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Suffering, Sin, and Salvation

LUKE 13.1-9

Why do bad things happen? We should also ask “why do good things happen?” The problem of suffering demands that we prove God is righteous in this world as we know it.
First, we must understand that the world as we know is not the world as God wants it. When God created a home for mankind, it was described as “very good”, a “garden”, and in that home for man there was everything mankind needed to thrive and nothing that would cause mankind to suffer–except his own choices.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they chose to leave that Garden. They chose to leave God’s perfect world and to enter into the world which was infected by sin. God said that because of sin, “Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3.17-19). Paul expounded on this idea saying, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8.20-21).
We have all been born into the world that is infected with sin. Being in this world we bear many of the consequences of Adam’s sin. We will never know what that Garden home was like. We will never know what it was like to hear God walking in the cool of the morning. We will never know what it was like to be outside the curse of sin. We only look forward to the hope of glory that will supersede the Garden home.
Therefore, we will all suffer. God knows we suffer, and God has acted on behalf of our suffering. He sent Jesus to share in our sufferings (Heb. 2.18, 4.15). Not only did Jesus share our experience of suffering, but he has defeated the cause of suffering–sin and the champion of suffering–death. “For God has done what the law, weakened by flesh, could not do. By sending his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8.3-4).
While we try to understand the great victory over sin, we still cannot help but to wonder why God allows suffering to persist. Jesus addresses the problem of suffering in this world and gives us a very practical application in Luke 13.1-9. In this Jesus shows us that suffering is actually beneficial to our eternal life.

Suffering comes by the free will of others–Luke 13.1-3
Suffering sometimes occurs because of free-will decisions. Some of those present with Christ give a report of some Galileans who had been executed by Pilate. Pilate also mixed their blood with the blood of their sacrifices. We do not know much more about this historical event, but we understand that in some way these individuals had chosen to rebel against Pilate and Pilate had chosen to punish them in the grotesque way.
Suffering came about because of the decisions of two groups–the people and the governor. God is not to blame here. He allows people to make decisions. If we were to intervene in this decisions on every occasion, that would negate free will. What’s so good about free will? Without free will we can never have the best relationship with God that God wants. Jesus came so that “all who believe on him can have the right to become the children of God” (John 1.12). Faith gives us the right to be God’s children. Faith does not force us to become children. God does not force us to become children either. God gives us the opportunity to become children through faith. Free will makes John 3.16 the Golden Text of the Bible. “For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten Son so that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Without the presence of free-will, John 3.16 is a rather dull declaration of God’s predetermined will. God must allow us to choose our fate by allowing us to choose our actions.
Jesus looks to this terrible event and reminds the people that those Galileans were no worse spiritually than anyone else. They had not suffered because they were particularly sinful. In their suffering we do see God cry out in warning that there will be a time of unexpected judgment for which we must all be prepared.

Suffering comes by accidents–Luke 13.4-5
Jesus himself introduces another question which is more difficult to answer. The Galileans suffered because of their own decisions, but “the 18 on whom fell the tower in Siloam and killed them” were seemingly innocent. This highlights the fact that suffering doesn’t come simply by our own choices but by the conditions of the world in which we live.
See the immediate link Jesus brings up–“Do you think that they were guilty above all the people living in Jerusalem? No, I say to you, but except you repent you all will also be destroyed” (Lk. 13.5). They suffered, not because of the immediate result of their own decisions, but because they lived in a world infected with sin. We live “in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8.21).
While academic, philosophical, or theological defenses of God allowing suffering to exist may help us emotionally, we recognize that academic answers mean little to those who are in the midst suffering. The ultimate answer to suffering is not in reason. The ultimate answer to suffering is found in the unreasonable suffering of our perfect Savior so that we can be saved from this condemned world.

Suffering comes by refusing to repent–Luke 13.6-9
Jesus unmistakably linked suffering with sin. Now he shows us one reason God allows us to suffer. He allows us to suffer to point us to move to a place of comfort. The parable begins with a certain man who had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. He said to the gardener, Behold three years I came seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground? But he answered and said to him, lord let it alone (afes) this year also. I will dig around it and put manure on it. The mediator asks for more time. Here is beautiful description of grace.
However, judgment must surely come. Even though the owner permits another year of mercy for the plant to prove itself fruitful, the time for judgment must come (Heb. 9.27). Even though Christ gives us opportunity to submit to God and serve God, we must still fulfill our responsibility. Will we bear fruit for God? Will we be found as we should when Christ returns again?

