Thoughts to cause us to adore our Lord and God.
15 The Lord has removed your punishment; he has turned back your enemy. The King of Israel, the Lord, is among you; you need no longer fear harm. 16 On that day it will be said to Jerusalem: “Do not fear; Zion, do not let your hands grow weak. 17 The Lord your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will be quiet in his love. He will delight in you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:15-17 (CSBBible)
We Christians must stop apologizing for our moral position and start making our voices heard, exposing sin for the enemy of the human race which it surely is, and setting forth righteousness and true holiness as the only worthy pursuits for moral beings.
We must overcome all, renounce all, in order to gain all. St. Teresa said: “Because we do not come to the conclusion of giving all our affection to God, so neither does he give all his love to us.”3 Oh, God, how little is all that is given to Jesus Christ, who has given his blood and his life for us!
Be this as it may, our life consists of the forgiveness of sins. Otherwise it’s no good.
Tozer begs the people of God to expose sin for what it is – the enemy of the human race. deLigouri tells us we have to renouce all, basically referring to what we desire, so that we gain all.
I think they understand the result, but they still are trusting in human willpower to choose what is right. That is where they make their mistake. For you and I aren’t capable of living a perfect, sinless life. If we were, why would we need Jesus? Why would we need the cross?
Yet we must come to the place they both desire. But we have to realize that perfection comes from without,
Well, sort of.
THat kind of holiness occurs only through the presence oof Jesus in our lives.
That is why Luther notes that our life is centered in the forgiveness of sins. That we have to live there, in the place where Jesus’ death pays the price, and endures the consequences. Aware of that, the power of sin to haunt us, disolves. We are forgiven, we are the people whom the prophet Zephaniah speaks,
Jesus has done this, it is why He died, so that you and I could be free form sin, how it haunts us, and how it would steal our present, our future, our eternity.
Sin isn’t about morality, it is about true freedom. When we reduce sin to a moral competition, we have lost. God doesn’t want us to be moral so He can declare us good! Rather, morality is what happens to us, when we are looking to Jesus. It is a passive transformaiton on our part, not an active choice. It is the work of the Holy Spirit, not the work of our heart and mind.
THerefore we cannot claim superior morals, as if it is our victory. It is Jesus’ victory, at the cross….
We just get to live in it..
Jesus gave His life, so that the Holy Spirit could work in ours, setting us apart, declaring us righteous and His people. Rejoice in that, and live in its truth.
Sin is our enemy… God’s taken care of sin, and Satan, and the threat of death… AMEN!
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 341.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 150.
Deal with it Lord!
Deal with our Ignorance!
† In Jesus Name †
May you realize the gentleness of the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, as you see revealed that Jesus is the source of your salvation!
- Instinct When Dealing with Ignorance
The illustration for today is simple.
You are going to teach someone who has never seen a old fashioned charcoal barbecue, how to cook a nice steak, and maybe a few beast loaf burgers on the grill.
Simple? Easy? Sure!
Except they are completely ignorant about the process.
So you tell them to make a nice pile of Kingsford charcoal in the grill, and they get the bag and do so.
Step two, you get some handy barbecue lighter fluid and tell them to squirt some on the briquets, and then using the torch, which you have demonstrated, light the fire.
A moment later you see them dousing the charcoal, and they keep dousing it, you go inside to grab a drink, come out and in their left hand they are still dousing the charcoal and in the right hand they have the torch, and they’ve lowered it into the grill, where there now ¼ of an inch of lighter fluid in the bottom.
What do you do next?
Wait!!! Before you answer than, I’ve got one question, which is more dangerous, an ignorant person with something flammable and even explosive, or an ignorant and wayward person tempted to sin?
- Will This Work with the Sinner?
I am going to assume you are all brave and honorable and would somehow try to save the person you were supposed to be teaching before he or she burns down the entire neighborhood.
But can you use the same technique with the person about to give into temptation? Can you reach the person ignorant of God’s grace yet caught up in sin the same way?
Imagine, you are the ignorant, wayward sinner about to gossip, and racing across the church comes Bob, and he is about to tackle you! Or maybe you were about to covet something, and Tom starts screaming at you to stop! I will not event get into what Manny might do if you don’t find a sabbath rest with God!
