Bible Reading Blog

Bible Reading Blog

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The Fruit of Repentance

Monday, September 09, 2019

BIBLE READING: Luke 3

“And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins… [John said,] Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.... Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Luke 3.3, 8-9)

The gospel always begins with an unapologetic call to repentance. Forgiveness cannot occur except where one realizes responsibility for sin and turns from it. When we realize what sin costs us and what it cost God, we are better prepared to turn from it.

After turning to God, forgiveness should yield a transformed character as a response to the grace of God. John assumes that repentance will have a fruit. Jesus will say later in this gospel that one who is forgiven much loves the Lord much (Luke 7.47).

What should that fruit look like? The simple answer here involves treating people with generosity in meeting their need and in refusal to abuse authority (Luke 3.10-14). In other words, a transformed life transforms our ways of relating to others.

It is important to note that a transformed life will cause tension in some relationships. John’s message of repentance to Herod struck a nerve (Luke 3.18-20). Herod tried to stop the effect it had on his conscience by locking John up; but nothing Herod does can change his accountability. He was opposed to God and he needed to know.

Sometimes sinners respond with hostility when sin is called sin. The universality of repentance affects the hearts of men differently, but it cannot be tamed to meet the need of the situation.

The scriptures highlight that this transformed life is a choice. Paul would say we are transformed by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12.2). The writer of Hebrews encourages to do this every day (Hebrews 3.7-8, 15; 4.7). This means our fruit bearing is a matter that requires constant attention and purposeful investment of our minds.

We must recognize that being born in a Christian home, going to a Christian church, or surrounding ourselves with Christian people is not the same as personally turning away from our sins. Living a “moral Christian life” means nothing if we are not different than who we used to be. We must bear fruit that shows we are committed to turning from sin.

The gospel is a call to think, act, and live differently. Jesus does not save perfect people, but forgiven people whose sin takes many forms... but to whom the same forgiveness is offered. And so, a warning without the gospel is imbalanced. No one is above God’s standard. When it comes to him, all are accountable. The only bridge over the chasm of sin is the recognition that with repentance comes forgiveness.

We Can Trust the Gospel

Monday, September 02, 2019

BIBLE READING: Luke 1

From the get-go, Luke clearly states the intent of his gospel: to give his readers certainty regarding the plan of God through Jesus (Luke 1.4). No doubt by this time many stories had evolved about Jesus that sounded like fiction or legend (i.e. the Gospel of Thomas). It seems his recipient, Theophilus, may have been exposed to some of this misinformation (Luke 1.3). And so, Luke wanted to solidify his understanding and debunk rumors with a systematic account. As he begins this account, Luke tells us 4 things about his work:

(1) He has investigated the story. He has taken a long and careful look at what he is about to tell us. (2) He went back to the beginning. This is why he starts his story with John the Baptist, the forerunner, who points to Jesus. (3) Luke was thorough, having studied “everything.” Luke includes lots of fresh material not found in the other gospels, including several of Jesus’ parables. (4) Luke worked carefully, taking great care to develop his orderly account in a way that told the story clearly. His primary concern is to relate the account of Jesus’ ministry in a logical way.

Luke goes to great lengths to explain the roots of this new movement, by detailing the story of its founder and the tie he has to God’s long-promised redemption. He includes facts that were observed and verified by multiple witnesses. As a solid ancient historian, Luke referenced both written and oral accounts, as well as his own experience in his effort to compile this narrative. Luke’s statement of intent coupled with his carefulness and thoroughness makes his gospel a credible source of information for believers.

Such credibility in a multicultural context like ours today is still necessary. We live in a world that often regards Christianity as a man-made religion, as one of many ways to God, or as one cultural expression of religion. Many say the scriptures are filled with fabrication or have been altered to meet the specific interests of a particular group. The exclusive claims of Jesus as the only way to the Father (John 14.6) fly in the face of a worldview that sees all attempts to reach God as legitimate.

And so, we need to know that we can trust the gospel as we read it. People today need to be reassured that the decision to follow Christ is for the best. Luke argues that Christianity is unique. What God did in Jesus, he did for those who have come into this community, as well as for others like them who recognize they must come to God on his terms, not their own.

The exclusivity of Christ offers great confidence but should give us great pause. Should I invest my life in only following Jesus? Can we know with certainty that Jesus is the only way? Luke believed so, but he invites us to examine the evidence for ourselves.

A Better Future

Monday, August 26, 2019

BIBLE READING: Mark 15

To say Jesus suffered on the cross would be an understatement. He was brutally mistreated, rejected by the ones who should’ve listen to him, betrayed by one of his own followers, and abandoned by his closest friends. Hanging on the cross must have been the loneliest anyone has ever felt.

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15.34)

At first glance, this looks like a plea of despair, but really it is a message of hope. His statement, borrowed from Psalm 22, is the beginning of a psalm about victory.  The psalmist feels utterly abandoned until he remembers the faithfulness of God and his promises.