Forgotten Essentials

We are big on essentials. What do I have to do to compete the job, the course, the paper, the test? What is necessary. We know God has some essentials for us as Christians. I fear that some essentials have been neglected. Jesus definitely spoke of some things as essential to salvation. Jesus said those who “did not do it” would “go away into eternal punishment” (Matthew 25.45-46). What was Jesus talking about? What was Jesus saying we must be doing in order to go into “life eternal” (Matthew 25.46)? Who will hear the great welcome “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you, from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25.34)? What are these essential things Jesus is talking about?
Those who are welcomed in to life eternal and spared eternal punishment are those who helped the helpless. Jesus said, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you took me in, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me” (Matthew 25.35-36). Jesus said these things were essential to our salvation. Just as faith (Heb. 11.6) repentance, (Acts 17.30, Heb. 10.26), confession (Rom. 10.9-10), baptism (Mark 16.16), and obedience (Heb. 5.9) are essential–helping is essential to our salvation.
James’ epistle could be titled “True Religion”. He tells us that “true religion and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1.27). He also describes a condemned faith as one who sees “a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving him the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead.” (James 2.14-17).
There will many who did believe and even did many great things who will not enter into life eternal. Those who did not give food to the hungry, give a drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, and visit the prisoner will hear the unfortunate words of disaster, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25.41).
The suffering are all around us. God cares for them, and we must display his care for them through our loving actions. They are counting on us. When we help the suffering individuals with their physical problems, then we can begin to bring them closer to Christ so that they can be saved from our common spiritual problem.

Questions for When We Hurt

When we hurt…

Is God still in control?
Palm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”

Is God still working?
Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Is God still going to make this better?
Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us.”

Is God concerned?
John 11:35, “Jesus wept.”

Is God still going to help?
2 Corinthians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, the one who comforts us in our affliction.”

Is God still with me?
“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, Thou art with me” Psalm 23.4

Bring him to Jesus

BRING HIM TO JESUS

MARK 2.4
“And not being able to bring him to Jesus on account of the crowd, they removed the roof where he was, and having made an opening they lowered the mattress upon which the paralyzed man lay. And Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralyzed man,
son, your sins are forgiven you.”

We are struck with the incredible faith of these men who were willing to go to extreme measures to bring a man to Christ. First, we see that the men would allow nothing to get in their way. There was a crowd around Jesus, but that would not prevent them. We are often ashamed to come near Christ when we are among a crowd of people. These men were so eager to bring their friend to Christ that they were willing to let their faith be seen in a great crowd. How often is the cause of Christ hindered because Christians are afraid to let their light shine (Matthew 5.16)?

There was also a physical hindrance to being near Christ. The crowd separated them from Christ, but so did the roof. We can only imagine what the people down below must have been thinking as the roof literally began to tumble on their heads. The men in this story were bold enough to dig through that earthen roof anyway. We are not told how the owner of the house responded to the hole in his roof. Perhaps he was just happy a man was brought to Christ at his expense. Perhaps this was Peter’s home where Jesus was staying (Mark 2.1).

The paralyzed man did not allow his lack of mobility to hinder him from coming to Jesus. Those who are sick need the Physician. Physical illness helps us see our need for the eternal Savior. Spiritual sickness demands us to run to the Savior.

This group of men had certainly caused a disturbance while Jesus was teaching, but they would not stop until they had brought their friend to Christ. They stand as a great example of faith moving men to action. We must allow nothing to stand between us and Christ. We must not allow anything to prohibit the spread of the Gospel. Charles Spurgeon said, “…then through door, through window, or through roof, let us, breaking through all impediments, labour to bring poor souls to Jesus. All means are good and decorous when faith and love are truly set on winning souls. If hunger for bread can break through stone walls, surely hunger for souls is not to be hindered in its efforts. O Lord, make us quick to suggest methods of reaching thy poor sin-sick ones, and bold to carry them out at all hazards.”

What Does Your Church Offer?

WHAT DOES YOUR CHURCH OFFER?
What does your church offer? A survey of the religious neighbors may leave some feeling inadequate. Many congregations feel like their simple worship cannot compete with the modern performance worship down town. Sometimes congregations just are not equipped to offer some services which are effectively reaching out into some communities. These feelings of inadequacy cause many to be discouraged, some give up, and others to abandon the New Testament pattern for the church and worship.
What does your church offer? No matter how large or small every congregation of the Lord’s people has the tools needed to reach their neighbors, train their children, and grow the church. In Acts 2 we read Luke’s record of the birth of the church. These first Christians had the two things which will grow the church—God’s message and a Godly life.

