Monthly Archives: July 2015

A Radical Paradigm Shift

A RADICAL PARADIGM SHIFT

Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus said again, ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’

The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, ‘Who then can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ’With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’ (Mark 10: 23-27).

That comment got the disciples going! What Jesus had just said flew in the face of their understanding of wealth. They believed that prosperity was an indication of God’s favour and blessing while poverty meant just the opposite. But Jesus was telling them that a rich person had a hard time getting into the kingdom of God? It made no sense to them.

In the company of Jesus they had to “unlearn” many of the ideas they grew up with. They believed, for example, that illness and physical disabilities were a punishment for sin. Hence the question, when they encountered a man born blind (John 9), ‘Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’  Some of their beliefs almost resembled the idea of karma – a kind of fatalistic outlook on life.

Time and again Jesus had to pull them back to reality. They had just witnessed what money and possessions did to a man who could not let go. Wealth was not a blessing for him. It was the thing that stood between him and eternal life. He chose to trust in his money instead of following Jesus. But what was the problem? Was it wrong to have money? No, money was not his problem; his attitude towards his money was the issue.

Jesus was adamant that no one can serve God and money. He did not say “Have money!” He said, “Serve money.” What’s the difference? Money is a good servant but a terrible master. One of the “thorns” which choked the Word of God was “the deceitfulness of riches”. Why is money deceitful? Because it cannot deliver on what it promises.

Money and possessions cannot buy health, happiness or peace of mind, and certainly not the assurance of eternal life. Money dehumanises people. The more they have, the more they want. “Enough” is always just out of reach. Instead of using their money to serve people, they use people to make more money.

We don’t have to be brilliant to realise that it is money that drives the world. Unfortunately, the love of money is just as real in the church as it is in the world. The same philosophy drives many in the church as it does outside. How many wealthy pastors unashamedly attribute their affluent lifestyle to “God’s blessing” while, in actual fact they mild their congregation through guilt.

In Jesus’s equation, quite the opposite is true. Zacchaeus revealed one of the real evidences of a changed heart – his attitude to his possessions. Was it only because, as a tax collector for Rome, he had extorted money from his fellow Jews to line his own pocket? Perhaps, but he had also become a “new creation” in the presence of Jesus. He changed from being a greedy money-grabber to being will to give away where he saw need, and make restitution for his theft.

His was not an isolated case, either. After Pentecost, when three thousand people came into the kingdom of God in one day, a new spirit prevailed among them. Instead of being “getters” they became givers. They sold their possessions and shared their wealth so that there was equality among them.

Only God can change ah greedy heart. Jesus told Nicodemus that entry into the kingdom of God required a work of God’s Spirit. It was like being “born again”, starting life all over again with a different disposition and perspective. It took a miracle of God’s grace to do that. A good was to discern whether a person, including oneself, is truly a citizen of the heavenly kingdom is to examine his (or your) attitude to money. How willingly do you share with those in need?

But it goes even deeper than that? For some people, giving money away is not the issue. Why they do it is the issue. Is it to get praise from admirers for their generosity like the Pharisees? Is it because they feel sorry for the poor? Is it because they feel good about being benevolent? None of these count for God. There is only one worthy motive for being generous – gratitude to God for His mercy. It’s not about us. It’s about Him! That’s the spirit that reveals where your heart is.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (copyright 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or kindle version or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Check out my Blog site – www.learningtobeason.wordpress.com

 

Who Do You Love?

WHO DO YOU LOVE?

As Jesus started on His way, a man ran up to Him and fell on his knees before Him. ‘Good teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’

‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good – except God alone. You know the commandments: you shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honour your father and mother.’

‘Teacher,’ he declared, ‘all these things I have kept since I was a boy.’ Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ He said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth (Mark 10: 17-22).

We know this story so well, don’t we? And we judge the rich man for throwing away an opportunity to have eternal life.

Around Jesus were twelve men who had given up everything to follow Him. When He called them, they walked away from the old lives and started a new life with Him. I’m sure there was no doubt about the sincerity of this young man. Whatever he understood by the term, “eternal life”, he wanted it. Don’t we all? No one wants to go to the grave not knowing where he is going.

There are many theories and beliefs about the afterlife depending on the religion a person subscribes to – oblivion for the atheist, nirvana, purgatory, all the sensual pleasure you want, and so one. This man wanted the security of knowing that he possessed eternal life so that he could get on with enjoying his life of wealth and ease. Perhaps he imagined that one noble action would provide him with that security.

His so-called “clean” life obviously didn’t give him that assurance. There was still uncertainty and a restlessness in his soul. In spite of assuring Jesus that he had kept the commandments Jesus quoted, something was missing.

Did Jesus use the commandments to stir up guilt in this young man’s conscience? He didn’t question his honesty. “How can you say you have kept the commandments? Don’t you understand that your motives are just as important as your behaviour? You can’t possibly be perfect by obeying the rules. What about the sin in your heart?” He said none of these things because they were not the real issue.

What was the real issue? The real issue was “Who or what do you love?” Jesus did not even mention the greatest commandment, contained in the Shema – the creed a devout Jew would recite several times a day because that was the crux of the matter.

Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength (Deut. 6:4-5).

How could He probe the young man’s inner being? His wealth! What about his money? What he did with his money would be a mirror of his heart.

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other or you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money (Matt. 6: 24).

Jesus used a literary device called a chiasm which was used for emphasis. His main point was sandwiched between two statements leading up to the central statement. It would look like this:

  1. No one can serve two masters.
  2. Either you will hate the one and serve the other or

B1.You will be devoted to the one and despise the other.

A1.You cannot serve both God and money

Points A and A1 are saying the same thing. Points B and B1 are the central and most important statement.

Jesus put His finger on the one thing, the most important thing he lacked – love for God. What he did with his money was the clue. “Get rid of it!” Jesus told him. “It is the one thing that stands between you and me.” In a bold statement Jesus told him, “Follow me, and I will take you to the Father.”

The young man walked away and that response to Jesus’ invitation said it all. What about you? What comes between you and loving God with all your heart, soul and strength?

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (copyright 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or kindle version or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Check out my Blog site – www.learningtobeason.wordpress.com

 

Jesus The Family Man

JESUS THE FAMILY MAN

When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.’

People were bringing little children to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, He was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to each of them. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.

 And He took the children in His arms, placed His hands on them and blessed them (Mark 10: 13-16).

We tend to think of Jesus as the rabbi, the homeless, wandering teacher who spent three years roaming Israel from north to south and east to west, but we don’t think of Him as a family man. He may not have had a wife and family of His own (in spite of what Dan Brown may have written) but He was at heart a family man. How do we know this?

First of all, His attitude and behaviour towards woman elevated them from the lowly position they occupied in society to people with dignity who had the right to be treated with honour and respect. It was the women who travelled with Him who took care of His needs and even provided for Him and His disciples from their own means. He healed many women. He spent time in the home of Martha and Mary, enjoying the company and their hospitality. He forgave their sinful practices and treated them with compassion.

Secondly, He protected the sanctity of marriage. He came down hard on the Pharisees for their hard-hearted attitude towards women. They favoured the rabbis who either sanctioned divorce for any flimsy reason, or even for a legitimate reason, marital unfaithfulness, instead of upholding God’s original intention. They were obviously looking for an excuse to cover up their own practices.

He loved and blessed the children. He saw in them, not immaturity but potential. They were the ones who would accept the kingdom of God in simple faith without doubts and questions. The disciples treated them with disdain, as though they were an intrusion into Jesus’ time and space. This annoyed Him because He was never put out by interruptions, especially from the ones who needed Him.

Jesus rapped His disciples over the knuckles for their hard-hearted attitude towards little children. Like the rest of Jewish society, as far as they were concerned, women and children were just there and had no significance except in the home where the women served, had babies and raised them. When the sons reached adulthood at the age of twelve, they were accepted into adult male society as young men but, until then, they were insignificant.

Unlike us ordinary mortals, Jesus looked beyond who and what people were to what they could and would become, given the opportunity to be exposed to the Word of God. But we, in the church, have not absorbed His outlook and attitude, in the main. Ministry to children in the church does not take precedence over ministry to adults. This reflects the same attitude as the disciples. We treat the children as peripheral and not central to the kingdom of God.

Our ministry to children is run as a rescue ministry rather than as foundational to their lives as they grow up in a very evil world. What would happen, for example, if parents made it a priority to focus on their children above everything else, and raise them to know and follow Jesus? Instead of treating them as peripheral, treat them as the very reason for their living until they have grown up and left home.

Let’s take to heart Jesus’ rebuke. ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to each of them.’

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (copyright 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or kindle version or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Check out my Blog site – www.learningtobeason.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

Marriage Is God’s Idea

 MARRIAGE IS GOD’S IDEA

Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to Him and, as was His custom, He taught them.

Some Pharisees came and tested Him by asking, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ ‘What did Moses command you?’ He replied. They said, ‘Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.’ ‘It is because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,’ Jesus replied. ‘But at the beginning of creation God “made them male and female.”

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’ (Mark 10:1-9).

How sad that arrogant human beings think that we can improve on God’s idea of marriage. You see, God created man in His own image, and then He gave them the institution of marriage to reflect that image.

From the moment a Hebrew baby was born it would hear the Shema – the “creed” of the Hebrew people, repeated over and over again. Every time the baby’s mother would nurse him at her breast, she would whisper the Shema to him while he drank.

Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength (Deut. 6: 4-5).

The Lord is one. What does that mean? Our God is one – three persons in perfect unity. Not three Gods. One God, three persons united in essence and in purpose. Jesus could call the Holy Spirit “another Counsellor” because He was exactly like Jesus – the same divine being, the same nature, character, disposition, vision, but not the same function.

The Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Father. The Holy Spirit is not the Father or the Son and a yet He is perfectly one with the Father and the Son. I know we find this difficult to understand. That’s why God instituted marriage, to give us a visual aid of the unity in the Godhead which is expressed in the whole of creation. He intended creation to function as a perfect, interdependent unit to show forth His oneness.

