Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Confronting Hypocrisy

Matthew 23:13-14

We live in a world that to a large degree is hypocritical and shallow. 

If we truly desire to follow God, then one of the first things we should do is meditate on the most important scripture passages every day. Pray that the Holy Spirit will make clear to you the things He wants you to do; and the changes He wants for you to make in your daily life.

So where should we start? 
I am convinced that Jesus would say: begin with the Ten Commandments. 

I realize that this raises questions, but hear me out.
I know what you might be thinking … “oh no, I want to focus on the teachings of Christ, not the laws of the Old.” Or maybe meditating on the law would be boring. 

But the truth is that what you or I think is best for us in the natural  ...
is of little value when growing in Christ is your goal.

This is another paradox principle. What we want to do is quite often the exact opposite of what God wants us to do to become the best we can be. 

Most importantly, Jesus does not want us to be hypocrites. 

The Apostle Paul explained this dilemma when he wrote:
   “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Romans 7:15

I know this may not sound like the best way to spend your time, but in Truth God’s best for you and me is most often the opposite of the natural thing to do. The test is: how often do you meditate on God’s Word? When was the last time you really meditated on the Ten Commandments? Stopping and meditating on relevant convicting scripture is not easy for anyone to do. But unless we do it, the Holy Spirit is not likely to give us instruction, direction and encouragement.

Our natural tendency is to focus on the easy and encouraging scriptures that build us up, but not on principles that confront our personal failings and hypocrisy. But the truth is that when we are hypocritical, we know it in our heart, and this does not encourage but rather discourage. 

When we work to end hypocrisy in our life we are encouraged ...
as we experience victory over our failing ways.

Have you ever deeply considered why Jesus was attacked by the Pharisees? 
Why and what he did to bring this end result upon himself?

Well He continually confronted the hypocrisy of the religious leaders ...
and then He declared himself to be “I AM.”  The Creator God.

Most of us have never really thought about this much. His many miracles were the evidence that He presented to demonstrate the truth of His Identity. Jesus declared Himself to be the Creator God, and the religious leaders attempted to stone him and then they plotted to have him killed. John 8:1-58

Jesus despised hypocrisy, and especially from those who presented themselves to be deeply religious. In the verse above, he warmed them up by exposing their hypocrisy regarding Mary Magdalene. And then He hits them between the eyes with their hypocrisy on the commandments.

So how does all of this apply to you or me? When you meditate, concentrate deeply or study in depth … what are you supposed to learn about your personal hypocrisy? Ask God to reveal to you any hypocrisy in your life by His Word and the power of the Spirit ... and He will do it.

To meditate is to look more closely. What did Jesus do when He got more personal and looked deeper into the lives of the Pharisees? He referred them to the Ten Commandments. He spoke directly to their handling of one of their most personal relationships. Their parents.  Read: Mark 7:6-13

That’s right! He confronted the Pharisees with one of the Ten Commandments … and perhaps it was the easiest of the commandments to keep. Honor your father and mother. Think about it … if we choose not follow this one, how likely are you or me to take some of the other commandments seriously?

As I considered this personally, immediately my mother came to mind. She called for me the day before she went into a coma; but I was busy and I waited until after work that night to go see her. When I got there it was too late; and I was never able to speak to her again. This has haunted me since that day. The only positive encouragement I can find here is that unlike the Pharisees, my brother and I did provide housing and a new car for my parents in the years prior to their passing. Was this difficult for us to do? No not really, it was the natural thing for us to do. God provided for it.

As I search deeper into my personal experience, my son-in-law Neil Anderson immediately comes to mind. Once when Cheryl and I were on vacation, Casey and Neil stayed at our home and watched after our dogs. After a recent move, our garage had become filled to the point where we could not even park our car inside. Were we ever surprised when we returned home? Not only had Neil cleaned out our garage, but he built shelves to allow for us to store our stuff completely out of the way. This clearly did not take hours but rather ... days to complete. During more recent years, when I was overwhelmed with health, career, and financial problems. Neil came to my rescue by helping me to establish a new business. This is going above and beyond honoring your parents … in more ways than one. Neil is clearly the best son I could ever have hoped for.

Now does all of this imply that we should confront others in their hypocrisy? Well for sure if someone is a hypocritical  professing Christian. But also the Bible is clear: we must first take the log out of our own eye, and we do not want to be judgmental. 

But Jesus also makes it clear as it could be: Jesus despises religious hypocrisy and honoring our mother and father is the specific commandment that He used to make His point with the hypocrites. And He confronted them publicly with it.

The Apostle Paul gives us additional insight. “Brothers, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering yourself, lest you also be tempted. Bear you one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:1-2

Give it a try. Meditate on the Ten Commandments. Jesus and the Holy Spirit will make it clear to you the changes that He wants you to make, and how to be the loving person He wants you to be. 

How do you meditate? Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and insight. Pray over one commandment at time. Now listen ... God will speak to you. Don't stop until God speaks to you.

For each of us, Confronting Hypocrisy is a personal thing ... first and foremost.

God Bless you my friends, Bob

Listen to this one...   "I AM"

Friday, July 26, 2013

Understanding Forgiveness

If your brother sins; go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.

Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him … up to seven times?"

Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

Matthew 18:15-22

What does Jesus mean when He says to forgive others: “seventy times seven?”

His answer is another way of saying never-ending or eternal forgiveness.

Jesus is not telling us to forgive our brother 490 times;

but rather that we should always forgive others as He has forgiven us.

