Friday, August 29, 2014

TO MINISTER LIKE JESUS WITH CONVICTION, COURAGE AND LOVE

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is confrontational. It is the heaven's Truth confronting the lies of the sinful world. Every Christian is called to be light and salt in a dark world which puts him smack dab in the middle of the conflict. Jesus came into the world to be light and truth and He called for men to repent and turn back to God. Some heard and accepted and many rejected Him and they did so with violence. Jesus said, If they hated me, they will hate you, Mt 10:24.

In Matthew 19 Jesus ministers to a rich young ruler who wishes to inherit eternal life. Jesus not coincidentally list off several of the commandments which all have to do with one's relationship with man: don't commit murder, adultery, steal, bear false witness, honor mom and dad, all of which Jesus summarizes by quoting the second great commandment to "love your neighbor as yourself", Mt 19:19. I say I don't believe it was coincidental that Jesus listed these because they don't have to do with the young man's real problem. Money is a god and the young man had lots of it. By human appearances, the young man was pretty good in his dealings with his fellow man. But Jesus isn't done until he gets to the real problem. With conviction and courage, Jesus tells the young man he must give up all of his possessions, come and follow Him, and then he will have treasures in heaven, Mk 10:21. Jesus knew it was a "where are your treasures" thing.

Jesus had warned against laying up all of your treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy, Mt 6:19. He later said that a man can't serve God and money because his money gets all of his love and God gets what's left over. The rich young ruler was taking care of the second great commandment, being able to say that he had kept them all from his youth up, but loving God with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength was neglected. He was keeping part of the commandments, but the first of the 10 commandments that included , warnings against idolatry and worshiping other Gods is where he fell short. Money was his god, and likewise it is the pursuit of money that has led many away from God and into spiritual ruin, 1 Tim 6:9.
"But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction."
Jesus knew the man had a problem with materialism and that he could never inherit eternal life as long as he continued to worship these idols. And so Jesus with conviction and courage told the man to do the unimaginable thing to sell all of his possessions and give them to the poor. The man proved his love for things was stronger than his love for God when he walked away sad, Mk 10:22. Mark records that Jesus loved the young man but when he walked away Jesus said, "how hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God." Jesus was not mean or unloving to let the man walk away without salvation. We learn here that we can love the sinner while being uncompromising on the need to put away sin. We must love our neighbors as much as we love God, but we must also have the conviction that men cannot remain in their sins and we should have the courage to call for men to put them away.

To minister to people requires that we know the Truth and that we know what people's needs and problems are so that we can show them what they must do to inherit eternal life. This puts Christians smack dab into the middle of the conflict. In truth, though the answer to the rich young ruler seems extreme, it's the same answer that is given to us all. All who have made the decision to walk the straight and narrow path that leads to eternal life, Mt 7:13,14, have put away their idols so that God is where He should be in their lives. The rich young ruler was unwilling to pay the price of discipleship. How about us? Jesus said to be his disciples we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. Can we say with Paul, "I have been crucified with Christ and it's no longer I that lives but Christ lives in me", Gal 2:20? This would never have happened unless we had someone minister to us with conviction and courage to tell us what we truly needed to do to repent and turn from the perverse world.

The Gospel of Jesus is confrontational. There is no other way to God but by Jesus, Jn 14:6. The path is exclusive and it is not the easy path. When a Christian teaches the rich young rulers of this world that they must put away sin and make sacrifices to inherit eternal life, it is confrontational. It takes courage and conviction to tell people what they must know and do to go to heaven. And it is not a coincidence that in the same chapter the Holy Spirit records Jesus' stringent rules regarding marriage, divorce and remarriage. The part about "let no man separate" is neglected by so many who call themselves Christian. "Well, I think God would want me to be happy." This excuse is common but it ignores that you can be happy but you must also be holy. A person should not be happy while he's ignoring Matthew 5:32; 19:9-12; Mark 10:9-12; Luke 16:18.

"31 It was said, ‘WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE’; 32 but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery", Mt 5:32; "9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery. 10 The disciples said to Him, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.” 11 But He said to them, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 “For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.”, Mt 19:9-12; "9 What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate. 10 In the house the disciples began questioning Him about this again. 11 And He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; 12 and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery.”, Mk 10:9-12; "18Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery.", Lk 16:18.

A person should not be happy while he's putting away his wife. A person should not be happy living in a marriage that God does not approve of and you can be sure that God does not approve of all marriages. Jesus' words are so severe, not unlike the words given to the rich young ruler, that He counsels that celibacy, remaining single and without sexual relations, is the only way to have treasures in heaven, cf 1 Cor. 7:10,11. But this hard teaching is largely ignored today. Paul's words "remain in that condition in which you were called" are twisted to include an adulterous condition which they do not allow! God made marriage to be for life. It's therefore not something to be entered into lightly because unless our mate committed marital unfaithfulness, one does not have a shot at a second marriage. To tell people they are living in adulterous marriages is so hard. We must love them the way Jesus loved the rich young ruler. But we must also have the conviction and courage to tell them they must put away their marriages, that it is not lawful for them to be married, so that we are counted faithful by God and so that God's institution of marriage will not be defiled, Heb 13:4.

Yes, following Christ calls for exacting discipleship and sometimes at great costs. "Truly I saw to you, there is no one who has left house OR WIFE or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom fo God, who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life.", Lk 19:29,30. Are we faithful ministers who call for men to leave behind their riches? Are we faithful ministers who call for men to leave adulterous marriages? To be a faithful minister, we must love souls, but love does not negate the need to teach the hard things with courage and conviction. Said in love, Dan

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