I admire people who are so eloquent. Words flow gracefully off their lips. They never stumble and speak so clearly and effortlessly.
I am NOT this type of person. My head is full of words, but something happens between my head and my mouth. I love to write, but not so much speaking aloud. So I miss opportunities to share words God ordained for me to speak to specific people in specific situations.
A route I often walk passes in front of a hospital on the river by my house. Because of the beautiful setting, many hospital visitors step outside for fresh air and a view of the sun glistening on the the water. Some are sitting with their heads hung low. Some are taking a smoke break. Some are staring off into the horizon. Many naturally look worn out and distressed. Heavy eyes and heavy hearts as they visit loved ones in need of any manner of medical care. I quietly pray as I walk by. Countless times God has nudged me to stop and ask someone if I can pray for them. But I have never done it. Not once. My fear of saying the wrong thing keeps me from saying anything. And I miss out. Someone in need misses out on a word God has for them. Ugh.
Promises like this one in Luke that, “I will give you a mouth and wisdom,” are powerful. These words come on the heels of Jesus telling of persecution that will come; delivering of His followers to the synagogues, prisons, and before kings and governors. Jesus tells them THIS will be their opportunity to bear witness.
In our daily lives we likely aren’t persecuted or brought before powerful leaders in public squares, but we do have our own “court rooms” to bear witness…our friend circles, our work places, our dorm rooms, the classroom, the playing field, the mom’s group, even crossing paths with strangers in front of a hospital while on a walk. We are given many opportunities to bear witness, or even just to provide a word of prayer and encouragement.
Jesus tells them, “Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer.”
Because words don’t easily come out of my mouth, I am an over-preparer if I do have to speak. These words of Jesus, while comforting, on the one hand, are frightening on the other. Why? It requires giving up control (as if I even had any!); giving up worry and anxiety about how I will sound and be received…basically, it rubs against my ego and pride.
It isn’t a call to be unprepared or uneducated in the Word – quite the contrary. It is a call to be armed with truth and faith, but not with fear or anxiety over how the truths will come out of our mouth. To let the Holy Spirit bring to mind what needs to be said. John Piper says, “The words of Christ are the raw materials that the Holy Spirit works with as he teaches us what to say.” It isn’t fearful rehearsing, but rather lifelong preparation. Perfectly scripted human preparation is greatly inferior to divine inspiration.
I flipped through many accounts of faithful people who allowed the Spirit to speak through them. Acts is full of examples, and the powerful words of the Spirit continue today. A common theme is that allowing the Spirit to give us words doesn’t mean we won’t fumble those words, wish we had said something better after the fact, or not put our foot in our mouth. It also doesn’t guarantee human success or the outcome we desire. Because it isn’t about us and how we look; it is about God working in us for the recipient and His glory.
Today I am praying for courage to release my fear, pride, and insecurities over speaking and allow the Holy Spirit to bring words and wisdom to my mouth when He calls me to speak. And then to rest in the fact that God uses it all – however awkward and ineloquent – for His sweet purposes and plans.
The Jewish elites are dying to catch Jesus in something – anything – but He continues to leave them baffled and speechless instead. Public opinion keeps them from going after Him directly, so they scheme some more.
At last…the perfect plan, they think. Let’s drag politics into it, they devise. Ooohhhh, and taxes…that’ll surely not end well, they plot.
“Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” they ask Jesus, following some manipulative & mocking complementary words.
If He says to pay the taxes, they reason they can twist it to show He is denying God’s authority over the Jews. The people will lose it, they predict, desiring to be done with this nuisance disrupting their power and authority.
Or, if He says not to pay, Rome will lose it and see Jesus as a troublesome rebel, they foresee. Either way, we win, they think. A plan that can’t go wrong.
Jesus obviously sees right through their question and motives (heck, at this point, you don’t even have to be the Son of God to see it).
“Whose image and inscription does it have?” Jesus asks as He holds a denarius in His hands…the hands that will soon be pierced by the same Government pictured on the coin.
“Caesar’s,” they reply.
“Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s…” Jesus responds.
But Jesus doesn’t stop there. “…and to God the things that are God’s,” He concludes.
What are they to even do with this? Everything is God’s. Everything. Caesar may have his picture on a man-made coin along with a rule and right to taxes and submission for a time, but his power is limited. Pay the tax but know there is a higher ruling authority under which everything and everyone submits.
David Guzik paraphrases, “Give the coin to Caesar, but give your life to God.”
