Is The Cost Too Much?

The readings for this beautiful Saturday are Amos 4 and Luke 14:25-35. I take up the challenge included in the Luke passage.

Jesus challenges His followers, “If anyone comes to me…” (14:26). There is a cost in following Jesus. We might ignore it, or water it down to something that is worthless and insipid, but Jesus spoke of the nature and necessity of discipleship. The discipleship that He spoke of was far from being either worthless or insipid.

Jesus was on the road (v.25). He was with the crowds and Jesus was warning (is that the right word?) them of what was involved in them “coming with me”.

Their issue was our issue.

One of the most urgent things we must decide is whether we will follow Christ wholly.

What is involved in us doing that?

A commitment to Jesus that places Him even above family (vs.26-27).

A conscious commitment, that looks ahead and counts the cost, and determines to carry discipleship through to completion (vs.28-33).

A continuing commitment, that once begun maintains its fervour, even as salt to be useful must maintain its savour (vs.34-35).

How hard can it be to do that, really? Extremely difficult and we cannot do it without divine help and help from our brothers and sisters in Christ. That is one of the reasons we are the part of a fellowship.

But how wise it is for us to make that conscious, continuing commitment to Jesus Christ.

Is the cost too much for you?

Have a great day,

Peter Clark.

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Radical Christianity

In the Men’s Tuesday Bible Study yesterday (7/11/2017) we talked about radical Christianity. Funny how it has come up again in this passage for 30th November 2018 – Luke 12:22-34!

Today, for most of us, those two words (Radical Christianity) are not a comfortable fit…”Radical” might refer to some weird way out individual or group. I imagine them being dirty, not working or fitting in with society. Whereas “Christianity” referring to church buildings, stained glass, church carparks filled with clean, up market vehicles, well dressed women and respectable men sitting attentively in a church pew or padded seat.

For most of us, Christianity isn’t radical at all – not in the slightest.

The trouble is, Christianity is supposed to be radical. At least that is what Jesus is pointing out in this passage today.

I am sure that Jesus didn’t mean for us to sell everything and live out of a backpack, but He did mean that as Christians we are to adopt a radical perspective on life – and to live by it.

There are three aspects of this radical life that Jesus identifies.

First, we are not to live anxiously. Jesus pictured ungodly people “running after” the necessities of life, getting exhausted, wearing themselves out trying to guarantee food, clothing and shelter for themselves.

We, on the other hand, have a Heavenly Father, who knows our needs AND will supply them. This doesn’t mean we stop working, but it does mean we stop worrying. We don’t need to focus our energies on piling up possessions. In the world we inhabit – that is radical.

Secondly, we are to live with abandon. “Sell your possessions” can be taken literally, and some have made this response to Jesus’ words. Even those who have not (sold all their possessions) are still to abandon their possessions psychologically. We are not to care about “things”. “Things” are not to get in the way of our readiness to respond to God, or other people. That is radical.

Thirdly, we are to live with compassion. We are not just to “sell your possessions” but to also “give to the poor”. Possessions are not to be just burned, as though they had no worth. They are to be used to minister to other people. We are to value other people more than we value things. That is radical.

To conclude….we must not become anxious about things, or spend our life accruing them. Abandon your possessions – that means breaking any hold they have on your life. Live with a deep concern for others. That is radical.

Have a great day,

 

Peter Clark.

Relying On God’s Word

Good morning Friends. The readings today are Esther 3 and Luke 7:36-50. The Book of Esther is great, but I am going to focus on the Luke passage. Read it now. Please don’t be tempted to read the devotion only. It is a significant Scripture.

G.K. Chesterton  pointed out once that in every field, except religion, people tend to come to agreement. There is agreement the world over by scientists on the atomic structure of particles. There is a general agreement on what is healthy to eat. There are common rules for accounting. Nations agree that drugs should not be used in the Olympic Games. But there is no success in agreement on religion. And this is despite thousands of years of discussion.

Is that a worry or not? Let’s look at this passage.

Luke’s report of a dinner Jesus attended helps us see why “agreement” is a difficulty. A woman known to be a sinner – most likely a local prostitute – slipped into the dining room and began to anoint Jesus’ feet, weeping as she did so.

The Pharisee saw what was happening and reasoned it out (“said to himself”). He applied some simple logic….a prophet would know that the woman was a sinner….. a prophet wouldn’t let a sinner touch him…. therefore Jesus was not a prophet (v.39).

Correct logic, but the Pharisee was wrong in one of his premises. This made the conclusion incorrect.  Jesus DID know that the woman was a sinner. But He also knew that she was a FORGIVEN sinner, and that her love and tears flowed from faith in Him.

When Jesus explained, even the Pharisee and to grudgingly admit that a person who has been forgiven much will love more than a person who has been forgiven (what he considered little) – vs.41-43.

