Thursday, May 19, 2022

Did You See Last Night's Game?

 Quote: "You can have the outfit on, but still not have the identity. 
(Heard in a message at M4M)

I immediately think of the Wise and Foolish Builders. (Matthew 7:24-27) Two houses that probably look the same on the outside, but their underneath, their foundations were very different. One house was just there, sitting on the sand where a good rain or storm would damage if not destroy it. The other was firmly anchored to the rock, where it was secure in the event of a storm. One was for show, the other was a home, a safe place, a sanctuary. 

I have a couple of IU (Indiana University) sweatshirts that I wear from time to time. I like IU, and the shirts were on clearance. Sometimes when I wear them, people I run into will ask me what I thought of last night's game, or the season the team is having, or some like question. I like IU, but am not a rabid fan, nor do I follow them closely. So most of the time, I don't know how to answer their question. But they assume I do, because I have the outfit on. They can see the outfit, but not my identity. Sometimes I bluff my way through a conversation, other times I just say I didn't catch the game or I don't know the answer. 

Sometimes, people go to church, they do some very good things, they may have even been baptized, they have the outfit on. But I am not sure if they have their identity in Christ. Galatians 1:27 says, "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." 1 Peter 5:5 says, Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  The follower of Jesus definitely has a way that they should look. If you want to see more of what that should be, immerse yourself in the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5-7) But know that there were many in the crowd who had the clothes of righteousness on, but did not have the identity. I believe this is why Jesus told the crowd, "For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."  The scribes and Pharisees had the outfit on, but their identity was not in Christ, rather it was in their own accomplishments. They thought they could earn salvation, put God in their debt. Rather, we should look at the mercy and grace of God and consider the debt that we owe Him. Romans 12:1,2 "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."  It is more than just about wearing the clothes, it is about the identity that goes with the outfit.

Go team!

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Take Away - SOM Part 25

Original post here.

Matthew 7:28-29

And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

I don't recall hearing this verse quoted very often, but I think it is significant in light to what was said in this message. I think that today, we have a lot of people who are astonished when the hear a (their) preacher, but that is in a very different context. I think a lot of today's preaching is distant from the gospel, so when one hears their message and is astonished, and perhaps thinks that "I didn't know that," it is because it was not true. I hate to say it, but most Christians that I have encountered are extremely Bible illiterate. I recall doing a game show night once and surveying the members before hand. One of the questions that sticks with me was, "Name a King in the Old Testament." Number one answer? King James. I guess that makes them illiterate in Church history as well.

This teaching was different. It was not designed to get someone to respond to an invitation. It was not manipulative. It was not done in the tone and manner of the current teachers. At times, it was almost as if Jesus said offensive things, things that might drive away followers, just because it was truth. Imagine truth taking precedence over Church growth. 

Yet I do not believe it was the purpose of Jesus to offend. He just loved God and the truth more than He loved the praise of men. 

Take Away: I need to be aware of what I listen to when it comes to preaching, or what I read when it comes to books, what I listen to in terms of music, etc. Just because it comes from a popular Christian preacher, author, or musician does not mean that it is truth or gospel. Like the Bereans, I need to take what is said and compare it to the Word of God. (Acts 17:11) Even if it offends the source, or maybe especially if it offends the source.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Take Away - SOM Part 24

 SOM Part 24 can be found here.

Jesus has just finished saying that not everyone who says calls Him Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, (Matthew 7:21) He is now going to illustrate this with His conclusion. He talks about 2 houses, It would seem that to look at the houses, there would be little difference. The difference is in what is not readily seen from the outside, that being the foundation. What are the houses dependent upon. 

The house on the sand appears to be dependent solely on its outward appearance. Perhaps much like the people who call Jesus Lord, but are not known by Him. They think what saves them is their action, but that seems not to be enough. The second house is anchored to the rock. It has the appearance of the first house in many ways, but beyond appearance it also has the rock, Jesus, as its foundation. So you can say all the right things, do the right things, but without the anchor of complete dependence on Jesus for salvation, it is not enough. 

