“To Justify Himself” ( Luke 10: 29, HCSB ) by Carley Evans


How many times have I fallen into this self-made trap? Many. But, Lord, is it wrong to save for retirement? But, Lord, that beggar will use that money to buy liquor. But, Lord, I need that, too. But, Lord, I can’t go overseas; I’m not good enough for that. But, Lord, someone else will stop. But, Lord…

An expert in the law asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asks him what he thinks he needs to do based on what he knows of the law. The man correctly answers by saying he is to love the Lord his God with all his heart, soul, strength and mind; and he is to love his neighbor as himself. Jesus says, “You’ve answered correctly. Do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:28)

But the expert in the law wants to justify himself, so he asks Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29) Seeking to make himself right with God, he makes a lame excuse — I don’t know who my neighbor is, God.

Jesus tells the tale of the good Samaritan, the only one of three men who stops to help a traveler — a stranger — who is injured and helpless on the side of the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. The Samaritan goes out of his way to help this man who has been robbed and stripped and beaten.

Jesus wants to know who is the neighbor in this story. The expert in the law answers correctly again. The neighbor is the Samaritan who stops to help the stranger.

Be a good neighbor, says Jesus. Be a good neighbor to strangers and friends alike.

“Give, and it is given to you; a good measure — pressed down, shaken together, and running over — is poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it is measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38)

“Experts In Law Reject God’s Purpose” ( Luke 7: 30, NIV ) by Carley Evans


Reads like a headline, doesn’t it? “Hear ye, hear ye: Experts in the Law Reject the Purposes of God.” Luke writes this rejection of God’s purpose for these religious experts is due to the fact they are not baptized by John. Rather, “they are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other.” (Luke 7:32) The experts in the law complain that no one responds to their “flute” or to their “dirge” — people neither dance to their joyous tune nor do they cry at their morose funeral march.

The experts in the law complain that John the Baptist “has a demon” even though he “comes neither eating bread nor drinking wine.” (Luke 7:33) They complain even more when Jesus, “the Son of Man comes eating and drinking.” They call Jesus “a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” (Luke 7:34) Only the way of the old covenant works for them. They follow only Moses, missing completely that Moses always points to Jesus, the Messiah.

And how Jesus longs to gather these religious leaders to Himself, but they reject His purposes for them because they reject the means to the end they so desire. They refuse baptism by John.

“As You Swore In Days Gone By” ( Micah 7: 18 – 20, NEB ) by Carley Evans


“Who is a god like You? You take away guilt, You pass over the sin of the remnant of Your own people, You do not let Your anger rage for ever but delight in love that will not change. Once more You will show us tender affection and wash out our guilt, casting all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will show good faith to Jacob, unchanging love to Abraham, as You did swear to our fathers in days gone by.”

“And Mary says: ‘Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord, rejoice, rejoice, my spirit, in God my saviour… His Name is Holy; His mercy sure from generation to generation toward those who fear Him; the deeds His own right arm has done disclose His might: the arrogant of heart and mind He has put to rout, He has brought down monarchs from their thrones, but the humble have been lifted high. The hungry He has satisfied with good things, but the rich sent empty away. He has ranged Himself at the side of Israel His servant; firm in His promise to our forefathers, He has not forgotten to show mercy to Abraham and his children’s children, for ever.’ ” (Luke 1:46-47,49-55)

God does not forget. He remembers His promises. He takes away guilt; He casts all our sins into the sea. His love is unchanging; His mercy sure. He satisfies the hungry; and sends away the rich. He heals the sick; and questions the healthy, saying: “I guess you have no need of Me?” He routs the arrogant; and lifts the humble. He does not forget His promises to the remnant of His people — those He loves and calls according to His purpose.

“Who Is My Neighbor?” ( Luke 10: 29, NIV ) by Carley Evans


“But he wants to justify himself, so he asks Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

 

Jesus replies with the story of the Jewish man who “falls into the hands of robbers. They strip him of his clothes, beat him and go away, leaving him half dead.” (Luke 10:30) So, this man lies naked along the side of a road. “A priest happens to be going down the same road, and when he sees the man, he passes by on the other side.” Apparently, this priest not only goes on his way, but he deliberately avoids the man likely by crossing to the other side so he will not have to look at the man who is half dead. A Levite comes along, and also makes a concerted effort to ignore and avoid the half dead man.