I do not think that any of them are going to stop you from sinning, in fact, they may create another response or two that is sinful!
So back to what is more deadly than lighting 3 cups of lighter fluid at close distance.
The acts of the ignorant and wayward person caught up in sin.
- Jesus Does it
Our passage in Hebrews tells us how Jesus, the great high priest will deal with him.
2 And he is able to deal gently with ignorant and wayward people because he himself is subject to the same weaknesses.
I love that, he is able to deal gently with ignorant and wayward people… like you and me.
Jesus doesn’t tackle us or scream at those caught up in sin. He deals with us, and he does it gently, with grace and compassion.
- How He does it
So how does Jesus deal with those who get caught up in sin, who don’t understand He is here to rescue us?
He does two things according to this passage. He identifies with us and our trials, and He offers the sacrifice that
Let’s deal with the identity idea first.
Remember it said that “he Himself is subject to the same weaknesses.”
Living among us wasn’t easy, even as God. Besides dealing with Satan, He had to deal with sinners like Peter and hotheads like James and John, and Matthew and Simon the Zealot on opposite sides of the political spectrum.
I imagine Jesus might have been tempted to let some of them light the barbecue grill once or twice…
Remember, he faced temptation, just as we have, without sinning. He lived our kinds of lives and didn’t give in to sin.
Knowing He went through what we do, it makes it easier to realize His compassion and sympathy for us.
While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. 8 Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.
That doesn’t sound like the easy life.
Jesus felt the pain and the anxiety of dealing with sin around Him, and He knew when death was coming, and how it would come… and for what reason.
Which leads to the second way in which Jesus helps us. He is not just offering the sacrifice for our sins.
The writer of Hebrews said this about Jesus’ role,
In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.
Going back to our illustration, as our playing with sin is likened to lighting half a bottle of lighter fluid on fire. Jesus deals with us by moving us away, and taking all the heat Himself. He protects us from the consequences of our actions and does becomes our salvation.
Every sin you’ve committed. Every single one. He takes your place and my place, taking all of God’s wrath as the ultimate sacrifice.
A sacrifice we realize as we take His Body and His blood at communion, and realize the penalty of sin was dealt with, as His body and blood were broken and spilled for us.
He moves us out of the way, and takes all the heat….
And the Holy Spirit recreates in us a holiness that reflects Jesus’s
We just confess our sins, and realize He did the hard stuff.
- Lent and Outreach
During Lent, we go back to these basics. We work through them, remembering Jesus gentleness with ignorant and wayward ones for two reasons.
The first is simple – we need to work gently with the ignorant and wayward ones in our lives. We have to not tackle them or scream at them, but bring them Jesus slowly, prayerfully and patiently. Gently, drawing them to Jesus, letting the Holy Spirit convert them.
The second is more touchy. Some of you here today are wayward, and if not ignorant of God’s mercy, it has been forgotten as we are buried under guilt and shame. If that is the case, knowing God’s nature, we stop hiding or fighting Him, and let Him bring healing into our lives.
That is where we are – either the ignorant and wayward, or called to gently minister to the ignorant and wayward…. Or of course, we are both.
Either way, Jesus is our high priest, and the one who offers the sacrifice. AMEN.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 Samuel replied, “Don’t be afraid. Even though you have committed all this evil, don’t turn away from following the LORD. Instead, worship the LORD with all your heart. 21 Don’t turn away to follow worthless things that can’t profit or rescue you; they are worthless. 22 The LORD will not abandon his people, because of his great name and because he has determined to make you his own people. 1 Sam 12:20-22 CSB
These theologians have wished to apprehend God through speculations and have paid no attention to the Word. I recommend that speculation be laid aside, and I should like to have this rule adhered to after my death.”
“The Confessio has an excellent signification; by means of the elevation the minister in a powerful manner calls attention to the words: “This is my body, etc.” as much as to say: “See, dear friends, this is the body which was broken for you.” The elevation is not a symbol of sacrifice, as the Papists foolishly affirm, but an exhortation to move the people to a hearty acceptance of the doctrine of the Real Presence. In this there is not a syllable concerning sacrifice.”
