Context! Context! Context!

Today’s reading is Luke 10.

When Jesus sent the disciples out, He gave commands. “Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.” I have to admit, when I travel to preach, I carry a wallet, a backpack, extra shoes, and I greet folks all over the place. Every preacher I know does the exact same thing. What’s up with that? Why would anyone violate a clear, direct command from Jesus like we do with this one? Because of context. In Luke 22:35-36, Jesus calls the events in this week’s reading back to His disciples’ minds. “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” Then Jesus gives new instructions: “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack.” Certainly, we need to be careful students. Sometimes it seems people wave the word “context” around as a magic wand to dismiss any passage they don’t want to apply today. However, context, whether historical, literary, or textual, does clarify meanings, principles, and present applications. Jesus’s command in Luke 10:4 is not a command for all people or even all evangelists of all time. It was a specific commission for a specific group of people on a specific mission at a specific time. We do not apply it as a direct command to us. Rather, we learn from Luke 22 that the earlier commission was intended to teach the disciples to rely on God. Even though we carry a moneybag and knapsack today, we must still know the proper application of Jesus’s limited commission instructions: rely on God, the Filler of moneybags and Provider of knapsacks, not the money or material goods in the bags and sacks. We must rightly handle the Word (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15). Appealing to context will not empty passages of their meaning. We do need to beware those who use “context” as a smokescreen to deny a passage’s proper modern application. On the other hand, we should not fear examining the context in order to know the appropriate application, which will not always be the direct one. Always remember three of the greatest Bible study rules: Context! Context! Context!

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 10.

Continue reading “Context! Context! Context!”

Pray for Laborers

Today’s reading is Luke 10.

I needed the reminder. I can look around at our culture and begin to believe no one wants to hear or respond to the gospel. I hear the laments of folks about diminishing congregations and increasing disinterest. I start to think the problem is a blighted harvest. That is not Jesus’s diagnosis. The harvest is plentiful. The problem is not with the yield in the field. The problem is the number of laborers. We need laborers in the harvest. We need those who will make personal connections and start spiritual conversations. Today, let’s pray for laborers. And then, let’s plan for God to begin His answer with us.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 10.

Continue reading “Pray for Laborers”

Two Vital Behaviors

Today’s reading is John 4.

Jesus demonstrates the two vital behaviors of unashamed gospel sharing and disciple making with the Samaritan woman at the well.

Vital Behavior #1: Make personal connections. Jesus was tired and hungry. Not to mention there were the societal “rules” against talking to Samaritans and the completely “inappropriate” nature of a Jewish man speaking to a Samaritan woman. He had every reason to simply stay within Himself. But He didn’t. He got outside Himself and made a connection with the Samaritan woman. He did so very simply by asking, “Can I have some water?”

Vital Behavior #2: Start spiritual conversations. At His earliest opportunity, Jesus turned the conversation to the spiritual. “If you knew to whom you were speaking, you’d ask for living water.” He didn’t wait until the relationship had grown to deep levels. He didn’t wait for her to indicate interest in spiritual things. He got to the spiritual at His first opportunity.

Today, let’s look for opportunities to unashamedly pursue these vital behaviors. When we do, I think we’ll be amazed how many opportunities we end up with to share the gospel and how many disciples God will make using our efforts. 

Tomorrow’s reading is John 5

Continue reading “Two Vital Behaviors”

Why Make Disciples?

Today’s reading is Matthew 28.

If you had asked me before today, “Why do we need to make disciples?” I would have said so people can be saved. And, certainly, that is true. However, it hit me in today’s reading that Jesus’s stated reason for us to make disciples is because “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Why do we make disciples of Jesus? Because Jesus is the King of heaven and earth. Why do we share the gospel? Because Jesus is King. Why can we be unashamed of the gospel? Because Jesus is King. I often say things like, “Will you make Jesus your King?” And while we all know what is meant by that statement, it isn’t actually the right question. Jesus is King. He is your King already. You need to be His disciple because He is King. The real questions are: Will you confess Jesus as King, and will you surrender to Him as such? How about today?

Tomorrow’s reading is Hebrews 1.

Continue reading “Why Make Disciples?”

Jesus’s Modus Operandi

Today’s reading is Matthew 4.

“And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction of the people.”

Listening to the blogosphere today, you’d think Jesus’s modus operandi was to enter a town, go to the “other side of the tracks,” seek out the marginalized and vulnerable, hang out with them, feed them, heal them, show how much He loved them, and then gain from that an opportunity to teach them. Therefore, those in authority hated Him, so they killed Him. That simply wasn’t His method. Jesus entered a town and went to church. That is, He went to the synagogue to teach. People of all shapes, sizes, and social statuses would come listen. He taught all and healed all in need. More would come to listen, and more would come to be healed. Please, don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying in today’s world we do our best and most effective evangelizing by preaching in a religious meeting house. I’m just asking for some honesty about Jesus Himself. We can’t possibly come to truth if we develop a habit of retrofitting what we think is a good idea back on top of what Jesus actually did and on top of what is actually written. Further, we are in danger of actually missing the point of Jesus’s mission and work when we do so. Jesus’s mission was not to socially empower the vulnerable or socially mainstream the marginalized. Jesus’s mission was to save souls from sin and build His kingdom. It happens that the marginalized and vulnerable were often the ones who did respond. Whatever we do and wherever we go to meet people, whoever responds, let’s make sure we keep Jesus’s main mission our main mission. And let us be unashamed of His gospel and His kingdom.

Tomorrow’s reading is Matthew 5.

Continue reading “Jesus’s Modus Operandi”

Pray for Us

Today’s reading is 2 Thessalonians 3.

“Pray for us,” Paul writes, “that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored.” What a great prayer. As those unashamed of the gospel, busy passing it along, this should be a prayer we often speak. “And that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith.” And there is that part. No matter how much we proclaim and how much we pray, there will be unbelievers. Let us pray God will deliver us from them. Not only that He will deliver us from their physical attacks and persecutions, but even from their attitudes and influences that might drag us along in their unbelief. If you haven’t prayed yet today, make this part of your prayer. If you have, why not pray again and include this?

Monday’s reading is Matthew 1.

Continue reading “Pray for Us”

God Gives the Growth

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 3.

We need to plant and water. We have a great seed in the gospel. We need to spread it around as much as we can. However, we need to know it is not our work that causes the seed to grow. That is God. I am successful when I plant and water. It’s up to God, not me, to make that seed sprout in someone’s heart and produce fruit. Certainly, we don’t need to be reckless and careless in how we plant and water, but neither do we have to sit paralyzed trying to figure out the best way to share the gospel as if its success depends on us. God’s Word sounded forth will produce God’s results. Sometimes the result will be simply leaving others without excuse. Sometimes the result will be glorious salvation for the hearer. But we are successful when we have planted and watered. Let’s be unashamed. Let’s plant and water the gospel seed.

Tomorrow’s reading is 1 Corinthians 4.

Continue reading “God Gives the Growth”