Life is a response

Perspectives (Mark 14)

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In Mark 14 the central figure is Jesus. The Mark’s Gospel slows down in these final hours of Jesus’ life, earlier chapters sometimes covered multiple days but now it’s slowed right down, these final moments matter, these events show us who Jesus is and what Jesus came to do for you and I.

The writer like a modern day director of a video, keeps switching perspectives, revealing how a whole variety of people saw Jesus, what they understood about who He was and what He had come to these final moments to do.

The Murderers (vs1-2)
Ever since Mark 3:6 thoughts about how to capture and kill Jesus were real. When the chief priests and scribes saw Jesus all they wanted to do was kill him, Jesus filled them with rage and fury – that was their perspective. It is possible to feel right about the wrong thing! They were convinced they were doing a right thing in planning to kill Jesus, felt justified in their actions, felt they were even doing a good thing. Is there anything you’ve convinced yourself of that you feel right about, but maybe is in fact wrong to do?

The Worshiper (vs3-9)
In sharp contrast we have the woman who boldly approaches Jesus lavishly pours out her love and thanks and devotion to Jesus in an act of worship fit for a king. He is worth it, her love for Him is worth expressing in this way, it is not wasteful as some felt, it is an entirely justified act of lavish beautiful worship according to Jesus (14:6). Does ‘lavish’ describe your devotion to Jesus Christ?

The Betrayer (vs10-11 & 44-46)
Was Judas one of those who protested at this woman’s wasteful worship? A whole years wages wasted on Jesus. Maybe he was happy for Jesus to be a good teacher, a miracle worker, but for people to worship Him in this way – inappropriate, too much, wasteful and wrong…? He is not with Jesus, his heart has shifted, and so he decides to betray Jesus for a some of money. How could someone be so close, in the tight circle with Jesus and yet be unmoved by Jesus at a heart level? Proximity to Jesus does not guarantee faith in Jesus and love for Jesus.

The Friends (vs12-21)
It’s festival time, it’s that time for meals with close family. The close friends and followers of Jesus want to prepare a meal for the Passover. Jesus knows it is His last meal with these ones He has shared His life with, these ones He has invested the most in, and these ones He is about to leave to continue the Father’s will on the planet. They share a meal but there is an awkward moment in the meal as Jesus reveals to them that one of them has it in his heart to betray Him.

The Inner Circle (vs32-42)
The three closest to Jesus are called by Jesus to follow Him into the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus calls them to watch and pray. Jesus is not Himself, they see Jesus distressed, troubled, saying disconcerting things… ‘What’s going on?’ they must have wondered but exhausted they fall asleep more than once leaving Jesus alone in His hour of need as He cries out to the Father if there is any other way. How alone Jesus must have felt, even His closest disciples aren’t there when He needed them. Graciously still, Jesus knows, their hearts are with Him but their bodies are weak (vs38).

The Father (vs36/39)
Was the Father crying with Jesus? What was it like for the Father to hear His Son crying out, Father “remove this cup from me” and to remain silent because there wasn’t another way. Oh how deeply our salvation cost the Father and the Son! Did the Father look away because He could no longer look on His Son, writhing in prayer? Oh what pride and love must have swelled in the heart of the Father to see and hear the Son say; “Yet, not what I will, but what You will.” (vs36)

The Deserters (vs43-52)
Everyone left Jesus, abandoned Him. Not one remained. Alone.

The Accusers (vs53-65)
Jesus – arrested for nothing, falsely accused with trumped up charges that weren’t even consistent. He remained silent before them, didn’t try to defend Himself like He could have and only answered when the High Priest said; ‘Are you the Christ?’ “I AM” Jesus said. I am God, I am the Messiah and you will see it in time to come Jesus went on to say. For which they began to beat Jesus and spit on Him and mock Him.

The Denier (vs66-72)
Although he had deserted along with the rest of them, Peter loved Jesus and so followed at a distance, looked on at His trial. But when challenged regarding his relationship with Jesus he too deserted Jesus denying Him with his words, over and over again. He believed he wouldn’t, believed he would risk all to follow Jesus, but he didn’t and it impacted him deeply.

