Sunday, April 8, 2018

April 8: Luke 12:41-48; Will Jesus Beat His Servants?

             Today’s reading can cause a lot of heartache if it were the only passage we had about Jesus’ return. For those of us who firmly believe that once we are saved, it can also cause some upset stomachs as we try to work through it. For those that believe that we can lose our salvation, it causes some jubilation, not that they want anyone to lose his salvation, but it seems to prove that one can lose his salvation. That’s why so many people have heartache over these verses. They toil trying to make sure they don’t fail to meet God’s expectations and never know for sure that they are accepted by God.
            To properly address this, we have to understand who Jesus was addressing. It was Peter, however, the way Jesus started, it is clear that the servants can be anyone whom God has appointed to take care of others, even a seemingly wise and faithful manager. Jesus is either talking about believers or those who appear to be believers. I could argue that just because the servant is wise and faithful, it doesn’t mean he really believes. There are enough examples of scoundrels in the church and even wolves in sheep’s clothes throughout history. Yet, we see the master set this first servant over all his household. If I wanted to get real weird, I could say this person really represents the Pope because Catholics believe that the Pope is head over all the church regardless of what Protestants think. However, if that were true then this passage is only applicable to one person in the world and Scripture doesn’t leave us that option. This could apply to the pastor of any church, or even the leader of a small Bible study. It applies to anyone who is responsible for teaching and training others in the way of the Lord. I’m assuming that is what Jesus means when he says the servant is supposed to be giving the other servants their portion of food at the proper time. This is not necessarily a requirement to be a believer. Even ungodly government officials could be wise and trustworthy. God uses them as he sees fit.
            This chief steward begins to abuse those under him because he thinks his master isn’t coming back soon. That simply reveals that his man’s heart doesn’t belong to the Lord. To understand that Jesus never knew this person, just look at what he says to others who claim to belong to him. In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus tells those who were even doing some good things in Jesus’ name that he didn’t know them because they didn’t do the Father’s will. When Jesus comes back there will be many who think they have been doing God’s will but have failed and will be thrown into hell (Matt 25:41-43).
            This steward knew what was required of him. He knew that his behavior had to line up with a heart that has been cleansed by Jesus’ blood, but he simply could not have had a pure heart if he abused his fellow servants, the people that Jesus bought with his blood. So his part is with the unfaithful, just like those in Matthew 25:41-43.
            What about those other servants? The ones that knew the master’s will and get a severe beating. Or those who were ignorant and only got a small beating? Are they saved? I don’t think so. They are just like many people in the world who have heard about Jesus and rejected him. Or they may be like those who have never heard but still lived sinful lives. After all, we all have sinned (Rom 3:23) and we all deserve eternal death (Rom 6:23). Their different punishments appear to line up with what Jesus told about the towns that rejected him. It would be more tolerable in the judgment for Sodom than those who saw his miracle and rejected him (Matt 10:15, 11:21-24).
            I can’t see that these servants who are beaten are true believers. The final reason is simply because we have the promise that we will not suffer God’s wrath. “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him” (1 Thess 5:9-10).

Thursday, April 5, 2018

April 5: Psalm 77:7-15; What to Do When You Doubt God

            What causes you to doubt God? Is it the circumstances of the country, your family, your work? Maybe it is just your feelings of depression, doom, and gloom. What do you do when you doubt God? Do you panic and think about how bad of person you are for doubting him? Do you lose faith and decide to abandon him altogether? Do you redouble your efforts to please him hoping that somehow, he will then love you more? You aren’t alone, and the Psalms have the answers for most of these questions. Asaph was asking some of the same questions.
Ps 77:7-9
Will the Lord spurn forever,
and never again be favorable?
Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
 Has he in anger shut up his compassion?
            His way to resolve these doubts about God is revealed when he explained, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old” (Ps 77:11). When we have doubts about God or question about his goodness, we need to turn back to the Bible and see what he has done in the past. We need to read about what he has said about himself. For Asaph, the issue was to remember how God had rescued Israel from Egypt and led them through the water of the Red Sea. For us, we look to the cross and see the way Jesus came to us in the flesh and died for our sins while we were still sinners and his enemies (Rom 5:8). We need to remember that he loved us while we had not done anything to make him love us (John 3:16). His continued love is a guarantee to us regardless of our feeling. He has said he will never leave us or forsake us (Heb 13:5). Since he poured out his love into us by the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5), we can’t make him love us anymore. He is perfect and his love is perfect.
            We know that God has done all of this for us and if recalling that isn’t enough then we also need to look at when we first came to know Christ. I often think of the things that convinced me that the Bible is true and that Jesus is who he said he is, the eternal Son of God, God in the flesh, my Savior and my Lord. I also remember discovering that what I thought was my finding God was really God fulfilling what he promised long before I was ever born – that he would adopt me as his child (Eph 1:5).
            Taking some time in the Bible and in meditation about what God has done will do wonders for alleviating doubt about him.

Monday, April 2, 2018

April 2: Luke 9:23-24; 49-50; 62; Keep Following Jesus

            Jesus didn’t leave any room for half-way disciples. In Luke 9:23-24 there is no way for a person to believe that he can be saved for eternity without surrendering his life to Jesus. You will probably ask why there are so many people who call themselves Christians and demonstrate various degrees of devotion to our Lord. How can we deny ourselves daily, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus when we have so many other things going on in our lives? A little bit later in Luke 9:57-62, Jesus explains how hard it is for us to truly follow him. It looks like giving up home and family is the cost of following Jesus. There still doesn’t look like there is any wiggle room to be dedicated to Jesus and the things of the world. Jesus statement that we aren’t fit for the kingdom of God if we look back at our old life not only reinforces our need to commit our lives to Jesus, but also brings into question our salvation if we experience a time of backsliding.
            However, there are too many verses that guarantee we can’t lose our salvation for me to believe that Jesus was reversing his position here. After all, he said he gives us eternal life and we will never perish. He said that no one (and that would include ourselves) can snatch us out of his or his Father’s hand (John 10:28-29).
            Then in the middle of all this is Luke 9:49-50. How does this fit in where John wants to keep a person from casting out demons in Jesus’ name? The key and how it ties in with the other two passages is that this person is not following “us.” This person had to be following Jesus because he was able to cast out the demon in Jesus’ name (see Acts 19:13-16 to see what happens when people who don’t follow Jesus try to cast out demons) but he wasn’t following John’s concept of what it meant to follow Jesus. He wasn’t part of the special three or twelve who thought they were the greatest followers (Luke 9:46). He was doing his part given his circumstances of life. He may have been like the one who had family that required his attention but was still told to go and proclaim the gospel (Luke 9:60).
            I think this one verse where Jesus instructs John not to hinder this person who isn’t doing things the way John thought was the only way gives us a more flexible picture of Christ-followers. God has us each in a different place in life. We are not all called to be great evangelist or pastors otherwise that’s all there would be in the world. But we are all called to follow Jesus. Yes, we need to surrender to Jesus. Yes, we must not turn back. No, we don’t need to be doing things exactly the way other Christians would dictate. But we must be keeping our eyes on Jesus and following him.