Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Luke 6:46-49 Well-Founded

46 “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 

Have you ever been asked, 'Why do you call Jesus your Lord?' If Jesus is your Lord, then you would 'do' whatever he has told you to do, right? What, then, has Jesus told his disciples to 'do'? 

Assuming that Matthew's gospel was one of the documents that Luke had set before him, it is natural to wonder why he included some of Matthew's gospel and not other aspects. For instance, Mt 7:21-23 was abbreviated to Lk 6:46.

Here's what Matthew wrote in chapter 7 of his gospel. It helps us to answer the question about what Jesus has asked his followers to 'do'.  21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

Are we to conclude that to prophesy in his name, to cast out demons, and to perform miracles, were not things that Jesus asked us to 'do'? Why, then, later in Mt 10:1, did 'Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness'? Isn't this what he wanted his disciples to 'do'? Well, yes and no.

First, Jesus equated what 'he' wanted them to 'do' with the 'will of his Father in heaven'. Second, he also made clear that he 'knows' (Gk. ginosko) which individuals are truly obedient to him. In fact, thirdly, 'doing' exactly what Jesus gave authority to 'do' can actually be considered 'practicing lawlessness' if the heart hasn't chosen Jesus as Lord. To merely address him as Lord, doesn't necessarily mean we have permitted him to be Lord of our hearts. We might have been given the 'authority' to cast out demons, speak in tongues, proclaim prophecy, and have the faith to move mountains, but without a love for Christ and Christ's love working through us toward others, we are 'nothing' (1 Cor 13). 

Being 'lawful' is not about merely 'doing' what Jesus said to do, but it is primarily 'being' who Jesus has called us to 'be'. Being a kingdom person is all about a choice to trust in Jesus as our solid foundation - our Lord. Both Matthew 8 and Luke 7 later illustrate this very point with the story of the Centurion's faith. What we 'do' must arise from whom we trust - the One who has our whole heart. If not, even the obedient things we 'do' become 'lawless' deeds.
47 Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: 

Before we are able to preach Jesus, we must know Jesus. To know Jesus and to be known by him requires 'coming' to him. In other words, merely reading 'about' what he said, appreciating what he said, and sharing with others what he said, merely makes us a philosopher with a predilection for Jesus' ideas, not a Christian. Liking much of what Jesus said and even organizing your whole life around the teachings of Jesus is distinct from founding your whole existence upon the resurrected Person of Jesus.

When Luke wrote to Theophilus he intentionally and carefully parsed out this essential variance. There is an infinite difference between living out a Jesus-oriented worldview and trusting in the moment by moment voice of the living Jesus speaking into your life. Christianity is far more than a useful worldview. Christianity is knowing and being known by the Son of God who became incarnate, died upon the cross, was resurrected the third day, and ascended to the right hand of the Father and now makes intercession for us.

We can tweak a philosophy as circumstances make necessary. We cannot tweak God.

48a he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; 

48b and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 

49a But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; 

49b and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.”

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Luke 6:39-45 Eyes That Cannot See

39 And He also spoke a parable to them: “A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into a pit? 

There are different kinds of blindness. Someone can be physically blind - either because their eyes are unable to sense light or because their brains are not able to interpret what the eyes have actually captured. Yet most humans are, to varying degrees, 'blind' even though they can physically see. How can that be true?

Well, for instance, two people can look at the same thing and perceive something different. Why? Often it is because we look for what we want to see and filter out what we don't want to see (confirmation bias). For example, if we believe Jesus is returning soon, we are more apt to 'see' every news report about disasters in the world as evidence that He is finally returning, maybe even within the next few months.

Another reason for folks not 'seeing' the same thing in the same way is that some people quickly assume something 'big' must have been caused by something really huge (proportionality bias). For example, we witness a devastating tsunami and conclude that it must have been a judgment from God against some particular, unrepented evil inherent among the people who suffered the loss.

One other way that we are blinded from seeing reality is when we project our own attitudes onto others that we 'see', thus assuming that they are doing what we would do, even though they are not. For example, we may 'see' all leaders as control freaks because we, as a leader, are a control freak.

If we are not careful about how we 'see', we will be much more likely to be blind to the fact that those we follow aren't 'seeing' well either. Whether the people we follow are politicians, pastors, teachers, parents, or philosophers, we need to learn how to discern if someone is appropriately 'sighted'. If we do not carefully assess the 'sightedness' of those we follow, we will more than likely find ourselves guided by the blind, right into the proverbial pit.

In other words, Jesus was teaching his disciples to wake up and to think about their thinking, rather than to merely assume that their thinking - and seeing - was faultless simply because they had always thought in that particular manner. As mentioned last week, the gospel calls humanity to be better humans. We need to choose to think more rationally so that we can 'see' more clearly.

It would be useful if we understood what 'critical thinking' means. It would be helpful to occasionally review the many types of thinking that fall under 'logical fallacies'. For instance, an anecdote may be interesting, but it isn't necessarily evidence for a principle. If used as a proof it may be an example of an 'informal fallacy'.

40 A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher. 

A teacher can only lead you to see as much as s/he can see. If your teacher is blind to certain things, you will be blind to the same things. You will 'see' as he 'sees'. Maybe that is one of the much forgotten values of a truly liberal education. It offers you a variety of ways to 'see' the world around you so that we don't get stuck in any particular 'box'.

The 'blind' teacher will teach his students to see evil where there is justice and justice where there is evil. The 'blind' teacher will call truth error, and error truth. If the paradigm, from which the 'blind' teacher elaborates, has a sufficient degree of coherence to it, it will appear to make sense. If the teacher is well known, it will seem reasonable not to question him. If the lessons being taught have been taught for many years, by many people, it is easy to unquestionably assume they are valid.

Jesus spoke these words as a warning. Be careful whom you choose as your teacher(s). The criteria for a good teacher/mentor should not be: he is incredibly handsome; she has a degree from Harvard University; he is charismatic and very eloquent; she is famous; he has written many best selling books; or she is a brilliant and gifted individual. None of these attributes guarantee that the person will not lead you astray. 

