Mon, Apr 21st - 9:35PM
STUDY IN LUKE
"And the Pharisees, who were covetous, also heard all of these things: and they derided Him. And He said to them, You are they which justify yourselves before people; but God knows your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among people is abomination in the sight of God. The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every person presses into it. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail. Whosoever puts away his wife, and marries another, commits adultery: and whosoever marries her that is put away from her husband commits adultery (16:14-18)."
Here we must confront the misunderstanding of money and possessions. Three of the greatest misunderstandings among people can be found within this passage of Scripture. The three are:
1) The misunderstanding of money and possession
2) The misunderstanding of the new kingdom and world/social order
3) The misunderstanding of the Law
Christ Jesus had just finished saying that no person can serve two masters. Either one is loved and the other is hated, or else one is held to and the other is despised. One can't live the life of a "good bad boy or girl." It doesn't work. Jesus was facing religionists and others who could not believe what they were hearing Him state matter of factly. Jesus was saying a person's energy and effort in seeking and looking after money was flat out wrong. A person could not concentrate on both the lust after money and keeping their mind and thoughts upon God. Jesus was demanding total allegiance, all of one's mind and thoughts, energy and effort. The Pharisees heard all that Jesus was saying, and clearly understood the intent. Jesus was saying that a person must not give themselves to seeking this world's comfort, ease, pleasures, and possessions. He was speaking against the philosophy of this world of ours, a philosophy that had infiltrated religious circles even in His day. The belief in that day was that money and possessions were a sign of God's blessings. This pattern of thought continues to be taught today in our churches. It is called prosperity theology. What bothered people back in Jesus' day, particularly religionists, had to do with the nature of man. By nature man wants money and possessions, comfort and ease, acceptance and recognition, and at the same time man also wants to be known as close to God. A man wants to fit in and be acceptable to the world and at the same time to feel acceptable to God. In striving to accomplish this feat, people become disturbed, sometimes extremely disturbed, when they are told that they can't give their mind and thoughts, energy and effort to both God and the pursuit of money; that they can't serve both God and money at the same time; and that God demands a person's complete allegiance.
People can be both religious and covetous; probably the most covetous people sometimes are also the most religious. These Pharisees who ridiculed Jesus were likely the most religious sect who had ever lived, yet they were said to be covetous. They wanted things of the world and the things of God simultaneously. Jesus told them that people have the tendency to use their wealth to justify themselves in front of other people. They use wealth to court the favor and honor of people. If they secured their wealth unjustly they compensate by being generous, by entertaining, or by giving to some worthy need or cause. Some wealthy people are conscious of their need for a right relationship with God and of their obligation to help people. But they tend to live strict religious lives and use some of their wealth to court the favor and honor of people through religious causes. The world honors such benevolent giving by the wealthy. But Jesus then said that God knew their hearts.
What did He mean when he said that? A person is acceptable to God because his/her heart is right before God, not because he/she has a lot of money. Money does not mean that a person is greatly blessed by God. God's blessings generally are not in material things of this world. Some wealthy people are blessed with money, yet they are as ungodly and filthy inside as they possible can be. Some poor people are godly, very godly, yet they have very little money and few possessions in this world. Some people are very godly, yet they have money and possessions. The point is, a person's heart is that which makes a person acceptable to God. God's blessings are not material things, they are spiritual things, heavenly things. It is why Christ stressed the importance of seeking first the things of heaven. Now, when Jesus said that a person could not serve God and money He was not meaning that a person's mind and thought could not be put upon his/her profession and work out in society. Scripture is very, very, clear about this point. A person's profession and the beneficial activities of life are included in the things of God. The legitimate things of life are true and honest. A person is to live and work well. Living and working are a fine testimony to God's name; therefore a believer should be the very best at living and working. When dealing with money and possessions of this world, we are to provide adequately for our families. But after adequate provision, the inevitable question arises, what are we to do with the excess? Store it up? Spend it on frivolous items? Spend it on recreational activities? God clearly speaks to this question by telling us we are to work in order to have enough to help the needy. God detests the esteem of people being centered around money and material things. All material possessions pass away; spiritual possessions endure for all eternity (Matthew 6:20; Luke 12:33; Ephesians 1:3; Matthew 19:16-22).
Misunderstanding about the kingdom of God and the social order also includes the Old and New Testaments. The period of Israel (the law and the prophets) is stated by Jesus as lasting up to and including the ministry of John the Baptist. As God's Messiah, Jesus ushered in a new period and social order, a new reality. That would be the Kingdom of God. This kingdom is presently a spiritual kingdom that occurs within a person and takes effect in the acts and behavior of people. Since Jesus has come, every person is to let God rule and reign in his/her heart and life. This kingdom is now preached, a message which does not value what a person has, but what a person is---what they are within their heart.. The message now focuses upon the individual and the individual's eternal potential in God, not upon material and temporal blessings. Every person presses into this kingdom. This kingdom of God is not for any one race; it is for all people everywhere. Upon hearing the message of the kingdom people press and struggle to get into it. Gone are their wishes for a cheap, formal religion and an easy message. They are not content with such messages, not when they really get a glimpse of the kingdom of God. Once a person has seen the glory and the value of God's kingdom, they will struggle and press to enter, no matter what the cost or the odds may be.
