Love Thinks No Evil

1 Corinthians 13:5b
GrudgesHow do you deal with people who hurt you?  Do you talk to them about it or do you keep quiet but hold a grudge against them?  Do you think of ways to get back at them?

God is clear about how we should act when someone hurts us.  We don’t keep rehashing what happened. We don’t wish that person harm.  Instead, we put away the bitterness, anger and unforgiveness.  We give them to God.  We let go of the negative thoughts and ill feelings.  We ask God to help us to forgive the person and then move on.

Of course, this is easier said than done.  We need the help of the Holy Spirit to help us.  It is not in our nature to show love when we are hurting.  We prefer to lick our wounds and have a pity party.  We feel better when we imagine how that person would feel if we were to do the same thing to him or her.  How does this make us any different from those who are not of the faith?  How could we say that we belong to Christ or that we are God’s children if we can’t find it in our hearts to forgive the wrongs that has been done to us?

What if Joseph had spent all of his time hating Potiphar’s wife for what she had done to him?  Would God have prospered him, promoting him to be in charge of the jail or becoming second only to Pharaoh? What about Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego?  Did they harbor any bitterness toward King Nebuchadnezzar for throwing them into the fiery furnace?

Instead of thinking evil, in love we pray for those who have wronged us.  We pray that God will touch their hearts.  Jesus prayed for His enemies when He was hanging on the cross.  Stephen prayed for the men who were stoning him before he died.

The next time someone hurts you, what will you do?  Perhaps like Joseph you ask this question, “am I in the place of God?”  While Joseph forgave his brothers he left them to God’s mercy.  Romans 12:19 says, “Never take vengeance into your own hands, my dear friends: stand back and let God punish if he will. For it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine. I will repay’” (J.B. Phillips).  Don’t take the place of God.  God sees and knows all.  He will deal with the person who has wronged you as He sees fit.  Don’t repay evil with evil.

 

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Church Under Attack

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When I read this I couldn’t help but notice the irony. Herod took it upon himself to attack the church. He killed James and when he saw that this pleased the Jews, he had Peter arrested and thrown into prison. Herod clearly didn’t know that the powers of darkness would not prevail against the powers of light. When Peter was in jail, chained and secured between two guards, God sent an angel to set him free. At first Peter thought it was a vision but once he was outside he realized that this was really happening, he said, “Now I certainly know that the Lord has sent His angel and delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

While he had been in prison, the other believers came together and prayed for him. God answered their prayers. After Peter went to the brethren and told them how the Lord had led him out of the prison, he went to Caesarea where he stayed. As for Herod, he was struck down by the Lord because he did not give Him the glory. The wicked ruler was dead but God’s Word spread and increased. The Word of the Lord could not be chained. “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained” (2 Timothy 2:8, 9).

Today, many are trying to suppress the Word of God in countries where Christians are persecuted but God declared, So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11). Until Jesus comes, we are to preach the Gospel even unto death. The saving of souls makes it all worthwhile.

Mark 14:32-42

download (1)Jesus was troubled and deeply distressed.  He told Peter, James and John that His soul was exceedingly sorrowful even to death and asked them to stay there and watch.  He went a little farther in the garden and fell on the ground.  He prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him.

When I read verse 36 where He asks, “Take this cup away from Me,” I cried.  I cried because I thought of how heart-wrenching it would be for Jesus to be separated from His Father because our sins would be placed on Him as since the beginning–before the world was, He and His Father had been together–inseparable.  The cup mentioned in verse 35 was the agony of being separated from the Father.  When Jesus, the sinless Son of God took on the sins of the world, He would be separated from His Father so that we could have eternal life.  Sins separate us from God.

Then Jesus said, “not what I will, but what You will.”  Even though He knew what doing the will of the Father would cost Him, He was obedient.  Like Jesus, are we willing to place our Father’s will above our own no matter the cost?  Jesus did it because there was no other way through which men could be saved.  Jesus’ death and blood were the only ways we could be reconciled to God (Romans 5:10, Ephesians 2:13).

It is interesting that the three whom Jesus took with Him, weren’t there for Him when it mattered the most.  In Mark 14:29, Peter insisted that he would not desert Jesus.  In verse 37, Jesus addresses him only.  He asked him, “could you not keep watch for one hour?”

In Matthew 20:22, 23, James and John said that they were able to drink the cup He was about to drink and be baptised with the baptism that He would be baptised with and they said they were able.  Yet, like Peter, they could not keep watch.

