Why a Nerd like Me Gets the Royal Treatment

[From the archives.]

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When I was a kid, I had all sorts of dreams about becoming great. I’d dream of being a sports superstar (I was one of the most athletic people imaginable, no matter what sport you wanted to play), or a famous actor (being completely nerdy and goofy looking wasn’t a key to stardom back then like it is now), or a hero of some sort (yet I never got a chance to rescue anyone from a burning building and then be interviewed about it on TV). Sometimes I’d even dream that someone would discover that I’m a long-lost heir to some noble title, like being an earl or something. That one didn’t happen either.

Little did I suspect that I’d eventually surpass all these daydreams. No, I’m not talking about my present job. That’s rather pedestrian and mundane compared to what I’ve really got going for me.

You see, I jumped right past the ranks of nobility and became royalty.

Royalty of Believers

I’ve heard the phrase “royal priesthood” for almost as long as I’ve been a Christian. It’s taken from 1 Peter 2:9.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

When I first read that passage, I thought this was something new, a new order of things that God came up with for the church under the New Covenant. But recently I’ve come to doubt that understanding.

It turns out that the prophet Jeremiah spoke of royalty and priests during Old Covenant times as well:

For this is what the Lord says: “David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of Israel, nor will the Levitical priests ever fail to have a man to stand before me continually to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to present sacrifices.”

“… I will make the descendants of David my servant and the Levites who minister before me as countless as the stars in the sky and as measureless as the sand on the seashore.” (Jeremiah 13:17-18, 22.)

These verses about an unending supply of priests and kings are in the context of God’s promise to restore his people, a theme Jeremiah returns to many times in his prophecies. These types of prophecies are almost always at least partly messianic in their purpose. And as such they point to life under the New Covenant, not just the Old.

The way we can tell that the passage above from Jeremiah 13 concerns New Covenant reality is that after Jeremiah’s lifetime there never was another king from the line of David sitting on Israel’s throne before the New Covenant came into existence. Rather, the promise of having a king who will always sit on the throne is now fulfilled in Jesus, and the promise of having a great high priest who always stands before God for us is likewise fulfilled in Jesus.

Yet Jeremiah also said that David’s descendants (the royal family) and the descendants of the Levites (the priestly class) would be countless, without measure. That must mean that these are the people God promised to Abraham in Genesis 15:5.

“Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

God promised even before the Old Covenant that his people would be beyond measure. He promised during the Old Covenant that his people would be royalty and priestly in the restoration to come, and he tells us now under the New Covenant that in that restoration we have become his royal priesthood.

I’m a royal priest.

My dreams have come true.

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The Problem with Letting Sleeping Sins Lie

Agatha Christie’s Sleeping Murder follows the course of a young couple, with the help of Christie’s sleuth Miss Jane Marple, as they solve an eighteen year old mystery of the disappearance of young woman. They don’t know if she was murdered or ran off with a man, they don’t know who she would have run off with or who would have motive to murder her, and they don’t even know at first that one of them has a special connection with her.

Miss Marple, of course, has an unrelenting nature when it comes to solving mysteries. But she fears the young couple don’t realize their own danger. She counsels them to “let sleeping murder lie.” Waken a sleeping murder and you might also waken the murderer to strike again.

Sleeping Sin/Dead Sin

Miss Marple’s concerns remind me of how people deal with sin. Sleeping sins are those that seem to have stopped. You don’t feel the temptation, so you think it’s all in your past. Then it comes again, and you sin. It’s kind of like it sneaked up on you and took you down.

In fact, it’s exactly like that.

Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.(1 Peter 5:8.)

What does Peter advise his readers?

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (1 Peter 5:8-9.)

  1. Be alert – don’t go to sleep in your relationship with God.
  2. Be sober minded – think rationally about the temptations you are prone to give in to.
  3. Resist Satan – his temptations are only that: temptations. It’s up to you to decide how to respond to them.
  4. Stand firm in your faith – you are grounded on the Solid Rock himself, Jesus. No one can take you off that firm foundation.
  5. Know you have company – your situation is not a unique or novel event to God, and not to the people in his family.

Can sin ever be dead, though, or must you always be fearing its power?

Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ

The thing is not to know how to kill sin dead, but to know that you have died to sin and it cannot rule over your destiny.

The death [Jesus] died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:10-11.)

Does being dead to sin and alive in Christ mean we have a responsibility to resist temptation? In his letter to the Roman Christians, Paul went on to say we do:

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body* so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. (Romans 6:12-14.)

