Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Clothes and Buildings (Mark 7)

Jesus was attending church in a local fellowship and some of the members noticed that his students were dressed in filthy clothes, and that some of them smelled.  (It is a tradition in many churches to dress up to worship and there are in some fellowships even an unspoken competition between people as to who could look the sharpest for Sunday worship.)  So the members asked Jesus, "Why do your students dress in such a lowly way?  It is disrespectful to God to not dress our best."

Jesus replied, "Isaiah truly spoke of you: 'This people respects me with their lips, but their desire is distant from me. Their worship of me is pointless and they hold human tradition to be doctrine." You have so many of your own rules, but you ignore the command of God.

"How often you avoid doing God's will for the sake of your traditions. The command of God is: 'Sell your possessions and give to the poor.'  Yet you tell your people that they must increase their giving to build your new buildings and to increase your staff's salaries.  Their wealth is dedicated to 'God's work' and thus God's people suffer. You erase God's word by your tradition, always putting your desires ahead of Gods'.

-Mark 7:1-13

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sacrificing for Others Like Jesus

Jesus’ Life

Mark 10:35-45

 Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant;
and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.
 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." 

Jesus’ was heading for the cross.  But he was not doing it for himself.  He was doing it out of obedience to God for the sake of the many who would be able to enter the kingdom of God because of his death.  Because so many were in sin and he needed to deliver them out of judgment.  He was paying the ultimate price—his life, his reputation—for the sake of others’ who could never relate to God without his sacrifice.

Luke 9:57-58

Someone said to Him, "I will follow You wherever You go."
And Jesus said to him, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." 

During Jesus’ life, he had to give the gospel to as many people as he could, in as many towns and villages as he could (Mark 1:38).  He did this so they could hear God’s truth and be able to be free from their sin.  But to do this, Jesus had to give up comforts and a “normal” life.  He was homeless much of the time and at other times he was in other’s homes, dependant on them.  He never made a salary, never had the security of an occupation that would provide for him, and he often didn’t know where his next meal would come from.  Nevertheless, it was a small price to pay so he could give people the life they needed.

Our Lives

Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Jesus loved us—he desires our benefit.  And he gave himself for us—he died so that we might live.  Even so, we are to be Christ, and our lives are to be the life of Jesus.  In this way, we are to love others and give ourselves up for others’.  We are no longer to live for ourselves or our purposes—rather, we are to live for others’.

Philippians 2:3-8

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus..."

Jesus’ gave up his power, his reputation and his life for our sakes.  He did not promote himself, but sacrificed himself for others’.  Even so, we are to be like Jesus—we are to live our lives, not for our own sakes, but for the sakes of others’.  We are to act as if we are slaves to others’, acting in their benefit, even when it hurts us.

Colossians 1:24

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions. 

Paul says here that Jesus’ work on the cross isn’t finished.  It isn’t complete, but it is waiting to be completed by his people.  There are still people who are suffering, still people who are living in their sin, still people who are separated from God.  And even as Jesus sacrificed himself for them, even so Jesus’ people are to sacrifice themselves for those who need to be released from sin and bondage.

I Corinthians 9:11-19

If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ.

Paul gave up much—a livelihood, being his own person, comfort, education and an exalted position—so he could give the gospel to others without any block, anything to hinder it.  He made himself a slave to others, working and serving so that he can give.  He suffered much persecution and hardship, all so that others might live. 


John Wycliffe was a theology professor at Oxford, but he was convinced that God wanted the common person to know and be able to speak about the Bible—in English, not in Latin.  Although he faced the disapproval of his school, he began to teach the common people in their own language.  Eventually, because of this, he was not allowed to teach and his books were burned.

William Tyndale was a scholar in Greek and Hebrew and determined that the common person needed to read the Bible in their own language.  He had to leave his country and hide from house to house until his translation was done.  After it was published, the king of England caught him and killed him as a rebel for his translation work.

Jim Elliot believed firmly that the Acua Indians needed to hear the gospel of Jesus.  The fact that these Indians were cold-blooded killers, didn’t cause him to hesitate—that just meant that they needed the gospel more.  He reached out to them in love, and they killed him.  A couple years later, his wife, Elizabeth, successfully was able to present the gospel to the tribe and many of them accepted Jesus as their Lord.

Living It Out

Caring for others

We need to see people’s need—their need for the truth, their need for food, clothing and warmth, their need to be released from oppression—and act in accordance with those needs.  If we do not have compassion for others’ we will never be like Jesus.

Laying down our lives for others

It is not enough that we feel for others’ needs and even give toward them.  We must do so as slaves to them, working for them, even to our own detriment.  We will not have our needs, at times, in order that others’ may have what they need. 

Giving up comfort so others can live

The first thing we will need to give up for others is our comfort.  There are things we don’t need, but are nice for us to have—many of these we will have to give up in order that other’s might live.  We surrender what we do not need so others’ may live. 

Teaching those who won’t listen

If we know the truth of Jesus, we must give it to others’ even if we receive a poor reception.  We do what we can to make sure that others’ will listen, but often we will be rejected anyway.  Even so, we cannot judge ahead of time who will listen and who will not and we must give everyone the opportunity.

Praying for the needy

So that others can receive from God, we spend time doing the hard work of prayer.  The work is hard because we must pray according to God’s will and we must pray in accordance with others’ need.  To find this balance is the difficult but necessary work of mediation.

Connecting with those who won’t contact us

Most people don’t want to have anything to do with us.  It doesn’t matter who we are, or how nice we are, most people don’t care about us and will want to just ignore us.  But if we have something to say to them that will mean life or death to them, we will need to go out of our way to contact them.  This may mean phoning those who won’t phone us.  Going to people who won’t come to us.  And talking to people who won’t talk to us.

Giving up regular means of income

Although many complain about it, there is an ease and security in having a job.  It is depending on an employer to provide you what you need.  Having a government check is the same—it is security, reliance on the government to give you what you need.  For the sake of the gospel, we may be asked to give some of that up, to surrender some of our regular income so that we might give to others’ what they really need.  With every regular means of income, there are requirements of time, energy and certain rules you must follow—such as not speaking about the Lord to others.  At times, we must surrender what we have in order to obey the Lord and do what shows our love for others.

Putting ourselves as lower than others

We cannot give the gospel as one who is greater than the one we are giving to.  We need to be lower than those we give to, we need to be a slave to them. 

Working for others we cannot see

When Jesus died, he knew that there were many he was dying for that he could not see.  Even so, often we will suffer and work for people we cannot see.  The work we do now is not only for those we see and know, but also for those whom we cannot see and perhaps will never know.  The Lord will use our lives to the limit and we will effect people we know nothing about today.