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Weekly Word

Entries in Relationship (3)

Tuesday
Mar242015

Have You Counted the Cost?

Today we will look at Luke 14:25-35.

At this point in Luke 14, Jesus has left the home of the leading Pharisee with whom he had a Sabbath meal.  Although multitudes are following him, Jesus takes time to make it clear what it really takes to become his disciple.  Just being in the crowd was not enough to make someone a disciple.  Jesus was headed somewhere that their flesh would not want to go.  Only a strong submission to the leadership of Jesus could carry a person through the challenging times ahead.  The same is true today.  Have you sat down and figured out what it may cost you to remain faithful to Jesus and who He truly is?

Our Primary Relationship

Who is the most important person in your life?  It can change depending upon your age and experience.  However, Jesus puts the challenge to those following him.  If you want to be my disciple then I must be the primary relationship of your life.  You see, up to now Jesus has been a bit of a novelty.  People would go out to see him because it was interesting.  Others went out because the hoped to be healed.  But no one understood that to follow him would require them to put their life on the line.  The discipleship of these people would not last past the cross if Jesus doesn’t begin to open their eyes to what it means to follow him.

Thus, Jesus walks through those most important relationships that we tend to have: parents, a spouse, children, siblings, and even our self.  No matter how we prioritize those relationships in our life, Jesus must now move to the top- that is if we think about it in authoritarian terms.  If we think about it in foundational terms then he must become the foundational relationship of our life.  Now, lest we protest to greatly, it is good to notice that following Jesus will enable us to love each of these relationships in truth.  Without Christ we find difficulty in sacrificially loving one another.  But with Christ, our relationship with Him is threatened when we do not lay our life down for each other.  Staying with Christ becomes more important than getting what we want out of our relationships.

Yet, Jesus uses the word “hate.”  How can this be that we should hate our parents?  Elsewhere he tells them to love their enemies.  Now, we can write Jesus off as a teacher of contradictions, or we can lean in and try to understand what he is talking about.  Clearly there is some shock value to this statement.  The crowd is following Jesus without thought to what it will cost to follow Him absolutely.  Thus he shocks them out of their lethargy. 

However, Jesus is not using hate in the sense of anger, detest, and desire to tear down.  There is a cultural usage of this term that we do not have here in the United States of America.  When hate is used in the context of choosing one thing over another, it rarely means the kind of hate that we think of.  Let’s go to an example that is found in Genesis 29:31.  Here Jacob has been tricked into marrying Leah and her sister Rachel.  Jacob only wanted to marry Rachel, but her father manipulated him into marrying Leah too.  The Bible tells us that, “When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb.”  Most modern translations will moderate this word to “unloved.”  Now it is clear that Jacob didn’t hate Leah in any active way.  In fact they would have children.  We would not have used the word “hate” in this context.  But, if someone followed Jesus at the expense of their family, many would be left shaking their head wondering what the person was thinking.  Perhaps to best understand this use is to see it from the view point of the person not being picked.  When you are not chosen, you don’t simply feel unloved.  In a sense, you feel rejected and hated.  Jesus is not calling his disciples to quit loving their friends and families.  But if they had to choose between a relationship with Jesus or with anyone on that list, they must choose Jesus.

Jesus then brings up the image of the cross.  The disciples of Jesus must follow him by carrying a cross.  This image is intended to point out our readiness and determination to die in order to follow Jesus.  The cross represents all the things I am going to have to die to in order to be a disciple of Jesus.  Jesus himself had a choice.  He could follow the plan of the people to make him king and conquer the Romans.  Or, he could follow the plan of his Father.  He had a choice to make.  To many of the Jews, his choice was a rejection of them.  But in reality Jesus loved them and wanted them to all become his disciples.  However, he could not reject his Father.  Thus we will find ourselves in situations where Jesus wants us to do one thing, but our family may want us to do another.  We must be willing to sacrifice everything in order to have Jesus.  This may sound hard, but it is the teaching of Jesus.