Finally, we come to the misunderstanding about the law. Jesus dealt with a very serious question, one that bothers many a person even today. Is there a higher law, a law of God to which people are to subject their lives? If so, what do we do about that which we lived our lives by previously? Christ has come, there is now a new order and a New Testament, what about the Old Testament, and the law and the prophets? Is the Old Testament and its laws and ordinances still to be used and followed by us? What is the place of the law? Is it erased, abolished? Does it have a place in God's new kingdom? Jesus said that there is a higher law, a law of God that is given in the Old Testament. It is not erased; it has a place in the new order. In fact, the Old Testament is fulfilled in the new kingdom, and it shall outlast heaven and earth. An example is the law governing marriage. It is the law for both social orders. It never changes. One can go to Matthew 5:17-18 and Romans 8:3 for more details about Christ fulfilling the law. One can also go to Matthew 19:1-12 for more on marriage. What we need to take away from this passage is that there is a higher law, a law of God given by God in the Old Testament, in the old dispensation. It has been fulfilled in Christ; thus all people are to obey the Law of God. "Think not that I come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, Until heaven and earth pass, not one jot or one tittle shall pass from the law, until all be fulfilled (Matthew 5:17-18)." Christ Jesus plainly and clearly stated that He had not come to contradict nor destroy the Old Testament Scriptures nor stand against them. He had come to fulfill them, completing them, revealing what had been implied within them. He had come to show what the real meaning of the Old Testament Scripture was, its fullest meaning, all that God intended the Scripture to say to us. As God's own Son, He is the Revelation of the Truth
Before Christ the law described how God wanted people to live. The law was the ideal, the gold standard against which to measure oneself. But once Christ came, He fulfilled and completed the law, God gave people more than just mere words to describe how He wanted people to live. He gave people the Life, the Person who perfectly pictures and demonstrates the law before the world's very eyes. Jesus is the Living Example, the Perfect Person, the Ideal Person, the Pattern of Life for all people to attain to. Before Christ the law could only be words and rules. It could provide the idea of right behavior for people but it had no spirit, no life, no power to enable people to do the law. Christ fulfilling the law provides people with the Spirit, the Life, with the power to do the law. It is Christ's life that sets the standard and the rule for each believer in Him; it is His Spirit and life that gives each believer power to obey.
Before Christ the law always required an interpreter, which happened to be human and imperfect. Thus people received an imperfect interpretation of the law. After Christ came He was able to give people the divine explanation of the rule and spirit behind the law. Christ interpreted His law and revealed its real and full meaning. Before Christ the law also demanded perfect righteousness, a perfect life. But no person could attain such a life, they all failed. By the law comes the knowledge of sin, the falling short of God's glory, the inability to live the perfect life. People simply could not obey the law perfectly. But Christ fulfilled and completed the law. He kept the law in every detail. He secured the perfect righteousness demanded by the law. He fulfilled all of the requirements, all of the types, and all the ceremonies of the law perfectly. He embodied the righteousness that people must now have. Before Christ the law demanded punishment for disobedience to the law. Upon fulfilling and completing the law, Christ went to the farthest point possible in fulfilling the law. He paid the maximum price and showed the ultimate love. He willingly bore the punishment meant for every person's disobedience to the law of God; He accepted the punishment upon Himself. He therefore frees all people from the penalty of the law if they believe upon His name.
The law referred to four different writings to the Jews. It referred to the Ten Commandments. It referred to the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch. It referred to the law and the prophets, all of the Scripture of the Old Testament. It referred to the oral or the Scribal Law. The Jews felt that God's law was not enough for them. They reasoned that if the law was really God's Word, then it must include every rule and regulation for conduct. They chose to micro manage what God had provided to them. The Jews boxed themselves into a very tight behavioral corner, and they could not get out of it. Briefly, I will cover a few more things about the law. Three persons teach the law to others. There is the keeper of the law, or the one who does what it says. There is the breaker of the law. And there is the instructor of the law. This person either adheres to or rejects the law or parts of it. Who fails to do the law? Those who neglect the law, those who disobey the law, those who do not know the law exists, and those who limit and weaken the law by making it say less that what it actually says.
So the law is our school teacher, instructing us in what the standard of measurement of our behavior is. It is meant to reveal sin in us and drive us toward acceptance of Christ Jesus as our redeemer and savior. All standards are meant to be used to measure quality. The law is no different except that it is a divinely provided standard of measurement. If I choose to measure myself by what others do then I will probably come out looking pretty good. If I choose to measure myself by myself then I will always come out looking awesome. But by measuring myself by Christ Jesus, I discover how far short of the target I am falling each and every day of my life. The law is there to motivate me into seeking out Christ early and asking Him to forgive me of my disobedience.
That is all for today, beloved! I do believe that in my posts on the book of Matthew I covered the law more in depth than I wish to do here. Please go to the archived posts on this blog and read what is there. There is much to write about the law, Christ, redemption, and empowerment to live a godly life. My prayers precede you entering those waters! May grace and peace be abundant in your life each and every day!
Thu, Apr 17th - 9:21PM
STUDY IN LUKE
"And He also said to His disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward, and the same was accused that he had wasted his goods. And the rich man called him, and said to him, How is it that I hear this of you? give an account of your stewardship; for you may not remain my steward. Then the steward said to himself, What shall I do? for my lord takes away from me the stewardship: I can't dig; I am ashamed to beg. I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. So he called every one of his lord's debtors to come to him, and said to the first, How much do you owe my lord? And the man said, A hundred measures of oil. And he said to him, Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty. Then he said to another, And how much do you owe? And the man said, A hundred measures of wheat. And he said to that man, Take your bill, and write eighty. And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. And I say to you, Make of yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when you fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitation. He that is faithful in that which is the least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in that which is least is unjust also in much. If therefore you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You can't serve God and mammon (16:1-13)."
This could be considered to be one of the most difficult passages in the Bible to understand. Looking at verse eight would seem to be the main reason for scratching one's head in puzzlement. I could take either of two paths in reading this passage. I could read the parable and Christ's comments about the parable and take it for what it says. Or, I could read it and also see application is given in the parable as well as the points given by Christ. What, are the applications given?
This steward was a trusted slave who was put in charge of the landowner's estate. He was highly regarded and esteemed, considered to be completely trustworthy. This term "steward" is also applied to ministers (I Corinthians 4:1) and to believers in general (I Peter 4:10; Luke 16:1). So we have an unjust steward. We are told that the worldly are more wise in their material pursuits than God's people are in their spiritual pursuits. The believer is to use material wealth for good. The believer is to be faithful in handling possessions: how I handle my possessions will determine what I will be trusted with eternally. The believer can't serve two masters: I must choose God or material riches.
