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Monthly Archives: July 2015

Why Greed is Different Than Every Other Sin

“No servant 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.” Luke 16:13 (ESV)

Greed is a fascinating sin, and different than almost any other temptation or transgression. Here’s why, as Tim Keller points out in his book Counterfeit Gods, most people don’t know when they are being greedy. In contrast, every man who is committing adultery knows exactly what he is doing. Now, of course, he may be carried away in the heat of the moment, but…he still knows. Keller explains this phenomenon…

“Some years ago I was doing a seven-part series of talks on the Seven Deadly Sins at a men’s breakfast. My wife, Kathy, told me, “I’ll bet that the week you deal with greed you will have your lowest attendance.” She was right. People packed it out for “Lust” and “Wrath” and even for “Pride.” But nobody thinks they are greedy. As a pastor I’ve had people come to me to confess that they struggle with almost every kind of sin. Almost. I cannot recall anyone ever coming to me and saying, ‘I spend too much money on myself. I think my greedy lust for money is harming my family, my soul, and people around me.’ Greed hides itself from the victim. The money god’s modus operandi includes blindness to your own heart.”

Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods, Chapter 3: Money Changes Everything

Keller explains at least one aspect of this problem – most of us settle into a particular economic class, and when we look around our little town or situation in life, there are almost always people who are richer and more lavish in their habits than us. We compare ourselves to them and reason that we are doing great in the greed department. After all, we don’t have as much as the Joneses. But the rest of the world knows differently.

How do we solve this problem of greed? Keller again…

“Jesus gave up all his treasure in heaven, in order to make you his treasure—for you are a treasured people (1 Peter 2:9-10). When you see him dying to make you his treasure, that will make him yours. Money will cease to be the currency of your significance and security, and you will want to bless others with what you have. To the degree that you grasp the gospel, money will have no dominion over you. Think on his costly grace until it changes you into a generous people.”

 

For tomorrow, Thursday, July 24th: Luke 17

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Grumbling vs. Grace

VIENNA, AUSTRIA - DECEMBER 17, 2014: The comeback of Prodigal son scene by Josef Kastner the older from 20. cent. in Erloserkirche church.

There is a kind of person who hates grace. It’s not hard to imagine why.

Imagine you graduated from college with a mountain of debt (this won’t be hard for many of us). You work for 10 years to get it all paid off, and the day after you send in the last check, some trillionaire makes an announcement that he wants to pay off all student loans in the U.S.  How do you think you would feel?

I like to think I would be thankful for those who would have their loans written off, but it’s hard to know for sure. The reason we might feel miffed is easy: we worked hard to pay off our loans; someone else got it for free. And in the words of any third grader across the country: “That’s not fair!”

Luke 15 starts with Jesus showing grace to tax-collectors and sinners, and the Pharisees and scribes…grumbling. It was their general practice when they saw grace being exercised. They never liked it one bit. After all, they had worked hard for their standing with God, and if the love of God was simply going to be poured out freely on wicked people, maybe all their lawful labor had been for nothing.

The elder brother could relate. He too had worked hard for the Father’s affection, and suddenly his ne’er-do-well prodigal brother was having love lavished on him at no-charge.

One Heart or Another?

In every situation in life, we show ourselves to have one of two kinds of hearts: We can have the heart of the elder brother, or we can have the heart of the Father. The elder brother grumbles demanding retribution and payback, but the heart of the Father grants grace and celebrates sinners who return to Him.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him….And they began to celebrate. Luke 15:20 – 24 (ESV)

We look at this situation quite convinced that we would have done better than the elder brother, and maybe so. But the question about what kind of heart we have can never be settled thinking about some amorphous sinner out there that we don’t know, or a collection of former college students who have had their debts paid off by an extremely generous benefactor.

The Final Test

The question about what kind of heart we have must finally be settled by considering how we will relate to someone…who owes us. After all, our Heavenly Father calls us to forgive…as we have been forgiven.

Here is where our hearts will be revealed. Will we be the elder brother demanding payment be made, or will we be the Father who runs with arms outstretched.

Will we grumble…or will we grant grace?

 

For Wednesday, July 22nd: Luke 16

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Just Give Me Jesus

The Bible clearly teaches that salvation comes only by grace through faith, but sometimes we come upon certain sections of the New Testament that seem quite the opposite…downright works-oriented. Take for instance, Luke 14:25 – 33. Here, as a requirement for being his disciple, the Lord Jesus requires hatred toward father and mother, children and brothers. And he ends this challenging section by saying,

So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:32-33 (ESV)

So, first you have to hate your daddy and then you have to give up your stuff. Sounds like works to me.