Now, we do not all lose the same things in following Jesus.  In fact, many families have been saved and have had long traditions of serving Jesus.  Thus there was never a choice to be made between Jesus and family.  However, some have had to.  When it comes to relationships, the disciple of Jesus is to love everyone, even his enemies.  Yet, sometimes those we are in relationship do not like our relationship with Jesus.  If they ever lay down an ultimatum and require us to choose then we must choose Jesus.  We see this with the apostles in the book of Acts.  They were pulled in before the authorities and told to stop preaching about Jesus.  These guys were not trying to be rebels against the government, but they were trying to follow Jesus.  Thus they say, “You must judge whether in God’s eyes it is right to listen to you and not to God.  We cannot promise to stop proclaiming what we have seen and heard.”  Jesus had commanded them to preach the good news about what he had done and accomplished.  But the legal authorities were commanding them to disobey Jesus.  Thus the response is that they will not make such a promise.  However, later when they are apprehended they submit to the persecution and even loss of their lives because these are the very things Jesus promised them would be.  So it is not that I will have to choose between relationships, but I must have decided already in my heart that Jesus is Lord and Master.  Jesus doesn’t want to rid you of any relationships with people.  But he does want to rid us of our relationship with sin in our life.  Thus the disciple is a person who allows the Lord to prune their life in order to become more fruitful for God.

We Must Count The Cost

Starting in verse 28 Jesus gives two illustrations of counting the cost.  Following Jesus is costly and a wise man will sit down and think it through first.  Can I pay such a price?  The first illustration is building a tower.  To begin such a project and then fall short would cost a person financially and socially.  I would be wiped out financially and people would mock me and lack any trust in my future endeavors.  Now this is a good illustration because God wants to build in us the character and person of Jesus Christ.  He wants to make us be like Jesus.  That kind of work will cost us in a lot of different ways.

Likewise, he uses the illustration of going to war.  It would be foolish to persist in a war that you cannot win.  Rather, you would stop and seek terms of surrender.  This is also a good illustration because we are in a battle.  The devil does not want anyone becoming like Jesus.  He works day and night to trap people in bondages that keep them from seeing Christ and especially becoming like him.  So here Jesus puts his terms on the table.  He will not settle for anything but the primary place in your life.  He will not share your allegiance with the devil.

It is possible that you could lose everything in this world to follow Christ.  Of course the odds go up or down depending on where you live.  At this point in America the odds are not very high that you will lose everything.  But, they are increasing every day.  In fact, this has been the normal in many countries of the world.  Even historically it was the norm in Europe.  That is why our ancestors left Europe seeking the New World.  They were fleeing tyranny in order to be free to serve Jesus.  They had to be willing to let go of their denominations, their relatives, even their nation in order to have Jesus.  Yet, today the New World has become the Old World once again.  To where will we flee?  At some point it is time to stop running and simply stand no matter what comes.  Jesus and I must stand as one regardless of the ultimatums the world may hurl at us.

To Become Like Him

Jesus ends this section with the imagery of salt.  His disciples would be the salt of the world.  Salt affects whatever it touches because of its nature.  If we follow Jesus he intends to change our nature to where we will affect the world around us.  Like salt, our commitment to living out the godly life of Jesus will slow down the moral decay of the world around us.  Also like salt, our faith in Jesus makes us desirable to God.  In and of ourselves we are like bland food that few want to eat.  But with Jesus we become tastier, not just to God, but some people in life are drawn by the “flavor” of a person following Jesus- the sacrificial life.

Jesus lays down the gauntlet with this crowd.  You either move forward and become like Jesus, or you shrink back and fall away as salt that has lost its saltiness.  I doubt you have ever bought salt from the store only to find it useless.  But this was not rare in the days of Jesus.  Such salt is useless and thrown away.  When the Spirit of God takes up residence within us and makes us over to be like Jesus, we become spiritually “salty.”  Many people like the idea of following Jesus, but the reality causes them to shrink back.  At this point some completely fall away.  However, others simply redefine Jesus to fit what they now believe.  Later they may step further back away from the True Jesus and yet redefine him again.  All along they tell themselves that they are disciples of Jesus, yet they have never died to anything in order to follow him.  How about it, have you counted the cost?  Do so today and choose to follow Jesus no matter what.

counted cost audio

Tuesday
Dec302014

When Your Time is Up

Today we are going to be in Luke 12:13-21.

Our time is up for 2014 and 2015 is soon to begin.  We cannot go back and change what we said, did, or accomplished this previous year.  The New Year reminds us that we are mortal and we are now one year older.  How many years do I have left?  Am I living in such a way as to bring judgment or grace upon me when I stand before God?  These are some heavy questions that we may tend to avoid.  However, it is imperative that we deal with them now while we have time, rather than waiting and being caught off-guard.  The Bible tells us that “it is appointed to men to die and then the judgment.”  Instead of seeing these things as dark and foreboding, we can look at them as powerful understanding of what is to come.  When you know what is coming in advance, you can make preparations now that will help you be successful when they come.  That is the wonderful thing about the present.  Even though your past is “etched in stone,” the present allows you to affect the future that those past decisions are taking you towards.  We can make course corrections and thereby overcome things that we cannot change.

