Written in the Dust

Written in the Dust

writing_in_dust

600 years BC, before Christ, Jeremiah was a preacher and prophet in the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.  Jeremiah was specifically prophesying, through his prophetic poetry, to the backslidden people of Judah.  It is from this poetry that we get these two prophetic verses – ““For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me— the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!” Jeremiah 2:13 NLT

“LORD, you are the hope of Israel; all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water.” Jeremiah 17:13 NIV

living-water

Jeremiah uses the picture of living water to depict Yahweh.  To be connected to God is to be connected to a stream of living water.   But instead of trusting in God, being connected to the fountain of living water that is Yahweh, the people of Judah were trusting in the things of man, in what they could do for themselves, especially their political alliance with Egypt.  They had abandoned God, rejected his living water, trusting instead in their own cracked cisterns which would not hold water at all.   Later, Jeremiah prophecies Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water.   His people of Judah have turned away from the Lord, of and they will wind up written in the dust…

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Six centuries later, Jesus, like Jeremiah, is preaching to wayward people in Jerusalem.  This is during the festival of Sukkot, also known as the feast of Tabernacles.   Jesus doesn’t live in Jerusalem, but is in there for the festival.  This would have been approximately 6 months before the Passover, so it would have been about 6 months before his crucifixion.

living water

“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”” John 7:37-38 ESV.

Believe-in-Jesus.png

Jesus is extending an audacious invitation – the invitation to festival goers to come Him for living water.  The invitation to believe in Him.  Jesus and Jeremiah are the only 2 figures of the Bible to talk about living water.  Those who heard him give this invitation would have known exactly what Jesus was talking about.  Jesus is connecting himself to Yahweh, the God of Israel.  Some might even think he was claiming to be the God of Israel…”come to me, believe in me.

Jesusarrested-tissot

The crowd there was divided about Jesus.  “So there was a division among the people over him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.” John 7:43-44 ESV.  In fact, the chief priests and Pharisees had sent the temple police to arrest Jesus, but when they heard him speak, they seem to have forgotten what they came for.    “The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!””John 7:45-46 ESV.   Many were beginning to believe in Jesus.  They might not have been able to connect all the dots, but after all, look at his miracles.  He was able to cast out demons, heal the sick, even raise the dead!!  Now he was openly associating himself with Yahweh, the God of Israel.  No wonder the Sanhedrin wanted him arrested.

jesus-and-followers-in-the-mount-of-olives

“[[They went each to his own house,” John 7:53 ESV. but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.    Do you notice here how chapter 7 doesn’t actually end, but rolls straight into chapter 8?   Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 

Jesus_teaching_at_the_Temple

Jesus is getting quite a following at this festival.  The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”   The Pharisees have found a woman here whom they can condemn using the Torah, as we know it the Bible.  They have found a woman caught in the act of adultery (somehow the man got away.  Maybe he was a Pharisee). This is what Pharisees use the Bible for (then and now).  They claim all the promises, all the salvation for themselves, and then use it to condemn everyone else they don’t like.   Notice I said “use the Bible”.   That is what these Pharisees do, use the Bible for their own purposes.  They use the Bible to condemn others.  They are not using the Bible to be transformed by God’s truth…

stone such women

They are attempting to use the Bible here for manipulation and intimidation.  They are using it as a device for their own control and power.  They know Jesus is not going to preside over the stoning of a sinner.  They have remarked many times that he is a friend of sinners (amen!), that he sits and eats and drinks with sinners.

bible

They are using the Bible to trap Jesus.  They are setting him up.  They want to be able to accuse Jesus of not believing the Bible.  The Bible says, in both Leviticus and Deuteronomy, that such women (and the men they are caught with) are to be stoned to death.  These Pharisees are right, the Bible is on their side!!  But they are not submitted themselves to the scriptures, they simply want to use it as a weapon against Jesus.   And Jesus can quote scripture to, and he had already twice quoted Hosea 6:6 “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice…” Hosea 6:6 NIV.   Jesus was not going to sacrifice this sinner to the Torah.

stoning-stone

Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him.   Jesus sees this for exactly what it is – another rejection of the God of Israel.  Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.   Written in the dust…Yesterday –  “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”   Today,  Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water.  Jesus is completing Jeremiah’s prophecy, and this would not be lost on those Pharisees.  These guys knew their Torah, could quote from it forwards and backwards.  They knew what Jesus was doing.

DustWriting

What was he writing?  Who knows??!!   Maybe “Jerusalem“.  Maybe he was writing some of the names of those men standing there.  If he was particularly feisty that day, maybe he wrote the high priest “Joseph Caiaphas“.   Whatever he wrote, his point was clear.  These Pharisees, the scribes, Jerusalem, Caiaphas, they had all turned away from God, rejected the living water, were more interested in using the Bible to trap, control and intimidate than being transformed themselves by the truth of God’s word found inside.  So even though they get what Jesus is doing, they keep pressing the issue – “Well. What are you going to do Jesus? Do you believe the Torah, are you going to follow the Bible or not??”   And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.

salvation

These Pharisees thought they were trapping Jesus, but they’d been had.   They wound up trapped themselves.  BUT THAT WASN’T IN THEIR BIBLES!!!   Let him who is without sin wasn’t in the Torah.  Here’s the thing – Jesus Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, was the word made flesh.  Everything he ever did, everything Jesus ever said, was and is the Word of God.  Jesus is what God has to say…

But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”   Here’s a question – was anyone here without sin??  Jesus was!!  Jesus was without sin.  He was qualified to throw those stones.  All those Pharisees, those accusers, they knew they’d been had.   One by one, they put down those stones.  There was a nice little pile sitting there for Jesus.  If Jesus had wanted to “do the Bible“, then he could have picked up those stones and given that woman what she deserved.  She was guilty.  It would have just been too bad for her.

The-Friend-of-Sinners-Events

But Jesus doesn’t pick up those stones.  Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”    Go and sin no more!!    That’s what salvation looks like!!  This woman is guilty, the man she was sleeping with is guilty, I am guilty, you are guilty!!   Jesus has the right to throw those stones, the power to condemn.  But does he??   No!!!   Go, and from now on sin no more.  Guess what – that’s in your Bible!!   Amen and hallelujah, I like that one a lot more than stoning adulterers.

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Go and sin no more is what salvation looks like in a single moment.   Jesus could condemn that woman, but instead offers grace and mercy.  Because, after all, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 ESV.  Jesus doesn’t condemn us, he’s the one who saves us!!  Jesus is greater than the law.  He is the word made flesh.

Fountain

These Pharisees had rejected the living waters of God and were written in the dust.  Within a generation, the whole city of Jerusalem would be written in the dust.  If we choose to use our bibles as weapons to condemn sinners, we will wind up written in the dust.

neither-do-i-condemn-thee-medium

Leviticus and Deuteronomy both condemned this woman to die.  Jesus, the word made flesh, says go and sin no more.  Christ does not condemn, Jesus Saves, amen!!   “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:17 ESV.

no-condemnation

Yet we who call ourselves Christians, “little Christs“, spend so much time and energy condemning people.  The more we do, the more we ourselves wind up written in the dust.

“but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” ]]”

John 8:1-11 ESV

http://bible.com/59/jhn.8.1-11.esv

John Lewis

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Heartsight

Heartsight

heartsight

Good morning!! An example here of how we perceive the sermon on the mount to be disconnected sayings just thrown together, when in reality the whole sermon is a single, unified talk in which one idea builds upon the other. Jesus begins with the beatitudes, with listing all those the world had written off who would be blessed in the kingdom of God. We are then described as salt and light of the world, which we will be if we put off our old selves and through faith in Him follow Jesus in our lives. He then goes on to describe that he is not about to overturn the law and the prophets, but he is about to give a teaching that, if followed, would lead a person to live as all the law and the prophets intended, thereby fulfilling all that had been written in scripture to that point.

malice
He then gets into behavior, and one point builds on another. For example, unless you’ve dealt with anger and malice and envy in your heart, then talking about loving, forgiving and praying for your enemies is a wasted point. If you’re an angry, spiteful, jealous type of person, how can you be asked to forgive anyone their trespasses and sins against you? You’re still at the point plotting revenge, holding grudges and getting even. It’s only after you get anger and envy under control that you can then begin to be the type of person who might bring mercy and forgiveness into the world.

consumerism
So it is with Jesus’ teaching on our treasures. We see Jesus teaching on laying up treasures in heaven and not in earth, and can understand why it’s such a waste to be living for the acquisition of things which begin to deteriorate the minute we buy them, and/or the accumulation of money which we could then use to buy our things. We basically know that we will continue to do all we can to pile up our money and buy our things anyway because that’s how our American liturgy has formed us – we are formed from birth to be consuming consumers, coveting every hot new toy, shiny new car, big new house, and smiling pretty face our eyes come across. But at least we can understand the concept.

where your treasure is.png
So Jesus teaches on our treasures, telling us not to waste time in things that will rust away. He tells us then to lay up our treasures in heaven instead, where moths nor rust nor thieves in the night could never take it away from us. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:21‬ ‭ESV‬‬.

the eye
Jesus next seemingly jumps into a completely different teaching – The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! He goes from teaching on our treasures into this teaching about the eye being the lamp of the body, a completely separate, disjointed teaching which has nothing to do with what had come before it. Except that Jesus is teaching exactly the same thing. These are not two separate teachings, but just an expansion of one upon the other.

filled with light
The eye is connected to the heart. So we can read these scriptures together, just as they are in the text. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! The heart, again, is our will and spirit. It is the center of our soul from which our whole beings flow. If our heart is directed correctly, then our lives, personality, and character will follow.

if-the-light-in-you-is-darkness
Jesus next solidifies this truth, makes it more concrete. As Dallas Willard puts it, he compares our “heartsight” to our eyesight. Think about how our eyesight affects and enables how we relate to the world around us. The eye is the lamp of the body. If our eyes work well, we can easily move around whatever environment we find ourselves in. After all, we can see the obstacles before us, your whole body will be full of light. The world is illuminated before us.

drug of choice
If our hearts treasure what is eternal, that which lies within the kingdom of God, we see everything for its true worth and proper relationship. If we treasure what is “on earth,” then we have a distorted view of things and are generally misled in our lives. The relative importance of things, and their relationship to one another and ourselves is out of whack. Think about the person who is addicted, whether it be to drugs, alcohol, sex, food, whatever their “drug of choice” happens to be. The object of their desire is the center of the life, their “eye” sees everything in relation to their addiction and the fulfillment and enjoyment of it. Their own body and soul, everything in their life, even their very life itself, becomes secondary to feeding the addiction.

two masters
The addict is an extreme example, but it gives a clear example of what is meant when Jesus says but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. He expands this very quickly – If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! If the light in you -the eye of your soul – is not working, then you (I) are in the dark about everything. You know neither where you are nor where you are going. This is what it means to be a lost soul.

we-cannot-follow-two-masters-truth-or-tradition-720x340
Then, of course, cones the big finish to this particular point on the things we treasure. “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Is your treasure in your bank account, in your driveway, on your big screen, or maybe a smaller screen so you can be more “discreet”? Is everything just as ok as your 401(k)? If I lose my job tomorrow, will I have the same hope I have today?
We will serve our treasures. We work hard for them all day and dream about them all night. We think we can treasure both the things of this world and God’s Kingdom. We try, try, try to make it work, but there always comes time to make a choice. We can’t have two competing ultimate goals for our lives.