Four things were said about this steward by Jesus. The steward was charged with wasting the lord's "goods." He was placed in charge of lord's property and thus it was easy for him to misuse any or all of his lord's goods. Did he embezzle from his lord for his own profit? Or did he simply negligently misuse his lord's wealth? The application to believers today is this: God has given each of us some "goods": life, talents, house, property, money, duty, a sense of responsibility, conscience, family, and many others. Each of us is charged with embezzlement or negligence of these goods to some lesser or greater extent. Recall Matthew 25:14-15 where a lord gave each of his servants varying amounts of wealth and expected each to treat that wealth responsibly until he returned from his trip to a far country. Here in our current parable, the steward was called to provide an accounting of his actions. What we know is that the lord had heard that the steward has been misusing his "goods." The full evidence was not yet brought out into the open. The lord gave the steward an opportunity to prove his trust and faithfulness. The accounting did not mean he would necessarily lose his stewardship, only that he must show his trust and faithfulness. If he had, in truth, been negligent then he would lose his lofty position. For each person, believer and unbeliever, the final accounting is at death (Hebrews 9:27). If this steward in the parable is found untrustworthy and faithless he will be dismissed and discharged from the presence of the lord's estate. This applies to us today in that if at death we are found to have been untrustworthy and faithless with the things of God then we will be dismissed and discharged from the kingdom, heaven, eternal life, and the presence of God Himself.
A thought at this point: Death will most surely take us away from all of our earthly goods. If our accounting before God justifies us, then we shall be given a much greater responsibility, an eternal responsibility, for the things of God. Our earthly goods are the "least thing" while the heavenly goods are the "much." This steward in the parable knew that he was guilty as charged and was unwilling to change or ask for mercy. "What shall I do...?" shows that he knew he was guilty and that the lord was going to summarily dismiss him after the accounting was complete. The steward thought over what he should do. He humanly reasoned out two courses of possible action. He could go and dig. But he was unwilling to do do manual labor and be relegated to a field laborer. He could also go and beg. But he was too proud to leave the lord and openly beg. That would be humiliating and shameful in his mind. What then to do? Unwilling to admit that he had sinned against his lord, he refused to ask for forgiveness. He refused to repent of his sin. This would appear to be the dominant point even though it is not directly mentioned. His only real hope was to beg forgiveness, but instead he considered every other course of action. "He that covers his sins shall not prosper: but who ever confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy (Proverbs 28:13)." "Woe to the rebellious children, says the LORD, that take counsel, but not of Me; and that cover with a covering, but not of My Spirit, that they may add sin to sin (Isaiah 30:1)."
The steward decided to do this instead: he would forget the lord, and court the favor and esteem of men. He went and did what he could to secure the acceptance and favor of men. He led them to be dishonest, to dismiss and lower their debts to their lord. They were led to also embezzle and hold back some of their goods. The steward was the one in the responsible position and he chose to deliberately mislead others. How many "religionists" mislead others through false teaching, causing many to not use their lives and gifts in the service of God. This steward not only chose to not ask for forgiveness, he went and compounded his sins by causing others to steal from their lord as well. The steward misled others solely to benefit himself, he was not thinking of their welfare. He was desperately seeking to secure his position and livelihood. He did it shrewdly, in a fashion that was pleasing and profitable to the debtors. "...judge this rather, that no person put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in another's way (Romans 14:13)."
So what were these debts that were being rewritten? A measure of oil was about 8.75 gallons. So one debt was a payment of over 800 gallons of oil. The measure of wheat was about 10 bushels. So this debt was 1,000 bushels of wheat. Now for the difficult verse. Jesus said that the unjust steward did "wisely." ???? He looked out for himself, his personal welfare. In this he was very wise. He was dedicated and sold out to taking care of his future. Now, Jesus was not condoning or even congratulating the steward for his cunning deceit. He was commending him for looking out for his future with dedication and energy. The steward was obviously sold out to pursuing a goal wholeheartedly. His mistake was being sold out to pursuing a material goal and comfort rather than Christ. Jesus was pointing out that believers do not pursue the things of heaven as wisely as do the unbelievers of material wealth. Believers fail to devote all of their energy and dedication to pursuing Christ and salvation. I fear that I too often allow the material things of this world to side track me from pursuing the spiritual things of God. That is the trump card that Satan unrelentingly plays against every Christian in every generation. Comfort and financial security. Surely God said to meet your obligations of providing for your family? Can't you hear Satan purring that line into your ears? Just like in the Garden of Eden.
Christians are to use their material wealth for the good of others who are in desperate need. I am not being told to go and seek the company/friendship of the wealthy; I am being told to use my wealth to help others. By doing this I will gain friends and influence them for Christ. When I find myself without resources in the future, I will more likely be helped by those whom I previously helped. I can't help but notice that if I am not helped in this life, then at death I will certainly be welcomed abundantly into heaven. My compassionate initiative in helping others will assure God's approval (James 1:10-11).
What happens then if I remain faithful in the least of things? Money and possessions are the least trust given to each person. They are temporal, fleeting, while the heavenly things are spiritual and eternal. It is like this: salvation, joy, love, peace, mercy, grace for all eternity are priceless. Upon physical death there is no material possession that can possibly cross over into the next realm of existence. Material possessions are not then the goal in this life, they are merely tools to be used to help others in need. Unfaithfulness in the use of my money and possessions disqualifies me from true, heavenly riches. My possessions are not mine to do with as I see fit. My life and possessions are God's for He has trusted me with both just as long as I am on this earth. I am the steward of all that my Lord has trusted me with and one day I will be asked to account for my stewardship of them. If I handle them poorly I will have demonstrated that I am not worthy to be trusted with heavenly things as well. What rewards would I forfeit? I would forfeit rewards dealing with my state of being, with work or position or rule, and with my inheritance or spiritual wealth. Bottom line is that my faithlessness disqualifies me from all that I would receive from God. If I am not faithful in using God's "goods" put into my keeping, how can I expect to be compensated?
