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Archive for March, 2009

Love Beyond Comprehension

She wasn’t a beautiful woman. All her life she had known nothing but poverty. She was what we would call a lady of the night. Her poverty had forced her into prostitution. In order to live she found herself submitting to all kinds of lewd sexual acts with whoever would pay a price, both men and women. SheSinfulWomanWashesJesusFeet was tolerated but scorned by the religious members of the community. Treated as a leper by many who would cross to the other side of the street when they saw her coming.  It hadn’t always been that way. As a young girl she wanted nothing more than marry and have children, but her family’s poverty and hunger drove her do things that she never thought she would do. Things that made her feel dirty and she hated herself for it. At times the guilt she carried became too great to carry and she would cry out to God for deliverance. Could anyone ever love her? Could anyone look beyond whom she had become and the things she had done? Many times she hoped for death but it would not come. Beyond hope she had set aside enough money to purchase a costly perfume. It had cost her a lot but it was an act of faith that maybe one day someone would indeed accept her and take her out of her shame.

She had been hearing rumours about a Rabbi to whom many were flocking. She had heard that this man would treat everyone with compassion and that he was a miracle worker, healing the sick and giving sight to the blond. Today this Rabbi was coming to her town of Nain. She was curious to see what he was all about. She with many others waited patiently at the city gates for him to arrive. Finally she saw him and thought to herself that there seemed to be nothing special about him. He wasn’t especially good looking and yet she felt herself drawn to him for some reason. And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother. Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.” * She thought to herself, “Who is this man that even has power over death? Can he be real?” At that very moment he looked right at her with eyes full of acceptance and love. They seemed to peer deep into her soul. No man had ever looked at her that way before and she decided that whatever it took she needed to talk to this man.

She rushed home and retrieved her treasured jar of perfume and found out from others that the Rabbi had gone into the house of the Pharisee, Simon the leper. As she approached she saw the crowd of people gathered around the house but was determined that nothing would stop her from seeing this man. Somehow she was able to push herself past the crowd and threw herself at the Rabbi’s feet from behind. Her whole body raked with sobs as years of hurt and shame poured out of her. Her whole body screamed out for mercy. She kissed his feet and her tears splashed over them. These tears she wiped away with her long black hair. She needed to be free and she knew in her spirit that this man was the only one that held the answer. In faith she broke the seal on her treasured jar of perfume and kissed and anointed his feet. She then heard Simon say in disgust, “If this man was any kind of a prophet he would know what kind of a woman this is who is touching him! She is a sinner!” As he said this she hung all the more closer to the Rabbi Jesus’ feet.

Then Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” So he said, “Teacher, say it.”
“There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”
Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”
And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I300_131690 say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” **

Then this Jesus looked down at her and with those same eyes full of acceptance and love and said to her “Your sins are forgiven.” Suddenly the burden that had been so heavy upon her for as long as she could remember was lifted. She was forgiven and accepted with a love that she could not completely understand. The others still looked at her as though she was dirt but that no longer mattered to her. Jesus didn’t care about what she had done or where she had been and that was all that mattered. Peace and love swept over her. This Jesus was more than a man. Only the living God could truly forgive sins. He then lifted her to her feet and said to her “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” She would never again sell her body, she would follow this man and serve in which ever way she could. This God-man who had rescued her from her guilt and despair and shown her a love beyond comprehension.

It is a story that many of you have probably read through many times. You may not have gone into the depths of sin that this woman did but many years ago you   did something and feel too ashamed to bring it to Jesus. You have buried it away and have tried to pretend it’s not there and yet it eats away at your soul Maybe there is hidden sin there that causes you such fear that you think rejection you would have to face if others knew. How could anyone love me if they knew let alone Jesus? My friends, the only ones Jesus turned away were those who were religious. This woman came with a sincere heart. She longed to be free from the things that shackled her. You have to come to a point where you are desperate to be free of the guilt and shame you carry. Psalm 34:18;  The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit. Contrite means a feeling or showing sorrow and remorse for a sin or shortcoming. Psalm 51:17; The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise. If you are sincere and really want to change there is no way Jesus will turn you away. Don’t try to completely understand His love for you. He does not think and treat us like a human being would. If He did, He would have destroyed us a long time ago. His love for us goes way beyond our comprehension.

Maybe you have never approached Jesus. All you know about Him is what you have heard through the media or a Christian you know. Yet you carry all this guilt and no matter what you try, you just can’t let go of it. It weighs you down and keeps you from enjoying your life. The Pharisees said of Jesus, “Who is this man that he thinks that he can forgive sins like God?” How He could is because Jesus is God who clothed himself in flesh for lived amongst us for a short 33 years. He became one of us and because of that He is able to sympathize with the things you and I face. The bible says He faced all kinds of temptation and yet did not sin.  For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16 Don’t try and rationalise His love for you.To our little minds the fact that the creator of this vast universe would love us and see each of us as individuals is mind boggling. Just know He does love you and He will never turn you away.

He says come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 Sin and the guilt of sin make life hard. Jesus came to set you free from those burdens as he did the woman above. That woman was never the same afterwards and neither will you if you let those burdens go. He loves you and there is no sin that is too great that He will not forgive.

Don’t Judge!

A couple of weeks ago I spoke about an Anglican church which broke away from it’s diocese over the issue of denomination accepting homosexuals into their pulpits. The congregation voted 83% in favour of leaving the diocese. I have yet to hear what the fallout of that decision will be. It could very well be that they will be asked to leave the building they worship in. One person wrote and said that I and many Christians were being judgemental in these things. It is the one thing that the world always throws up in the faces of those Christians who want to stand for righteousness. It seems always ok for them to judge us in these matters, making them guilty of the very thing they accuse us of. They use the verses from Matthew 7:1-2 we all know very well. “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” It sounds pretty convincing doesn’t it?  I’m sure many of you have been told that many times over. If it is the case then we Christians truly don’t have a right to confront anyone about their sin. But is that the whole of what Jesus was saying?

Let’s look at John 7:24; “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” Compared with Matthew 7:1 Jesus seems to be contradicting Himself. Let’s look at Matthew 7:1-2 in context;

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:1-5

In other words, if you have sin in your life how can you point out the sin of another. First confess your sins and get yourself right with God and then bring the others sin to their attention and help them deal with it. 

When Christians persist in sin, they are to be judged by their fellow Christians, as Paul explained to the Corinthians:

I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.” 1 Corinthians 5:9-13

The person I spoke suggested that we have no right to judge who speaks from our pulpit. That’s not what the scripture above teaches. It says we are not to have fellowship with that person. Pastors need to be above reproach. If they are living a life of sin, they have no right to be teaching the word of God. A leader leads by example and if there is sexual sins in that person life than it must be dealt with. That person cannot be allowed to continue to minister. Sin cannot be allowed run unchecked amongst any part of a congregation or it will poison it to the point that that congregation will become ineffective. Think about how many dead churches there are out there. Empty shells, a shadow of what they used to be simply because they allowed sin to fester in their midst and accepted it as normal.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavour, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. Matthew 5:13

But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. 2 Thessalonians 3:6

And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?  And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

“ I will dwell in them
And walk among them.
I will be their God,
And they shall be My people.”

“ Come out from among them
And be separate, says the Lord.
Do not touch what is unclean,
And I will receive you.”

Each of the above scriptures talk about separating yourself from those who walk outside of God’s will and according to these scriptures St. Stephens congregation is right in the steps they are taking.

The only way we as believers can obey these scriptures is by using judgement but it always has to come from a heart that has been cleansed and forgiven. (removing that log) And most of all it has to come from a heart of love.