Friday, April 4, 2014

"What Jesus came to do …"

Day #98:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - April 5th

Scripture Reading:  Mark 7 - 8 …

You may have heard the phrase:  "Majoring on the minor things …"  That means focusing on things that have less importance and missing the things that have greater importance.  That's what the Pharisees in Jesus' day were doing … but they weren't the only ones doing that.  The crowds and even the disciples were often doing the same thing.  What happens when you major on the minor things is that you MISS what is most important.  Many people do that today and miss the HEART of the matter - literally!!

The Pharisees and the crowds, and yes, even the disciples, failed to understand what Jesus had come to do.  All the Pharisees seemed to be able to think about was their own religious traditions.  Criticizing the disciples of Jesus for not washing their hands? Really??  Jesus used another illustration when He told them that they were setting aside the Word of God for the sake of their traditions (7:9-13).  The Pharisees were telling people that if they had to choose between giving a gift to God or honoring their parents by taking care of their needs, they should give their gift to God (to THEM!).  Jesus told them that GOD's command to honor parents trumped their tradition.

But there was more to it than that.  Sometimes people say, "That's a HEART issue," meaning that people's wrong behavior is the result of a heart that is in the wrong place.  This was the case with the Pharisees.  It was not simply their outward behavior that was wrong, but their hearts.  And furthermore, they were more concerned about people following their traditions than about leading people to God in order to find hope in forgiveness and salvation.  How true is this today?  It's not enough to want people to improve their lives!  They need a HEART change that only Jesus can accomplish, by His Word and His Spirit.

The example of the Gentile woman revealed that God can change anyone's heart.  She believed Jesus could fulfill her need and she was not afraid to come to Him and reveal her desperation.  We should all be so desperate!  As Jesus healed, he often took the people who were brought to Him away from the crowds because He did not want people to focus on His ability to heal.  That was NOT why He had come.  Moved by compassion, He healed, He fed the crowds and did other miracles, but that was not the primary reason He had come.

Jesus came to call people out of the darkness of sin.  He came to do what He has sent US to do:  Make disciples!!  True disciples … disciples who know who He is and why He came:  to give His life as a ransom for many; to seek and to save the lost.  Jesus was frustrated because that generation was always asking for a miraculous sign (8:12).  That probably doesn't sound like Jesus to some today.  Surely, miracles are a good thing!?  But Jesus knew people's hearts and He knew that if all they saw was the miracles they would begin to major on the minors.  Physical healing … especially miraculous physical healing, can be used as a testimony to the power of God, but the GREATER healing is spiritual healing, when the heart is changed.  The result is one who denies SELF, takes up the daily cross of service to Christ, and does what Jesus did:  gives his or her life away.

To do that you need to know that Jesus was and IS the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the KING!  God's chosen King!  If Jesus is worth dying for, then He is worth living for.  Peter wanted something else.  He wanted a victorious ruler rather than a suffering servant (Isaiah 53).  Jesus told him, "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men" (8:33).  How about you?  Do you have in mind the things of God, or are you majoring on the minors?

During this season it is easy to focus on religious traditions rather than on Jesus Christ, whose death and resurrection we remember.  We do not serve a dead Savior, but One who is alive and ascended into heaven and seated at the right hand of the Father!  The traditions of Lent and Holy Week may not be wrong in themselves, but they are man-made traditions.  People who do not ordinarily worship regularly or even think about these things will "go to church" or go to watch a play or hear a choir.  The question is:  Will hearts be changed?  Will the message of the Gospel be proclaimed?  Will people be told the truth:  that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing … by denying themselves, taking up their cross and following Him … they may have LIFE, NOW and forever?!!

Pray with me that God may be pleased with our lives and our worship as we draw near to Him in the name of Jesus, the Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Pray with me that we would not be like the Pharisees and others, who honor God with our lips, while our hearts are far from Him.  Pray with me that because the Spirit has taught us through the Word what Jesus really came to do, that we would be His instruments to call others to follow Him, too.  Then we may have reason to celebrate all the more, for the angels in heaven rejoice over one sinner who repents and believes.  May we be found following Jesus and making disciples.  As He came to give His life as a ransom for many, may we lay down our lives at His feet and ask Him to use us to glorify His name by engaging in the work of making disciples!

"Our Father in heaven, we do pray that Your kingdom would come and Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  We acknowledge that for that to happen, hearts must be changed and that only YOU can change them!  Use me, I pray, to proclaim Your Word to those around me, to declare that Jesus is Savior and Lord and to call people to join me in serving Him.  To You, our God, be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus, now and forever.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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