What Jesus would appear to pointing out to the reader here is that there is a spiritual struggle to go through in life. The Christian can't pursue God and money at the same time. A choice must be made: either God or wealth. Jesus states for us that there are but two masters in our reality: God and material wealth. We are asked which one will we enslave ourselves to? If I choose material wealth then my thoughts will continually be upon it. If I choose God then my thoughts will continually be upon Him. Do I allow my material pursuits to control Christ, or do I allow Christ to control my pursuits? It is a rather straight forward acid test, is it not? Do I struggle against the things of God or do I struggle against the things of this world? Perhaps many a person's troubles in this world stem from this question of whom do they serve? Either they will hate the one and love the other, or else, hold to one and despise the other. Where do you, beloved, find yourself along this spectrum? Is it time to reassess the direction of your life? Are course corrections called for? It is not too late to make corrections, not yet anyways.
Grace and peace be with you all this fine spring day! I pray that you have been revisiting Christ's path this week, following His steps as He inexorably approached His crucifixion upon that cross outside of the gates of Jerusalem. Perhaps you participated in Maunday Thursday services tonight. Perhaps you plan on going to a Tennebrae service tomorrow evening. However you are observing this Passion Week I hope that you are able to encounter Christ and feel His healing touch in your heart and mind.
Tue, Apr 15th - 8:31PM
STUDY IN LUKE
"Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came closer to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And the servant said to him, Your brother has come; and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound. And the elder son was angry, and would not go in: therefore his father came out, and entreated him. And the elder son said to his father, Lo, these many years I did serve you, I at no time transgressed your commandment: and yet you never gave me a calf, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as your younger son was come, which has consumed your living with harlots, you have killed for him the fatted calf. And the father said to his elder son, Son, you are ever with me, and all that I have is yours. It was necessary that we should make merry, and be glad for this your brother was dead, and is alive again, and was lost, and is found (15:25-32)."
This is the lesser known part of the parable about the Prodigal Son. Everyone wishes to focus upon the first part. Not many people choose to look and discern what the second part of the parable speaks about: the elder son of the father. Who does the elder son represent? He represents the self-righteous religionist, the moral, the just, the good, the person who has never committed large and visible sin. This is the person who does religious works; one who feels and believes they are acceptable to God. There are five points made by Jesus about this type of person. 1) He was out in the field away from home.
2) He shut himself out.
3) He was self-righteous.
4) He lacked compassion and the understanding of sinners.
5) He failed to see two critical facts.
His first fault was his tragic position. He was away from the house. He was out in the field of "religion." He was working diligently out in that field and not in the house of salvation. This forced him to not be aware of his father's affairs (verses 26-27). This elder son was out in the field of his father, working diligently. He was looking after the responsibilities of the field. The religionist also works diligently at the field of religious things: services, rituals, ceremonies, ordinances, prayers, bulletins, worship service liturgies. He even speaks using religious terms in his daily life. He attends services and prays and talks as much as he needs to satisfy his conscience. But the religionist remains out "in the field" of religion. He professes to know God and to be a follower of religion. The amount of religion that is practiced probably mirrors how much salve he needs to feed his conscience and to feel acceptable to God. Most people choose this approach, doing whatever level of religion that makes them feel acceptable in God's eyes.
But this approach begs the question: How much religion must a person practice to salve their conscience and make them feel acceptable to God? Who establishes this standard? Does man create artificial standards, or has God already established the standard to be met? We all have observed that some people feel the need for very little religious activity in their lives. Others sense the need for a great deal of religious activity, even to the point of becoming professional ministers. But this still leads us back to the elder son in the parable. He was in the field, not in his father's house. By not being in his father's house he was ignorant of what was going on in the house, he was only aware of what was happening out in the field. When he did finally look and saw the celebration of repentant sinners, he questioned it. He did not show any sign of understanding. This is made evident by his question of the servant (verses 26-27). The elder son did not know what the celebration of repentance and salvation meant. Consider these verses: "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power of it (II Timothy 3:5)." "Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you pay tithes and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these you ought to have done, and not to leave the other undone (Matthew 23:23)." "For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, otherwise any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9)."
The second fault of the elder son is his tragic rejection of God. He shuts himself out. The elder son became angry at the repentant brother who was now in the father's house. He did not understand repentance, how a person who had been so immoral, dirty, and unclean could possibly change so much. The claims of being safe and secure and the sound of celebration and testimony disturbed the elder son. So it is, too, with the religionist of our day. They do not comprehend such claims as being saved, being saved by God Himself, being filled with power, being filled with joy, being delivered immediately from enslaved habits such as smoking, alcohol, immorality, cursing, and covetousness, being healed, and being indwelt and given power by the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ told His parents that they ought to have known to look for Him at work in His Father's house. Are we then, as His ambassadors and servants, to be found at work in His house? This elder son was absent from working in his father's house, spent all of his time working out in the field.
The religionist today wants nothing to do with such a house of repentance and salvation. It does not fit into his/her personal agenda. They shut themselves out on purpose. They may even speak out against and criticize such a celebration and "house." There is significant fact to note here. The religionist/elder son shut himself out. God did not shut him out of the house. We even see that the father came out of the house and entreated him to come in! The father came seeking him out when he had been forced to wait until the prodigal son returned home. The father comes out and begs his elder son to come in and celebrate with everyone. It is ironic, the elder son was so close to the gospel and yet refused to grasp it while his prodigal brother had gone very far away from the gospel and ended up accepting it as his own. It must be recognized the level of jealousy and envy present in the heart of the elder son. He was plainly jealous of the treatment his younger brother was receiving.