41 Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 

This is not just a command to stop judging others, but a call to do a thorough self-examination. What kind of a person are we in this world? What kind of person do we really want to be in this life? Also, considering the previous verse, what kind of 'teachers' have we been listening to? Have they led us to be kind, gentle, patience, and compassionate in the world? Or have those we call our 'teachers' conditioned us to be fearful, judgmental, impatient, and cruel to others? Have we been led astray?

When our chosen 'teacher' is 'blind', we can expect to be molded in his or her image, to 'see' as s/he 'sees'. In other words, if our mentor is judgmental of others, we will tend to have a judgmental spirit. If our instructor is generous, we may emulate his spirit of generosity. If our chosen teacher(s) are fear-mongerers and into conspiracy theories, we will tend to be the same. If our preferred guides regularly see 'a glass half full rather than half empty', we will be more apt to see similarly. If our leaders measure others by externals rather than by looking for their heart, we will most likely not be able to see others except by their external presentation.

Regardless of who your teacher is, Jesus stops us in our tracks and reminds us 'not to throw the first stone' at another. We are all imperfect. We must all take a close look at ourselves before commenting on or attempting to 'fix' someone else. His words should give us pause. If and when they do, we may discover that our chosen 'mentor' has influenced us to 'see' wickedly rather than to see graciously - as Jesus sees. Do our teachers lead us to edify others or to tear others down? Do our leaders fill us with wrath or build up a compassionate spirit within us?

The choice is ours. The more we learn about Jesus and chose to 'see' through His eyes, the more we will be like him.

42 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. 

This verse assumes, it seems, that we can actually discover and remove the 'log' out of our own eye. It also appears to give permission to 'take the speck out of' another's eye once we have removed the log out of our own eye. If you determine that you can now see clearly, then Jesus gives you the right to go around helping others to see as you see. But is that what Jesus was saying? Many Christians think so.

True, seeing as Jesus sees is assumed to be the way to see clearly. Once we learn to see as he sees, we should invite others into a relationship with him so that they may see through his eyes too. The question, though, should be: how does Jesus see?

Curiously, once we see as Jesus sees we find ourselves altogether losing sight of the speck in our neighbor's eye. In other words, when we see ourselves clearly we become blind to others failures. Before knowing Jesus we saw all the faults of others, which Jesus called 'blindness'. After knowing Jesus we become blind to the faults of others, which Jesus called 'sight'.

43 For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. 44 For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. 

This appears as a false dichotomy. In other words, it leaves us thinking that we are either a 'good tree' or a 'bad tree'. The dichotomous nature of the statement would, unwittingly, also render all people as hopelessly 'bad trees' since we all produce 'bad fruit'. A 'good tree' could therefore not ever exist because even believers in Christ continue to produce 'bad fruit' at times.

So, is this what Jesus intended to say? Not really. Jesus already stated that 'even sinners do good - 'produce good fruit' - to those who do good to them' (Lk 6:33). Obviously 'good fruit' isn't always produced by a perfectly 'good tree'. What prompts the 'good fruit' depends upon who has the heart. When a unregenerate sinner offers 'good fruit' to someone he loves or to someone who has blessed him, it is his heart that was moved to 'do good'. One does not have to be a follower of Jesus to 'produce good fruit' in these cases. The 'natural' man obviously can do this.

Yet Jesus has been calling those who choose to follow him to produce a different order of 'good fruit' bearing. Christians are to bear 'good fruit' even to those who do not love them, even to those who are clearly our enemies. That would not be 'natural' because in those circumstances enemies would not 'have our heart'. On the other hand, if God has our heart we are enabled to love those who do not love us. We 'see' them through the heart of God rather than through our own eyes. We love 'unnaturally'. We love 'supernaturally' - which is what agape love is all about.

When others look at us and they see that we love those who love us and return good only to those who have done good to us, they easily applaud us for being just like most other human beings. Yet, if they see us producing 'good fruit' despite being hated and persecuted, then they can't help but conclude that we are a very different kind of 'tree' indeed.

We could therefore elaborate on what Luke has written and say that not only is a tree known by it's fruit, but also by the context in which it produces good fruit.

45 The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.

The carnal man has a heart, yet his heart is for that which pleases his flesh. From this heart 'good fruit' may come forth, but only for those who make him happy. The spiritual person has a heart of a whole different order. From this renewed, Spirit-led heart, it is not merely responsive to feelings, but to the will of God. A choice is made to be a certain way in the world that exponentially transcends the natural.

The question, as always, is 'who has your heart?'

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Luke 6:27-38 Beatitude Attitude

27 “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 

The previous verses, Luke 6:20-26, orient and settle the person of faith into the kingdom of God. As kingdom people we are content to trust in God alone - regardless of circumstances. In fact, we become truly free in our humanity when we leave our past, present, and future to God. Well, at least that's our goal.

But how does this work out in daily life? What does this look like in our temporal reality - where the proverbial rubber meets the road? A kingdom person is a citizen of heaven, yet also a citizen in this chaotic and often cruelly unfair world. Though my past is covered by the blood of Christ and my future is secure in God's hands, I live among people who are not, or are seldom, at peace with God. In my daily life I face evil after evil, from without and from within. What, then, does it mean to live in the world, yet not be of the world?

According to Luke, Jesus' sermon shifted from the theological to the practical. Yes, love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength - but that love isn't very real-world useful unless is gets translated into love for others, even the nastiest of others. 'Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you.' In other words, don't follow your natural, easy, mindless instincts that seek for vengeance - an eye for an eye. That natural reaction damages your humanity. Instead, mindfully choose that which enhances the best elements of your humanity. Discover the heights of human existence by loving the unlovely, making something beautiful out of what has presented itself to you.

Whatever your circumstances, first re-settle your spirit through faith in God. I say 're-settle', because few ceaselessly walk with their spirit in step with the Spirit. Yet we know that a non-anxious mind is best able to reflect and make decisions, so we choose to stop, breath, and choose to align our spirit with His.

The human experience ranges from the insane and beastly to the altruistic and saintly. Where each of us land on that continuum depends on the choices we make. The kingdom of God, the Bible proclaims, presents us with a framework for making the very best human choices. 

29 Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. 30 Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. 

Clearly, this advice runs contrary to our human nature. Thankfully, we are given a mind that can choose to behave contrary to our first inclination rather than in lock-step. Yes, it is human to be reactive. But, yes, it is also within our humanity to act contrary to our nature.

We can take what is and make something beautiful out of it. That is the universal characteristic of spirituality.

We may act like an animal or we can act intelligently. We can choose the easy, automatic way of living, or we can choose the 'road less traveled' and determine to think before we act. We can choose a tit-for-tat, retaliatory approach to life, or we can choose to forgive and move on.  We can conclude that this life is all we have, therefore we must protect what we have and take as much as we can grab - or we can conclude that having to lie, steal, covet, and/or murder just to have more 'things' in this world just is not the way we want to live.

How do you want to define your humanity? What choices in life are consistent with your integrity? Have you decided who you will be in this world regardless of what others may think of your choices? Have you settled into a Jesus-like way of being regardless of the costs? Are you willing to do without what many have in order to live with integrity?

Christ invites us to choose what kind of human we will be in our life. To live in this world, yet not be of this world, is to choose to live by the highest rather than the lowest ideals for man.

31 Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. 32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 

Once we are clear about who we want to be, we have clarity about how to treat others - i.e. according to the highest ideals we have for ourselves. Of course, if you have no respect for yourself, you will have little respect for others. If you only treat those you love as you would want to be treated, then you have unwittingly given those you don't love permission to treat you as you have treated them - as invisible, dismissively, or as unimportant.

The manner in which we believe Jesus would see us and treat us is to be our guide for seeing and treating all others. In other words, since Jesus would see us through the eyes of grace, we should see all others - those we love and those who are not so lovely to us - with grace.

34 If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. 

Grace is unmerited favor. It is loving others as people, regardless of what they have or have not done. Grace does not measure a person for worthiness before treating them with love. Grace does not evaluate what can be received back from a person before treating them with compassion. Grace operates without any ledger or scales. Grace is not transactional. The ability to treat all others with grace reflects our actual belief in God's grace toward us. As John once wrote, if you say you love God, but don't love your neighbor, you are a liar (1 Jn 2:6; 3:16; 4:8, 20). Could this also suggest that if you say you love God, but don't accept yourself as God accepts you, you are a liar?

36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. 

Verse 36 underscores and summarizes the previous verses. 'Be merciful, just as God has been merciful to you.' To not pay forward the grace received is to be ungrateful. Yet, we all have and continue to receive the grace of God whether we choose to extend grace to others or not. If God only extended grace to those who he knew would be merciful to their neighbors, then it would not be grace, but a favor done with a string attached. Grace isn't merely a 'favor' given, but 'unmerited favor' freely poured out. 

From Jesus' perspective, if we understand grace we will not judge others. God's grace is the Good News of the kingdom of God. Yet, there is one exception to both judgment and grace. Jesus severely judged religious leaders who obstructed the gospel of grace. He didn't judge those who didn't pay forward grace, only those who were in a position of religious authority, those who accepted the role and task of introducing people to God, yet who deceived God seeking people - wittingly or not - about the nature of God's love.

Some folks feel justified in their critique of those who preach tolerance, yet demonstrate their intolerance for certain people groups. Yet, how then should we understand Jesus? He preached grace, yet was intolerant of the Pharisees and scribes? Jesus certainly taught tolerance, but had no tolerance for one small, specific group of religious leaders. Why? Because they were in a position in which they represented God and proclaimed God's will to the people, yet were grossly misrepresenting Him. 

If we believe that a person cannot be a respected preacher of tolerance unless they tolerate all things without any exceptions, such dichotomous thinking tends to undermine the whole notion of tolerance. Similarly, if we believe that grace can't really be grace unless it is non-judgmentally granted to all people without exception, then we will effectively permit powerful leaders to obstruct most opportunities for the teaching of grace.

38 Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”

In a practical, day by day sense within this mortal existence, this verse may appear to be an untruth. The expression, 'no good deed goes unpunished', seems much more accurate to our reality. So, how do we understand Jesus' words, 'give and it will be given to you'? Should this only be understood as referring to the reward of the next world?

If verse 38 is the earned 'next life' reward for good works performed in this existence, then grace is clearly not grace. That being said, maybe what Jesus was referring to as 'and it will be given to you', was the internal, spiritual confirmation in knowing that one has acted with integrity - in harmony with one's choice to love others regardless of how another might respond and despite consequences. In other words, what 'will be given' to you in response to your good deeds may be death, persecution, abandonment, and/or criticism. Yet if you have acted with integrity the Spirit confirms your spirit - and that is sufficient.

Notice what kind of 'giving' is presented as descriptive of Christian 'giving'. That which is returned to you is, in quality, what you have given - 'pressed down, shaken together, and running over'. In other words, when you give, given liberally. Don't pretend to give a lot, yet in actuality you haven't given much. Don't 'stack' your gift so that it looks abundant, yet when 'pressed down and/or shaken' it collapses into a meager 'gift'. True giving, like God's grace, is super-generous. It expresses over-flowing love for the recipient. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Luke 6:20-26 Blessings and Woes

20 And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 

When I acknowledge my 'lacks' (Gk. 'ptochos'), rather than to pretend otherwise, I am blessed. When I am content in my 'lacks' - being without position, power, possessions - rather than to be constantly grasping for more, I am most blessed. On the other hand, if I live each day in anger because of my 'lacks' or obsessed with removing all sense of 'lack', I cannot live in peace.

To have the assurance that I am a citizen of the kingdom of God despite my earthly 'lacks' is to be blessed - to live in joy, peace, and faith. This isn't to say that I don't work hard or refuse to accept more when it is offered, rather that my life is not driven by promises, hopes, rewards, fear, or anger. A kingdom person lives in satisfaction rather than always striving for something that will someday bring satisfaction. When our lack drives us, then we are most susceptible to false promises, hollow hopes, and the ever present charlatan.