God’s Message
​God’s message remains one of salvation. Peter quotes a prophecy from Joel 2:28-32 which promises signs which will accompany the Last Days or the Messianic age. The signs which were fulfilled by the 12 on Pentecost pointed the way to the greatest promise the world has ever known—“everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21 cf. Acts 22:16; Hebrews 5:9; Mark 16:16). This message of salvation is made possible by Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ mission was verified by God. In the life of Christ, God worked “mighty works, wonders, and signs” (Acts 2:22) so that everyone could know that Jesus is the Messiah (John 20:30-31). Just as we want to check our doctor’s accreditation or our schools accreditation, before we go there, we want to know that Jesus has been accredited by God. God the Father did all He could do to demonstrate that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God, the Lamb of God, and God with us.
Jesus’ mission was accomplished by God. Peter said that Jesus was, “delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23 ASV). Jesus’ rejection, crucifixion, and resurrection was God’s work. God had revealed these things through the Old Testament prophets so that men could recognize what was happening in the life of Christ. God providentially made certain that Jesus fulfilled each and every prophecy with perfect detail so that everyone can be certain that Jesus is the Messiah.
Jesus’ resurrection offers hope from God. The body of King David was left in his tomb to decay (Acts 2:24-28, 34), but God raised him from the dead. Because of that we have hope! We need hope. Many of the Jews believed Jesus offered them hope and they knew that had caused him to die. They said, “men and brethren what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).
When we preach Jesus, we must also preach his plan of salvation (Acts 8:35-38). Jesus death, burial, and resurrection serve as a pattern of obedience we must follow in order to live with the hope of eternal life (Romans 6:1-5). Jesus’ Great Commission included this plan (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16). At their request, Peter delivered God’s plan of salvation. He said, “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38 ASV).
What does the church have to offer? We have the greatest message the world has ever known. Jesus is God’s Son. Jesus is man’s Savior from sin. Jesus is man’s assurance of eternal life. Through faithful obedience to Christ we find Heaven. Heaven overshadows our anxiety, despair, disease, poverty, relationship problems, and any other issue which may arise (Romans 8:18).

Godly Life
​The redeemed live a different life than those who are without Christ (Romans 6:4). Who could be the same after becoming a Christian? Luke briefly described the new life of the 1st century Christians in Acts 2:41-47. In these verses we see that the early church made a practice of being a part of some activities. These activities are: learning doctrine, participating in fellowship, the weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper, and praying together.
​These activities provide a foundation for the life of the church. We have activities which offer good Bible study. We must be known as a people of the Book. Other activities encourage fellowship or partnership. Area campaigns, mission trips, service days, and other activities are great ways to encourage the fellowship of believers. Every week will begin by observing the Lord’s Supper and worship (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34). The congregation’s spiritual life should also be nurtured with opportunities to pray together (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
​The Christian’s manner of life is the most effective evangelistic tool we have. If Christ has made a difference in your life, then people will see the difference Christ has made in your life. People are searching for the difference Christ makes. People were attracted to the way the first Christians lived, and they can still be attracted by that same way of life today (Acts 2:47; 2 Corinthians 2:14-16).

CONCLUSION
​We shouldn’t focus so much on what we don’t have and what we can’t do. Rather we should focus on what we do have and what we can do with God’s message and Godly living. The Gospel is still God’s power that leads to salvation (Romans 1:16).

Spiritual Worship

SPIRITUAL WORSHIP
John 4:21-24

“Jesus said unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither on this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:21-24).