crucified-king
We can not serve both God and the things of this earth. Their requirements compete and conflict with each other. Unless God is already the focal point, then what financial security demands will ultimately lead to conflict with Gods kingdom. This is why we have the first commandment – “”You shall have no other gods before me.” ‭‭ Exodus‬ ‭20:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬.

eccehomo
Remember what the chief priests and the scribes said to Pilate leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion? “They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”” John‬ ‭19:15‬ ‭ESV‬‬. They had no king but Caesar, the truth came out. They proclaimed their true allegiance to the king of this world. No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. So they crucified the one true king. Their eyes were dark, therefore their souls were in the dark, they could not see when the light was right before them.
How is your “heartsight?” Is your lamp on or off?

jesus-christ-king-0205

“”The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:22-24‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.6.22-24.esv

John Lewis

Legacy

Lagacy

Looking again at what Jesus has to say about our treasures.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 

treasures in heaven
We spend our lives accumulating things, laying up treasure here on earth, building our “legacy”, trying and hoping to accumulate enough to “pass on” to the next generation so that we can “make a difference” in their lives. We hope and dream that we will pile up enough money so that all our hopes can be satisfied. We tell our children that they can whatever they wish to be, always with an eye and a guide towards being “successful” in life, with our definition of success nearly always being the ability to create an income and accumulate wealth. We consider ourselves blessed if we “succeed” in these ventures, the wealthier we are the more blessed we must be. Yet we know that Jesus said that “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”” ‭‭Mark‬ ‭10:25‬ ‭ESV‬‬. So I ask you, exactly what kind of “blessing” is it we are receiving if will somehow remove us from or prevent us from finding the kingdom of God?

meaningless
Look at the words of King Solomon here, who just so happened to be one of the wealthiest men in the world, if not the wealthiest man of his time. “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.” Ecclesiastes‬ ‭5:10-12‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Solomon had laid up plenty of wealth for himself of his own here and now. But he had clearly come to the understanding that it was all worthless in the long run. In fact, Solomon, with all his wealth and wisdom and harems and wives and honor had come to this conclusion – ““Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!”” ‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭1:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬. Over and over again, he tells this same thing, everything is meaningless. Twelve full chapters on the meaninglessness of wealth, pride, respect, honor, privilege, all the things we treasure in this world. And this is how he concludes it all, the only thing that gives meaning to any of it – “That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.” Ecclesiastes‬ ‭12:13-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬.

destroeyed by rust
So, Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. Treasures here on earth can not be kept forever. Nothing is safe from moths and corrosion, computer viruses, power outages and lost backups, identity thieves, the repo man, and the roller coaster market. Whatever survives all these hazards, will not survive the day that time catches up with each of us as we go gently (or not so gently) into that good night.

never enough money
The alternative laid out by Jesus is that we should lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. Direct your lives and energy in the making a difference for the world that lives for eternity, the kingdom of God. Invest your life in what God is doing and the investment will never be lost.

lords portion
This means we must invest time and energy into our relationship with Jesus himself, and through Him to God. Steps 11 and 12 in recovery go like this – 11). “We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and power to carry that out,” and 12). “Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” We try to improve our contact, our direct relationship with God, and carry his message to others, investing in his kingdom on a daily basis. This is part of how we invest in His kingdom here and now – by devoting ourselves to the good of other people, those who are around us within the range of our power and ability to affect. “But the Lord ‘s portion is his people….” ‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭32:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Those around us are among God’s treasures, just as we are. We are to try to invest in his kingdom through those around us. But we must not forget the one soul each of us is most responsible for. We have the responsibility for the care of our own souls and lives in a way no one else does, and in a way we do not and can not have the care of anyone else.

established the earth
We are both neighbors to and parts of the world around us. “…You have established the earth, and it stands fast. By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants.” Psalms‬ ‭119:90-91‬ ‭ESV‬‬. God loves the earth, the world he created. Because he loves it and it is good, the care of our world itself is eternal work and part of our eternal life.