The third fault is his tragic self-righteousness. The elder son claimed three things here: 1) He claimed to be religious: "I serve you." Religionists do serve God through religious things: worships, prays, tithes, witnesses, reads the Bible, and teaches. 2) He claimed to be moral and just: "Neither have I transgressed your commandment." He never was immoral, nor committed any visible or publicly seen sins. He never stole, cheated, lied, or cursed. He was obedient to his parents and responsible in his labors and duties both to God and man. 3) He felt he deserved more than those who were now filled with so much spiritual food and celebration. He lacked faith (Matthew 23:23). He simply does not trust the Father's love and judgment, His plan of salvation and repentance for all people. The elder son displayed the malady that afflicts Christianity today: outwardly he looked great, a righteous man in the eyes of others, but internally he was full of hypocrisy and iniquity. This is why we are not to base our estimation of a person upon how they look on the outside, but to try and figure out what they are like on the inside.
The fourth fault is his tragic lack of compassion and the understanding of God's spiritual feast. He did not call the prodigal son his brother. Instead he said with arrogance, "your son." He felt above and better than his younger brother, despite the change of heart and life that existed withing the repentant young man. There were no feelings of compassion or joy at all. But the elder son did state a truth. The repentant son was God's true son. The elder son focused on his younger brother's faults, especially his immoral past behavior. He completely ignored his brother's repentance, his return home, and the glorious reunion. He was ignoring God's great love,great forgiveness, and great joy. He also did not understand God's spiritual feast. The fatted calf symbolized the spiritual food God gives to the repentant sinner each and every time. We find that there was food of absolute assurance of salvation and eternal life. We find that there was the food of love, joy, reconciliation, and peace. For Church of the Brethren this elicits a moment of "Praise God!" for we are a peace church.
The fifth fault is his tragic blindness. He can't see that he has the exact same privileges as the repentant prodigal. Note what the father said to him: "All that I have is yours." The religionist has the worship, the Word of God, the promises, the preaching, and the teaching. He has constant exposure to all that is God's. He can choose to enter God's "house of salvation" at anytime. All that he must do is repent, and turn from trusting the field of religion, and enter God's house. He simply needs to believe in and trust the love of God. He needs to stop opposing God's love of the prodigal sinner and just come in himself! The salvation of the repentant prodigal son was quite real, just read the words of the father: "This your brother was dead, and is now alive." "This your brother was lost, and is now found." There are the concepts that each believer today must keep hidden in his/her heart, to be willing and ready to rejoice when any sinner repents and returns to the house of God. No sin is too great to be forgiven by the blood of Christ Jesus and no sin is too small that it does not require forgiveness by Jesus' blood either.
That is all for today, beloved! Spring fled away this evening and winter has showed itself once more! But, I keep my eyes looking forward. Spring will return again and then later on summer will be upon us all. It is fine to work out in the field, beloved, but one must frequently return to the Father's house in order to understand what the Father is doing. Let none of us become fixated on working the field and ignore God's house.
Grace and peace be with you from Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior.
Mon, Apr 7th - 9:17PM
STUDY IN LUKE
"And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would have loved to have filled his belly with the husks that the swine ate; and no man gave him anything. And when he came to himself, he said, How many of my father's hired servants have enough bread and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; And am no more worthy to be called your son: make me as one of your hired servants. And the son arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and embraced him, and kissed him. And the son said to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight, and am no more worthy to be called your son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring here the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry (15:14-24)."
Riotous living ultimately leads from worldliness to sin to enslavement to bondage to suffering and to spiritual poverty. This prodigal son met the day when he suffered and was in want. The pigs eating corn husks had more to eat than he did. Since he had spent all of his inheritance he became destitute. He squandered and wasted his money, his property, his mind, his thoughts, his talents, his purpose, his hands, his body, his soul, and his opportunities. He had misused all of these by running to fulfill the lust of his flesh. All of the things that he had wasted came from God originally. They came to him either by birth or as a direct gift. The son owed everything to his father. Instead of upholding his father's fine name, serving and repaying the father for all of his marvelous gifts the son wasted all by becoming a rebel, a prodigal and spent all upon living to fulfill the lusts of his heart. He had nothing of value to show for that which he had spent.
The prodigal son had nothing on earth to help in his time of want. He had wrapped his life up in pleasure and the security of the world. He was left alone, bare, empty, and destitute. The son now realized that the world was corruptible, and that it passed away. He had cut himself off from his father (God) so he had no security from God. He was totally devoid of the spiritual strength that God would look after him and help him recover. He had not looked to God nor trusted and honored God with his life and goods. So he was empty of all spiritual help, left out in the world all alone, with no friends nor family around him.
This prodigal son suffered natural disaster since a great famine struck the land in which he was living. This represents all the severe trials and disasters in life because of the very nature of our world. It could be storm, sickness, accident, death. Whatever it may happen to be, it is disasterous and causes great loss, pain, and grief. The prodigal son had to face the disaster without God's care and help. He also suffered enslavement and humiliation. He suffered hunger. This world's "garbage" will always leave a person empty and hungry. The world, its pleasures and wealth and styles, will please the body, but leave the soul empty. The world does not permanently satisfy, fill, nourish, provide, supply, or please. The world leaves a person dissatisfied, empty, unfulfilled, unnourished, unsupplied, and unpleased. By contrast, the person who hungers and thirsts after righteousness will be filled and bear the fruit of God's Spirit (Matthew 5:6; Galatians 5:22-24). The prodigal son suffered the loss of friends. All of the so-called friends who surrounded him when he was freely spending his money in the pursuit of pleasure were now nowhere to be found. When he had plenty and could spend freely, people became his friends in order to get something from him. But when he was not able to keep up with their standard of spending he was no longer welcome in their circle. They felt that they were above him. He had become an embarrassment to them. They shunned his presence otherwise people would associate them with an unsuccessful person who had become a failure in life. We all need to notice that when the famine struck everyone, no one would give this man anything. Is this similar to the vast majority of people in the world today? People grasp to themselves that which they have, refusing to share with those who are in desperate need. Trusting in friends out in this world can be quite foolish an enterprise. They will desert you, leave you holding the bag. They promise to never leave nor forsake you, that they "have your back." But in reality most friends tend to evaporate when the going gets tough and you require them to remain by your side in an hour of need.
