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Missing the Big One

You’re right, you can’t help yourself. Neither can I. Enter Jesus Christ . . . THE CULTURE WE LIVE IN HAS US CONDITIONED FOR REPLAY. Miss a sitcom? No worries, you can catch it on the internet. If it’s a popular series, stream it on the rebound and...

Signs of True Love for God

Listen to the companion podcast Here’s What True Love Looks Like with the free  Courage Matters App, or on iTunes or Google. Simply search for “Courage Matters” and you’re on your way. If you’re in the area, join us Sunday. “JESUS...

Missing the Big One

You’re right, you can’t help yourself. Neither can I. Enter Jesus Christ . . .

THE CULTURE WE LIVE IN HAS US CONDITIONED FOR REPLAY. Miss a sitcom? No worries, you can catch it on the internet. If it’s a popular series, stream it on the rebound and you’re on your way. But life isn’t like that. There are some things in life that if you miss them they are gone. Forever. There is no replay. No second chance.

In Luke 10:12, Jesus makes this striking statement: “I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.” (ESV). More bearable than Sodom? Are you kidding me? God annihilated the people of Sodom – and everything on the ground as well. He obliterated Sodom. (To learn why God destroyed Sodom, listen to the February 23, 2014 podcast, Miss This, Miss Everything). By the time God was done with Sodom, there was nothing left of it but a memory.

First, it’s important to note that Jesus considered the Old Testament account of Sodom to be literal (see Genesis 19). Jesus agrees that Sodom was a real place, with a real problem, and that it faced the real judgment of God. Some folks don’t think Jesus judged anyone, but those folks are not reading the Bible. This passage, as well as numerous other passages, make it clear that Jesus absolutely did judge people. In Luke 10:1-12, the whole passage is about God going out of His way to rescue people while all along He knew that some of those people would reject Him. The point of Luke 10:1-12 is that Jesus destroyed Sodom for their sexual perversity – yet there is a sin that will just as certainly seal the fate of anyone who commits it, every single time. That sin is rejecting Jesus as the Savior.

Yes, some people do not believe that the sin of Sodom was sexual perversion. But in order to reach this conclusion, one has to be completely selective in what the Bible specifically teaches on the subject. There is not much need for interpretation, because the biblical authors spell it out in black and white. You have to ignore entire sections of the Bible, repeatedly, and ignore the fact that multiple biblical authors continually interpreted the sin of Sodom to be sexual perversion, not merely a lack of kindness. When one reads Genesis 13:13, Genesis 19:1-26, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:18-36, 2 Peter 2:4-10 and Jude 6-8, it is the understatement of the century to suggest the sin of Sodom’s people was merely greed and a lack of kindness toward its visitors! If you really want to know what the Bible says on the topic, take some time to read the passages for yourself. They need no commentary from me – or anyone else, for that matter. They speak for themselves with a clarity that God ensured, having covered them from multiple angles, with multiple authors, over multiple generations.

It’s striking to note that Sodom is the example Jesus uses when discussing what God will do to those who reject Him. These are not the words of a weak leader, or of a man suffering from an identity crisis. They are not the words of a man trying to come to terms with His own life mission. They are the words of Jesus, who understood He was, and is, God’s Messiah for our problem of sin.

Is God a hater? Yes, he is. He hates sin. But does God hate people? Absolutely not. The cross is God’s definitive statement on the matter. If God hated people, He wouldn’t have pursued us and died for us on the cross. The justice of God, where He dealt with your sins and mine, was demonstrated on the cross of Christ. On His body. The mercy of God, where He decided, because of the cross, to not hold our sins against us, was displayed on the cross. In a very powerful way, we could say that the justice and mercy of God “kissed” at the cross. God’s hatred for sin, and his love for us, were demonstrated simultaneously through the death of Jesus on the cross.

Am I a hater? I am. I hate sin, beginning with my own. And you should, too, if you claim to follow Christ. The sin of Sodom was not that they simply were involved in sexual perversion. Their sin was that they approved of their perversion and refused to repent. It’s their lack of repentance that ultimately, eternally condemns a person. God doesn’t take one sin as more wicked than another – except the sin of refusing to repent. This is the sin He will not overlook. He never did and He never will. This was the ultimate sin of Sodom, the one that forced God’s hand and led to their destruction, the judgment of God. The same sin is what forces the hand of God today. A hardened heart toward God, a heart that will not repent, is the sin that condemns a person. There is no sin too big for God – except the sin of refusing to repent. Had Sodom repented, God would have relented. But they didn’t, and so Sodom is no more. God will deal with the perpetual liar, slanderer, gossip, thief, swindler, cheat, the same way. Refuse to accept God’s cure for lying, slandering, gossiping, stealing, cheating, and you too will go the way of Sodom.

