Monthly Archives: July 2012

Love does not boast

When thinking about boasting, I find that this passage is very appropriate:

For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?  (1Co 4:7)

Please name for me one thing, just one, that you have, which you have not received! When you sit down and think about it, there is nothing. Your very life was given to you, not of your own will but of the will of your parents. The breathe of air you are breathing, the eyes you are using to read this, are all things designed by God and it is foolish to boast of them. Everything that we lay claim to, some of which we have by our choice, is something that we can attribute back to God.

The Jews of the New Testament time (not all, but the leadership) seemed to be boasting in things that they had received as if they had not received it, as if they were better than someone else, were closer to God and were special because of their relationship to God through Abraham.  True, they were the children of God, heirs of the promise, children of a covenant but they boasted in something they had but didn’t follow. They didn’t follow the faith of Abraham and they didn’t keep the law.

When we boast in something we have, do, or will do, we boast in our own strength, wisdom, or knowledge. Considering how incomplete that is, we should feel like the two year old who shakes his fist at his mother and says “I won’t go to bed and you can’t make me!”

An amusing story helps illustrate this. (stop me if you have heard this…)

A group of scientists after years of research finally succeeded in making a man. So they started this conversation with God and told Him that they no longer needed Him, that they could make man themselves. To which God said,” Well, before I go away and leave you alone, let’s just put it to the test. Let’s have a man making contest like I did it. If you can make a man, I will go away!” So the scientists agreed and they went out to this beautiful garden and one of the scientists bent down to get some dirt, from which to make a man.

God said “Whoa! Wait a minute. Go get your own dirt!”

We, as Christians, understand the world might try to boast like that but even as Christians, we should not hold others in contempt because we have  relationship with God. We should not consider ourselves better than another. We should have the humility to recognize that the only thing which we can boast in is Jesus Christ and the only way we can do that, is because of His actions, not ours.

Rather than boasting, we should be thankful and humble. Love does not boast. Are you Love, yet?

Photo credit: Google images

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Love does not envy

Another characteristic of Agape love is that it does not envy. It is, I think, important to keep in mind the idea that “Love” is a characteristic that we are to be known by. We never say that a person is Love and this is probably because we recognize that pure love is something that only God is. Yet, in light of the fact that the Scriptures say that “God is Love” and that we are His children, we should at least be striving to get closer to the point where someone can say “_________ (insert name) is Love” and mean it.

So when we read that Love does not envy, we understand that Love does not envy even a little bit. When you feel envy, you are, at the root of it, feeling either a covetousness or a discontent. Worse, that feeling is because of something that another person has. They have a nicer house, faster car, better paying job, more vacation time, more Bible knowledge, more of an influence, etc., etc. The list is really endless. The eye is truely never satisfied.

In sales and marketing, a sale is never made unless an underlying need or want is uncovered. Generally speaking, we buy based on want not need. Spiritually speaking, if we bought only what we needed, our lives would be less complicated and if we were satisfied with what we have, there would be no envy. Of course, Satan is a master at uncovering those wants and tempting us with them.

Jesus did not feel envy; he was content with what He had. In fact, he gave up all that he had in the Heavenly realms to come to earth and to die on our behalf. So when Satan tempted him based on hunger, pride, or desire, Jesus passed the test because He didn’t feel the lack. He had all he needed.

Contentment would eliminate a lot of sin. It would remove a lot of envy. Children fight and quarrel over things that do not matter. Adults do not. As a spiritual adult, Paul refused to partake in the envy temptations of others. In writing to the Philippians, he points to some who preach Christ “out of envy and rivalry” (Phil 1:15) and yet, his response, in spite of their desire to cause him distress was to say that if Christ is preached, he will rejoice in that. Their motives were of no interest to him.

I know some who go preach in other countries. As a  visiting preacher sometimes one or two people respond the Gospel’s invitation. Rather than baptizing the ones who respond, he steps aside and lets someone there do it. He does not take, nor want, any credit and he doesn’t want others to say that they were baptized by him. Who cares who baptizes a person, it is not to the credit of the preacher, it is to the glory of God.

Paul planted, Apollos watered, God gives the increase.