It isn’t about two realms – secular vs. sacred; church vs. state; Caesar vs. God. God is over ALL things.
Whose image is imprinted on you? Now go, give to Him what is His.
One thing that is so clear as I read through the Gospels is the steady refrain that things aren’t always what they seem.
The first are last and the last are first. The King of kings comes wrapped in humility, not political might. Blessed are the poor, mourning, meek, hungry, persecuted.
The ones who appear righteous, moral, and most devout – the ones armed with the most Scriptural knowledge – are the ones who consistently miss Jesus. And the ones looked down on, uneducated, the outcasts, the sinners are the ones who experience radical life changes through their encounters with Jesus.
Those who should be the most overjoyed coming face to face with the long-awaited Messiah are the ones digging in their heels protecting who they are, what they have built for themselves, and their social status…all in the name of God. Conversely, the ones thought most unclean, unrighteous, unworthy by society are the ones unashamedly running to Jesus, and as a result, rejoicing in healing and wholeness.
On this day in Jericho, while the religious leaders were seeking to trap Jesus, the extremely wealthy, despised chief tax collector scurries ahead of the crowd and climbs a tree for a mere chance to see Jesus as He passes by. But Jesus doesn’t simply pass by. Jesus stops. He stops under the branches of the tree, looks up, and calls him by name.
“Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today,” Jesus says.
The crowd grumbles. How dare this teacher associate with such a disgraceful human being, they mutter among themselves and aloud.
But Zacchaeus is overjoyed. Yes, come to my house! Dinner it is!
We don’t know what was said over that dinner, but we know that Zacchaeus’ life was radically changed as a result of this encounter.
His entire adult life Zacchaeus likely heard from the Jewish religious crowd that he was a sinner, that he needed to repent, that he needed to stop extorting the Jewish people, that he needed to give to the poor. While all of this is true, it had no impact on his life.
But Jesus looking up at him from the bottom of that tree, noticing him, loving him at that moment, insisting He dine at his house, engaging with him…THIS forever changed his life.
“Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” Zacchaeus is a transformed man with renewed priorities.
Love for Jesus is the greatest motivation for change. Far more than legalism, guilt, lectures, or manipulation.
May we not be fooled by what we see. Things aren’t always what they seem indeed. No one is too far gone for Jesus to stop, look up at, engage with, and radically change. In fact, they are the most likely to get His attention. May love be a mighty force for change in our lives and the lives of those we love.
You’ve been planning for this day for years. You knew it was coming. So hard you have worked to do the right thing; to clean things up; to cover all of your past mistakes. You have notebooks full of church attendance records, volunteer hours logged, recommendations from prominent friends, mission trip pictures, service awards, and of course that adorable picture of your sponsored child from Uganda. You could barely lug all of the evidence into the courtroom. In your head, you rehearse the litany of good deeds you wracked your brain to remember while preparing for this day. Sure, you slipped up here and there, but overall, you think the good outweighs the bad. So many people are in much worse shape, you remind yourself.
“What is the basis for your not guilty plea?” You are startled back into reality upon hearing the judge’s voice.
You fumble through the piles of evidence you brought in and slowly, methodically begin making your case. A good, solid case. What feels like hours go by as you submit into evidence everything you could think of. This is your life story.
“I’m sorry,” the judge says. “It’s just not enough. You have done a lot of good in your life, but you are still guilty of much. Condemned!” he announces.
You are escorted to an adjacent seat as the next person in your group shuffles to the bench. You stare at him in amazement. He has nothing with hem. Not one shred of evidence to share with the judge. He is a mess. It doesn’t look like he even brushed his hair for this big day.
“What is the basis for your not guilty plea?” The same question is asked of this man.
“Him,” the man points to the corner of the room. His eyes shift downward as he continues, “I am guilty of so much. But in the name of this holy and righteous man who has already paid my penalty, I plead for mercy.”
You squint to see who he is pointing to. Slowly the man walks forward and into focus. You recognize Him. Jesus.
Jesus walks over to the disheveled man; His hands scared from the penalty He has paid for this man. He wraps His arms around the man’s shoulder. His eyes are glowing. His smile lights of the room. Pure joy.
“Not guilty!” the judge shouts as he bangs his gavel on the desk.
A celebration erupts. You even hear the sound of what sounds like multitudes singing, though you can’t tell where it is coming from. Jesus and the man embrace.
