Category Archives: March

Danger of Hypocrisy

 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. (Mt.23:1-22)

Beware of the Pharisaical attitude because it will invite God’s wrath up on us. Jesus pronounced condemnation on the Pharisees because they were hypocrites and they displayed a false piety. The religious are often politically motivated.

Characteristics of Hypocrites
The word ‘hypocrite’ comes from the term that referred to a stage player in a drama or theater. It meant ‘pretender’ or ‘actor’. People playing the role of someone else or acting like someone they really are not. It may be an art but it is falsehood and pure lie. Jesus’ contention about the religious ones was that:
-They preach but do not practice
-They burden others but never even try to carry it themselves
-They do everything to get people’s praise (v. 5)
-They desire greatness, power, titles and position (Mt. 23:6-12)

Not to follow their example
Hypocrisy is dangerous and attracts God’s judgment because it hinders other people from entering the kingdom of heaven. Jesus warned His followers about following the Pharisees’ example.

1. They hinder others from entering the kingdom of heaven. (Mt. 23:13)
By the way they live, disregarding the Word of God, they themselves may not enter the kingdom of God. More serious than that is the issue of not letting others in. They become stumbling blocks to others. Remember, Jesus warned such people saying it is better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied to their neck (Mt. 18:6). They are like the dog in the manger. The dog will not eat the hay and neither will it let the cattle eat it.

2. They convert people but make them worthy of hell (Mt. 23:15)
They introduce others into their sect and confuse them with their philosophy of life and thus make them double hell-worthy.
our ministry is not as important as our life. God is more concerned about our life in Him than our service for Him. Being is above doing in God’s economy.

3. They overturn priorities and misguide others (Mt. 23:16-22)
Religious people do their religion to suit their convenience and to their benefit. Faith is not to satisfy ourselves or to please others, but to please God. Shuffling priorities to suit our convenience in the things of God is disastrous. They will be majoring on the minors and neglecting the non-negotiables. Many churches over emphasize the negligible issues and neglect the crucial. This deviation is prompted by the enemy of God’s kingdom.

We are to shun hypocrisy for it will make us stumbling blocks to people and bring us to judgment.

Reward that Lasts

Then he turned to his host. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward.13Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.14Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.(Lk.14:12-14 NLT)

We work for rewards or payments. It is normal. Bible says that the worker is worthy of his wages. However, there are rewards that are temporary and those that are eternal.

Giving to get back

People invest their money to get returns. This is true with material things. But as a Christian, our priority should be God’s kingdom and its values. We should work for eternal rewards rather than temporal accolades. In real life relationships we should not plan our moves with the best material benefits. We must invest our time, skills and money with utmost care so that we can reap the best returns in eternity. The lives that were blessed and transformed because of our investment, both material and spiritual, will be our greatest reward in heaven.

Rejecting God’s invitation

There are times when God offers His invitation to the most religious and pious people. But they are too busy in their religiosity and ritual piety that they refuse God’s invitation. This seems too insignificant for busy people like them. God’s offer is free and unconditional, equally open to both the pious and the rebel. It is open to the wise and the simple. But people stumble over its simplicity.

God, however, will have His party going and there will be unexpected guests at His table. It is against normal religion that God accepts all who come to Him through Jesus Christ, regardless of their backgrounds. The focus is on what they become through their surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The invitation is still open today.

Have you accepted the invitation yet?

Attitudes of a Christian

Jesus turned and asked the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law of Moses, “Is it right to heal on the Sabbath?”

…If you put yourself above others, you will be put down. But if you humble yourself, you will be honored. (Lk.14:3,11 CEV)

Religious people are often legalistic and judgmental in their attitudes towards others. They like to define rules and explain commandments to others than following it themselves. Pharisees of Jesus’ time did the same thing. Jesus rebuked them.

