We Must Live as Jesus Did

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Deuteronomy 26:1-11

Romans 10:8b-13

Luke 4:1-13

Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16

Read my earlier comments on this theme here.

I want to consider the reading for tomorrow, Monday. It is 1 John 2:1-6. Before we look at that passage, we need to understand the background of this letter—more of a sermon or essay. We do not know what church first received this letter, but we do know that many members left the fellowship—perhaps returning to the synagogue—while claiming that Jesus was not the Messiah, not the Son of God, not even the Son of Man.

Little wonder that John began in the first chapter with, We write to you about the Word of life, which has existed from the very beginning. We have heard it, and we have seen it with our eyes; yes, we have seen it, and our hands have touched itGNT

Imagine how upset John probably was when he heard of this betrayal of his teachings. We heard, we saw, we touched. How can you not believe us?

John may have been responding to another group as well. These were “Christians” who believed that Jesus was never human; that God appeared on earth, looking like a human, but never being one. He did not die on the cross because God cannot die; He only appeared to die. Therefore, there could not have been a resurrection.

To counter those two groups, John continued: For it was life which appeared before us: we saw it, we are eye-witnesses of it, and are now writing to you about it. It was the very life of all ages, the life that has always existed with the Father, which actually became visible in person to us mortal menPhillips

God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sinESV If we say, ‘We have no sin,’ we are deceiving ourselves, and truth has no place in usNJB

Sin is the issue that opens chapter 2. My little children, I am telling you this so that you will stay away from sin. But if you sin, there is someone to plead for you before the Father. His name is Jesus Christ, the one who is all that is good and who pleases God completelyTLB

The only cure for sin is to walk in the path of Jesus; to walk in the Light. Thomas á Kempis about the year 1420 wrote Imitation of Christ, one of the most widely read devotional books ever written. In it he wrote, What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God. I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it. For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God? Vanity of vanities and all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone.

As John put it: We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands…. Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus didNIV

We read in today’s Gospel assignment that the Holy Spirit took Jesus into the wilderness so that the Evil One could tempt him. Jesus always answered with a Bible verse. He knew the way of the Father and he always faced every challenge with the Word of God at the ready. Can we do less?

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

The Twelve Stones

 

Joshua 5:9-12

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

Psalm 32

An interesting thing happened on the way to the box office. Adjusted for inflation, here are the top eight all-time movies in the US. Gone With the Wind. Star Wars: Episode IV. The Sound of Music. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Titanic. The Ten Commandments. Jaws. Doctor Zhivago. This list is based on all movies receiving the same $9.03 average US ticket price for 2019.

No one in 1939 believed David O. Selznick could make back the unbelievable three million dollars he spent making Gone With the Wind. After all, most of the tickets went for twenty-five cents then. But the movie was set up for a month or more in half a dozen theaters for $2.20 each. Before the general release (the small theaters at $1.10) the gross was $23.5 million, unadjusted.

Number six on the movie list is The Ten Commandments. Cecil B. DeMille spent $13 million in 1956 (a record then) and brought in $122.7 million on the first release. In 2011 it surpassed $2 billion in adjusted gross sales.

Excuse me. Sometimes I go overboard on silly details.

But back to The Ten Commandments. It is successful and is easily the best movie DeMille ever made (and his last). But there are theological issues.

Not to downplay the role of Moses, but he was a bit player in the real story. Who convinced Pharaoh to ‘let My people go?’ Who held back the Red Sea? Who gave Moses the Ten Commandments? Who provided manna? Who provided water in the desert? And, after forty years, who held back the flood waters of the Jordan River?

I hope you guessed God.

DeMille’s father was a minister, so Cecil was grounded in theology and took it seriously. In a movie, it is not possible to picture God, so Moses became His stand-in. Actually, that’s not a problem theologically. We learn about God from hundreds of stand-ins; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Joshua, David, John, and, voted most like God, Jesus.

When believers watch the movie (every Easter!), we are more likely to understand that God is the power behind the action, but few non-believers see it that way. Few Bible stories are understood by non-believers as God in action. Even we Christians have trouble recognizing God in many of Jesus’ parables. Where is God in the Good Samaritan story? The Samaritan is not God, but one of His many stand-ins. He is lead by the Holy Spirit to do God’s work.

In today’s reading, we find that the Hebrews made it to the promised land after 40 years. But even the crossing of the Jordan River was a God thing. When the people arrived on the eastern bank, the river was in flood stage—probably from the Lebanese snowmelt in the spring. Some would say God didn’t plan very well, but we know it was all to prove that the entire Exodus from first to last was God’s.

If we look back at chapter 4 of Joshua, we read in the first three verses,  When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.” NIV

Then in verses 19-22, we read, On the tenth day of the first month the people went up from the Jordan and camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho.  And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ NIV

The tenth day of Nisan—the first month—is the day to select the perfect lambs for the Passover feast. Four days later, with the direction of God, His people celebrated the first Passover in the land of milk and honey.

In chapter 5:10-12 we read, On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover. The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain.  The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate the produce of CanaanNIV

God makes the same promise to us. When we enter the Promised Land, we will no longer eat the manna of this earth, but the produce of the New Jerusalem.

Read my earlier comments on this theme here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence