Don’t be Deceived

We’re all familiar with the Parable of the Prodigal Son from Luke chapter 15 in which Jesus tells His listeners of a wealthy man with two sons, and how the younger son one day went to his father and demanded his inheritance right then and there. He had no desire to wait until after his father had passed away. He wanted everything he had coming to him…immediately. The father complied with his son’s wishes and afterwards, the younger son packed up everything he had and left. Jesus said he went to a far off land and proceeded to squander all that he had on ‘wild living’, as it’s phrased in some translations. I like the way it’s stated in The King James version. It says he wasted it all on “riotous living.”

After the money was gone, things only got worse. The land where he resettled experienced a severe famine, and the young man’s situation became so dire and so desperate that he had to hire himself out to a pig farmer who sent him out to tend the pigs. Now I want to stop there for a moment and point out how Jesus used this and other parables to paint a word picture for His Jewish audience. According to the Law of Moses, a pig was an unclean animal. And since the Jews were not allowed to eat pork chops or ham sandwiches, they had no reason to raise pigs. The only people who kept and ate the meat of pigs were Gentiles. So the people standing there listening to Jesus tell this parable would have had a picture in their minds of just how unclean and how filthy the young man had become. He worked for a Gentile tending pigs. For Jewish people in that time, it couldn’t get any worse than that.

So he’s tending pigs for a Gentile and he’s slowly starving to death. Eventually though, the young man has a moment of clarity. Picking up at verse 17, the word of God tells us, “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”‘ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.

In his ongoing battle to keep people from embracing the saving grace of Jesus Christ, Satan uses an arsenal of lies and deception. He’s a liar and the father of lies, but there are two in particular that seem to be especially prevalent today. And I must confess that I fell for both of them at various times in my own life. The first lie is, “There’s no hurry. You have plenty of time to accept Jesus. Do it later. Today, live however you want. There’s no hurry” The young man in Jesus’ parable is depicted as someone who wanted to live by his own rules with no thought to the future and no consideration for God or for the consequences of his choices. He indulged in wild living. The same can be said of any number of people in our day and time as well. They live for themselves, indulging in “wild living”, and if they do give any thought to God at all, they tell themselves they have plenty of time, that they can follow Jesus…..someday. After all, what’s the rush? The real truth is, none of us know how much time God has given us, so the notion that accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is something that can be put off until later in life is a lie straight out of the mouth of Hell.

Then there’s the other lie. When the father in the parable ordered his servant to bring the best robe and put it around his son, what jumped out at me was what Jesus did not say. Jesus did not make any mention of the father sending his son to the nearest body of water to take a bath! Wallowing with pigs would tend to make a person very dirty and very smelly, don’t you think? The kid would have stunk to high heavens! Yet there is no mention in the parable of the son having to clean himself up before putting on his father’s best robe. And that is the second lie Satan uses to keep people from Christ, that you are too dirty to approach God, and that before you can even think about accepting Christ, you must first get rid of all the filth in your life. You have to get out of the inappropriate relationship or give up that way of life. You have to stop fussing and cussing and drinking and using drugs and get rid of all sin in your life BEFORE you are worthy enough and clean enough to approach God, Otherwise, God could never possibly forgive you. Well, that too is a lie because we can never get clean enough.

But, it is true that a Holy God cannot look on sin. So then, how can you approach God? If God cannot look on sin and on your own you can never clean yourself up enough to approach God, how can anyone be saved? When the father in Jesus’ parable covered his son with his best robe, he did not see the dirt. All he saw was his son wearing his very best robe. The dirt and filth were covered. In the same way, when a person invites Jesus Christ to be Lord of his or her life, God covers us with His very best robe, the righteousness of Jesus Christ. And when we are covered with Jesus’ righteousness, that’s all God sees. It was no accident that Jesus made no mention of the father giving instructions to have his son cleaned up before putting on the robe. Jesus illustrated the love of the father which in turn, illustrates our Heavenly Father’s love for us. For God so loved the world, He has covered our sins with the blood of His son Jesus Christ, that is, if we choose to accept the free gift of grace. We can never get ourselves clean enough to approach God, so we must allow Him to cover us with Jesus’ righteousness. When you are covered by the righteousness of Christ, God no longer sees the sin. He only sees His Son.

The evil one can lie to you and bombard you with temptation, but you still have the freedom to choose. Satan cannot force you to turn your back on God. He cannot prevent you from asking Jesus Christ to be your Lord and Savior. He will tell you there’s no hurry. That’s a lie. He will tell you that you have to clean yourself up first because if you don’t, God cannot forgive you. That’s a lie. The decision to accept Christ is your decision to make. There’s no gray area there. We can choose life with or without Christ. And that my friends is the choice between Heaven and Hell, life and death. I urge you, don’t be deceived by the lies. Choose life. Allow God to cover you with the righteous robe of Jesus Christ, while there’s still time. As Paul said to the Corinthians, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. If you have put off accepting Jesus Christ till “someday”, don’t wait any longer. Your eternal life depends on it.

As a footnote, these devotional messages are read by believers and non-believers alike. If you are a Christian, I hope this will give you another tool you can use for evangelism. And if you are reading this on WordPress or elsewhere and have not yet accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior but you’re checking out the Christian faith, I hope I’ve given you something to think about.

Have a blessed week in Christ!

