All Men Need A Savior.

“No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:5)
Jesus spoke of 2 events which probably had occurred within recent memory of His listeners. These concerned people who died violently. The religious zealots who were proud of their self-righteousness maintained that those who died under those tragic circumstances were cursed by God because of their sins. Jesus pointed out that all men are sinners, all of His listeners were under the curse of God and all are in need of repentance, all in need of a Savior. Jesus also reminded them that God extended mercy to Israel and Judah but they refused to heed them. Finally He sent His own Son, Jesus Christ as the greatest and perfect act of mercy to lead people to Him in repentance and faith. Those who would reject Him would be judged with righteousness and severity.
These days we see many such unexpected tragedies not only resulting from terrorism and violence but also accidents, illness and so-called natural disasters. While ultimately we cannot explain or understand why God allows such suffering to afflict us, we can assume that these events and tragedies are reminders to us that we ought to get right with God while we can. They warn us of the shortness and uncertainty of life. Tomorrow is promised to no one. We must live our lives in light of this uncertainty. We must not be doing things that we would be ashamed of when that time comes. And we must tell others of the grace and mercy found in Jesus alone. The Lord wants to warn them to come to Him before it is too late lest they miss out on His eternal blessings.

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Follow Christ.

“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.” (Philippians 3:17-18)
Although Paul urged the Philippian believers to follow his teaching and way of life, he was really encouraging them to emulate Christ just as he did. Follow me as I follow Christ. This was to warn them to be wary of all those who came in Jesus’ name but were not His servants, whose lives did not follow Jesus. Many of these false prophets and preachers were out to make a name for themselves or amass money, power and fame. They coerced trusting believers to obey them with their claims to authority and credentials, just as did the rulers of the Jews back in Jeremiah’s day, and as many in our day do.
Paul also made claim to his credentials which included a fine Jewish heritage. Yet he used them only to advance the gospel. He realized that salvation and righteousness do not come from our credentials, education, works or achievements but from God. He imparts His grace and gifts to those He calls, to those He brings to repentance and faith and who earnestly follow Him.
Paul was painfully aware of his sins and shortcomings but many so-called leaders in the church today would hesitate to admit such things. They want to be perceived as in control, having all the answers, with boundless energy and free from the doubt and temptation that plague the rest of us. They want to be perceived as successful and confident. And believers desire this as well. They shudder at the thought of a pastor struggling with any issue, or not having the solutions to their problems. Quite a contrast to Paul. He let his audience of his past life and present struggles. In spite of them, he pressed on in ministry, forgetting the sins of the past, knowing that he was forgiven in Christ, ignoring the deprivation and suffering of the present and working toward the glory of heaven. Our leaders are human and fallible. We must pray for them in their struggles.

Mourning for the Lost.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! Behold, your house is forsaken.” (Luke 13:34-35a, ESV)The Pharisees were usually antagonistic toward Jesus and His ministry, so it is strange that they wanted to protect Him from harm. Yet Jesus knew that they were insincere, that this was but a plot from the sly “fox” Herod to silence Him. Jesus did not fear Herod or any earthly ruler. He would not stop preaching and healing until His mission had been fulfilled. He had come to die at the hands of the very people He had come to save, the very people He loves.

Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem served as a warning to those who were to reject Him despite the evidence of His authority in His miracles and teaching. These Pharisees, who were so concerned with their authority, public image and position, and those who followed them were to experience the destruction of their nation, loss of their identity because they put Jesus to death. They would also face eternal separation from God. This is why it is so sad when someone dies without faith in Christ. No matter how many awards and titles any person may receive for his talents, piety or acts of charity and kindness, he who does not have faith in Christ, who rejects His gift of salvation will go down to destruction. We must mourn for them as Jesus did.

Christ Infintely Superior to All.

“Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” (Hebrews 3:5-6)
The original audience of Hebrews was composed primarily of Christians who had converted from Judaism and who held Moses in high esteem. The writer now reminds them that, as great as Moses was, Jesus is infinitely greater. The Lord had indeed given Moses the Law as well as the power and authority to lead the Jews, but Jesus is far greater. He is Almighty God. The reason the writer brings this up is that many in the audience were being tempted to go back to being Jews. They thought this might make life easier for them since they were enduring persecution as Christians from both the Romans and the Jews. The problem was that this meant they were rejecting the sacrifice of Christ as sufficient for their salvation. They wanted go back to trusting in the Law and their own good works for salvation.