There are times in our lives when we will be vulnerable to temptation.  What can we do to resist?  Jesus gave us the following tips:

  • Keep watch
  • Pray
  • Resolve to do God’s will

Genesis 20

abimelechabrahamAbraham and Sarah journey to Gerar where he passes her off as his sister again.  The first time was in Egypt.  Abimelech, the king of Gerar took her but God again intervenes.  He speaks to the king in a dream.  He tells him point blank that he is a dead man because the woman he had taken was another man’s wife.  Abimelech had not gone near Sarah but this was not of his own doing but God’s.  The king defends himself saying that Abraham told him that Sarah was his sister and he had believed him.  He was innocent of any wrongdoing.  God agreed with him on this point.  God who knows what is in a person’s heart acknowledged that the king had done this in all honsety.  Abimelech had no reason to doubt Abraham.  He had acted in ignorance and for his innocence God had prevented him from sinning–from committing adultery.  But now that he was aware of the truth he had to do the right thing and restore Sarah to her husband.

Abimelech shared his dream with his servants and then he called Abraham demanding an explanation for his deceit.  Abraham’s excuse was, “Because I thought surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife’s sake.”  He feared for his life and he tried to insinuate that the lie was not really a lie.  Sarah was his ister because they had the same father.  She was his half-sister. The nature of their relationship does not excuse his sinful deception.  This is the second time God had to intervene so that His law regarding adultery would not be violated.  Abraham encouraged Sarah to go along with this deception, refeering to it as kindness on her part.  This is almost like saying, “If you love me you will do this for me.”  Abraham’s motives here were purely selfish.  Fear fo his life took precedence over Sarah’s feelings.

Abimelech not only returned Sarah to Abraham but he gave them sheep, oxen, menservants and womenservants.  The king’s generosity did not end there.  “Behold, my land is before thee:  dwell where it pleaseth thee.”  He also gave Abraham a thousand pieces of silver.  His generosity put Abraham to shame.  Sarah was rightfully rebuked for her part in the deception when the king said to her, “Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver;  indeed this vindicates you before all who are with you and before everybody” (NKJV).

Abraham prayed to God who healed Abimelech, his wife and his maidservants so that they were able to bear children.  God had closed the wombs of the women in the king’s household because of Sarah.  This is the second time other people had to pay for Abraham’s deception.

God is a God of truth, honesty and this is why He could not tolerate deception.  He had to let Abimelech know the truth.  Even though it was His will that saved the king from becoming intimate with Sarah, that was not enough.  Abimelech had to be aware of what he had unwittingly gotten himself into and do the right thing.  Once God reveals the truth to us it is up to us to do what is right and to live our lives according to this truth.

We can no longer plead ignorance.  Once Abimelech knew the truth about Sarah, it was his responsibility to return her to where she rightfully belonged–with her husband.  Marriage is sacred to God and it is wrong for any of us to treat it lightly, casually.  And honesty is important to God.  It was deception which brought sin into the world in the first place.

Jesus Comes First

And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming”- 1 John 2:28.

Our relationship with Jesus should take precedence over everything and everyone else.  Simon Peter and his brother, Andrew left their nets and followed Jesus after He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”   James and his brother, John left their father and followed Him.  He said to Matthew, the tax collector, “Follow Me.” And he got up and followed Him. (Matthew 4:18, 21-22, 9:8)  Paul immediately went out and preached the gospel, astounding all those who knew that he once persecuted Jesus’ followers. 

Abraham placed his relationship with God above all others.  He trusted God to meet his needs and he had great faith in Him.  Noah was a righteous man who walked with God.  Both he and Abraham were surrounded by corruption but they never allowed themselves to be corrupted.  Their fellowship with God took precedence over everything else.  They kept their eyes on Him and allowed the spirit not the flesh to lead them. 

Their righteousness may have seemed strange to those around them—the king of Sodom must have been baffled when Abraham refused the goods he offered him. And it must have seemed crazy and irresponsible of Abraham when he packed up his family and belongings and went off to a strange land. It must have seemed strange to people when Noah was building the ark.  The actions of these two men speak volumes of their incredible faith in God.  They did not allow what others might have thought or said to influence them.  They were only concerned with what God wanted and obeying Him.

Following God may not seem logical to others but our desire should always be to please God and not man.   Prayer and meditation should be daily pastimes.  Jesus prayed before He raised Lazarus from the dead; He prayed before He fed the five thousand; He prayed when the hour was near.  In fact, Jesus prayed daily.  He did not allow His preaching and healing to interfere with His relationship with His Father.  He died so that we could be saved and be able to have relationship with God. 