Jesus’ discussion with the woman at the well very clearly describes a situation in which there were individuals worshiping as God had directed, and there were individuals who were worshiping against God’s directions. It also shows us that there was a plan for worship which was in place at that time, and a plan for worship which would be enacted during the Christian age. Finally we also see that God’s plan for worship, which was Law at that time, was a physical system of worship. The system of worship which was to accompany the Christian age was a more spiritual system of worship. This more spiritual worship is not without regulations (Heb. 9:1), but it is without the physical accompaniment meant to stimulate a “worshipful” feeling.
This more spiritual worship is most noticeably seen in the singing of the Christian assembly. The New Testament commands Christians to sing 3 times. First in Ephesians 5:18-19, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In Colossians 3:16 we read God’s command, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus giving thanks to God the Father by him.” James 5:13 says, “Is any merry? Let him sing psalms.”
These brief New Testament commands are different from the the directives for singing worship to God in the Old Testament. During the days of the Tabernacle, the only instrument which was used was the trumpet. In Numbers 10 we see that this instrument was regulated in the following ways: 1) Only two trumpets were authorized to be made–Num. 10:1-2; 2) Only the priests were authorized to play them–Num. 10:8; and 3) the occasions which the trumpet could be used were limited–Num. 10:10.
This was the rule until God commanded David to have further instrumental music. We read an account of this in 2 Chronicles 29:25-27, “He then stationed the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, with harps, and with lyres, according to the command of David and of Gad the kings’s seer, and of Nathan the prophet; for the command was from the Lord through His prophets.” As Hezekiah was restoring God’s proper worship, he did not suppose that he could do anything apart from God’s command. So he stationed the people God appointed, in the places God appointed, with the instruments God appointed, so that they could sing and play at the times when God had appointed.
The Old Testament system was highly regulated and was often dominated by the physical sensations of worship. The instrumental music was commanded, directed, and governed by God’s Word. A presbyterian professor at Columbia Theological Seminary said, “When the Temple was to be built, its order of worship to be instituted , David received a divine revelation in regard to it, just as Moses had concerning the tabernacle with it s ordinances…Instrumental music would not have been constituted an element in the Temple-worship, had not God expressly authorized it by his command” (pg. 31).
When we approach the New Testament to find the regulations for God’s worship in His church, we must again be guided by the same regulatory principle which was followed by David, Hezekiah, and Josiah. The God of the Bible has not changed. He and his worship must be regarded as holy by those who would seek Him. “We must always ask the question: What has God commanded in His Worship? Only by using those elements that are divinely instituted can we be certain that our worship is acceptable to Him” (Price page 35). Jesus said, “Why do you transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3). “But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). Paul said, “If any many think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandment of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:37). In 1 Timothy 3:14-15 Paul wrote, “These things I write unto thee…that thou mayest know how thou ought to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth.”
We see clearly that the Old Testament system ceased with Christ. Christ, in his death, enacted the new Christian system. The old physical worship and physical priesthood, which was dominated by the temple in Jerusalem, was taken out of the way (Galatians 3:23-29). It was replaced by the new spiritual worship dominated by the new spiritual temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19). In Hebrews 7:12 it is written that, “For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also.” The new priesthood is the priesthood of all believers (Revelation 1:6). The new law is the law of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). The law which we will be judged by is the law of Christ (John 12:48). The law to which we must go to find how to worship is the new law of Christ, not the old law of Moses, not the traditions of men, and not the random choices of individuals.
When we want to discover how to worship God as he has directed or regulated under the New Testament or Christian age, we must go to the New Testament and see what he has specified. Professor Girardeau concluded that John 4:23 taught:

Jesus has thus declared that the positive enactment which required ceremonial worship at the Jewish temple is abrogated; and the New
Testament is utterly silent in regard to any transfer to the Christian church
of the services peculiar to that edifice….To retain a part of its services is to
suppose the continued existence of the Temple, for God never authorized
the employment of those services except in immediate connection with
that particular structure, after the tabernacle had given way to it by his
inspired direction. (Girardeau 87).

