Posts Tagged ‘gospel’

Luke 20:20-26 — Have you, as a guy, ever been asked this question by your wife or girlfriend, “Does this dress make me look fat?” This question is the killer of all husband/boyfriend questions. There is no right answer to this question. Run. Run away! It is almost as bad as “Do you think she is pretty?” Run, boy, run. Most of us men are simple. We just want food, clothing, shelter, and sex. All of the other things in life are just window dressing, what has to be done to make women happy. For men, if the basic needs of life are met, life is good. These types of no-win questions leave us in stunned, fumbling silence. Uh, well, ummm is the usual response. I only mention the glorious differences between men and women that make the world go round here because the no-win question plays a role in our Scripture lesson this morning.

Another example would be from the fictional series, Star Trek. The Kobayashi Maru test. It is a no-win scenario.The notional primary goal of the exercise is to rescue the civilian vessel Kobayashi Maru in a simulated battle with the Klingons. The disabled ship is located in the Klingon Neutral Zone, and any Starfleet ship entering the zone would cause an interstellar incident. The approaching cadet crew must decide whether to attempt rescue of the Kobayashi Maru crew – endangering their own ship and lives – or leave the Kobayashi Maru to certain destruction and avoid an incident that could cause all-out war with the Klingons. No win scenario.

The temple leaders try to put Jesus in the position of husbands everywhere with the Do I Look Fat In This Dress scenario or the dread of star fleet officer cadets everywhere with the Kobayashi Maru scenario. The no win scenario. First, they flatter Him with compliments about his teaching and then they lower the boom. They ask him the apparently no-win scenario question. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Whoa, tough question. If Jesus agrees that Roman taxation is right, then perhaps they can turn public opinion against Jesus with the same vehemence with which tax collectors are hated. But if, as they suspect, Jesus secretly despises the Romans’ right to occupy Israel and place burdensome taxes on its citizens, perhaps they can get him to say something that can be construed as rebellion against Rome. Perhaps they can paint Jesus as a Zealot, one who fights to free Israel from Roman domination. It is a trick question, all right!

As in the tale of the USS Enterprise crew, where Captain Kirk redesigned the program of the no-win situation to come out the Kobayashi Maru test as a winner, Jesus gives the most amazing answer. His answer silenced the leaders. They could not use what He said against them. It was brilliant. Render unto Caesar what is Caesars and render unto God what is God’s. The unimpeachable answer is given. But what does it mean for us today. What does it mean for our lives today that we can put into practice in our daily lives.

Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and render unto God what is God’s. There are so many things to say about this one statement. First, we have a duty to support our governments because they have been placed over us for a reason. In Jesus’ day, Israel had become a conquered nation because man-made designs but because Israel was paying the consequences of becoming a godless nation. Under David and Solomon the nation had become mighty and strong. They had become self-centered and self-indulgent and had pushed God aside. He allowed their self-indulgence to make them weak and they became conquered by successive empires of Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece and now Rome. God created the idea of government to organize people. He condones the idea of government. We have a legitimate obligation to both God and the government. Government serves as an organizing point to society and we have an obligation to support it. God is a God of order and not of disorder. His Word is consistent and true and non-contradictory. It is simply part of His character. Government then is God condoned as a way to establish an orderly society.

The point here to remember is that the two, Caesar and God, are not necessarily always at odds with each other. If our government is run by Christ followers and those seeking to do what is morally and spirtually right, then we have as our duty to support that. We should support our government when its ways are reflective of God’s way. We were not born to live in disorder so when our governments are seeking to reflect the character of God by its actions (whether the leaders are saved or not) then we have an obligation to support it. It is only when our government is at opposition with the character of God that we must place our duty to God over our duty to government.

In nations where there is no democracy that may mean to work passionately, compassionately, and diligently to change the ruling government through its replacement or through changing it from the inside out. In nations where there is a democratically elected government, we must seek out at the ballot box to change the government’s path by voting en masse for those whose candidacies appear most to reflect the character of God. What it does not entitle us to do is to withdraw from government and complain about the direction it is heading. What it does is to call us to action when our government becomes godless. We must wage war at the ballot box. 82% of Americans claim to be Christian. However, only 48% of all eligible American voters participate in elections. Therefore, a lot of Christians stay home on election day. How can we claim that our government is out of control and is less than godly when we do not participate in the process. Why do we complain that there are no godly candidates out there when we do not run for office. People will elect from the choices that they have. When they do not have Christ-like choices, we get godless governments.