Don’t be Legalistic

Jesus being invited for dinner by the prominent Pharisee was under their keen observation. When the man with swollen limbs stood before Him He realized that and asked them whether it was permissible to heal on the Sabbath according to the Law. The Jewish Law forbid them from doing any work on the Sabbath day as it was a day set apart for their God. They could not answer Jesus and he went ahead and healed the man. Jesus nailed it on the legalistic Pharisee’s head when He asked whether they would try to save their child or animal that fell into a pit on the Sabbath day. Sabbath was in honor of the Lord and honor God through whatever you do on that day.

Don’t be Selfish

The guests at the dinner were vying for the best seating positions that would make them look prominent and important. Jesus tells them not to aim at high positions which are beyond themselves. They may be humiliated if they are asked to give room for someone else. But if the host feels that you deserve a better place and invites you to move up it will be an honor.

There are people who deliberately employ this principle with selfish motive. They act humble and polite with the intention that others will notice it. But their actual aim is to grab the position without being labeled cunning or crooked. This is worse than the former. Let God honor you and not people because people’s honor is temporary while God’s reward is eternal.

Kingdom of God

It is like what happens when someone plants a mustard seed in a garden. The seed grows as big as a tree, and birds nest in its branches.”

…It is like what happens when a woman mixes yeast into three batches of flour. Finally, all the dough rises.” (Lk.13:19-22 CEV)

Kingdom is where the King reigns. When God is reigning in peoples’ lives the qualities of His Kingdom are visible. By your life you reveal who your God is.

Jesus presented a view of God’s Kingdom which was very different from what the religious community of His time perceived. He was the King but the characteristics and the establishment of His Kingdom was so radically different.

Characteristics of God’s Kingdom

It is something that is dynamic, growing and reaching out far and wide. Others would find shelter and refuge in it. It is like a tiny mustard seed growing into a large plant that provides its fruit to people and rest to those who come to it.

It is also all pervasive in its nature like the yeast. Its quality penetrates into the whole community and affects it for good. It influences all those who come in contact with it.

Entering God’s Kingdom

The road that leads to God’s kingdom is narrow and difficult. Those who want to take it need determination and commitment to keep walking in it. It is so easy to fall of the narrow way. One cannot change his focus while treading this path.

It also shows clearly that there is one door which is going to be closed some time soon. This door is Jesus. He claimed that He is the only way to Heaven (John 14:6). He said He is the door. Those who wandered here and there, tried to enjoy the multi-lane express ways, and are late in making up their minds to get to ‘the narrow door’ will be shut out. Crying out after the door has been shut is worthless. Enter in while the door is still open.

The response to the cries of those who are left out says clearly that one needs to know the King in order to enter into the kingdom. In fact the King should know you. Those who turned to Jesus acknowledging Him as their only Savior has been given the privilege to know God as their heavenly Father (John 1:12). God knows them too (John 10:9,14). Only such will enter the kingdom.

Do you know the King? Does He know you?

 

 

 

Going to God in Need or Greed

Then he said to the crowd, “Don’t be greedy! Owning a lot of things won’t make your life safe.”

Your Father knows what you need. But put God’s work first, and these things will be yours as well.

Make sure your treasure is safe in heaven, where thieves cannot steal it and moths cannot destroy it. Your heart will always be where your treasure is.(Lk.12: 15, 30,31, 33,34 CEV)

Religiosity is often with selfish motives. People go to God in their greed, to get all they want. But, the Bible emphasizes the need to be free from greed. People came to Jesus with various motives. Here is a man asking Jesus to be the arbiter between him and his siblings in settling their property dispute

Seeking God for material benefits

Jesus questions the integrity of this man’s prayer. He sounds to him that He is not here as anyone’s arbitrator to justly distribute material wealth or earthly benefits. Rather, He is here with a different mission. His goal is eternal and other-worldly. He admonishes people to give away worldly possessions or to trade it for eternal riches. This world is temporal and what this world gives also is fragile. What is stored in heaven is eternal and indestructible.

