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Then And Only Then

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February 2013
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Today’s Bible reading: Leviticus 6-7:27; Mark 3:7-30; Psalm 37:1-11; Proverbs 10:3-4

We read more laws today in Leviticus and learn more about ourselves in the process We learn about our natural state as well as the kind of people God wants us to be. And, by extension, we learn about God’s character.

In Leviticus 6:1-6 we see what God says about those times when we steal or commit fraud or cheat someone. We must give back what we stole (verse 4) plus 20% extra (verse 5). Note that “on the same day” the Jews were to present a guilt offering to the Lord. Yesterday we learned what the guilt offering was. This demonstrates that when we damage our relationship with a fellow human being we damage our relationship with God. Therefore both relationships need to be restored.

In Leviticus 6:9 we read that the burnt offering burned slowly. It actually burned all night long. Remember the burnt offering was completely burned up – 100% of it. Nothing was left to eat. It was a symbol of giving 100% of oneself to God. The giving of oneself takes time (years). It isn’t a “quick fix”. And the slow-burning burnt offering was meant to remind people of that.

Only those who were “clean” (according to the law) could participate in the peace offerings mentioned in Leviticus 6:11-27. This is because the only way to have peace with God is to be cleansed from your sins. Only Jesus can cleanse. In a few weeks we will read the book of John which records that Jesus stated that the only way to God is through Him [Jesus] (John 14:6). Once you allow Jesus to cleanse you (i.e. pay for your sins so you are freed from the corresponding penalty) then, and only then, can you have peace with God.

All these laws in Leviticus were to be constant reminders of God’s character, God’s standard for us, our inability to meet this standard, and, therefore, our need for someone to do something for us so we could meet the standard and enter into peaceful fellowship with God. That someone was Jesus. That something was to live a perfect life in a human body and die an unnecessary death.

Crowds from all over Galilee came to Jesus in Mark 3. They came not only from Israel but also from Gentile cities (Tyre, Sidon). Notice that the people came because of the miracles Jesus was performing (Mark 3:8) and not because of who He was (the long awaited Messiah). Perhaps these people were not well-trained in the Scriptures (what we call the Old Testament). They came to Jesus to have their immediate needs met, which is not a bad thing. But they had a greater need – eternal security – that Jesus was also offering. But from our readings we don’t see that the people were aware of, or cared about, that.

Even though many people followed Jesus only twelve were called out to be disciples. A disciple was a student but one who learned from first-hand observation and experience as opposed to learning in a class room. The job of these twelve was to “accompany” Jesus (Mark 3:14).

Mark 3:17 gives the list of the twelve lucky ones who got to learn from Jesus first-hand. As mentioned a couple of times previously, all but Simon (Peter) were probably teenagers. Notice that Jesus didn’t pick trouble-free men. James and John were brothers and had the collective nickname “Sons of Thunder”. This probably indicated that they had some temperament issues. From our Gospel readings we see (and will continue to see) that Peter was a bit of a hot head. Thomas (aka “Doubting Thomas”) maybe wasn’t quite on board with Jesus’s whole program. And, of course, Judas would go on to betray Jesus. I think this tells us a lot. We don’t need to be perfect before coming into a relationship with God. God knows all our faults and limitations. Yet He wants to be with us. These things don’t matter to God. What matters is that we have a heart that is committed to Him. More often than not we hold ourselves back because of our “problems”. But these things never hold God back.

We’ve already seen how the political and religious leaders hated Jesus and gave Him a hard time. In Mark 3:21 we read that He even took heat from His own family who thought He “was out of His mind”. Jesus had given up His family life and career to go around, without a home, to teach and help others. He was threatened by the leaders of the community. He surrounded Himself with 12 young, ragtag, nobodies. He was mobbed everywhere He went. So much so that sometimes He couldn’t even eat (Mark 3:20). All this led His family to think He was crazy. He seemingly changed overnight.

But that is the same thing that happens when one of us is born-again. We go from being one thing to being another. I went from being an atheist who lived by the philosophy that there was no God or heaven so people should be allowed to do whatever we want. After all, if life came about by random chance then it cannot possibly have any meaning beyond the immediate moment. Life was all about seeking personal pleasure through material possessions, sex, and career. But in less than one second all that changed. I changed instantaneously. At my moment of belief I no longer agreed with abortion. I no longer cared about my career or money. I was no longer solely focused on myself. Yeah, some people thought I was crazy just like Jesus’ family thought He was crazy. But 21 years later I have zero doubts about the wisdom of this decision.

Whenever I read Psalm 37 I feel both convicted and hopeful (so many Bible passages have these dual affects). One of my biggest struggles in life is sometimes feeling “cheated” when I look around and see so many people who are not following God having success in this life. I admit that I am envious of them to some degree at times. I’ve made a lot of sacrifices to follow Christ and I have no doubt that it will be well worth it in the long run. But in the short-run, while here on this earth, it can be hard. But the fact that God wrote an entire Psalm about this helps me because it shows me that He knew this would be a difficult thing for some of His followers. I read this Psalm and see myself in every verse. But also see the hope that God offers in those same verses.

Interestingly, our reading in Proverbs continues that thought. God will not let those who follow Him go without (Proverbs 10:3). He’s got us covered.  In Proverbs 10:4 we see that one of the principles God put into effect in this world is that a strong work ethic leads to prosperity. But laziness leads to poverty. It is every individual’s responsibility to be hard-working if they want to receive things in life. God will reward those who put forth an honest effort. But those who whine and look for excuses will not be helped by God.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post


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