Here we let the Sacred Scripture do all the work. Strong. Sober. Clear.
1st Letter of John, chapter 3, verse 15.
Any one who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
Now, maybe you think this does not apply to you. But let’s just make sure, going backwards through the principles at play.
Eternal Life: Not given to murderers.
Resolution: I want eternal life, so I can not be a murderer.
Murderer: Anyone who hates his brother.
Resolution: I do not want to be accounted as a murderer, so I will not hate my brother.
Hate: It is clear from the Scriptures that ‘hate’ doesn’t simply mean “strong displeasure and hard feelings”. Hate is when I dismiss someone, think they are not worthy of my time, prize my own plans over another, think poorly in any way.
Resolution: I do not want to hate, so I will not dismiss others, bypass them, think down upon them, or mistreat them in any way.
Brother: It is clear from the Scriptures that ‘brother’ is not only my biological brother. It extends to all of my family members, all of my civic encounters, those in my neighborhood. In short, every single person I encounter or am around is to be my brother.
Resolution: I do not want to miss seeing Jesus, who is present in my brother. I will look upon every single person in front of me, in my mind, or around me as my brother in the Lord.
I simply want to share the joy which is in my heart right now. I am teaching in a few small groups within my church. I am sharing with the people in these groups the story of Jesus. I am sharing with them how messed up things got with Adam’s fall, and how all the good things which happened after that weren’t enough for us, and that we needed something more than the gift of Moses.
This week I was leading the group through many passages which underline the mess we were in and we very clearly saw that we were not able to fix this, nor was the law of Moses enough for us. And I was able to share with them that it is only through the loving kindness of God in the work of Jesus Christ that we are lifted from the way of the wicked to the way of the just.
Having people read the Scriptures together and highlighting these very poignant passages, then teaching about salvation in Christ, all of this brings deep deep joy to me. It’s what I was made to do.
There is one student in particular who stands out. There’s not a lot of church background, but a sort of familiarity with the story of Jesus. At the end of our time together she said “I am really enjoying our time together, because I am finally understanding the Bible.” What joy in me! And she is really grasping the Gospel of Jesus!
Here is a song which grasps the teaching I’ve been giving in these days. I am rejoicing while listening and praying with this song, that Jesus is bringing this reality into peoples’ lives in these days. What precious joy!
Greetings in the Lord Jesus!
Are you interested in reading God’s Word on a daily basis? Are you interested in joining others who do? Join with me and others!
The plan is quite easy.
You send me a message and I will mail to you a pocket edition of the New Testament which has marked within it a daily reading plan, and you will then be on the same plan as a bunch of people who are prayerfully encouraging each other in the Lord!
And, if you want to get into a communal reflection email, you can see what other people think about those same Scriptures each day.
So, send me a message, and I will get you started.
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Here’s my reflection from today’s readings:
Biblical Reading Fellowship
Mt 22: 23-33
The Sadducees use a tricky example to test Jesus about the resurrection of the dead, since they don’t believe in the resurrection. But what they don’t know is this: Jesus Christ has dwelt in Heaven from all eternity, and He knows all about what happens up there! So it’s not that hard of a question for Him; it’s like asking Him a simple question about His House; He knows everything about it! It is so consoling to know that whatever questions or doubts I have about Heaven, Jesus already knows all about it and will take care of me.
It’s like a back and forth game. The Pharisees despise the Sadducees and the Sadducees despise the Pharisees. And they are both taking their turns to see who can silence this guy. Since He spoke so authoritatively about Heaven and our hypotheticals, let’s test Him on the Law and absolutes. And He nailed it. Why did He nail it? Because He wrote it! Jesus Christ is the Word of the Father; therefore, He is the Author of the Law and knows its perfect application.
Paul shares his conversion story, again! He loves to share how he came to follow Jesus. We should remember those different moments as well, and be excited to share them with others often.
v.23: Paul claims that the Jews were waiting for the Messiah (the Christ) and that the prophecies indicated that the Christ was 1) to suffer; 2) to rise from the dead; 3) proclaim light to the Jews (people); 4) proclaim light to the Gentiles.
v.28-29: It is clear that Paul’s goal is to win people over to become Christians. And they saw His goal. We ought to make our goal clear – we are trying to win people to the love of Jesus Christ.
