Mark R Lindsey

Giving up your respect, power, ability to be generous — to follow Jesus.

In Matthew, Money on September 2, 2019 at 7:32 am

And behold, a man came up to him [Jesus], saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. – Matthew 19:16-22

It’s easy to dismiss the young man as a cartoonish Silas Marner, his only companions the many coins he hoards. But this young man was virtuous; he had wisdom to seek out Jesus. When Jesus ordered him to become poor, it would cost him respect, authority, and capacity to do good.

Loss of Respect

Think of how much respectability the young man would lose if he sold these things. He wouldn’t be able to dress as well. He wouldn’t have a big house where people could come visit him for help, or business meetings. People might criticize him for throwing away his good inheritance from his father, saying he foolishly gave it up. If he followed Jesus’s direction, that loss would mean people looked down on him as someone who had it all, and threw it away.

Loss of Authority

Imagine how he would lose authority when he sold all his possessions. When people have money, others know it, and are willing to work for that money. People with money have the ability to buy things that the poor don’t have. At time of this conversation with Jesus, the rich young man had earthly authority that Jesus didn’t evidently have. The rich young man, while he was rich, could order his servants to go and do things, good things  — to prepare rooms for Passover, to spread good news to all the towns, to go visit the officials. Without his money and the power it brings, it would be up to God to provide justice and do good.

Loss of power to do good

See how his poverty would remove his ability to do good. He wouldn’t be able to provide shelter and protection for the destitute widow who lost her only son. He’d have no home to invite Jesus and his disciples to a big meal, to hear Jesus teach. He couldn’t afford to give money so the poor Israelite pilgrims to Jerusalem could buy their temple sacrifice. He’d have no tomb to lend to Jesus. He couldn’t buy a single pound of ointment to anoint the Messiah’s body. He couldn’t do good for the beggar Lazarus, taking him off the streets to care for and feed him. In his poverty, he, and Lazarus, and the widow would all be entirely reliant on God — and not the wealth.

 

 

 

Strange Fire: Our attempts to serve God can be steps away from his clear plan.

In Bible Study, debt, Matthew on August 31, 2019 at 8:40 am

E798E5EE-1133-478C-A25A-632D3B153996

Beware of your reasoning to “put God first”; your mind can trick you.

Matthew 15:1-6 – Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.

 

By your act of sacrifice to God, you could disobey God. Is that the sacrifice God wants?  Certainly not.

It is first most important to honor God himself. This means understanding He has a plan — that is the one you were made to take. (That’s what “Obedience”: doing what you were perfectly fitted to do —by creation, life, experience, abilities.) Honoring God means agreeing He is worthy of obeying in every way he has a plan. 

If I invent a way to honor God that prevents me from actually follow his clear plan, I’m really not honoring God. God puts his clear plan for me in the Bible, the Word of God.  Jesus calls this practice of inventing my own holiness  “making void the word of God”.  The Pharisees decided to donate money “to God,” and then claim that they couldn’t help their needy father or mother because of their donation.   So they had invented a way to “be holy” that replaced God’s actual way. It wasn’t holy at all.

What could it looks like to “make void the word of God?” Maybe:

  • Ask for donors to support me when I could be working. (Eph. 4:28)
  • Putting in extra hours helping at the church building when I should be seeking to understand my wife. (1 Pet. 3:7)
  • Attend seminary or college instead of working to pay my debts. (Rom. 13:8; Eph 4:28)
  • Doing International missions in a dangerous place, while lacking compassion in the lost people of that area. (1 Cor. 13:1-5)
  • Stop gathering together in a Small Group of Christians so I have energy to cheerfully endure the school & work week (Heb. 3:13, Heb. 10:25).
  • Write another article for my blog instead of listening to what God says to me in His word (Psalm 119:147; Psalm 143:8).

Pray to ask God to show you where you are deceived by your attempts at holiness that override God’s instructions to you. If God reveals errors, thank him for helping you, and commit to fight the sin. Ask other of Jesus’s disciples to help you fight and warn you against the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:13).

 

“God, prove yourself.”

In Bible Study, Trust on March 5, 2019 at 11:30 am

Deuteronomy 6:16

You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.

We have a heavenly Father who, under dire circumstances, may test us. He may even given us a task and then prevent its completion. Is that even fair?

He tested Abraham by commanding the awful killing of his son; then interfered in the obedient action, and rescued them both. And he seemed to test the disciples Mary and Mary when they found the empty tomb. These two obeyed, trusting the message of the angel, but Jesus stopped them on the way and rewarded them by showing himself. 

Test of Moses

From Genesis 22:1-12-

  • TEST: God tested Abraham and said to him, … “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering …”
  • OBEDIENCE: Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 
  • REWARD: But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” … He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

Test of Mary and Mary

From Matthew 28:1-10 — Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. … But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.”

  • TEST: Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 
  • OBEDIENCE: So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
  • REWARD: And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

The essence of these tests are the same: God has given a command to act, so will you trust Him and obey?

But if God may test us, can we test God? The Israelites were in the desert when they decided to try; this is recorded in Exodus 17:2-7. They had run out of water, and they tested God — trying to disprove God. The key question in Exodus 17:7: “Is the Lord [Yahweh] among us or not?”

In that case at Massah, God graciously provided water, and went further: God stood before them on the rock (Exodus 17:6). He proved his presence by providing and (in some way) by standing in their midst.

So the Jews camping were greatly blessed, but we’re told never to repeat this test of God: Deuteronomy 6:16 — “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.”

When God tested Abraham, God was asking whether Abraham trusted God. 

When God tested the two Marys, God was asking whether they trusted Him.

But when the camping Jews at Masah tested God, they were doubting God. They were demonstrating that they didn’t trust him.

How do you come to trust God? 

He gives us evidence, and His words. Examine the Bible and see if it’s worthy of your trust. Does it correspond with the reality you live in? Would a trustworthy document survive the test of time?

Examine the world, and recognize the God who made it. Is that God, who provides for all these animals and flowers, trustworthy?

Examine your life in the parts you keep from God. Are your decisions trustworthy? Does your heart convince you that your judgment is better than the wisdom of God who wants to be your Father?