Get Back Up When You Fall

Today’s reading is Acts 3.

Let’s think about the healed lame man for one more day. He responded to Peter in faith and accessed the healing grace of God meaning he could walk. He went walking, leaping, and praising God not just that day but for every day thereafter, knowing with every step he was walking because of God’s power and grace and not his own ability. No matter how he felt about the responsibilities of walking, he knew he had been healed, so he kept walking. And then…then the unthinkable happened. He tripped and fell. Who knows? Maybe he just stubbed his toe on a rock jutting out in the road. Maybe he simply got his feet tangled up with one another. Maybe some of the local kids made a game out of tripping up that old beggar man who used to be lame. However it happened, he is lying face down in the dust, that old familiar position. What do you think went through his mind in that moment? I can imagine what would go through my mind. “I knew it was too good to be true. I knew it couldn’t last.” But even with those fleeting thoughts, what did he need to remember? “I have been healed by the power of Jesus Christ. I’m a healed man. It is time for me to get back up and keep walking.” That is just like our salvation. We are going to trip. We are going to stumble. We are going to fall. For any number of reasons, we will find ourselves face down in the spiritual dust. And in that moment, Satan will whisper in our ears, “You knew it was too good to be true. You knew you couldn’t keep it up. You knew you couldn’t make it. You should just stay down here in the dirt and grime and filth of the ground with me.” But what do you need to do? You need to remember you are a healed Christian. You have been saved by the crucified blood of Jesus Christ. Your sins are washed away. You are healed. You need to get back up when you fall and walk like the healed Christian God has made you into. That is who you are. You aren’t the fallen sinner, you are the saved Christian. Get back up when you fall and walk like a healed Christian. Praise the Lord!

Next week’s reading is Acts 4.

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What’s Up with Barabbas?

Today’s reading is Luke 23.

What on earth is this about a guy named Barabbas? Okay, okay, you may have read the other gospel accounts about this guy and understand what is going on. But imagine for a moment that this was your first exposure to the gospel story. Luke doesn’t give us many details. All we have is some rebellious, murdering insurrectionist who gets to go free because the people ask that he be set free while innocent Jesus gets executed essentially for the same kinds of crimes Barabbas actually committed. And in this trade off, we see a powerful picture of what is actually happening as Jesus dies on the cross. A man, whose name literally means “son of the Father” by the way, guilty of insurrection and murder should go to the cross. He should be executed for his crimes. However, he doesn’t. On the other hand, a man, whose name means “God is salvation” by the way, completely innocent should never see a cross. But He does. Barabbas is us. We are the children of the Father who are guilty. We deserve the death. However, we are released. Jesus endures the death in our place. The one contrast between us and Barabbas is he was freed because the word of the people prevailed, we are freed because the Word of God prevailed. I often wonder how Barabbas behaved after witnessing Jesus condemned for his crimes and sins. How should he have behaved? How should he have thought of and related to Jesus from that day forward? That leads me to wonder about me. How should I behave? How should I relate to Jesus? What about you?

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 23.

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Beware Judas

Today’s reading is Luke 22.

What is up with Judas? How could this happen? Why did Jesus even let him into the group? There are plenty of opinions regarding how this happened. I think the most likely is Judas made it into the group because he was just as qualified to be in the group of disciples and apostles as the other 11. Think about it. We tend to see Judas through the negative lens because we know how the story ends for him. However, it is clear none of those who worked with him saw him that way. He was set up to be their keeper of the purse, the treasurer if you will. None of the other apostles questioned his sincerity and loyalty. When Jesus says someone at the table would betray Him, each disciple was concerned it would be himself. None of them said, “I knew you shouldn’t have let Judas in.” And this leads us to the warning we need to consider. When we say that we need to beware Judas, we are not saying that we need to watch everyone around us carefully and see if we can weed out the traitors around us. No. We need to watch ourselves. We need to fearlessly and thoroughly examine our own hearts. We need to find where the chinks in our loyalty to king Jesus are because the enemy will exploit them. The enemy will lead us down a primrose path that ends with betraying our King and ultimately destroying ourselves. Beware Judas, not the Judas out there, but the Judas within. We must never think it couldn’t be me. We need to be radically honest with ourselves and with our King. That is the only way to beware Judas.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 22.

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If Your Brother Repents, Forgive Him

Today’s reading is Luke 17.