Jesus then confirmed the message the message the woman had already heard: “Your sins are forgiven,” and again, “Your faith has saved you” (vs.48-50)

What is wrong with human efforts to construct a religion? As with the Pharisee, in this Scripture, each effort is merely “saying to oneself”. The religious can make statements that seem logical, but are faulty in one or more of their premises.

Only when God speaks through Jesus can truth be discerned.

The only religious truth we can possibly have, must come from God by revelation. It will never be discovered by people who are just “talking to themselves”.

Let’s be encouraged and not discouraged when people have different beliefs and ideas about God than we do. Put our confidence and trust in the Word of God.

Others will “talk to themselves” and we can do nothing about that. But for us – let us talk and listen to God.

Have a great day,

 

Peter Clark.

 

 

Pray Before Speaking

The passages set down for today are Numbers 27 and Luke 6:12-19. There is a very important issue for us in the Luke passage.

Luke has described some of the pressures on Jesus. He was surrounded any milling crowds in search of healing. He was the centre of controversy. He also, had to make the critical decision about choosing twelve from the many who followed Him. What did He do? He prayed. Then He chose is apostles.

What does He do then? He teaches, preaches and heals. We have here a summary of Jesus’ teaching – often referred to as the “sermon on the plain”, in contrast to Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7).

The teaching here is the basic elements of living in Christ’s Kingdom – foundational to our lives as citizens of His Kingdom and prayer is to be the basis of all we say and do.

Have a great day,

 

Peter Clark.

Jesus’ Sabbath Conflict

The passages set down for today are: Numbers 25-26 and Luke 6:1-11. I will focus on the Luke passage. We see here Luke summarising Jesus’ Sabbath conflict with the Pharisees.

Each Gospel records Sabbath controversy between Jesus and the Pharisees. This focused on the multiplication of Sabbath observance that the rabbis had piled on during the preceding centuries. These confrontations between Jesus and the Pharisees end up being test cases and they give us a clear picture of the approach of rabbinic Judaism to the Scriptures.

It is important to remember that neither Jesus nor his disciples actually broke Biblical law, although they most certainly did violate rabbinical teaching.

In the Sabbath controversies Christ exercised His right as Lord to define authoritatively what the Sabbath was for – and not for. Essentially Christ taught:

(1)          the Sabbath was instituted for the benefit of mankind (see Mark 2:27) – therefore helpful deeds were permitted (v.9).

(2)          that Jesus Himself was Lord of the Sabbath (v.5) and

(3)          that as God works on the Sabbath it is lawful for the Son to work also (John 5:17)

Can I conclude by saying that we must be very diligent in scrutinising the interpretations made of Scripture – especially when they come in the form of rules, restrictions and “must do’s”.

Have a great day,

 

Peter Clark.

Concerns Of The Psalmist.

On this Lord’s Day the Psalm set down is 79.

The writer, Asaph has four concerns:

God’s inheritance. The temple was defiled, the city destroyed, and the people slain. God permitted these things to happen to His inheritance. But God would rather destroy His inheritance than allow His people to sin and rebel. Another reminder of how seriously God takes sin.

God’s name. What will the heathen nations say about Israel and Israel’s God? The corpses and ruins bore witness to something that the world needs to know: God is holy and does not tolerate disobedience. Asaph confessed the sins of the nation and asked God to honour His name before the nations (vs. 8-10,13).

God’s wrath. Asaph asserted, “Pour out Your wrath” (v.6) “Avenge our blood” (v.10). Years later, that prayer was answered, and God punished Babylon for the way she treated Israel.

God’s people. They are “Your servants” and “Your saints” (v.2), “the sheep of Your pasture” (v.13). Care for them, Lord. Deliver them. God did care for them, but He also chastened them so that they might learn to obey His will.

When we want God to be harder on others than He is on us, it is time to start seeing your sins the way God sees them. We often have a blind spot at that point.

 

Have a great Lord’s day,

 

Peter Clark.

Resolve.

The readings set down for today are Judges 13 and Matthew 26:47-56.

Doing the will of the Father was not just a matter of surrender for Jesus, but also of resolve.

Jesus had just said, “Not as I will, but as You will.” Yet as the crowds advanced to arrest Him, Jesus was fully aware that He did not have to go with them. Even then, He could have called on His Father for armies of angels. But He did not do so. His surrender was real, for it was expressed in the firm reslove that rejected every other option than that of God’s will.

It is easy for us, moved by some emotion, with publicly or privately to surrender to the Lord. It might be in response to a sermon, or a hymn or even in our private devotions – and we might even mean it with our whole heart. But it will be meaningless unless it is expressed later in firm resolve. It is not how we start, but how we finish.

Have you decided to finish strong? It will take resolve.

Just as Jesus showed resolve – we are too.

 

Have a great day,

 

Peter Clark.