The cure for a lifestyle of repentance is Jesus Christ. He’s not the cure for ensuring you’ll never sin again. But really getting serious about following Jesus, and asking Him to change your life will reduce your propensity to sin dramatically. Jesus is the cure to get life heading in the right direction – and this is what repentance of lifestyle is. It’s a new direction in a new way of living. Yes, you will stumble. But you will get back up, by the grace of God, and continue the journey in your new direction. This is what God offers us through faith in Jesus Christ. You’re right, you can’t help yourself. Enter Jesus Christ. 

The same is true of you and me. We are not to make excuses for our sin. Doing so belittles the cross. It belittles Jesus’ mission. We need to take our sin seriously – because Jesus took it seriously. When you’ve repented of your sin, and when repentance becomes your lifestyle as a follower 0f Christ (it must), then you earn the fearful right to help others do the same. It’s not something to hold over the heads of others. It’s something we must approach with fear and trembling. We need to walk in a lifestyle of repentance from sin and a God-honoring approach to life. And then, we have an obligation and a clear calling from God (as did the 72 in Luke 10:1-12), to help others pursue the same.

A lack of repentance is hatred toward God. Think about it. Is it possible to love someone while ignoring what is most important to them? Again I say, think about this.

As Christ followers, we are to follow in His footsteps. We are to hate sin, beginning with our own. And, we are to love people – deeply. But loving people doesn’t mean we are to accept their sin. Did God accept the sin of Sodom? Of course not. Is it possible to separate sin from a person? Only when that sin is dealt with through saving faith in Jesus Christ. Only God can deal with the sin He hates while loving the person guilty of that sin. Only God can remove sin from a person – and this is what must happen if a relationship with God is to begin. Until sin is dealt with by Christ Himself, as a result of faith in Him and His payment for sin, it is impossible to separate the guilt of sin from the person who is guilty.

Miss Jesus and you miss the Big One. It makes little difference what else you may accomplish in life, but if you reject Jesus, you’ve missed everything that matters. What matters most in life is that you know your sins are forgiven, and that you have a real relationship with God. This is made possible through the death of Jesus Christ. As Sodom couldn’t escape the punishment of God, nobody who knows about Jesus, who hears the good news of God dealing with sin through the death of His son and rejects Him, can escape. If you really hate sin, and you really love God, then accepting Jesus is the obvious choice.

If you like solid Bible teaching and want to enjoy God fully, you’ll appreciate the Courage Matters App, available on iTunes and Google Play. If you’re near York, Pa, come visit us on a Sunday at GenesisYork.com— and be sure to introduce yourself. This is all made possible by generous listeners, readers, and supporters like you. Please consider giving towards Courage Matters to ensure our nation has the opportunity to hear the message of TRUTH and LOVE. You can donate by clicking the “Give” tab on CourageMatters.com or on the Courage Matters app.

Life of Christ #46: Miss This, Miss Everything, Pt 1

What was the real sin of Sodom, and why did God destroy that city? And, is there any sin worse than the sin of Sodom that someone could commit today? In this message, Pastor Michael Anthony will walk us through Luke 10:1-12 as we examine the expanding ministry of Jesus in His day, into ours. In chapter 9 we saw Jesus send out the twelve Apostles for ministry. But in this chapter, Jesus’ ministry grows, as he sends out 72 more. What is the signficance of the 72, and why would Jesus speak so strongly against the people whom He knew, beforehand, would reject them?

You may have heard it said that “Jesus didn’t judge anyone.” But in this message you will examine that claim and see what the Bible says for yourself.

What Your Underwear Says About God

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SOME PEOPLE HAVE HOLY UNDERWEAR. LITERALLY.

“When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.’ This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,

They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.‘*

– John  19:23,24 *Psalm 22:18

A TUNIC was the first century equivalent of underwear. It was the long, robe-like garment worn between the skin and the outer garment, providing protection, comfort and functionality. Some have postulated that Jesus was wealthy, and use John 19:23 as their evidence. You see, Jesus was not wearing the common man’s underwear. The soldiers, in the midst of dividing Jesus’ clothes among them, were caught by surprise when they got down to His underwear. As the verse says, “But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.” This kind of tunic was considered valuable because of the way it was made. It was the kind of garment not often worn by poor or middle-class individuals. Some have therefore concluded that Jesus’s choice of underwear revealed his wealthy status. They then make the leap to suggest that His followers have a right to claim, pursue and embrace the same kind of material wealth. The thinking goes like this: “Jesus was rich, and and I’m a child of the King. Therefore, I should be rich, too.”

