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.

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Bread and Fish

Today’s reading is John 6.

Okay. I’m going to share something shocking. It goes against everything you are hearing today, not only from the world, but even from many people in church. Why did Jesus multiply the bread and fish? Not to feed the hungry. Not to serve the community. Not to love the crowd to the point of listening to Him. The key comes in John 6:14. When Jesus miraculously fed the people, they claimed him to be “The Prophet who is to come into the world.” The people correctly understood the reference of the miracle. Jesus is the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18:15-19; He is the Prophet like Moses who was to come into the world. But they, like so many today, missed the point of the miracle.They thought the point was to feed them. So they wanted to make Him king so He would keep on feeding them. Nope. Go back and read the prophecy in Deuteronomy 18:15-19.* The purpose of the prophecy was to show who the people were supposed to listen to. But when He taught them. They didn’t like it. The didn’t listen. They left. Like so many today, they misunderstood what the mission of the Prophet and His Church really is. Neither Jesus’s goal nor the goal of His church is to feed people hungry for bread. Jesus is not like Moses; He is greater than Moses. Jesus doesn’t give bread, He is bread. Even though Jesus was actually greater than what they were expecting, He didn’t measure up to what they were expecting. They were willing to settle for a Messiah/King who would feed them. So they rejected the Messiah/King who would teach them. In fact, the only ones who staid were the ones who realized Jesus’s gift of life doesn’t come through any bread He might give, but through the Words He teaches. People today are no different. Many are attracted to churches who think their mission is to feed the hungry. Few are attracted to churches who think their mission is to teach the lost. Don’t be ashamed to be part of a church that won’t cave to the societal pressures to offer the mediocre service of filling physical needs. Yes, the world loves us when we do that. Yes, the community will be upset if our doors close if that is how we view or try to accomplish our mission. But that isn’t our mission. Be thankful to be part of a church that will offer the true service of passing on Jesus and His words of life. Yes, the world will despise us for it. Yes, most will reject it and us. Yes, the great majority will abandon us, even more so they will try to shut us down, and will throw a party if our doors close. But we will be walking in the footsteps of our Savior. And do not think we are to use the former (community benevolence and service) to get an opportunity to do the latter (share the gospel). That isn’t what Jesus was doing. And if it was, it failed. Why do we think it will work for us? Be unashamed of the gospel. Be unashamed to be part of a church that sees proclaiming the gospel as its mission.

Tomorrow’s reading is John 7

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Calling Sinners

Today’s reading is Matthew 9.

We must all remember what Jesus declared was His mission: “I desire equity, not elitism. For I came not to call the mainstream, but the marginalized.” Wait. Sorry. That’s not it. “I desire empowerment, not oppression. For I came not to call the privileged, but the disenfranchised.” Hold on. That’s not it either. I’m not sure what is wrong with me today. He said, “I desire justice, not inequity. For I came not to call the powerful, but the vulnerable.” Nope. That’s not it either. Alright, let me just go back, read it, and quote it word for word: “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Don’t misunderstand me. I believe Jesus likes equity, empowerment, and justice. But that wasn’t His mission. His mission was salvation. It is often the marginalized, disenfranchised, and vulnerable who have nothing left to lose and therefore are willing to see that they are sinners. That’s why those were the classes that often responded to Jesus, though even they ultimately cried “Crucify Him!” But Jesus came to call sinners. And that is good news for me, because that is what I am. I’m a sinner. How about you? If you are clamoring for social equity, empowerment, and justice, I don’t know that Jesus has what you are looking for. If, on the other hand, you are longing for forgiveness, redemption, and salvation from your sins, Jesus is calling you. Why not respond?

Tomorrow’s reading is Matthew 10.

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On Feeding the Masses

Today’s reading is John 6.

Okay. So, I know that what I’m about to say is not exactly popular today. However, please hear me out. It is very common to hear people claim Jesus came into the world feeding the hungry. “This is what Jesus did. He traveled around feeding the poor.” Then they claim our churches should make that part of their mission as well. When challenged, John 6 is thrown out. But please read the chapter again. Is this really an example of Jesus going around feeding the poor as if that was part of His mission that He just did all the time, everywhere He went? Why did this feeding happen? Because Jesus found poor people and He wanted to show His love so they might listen to Him teach? No this happened because these people were already following Him. He didn’t go find them and offer to feed them. They came to Him. He didn’t use food as permission to get to teach. They were already listening to Him teach. Then Jesus fed them. When they misunderstood and came back for the food, He scared them off. Do Christians do good as they have opportunity? Absolutely. But our mission is to get the Bread of Life to all people, not get bread of wheat to hungry people. Don’t let Satan distract Christ’s church with a neat mission and cause us to hinder and neglect the greatest mission. This is why we need to focus on making disciples.

Tomorrow’s reading is John 7.

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Jesus Saves

Today’s reading is 1 Timothy 1.

Jesus saves. But whom does Jesus save? According to Paul, Jesus saves sinners. Jesus saves sinners like Paul, a murderous persecutor who stood by and monitored the coats of those who stoned Stephen–a mob martyrdom which was walking in the very footsteps and fulfilling all the hate and rebellion against God that the execution of Jesus did. That guy became an apostle, a missionary, and evangelist. Jesus saved and used that guy in amazing ways to disciple and make disciples. If Jesus saves sinners like Paul, Jesus saves sinners like me. Jesus saves sinners like you. Jesus saves sinners like the people you meet in your life to share the gospel with. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is 1 Timothy 2.

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