If we approach God with anything other than the righteousness of Jesus, we are condemned as guilty. No amount of righteousness through our own works – even that obtained through prayer, devotion, service, or God’s power working in us – will save us. It is only through Jesus. We stand before God with Jesus alone as the basis for our righteousness.
And because of this amazing grace, we do good while we are here in the earthy kingdom of God awaiting our judgment day. It is an output of our salvation, not an input to earn it.
God, let us never forget that it is Christ alone we want to look to as the justification for our salvation. And thank You for this; for the gift of Jesus, because You knew we could never do it on our own. May we live our lives full of good works as a result of what you have done and will do for us, but never as an attempt to earn righteousness on our own.
“Am I my brother’s keeper?” The first human question recorded in the Bible (Genesis 4:9)
Sin is solely a personal and individual decision.
Or is it?
Eve took the bite of the fruit with Adam standing right next to her. Her partner. Her husband. Why didn’t he stop her? And not only did he not stop her, he grabbed the fruit from Eve’s extended hand and also took a bite.
While we don’t make another persons’ decision for them to sin, our influence is more significant than we may think. And Jesus takes this very seriously. On the heels of the story of the rich man and Lazarus – the finality of judgment and eternity – Jesus is stern about causing another to stumble.
We live in a fallen world. Yes, temptations to sin will surely come, Jesus acknowledges this. But woe to the one through whom they come.
“Pay attention to yourselves!” Jesus says.
Temptations are everywhere; don’t add to it. Don’t make it even harder on others.
Do we encourage those lies? Do we cause another to gossip? Do we drag friends into our sinful endeavors? Do we jump on the comparison and criticizing bandwagon when a friend confides about a disagreement with another? Do we promote books, movies, music that inspire sinful behavior, all tacitly condoning it? Are we a stumbling block to those weaker in certain areas?
Jesus says don’t do it! In fact, He says it would be better to have a huge weight hung around your neck and be cast in the sea (ummm…not fun!) than to be the cause of temptation that leads to a brother or sister in Christ sinning.
“Pay attention to yourselves!” Jesus says.
And this spills into our reaction to fellow Christians sinning. The Pharisees took sin very seriously. They sought it out. And then they shunned, disowned, and even stoned the offender.
Jesus has another plan…to seek repentance and restoration; wholeness. If a brother sins against us and repents, we are to forgive them. Not ask questions, retaliate, seek proof of repentance, or any other condition. We are to forgive. And if they do it again and again and again – even in the same day – Jesus says to forgive them if they repent.
Hard words. So hard the apostles next say to Jesus, “Increase our faith!”
“If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and plated in the sea,’ and it would obey you,” Jesus answers.
Even little faith in a big God is what we need. We don’t need to muster up more faith. We need to have our faith fully planted in the right place.
Mustard seed faith and the power of a BIG God can help us resist temptation, encourage our fellow brothers and sisters to resist as well, and to forgive when everything in us is fighting it.
“Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things which may build up another.” (Romans 14:19)
What if there is something right in front of you that you may be missing? Something that if you miss will leave you not only with sadness and regret, but eternal and excruciating suffering. Would you change course? Would you encourage your loved ones to do the same?
While it is a gift to be given a grace period – time to reflect and change course -- and not always inflicted with immediate consequences for our mistakes (or outright and intentional wrongdoings), it can leave us complacent; with a sense that they aren’t really that big of a deal. It can make us falsely believe those consequences will never come; that we will always have more time.
In the single parable where a character is named, Jesus essentially pleads with us to not get complacent. This is personal.
We are introduced to an unnamed rich man. He lives comfortably. He dresses stylishly. He is never without a good meal. This man isn’t named, but if we are honest, we could be this man. We many not feel rich, but in the view of the world’s population, if we have clothes, meals and a place to live, we are rich. This is personal.
Next, we meet Lazarus. He has nothing. He is ill; covered in sores left unattended over many years of suffering. He is poor, hungry, hoping for mere scraps as he sits at the gates of the rich man’s home. We know this person too. We see him all around us, even when we try to avoid him.
Both men die.
From the torment of hell, the rich man looks up and sees someone standing with Abraham. He looks familiar but different. He looks like the man that was always outside his home. But it couldn’t be. He looks healthy, clean, happy, peaceful. But it’s him; it is Lazarus, the man that constantly begged at the gates of his home.
“Father Abraham, have mercy on me. Send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame,” the rich man desperately cries out.
