Love For Enemies

Luke 6:27-38

In grace is the difference between Christianity and the world evident.  It is not easy to love our enemies.   This passage is one of the most challenging in Scripture.  It often requires divine intervention.  We  Christians should have confidence that when God gives us a command, he also gives us the power to obey.  

1.  Who are our enemies?

"But I tell you who hear me, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.  If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic.  Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back."  vs. 27-30

Our enemies are people who hate us, who curse us, who abuse us.  These are the people we are called to love, people who act against our interests.  The world looks at offenses far more differently than Jesus Christ.  They seek revenge.   But for Christians, there is no place for revenge.  The ancient philosopher, Confucius, said "A man seeking revenge digs two graves," one for his opponent and one for himself.  Remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:22:

"But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment...Anyone who says 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell."

Jesus equates anger to the sin of murder.   Jesus gave us the story of the good samaritan, who was a neighbor of the man who was beaten on the street, his enemy, a Jew.  So, a neighbor is anyone close at hand, even an enemy.  Jesus calls us to love them, and act as a friend.

2.  How are we supposed to love our enemies?

Does turning the other cheek mean we are supposed to take a beating from someone?  God knew it would be difficult for us, so He gave us an extreme example of how to love our enemies?  Jesus died on the cross for us.  Consider who you were before you met Jesus?   Know for a fact that God is actively pursuing your soul.  God longs to forgive us.  When God planned the cross for Christ, He knew who we were going to be and He decided there to love His enemies - you and me - those who don't deserve His love.  We are saved today because God is good, not because we are.

We have to die to self.  To love our neighbors as ourselves, we must make their needs equal to our own.  We have to look for ways to show them the Light.  Know that people are watching you, especially when you claim to represent Jesus.  Most non-Christians have a very alert sense of hypocrisy in people.  Earthly suffering is meant to bring Him glory.  When pain moves hearts to Him, the end result is always His glory.  God forbade sin;  it's bad for us.  Sin hurts because it is contrary  to the will of God. On Judgment Day God will bring eternal judgment to those who have rejected Him, and eternal peace, joy and celebration to those who have believed in Him.

Primarily, the way to love our enemies is to share Jesus with them.   The Christian walk is one of following the Holy Spirit.  God will lead us in loving our enemies.   We can often misunderstand God's will, and that is where fellowship comes in to hold each other accountable, to help us know how best to love people in the name of Jesus.  Verse 31 says,

"Do to others as you would have them do to you."

3.  Why must we love our enemies?     

Something funny happens when we obey God's Word.  We come to realized the benefits of living a Godly life.  All obedience is met with abundant fruit.  As we love our enemies, we learn that more and more, people want to be our friends.  They are broken people, just like us.  When we love our enemies, we lose that bitterness that cripples us and robs us of our joy.  The only thing that stays is a sense of righteous self-indignation.  We must forgive.  That is not optional.  Jesus says that our salvation is dependent on it.

Love consists of more than just forgiveness.  God wants more.  When we share the Gospel with our enemies, we are wishing them good.  This is the grace that separates us from the world.  Christ desires all to be saved, and we must also desire this.  Our value comes from the God who made us.  Our worth is rooted in His worth.  Today, we are called to love those who are unlovable.  "Love your neighbor as yourself" holds even when your neighbor is against you.

There are many benefits to obedience.  Yet, serving God specifically for those benefits does not last.  In the end, we should love our enemies because God loves His enemies.  Every sin that is not immediately punished by God with eternal death is an act of love from the Almighty.  Every grace given to the wicked - the sunrise, the taste of food, the embrace of a spouse - is God loving His enemies.  He created all of this because His love overflows.  It is His nature to share what He has.  We fulfill no need in God, but He fulfills every need in us.  There is so much we have to surrender to God in order to be His children, yet in the end, not a single thing we give up is worth holding on to (earthly things, resentment, bitterness).  We have to give those things to God and leave them in His hands.  I guarantee you, His plan is better than ours. Like all of God's commands, the command to love our enemies truly benefits us.