Take Away: My righteousness comes from Christ, not anything I do. I can look good on the outside, but that is not the point. I go back to the very first words Jesus said in this sermon, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." My paraphrase would be, Satisfied are those who are gasping for breath, for them the kingdom has been prepared. Why? Because before we can understand our relationship to the kingdom and its ruler, we must see our brokenness, our need for a Savior. We must understand that what saves us is not our effort or obedience, but the blood f Christ, and that because of what Christ has done, this is what now drives our behavior. It is a subtle but critical difference. The life without a foundation is driven by a desire to be saved, and seeks to achieve that salvation by putting God in their debt, im a place where He is basically forced to grant them eternal life, the firm foundation recognizes that he is a sinner, and that there is nothing that he can do to obtain God's favor, in fact, he understands that even an attempt to do so is an insult to God. The firm foundation understands that salvation is a result of grace, and now lives a life that is a response to that understanding. Ephesians 2:8-10 states, For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Do I see what is going on here? That it is not my works that save me, it is grace. Yet for those who are saved by grace, there are works that are prepared for us to do. Not as an obligation, but as a response to grace. I still have a challenge in completely living in this manner, but it something that I strive for.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Take Away - SOM Part 23

 SOM Part 23 can be found here.

This one is tough and scary. Imagine going through life thinking you had it right, only to be told that you were wrong. The arguing starts, "But didn't I do this for you, and that for you, and these things in your name?" Then to be told to leave, that Jesus did not even know you. 

To understand these verses, I believe we need to go back to the context again, looking at who Jesus was speaking to and why. He is speaking to the Jewish people, and among the audience are the leaders and the common people. I believe that He is speaking to both sub groups here, as this is both a condemnation and a warning. The condemnation is to those who would use religion for personal advantage. Not just those who peddle the gospel for profit, but also toward those who would use religion as a means of trying to hold God accountable to man. Almost as if through some type of behavior we could put God in a position where He was obligated to save us. The answer is unexpected. Not only are they cast from the presence of God, Jesus says that He does not even know them!

Take Away: Doing what I believe is right is not what the Gospel is about, nor will it bring about salvation. Had they known this, the would not have pleaded with the Lord based on their own actions. It is not about obligation, it is about appreciation. Psalm 34:1 says, "I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth." The word bless conveys the idea of adoration. I will adore (love) the Lord, and the result is not works, but praise (some of which will be in the form of works!). I cannot put God is a position where He owes me anything, because no matter what I do, I could not do it without Him, therefore I still am in His debt. Perhaps this is why instead of Jesus saying that we don't know Him, He says that He does not know us, because the only way I can be found righteous is to be known by Him, to have Him stand up for me and say, "This one is Mine, He is washed clean by my blood."

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Take Away - SOM Part 22

 SOM Part 22 found here.

I am going to be honest and say that this will be a post that I will struggle with immensely. I think about the ideas of truth and absolute truth, and do I really know the truth? There are so many different takes on what is truth and which truth is really the truth. I want to believe that I have a good grasp on the truth, but I know that so many others do as well. I want to take these words to heart, to beware of the wolves in sheep's clothing, but I also do not want to make a mistake when it comes to who I find to be a wolf and who is really a wolf.

Jesus does give some help here. He says that we will be able to recognize them by their fruits. So it is not necessarily their words, or just their words that will reveal them as wolves, but it is also their actions. I look at speakers like Mr. Joel Osteen. To me, he is an easy one to pick out as a wolf, although again, I know that there are many who would disagree. But I look at both his words and his fruits. His words are slick. He does not want to commit to words that would alienate some of his flock. He is accepting of things that I believe Jesus would challenge head on. His actions are not much better. He does not live the lifestyle of a disciple in my opinion. His handling of money, of people, of Scripture, etc. are scary at times. (But then, so are mine! Which makes this type of judgment so challenging.) Sometimes his words are awesome. I have seen some great quotes from him posted by folk on Facebook. But words alone are not the sole piece of evidence that must be taken into account. Yet I also know that no one is perfect other than Jesus. So where does someone like Joel, or his disciples fall when it comes to being sheep or wolves? I stand by my choice that he and so many others like him are wolves, but each one must choose for themselves.

The Bible says that there are those who are false apostles. Those who disguise themselves as ministers of Christ. And why wouldn't they, since even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light? (2 Corinthians 11:13-15) So I know that I need to be on guard. I cannot turn a blind eye to someone who would deceive me and say it is their fault. I have been warned. I look at the audience of Jesus. Surely as He scans the crowd, He sees sheep and wolves. Sheep, those who are lost and vulnerable. The masses, who are searching for truth, for salvation, for a Messiah. And wolves, those who would prey upon the sheep for their own gain. Perhaps many of them among the Jewish leaders, who were so enamored with themselves that they could not even see themselves as wolves. But their fruit would reveal them, as they would seek to trap Jesus in His words, and ultimately would consent to His crucifixion.

