MISSION IMPOSSIBLE

www.bible.com/1713/mat.19.26.csb

Let me add some valuable context and clarification for this verse. If there has been any drawbacks to verifying the Bible, it is this: allowing for single verses to be quoted without any context narrowing and defining their meaning. In context, Jesus is talking to His disciples about the “rich young ruler” who had just turned away, “because he had much riches”, though he had expressed a desire to follow Jesus’ instructions about gaining eternal life. Jesus responded to him by saying that though he had followed the Law, he would also need to seek his possessions and follow Jesus. The man was grieved, “because he had much possessions.”

The disciples are aghast, wondering how anyone could possibly be saved? Remember that for them, a man with much riches was obviously blessed by God. Riches meant spiritual blessing. So in their minds, this man was a saint. Jesus corrects their thinking with what is a New Testament concept, that physically riches are not a sign of spiritual wealth. So for the disciples, they are thinking that if such a man can’t get into heaven, no one can. Jesus corrects them by saying, (Matt 19:23-24) “it will be hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven! … it is easier to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter into the Kingdom of God.”

So what is Jesus saying here? Are riches wrong? No, Jesus isn’t condemning riches, but what happens when a person becomes wealthy. If it is impossible to please God without faith, then you must have faith to get into the Kingdom of Heaven. Faith in God can be clouded or obscured when you put your faith in your possessions. When you see your possessions as more important than following Jesus, which this young man did. He had put his security and hope in his possessions. He felt that without his possessions, he was nothing, and worthless. What we discover is that a life that is based and founded in Jesus is far better than holding riches and wealth. Would God give us riches to bless us? Certainly, but we also remember that any riches we receive are not our own, but given to us to manage for the Kingdom. The reason God gives us riches is to use them for His glory. That is why it is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, because he is afraid of losing his wealth for the sake of the Kingdom.

So what does Jesus mean by this enigmatic “with God all things are possible”? He means it is possible for the rich man to be saved. As far as the man himself is concerned, he cannot save himself. That is impossible. But for God, it is possible to save him, because God can do this act of salvation (through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ). The disciples were thinking that it was great blessing (signified by the man’s wealth) that was a sure guarantee of salvation. Jesus corrected them by saying it was not man’s effort (obvious by the man’s ability in business to create wealth) but God’s effort that saves. Within context, that is the meaning of this passage.

I might also use this passage to give hope to the hopeless. To someone who believes they are hopelessly lost. They may see themselves as lost with no hope of redemption, to which I might say, “for man this is impossible, but all things are possible with God.” A man cannot save himself. But God can save him. There is no sin so great committed by an unbeliever that God cannot save him. And that is saying a lot. But let that be hope for you as well. There is nothing you have done in your limited mortality that God is not so offended that He can’t love you any more.

Dear God, may I come before you humble of heart and soul. The things I have done I am certain have offended you and caused anger in you. Yet Father I have no where else to turn. Though I be the greatest sinner of all men, to You alone can I turn for my redemption. I cannot ask this lightly or flippantly, because my sin has been against You. And when I read Your book and hear Your words, I know I am dust. When I see myself through Your eyes, I know my worth and my sin. Lord I repent of my sins. I can do not other. I have offended the King of Heaven, to whom else can I go? Lord I pray for your forgiveness, not because of my righteousness, but because of the righteousness of the Son of God, who confessed His love for me by shedding His blood on the cross. May I claim that forgiveness for my own and receive undeserved righteousness in place of my wickedness? May He lay His blood upon me and cleanse me from my sin? My Savior and my God? I pray these things in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

No Greater Temptation

www.bible.com/1713/1co.10.13.csb

Though this passage is often quoted and applied out of context (“God won’t give you any more than you can handle”), it seems that this passage includes something that most overlook, the escape clause. That’s right. Temptations have an escape clause, if you are willing to look for it.

As Christians we have the option to avoid temptation. I say its an option, because we don’t have to sin. We have been saved from sin. We are not subject to sin. And when we do sin, it is a great victory for Satan. Consider that as a Christian, you are saved from sin and its eternal consequences. Your heart is cleansed, but our flesh is still very much with us. Our old habits are still instilled in our brains. It will take time to unlearn them. But God is gracious, and familiar with our frailties. Don’t let that become your excuse. “I’m only human.”

So what is our greatest temptation? It’s our “get out of jail free” card. We may now sin, and not die for eternity in Hell. As Christians, Jesus died for our sins, past, present, and future. Sins we have yet to commit have already been forgiven. Paul saw this early, saying in Romans 6 that some Christians will say, “let us continue to sin so that grace may abound.” His reminder? Since we have become Christians, we are dead to sin, because we have been crucified, and buried, with Christ. Our greatest temptation is that we can now sin and not have consequences. That is a lie, because sin always has consequences. While we may not suffer eternal consequences, there are temporal we cannot avoid. You will be jailed for murder. Your family will suffer if you watch porn. If you are still selfish, you will find yourself violating commandments to “love one another.” And the ultimate danger of all of this is that you will lose your salvation. The longer you stay away from the grace of the Lord Jesus, the harder it will be to come back. And God will not force you to go into heaven.