Then [Jesus] said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” And he summoned his Twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness. – Matthew 9:37-10:1
This is a really powerful and inspiring passage if we progress through exactly what is being revealed in each line. Let’s take a look:
- Jesus tells his disciples to ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for the harvest. Of course, he’s speaking metaphorically about the need to restore humanity back to a right relationship with God. Who is the master of the harvest? God is the master, for he is the only one who can actually send people to call his people back to himself. In fact, he’s done so throughout all of the Old Testament. We can see this in all of the prophets found in that first section of the Bible. The prophets called God’s people back from their sinful ways. This is where one of the cool parts comes in…
- Immediately after telling his disciples to ask the master of the harvest to send laborers for the harvest, Jesus calls his Twelve apostles and sends them out to restore his people by casting out unclean spirits and curing illnesses. Which means…Jesus is the master of the harvest! Which means…Jesus is God! Whoa. In this scene, Jesus is revealing his identity, which is powerful in itself. But it gets even better! Jesus also reveals something about the nature of God. To understand what we’re talking about, let’s have a mini lesson in deities:
- Throughout history, people have fallen into the trap of believing in false gods. There is the god of the sun, the god of the rains, the god of the crops, the god of fertility, the god of the ocean, the list can go on and on. There’s a god for everything. They control their own domain and together they created humans. And these gods are generally viewed to be pretty unreasonable and extremely demanding. They are said to treat people as mere slaves and tend to hold something against us mere mortals. It’s as though these gods created humans only to make their life a little more entertaining. Not cool. Now we can look at what makes this scene so awesome.
- Jesus gives his disciples authority to cast out unclean spirits and to cure diseases and illnesses. Remember: Jesus is God. Jesus, as God, calls people to himself in order to give them something precious, which is to share in his work of restoring humanity! The divine Word of God is eager to give his beloved creature the deepest qualities of his own Divine Being. Wow!
Let’s simply marvel at the radical generosity of our God. He’s so good and so generous. There’s much more that could be observed from this scene, but this is powerful enough to lead us into a prayer of thanksgiving.
Jesus, we’re so grateful you came to us. We’re so grateful for your generosity. Thank you! Send us out to help with the harvest. Call us to yourself and share with us your divine life. Make us generous as you are generous.
Now, let’s go share in the Master’s work.
Jesus Culture has been a great worship band in the United States for years. This is a praise album they recorded recently and is really great to pray along with! Look up the lyrics and you can spend a solid half hour in praise along with this video. (I suppose they would love if you purchased the album as well.)
One of the lines in the second song “Fierce” has us singing: “How can I be lost when You have called me found.” Jesus has found us.
The entire song “Alive in You” showcases Kim Walker Smith in the zone! A great line echoes the verse of Paul from Galatians 2:20: “It’s no longer I who live, it’s Christ who lives within me.”
The song “God With Us” has a simple and strong chorus: “God with us. God for us. Nothing can come against. No one can stand between us.”
Enjoy 30 minutes of great praise; unite your voice and heart with theirs and lift praises to our great God. Cheers!
1: Paul returns to that heartfelt sentiment of unity which we have seen him employ earlier (2:16; 1 Thess 2:19-20), that he as leader is connected with the Christians. They are his “joy and crown.”
2-3: An example of differing ideas is pointed out, and Paul encourages this to be resolved by finding unity in the Lord. Paul asks others in the community to be of assistance in finding this resolution. These people were obviously very helpful in the work of evangelization and Paul does not want these relationships to fall apart. The ‘Book of Life’ is a symbolic image which has its origin all the way back in the book of Exodus. This ‘book’ has the Lord’s list of the just, the holy, the saved. Psalms 69:29 has the psalmist asking that the wicked ones “be blotted from the book of life; not registered among the just!” In fact, Our Saviour Himself teaches us that we should not rejoice over excellent works in this world, but rather “rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). The Book of Revelation speaks of the ‘Book of Life’ repeatedly as the list of the just, those who will enjoy Heavenly bliss for all eternity with God. In Revelation 3:5 Jesus shares the benefit of being written in the Book of Life: “The victor will thus be dressed in white, and I will never erase his name from the book of life but will acknowledge his name in the presence of my Father and of his angels.” Other references in Revelation include 13:8; 17:8; 20:12; 20:15; 21:27.
4: We have looked at the theme of joy and rejoicing in this letter multiple times, so central is the theme for Paul. The church should be a beacon of joy, but not some anonymous joy; this joy is to be found in the Lord.
5: Christians are not only to have kind thoughts or kind wishes for others, but the manifestation of kindness should be so pronounced that all would know.
6-7: God has promised that He will care for all those who are His own, but so often we allow circumstances to unsettle us. There is a remedy for this: the peace of God. Our Saviour has commanded us to be at peace, and has promised to send the Holy Spirit to give us this peace. This peace is taken away when we forget or neglect the promise of God’s providential care for us. Our nervousness, anxiety, fear, and many other obstacles take front stage; the peace of God which comes from trust is the remedy. Our Lord pressed this point in the Sermon on the Mount when he counsels us not to worry (Mt 6:25, 31) or be anxious (Mt 6:28), reminding us that God, who cares for all the lesser creatures, cares for us even more fully. Saint Peter invites to “cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7), which is the best way to process our anxiety. Many people say “don’t worry” but what good is that? Rather, tell God of all your worries, and He will minister to you. How can we do this but to “persevere in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2).
