Bible Reading Blog

Bible Reading Blog

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Who Are You Trying to Please?

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

BIBLE READING:  Luke 20

There is something fundamentally evasive about the Jewish leadership's dealings with Jesus. When confronted with a simple question, they do not want to answer him honestly or directly (Luke 20.7). In fact, the issue they discuss amongst themselves is not the truth but appearances; what will others think of our decision? (Luke 20.5-6).

The episodes of Luke 20 provide us with a strong warning about pretense and false religion. These leaders wanted to justify their own actions, discredit the work of Jesus, and just argue their beliefs. Jesus has no desire to do any of these things (Luke 20.8). 

Luke seems to highlight that it is not uncommon for those within a religious system to miss the proverbial “forest for the trees” because of preconceived ideas. The religious leaders were often blinded by their own agendas when confronting Jesus (see Luke 13.14-17; 14.1-6; 20.19). There is a power play and manipulation in this text that reveals how sin often operates not overtly but covertly. The leadership's behind-the-scenes dialogue to justify lack of public declaration is too often the case in our relationships. Honestly declaring where we stand and why is stifled by concern for how others may view us.

As always, Jesus is pushing for self-examination from believers as we process information. A key indicator of our motivation is how we deal with objective information. For example, the religious leaders had all the information they needed about John, but they weighed the options to determine which position would be most advantageous (Luke 20.4-6). I think sometimes we do the same thing in the presence of others. We guard the way we speak, or we do not clearly state what we believe because we are concerned with what others will think. Or maybe we invest ourselves in certain activities such as worship or service to others because we know that it will garner a positive response from others.

Whatever the case, we need to be aware of our motivations, especially when it comes to our public worship. Worship is about God. The tendecy of those within a religious system, and the reason Jesus needed to cleanse the temple was because the system had become the object instead of what it was designed to be: a means for the worshipper to honor God (Luke 19.46). The whole point of the law and the religious system given to Israel was to honor God (see Isaiah 58 and Malachi 1).

We would do well to remember these things as we live our lives according to what God has given to us. Our submission to what God says is good, but it is never about simply following these things as rote activities, but as a means of honoring God with our lives.

Who are you trying to please?

“Beware of those who like to walk around in fancy clothes, like greetings in public places and the best places at social gatherings… in pretense they look religious. They will receive the greater condemnation” (paraphrased from Luke 20.46-47)

Will He Find Faith?

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

BIBLE READING: Luke 18-19

It is hard to take the Bible seriously if you ignore its discussion about the end, since a significant portion of the Bible touches on eschatological themes and the promises of God. The only way for us to make sense of life today is to appreciate where the future is going. The return of Jesus is serious business, a time when God will be engaged in definitive judgment.

“But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me” (Luke 19.27)

Jesus talks about the end in grim terms and gruesome detail to make it clear how serious an issue judgment is for God (see also Luke 17.37). Judgment means accountability. In a society that tends to view adults as accountable only to their own consciences, it is a critical reminder that God does hold us responsible for our actions. That is why Jesus, in Luke 18.8, asks if he will find faith on the earth when he returns. Those who recognize their accountability to God will go through life with discretion and foresight.

We know the gospel is a call to faithfulness; but consider the measure of faithfulness set forth in the parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18.1-8). Her faithfulness is marked by persistent prayer and patience. It is expressed as a hope of vindication as she bothers the judge and trusts that justice will be given to her.

The challenge in Luke 18.8 cannot be deflected from our personal reflection. Jesus is not speaking to the collective... he is looking at you! As people of God we must be marked by our constant prayer (1 Thessalonians 5.17) and actions of faith (James 2), but not simply for our personal gain. Just as with the widow, we must be intent on God’s presence to be manifested in our vindication. In other words, if our intentions are self-serving, we are missing the point!

The world is headed towards an end when many will simply engage in life without concern for God. It will be like the days of Noah and Lot (Luke 17.28-32). This should not surprise us (2 Timothy 3.1-7), but it also should not lead us to apathy. The longer time goes on until the Lord’s return, the more relevant Jesus’ parable becomes.

Jesus’ admonition is that we pray always and do not lose heart (Luke 18.1). The judgment of God will come and those opposed to him will be destroyed. The question is, when he returns, will he find us faithful?

“…what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God… according to his promise we are waiting for a new heavens and a new earth where righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot of blemish, and at peace” (2 Peter 3.12-14, paraphrased)

Watch Yourselves

Monday, October 28, 2019

BIBLE READING: Luke 17

Jesus was often hard on the religious leaders because they lacked mercy. Their pretense and judgmental attitudes were not only a misapplication of the law but did not reflect the true nature of God. “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9.13, cf. Hosea 6.6)

As Jesus shifts his attention to believers, he again presents his expectation of mercy as an imperative for discipleship. As the chapter begins, Jesus highlights 3 things that must exist in the lives of the faithful:

  1. Community. His teaching about discipleship does not occur in a vacuum. The choices each person makes affects others. Notice how the actions of the individual are applied in the context of a community of faith (Luke 17.1-4). Whatever choices you make will affect other parts of the body (1 Corinthians 12.21-27); and so, Jesus says, “Watch yourselves!” (Luke 17.3a, NIV). To be a disciple is to understand that I am part of a community.
  2. Responsibility. As a member of this community, there is an obligation to others both to admonish and forgive. The warning about being the cause of sin in the body is a serious remark about the responsibility members share. Jesus knows that sin will come, but he also knows that God takes the source of sin in the body seriously. The rebuking of sin shows how seriously the community takes the pursuit of righteousness, while forgiveness points to how sincerely the community honors the road to restored relationships.
  3. Accountability. Sin will occur but it must be dealt with. Others will repent of their sins and the community needs to be there to support them. These things lend themselves to a need for open and honest communication within the community. We are not called to be watchdogs of our brethren, nor are we negligent of sin. We are called to love and serve one another (Galatians 5.13). No matter which side of the divide one is on, the goal is to produce a community where the destructive effects of sin are not allowed to eat at the body.  

At the heart of these things is a need to show mercy towards everyone. My goal should be to build up the rest of the body in love (Ephesians 4.16), but sometimes my natural desires hamper this. This passage requires me to reflect on my attitude towards my brethren and towards others. It is too easy to want to make people pay in full for their failures or past sins, rather than create an environment where restoration is possible. We must consider how to make our lives sensitive to sin, but not closed to grace.

“If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” (Luke 17.3-4)

Investment Shows Commitment

Monday, October 21, 2019

BIBLE READING: Luke 14

“Shark Tank” is a reality TV show where entrepreneurs try to convince multi-millionaire tycoons to invest in their businesses. A recent episode featured two very different contestants. The first left his six-figure corporate job and invested all his savings into making his business profitable. The second built his business as a “side-hustle” while maintaining his day job. Both contestants had great business ideas; but in the end the first contestant was offered a lucrative deal because of his personal commitment to the business. As one investor noted, “Investment shows commitment.”

The second contestant was passionate about his business… but at the end of the day it was just something he did for money. But the first contestant invested everything he had in his business, and it became who he was.

If we’re honest sometimes we treat our faith like a "side-hustle". We want our faith to grow and so we make choices that allow for that. But there are other “important things” that demand our attention and affection: family, jobs, etc. Luke 14 is a gut check to our spiritual commitment. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own [family], and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple …any one of you who does not renounce all that the has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14.26, 33).

Jesus is calling for us to be “all-in” with an understanding of what is most valuable. There is a reason he juxtaposes our family relationships with being his disciple. If you’re a parent, you know the time, energy, money and love you invest, especially in your children because they mean something to you. His point is that the things we value most are the things that cost us the most. Not just our money, but our time and energy.

Jesus is not suggesting we live destitute or cast those we love to the side. He is teaching that if our affections are divided, we cannot truly follow him. Much like the second contestant, our faith maybe be something we do, but it will never be who we are.

What have you invested to grow your relationship with God? What does it cost you to be a disciple?

If someone were to take away your bible or not allow you to pray, would that alter your routine? If it was illegal to speak to others about your faith or to serve in the name of Jesus, would that affect your daily activities? If you could never see your family again because of your faith in Jesus would that change your commitment?

You may want to follow Jesus, but does it drive your choices, relationships and lifestyle? Satan wants us to think it’s ok to have our interests divided. But Jesus expects us to narrow our focus because where there is little investment, there is little commitment.

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6.21)

Nothing is Hidden

Monday, October 14, 2019

BIBLE READING: Luke 12

The internet has become an integral part of our lives. Nearly everyone owns a smart device enabling us to connect with people and businesses across the globe with the tap of our finger. Technology is empowering… but it is also, frightening. Have you ever talked about buying a new car and all of a sudden you start seeing ads for that car? The integration of technology into our lives has made us keenly aware that others are paying attention to us.

We sometimes like to think that we have moments of privacy when no one sees what we do or knows what we think. That may be true with reference to people, but this is not true of God. His omniscience penetrates every part of our lives.

“Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed or hidden that will not be known. Therefore, whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops” (Luke 12.2-3)

God knows even the most mundane details of our lives (Luke 12.7). But more than that, he knows the things we don’t want anyone else to know. “you discern my thoughts from afar… Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether” (Psalm 139.2, 4)

A being who knows all our secrets should be feared; hence why Jesus admonishes his disciples in this way (Luke 12.4-5). But Jesus isn’t using a scare tactic to coerce people into following God. He’s presenting a stark reality for those who refuse to acknowledge the presence of God. Awareness of God’s presence promotes greater humility, clearer thinking and better decisions.

Respect for his intimate knowledge of our lives and our accountability to him means we will conduct our lives like an open book, where we have nothing to hide. If we are righteous before God, we have nothing to fear from him. As 1 John 3.1-3 suggests, those who live in light of the hope of the return of God, knowing that he knows everything, will purify themselves with the hope of his return and the responsibility it puts on us to be faithful.

If your every thought and action were on display for all to see, how would you feel about that? Others may not be privvy to this, but there is never a moment too insignificant that God is not watching. Not with an eye to destroy us but to discipline us (Hebrews 12.5-13). However, if we reject his discipline, it will not end well for us (see Hebrews 12). And so, we must practice righteousness and so become more like our Father.

“...be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, ...” (2 Peter 3.14-15)

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