Jesus avoided the no-win scenario, because, well, He is God and as a result He is kind of a good debater! LOL. In his answer, he says that He is not a rebel intent on destroying Rome but He did not jump into Rome’s lap either by what He said. He is saying you decide. Look at your government. Is it aligned with God’s character. Then we have an obligation to support it if it is. If your government is one that has become the antithesis of God’s character, then we must always stick with God. If we see the current state of affairs in our government as in opposition to God’s Word such as in matters of marriage, abortion, welfare, etc., we must rise up at the ballot box. We must rise up and run for office. We must change the government instead of watching it slide down the slope. Much deeper than that, we must no longer be closet Christians. We must be out in the world sharing the gospel daily to a nation that needs to know Him. A godless government is a reflection of its people in a democratic society. We must not be content to keep the gospel to ourselves. We must share it. We must live lives that draw others unto Him. We must tell the story of Jesus so that others will come to know Him as Savior. With each person that comes to Christ our nation begins to more reflect the character of God. When our nation reflects the character of God, our government eventually will too.

Luke 4:42-44 — CLEMSON CAROLINA GAME THIS SATURDAY! Now that I have your attention….This passage is about priorities. The worst thing that can happen to us in life is realize at our deathbed that we had wasted time, that we had not made use of the time that we had on this earth. It reminds us that we need to get our priorities straight.

In this week of the Clemson-Carolina rivalry game, this passage is a great reminder that we must keep things in the right perspective. I will tell you I am a passionate fan of the Clemson Tigers. My mood on Saturdays is affected by whether my Tigers win or lose. But we must remember to keep it in perspective. It’s just a game. At the end of the day, it is not the most important thing that will happen Saturday. For me, this year, God is teaching me just that, two of my dearest friends in the world watched their mother (and mother in law) pass into eternity on Wednesday evening. The funeral is on Saturday at 2pm, right in the middle of the Clemson-Carolina game. However, to me, there is no question that I am going to miss the game to be at this funeral of the mother/mother-in-law of two of the original charter members of my life group. They are more dear to me than Clemson football. These two people deserve my respect. They have served their mother who has been bedridden for two years. They have been there with almost round the clock these past two years. Outside of church, CR, work, and their son, their mother has been their vigil. I will not disrespect them over what ultimately is just a game. Clemson-Carolina does not feed people. Clemson-Carolina does not solve social injustice. Clemson-Carolina does not end sex slave trafficking in India. Clemson-Carolina does not solve immigration issues. It changes nothing. To make the game a priority in my life is just wrong when it is compared to the suffering and pain at losing a loved one and the end of a long road of suffering for their mother. Being there when friends need you matters. Honoring commitments matter. Setting an example matters. Setting an example to my wife and girls what my priorities are and should be are what matters. Fighting the fights that need fighting in life are what matters. We fight for things that matter in life not wasting time on things that don’t. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Tigers, but their priority in my life must, must be kept in proper perspective. My priorities in life should start with things of eternal value and go down in priority from there.

This idea is of priorities is exactly what this passage is about. Jesus had his priorities and he executed them in exactly the order that His priorities were throughout His ministry. The first thing that we notice in this passage is that Jesus departed from Peter’s house and went to a desolate place. This shows us the number one priority of Jesus in His function as the Son of God on earth. His first and foremost priority was not healing. It was not preaching. His first and foremost priority was his relationship with the Father. Jesus was constantly sneaking off to be alone with the Father in prayer. We see it throughout His ministry. We see it right up to the last minute of freedom in His life before He was arrested by the temple guards. Jesus constantly in prayer. Jesus was always seeking to do the Father’s will for Him. This should be our priority. Seeking things of eternal value. Seeking God’s will for our lives. Having a deep abiding relationship with the Father should be our top priority. When we are like David, after God’s own heart, we begin to focus on things that really matter. We begin to seek to do things that are in the Father’s will. Clemson-Carolina gets put in its proper place – entertainment. Having a proper relationship with God the Father is, should be, and always will be the most important priority in our lives. If we do not get that one thing right, everything else falls part. Think about it. Our lives were a mess before we met Jesus Christ. When we are not seeking God’s will for our lives first and foremost, everything else is all out of what. When we do not put God first, everything is a deck of cards that falls apart at the slightest breeze. Jesus had his priorities straight. So should we.

