The Shocking God

Today’s reading is Acts 5.

Is anyone else completely shocked by Acts 5:5 or Acts 5:10? This doesn’t sound like the God of the New Testament at all. I mean, maybe the God of the Old Testament. But didn’t He become a Christian during those 400 years of silence? What are we supposed to make of this? First of all, we recognize God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. There are not different gods over the Old and New Testaments. There is the same God. What is happening here is a reach back to the Old Testament account of Achan who also held something back in Joshua 7. Ananias and Sapphira hadn’t stolen like Achan, but they did lie like him (Joshua 7:11). Second, this is a demonstration that the grace of Jesus Christ is not permission to sin, flouting God, dishonoring Him. God’s wrath breaks into the world as it has done on very few occasions and strikes down Ananias and Sapphira. No, we are not to expect this every time a Christian lies anymore than it happened in the Old Testament every time someone sinned. Third, it reminds me I can’t put God in a box. I admit it. This shocks me. God does something I do not expect. Why would He do this? Perhaps as a reminder at the beginning of the New Covenant that sin is really just that bad. We might think God forgives us in Jesus because, really, the little sins we commit, you know, like telling little white lies, don’t really matter all that much. No. They matter. God doesn’t forgive us because they don’t matter. In fact, they matter so much the cost was for God’s wrath to be poured out on Jesus in the cross. The death of Ananias and Sapphira is shocking, but I need to be reminded how bad sin is. Additionally, I need to be reminded, if the God I believe only ever does exactly what I expect, He is probably a God I made up.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 5.

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Christianity is NOT Socialism

Today’s reading is Acts 5.

In America, it’s a political season. Unfortunately, people on all sides co-opt as much of the Bible as possible to act like they have the rubber stamp of Jesus. The problem is the New Testament isn’t a political book. Neither is it an economic primer. The New Testament wasn’t written to get us to vote a certain way. Neither was it written to explain the best economic system for a country. In all of this, there is one major error though that I hear repeated again and again. That is, the early church was a socialist community. Folks read about how the early Christians and members of the first congregation sold their goods, laid it at the apostles feet, and then let them distribute to all who had need. “Aha! See! Socialism!” But then we get to Acts 5:4. When Ananias and Sapphira lie to the church, the apostles, and to God Himself about how much the land they sold brought in, Peter says, “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal?” Peter patently supports private ownership of property. The property did not belong to the community. Entrance into the community did not demand turning over all private possessions into the public till. By the way, this demonstrates that not only was Christianity not Socialism, it wasn’t a cult. What we see in the early church is not Socialism; it is Fellowship. It isn’t Communism; it is Generosity. Frankly, I don’t have a spiritual dog in the political and economic fights of our present earthly kingdoms. What I am concerned about is accurately representing Scripture and refusing to twist things for my own or anyone’s political gains. The early Christians were generous, hospitable, and full of fellowship with one another. They weren’t entering a commune or abandoning principles of private property ownership. If you want to be a Socialist, that’s your business. Please, don’t use the early church as your reason for doing so. Instead, use the early church as your example for being generous and hospitable whatever your country’s economic policies.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 5.

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Surely Not!

Today’s reading is Luke 20.

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants is a bit of an outlier among the parables. Unlike most of the parables, the people hearing this one seemed to know exactly what Jesus meant by it. Well, perhaps not exactly. They didn’t know that “my beloved son” meant Jesus was in fact God’s Son. But they did know Jesus was claiming the Jews were going to be judged, destroyed, and the vineyard would be given to others. Of course, the only others were the Gentiles. The Jews simply couldn’t fathom this. It didn’t fit within their worldview that God would behave like this. After all, this is the God who loves and chose the Jewish nation to be His own special people. This is the God who lovingly cleared the vineyard, planted the vineyard, watered the vineyard of His special people (see Isaiah 27:2-11). How could this loving vineyard owner judge his vineyard and the tenants so harshly? “Surely not!” the Jews cry. If this were a modern movie, Jesus would have responded, “Yes, and don’t call me Surely.” Please, understand. There is a modern parallel to this. More and more people who even claim to be Christian just can’t wrap their mind around a loving God who will give people up to their rejection of Him. To these it is anathema and unfathomable that God would judge anyone permanently and irreversibly, casting them out of His presence into the outer darkness, away from Him, which is the torturous existence we call hell. “Surely not!” we cry. But please be aware, if we reject God’s attempts to draw us close to Him, He will give us up to our rejection. And we will discover that living in our rejection of God is more horrific than we can possibly imagine.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 20.

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The Other Side of Jesus

Today’s reading is Luke 19.

