August 26, 2014
“…When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” (Luke 7:42)
It is true that some of the greatest Christians were once the greatest sinners. As we read the seventh chapter of Luke (verses 36-50), we cannot help but think of The Confessions of Saint Augustine. It is not necessary to sin much to love God – we should be careful not to give that impression. There is really nothing good about sin… It it true, however, that the truly repentant contrite sinner can love much because he (or she) has been forgiven much. This was a driving force in the lives of King David, the Apostle Paul and Saint Augustine.
At issue here are the condescending thoughts of this Pharisee toward the woman (who is washing Jesus’ feet.) As he compares himself, the Pharisee is self-righteous. Like his colleague in Luke 18, he is looking upon this woman with an attitude, “I thank God I am not as other people are – sinners!” The question of Jesus focuses this for him and for us. The Pharisee was the man who had been forgiven the smaller debt, which means he saw his sin as a very small thing. This teaching also focuses that the way we perceive ourselves has a profound effect upon how we perceive others. Positively and negatively our self-image is a strong force in our horizontal, interpersonal relationships.
The subtle message of Jesus to this Pharisee is that the real sinner at that luncheon was not the woman whose sin was obvious and known to everybody. His message to her was the good news, that, because of her faith, her sins were forgiven. When the real sinner stood up at that luncheon, however, he was a sinner named, “Simon, the Pharisee.”
Dick Woodward, MBC New Testament Handbook (p.137)
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on us sinners.”
August 19, 2014
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love… I am nothing.” (I Corinthians 13:1-3)
In the middle of the first century, the Apostle Paul composed an inspired poem of love in which he declared that the agape love of God should be the number one priority of spiritual people. He wrote that love is greater than knowledge and more important than faith. His inspired words about love have been, and should be read in every generation of church history. That includes you and me.
His teaching about spiritual gifts in the previous chapter concludes with: “Earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I will show you a more excellent way.” (I Cor 12:31) Paul begins the next chapter with his prescription for that most excellent way: “Let love be your greatest aim,” or “Put love first.” (LB, NEB)
A SUMMARY PARAPHRASE APPLICATION:
If we speak with great eloquence or in tongues without love, we’re just a lot of noise. If we have all knowledge to understand all the Greek mysteries, the gift to speak as a prophet and enough faith to move mountains, unless we love as we do all those things, we are nothing. If we give all our money to feed the poor and our body to be burned at the stake as a martyr, if we give and die without love, it profits us nothing.
Nothing we are, nothing we ever become, nothing we have and nothing we ever will have in the way of natural and spiritual gifts should ever move ahead of love as our first priority. Nothing we do, or ever will do as an expression of our faith, our gifts, our knowledge, or our generous, charitable, unconditionally-surrendered heart is worthy of comparison, or can replace love as we live out our personal priorities in this world.”
Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Love
August 12, 2014
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live…” (John 11:25)
In the Gospel of John, Chapter 11, we read that Jesus loved Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha. As Jesus ministered in the area of Jordan, He received word that Lazarus was sick. Jesus deliberately stayed where He was for two days. When Jesus finally arrived in Bethany, what He really wanted from these two sisters was their response to life’s two most unsolvable problems – sickness and death.
The two sisters are very different. Martha runs out to meet Jesus and says, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died!” We don’t know the inflection in Martha’s voice, but it seems like she was saying, “Where were You?”
Mary is not like Martha. She waits until Jesus sends for her. When she has her personal time with Jesus, she says the exact same words. However, we read that she ‘fell at His feet.’ Mary is mentioned several times in the Gospels and she is always at the feet of Jesus. The first time is when she and Martha were entertaining Jesus. Mary was at His feet, hearing His Word… In this story Mary is at the feet of Jesus accepting His will. In the next chapter (John 12) she is at His feet worshiping Him.
When sickness and death enter our lives, as they surely will, what God wants from you and me is the right response, which is an intimate relationship to the risen Christ Who lives in our hearts. If we are at His feet hearing His Word and accepting His will, then, like Mary, we will also respond to these two unavoidable and inescapable problems by by showing our acceptance of them, at His feet, worshiping our Lord.
Dick Woodward, from 30 Biblical Reasons Why God’s People Suffer