When you feel envy of someone else for what they have, it is because you are not satisfied with what you have.

Question: What can you do to remind yourself to remove envy when you feel it?

Photo credit: NeoGaboX

Love is also kind

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There is an old saying: To the one who is good with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

To be kind carries an idea that you may not have known. I am not a Greek scholar but a good lexicon or Strong’s concordance can at least give you an idea of word meanings and sometimes, they expand your understanding. This is the case with the word “kind”. Strong’s says that it means “to show oneself useful”, “to act benevolently”.

James asks a question that will illustrate this well.

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?  (Jas 2:15-16)

Although his context is to show that our faith must be an active one, one cannot forget the verses dealing with love that precede his question. So when his question is asked, you might restate his question to read “how kind is that?”

The short answer of course, is that there is no kindness or usefulness at all! They would be empty words and there would be no love. It is much like trying to use a hammer on a glass where a soft rag would be better.

God is a very kind God and even to those who do not treat Him with the respect He deserves.

For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Mat 5:45)

In the context here, Jesus teaches that we, as His disciples, need to be more like God. God does not withhold what is good and useful from His enemies. If He did, when would Christ have come? (See this post also). Therefore, we should not just be kind to those who treat us well but to those who mistreat us. Why? Because it is Love.

The book of Jonah shows the kindness of God. It shows that kindness in spite of Jonah not being in favor of it.  Jonah, knowing that God would relent of the promised destruction, if the city of Nineveh repented, did not want to preach the message. God, in chapter four, shares the reason for His kindness and rebukes Jonah for not seeing 120,000 souls that didn’t even know their right hand from their left.

Where we might see an enemy, God sees a soul that needs to be saved. God wants all to be saved and that is why the Gospel goes forth. The Gospel is the ultimate kindness and we, as His disciples are the ones who need to preach that message….or do we want to be like Jonah?

Being Kind does not mean being someone who walked all over. Boundaries can be established and Love knows how to establish proper boundaries. However, Love goes a lot further than the world’s standards are capable of understanding and sometimes Love stops short of where the world thinks it should. We shouldn’t think that it is easy but it is necessary for us to consider carefully the following question:

What are some ways in which we can be too kind?

 

 

Love is patient. Are you?

Agape love, the love Paul writes about in I Corinthians 13 has the characteristic and quality of being Patient. Another phrase used in other Bible versions is “suffers long”.

As an illustration of long suffering, you might remember back to your early years when you first learned to walk, talk, and tie your shoe. Well, if you could remember the first steps and words, you would have seen parents that were super patient, long suffering, and encouraging as you took a small step, first with help and then alone and finally, you left crawling behind.

In the Bible, a good illustration of long suffering and patience is found in the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18. Here is a servant brought before his master and in his plea for mercy, he says…

So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’  (Mat 18:26)

Do you know what the master did? He forgave the whole debt. Many dispute how much it was in today’s dollars but whether millions or billions, it was more than could be paid in a lifetime or ten!

So the servant, probably astonished at his good fortune went straight out and found a fellow servant who owed a small amount. Again, we don’t know the exact amount but it would be a manageable debt to be paid over time. This fellow servant also begged for mercy and in what should have felt like deja vu, he pleaded:

So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’  (Mat 18:29)

Only the servant would not be forgiving or patient! In other words, he would not show love.

In the context of Matthew 18, all about forgiveness, we cannot miss the lesson to be learned: Love is willing to bear with those who need patience. Not everyone “cleans up” as quickly and some rough edges take time to go away. We are not taking about patience with Sin  but with sinners.

Impatient people (e.g. unloving) forget that they also had their sins forgiven and, not only  are not  better than the other servants but, in many cases, were worse than them to begin with.

Love is patient. Are you?

Love. Without it, what matters?

The first three verses of I Corinthians 13 are not often read at weddings. People want to get to the “good” stuff about what Love is and is not. However, these verses emphasize clearly that whatever else your ability, your knowledge, or your generosity, if you do not have the key ingredient of Love, there is no usefulness, gain, or benefit.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1Co 13:1-3)

It is worth reading that part of this passage over slowly a couple of times. IF I.. (fill in the blank) but do not have LOVE then whatever I can do, whatever I know, whatever I have given in charity I will not be benefited by it.

