report that the land is unconquerable. That night, the 9th of Av, the people cry. They insist that they’d rather go back to Egypt than be slaughtered by the Canaanites. G‑d is highly displeased by this public demonstration of distrust in His power, and consequently that generation of Israelites never enters the Holy Land. Only their children have that privilege, after wandering in the desert for another 38 years.
The First Temple was also destroyed on the 9th of Av (423 BCE). Five centuries later (in 69 CE), as the Romans drew closer to the Second Temple, ready to torch it, the Jews were shocked to realize that their Second Temple was destroyed the same day as the first.
When the Jews rebelled against Roman rule, they believed that their leader, Simon bar Kochba, would fulfill their messianic longings. But their hopes were cruelly dashed in 133 CE as the Jewish rebels were brutally butchered in the final battle at Betar. The date of the massacre? Of course—the 9th of Av!
One year after their conquest of Betar, the Romans plowed over the Temple Mount, our nation’s holiest site.
The Jews were expelled from England in 1290 CE on, you guessed it, Tisha b’Av. In 1492, the Golden Age of Spain came to a close when Queen Isabella and her husband Ferdinand ordered that the Jews be banished from the land. The edict of expulsion was signed on March 31, 1492, and the Jews were given exactly four months to put their affairs in order and leave the country. The Hebrew date on which no Jew was allowed any longer to remain in the land where he had enjoyed welcome and prosperity? Oh, by now you know it—the 9th of Av.
Ready for just one more? World War II and the Holocaust, historians conclude, was actually the long drawn-out conclusion of World War I that began in 1914. And yes, amazingly enough, Germany declared war on Russia, effectively catapulting the First World War into motion, on the 9th of Av, Tisha b’Av.
What do you make of all this? Jews see this as another confirmation of the deeply held conviction that history isn’t haphazard; events – even terrible ones – are part of a Divine plan and have spiritual meaning. The message of time is that everything has a rational purpose, even though we don’t understand it.
I was stunned after I read that list and realized that every single horrific event listed above that occurred over several centuries happened on the exact same day–the 9th of Av, Tisha B’Av. I found a “reader” (a small collection of articles) on Tisha B’Av and the Three Weeks at Aish.com and downloaded it last night and read it this morning. As I was reading through the incredibly moving stories, the similarities that the Jewish people feel regarding the catastrophes that have happened to them on Tisha B’Av are not dissimilar to how Americans feel about what happened to us on 9/11. Tisha B’Av is primarily about mourning the loss of the Temple (twice), where God’s presence dwelt among the Jewish people in the Old Testament. It was the pulling away of God from His people and His presence in their lives. Normally, during Tisha B’Av the Book of Lamentations is read as well as other readings which “reflect the sadness of the tragedies and often relate the tragedies to rebellion of the people. However some of the Kinot [readings] reflect the hope of redemption” (Source no longer available at former website).
The following two quotes are from two articles in the reader which you can download at this site: Tisha B’Av Reader.
The first quote is from an article titled, “The Heart-Rending Cry” by Keren Gottleib, pp. 4-7: “I understood that this (the mourning mentioned in her article) was exactly how we are supposed to mourn the Temple on Tisha B’Av. We are supposed to cry over the loss of the unity and peace throughout the entire world. We are supposed to lament the disappearance of the Divine Presence and holiness from our lives in Israel. We are supposed to be pained by the destruction of our spiritual center, which served to unify the entire Jewish nation.
“We’re supposed to feel as if something very precious has been taken away from us forever. We are meant to cry, to be shocked and angry, to break down. We are supposed to mourn over the destruction of the Temple, to cry over a magnificent era that has been uprooted from the face of the earth. The incredible closeness that we had with God–that feeling that He is truly within us–has evaporated and disappeared into thin air” (p. 7).
As I read that article I was struck by that last sentence, “The incredible closeness that we had with God–that feeling that He is truly within us–has evaporated and disappeared into thin air.” After America’s own catastrophe, 9/11, we pulled together (and filled the churches) and were united once again as a nation unlike anything we had experienced in recent decades since the war in Vietnam that divided our nation; however, it didn’t take long for most Americans to get back to living their own individual lives again although every time we go through security to board an airplane it should serve to remind us of the horror of that terrorist attack instead of as an inconvenience that takes too long to navigate. And, after the initial shock of 9/11 dimmed, we put God back on the shelf, too, except maybe on Sunday morning.