Who is Jesus to you? What’s your perspective?
Do you truly see what He has DONE for you?
Will you live your whole life as a lavish worship response?

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Majoring in the Majors not the Minors (Mark 12:18-40)

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To love God fully & to love people sums up all the commandments.  We can easily make following Jesus overly complicated but Jesus makes God’s will exceedingly clear.

The Scribes and Pharisees were full of questions fixating on minor issues.  However in reality they were majoring on the minor and minoring in the momentous!

Jesus was and is God in the flesh in their midst.  Jesus had come to seek and save the lost, however most of these Pharisees and Scribes were not loving Him but rejecting Him.

As the Westminster Shorter Catechism states; “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”  This is our purpose, to love, to honour, to glorify God in all we do.

And Jesus connects this with how we treat others.  If we truly love God, our hearts will be soft toward God and the Holy Spirit will lead us to love others as God has loved us.  This is the whole message of Galatians 5:16-24.

Loving God leads to loving people, being compassionate, merciful, forgiving as we have been forgiven.  That’s true godliness, true holiness.  That’s what we should be majoring in!

And the only way to get to a life that truly looks like that, is to have a life that is overtaken with love for God.  And the only way to love God more deeply is to see God more clearly, to see who He is and what He has done for us and to live out your whole life as a response.  #moreinawe

 

Good news not Good advice! (Mark 1:1-15)

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“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mark 1:1) 

The Gospel of Mark is all about the good news about Jesus Christ.  As we read it together this month, that’s what we will discover, this short book is all about the good news, the truth about Jesus Christ.

The word ‘gospel’ means – good news, good message or announcement, and announcements and advice are quite different!

”Advice is counsel about something that hasn’t happened yet, but you can do something about it. News is a report about something that has happened which you can’t do anything about because it has been done for you and all you can do is to respond to it.” – Dr Martin Lloyd Jones

Advice wouldn’t have helped you and I we needed the announcement of good news.  Religion is all about; ADVICE – DO this, don’t DO that for fear of this or that as a consequence…  But advice doesn’t help, it doesn’t lift a finger to help.  And yet help is what we desperately need.

The good news about Jesus is what we need.  The gospel about Jesus is all about the GOOD NEWS of what has already been DONE for you/me by Jesus.  We can’t change it, we can’t do it again, it was DONE by Jesus through His life, death and resurrection and it was DONE for us.

All you can do is accept His offer, believe He has DONE it all for you and then live out your whole life as a response to His act of love towards you!

  1. Contemplate for while the differences between; GOOD NEWS and ADVICE and the GOSPEL and RELIGION.
  2. Pray now and thank Jesus for what He has DONE for you!

Gospel Response (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)

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When the Gospel is preached there are normally a whole range of responses from even within a smallish group of people. Reading between the lines of this letter we can surmise already by this stage in the letter that in response to the Gospel being preached;

  • Some could be applauded for their wholehearted response to the Gospel (1:6-9 & 2:13)
  • Some could be applauded for their faith and love & their desire to please God (3:6&4:1)
  • Some needed to be urged to not continue in their sexual sin or living like unbelievers (4:3-5)
  • Some were applauded for their love for one another and for all the brothers in Macedonia (4:9-10)
  • And some were exhorted to keeping working so as not to have to depend on others finances (4:11-12)

All different responses from the same Gospel shared with them. And so pastorally different things were needing to be encouraged in different groups of individuals in this young church.

What would you be applauded for in terms of your Gospel response?
What might you need to be exhorted in?

When the Gospel is preached, a faith community of Christ followers that hadn’t previously existed forms (the church), and Jesus clearly expected that these new faith communities would be primarily characterised by a deep love that looks like family.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Churches are not about programmes or meetings, they are all about people who have been joined to one another because they have been joined to Jesus Christ. Paul could write about the Thessalonians that he didn’t need to teach them about ‘brotherly love’ because clearly God had been teaching them how to love one another (vs9). What an accolade for a church to receive!