My prayer for you and for myself this morning is that we will not give in to this greatest temptation, and that we will find our way of escape through His grace.

Need a Reminder?

www.bible.com/1713/rom.8.1.csb

As human beings we faced with a terrible problem. We have a sin problem. All of the other problems we possess are minor by comparison. You may differ on this point. And you would be right to, saying we have much greater issues to deal with, like war, poverty, hunger, lack of basic health-care, income inequality and so forth. Those are real problems as well, but at their roots lay sin.

What causes war? Injustice, land grabs, disagreements that cannot be resolved because of pride. You name it, there is a sin cause.

What causes poverty? Indolence, laziness sure, but also greed, avarice, the desire to take from others what is not rightly yours. Sounds like sin again.

What causes hunger? Because the fact that people become hungry, you might as well couple this to the same causes for poverty.

What causes the lack of basic health care? Let’s talk about the needs for basic health care. Why do people need health care? Because we live in a broken world. It has been broken by man’s sin. Because Adam sinned in the garden, the world now faces horrific natural phenomena and disease. And then there is people’s own indifference to their own health needs, by eating too much, drinking too much, abusing drugs, exercising too little, etc. Where does the fault lie with “lack of basic health care”? Certainly there are areas that are underserved, but even in Applachia where I work, folks are only 30 minutes away from the nearest Emergency Room. No one is turned away.

Are there other problems? Certainly. Can they be traced in one way or another back to sin, man’s inhumanity to man, to something similar? Almost certainly. Because what we consider evil in this world always leads back to sin. So is sin the worst problem that we face? Yes.

So how do we solve the sin problem? Before I proceed, you need to know that sin and its effects did not become what they are today overnight. While sin is almost always at the root of the evil we see in this world, even pulling out the sin by the root will take some time to take effect in the larger scheme. Sin has caused very complex problems. Simply removing one man’s sin from the equation will not solve the problem.

Let me give you a case in point: When the four men brought their friend to Jesus to be healed, they let him down through the roof of Peter’s house, because there were too many people present. When they finally got the man in front of Jesus, Jesus accounted that the man’s sin was forgiven. The man was not immediately healed. In fact, there was some argument (from the Pharisees and their pride) about whether Jesus had the power to forgive sin. After some discussion, the man’s illness was healed. My point is that even though the man’s sin problem was solved initially, it took time for the physical healing to take place. It was not immediate. Jesus can heal immediately, but I think this story is important by way of illustration. You can heal the sin problem today, but still have to deal with the consequences of the sin problem a little while longer.

The answer to the sin problem is Jesus of course. Saving faith in Jesus Christ, His death, burial and resurrection, being baptized for forgiveness of sin and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, and then seeing that faith reflected in your daily activities is really the proof of that salvation. Seeing that kind of life transformation is what changes things. But the effects of a life lived in sin may take longer to work out. A father who didn’t raise his kids as Christians, who then comes to faith in Christ, will not see his kids suddenly become Christians too. Life has consequences. A man jailed for murder, who then becomes a Christian in prison, does not undo the murder that was committed. He must still pay the penalty for his act of evil.

So if salvation doesn’t fix the problem, why do we bother trying it? Because it is the only solution to the problem. Psychology does not transform the way salvation does. Social programs cannot change the heart of a man. Only God can do that. And the problem of sin lies in the human heart. As some have said, we have to “trust the process.” God will work out His will among men in His time. We can only do what only we can do, and that is put our faith in Jesus and trust Him for the outcome.

We know that in this world we will have trouble. The poor we will always have with us. But we aren’t really hoping to live forever in this world, are we? This is why we work on the sin problem, because there will come a time when we will stand before God and must give an account. If we have placed our faith in Jesus, there will be no condemnation for in Him, we are justified because of our faith. That’s how you solve the sin problem.

Lord help me today to walk by faith, to work out that sin problem in my own life by working on my faith, that it be not mere mental assent to the truth of Jesus, but it be lived out in my life. Help me show the world that I am a believer, a disciple, and faithful follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. In His Name I pray, Amen.

New Covenant

www.bible.com/1713/luk.22.20.csb

Today is Maundy Thursday on the Church calendar, the day before Good Friday, and the night of the Last Supper, which makes this verse appropriate today. This verse comes from Jesus’ words around the table that night, whilst the disciples were celebrating a traditional Passover, Jesus had in mind something different, and made what is old new again. Instead of a celebration of the Israelites’ liberation from Egypt, Jesus offered a new liberation, a new covenant with Israel and with all who would follow Him. This was liberation from bondage to sin.