The Bible repeatedly describes the use of various musical instruments in connection with worship in the tabernacle and the temple services. However, the New Testament is completely silent concerning any physical instruments of music being utilized in the worship to God. The main theme of the restorations accomplished by Hezekiah and Josiah were to go back to the Word of the Lord as they found “the command of David the man of God. As Christians pursue the worship of God today, they must also return to the original form of the church. Christians must go back to the command of God as delivered through the pens of the New Testament writers. To do anything more is to go beyond what God has directed (2 John 9-11). To do anything less is to be insufficient in our service.
Again we ask the question, “What has God commanded in the New Testament for us to do as we worship Him in song?” The answer is still the same. The New Testament commands Christians to sing 3 times. First in Ephesians 5:18-19, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In Colossians 3:16 we read God’s command, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus giving thanks to God the Father by him.” James 5:13 says, “Is any merry? Let him sing psalms.”
This is why we do not have physical instruments in our worship. We worship only with singing because that is the way which God has directed to sing praises to Him. One way in which we can test this reasoning is to examine what has been done in the past. Historians agree that “Both instrumental music and unaccompanied vocal music were present in the Jewish background of the early church. the immediate setting for early Christianity, the synagogue and sectarian Judaism,…favored the practice of purely vocal music” (Fergusson page 43). Ferguson goes on to list the following historical accounts of what the early Christians practiced:
Pliny, Roman governor of Bythina–“Christians met on a stated day and sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ as to a God.”
Eusebius summarized Christian worship at the beginning of the 4th century by referring to the “singing of Psalms and recitation of other such words as have been given to us by God.” (Church History X.iii.3).
A 4th century document titled Questions and Answers for the Orthodox records: “the use of such instruments and the others that belong to the childish state is excluded from the singing in the churches, and simple singing is left.” (PG 6:1354).
Niceta, Bishop of Remesiana, said: “Only the corporal institutions have been rejected, like circumcision, the sabbath, sacrifices, discrimination in foods. So, too, the trumpets, harps, cymbals and timbrels. For the sound of these we now have a better substitute in the music from the mouths of men.”
Chrysostem wrote On Psalms 149, 2: “In olden times they were thus led by these instruments because of the dullness of their understanding and their recent deliverance from idols. Just as God allowed animal sacrifices, so also he let them have these instruments, condescending to help their weakness” (PG 55:494).
Augustine commented on Psalm 33:2 and said, “Hath not the institution of these Vigils in the name of Christ brought it to pass that harps should be banished out of this place?….Let none turn his heart to the instruments of the theatre.” (Augustine Enarrationes in Psalnum, Ps. 57.16).
Most all historians agree that the 1st recorded example of a musical instrument in Christian worship was an organ introduced in about 670 by Pope Vitalianus. Is it not odd that from the close of the New Testament in 97 AD that instruments were not used by Christians until 670 AD? The second mention of an organ being used does not come until 812. Charlemagne had an organ built for the Roman Catholic Cathedral at Aix-la-Chapelle.
Notice how that many of the great thinkers of the ancient times rejected the practice of instrumental music.
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) wrote “The Church does not use musical instruments such as the harp or lyre when praising God, in case she should seem to fall back into Judaism…For musical instruments usually move the soul more to pleasure than create inner moral goodness.” (Needham, 393).
Robert L. Dabney, a professor at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, wrote concerning the exclusion of instrumental music: “Such has been the creed of all churches, and in all ages, except of the Popish communion after it had reached the nadir of its corruption at the end of the thirteenth century, and its prelatic imitators.” (The Presbyterian Quarterly, July 1889).
John Calvin wrote: “When they frequent the sacred assemblies, musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting up of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law…..Men who are fond of outward pomp may delight in that noise; but the simplicity which God recommends to us by the apostle is far more pleasing to him.” (Calvin’s Commentary on Psalm 33:2).
When commenting on Psalm 42:4, Charles Haddon Spurgeon said: “We might as well pray by machinery as praise by it.” (Treasury of David Vol. 1, Part 2, 272).
These great voices of the past call us to return to the simple and spiritual worship of the New Testament. There we find no physical instruments, only souls praising God.

When we study singing in worship we see that it is when we express our submission to God as King of our life, praise him as King of our life, and honor Him as the Savior of our souls. If we are ever to sing as Christ would have us to sing, we must live as Christ would have us to live.

Where Would You Be Sitting?

WHERE WOULD YOU BE SITTING?

Matthew 9:9-12
strength requires sacrifice

Jesus saw Matthew sitting among the tax collectors. Matthew was among the marginalized, the outcast, and the immoral. He would not have appeared to have much potential for as a Christ follower. Yet Jesus extends the invitation “Follow me” and Matthew responds impeccably. Luke 5:28 records that “he left all, rose up, and followed him.” Although Matthew was sitting in the place of the sinner, he responds with the true heart of faith. He acts with reckless abandon leaving the physical responsibilities to those around him while taking up his own cross to follow Christ. Matthew would no longer sit as a sinner, he would follow as a Christian.
We must be willing to leave things that need to be left and take up the work of Christ. Paul asked, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?….And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9, 11). The invitation “Follow Me” is descriptive of the way in which we must follow Christ. The word has to do with being united in the same road. It could be literally translated “disciple”. Thomas asked Christ, “Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by me” (Jn. 14:5-6). In John 8:12, Jesus said”I am the light of the world: he that follows after me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life”. We should follow Christ as the torch that lights the road of our life.
A “sinful woman” in Luke 7:36-50 demonstrated the way which we should all follow our Christ. In the story Jesus is asked to eat with a Pharisee and during the meal “a woman of the city, who was a sinner” brought an alabaster flask of ointment and wiped Jesus feet with her hair and tears as she cried. The Pharisee found even her presence objectionable, but Jesus pointed out that she loved him all the more because she was forgiven of far more. Likewise we should count the cost of our wrongdoing so that we will be humble enough to follow our Lord’s voice.

