Christianity 201

April 17, 2018

Seeking Jesus for What We Can Get

We’re paying a return visit to the website Catholic Daily Reflections. Readers are reminded that we include writings here from a wide variety of Christian websites, and today is an example of that. From three devotionals we considered, we selected this one. Click to read at source.

Seeking Jesus

Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” John 6:26-27

This Scripture goes straight to the heart of our priorities in life.  What are you working for?  Are you working hard for the “food that perishes” and only working slightly for the “food that endures for eternal life?”  Or vice versa?

For some reason, we can easily become obsessed with working for the “things” of this world.  In the passage above, people were looking for Jesus because He had fed them the day before and they were hungry again.  They were looking for food, literally.  Jesus gently rebukes them, taking this as an opportunity to point out the real reason they should be seeking Him.  The real reason is that He wants to provide the spiritual food of eternal life.  What is the food Jesus wants you to seek?  That’s a question you must let our Lord answer in your heart.

There are two key questions we should ponder here so as to let Him answer us.  First, “What do I want in life?”  Spend time with that.  Spend time all by yourself and try to be honest with this question.  What do you want?  What is your heart’s desire?  If you are honest and if you let yourself face your desires you will most likely find that you have some desires, or even many, that are not put in your heart by Christ.  Recognizing what these desires are is the first step to discovering what the true food is that Jesus wants to give you.

The second key question is this: “Are you seeking Jesus for the right reason?”  When we are sick we seek a doctor for a cure.  When a child is hurt, this child often runs to a parent for comfort.  This is OK.  We do the same.  When we are lost and confused we often turn to God for answers and help.  But, ideally, we will eventually seek God for more than just healing or comfort.  We will ultimately seek God for the reason of love.  We will seek Him simply because we love Him and want to love Him all the more.

Reflect, today, upon your desire to seek Jesus, or lack thereof.  When you can begin to seek out Jesus simply because you love Him and want to love Him more, you are on the right road.  And as you walk down that road, you find it is a road of the utmost delight and fulfillment.

Jesus, help me to seek You.  Help me to seek You for the help and healing I need.  But more than that, help me to seek You out of love.  My Jesus, I do love You.  Help me to love You more.  Jesus, I trust in You.

 

 

July 25, 2017

Subtracting in order to Mulitply

Today we pay a return visit to popular pastor and author Greg Laurie. Click the title to read at source. If you’re clicking in July, there is a series running on spiritual battles for which you might enjoy reading several installments.

The Importance of Right Motives

“And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”

Jesus was becoming very popular in His ministry—maybe too much so. People followed Him in great numbers. The crowds swelled on a daily basis. But Jesus looked at these people and, being God, knew their motives.

He recognized that most of them were not interested in spiritual things at all. They wanted to be dazzled by a few miracles. Others heard that He had fed the hungry. A few hoped He would overthrow Rome and establish the kingdom of God.

There were various reasons people had for following Him, but He realized many of them were following Him for the wrong reason. Thus, He made a series of statements intentionally designed to thin out the ranks. He wanted to be left with those who really wanted to follow Him—not fair-weather followers but true, committed disciples and soldiers.

In the same way in the church today, there are many people who are not really interested in the spiritual. God wants us to follow Him for the right motives.

Jesus said, “Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. . . . Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14: 27, 33). Here Jesus laid out plainly what it is to be His disciple, to be a soldier in His service.

God has an unusual set of mathematics. He subtracts in order to multiply. Sometimes we think bigger is always better. But these words of Jesus show that He is more interested in quality than He is in quantity. Yes, He wants everyone to come into the Kingdom. He wants everyone to believe. But He wants us to come with the right motives, because a halfhearted soldier can be more of a liability than an asset.

 

August 4, 2016

The Bible’s Vice Lists

This article deals with a particular form we see in New Testament writings. This may interest some of you more than others, but I hope you’ll gain some understanding of the type of things academics and Bible historians wrestle with. This was posted at The Christian Century. Click the link below to read at source.

What’s a vice list for?

Colossians 3:1–11

by Daniel Schultz

For more commentary on this week’s readings, see the Reflections on the Lectionary page, which includes Schultz’s current Living by the Word column as well as past magazine and online-only content. For full-text access to all articles, subscribe to the Century.

Fun fact: when Paul tells his readers in Colossae to

put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry)

it’s an example of a common ancient rhetorical device called a “vice list.” (This is not actually fun, but bear with me.) There’s another one later in the same passage, where Paul talks about “anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language.” And there are several other examples in the New Testament, sometimes with corresponding virtue lists. The idea is straightforward: don’t do these things. Do these other things instead.

