In Matthew 5:43-48 is another well known passage where Jesus is teaching on loving your enemies. Matt 5:44 says “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Bonhoffer in “Cost of Discipleship” clarifies enemies are those who have hostility against us, not necessarily those against who we have hostility against. How we treat people in those situations says a lot about where our hope is based and how much we understand we have been loved by God in Jesus.
v47 is pretty key in understanding this concept – “and if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?”
Christians are called to go beyond what others do and say. We are called to be different. Called to stand out. In all situations, we are called to glorify God. This is different, “extraordinary.” The temptation is to blend in, to not stand out from others. Yet we see from the Word of God that we are called to “do more.” This isn’t an effort based system of earning God’s favor, but if you are disciple of Jesus you are already accepted by God. Now, we work to go beyond the norm, we avoid sin, we love our enemies — because of who we are in Christ.
If we are truly living our lives according to God’s word – we will stand out. Sometimes this will be hard, as anyone who desires to live a Godly life will be persecuted. (2 Tim 3:12). We are not promised an easy, financially prosperous, and healthy life – no matter what the false teachers on the “Preachers of LA” say.
But, what we do know, is that a life lived for God’s glory is the most fulfilled life that one can have, because we are walking in obedience to our Creator, and living a life of love, and in that is the blessing of growing in Christ and being more and more filled with the knowledge of Him as we go thru life. Only in that is true peace and joy.
God does not cause evil, sinful men do evil as an act of rebellion against their Creator. Yet, God is not helpless and unaware of the evil men do, he is sovereign over it…using it for the billions of reasons that we will never understand because we are not Him – yet we may catch a glimpse of a reason every now and then.
Twelve years ago, God used an astounding act of evil to spin my head around, get my eyes off of myself, and return to my Creator. He used 9/11 in my life as a giant wake up call, that my life without Him at the center is ultimately empty.
God is also the God of all comfort. And so, while today I’m very thankful for God using 9/11, I’m very aware that there will always be people who still mourn the loss of loved ones. We remember them, hug them, pray for them. We encourage them that the only true comfort is not found in this world, where I was searching for it in my pre-9/11 self-centered fog – it is in a person – Jesus Christ, who came on the ultimate rescue mission to provide a way for a rebellious people to be reconciled to their Creator, by his selfless act of taking our punishment on the cross.
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.””
(Mark 10:45 ESV)
But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me. (Psalm 13:5, 6 ESV)
This is part of Psalm 13 where David is lamenting to God “How Long? Will you forget me forever?!” We’ve all been there, and as Chandler says if you haven’t, it just means you haven’t lived long enough. No one is immune to hard times when we feel alone and abandoned.
We see the resolve that David has – he has trusted in God’s covenant steadfast faithful love, an he will take joy in Gods salvation. On this side if history, we know that God has provided salvation in Jesus, so in our lives we should be rejoicing in God providing us Jesus.
That doesn’t stop our hearts from trying to find joy elsewhere, but whatever that is it is ultimately a joy thief, not a joy giver. Horton writes “the more passionately we search for happiness as and end to itself, the less happy we actually are.”
God created it this way. We need to find our joy and worth and value in God, not in other people or other things.
Psalm 13 rightly reminds us to trust in Gods love, rejoice in Gods salvation.
He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see? He who disciplines the nations, does he not rebuke? He who teaches man knowledge— the Lord —knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath. (Psalm 94:9-11 ESV)
Sometimes I think we convince ourselves that God isn’t aware of what is going on. This verse says otherwise. In fact it takes it to a whole new level. Not only does he hear and see, but this text reminds us that he is the Creator of our very ears and eyes so of course he knows.
Not only that but he also rules over the world, all the nations. All knowledge we have us taught by him. When we rebel against him we actually are using the mind that God gave us to decide to not obey.
God knows even our deepest thoughts. That’s scary, as for me I have some pretty sinful thoughts. How does he still then love me? What does he think of me? If we are his adopted sons and daughters by faith in Jesus, he sees Jesus in us and by faith alone we stand justifies before him. Each day then is lived in grace as we grow, fail, grow some more, fail some more…yet always under the all knowing all powerful and all loving, eyes and ears of our Heavenly Father.
I spent some time in Hebrews 12-13 this morning. So much good stuff in there, but what particularly grabbed me was Hebrews 12:18-28. In the Old Testament, God spoke to Israel at Mt. Sinai and everything shook, they were terrified. That same God is speaking to us today, there is not two different Gods – and Old Testament God with an anger problem, and a kinder, gentler, 80′s feathered-back-hair “Jesus God” in the New Testament. There is one God, in three persons, who is forever the same. One day, God will shake the heavens and the earth, and return to make all things new, to restore forever what sin has broken, to judge, and to usher those who are his into our new “city of the living God.” (12:22)
The parallel is that in our lives, we can experience times when everything around us seems shaken. I have a few close friends who are going thru such times now, and I’m certain I will be there someday as well. No one is immune to such times – when everything we have known as stable for many years is upside down. In these times, it is important to remember the message of this passage - there are things that cannot be shaken. The shaking of our worlds can actually cause us to see more clearly those things. In speaking of this passage, author Michael Horton in “The Gospel Driven Life” writes “Everything that can be shaken will be shaken, the Scriptures remind us, and only the kingdom that God is building will remain.” Hebrews 12:27b says that they are shaken “in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain“ – there is a purpose to the times in our lives when everything is upside down – so that we may see more clearly that it is only God’s kingdom that will remain. Sometimes, it takes everything falling down around us in order for us to see what is truly permanent.
So, what do we do in response to this? Heb 12:25 says “See that you do not refuse him who is speaking.” God is still speaking today, right now. God is speaking to you in these times, make a decision to turn from controlling your life, and turn over your life to live for God’s kingdom which cannot be shaken. Our lives are meant to be lived in worship of God. That doesn’t mean walking around singing worship music 24/7, that means turning from sin and toward God’s way in purity and truth and faith, in a healthy respect of who God is.
Hebrews 12:28-29 sums it up well -
“Therefore, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”
So, I’ve not done a good job of blogging!
But it’s been a blessing to be here. The worship, teaching, and fellowship have been wonderful. Plus, getting to go on campus at Southern was an added blessing. Hopefully, I can get a better recap posted soon, but for now here are some pics!
Besides a bad Willie Nelson song going thru my head, we are actually leaving for Louisville, KY late tonight. (Personal note: I probably know every word to that song, I went thru a brief Country Music period in the 6th grade and have since repented and received Biblical counseling. Healing has begun.)
We will be first visiting the campus of Southern Seminary and then attending the WorshipGod East 2013 conference put on by the fine folks of Sovereign Grace Music. For years, we have found SGM’s music helpful in teaching, encouraging, and building up our church body. This will be my 3rd WG conference, and they always do a great job. I’m looking forward to great times of teaching, worship like none other, and general refreshment and whacky hi-jinks that will surely go on when we get away.
Several members of our church worship team are attending as well, and as an online/hybrid MDiv student, I’m excited to be on campus for the first time and meet a few professors that I’ve enjoyed in virtual class.
Are you going? Shoot me a line or a tweet.
I will try to continue my tradition of posting daily summaries to this blog, so stay tuned!