The Blessedness Of Possessing Nothing

Luke 6:17-26

Before the Lord  created man, He created a world of beautiful things, pleasant and wonderful, for man's delight, only for external use.  In the deep heart of man was the dwelling place, a shrine, a holy place where only God was worthy to dwell.   Man was the dwelling place of God.  God would come, on a daily basis, and commune with man.  But sin introduced complications and ruined everything by removing God from the heart.  Those things that were created for man's use had taken God's place in his heart.  Every time we kick God out, disaster strikes.

Jesus, in Luke 18:9-14, tells a story about two men who appear before God, a pharisee and a tax collector.  The pharisee appears before God and thanks Him for not being like others - robbers, etc.  The tax collector says "God, have mercy on me, a sinner."    You see two men appear before God with different attitudes.  The tax collector leaves the presence of God justified, but the pharisee, what did he get?  We come to the Lord poor.  Verse 20 says, 

"Blessed are you who are poor, for yours in the kingdom of God.." 

We must approach the Lord exhausted, in despair, defeated, with our failures, with spiritual emptiness.  When we come to the Lord with this attitude, we find mercy.  Something will happen to you as a result when you come to the Lord broken, poor, empty-handed.  The peace of God will descend upon you.  Restoration and reconciliation with God, inner peace will happen.  Blessed are you if you are spiritually poor.  The kingdom of God is yours.  Sometimes we live as though there is no such thing as the Kingdom of God.  

How do you perceive living for Christ? The grace of Christ,  the boundless and most gracious love divine, will come and make a difference. You are invited to understand what it is like to be poor in spirit, the Christi-centered poverty, and hunger and thirst.  Jesus Christ said in verse 20:

"Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied."

Hunger and thirst as physical sensations may become real pain.   It has been the experience of countless seekers of God that, when there desires become painful, they are suddenly and wonderfully satisfied.  When we go to the source, God, the Lord will wonderfully satisfy us.  Today, most of us are so cold, so content with our wretched conditions, that there is no vacuum of desire into which the blessed Spirit can wash and satisfy us.  We long for things like money, attention, a good job, but there is no more desire or longing for God, and we are going down.  We are powerless and empty.  The Holy Spirit of God is no longer in control. We need to say "Lord, quiet my soul, and fill me with holy longing again."  I don't want to be contented with my present condition.  I want all that God has for me today.

We trust the Lord.  That is what we do as believers.  We don't fight, we don't reprimand.  We get down on our knees.  The blessedness of possessing nothing is Christ-centered poverty, Christ-centered hunger, and Christ-centered sadness.  The Lord can give us joy again.

"Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you,  and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.  Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven." (vs. 22-23)

In order to follow Jesus Christ faithfully, we must die to our desire for people's approval.  Just stop trying to please everybody.  To be right with God has often meant o be in trouble with people.  Focus on the Lord, on the prize.  This beatitude is the longest, and hardest one, the blessing no one wants.  When we arepersecuted because we are serving Christ, and being faithful to God, there are blessings for us.  God blesses us with things, but don't be arrogant about them. 

God truly blesses those people whose spirituality, whose inward connection with God, is so evident that other people want to be around them.  They are the people who know God, who know how to talk to God.  Those are the deep people.  There is always something Godly about them.

Isaiah Chapter 6 tells us that the man who God blesses must be undone.  He must be humble and pliable.  There is something about not having too much in this world, but you can still be a deep person because there is some profound knowledge, something holy about you, the way you live your life, the way you serve God.  When people look at you they say, "That is exactly the way I want to live."   You may not have much, wealth, a good education, people may look down on you, but deep inside you, oh,,,,breath of God, breathe on us Lord, cleanse us, purify us, and deliver us.



Blessings And Woes

Psalm 51

                                                              Have mercy on me, O God, 

according to Your unfailing love;

according to Your great compassion

blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity

and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is always before me.

Against You, You only, have I sinned,

and done what is evil in your sight,

so that You are proved right when You speak

and justified when You judge.

Surely I was sinful at birth,

sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

Surely You desire truth in the inner parts;

You teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;

wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Let me hear joy and gladness;

let the bones You have crushed rejoice.