 

But, a Samaritan – a hated enemy of the Jew — upon sighting the bleeding, dying man takes pity on him. He goes to him, bandages his wounds after “pouring on oil and wine. Then he puts the man on his own donkey, takes him to an inn and takes care of him.” (Luke 10:34) He pays the innkeeper “two silver coins” to “look after him.” (Luke 10:35) He also promises to repay any extra expenses when he returns. He has no intention of going on his way without a planned return to check up on the injured man.

 

It’s likely the innkeeper is surprised to find a Samaritan helping a Jew. And imagine the bewilderment the Jewish man will feel when he finally recovers, perhaps even encountering the Samaritan upon his return to the inn.

 

Today, the event Jesus describes might be akin to a Muslim who stops to help a Christian. This Christian is bleeding to death from being mugged and stabbed in a city alley. A pastor might pass by, crossing to the other side of the street. A judge might avoid the bleeding man. But, a Muslim stops to help. He bandages the man, carries him to his own car, takes him to a local emergency room where he guarantees payment to the intake personnel at the front desk.

 

Seeking to justify ourselves, we may say that the Muslim is not our neighbor, but our enemy. Jesus contradicts us.

“A Shout Of Triumph” ( Psalm 95 : 1 – 2, NEB ) by Carley Evans


“Come! Let us raise a joyful song to the Lord, a shout of triumph to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving, and sing Him psalms of triumph.”

 

Raise a shout of triumph to the Lord. Our victory is sure because of the Rock of our salvation. Our adversary’s head is crushed under the heel of our Savior.

 

Zechariah sings to John, his unborn son, “And you, my child, you shall be called Prophet of the Highest, for you will be the Lord’s forerunner, to prepare His way and lead His people to salvation through knowledge of Him, by the forgiveness of their sins.” (Luke 1:76-77)

 

Our salvation is secured “by the forgiveness of [our] sins.”

 

The angels — on the night Jesus is born — sing, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and on earth His peace for men on whom His favour rests.” (Luke 2:14)

 

Our salvation is secured by “[God’s] favour.”

 

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has bestowed on us in Christ every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. In Christ He chose us before the world was founded, to be dedicated, to be without blemish in His sight, to be full of love; and He destined us — such was His will and pleasure — to be accepted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in order that the glory of His gracious gift, so graciously bestowed on us in His Beloved, might redound to His praise.” (Ephesians 1:3-7)

 

Raise a shout of triumph; sing a song of victory for our salvation is secured on the Rock, who is Jesus Christ.

“The Signs Of The Virgin Birth And of Jonah” (Isaiah 7: 14, ESV) by Carley Evans


God tells Ahaz to ask for a sign. But Ahaz responds, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.”

So, Isaiah tells Ahaz and us that God will give a sign. “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when He knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.” (Isaiah 7: 14 – 15)

The Son of God comes as “a great light.” (Isaiah 9: 2) He comes as “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9: 6)

When Mary and Joseph present their son as holy to the Lord on the eighth day of his life — offering a pair of turtledoves — Simeon, a “righteous and devout” man who is “waiting for the consolation of Israel,” sees Jesus. When Simeon sees the Christ child, he takes Him in his arms, saying: “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your Word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation that You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation for the Gentiles, and for glory to Your people Israel.” (Luke 2: 25, 29 – 32)

Simeon lays eyes on the sign which God promises to Ahaz, and which Ahaz does not request.

Simeon tells Mary, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed, so that the thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2: 34, 35)

Jesus is a sign that is opposed.

Jesus Himself warns, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” (Matthew 16: 4)

The two signs God gives us are the virgin birth of Jesus and the resurrection of Christ.

“You May Have Peace” (John 16: 33, ESV) by Carley Evans


Jesus says, “In Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

 

And Paul says, “God has called you to peace” when writing of the unbelieving spouse abandoning the marriage. (1 Corinthians 7: 15) The author of Hebrews tells us to “strive for peace with everyone.” (Hebrews 12: 14) Peter writes, “Let [us] seek peace and pursue it.” (1 Peter 3: 11)

Yet, Paul also promises, “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 7) God’s peace is not our own, not a peace we strive for or fight — in some sort of human effort — to give to others. Rather this is a peace residing within us, shown to the world through us.