The second quote is from an article titled, “On the Same Team,” by Dov Moshe Lipman, pp.7-9: “Perhaps each time God puts us through another round of suffering, His proclamation of ‘Again,’ He is waiting for us to stop identifying ourselves as an individual Jew coming from his separate background and upbringing. ‘I’m modern Orthodox.’ ‘I’m Reform.’ ‘I’m a Hasid.’ ‘I’m secular.’ ‘I’m Conservative.’ ‘I’m yeshivishe.’
Those characterizations polarize the nation and make it impossible for us to function together as one team. As individual groups, we cannot accomplish what we can accomplish as one team. We are held back by that same baseless hatred which creeps in when we are not one unit.
“Perhaps God is waiting for all of us to proclaim in unison, ‘I am a Jew.” Plain and simple.
“Even more importantly, perhaps God is waiting for us to stop seeing others as ‘He’s modern Orthodox.’ ‘He’s Reform.’ ‘He’s a Hasid.’ ‘He’s secular.’ ‘He’s Conservative.’ ‘He’s yeshivishe.’
“Perhaps the answer to our suffering and long exile is reaching the point where we see other Jews as members of the same team and family. Jews and nothing else” (pp. 8-9).
As I read those words, it became crystal clear that we as Christians in America do the same thing. We put each other in categories–‘Baptist.’ ‘Charismatic.’ ‘Methodist.’ ‘Pentacostal.’ ‘Anglican.’ And the list goes on and on . . . . Yet we all claim to serve the same God through Jesus Christ. We fight among ourselves in a sort of “our church is better than yours” self-righteousness instead of working together, united in Jesus Christ. No wonder our nation is falling apart. We have forgotten what true repentance is and what it requires of us, and we’ve forgotten that if Jesus Christ is truly our Savior and Lord, that we are all on the same team.
Another anniversary of the horrific catastrophe of 9/11 will soon be here. Will we continue to be “one nation divided” or “one nation united under God”? Do we want to see God’s blessing on our nation again, or will we continue on a path that brings only division and strife, and ultimately, destruction?
The choice is ours, and we need to start making it now . . . .
Music is not played during the observance of Tisha B’Av; therefore, I have not included a YouTube video on this post.
Photo credit here
My words are few in this post. Instead, I want the apostle Paul to speak to us. Those of us who claim to know Jesus Christ can have the mind of Christ, but so many times the world and everything in it that we want gets in the way. Our spiritual life is practically nonexistent because we have allowed sin in it’s myriad of enticements to rule our lives (e.g., gossip, greed, never being satisfied with when we have, jealousy and envy, pride, ego, status, and the list goes on and on). So let me ask this one question . . .
Do we really want the mind of Christ controlling our lives? If so, let’s read about what needs to be done from the apostle Paul in I Corinthians 1-3:
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,
2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:
3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— 6 God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
A Church Divided Over Leaders
10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
Christ Crucified Is God’s Power and Wisdom
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
2 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
God’s Wisdom Revealed by the Spirit
6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:
“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”
—the things God has prepared
for those who love him—
10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for,
“Who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.
The Church and Its Leaders
3 Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?
5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.
18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” 21 So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.
Those are some sobering words from the apostle Paul. Let’s look at them more closely in response to a question on “GotQuestions?org”:
Question: “How can I have the mind of Christ?”
Answer: In 1 Corinthians 2:16, Paul quotes Isaiah 40:13 and then makes a statement concerning all believers: “We have the mind of Christ.” Having the mind of Christ means sharing the plan, purpose, and perspective of Christ, and it is something that all believers possess.
Having the mind of Christ means we understand God’s plan in the world—to bring glory to Himself, restore creation to its original splendor, and provide salvation for sinners. It means we identify with Christ’s purpose “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). It means we share Jesus’ perspective of humility and obedience (Philippians 2:5-8), compassion (Matthew 9:36), and prayerful dependence on God (Luke 5:16).
In the verses leading up to 1 Corinthians 2:16, we note some truths concerning the mind of Christ:
1) The mind of Christ stands in sharp contrast to the wisdom of man (verses 5-6).
2) The mind of Christ involves wisdom from God, once hidden but now revealed (verse 7).
3) The mind of Christ is given to believers through the Spirit of God (verses 10-12).
4) The mind of Christ cannot be understood by those without the Spirit (verse 14).
5) The mind of Christ gives believers discernment in spiritual matters (verse 15).