A kingdom person acknowledges the often ugly reality of the here-and-now, yet lives with a sense of wholeness, completeness, with what 'is', thereby transforming ashes into beauty (Is 61:3).

Fear turns our lack into a bad thing. Trust in God turns our lack into a blessing from which we can learn. When we receive our lack as a gift we are free to make something beautiful out of it - the basis of true spirituality. On the other hand, when we hate our lack and see it as a curse, we become distracted by it and obsessively strive for the imaginary.

The paradox in this is, in having nothing, they had everything. 'For yours IS the kingdom of God.' 

21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. 

This verse reinforces the previous kingdom perspective. Though our temporal lack may be food, when we settle into kingdom thinking we always have 'food' that satisfies (Jn 4:32). Confident belief and trust will permit you to have the energy you need to focus on the here and now. Despair, fear, and anxiety sap our energy. We need 'all hands on deck' for what 'is', rather than working for that which 'isn't'.

The same kingdom message applies to mourning the loss of loved ones. Permit yourselves to grieve, to weep, and to be human as you experience the absence of someone you have loved. Loss is our reality. We 'laugh through our tears' because we accept reality rather than to waste energy pretending it is not true or that we can somehow create a utopia where nothing bad ever happens. Belief in an afterlife, rather than stifling the grieving process, actually frees us to grieve.

What Jesus appears to be saying in these beatitudes seems to dovetail what he has been saying regarding sin and grace. In other words, because of the safety net of grace I can accept the fact that I am a sinner - that I fall short of God's ideal in many ways each day. Being settled under the covenant of grace I no longer have to fear judgment, nor live in guilt or shame. God's grace permits me to live in the here and now more authentically. I am free to be human. No more energy is wasted in anger because of my past, frustration because of my current circumstances, or fear of a future judgment since I am not perfect. The kingdom of God invites me to be fully human in the present.

22 Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. 

When we are secure in our faith in God's grace and content with what we have and who we are, what others think is of little importance. The apostle Paul expands this notion in his letter to the Romans (Rom 8:26-39). Once our metaphysical concerns are settled, then we - like Paul - can say, 'for I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

There isn't any empirical evidence that establishes our faith as fact. If that was true, then we wouldn't need faith. Yet we have faith - 'the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen' (Heb 11:1), in what is 'truth' for us. There is much in scripture that is not 'fact', yet it is 'truth'. Belief based on empirical evidence is not Christian faith. The devil believes in the existence of God, according to scripture, but 'he' does not have 'faith' in God. Christian faith takes God at his word without requiring any empirical evidence that what God says is right or wrong. It is total trust in Someone we can't even prove exists. Our faith is all the evidence we need for the truth of what we believe.

When we examine 'faith' from this perspective we can better understand why those who don't live by faith in God may insult us. Never-the-less we choose to live by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7). Our faith is not up for discussion or debate because it was never something that was based on facts to begin with. We don't have any primary sources. We were not eye witnesses to the events of the first century. We have not traveled to heaven and consulted with God face-to-face. Yet we trust in what we believe. We live by faith.

23 Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. 

When you find yourself hated, insulted, scorned, and banished, 'be glad' and 'jump for joy'?  Wouldn't you, then, receive even more insults and be declared certifiably insane? How could any intelligent, psychologically healthy person 'be glad' under such abuse?

First, a kingdom person recognizes that our temporal context is an accident of birth. In other words, a believer accepts the fact that life isn't fair. Some are born into plenty, some into lack. Some born into plenty meet with unfortunate circumstances and lose everything. Some born into lack are lucky enough to win the lottery. Rejoice not in your circumstances - however good - but as a citizen of the kingdom of God. Rejoice even in your misfortune because you are no longer blinded by false notions of temporal life.

Second, a kingdom person isn't reactively driven by the past or the future, but is moved to responsibly act in the here-and-now. A kingdom person isn't driven by anger at his/her circumstances, nor obsessed with future fixes. Why? Because s/he is content as a believer. In other words, one is not striving for a reward, but is enjoying the 'reward', the gift of the moment. The 'reward that is great in heaven' is the recognition that one hasn't lost anything that must be found, or has been cheated out of something than must be taken back, or must perfect oneself in order to finally qualify for something 'great'. Rather, the reward that is great in heaven is that the kingdom of heaven is now. Live in the moment as a kingdom person. 'Yours IS the kingdom of heaven' (v. 20). Life is what it is.

In Hannah Hurnard's book, 'Mountain of Spices', there is this passage:
In acceptance lieth peace,
  O my heart be still;
Let thy restless worries cease
  And accept his will.
Though this test be not thy choice,
It is his -- therefore rejoice.
In his plan there cannot be
  Aught to make thee sad:
If this is his choice for thee,
  Take it and be glad.
Make from it some lovely thin
To the glory of thy King.
Cease from sighs and murmuring,
  Sing his loving grace,
This thing means thy furthering
  To a wealthy place.
From thy fears he’ll give release,
In acceptance lieth peace.

24 But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. 25 Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. 

The first shall be last, and the last shall be first. Obviously, or so it seems to me, Jesus was not condemning people of wealth any more than he was condemning folks who regularly ate a good meal or those who often laughed.

Rather, his concern was for those who were distracted by their 'plenty' without regard for those who suffered in 'lack' (Luke 12:33,34). Verses 27-38 address this issue more precisely. Kingdom people are 'content' with what they have, making the best with what they have been given, yet never isolated from those around them. Even the poorest kingdom person should show concern for a neighbor.

Yet there is more to all this. If the poor are obsessed with the wealth of others, they have missed the point of being a kingdom person. If the rich are obsessed with keeping their riches away from those who are poor, they have also missed the point. We can never be truly 'content' isolated from those around us.

26 Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.