Hide Your face from my sins

and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,

and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me from Your presence

or take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation

and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,

and sinners will turn back to You.

Save me from bloodguilt, O God,

the God who saves me,

and my tongue will sing of Your righteousness. 

O Lord, open my lips, 

and my mouth will declare Your praise.

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;

You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart,

O God, You will not despise.

In Your good pleasure make Zion prosper;

build up the walls of Jerusalem.

Then there will be righteous sacrifices, 

whole burnt offerings to delight You;

then bulls will be offered on Your altar.




The Lord Of The Sabbath

Luke 6:1-11

Luke's portrayal of Jesus is rich with insights into the very character of God and the envisioned kingdom life of the believer.  Luke's account gives us life, guiding us to entrust our very being to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Luke did his careful investigation during the time period of those who had an eyewitness account of Jesus' life and ministry.  Think about it.  Luke was not that different from us here today.  He believed by faith, listened and studied the account of others, and was inspired directly by the Holy Spirit. Yes, he had the advantage of speaking to eyewitnesses.  We have the advantage of the inspired written Word.  We can take our time with patience and repetition and, even the use of silence, so we can clearly hear the quiet whisper, as the message comes to us directly from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

The Word is alive because our Lord is alive.  Luke's writings enable us to place ourselves in the setting of the characters, and with the help of the Holy Spirit bring to light relevance to our modern-day lives.  Our faith is alive because our Lord is alive.  We can learn our Lord Jesus through our present-day experience in relationship with Him, and also through His book, the Bible.  What better way to get to know the Lord than to read all about who He was as a man , a teacher, a counsellor, a servant.  God in human form as our role model.  I really don't think it gets any better than that.

 "One sabbath, Jesus was going through the grain field, and Him disciples decided to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands, and eat the kernels." vs 1

Although Jesus had a home town, Jesus and His disciples were essentially homeless in their ministry.  Therefore, it's not surprising that the disciples were in search of food on the Sabbath.  But was it against the law to go into a grain field and pick someone else's pearls of grain?  The law said you could go into your neighbor's field, but you must not harvest their grain.  Yet some some of the pharisees asked why they were doing something unlawful on the Sabbath.  The pharisees must have thought they had a "gotcha" moment, because the disciples were doing work on the Sabbath.  To them it was tantamount to reaping, threshing, and grinding the grain. The truth is the disciples did not break any of the laws.   We might better understand why they  were judging the actions seen here as such a serious offense.  Go back to Exodus 31:14 where it says,

"You must keep the Sabbath day, for it is a holy day for you.  Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death" 

The consequences of desecrating the Sabbath were dire.  In verses 3-4:

Jesus answered them, Have you never read what David did when He and his companions were hungry?  He entered the house of God, and taking consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat.  And he also gave some to his companions."

But the pharisees only knew the part of this scripture that said that David and his companions ate the consecrated bread.  Let's take another example from Matthew 12:11-12:

"If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out?  How much more valuable is a man than a sheep!   Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath."

There is an principal here.  Doing good always has value.  Can you imagine what it would be like if no doctors could heal patients, no police could protect the community?  What about God Himself?  Genesis 2:2 tells us that God rested on the seventh day.  I sure hope that God does not rest from doing good on the Sabbath.    Jesus gave us a little more insight with Mark 3:27-28:

"Then He said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."

The Jewish tradition had multiplied the requirements and restrictions for keeping the Sabbath to such a level that the burden had become intolerable.  Jesus cut across these traditions and emphasized the God-given purpose of the Sabbath - a day for rest, a day for spiritual restoration.  Jesus is Lord of all, even the Sabbath.  Jesus has the authority to overrule human regulation, particularly when it comes from a flawed interpretation of the spirit of the law.  Jesus is there to help us interpret the law.

In verse 6 Jesus was teaching in a synagogue:

"On another Sabbath He went into a synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled.  The pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched Him closely to see if He would heal on the Sabbath."

