Apart from me you can do nothing. Have you heard that before? Do you know who said it? And if you do know, do you understand what it really means? Is it really as obvious as it seems?
The Vine and the Branches
If Christians are a new creation, why isn’t everything perfect? I ask the question because of today’s Verse of the Day, from YouVersion. It says we are a new creation. The old is gone. The new is here. It sounds so exciting! So how come things aren’t perfect? For that matter, how come little or nothing seems to have changed? Is the verse wrong?
Does God punish us today, like when He didn’t allow Moses to enter the Promised Land? That’s a question that came up when we were studying one of the Beatitudes – Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. You can maybe see how the question might arise. And how it seems important. After all Moses did to lead God’s people in the Exodus, he didn’t live long enough to set foot in the Promised Land. So what chance do we have?
If you’ve got that feeling to do good things, even with the potential cost to you, with no ulterior motives, with nothing but unselfish love for someone like your elderly neighbors that you’re shopping for, why not acknowledge that’s God? Jesus told us He’d try to get our attention.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
Why not open that door and start bringing an end to the suffering for doing good?
Don’t procrastinate. Maybe you’re still asking, why not procrastinate? Even if we never do the thing God’s asking us to do, won’t He have a Plan B? Won’t He have someone else do it instead? But that’s missing the point. It was a task we were created to do. For the One who created us.
Let me create a picture for you, then explain it. Remember the image at the top of the page? It was a burned out light bulb, trying to get someone’s attention. Trying to say it needs to be replaced.
Now, let’s say that light bulb represents the Holy Spirit in us. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit will be trying to get our attention before it goes out. But if it does go out, we’re in trouble. If it goes out, if the Holy Spirit is no longer in us, then we’ve done what Jesus warned us about in the following passage from Luke’s gospel.
Blessed are the pure in heart. What does that even mean? In this day and age, do we even know what the word “pure” means? And what’s meant by the word heart? We hopefully know it’s not about someone with a healthy heart pumping pure blood without infections, foreign matter, or other impurities. But what is it?
Greater love has no one … Most of you recognize those words. And know how they end. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. But what do they really mean? Do these words tell us that the greatest love we can show for another person is to die for them? Literally, physically, die?
On it’s face, it seems rather extreme. While not discounting times when literally, physically dying does, in fact, show great love, I can’t help but wonder if that’s the only thing Jesus meant when He said that. Given the context within which Jesus made that one extracted sentence, I feel it means more. Given the overall context of a Christian who truly works at following Jesus’ teachings, I believe it means a whole lot more.
It matters what that line means. We’ll explore why as we go along.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Yeah. That sounds about right. The meek. The weak people. The ones who never stand up for themselves. They just take whatever comes their way. Truth is, they’re probably the only kind of people who would even accept this old broken down world as part of their inheritance. Everyone else is smart enough to turn it down. Of course, there’s always the question of whether we’ll just literally blow the whole thing up in one huge nuclear war. Then the only inheritance is going to be a whole lot of cosmic dust. For the meek. Yeah – that sounds right. Blessed are the meek – Not!
Except that it really doesn’t sound right. On the off chance you don’t recognize the opening line, here it is again, with some “context” provided by text formatting.
Mt 5:5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
So it’s from Jesus. The creator of this whole universe we live in. Including this old broken down world. And the creator of me and you. Given that, something’s got to be wrong with that whole first paragraph. The thing is though, I dare say, the majority of the world believes the first paragraph is true. Unfortunately, if we’re honest, a look at the world around us shows that a number of people calling themselves Christians hold that same view. Clearly, the truth of this simple beatitude is lost on much of the world.
Blessed are the meek – it must be true. Somehow.
Are we supposed to be happy? To most people, the answer is probably obvious. At least it may seem obvious. But to others, like me, who have issues with depression – the answer is hardly obvious at all. Being happy can feel like something for other people. Whether happiness is something to experience can be a question for Christians as well.
The preachers who are into the so-called prosperity gospel, which isn’t in the New Testament, say – of course, God wants us to be happy. But what does Jesus actually say about being happy during His time on this planet? Jesus’ words should be shocking to those proponents and believers of that “prosperity gospel”.
I’m asking this question because I’m trying to write this series on The Beatitudes. You know – the part of the Sermon On The Mount where everything starts with “Blessed are …”? Well, if you didn’t know already, that can also be translated as “happy are …”.
When you read it, it sounds kind of odd. Actually – it can sound really odd.