Sunday Devotional – 23/02/20

Devotional for Sun 23 Feb

Matt. 5:29 – “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
Matt. 5:30 -“If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.

It seems Jesus is not making things easy for us here. More hard sayings. However, if we dig into it a little deeper will see why. Although we must see the seriousness of His warning here, we cannot possibly take the action He suggests, literally. The first clue to this is that both our eyes see the same thing so we would have to remove both eyes to fulfil this requirement. Just removing one would not help. So what really, Is Jesus going after here?

Jesus is expanding on the 7th commandment and as usual, goes to the heart of the matter – where such sin begins. His command not only covers the acts of fornication and adultery, but goes after the very appetites that lead to them. If lust is dwelt upon and given room to grow it will conceive and bring forth sin as we covered last week in James 1:14-15. So Jesus is urging us to refrain from feeding our eyes on things that lead to lust, and certainly not seeking to entertain or gratify it. It means realising when lust is beginning to rise up and looking elsewhere, replacing the thoughts and the vision we are seeing with something else.

Obviously there are many other things we could be looking at that glorify God. The world around us is full of the glory of God – the beautiful creation, the life around us – both people, birds and animals, the stunning architecture and even the weather – all surround us and reflect His glory and majesty. All these things bring pure and edifying thoughts to us – and as Paul says, we should let our thoughts dwell on them (Phil 4:8).

However, we must not seek to minimise what Jesus is saying here. His language is very strong. If we don’t get control of these areas of life, the damage to ourselves, those around us, and the Kingdom of God, can be incredibly destructive. That is why He warns that it is better to lose an eye or hand than give way to such sin. If we allow these things to get in they will quickly gain a foothold in our life which will always “bring forth death.”

The Kingdom of God is undergirded by sacrifice and self denial. We must resolve to bring our body and its lusts into subjection by keeping a constant watch over our own hearts, and to suppress or better, eradicate lust and corruption at its very first instance. The key to doing this is to seek God for His grace, depend upon that grace daily, and to walk in the Spirit, so that we may not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. As we do this were are assured that this will overcome the will of the flesh and glorify and carry out the will of the Holy Spirit. Failure to do this can result in our being drawn out from the Kingdom of God and back into the kingdom of darkness – which ultimately may result in a lost eternity. This is why Jesus gives such a stern warning – facing a lost eternity is worse than losing an eye or an arm and this can well be the result of unchecked lusts in our life.

Matthew Henry makes a great comment when he says “our Master requires nothing from us but what he knows to be for our advantage.” This is not a warning from a punitive God – it is a severe appeal for us to guard our souls as we journey through life and avoid such catastrophic circumstances.

Let me finish with quoting in full, Paul’s advice here.

Phil. 4:8 – Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

God bless you.

