Ministers of the Word, pastors and missionaries in our churches, are duty-bound to preach Christ in such manner as to labor “till Christ be formed in” their hearers. (Galatians 4:19) For Christlikeness is the ultimate rule of maturity and, in the next life, of perfection. God uses Biblical teaching and Bible-based warnings delivered by men of God in the pulpit and classroom and elsewhere to accomplish this.
Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:
Think of the people you know. Who do you trust? Who makes you feel good to be with? When you find out that someone has lied to you, how can you know when they’re telling the truth? If you lie, how can people trust you? The people we feel good to be with are ones we can trust, who are kind. They are the ones who follow through with their promises, who are always ready to help out, who go out of their way to do acts of kindness. And, when we are with them, we want to treat them the same way. If we want to be treated well, we need to be those people! When I taught, it wasn’t always easy to get through the hallway crowded with teenagers trying to get in their lockers and make their way to the next class. One day in the faculty lounge, one of the teachers was complaining about the rudeness of the kids who never even bothered to hold the door. I commented that I didn’t have that problem. The kids usually held to door for me, and of course I would hold it for them if their arms were full. She just shrugged her shoulders and said that she wouldn’t hold a door for those ruffians. The way we treat others does matter. If you are judgmental, don’t be surprised if you find yourself judged. If you gossip, you may find yourself the object of gossip. The reverse is also true. If you are forgiving, you will be forgiven. If you are kind, you will be treated with kindness. It’s your choice and mine.
Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.
Paul, of course, does not excuse sin here and supposedly assert that sin is not sin if you do it not thinking it to be sin. In truth, we all have a conscience given us by God that reveals to us the dictates of his holy law, convicts us with guilt when we violate it, and approves of our actions when we follow that law of God written on the heart of every man. But sin is sin because of the impure motivations and attitudes that necessarily attach to it and from which it flows. To the impure, whose very hearts and minds are defiled, everything is twisted into perverseness; but a pure mind will see the good in the things God has put in the world around us.
May our minds be purified day by day, being renewed by your Word and your Spirit. May our hearts be made singel in purpose, with the purpose to honor you in all things. May our consciences be kept active and healthy, and may we not ignore them to our own peril. As Martin Luther said, so may it be our motto as well, “To go against conscience is neither right nor safe. “
Not easy to love our enemies, especially when the faults of our enemies are often being placed in front of us by well-meaning friends or the media! But who really is our enemy? Usually the term enemy refers to someone we fear and fear usually comes from a lack of knowledge. This isn’t to say that there aren’t people who have enemies, who have been threatened or harmed by others. There are countries that attack other countries and violence under any circumstance needs to be stopped. But I don’t think that these are the enemies Jesus is talking about. Just because we disagree with the attitudes of others doesn’t mean that we have the right to hate. The best way to deal with enemies is to pray for them. In order to end hate in this world, we need to replace it with love and the author of love is God. I wonder what would happen if the entire Christian world prayed for an end of violence and hate every day for a year. An interesting thought, isn’t it! Perhaps all who are reading this today might make a vow to begin this Lent to pray each day, either in the morning or at night for an end of violence in our homes, our neighborhoods and our world.
I find this passage interesting. Hate goes against God’s laws. God is love, so there is no hate in God. Even in the story of Cain and Abel, God marks Cain so that no one will kill him. So how can we hate? It’s okay not to like someone, we all do that, but hate implies that we wish someone evil. That’s not okay.
To love our neighbor means that we don’t wish him any evil. This doesn’t mean that we have to approve everything our neighbor does. No, not at all, in fact this passage tells us it’s okay to rebuke someone, even a friend or family member and not get involved in behavior contrary to God’s law. Going back to Cain and Abel, revenge is also contrary to God’s will for us. So much violence would be avoided if people didn’t seek revenge.
As I mentioned the other day, today, a person who feels disrespected often gathers friends to “get even” with that person. This leads to a larger group of friends getting even with the others and so on and so on. Feuds of this sort have become commonplace among many groups of young people as we have become such a “them” and “us” society. Some feuds seem to last one generation to the next and often people don’t even remember when the bad feelings began, nor do they know the cause. How do you want to be treated? How do I? If I want to be treated kindly, with respect, then it is my responsibility to treat others the same. It’s not always easy to love those we don’t like, but that’s what God not only expects of us, but commands.
This passage from Isaiah talks about the purpose of God’s Word. Scripture isn’t written down and passed down to each generation because it’s a nice story. God’s Word has purpose just as the snow and rain do. It’s our job to discover what the purpose is for us. The overall purpose was to let us know of God’s love and saving power; that he was sending his son into the world to earn for us eternal life. His word would help us understand the forgiving nature of God and keep reminding us our responsibilities to ourselves, God and others. Lent is a perfect time to listen to this comparison of the nature of God and the elements of nature for Lent is the season of spring. We are hoping for the end of the snowy season of winter and looking forward to the rains of spring which will reawaken the earth so it will produce both beauty and food for us to enjoy. God’s Word can reawaken our joy which can become dormant during a cold winter season, and it is important that we take advantage of this season. Baptism has planted a seed in us, but unless it is nourished, it will not grow and we will not experience the joy and power that God wishes for us. The Scriptures will provide the water to nurture this seed, help it bud and bring it to fulfillment. May God’s Word in us not return to him void.
This psalm of David is considered to be his plea to God to forgive him for his sin in taking the wife of Uriah the Hittite because he lusted after her and then making sure that Uriah was killed in battle. I’m sure that none of you are guilty of such a crime. But, even if one of us were, God can forgive us. David was king of Israel at this time, and his reign did not end because of this offense. In fact, even though the child that he had conceived through his sin died, Bathsheba becomes the mother of Solomon and the Davidic line continues. Although we might not be guilty of such serious sin, who of us can say we have never sinned? David recognized his sinfulness and pleaded with God for mercy and forgiveness. We, too, need to recognize our sins, take responsibility and beg God for mercy and forgiveness.
Lent is a good time to add an “examination of conscience” to your nightly prayers. This gives us a daily review of how we are doing. What opportunities have I taken advantage of in which I could show God’s love? What chances did I miss, or totally reject? We need to remember that sins can be of omission too! The more aware we are of our behavior, the more the chance is that we will do the right thing. In college, I studied Russian and from the first month our teacher made us write down a sentence in Russian, even if it was only to say “it’s cold!” But, the need to do the assignment meant that every day we needed to think in the little bit of the language we were learning. It’s the same with the rest of our lives. If we are watching for opportunities to do the right thing, we are less apt to do the wrong.
Who has the right to boast? Someone who is a gifted artist, a musician, the top student in class, the wealthy man or woman, the top model, the award winning actor? That’s a partial list and you might add a few more. But what right do any of them have to boast? Who gave them the artistic ability, the musician’s ear or voice, the intelligence, the looks, the opportunities? The answer of course, is God. We didn’t earn the right to be born with any of these gifts. Nor are people who have fewer advantages being punished. As St. Paul says, if we are to boast – glory – let it be in the Lord. All that we have is gift! We didn’t earn it, we don’t deserve it, but we do have a responsibility to use and develop our gifts. The artist didn’t just get up one day, pick up a paint brush and bring the first attempt to the museum to be welcomed with open arms.
I have known intelligent people who sailed through high school and flunked out of college the first semester because he/she never learned how to study. We also have been gifted with faith. But faith, like any other gift needs to be practiced. I might sound like a broken record, but we do need to take advantage of this wonderful season to check and see how well we are doing. Let us show our gratitude for the gifts we have been given by thanking God and using them to the best of our ability.