In order to have the mind of Christ, one must first have saving faith in Christ (John 1:12; 1 John 5:12). After salvation, the believer lives a life under God’s influence. The Holy Spirit indwells and enlightens the believer, infusing him with wisdom—the mind of Christ. The believer bears a responsibility to yield to the Spirit’s leading (Ephesians 4:30) and to allow the Spirit to transform and renew his mind (Romans 12:1-2).
Do we live a life under the influence of God’s Holy Spirit, or under our own influence and our own or the world’s “wisdom”? If most of our time is spent in pursuit of our own desires and concerns we are not living by the power of the Holy Spirit. As stated in the quote above, “the believer bears a responsibility to yield to the Spirit’s leading (Ephesians 4:30) and to allow the Spirit to transform and renew his mind” (Romans 12:1-2). Do we take that responsibility seriously, or do we pursue our own desires and goals?
Conformed . . . or transformed . . .
The choice is ours . . . .
YouTube Video: “Gotta Serve Somebody” sung by Shirley Caesar:
What, exactly, is love? Many times it comes disguised as lust or greed, even pride. We can usually tell when it isn’t really love because it is centered around us and what we want. There is a lot of lust, greed and pride in the world, but not so much love. Not authentic love. Authentic love centers on the “other” and not on ourselves and looks out for their well being and not just our own. Jesus Christ stated in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Authentic love is a heart attitude.
There is a story in Luke 7:36-50 that illustrates authentic love. Let’s read it:
When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
What a contrast exists between the two people in this passage! One was a proper male, a Pharisee. The other was a woman, a sinner, likely a prostitute.
The Pharisee wrongly considered himself righteous; the woman knew she was a sinner. The Pharisee was proud; the woman contrite. The Pharisee failed to provide the most basic courtesies to his invited guest. In spite of what others might have thought, the woman openly displayed devotion to Jesus by anointing His feet with fragrant oil.
The Pharisee believed He had little to be forgiven for; thus, he failed to show any measure of love in return. The woman knew she had much to be forgiven for; thus, she demonstrated lavish love.
This woman’s response should be seen as normative. Our love for the Lord is not an attempt to win His favor. It is a response to having been granted the favor of His forgiveness. How much do your actions show your gratitude and love for the forgiveness you have received from the Lord?
Jesus’ reaction between the two (the woman and the Pharisee) is strikingly different, and this marks His entire three-year ministry leading to the cross. As Dr. John MacArthur notes in a chapter titled, “When It’s Wrong to be ‘Nice’,” in “The Jesus You Can’t Ignore” (Thomas Nelson, 2008, pp. 1-2, hardcover edition):
Jesus’ way of dealing with sinners was normally marked by such extreme tenderness that he earned a derisive moniker from His critics: Friend of Sinners (Matthew 11:19). When He encountered even the grossest of moral lepers (ranging from a woman living in adultery in John 4:7-29 to a man infested with a whole legion of demons in Luke 8:27-39), Jesus always ministered to them with remarkable benevolence–without delivering any scolding lectures or sharp rebukes. Invariably, when such people came to Him, they were already broken, humbled, and fed up with the life of sin. He eagerly granted such people forgiveness, healing and full fellowship with Him on the basis of their faith alone (cf. Luke 7:50; 17:19).
The one class of sinners Jesus consistently dealt with sternly were the professional hypocrites, religious phonies, false teachers, and the self-righteous peddlers of plastic piety–the scribes, lawyers, Sadducees, and Pharisees. These were the religious leaders in Israel–spiritual “rulers” (to use a term Scripture often applied to them). They were the despotic gatekeepers of religious tradition. They cared more for custom and convention than they did for the truth. Almost every time they appear in the gospel accounts, they are concerned mainly with keeping up with appearances and holding on to their power. Any thought they might have had for authentic godliness always took a backseat to more academic, pragmatic, or self-serving matters. They were the quintessential hypocrites.
Sinners invariably know that they are sinners; the self-righteous do not nor do they acknowledge their sin. As the apostle Paul, a former Pharisee redeemed by Jesus Christ, stated in 1 Timothy 1:15-16, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” And as Jesus stated in Mark 2:17, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
One of the real tragedies that has occurred in the past several decades is that we all have been lead to believe that we are basically good folks at the core of our being. However, Jeremiah 17:9 states: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure, who can understand it?” Also, Romans 3:10-12 makes it adamantly clear that “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” And Isaiah 53:6 states: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” How often do any of us compare ourselves to sheep?