The second priority of Jesus’ life AFTER His relationship with the Father was preaching the Good News. He said I MUST preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well for I was sent for this purpose. Jesus was sent to preach and teach and instruct people on the kingdom of God and about how seeking the Father’s will is what our life is supposed to be about. He came to tell us that ritual and legalism are not the way to the Father. He came to preach to the world that it was through Him that we have eternal life. Shouldn’t this be our priority as well? Shouldn’t our first priority be to share what God has done in our lives through Jesus Christ with others. Jesus came to proclaim to the world what it takes to enter the Kingdom. It is not Carolina-Clemson. I know that in the South, college football is like religion. Many people make it the most important thing in life. They end friendships over some disrespect that a fan of a rival school may have made to your school. We get fired up over this stuff at times. We sit and yell and scream to the top of our lungs for our favorite college team. We get to the point of wanting to fight others over our favorite college team. We don’t speak to family members for years over some disrespect they have shown to Clemson or Carolina. What if we had these same passions over eternal things? What if we expressed our praise in church in the same fashion as we do at Clemson or Carolina games? What if we invested in identifying ourselves as Christians as much as we spend on Clemson or Carolina attire? What if we shared the gospel with the same fashion as we have for Clemson or Carolina? Sharing the Good News was what Jesus said He MUST do. Other things in life are preferences. Sharing the gospel is a priority. It is a must do. May we have Clemson-Carolina passion for that! May we have Clemson-Carolina passion for seeing life change in others by telling them about what Jesus did in ours! Jesus had an intense laser focus on His ministry. He was solely focused on teaching people about what God expects of us, about how God loves each and every one of us, about how He was sent by the Father to make us right with God. Nothing was to deter Him from that. Everything else was secondary. If his was Jesus’ second priority, don’t you think it should be ours too?

Clemson-Carolina or being there for friends when they are in need, honoring a friendship, standing up for things that matter. Jesus had His priorities straight. Relationship with the Father in Heaven was His first priority. That should be our first priority too. Sharing the gospel with others, that was Jesus second priority. That should be our second priority too. Things of eternal value were of top priority to Jesus. Certainly, I am not downplaying sports and those who excel at them. I tell people kiddingly that football is life. Football teaches us many valuable, eternal lessons in life when participate in it. There are values that I learned playing football that are of great value to me today. These lessons though are not about temporary wins and losses. The lessons that I carry with me from football are the eternal ones. Being part of a team working toward a greater goal, understanding my role in achieving that greater team goal, picking yourself up from utter defeat and moving on, realizing that we are not all talented in the same way and being ok with that, developing relationships that last, forgiving others for their failures, having them forgive me for mine, and for fans it teaches us about loyalty through thick and thin and not abandoning ship when things get tough. All of these things have eternal value. Even if we are football players we can honor God by the way we play the game. As fans, we can take this loyalty thing into our lives and use it like in our marriages – being loyal through thick and thin even when times are hard and so on. We must though realize that regardless of what the game teaches us, the game is game meant to entertain. It is not religion. It is not reason to end relationships. It is not reason to fight with your neighbor. It is not reason to humiliate. The game itself though teaching eternal lessons to participants and fans alike has no eternal value. That prior to the current streak of five wins by Carolina, Clemson won 24 of 32 in the 32 years prior matters not in eternity. What matters in eternity is our relationship with our Father in Heaven through Jesus Christ. What matters in eternity is sharing the gospel with others. What matters in eternity is my soul, your soul and the souls of others. When we arrive in heaven, there will be Clemson and Carolina fans there from the centuries. It will matter not to us then, we will just be glad to be in heaven together, celebrating our Savior all the day long. This is what I want the story of my life to be. I want it to be said I was a Christian first. I want it to be said that I was a good husband. I want it to be said that I was good father. I want it to said that I was a good friend. Then way down the line after that, low on the scale, that I was a Clemson fan. I want it to be said that I had my priorities straight. That is one of the reasons that I will gladly be sitting a memorial service on Saturday afternoon right during the Clemson-Carolina game. Jesus set the example of having our eternal priorities first. Everything else is secondary.

Romans 12:16 — “Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!” There is so much discord in the world, among nations, within nations, and in our homes. Pride can destroy. Harmony and humility go hand in hand.

