Practical Proverbial, from Titus, 23 July 2019

To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.  Titus 1:15-16 (NIV).

Before moving on from these verses, we have to talk (again) about sin.   Remember from last time how I said that a friend called me out for calling out a specific thing as sinful.   And that sin is a destroyer.   And, more important than these, that Jesus annihilated sin by confronting it and leading us from it.

Here is a partial list of my many sins:  being unloving, lying, ungratefulness, adultery, blasphemy, theft, anger, hatred, intolerance, judgmentalism, lust, unkindness, unfaithfulness, coveting, dishonor, unrighteousness, vulgarity, immorality, envy, greed, disobedience, drunkenness, rebelliousness, sloth.

Need I go on?   These are just a few that rattle off the top of my head.   There are more.  I regret them.   I’m sorry I did them.   I’m even more sorry I hurt others in doing them.   If all I focused on was my sins, I couldn’t function.  Indeed, there would be no point in going on if the only thing worth living for was evil, more sin.

The thing about it is, when you’re living in the middle it, those sins are all you want.   They’re a twisted poison that infects your heart and mind.   They’re a heroin rush.  They’re slavery disguised as freedom.  You think they’ll make you happy but you know deep inside that’s really a lie.  You say you believe in God but you never really do.   You refuse to give yourself over to God, so hypocrisy simply becomes yet another sin you’ll just live with.  You don’t like it; you don’t even want it, except you do.   Except they occupy your thoughts and become your focus.

Jesus rewires that thinking.

His focus is purity; His purity.  He longs for you to have it.  He looks into your heart and sees someone better.   He looks at you and says to you, “let me take that from you.”   He sees those sins and asks you to give them over to Him, so that He can carry the guilt and the hurt and the shame and the impurity of them.   He who is only that purity and has no sin takes your sins and takes them off you so that you don’t have to deal with them anymore.   He offers you true freedom.

And even after that happens, we make mistakes.   Even after, we deal with the consequences of our actions in that past ‘life.’  Even then, He is with us, helping us to stand, helping us to keep our focus on Him.   Helping us to apologize when we do wrong.   And helping us to stay free by resisting the temptation to fall back.

For further reading:  Titus 2:1

Pure, saving Jesus, thank You for saving me!

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 11 April 2017

Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.  Hebrews 9, verses 27-28.

More mumbo jumbo if you don’t believe it’s real.   Human sacrifice, fairy tales, pipe dreams, unkept promises from 2000 years ago:   if you don’t believe in Jesus then these are logical things to you.  They’re all that Christianity is (oh and don’t forget that part about the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition…radical Islamists have a lot of fun with those two).

Yet the essence of faith is belief.   Believing is the only thing that’s asked of people who follow Jesus.   Yes, He asks us to keep His commands, but we can’t perfectly do so even if we live our lives dedicated to doing good works for Him.   Yes, He asks us to love God above all else but we can only mimic the kind of grace that God bestows on us without our even asking.   Yes, believing in Him stretches our concept of logic because, according to the world, it isn’t logical to believe that someone can live again after they’ve died.  All these things and more Jesus asks of us who believe in Him, but ALL of them are impossible without faith.  Only by believing do those other good fruits begin to bear in our lives.

Without faith, there’s no need to believe He will appear a second time.   For all you know, that may be just another myth from antiquity.   Without faith, waiting for Jesus becomes a useless exercise in self-delusion.   Without faith, there will be no judgment of our sins.

Can you see, then, that without faith in Jesus, there are no limits on human behavior?   At first glance, that seems like sweet freedom; the uninhibited ability to do whatever we want.   Carry that a bit further and that uninhibited freedom becomes unstoppable anarchy.   Imagine the chaos and complete lawlessness if all 7 billion of us here on the Third Rock did everything we wanted all the time with no consequences.   The depravity you and I can imagine would quickly become a reality of horror without end.  Faith in Jesus is the first backstop against that.    Only with faith does hope become more than just a wish.  Only with faith does just law become a constructive boundary to protect that freedom.

And the longer you believe, the more you learn that it is impossible to have faith apart from Jesus.   Indeed, it’s His Spirit that first touches us when we even think of accepting that Jesus died once for all to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.   You and I can’t even form the desire for that thought without God first touching us saying “I’m here.”  Everything that is good comes from God, and when we even enjoy that goodness, we’re reflecting feelings of satisfaction towards God even when we don’t intend to.   That’s the start of faith and it’s no accident or spurious emotion.  Enjoy a Big Mac?   Thank God.   Enjoy your favorite TV show?   Thank God.  Enjoy music, the company of friends, having the door held for you, a rainy night in Georgia?   You know what to do:   thank God.