The Bible Is Not a Book of Answers

September 9, 2019 The Bible has the answer, what’s the question?I can think of plenty of questions the Bible cannot answer. Important questions too. Instead it remains silent. Why? Because, the Bible is not a book of answers. I’m not sayings there’s no answers. There are. What I’m saying is the primary purpose of the Bible is not answers all our questions. And there are plenty of questions that the Bible doesn’t even try to answer. Yet still many people think and approach the Bible as if it contains all the information they could ever possibly need. That understanding will only lead you to disappointment and confusion. Because the Bible is not a book of answers. It’s Not Black and WhiteMuch damage has been done by well-meaning Christians who took a stand on an unclear issue that seemed so clear to them… I know, I know… There was a proof text for that. But there’s probably also a proof text for that same issue from a different perspective. Remember the Bible is not an answer book. When we read the Bible in its totality we will see themes that continue and connect throughout the whole book. But we will also see our fare share of ambiguity. We will see different perspectives on the same issue. That doesn’t diminish the Bible. It shows the complexity that exists within the pages, which reflects the complexity we experience in life. Many of us pick up the Bible to find the answers of life. But the Bible doesn’t give us many answers, rather it holds up a mirror. It asks us questions of ourselves. And most importantly it transforms us. Not by the knowledge we find, but by the God we meet within the pages.That’s exactly what the author of Hebrews is getting at in Hebrews 4:12. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews uses a different analogy than a mirror, but the point is the same. It speaks of an encounter that brings transformation, major transformation, into the readers life. It doesn’t bring answers, but rather it brings change. So, if the Bible is not an answer book, then what is it? Well, let’s look at three things it is. It’s a Story The Bible is a story. Quite possibly the greatest love story. Coupled with the most heartbreaking moments. It’s also a drama playing out on the grandest stage. A poetic look at the human condition. With plenty of wildly inappropriate incidents. The murder and mystery. Hope and tragedy. The Bible has it all. But ultimately the Bible is a story of redemption. It’s a story of a God that goes to extreme lengths to bring his people back to Him. It’s a story of a people that choose death over life and a God that took on death so that he could bring his people back into life. N.T. Wright puts it this way: “We read scripture in order to be refreshed in our memory and understanding of the story within which we ourselves are actors, to be reminded where it has come from and where it is going to, and hence what our own part within it ought to be.” (Scripture and the Authority of God) Link to thatThe Bible is a story. It’s a story that teaches us and reminds us who God is and what He has done. It’s through this story that we are reminded by the people that have gone before us that God is good and faithful.But it’s much more than just a story we read. It’s a story that’s unfolding all around us. This isn’t like the stories in all the fairytale books we read as a kid. It’s not some make believe, get you through tough days book. It’s a real story that’s alive and active today. We get to play a role in the story that’s unfolding. The Bible tells a story of the past and challenges us to play a role in the story that’s happening around us. It’s a Journey The more I read and study the Bible I realize it’s more of a journey rather than a destination.What I mean is that the Bible isn’t really interested in answering our questions. Which is how most of us read the Bible. Rather it takes us on a journey that reveals who we really are and who God really is. The Bible is taking us on a journey. It does so by reminding us of the past and preparing us for the future.The Bible reminds us of those who came before us. It reminds us of God’s faithfulness to them. And then it reveals our part in the grander story that is still unfolding all around us. And if we let it, it will take us on a journey. A journey to a deeper faith and a role in the story God is telling. That’s the beauty of the Bible. It’s not just a book to read to gain knowledge, like every other book. It’s a living book that can actually change you and guide you… If you let it. I love how the Psalmist puts it in Psalms 119:105 “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” It’s an image of the journey we are on and what the Bible offers us. The Psalmist knows that God’s word is not the answer book for life, rather it’s a light on the journey he is on. If we continue to approach the Bible as a book of black and white answers, it will fail us. Because that’s not it’s intent. But when we approach it as a journey and when we join God in the story He is telling all around us, it changes how we approach it. The Bible is a tool, a resource, that can help us on this journey through life. It’s an Invitation Finally, the Bible is an invitation. It’s an invitation into the story God is telling and an invitation to join Him on the journey he’s leading you to. When we approach the Bible this way it changes how we read and understand it. We don’t go searching for answers. Rather we go to it to be reminded and encouraged by what God has done. Not only what He’s done, but also what He’s doing. It’s through the Bible we are transformed into a new person. Not because we have more knowledge, but because we met God in the pages. The Bible is an invitation. The question for us is will we accept the invite? Will we let God do the transformative work He wants to do in our life? Or will we keep it at arms length because that’s safer? That’s why many stay with the black and white view of the Bible. It’s easier, it’s safer. It doesn’t require a lot. But you will also miss out on the depth and richness of Scripture. The invitation is a risk, it will cost you. The journey is strenuous and the story has its fair share conflict. So the fear of the unknown, the potential pain keeps many away. But it’s on the only side of that pain is true transformation. Leaving the Black and White BehindMany of us grow up with a black and white view of life. But as we grew, we let go of that view. Because life is not that way. It’s much more complex. Still many hold onto their black and white understanding of the Bible. It’s time to let that go. It’s time to embrace the Bible for what it is. That’s the beauty. As we let go of our simpler view of the Bible we once had it can be scary at first. Because it’s not so easy to understand. It’s more complex, a lot more grey. But at the same time it becomes SO much richer. It’s part of the maturing process as we grow in our faith and understanding of God. If you want to embrace the richness and depth that God has for you in the Bible then you have to embrace some grey. The Bible is not black and white and that’s a good thing. Because what God has for you in the pages is so much better than the answers. He wants to show you Himself. Will you let Him?