God had promised hundreds of years before that one day He would make a new covenant (which He did through Jesus) and in that era God said;

“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34)

And that’s what God did with the Thessalonians, after just a short time of preaching God taught them, God wrote on their hearts His way for loving one another, for loving even ‘all the brothers throughout Macedonia’(vs10)!

God the Holy Spirit will teach us, will lead us how to love like He loves so that we will reflect who God is to one another and to the world at large. There is no greater hallmark of holiness than sacrificial love for others, and especially love for those whom we can’t realistically expect anything from in return.

How is God teaching you to be more loving to those in the church?
How is God leading you to love those in the wider community?

What does God want?(2) (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8)

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[If you didn’t read yesterday’s devotional I would urge you to look first at part (1)…]

When you think about your salvation, God’s having chosen to save you from your sins, have you ever paused to think ‘why’?  Why did God save you?  What was God wanting?

We know that God went to extreme lengths in order to rescue us from our sin, but why did God do it.  Our salvation cost Jesus His life as He chose to lay it down for us, our salvation cost the Father immensely too as the Father willingly punished His one and only beloved Son in our place and for our sin – so why did God do it?

Every person who has believed in Jesus was called by God out of darkness and into Jesus’ marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9).  But what did God have in mind when He called each one of us?

We know already from 1 Thessalonians 4:3 that God’s will for each one of us is that we be pure/holy like God Himself is.  Now in 1 Thessalonians 4:7 we learn that;

“For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.”

When the God considered our sin-state, our brokeness and considered His great love for us and His desire to have us with Him forever…

When God determined to save us, to redeem us by giving Himself to save us from Himself and His righteous holy wrath against sin…

We know from these two verses (vs3&7) of 1 Thessalonians that what was in God’s heart, in God’s mind for us whom He was choosing to save at great cost, was that God wanted us to be holy/pure.

God called us not to be impure but rather to be pure/holy like He is holy.  He wanted this so much, He sent His own Son, Jesus wanted this so much He endured the cross scorning its shame!

So, brothers and sisters, when we live impure, unholy, sin-stained, compromised lives we are grieving God, trampling on Jesus’s costly life-sacrifice.  We are not just doing something small and meaningless we are grieving God and are choosing to live against the will of God.

And this is why this passage contains some strong warning language;

8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. 

Whoever disregards what God wants from those He chose and called to save, those Jesus chose to die for makes a big error of judgement.  Such a person is not merely disregarding human traditions or ethical standards or expectations but is in fact disregarding God who not only gave us Jesus but also gave us His indwelling Holy Spirit to help us to be holy as He desires us to be.

So, let’s not take sin lightly.  Let’s not ignore what God wants from those He called, those He chose and those He paid the price for.  Let’s respond to God’s incredible kindness and mercy towards us who believe by living lives worthy of the calling we have received (Ephesians 4:1).

Is your will & God’s will aligned?

What might need to change when you consider what God wants?

Speak to God now about those things.

How now shall we live? (1 Thessalonians 4:1-2)

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“Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 4:1-2)

These verses are the ‘hinge verses’ in this letter.  Up until now, the apostle Paul has been referring back this whole time, looking back at their visit to the Thessalonians, taking them back to the Gospel that was preached amongst them.

From this point onwards, Paul suddenly switches looking to the present and future addressing certain practical ethical problems of Christian conduct which were evidently troubling the Thessalonians or were ethical life-issues that Timothy had observed and felt needed correction.  So, Paul switches from explanations regarding his own behaviour to instructions regarding theirs because of their faith in God.

One of the great weaknesses of contemporary evangelical Christianity is our comparative neglect of Christian ethics, in both our teaching and our practice.

– John Stott

Paul presents a striking contrast when compared to our current neglect of ethics in our day.  For the rest of this letter, he gives detailed instruction in Christian moral behaviour.  Contrary to much of the thinking in our day and contrary to so much of the emphasis in our churches teaching, how we live really matters!

‘you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God’ (vs1)

Paul can say that these Thessalonian believers had received something from Paul and his team, they had left a deposit of how to live SO AS to please God.  He could say that the Thessalonians knew the instructions they had been given on what gospel life should look like in practice.

