Neither Side

Neither Side

“Then Jesus went throughout all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were bewildered and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” –Matthew 9:35-36, NET

We should see wicked behavior and cry out against it (ex: Mark 6:18; Acts 26:20), especially when the LORD implores us to speak (ex: Jonah 1:2). We should disciple all men to obey all that Christ commanded (Mat 28:20). But if we join in the fight to uphold culture morality by legislation, then we have forgotten that is by the power of grace alone to rewrite the condition of our hearts (Jer 17:1; 31:33). Merely having the law will not reshape men to obey, but bring about only further judgment (Rom 2:17-23). We end up actively struggling against the God who is tearing down religious façades that keeps men from seeing the destructive outworking of wicked hearts.

Our heart must be moved more by the spiritual condition of the lost—for they are “like sheep without a shepherd,” (Mat 9:36). We know the good Shepherd they desperately need (John 10:14), so we must devise ways to restore the banished (2Sa 14:14). If all we do is provide clean water to “all who are thirsty” (Isa 55:1) yet fail to let them taste the “living water” of Christ Jesus, their thirst will never be quenched (John 4:10,14). If we give the hungry “something to eat” (Mat 14:16) yet fail to bring them the “Bread of life” (John 6:35), we are only numbing starvation pains. If we provide healthcare to the world yet do not make Jesus our chief physician, we are only providing pills to mask symptoms and leaving people to perish from their cancer of sin (Mark 2:17).

How can we love our neighbor if we only give him financial relief but fail to tell them about the One who paid all of our debts (1Jo 2:2; Rev 1:5)? How can we really be educating the children if we instruct them in science and literature but fail to tell them about the Author of life (Act 3:15) who holds all things together (Col 1:17), and avoid teaching them to fear God—the foundation of understanding (Deu 11:19; Psa 34:11; Pro 9:10; Hos 6:6)? What good will our efforts be in helping bring about peace and unity among people groups if they all end up marching into hell together (Gen 11:1-4; Psa 2:2-6; Rev 19:19-21)? Without Jesus, all things are meaningless (Ecc 12:8; Col 1:16-20).

Let us see their true need as we minister to the “needs” they feel.

Billy Neal

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Submission and Grace

Grace

Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.  —1 Peter 3:1-2

Men, Peter tells the wives among his readers to be subject to their husbands just as servants are subject to their authorities. In like manner, some may come to the knowledge of Christ without a word spoken but by their life when pure, chaste, and reverent conduct are observed.

I’m not sure we fully grasp this as men. How many times have we heard, or said of our wives? “I don’t know how she puts up with me.” Or, “I was rotten, and she stuck by me through it all.” I suspect every husband alive has had some bone headed time where our wife amazed us by their strength to endure our periodic struggle to be decent humans.

As we have borne witness from our wives, we also should be a display to the world’s leaders. Endure, knowing that God is working all things out. That doesn’t mean we don’t give honest answers when asked, or apply accountability where our position allows, but instead of inciting greater trouble, bring peace and understanding. Bring something that the world doesn’t have. Bring enduring grace and wisdom. Bring your light, the light of our own testimony into our circumstances.

We all fall short, and the same grace extended to us by our Savior is available to even the worst of humanity. Jesus forgives. Jesus loves. Jesus reconciles. Jesus redeems. Our hearts need reminding of this sometimes so that we can include grace in our own conduct toward others. Move forward men, as Christ endures, and our wives endure, we also should endure this world, hoping for Christ to be revealed to hearts around us.

Peter says “In the same way, wives be subject…” If we were acting like the person in front of us, how would we hope our wives would deal with us? Apply that expectation to our own conduct and ask the Father to bless the occasion. I don’t expect this to be any easier for you than it is for me. But Peter is teaching the truth of Christ’s “way”.

Vance Durrance

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Experiencing Grace

Experiencing Grace

In Matthew 20:1-16, Jesus shares the parable of the Laborers with His disciples (the original twelve and subsequently with us). This parable is probably one of the clearer illustrations in the Bible of why we as God’s creation often don’t ‘experience’ grace. The workers portrayed here were all men who needed money to feed their families. They did not have regular jobs. We would call them day laborers.  If they did not work that day, they and their families would not eat that night. Luckily, there was a landowning employer (God) with work to be done who was willing to pay for their efforts.  In the passage, Jesus did not say why the landowner didn’t hire all of the men first thing in the morning, nor did he tell why the ones who were chosen later didn’t show up early in the day. What we do know is that this parable demonstrates how the beauty of the grace and mercy we experienced at salvation can fade as life happens.  At the point of salvation and Christ’s amazing grace (being hired) we are all excited and can’t wait to get into our new life (job) as a Christ Follower. Then life happens, and we work a little, and things just are not fair. It’s at this point that the glow of Christ’s amazing grace may begin to fade in our minds as we focus on the perceived blatant unfairness of this life.

In this parable we have five groups of men, including those hired at 6 am, 9 am, 12 am, 3 pm, and 6 pm.  All of the men were in need of somebody’s grace in order to feed their families. They had all agreed to a day’s pay for a day’s work, but based on what they thought of as a fair exchange. They all had worked their allotted time and would be able to go home and provide supper for their families. They had all received grace and mercy from the landowner.  But when pay time arrived, the first three groups who were hired were not happy. That sorry boss had the audacity to pay the lesser workers who hadn’t shown up and been hired until 3pm and 6pm, the same as those who had shown good character and made themselves available early in the day. Were they all going to be able to feed their families? Did they all get paid what they agreed to? Yes on both accounts. Then what was the problem?  Basic inherent greed and self-righteousness. They were not being treated fairly. They were better workers and deserved to be paid more than the sorry late comers!  What they were forgetting is that they had received the same grace as the last hired. The reality is that none of the workers deserved God’s grace! The last two groups of men went home with food for their families and rejoicing, knowing that they had received more than they deserved. The first three went home with food for their families grumbling, forgetting that they had also received more than they deserved. Forgetting that outside of being chosen by a very gracious landowner (God) they would be at home with nothing to feed their families.

The same can be true of us as today’s Christ followers if we, in any way shape or form, forget what Isaiah 64:6 says, that “All my righteousness is as filthy rags.”  If so, we miss ‘experiencing’ grace, because we will think we earned our ‘wages’.  If we think we earned grace, even subconsciously, the first time, we will most likely keep trying to earn grace.  This can lead to a life of fear and anxiety.  In contrast, we can live in the beautiful truth that when we surrender to the cleansing power of Christ’s blood (salvation) we are made righteous by His work, not our inadequate service.  We don’t have to get it right all the time and we don’t end up comparing ourselves to the worker next to us. Rather we fall on His mercy and work for Him out of love, truly appreciating what He has done for us that we could never do on our own, i.e. we got more than we deserved when we got Jesus.  What a place of peace and grace we end up in!!

Tim Smith

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