Throughout the Bible we are told that the Lord desires that we turn to Him and worship Him.  He promised, “Then you will call upon me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:12-13)

Too often we allow work, household chores, daily routines, television, the media and other people to distract us.  We don’t allow ourselves the time to quietly meditate on God and His word.  We allow ourselves to become too busy and then in the evenings we are too tired or we sit down in front of the television and then, we go to bed and fall asleep.  In the morning we are in a rush to get to the office on time and don’t pause to spend time in prayer and meditation or even to pick up the Bible and write a Psalm or the Daily Word.  In other words, we put God on the back burner. 

As Christians we need to act as such.  We need to spend more time with our Lord who wants us to know Him better.  And as Christians we need to do what is pleasing to God and not worry about how strange it may seem to others.  Jesus did things that were not popular but they were what His Father desired Him to do.  He prevented the adulterous woman from being stoned to death; He healed on the Sabbath; He ate with tax collectors and other objectionable people.  Basically, He practiced what He preached.  We should do the same, regardless of how it may seem to others. 

We should glorify Jesus in our deeds and not just our words.  As John advises us, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)  It’s not enough to say that we believe in Jesus and that we love Him and are His followers, we have to do as we say.  We do this by putting Him first, fellowshipping with Him, seeking Him all the time, meditating on Him and His word and praising Him.  We cultivate our relationship with Him and then, we go out and sow His love.  We have to abide in Him and follow in His footsteps.  Our relationship with Jesus is the most vital one we have and we should cherish it and treat it as the gift it was meant to be.

Taking time away from a pressing matter or a hectic schedule and focusing on Him would do us a world of good and help us to get through whatever tasks or urgent matter we have to deal with.  Jesus should be the centre of our universe.  We should place our relationship with Him above the cares and distractions of the world.  Just as Peter started to sink when he removed his focus from Jesus, we sink into a myriad of emotions that distract us from Him.  We become stressed because we’re busy and fatigued and we worry about not being able to get things done.  We allow worldly concerns to interfere with our relationship with Jesus.

Instead of fretting and worrying and stressing ourselves and scrambling to get a hundred things done at once, we should take time out and ask Jesus to help us.  Jesus Himself promised, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the World you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33)  What more proof do we need than this?

Unwavering Faith

Let us hold fast the profession of [our] faith without wavering- Hebrews 10:23

Faith barriers hamper God’s plans for our lives.  These barriers can be doubt, insecurity, ignorance and fear.  Moses was insecure and doubted his ability to do what God called him to do.  Job was ignorant of the magnitude of God’s power.  Jonah was afraid of failing God.  Peter was afraid when he started to sink as he made his way across the water to Jesus and fear made him deny knowing Jesus and fear made the other disciples desert Him.  Intolerance made Paul persecute the Christians.  Let’s examine each of these spiritual barriers and how the Lord dealt with each of them.

When Moses said to God, “O My Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send.”  The Lord’s anger kindled against him and He told Moses that his brother Aaron who could speak well would do the talking.  “So he shall be your spokesman to the people.  And he himself shall be as a mouth for you, and you shall be to him as God.  And you shall take this rod in your hand, with which you shall do the signs.” (Exodus 4:13-17)  So, God dealt with Moses’ doubt and insecurity by sending Aaron with him to help him and equipping him with the rod, which would be used to perform miracles.  After God assured Moses that he would not have to face Pharaoh alone, he obeyed Him.

When Job was tested, he was confused.  He couldn’t understand why these terrible things were happening to him when he had been a righteous man all his life.  All that he had was taken away from him and he was covered in sores.  His life was in shambles and he wanted to ask God why.  “I will say to God, ‘Do not condemn me; Show me why You contend with me.” (Job 10:2)

Later in the scripture, God answered Job.  “Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him?  He who rebukes God, let him answer it.”  God reminded Job that He is the creator of all things and that everything under Heaven is His.  (Job 40:1-34)  Job sees God in His true image—God almighty, creator of everything in Heaven and earth.  He realised that God can do everything and that nothing is denied Him.  Job knew God by what he heard and believed but for the first time in his life he’s really seeing God.  His eyes are opened to the majesty of God and he is sorry for the things he had said before.  He realised that he had no right to question God or his love for him.  Instead, he should focus on God and remember that He is in control. 

