Luke 23:38-43 - A Criminal has faith

2009 Oct 19

Pilate had put a sign above Jesus on the cross: "This is the King of the Jews". Two other men, criminals, were also crucified - one on either side of Jesus. In bitterness, one was insulting Jesus, but the other was very different. This second man had great faith: he ended up forgiven and brought into life.

Although this Bible story is succinct, it shows forgiveness in its full process. There are four steps to forgiveness for it to be true forgiveness: Confession, Repentance, Forgiveness & Reconciliation. However, even though we may speak of the process in ordered steps, in real life it doesn't have to be artificially stilted or rigid to accomplish those steps.

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Galations 5: What law?

2009 Jul 9

In this book, Paul is getting on the Galations' case because they became diverted from the gospel. Some people came to the Galations teaching that it was necessary to follow Old Testament rules of the law in addition to the gospel.

For humans, the goal of things spiritual is to connect them with the divine. For Christians, that means getting into a right relationship with God. However, the Old Testament law didn't perform this function at all. In fact the actual spiritual purpose of that law was to make people aware of how much they were unlike God (Rom 7:7). Paul confirmed that the law the Galations had returned to had failed them when he said: "If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other." (Gal 5:15)

If the Old Testament law had worked to make right relationships, everybody would instinctively know it. It would not have been necessary for Jesus to bring the gospel to us. The important thing to realize is that God didn't bring us something to complete the law, but to replace the law. We can see this because Paul says "The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Gal 5:14)

But love is not something that can be commanded! The law is powerless to make this happen. Love is something that comes from the heart: only from a heart changed to be like God's. The gospel that Jesus brought us can change the heart to love, therefore there is no need to observe the OT law because it will already have been fulfilled.

Paul said: "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." (Gal 5:6) This statement is critical to understand because it connects the two parts of the gospel: - the part we believe and the part we do. note The gospel is a complete solution for access to God and to good relationships.

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They Got the Gospel

2009 Jul 8

In a conversation with Darren Twa, he made a statement that should be obvious, but that surprised me. He said that all the New Testament writers "got" the gospel. They understood the core of its simplicity and also its implications. That means that though they all were writing to address different situations or issues, they all were writing about the same (core) gospel.

The books in the New Testament come with quite a bit of variety. From that, I had come to view Christianity as if it was a complex thing. I would read the NT looking for new facets of information on Christianity, so as to build a more complete model of its theology in my mind. There were some core things that weren't too complicated, but as a whole, it did seem complicated.

With this new perspective, I have started to change the way I read the NT books. My view now is that the writers all clearly understood the gospel as being a simple thing. The complexity comes primarily because they are giving examples and guidance on how to apply the gospel. So I look for the gospel basis everywhere.

Christianity is a thinking man's religion because we are given one rule to apply in all the situations of life. (Adopt and live God's value system of sacrificial love for the benefit of others.) This is a difficult and complicated task. But the gospel is simple.

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Tax collectors and a mindset of learning

2009 Apr 18

In Mark 2, Jesus had just met Matthew (aka Levi). Of course Matthew had friends in his business of tax collection. These people were hugely disliked in general because they were often corrupt.

Jesus had gone for dinner to Matthew's house, and Matthew had invited a large group of his friends over. Now, the establishment religious people were still analyzing Jesus, and they really didn't understand how he could mix with this sketchy crowd.

Jesus replied to this by pointing out His purpose. He likened Himself to a doctor making house calls. He wasn't needed by the healthy people, but He could be effective with people that were sick. The sickness in this case was over value systems. He said He came to call people to repentance; righteous people didn't need that call, but sinners did.

Righteousness is the doing of God's value system. Clearly the tax collectors had failed here, so Jesus was there to open a channel of relationship between them and God. They needed a better value system; one that they could use first in relationship with God, and then also with everybody else.

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Forgiving like Jesus

2009 Mar 29

There is a very interesting story in Mark 2. Jesus had started healing people and therefore had become extremely popular. It became difficult to get face time with Jesus. Since the culture of his day valued hospitality very highly, when people were at your door you were expected to invite them in. Unfortunately then when the whole town wanted in, your house became packed.

A guy that was paralyzed wanted to get to Jesus. He had some friends that brought him to the house, but with the situation, he wasn't going to get in through the door. So they found a way to make an opening in the roof and lower him down to Jesus. (How audacious is that!!)

They knew Jesus could help - they had faith in God. Jesus saw that faith and responded to it with equal generosity: he offered to forgive the man of his sins. How very strange! The man probably hadn't come wanting that addressed. If that was all Jesus would have given him, he may even have been upset.

Actually, the religious types in the room really did get upset over that.

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Updated 2021-01-09   © 2021 Larry Grove