Luke's account may have been presented as a warning. Beware! When folks flatter you they are often trying to manipulate you in some manner - either intentionally (maliciously or well-meaning) or unwittingly. For instance, some of their Jewish ancestors spoke nice things to false prophets in order to encourage the false prophets to prophesy good things in return, to sway their community in a direction that would be favorable to the manipulator.

On the other hand, Jesus may have been suggesting that if people praise what you are teaching, then, perhaps, what you are teaching isn't very biblical. Why? Because the gospel goes against human nature. Under the New Covenant we are called to live apart from law, but under the Spirit. That seems 'messy'. Also, under grace we are to extend grace even to our enemies. That just seems 'idiotic'. As followers of Christ we are to look beyond the outward appearance, the sins, and the idiosyncrasies of others and look for the 'heart' - treating each person as if they were Christ Himself. That really goes against our nature. How can we love what we see as 'unlovely' and/or even 'bad'?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Luke 6:12-19 Choosing Disciples

12 It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. 

How does one go about creating a team that can build upon what you have initiated? Among all those who follow you, which ones should you most closely mentor? How many individuals can one leader hope to effectively mentor?

In order to make this decision, Jesus spoke to the wisest Being in the universe - his heavenly Father. This wasn't a quick, two minute discussion. He spent the whole night in conversation with God. Why? What took so long? Was it a discussion, an argument, or a consult? During his prayer, had the Spirit specified to Jesus which disciples had been chosen to be apostles?

13 And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles: 

After wrestling with the issue, in the presence of God, Jesus gathered together all who were his disciples at the time and chose twelve men from among them. It was not mentioned how many disciples were gathered, just that twelve were called to be apostles. We know there were others, because after the death of Judas a replacement was chosen from the other disciples who had been with Jesus from the beginning (Acts 1:21-23).

Not all who are disciples are called to be apostles (1 Cor 12:29). Some would be teachers, prophets, pastors, or called to some other ministerial role (1 Cor 12:28).  According to Paul, the Spirit determines which gift(s) are given to each disciple (1 Cor 12:11). All disciples, though, whatever their gifting(s), are called into a ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18).

I wonder if Jesus explained spiritual gifting to his disciples at that time. I wonder if he had any words of encouragement for the women who were present, who also were disciples. Was Mary called to serve as a secret apostle?

14 Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James and John; and Philip and Bartholomew; 15 and Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot; 

Luke wrote that Jesus, after a night of prayer, chose each of the twelve. They were not chosen by lot - as the disciples later did to replace Judas' position (Acts 1:24-26). No women were chosen, nor seemingly even considered. No one campaigned for a position as an apostle. In fact, there weren't - apparently - any discussions with the disciples. This was entirely a God ordained thing. If one chose to be a disciple, if 'choice' is this matter is even a valid notion, there was no choice in spiritual gifting.

Many chose to follow Jesus as his disciples, but only twelve were chosen to be his apostles. This is not to suggest that the apostolic calling was closed at twelve men for all time. The gift of apostleship was assumed to occur long after this, in the writings of Paul. Paul himself was called to be an apostle. Some conclude that at least one woman, Junia, was also an apostle (Rom 16:7). Centuries after Christ, Mary Magdalene was labeled an apostle to the apostles.

Some interesting facts about the twelve men who were chosen include, that some were siblings, most were from Galilee with the possible exception of Judas, all were relatively common men, and at least one had a rather shady background.

An important question arises with this pericope. How can I know what my gift(s) is?

16 Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. 

The gospel of John informs us that Jesus chose Judas to be one of his apostles knowing from the beginning that Judas Iscariot would betray him (Jn 6:64,71). As Luke has written, Jesus spent the night in prayer discussing the selection with his Father. Maybe it was a night like Gethsemane where Jesus intensely wrestled with the Father this one particular selection. How difficult it must have been to look at Judas day after day and know exactly what he would do.

John wrote that the choice of Judas was made in order to fulfill scripture - a fulfillment that added more evidence that Jesus was the Messiah of prophecy. In other words, to fulfill a purpose, God can order either good or bad to happen (Is 45:7). Prayer, it seems, can be a dangerous thing. That which God may ordain may not be what we prefer. If we are asking for God's will, it will not always be something that is pain free and may often present us with a choice that will not make sense.

17 Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place; and there was a large crowd of His disciples, and a great throng of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were being cured. 

Is there a difference between being healed and being cured? The Greek word translated by the NASB as 'heal' is 'iaomai'. It conveys the idea of 'making whole', of actually curing a person. The Greek word translated by the NASB as 'cure', is 'therapeuo'. It may be better translated as 'healed' or 'restored to health', but not necessarily physically 'cured', though that may be included. Therapeuo appears to be more holistic, serving the whole being. 

The 'great throng of people' came not only to 'hear', but to be 'cured'. By hearing the gospel of the kingdom many found 'healing' for their soul. In other cases Jesus 'cured' bodies, restoring them back to physical health, yet not necessarily 'healing' their souls. 

Much of what a Christian 'does' in relationship with others today is more 'therapeutic' to the soul, heart 'healing', but not necessarily physical 'curing'. That being said, the Spirit's gift of healing granted to some folks (1 Cor 12:9) was primarily 'iaomai' physical healing.

19 And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all.

Again, the 'healing' that was effected in this setting was physical curing, not necessarily heart healing. Jesus physically cured 'them all'. That was grace. Some appreciated his compassionate act and responded with saving faith. Others merely took the cure without ever showing any gratitude toward or faith in the One who cured them (Lk 17:11-19).

Grace is unmerited favor. Anyone who came to him for a cure received a miraculous healing irrespective of their faith in Him as the Messiah. Grace is unconditional. Some, though, came to Jesus 'unconditionally'. In other words, they were drawn to him from something deep within them, something that 'insisted' that they approach him, yet without any expectation of a reward for coming. They came empty-handed and without any demands. They merely responded to the drawing of the Lord (Jer 31:3). They just couldn't help but come. The unconditionality of their approach met the unconditional love of God. The result was true healing.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Luke 6:1-11 Lord of the Sabbath

1 Now it happened that He was passing through some grainfields on a Sabbath; and His disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating the grain. 2 But some of the Pharisees said, “Why do you do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 

It seems that the Pharisees may have succumbed to stalking Jesus at this point in his ministry. They were apparently intent on finding anything they could to accuse him of being a counterfeit messiah. They could have only ventured into that manner of thinking if they had first assumed they themselves were completely acceptable to God and thus the standard against which every other Jew should rightly be judged.