We also need to recognize that this prodigal son was a Jewish man. Jewish law forbid him to be attached to a Gentile, a man of a "far off country." But even if we choose to disregard this prohibition, the humiliation of cleaning pig pens was a horrible pain for a formerly fine rich young Jewish man to suffer. A Jew was not to eat pork nor to associate with pigs at all. The pictures here are of being spiritually and emotionally and mentally drained. The son ran out of spiritual strength, spent his inheritance. There is the picture of attaching himself, becoming enslaved, to a Gentile person; of seeking refuge with a non-Jew in a far country. There is also the picture of sin leading and enslaving a person to the "pig pens" of this world. It reveals that a person will be forced to do that which they would have never imagined having to do. They will go where they never thought of ever going. All because they engaged in sin.
But the good news is also revealed to us in this parable! The prodigal son comes to himself, snaps out of his insanity, back to reality. The passage plainly states "he came to himself." Christ Jesus considers each person away from God to be mad, insane, living in an unreal world. Two things are revealed here about repentance. It is the beginning of sanity and reality, the very basis for building a sound life. Thought is the beginning of repentance, thinking about one's need to repent and turn back towards God. We need to see that the son thought long and hard about some things. He thought about how many servants his father had, and how each one of them had more substance before them than he had. His father's bread was enough to feed everyone, and then there was leftovers. The son remembered the sense of belonging, of being a family and of fellowshipping together among all the servants of God, the great provision of love and joy and peace, of purpose and meaning and significance. His father had it all and more to spare for others. This parable speaks to our need to return to our Father in heaven, to return and admit how we have sinned against Him and others and do not deserve to be called a son by Him. "Servants" represent believers who are doing God's work within the community of faith. We must humble ourselves, see ourselves as we really are, and ask our heavenly Father to forgive us.
The prodigal son thought upon his sad situation. He admits that he will perish if he remains doing things the way that he has been doing them. He says that he is perishing with hunger. It was happening in the present tense for he was empty, lonely, unhappy, humiliated, destitute, without any purpose or meaning, without family or friend. He also was doomed to perish eternally (John 3:16; Hebrews 9:27). He thought about humbling himself, it would involve two significant steps. He would have to repent, to arise and turn back towards his Father by leaving this far country. Repentance involves these basic steps: 1) getting up 2) turning away from one's sinful life and 3) turning toward and moving toward God once more. We also need to note here that repentance is simply a changed life, a life that turns from sin to righteousness, from self to God, from this world to heaven, from the temporal to the eternal. He would also have to confess his sin and his unworthiness to be called God's son. At the start, the prodigal son was only thinking of these things, not doing them. But the desire and longing to return to his father was constantly poking at his heart on the deepest levels. Finally, the prodigal son arose and physically returned to his father. This was the momentous point in his life, the most momentous time in any sinner's life. It is the summit of human experience. The prodigal sought reconciliation with his heavenly Father.
The beauty of this part of the parable is this: the prodigal was accepted before he even confessed his sin. Repentance is the outward sign that we are sincere when we confess, and God knows we are sincere when He sees us actually turn from our wicked ways. He forgives when we repent, when we truly want Him to forgive us. This the reason why the father runs to meet his son returning hom. The son had turned from the far country and had come back to the father. We learn that the entire time that the prodigal son was gone the father had been keeping watch for him. The father's heart was full of compassion and love the entire time he was gone. He ran and embraced him, demonstrating his gratitude that his son was safe, whole, and back with him once again. He showed his unending love for his "lost" son. Here is the picture of how God our Father is looking eternally for each of us to return to Him. He still loves us unconditionally, full of compassion. He searches endlessly for sign of our return to the fold. And when we sincerely confess our sins and repent of our wicked life style He runs to meet us as we move towards Him. He embraces us warmly and lovingly, desiring to clothe us in fine robes and linens, rings for our hands and new shoes for our tired feet. He prepares a great feast in order to celebrate our return with everyone in heaven.
We now see that the prodigal son confesses his terrible wickedness before his father. He acknowledges before his father the ugly fact that he rebelled, rejected, and sinned against God and him. He voiced that he had sinned against heaven and against the sight of God, going against all that God stood for and knew to be best. Incredibly the son is accepted and restored. This would have never been possible if he had not chosen to return. The key here to being accepted by God is repentance. In the parable the father restored him. The robe restored him to the position of sonship and honor. It symbolized being clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. The ring restored hi to a position of authority. He was now to represent the father and his "kingdom." The shoes immediately restored and elevated him above servanthood, which means he became a free man. He was wearing the shoes to carry the gospel of peace wherever he went. The celebration pictures reconciliation, full acceptance, and the great joy of the occasion. The father fed the son and celebrated his son's return. All that the son needed was fed to him. He was fully accepted into the family; thus, all the food of heaven was laid out before him. It was there to nourish him. Even more, there was celebration and great joy over the son's return and restoration, everyone celebrated with great joy. Now we discover that the father proclaims his son's new life: He was "dead and is alive again," he was "lost and is now found." This is how God views each of us when we stray from our faith and then choose to return to Christ. God proclaims to all of His servants that one who was dead is now once more alive and was lost but is now found. And then the celebration begins.
One final thing to keep in mind with this parable. Jewish fathers did not run out to embrace their wayward sons when they decided to return home. Jewish society heard this parable in silent shock. They would have thought that they clearly knew how this story would end. The son would sobbingly beseech his father to forgive him and take him back in. And the father would order the son to leave, that he would be dead to him for the remainder of his life. But Jesus surprised and shocked them all with His ending. The twist reflected the fact that God is not like Jewish men or Gentile men, God will welcome sinners back with open arms and a warm smile whenever we choose to sincerely repent of our sins and return to Him.