Take Away: There are those who would deceive me. Who would use Jesus and whatever else they can for their own gain and at the cost of my soul. They will be held accountable. But so will I. I have been warned, and if the wolf comes in and kills the sheep, the sheep is still dead. The instruction calls for the sheep to beware of the wolves. Be aware, perhaps. Know that not everyone has your best interests at heart. So I just pray for awareness. And perhaps a bit of fortitude should there need to be a confrontation with a wolf. Or just pray that my shepherd will protect me when the time comes.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Take Away - SOM Part 21

SOM Part 21 can be found here.

Two important thoughts. The first one, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." That is tough. I would rather do unto others as I perceive they have done to me, or as I have experienced what they have previously done to me. It is tough to treat them as I want to be treated. It requires a lot of honesty. I have to be honest about how I would want to be treated, and I have to be honest about how I am treating others

I want to be treated fairly. Okay, maybe not. I want fairness at a minimum. I prefer to be treated beyond fair. If I am owed $5, I prefer to get $10, or at least the 5 with interest. I want the benefit of the doubt. 

Why am I treating others in this manner? Why go the extra mile? Why give away my coat when they only asked for a hat or scarf? Is it because I want to be perceived as generous? Not likely, since good deed are to be done in secret. Is it to gain favor with God? I don't think so, since I owe Him so much more. Then why? I tend to believe that it is because I have a new life, a life where the possessions I have are viewed as being on loan from God, and are ultimately mine to glorify Him. I want others to know that I care about their needs, even those who I might at times view as adversaries. I want God to see me as faithful. 

Take Away: So where do I draw the line? I suppose if I wanted to, I could liquidate my possessions in a short matter of time. I am not sure that such behavior is what God wants. But I also need to be aware of justifying my behavior in keeping what I have as well. I suppose I just need to be honest. Honest with myself, and honest with God. I need to not let my selfishness control my actions. That's gonna take some work.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Take Away - SOM Part 20

SOM - Part 20 found here.

Jesus says stuff that is open to a wide range of interpretations. Like in these verses, where He says to ask, seek and knock, and it will be given to you. Some could interpret this as saying God will give us whatever we ask, and they are forever looking for the formula to get God to do that. Good luck with that. Others could use these verses to show that the Bible is not true, because we don't get whatever we ask for. So what is the truth?

The truth can be found by looking at the context of the sermon. Jesus has already established in His model prayer that when we ask (pray), we ask for our daily bread, not our daily filet mignon. The whatever in this context is a prayer coming from someone who has faith in God. Someone who is asking not for themselves, but asking within the will of God. Someone who trusts God, and understands that God may have a different path than we would prefer.

Jesus makes reference to the way a father gives gifts. I am a dad. I love my children. Yet sometimes I do not give them what they ask for. Does that mean that I really do not love them? No. It means that I make decisions based on what I believe is best for each one and all of them, I make decisions based on the limits of my abilities. But if they ask for a hamburger, I certainly do not give them a bowl of mud. So while they may not get the desired outcome, ultimately their needs are provided for.

Take Away: I need to be careful and aware of how I approach the understanding of Scripture. I also need to be careful and aware of what I listen to and believe when others share what they believe about Scripture. That last part has gotten me into a few pickles over the years, but I stand by the importance of not taking anyone's word on a matter just because of who they are (see Acts 17:11). I think God expects this, and will hold us accountable (and them) for words that are not truth.

I also need to be aware of my motive and expectation when asking God for something. I think of the Garth Brooks song, Unanswered Prayers. In the song, he runs into his old high school flame while with his wife at a football game. He thought his flame was the one for life for him, and must have made that a prayer, for from his current perspective, he now realizes that the way things are are better than what they would have been. He thanks God for the unanswered prayer, saying that such unanswered prayers are among God's greatest gifts. Now I am not here to debate the theology of that song, I just want to make the point that we look at things from our perspective, and we cannot see into the future. God can, and does. And He is a good Father.