You can’t even thank God without having faith in Him.   That faith starts with Him first coming to you, touching your heart, inspiring your soul, engendering good feelings in you.  It’s love because God is all love.  It started because Jesus ho loves us first sacrificed Himself once for all so that our eternal debt could be paid once and for all.  When you believe, that mumbo jumbo the rest of society rejects begins to become the only real truth on which you can build a wholesome life.

For further reading:  Genesis 3:19, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Hebrews 7:27, Matthew 16:27, 1 Peter 2:24, Hebrews 5:9, 1 Corinthians 1:7.

Lord, You are magnificent.   Thank You for touching my heart, for planting the seed of hope to grow into the living organism of faiths.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 2 November 2016

See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.  Hebrews 3, verse 12.

We choose to believe.   Our choice to follow God is an act of will, of human willpower.   We select it.   We consciously decide on it.   We act in ways that we believe are faithful to Him and this choice we’ve made.   The longer we choose to live like this, the more we see that this choice isn’t about us:   it’s about how God Himself chose us and lives for us.   He chose us when He didn’t have to, and He chose us because eternity – being a part of forever with Him – matters more than anything else here on the Third Rock from the Sun.

You can choose today to not have a sinful, unbelieving heart.   It’s one of the reasons why I keep arguing with my atheist friend.  Faith is an active, living thing that we choose to feed.   Atheists can choose to believe in Jesus.   Skeptics can choose to allow His reasoning to penetrate their intellect.   Agnostics can choose to turn from the no man’s land of ignoring pure evidence of Jesus.   And those of us who live in hurt can choose to live in peace, choosing to put off the hurt and guilt and shame and the past and live now in each moment, thankful and glad for what Jesus does in us now.

Or we can choose to not do this.   We have free will.   Each of us has the free will to freely choose whatever spiritual belief we want.   That includes rejecting Jesus Christ, rejecting all that He offers through His free salvation.   You’re free to choose to believe or not believe whatever faith you want, especially if you live in the West.   I understand the physical and political ramifications of going against ISIS, militant Islam, and the peer pressure of keeping mum when other faiths dominate the local culture; that’s all valid.   Yet the fact still remains, people are free to believe in Jesus or not to.

And when we turn away from Jesus, when we reject Him, we have sinful, unbelieving hearts.  That turning away, that choosing not to be a follower of Jesus, is a conscious choice that becomes an attitude of the heart.   In the aspect of choosing to do it or not do it, dis-believing in Jesus is as much a conscious choice as deciding on a menu item at a restaurant or deciding whether or not to ‘do the deed’ with that hot married person you see every day at work.  We choose those things.   We have other choices available, other paths we can take, but even if those other choices are difficult or objectionable, we always have the choice of whether or not to choose sin.

Per the verses, not choosing Jesus is a sin.   In fact, it’s the original sin.   It’s the same thing that Adam and Eve chose before they ate that forbidden fruit.  They chose something other than God to put first in their hearts.   When we choose to not believe in Jesus, we’re doing the same thing.   It’s wrong.   It’s a sin.  Just two verses before these, the author implores us to follow God because the consequences of not doing so are dire.   Here, he reiterates that, reminding us that not only are we morally bankrupt if we reject God, but that it’s a sin, a behavior accountable to God if we choose to disbelieve.

Choose wisely, my friend.   And choose not because of fear, or because of angst, compulsion or pressure.   Instead, choose Jesus because He has proven Himself trustworthy and true throughout the Gospels.   He proves Himself God over and over through His revelations and the nature He created.   He proves Himself worthy of your choice because He is all love; what is the opposite of that?   And, Jesus proves Himself to be the only logical choice because, to paraphrase CS Lewis, He’s either a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord.  But most of all, choose Jesus because He chose YOU to live, love, die and live again for.

For more reading:   Matthew 16:16.

Lord Jesus, I choose You and You alone.

Daily Proverbial, from James, 15 October 2013

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom.  James 2, verse 12.