Sowing
The apostle Paul says this – “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. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” ‭‭Galatians‬ ‭6:8-10‬ ‭ESV‬‬. This is how we lay up treasures in heaven on a daily, even hourly basis. Do not grow weary, do not give up. If we sow from the flesh we reap corruption, from the spirit we reap eternal life and enter the kingdom of God even as we struggle daily between the spirit and the flesh.

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For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Do you treasure those things you must work for, the things we lust after and labor for, take out loans to buy and then work, work, work to pay off? This flows from your heart. Your heart is your will, the center of your being from which your whole life flows. Your heart affects your whole personality. It directs everything we do. A heart rightly directed toward kingdom purposes and desires bring health and wholeness to the entire personality.

 

“”Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:19-21‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.6.19-21.esv

John Lewis

Treasures

Treasures

treasure

Back to the sermon on the mount. Jesus has already been teaching about seeking security outside the kingdom of God in terms of prayers, fasting, and doing our good works. We should be after the audience of one, not doing these things to be seen or noticed by those around us. Our security does not come from our reputation or the opinions of others.

treasure chest
Jesus continues his teaching about seeking our security outside of his kingdom as he gets to our treasures. Treasures are anything we try to keep because of a value we place upon them. They may have no inherent value in itself; your wife or husband or neighbor may not see it as a treasure at all. Yet we go to great trouble to protect certain things. We treasure them.

treasures
We may treasure certain things which are not material goods. We might treasure our reputation or the opinion of others. We might treasure our job, our career. Or a relationship, or a person, our school, our company. But the first, most important commandment we have is the first commandment, “”You shall have no other gods before me.” Exodus‬ ‭20:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬. This, of course is related to Jesus’ great commandment – “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” ‭‭Mark‬ ‭12:30‬ ‭ESV‬‬. We are to treasure God above all else. Our wisdom, safety, protection and fulfillment lies in treasuring God this way. It is only when we treasure God in this way that we will also treasure our neighbors, those around us, rightly, as God treasures them. It is only after we treasure God above all that we can fulfill the second half of Jesus’ commandment – “The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”” Mark‬ ‭12:31‬ ‭ESV‬‬.

first commandment
We all have treasures. It is part of what it means to be human. Nothing tears down or degrades another human being more than to diminish, destroy, or deprive them of their treasures. For the most part, no one even has a right or expectation to know what your treasures are. A big part of intimacy between two people is a knowledge of each other’s treasures. Treasures are very closely connected with our spirit and our will, even our dignity as a human being. Treasures are a part of our soul, and to have our treasures disrespected or destroyed does damage to our soul.

wilson
Remember the movie “Castaway”? Tom Hanks character had his treasure on that island, a treasure that seemed silly to viewers, a volleyball which had a face painted from his own blood which he called “Wilson”, because that’s the brand written on the ball. Hanks’ character went to great lengths, risking personal harm and possibly even his own life at times to protect his treasure. And when he lost that treasure, he mourned it like he had lost his best friend. Because he had. He had lost a part of his soul, a part of what it meant for him to be human on that faraway lost island.

wilson 2
I think I’ll stop there today, more to be said on Jesus discussion of treasures tomorrow.

“”Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:19-21‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.6.19-21.esv

John Lewis

Dance with the devil

Dance with the devil

Dancing-With-the-Devil

I’ve been wanting to write this for a few days now. What better time you wrote about the cross of Jesus Christ than his passion week. And what better to write about the cross of Christ than Christ own theology of what it means for the world??

when I am lifted up
Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. I count 33 words here, this is a very short passage. But I doubt there are 33 more important words written in the Bible. I’ve included below much more of the text so you can read it and see the context that this was spoken in. I might write more about the context this week, let’s just say for now that Jesus knew exactly what the result of his triumphal entry into Jerusalem would be. It would be triumphant indeed, but not as those shouting hosanna would have had it.

this world

So, the theology of Jesus. The effect of the cross would fundamentally change the world. Which it did, far more than we can imagine today. But I do think it’s important to understand that the cross does not change God, it changes the world. The cross changes the world in three ways – 1). It judges the world. 2). It liberates the world. 3). It reorganizes the world.

prepare_judgement1
The cross judges the world. Now is the judgment of this world. Now is the judgment of the world, and the world is found guilty. We have very little imagination to see how the world could be anything other than just how it is. But there is something very wrong with the world. It may be how it is, but it’s not as it should be.

