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Remember, you were slaves!

leaving EgyptSome things need to be remembered! In the Bible there are many times where God exhorts us to remember things that are of importance. Once such location is in the book of Deuteronomy. Five times in Deuteronomy, the Lord through Moses told Israel “Remember, you were slaves” as He gives them various commands  and requirements.

The first time (5:15) is in the context of keeping the Sabbath day. They were to remember that they were slaves, that it was who God brought them out and because of this, God commanded them to keep the Sabbath, a day to remember God and their relationship with Him.

The second time (15:15) in the context of how Israel was to treat their slaves and deal with the poor, God again says “you shall remember that you were a slave” therefore “I command you this today”.

Then, again, in three more passages (16:12; 24:18,22) God tells them to “Remember they were slaves” as he gives them commands regarding festivals, loaning to brothers, how to treat the poor brothers and how to treat strangers.

So how did Israel do with this exhortation? Did they remember? In the New Testament, John records this conversation between Jesus and the Jews:

Joh 8:30-34 As he was saying these things, many believed in him. (31) So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, (32) and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (33) They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” (34) Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.

Apparently, they did NOT remember that they were once slaves. Did that present a problem? Yes, it did. Here’s why:

In Matthew, Jesus tells us that first and second greatest commandments are the foundation for the whole law and the prophets.

Mat 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” (37) And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (38) This is the great and first commandment. (39) And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (40) On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

I find it interesting that the foundation of all the commandments of the Law, all that the prophets said was Love. Love of God and Love of your neighbor as yourself”  So it should not surprise us that, in the above passages in Deuteronomy, God talks about how they are to honor Him and how they are to treat their fellow man. There is something about them having been slaves that ties to these commands.

I will suggest a few things that happened, or could happen, in forgetting that they were slaves:.

First, they did not honor God as they should: In Mt 15:3 Jesus says that they broke the commandments of God by their traditions. Imagine that! They had developed a tradition which they enforced on others but that violated a commandment of God. In Luke 12:15-21, Jesus gives a parable of a rich man who was indeed rich but not towards God. His substance was not used for God’s honor nor to help his fellow man…God called him a Fool.

Second, they treated their fellow man with contempt. The Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans (Jn 4:7-9) and no doubt it was because they thought of them as unimportant people. They didn’t so well with the poor, tax collectors, and sinners either. Jesus also told a parable in Luke 18, for the specific reason that some considered themselves to be righteous and held others with contempt (18:9).

Third, they might not become a forgiving people. Chapter 18 in Matthew deals with forgiveness. Peter thought 7 times was a good thing, which seems to be more than most people would do.  Jesus points out that it is not limited and again, tells a parable emphasizing the need to forgive our brother. He ends it with the warning that: If we do not forgive our brother from our heart, that God will not forgive us.

Do not think for a second that the exhortation to Israel to “Remember that you were slaves” does not apply to us. Actually, I think it applies even more to us. Because while Israel was in physical bondage, we were in spiritual bondage and slavery.

Rom 6:17-20 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, (18) and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (19) I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. (20) For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.

It is when we remember that we were slaves to sin and freed through the blood of Christ and our obedience to the Gospel of Grace that we will be motivated to worship God in great gratitude for His Grace and sacrifice. We will also in compassion treat our fellow man with the love that they need realizing that God showed that same love to us. This allows us to preach the Gospel, with all of its warnings and exhortations, in compassion and kindness, motivated by the remembrance that we were once slaves of sin as they are now.

If we forget that we were once slaves, not only will we not Honor God and treat our fellow man with love, we may find ourselves once again enslaved by sin.

Remembering that we were slaves will help us to serve our God and fellow man.

 

 

Love bears all things…for God and others

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1Co 13:7-8)

This section of Paul’s descriptive definition of Agape love emphasizes the permanence of Love. It is not something that shows up every now and then, whimsically. It is something that continues. Like the energizer bunny rabbit, it keeps going and going….and going.

Love, Agape love, will never end.

This section of Paul’s description of Love has a primary application and, I think, a legitimate secondary application.

The primary application: Love others

As we relate with others, whether family members, brothers in the Lord, people in the world, or even enemies of the cross of Christ, the one thing we should always show is love. Love is doing what is in a persons best interest. Paul could have written:

Love bears all things to do the best for others, believes all things for the other’s best, desires and expects the best for others always, endures every thing for another s best interest. Love will never stop doing what is in a person’s best interest. 

Believe all things? Hope all things? Not to the point of being gullible!

It is not good, nor is it doing what is in the person’s best interest (love), to believe everything that you hear! When you loan a prodigal son more money because he promises with tears that he will change and then say “I love him so much” you miss the point of “best interest”.  To say “I am supposed to believe him and hope he means it” is not love, it is wishful, gullible, and harmful (to them and to you) type of behavior.

On the other hand, we are to bear the burdens of others. When it is in their best interest to do so, we need to step up. When others would (or already have) given up, love is there. Sometimes with a hand out, sometimes with a rebuke but it is always for, and in, the person’s best interest.

The difference between helping and not helping can be as simple as distinguishing between boulder size burdens and the knapsack size burdens as Dr. Henry Cloud mentions in his book, Boundaries. We help with the boulder size burdens and encourage them to deal with the knapsack size ones themselves.

This is the type of Love God shows and has shown to us. Even while we were enemies, He showed his love toward us in Jesus.