This one completely convicts me.  It really does and it hurts.   You see, I’m judgmental.  Get on my Facebook page and you’ll find me railing against things I don’t believe in, things I think are genuinely bad for the country and our world in general.   Many believe the same thing, but I really speak out against it, and that isn’t necessarily a good thing.  I don’t just use social media as a way to keep in touch or share trivial stuff:  it’s a platform to advance what I believe, especially my faith and my belief in American tenets.  

Yet I don’t always bring good credit on that faith or patriotism.  It’s tedious to argue with people about matters of principle and politics, and I don’t see how anything I’ve said or done has positively swayed anyone’s opinion.   I think you could reasonably argue, though, that there are things I’ve said and done online that have negatively swayed people, and I’m ashamed of that.  I won’t curse you out or call you names or belittle you as a human.   But I can eviscerate your position and make it seem like you are lower than low for simply standing up for what you believe in, too.

I’m ashamed of that.   To quote a friend, it makes me ‘judgy.’  It’s not just unattractive:   it’s wrong.

It makes me a hypocrite.   It’s true, there are people who will twist and turn your words and use them against you, using your faith or your beliefs as a way to hammer you while they hide behind a sheer veneer of their own hypocrisy.   That doesn’t matter.  It’s not the point because, when the admission of judgmental hypocrisy is made, I’m only responsible for me.  I’m the hypocrite.

The freedom this verse is talking about isn’t one guaranteed by an earthly Constitution.  The source of all freedom is Jesus.   It was in faith in Him that our ancestors sought refuge in a new world.   It was in faith in Him that those ancestors enshrined their beliefs about human liberty in the most influential government documents ever written.  Yet His freedom is freedom of the spirit, freedom from the slavery of sin.   It was something He bled and died for so that all men would know they are equal in Him.  All of us are sinful, and all of us have our judgmental and hypocritical faults.   Only through Christ are those faults neutralized and His glorious freedom advanced.   Social media may debate this, but nothing can ever deny or destroy it.

A judgy old coot like me would do well to remember it.

Freedom Jesus, thank you for setting me free.   Help me to stay free through clinging to you and laying aside all that isn’t You.

 

What keeps you enslaved?

What do you think about your freedom?

How does Jesus set you free?

Daily Proverbial, from James, 18 September 2013

But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.  James 1, verse 25.

Why do you think this is?  The short – and correct – answer is “because of Jesus.”   Jesus blesses us when we follow His commands.   The tough part to understand, though, is that He blesses us whether we follow His commands or not.   Why do you think that is?   Perhaps I’m asking the wrong question.

Perhaps the better question is “why do we reject this?”  We could spend thousands of pages listing the reasons.  They’re all sins.   Big and small, consequential and inconsequential, they are all sins; things that divide and separate us from God.  And yet, despite all our best efforts to continue to divide and separate, Jesus still blesses us each with air, food, shelter, new days, love, friends, you name it.

And have you ever considered freedom?  Government doesn’t give freedom.   A constitution doesn’t give freedom.  Graduating from high school, divorce, a million dollars in the bank, summer vacation, a new car:   none of these give freedom.   None of these things grant us real liberty, real freedom.   Where does your freedom come from?

You guessed it:  Jesus.   Specifically, Jesus’ law.   His law is the source and basis of all freedom.   Law giving freedom?  You read it right.   It is only by knowing our boundaries that we can truly live in ways that give and get everything from the world that we could ever desire.   The more intently we study Jesus’ word, then follow Him, the more we realize that all we could ever desire is found in Him.

Think about it.   Jesus’ law is not just those Ten Commandments.   It isn’t all the stuff that, to non-followers, makes following Christ seem like a drag.  Those are only facets, only the left-most boundaries of defining what our acceptable behaviors and norms are.   No, the bulk of Jesus’ law is love.   Read Matthew 5-7; read the dozens of parables; read the Lord’s Prayer; read 1 Corinthians 13; read John 15:13 and then 15:17.   Most especially, if you want to sum up Jesus’ law, remember these words:  “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

That’s Jesus’ law.  The legal code parts that define the outer edges of that law seem harsh, but even they are based in that law.   God is holy and He intends for us to be holy.   That’s why He gave us the gift of His law.   But when dig beyond the surface that is our humanity, you see that God’s law, Jesus’ law, is pure love.  And love always blesses us.

Jesus of law, bless me with Your love that I might share it with others.

 

What do you think of the law?

Do you have any difficulties understanding Jesus’ words?   What are they?

Do you sometimes struggle in forgiving others when they do things that hurt you?