Principalites-and-Powers
The world as it is set up very simply – the strong dominate the weak. The principalities and powers (the very rich, the very powerful, the very religious, and the institutions and spirits behind them) use the positions of privilege to dominate the weak. They use their economic power, their military power, their financial power to dominate the rest of society.

what_is_truth
Jesus appeared during his passion week leading up to Good Friday before all these principalities and powers. He appeared before King Herod, who controlled the treasury. Herod was the richest man in the world at the time, richer even than Caesar. He appeared before the military when he appeared before Pilate. What is truth? Pilate famously asks Jesus. Pilate himself actually answers his own question a little later – “So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?”” John‬ ‭19:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬. To the principalities and powers, ultimate truth lies with the power to kill. And Jesus appeared before Caiaphas, the high priest of the temple, the religious leader of the time.
Jesus appeared before all 3 of the sources of power, and the result was his crucifixion on Good Friday, specifically arranged to have it over and done with before the Passover. Jesus appeared before all 3 areas of the principalities and powers, and the result was deicide, the murder of God, the greatest crime in history. That is the judgment of this world – that when God himself came walking among us, we crucified him. “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” John‬ ‭1:11‬ ‭ESV. We are found guilty, our system is broken and corrupt, the domination of the weak by the powerful must be rejected, it is in itself a crime against God.

cast out
The cross liberates this world – now will the ruler of this world be cast out. The ruler of this world, the reason the world is organized as it is, is “the Satan”, or “the accuser”. We live in a constant state of spiritual warfare. There is the Holy Spirit – the advocate, the helper, sent by Christ – “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” ‭John‬ ‭14:16-17‬ ‭ESV‬‬. There is the unholy spirit of the Satan, the accuser. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” ‭‭John‬ ‭10:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬. It is the unholy spirit of Satan, the accuser, the spirit of blame and accusation, that rules the world as we know it. It is the thief who comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. As soon as Adam and Eve sin in the garden, they begin to blame – “He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”” Genesis‬ ‭3:11-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Adam blames Eve, Eve blames the snake, and the whole cycle was started. Cain took the blame game to its logical end and murdered his brother, and to this day we justify all of our violence as a society by blaming the others – whoever “they” happen to be.

accuser
It is by getting us to play the blame game that the devil rules the world. Blaming and pointing fingers is his game – after all, he is “the accuser”. Satan does not care who’s right and who’s wrong. He just cares that we keep blaming and accusing.

Father-Forgive-Them
Someone has to take the blame and forgive. It is the only way to cast out the devil from our lives. That sounds risky. But it’s how the world is liberated at the cross. Replace blame and accusation and retaliation and recrimination with forgiveness and all of a sudden, the devil can’t breathe. All the oxygen begins to be sucked out of his world. So when Jesus cries out “Father forgive them” from the cross, instead of calling out blame and praying for vengeance, he takes the blows upon himself, takes our sins unto himself, the devil is done. Jesus is innocent, but He takes the blame and forgives anyway. And the devil is out of business, he’s choked out, he’s starved to death. He is defeated, he is cast out of this world.