This kind of “theology” espoused by people who embrace the “prosperity gospel”, is askew for numerous reasons too lengthy to explain here, but certainly worthy of mention. The above conclusion royally misses the point of John recording the moment of surprise. If you’re not careful, you too might miss the lesson that applies to us even now, in the twenty-first century.  Using John 19:23 as evidence of Jesus’ material wealth royally misses the point of the passage – and the point of Jesus’ intentionality. It demonstrates an extremely sloppy and poor treatment of the biblical text, and reveals the human tendency to pervert and twist the truth for personal gain, even if done unintentionally. (Indeed, one need not be intentional to be incorrect). Human intellect, apart from divine enlightenment, constantly misses the higher intentions of God.

So what was John’s reason for writing about Jesus’ underwear? And, what in the world was Jesus doing wearing a rich man’s brand of underwear in the first place? The point is clearly described in the very next verse (John 19:24):

This was to fulfill the Scripture which says . . .

Jesus’ underwear was set apart for a divine purpose, not merely earthly comfort. It was literally worn to point people to God. Jesus’ underwear was, in the most literal sense of the word, holy. 

Still, some might persist about the passage affirming Jesus’ wealth, and the right of every disciple to follow in his footsteps. They could point to the fact that Jesus had a treasurer handling his money (Judas, the back-stabber). John  12:6 says that Judas had “charge of the moneybag”. They suggest that Jesus’ having such a full-time keeper of the moneybag, further supports the premise that Jesus was wealthy. But this conclusion is ignorant of historical fact. It was entirely common, not unusual, for a prominent rabbi to have someone handle his financial affairs. In fact, given the traveling nature of Jesus’ ministry, it would have been understood that someone, even multiple people, would be underwriting the expenses of his ministry. (The same can be said of current ministers who serve God well. Their ministries and lives are often entirely supported through the financial resources of others).

The fact is that we don’t know whether Jesus was rich, poor or somewhere in the middle during his 30 plus years of life on earth. That He was supported financially, through mere mortals, is a no-brainer. Of course He was. He had to be to accomplish what He did. We know from Scripture that Jesus had access to all the world’s riches as the Creator of the world (John 1:2,3). And, we also know from Philippians 2:6,7 that he “made himself nothing”. In other words, Jesus gave up His majesty and everything that went with it – and entrusted His well-being into His Father’s hands. His Father, therefore, ensured that even mere mortals took care of His Son’s needs. If we are to conclude anything about Jesus and money that is a timeless take-away for His followers, it’s this: Jesus knew how to put money to use not for mere personal comfort, but for the glory of His Father. The godly person knows how to convert money into deliberate, strategic vessels that point people to God. To use God’s blessings for merely material matters is to stop short of our God-given calling and potential. Money has a higher purpose than personal comfort. The mature Christ-follower uses money – and all their resources – for something that far outlasts personal comfort and material well-being: the glory of God and advancement of His Kingdom.  

So, how did Jesus get his seamless tunic? For all we know, someone could have given it to Him as a gift. How many of us have received gifts from people who are about us? All the more appreciated would a nice pair of underwear be for someone who had an itinerant ministry in the kind of hot and harsh terrain Jesus frequented. For all we know, it could have been Jesus’ only such pair of underwear, reserved for the special occasion of His crucifixion at the hands of ruthless Romans. It wouldn’t be the first time we see the Master Communicator using the perfect prop at the perfect time to deliver the perfect message. We don’t really know how Jesus got it – but we know Jesus was masterfully strategic in its use. 

All this leads us the real reason why Jesus was found wearing the expensive undergarment on the occasion of His death.Jesus was a strategist, entirely devoted to the glory of His Father.Everything He did, everything He owned, right down to His underwear, pointed people to His Father, the Scriptures, and the fulfillment of His earthly mission as the literal Lamb of God who would give His life for the forgiveness of your sins and mine. Jesus knew that the seamless tunic would surprise and interest the Roman soldiers. So much so that they would not destroy its value by tearing it up and dividing it. Instead, they would cast lots for it – and in so doing, fulfill the prophecy of Psalm 22:18. The seamless tunic was God’s “bait”, used to lure the Roman soldiers to act in a way that would fulfill the Scriptures and again present Jesus as the Promised Messiah, God’s Anointed, the Christ.

If there is a take-away for the modern Christ-follower, it certainly isn’t about one’s personal right to material wealth. It certainly isn’t about one’s claim, as a child of the King, to personal prosperity. Jesus’ use of his tunic helps us understand that there is no such thing as a meaningless possession when it comes to advancing God’s Kingdom.

If, as Luke 6:40 says, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher”, then the take-away is stunning – hidden at first from the eyes of us mortals who are too often bent on foolish, trivial pursuits. If everything about Jesus, right down to His underwear, was deliberately done to point people to His Father, and to point people to Himself as the Messiah, then shouldn’t we who claim to follow Him, do the same? Shouldn’t everything we own, and everything we do, have this single purpose as the driving force behind our life and resources?