There is great danger for those who want to trust in their good works to attain heaven. Like the Israelites who perished in the wilderness, they will suffer the same loss of the promise. Only those who remain in the faith of Christ, who do not fall back into their old ways of living and thinking, who persevere until the end, these alone show themselves to be true believers. This does not mean that they earn their salvation by their perseverance, suffering, good works or law-keeping. Rather their salvation is demonstrated by their perseverance and by such deeds of faithfulness and righteousness as these are produced only by the power of the Lord. He works through the Holy Spirit and through the church as well. We need the body of Christ, our fellow believers to encourage us in our struggles and to hold us accountable for our actions. Together we choose daily to walk in obedience to the Lord and to believe that He is able to do all He has promised.

Moses as an example for us.

“Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated.” (Deuteronomy 34:7)

In Sunday’s Gospel reading we encountered Moses at the Transfiguration of Jesus. We lasts saw him at the end of Deuteronomy. Moses, though quite advanced in years still possessed full strength and wisdom. He was still concerned for the children of Israel. He addressed them at length in order to reinforce the importance of God’s law, His concern for holiness and the need for obedience as they entered the long awaited Promised Land. Moses, like almost all of those who left Egypt was not permitted to enter the land. The Lord comforted him with a glimpse from Mt. Nebo. There He saw the fullness of God’s promise. As his life ended, he could rejoice in the assurance of God’s trustworthiness. Never once had God failed him or deserted him despite the sinful stubbornness of the people or his own hesitation and disobedience.

When Moses died he was buried in an unknown grave. No prophet like Moses ever arose in Israel again: he had known the Lord face to face; He spoke the law of God. As great as Moses was, he suffered the same limitation all humans do, our common lot. His work remains a testimony and example of faith in Yahweh remembered by all generations of believers. All Christians would all do well to recall his humility and self-doubt. The Lord can use us despite our weakness and imperfections or for that matter our age. In addition we should also recall Moses’ emphasis on God’s holiness, our need for personal obedience, and the importance of faith in God’s mercy and help in times of trouble. Our lives should be a testimony of faith as his was, worthy of emulation so that when we die, people will remember us not for our charisma, leadership skills, fame, celebrity, wealth or power but for our faithful and humble service to God. 

Humbly Surrender to God

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.’” (Luke 18:9-14 ESV)

The Pharisee in this parable of Jesus is the epitome of self-confidence.  Yet Jesus wants us to look at him and say, “This is not the way we ought to be.” He was a man who paraded his religious deeds proudly. He went up to the temple, stood in a prominent place so all could see him and say, “Here is a pious godly man.” He prayed not to God, but to or about himself. He boasted in his deeds, did not thank God for what he had and glorified himself. He felt he was better than everyone else, especially this rotten, unclean, sinful tax collector. Never once did he demonstrate any compassion or love. He did not go down to embrace him and say, “Brother I love you. I feel your pain. Let me help you out.”  This tax collector was unclean.

A lot of Christians behave that way. A lot of us boast in our good deeds and think we are so much better than everybody else. We feel nice and comfortable in our little world. Yet we often show little or no compassion to sinners. When we compare ourselves to many of them we may think we are such good folks, but when we compare ourselves to God, which this Pharisee did not do, we are overwhelmed by our sinfulness. Indeed we will wonder how God can love such a one as us.

Like the tax collector, we are to come to Jesus as children. He, like a humble child trusted God totally, and surrendered himself to Him. He then simply and humbly accepted the forgiveness and mercy he was given. He did not dwell on his sin or wallow in his guilt, or even ask what else He needed to do. He did not say “I don’t deserve it. I haven’t earned it.” He knew he could not. He knew he needed to rely on the love and grace of the Father alone, not on himself. He is the one Jesus wants us to be like.

Jesus is Lord.

“And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!’” (Luke 9:35, ESV)
In His ministry, Jesus went about performing many mighty miracles as well as casting out demons. These mighty works were proof of His divine status, proof that He was the Messiah and that He had power over sin and Satan. The Transfiguration confirmed that, though this event was only witnessed by three of His apostles. These three men, though they witnessed such a glorious sight, were still uncertain of His real status. They though He was equal to Moses and Elijah.The voice from heaven confirmed that, as great as Moses and Elijah were, Jesus was infinitely greater: He is the Son of God and equal in every way to His Father.

That voice also tells us that what we believe about Jesus is vital to our eternal salvation. What people believe about Jesus is what divides humanity. Jesus Himself indicates here that there is no way to serve Him halfway. Those who say they believe in Him must believe that He is Lord God and Savior. Those who reject Him as God and/or Savior really cannot call themselves Christians because Jesus revealed Himself as such. Neither can they who say He was just a good man or a good philosopher with ideas and thoughts that are on a par with other thinkers and philosophers such as Aristotle, Kant, Hawking or Einstein. Jesus has revealed Himself as God. And so if we accept the revelation of Christ then we must follow Him and walk in obedience to what he has commanded us to do. There are no compromises or other options.