Paul said it is grace that leads you away from sin, not rules or law. After all:

God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance. (Romans 2:4.)

You can turn (the actual meaning of repent) to your Father in heaven without fear because precisely he is kind and full of grace, and not give in to temptation. This is what James described in a shorter version of Peter’s points about resisting temptation:

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7.)

Satan flees at the sign of your resistance because you belong to God your Father. You are dead to sin and alive in Christ, and sin has no place in your eternal future. Sleeping sin may need you to remain sober minded and alert to resist it, but rest in the fact that your death to sin lasts forever in your life in Christ.

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*Romans 8:13 and Colossians 3:5 discuss putting to death your sinful actions and desires. The verses do not talk of putting sin itself to death, but rather are about resisting temptation and taking yourself out of those situations where you are prone to sin. Killing sin itself is up to Jesus, and he has already finished that work. Romans 8:13 says as much when it tells us “if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” It is by the Spirit of Christ in you that you accomplish this, not by some power of your own will and strength.

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Judas Iscariot – Jesus’ Friend with a Good Example

There’s no getting around it: Judas Iscariot, hand-picked by Jesus to be one of his closest disciples, was a bad apple.

Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. (John 12:3-6.)

Jesus was a good judge of character. Flawless, you might say. Judas’ actions surely didn’t catch Jesus by surprise. How could Jesus then travel, work alongside, teach and live with him for three years? Especially when Jesus knew the prophecy of what would eventually happen.

Still Jesus persisted with teaching Judas the ways of the kingdom of God:

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” (John 12:7-8.)

Judas did not take kindly to this rebuke. Matthew records that same scene and writes that immediately after this Judas decided to take matters into his own hands:

Then one of the Twelve – the one called Judas Iscariot – went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over. (Matthew 26:14-16.)

Judas being paid thirty pieces of silver. 16th century fresco, Saint Sébastien Church, France. (Wikipedia)

Judas carried out his end of the bargain, betraying Jesus with a kiss in the dark hours of the night.

Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.

Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. The men seized Jesus and arrested him. (Mark 14:43-46.)

Yet despite all these actions – leading to the ultimate betrayal – Judas set an example worth following.

The Rightness of Acting Like Judas

Before writing off Judas, it’s important to listen to Jesus’ words in response to Judas’ kiss of betrayal:

The Arrest of Christ (Kiss of Judas)

, Giotto di Bondoni c. 1304-1306 (Wikipedia)

Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.” (Matthew 26:50.)

“Friend” is not a word most people would have chosen for Judas. Jesus knew what others didn’t, though. Judas was not beyond hope.

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” (Matthew 27:3-4.)

The religious leaders who handed Jesus over to Pilate, the Roman Governor, for crucifixion took no responsibility, though.

“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. (Matthew 27:4-5.)

Judas knew he’d done wrong and confessed his sin to the priests who in turn rejected him out of hand. But despite their rejection, he did not keep their money out of spite but threw to the temple floor.

For those who belong to Jesus, the example of Judas is important. You might consider yourself to have done something horrible, denying God or perhaps a sin against someone that you consider to be tantamount to a betrayal of Jesus.

Do not despair.

If Jesus called Judas friend, be assured he considers you his chosen friend.

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you … . (John 15:15-16.)

If Judas can confess his sin to the religious leaders though they rejected him, you can confess yours to Jesus knowing that he will never cast you aside.

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:28.)

This is the example of Judas to follow, but remember to turn to the right Person when turning from the wrong ways.

Turn to the One who calls you friend.

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Party Crasher – a woman’s story

[From the archives.]

I almost stumbled over her as I brought in another platter of food for the table. She must have slipped in when no one was looking. She knelt to the floor behind the Rabbi as he reclined at the table and started kissing his feet.

His feet!

And crying all over his feet too, her tears falling fast as she quietly wiped them off with her hair. It was hard to tell whether she was crying in grief or joy, she was so quiet. But there were many tears and the Rabbi’s feet were much cleaner by the time she was done.

She hadn’t stopped kissing his feet either.

Then she pulled out that jar of perfume. She broke it open, poured it all over the Rabbi’s feet and then went back to kissing. I’ll never forget the scent that filled the room. And that’s when my master, Simon, noticed her. He stood from where he’d been reclining at the other end of the table and looked across at the woman, a scowl on his face.

I knew what he must be thinking: that this woman’s reputation was all over town and if the Rabbi were really a prophet of God he’d know that.