Unfortunately, Pop-psychology (which started back in the 1960’s as the “human potential movement”) has produced a plethora of books, CD’s, and other media products and a stream of “motivational speakers” constantly telling us how great we are and how we can be even better–and that “feel good” self-love philosophy has infiltrated the church. In fact, we now feel so great that we even pat ourselves on the back. For example, look at how we brag about ourselves on social media. Psychobabble is so commonplace that we don’t even recognize it for what it is anymore–babble. We are just too wonderful for words (and pride is at the core). If we want to know how much we truly show authentic love, how do we treat others especially those who are different from us or that we disagree with?
There is a healthy self-love that we mostly miss and it is stated in Mark 12:30-31 when Jesus said, “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: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
We hear so much about “self-love” nowadays that we have totally forgotten that healthy self-love is not about us. It’s about others . . . as in “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). The “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” code of “non-ethics” has permeated our Christian environments and saturated the way we deal with each other. We are often looking for a “return” benefit for the “good turn” we do for others, and folks, Jesus never said to do that–in fact, He said the very opposite. And while we are on the subject, whoever talks about sin anymore, and repentance? Those are still ongoing issues as clearly stated in 1 John 1:9 which was written to Christians as an ongoing instruction–“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” In fact, let’s read that verse in context (1 John 1:5-10):
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
Could it be any more clear, folks? We are not so wonderful that we don’t even need Jesus anymore except when we want something from Him or we’re in trouble. Quoting from John MacArthur’s book, “The Jesus You Can’t Ignore,” pp. 63-64 (hardcover edition):
Let’s face it: the idea that the entire human race is fallen and condemned is simply too harsh for most people’s tastes. They would rather believe that most people are fundamentally good. Virtually every popular arbiter of our culture’s highest, noblest values–from Oprah Winfrey to the Hallmark Channel–tells us so constantly. All we need to do, they say, is cultivate our underlying goodness, and we can fix everything wrong with human society. That’s not terribly different from what the Pharisees believed about themselves.
But Scripture says otherwise. We are hopelessly corrupted by sin. All who do not have Christ as Lord and Savior are in bondage to evil, condemned by a just God, and bound for hell. Jesus not only strongly implied those very things in his opening words to Nicodemus [see John 3]; before He had finished fully explaining the gospel that evening, He made His meaning explicit: “He who does not believe is condemned already” (John 3:18).
Did you catch what he is saying? If we think we are basically good and that we can fix anything including ourselves in our own power we are just like the Pharisees.
Just . . . like . . . the . . . Pharisees . . . .
If that statement doesn’t stop us in our tracks, nothing will. The measure of love is not about self and our own “goodness” and it never will be. If we can’t get beyond ourselves and what we want all the time we will totally miss Jesus here on earth and in eternity. And it just doesn’t matter how many times we have gone to church or how many “Christian” activities we’ve taken part in or how much money we’ve given over the course of our lifetimes. It’s not about what we do (see Ephesians 2:8-9).
It’s a heart issue, and if we don’t get that right . . .
Nothing else matters . . . .
YouTube Video: “You Are There” by Salvador (from their 2004 CD, “So Natural”):
“What you think of Jesus Christ will thoroughly color how you think about everything else,” writes Dr. John MacArthur on the back cover of his book, “The Jesus You Can’t Ignore” (What You Must Learn From the Bold Confrontations of Christ), (Thomas Nelson, 2008). “This is a critical truth in the life of every believer. Our view of Jesus affects the way we view God, the world, ourselves, and every one of our decisions” (continued from back cover).
In our postmodern world that has invaded much of Christianity today, we all just pretty much want what we want when we want it and to “get along” with everyone as much as possible and leave the truth up for grabs. If fact, that is at the core of the problem . . . the Truth. We don’t much like it as it has a tendency to turn our world upside down if we take it seriously. Postmoderns like to say that truth is relative and that there is no “absolute truth.” It makes for a convenient (and selfish) way to live and it puts us in charge instead of God. And it doesn’t work although many folks (false teachers, actually) will try to convince us otherwise. We are not the center of the universe even though we have a tendency to live and act that way, and there are many, many false teachers out there today who will tell us what we want to hear so we can go on living any way we want.
