Thursday, February 13, 2014

Living Jesus: Being Different

There are two main ways to read the Bible.

The first way involves me looking at the problems and/or questions in my life and going to the Bible for answers. What does God say about this, that or the other thing?

The second way is to read the Bible as God's Word and think, what is God saying here? What is He teaching me?

Interpretive mistakes can be made either way. Our deceitful hearts get in the way. Too often we open God's Word to either try to prove ourselves right or at least OK or we are trying to prove someone else wrong.

Matthew 5:31-32 (Jesus' words on divorce and adultery) have been used and abused over the years.

There are so many commentaries and opinions that are going in different directions that it makes my head spin. That should not dissuade me from seeking out the truth.

So when I pan out and look again at the bigger picture of the Sermon on the Mount and reflect on what Jesus is teaching to this crowd, how can I make sense of this?

Jesus says, "You are the blessed ones of this earth"
Jesus says, "You are the salt of the earth, the light of the world"
Jesus says, "Righteousness is not just for the Pharisees any more"
Jesus says, "I'm raising the bar"

I think Jesus wants His followers to be different.

Not just that we don't murder people, but that we don't hate people and we don't put people down.
Not that we don't ever have issues with people, but that we value peace so much that we will settle matters quickly
Not that we will avoid adultery, but that we will be wholeheartedly faithful.
Not that we would be proud of legal divorces but that now matter how wronged we are or feel by a spouse we would still have concern for their well-being.
Not that we would swear by holier things than the world swears by, but that we would have so much integrity that people could always count on us for speaking the truth.
Not that we would demand justice when we are the victims but that we might even sympathize with our robber or attacker. That we would have love for our enemies and pray for the people who try to belittle us.
And when we would do things that might cause other people to give us praise for being good or righteous or holy, we would actually try our best to do those things quietly, even secretly so that the good would be done but God would get the credit.
We would be different when it comes to money and possessions as well. Jesus' followers would not worry about the basic necessities of life. Our concern would be with pleasing God and we would have the confidence that if we do that faithfully, He will always take care of us. All of the chasing and running after things that worry the world and get people angry at each other and hating their own lives, we would be virtually immune to that. When we did have a need, we would bring it to God first.

Christians should take a break from trying to make the Sermon on the Mount a new law that can be kept or broken and  ask themselves some of these things:
Do I look more like Jesus or the world? Am I heading in the right direction?

There are a lot of people in this world who have not killed anyone, have not technically committed adultery, have perfectly legal divorces, are very keen on justice and are the friendliest of friendly to their friends and yet still look nothing like Christ. Some of these people go to church with you every Sunday.

Jesus wants His followers to be different.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Living Jesus: Slow to Anger

This Sunday I asked the class to fill-in-the-blank: Anger leads to _____________.

"Nothing good"

and the list goes on.

Of the 8-10 answers we had, only one was positive:

"Sometimes justice"

Our experience coincides with God's good Word.

We can read about times that God got angry or Jesus got angry.
So the point is not "don't get angry" the point is what we do with that anger.
Jesus is clear in this section of the Sermon in Matthew 5:
First, don't call people names and then settle matters quickly.

To "live Jesus," Christians need to be the peacemakers that Jesus just spoke about in the beatitudes.

Proverbs 15:1 says, "A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger"
If we answer our offenders with harsh words, we only perpetuate the problems. If we can respond gently, we can put out fires.

*If you do a survey of the Bible to find out what the Word says about how we should be instead of angry you will find terms like "gentle" "self control" "love" "patience" "peace" and "rejoice"
It is uncanny that these are all things listed as the fruit of the Spirit!
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.