Have Mercy On Me

Today’s reading is Luke 18.

In Jesus’s story of the Pharisee and the tax collector, we met a character who was certain he was doing enough and a character who begged for mercy. As the chapter continues, we meet a man who was certain he was doing enough and a man who begs for mercy. The rich ruler may have thought there was something lacking, but when he heard what it was, he went away sad (instead of justified). Then we meet the blind man who begs twice for mercy from Jesus. Can Luke be any clearer in the connections between Jesus’s parable and these actual men? When we read a contrived story, it may be hard to make real life applications. What would these situations look like in real life? We saw the Pharisee’s real life counterpart in the rich ruler. It looks like someone who thinks Jesus is a great teacher, but not great enough to actually obey when He says something really, really hard. Then we meet one of the counterparts with the tax collector in the blind man who cries out to Jesus despite the crowd trying to shush him, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” It looks like someone going against the crowd. It looks like enough faith to seek Jesus even when people are telling you to be quiet. And isn’t this another parallel to the children we read about after Jesus’s story? Just as folks tried to hinder the children, folks tried to hinder the blind man. Here is childlike humility and trust. His story in Luke ends by following Jesus and being a reason for the crowds to glorify God. And finally, if we can draw one more connection to earlier passages in Luke. Jesus says to the blind man, “Your faith has made you well.” This is the exact same phrase Jesus said to the sinful woman in Simon the Pharisee’s house in Luke 7:50 and to the woman with the issue of blood in Luke 8:48. Almost all miracle stories are salvation pictures. This is no exception. Without Jesus we are blind. But if we turn to Him for mercy no matter what the crowds say, we will find mercy, salvation, and justification. Praise the Lord!

Monday’s reading is Luke 19.

Continue reading “Have Mercy On Me”

Too Grown to Receive the Kingdom

Today’s reading is Luke 18.

Jesus told a story about a Pharisee and a tax collector. Then He runs into a living, breathing version of one of His story characters. While it is true that a “ruler” of the Jews was not necessarily a Pharisee, that is most likely the case here. We find this term ruler used in Luke to refer to a ruler of the synagogue (Luke 8:41), a ruler of the Pharisees (Luke 14:1), then as Jewish leaders connected with the chief priests (Luke 23:13; 24:20). Since he is asking about inheriting eternal life, he is not likely one of the Sadducees, who didn’t believe in the resurrection (see Luke 20:27-40). What is the problem with the rich ruler? A lack of childlike faith and reception. He was too grown to receive the kingdom. We might find it hard to believe someone would really act like the Pharisee in Jesus’s story of the Pharisee and the tax collector in the middle of a prayer to God. That seems a bit over the top. However, we see how such an attitude of arrogance, pride, and self-deception acts out in real life. Here is a man just like the Pharisee of Jesus’s story. He has kept the law. We don’t see him bragging in prayer, but we do see him turn away in sadness at Jesus’s instruction. He is not childlike enough to simply accept what Jesus says and do it. Who knows, maybe he does later. But at this point, he leaves Jesus in sadness without the kingdom and unjustified. The message is don’t be so grown up you miss the kingdom.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 18.

Continue reading “Too Grown to Receive the Kingdom”

Hey, God, Look at Me

Today’s reading is Luke 18.

Let’s make sure we always understand exactly why the tax collector was justified and the Pharisee was not. The Pharisee was not condemned because he avoided extortion, injustice, and adultery. He was not condemned because he fasted twice per week and gave tithes of all that he got. That is, the Pharisee was not condemned for thinking God’s law was important, for attempting to obey it, or for attempting to demonstrate his devotion by doing spiritual things above and beyond God’s law. He was supposed to be like this and so was the tax collector. Additionally, the tax collector was not justified because he was a sinner. He was supposed to avoid sin and needed to be rebuked for it. If we are not careful, we might get the idea that God doesn’t care if people obey His law and folks who dismiss His will are automatically justified. The Pharisee was humbled and condemned because of self-exaltation. The tax collector was exalted with justification because in humility he turned to the Lord. The Pharisee was not condemned for keeping God’s Law, but for thinking he was special, set apart, and deserving of praise because of the particular laws he kept instead of being humble regarding the ones he had not and seeking God’s mercy in that humility. The tax collector was not justified for dismissing God’s will, but for realizing how important God’s law is and knowing he could do absolutely nothing to make up for how badly he had broken it. Jesus is not saying, “If you want to be justified, ignore God’s law, just say the right prayer.” He is saying, “If you want to be justified don’t think the rules you’ve kept make up for the rules you’ve broken. Humble yourself before God, realizing only His mercy can justify you.”

