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.

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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.

Save Some of Them (1 Corinthians 9:19-23, NIV) by Carley Evans


19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

Paul had a fine example of how to become all things to all people so that by all possible means he might save some. Of course his example is our example — the person of Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ first transformation was in becoming an infant and growing up into a full-fledged human male, becoming like us, in other words. A slightly later transformation was in becoming a well-educated religious scholar ready to debate and educate His elders in the temple. Yes, Jesus became a Bible Scholar! A later transformation was in becoming like a sinner by joining in the revelry of sinners inside the home of a tax collector — no, He did not sin, but He was not afraid or leery of being seen with sinners. Yes, Jesus became a partygoer!

Paul took Jesus’ example to heart. Paul deliberately did not disassociate himself from others. He did not shun people because they were not Christian, or because they did not fully understand their freedom under Christ, or that they were Jews in lock step with the law, or that they persecuted him for being different from them. Rather he associated himself with all types of people and made himself similar to them in order to gain their respect, their trust, perhaps even their friendship and so save some of them.

We ought to do the same.

Sons & Heirs (Galatians 4:1-7, NIV) by Carley Evans


“4 What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”

Odd that Paul starts this portion of his letter with the aside, “What I am saying” as if he is fully aware that he has not yet convinced his readers in the church of Galatia of the extraordinary truths that they are no longer slaves but fully adopted sons of God and therefore are no longer under the law.

The law, reminds Paul, was only a guardian — a kind of trustee of a future inheritance –right up until Jesus died on the Cross and was subsequently resurrected and ascended to glory. At that moment, born-again believers were transformed. They were adopted as sons and therefore heirs of God’s promise to remove the yoke of the law by fulfilling every jot and stroke of that law through Christ’s sacrifice.

Once freed from the law, Paul exhorts his readers not to try to put themselves back under the yoke and burden of the law which will only drive them deeply into guilt and shame.

Instead, Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, NIV).

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.

 

How Many Times? (2 Peter 3:18, ESV) by Carley Evans


“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” 2 Peter 3:18, ESV.

In this single verse, the apostle Peter tells us everything we need to know about the good news of Jesus Christ.

Jesus suffered only once.

He suffered and died for sinners, for persons who did not and do not deserve His sacrifice.

Jesus suffered and died to bring sinners to God ( not God to sinners, by the way ).

And how did Jesus accomplish this miracle?

Jesus brought sinners to God by “being put to death” — in other words, by execution which implies a courtroom, a judge and a sentence of death for guilt. Whose guilt? Not His own for He was and is without sin. The guilt that Jesus was sentenced to death for is mine and yours.

So stop pointing your finger at others.

We all alike condemned Jesus to the Cross.

And stop trying to crucify others.

Jesus needed to die only once.

Instead, rejoice! I say it again, Rejoice!

“Suffer the Little Children” by Carley Evans


SSPX0369Stephen King stirred me with his tweet about the odd behavior of some evangelical Christians — an almost schizophrenic behavior. Supposedly evangelicals believe God is love and know Jesus warned not to prevent children from coming to Him. Jesus said something akin to “better to put a giant grinding stone around your neck and fling yourself into the sea than to keep one of these kids from getting close to Me.” Yet, some evangelical ( or fundamentalist or conservative Christians ) are up in arms to keep destitute, desperate South American children from crossing our borders.

Well, you might argue, that doesn’t keep these kids from coming to Christ. Really? Are you sure about that?

So, let’s look at another story Jesus told.

Remember the poor man who was fell upon by robbers along a road and left for dead? Remember the supposedly decent human beings who walked right by him, not offering to help him in the least? Sounds a bit like these schizophrenic evangelical Christians who — as Paul laments — see themselves in the mirror, turn away and forget what they are supposed to look like.

Now I include myself among evangelical Christians though I am not willing to align myself with those who call themselves “conservative.” Conservative is almost a dirty word. Conservative can sometimes mean — in my mind and in the minds of many many liberal thinking persons — “narrow-minded”, “hateful”, “violent”, “racist”, “wicked” — well I could go on but then I’d be too “conservative” for my taste.

GOD is LOVE.

He doesn’t ask us to judge. He doesn’t ask us to enforce His Laws — oops. Actually the one Law God asks us to enforce is the one that says “Love others as yourself.”

If we love others, then how can we turn our backs on these children? We can’t, not if we are truly Christian.