Or not.

Actually, what’s happening here is a contrast. Jesus is saying that being his follower will mean placing a huge value on Him. Of course, your mom and dad and kids will remain important to you. Other places in Scripture help us to interpret the “hate” passage here. (Always allow Scripture to interpret Scripture.)

But what it means to be a Christian is that your precious family and certainly your stuff will, in contrast to Him, not be all-encompassing, not at least the way He is. I love my family and I would be devastated to lose my wife or one of my children, and yet, I would survive by the grace of God. However, losing Christ would not only be devastating to me – it would be disintegrating. Jesus is my very identity in a way that nothing else is, and in case you’re thinking that this is a professional thing as regards my work in ministry, it’s not. This would have been true of me long before I was a pastor. More than that, I am not trying to boast spiritually here of my “deep relationship” with Christ. According to this passage in Luke, I’m not remarkable in this. Jesus’ very point is that all true Christians will be just like this, because being a Christian means your life revolves completely around Him. Everything else is peripheral.

Now, it’s funny – true Christians tend to forget this, because their lives do actually center around Christ, and they get used to it. Everywhere they turn they see Jesus and they don’t feel it’s strange anymore. We are like the fish that never thinks about the water because everything in its existence is water-oriented. In the same way, we don’t think about how Jesus is everything to us, but if you are a Christian, make no mistake about it…he is.

John Piper calls people to faith in Christ by calling them to “make Christ your treasure.” That’s good…because everyone who is a Christian does just that. Christ becomes a priceless treasure.

By the way, don’t be confused. I’m not claiming sinlessness here, and Jesus doesn’t even mention that in this passage. True Christians struggle with sin – I sure do – but everywhere I struggle, like every other place in my life…joyfully, I see Jesus.

Why is Jesus so all-encompassing for us? That’s easy – because of what He’s done for us. “The love of Christ (displayed on the Cross) controls me,” Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:14. It’s not works righteousness after all – the true believer understands the love and grace and forgiveness of Christ and is forever transformed.

Now, here’s the question you need to ask going forward – do the above words seem strange and unfamiliar to you? Has Jesus been a compartment of your life, instead of…your life? If so, watch this video below, and ask Him to do a work in your heart to allow you to see what Ruth Bell Graham saw – the surpassing greatness of Jesus Christ. And allow the words of this song to call you to the most wonderful life you could ever imagine – the life that has Christ as Treasure.

 

 

For Tuesday, July 21st: Luke 15

 

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Hurricane Katrina, the Hand of God, and Other Bad Ideas

Heavily damaged homes in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans. One block behind these homes is the industrial canal that collapsed during the storm surge of hurricane Katrina.

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005 and the levees broke, there was more than one accusing voice which said it was the Bourbon Street sin that caused the hand of God to unleash on the city.

Did you know that Jesus spoke to this? He said, “Not so fast.” Of course, he didn’t mention Katrina – he referred to another disaster caused by a wicked ruler, and then this one…

“…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.” Luke 13:4, 5 (ESV)

It’s what some tend to assume, isn’t it? When natural disasters or 9/11s come, they come because of the sin of those affected, or in the case of 9/11, the particular sexual sin of America, as some Christian leaders espoused at that time.

But Jesus refused to say why such things happened. However, He did clearly say it was not the particularly worse sin of those who died. That’s very instructive. And it’s important to remember so we don’t look foolish by calling the sin of others necessarily worse than our own.

But what’s even more instructive is what he said we are to learn from it:

“Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

It goes without saying that everyone who heard Jesus’ sermon that day 2,000 years ago is long gone – so you see, here’s what the Lord is saying:

Your own Tower of Siloam is coming. Katrina will come to your shores. But it will likely not be a hurricane. Perhaps it will just be a very old heart that stops beating in the middle of the night or, then again, it might be the doctor’s cancer diagnosis. It might be a slick road and a car skidding out of control, but it will be a Tower for you. It will be a Katrina, a personal one…meant just for you.

And unless you turn from your sin, your personal tower of Siloam or your personal Katrina will cause you to perish…everlastingly.

In other words, the tower is leaning, and the storm clouds are gathering…

Therefore, repent, and believe the gospel.