The Rabbi spoke.

“Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly.”

Simon soaked up the praise like a sponge dipped into a warm bath. He remained standing, a proud smile growing wide on his face as he looked around the circle of guests, his head nodding as he accepted the Rabbi’s approval.

But the Rabbi wasn’t finished with Simon the Pharisee. He looked at the woman behind him and asked:

“Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

Simon was clearly stricken. It was true, he’d failed in the most basic hospitality for his most honored guest. Then a sneer twisted his lips as he heard the other guests start to mumble.

“Who is this who even forgives sins?”

Again he nodded at the guests, this time joining them in questioning the Rabbi’s arrogance. He must have felt that his “honored” guest was now humiliated and would stop speaking such nonsense.

The Rabbi surprised us all when he turned again to the woman:

“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

The woman rose tall, towering over the guests, us servants, Simon even as he sank to the floor. She walked with a nobility in her step, peace on her face, a smile that brought joy to every heart she passed by on her way out of the house.

It made me cry.

It made me want to kiss the Rabbi’s feet.

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The Woman Jesus Praised for Contradicting Him

Jesus had an interesting encounter with a woman:

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”

Jesus did not answer a word. (Matthew 15:21-23.)

Being a Canaanite* and a woman, she was doubly unworthy of Jesus’ notice according to the rules of Jewish society, culture and religion. But his followers wanted him to do more than ignore her.

So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Matthew 15:23-24.)

This is one of the harshest things Jesus is recorded as saying. It is tantamount to telling her “You are not worth my time.” The woman was having none of it.

The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

“Yes it is, Lord,” she said. (Matthew 15:25-27.)

Read that last line again. The woman flat-out contradicted Jesus and told him he was wrong. Then she proved it.

“Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” (Matthew 15:27.)

She must have appeared presumptuous and impertinent to Jesus’ followers, but not to Jesus. He praised her response.

Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment. (Matthew 15:28.)

It’s a story that includes the woman’s perseverance and Jesus’ miraculous power, but that isn’t the story’s point. To get the point you have to go back a few verses.

Cleaning up from the inside out

Matthew 15 starts with Jesus being asked something quite different from the Canaanite woman’s request.

Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” (Matthew 15:1-2.)

This wasn’t about washing germs off, but about ritualized cleaning procedures that the religious leaders thought was necessary in order to please God. There was a lengthy discussion, with Jesus pointing out that their traditions were getting in the way of people coming to God, not facilitating it. He explains his point by concluding:

“Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.” (Matthew 15:17-20.)

Hand-washing rituals were used as an example, but Jesus was talking about all attempts to change your standing before God by outward appearances or keeping rules. And after he explained this, we get to the next scene.

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him(Matthew 15:21-22.)

What is the connection between the two conversations – the one with the Jewish religious leaders and the one with the Canaanite woman? She knew what they didn’t: Jesus is “Lord, Son of David”, meaning she recognized him as the promised Messiah of Israel and the world. Out of her mouth she poured forth what was in her heart, the faith resting there, a faith she would not deny even if it meant contradicting Jesus himself.

Matthew follows this pattern several times in his gospel. He records one event and then moves to another that on the surface appears unrelated. What he’s really getting at, though, is a look at how they connect from one to the other. (See John’s Head and Jesus’ Bread – a tale of two parties for an example form Matthew 14.) This is the connection Matthew shows in chapter 15: the Jewish religious leaders were concerned more with outside appearances than with what was in their hearts; the Canaanite woman expressed her faith with her mouth, showing that what was in her heart was righteous.

What is in your heart? Faith in Jesus is righteous. Let it pour out of you, showing that you are clean. This is the life Jesus wants you to live, not one of empty religious ritual but one of living and active faith.

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*In Ezekiel 26-28 Tyre and Sidon were under God’s curse for how they treated ancient Israel.

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John’s Head and Jesus’ Bread – a tale of two parties

Matthew 14 tells of Herod’s gruesome birthday party and Jesus’ desire to get away from it all. It starts with Herod:

On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. (Matthew 14:6-11.)

Herod’s birthday party’s final course was the platter carrying John the Baptist’s head.

Salome, Herodias and the head of John the Baptist – Titian (1490-1576)

Matthew continues:

John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus. When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. (Matthew 14:12-13.)

Jesus and John as children together – Bartolome (1617-19692)

Jesus and John were cousins whose ministry intersected, and Jesus apparently wanted some time alone to process the news of John’s death, perhaps to grieve and pray. His plans were thwarted from the start.

Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”

Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” (Matthew 14:13-16.)

Compare the way Jesus treats his guests with Herod’s actions at his party. For Herod in his palace it was all about him, his desires and his reputation. For Jesus it’s all about those who came to be with him, following him to that remote place.

And then it came time to set the table.

Jesus Feeding the Multitude – Gebhard Fugel (1863-1939)

“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.

“Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. (Matthew 14:17-21.)

Herod chose to murder John and serve his head on a platter. Jesus chose to heal the sick and serve them bread and fish to nourish them in that remote place.

Worldly and Heavenly Kingdoms

Matthew is a careful writer who – with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit – purposefully placed these two accounts side by side in his record of Jesus’ life. It’s a striking comparison of the ways of worldly kingdoms and the way of Jesus’ kingdom.

  1. Who does the king serve: himself (Herod) or his subjects (Jesus).
  2. What is important to the king: his reputation (Herod) or the needs of the people (Jesus).
  3. What is the business of the kingdom: debauchery (Herod) or deliverance (Jesus).

This informs your own life and the decisions you make in it. Where is your focus, who do you care for and show compassion for, what is your daily business?

You could be like Herod, offering up heads on silver platters. It might be sacrificing your conscience because friends or a job demand it, it might be choosing to avoid helping someone because you are more concerned with your reputation, it might be giving in to a temptation rather than resisting because (like Herod enthralled with his step-daughter’s dance) it’s easier to go with the flow than to put a stop to it.

Yet you have the Spirit of Christ in you, the Spirit of One who knows what you are going through.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15.)

You might think this doesn’t help you with your own temptations much, except the reassurance that Jesus empathizes with you. But look at this verse in context:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16.)

The fact Jesus never gave into the same temptations everyone faces does not merely mean he is able to empathize with you. It enables you to “hold firmly to the faith” and to “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence” where you will “receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

This is what Jesus has done for you, and because of it you are able to live according to the compassionate and caring ways of his kingdom rather than the self-centered and egotistic ways of the world.

Matthew has placed the choice clearly before you. Which kingdom would you choose?

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Humor: Why Doesn’t Anyone Preach on the Proverbs 31 Husband for Mother’s Day?

[From the archives: A husband’s email for Mother’s Day. Every line corresponds to a portion of Proverbs 31.]

Hey Pal!

I know I’ve owed you an email for a while. Sorry about not staying in touch, but life here has been crazy. Just as a for instance, here’s what yesterday was like for me.

9:00 – Got out of bed. I woke up earlier but my wife told me to sleep in because she had everything covered. I have so much confidence in her I just had to roll over and go back to sleep.

9:05 – She brought me breakfast all the way from the kitchen on the other side of the house. And this house is HUGE. I mean, I don’t mean to boast but with the money she brings home from her flax and wool factory she insisted I should enjoy the lifestyle she can afford to give me.

10:00 – I headed to the city park to brag about my wife. Seriously, those other guys think they have good wives but once I start praising mine they just sit and listen in awe.

12:00 – She picked me up from the park after looking at some some real estate she’s got an offer on. I think she said she wants to start a vineyard. I’m not sure, because I leave all the finances to her. But grapes? Wow, maybe we’ll have to start a wine cellar!

12:15 – We arrived at the shelter where she organizes meals for people who have trouble making ends meet. I love being her helper in these projects of hers.

3:00 – She stopped by the kids’ school to pick them up on our way home. I got to listen to her wisdom as she talked to them about their day. She’s so impressive even the kids tell their friends what a great mom they have.

4:00 – She and I go to the gym for a workout before dinner. Pound for pound she’s way stronger than I am!

5:30 – She helps the kids with their homework while fixing dinner. I offered to help in the kitchen, but she just gave me little tasks like moving the newspaper off the dining table. She spoils me!

7:00 – After dinner she had the kids recite their Bible verses for me. I had no idea they’d been memorizing Psalm 119, all 176 verses!

9:00 – She put the kids to bed while I showered. Soon she and I were in bed and … well, Song of Solomon’s got nothing on us, know what I mean?

Hope all is well with you and your family. Let me know what you’ve been up to!

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Men: Stop Blaming Women for Your Lust

[Lusting after women and the male responsibility, from the archives.]

Suppose an attractive member of your church walks in on a men’s Bible study one morning and strips off her clothes and then dances in a very sexual manner. Is she responsible if men lust after her? What if some men do not lust? If some lust but some do not, then is the lust-responsibility now only in those men who are lusting and not in her?