“Child, remember that you in your lifetime received good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish,” Abraham replies compassionately, but directly.
Perhaps the rich man thinks back to words he heard but never took to heart. Words like…
“Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.” (Proverbs 28:27)… “Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:42) …“For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’” (Deuteronomy 15:11) …“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27)…“Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.” (Proverbs 21:13)… "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20)
The rich man’s thoughts are interrupted as Abraham continues, “And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.”
The rich man is flooded with emotions, his life flashing before his eyes. He missed it. He heard the warnings, but he didn’t HEAR the warnings. “What if…,” he thinks as he trembles with fear and anxiety over the reality of an eternal future in this hell hole.
“Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house – for I have five brothers – so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment,” the rich man pleads. If I can’t save myself, maybe I can save my family, he thinks.
“They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them,” Abraham responds.
“No, father Abraham…,” the rich man cries. He knows he had the same and did nothing to change.
“…but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent,” the rich man continues.
“If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead,” Abraham says. Jesus came from the dead, and still many refuse to believe.
This is a HARD story to read. The reality of an eternity of damnation. The reality of a time when our actions can no longer be reversed.
And we all know that we can’t save ourselves…it is only faith in the work of the blood and resurrection of Jesus. But that doesn’t mean we do nothing. Our faith; our gratitude for the salvation paid for us, should produce good works. There are things we are compelled to do when we recognize what was done freely for us. We can never say we were never told these things.
It isn’t money, riches, resources that save us, but it is these things that are the most likely to trip us up. Let’s not learn our lesson too late. Let’s not try to reach our loved ones too late.
God, I pray that we take Your words to heart and never become complacent in Your grace and mercy. In your power alone, we cry out for help.
The Pharisees and scribes -- doing everything they can to avoid the unclean, sick, sinners -- are up to their usual grumbling about Jesus receiving and eating with just these people. Time for another parable, boys…
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the other ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?”
My first thought? ME! That’s, who! Why would you leave 99 all alone in the open field to search for the one who stubbornly wandered off? It’s a numbers game. Stick with the 99. (Thank goodness God is God, and I am not.)
But Jesus continues, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost. Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
Similarly, Jesus tells of a woman that rejoiced after finding her one lost coin.
Sheep. Coins. Blank stares. “Still not with me?”Jesus may be thinking. Ok, let’s bring it a bit closer to home. He continues with another parable…
A man’s younger son asked for his share of the inheritance, leaves home, and ultimately squanders it all, starving in a pig pen. He longs to go home to his father. He rehearses his speech in his head as begins the long, shameful walk back home. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” Over and over he practices what he will say. He knows it is a long shot. He has brought disgrace on his family. He imagines his father just seething with anger when he learns how badly he had screwed up his life and wasted all his father had given him.
You probably know the story…his father is waiting for him. His father runs to him. His father gives him the best robe, a ring, shoes, and kills the best calf for a feast. His son was dead and is now alive; was lost and now is found. Party time!
But that isn’t the end of the story. Back home the older son is the one seething with anger, refusing to go to the celebration for his brother. To his father, “Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!” Bitter. Entitled. Indignant. He storms off.
The father responds, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours….your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”
We don’t know the joy of being found unless we first know we are lost. The older brother didn’t know how lost he was.
We don’t go to the doctor if we don’t know we are sick. The Pharisees thought they were quite healthy.
This is a recurring theme from Jesus. In Luke 5 Jesus says, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Are the Pharisees righteous because they practically live at the synagogue? Is the older brother righteous because he stayed home and worked for his dad? They certainly think so.
If we think we can earn righteousness, Jesus isn’t for us. Jesus can only save a sinner who knows he is a sinner. This is a big deal.
Do you know you are a sinner? Do you know you need a holy doctor? Do you know you need a Savior? If we don’t know we need Him, we won’t earnestly seek Him.
I teach an 8th grade New Testament class of boys and girls that are in loving, Christian homes. They know the Bible stories. They memorize scripture. They go – even teach – Sunday school. But do they REALLY know they are sinners who need a Savior? Do I? It is a hard thing to grasp as an adult, much less a teen. It is easy to tag along to church, youth group, Bible studies, trying to do the “right” things without ever realizing we are dead in our sins and only Jesus can make us alive. But this is the Gospel.
I pray my kids, my students, my friends, my family, YOU & I recognize how lost and sick we are without Jesus. We are the wandering sheep about to get devoured by a hungry wolf; the lost coin full of value, but useless under the couch; the younger son lavished with priceless gifts squandering away on temporal things; the older son back home working hard to earn favor; the Pharisees going through the religious motions, content in self-righteousness.