The Pharisees accused Jesus' disciples of Law breaking. Implicit in their accusation was the belief that the disciples knew right from wrong regarding Sabbath observance, yet had acted contrary to known truth. For a Jew to disobey well-established Sabbath teaching he would have had to have been criminally deceived by a very persuasive, evil pretender. Thus the Pharisees concluded Jesus was the culprit - that he had intentionally taught his disciples permission to disobey the Sabbath Law.

It was a reasonable question, under their religio-cultural circumstances, to ask, 'why do you do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?' They assumed Jesus had led them into this error, but they could not understand 'why' Jewish men, raised under the Law, could be persuaded to act contrary to one of the most defining elements of Jewish identity (Ex. 31:13; Ez 20:12,20). To break the Sabbath was to reject being a Jew. What could Jesus have said that would lead a life-long Jewish person to not keep the Sabbath in the midst of a Jewish province? 'Why' would any Jew act unlawfully, knowing the consequences (Ex 31:14; 35:2)?

First, what did the law say regarding the Sabbath? 'Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God, in it you shall not do any work...for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth...and rested on the seventh day; therefor the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy' (Ex. 20:8-11).

What did Moses have in mind when he wrote, 'in it you shall not do any work'? How was 'work' defined? Actually, in Exodus 16:22-29 clarified what 'work' on the seventh day meant. To work on the sabbath included going out to gather food rather than to have prepared food the day before (Ex 16:23,29). More exact details followed. The Jews were not even to kindle a fire (Ex 35:3); to not buy or sell on the sabbath (Neh 10:31); or to tread a wine press or to carry a load (Neh 13:15; Jer 17:21). In other words, were the Pharisees merely concerned with one of their extrabiblical traditions being neglected, or were they accusing Jesus' disciples of acting contrary to scriptural teachings regarding the Sabbath?

3 And Jesus answering them said, “Have you not even read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him, 4 how he entered the house of God, and took and ate the consecrated bread which is not lawful for any to eat except the priests alone, and gave it to his companions?” 

Jesus defended his own law breaking by pointing to the fact that David broke the law too. Say what? Jesus' defense was, 'I was only doing what someone important also did'? In other words, if you condemn me for law breaking, then you have to condemn our revered ancestor, King David, for law breaking as well. If that had been his intent, it would have been a juvenile argument.

Jesus was actually implying something far more important - something that would shake the whole Jewish 'worldview'?

Jesus confronted the Pharisees with the fact that even their ancestor, David, understood that people are more important than law. The law is for the people, people were not created for the law. Circumstances change things. We must first think about how best to serve one another, not how best to conform to a law.

As was Jesus' practice, as far as we can glean from scripture, he threw out an idea and left the Jewish leaders to think about it. He didn't tend to give them a line upon line bible study on any topic. Rather, their hearts were being tested by the parables or examples he used to challenge their accusations. If they really were interested in the truth, they would be willing to wrestle with God and be willing to follow Him wherever He led them, even if He led them into a whole new way of thinking. Sadly, the Jews weren't as much interested in truth as they were in their current religious beliefs.

5 And He was saying to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” 

To be 'Lord of' anything is to be superior to it, to be in command of it rather than 'it' being in command of you. In other words, Jesus claimed to be the definer of the Sabbath, not Moses, and certainly not the contemporary religious leaders of Israel.

Under Law, the Jews rested on the Sabbath 'day', the 7th day. Under grace, Christians rest in Christ 24/7. The former was a 'shadow' of the latter. The former was 24 hours. The latter 24/7. Resting on the 7th was, of course, good for the body and the mind, in this life. Resting in the Person is good for the soul now and eternally.

Living a Spirit-led life under grace is far healthier for mind, body, and spirit than ceasing to 'work' one day per week. The law required one day of rest while leaving six days of work unregulated. The Spirit paces us moment by moment.

The seventh-day Sabbath was a faith-tool that taught the Jews not only to believe that God existed, but that they could trust God to care for them better than they could care for themselves. By resting from their own works one day/week they were taught how to rely on God to take care of them. There was even a sabbath year in which the Jews were not supposed to even plant a garden. That, of course, took tremendous trust in God. If God was merely a nice metaphorical notion rather than a real Being, they could never have trusted that he would supply all their food needs for an entire year apart from their own efforts to plant and harvest.

In other words, the sabbath law was a prelude to transitioning from life under law to faith in God's grace - that the righteousness of Christ covers all our sins past, present, and future. We are not saved by our own good works, but by God's grace alone.  When modern day Christians keep a seventh day or first day as a Sabbath law requirement, they effectively deny the new covenant and fall from grace (Gal. 5:4). 

When Christians separate the 10 commandments out from the rest of the law claiming that the moral law is still in effect, but only the ceremonial elements of the law are jettisoned, they miss the point of Moses own teaching that the 10 commandments are the old covenant (Dt 4:13). The whole old covenant has become obsolete (Heb. 8:13). The gift of the Spirit transforms the believer so that s/he loves others from the heart, not because of a law (Rom 7:6). Love more than fulfills what the law once commanded (Rom 13:10). 

No wonder Jesus claimed to be the Lord of the Sabbath. When he becomes lord of our life we are at peace with God from the heart at all times. The sabbath pointed forward to Jesus as the creator of true rest. Why would we want a 'day' rather than the Person? Why would we chose the created day over the Creator? We are Christians in that we follow Christ. He is our Lord, not Moses, nor the Law.

6 On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. 7 The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him. 