In the beginning Job blessed God and held fast to his integrity.  He accepted the bad things that were happening in his life but his faith soon turned to doubt as he focused on the situation rather than on God and he began to question God.  When we concentrate on our troubles instead of concentrating on God, that is when we start to doubt Him and question His love for us.  God was there all the time but Job did not feel His presence because he was so caught up in self-pity and despair.  He was more focused on the flesh that he neglected the spirit—the Spirit of God who was with him.  God dealt with Job by reminding him of whom He is and that no one contends with Him.  We should worship Him and praise Him no matter what.  Once Job learned this, he was blessed with more than he lost.

Jonah was afraid of failing God but God used him to relay His message to the people of Nineveh when He could have done it Himself.  God desires to use people to do His wondrous works through, not only to show the people he is trying to get through to but, also the people he is using what He is capable of.  He wanted to show Jonah how merciful He is by sparing the lives of the wicked people of Nineveh when they repented of their sins.  He wanted to teach Jonah about tolerance because in those days, the Jews and the Gentiles did not get along.  God wanted to demonstrate His love and acceptance of all people.

The disciples forsook Jesus and fled because it was written, “I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered.” (Zechariah 13:7)  Peter denied Jesus three times out of fear.  But, before this happened, the Lord said to Peter, “Simon, Simon!  Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.  But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32)  Jesus knew that Peter’s faith would be tested and He prayed for him. 

Peter was called to minister to the Gentiles.  “Behold, three men are seeking you.  Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.”  He restored Peter’s faith as He promised and sent him to give the Gentiles the same gift as He gave to the Jews.  Jesus enabled Peter to strengthen the brethren who glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”  (Acts 11:1-18)

As a result, the disciples spoke to the Greeks, preaching the Lord Jesus.  And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.  When the church in Jerusalem heard about the news, they sent Barnabas as far as Antioch.  He encouraged them and a great many people were added to the Lord.  Barnabas went back to Tarsus and brought Paul back to Antioch with him.  There they taught a great many people and it was there in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians. (Acts 11:19-30)

God used Paul a non-Christian to convert other non-Christians.  Paul was there when Stephen was stoned.  He consented to his death.  Paul wreaked havoc on the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.  Breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, Paul went to the high priest and asked for letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus so that if he found any who were of the Way, men or women, he might take them to Jerusalem.  It was on this trip that his life changed forever.

Jesus spoke to him and Paul, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do you want me to do?”  Jesus replied, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

Paul did as he was told.  He received the Holy Spirit and immediately began to preach in the synagogues confounding those who remembered how he used to destroy all the people who preached in Jesus’ name.” (Acts 7:58, 8:1, 3, 9:1-21)

When we obey God or keep our eyes above, our faith is strengthened.  Our responsibility as Christians is to trust in God and allow Him to work wondrous things in our lives, use us to fulfil His plans.  God uses all sorts of people to work through as outlined in the examples above.  No one is immune to God’s power or love.  He desires that we obey Him and answer His call.  He equips us with everything we need to do His work and He is with us every step of the way.  Just as He promised Moses, Peter and Paul that He would be with them, He is with us today.  And like Job, we should praise Him in good times and in bad and unlike Jonah, we should not allow prejudice to hinder us.

Nehemiah’s Prayer

O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” For I was the king’s cupbearer (Nehemiah 1:11). 

When Nehemiah learned that Jerusalem’s wall was broken down and the gates were on fire, he wept.  He mourned for several days.  He fasted and prayed to God.  His prayer is a wonderful model prayer.   It follows this pattern:

Acknowledgment:  O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments

Confession:  Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israelwhich we have sinned against You. Both my father’s house and I have sinned.  We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses.

Thanksgiving:  Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations; but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.’ Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand.

Supplication:  O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” 

God answered Nehemiah’s prayer.  The king granted Nehemiah’s request to return toJudah.  The cupbearer prospered and was granted mercy in the king’s sight. 

When we hear bad news we give ourselves time to deal with it like Nehemiah.  He cried and mourned.  Then, we reach out in faith.  Nehemiah fasted and prayed.  Then we act in faith.  Nehemiah told the king the situation and what he needed and his request was granted.

Don’t let a bad situation keep you down for long.  Turn it over to God and He will take care of it.  The best weapon against adversity is prayer.

Two Men Praying

Jesus spoke the parable in Luke 18:9-13 because there were people who trusted in their own righteousness and despised others. I found myself thinking about this parable and decided to study it.  The parable is about two men–a Pharisee and a tax collector.  First, let’s take a look at each of these men.

