Monday, December 18, 2006

Does God say "Rebuke Those Sinners"?


Today is a study on calling out other's sins... so many Christians insist that we are told to point out the errors of others...


Yeah... um... not exactly.

John 4:4-9
Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?" (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Here we have Jesus speaking with someone the Jews would normally avoid. Not only that, the woman had gone to the well at the sixth hour... alone. Drawing water was a social time back in those days, and all the women and young children would usually gather together earlier in the day, as was custom. This woman was obviously being shunned by the other women in her village. Yet, Jesus, a Jew, was asking a Samaritan for a drink of water. It's interesting to note that during that period of time, Jews did not even share vessels or dishes with Samaritans. It was simply a social no-no!

John 4:10-12
Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."

"Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?"

The Samaritan women is being a little snippy here, if not a little flirty... teasing Jesus, a Jew, about his lack of basket or bucket. She even chides him, asking if he is greater than Jacob of the OT.

John 4:13-14
Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

This is intriguing! Jesus is speaking of Salvation... eternal life through him. He is offering a sinner grace and it peaks her curiosity enough that she replies:

John 4:15
The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water."

Now Jesus plays a little hard ball with her. (John 4:16) He told her, "Go, call your husband and come back."

And she responds (John 4:17a) "I have no husband," she replied.

John 4:17b-18
Jesus said to her, "You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true."

Jesus has just pointed her sin. He did not point it out by citing passages from the Talmud that speak about marriage or prostitution. He didn't call her an outright sinner. He merely told her what she had done. The woman is amazed by this! He is a prophet?!

John 4:19-24
"Sir," the woman said, "I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem."

Jesus declared, "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

Jesus does several things in that passage. The first thing he does is something he doesn't do. He doesn't harp on her sin. He placed conviction in her heart prior to his statement, and he allowed God to open her eyes. He does not continue to damn or judge her. Instead, he starts talking about the changes God has in store for humanity. He begins teaching her... not preaching at her... about the kind of worshipers that God is seeking. He speaks of spiritual matters. He knows that this woman has been shunned and damned by the people in the village. He knows how rough her life has been because of her sin. He doesn't want to cast her aside like they do. Instead, he wants her to know that God has plans in store. How beautiful is that message? Is it one we share with the sinners we meet in our own life?

John 4:25-26
The woman said, "I know that Messiah" (called Christ) "is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us."

Then Jesus declared, "I who speak to you am he."

His message of hope... a message of God's plans... opens her eyes to the Truth of who Jesus is. It is the perfect example of how a message of compassion and mercy can move a heart to see God. She is open to the message of Salvation... of eternal life. But...

John 4:27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, "What do you want?" or "Why are you talking with her?"

Hello... what happens? A group of Christ's followers approach and see that he is talking with a disgusting little Samaritan slut. Tsk! TRAMP! They don't say anything, but their looks must have been obvious as the bible records them as 'surprised to find him talking with a woman.'

John 4:28-30 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?" They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

Let's look at this one clearly. As I said, the woman was shunned. She was at the well alone, long after the normal period of the day when people gathered at the well. She was a social outcast because of her 'sleeping around'. Yet, there she was, crying out to everyone in her village to come meet the man who told her everything she ever did. Some villagers may have scoffed, and others may have wondered... but, the truth is, they left the village and made their way towards Christ, just because the woman ran back there all excited about Jesus.

John 3:31-39
Meanwhile his disciples urged him, "Rabbi, eat something."

But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about."

Then his disciples said to each other, "Could someone have brought him food?"

"My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying 'One sows and another reaps' is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor."

Jesus is speaking very clearly, although at first glance it may seem like he's just talking about food. He is actually urging his followers to look at the people, not a field. The sower sets the seeds in place, and the reaper harvests the grown wheat. He tells his disciples that he has sent them to harvest what they didn't plant. How many times have we convicted a sinner without knowing their past? How many times has God sent someone to plant the seed, and we have attempted to claim the glory for the finished work? God has planted many seeds, and those seeds have grown and become ripe. Why is this lesson in this passage? Let's look at what happened next. And remember, Jesus planted a seed by speaking to the woman at the well...

John 4:39-42
Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I ever did." So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.

They said to the woman, "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world."