God, let us never forget why your Son had to come and die. Thank you that once we recognize how lost and sick we are, you RUN to us. You are there all along WAITING for us. You REJOICE over us. And as the Church – your representatives – help us create an environment welcoming those who are sick, lost, and seeking sinners. Let us not become a country club for the spiritual elite who think they are quite well, but instead a hospital for the lost and sick. May we always follow your example of receiving, eating, worshiping with them, and most importantly pointing them to You.
Self-Promotion for Dummies.
Self-Promotion for Introverts.
Self-Promotion for Women.
Self-Promotion for the Creative Person.
Why Self-Promotion is the Key to Success.
How to Master the Delicate Art of Self-Promotion.
The Art of Tactful Self-Promotion.
How to Self-Promote without being a Jerk.
Some of my favorite titles from a quick ”self-promotion” Amazon search. The world screams at us to promote ourselves. “If you don’t do it, no one else will.” Or, “Success is 1% perspiration and 99% self-promotion.” And, “You need to build a brand; build a following.”
Jesus has a few things to say about self-promotion.
Dining at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, Jesus unassumingly observes the interaction buzzing around him. The vying, the posturing, the subtle and not so subtle strategies. “You see, a great seat can not only reflect social standing but can also create it,” is the unspoken motto they subscribe to.
While the room is still humming with whispers, Jesus begins to speak. Almost immediately the room is silent, all eyes on Him.
Jesus tells some parables related to His observations. One about being a guest, and one about being a host.
To the guests, He tells them not to sit down at a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited, and you will be left in shame to take the only remaining seat – the lowest place. Instead, go and sit in the lowest place. Then the host may say, “Friend, move up higher,” and you will be honored. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” The host makes the seating arrangements.
Ouch. Silence. The host, likely smirking, thinking to himself, ”Whew, not about me at least.”
Jesus turns to the host. And to you, don’t just invite friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. Don’t only associate with people who can advance your personal agenda or give you something in return. Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind…those who can’t repay you. In this, you will be blessed. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.
Humility isn’t a new concept to the Jewish leaders. It is often repeated in their memorized Scriptures. But, “in a world that honors adulation and self-promotion, humility is easy to admire but hard to master.” Indeed.
Why do we so easily jump on board the worldly train when we know better? Just because “everyone else” is doing something doesn’t make it right or necessary. In fact, we are flat out told that we are going to live lives contrary to the culture around us. But yet, we follow. It’s like we just don’t quite believe that God is enough and that our hands and feet doing the work He calls us to do is enough. We just have to boost it a bit; give God a little hand here and there. Make that connection. Sit in that seat. Elevate our name (all for the sake of Jesus, of course, we tell ourselves).
I think of the people I admire the most, starting with Jesus, and they never rely on self-promotion, posturing for seats of honor, or limiting their guest list to those who could elevate their personal status. They are completely confident in the power of God and the mission He has given them. In fact, Jesus even often told people NOT to tell when they had seen His miracles. He kept His eyes up and did His Father’s work. That was enough. Boy, was that ever enough! He waited for God’s timing and God’s elevation of His name.
Bill Johnson says, “Whatever you gain through self-promotion, you’ll have to sustain through self-promotion. When our promotion comes from God, He sustains it.”
God, this is so hard because it is so counter-cultural. Thank you for Your Word that shows us how to live our best lives in You. Give us discernment to know the difference between doing our jobs in the places you have called us and self-promotion. Show us when we are trying to elevate our name instead of Yours. Fill the gaps where we are weak. Let our confidence be in You alone.
(P.S. I’ll be honest, I’m nervous about hitting send on this one. I don’t want to offend anyone. I’ve mentioned before that I have my MBA and I worked in marketing and advertising. I get it. And I know many authors and employees are required to do some promotion. I believe there is a difference in doing our job/working hard and the kind of self-promotion Jesus is talking about. Another reason we have to closely abide in God and feed off of the wisdom and discernment He gives us individually. This is intended to be a self-reflection and not a critique of others. Only God sees our heart. Love y’all!)
“Lord, will those who are saved be few?” a question from the religious crowds. Always concerning themselves with the salvation of others, but rarely looking within.
Jesus flips it back on them. You wonder if there will be few? What about you?