Cross-shine
The cross reorganizes the world. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. Through rivalry, blame, domination, the world has been drawn into the axis of power enforced by violence. The devil teaches us to accuse our brother, and we live our lives trampling the weak underfoot. Jesus is the son of God who sings for us a new song, instead of “accuse your brother” it’s called “Love one another”. The world run by Herod, Pilate and Caiaphas, where the will to power is ultimate truth – Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you? The world organized around the power to dominate will always be a dance of death. Jesus bring a new way. Jesus absorbs the blow and takes the blame, and we are drawn to him. Instead of dancing for the devil around the axis of power enforced by violence, we are drawn to Jesus Christ and his axis of love expressed in forgiveness. This is how the cross reorganizes the world.

cross
True freedom comes when we are drawn into the axis of love expressed in forgiveness that is the cross of Christ. We learn to bear the image of God who is Love. We love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, we love our neighbors as ourselves. That is the new reorganization of the world given by Christ that can liberate and save the world.
This is how Jesus talks about his own cross. The world is found guilty. The devil is cast out. The cross reorganizes the world.
We can’t make anyone come. We can’t make anyone walk away from that axis of power expressed in violence. We can only live our lives around Jesus’ axis of love expressed in forgiveness. We can only live as forgiven sinners who are forgiving sinners. We can just love one another, and live as lights in the world. We can only be the light shining in the darkness, drawing people out of their dance with the devil into the sweet music being sung by Jesus Christ.

sing a new song
And yes, we will sing a new song.

 

“Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.””

‭‭John‬ ‭12:20-24, 27-32‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/jhn.12.20-24,27-32.esv

John Lewis

Energy and Matter

Energy and Matter

fasting

Back to the Sermon on the Mount this morning, and a discussion by Jesus on a topic which I have no personal experience or knowledge of – fasting.

comedy and tragedy

And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. Here come the hypocrites again! Those overly religious types who weren’t really seeking or finding God in their hearts, but were all about the appearances of being pious to others and accruing to themselves the respect and honor that might bring themselves. Fasting was a regular and important part of life for the devout Jew. It is a biblical practice which (so I’m told) helps to form a believer in his/her interactive life with God. But get hypocrites, those “playing pious”, just like they would sound a trumpet when they gave to the poor to make sure everyone saw their good deed, when they fasted they would put disfiguring marks on their faces to make sure everyone could see they were fasting. And Jesus points out that they get the reward they look for, everyone who sees would know how devout they are.
But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Why do the hypocrites need to make sure everyone knows they are fasting? Why do they wish to display their suffering? Maybe it’s because they really are miserable in their suffering, and they have no true relationship with God in Heaven who has the power to sustain them in joy through the fast. Maybe they are just showing everyone the true condition of their own hearts when they fast, because they don’t have access to the manna from heaven that only God can provide. They don’t understand what was meant when Jesus quoted this during his wilderness temptation – “And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Deuteronomy‬ ‭8:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬.

manna
“Manna” is what Jesus is referencing when he draws upon this passage referring to lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.Manna” means “whatever it is” or “what is it”. Manna was a form of substance that had never been seen before God gave it to the Israelites in the wilderness, and has never been seen since. It was the bread of heaven, provided not by any natural process but by the action, or “word”, of God to feed his people.

e-mc2
What we don’t realize, or remember, is that God is the God who created all things, and through his word all things were made. Every great discovery made by mankind was created by God and put there for us to discover. Albert Einstein discovered that e=mc^2. (e is energy, m is matter, c is the speed of light.) Where we stand, we can only really access the m (matter) partvof this equation. We can manipulate matter to produce useable energy by certain processes.
But God can access the e(energy) side of the equation. So he can feed 5000 men plus all the women and children accompying them with five loaves and a few fish (or something like that). He can keep the party going by supplying all the energy and fermentation that would normally take months of rain, sunlight, and patience to instantly transform water into 150 gallons of the finest wine (quite a party trick). He can alter the density of the seas and walk on water. Or he can directly provide for the physical needs of the one fasting towards him with faith.

woman-at-the-well
Think back to the woman at the well. When his disciples return from their food finding mission and find Jesus talking to, if all people a Samaritan woman, they don’t have any comment on that situation, but they do know that people coming out to respond to the testimony of this woman and Jesus is going up need his energy. “Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” John‬ ‭4:31-34‬ ‭ESV‬‬. This is one of those passages that we always want to explain away or reduce, that we think is really just pretty words and Jesus is really just talking about doing good for God or some kind of obedience.