The woman brought her village back to Christ, and because of that, more seeds were planted. She didn't run back to her village, break off her relationship immediately with her man, atone and cleanse herself. Nope. She was too excited! Instead, she ran back and said 'I am a sinner, and God has offered me eternal life!' The village came before Christ, listened to him, and urged him to stay with them for 2 days. They at first believed just because of what the woman said... she planted a seed!... but then they no longer believed it just because she said it, because they grew in their own spiritual walk through Jesus himself.

What does this story teach us?
First of all, it teaches us that we are not Christ... but we should try to reflect him. He gives us the formula for planting a seed. He does not launch into an instant 'DAMN YOU SINNER', but takes the time to speak with the woman as a human being. He then calmly points out her sin, but doesn't dwell on it. Instead, he talks to her about God.

Second, the woman runs to her village to lead people to Christ. She knows she has done sin, and knows she is shunned, yet Jesus mercy and kindness is so overwhelming that she puts aside all her fears and talks to the very people who shunned her so cruelly!

Third, Christ teaches us that we don't own the whole 'salvation' market. God sends many people to plant seeds. Just because we think someone can be harvested several months... or years... from now doesn't mean that we can claim glory for all the hard work. Further, we can't get so caught up in our own desire to 'convert someone' that we are blind to the fact that God may have planted a seed in that person, and made them a sower. What if the Disciples had condemned the woman for being a Samaritan? What if they had damned her for being a 'sinner' or an outcast? Do you think she would have run to her village with a heart on fire for the Lord? Do you think she would have planted seeds on her own? Had they damned her, she would have taken her water jar and left, and kept her mouth quiet, because her heart was hardened towards God. ALWAYS remember this lesson when you speak to people you assume are unforgiven sinners! The woman hadn't had time to change her ways, and God used her to sow seeds. Humbling, isn't it?

The final lesson is that she, a sinner, lead people to Christ. At first, they believed her only because of her passion. Once they came to know Jesus, they believed in him because of their own time with him. This is how hearts are turned to God.

We can not be Christ. We can not save anyone. We can gently correct, but before we correct, we have to take the time to talk to that person with respect and a little kindness. Once they express interest, we can gently tell them about an error... if God so opens our eyes to it... but we should never dwell on their sins. Don't you know that the world has already cast them aside because of sin? Don't you understand that your job is not to kill the soul, but to either plant the seed or help it grow? Everyone shuns... but hearts are moved when a message of promise is given. And so, we must be like the woman at the well. We must go out and share about Christ, speaking from our own personal experience. We can lead others to Christ when they see the transformation he does in us.

Second Timothy 3:16-17 states:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Please note... those two verses must always be read as one. Scripture is used to reach, rebuke, correct and train in righteousness... God's righteousness... so that you can have a righteous heart when you go out to spread the Gospels. Scripture is meant as a personal teaching aide to keep us on the correct path. Jesus did not use Scripture to teach the woman at the well. He spoke to her freely, sharing mercy and the promise of Salvation.

A person is not a 'man of God' until that person has the seed planted. They can spend years in their newfound Christian walk learning about God's plans and will. As they grow in Christ, they begin to learn the lessons from Scripture... lessons meant to help them become righteous (not self-righteous). Ripping scriptures out of the bible and using them in an attempt to teach, rebuke, correct or train someone... before a seed is planted in that person... is just like a harvester coming along and trying to harvest an empty field. As you wave the scythe about, you scare off the sowers and the ground trampled beneath your feet becomes too hard for a seed to be sown. You do nothing but condemn a field to remain fallow.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Beatitudes, our instructions from Jesus Christ


The Beatitudes

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What is a beatitude? Of course, it is a word easily associated with any of the declarations made in the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5:3-11, beginning with "Blessed are". But, it is also a state of utmost bliss (Latin, beatitudo.) When Jesus spoke these beatitudes, he was giving us the instructions for living in a state of utmost bliss, or peace. Many people can point to these verses and say 'I'm so there.' Unfortunately, they often miss the mark on the principles behind these wonderful verses.