He doesn’t answer the question, but instead gives some advice on how to be saved: “Strive to enter through the narrow door.”
Strive to enter. Strive implies a great deal of agonizing effort. But it is a striving effort toward the narrow door. A door where good works won’t fit; our accomplishments won’t fit; our good looks on the outside won’t fit; our ancestry won’t fit; our possessions won’t fit.
Sin and society put many obstacles and detour signs in front of the narrow gate.
“For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able,” Jesus continues.
If we are following the crowd, we might be running with the “many.” They may be blinding us to the reality of the narrow door. It takes a striving effort to go against the many. Half-hearted isn’t striving.
“Lord, open to us,” they cry, knocking from the outside.
“I do not know where you come from,” Jesus answers.
“We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets,” they plead.
“I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!” Jesus responds.
Oh, they knew who Jesus was. They even ate with Him, listened to Him teach, and likely saw Him heal many. But they didn’t KNOW Jesus. They were part of the “many.” The onlookers. The half-in. The ones who thought they could wait to repent; wait to follow wholeheartedly until it was a bit more convenient.
And while the door is open wide as God eagerly waits for everyone to strive for the narrow door, a time will come when the door is shut. Forever. Many will seek to enter and will not be able.
We strive and strive for all the wrong things. The narrow gate – Jesus alone – is what our striving should be about.
I listened to sermon podcast this weekend, and @jobypmartin essentially said that Jesus doesn't want to just be first on our list; He wants to be the paper we write the list on. He wants to be our foundation on which everything else is written. Then we do these good works in His power and out of gratitude for Him, not as the basis for our misguided striving. He doesn’t want us to prioritize going to church on Sunday (check) and then move to the next thing on the list without another thought about Him. He doesn't want us to tithe (check) and then not consider His kingdom in how we spend the other 90%. He doesn’t want us to wake up early for quiet time (check) and then go about our day without Him. He wants to be a part of it all; the thread of life woven through every word, action, thought, decision.
At judgment day, everyone will know the truth. But it will too late once the door is locked. J.C. Ryle says, “Hell is truth known too late.”
Strive for the narrow door. Strive for the FREE (to you) gift of entrance through the blood of Jesus; for saying, “Yes, Jesus. You are my Savior. You are the Lord of my life. You are the ONLY way, truth, and life. I don’t want to just know about You. I want to know You. I surrender.”
Are you waiting for true repentance and whole-hearted surrender to be a tad more convenient? A day will come when the choice will no longer be available. Drop everything that is keeping you from squeezing through the narrow gate, and with a light load of only the work of Jesus, enter.
Praying for you today, friends. It is easiest not easy thing I know.
“Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” Luke 12:2-3
Oh my! This right here convicted me big time. NOTHING is covered up. NOTHING is hidden. NOTHING stays in the dark. NOTHING remains whispered only in private rooms.
ALL things will be revealed, made known, heard, and even proclaimed on the housetops.
If we are honest, we all have secrets. Some may even be pressed so deep within us that we think they are forever concealed.
There are some things we only do in the “dark”. Whispers, untruths, unkind thoughts, hidden desires, impure motives, rebellious attitudes toward someone or something. Some things we do in the dark because we want to do them, and some things we don’t even want to do…they have a hold on us.
Even Paul declared, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” Romans 7:19-20
But God knows and sees everything. Nothing is hidden from Him. Not our actions in the dark, or even our thoughts.
And you know what else? That thing that was done to you that no one knows about…God knows. It isn’t hidden. That person that seems to have gotten away with it…God knows. It isn’t in the dark.
These two verses follow Jesus telling His disciples, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” Trying to conceal sin really is the essence of hypocrisy. So not only are we rotting in a sin we are trying to dismiss or keep in the dark, but we are piling hypocrisy on top of it…the thing Jesus condemns more than anything else. It is the leaven; the thing that seems small and insignificant, but spreads and radically changes the entire composition.
As hard as it may be, we need to bring some things to the light and then send them on their way. We need to acknowledge what God already knows with a truly repentant heart, asking for His power to turn and never look back.
We don’t have to feel condemned or hopeless as we step out of the dark places. He is patiently waiting for us. He already knows, and He has already paid for it with the blood of His Son. He already knows, and He loves us so much.
One of my often repeated prayers is for God to give me clean hands and a pure heart from Psalm 24:3-4… ”Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.”
Praying for clean hands and pure heart for all of us today, and for courage to bring anything hidden out in the light.
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