The Pharisee

– He prayed with himself

– He thanks God for not being like other men such as extortioners, unjust, adulterers or like the tax collector

– He fasts twice a week

– He gives tithes of all that he owned

The Tax Collector

– He stood some distance away

– He would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven

– He beat his breast

– He prayed, “God, be merciful to me a sinner”

The Pharisee’s prayer was not so much a prayer as it was a self-promotion.  He was self-righteous.  He did not acknowledge that he was a sinner.  He felt that fasting twice a week and paying tithes made him righteous. He puffed himself up.  His heart was not with God.  His pride did not allow any room for God.  He made himself big, thus diminishing God in his eyes.  There was no reverence.  He exalted himself instead of God.  He was boasting not praying.

Instead of thanking God for His mercy, he looked down on others, thanking God that he was not like them.  His prayer is not the kind of prayer that would please God.  How could God accept a prayer from someone who shows not love or compassion for others?  This Pharisee condemned others because they were different.  What he failed to understand was that God loved these people.

When tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and His disciples, the Pharisees wondered why He would do something like that.  Jesus said to them, “Those who are well have no need for a physician, but those who are sick.  But go and learn what this means:  I desire mercy and not sacrifice.  For I did not come to call the righteous but the sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9:10-13).

According to Paul we are all sinners.  In Romans 3:23, he says, “For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Like the rest of us, this Pharisee was a sinner who needed a Savior.

The tax collector could not even raise his eyes to heaven.  He was so humble.  He showed total reverence to God.  He stood afar as if he felt unworthy to approach or be near the throne of mercy.  He beat his chest as he begged God to be merciful to him.  He acknowledged that he was a sinner.  His prayer God accepted.  It was done in humility and with a contrite spirit.  He gave himself to God.  He, not the Pharisee, went to his house justified.

Proverbs 16:5 says, “Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord.”

Psalm 138:6 says “Though the Lord is on high, yet He regards the lowly; But the proud He knows from afar.  The Pharisee’s self-righteousness and pride separated him from God.

James 4:6 says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  God resisted the Pharisee. 

God gave grace to the tax collector who was humble.  Jesus said that the tax collector went home justified.  I looked up the word “justified” in Strong’s Concordance and came up with the following definition: to declare, pronounce, one to be just, righteous or such as he ought to be.

So, the Pharisee left the temple the same way he went in–a proud, self-righteous and unrepentant sinner.  The tax collector went into the temple a humble, repentant sinner and left as a man whom God declared righteous.  He was vindicated.

The Centurion’s Faith

The Bible gives us a definition of what faith is. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). This describes the kind of faith the centurion had.

Jesus was in Capernaum when news of His presence there reached a centurion whose beloved servant was sick to the point of dying. At first the centurion sent elders of the Jews to Jesus, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant. The centurion was well liked and respected among the Jewish community because he for he loved their nation and built a synagogue for them. He was deserving of this favor.

Jesus went with them but He was not far from the house when the centurion sent his friends to Jesus with this message: “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.

His faith was such that he hoped that Jesus would heal his servant so he sent word to Him but then he believed that Jesus did not have to be physically there to heal. All He had to do was say the word and the servant was healed. His faith was so strong that Jesus Himself was impressed. In fact He marveled at the man’s faith and He turned to the crowd and said to them, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!”

Those who were sent to speak to Jesus returned to the house and found the sick servant well. Perhaps they believed in Jesus from that moment.

Not only was the centurion’s faith remarkable but he was a model in humility. He said “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You.”He did not think he was good enough to go in person to see Jesus or have Jesus come to him. He is like John the Baptist who did not feel that he was worthy to even loose the straps on Jesus’ sandals. He is like the tax collector who could not lift his head as he prayed to God because he did not feel worthy.

What is remarkable about this story is that the centurion who was a part of the group who oppressed the Jewish people sparking their hatred. The centurion was a Gentile whom the Jews considered to be unclean yet he displayed the kind of faith that they should have had in the One who came as “a light to [bring] revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:32).

The centurion’s genuine faith put the religious leaders to shame. Their faith was dead because it was stagnant–dead, did not prove itself by works, did produce humility and dependence on God. They were proud, self-righteous, unbelieving and rigorous in their observance of the law yet they failed to see God’s acts of mercy in the miraculous healings of His Son. The centurion heard about Jesus and believed whereas the religious leaders saw the blind healed, the lame walk and the mute speak and other signs yet they did not believe.

In Matthew’s account, Jesus said to the crowd, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:10-12). The Jews felt that their heritage guaranteed them entry into heaven but Jesus said that they are the ones who will be thrown out into the dark.

We must not make the same mistake as the Jews and assume that because we are Christians we are saved. When someone asked Jesus, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13:23-29).

Like the centurion we must “seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6). And our faith should be such that we trust in the word of Jesus which has the power to heal and change lives.

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