Living to please God is an overarching guiding principle of all Christian behaviour.   John Stott says the following about living to please God;

First, it is a radical concept, for it strikes at the roots of our discipleship and challenges the reality of our profession. How can we claim to know and to love God if we do not seek to please him? Disobedience is ruled out. 

Secondly, it is a flexible principle. It will rescue us from the rigidities of a Christian Pharisaism which tries to reduce morality to a list of do’s and don’ts. True, we still need to be instructed … how to live in order to please God (1), and this for us will necessitate the developing of a Christian perspective through biblical meditation. Nevertheless, our incentive will be not so much to obey the law as thereby to please the Law-giver, and this will become increasingly a matter of Christian instinct as the Holy Spirit trains Christ’s sheep to discern their Shepherd’s voice. 

Thirdly, this principle is progressive. If our goal is to be perfectly pleasing to God, we shall never be able to claim that we have arrived. Instead, we are summoned to please him more and more.” (extract from “The Message of Thessalonians” – J.Stott)

May we, make it our life ambition to live in such a way that pleases God.  After all, if we truly love God we will want to live in such a way that will please God.  And so as we read on in this letter which focusses on ethical teaching regarding how we should live, let’s remember that to do so is not legalism but rather practical help to those who want to please God.

And finally, lets remember that pleasing God is something which is never complete but rather something we want to do ‘more and more’.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for so radically giving Your life in order to sacrificially save my life.  I worship You and am so grateful to You.  

Thank you for the gift of repentance and the offer of forgiveness because of your life lived in my place and your death died for my sins.  

Today Lord I re-commit myself to living in such a way that will please you, finding out what does please you and then making changes to what I do and do not do, how I think, and how I speak and act towards others.  Holy Spirit, I invite you to challenge and change me more and more so that I might live in such a way that pleases You. Amen.

Exhort, encourage, charge (1 Thessalonians 2:10-12)

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For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. – ESV

And you know that we treated each of you as a father treats his own children. 12 We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. For he called you to share in his Kingdom and glory. – NLT

Not all things in life have equal value.  Friends who’ve watched a good film might encourage other to do so themselves.  It’s not life altering, just a suggestion of something that might be nice.  While a parent or a mentor might exhort or even plead with a young person to avoid certain places or people for their life’s sake or might even charge them to promise that they won’t do something or will do something of great importance…

The more important something is, the more urgent the appeals tend to become and the urgency of the appeals reveal something of the perceived importance of the matter to the person speaking.

So what is worth someone’s exhortation, pleading, encouraging, urging even their charging others?

Paul uses three phrases all in one sentence, translated as we ‘exhorted’, ‘encouraged’ and even ‘charged’, to stress how important this thing is that he wants to emphasise for them to make a priority in their lives….so what is it?

Paul is urgently insistent that the Thessalonian believers, that we ourselves would live our lives in such a way that God would consider those lives worthy of God’s having called us and saved us.

He feels like a dad as he says this.  As a dad it’s a terrible thing when I see my kids taking something for granted, not valuing what they have been given, seeing them ignoring something incredible they’ve been blessed with, seeing no gratitude in their response.

The Christian life is a response.  It’s a response to the wonder and mystery of the goodness and kindness and mercy of God’s saving love for us.  The more we see the magnitude of what God’s done for us in sending Jesus to die in our place for our sin, the more we will respond with a life fuelled by gratitude expressed towards God who has loved us so incredibly.  And that life will be a God-pleasing life!  A life that is worthy, is an appropriate response, considering what God has done for us.

The Christian life is a response of whole life worship (Romans 12:1-2), not just 1-2hrs on a Sunday, but 24/7 worship of God in all and through all you do and say.  That’s the type of life that Jesus’ gift to you and to me is worthy of.

So, how’s your life response, is it a worthy one?

What might you want to change?

What might God want you to change?

We love Jesus back by living our lives as a wholehearted response to His wholehearted giving of Himself for us.  We do so not out of a sense of debt and trying to pay Jesus back but rather out of gratitude for who He is and what He has done for us  – we respond by loving Jesus back with our whole lives.

And this is worth exhorting, encouraging & charging others with!