False teachers have always been around. Jesus, Paul, Peter and Jude warned us about them and Jesus specifically stated that they would increase exponentially in the “last days” and that many would follow after them (see Matthew 24:10-13). And Paul describes clearly to Timothy what the “last days” will look like in 2 Timothy 3:1-5:
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
That reads like front page news today. Paul also wrote to Timothy what to watch out for regarding false teachers in I Timothy 6:3-10:
If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
And Paul tells Timothy (vv. 11-12) to “. . . flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
The problem with us today is that we don’t do any “fleeing” from anything, nor do we really pursue “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.” No . . . we take it all in–everything our society has to offer us–and there are plenty of false teachers out there who will cater to our whims (and it’s made some of them very rich, too). And the fight we fight most often is “looking out for #1” (but we’ll never admit it).
As A.W. Tozer stated in “Knowledge of the Holy,” (in the preface): “The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us. A whole new philosophy of the Christian life has resulted from this one basic error in our religious thinking.”
“A hundred lesser evils” surround and engulf us today because we have a low view of God and Jesus Christ. We don’t “fight the good fight of faith” because we don’t use the faith we have to fight off temptations because we give in to them so often that we don’t even recognize them as temptations anymore, and our conscience is seared. And that’s a deadly place to be. We are greedy, and we lie, cheat, steal, covet, envy, gossip, slander, seduce (that list has no end) with the best of them and don’t think twice about it and then go to church on Sunday (if we attend church) to hear a “sermon” centered around us and how we can get “more” from God and Jesus Christ.
As John MacArthur asks (on the back cover of his book cited above), “Do you have any idea who Jesus really is?” Well, do we? Be honest, folks. What do we really know about Jesus Christ except for what we want to get from Him? MacArthur continues by stating: “These days, Jesus is often portrayed as a pacifist, a philanthropist, or a docile teacher. He strikes a plastic–and sometimes pathetic–pose in the minds of many. Some prefer the meek and mild Jesus who heals the sick, calms fears, and speaks of peace and goodwill. These things do represent a portion of the Messiah, but tragically, too many have never been exposed to the rest of him. They have never seen a full 360-degree view of the Savior. Until now.” (Quote on back cover.) [The book, “The Jesus You Can’t Ignore,” by John MacArthur is available through “Grace to You” (click here) and also at Amazon.com (click here).]
Much of American Christianity is about an inch deep and a mile wide. We don’t really know who Jesus Christ is, and as a result, we follow after a lot of “false Christs” (e.g., false teachers) who tickle our ears and tell us what we want to hear. We can’t claim to know Jesus Christ if we are living our lives any way we want.
As MacArthur states in the Introduction of the book (pp. xviii-xix, hardcover edition):
It is the very height of irrationality and arrogance to call Christ Lord with the lips while utterly defying Him with one’s life. Yet that is precisely how multitudes live (Luke 6:46). Such people are even more preposterous examples of self-contradiction than the atheist who imagines he can deny the Source of all that’s good and yet somehow be “good” himself. But the hypocrite is not only more irrational; he is almost more contemptible than the out-and-out atheist, because he is actually doing gross violence to the truth while pretending to believe it. Nothing is more completely diabolical. Satan is a master at disguising himself so that he appears good rather than evil. He “transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works” (2 Cor. 11:14-15).
It is no accident, then, that Jesus’ harshest words were reserved for institutionalized religious hypocrisy. He wages a very aggressive public controversy against the chief hypocrites of His era. That conflict began almost as soon as He entered public ministry and continued relentlessly until the day He was crucified. In fact, it was the main reason they conspired to crucify Him. So Jesus’ campaign against hypocrisy is a prominent, if not dominant, emphasis in all four gospels. It is the very theme we’ll be surveying in this book.
But our starting point is a truth that should be self-evident: it really does matter whether we believe the Bible is true or not; and it likewise matters whether our faith is earnest or not.
So what do we really believe? If we say we believe in Jesus Christ, do our lives and our actions and our attitudes regarding how we treat others show it on a consistent and regular basis? Do we consistently “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Phil. 2:3-4)? Or do we “go for the gusto” and “look out for #1” and fill our lives with greed and selfishness most of the time?
If the only time Jesus crosses our minds is on Sunday morning or when we are in trouble or want something, there is something seriously wrong with our view of who He is, and we need to get to know Him . . . now. And if your pastor’s sermons rarely mention His name or keep Him on the sidelines with a cursory mention now and then, find another church to attend. However the bottom line is this . . . it is our responsibility to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and no pastor can do that for us.
Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Revelation 3:20). Won’t you accept His invitation?
The days are dark and the time is growing short . . .
Do it now . . . .
YouTube Video: “Hail to the King” by Shannon Wexelberg (on her CD, “Faithful God,” 2007):