8: Paul directs our attention to the ideals of life, the list is worth placing all together here; whatever is: true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, any excellence, anything worthy of praise. These grand virtues should be focused upon, sought after, pursued until acquired.
9: Once the Christian has begun his training in righteousness by adhering to the teaching of the Apostles, he should continue steadfastly on this course. Paul even dares to counsel the Christians to imitate him, as he does in other places such as 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2: “Finally, brothers, we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that, as you received from us how you should conduct yourselves and please God – and as you are conducting yourselves – you do so even more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.”
Peace is so central a fruit of the Spirit that it is singled out again and again as the governing factor and consoling accompaniment of a life in Christ. Peace is seen as a central attribute of God here: “the God of peace” who will be with us. Paul asks that the “God of peace” be with the Christians as he blesses them (Romans 15:33; also 1 Thes 5:23); the “God of peace will quickly crush Satan” under their feet (Romans 16:20); in fact, God “is not the God of disorder but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33).
10: Paul is sharing his pleasure that as he has labored greatly, so also there is a return from the people of gratitude to him.
11-13: Paul has been in many circumstances and has been able to continue his labor in the midst of all of them. So we learn that our circumstances don’t inhibit us or determine us, but rather how we respond in the midst of them. Paul lists some of these various circumstances, for example: “We go hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clad and roughly treated, we wander about homeless and we toil, working with our own hands” (1 Corinthians 4:11-12); he has experienced “afflictions, hardships, constraints, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, vigils, fasts” (2 Corinthians 4:4-5; also 2 Cor 11:26-27);
12: He shares the varied ways he has lived, in each of those ways finding the way forward and grasping the gift which comes from it.
13: Instead of the circumstances determining Paul’s operation, he places the secret in this: the empowerment of God which gives strength. God had shared with Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness,” so Paul goes on to write that he “will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). In the labor and the struggle of the ministry, Paul moves forward “in accord with the exercise of his power working within me” (Colossians 1:29). Many people have found much comfort by memorizing this 13th verse of Philippians chapter 4. It should be understood in this way: no matter what circumstances surround me, God will give me what grace I need to remain faithful to Him and to endure it. It should not be taken to mean that a person can literally do anything, but the strength to endure the things God has given.
14: Paul, having finished his teaching, again shows his gratitude for the support of the people.
15: Philippi was not the first place in which Paul preached the Gospel, but the first in Europe.
16: The church of Philippi provides for Paul’s needs even when he was not with them. This teaches that we are to provide for the needs of the Church throughout the world, and not only in our local community.
17: Paul stresses that he is not the only one who receives because of their generosity, but rather that by their generosity they are growing in the Holy Spirit, building up treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-21).
18: Paul speaks of the support from the Philippians in language lifted from Old Testament religious rites, those ways in which the people would give of what they had to honor God. Their giving to his needs is seen as a way to continue that sacrificial giving in the New Testament. Noah had built an altar and offered burnt offerings to the Lord, and “the LORD smelled the sweet odor” (Genesis 8:20-21). Moses and the people who left Egypt were instructed to “burn the entire ram on the altar, since it is a burnt offering, a sweet-smelling oblation to the LORD” (Exodus 29:18). Our Saviour Himself has surpassed all of these offerings, as Paul writes in Ephesians 5: “Christ loved us and handed Himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.” This giving of self is seen as normative for the Christian community, and we see it extended from the example of Our Saviour to the community in the letter to the Hebrews: Through Christ “let us continually offer God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have; God is pleased by sacrifices of that kind” (Hebrews 13:15-16).
19: In response to their support, Paul promises that God will continue to provide for them.
20: The letter is coming to an end, and so we see a doxology, directing all of our praise to God who is Father as well as Trinity. This praise and glory is directed to God through Jesus Christ, as is seen in Romans 16:27: “To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
21: Final greetings are extended.
22: Paul shares that the Christians around where he is in captivity send their greetings as well.
23: Paul signs the letter with a liturgical presidential phrase. This phrase has been preserved in the liturgy even until our own day, which shows how deeply committed the Church is to Biblical expressions in divine worship, handing on the Apostolic faith. Paul extends the grace to their spirit, and we continue to respond in our day to our leaders: And with your spriit.
*[NOTE: This Bible exposition has not been edited, so there are misspellings, grammatical errors, and possibly verse citation errors. Maybe one day someone will professionalize it. I simply wanted to get the content to you. God bless!]