“You who fear the LORD praise him!... For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted… but has heard, when he cried to him.” (Psalm 22.23-24)

Jesus alludes to this psalm not because he is forsaken, but because he wants others to know that this is the plan of God; He is in control, and it turns out for the best. Jesus completely trusted the will and the faithfulness of God. In his moments of agony, he continued to teach by pulling back the curtain on the power within him to endure the suffering. My friends, if this hope powered Jesus through his suffering, it can power us through whatever we face in life.

We all have moments of weakness. We have times we question whether or not faith is worth the struggle. Some of us may have gotten to the point where we just want to give up. When we reach those breaking points of faith, the example of Jesus teaches us to lean into God’s promises and find courage in what comes next (Romans 8.28).

Life may be hard, and you may feel like no one understands. But Jesus does, and he wants you to see a better future. Even though he was tired and weak and abandoned by those around him, Jesus trusted God (1 Peter 2.21-23), and God rewarded him for it (1 Corinthians 15.3-4; Ephesians 1.20-23).

In your worst moments where does your mind go? Do you focus on the present or on the future?

Jesus’ example teaches us we must think long term and realize that “the sufferings of this present age are not to be compared with the glory that is to come” (Romans 8.18). The struggles and stresses of life will overwhelm us at times, but we are not without hope (Hebrews 10.37-38). God has promised better things to those who trust him (Hebrews 11.16, 39-40). And so, let us “look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12.2).

He Remained Silent

Monday, August 19, 2019

BIBLE READING: Mark 14

The injustice against Jesus was evident. However, Jesus doesn’t decry their actions or beg them to stop. He knew this was coming (Mark 14.18-21), and he met it all head-on (Mark 14.42). If anyone had a right to defend themselves, it was Jesus. But instead, “he remained silent” (Mark 14.61).

I cannot fathom the gumption Jesus had to hold his tongue in that moment. On this side of the cross, we know what Jesus was doing (1 Peter 2.24), but in those moments of intense suffering, it must have taken everything he had to keep his mouth shut and trust the will of God.

“When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2.22).

As we strive to emulate Christ, we must consider how we respond when faced with injustice against ourselves. When we proclaim and pursue the will of the Father, ultimately that will put us at odds with those of this world, and even some religious people.

Nobody likes to be wrongly accused. Naturally, we are inclined to fight for rights and appeal to immediate justice. But if they treated Jesus this way, what makes us think we will be any different? (John 15.20; 1 Peter 4.12).

I must admit, I don’t like being called dogmatic or Pharisaical; and I’m careful to avoid being hypocritical with my life; but it should come as no surprise that even well-meaning religious people may denounce us as “too stingy” if we are committed to doing the Father’s will. That is what they did to Jesus.

We may not be called to torturously die for our faith, but we will face opposition when we unashamedly stand for God’s will (1 Peter 2.21). Jesus wasn’t concerned with what others thought or even what they would do to him. He knew what it would cost… but he also knew what he would gain (Hebrews 12.2-3). And so, he focused on honoring God and doing His will at all costs. Will we do the same?

“Therefore, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Peter 4.19).

Stay Awake

Monday, August 12, 2019

BIBLE READING: Mark 13

The scriptures teach of the second coming of Christ and a day of judgment (1 Thessalonians 5.1-11, 23-24; Hebrews 9.28; 2 Peter 3.10). But when will that end be?

This chapter has tantalized end-times enthusiasts for generations, but we must read it in the context of verse 37: “no one knows except the Father” (Mark 13.32). In Mark 13, Jesus tells his followers what must happen before the end, but he does not tell them what they long to know – the precise dates and signs. The reason is that God has not revealed it even to the Son (Mark 13.32).

We must conclude that God does not deem it vital for disciples to know such things. Someone has noted, “If Jesus is uncertain of God’s timing, there is good reason to be suspicious of other forecasters boasting knowledge of matters received for God alone.”

And so, if Jesus does not intend to offer a timeline of events, why does he teach these things? I submit that Jesus is describing an end to teach all believers about the end. Here, Jesus depicts two events: the destruction of Jerusalem, which he uses as a figure for when Christ would return at the end of time.

Jesus purposefully relates these two events to teach a lesson about preparedness (Mark 13.34-37). Twice Jesus warns his disciples to "stay awake" (Mark 13.35, 37). His point is that knowing the day or the hour of the end, for disciples then or now, doesn’t change the expectation from Jesus to be consciously engaged in the work (Mark 13.33, 37).

The most important thing that Christians have been called to do is preach the gospel to all nations (Mark 13.10). When the Son of Man comes, he will not quiz people to see whose predictions on the date were accurate. He will want to know what we were doing. Were we proclaiming the gospel to all nations? Were we enduring suffering faithfully? Were we fulfilling the assigned tasks?

Jesus’ message is simple: things will happen God’s way, through God’s Christ, and God’s people will be vindicated in a conclusive manner that all will recognize. And so, the disciple is not called to determine the timing of the end; he is called to cope with it and respond appropriately. When Christ returns, those who have not taken the mission seriously will be more than just embarrassed; they will be judged. 

“…the day of the Lord will come… Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, 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…” (2 Peter 3.10-12)

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