That is all for today, beloved! Peace and grace be yours! Are you a prodigal child? Have you been one in the past? Do you see yourself in this parable? If not, perhaps you will recognize yourself in the next part of this parable: the reaction of the elder son who remained home with their father the entire time.
Thu, Apr 3rd - 9:00PM
STUDY IN LUKE
"And He said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me. And he divided to them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all of his things together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living (15:11-13)."
Here is probably the greatest and most beloved story ever told in human language. The Prodigal Son. It reveals this truth to us: God loves and reaches out to the most prodigal of people, and He runs to embrace any prodigal person who repents and returns home. God restores them, no matter how terrible the sin and failure of that person may be. What initially stands out to me in the beginning of this wonderful parable is that the youngest son says to his father, "Give me." We must keep in mind how property was inherited back in those times. The first born son was supposed to receive inheritance first, not the younger. The elder son was to receive two thirds while the younger son received one third when the father died. A father could give "gifts" to his children throughout his life. This prodigal son requested a huge gift amounting to what his final inheritance would have been. The younger son did, in fact, belong to the estate of his father for he was offspring of his father and mother by natural birth. But did this son belong to his father in heart, mind, or spirit? We discover quickly that the prodigal son wanted a couple of things. He wanted his inheritance. He wanted his own money and the things and possessions of the estate to which he had become accustomed and would one day inherit. He wanted all that his father could now give him, so that he could enjoy it now. He did not care to wait patiently for it. He had not earned it, not yet; so he did not deserve it at this time. He presents himself as being selfish and self-centered, rude and unkind. He did not ask his father, he demanded. "Give me my share now!" The impact upon his father, brother, and the remainder of the estate was of no concern to the prodigal son. It mattered little that his father and the estate could be hurt. Consider these verses in conjunction with our text: "And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful (Mark 4:19)." "And He said to them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a person's life does not consist in the abundance of the things which they possess (Luke 12:15)." "But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown people in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows (I Timothy 6:9-10)." "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves (II Timothy 3:1-2)." "But whoso has this world's good, and sees his brother has need, and shuts up his heart of compassion from helping him, how dwells the love of God in him (I John 3:17)?" "From the least of them even to the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness (Jeremiah 6:13)."
The prodigal son stated to his father, "Give me my independence." This is what the prodigal was really after, the right to his own life. He was tied to his father's property and was held responsible for the care of the estate. He wanted to "cut loose" and be away from the father and brother, to be relieved of all responsibility to the property of his father. So many people today make this choice. They reject and turn from their parents and their way of life because they feel their parents would demand and require too much work from them, curtail and limit their freedom, disallow and unnecessarily restrict their fun and pursuit of pleasure, be unfair and not understand their needs, control and discipline too much, and keep an eye and hand upon them continuously. This is mankind's sin-nature rearing its ugly head and controlling what people will choose to do. People simply remain too blind to figure out that they are being manipulated behind the scenes by Satan and their very own sin-nature. An important note: the father did give the son his freedom and possessions. The son was able to go and do exactly what he wanted to do, when he wanted to do it, for as long as he wanted to do it. All was placed into the son's hands and control. He now could do whatever he desired without any interference from his father. Since he was obviously an adult son, he wanted to be free from the father and the father respected his adulthood. The father could do nothing about the choice of life chosen by his son. He had to simply let him go and live as he wished.
I can also find that the prodigal son wasted his life, he did not invest his life. Riotous living. Leaving home in rebellion, the prodigal son journeyed to a far country. This country was drastically different from his father's , a country full of carousing and drunkenness, partying and immorality, selfishness and greed, sin and shame, death and hell. He chose to live a worldly, fleshly life: living for the pleasure of this life only, living only for the thrill of the moment. What can we presume "riotous living" to mean here? Loose, reckless, wild, extravagant living. It means spending and spending at the taverns and gambling halls, eating and drinking to excess, drunkenness, cursing, use of profanity, sexual liberty with women on a regular basis. And all of this riotous living ends with the prodigal son wasting all of his inheritance given to him. All gone. Nothing left to show for the spending of it. How many of the wealthy families in this world go through this exact same scenario, over and over and over again? Except in those families the father will not forgive nor look for the prodigal child to return home and be restored. And that approach is wrong.
That is all for tonight, beloved. I pray that all is well with your soul this night! I pray that you and your congregation are working together to create holy space during your worship times each week. Colossians 3:12-17 speaks to us about singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God with gratitude in our heart. If Christ comes to be in our midst, and moves, we must be fully prepared in our heart and mind and being to accept and receive it. If we are not prepared, we will miss the opportunity to be blessed and to be a blessing to others all around us.
Grace and peace be yours today.
Wed, Apr 2nd - 2:05PM
STUDY IN LUKE
"Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, does not light a candle, and sweep the house, and diligently seek until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and her neighbors together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents (15:8-10)."
I have corrected the error made with the previous post's Scriptural address at the top. I apologize for that mental error, what I had posted was a reference to what is found in Matthew's book. More time has slipped by me through busyness and classwork. But, here we are today!
Often this passage is preached and taught along with the Parable of the Lost Sheep. The sheep was lost out in the world whereas this coin is lost within the home. The lost coin represents the unbelieving person, the sinner who is lost within the house, the family member who has gone astray and is lost to God or else whose spouse has recently accepted Jesus Christ. We can see that it is silver coin, having value and greatly desired. It was lost and doomed to be lost forever if not sought for and found. Perhaps by extension we could say that the "coin" was lost by others within the household. How might this happen? By ignoring the coin. It can be set aside and forgotten. Once brought into the house little thought is given to it due to being too busy, not realizing its value, and/or confusing priorities. By neglecting the coin. A person can know the coin is there and know its value, yet neglect it. The person can just fail to pay attention to the coin for such long periods of time that they forget where it is. By carelessly handling the coin. It can be badly handled, dropped, and then lost. By unconsciously placing the coin someplace. Placement can be unplanned and with little attention given to that placement. A person can go about daily affairs without ever planning any use for the coin, eventually forgetting where the coin is. If the coin represents a person, stop and consider how that person might feel at being ignored, neglected, set aside, handled carelessly, or placed somewhere else?