In a recent Olympic trial run a British athlete accomplished a personal best in a running event using the hurdles. However, after the trial race was run, the time was not recorded as a record because…the track did not contain the correct number of hurdles. The officials had missed counted and put one fewer than was necessary.  All that effort and, yet, it was in vain.  If I run the best time but do not have the correct number of hurdles, I gain nothing.

Paul said that, in his life, he constantly buffeted his body and disciplined himself, to be sure that after he had run the race, that he would not be disqualified. Only those who run lawfully win the prize. (I cor 9:27, 2 tim 2:5)

So it is with our lives. We can accomplish great and maginificent things for the Lord, we can do much to help other people, we might even solve world hunger and win Nobel peace prizes but, if we do not have Love…it does not profit us a single thing.

I hope you realize that Paul is not talking about profit in this life but profit in the life to come. We may fool men, we may even fool ourselves, but we will not fool God.

Read those characteristics that follow and substitute your name in there in place of Love. Steven is Kind, Steven is long suffering, etc. etc. Does it fit you? Is that really YOU? I don’t mean that you have to be perfect in this but in general, would someone say that your character is made up of these descriptions?

As we look at the characteristics that make up Agape love, let’s remember that we are not trying to gain one or two of them, we want them all. In pursuit of a higher calling we try to become more like God because, after all, God is love. And, if you have not God or Love, what else matters!

How to become like God

As we have been studying the qualities that Peter has told us to add, we finally have come to the last one: Love. Defining the word is necessary because it is used in so many contexts and each can be quite different. In the passage of 2 Peter 1, we are looking at the Greek word Agape.

Agape, is a duty bound love, it is one that does not rely on emotions.  Warm fuzzy emotions may be present but are not necessary. Agape love is the love of a parent disciplining a child, it is the love of a parent at 2 a.m. feedings, it is the love shown toward an enemy. It is a love that can be commanded precisely be emotion is not needed to carry it out. I generally define this love as “doing what is in the best interest of the person being loved”.  Even though a parent hates to discipline a child (this hurts me more that it hurts you) or get up for that 2 a.m. feed, the necessity compels them to do so.

It is easy to see that this can be done even to an enemy because you can always help an enemy fix a flat tire, give CPR, save their life, etc. In recognizing that, we have our first clue as to how you can become like God.

One of the hardest things for me to accept was the utter sinfulness of my life. I don’t think of myself as a sinner. This isn’t to say that I cannot identify sin in my life; I can look back and see some horribly, awful things that I did but I don’t think of myself as someone who is devoted to sin; wanting to do evil. I think most of us are that same way. Because of that, we don’t count ourselves at the level that we should. We don’t see things as God does.

When we think of God’s salvation being offered, we don’t really think we deserve it but at the same time, we tend to think of it as something done for people who really wanted to do right and be godly people. In other words, good people who deserve a second chance. Who doesn’t want to give a second chance to a good person, right? The Scripture reveals a different perspective.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8 NKJV)

God showed love toward us not as good people but as sinners. However, verse 10 takes it one step further:

For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Rom 5:10 NKJV)

God didn’t just send His Son into the world to save good people but to save sinners; not just sinners but enemies.

If the Scriptures count me as an enemy of God before He saved me, then perhaps I have another clue as to how to become more like God.

The Scripture says that God is love. While it is certainly true that God shows love and demonstrates love, I would like to focus on the thought that God is Love. Love is not just an action but it is something to become. How would you like it said of you that you are love? Certainly, we cannot do so do to the degree God did but, to imitate God (however imperfectly) as a son does his father, is an both an honor to the father and a credit to the child.

When the Scriptures say that we are to love our enemy and we see what God did for HIS enemies (that would be us), then we begin to understand how far we should go.

First Corinthians 13 gives a long list of what qualities make up love. In the next few posts, we will look at those qualities and try to understand them better. In the meantime, read those qualities listed from verse 5 onward but where you read “Love is…” or “Love is not…” substitute your own name and ask yourself: Does this describe me? If not, why not?

If we want to become more like God who is love, then we have to become describable by those qualities that make up love.