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 18.

Continue reading “Hey, God, Look at Me”

Saving the Sinful

Today’s reading is Luke 7.

Simon’s ultimate problem was comparing himself to the wrong person in that room. It may well be that comparing sin for sin, Simon the Pharisee had not committed as many sins as the sinful woman. By human standards, he may not have even committed as awful sins as the sinful woman. The problem was he shouldn’t compare himself to the woman. He should compare himself to Jesus. That is what we need to keep in mind. Sure, I can find people around me that are worse sinners than I am. That can salve my conscience regarding my sins. But I don’t need to be salved, I need to be saved. Only Jesus can do that. Compare yourself to Him. Realize how holy He is. Then be amazed that He came to save the sinful. Reach out and take hold of Jesus’s hand. He won’t knock it away. He does know how sinful we are, but He wants us to touch Him anyway. Praise the Lord!

Monday’s reading is Luke 8.

Continue reading “Saving the Sinful”

God’s Glory Matters; God’s Authority Matters

Today’s reading is John 7.

Why does the issue of authority matter? Is it because we have to prove we are better at keeping rules? Is it because if we don’t cross all the Ts and dot all the Is we’ll go to hell? Is it because we have to earn our way into heaven by following the pattern? No. None of these things is the reason. The reason authority matters is because God’s glory matters. When I act on my own authority, I’m seeking my own glory. When I’m seeking God’s glory, I act on His authority. It’s just that simple. Whose glory are you seeking? How can you tell?

Tomorrow’s reading is John 8

Continue reading “God’s Glory Matters; God’s Authority Matters”

A Modern Pharisee

Today’s reading is Matthew 23.

“Then Jesus said to the crowds and his disciples, ‘The Pharisees do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their social media reach wide and the posts of their actions long. They love the likes and retweets they receive. They love to have the place of honor on the internet, competing for friends and likes. They love to have the greetings of those who agree with what they say and jump to their defense when someone disagrees. But you are not to be called Teacher or Father, for you are all siblings. And you have one Teacher who is Jesus. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.'”

So says the guy writing a blog post. Yes, I get it. And I’m talking to me as much as to anyone else. This platform can accomplish great good. At the same time, it can lead us down a subtly dark and sinful path. As we navigate it, let’s be fearlessly and thoroughly honest about what we are doing here. And let’s make sure it is always and only God whom we are glorifying.

Tomorrow’s reading is Matthew 24.

Continue reading “A Modern Pharisee”

Whose Leaven?

Today’s reading is Matthew 16.

If I were a betting man (which I’m not, but that is a different post entirely), I would bet my last dollar you have heard about, thought about, even talked about the leaven of the Pharisees. We know those jokers. Hypocrites, legalists, loophole seekers, all around jerks. But that isn’t the only one Jesus mentions. He also says we are to beware the leaven of the Sadducees. Now, I wouldn’t bet my last dollar on this next one, but pretty close. If I were a betting man, I would bet you haven’t spent any time contemplating the leaven of the Sadducees. Of course, with you individually, I might be incorrect. However, ask around. See how many people have thought about that at all. My point today is not to define the leaven of the Sadducees for you. Rather, it is to highlight something we all need to be careful about. We all do it sometimes. We all skip bits on occasion. We all gravitate to the easy part we’ve heard about a lot and read past the parts that don’t get discussed much. For many people. This is one of those things. Granted, it is probably not essential to your salvation to know exactly who the Sadducees were or what their leaven and influence might specifically be. Well, not anymore than knowing the leaven of the Pharisees. But, of course, we won’t know how essential it is until we ask the question. My encouragement: keep your eyes open while reading. What are the questions you haven’t asked about the verse, paragraph, chapter, book you are reading right now? Why not ask that question and see what you learn?

Tomorrow’s reading is Matthew 17.

Continue reading “Whose Leaven?”