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HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 20 (Mt 5:40) “Naked”

“And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.”
Matthew 5:40

Did you read, Hydrate 19 yet? Its a bit long, but only because it lays the foundation for this command of Jesus’ too. If you don’t read Hydrate 19 before you read this one, it might cause a little confusion as you read this one, and the next one.

I mentioned in “Hydrate –Winning from the inside 19″ that I have traveled to the Holy Lands several times and while there I always make it a point to visit with any elderly Jewish person, that will speak with me, about some things that Jesus said. My first time to the Holy Lands I encountered an elderly Jewish woman who shared with me some ideas about Jewish history that might help some of Jesus’ commands and teachings make a bit more sense. As a reminder, Jesus was born into a very devoted Jewish family. Jewish law and tradition would have been reinforced in Jesus’ family. He would have obeyed the Jewish Old Testament laws. All 613 of them. Many times, as you read a New Testament passage and it causes confusion, the best way to make sense of it, is to sift it through Jewish Culture. Hydrate’s 19,20 and 21 are all teachings that I have sifted through Jewish Culture.

DRINK IT IN:
Jesus says in this passage, that we are devoting ourselves to today, “And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.”

I have heard many messages and teachings on this passage, and each one that I have heard, has only left me disappointed and frustrated at what seems to be a teaching on how to be a wimpy christian. The way I have heard this passage taught, leaves me thinking, that in order to be a good Christian boy, I am not allowed to stand up to anyone. I’m not allowed to push back with my words. I am not allowed to be strong and bold, but should be passive and weak. What has happened in our society, that people think to be Christian means, we must be timid and quiet? The only scene I can think about in Scripture, where Jesus MIGHT have appeared to be a “walking mat,” a push-over, or “wimpy,” is when He allowed Himself to be beaten, flogged, mocked, and humiliated during the crucifixion. While watching the Mel Gibson movie called “The Passion,” I kept wanting to stand and yell during the crucifixion scene, “Fight Back, Jesus!” But, I recognize, that Hollywood and the American revenge mentality, caused me to want to shout. That attitude has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit. You and I both know that Jesus didn’t fight back, or rarely even talked back, during His nearly 18 hours of torture, before He died from asphyxiation on the Roman Cross. Why? Because Jesus knew His entire purpose, for living amongst us, was to lay down His life for us so that we could receive forgiveness of our sins. Of course He wouldn’t fight back during the crucifixion. If He did, it would have negated His entire purpose and most importantly would have been disobedient to His Father.

So, with that…
I challenge you to find me one other time in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John where Jesus didn’t push back on those who were trying to take advantage of Him. You won’t find one. In EVERY OTHER SCENARIO, Jesus always showed a strong demeanor and never allowed the “bully” to get away with pushing others around. In fact, you will find just the opposite. Read through the four gospel accounts in the Bible and you will find Jesus making a whip, knocking over tables, calling the religious leaders terrible names, exposing the religious bullies’ sins, and causing them to drop the stones they intended to throw, He even called out the sin of the Samaritan woman. You get the idea? What is amazing, is that, in those forms of strength, He remained sinless and perfect. So, why is it that we seem to have allowed His ‘submissive’ demeanor during the crucifixion…a one time scenario…to overrule the multitude of scenes where He didn’t submit, but conquered the evil around Him by doing good?

So, what the heck did Jesus mean when He said if someone takes you to court let them have everything? In Jesus’ time it was common to have two pieces of clothing that you wore every day. First, the Tunic – a long piece of plain cotton or linen cloth as an undergarment for the upper body, but sometimes reaching all the way down to the ankles. In today’s culture we would call this our underwear. I am thinking that we wouldn’t like these as underwear today. A tunic was not what we call “tighty-whities,” or “boxers.” The second piece of clothing, that was commonly worn, is the Cloak– a robe worn over all of the other items of clothing as an outer garment for warmth and appearance.

In Jesus time there were other “accessories” that people wore like, belts, sandals, prayer shawls, but the two key pieces of clothing were your Tunic and Cloak. Without the tunic or cloak one would basically be naked.

So, Jesus says, “And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well,” this means that Jesus is telling you to give of your tunic too, and you will be left naked. If I allowed this to happen while in court during the time period of Jesus, I would have to go home naked, or would I? This is where it gets good!

As I spoke with the elderly Jewish woman, I mentioned earlier, I asked her about this passage and told her why it frustrated me. She shared something pretty cool about the Old Testament that I had never thought about. She said there are Old Testament Scriptures that suggest it is a curse to see someone naked other than your spouse. She said that it is okay to be naked, but not to be seen naked. I asked her if she could remember any of the passages that she was referring to. She shared with me three things, two stories and one scripture verse. The first story she told me is when Adam and Eve recognized they were naked in Genesis 3 and how they used leaves to cover each other’s sexual parts because they felt ashamed. The second story she told me was of Noah and his three sons recorded in Genesis chapter 9. It is the story that happens right after Noah’s family comes off the Ark after the great flood. The Bible story is below and is found in Genesis 9:18-27.(NIV)

18 The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the whole earth.
20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded[a] to plant a vineyard. 21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked.