Question: Aside from God and Jesus, which Bible character do you think showed love the best?

 

Three things that hinder the growth of brotherly affection.

Brotherly affection, “Philadelphia” in the Greek, is a characteristic that all Christians need to develop. Well, at least those Christians that want to go the Heaven. It is not that a person can ever be perfect in this or any other “necessary” characteristic, but the process of adding it to our life is a process we should all continue to work on. If spending time together will cause us to grow to love one another more, enjoy each others company and even the various quirks that we have, what will keep us from developing brotherly affection?

Hindrance #1-Others

In spite of the old saying that when you point at someone else, three fingers are pointing back at you, there are times when others cause more hindrance to the growth of brotherly affection. In 3 John, John identifies Diotrephes as a person who is hindering brotherly affection.

Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth. I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. (3Jn 1:8-11 ESV)

He would not receive traveling brothers and hindered those who would show such kindness.  Aside from being a wholly unchristian attitude, when someone who is an authority does not show brotherly kindness, it causes others to be hesitant to do so.  You might say that “a little leaven, leavens the whole lump” and that brings us the next hindrance, very similar to this one.

Hindrance #2-sin

In the case of the brother living in fornication (I cor 5), there was sin in the camp. Someone was wanting to live in sin and the congregation was willing to put up with it. In cases like this, it causes confusion. How do you get close to someone who is doing the opposite of what Jesus would do? Yet, being a brother, you want to be-or feel you ought to be-closer to him.

Additionally, those who would normally not be enticed by such a sin begin to wonder if maybe it is much ado about nothing. Suddenly, they find themselves tempted by a sin or similar sin. The leaven of approval winds it way through the body.

Even if others do not find themselves tempted, they are wondering why does the leadership puts up with someone in a clear sin. This can cause gossip, dissension, division, etc.  It is always best to deal with sin in the camp rapidly so that it does not fester.

Hindrance #3-yourself

By far the biggest hindrance is when you will not engage in a relationship with another brother. Perhaps you are jealous of what he has, or feel that you deserve to have a place of honor that he occupies. Sometimes it is simply thinking that you are better than others and when that happens, the relationship is more like “everyone should just be thankful that I am even here.”

Perhaps you remember the parable of the Pharisee with this problem. He prayed to God about how good he was. It was as if God should be thankful that this Pharisee existed! Luke records the reason for the parable:

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: (Luk 18:9)

We should all work to avoid any of these hindrances to the best of our ability. When it is legitimately someone else’s doing, then deal with it quickly but look to yourself and be sure you are not being tempted. (Gal 6:1) Additionally, we should always test ourselves and make sure that lack of brotherly affection is not our own doing.

photo credit: Jesus Solano

An autopsy of sin.

A repost with minor edits: enjoy!

With all the of the CSI programs on TV today, not to mention the old medical shows like Quincy M.E., it seems that people have an interest in autopsies. An Autopsy is the procedure performed on the body after death to see what killed it. (So I suppose my title should really be something like “An Autopsy of a spiritually dead person”) Today’s post is going to look back and see what kills us, spiritually speaking, from James’ book.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. (Jas 1:13-16)

Who Tempts us?

First, off it is important to note that he instructs us not to blame God for the temptations you are going through. Not only is He not tempted, he does not tempt anyone. Flip Wilson, a comic from way back was famous for his phrase “The Devil made me do it!”  James is going to show that the devil doesn’t MAKE you do anything. From early on in our life we learn to blame others. Even Adam tried to blame both God and his wife in one shot: “The woman YOU gave me….” is why I ate. We will look everywhere and at everyone else that  we can except at ourselves.

It is true that Satan tempts us but James is going to show us the limits on his ability to tempt us. It not true that God tempts us and Paul says that God protects us from being tempted above what we can handle. In other words, he reins Satan in so that he is not able to overpower us.  (I cor 10:13)

What is a temptation?