Because so few understand what it means to rebuke a sinner properly, few understand forgiveness as well. Because of this misunderstanding, I fear many of us focus more on forgiveness as defined by psychologists than as defined by the Bible. For instance, while searching for images to go with this post, I saw a meme that says, “Forgiveness is for you, not for them.” From a psychological standpoint, this sounds deep and profound. The idea is whether or not a person repents, let go of your anger, your frustration, your seething desire for revenge. Quit feeding your negative feelings toward them because it is destroying you on the inside. If you would just learn to forgive, you would be so much more psychologically healthy. The problem with this biblically is that while all those things are emotional and psychological prerequisites to spiritual forgiveness, they are not forgiveness. That is, if you hang on to your anger, your frustration, your desire for revenge, or if you continue to feed your negative feelings toward a person, you will never forgive them, but letting all those go is not forgiveness. After all, when Jesus was on the cross dying as the sacrifice that would pay the debt for the sins of the crowd that shouted, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”, that nailed Him to the cross, that stood their jeering, “Come down and we’ll believe in You,” and He said, “Father forgive them; they don’t know what they are doing,” was He hanging on to anger, frustration, vengeance? Was He feeding His negative feelings toward them? No, obviously not. And yet, He wasn’t forgiving them. The One who had the power to forgive sins on the earth and who had even told people their sins were forgiven while on the earth, didn’t do that on the cross. He didn’t say, “You are forgiven.” He didn’t say, “I forgive you.” He didn’t forgive them, but asked the Father to do so. And the Father did forgive many of them…on the day of Pentecost and in the days and years following (as did Jesus). Whether or not someone repents, we need to let go of our hate, our anger, our grudge-holding, our desire to hurt, our desire to get vengeance. We need to do that because these emotions and desires hurt not only the person we feel them towards, but also hurt us. In fact, as we learned yesterday, the only way to rebuke properly, with the desire to bring someone to repentance is to let go of these things. But, until they have repented, we must continue to warn them, to rebuke them. Until they have repented, their relationship with God is in jeopardy, their soul is in danger. How can we call it love to simply let sin go and allow a person to walk blithely on to eternal destruction? We need to understand that Jesus’s words here in Luke 17:1-4 are not for our psychological health (though that may be a serendipitous byproduct), they are for the salvation of sinners. Sometimes the sinner is us. Sometimes the sinner is someone else. If your brother sins, love him enough to rebuke him. If he repents, love him enough to forgive him.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 17.

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If Your Brother Sins, Rebuke Him

Today’s reading is Luke 17.

If your brother sins, rebuke him. The command is not to hate him, yell at him, hold a grudge against him, be mean to him, hurt him, get in his face, be angry with him, badmouth him, slander him, ignore him, give him the cold shoulder. The command is to rebuke him. As Jesus rebuked the wind and the storm charging them to stop and rebuked demons charging them to leave people, when we rebuke someone we are charging them to change their behavior. Rebuking someone is not venting my hurt feelings, expressing my anger, blowing my stack. Rebuking someone is not yelling at them, hitting them, or even punishing them. Rebuking someone is instructing them to change their behavior, that is, to repent. Why would we do that? Because we love them. Because we know their sins separate them from God and from us. Because we don’t want them to perish in sin anymore than God wants that (see Ezekiel 18:20, 32). Most people don’t rebuke. They either vent their feelings or ignore the situation not wanting to rock the boat. It takes someone who truly loves to offer a sincere, true rebuke intended to bring someone to soul-saving repentance. Will you love those who sin that much?

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 17.

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Today’s reading is Luke 17.

We often think of sin as scandalous. However, the real scandal is not simply committing sin, but prompting someone else to sin. I am actually making a bit of a play on words here, but be aware that the word translated “temptations to sin” in the ESV (“stumbling blocks” or “offenses” in others) is the Greek “skandalon.” Our modern word for “scandal” comes from this word that meant to cause someone else to stumble. No doubt, in the modern sense of the word, when we are caught in egregious sin, that is a scandal. But be aware what is truly scandalous is when we play a part in tempting others–whether in how we talk, walk, dress, behave, where we go, making fun of people for their standards, chipping away at the resolve of others, not taking into account their weaknesses and conscious scruples. All these are truly scandalous. Let us avoid every hint of scandal and lead others to honor, glorify, and obey God.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 17.

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God Knows Your Heart

Today’s reading is Luke 16.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard Christians explain the grace of God for their sins by saying, “Well, God knows my heart.” This is sometimes said as if our heartfelt devotion and personal sincerity make up for our sins. “Hey, I may be mistaken about how to worship God scripturally, but God knows my heart.” We say that as if we do not recognize how terribly frightening the prospect of God knowing our hearts really is. Jesus’s words to the Pharisees in Luke 16:15 demonstrate this. Jesus makes it clear to His detractors. “God knows your heart.” And that fact does not bode well for them. God is not fooled by the outwardly righteous demeanor of the Pharisees. He knows exactly how rotten their hearts are. As Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, ESV). God does not give His grace to us because of how amazingly devout and sincere we are in our hearts. God doesn’t overlook our sins because we meant well. After all, if that was the basis of salvation, it wouldn’t be grace, would it? Here is the amazing thing. Despite knowing our hearts, Jesus died for us anyway. He established His kingdom. We need it. None of this, of course, is permission to be an insincere hypocrite. None of this, of course, is permission to be an apathetic, half-hearted citizen of the kingdom. It is, however, a reminder that our comfort is not that Jesus knows our hearts, but in discovering and knowing the heart of Jesus.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 16.

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