From whence comes this inner peace? From Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus tells us, “In Me you may have peace.” We already are fully aware that we have tribulation in the world. We know less fully that Jesus has overcome the world. Of this, we need reminding.

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!’ ” (Luke 2: 13 – 14)

Remember! Jesus has overcome the world.

“Come To The Light” (Joshua 24: 15, ESV) by Carley Evans


Joshua tells the people to “fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness.” (Joshua 24: 14) Then he suggests that it might be “evil in [their] eyes to serve the Lord.” He tells them to “choose this day whom [they] will serve, whether the gods [their] fathers served…or the gods…in whose land [they] dwell.” Joshua tells them, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’

Jesus warns us to consider a task carefully before we undertake it, to make certain we have the wherewithal to complete it, to see it through to the end. “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9: 62)

Joshua warns the people as well, reminding them that the Lord “is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive [their] transgressions or [their] sins.” Joshua says to them, “If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good.” (Joshua 24: 19, 20)

The people swear, “The Lord our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey.” (Joshua 24: 24)

A stone became the witness “against [them], for it heard all the words of the Lord that He spoke to [them]. Therefore it became a witness against [them], lest [they] deal falsely with [their] God. So Joshua sent the people away, each man to his inheritance.” (Joshua 24: 27, 28)

We serve a holy God, a jealous God. He gives none of His glory to another, nor should He. Joshua reminds us to serve God in sincerity and faithfulness. To be sincere is to be candid, direct, earnest, frank, genuine, guileless, heartfelt, honest, open, real, serious, simple, and wholehearted. To be faithful is to be constant, dependable, devoted, dutiful, honest, loyal, reliable, steadfast and trustworthy.

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the Name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the Light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the Light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the Light and does not come to the Light, lest his works be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the Light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3: 17 – 21)

“In Agreement With Jesus” (Matthew 18: 18 – 20, ESV) by Carley Evans


Jesus says that if we come together and agree with one another “about anything [we] ask, it will be done for [us] by My Father in heaven.” This is true because where two or more are gathered together in the Name of Jesus, He is there with them. Therefore what we bind in Jesus’ Name — with His full awareness and support — here on earth is also bound in heaven, and what is loosed — i.e. what is set free — is set free in heaven.

 

Jesus says, “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened.” (Luke 11: 9)

Jesus says, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11: 22 – 24)

Here Jesus warns us that what we ask for and believe we have received will be ours — this is true only because He is there with us, agreeing with us as we pray in faith. Our ability to bind and loose is only in proportion to our adherence to God’s will. If we are off base, then our faith is lacking and our prayer is worthless. Nothing will come of it.

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow.” (Matthew 6: 33 – 34)

“Make A Right Judgment” (Luke 18: 13, ESV) by Carley Evans


A man stands far off. He does not lift his eyes to heaven. He beats his chest with his fists, and cries. He begs for mercy; he recognizes he is a sinner.

Another man stands by himself. He prays to God. He tithes. He fasts two times each week. He is not like others. He is not an extortioner; he is not unjust; he is not an adulterer; he is not a tax collector. He knows the Law of Moses. He is grateful and proud not to be like others.

Jesus says, “Do not judge by appearances, but make a right judgment.” (John 7: 24)

Jesus asks, “What do you think?” He tells the story of the man with two sons. The first son, when asked to work in the vineyard, says that he will. But he fails to go to the vineyard that day. The second son, when asked to work in the vineyard, says that he will not. Afterward he has a change of heart, and goes to work.”Which of the two did the will of his father?” (Matthew 21: 28, 31)

“Truly I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.” (Matthew 21: 31)

Why? Because you hear the way of righteousness and do not believe, says Jesus. Now you see the way of righteousness and still you do not believe. But the tax collectors and the prostitutes believe when hearing.

“Blessed are those who do not see and yet believe.”(John 20: 29)