A Person’s Life Is Not In The Abundance of Possessions

In verses 12-15 Jesus is interrupted by a man who wants Jesus to do something for him.  Jesus then turns to his disciples and teaches them because the man is an illustration of an important principle.  Life cannot be found in the abundance of possessions.

Now this man addresses Jesus as “teacher.”  Thus he approaches Jesus as a disciple.  However, there is no sense of wanting to learn in his request.  He simply wants Jesus to do something for him.  So is he a disciple or is he only a manipulator trying to get something out of Jesus?  Jesus exposes his true motivation: covetousness.  This man wants what his brother has and is hoping Jesus will get it for him.  Now notice the response of Jesus.  He calls him “man.”  This is quite different then the “my friends” he used with his disciples back in vs. 4.  This is a more curt and formal address.  Jesus clarifies that he is not really the man’s teacher and the man is not really his disciple.  Jesus was merely a means to an end for this guy and do not be deceived, God will not be mocked and used by us for fleshly means.

Now the man’s issue has to do with an inheritance.  He wants Jesus to make his brother divide the inheritance with him.  Now it makes sense to come to Jesus to settle an issue of justice.  The Scriptures said that the Messiah would rule with perfect justice and would cause righteousness to shine.  He would be the ultimate arbiter of mankind.  Yet, we are not given enough information about this particular situation to judge the merits of this man’s appeal.  Was his brother being wicked and squeezing him out of his proper inheritance?  Or was this man wicked and trying to get more than his proper share?  Or were they both wicked and covetous?  Regardless, one thing is true, Jesus does care about justice.  He does not reject this man’s appeal because he doesn’t care.  Even if this man’s cause was just, Jesus recognizes that something deadly has happened in his heart.  He has been overcome with having what his brother has.  Much covetousness lies behind the talk of justice.  Christ cares too much about this man’s soul to prostitute justice for the sake of his flesh.  Is it possible that getting justice might be the last thing we need spiritually?  Jesus essentially tells the man that his problem is not his brother, but his own heart.  He has become greedy and is coveting.  To give him what he wants would only make his spiritual situation worse.

In verse 14 Jesus asks him, “who made me judge over your case?”  Legally no one had.  Thus Jesus points out that the man is only seeking leverage over his brother.  Had his case been heard by the authorities and denied?  We are not told.  But there is far more to this story then is made evident by the man’s appeal.  Why come to Jesus and not the proper authorities? 

Jesus may also be reminding those who are listening of the situation of Moses.  When Moses first decided to do something about the plight of his people, he ended up killing an Egyptian taskmaster who was harshly whipping an Israelite.  Later he sees too Hebrews fighting and tries to get them to quit quarreling.  One of the men responds, “who made you ruler and judge over us?”  As much as people want justice and cry out for it, when God does supply the man to get it for us, we complain.  Justice is a double edged sword.  It not only cuts those who have treated us unjustly, but it cuts us as well.  Thus as Messiah, God had made Jesus judge over all mankind.  In fact we see this in 2 Timothy 4:1, “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His Kingdom…”

The real issue here is the man’s relationship to Jesus.  If Jesus really were his master and judge, then the man would have left everything in order to follow him and know true justice.  From the point of becoming his disciple and following, the only purposes and intention that would matter would be those of Jesus.  Thus we see the problem of my agenda versus the agenda of God.  God’s agenda is generally not the same as ours even when we claim to want the same thing as him.  Our understanding of justice is not always just.  We live in a world that loves to co-opt the person and message of Jesus for its own understanding and intention.  Yet, in the end they will not follow Jesus as Lord.  Check your own heart and see if there are desires and agenda items that are more important to you then having Jesus as your Lord because this will reveal your true relationship with Jesus.  He is either Lord of all or not Lord at all.

Jesus then turns to his disciples and warns them to watch and guard against coveting.  Our sinful nature will seek to suck life out of material things instead of turning to God from whom all life flows.  Our life is in the words of Christ to us, not in what Christ says to our brother.  Even if the entire world turns against Jesus and you are left alone, his words to you can supply life to you, if you believe.  “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”  All else is peripheral and often detrimental.  When we covet we want to have more, especially that which belongs to another.  In Colossians 3:5 we are told that coveting is idolatry.  This man looks to the inheritance that his brother has as more important than God.  He is not really interested in justice, but in satisfying a craving for more possessions and wealth.  Jesus says to watch and guard against such sins.  But what are we guarding?  We are guarding our hearts from being infected by such sin.  This man was being swallowed up in sin.