 

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The Strength, Discipline, and Humility of Jesus

Jesus’ Trial

From Mark 14:

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.

 
Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” Yet even then their testimony did not agree.

 
Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.

 
Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
“I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

 
Shortly thereafter, Jesus was sent to Pontius Pilate who asked the question, “Are you the king of the Jews?”. Jesus replied, “You have said so.” According to those familiar with the nuances of the Greek language in which the New Testament was originally written, Jesus’ response was the strongest affirmation that could possibly be given. In our language, it might expressed, “Absolutely, let there be no doubt, I am the king of the Jews!”

 
Pilate then asked Jesus about the accusations and charges that were being brought against Him by the Jewish leaders. Jesus gave no answer. His response to the questioning that night is something we need to take note of. You see, He never once gave an answer to a FALSE accusation, or to their lies. The only time Jesus said anything, that night, was in response to the truth. When asked by the high priest, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of God?” Jesus responded with the truth. “I am.” In the gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus’ response to the high priest is recorded as the same type of affirmative response He gave Pilate. “You have said so.” – “You say that I am.” Jesus only answered to truth because the truth is, Jesus is the Son of God.

I said it’s worth noting because it takes strength and discipline to remain silent when someone slanders you or makes false accusations against you. The same can be said when someone attacks your faith, or, as I experienced recently, when they attack the work you do for ministry. Now I used the word ‘attack’ and that might be too strong of a word. It was more of a subtle jab yet the intent was very obvious. Without going into too much detail, I was on the receiving end of some rather indignant comments regarding the value, or lack thereof, of these devotional messages I’ve been sending to you all these past four years. That’s all I’ll say about that.

But I will say that my first impulse was to fire right back. But before my encounter with that person that day, I had been thinking of how Jesus responded, or I should say, how He did not respond to any of the slanderous accusations that were made against Him. In turn, I realized I didn’t owe that man any explanation for why I write these devotional messages. I know in my heart that it’s a calling, so I don’t have to justify myself before any one man. I only have to give an account to God. It is for the glory of God, not my glory. Jesus was a model of strength and discipline from the moment of His arrest till His death on the cross. Compared to what He was about to go through, being gracious in the face of verbal jabs should be a picnic. So I knew I had to be gracious.

As our Christian faith comes under increasing attack, and “attack” is the right word there, there are lessons we can learn from Jesus’ refusal to respond to lies and false accusations. He didn’t dignify any of it with a response. That’s the strength and discipline I was referring to. This is the same Jesus who spoke with authority, and not like one of the scribes – whenever he preached. Yet He saw no need to respond to lies and slanderous accusations. When confronted with lies about our Christian faith, or about the church, we need not get caught up in quarrels and arguments over the lies. We only need to commit ourselves to God’s truth and build on that truth.

So what if we are attacked and slandered personally? What if the attacker is not only attacking your faith and slandering the church, what if they are gunning for you and calling you out personally? What then? Like I said, when that person fired those indignant remarks my way, my first impulse was to fire back. And why was that? The answer is straightforward – PRIDE! Out of pride I nearly escalated that incident to a whole new level, and I would still be regretting it at this very moment. More often than not, when we find ourselves in those situations, we’re governed by pride instead of humility. And I believe that’s another reason Jesus gave no response. He was not governed by pride. He was the model of strength and discipline in that moment, and He was also the model of humility. In humility, he endured the insults and slander and false accusations, just as he later endured the cross.

But is there EVER a time when we should defend ourselves against lies and slander and personal attacks? Absolutely! Long before His arrest, Jesus was accused of being demon possessed, that He drove out demons in the name of Beelzebub, or Satan. And Jesus defended Himself against those accusations by pointing out their foolishness. But again, His defense was not motivated by pride. Whether the scribes realized it or not, by accusing Jesus of driving out demons in the name of the devil, they were actually glorifying the evil one. In His rebuke to the scribes, Jesus pointed out the foolishness of their accusations and at the same time he pointed out the danger of committing blasphemy against the Holy Spirit of God. Jesus’ motivation was to give glory to whom it rightfully belongs, to God the Father. His defense against the accusations of being demon possessed was never motivated by personal pride.

There is a passage in the book of Proverbs that comes to mind. It’s actually two verses from the 26th chapter. Proverbs 26 verse 4 says: Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. But then in verse 5, we read: Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. These is some very simple yet very Godly wisdom in those two verses. There is a time to speak up and a time to shut up. Jesus knew exactly when an answer was needed, and when He did not have to say anything.

Therefore, we need to use Godly wisdom when we come under attack. And the Bible clearly tells us that as we move closer to the day of our Lord’s return, we can expect attacks against us and our Christian faith to increase. There will be times when we need to give a response, and times when it will be more prudent to say nothing. In his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul wrote these words to the believers there, ‘”You say “Everything is permissible.” But not everything is beneficial.’ So before we respond to any lies or accusations made against us, we need to stop and consider if a response would be beneficial. Would it satisfy our sense of pride or bring glory to God? In all He did and said, Jesus was motivated by His desire to bring glory to the Father. We have the freedom to respond to criticism and lies and slander, but we should never respond out of pride, or out of retaliation. If we need to respond, it should always be motivated by our desire to bring glory to God. It was Jesus’ driving force. Let it be our driving force as well.

In Christ