For Monday, July 20th: Luke 14

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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What Jesus Wanted You to Know

PasserottoOne of the tasks of a preacher is to say old things in new ways. And you know why – because it’s a bit like singing old songs. We all appreciate the classics, and they can still move us, but you have to admit that it’s pretty easy to put your mind on auto-pilot when you sing Amazing Grace. Hence the repeated Scriptural admonition to “sing a new song to the Lord.” (Psalms 33, 40, 96, 98, 144, 149)

Likewise, while we may appreciate it when we hear from the pulpit, “God loves you,” nevertheless, a good preacher will find a new way to say it or plan on being tuned out.

Now…Jesus was more than just a good preacher, and He found very fresh ways to say the old truths. Take for instance, how He put that particular old truth of God’s love in Luke 12:

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. Luke 12:6-7 (ESV)

“Do you see those birds flying around everywhere? God knows every single one intimately, and if He knows them, surely He knows and loves you far more.”

It is indeed an old truth told in a fresh way, but here’s what I find especially wonderful: Jesus wanted you to know it. These verses are an example of the Son of God tenderly communicating His Father’s love to you and me. How wondrous that God not only loves me, but that He also sent His Son to tell me so.

Oh…and even better than telling – He sent Jesus to demonstrate it too:

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 (ESV)

 

For Friday, July 17th: Luke 13

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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You Do Not Have Because You Do Not Ask…

“Everyone who asks receives…” Luke 11:10 (ESV)

What do you think that statement from Jesus means? Let’s examine it from a postmodern, deconstructionist point of view. You know, as that particular U.S. President tried to teach us not too many years ago: “It depends on what the meaning of is, is.” Yechhh.

No, no, no. Words mean things and the words in Luke 11, verse 10 mean something too, something very specific – so, let me just tell you what they mean:

God answers prayer. Let me say it differently so it makes more sense. If you pray, God will answer. How’s that? Some Christians pray a lot. Some not so much. Guess who gets more of their desires granted?

And He will answer your prayers…if you pray. Oh, I know, He won’t answer every single prayer of yours in the affirmative. (I’m sure glad he didn’t answer my prayer for that high school cutie Stacy to fall in love with me.) But He will answer a lot of your prayers, yet you will first have to, you guessed it…pray.

This is basic Christian teaching, but how easily we forget it. How easily I fall into unbelief and prayerlessness. So, through the years I have collected some aphorisms on prayer, and I put various of these at the top of my prayer lists to remind me before I pray that God is really listening…that He will really answer my prayers.

  • How about this one, in Latin, so it really seems true: Ora Labora – to pray is to work. Ben Patterson wrote of this: “Praying is harder work than doing, but the dynamic lies that way to advance the Kingdom.”
  • And one of my favorites from a long forgotten devotional: Of King Joash in 2 Kings 13: “Let it be said to his shame that he did not believe enough, so he did not obey enough. It is what happens in the secret chamber that determines the amount of victory we have in the actual battle of life.”

So…pray. And keep praying. For your Heavenly Father loves you so, and He particularly loves to bless His children when they live lives of dependence on Him. And we depend on Him…by praying.

“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” Luke 11:9-10 (ESV)

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The One Thing That is Really Worth Getting Excited About

It must have been a heady experience: Jesus appointed seventy-two men and told them to go ahead of him and preach the Kingdom, and when they came back from their journey, they had an incredible report:

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” Luke 10:17 (ESV)

When this band of brothers went out in the name of Jesus, even the demons did exactly what they said. It must have felt like they were really making a difference, like they were doing something that really mattered. And so they came back feeling significant…powerful…used by God.

Personally, I’ve never cast out a demon, but like many others, I’ve had wonderful experiences serving the Lord and feeling used by Him. But Jesus puts all of this into perspective when he reminds the disciples what they should really get excited about:

“Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:20 (ESV)

This is what matters, is it not? Heaven. Eternal life. Forever with Christ. Whatever is going on in our lives, good or bad, we need to occasionally slow down and think about the reality of this place…and of eternity in fullness of joy.

  • Did the girl just say yes to a first date? That’s nice, but Christ’s yes to you is far better.
  • Did you just get into the “right” college? Good for you, but you know that one day Christ has qualified you for someplace much, much greater.
  • Did you just get the job of your dreams? Congratulations, and keep dreaming, because you can’t imagine how wonderful this place is going to be.

Heaven seems so far away sometimes, ephemeral, more an illusion and a wish than actual reality. But heaven is as real as the chair you’re sitting on. And if you have trusted in Christ, you are going to spend eternity there…because your name is written in the Lamb’s book of life.

And that’s worth throwing a party for.

 

For tomorrow, July 15th: Luke 11

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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