The Parable of The Rich Fool

In verses 16-21, Jesus tells a parable to his disciples to slam home the main issue here, this man’s soul is in jeopardy and he is being foolish.  When you look at the man in the parable you will notice that his thoughts are all centered on himself.  If you count the personal pronouns he uses you will get the picture.  Also note that there is no mention of God in all of his thinking.  It is irrelevant if he goes to synagogue every week and prays loudly in front of everyone.  We see here in the private counsels of his own heart that God has no place.

In the parable the man has bumper crops to the point that he has a “problem” of figuring out what to do with the excess or overflow.  Instead of asking why has God blessed him and figuring out what God’s purpose is, his solution is to build bigger barns and amass the increase for himself.  Even though he doesn’t need more, he heaps it up.  Today we would call this hoarding.  Now here is a problem.  It is one thing when Jesus calls us out on our hoarding.  We know that he has no ulterior motive.  But, often those who point out the sin of hoarding only want to have what they have.  We see a big pile of money or possessions and the wickedness of our heart covets it.  This reminds me of the movie that just came out, The Hobbit.  In it we see how the amassed gold and riches ate into the heart of all who saw it and obtained it.  So we will be judged on both accounts: a greedy amassing for self and a greed desire to take from others.

In verse 19 we notice that his soul is at ease.  Godly people in every generation have spoken of the need for a holy discomfort with our life and the world around us.  When Christ is our focus then this world causes us trouble and discomfort at least.  Too often Christians stop at being uneasy about the world, yet refuse to walk with the Lord seriously enough to become uncomfortable with their own sin.  Our rest is to be found in trusting Jesus and His teachings.  This man is trying to find rest in material abundance outside of Christ.  We need to refresh ourselves in Him and rest, but we should never rest in being vigilant over our soul against sin.

Similar to the handwriting on the wall before Belshazzar, a message from God comes to the man.  He is about to die and he has been judged as a fool by God.  He is a fool because he focused his life on what couldn't save him, nor could go with him.  He lived without a sense of accountability to God.  This life is a gift and how we go about living it determines our judgment.  Will you live for the Lord Jesus or will you continue as master?  His judgment comes without warning and the man will die that very night.  Although some of us are given fair warning that our time is coming, many will go into eternity without the ability to "make quick amends."  We need to live so that nothing is left undone between us and the Lord.  

In Matthew 19:21 Jesus says to the rich young man, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me."  This idea of putting treasure in heaven by helping others is explained there.  Here the phrase is called, "being rich toward God."  It is interesting that it clearly means to help people, but the emphasis is on God.  When we help others simply because it makes us feel good, we need to be careful.  This is not what saves us.  In fact such giving often cuts God out of the picture.  It is purely about bringing pleasure to one's self.  But, when God becomes the Lord of all our possessions and money, we will truly become a free person.  We are free to bless others as he enables and directs.  You are under no compulsion by the people who covet your money and hold the words of Jesus over your head.  Their greed will continue to destroy them unless they repent.  But you are free to give and help under the compulsion of the Spirit of God.  Lest this seem like a cop-out, know this: you will give account to God for all you have done or not done on this earth and He is not mocked.  James lays out a warning for those who either have riches or desire to get them.  James 5:1-7  , "Come now you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you!  Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten.  Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire.  You have heaped up treasure in the last days.  Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.  You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter.  You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you.  Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord."

 

Time is up audio

Tuesday
May202014

Hearing God’s Word

Have you ever been given something that was very important to the person who gave it to you?  When I was about 13 years old my grandmother let me borrow a book that was very important to her.  It was an historical look at Russia’s last Emperor, Nikolay, and the brutal murder of his family at the hands of the communist Bolsheviks when they took over.  She had wrapped it up in a small white garbage bag so that it wouldn’t get wet.  I took it to my house and began reading it.  However, one day it went missing.  I looked everywhere and could not find it.  At that point, I had that sinking feeling you get when you know you have to face the music.  I never knew what happened to that book.  But, I learned a lesson about how to take care of those things that are valuable to another. 

Two weeks ago we looked at the Parable of the Soils, which pointed out that we need to take care how we receive God’s Word.  God’s Word is precious to Him, not just because it is His, but also because of what it can do for us.  We can be guilty at times of flippantly receiving something that is incredible important to God.  In today’s passage we will see this again with another parable and a visit from the family of Jesus.  Let’s look at Luke 8:16-21.