Luke clearly wanted to address the Sabbath issue head on. But why? It is easy to dismiss much of the old covenant Law after dividing it up into civil, health, ceremonial, and moral elements, and then hold on to only the categories one prefers, such as the moral element. Yet, as already noted, the 'moral' element 'is' the old covenant (Dt 4) and the Sabbath law is in the middle of the 'moral' law.

But, doesn't the NT tell us to 'keep God's commandments'? Yes, but what are his 'new covenant commandments, as understood by those who penned the NT? Whenever we read the word 'commandments' are we to think 'the ten commandments' given by Moses, or something else? John's epistle answered that question. 'His commandment is that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us' (1 Jn 3:21-24). In 'breaking the Sabbath Law' Jesus was, paradoxically, 'keeping the commandment' of God to love his neighbor.

Most Christians believe we must keep the 'moral' part of the old covenant because positive references are made reinforcing its commands in the NT - except for the 4th commandment (Rom 13:9), though Hebrews 4:9 may counter that conclusion. This common approach is challenged by Jesus' remarks in Mt 5 that not one 'jot or tittle' of the law is to be removed. How can one throw out all of Moses Law, yet keep one portion, particularly if Paul is correct in warning that to be under the law in any respect obliges a person to come under the whole law (Gal 5:3; Jas 2:10).

Others believe that the 4th commandment was changed under the new covenant so that we now keep the 4th commandment on the first, rather than the 7th day of the week. The 10 commandments are thus retained because Jesus said 'not one jot or tittle must be removed'. Yet, changing the day to Sunday has no actual Biblical support and does represent more than a 'jot or tittle' change.  

Still others don't see that the old covenant is obsolete as a whole, but that certain aspects of it merely are set aside only when it is clear that 'shadow' met form (Col 2:17; Heb 8:5; 10:1). In other words, we no longer maintain the 'ceremonial' aspects of the law only because their role was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus as the true Lamb. So, that which is now obsolete only refers to that which is no longer clearly needed, while other parts of the Law are retained as still relevant. In this manner of thinking some argue that we must still keep some of the Jewish festivals that don't appear to have been fulfilled.

When it comes to the Sabbath, some folks believe that since it is in the 'moral' part of the old covenant it must still be obeyed, and obeyed only on the day stipulated by God on the tablets of stone, on the 7th day, not the first. Thus, when they read the gospels that seem to portray Jesus as 'breaking' the Sabbath law, they only perceive him as breaking man made traditions surrounding the Sabbath, not the God-given law itself. The remainder of this pericope is often used to support that point of view.

8 But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And he got up and came forward. 9 And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?” 

People were not created for the law, rather the law was created for people. Jesus did not come to uphold the law, rather the law was given to point to Jesus. With that perspective in mind Jesus blatantly juxtaposed the sabbath law and his compassionate act of healing. Compassion for a person was set as more important than strictly keeping a law. The only value for any law is that it helps humanity. When a law becomes a curse to humanity, it is being wrongly used.

There is, of course, another layer of understanding given to verse 9. Did Jesus, perhaps, confirm the Sabbath law by his act of compassion? Was he only cleaning off the rubbish of human misunderstanding of the law, man-made traditions, rather than dismissing it completely? Was he uplifting the 4th commandment by clarifying what it was originally all about?

The fourth commandment tells us that God ceased from his work of creating, thus making the Sabbath holy. So, wouldn't Jesus' act of 'creating' have also been a dismissal of the sabbath commandment? He could have easily healed this man the next day or just after sunset. As with his disciples not preparing food on the preparation day, Friday, but picking and eating grain as they traveled on the sabbath day, Jesus seemed primarily focused on shifting the Jews from making law their primary value, to placing love for neighbor as their  primary value.

10 After looking around at them all, He said to him, “Stretch out your hand!” And he did so; and his hand was restored. 11 But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.

Whatever Jesus' intention at the time, regarding the Sabbath law, the message did not get received well by the religious elite. They were filled with rage. They did not interpret Jesus' healing as a revelation of the beauty of the Sabbath, but as a blasphemous disregard of the law. They clung to the Law as more important than anything else. The law had become their idol, blinding them from knowing God and his messiah.

Was Jesus an antinomian? The Law commands us not to lie, but if I lie to save the life of a woman who is hiding from an abusive boyfriend, am I a lawbreaker or have I obeyed a greater law? There is the Law of Moses that says, ‘do not lie’. There is also the Law of Christ (Gal 6:2) that says, ‘love your neighbor’ (1 Jn 3:11-24; Rom 13:10). The latter trumps the former. Paradoxically, if we live by the former, we actually break the law because we have valued obedience to the law more than love for our neighbor. Is this not the message that Luke was attempting to convey in his gospel.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Luke 5:33-39 Circumstances Change Things

33 And they said to Him, “The disciples of John often fast and offer prayers, the disciples of the Pharisees also do the same, but Yours eat and drink.” 

We all tend to compare ourselves with others. We may use the differences we observe to either challenge ourselves or as ammunition to judge others. None of us, of course, are exactly like any other person. Each of us are unique and God leads each of us as unique beings.

In this pericope the Pharisees examined other people in reference to themselves, first assuming that their own lifestyle illustrated the 'gold standard' of righteousness and anything that fell short of what 'they' did, required a rebuke. They could give the disciples of John a pass because John's disciples did as the Pharisees did - they fasted. John's father, of course, was a priest. Fasting and praying had been part and parcel of his life as a religious leader among the Jews.

It wasn't that Jesus' disciples didn't believe in fasting and prayer. But with Jesus as their guide they were learning that circumstances change things. When folks live by law they act with a 'one size fits all' attitude, regardless of circumstances. When we live by the Spirit we follow His lead which is tailored to the person and to the situation we are faced with. When we live by law we are more apt to become the 'living dead'. When we walk in the Spirit we become truly 'human' and 'alive'.

34 And Jesus said to them, “You cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? 

Sometimes our questions receive answers that lead us into unanticipated territory. Jesus frequently answered the questions and/or accusations from the Pharisees and scribes in a manner that was unexpected. 

