A chance to repent – Luke 13:1-5

When extreme tragedy strikes, there is an almost universal tendency to see that the person somehow had it coming to them.  Call it karma, call it something else, the tendency has always been there.  The Bible has a version of this, memorably expressed by Paul in Galatians 6:7-8.

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

At the same time, the Bible sees this principle as limited, at least in this life.  The story of Job is an excellent example.  A perfectly righteous man endures terrible hardship, while his friends try to make sense of it as best they can.  Perhaps inevitably, they resort to blaming Job for his own troubles.  They were wrong, but they add much insult to Job’s injury before they are forced to see it.  God sets all things right at the very end, but it took Job a long time and a lot of undeserved suffering to get there.

Jesus encountered this kind of thinking one day and answered it perfectly as always.  Let’s read it from Luke 13.

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

The Galileans killed by Pilate and the victims of the fallen tower were no worse people than anyone else.  The twist in Christ’s version is not that they were especially innocent in God’s eyes, but that everyone else is comparably guilty.  This is the biblical view of sin.  It is the bad news that makes the good news of the gospel good.

We are all in need of repentance.  That is one of the earliest lessons that the Bible aims to teach us.  At some level, we are guilty before a perfectly holy God.  Sure, there may be mitigating factors to the particular level of our guilt.  A certain temptation was especially difficult.  Under the circumstances there were no good choices.  We have a natural tendency to do this or that.  Someone or something drove us to a point where we reacted, which was wrong.  But, in the end, we are wrong too.  We have sinned because we are fundamentally flawed members of a flawed race who eventually lived up – or maybe down – to our potential.  We sinned and fell short of perfect holiness, which is the standard of the one and only thoroughly holy God.

The solution is repentance.  We are not to hold onto our sin and cherish it.  We are to turn from it and turn our hearts toward our divinely provided Savior.  This is the point made by Jesus when he says, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

John 3:16 steers us directly to this principle.  We have a chance to repent right now.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Luke 10 – Verse by Verse

Photo for Luke

Christ has now turned from Galilee toward Jerusalem.  In this chapter Luke gives us some stories not found in the other Gospels, such as sending the seventy (two) and the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

Luke 10.pdf

Luke 10.mp3

Sometimes it’s not in *how you say it* – Luke 7:31-35

After Jesus reassured the crowd that John the Baptist was pretty much the greatest man that ever lived, the tax collectors and various others present were satisfied.  Not so much the Pharisees and lawyers, who rejected Jesus after rejecting John.  Jesus went on to describe their response, or the lack of one.

31 To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,

‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’

33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’35 Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.

Pastors and churches like to be relevant, and that is great – to a point.  There is a temptation to let our thinking run wild in that direction.  We may daydream, “Well, if we can only do this, and add this, talk like this, dress like this, and change the decor to this, then …”  

The responses to John the Baptist and Jesus provide some much-needed counterweight to that tendency.  

It would be hard to find two personalities or presentation styles that contrasted more starkly than Jesus and John.  John was famous for wearing rough clothing, preaching in the wilderness and eating mainly bugs.  Jesus was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard.  He never seemed to turn down a free dinner or an invitation to a party.  Rather than hanging out strictly in the wilderness, he wandered all over the countryside and traveled by water.  He was found in the towns and cities of Galilee, in the synagogues or on the seashore, and then in Jerusalem for the holidays.  

The message of both these men, however, was more or less the same.  It may have sounded different, or looked different, if one looked at the messenger.  But they mainly agreed that repentance from sin was needed, and that good works were a corollary to faith.  Jesus drew people to himself, which John did not, but then John also pointed people to Jesus.  

In the end what they said differed little.  The difference was in how they said it.  So what was the difference in response?  Well, there was none.  The same people who followed John also went after Jesus.  Those who rejected John rejected Christ.

Jesus compares his detractors to children in the marketplace that won’t join the game no matter what game is being played. 

“Let’s dance!” one shouts, and begins playing a flute.  No response.  

“How about a nice dirge!”  (OK, it’s a weird idea, but Jesus is just making a point.)  No response in that case either.

For those of us who are attracted to making the message relevant, let this be a caution.  Sometimes, if we are faithful to the message itself, how we say it won’t make any difference.

Mark 1 Verse by Verse

Photo for Mark editedMark begins his Gospel with the ministry of John the Baptist.  After Jesus is baptized by John he moves into his public ministry.

Mark 1.pdf

Mark 1.mp3

A Prayer Prompted by Mark 1

Heavenly Father,

We understand that when Jesus came as a sinless Savior entering a sinful world, all of history changed. We benefit from his example and incomparable service to us.

Help us to appreciate how much he identifies with us by enduring temptations, caring for our needs and ultimately dying so that we might receive eternal life.

Help us to be willing to serve him as our God and Savior, being willing to leave anything and everything behind that stands in the way of complete devotion to our Lord.

Help us also to be willing to serve him right where we are, if that is your will for us.

Give us supernatural insight so as to always be aware of the spiritual battle that is raging around us. We want to continue to further your kingdom and see your word go out to everyone everywhere.

And help us to be devoted to the proclamation of the gospel message, the message that tells us that Jesus Christ our Lord has come. We need to repent and believe in him.

In Christ’s name we pray,

Amen.

The beginning of the gospel – Mark 1:1

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

The gospel message, euangelion or “good news,” begins with Jesus Christ.  It is the message about him and his coming and about his work.  Mark’s book gives us the story of his life, death and resurrection.  Unlike the quotation that allegedly comes from St. Francis of Assisi, it is full of words from beginning to end.

You may know the little saying that I am talking about, the one that says,

Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.

With respect to this saying, a little debunking is in order.  First of all, it is not likely that Francis ever said it.  Second, he did gobs of verbal preaching, so he evidently thought using words was necessary pretty much all the time.  

How on earth can news, bad or good, be faithfully and continuously communicated without words anyway?  This is no criticism of good deeds.  It is simply stating the obvious that deeds and words are different things and the gospel is something that takes words.  That is no doubt why Francis preached so much verbally, out loud and in public.  It is also why Mark wrote a book with words rather than a coloring book or a comic book without captions.

Mark Galli wrote a little biography of St. Francis, which is short and readable enough to enjoy by almost anyone.  It is presently available on Amazon for more money than you want to spend on it.  When I bought it, the price was way lower.  If you want, I might cut you a deal on my own copy, and I’d send it to you for much less than that current high price (and still make a handsome profit).  Then again, even the first few paragraphs of his article on Christianity Today will give you enough information to back up my point about the quotation.  The title alone will help.  It is “Speak the Gospel: Use Deeds When Necessary.”  

For the next few months at our church we will be going through Mark’s Gospel and reading every word, chapter by chapter and verse by verse.  Every week we will look at one more portion of Christ’s life and ministry.  We just finished Matthew and the plan is to go through Luke and John after we finish Mark.  This will be lots of gospel, lots of words and lots of Jesus.  It will also give us lots of good news.

Resurrection Sunday 2019

Nabeel Qureshi 1983-2017

Nabeel Qureshi 1983 – 2017

Jesus’ death on the cross is not the end of the Christian message. The gospel is that Jesus then rose from the dead. Whereas every other life ended in death, Jesus’ death ended in life, and his resurrection is the basis of all Christian confidence.

Resurrection 2019.pdf

Resurrection 2019.mp3