Second application: love God.

A secondary application can be seen in our love for God. The greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. But if, as we have defined agape love, it is more duty bound and not based on emotion, how do we ‘love‘ God in that manner? How do we do what is in His best interest?

We who are Christians do what is in God’s best interest when we honor to the name that we wear. If we are going to wear his name, claim to serve Him, then our conduct should be “worthy of” the calling and Gospel we say we are loyal too. To use a Scripture:

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1Pe 1:14-16)

To use an example from current events, we could point to Prince Harry of England. His conduct recently in Las Vegas did not bring credit to either the family, the nation, or the army he serves in. Of course, I know we can all point to ourselves at some time or other in our life when we did something that brought discredit to family or others, especially to the God we serve. Some of those were even worse than Prince Harry.

It was failure to do what is in God’s best interest (e.g. love God) that got David into so much trouble with Bathsheba. After the adultery, murder and rushed marriage to hide her pregnacy, Nathan rebukes David and adds that  David had given reason to the enemies of God to blaspheme (2 sam 12:14 nkjv). Imagine that, David gave a reason for people to blaspheme God!

Peter says that we should live in such a way that the enemies will glorify God (1 Peter 2:12). We don’t want our lives to lead to others turning away from God.  Doing what is in God’s best interest will keep Him being glorified and honored.

Love for God will bear all things necessary to be faithful. We are to bear the reproach of Jesus who suffered to justify us (Heb 13:11-15) and we are the bear His cross if we wish to be His disciples (Luke 14:26-27)

Love for God will believe all things he tells you. No need to worry about being gullible, if God says it, it is true; God does not lie. (Heb 6:18) That belief will result in trust and obedience to His will.

Love for God will hope all things. Hope is a combination of desire and expectation and the Christian will continue to hope, putting his/her trust in the God who never changes and cannot lie. We hope for what we cannot yet see but expect that we will receive it.

Love for God endures all things for the cause of Christ. Even when family and friends turn against you, you endure to the end and  receive your salvation (Matt 10:21) Even when you suffer trials and tribulations and perhaps even prison, we do it for the Gospel and,even if we are bound, the Gospel is not bound. (2 Tim 2:8-10) Be faithful unto death and we shall receive the crown of life (Rev 2:10)

Love never ends.

Question: Does thinking of Love as a duty and not an emotion, help you to show more love to those you have difficulty having warm fuzzy feelings toward?

photo credit: Freepix.com via Google images

Speaking consistently

But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.  (Jas 3:8-12)

Perhaps this should be a warning to us. I honestly have to ask if it the case that man cannot tame the tongue or chooses not to tame the tongue. It probably makes little difference in the long run; the fact is that we need to bring even the tongue under control and by doing so, we bring ourselves under control.

God’s word offers us many instructions on the proper use of the tongue. We, of course, have to be willing to put it into practice. Again, we see the need to have action in our walk of faith. We need to bring the “want to” into line with The Faith. “So speak and so act as those to be judged by a law of liberty.” (James 2:12) 

That the tongue is full of poison and can cause lots of destruction was discussed in the last post. In this one, James gives us an example of the characteristics that the tongue has: Inconsistency, hypocrisy and even a lack of love.

Here James gives us an example of a great truth: You cannot Love God if you do not love your neighbor. This time he shows it by the improper use of the tongue. Who is your fellow man? A soul created in the image of God. In the case of those who are Christians, he is a saved soul and an heir of the promises of God (2:5), in the case of the unsaved; he is a lost soul in need of the Gospel (words of Good news-not curses).

James is astonished. All this comes from the same mouth: Blessings and Cursings? A question you might hear asked after a profanity laced tirade is “Do you kiss your wife with that mouth?” or something like it.  James says these things “ought not” to be.  “Ought” carries with it idea of moral requirements.  Phrases like ‘speaking out of both sides of your mouth” or “forked tongue” all hold the idea of a tongue that says one thing one time and different the next time.

from wikipedia

Even nature shows this principle. In Ashland, Oregon there is a park called Lithia. There are drinking fountains there that tap into the sulfur/mineral water at Lithia Park.  When I lived there during my 3rd grade school year, I would go there for a drink (it was a novelty) and the water was always awful. Every time I tried it, it tasted the same-an awful mineral taste.  It never changed. You couldn’t go one day and get sweet refreshing cool water and the next day rancid, sulfur tasting water.

After 20 years, I went back for a visit. I went to try the water (the inner child calling I suppose) and guess what? It was just as awful. It hadn’t changed. In the same manner, you don’t go out to the grape vines and pick figs, nor collect olives off of a fig tree.

What God has created has a purpose. The tongue was created by God and has a purpose too.  When used for its purpose God receives Glory. Things that are good to do with the tongue are praise God, bless others, encourage others and speak words of grace seasoned with salt. Speaking truth in love is what we are supposed to do. We are to speak in the name of the Lord, speak forth the oracles of God.

When things are not used for the purpose God made them problem result. In the case of the tongue, we have corrupted it’s purpose. We ought not to turn what God has meant to be used for good into a tool for tearing people down: Gossips, slanders, curses, words that tear down and don’t build up. Paul tells us 

“But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds,”  (Col 3:8-9)

Question: Since James started out this chapter by talking about teachers, how does this section of tongue use apply to them?

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