Jesus was teaching, and there a need for healing once again.  The pharisees were present, looking to see if Jesus was going to violate the law of the Sabbath.  In their view, healing the sick on the Sabbath was work.  What did Jesus do?  Verses 8-11 say:

"But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, "Get up and stand in front of everyone."  So he got up and stood there.  Then Jesus said to them, "I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?"  He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, "Stretch out your hand."  He did so, and his hand was completely restored."

Jesus saw the need for healing, and He healed the man.  Jesus answered His own question through His actions.  They really didn't get Jesus' point.  Verse 11 tells us:

"But they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus."

It's one thing to consider that they didn't recognize Jesus Christ as the Messiah they were looking for.  It's quite another to witness the miracle Jesus had just performed and interpret it as unlawful.  The point the Lord was making was that not doing something can be the evil choice.  Not doing, not healing, not allowing hungry people to legally gather a few pearls of grain to eat is the equivalent of evil.  The pharisees had gone a long distance from understanding what was at the heart of the guidelines of the Sabbath, a day for rest, spiritual renewal.  

Is that why we come here to Church?  Spiritual renewal?  That's at the heart of the Sabbath.  We worship our Lord because we love Him.  Matthew 22:37 tells us:

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and will all your soul and with all your mind."

Then the Holy Spirit fills us, and we know that we can love our neighbors as ourselves.   The Sabbath is a day set aside to show our love for God, and for one another.

The pharisees couldn't hear what Jesus was saying.  I would suggest to you that they were so busy looking for rulebreaking, that they were not listening to what was at the heart of the question Jesus was asking.  The loving answer was that it is ok to do good,  even on the Sabbath.

The good news for us here today is that we have no need to narrow our focus on a detailed and legalistic rule book to know what the right thing to do is.  How can we know?  We are so truly blessed to have the Holy Spirit as our guide.  Walk by the Spirit, and keep in step with the Spirit.  God's very nature is demonstrated over and over again by Jesus' love.  It was love that was at the heart of the law, not a dictatorial God who was looking to make humanity miserable.  Walking by the Spirit is the way, the only way.  For me there is no other way.

Today I encourage you to spend time in prayer, read the Word, and go out there to touch the life of another by doing good.  Love one another and listen, really listen, for the quiet whisper that comes from the Holy Spirit.






Our Future And God's Faithfulness

Psalm 34                                                                                                                                                  Proverbs 3:5-6

Everyone has experienced fear at one time or another.  If you ever lost track of your child in a store, you know what fear is. We live in a world filled with fears and phobias, and many of them are real.  A survey was taken and people were asked "what do you fear?"  They responded that they fear the future.

Why are we afraid of the future?  There are a couple reasons.  First, the future is unknown.  We really don't know what will happen in the future.  Second, we can't control what we don't know, but we try anyway.  We try to control it by worrying.  Come on, why pray when you can worry all the time.  Social media says to us all the time, "be afraid, be afraid."  

But God has a different message for us.  Don't be afraid.

"I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He  delivered me from all my fears." Psa34:4

The Bible says that God knows everything that is going to happen.  How can that be?  It can be because God is not confined to time.  We are.  God can see everything in all of history all at once...God is in the past, God is in the present, and God is in the future.....all at once!  Our future is not unknown to God.  He is never surprised by anything. 

When you are in a relationship with God, I mean when you have the Holy Spirit's presence in you, and you realize that God is love, then you don't have fear for the future.  He loves you.  He cares for you.  You don't have to be afraid of what happens.  God always has a plan for your future.

"For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you,  plans to give you hope and a future." Jer 29:11

You are no accident.  By the will of God you are alive.  He made plans for you long before you came into existence.  God works in our lives all the time.  God knows what will happen in your life, and God never leaves you.  God  has to ambush you sometimes to get your attention.  Look back on your life, and realize, God has been with you every step of the way.  God says, in the Bible, that He will never forsake you, or leave you alone.  What a friend we have in God!  God will never let you go through anything alone, regardless of what happens to you.  He won't leave you....even if you fail at something in your life.  He will always be faithful to you because He can't disown Himself (we were made in His image, and we are His children).  

No matter what, that's the kind of God we serve.