What does it mean to be 'poor in spirit'? It doesn't mean lacking spirituality, or even downtrodden.... nothing negative Poor in spirit means humble. The humble shall enter the kingdom of heaven. Humility is the very first thing Christ speaks of, with good reason! Not all who cry out 'Lord, Lord' will be heard. It takes a humble heart to put one's self last and God first. It takes a humble nature to speak the words of the Lord without sounding self-righteous or patronizing. To be humble is to be neither proud or haughty, not arrogant or assertive. A state of humbleness is a state of being where the person puts other people first, puts themselves in another person's shoes, and tries to have compassion for others. It is speaking to someone in a way that will not insult or be viewed as aggressive for the sole purpose of proving a point. The self-righteous say "you are a sinner! Repent!", while the humble says "We are all sinners, but God gives us Salvation."

Jesus says "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." There is no shame in mourning. To mourn is to show grief or sorrow. It does not have to be a display of grief usually seen at funerals. We can mourn the loss of a friendship. We can mourn that a person we love is going astray. We can mourn for just about anything... a humble person, who has compassion for those around them, is capable of feeling another's sorrow. When a Christian mourns, they often turn to prayer. And, through prayer, we do find comfort. Mourning is a sign of compassion.

"Blessed are the meek," Jesus continues, "For they will inherit the earth." Being meek is not the same as being humble! Meekness, although seen in modern times as a negative thing, is actually a very strong quality. Yes, it does mean to be without strength or violence, and it also means lacking courage. When Jesus used it, it was defining positive quality: enduring injury with patience and without resentment! Christ is urging us to endure things. To suck it up, and let it go. To take the abuse, threats, insults, and animosity... and then to let the feelings of bitterness and anger slip through our fingers like sand. Many people will hurt us in our lifetimes, but we can not hold a grudge against every person who harms us. Resentment eats away at us, holding us back from happiness. Once we turn over a new page and do away with resentment, we can inherit the bounty of the earth. For example, to be meek is to be someone who endures harassment in chat, and then forgives quietly, so that the next day, old bitterness is not brought up again (ps to that... using the ignore feature is not a sign of lacking courage... it is keeping yourself meek and humble, so that you are not tempted to throw aside the first three beatitudes and embark on a campaign of vengeance against those who hurt you.)

Jesus says "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." Please note: it does not say self-righteousness, or blessed are the righteous. The righteousness we hunger for is not of this world. It is the hunger for God's righteousness. It is the desire to walk in that righteousness in our personal lives. It is not bringing God's righteousness to others, because we are, after all, human beings and not God. When we seek God's righteousness, we tend to live a life that is spiritually uplifting and positive. In return, God gives us spiritual wisdom and strength. We become a light of Christ at this point, having adopted these first few beatitudes in our daily living.

Jesus knew that living a good life would not be easy. He went on to say "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." Sometimes we forget ourselves... we begin to think of ourselves as perfect people, and we forget that we are still, in the end, just humble sinners who have turned to God for Salvation. We are no better than anyone else... because we are human and prone to making mistakes. So, Jesus adds the "be merciful" at this point. We should always show others mercy. It ties in with being humble, and being meek. Showing mercy is not simply sparing someone from your sword tip. Showing mercy is showing compassion towards someone who offends you. It is also showing compassion to those in distress.

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." How do we become pure in heart? The word pure means 'unmixed with any other matter'. If we allow God to rule our hearts, instead of our own issues, we find life becomes very peaceful. Do we hold grudges in our hearts? Do we hold envy? Are we proud? Are we self-centered? We can not shove God into a corner of our hearts, or out of our hearts, and still expect we will see him in heaven someday.

Jesus says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." No, this does not mean a peaceful person is a Christ. It does mean that we will reflect the light of Christ. We will reflect Christ's example. We will be God's children, obeying his laws and living a life that is wonderful, spiritually. I'm often asked how I could be friendly to a sinner, or why I don't bash a sinner for their sins. It is simple... I am a peacemaker, or I try to be. Only through peace can we gain understanding. To make peace, we have to have a humble heart, compassion for others, and a desire to keep God in our hearts. We may not 'convert' anyone to Christianity. We not even be able to convince someone they are in sin. But, we will leave an impression in their minds, and an impression in their hearts. To make peace we have to offer peace. To keep peace, we have to keep the beatitudes Jesus gave us as paramount in our daily lives.