Parable of the Lamp

In verses 16-18 Jesus tells a parable that is very simple.  It is a picture of what it is like to receive the Word of God.  In the previous parable God’s Word is likened to a seed being broadcast onto soil.  Here God’s Word is likened to the lighting of a lamp in a room.  Now the lamps of those days would be oil lamps that would have a hole or a narrowing on one side and they usually had a wick.  Thus, just as God casts out seed, so here, God is the one who lights the lamp.  He does this by giving Truth to us.

Now a lamp needs oil in it in order to sustain a flame.  Throughout Scripture oil is a type of the Holy Spirit.  Now God is always working through His Spirit to prepare hearts to receive the Truth of God. In this sense God is supplying oil.  However if we do not retain this supply it will never fill us up in order to sustain a light.  Thus we need the Truth of God and the help of the Holy Spirit to ignite a light within us.  This will enable us to “see” the reality of life all around us.

Once a flame has begun, the light will immediately fill the room.  Light by its nature spreads out as far as it can.  Thus our life and its sphere of influence is like the room that the lamp is in.  We will not only be able to see better for ourselves, but anyone who intersects our life can benefit from this Truth of God burning in our life.

Now Jesus points out that the light is not lit in order to be hidden.  God has a purpose in putting this light in our life.  It is meant to reveal and make things known to us and those who are around us.  It is revelation by nature.  It is not enough to have good feelings towards God inside us.  When His light is operating in us, it is intended to be acted upon and thus give light to others.  If we fail to express God’s Truth in our life then we are contending with the very purpose of God.  Thus Jesus warns in verse 17, “For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be know and come to light.”  What God gives to me in secret devotion should be revealed by me in my life.  But, if not, then the day will come when it will be revealed against me at the judgment seat of Christ.

In both parables we notice this; if the Word is not taken care of it will be squelched or lost.  Here we must keep the oil level high enough, monitor the wick, and protect the flame.  If we do this then we will bear fruit by patiently guarding and nurturing the light of God’s Word in our life.  However, if not, even what light we have received will be lost.  How do I receive God’s Word?  It is an extremely valuable thing.  Without proper value, we will find ourselves losing the light that God intends us to have.

My Relationship To Jesus…

Now at this point word comes to Jesus that His mother and brothers are outside.  Although this seems to be an interruption, it ends up emphasizing the point that Jesus is making about what He is teaching them.  Luke most likely shares this in order to strengthen the point of our need to properly hear the Word.  Family is one of the closest relationships we can have.  Yet, the brothers of Jesus did not believe in Him.  This lack of believe and the strange things that Jesus was doing no doubt enabled them to stir up maternal fears in Mary.  “He’s crazy.  He’s going to get himself killed.  Why doesn’t he settle down and marry a good Jewish woman and start a family?”  In another place we are told that his family tried to even make him come home at one point.  Now, the point of this story is not that Jesus wouldn’t see his family.  No doubt, he did after he made his point.  But it presented a perfect time to emphasize what he had just been teaching.

Jesus basically says that those who hear the Word of God and do it are his mother and brother, i.e. family.  Thus our closeness to Jesus first depends upon hearing the word of God.  To be close to Jesus is to first be close to the Word of God.  We cannot divide it into parts we like and parts we don’t.  Neither can we make distinctions like only reading the words of Jesus as opposed to the apostles.  Some even try to go through the words of Jesus and determine what they think he really said.  This is not being in relationship with Jesus.  This is trying to manipulate the Word of God to our own thinking.  If I want to be close to Jesus then I need to receive all of God’s Word.

Yet, I must also put it into practice.  How I receive the Word is just as important as having it, if not more.   When we act upon the Truth its power is unleashed in our life and makes a difference for us and for those around us.  Now it would be easy to make this about simple obedience.  However, the relationship of a mother and brother are not those who must obey us.  Rather, this is about love.  Even if I don’t love what Jesus is saying, my love for him can help me to do the right thing anyways.  “Nevertheless, because You ask us to, we will throw our nets out again.”

In 2 Thessalonians 2:10 we are told that people perish because they refused to receive a love of the Truth.  Everyday God is trying to give us Truth and a love for it.  The problem is not on His end.  It is on ours.  This is a difficult Truth that many who have been inundated with God’s Word have never truly known Him because they refused to embrace it in their life.  Yet, many who have had precious little Truth embraced it whole heartedly.  May God help us to be that light which he has made us to be in this nation and this generation.