POINTS TO PONDER:

1. Jesus’ use of underwear was a display of creative, strategic brilliance.If you are a Christ-follower, are you following your Master’s lead? Do you seek ways to strategically use every part of your life, and all your resources to fulfill God’s divine purpose, as Jesus did? 2. Is there any area of your life that you thought was of no use to God, that you didn’t realize could be used to point people to Jesus as Master, Savior, Messiah? 

What does your underwear say about God? If you’re like me, there’s a good chance it could say a lot more. I’m doing all I can to adjust my life, accordingly. I hope you’ve been inspired toward the same.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments . . .

If you like solid Bible teaching and want to enjoy God fully, you’ll appreciate the Courage Matters App, available on iTunes and Google Play. If you’re near York, Pa, come visit us on a Sunday at GenesisYork.com— and be sure to introduce yourself. This is all made possible by generous listeners, readers, and supporters like you. Please consider giving towards Courage Matters to ensure our nation has the opportunity to hear the message of TRUTH and LOVE. You can donate by clicking the “Give” tab on CourageMatters.com or on the Courage Matters app.

Life of Christ #45: What Your Underwear Says About Your Walk With God

Everything about Jesus pointed to the glory His Father and fulfillment of His purpose. Everything – right down to his underwear. If this is true about Jesus, can it be said of you? Does everything in your life point people to God, and work to fulfill His divine plan? If you are a Christ-follower, it should. In this especially descriptive message, you’ll learn a lesson or two from Jesus about the strategic use of EVERYTHING in your life – for the glory of God. Right down to your underwear.

Message 45 in our series through the entire Gospel of Luke.

Signs of True Love for God

heart

Listen to the companion podcast Here’s What True Love Looks Like with the free  Courage Matters App, or on iTunes or Google. Simply search for “Courage Matters” and you’re on your way. If you’re in the area, join us Sunday.

“JESUS SET HIS FACE TOWARD JERUSALEM . . .” (Luke 9:51, 53)

Do you love God? Is this the passionate pursuit of your life? What are the signs of real love for God? Since most of the lessons I’ve learned in life have been learned from personal failure, I’m going to share these out of my own failures, having learned the hard way, and by personal reflection. I hope these help you in your pursuit of loving God. I welcome your comments and feedback.

1. TRUE LOVE FOR GOD CAN’T BE SEPARATED FROM SURRENDER.True love for God is selfless, not selfish.It’s clear that Jesus went to Jerusalem to die, not live. He didn’t go there to feel good, but to obey His good Father. Likewise, you have to be careful you don’t confuse feeling good with surrendering to God. When Jesus went to Jerusalem, he didn’t have himself in mind. He had his Father, and you, in mind. The universal characteristic of love for God is summarized by one word: surrender.

2. TRUE LOVE FOR GOD CAN’T BE SEPARATED FROM A PASSIONATE PURSUIT OF GOD’S WILL. If you know God’s will, but won’t do it, you really aren’t struggling with God’s will. You’re struggling with loving God. It’s not possible to love God without loving God’s will. If you really love God, everything in your life will revolve not only around God – but around the fulfillment of God’s will through your life. Not by accident, but by deliberate intentionality. Think about this and let it sink in: it’s not possible to divorce love for God from love for the will of God.

3. TRUE LOVE FOR GOD HAS SIGNIFICANT CONSEQUENCES BEYOND YOUR OWN LIFE AND WORLD. Jesus’ love for the Father has ongoing ramifications far beyond his thirty plus years on earth. Likewise, when you truly pursue God, in love, the consequences will be bigger than your own life. You will only have a God-sized legacy in proportion to your pursuit of God, and His will, in love.

4. TRUE LOVE FOR GOD WILL COST YOU SOMETHING – AND PROVIDE FOR OTHERS. Jesus’ love for his Father cost him his own life. But John 10:18 tells us that no one took Jesus’ life – Jesus gave his own life, of his own accord. Jesus was so in love with his Father that he did not consider his own life above yours and mine. We are huge beneficiaries of Jesus’ love for his Father – and his love for us.

If Jesus was selfish, concerned about self preservation, his own comfort and convenience, you and I would be up the creek without a paddle. It’s always love that changes lives. True love for God, is selfless, potent and life-changing. You may not realize it now, but the decisions you make this week to love God (or not to love Him) may have much more far-reaching ramifications than you have realized to this point. Now that you have something to ponder, act upon it while you still have time. Be a person who loves God, who loves His will, and who takes the high road in a day when many don’t even know which road they’re on.

I’d love to hear your comments as we journey together . . .

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