The rich man’s story reveals the unreliable nature of wealth and the sorry state of those who labor day and night to amass worldly treasures. All these can vanish in a moment. We will have to leave this world we don’t know when. It would look foolish to have struggled for things that are of no value to you anymore. Even God will consider him a fool.

Seeking God for eternal benefits

God has promised those who seek Him sincerely that He will take care of them. After all, it is He who knows our future. To those who acknowledge His Lordship He has given assurance about their eternal destiny (1John 5:13). Jesus reiterates that God would care for His children much better than He cares for the rest of creation. He has put the priorities clearly in order. Put God and His kingdom first, then God will keep His promise to take care of your needs. He may not fulfill your greed but provide your every need (Phil.4:19).

By focusing on God’s kingdom we will be gathering riches and rewards in heaven. When our concern is about earthly things we worry about it in vain because worry is unproductive and often destructive. Our heart will always be where our possessions are. Our focus will be on things that we value the most. We will be disappointed if our eyes are set on the things of this world because they cannot accompany us in death. But all that we did for God’s kingdom will follow us into eternity and result in eternal rewards.

Christian Character

Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.  “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.
(Luke 12:3-7 ESV)

Truthfulness
Jesus was tired of the insincerity of the religious folks and rebuked them. He warned His disciples not to follow their hypocrisy. A follower of the Lord Jesus Christ should be truthful and sincere both inside and outside. He should mean what he says and say what he means. God will expose people’s insincerity on the judgment day. What they have said and done in secret will be brought to light on that day.

Fearlessness
A Christian should not be afraid of people but fear only God. People can only kill your physical body once and not your eternal soul. But God can throw you into the eternal hell where you will suffer for ever. Those who fear and honor God can live without the fear of people.

Jesus gave two analogies. God cares about the tiny sparrows which are sold at an insignificant price. He also has the hairs on our head numbered, so He knows which one fell. We are much more precious to Him than many sparrows.

Allegiance
A Christian should witness for Christ no matter what. He should unashamedly acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ over his life at all times. He should never deny the One who gave His very life to redeem you from eternal condemnation. The Holy Spirit has been given to you as the down payment of the covenant God has made with you through the blood of His Son. Testifying against it is a sin that God will never forgive.

In the life of every sinner the Spirit of God is bringing conviction about sin at different times and if they keep rejecting His offer of salvation they will have no chance to repent later.

God who relates personally

Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again, and his eyes were opened. His sight was completely restored, and he could see everything clearly. Jesus sent him away, saying, “Don’t go back into the village on your way home.”
(Mark 8:25-26  NLT)

Faith Building Exercise
Some people brought a blind man to Jesus because they had heard about His power to heal and restore. They would have brought him with a genuine concern, having faith in Jesus. Or they would have done it to test Jesus. But Jesus do not go by what others say or do. He helps in strengthening the faith of those who are sincere. He interacts individually and relates personally to those who genuinely seek Him. So He takes the blind man by his hand and leads him out of the village, away from the crowd and does this faith building exercise. Jesus is asking the man whether he could see anything. Initially the man gets a partial vision and could not distinguish trees from people. This propelled his faith in Jesus. Jesus lays His hands on the man again and restores his sight fully. He was advised not to go back to the old company of people, in stead to his home.

There are times and situations when we are thrust into the presence of God. God uses such situations to build our faith in Him, step by step. He is a loving God who meets with us individually, leads us away from faith-destroying company or circumstances, and interacts personally to strengthen our faith. He will remove our blindness, rectify the partial vision and restore clear vision. Thank God for such occasions. 

Focus Losing Utterances

Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.” But Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead. As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
(Mark 8:29-33 NLT)

Peter was outspoken and impulsive on many issues. This could prove dangerous at times. With the same mouth we utter things that show our conviction as well as prove our being out of focus. Peter was rebuked for not catching God’s vision.