The only remedy for human nature is to destroy it and receive instead the divine nature. God does not improve man. He crucifies the natural life with Christ and creates the new man in Christ Jesus.
There is some brutality in these quotes this morning, Especially the words of Luther (in blue) and Tozer ( in green) I have seen far to often where the word of God is bypassed, if not dismissed, as the answers to life’s problems are sought. I have seen us desire to live the way we want, rather than accept that we have died and risen in Christ’s death and resurrection.
Some will say this situation isn’t addressed in scripture, that what we need to good God has given us common sense to do. The speculation insists that Christ would do something like what they want to do, justifying it with this action, (clearing the temple is a common one) or giving part of the answer (“neither do I condemn you”- omitting “go and sin no more!”
Such speculation needs to be laid aside. Sin is sin, evil is still evil.
It still needs to be dealt with, not the symptom – the sin itself, but the nature of the sin. That requires the killing off of the “old Adam”. A complete change of our heart and mind, replacing our broken, sinful selkf with Jesus’s heart, His mind and soul.
Samuel encourages us in these moments, where our sinful nature and the Spirit of God wage war in us. We are told God isn’t going to abandon us becauese we did evil . Instead focus on Jesus, worship the God who loved you enough to die, that you might live.
We have to take this seriously, you and I. We can’t, as Hebrews notes, “neglect this great salvation.” We have to realize the love of God which calls us to Him. He is determined to make you His child, to remake you in His image.
That is why Loehe would back the lifting of the Bread and Wine, the Body and blood of Christ. To help us see the presence of God in our midst, under the bread and wine… to realize His presence in us, as we commune with Him. As deLigouri would write, “OUR holy faith teaches us, and we are bound to believe, that in the consecrated Host Jesus Christ is really present under the species of bread.“
And therefore present in us…
For even as we need to realize we must die, and rise united in Jesus, so to we have to realize that unity, and God’s desire to see it happen.
Heavenly Father, help us to drop everything else in life, even for a few moments, and hear Your voice. May we hear of Your great desire and determination…. to see us as Yours. We ask this in Jesus’ name, who died for us, and even more lives with us. AMEN!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 35.
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 45.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 113.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
26 Judah said to his brothers: “What is to be gained by killing our brother and concealing his blood? 27 Rather, let us sell him to these Ishmaelites, instead of doing away with him ourselves. After all, he is our brother, our own flesh.” His brothers agreed. 28 They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. Some Midianite traders passed by, and they pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and took him to Egypt. 29 When Reuben went back to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not in it, he tore his clothes, 30 and returning to his brothers, he exclaimed: “The boy is gone! And I–where can I turn?” 31 They took Joseph’s tunic, and after slaughtering a goat, dipped the tunic in its blood. 32 Then they sent someone to bring the long tunic to their father, with the message: “We found this. See whether it is your son’s tunic or not.” Genesis 37:26-32 (NAB)
As I was working through my devotional reading this morning, I was thinking of Luther’s claim that Jesus, and the Gospel is on every page of scripture. You see above part of my reading for this morning, and I tried to see if I could see Him there…
And I did, and obscure vision of Him for sure, the kind that lends itself to Luther’s explanation that people worship God, but fail in that they do not know God’s attitude toward them.
The brothers sinned against Joseph. No doubt about that, and if their father found out, they would lose everything. Perhaps they sold him because they thought their father would love them more if he was not around. Maybe they were just tired of his getting the best of everything. Maybe his visions, shared in a condescending way, were just to much. So they stole his life from him, or at least they tried.
In trying to deal with the consequences of their sin, they chose to cover it up, to conceal it, to hide it from their Father. So they killed an animal, and its blood was what concealed their sin. It meant the Father would never, ever find out what they did, and they could find a way to live with the other guilt, if they felt any at all.
Of course it didn’t work! They would eventually be found out, they would eventually bow to their brother, and dad would find out what they did….
But they had an idea, that the shedding of blood could cover their sins…
And in that we see Jesus in this passage. His blood, shed to cover sins, cleanses, not just covers. The writer of Hebrews explains,
“For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.” Hebrews 9:13-14 (NAB)
If only they had understood God’s attitude toward them! If only they had known their heavenly Father would not only provide the forgiveness, but arrange for the resonciliation with Joseph, and with their dad, Israel. If only they had know how much God longed for them to not dwell in sin and its companions, guilt and shame. They almost had it… if only they had realized the blood that would do what they needed.