spiritual nourishment

But look again at what Jesus says here. I have food to eat that you do not know about. Then look at the reaction of his disciples here – “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” They absolutely knew that Jesus was not hungry for what they had gathered. He had gotten his nourishment from somewhere. Jesus was telling his disciples (and us) that they could get physical nourishment from spiritual sources.
The point is, that if you are fasting, don’t go out of your way to make sure everyone knows. Go about your business, live your life, enjoy the day(s). If you are fasting with God in mind, he knows and will sustain you through it. You don’t have to be miserable, you don’t have to appear miserable. He has access to the energy side of Einsteins equation, in ways that we just can’t understand.

 

“”And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:16-18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.6.16-18.esv

John Lewis

Your Right Hand

Your Right Hand

right hand

Going to finish this section today, leading up to the Lord’s Prayer. I started yesterday and didn’t make it beyond verse one. So, we will start in verse two. Funny how that works…

trumpet

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. The giving of “alms”, giving to the poor. It’s something we know we should do, if you’re like me you don’t do it as often, as freely or as joyfully as you should. But also if you are like me, when you do give to the poor, there are no trumpets blasting to announce it. This sounds so bizarre to us as to be beyond credibility. But, apparently, it’s true. During Jesus’ day, there were people who, when giving to the poor, would blow trumpets and be very loud about the fact that they were doing their “good deed”. They wanted to be sure everybody knew what “good people” they were. But Jesus called them hypocrites. But here is something about the word “hypocrite” as we know it today – Jesus created it. In His day, a hypocrite was simply a stage actor, someone who pretended to be someone they were not. Someone whom these days we would confer millions of dollars upon, adore, and someone upon whose opinions and views we would base our own views and opinions of the world around us. All because they were, by trade, good at being fake. In Jesus day, there were several theaters where these “hypocrites” worked. So, when he takes that term and applied it to the moral behavior of those who were doing their good deeds to be seen and earn the approval of men, his listeners knew exactly what he was talking about. And to this day, we know the term hypocrite means someone who pretends to have certain beliefs or virtues when they most certainly, in truth, do not.

good_job_blue_ribbon
We don’t blow trumpets today to announce our good deeds. Or do we?? What an honor it is to have one’s name put on a building.   Or a school. Or a charity. Or the wall of your local library. The wall of fame at a local church.  Honors conferred on the basis of you contribution.  Net worth as self worth.   We have many ways of seeking glory from the giving of our gifts.
Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. When we seek the rewards of men, we can get what we want. We can get the blessings of men, and the ego that grows with it. What can’t be seen is the shrunken soul underneath it all.

giving
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Dallas Willard here uses the example of an old comedy routine about telling a kid to stand in a corner until he can go fifteen minutes without thinking about a pink elephant. Of course, the kid would never be able to come out of that corner, because as we try not to think about that pink elephant, that’s all we think about.

doing good
And that’s the point Jesus is making when he says don’t let your right arm know what your left arm is doing. As we try not to think about what our left arm is doing, that’s all we think about. As always, Jesus cares nor about the outward action but the inner heart. As God works within our life, doing good becomes more and more who we naturally are. When we first begin walking with God, we might be more conscious of the good we do for others. If we try to make a law out of not drawing attention to ourselves for our good deeds, then all we think about are the good things we feel we are doing, and because we are doing so much “good” we just have to tell somebody about it. But as you become more of the person God wants you to be, the good you do just begins to flow from who you are. You don’t think about what your right hand is doing – your right hand just does it. It’s not even conscious. You don’t think about being sure it’s secret because Jesus says to do it in secret. Whether it’s secret or known is irrelevant to that which you are doing. You’re just doing what you do because that’s now who you are. You’re not a stage actor playing a role, you’re a child of God doing what God’s children do.
“”Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:1-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.6.1-4.esv

John Lewis