SITTING WITH THE SAINTS?—MATTHEW 9:12-13
Some time after Matthew began to follow Christ, Matthew held a great feast for the Lord in his own house and many tax collectors and sinners were there (Luke 5:29). But here we see an intensification in the narrative. In Matthew 9:9, Matthew is simply “sitting” in the tax booth, but here at this large feast Jesus is “reclining” (ESV; NASB). This is the customary way for people of that time to share a meal–sitting or reclining in the floor. We cannot overestimate the meaning of eating a meal together in that culture. Jesus is placing himself in the company of those who were labeled as sinners. The NASB and NIV place the word “sinners” in quotation marks because the Pharisees labeled those who did not keep their law as sinners even though they may have kept the actual requirement of the Mosaic Law. The fact is that many were unable to live up to the Pharisees standards because they did not have the money to afford their rituals.
Jesus was not sitting with what the world would have called the saints. He was far from the popular table. His presence at this meal made him impure to the Pharisees who would not have even entered the house, but simply “saw” that Jesus was there. From outside the house, the scribes of the Pharisees tempted the disciples with the question: “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
How easy it is for us to fall into the same Pharisaical trap! We look out at our neighbor and we label people according to their mistakes, their economy, their culture, or their false doctrine. We label them so that we can degrade them. We have derogatory words to refer to different races. We look down on those that are poorer or richer than ourselves. We see that someone made a mistake and we never forget so that we can appear more righteous beside them. This is the way we behave when we are righteous! This is also how we behave when we are not sitting with Christ!
It is written in Proverbs 3:3-4, “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart. So shalt thou find favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man.” Proverbs 14:21 says, “He that despises his neighbor sins: but he that has mercy on the poor, happy is he.” Hosea said, “Hear the word of the Lord, ye children of Israel: for the Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land” (Hos. 4:1). Micah said, “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt. 5:7). Jesus condemned the Pharisees because they paid tithes of the smallest matters and neglected mercy (Matt. 23:23). James 2:13 provides the warning: “For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy; and mercy rejoices (“triumphs” ESV) over judgment.”
Sometimes we focus on the faults of our own brethren to exclude them and exalt ourselves. Do we not remember the life of Peter who was one of the Lord’s 3 closest disciples, an apostle, and an elder of the Lord’s church? Was he not given to anger? Wan’t he often publicly rebuked by the Lord? Wasn’t it Peter who denied Christ three times and cursed those who accused him of being in Jesus’ presence (Mark 14:66-72)? Yet it was also Peter who preached the first Gospel sermon. Shouldn’t we be more forgiving of our brothers and sisters?
There is an unfortunate disconnect between our prayers, our worship, our attitudes, and relationships. We need to remember what we are doing during the Lord’s Supper. In the Lord’s supper, we examine ourselves, promote Christian fellowship, and proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. There is not a time when we are more humbly and intimately connected with the body of Christ. There is not a time when we should more readily confront the perfect holiness of Christ and the utter shame of our own sin. I always appreciate the invitation to go out to eat with brothers and sisters in Christ after morning worship, or any other time. But on more than one occasion I have shared the humble time of the Lord’s Supper when we begged for forgiveness only to go to a restaurant where we can point out and magnify every mistake the waitress and cook made. It is no wonder the waitresses and waiters don’t like the Sunday morning crowd–they don’t tip well and they complain the most. If we are not able to let simple lunch hour mistakes slide why should we expect God to forgive our sins!
Would we be willing to sit with someone who sinned? Would we be willing to eat with the poor? Would we be seen with someone of a different race? Would we, with Jesus, sit with the sinners?

INVITATION FROM THE SCRIPTURE:
Jesus heard the scribes’ accusatory question and apply responds by saying: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, I desire mercy, and not sacrifice. For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:12-13). Jesus addressed the teachers as their teacher. In effect he told them “If you don’t need me, then I am not for you.” Who among us is ready to present ourselves as the righteous person? Wouldn’t we rather sit with the weak sinners at the feet of Christ?
Strength requires sacrifice. Many cultures sacrifice their weakest members to maintain their strength. Jesus sacrificed his strength to make us strong. Jesus–the Word “was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14). “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession, for we have not a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infinities: but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to hep in time of need” (Heb. 4:14-16).