Fair are the meadows, fair are the woodlands, robed in the flowers of blooming spring; Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer; He makes our sorrowing spirit sing. "Beautiful Savior" author unknown
During this portion of the Pentecost season we walk along with Jesus as he teaches his first disciples about different aspects of following him. Jesus wanted to deepen his first disciples understanding of his grace so that he would become all in all to them. He wants the same for you and me. These eternal lessons about the Christian life will be our focus for the next eight weeks. Our path is as follows:
What Jesus Says About…
What is “true” obedience? An illustration may help. A mother tells her three children to clean their rooms. The first child does so with grumbling and complaining at the many burdens the mother places on the child. The second child cleans his room and then feels his mother now owes him whatever his heart desires. The third child cleans her room because she loves her mother dearly and enjoys nothing more than making her mother happy. The action is the same in all three cases: cleaning. The result is the same: a clean room. But only one child truly pleases her mother, for only one child displays true obedience. Jesus says our heavenly Father looks for the same — not just right behavior, but right behavior motivated by love for him.
Unbelief mocks and says that if God did all things well and was the source of all good because he is good, then he shouldn’t allow misery and need in the first place. But especially in need and suffering God does all things well; that truth is the center of the Christian’s quiet confidence. It is the reason for our hope based on the promises of God and earned for us by the work of Christ and its eternal consequence for us. It is the basis of our trust.
The cross is an instrument of pain. Crosses are any type of pain we might suffer—physical or emotional—because of our faith. Why would God allow us to suffer at all? It is precisely because he is so loving! And he knows that no Christian has ever made it to heaven without a cross. Crosses are what give focus to our faith. Crosses are what help us put the desires of our sinful nature to death. Crosses are what force us to rely on Christ. Our salvation would not have been possible if Jesus had not taken up his cross. Likewise, our salvation is not possible if we do not take up our crosses. God allows crosses, because by refining our faith, they safeguard our eternity with him. And that is what he wants more than anything else.
Human beings are by nature self-centered. We put ourselves first. We want what we think is best for us. Our focus today is humility. That is so very hard, because it requires placing our personal wants and desires not only behind those of Christ, but behind those of virtually everyone else in our lives! And yet, that is exactly what Christ did for us. In perfect humility, he put his self-interests behind ours. The only one who is worthy of nothing but praise and admiration allowed himself to become an object of scorn and ridicule, and he did it for us. His grace moves us to want to do the same. His Spirit empowers us to do the same.
Many misunderstand the gospel by equating the love and forgiveness of Jesus with a minimization of sin. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Gospel for today reveals Jesus as a powerful preacher of the law. Would it ever occur to us to amputate our limbs if they got in the way of our entrance into heaven or of our service to one another? Would we not finally have to cut out our hearts, the seat of desire, and then amputate the head, the throne of memory? After all, the limbs are but the instruments of the heart and the mind, and ultimately of the soul itself. How will we amputate those? All this leads us to cry out: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner. Pardon, cleanse, and restore me, that I may serve not self but you, not for my own gain, but for the benefit of others.”
The closest we can get to a mirror of the love of God for us is the mirror of the love that he wants to exist between a husband and wife. The goal of spouses is to reflect the love of God for us in self-giving love for one another in their marriage. How tragic that in our society such a mirror is clouded indeed! There is much to repent of and much to strive toward. The key to a happy marriage is for husband and wife each to strive to grow closer to Christ. As they do, they cannot help but also become closer to one another.
Next to the attachment to hearth and home, a person’s chief attachment is to their purse and pocketbook. So it is not out of order to consider what God has to say about his gifts of wealth and to let him put those gifts in a proper context for us. This is the context: God’s gifts to us of wealth more than most of his other gifts can become snares to our salvation when we treasure them more than the Giver and more than our salvation. Knowing that, we will regularly examine ourselves to see what things tempt us to go away from Jesus our Savior. We will also regularly marvel at our Savior’s grace and goodness that he would even give us those things which he knows we are tempted to treasure more than we treasure him.
At 720 Old Trolley Road in Summerville Sunday worship is at 10:30 am with Christ Light for Kids and Bible Class at 9:15 am.
At 134 Foxbank Plantation Drive in Moncks Corner Sunday worship is at 10:30 am with Christ Light for Kids and Bible Class at 9:15 am.