We need to look at three points here. This "coin" was lost in the house, but it was lost in the dust and dirt of the floor. It was not clean and shiny like the other nine pieces of silver, it was slowly becoming tarnished in the filth upon the floor. This "coin's" experience was terrible even though it was still within the house. Being "lost" it was useless, unable to contribute to the family's needs. It was helpless, unable to fulfill its purpose or to return itself to the other silver coins. It was gone, not present or visible so that it could participate in family functions. It was by-passed, not seen, it could not be polished and cared for. It was stepped upon and walked upon since it was upon the floor. Being there, it was overlooked and walked upon, perhaps even kicked in passing. It was misused and abused.
Perhaps tragically, the "coin" was unaware that it was lost. A family member may have no consciousness or sensation of being lost. There may not be any discomfort, distress, or anxiety; but there is still personal responsibility. Everyone, no matter who they are, is responsible for their own life and salvation. They can't blame parents, mother, father, brother, sister, son or daughter. The family member who sins is responsible for his/her own behavior. They are the ones who are lost in the dirt of the floor. There is also the fact that children can be the lost coins within households, but in a different manner. They are overlooked, set aside, ignored, neglected, misused and abused. They become lost to society. They remain lost and separated from the love of God due to the behavior of others who live with them. They need to find the love of Christ in their hearts, in order to be saved but also to eventually be able to forgive those who have treated them in such shabby a manner.
We see that there is no excuse for following peers and stronger personalities. Being passive is not an excuse, nor is being weak or easily misled. Eventually each and every family member becomes responsible for his/her own life. It is entirely possible that the other family members do not know the truth about the love of God and Christ Jesus, about the privilege of being saved and having one's sins forgiven and inheriting eternal life. Thus, a family member is responsible to get out and seek the truth from those who do know the truth.
We also read that the coin was sought until found. Some significant facts to consider: 1) The woman changed the whole atmosphere of the house. She turned on lights in order to see more clearly in the dark corners of her home. Light represents Christ, the Light of the world. She turned to Christ to bring light to her dark house. She used the light in her search, looking behind each door, under every table, in every drawer, and in all of the corners. She effectively searched the entire house. She went nowhere without the Light. She trusted in the righteousness of God. 2) She swept throughout the house. She swept all of the loose and clinging dirt and filth out of her house (sin in her home). She obviously knew two things: as long as there was dirt and filth everywhere in her house she might never find her precious coin, and if she didn't clean out all of the dirt and filth she might lose yet another coin, and another coin. 3) This woman searched for the coin immediately and urgently. The longer the coin stayed lost the filthier it would become, the more scarred it would become, the more it would settle down into the filth, and the harder it would be to ever find it. 4) This woman searched diligently until she did find it. Great loss was felt by her, as though there was no other silver piece in her house. There was no comfort in knowing that the other pieces of silver were safe. This one piece was missing. The coin's purpose and usefulness in life depended upon being found and saved from the filthiness of the floor. Thus the woman would not give up until she had found it. She was determined to find the coin: dedicated and committed her life to finding it, always praying for God's direction and trusting Him for His help. She worked diligently by exerting all thought and energy and effort into seeking her lost coin. Finding the lost coin became the focal point of her life until she found it. She endured as the work was tedious and hard, for it involved sweeping away the dirt and filth that had collected under everything and in every little corner and unseen place in her house. Throughout her ongoing efforts she looked and prayed while walking, bowing, bending, and kneeling. Despite the inconvenience and difficulty, she shifted, removed, and rearranged all of the furniture in order to clean and reach out to unnoticed areas of her house, all in an attempt to reach and find the lost coin. Check these verses as they shed light upon this parable: "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10)." "They answered and said to him, You was altogether born in sins, and do you teach us? And they cast him out. Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said to him, Do you believe on the Son of God (John 9:34-35)?" "Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, Behold, you are made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come to you (John 5:14)."
Finally, we can see what happened once the woman found the lost silver coin. It brought great joy and celebration. The woman's prayers and efforts payed off. She found her coin. Prayer and diligence are rewarded by God. We can also see that she called her friends and neighbors together for a glorious celebration. It was a joyous moment and she wanted those dearest to her to share in the joyful moment. But we must also notice the fact that she took ownership, responsibility, for the coin becoming lost in the first place. She had been the one who had lost the coin. Why had she probably lost it? What are some clues left for us here? The house had only had natural light shining through a small man-made window for she had not lit the candle. The light of Christ did not shine throughout her house. She had allowed dirt and filth to continuously collect within her house, failing to sweep it all out regularly. Sin had been allowed to enter in and take up residence in her house in all of the most unnoticeable spaces. But she could now rejoice for she had secured light (Christ), she had swept all of the dirt and filth out of her house, she had prayed and sought diligently for her lost coin, and her efforts and prayer led her to the coin. We need to keep in mind that this is a parable, that it is meant to reveal a spiritual mystery or truth. The truth is that the coin represents a repentant sinner. The sinner who is found is a person who repents (Acts 17:29-30). God and all of the angels rejoice greatly when one sinner repents. It is up to the believer to diligently seek and find that person who is lost but wishes to repent of their sin. Here are a couple more verses to ponder on this subject: "Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38)." "Let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous people their thoughts: and let them return to the LORD, and He will have mercy upon them; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon (Isaiah 55:7)."
That is all for today, beloved. I hope that this proves to be a blessing to you. It has blessed me in that it reminds me that seeking out those who are missing from the body of Christ, the ekklesia, requires effort, diligence, prayer, trust in God, and dedication. May you have the grace and peace of our Lord Christ Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
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