Don’t Swallow A Camel (Matthew 15:3-9, NIV) by Carley Evans


Jesus outlines seven woes against the teachers of the law and in the process displays greater anger than at any time other than when he clears the temple of merchants who are trying to use God for profit. Rather than worshipping the Lord and tending to their fellow human beings, these persons are interested in using religion to make money. Jesus doesn’t mince words; He outright condemns these persons.
With the teachers of the law, He tells them to stop straining out gnats and warns them that they are likely to swallow a camel while doing so. He warns them to stop worrying about appearances — about looking holy — and rather focus on “justice, mercy and faithfulness” which they’ve neglected while being only concerned about religious traditions such as the tithe.
Jesus condemns those who would refuse to care for their financially strapped parents because of tithing, saying this nullifies the Word of God, i.e. the commandment to “honor your mother and father.”
We seem to believe that God is as concerned with appearances as we are. Nothing could be farther from the truth of God’s own Word. He calls on us to focus on justice, mercy and faithfulness over the outside of the cup. He is concerned about our insides, about freeing us from “hypocrisy and wickedness” (Matthew 23:28). If we are a little dirty on the outside, God isn’t worried as long as we are merciful and loving to others, for how can we love God whom we cannot see and touch if we are incapable of loving people whom we are able to see and touch and help?
Therefore, be merciful as God is merciful; and don’t swallow a camel.

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Woe to Hypocrites (Matthew 23: 23-27, NIV) by Carley Evans


23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

The appearance of morality makes some people believe they are actually moral. Some people convince themselves that by avoiding this or avoiding that, promoting this or promoting that, believing this or believing that, performing this or performing that — that these acts somehow make them holy; not only holy, but holier than someone else who hasn’t bothered to clean the outside of the cup and dish.

Cleaning the inside of the cup and dish is much trickier than we care to admit. And much harder than doing a quick spiff-up of the outside.

How do you rid yourself of lust, greed, self-hatred, hatred of others, anger, deceit, mean-spiritedness, and yes, hypocrisy?

Jesus says to clean the inside of yourself and then the outside will automatically be clean. He warns us not to put on a disguise but to become genuine from the inside out.

He tells us how to do this, too. He does not ask us to avoid this or that, do this or that — after all, He picked wheat on the Sabbath! Instead, He promises to reside inside us. By being inside us, He makes us clean — akin to having an automatic dishwasher inside our hearts!

This automatic dishwasher is God, the Holy Spirit. He gently but persistently reminds us that the most important matters of the Law — the Law Christ fulfilled by His Life and Death and Resurrection — are “justice, mercy, and faithfulness.”

I love how Jesus Christ links the three, making them one in Him.

So God Gets the Glory (Matthew 5: 16, KJV) by Carley Evans


Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Jesus tells us to let our light shine in a manner before people that they will notice. We are to perform good works which I interpret as works of kindness to others. Our kindnesses should be polite, considerate, generous, loving and done publicly so that people will take notice. But when they notice us, we ought to remind them that we are no better than they are; that our ability to behave in a kind manner — even when we are treated unkindly — is strictly due to the Light within us. That Light is Jesus.

If we shine properly, those who notice us will eventually realize we are not normal human beings, that something is different about us. And they will realize the difference in us is the Holy Spirit and they will glorify God.

Love Covers Lots of Sin (1 Peter 4:8, ESV) by Carley Evans


“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8, ESV)

Isn’t it great that Peter says love should be “above all” – should be our top priority – while Paul says that the greatest of the three pillars of Christianity (which are faith, hope and love) is love. Love is above all.

Why is this true? Because God is Love.

Even better, Jesus tells us that the world will know we are Christians by the love we show one another.

Yet, today we Christians bicker among ourselves, arguing about the relative spirituality or lack of spirituality of each other which only shows the world that we are no closer to God than it is.

So, how do we love?

We choose to do so. We put aside pettiness and one-up-manship and holier-than-thou attitudes and we look to our common ground.

What is our common ground? This should be obvious. Our common foundation is Jesus Christ, crucified, resurrected, glorified.

So, let us love one another for our love of each other covers a whole load of awful stuff — our rebellion, our pride, our self-hatred, our envy, our jealousy, our self-righteousness, our stupidity.

We Wear Out And Die (Isaiah 51:6, DARBY) by Carley Evans


Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look on the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall grow old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner; but my salvation shall be forever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished. (Isaiah 51:6, DARBY)

The message here isn’t — of course — that the created dies but that the Creator lives forever and that His purposes never fail. The heavens above us — the sky, the other planets, the stars, the galaxies — will vanish one day like a puff of smoke. And the earth will just wear out. So will we. We will grow old and die. Some translations go so far as to say we will die like gnats or like flies — like insignificant insects.

But God — who is not insignificant — will never die. And His holiness and His method of salvation will last forever.

 

Animus, Curses, Mistreatment? Love is the Answer (Luke 6:26-28, NIV) by Carley Evans


27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

Jesus tells His listeners — those who attend to His Words — to love their enemies, to do good to those who hate them, and to pray for those who mistreat them. He does not tell His listeners — those who follow after Him — to hate, curse, or mistreat their foes.

The love Jesus calls us to is not lip-service. Love is not saying, “Oh you didn’t hurt me with your cruel words” or “you didn’t damage my life with your unfair actions against me”. Rather love recognizes the harm done and calls on us to turn the other cheek. Love demands we go out of our way to do good in response to evil.

Love does not hide. God tells us that perfect loves literally drives out fear. And, perfect love keeps no record of wrongs, reminds Paul. Love never fails, never angers, never gives up.

We are to persevere in the face of mistreatment. We are never to return an insult with an insult of our own. We are never to be bitter when evil appears to succeed. Rather we are to pray — and we are not to pray for our enemy’s demise, but we are to pray for our enemy’s benefit.

Love desires what is best for the other — always.

 

Called to Perfection (Romans 12:2, NIV) by Carley Evans


Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:2, NIV

What does Paul mean when he tells us not to conform to the pattern of the world? What is this pattern? How do we go about this renewal of our minds he mentions in his letter to the church at Rome?

The most obvious pattern of the world is selfishness. Many would use the word, evil. But I would also say that mediocrity is a pattern of our world, an acceptance of a life that is not excellent, but ordinary.

God calls us to transformation. We are to be changed (instantly at salvation and gradually over time through sanctification) by renewing our minds. We are called to be smarter.

How do we get smarter? I would say through the daily and thoughtful consumption of the Word of God. Through the Word, we learn the will of God which is perfection.

Yes, we are called to be perfect.

Paul himself struggled with this call to be perfect. He wanted to be perfect but found this calling impossible.

“For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:18-25, NIV)

And Paul provides the answer. The answer is a person. The answer is Jesus Christ. Jesus provides deliverance — deliverance from the pattern of the world, from evil, from mediocrity, from the ordinary. He renews our minds through His Word and through His Holy Spirit and transforms us by His Power.