Further fun fact: a couple hundred years after Paul, vice lists gave rise to the seven deadly sins. In the monastic guide the Praktikos, Evagrius Ponticus writes about what he calls “evil thoughts”: gluttony, impurity or lust, avarice, sadness, anger, acedia, vainglory, and pride. Through translation and adaptation, eight evil thoughts became seven deadly sins: pride, envy, anger, lust, gluttony, sloth and greed. The emphasis shifted as well–while Evagrius spends as much time on anger as anything, in the medieval world, pride became much more important.

Like Paul’s lists, Evagrius’s evil thoughts somehow managed to get codified into law, or the next thing unto it. Taking part in one of the deadly sins put one’s immortal soul in danger; it was cause for confession before a priest and a mending of ways. This moral pattern came along with no end of discussion over who exactly was guilty of what, and why, and how much they ought to be shamed for it. (In some cases, it became a how-to manual.)

Likewise, Paul’s list of sexual transgressions has always been better remembered than the other failures he mentions. For nearly 2,000 years, it’s been used to shame sexual expression and keep women in their place. I know many who reject Christianity because of Paul, or dump the apostle and keep the rest of the New Testament.

Evagrius seems to name barriers to progress in spiritual discipline, the thoughts and attitudes and attachments that would prevent desert monks from truly emptying themselves so that they could be filled entirely with the Holy Spirit. I wonder if something similar wasn’t also true for Paul. By the time he wrote to the Colossians, he was an experienced church planter and pastor. He knew how little heed congregants pay to moralizing from the pulpit.

Neither Paul nor Evagrius appears to want his readers to think they will roast in hell for offenses named in these lists. Instead, the goal seems to be a fulfilled life. In Evagrius’s case this means a life united with God and freed from petty sorrows and regrets. For Paul, the goal is never the straight and narrow path. It’s to take part in the new creation, clothed in “compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,” as we were before the fall.

Yes, that’s a virtue list, and it forces upon us a question. Not what are the rules?–that’s too simple. It’s the great question of ethics: who are you? Are you the kind of person who behaves like this, or the kind of person who behaves like that?

Our society might be moving past telling people who they can and can’t sleep with. But this larger question–who are you?–remains to be wrestled with eternally.

 

June 2, 2013

The Intention Behind The Action

Today we pay a return visit to the blog The Rest That Works and writer Scott Daniels. You’re always encouraged to click through to read at source. This piece appeared under the title The Bottom Line.

The more I pray and try to follow God’s guidance the more it becomes apparent how simple the bottom line really is–love. It’s also apparent what usually gets in the way–a critical spirit, toward myself and others. The issue isn’t whether or not there is something that can be criticized. That is often the case. At issue is our approach. Is it of love or not? 

Probably the clearest story from the Bible that highlights this is when the woman (or different women) anointed Jesus with expensive oil. 

In John, Mary anoints Jesus and Judas objects because of the expense (John 12:1-8).

In Matthew and Mark, Jesus is at the house is of Simon the Leper when a woman comes in with very expensive ointment, and pours it over his head. The disciples in general complain of the waste because it could have been sold for the poor, but Jesus says it’s in preparation for his burial, and that you will always have the poor with you but not me, and adds that“wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” (Mt. 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9). It’s one of the few times we hear that he is really impressed with what someone has done, and it has everything to do with intent.

In Luke 7 we have a different story with interesting similarities: We’re at the house of Simon the Pharisee. 

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37 And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. 38 She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment.39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.” 40 Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “speak.” 41 “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” 48 Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

In all cases, which may or may not have been different women and episodes, Jesus emphasizes the way the women have shown great love. To Jesus, the love and intent behind our actions are just about everythingIn at least one of these cases, expressing the love is worth a year’s wages blown in a single impractical gesture.

Jesus doesn’t say that the poor don’t matter. He also doesn’t ignore sin. But he clearly says that love moving or not moving through us matters most. He’s saying the spirit is the key.

The bottom line is to rest regarding a critical spirit and work with love. The bottom line is Divine Love, not as a theory but as a movement within us that deals with sin by transforming people and situations through love (us included).

More power to you in focusing on the bottom line.

January 6, 2012

…Then Why Do Good?

Doug Wolter posted this on his blog, and the synopsis at the end of the message is worth the price of admission; but if you have the 45 minutes, you get to watch a great message, too. It appeared on his blog under the title:

If I’m accepted in Christ, why do good?

by Doug Wolter

[Recently] I got to see Tullian Tchvidjian preach at Southern Seminary. I love his focus on the gospel of grace. Toward the end of his message he asked an interesting question: If Christ accepts me based on his righteousness and not mine, then what is my motivation to do good? In other words, if I have a great day, I’m accepted, if I have a bad day, I’m accepted. So why do good? He answered the question with a quote from Spurgeon:

When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon my breast to think that I could ever have rebelled against One who loved me so, and sought my good.

In other words, the deeper I go into the gospel, the greater my motivation toward obedience. I encourage you to watch this message and be amazed again at God’s grace for desperate sinners like you and me.