The great thing about this hypothetical is it’ll never happen. Yet it’s an interesting thought exercise. Where does the sin responsibility sit: in the tempter or the tempted? I think they are both completely responsible, but only for their own sin.

Here’s how I work through the logic: The tempter is sinning by attempting to get someone to sin, and the tempted who gives in sins in that acquiescence. But if there is a tempter who is unsuccessful in getting the tempted to give in, the tempter’s sin is exactly the same as if the tempted person had given in.

That means that the tempter’s sin is not dependent on the response of the tempted person at all; it remains the same whether the tempted person gives in or not.

And the corollary to this is that the tempted person who gives in is just as responsible for the sin (lust in the extremely unlikely hypothetical I gave above) whether tempted into it or running headlong without temptation. How does that work? Like this.

Suppose a man looks at a woman dressed very modestly by that society’s standards. If a man looks on her with lust, is the woman a temptress? Few would say so. But his sin is the same as if she were the unclad woman in the original hypothetical. Even without a temptress, he has engaged in that same sin.

So the responsibility for lust resides in the luster, while the responsibility for tempting is in the tempter. Each is wholly responsible for their own sin, regardless of the other person’s part in the scenario.

Unsuccessful tempters and untempted lusters are as guilty of sin as successful tempters and tempted lusters.

(Graphic courtesy of Adriana at Classical Quest)

(Graphic courtesy of Adriana at Classical Quest)

The Good News

Depressed yet? Confused, perhaps? The Bible promises this is not beyond your ability to face, since you face it with God:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13.)

Still sounds too difficult? Take heart; as in all situations you find yourself in, Jesus is the answer for your sins here too.

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24.)

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2.)

Jesus bore our sins for us, and he never condemns those who belong to him. And this counts for all sins you’ve ever committed, are committing now, and ever will commit:

He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14.)

Nothing you will ever do can change that, because everything that needs doing Jesus has already done.

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Jesus’ Evangelism Is More than Words

If you’ve spent any time in church, at church retreats, or among people who go to church or church retreats, you’ve heard this passage:

Then [Jesus] said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37-38.)

If you heard it, chances are you were then told that this meant you, me and everyone else should either be out there telling people about Jesus so they can become Christians, or we should be praying for God to raise up other people to do it.

If so, you only heard half the story.

Harvesting Takes More Than Words

The context for Jesus’ harvest metaphor begins by describing what Jesus had been doing:

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:35-38.)

A woman manually harvesting crops in Thirumayam, India. (Wikimedia)

In these travels, then, Jesus did three things: taught, proclaimed, and met physical needs. He noted how harassed and helpless people are and told his followers there was a lot of work still to do.

Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. …

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” (Matthew 10:1, 5-8.)

When Jesus told his friends to get out there and harvest, he told them people were suffering and the disciples were in a position to do something about it. They could treat the sick and more, along with tell them the good news that God’s kingdom was at hand.

This focus on both temporal relief (healing) and eternal blessing (God’s kingdom is near) together make up the harvest Jesus spoke of, together show how to care for those who are harassed and helpless, together are the work of Jesus and of those who follow him.

This is the harvest Jesus tells us is ready for reaping. Someone who teaches that the harvest is merely winning souls to heaven is not only telling you only half the story, but is ignoring the things that led Jesus to feel compassion on harassed and helpless people in the first place. The people needed both physical and spiritual relief.

In fact, by placing these two not only in proximity but in concert with each other, it becomes evident that the physical and spiritual are inseparable. The harvest either includes both these inseparable aspects of a person’s life or it is not the harvest Jesus spoke of.

Why? Because a person doesn’t have just physical or just spiritual needs. That would be like saying that in order to be well nourished a person needs just food to eat or just water to drink. The need for one might seem more pressing in any given moment but the need for both is always present.

So too with spiritual and physical aspects: every person has both and they cannot be broken out and looked at entirely without regard for one another. Being one of the harvesters Jesus calls for means working for both the physical and spiritual good of the people he has compassion on – the harassed and helpless around you.

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Appreciating Public School Teachers

Today is National Teacher Appreciation Day. My wife got her teaching credential over 30 years ago and has worked in public schools with children from early childhood education through junior high, now teaching eighth grade P.E. to 13 and 14 year old girls and boys. I made this meme to reflect what I know of the experience of public school teachers, but hope it is encouraging to private school teachers and home school teachers as well.

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