When the wicked servant expresses his fear of the nobleman’s severity, the nobleman doesn’t respond, “Come now. Why do you think that? I am gracious and loving. I would never take what I didn’t deposit and reap what I didn’t sow. Here, try again. This time, let me be of more help.” Instead, the nobleman condemns the wicked slave, removes his mina, gives it to another servant. Then, he goes and slaughters all the people who didn’t want him to be their king. Here is the big question. Whom does the nobleman represent in this story? Have you thought about it? Are you ready to say it? The nobleman is Jesus. Never believe that the gracious love of the Lord and King Jesus Christ means He is someone to be trifled with, taken for granted, or taken advantage of. We cannot dismiss Him, ignore Him, or defy Him and then when He comes in judgment protest, “But I thought you were loving and gracious.” For those who put their faith in Him, He is a gracious and victorious strength for deliverance, rescue, and salvation. For those who refuse to surrender to Him, He is a severe and dominating judge for punishment and condemnation. Jesus is not a two-dimensional character in a poorly developed book. He is a multi-faceted complex being who was God in the flesh. Because of His gracious love, we do not have to live in terror of His severe judgment, but we must not forget it either.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 19.

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A Case Study in Stewardship

Today’s reading is Luke 16.

Earlier in the week we saw Jesus’s three point sermon on stewardship. Now we see a case study of stewardship. Jesus’s earlier parable encouraged the sons of light to be as shrewd in their preparations for the future as the sons of this world are. Now we see an example of a son of light who was not shrewd enough. The rich man was shrewd enough to think and act like a son of the world. He had used his finances shrewdly enough to be prepared to live in this world. However, he had not behaved as a son of light should. He had not made friends by means of his unrighteous wealth so that he could be welcomed into eternal dwellings. He had left Lazarus on his very own doorstep, poor, destitute, hungry. In eternity, he begged for mercy from Lazarus, but he had been unwilling to give any mercy to Lazarus while on this earth. The rich man was not welcomed by Lazarus into eternal dwellings, but even worse, he wasn’t even able to receive the least service of hospitality from Lazarus. In life, there was nothing but a gateway between the rich man and Lazarus. In eternity, there was a gulf too wide to cross. The rich man wouldn’t be bothered to help Lazarus in life. In eternity, even if Lazarus wanted to bestow mercy on the rich man, he couldn’t. I know we are wont to make this story of Lazarus and the rich man about a response to Jesus and being baptized. However, whether this story is a parable or an account of real events (as some suggest), it was about people before turning to Jesus was even a possibility. This is about being a shrewd, faithful, loyal steward. The rich man was not. Jesus is placing an exclamation point on His sermon about stewardship. We need to see it. Israel didn’t listen when Moses and the Prophets said to love God and love your neighbor. Will we listen when the one who rose from the dead said so?

Monday’s reading is Luke 17.

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Will You Let Him Gather You?

Today’s reading is Luke 13.

How sad it must have been for Jesus to look at Jerusalem, knowing all He had done to save her from destruction. Knowing how God in all three persons had for millennia tried to lead Jerusalem to salvation and deliverance, while watching them choose destruction again and again and again. So Jesus cries out, “How often I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.” Jesus doesn’t want anyone to perish. He wants all to be saved. In this passage, He is talking about that temporal judgment that came on Jerusalem and Judea in AD 70. However, the principle applies to every judgment, including the final one. Jesus doesn’t want you to perish in that great day. He is doing everything to save you. He has even come in to the world as one like you and offered Himself as the only sacrifice that can save you from your own sins. He wants to gather you. Will you let Him? Will you let his wings draw you in or will you, like so many chicks, try to escape His protection, seeking to make your own way, thinking you know better, believing His protection is too smothering? Jesus is beckoning. The choice is yours.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 14.

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Does Jesus Know You?

Today’s reading is Luke 13.

We often ask, “Do you know Jesus?” That is obviously an important question. However, today’s reading asks, “Does Jesus know you?” Jesus explains that a day is coming when the Master will shut the gate. Some will beg at that time, “Lord, open to us.” The Master will proclaim, “I don’t know you.” “Sure you do,” they will say. “We’ve eaten together. You taught outside my house. We’ve talked and visited and fellowshipped.” But the Master will repeat, “I don’t know you. You may have heard me teach, but you didn’t listen.” I’m paraphrasing of course. Obviously, in one sense, Jesus knows everybody. In the sense He is teaching about in today’s reading, He knows only a few. In the sense of actually having a true relationship with Jesus, only few enter His door. This is sad. There are many who would say, “Of course, I know Jesus. I’ve talked and even eaten with Him.” But Jesus says, “That doesn’t mean you know Me.” Knowing Jesus means hearing Jesus and heeding Him. It doesn’t mean simply knowing about Jesus or mimicking some aspects of Jesus. Knowing and being known by Jesus means surrendering to Him in every way. Not many will want to do that. Be one of those who do.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 13.

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