How do we live in harmony with each other? It requires that we exchange pride for humility. Discord in life comes from competing pride. Your pride vs. my pride. My way vs. your way. In order to live in harmony with one another, I must consider your feelings and desires as equal to mine. You must consider my feelings and desires as equal to yours. That’s easier said than done, Paul! I want what I want and I want it now. I am right and you are wrong. Selfish desires are the American way. Our economy is built on pursuing our own self-interest. The whole theory of capitalism is built on competing self-interest. Adam Smith, the 18th century economist, established this very theory as the basis of capitalism. He stated that competing self-interests would bring prosperity. Competition is the hallmark of our lifestyle. Because of our self-interests, our economy has become the most powerful in the world and any nation that aspires to reach the pinnacle of economic development that we have must unleash capitalistic attitudes. So, Paul’s comments seem completely opposite of human nature. Harmony sounds like communism to us. Paul is not calling us to communism, but he is calling us to humility. We must turn our American dream ideals on their head. The American dream is all about me. It’s a me-me-me mentality. It fits in with our nature. Look out for number one. Have pride in yourself. We pick and choose our friends based on what they can do for us. We discard them when they do not. Paul calls us to humility and to love another. When we have humility, we can see others as just as valuable as we are. That is what God intended for us. We are all created in His image. Each of us has value. Should we not take advantage of the talents that God gave us. Certainly, using the talents that God gave us is why He gave them to us. However, we should not use our talents to crush and destroy others. We should use our talents daily as a way to glorify God and to lift others up rather than destroy them.

How do we enjoy the company of ordinary people? First, we do not consider them ordinary. Jesus demonstrated that everyone has value. He cared for those whom society had discarded. He did not choose who He touched based on what political advantage they could give Him. Same with us. When we serve others less fortunate than us, we should accord them the same dignity as we would folks that could be of great advantage to us. For example, if you serve in a soup kitchen, let us not walk away from it as prideful that we are better than those people. Soup kitchens are filled with people who sometimes by mistakes they have made are there. Sometimes they are there because of no fault of their own. Circumstances beyond their control may have brought them there. Do we serve them to boost our own ego or do we do it because we truly care about them. Are you moved to help them or do you do it to check off a box in your self-image about doing good so others see you doing good. Each of us is a child of God with a right to exist. None of us is better than the other. When we die, they put each of our bodies in a box. You can’t take your social standing into eternity. You can’t take your big fine house into eternity. Rich and poor alike meet death and must deal with the judgment of our maker as to whether we accepted or rejected Jesus Christ. Do you feel uncomfortable with people of less social stature than you? It is all pride and vanity. The bum on the side of the road is just as much a child of God as we are. We do not know everyone’s story from their outward appearances. Each of us no matter their social stature is deserving of our respect and are deserving of God’s love and are deserving of receiving the gospel. Who are we to judge? It takes humility to see others as equals regardless of the trappings of this life. The trappings of this life do not matter in eternity. Help us to be the kind of people that judge others by the content of their character, as Martin Luther King said, not by the color of their skin or any other segregating prideful mechanism we may use. All are welcome in God’s kingdom. The only segregator that God uses on judgment day is whether we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior or not.

How do we go about thinking that we don’t know it all? Humility. Humility. It’s all about humility. When we think we know it all. It is again a matter of pride. When we think we have all the answers, it says that we think we have arrived. We have made ourselves god. Pride is fertile soil for sin. When we think we know it all, we think that everything we do is right. We fall prey to our own pride. We rationalize our behavior away and slowly anything becomes fair game. Sin awaits. Discord awaits. When we realize that we do not know it all is the beginning of humility. When we realize that there are others more talented than us is the beginning of humility. When we realize that we do not have the answers is when God can work on us. When we realize that we have so much to learn is when God can really use us. An humble heart is putty in God’s hands. When we stop trying to rule our own world and tear others down when they expose our weaknesses is when we realize that we are not greater than we are. It is when we realize that we have need of something greater than ourselves. It is when we realize that we will never be God for He is God alone. He is above and beyond us. When we realize that we are not god, God can begin to mold us and use us for the purpose He intended for our lives. For the Christ follower, the most freeing moment in our life history is when we realize that we are not god and that He is. Let go and let God. When we humble ourselves to realize we are not our own god, it is the beginning of humility. When we realize that we are not god, we can see others as just as deserving of God’s grace as we are. When we realize that we are not god, everyone is deserving of love and respect. When we realize that we are sinners and are not perfect, we begin to give others some slack for not being perfect. When we realize that if it were not for the grace of Jesus Christ, we would be destined for hell, it takes our pride away. Humility begins. Love begins. Harmony begins.

Father, thank you for today’s meditation of a single verse of Scripture that says so much. Help me Father to love others because you love them. Help me to seek humility and not pride. Help me to see every fellow human being as deserving of being here. Help me to see everyone as equally deserving of dignity and respect. Help me to see them as your children. Help me to see them as deserving of hearing your gospel. Help me to see every person through the eyes that you see them with. Amen.