“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” (John 8:31-32, ESV)
It seems that every time that Jesus spoke with the religious leaders of the Jews, He antagonized them. Here He told them that no one can be saved by the Law for all people are enslaved to sin. True freedom is not found in following the Mosaic Law, but in becoming His disciple, that is, believing Him to be our salvation and following His teachings.
The leaders of the Jews did not like to hear what Jesus said. He spoke words of authority and truth which ran contrary to the rules of the bureaucratic Jewish religious system. They could not accept these truths because they felt that Jesus not only broke the Mosaic Law (which He came to fulfill) but also because they felt that He challenged their authority and power. Consequently He was someone to be eliminated. Rightly did Jesus call them children of the devil for though they claimed to know God and to be His followers, they did not walk in obedience to Him.
The same words That Jesus spoke that angered the Jews fill us with peace, hope and comfort. Yet many today still refuse to accept this truth and take it out of context. The truth that sets men free is that Jesus is our salvation who frees us from the power of sin and death. Many today would rather see Jesus as just a man on a par with Moses, Buddha, Mohammed and L. Ron Hubbard. No one can be saved without Him for all people are enslaved to sin. But Jesus does not give us this option for He is infinitely superior to all men: He is God incarnate and faith in Him is the only true faith there is.
“‘And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.'” (Mark 10:20, ESV)
The response of the young man to Jesus may seem a little arrogant even boastful. Apparently the man was successful in keeping the law. Perhaps he was even generous in his giving to the work of God, and to the poor. For rich Jews in Jesus’ day it was quite easy to do good works. The rich were isolated from the poor, immune to their concerns and troubles. Their money protected them from want, could buy their way out of bad situations and problems. They had a responsibility to help the poor, to give out of their abundance, but sometimes, by following the letter of the law, the rich could get away with doing the bare minimum. By following the letter of the law they thought they could please God, but in reality they used the law to avoid doing what God wanted them to do, which was to love. For the poor, keeping the law was more difficult as they did not have the means to buy their way out.
In those days, the poor were immersed in the sordid side of life and would often succumb to the temptations of the flesh. Nowadays of course, we cannot make such a distinction. Most people would prefer to do good deeds and look good, both rich and poor. Today both can appear outwardly pious yet extremely ungodly. Certainly few can claim as absolutely as the rich young man did that they have lived lives pleasing to God. Oh sure, they may say they are good because they give money to the right charities or espouse the right causes. But money provides people with the temptation to misuse and abuse their fellow man, to lie, cheat, steal and indulge the desires of the flesh. And the poor and the middle class live with the same idealsas the rich.
It is easy to follow external rules and rituals, to do things that have the appearance of godliness. It is easy to live a life of religious works and think that God is pleased. It is certainly a lot easier than doing the same things out of a genuine love for God and for other people. To change our heart completely so that good works flow out of a new nature requires supernatural power. This is what Jesus teaches us.
“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’” (Genesis 2:18, ESV)
Woman is the only real helper God has created for the man. She is designed by God as the perfect helper or companion. The Lord placed her in the garden as the supporter of the man. She alone answers his need, for she alone is his true counterpart in creation. The perfection and bliss of their union are indicated here. The two become one flesh. God is three in one, but in marriage, two human beings, one man, one woman, become one. And since human beings are made in the image of God, like God, this union is unbreakable, or should be. Only in marriage can we experience true intimacy.
God created sex and created it good, but it is good only if it is used in the way He intended it: in marriage. Those who think the primary purpose of sex is pleasure maintain that they can do whatever they want with their body. They do not know or choose to ignore what God’s purpose is. As far as they are concerned God wants them to be happy and happiness is produced by the pleasurable experience of sex. But when sex is abused or used in a way contrary to what God has ordained, it is sin and will always produce harmful results. Yet people in the world are unwilling to think about these results and deny that there are any harmful ones. They are unwilling to accept the consequences: AIDS, other STDs, unwanted pregnancy, abortion, depression, emotional turmoil and suicide. Thus, sexual fulfillment is to be found only in marriage.
“But Moses said to him, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!’” (Numbers 11:29, ESV)
From what we see in the book of Numbers, the Israelites in the desert complained constantly. Here we see a series of such complaints made by a group of Israelites concerning the food. Perhaps they were bored. Perhaps they were not prepared to wage holy war. Maybe they had gotten used to the slow pace of life in the wilderness, or had gotten comfortable staying in the same place. They complained to Moses so often that he complained to the Lord that he was weary of the people and did not know how to handle them. So the Lord provided him with help from the elders of the tribes. He even anointed 2 additional men to prophesy, that is to preach the Word of God.
This passage should show us that the life of a Pastor is not easy. Leading a group of people who are selfish, immature, and stubborn is as difficult for any one of us as it was for Moses. And the Church is composed of such people today. Our leaders need our help. We must support them emotionally and financially and with our prayers but also with our own efforts. We are all called to spread the gospel, it is not the sole responsibility of the Pastor or even those who are in elected positions of leadership and service. As God anointed Eldad and Medad, He has anointed every believer to preach the Gospel, Therfore He can choose any of us who are His servants to do whatever service He commands.
“And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into shell, where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:47-48, ESV)
Mark’s gospel reminds us that Jesus believed in a real Hell, a place where sinners will be punished for their disobedience of rejection of Jesus. It is a nasty and vile place, one which Jesus warned His listeners to avoid at all costs by comparing it to a garbage dump. The word hell is the Greek word Gehenna, the garbage dump of Jerusalem. Gehenna probably had a very bad stench or smell as it was filled with rot and corruption. When Jews heard Jesus use this term, they would be filled with revulsion and disgust at the mention of this foul and nauseating place.
And so Jesus described as the most loathsome place in all of existence, as the place of retribution, of suffering, torment, and unquenchable fire. The fire makes it clear that Hell is a very uncomfortable place since constant and intense heat can be a terrible and unbearable thing. It saps our strength and makes us feel like not doing anything, just lying still in some shade to get relief. The only thing in fact that makes the heat bearable is the prospect of relief usually a cool drink or a nice cool breeze or air conditioning. But in Hell, there is no such relief, so there is no hope there either.
But Hell is more than hot, it is filled with corruption. Jesus uses the term worm in his description of Hell. This refers to the maggots which we find in garbage dumps eating away at everything. The impression we get is that Hell is a place of corruption and decay, the place where sin completely engulfs and envelops a person. And there is no escape. Therefore it is the responsibility of each of us who know the truth, who see the danger to try to prevent others from going there. We must go and preach salvation in Jesus Christ to the lost, in word and deed regardless of what they make think say or do to us, regardless of any discomfort it may cause us, or how foolish it looks. If we don’t go out and warn people about it they face discomfort far greater than any we could experience and it will be without end.