It is said that a story is worth a thousand words, yet a story offered in response to a question may raise more questions than it was intended to answer.  On the other hand, a good story may subtly suggest ideas that couldn't be presented directly. Jesus' response to the Pharisees was a story that, on the surface, elicited an response of 'of course', yet upon further reflection implied much more. Intentionally implied truths offer deniability.

Weddings are happy times. They are all about celebrating, nor mourning. They are about hope, not doubt. The are about food and drink and laughter, not fasting and quiet meditation.

In other words, the disciples of Jesus didn't fast due to the fact that Jesus was like a bridegroom. They were overjoyed that the One in whom they had desired had finally arrived. It would have been nonsensical to fast when it was time to celebrate. To fast as others rejoiced would have been an affront to the bride and groom.

The story well explained why the disciples didn't fast, but it raised the question - 'in what way is Jesus the expected 'bridegroom'? It was obvious. Jesus was claiming to be the long awaited Messiah. Every Jew should be happy, right? They no longer needed to fast and pray for his arrival.

35 But the days will come; and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.” 

This is another of Jesus' salvo's against living under the Law. 'But the days will come...then...'  Circumstances change things. The old covenant had a purpose that was met in Christ, which in turn required the implementation of the promised new covenant.

The Law was good in that it was a guideline for life. It kept God's people together until the Person of the Messiah came. The shadow met the real. The 'tool' met the tool Maker. Obedience to Law shifted to faith in the Lawgiver. The focus of the people had been placed on one unchangeable, uniform standard, printed in words, on a rock. It had served as a consistent guide, generation after generation.Then a new Guide arrived. A perfect Guide.

The Law was a curse due to the exact same reasons it had been a blessing. The Law presented an unchangeable rule that brought a sense of security in a very uncertain world. Yet the Law was an inflexible, a one-size-fits-all, kind of deal. People are not all the same and it is impossible to have a law for every person in every circumstance. Something better was needed, longed for, and promised (Jer 31:31-34; Ez 36:26,27; 37:14).

The Law, for all intents and purposes, had served as 'God' for the people. The religious leaders were the 'angels' (messengers) of God, carrying out his will. Then Jesus came and changed everything. God dwelt among man, and then within man. He taught, not in a Temple made by human hands, not in letters written on stone, but from within the heart of man. God abides in life, the Law did not. God the Spirit was sent by Jesus to be our daily Guide, fine-tuning his guidance to each individual in each of their peculiar circumstances - encouraging, reminding, and empowering each person. Religion, prior to Jesus, was all about the Law and the Temple. Religion, after the resurrection of Jesus, was all about the individual and the heart as God's temple.

Circumstances surely change things. There is a time to fast and a time not to. There is a time to mourn and a time to celebrate. A 'law' may demand that we should fast every Friday. Yet the Spirit would say, 'fast when I prompt you to fast whether or not I have prompted anyone else to fast'. A 'law' may demand, 'place 10 percent of your gross weekly income in the tithe basket each Sunday morning'. The Spirit would say, 'support what I prompt you to support, when I prompt you, and for as long as I prompt you, whether or not I have prompted anyone else to give anything'.

36 And He was also telling them a parable: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 

Did you miss the point from the bridegroom illustration? Well, how about another parable?

Why would anyone ruin a new garment in order to fix an old one? Say you just purchased a new blue shirt/blouse for $60. Then, upon arriving home, you cut out a 4 x 4 inch piece of fabric from the front of your newly purchased shirt/blouse and then stitched it over a 3 x 3 inch hole in a well-worn, faded red, 10 year old shirt. Would that make any sense? In other words, in everything we do there needs to be some common sense applied. Just because something is old doesn't mean we should keep it. There is a time and place for everything. Some things actually belong in the past. They were once very good in their time. 

37 And no one puts new wine into old wine skins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wine skins. 

Here is another parable to illustrate this same theme - that circumstances change things. An old wine skin has served it's purpose well. But when the new wine is ready, it cannot be placed in the old wineskin because new wine continues to ferment and needs to be in a wineskin that can expand. The old wineskin has lost it's ability to be flexible. If a person insists on putting the new wine into the old wineskin, the old wine skin will break open and both the wine and the wine skin will be lost. This would be like pouring precious water into a broken cistern (Jer. 2:13).

Jesus was clearly preparing the people for a deep shift in their worldview. When God changes the way he works it doesn't mean that God changed. The change from the Abrahamic Covenant to the Mosaic Covenant was necessary because of the circumstances (Gal 3:15-25).  Under the new covenant everything was about to change again. The way of the Spirit would not 'fit' into the way of the Law. The Spirit would live in the new wine skin heart of believers, not in the old wine skin of the temple. The Spirit would be active, living, and powerful, unlike the Law that was static, dead, and impotent to change anything. The Spirit cannot be contained in the old system. Trying to live a Spirit-led life under the Law is to have abandoned, fallen from, grace (Gal 5:4).

The apostle Paul wrote that the Law is 'good' when it is used 'lawfully' (1 Tim 1:8). The Law leads to the setting aside of itself for that which the Law pointed to - Christ and His Spirit (Jer 31:31-34; Gal 3:23-29). In other words, the law served it's purpose, but it eventually became obsolete (Heb. 8:13), as the Law itself said would happen. Christ in us is far better than the Law written on stone.

39 And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough.'

Luke added one more idea to the mix, one that accurately describes the way many people thought then and still think now. If it is old, it must be good and should be preserved. Yet, that kind of thinking may actually be a logical fallacy. Just because something is old - even ancient - doesn't make it 'good'. It might be good. It might have been good, but that doesn't require it to be good now. Of course, what we once thought was good in the past may never have been good in the first place.

That being said, we shouldn't necessarily change things for change sake. On the other hand, we should always be open to best practices for the here and now - practices that are helpful to human beings. When we cling to the past for the past's sake, we turn the church into a museum. The church is supposed to be a place of healing, not a place of ancestor worship.