But what have humans done to the beauty of this visual aid? We think we know better, so we threw out God’s pattern and created our own. We call it freedom, this casual liaison with any and everybody, fragmenting ourselves with every person with whom we have a sexual connection, not realising that we are, in the end, making it impossible to be united to one person because we have left a bit of ourselves with everyone to whom we have been joined.

Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” (1 Cor. 6: 16).

Is it any wonder than that marriage does not work today? How can two people establish a permanent union when they have had casual connections with so many? So what do they do? They throw marriage out instead of returning to God’s original purpose.

Did you notice that Jesus did not approve Moses’ solution for disunity – divorce? He took the Pharisees back to God’s original intention. There were two schools of thought regarding divorce in Jesus’ day. The House of Hillel, the followers of Hillel, who was a liberal rabbi, taught that a man could divorce his wife for any reason. The House of Shammai taught that the only reason for divorce was what Jesus called “marital unfaithfulness”. This referred to any infringement of the marriage contract – the ketubah, which regulated the terms of their marriage relationship – and not just adultery.

There was a reason for the Pharisees’ question. It was their practice to send a wife away for any flimsy reason because they had their eye on someone else. They wanted Jesus’ sanction for their practice, but Jesus would have none of it. He reminded them of God’s original intention for a permanent and monogamous union which reflected the unity of the Godhead. It was their sinful hearts that wanted approval for their behaviour, not the desire to obey the law of God.

How tragic that, in throwing out God’s law in favour of their own, people have doomed themselves never the experience the true joy of a permanent union that reflects and experiences the very heart of God.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (copyright 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or kindle version or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Check out my Blog site – www.learningtobeason.wordpress.com

 

 

 

Drastic Mutilation

DRASTIC MUTILATION

‘If anyone causes one of these little ones– those who believe in me – to stumble. It would be better for him if a large millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.

If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It were better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and go to hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell where ‘the worms that eat them do not die and the fire is not quenched.

Everyone will be salted with fire. ‘Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with one another.’ (Mark 9: 42-50).

What Jesus was talking about makes no sense to a westerner without an understanding of Hebrew background and rabbinic teaching methods. First of all, Jesus used a teaching method here called hyperbole or exaggeration. What He said was never intended to be taken literally, and His disciples understood that.  

He was not telling His disciples to mutilate themselves in order to get rid of sin. That would contradict what He had already taught them, that sin is not about behaviour first of all; sin begins in the heart and issues in words and behaviour. What would be the point of cutting off hands or feet or plucking out an eye without a change of heart? Equally useless are the rules about diet and washing the body, because none of these things have any effect on the heart.

What did Jesus mean, then? He was speaking to His disciples in the context of John’s information that they had stopped a man from casting out demons in His name because he was not “one of them”. Jesus was indignant because they were being exclusive, as though He belonged to them and to no one else. He opened the door for anyone to follow Him. If they were not against Him, they were for Him.

What did He mean by “little ones”? He used this expression not only for children but also for the ordinary people who followed Him. They were “little ones” in the sense that they were simple and down-to-earth, like children. They had no high-and-mighty ideas about themselves unlike the religious leaders who thought they were a cut above everyone else and that they had exclusive rights to the understanding of the Torah.

Jesus had to use strong words to get them to understand that their attitude was unacceptable to Him. They were sinning against Jesus and against the man by stopping him from following Jesus. By “cutting off” hand or foot or “plucking out” an eye that offended, Jesus was conveying the need for a drastic change of attitude. “Get rid of whatever causes you to sin against another person.”

What these men needed to do was not to mutilate their bodies in order to change the attitude but to mutilate their hearts. The Apostle Paul would take this thought ever further. In the light of Jesus’s death, in order to change one’s attitude, one was to reckon oneself dead to sin and alive to God.

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (Rom. 6: 1-2).

The use of the word gehenna (translated “hell”) is also misunderstood. Gehenna was the city rubbish dump outside Jerusalem in the valley of Hinnom where the fire burned continually and where the garbage was thrown, including the bodies of criminals. Jesus was not referring to a place of eternal torment but a place where worthless rubbish was destroyed. His words were a warning that a person who had both hands, both feet and both eyes, but whose heart was corrupted by sin, would be utterly destroyed, like the garbage in the city dump.

Was He advocating a literal fire that never went out? Was He saying that people will burn forever in hell? We don’t know. What we do know is that what He said was intended not to scare people out of hell and into heaven, but to warn them of the dangers of selfishness which issue from a corrupted heart. If we want to experience real life with Him, we must get rid of the attitudes that diminish and dehumanise us.

This is not a “self-help” programme but a response to what He did for us. He died to remove sin and change our hearts. Without that, whatever changes we may make will merely be cosmetic. He calls us to follow Him. Only through faith in Him can we experience the deliverance He achieved through the cross. He put sin to death when He died. Now we can enter into real like by dying to sin with Him.

Since you died with Christ . . .  Since you have been raised with Christ, set you hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God (Col. 2: 20a; 3:1).

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (copyright 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or kindle version or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Check out my Blog site – www.learningtobeason.wordpress.com