We don’t think about that very much, our bondage to sin. Sin never seems like bondage when you first get into it. It just seems a pleasant alternative to doing things the “right way”, shortcuts if you will to getting what we want. Fornication is a shortcut to sex without the tedium and work of marriage. Drinking and drugs are shortcuts to pleasure that we would normally get after working all day and finally getting to rest and have some peace. Foul language is a shortcut to incisive argument, where we don’t actually have to do the work of research and thinking to come up with something important to say. I could go on. Cheating and shortchanging others is a shortcut to the hard work of acquiring wealth. You get the idea.

But while these things don’t seem like bondage at first, if you’ve had any practice at them, you find yourself in chains soon enough. What happens when that girlfriend has a baby? Or your creditors know you’ve been cheating them? Or you can’t stop using curse words in your daily conversation? What started as a choice became a habit, and a habit became a behavior, and a behavior, bondage. And like the Jews in Egypt, we found ourselves in sore bondage.

What Jesus offers is liberty, freedom to the captives. He offers your freedom, not through a self-help program, or weight-loss gimmick. He offers a change of heart, because that’s where sin has taken root. He offers a change of soul, a cleansing of heart and mind that only He can achieve through the sacrifice of the New Covenant, in His blood. But this isn’t something automatic. You must choose it. And it isn’t a one-time choice, but a daily walk. Sin is always crouching at the door, always waiting for a weak moment to strike. Always alluring, always present to offer you an easier way, a quicker way to get what you want. It’s a trap. Jesus’ calls us to a harder way. He calls us to the narrow path. But He offers eternity in exchange. He offers transcendent joy. He offers belonging, relationship, wholeness, well-being, all the joys I could want, found simply and fully in Him. He offers stable relationships, healthy marriages, kids who help heal your heart rather than break it. He offers all that you really want, but don’t know how to get right now. Why? Because He loves you.

Lord help me to embrace Your more difficult path, Your tougher path because I know in my mind and my heart that the rewards are far more fulfilling than the passing pleasures of sin. I know there is joy there, and peace. Grace and mercy to be had for the asking. Help me Lord to know you and all You are worth. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

Renew Your Life

www.bible.com/1713/psa.19.7.csb

In case you are feeling old, the word of God has the potential to make you feel new again. Don’t believe me? Try it. Within the word of God is life. Jesus said He came to bring life, and that more abundantly. Jesus is the Word, the enlivening and enthusing Word of God scent to us to create within us that new life.

Feeling old and worn-out is a symptom of sin, and the creeping of death. Though our bodies waste away, we are being renewed inwardly day by day. Our God is a god of life, or death. So when He calls is to life in Christ, eternal life, it isn’t just about the quantity, it’s the quality. It is life that transcends our day to day. It is life that allows us to see past our stunted vision to the glory of our created world, the order reflective of God’s superlative ability to form and shape and call into being that which was nothing. Feeling old is natural, but this life is supernatural.

Heavenly Father, help me to see the life You have set for me, more than drudgery, more than the glories of physical wealth or natural beauty. Help me to see Your world with Your eyes, so that I may crave that life that only comes from you. Thank you Jesus for coming I to this world and offering this life to us all, so that we may be rescued from death and sin. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Confess Your Sins

www.bible.com/1713/jas.5.16.csb

I too am a sinner. Each day is laod upon me a conviction against some si or other. And each day I must face my conscience and my Lord about it. Each day. I mourn my inability to resist temptation. I yearn for the day when my faith shall be sight and His face I will behold. Because then I won’t have to worry about sin and temptation any more.

And yet our glorious God still forgives and gives grace. Through the shed blood of His own Son. Though we sin, He still loves. Though we fail, He still reaches out His hand to us to pull us back up. What a good God. With what can we compare His eternal majesty?

Lord Jesus, please accept my humble apology for failing you time and again. Please help me to see my faults so that I may draw closer to you. Thank you Jesus for your marvelous gift. Amen.

Blameless

www.bible.com/1713/pro.13.6.csb

Having a good reputation, whether in person or online is an extremely precious commodity. You can’t help what others think of you, but what others think of you can damage you for life. And being blameless may be the worst kind of reputation to have. Just ask Jesus. That got Him killed.

But like all proverbs, we need to take this as a general rule, instead of absolute. In most situations for most people this is true. If you work to give no one reason to blame you, you are in a good way. A good reputation is priceless among good people. A good reputation is a result of being godly and righteous. If you are fair and just, compassionate and holly, you will have a good reputation. Hold on to that.

But also remember the corollary. You cannot entertain sin. Many a good reputation has been marred and stained because of a single sin allowed to be fostered and sheltered in the life of a Christian. If you let Satan have but one piece of your life, He will take over. You cannot give him a inch or territory in your life. Not one!

May we pray this morning that God will direct our paths, show us the way, and guards our hearts as we work to serve Him today. May His blessings be on your life today as we serve and obey. In Jesus’ Name.