 Should we FORGIVE others for much lesser matters than God has forgiven us? 

Yes ... Yes ... YES!

It appears that from the perspective of Jesus … 

the problem is always not nearly as important as the solution.

Jesus instructs us go to our brother, explain how he as sinned against you and the solution is always to seek reconciliation. As Christians we are always to forgive others and to be reconciled to them. To do otherwise is to disregard them with a spirit of judgment. This is the opposite of what it means to be a Christian.

Paul has expanded on this truth when he says: “Our old ways have passed away, and new ways have come. 

Furthermore, we are called to be: ambassadors for Christ with a ministry of reconciliation.” 

As Christians, this is our purpose in Christ for the remainder of our days here on earth.

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

 Jesus does not give an option of disregarding this truth. We are not allowed to punish the other person or never speak to them again. If someone has hurt or damaged us in any way, we are to go to them and explain to them how they have hurt or injured us.

Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; (or from a worldly point of view)

When we regard someone else from a worldly point of view (or according to the flesh) we are practicing the opposite of the love of Christ. 

This is hypocrisy at its worst, and most likely demonstrates that a person has an enormous pride problem.

 Paul further clarifies in Ephesians when he says:

But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in [the likeness of] God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE [of you] WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another. BE ANGRY, AND [yet] DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. Ephesians 4:20-26

Those who choose to not follow the teachings of the love of Christ, and instead choose to follow their feelings, and to give the devil an opportunity ... are allowing the seeds of bitterness to grow within them. This can only bring evil and harmful results.

The problem here is that revenge in the natural or old ways is a normal response to our human nature. From a human point of view men are naturally vindictive beings, and as a result nothing is more difficult for a person than forgiving someone who has wronged them.

To the contrary, Jesus multiplies his pardons to us, and we should do the same for others. We should always make it our constant habit to forgive others beyond measure. Jesus clearly instructs us to forgive our brother seventy times seven.

When Jesus instructed us in prayer in the Sermon on the Mount, He said; “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.”

The humbled sinner relies only on free, never-ending mercy of God, through the death of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As Christians we need to stand upon the continual renewing grace of God, and pray for the Holy Spirit to teach us to forgive others as we stand upon the promise of His grace. If we are to experience the moment by moment grace that God has promised us, we must practice this same grace towards our brothers. 

 In the parable that follows: Jesus explains his application of this principle so that none of us can be confused. Read Matthew 18:21-35 and the application of this truth is clearly evident.

Then summoning him, his lord said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?' "And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. "My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart." Matthew 18:32-35 

Will God reject us if we choose not to forgive our brother? 

For born again Christians, I do not believe so … and this is a parable. 

But I would not want to learn what God will do, 
if I chose to disregard His warnings … would you? 

 God Bless you my friends, Bob

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Twisting The Truth

Here are a few examples for you.  Are they true or false?

“God helps those who help themselves.”
“Jesus came to help the sick and poor people”
“In order to get into heaven when we die, we should follow the example of Jesus”

Now you ... true or false? Yes or no?

Many would answer: YES to all three of these questions ... 
and many others would answer: NO.

What do you think?  

The fact is that our personal opinions are most likely stumbling blocks when trying to understand spiritual Truths. These are spiritual statements and we must look to God’s word for the answers.

Let’s consider:  “God helps those who help themselves.”
Well this is an interesting idea, but the context is a key issue here.

Context?  … What context, you might ask?

The context where this phrase is most often used is when someone who believes himself to be an achiever, and who is looking at someone else who is at a low point in his life and struggling ... the achiever concludes: apparently the second man is not willing to put his head down and from a human perspective, do what needs to be done … whatever it takes.  Those who don’t work; don’t eat … so the saying goes. Well beyond being prideful and judgmental, is this view true, biblically?  No, it is not consistent with what the New Testament teaches at all. Get off your duff and get a job. Not bad general advice, but it has no bearing on what God would do one way or the other. Only God can decide that.

The truth is that God helps those who trust in Him … and of course anyone else that He might choose to help. Jesus alone is God. Since we have no idea how He might decide on who fits into this second group; it is wise to trust in Jesus and Him alone.

Here is what Jesus teaches:

Here is another:

Many would say this story is impossible ... so it must be an allegory. This fits in with their human logic. That is foolishness. If Jesus is the God who created all things,then feeding 5000 is clearly not a problem.

Jesus fed 5000 men, and this did not even include the women and children. Did these people do anything to deserve this miracle and his blessings? Did they receive the food because they somehow earned their supper? No, not at all. He provided for them without the people even asking. His disciples wanted them to go buy their own meal, but Christ had a different plan.

And  here is a third example that God and not men determines who he will reward and to what degree. Fairness and getting what you deserve is much different from God’s perspective.

There are many more examples that illustrate this truth. 
You see the Bible is not so hard to understand if we don't read it with preconceived notions. Isn't that true? 

These scriptures don't need interpretation. 

And the scriptures become become much easier to understand when you read the whole chapter with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The meaning of God's Truth is quite clear.

Having said all of this, my “yes or no” answer to “God helps those who help themselves” is both Yes and No.  If you are drawing your conclusions from a natural or human perspective; the answer is: “YES.” And  if you consider this statement from a Spiritual perspective; the answer is both: “YES and NO”. God promises that he will provide for all who place their faith in him including those who do not help themselves. And He also provides for some others as well … for reasons that we will not likely ever understand.

God bless you my friends, Bob