God would free them, just as He frees us…as He reveals His glory, that is His love and mercy, that are active in our lives, right now, today, even as you are reading this….
Heavenly Father, help us see and experience Your love for us, revealed in Christ Jesus. Help us to know we don’t need to cover up our sin, we don’t need a scapegoat, we don’t need to throw someone else under the bus… for You are with us. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
8 My enemies, don’t be glad because of my troubles! I may have fallen, but I will get up; I may be sitting in the dark, but the Lord is my light. 9 I have sinned against the Lord. And so I must endure his anger, until he comes to my defense. But I know that I will see him making things right for me and leading me to the light. Micah 7:8–9 (CEV)
11 Our people defeated Satan because of the blood of the Lamb and the message of God. They were willing to give up their lives. Revelation 12:11 (CEV)
It is comparatively easy for most of us to do something difficult for a day or two, but it is less likely that we will be faithful to our resolution for a month or two. And very few indeed will sacrifice comfort and ease for years on end—unless they are deeply in love, real love.
It is the herd of elephants that are in the room.
It is the sin in our lives, the sin that so easily ensnares us, breaks us down, isolates us from people.
We know that God is our light, but yet sin still has a grip on us. We are afraid to admit it, afraid to tell our pastor/priest, afraid to tell them, even though we know they are there to help us realize we are forgiven.
We would rather bury it, deny it, act as if it wasn’t there. Pastors make this easier, when we talk about “their” sin, rather than yours (never mind ours) And in this false comfort, we will glide along, oblivious to the crap we surround ourselves with, and praying, not for forgiveness, but that it never comes to light.
In the midst of this, we have Micah’s words that will encourage us to face the discipline of God. Words that encourage us to endure His anger, the pain our betrayal caused. To do so, knowing it is temporary, to endure knowing that the One who is angry WILL COME TO OUR DEFENSE!
He will make things right! He will declare us righteous. His anger will pass, (it was at the cross) and He is making us new.
The Blood has been spilled, poured out for us to take and drink, as we eat His Body. We have His word, His promises that tell us how the Spirit is the guarantee of His dealing with our sin, and restoring us.
This is our hope… if you are struggling with sin, even you are feeling God’s discipline, know He is dealing with it. Know He loves you, and the proof is that discipline that precedes the healing.
And dwell in His peace.
Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 105.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
You people aren’t faithful to God! Don’t you know that if you love the world, you are God’s enemies? And if you decide to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. 5 Do you doubt the Scriptures that say, “God truly cares about the Spirit he has put in us”? James 4:4-5 CEV
1002 To save mankind, Lord, you died on the Cross. And yet for one mortal sin you condemn a man to a hapless eternity of suffering. How much sin must offend you, and how much I ought to hate it!
I have to wonder, do we hate sin?
Do we hate any and all idolatry?
Do we hate it when people use God’s name (or titles) as cuss words, or damn others with it, or just don’t call on Him?
Do we hate it wen people don’t take time to find the rest and recovery they need, for God is their fortress? Do we get righteously angry when others steal that time that others are supposed to spend with God?
Do we hate it when people dishonor their parents, or rebel against any parental authority over them?
Do we hate it when people hurt others? What about when they refuse to help others in need? Others that God put in their life, so they could help them?
Do we hate it when people try to break up marriages, or say that marriage isn’t needed, that it isn’t a gift? Or take advantage of others for personal gain?
Do we hate it when people become victims of others, when their livelihoods are taken?
Do we hate it when people have their reputations damaged, either by lies, or by a presentation of their faults that was specifically meant to hurt them?
What about when people are envious, when people want what others have, more than they are happy that God entrusted them with that blessing?
These are hard questions, but what happens if we don’t ask them?
And one final question,
If we don’t hate sin, how can we truly rejoice in the mercy that forgives them at the cost of Christ’s death?