"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." This is a biggie. Jesus does not say "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of self-righteousness!" nor does it say "Blessed are the Pharisee, who command the laws be followed while neglecting their own sins!" This verse does not mean we have unlimited license to debase, abuse, bash or torment people we think are in sin. It does not mean we can shred them with bible verses that say others are evil. It doesn't mean we can behave in God's place and judge. It says, very simply, blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness. If you keep all the other beatitudes, you will be in righteousness (God's!)

Jesus ends the Beatitudes by saying, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Now, if you are acting like a total git, or Pharisee, and belittling folks in God's name, this verse does NOT apply to you. If you are hold a spiritual gun to someone's head, demanding they turn to Christ or else suffer your wrath, this verse also does not apply. When you act like an ass, people will respond back the same way. If you insult, you will be insulted. If you persecute, you will have every wrong thing you have ever done thrown back in your face. If you use Jesus to punish people because of their own sins (and forget that, by doing so, you are also in sin), you can't hold this last verse up as your saving glory and expect anyone to take you seriously. However, if you keep the other Beatitudes, follow them, live them, and show them, this verse does apply to you. A humble, compassionate person who seeks God's righteousness, while enduring hardships (by showing mercy instead of vengeance), will have a pure heart and be a true peacemaker, even though they are spit upon for all their efforts to follow the Beatitudes... this verse applies to them. Jesus could have just said that last, complex sentence, but instead, he took the time to spell it all out for us during his sermon.

Only one life will soon be passed. Only what's done for Christ will last. For me, to live, is Christ.

Matthew 5:1-11

Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006



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Jesus went to the mount of Olives, and early in the morning he came again into the temple. All the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them. The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman to him that had been accused of adultery. They placed her in front of him and said, "Master, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such a person should be stoned: but what do you say?"

This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him (of breaking the Law.) But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he hadn't heard them. So when they continued asking him, he stood up and said to them, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. Those that heard his words, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last. Jesus was left alone, and the woman was still in front of him.

When Jesus had stood up again, and saw none but the woman, he said to her, "Woman, where are your accusers? Has no man condemned you?"

She said, "No man, Lord."

And Jesus said unto her, "Neither do I condemn you: go, and sin no more."
(John 8:1-11)

This passage is often overlooked, except for Jesus's last quote at the end. It's often interesting to see things in a new light...

The bible never does say what exactly it was that Jesus was writing. Once the woman was brought before him, he just stooped down and began to write in the sand. We do know that we wasn't drawing pictures. Yet, he spoke briefly, and continued to write. And, one by one, those guilty of their own sins crept away, leaving only the woman behind. Is it possible that Jesus was carefully writing out the sins of each man in that sand? Was there a message being carefully inscribed on the temple floor as a reminder to each accuser that no one was unblemished? Surely, if the men were with sin, they would boldly proclaim themselves to be free from the accusations of a rebel. They sought to entrap him, by giving him cause to denounce the Law. Yet, they leave... perhaps a bit unhinged that this teacher would know exactly what their sins were (yet, Jesus nor the bible reveal exactly what he wrote!)

And then we have the woman. Does Jesus speak to her as he did the woman at the well? Does he tell her sins out loud... or call her a sinner? No. He treats her with mercy. A very simple 'Go, and sin no more.'

We shouldn't be so quick to judge others, because clearly none of us is perfect. And, we shouldn't be so quick to judge in place of God! For God himself did not condemn the woman, but instead instructed her to cease in sinning. How many have you condemned during your lifetime, simply because you felt they were in sin? How many have you shown mercy towards, even though they were sinners?

Jesus does go on to say "Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man. And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me." It is God's right to judge, and he judges our souls.

We, as humans, tend to judge others souls and body as one. We see someone who looks or acts 'like a sinner', and we... being human beings... don't have the divine ability to see that person's soul. We assume that, because we caught them in a moment of sin, it is our place to put them in their place... to stone them spiritually. Plus, we tend to hold past sins against them, even if God has forgiven them! It doesn't look very intelligent to stand before God, pointing a finger of shame at someone we think is a sinner, when our own sins are right in front of us. I'm pretty sure God would want to know why we were so busy judging others that we couldn't take time to correct our own sins.

(Picture via email. Artist unknown. This is a republishing of an earlier entry. I had a lot of email come in, asking when a new entry would be posted. I'm still on vacation, and summer is always hectic for me. I'll do my best to get something new posted by Sunday.)