Those who have been given sight can loose their vision of God’s kingdom and behave like the faithless blind. Then God will rebuke us and correct us so that we remain focused on our mission. Thank God for such occasions in our lives.

Faith Testing Occupation
We are called to follow Jesus Christ. He made claims that no man could ever make, but He never gave false promises to His followers. He openly told that the path will be tough and demanding, even costing our very life. However, He assured us that a life sacrificed for His sake is more precious than the whole world. He will be proud to announce in the glorious presence of the Father that they are His own.

The Turn Around

As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Lk.21:1-4)

Jesus had to face skeptics, traditionalists and opponents. They challenged His claims and His authority. The question that plagued them all was “who is Jesus?” Is He really the Messiah from God or just another guru?

Pre-existent God

Jesus made it clear that He was the very God, who was before the creation. He pre-existed all their great patriarchs and forefathers. God promised that the throne of David will be for ever and the Messianic King will reign from that throne. Jesus was the son of David but is He the Messianic King?

Who is Jesus? This is the question, not just the Jews, but every human being has to face. Is He just another religious teacher or the Savior from God. Our answer to this question determines our destiny. It will also alter the course of our lives.

Transformed Lives

Once convinced about the Deity of Jesus Christ and committed to His Lordship our lives will take a ‘U’ turn. Our motives and intentions change drastically. Personal agenda will take the back seat and unlike the religionists of Jesus’ day we will shun publicity and self promotion.

Like the widow who offered the two coins, our lifestyle will reflect our devotion to God. It is not how much we offer to God but how much we keep for ourselves that counts. Honoring God is expensive affair. We must be prepared to give up and give away for the sake of honoring God. Our devotion must be visible to Jesus rather than to people.

Researching to Refute

The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.

Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be honest. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (Lk.20:19-22)

There were (and there are) people who denied the deity of Jesus and rejected His authority. Some do it directly and others masquerade. They have tried in vain to disprove His claims.

Jesus’ Authority

Jesus always taught with authority unlike the religious teachers. He had authority over life and death since He was the author of life. His words provoked His enemies to anger and hatred. They wanted to eliminate Him and tried to trap Him in their wisdom. The Scripture says, God traps the wise in their wisdom (1Cor.3:19).

Jesus has influenced more lives than any other person, government or authority in history. The self-righteous religious leaders of His day were annoyed by the increasing influence of Jesus and their own diminishing hold on the people. Jesus exposed the hypocrisy and untruthful life of these leaders. However, He recognized the political systems and governments and advocated paying our dues to the authorities.

Critics’ Ignorance

Enemies come with tricky questions to trap Jesus. He reveals their ignorance about the things of God and silences them. Followers of Jesus face the same situation and God empowers them with His Word and wisdom to face these challenges. Man can never thwart the purposes of God and the advancement of God’s kingdom.

The Redeemer Who Fulfilled God’s Law

(Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalizing transactions in Israel.) So the kinsman-redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it yourself.” And he removed his sandal. Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from the town records. Today you are witnesses!” (Ruth 4:7-10)

Boaz fulfilled his responsibility as a close relative while the other did not. They sealed the contract with the exchange of sandals, as was customary in those days.

Fulfilling Obligation

Boaz purchased the family property of the late Elimelech and his dead sons. The Law required the redeemer to also marry the widow of the deceased to continue the family line. Thus Ruth became Boaz’ wife and became the great great grand mother of Jesus.

Fulfilling God’s Law

Years later, God’s only begotten Son fulfilled God’s Law by taking human form and dying on the cross as the propitiation for their sins. There was no obligation on His part. But it was His love that moved Him to take up the cross for our sake. Through His substitutionary death the just Law of a righteous God was absolutely satisfied. He offered Himself as a perfect and permanent sacrifice for the remission of our sins, that we are redeemed from damnation to eternal life.

What a provision, that too absolutely free!