James says that each of us is tempted when we are drawn away and enticed by our own desires. The word ‘desire’ is an appropriate word here. The meaning in this context is ‘illicit desires’ which is why some versions use the word “lusts”. At its core, a lust is a desire but it passes beyond the boundaries that God has set. An example is our desire for food. It is a perfectly normal desire to feed ourselves and satisfy our desire for food, but when turned into lust, it results in gluttony. Our natural sexual desires when taken in to the category of lusts results in fornication. Basically ‘desire’ is fine when kept within the boundaries God has established.

Temptation is the enticement to take a desire beyond its boundaries. So to be tempted means you must have some desire to begin with.  It would be useless to tempt me with liver. I do not like it, can’t stand it and so if I were guarding the ACME liver factory, there would be no temptation, to take any home with me. The same would not be said if I were guarding the See’s chocolate factory or the Blue Bell factory. It could become a temptation. The desire is for chocolate not to steal. Theft would be the result of letting the enticement go too far.

What if I like my sin?

Once the lustful desire has been conceived and accomplished it brings forth sin. Then when the sin becomes fully grown, it brings forth death. Since Scripture teaches that ONE sin is enough to result in death, I asked myself why sin would have to become full grown in order to kill. (“Self”, I asked…..)

Keeping in mind that James is writing to Christians, already cleansed in the blood of Christ, the lesson James teaches has to apply to our current temptations and desires. Christians are not prevented from sinning mechanically. God does not make it impossible for us to sin or the first chapter of First John wouldn’t make much sense.  The blood of his Son cleanses us from our sin….if we walk in the light as he in in the light.

But what if we like our lust and desire? What if the sin conceived is enjoyable to us and we do not wish to stop? Well, it grows. Cain had already sinned in not offering an appropriate sacrifice. God warned him that sin was ready to take control and urged him to do right so that he would be accepted. As we know, he didn’t listen, held on to his own sin and let it grow.

You see, if you could blame God for all this then there should be no fault attributed to your account. If you can blame Satan for making you do it, then again no fault is yours. But, if, just what if, that sin you are doing and giving into actually started from your own heart,  your own desires that you fanned into lust and then into sin and then decided you liked enough to live in it. Well, that would be a horse of a different color.

So on our autopsy death certificate it should read:

Cause of death:

Sin caused by an acute desire.

(we could have saved this one if he had repented)

Put down the sin and back away!

** I am going to repost some of my earlier blogs from the blog study I did through James. I will probably do this for the next five to six posts. I hope you enjoy them as many of my current readers were not with me when I put these out. There may be some slight edits but essentially they will be the same.***

Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.  (Jas 1:21 ESV)

When ever you see the word “therefore” you should look and see what it is there for! And sure enough, this therefore is there for a reason. It concludes a thought that James is expressing and brings to close an argument (or at least a portion of it) that he has been making.  Because we are responsible for our own temptations and sins and God is the one who is giving us all of the good gifts, especially being born again into his family, we need to stop! Listen! and realize that our anger at our perceptions of reality (which are not the way things really are) is messed up. So….

We should put away something and receive something that will benefit us.

That which we are to put away is all of the filthiness and rampant wickedness in our lives. Wait! What is that? Filth and wickedness?  Isn’t James talking to Christians who had been washed in the blood of Jesus? Cleansed from their old sins? How can they have filth and wickedness? Sure, a little sin once in a while (everyone does) but “filth” is such a …well, it is such a filthy word! Don’t even get me started on wickedness. Contrary to the popular usage (or the little note of encouragement that WordPress gave me at post 14 “Wicked!”) it is not a compliment.

James is not the first person to address this issue and every Christian realizes that from about 5 minutes after coming up out of the grave, sin is still a possibility. We are not mechanically prevented from sinning. Paul dealt with it in Romans 6 and told those Christians that they could not live in sin any longer.  In this context though, the filthiness and wickedness would be attributable to a life that was not lived in faith and, worse yet, one that blamed God for the situation.  You can see now perhaps why James goes on from here to give so much good practical advice to his audience on how to live a life of faith and the many actions that will show that you live a life of faith.

I like the phrase ‘put away’. It is used in several meanings. 

  1. To put in its proper spot. “Would you put the trash away please.”
  2. To incarcerate. “The judge put him away for 1000 years.”
  3. To be victorious over. “He put him away with that final shot”

In either case, the understanding should be to remove that stuff out of your life because it does not belong there.