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
25 So, Ezekiel, tell them I am saying: How can you think the land is still yours? You eat meat with blood in it and worship idols. You commit murder 26 and spread violence throughout the land. Everything you do is wicked; you are even unfaithful in marriage. And you claim the land is yours! Ezekiel 33:25–26 (CEV)
2571 Because Abraham believed in God and walked in his presence and in covenant with him,10 the patriarch is ready to welcome a mysterious Guest into his tent. Abraham’s remarkable hospitality at Mamre foreshadows the annunciation of the true Son of the promise.11 After that, once God had confided his plan, Abraham’s heart is attuned to his Lord’s compassion for men and he dares to intercede for them with bold confidence.12
And what decides it is your love. “In the twilight of our lives, we will be judged on how we have loved”, says John of the Cross, one of the great Christian mystics and lovers. From the beginning to the end, love is the guiding thread that leads us through all the labyrinths of time and life and history.
I have to admit that Ezekiel’s words scare me.
I look around us these days, and we are not so far from the disobedience and idolatry that was prevalent then. The use of “we” there is intentional, these is as much idolatry and character assassination in church as is there is in the world. There is as much wickedness and narcissism found in the church as outside of it. We try to claim that we do the right thing, that we make all the right moves, but how can we know that, without the dependence on God, the willingness that dependence brings to let Him correct us?
We need to have a relationship with God, we need to welcome into our lives as Abraham welcomed him at Mamre. We need to know His love to the point where we trust Him to guide us through the labyrinths. St John of the cross is correct, our judgment will be based on how we have loved. Not because of our works, but because that love testifies to whether or not we’ve experienced His love for us, whether God is at work in us, transforming us. You see this in Abraham, as he welcome God to his habitation, and his annoyance at his nephew turns to concern, to trying to save his nephew’s city. This change in attitude can only occur when we realize God’s role in our life. It is not an act of our will but the transformation that happens when we know we are loved.
That has to be the solution for this time of racial unrest, for this time of bitter politics, for this time when everyone is on edge. That love of God will not only forgive that brokenness and sin, it will bring reconciliation and healing to us, and through us, to our time.
It is that simple… if you want to make a difference, spend time with the one who will make a difference for you.
Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 617.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 135.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
My friends, you are spiritual. So if someone is trapped in sin, you should gently lead that person back to the right path. But watch out, and don’t be tempted yourself. 2 You obey the law of Christ when you offer each other a helping hand. 3 If you think you are better than others, when you really aren’t, you are wrong. Galatians 6:1-3
Finally, there is a mind-boggling mystery about agape which we must look into. Somehow when we love we really give ourselves away. We do not just give of our time or our work or our possessions. No, we give ourselves. How can this be? How can I put myself in my own hands and hand it over to you?
430 Jesus, may I be the last in everything … and the first in love.
There are people who claim to be spiritual, not religious. I get it, organized religion is a challenging thing to be part of, and I am a pastor. (Not to mention having a role in the bureaucracy!)
I often wonder what it means to be spiritual because when I ask, the answers are more nebulous, very loosely defined. Some might even say to be like Jesus, loving everyone.
The passage above in red, from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the people of Galatia, puts some meat to the skeleton of “being spiritual.” Spirituality doesn’t turn a blind eye to sin, it gently restores the sinner. It walks with them, working to bring about their healing, revealing to them that God will forgive them.
This is spirituality, this is the point of holiness, and why it makes a dramatic impact in not just your life, but in lives. This is the greatest gift you can give someone, a gift you can give to family, neighbors, co-workers, and even your enemies.
This, of course, is easier said and done, which is where the other two readings from this morning come into play. In order to see this spirituality grow in our lives, we have to put the other person’s good before our own. We have to think of their eternal welfare as being more important than our comfort.
If this is what it means to be spiritual, then I am all for it, but we need to pray more, and spend more time in scripture, and receive the sacrament as often as possible. We need to know the comfort of the Holy Spirit, we need to find the strength of God in our lives, to set aside all of our own self-centeredness. But it is there, in the confidence of knowing God’s presence, that this all occurs, that this all happens.
This is spirituality, to love them as Paul loved the Jewish people who would give up his life and soul to save.
It is time for this kind of spirituality to infect the world again… starting with you and me…
Lord have mercy on us all! AMEN!
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 67.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.