To contrast the putting away and removal of filth and wickedness, James says you are to receive something. In this case, the implanted word.

How you are to receive it is very important: with meekness. As I have heard all my life, “meek doesn’t mean weak” but we still tend to think of it that way. Actually, meek has more to do with the control of strength not  the absence of strength. A meek horse is still a powerful animal but, rather than flexing his muscles and running away with or bucking off the rider, he permits the rider to be there. We also need to permit the word that God has implanted to be there. To fight against it and to tear it out is not good for us.

Jesus spreading seedThe illustration reminds me of the parable of the sower. In that parable, the seed was also the word of God and it fell on four soils. These have already proven themselves not to be the hard soil and probably not the rocky soil. Judging by James’ book, I think he was concerned that they may be the thorny soil. When the word is implanted into the soil (our hearts) if we receive it with meekness, it is able to save our souls. If we do not, well… it cannot do its job.

James is going to expand on this thought in the next few verses. What we need to consider, as we read the word, is are we receiving the word with meekness or trying to remake it into our own image and plans? One last cliché to close. We have seen those bumper stickers that say “God is my co-pilot”. While the thought is nice, I would suggest that God should be the pilot!  Let’s meekly let God direct us in His paths.

Question: How hard is it for you to back away from sin and meekly accept only God’s word?

Worthy of the Gospel

 When I think of having a life that is worthy of the Gospel, I think first of having a life that is righteous and holy to God. I think of a life that is dedicated to not doing sin and one that is dedicated to serving Him. Generally, I think about following rules and those rules are found in the New Testament.  But that type of thinking can lead me to a life in which I check off a list of things to do: Bible reading? (check); Pray? (check); money in the offering? (check); didn’t swear, lie, or smoke? (check, check, check).

But is that what a life that is worthy of the Gospel is all about? I would suggest to you that it is not.

So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”  (Rom 1:15-17)

First, we note that the Gospel is more than “how can you be saved.” When Paul says he wants to preach the Gospel to those in Rome, he is not talking to “non-Christians” but to Christians! If the Gospel is only the plan of salvation, then there is no need to preach it to those who are saved; it is obviously more.

Second, it is in part the plan of Salvation. The message of the death, burial, and resurrection which Paul preached and those who believed practiced (in their baptism) is indeed the invitation of God into His family and the preaching of that Gospel introduces sinners to God’s grace.

Third, it reveals the righteousness of God. This is so important. What kind of God do we serve? What is His standard of righteousness? whatever it is, it is the righteousness that we want to imitate.  If we look at the Greek gods, we see immoral and base behavior. It can truly be said that whereas God created man in His image, Man created gods in their image.

The Pharisees also had a righteousness but Jesus said we need to exceed that if we hope to get into Heaven. The problem with their righteousness was that it was self serving, hypocritical, and pretentious. It certainly fooled men but it did not fool God. They had so lessened God’s law that they even fooled themselves into the thought they were keeping it.

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Mat 5:20)

The thing that stands out to me about the Gospel is Christ’s actions and example. He came to serve and not to be served, he came to give his life as a ransom for many.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  (Mar 10:45)

To have a life that is worthy of the Gospel then, is more than one that is simply following rules, it goes beyond following rules to doing things that are exceed what is required.

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  (Rom 5:7-8)

The righteous man is one who does everything right, by the book. If you agree to work for a righteous man for $100, he will pay you $100. Not less, not more. He is righteous.  The Good man would agree to pay you the $100 but if you did a great job, he might pay you $120 for that day’s work. He is not good because he is righteous, he is good because he is generous, he does more than is required of him. Someone might die for either of these two individuals, but Jesus died for the scoundrel sinner.

Jesus did more than was required of Him. Had he stayed in Heaven and not come to earth, not died on the cross, not given his blood for our sacrifice, he would be no less righteous. He would be no less Holy. Our need did not require him to act.  And THAT is the standard to which we are to strive to live.

Let us follow the example of Jesus and reach out to those people in the world who need that message, even if it costs us something in the process. We cannot just throw open the doors of the church building and say “they know where we are, if they want to come, they will.”

photo credit: Oceanbound.com via Google images

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