24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,

“Cursed be Canaan!
The lowest of slaves
will he be to his brothers.”

26 He also said,

“Praise be to the LORD, the God of Shem!
May Canaan be the slave of Shem.
27 May God extend Japheth’s[b] territory;
may Japheth live in the tents of Shem,
and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.”

Q: What did Noah’s youngest son, Canaan, do to Noah that caused Canaan to be cursed?
A: He saw his father naked.

The elderly woman told me that in the Jewish culture, because of this specific Bible story, Jewish tradition says that it is a shame to see someone, other than your spouse, naked. Now, please be patient with me in this understanding. I have tried to verify this by looking in books, commentaries, ask Jewish people in America, and even Google it, and I find very little to verify it. I say, “take it or leave it.” I choose to take it, because it helps me understand this passage of having your Cloak and Tunic taken from you, as a passage of strength, not weakness. Please note the following. Whatever you believe about this specific idea, it is a non-essential Biblically. As I said in previous chapters, this entire Hydrate series is a devotional thing, not a theological thing. If I ever make it a theological issue, I will mention it, as so, specifically. So…back to the point.

Don’t forget that Jesus said things like, “Conquer evil by doing good.” Also, “Be sly as a snake and innocent as a dove.” The elderly Jewish woman helped me understand these passages when she told me about this Jewish tradition. Let’s play it out in a mock court room. Imagine that I am in court and someone has chosen to sue me for my Cloak and they win and in the process of taking my cloak, I go ahead and strip naked and give them my tunic as well! What did I just do to this person…now that they would have seen me naked? I would have caused them to be “cursed” in a very strategic and innocent way. I actually conquered them by doing something good! Jesus said, “Conquer evil by doing good!” By them seeing me naked, because I gave my cloak AND my tunic, I was innocent to do so, but sly as a snake as well as I conquered the evil they were doing to me.

I think this understanding is a way to, as we like to say, “kill people with kindness.” For my enemy to sue me for my cloak and win, but then, I give him my tunic as well, I am treating my enemy with kindness, I could pray for him, I serve him, yet I show him not to mess with me, a Christian! I treated him with kindness AND “beat him in his evil game.” I will leave an impression with my accuser that I am smart, kind, strong, and most definitely not timid. I love that! (The next blog will build on this even more.)

Now to be fully forthcoming, there is one other idea out there about this teaching of Jesus’. I mentioned the elderly Jewish woman shared with me three Old Testament scenarios about nakedness. The third passage, she shared with me, is Isaiah 58:6-8(NIV), it reads,

“6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

Verse 8 says, “when you see the naked, clothe them.” If you think with me back to the courtroom scene, it is obvious this passage would be a way to conquer evil by doing good as well. If you gave your cloak and your tunic to your accuser, your accuser would see you naked and would then be in a moral dilemma as to whether or not he wanted to break the old testament commandment of Isaiah 58:7. When the accuser saw you naked He would then be forced, by His own conscience, to give you your tunic back, which would show that He now was defeated by you! Or, he could ignore the Old Testament command in Isaiah and deal with his own sin and guilty conscience. Either way, you stood up to your accuser without doing anything wrong. You conquered evil by doing good! Does this understanding give you clarity on how to be a christian without being a wimp? I hope so.

SWEAT IT OUT:

How do we make this relevant today? I think that each of us must think of our current lives and our current enemies and figure out ways to treat them with kindness, but at the same time show them they have no dominance over us at all. Its perfectly fine to stand up to people as long as we don’t have sinful behavior. The Bible is full of language about patience, taming the tongue, gentleness, respect for others, not being vengeful, etc. There is a way to be and do all those things and at the same time not be seen as a push-over or wimp. I personally think a majority of true Christians get this part, but we have fallen prey to being overly “nice” and therefore not taking a stronger stand than we should. There is also a fine line of behavior here. I think some might use this material as a way to justify their sinful behavior of standing on street corners and yelling with “boldness” at people who are living in sin. I’m asking the reader of this to use extreme common sense in how to be strategic AND innocent. I’m talking about how to take a strong stance AND be gentle and respectful. The extremes of either side are dangerous to the reputation and cause of Jesus Christ.

Other than hypocrisy and sin, there is no greater thing that can be shown by Christians to harm sharing the love of Jesus, than timidity and “wimpy-ness.” Christianity already has a stereotype of being for people who need a crutch in life. Christians must learn to take an innocent stand, a strategic stand, and be bold for Jesus without harming His cause.

In your current situation, where you may be being dominated by someone, how can you conquer their evil by doing good? How can you stand up to them with strategy and innocence? Before you decide and act on this, run it by a trusted Christian friend first.

You must start by praying for your enemy. Don’t seek revenge, leave that to God. Treat people with kindness and respect, and if they are being abusive, figure out an innocent way to demonstrate to them that Christians are a Holy force to reckon with.

But, please, by all means….Do not be a weakling. Its not how Jesus is.


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INIDE 19 (Mt. 5:38-39) “Turn the other cheek.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
Matthew 5:38-39
(NIV)

DRINK IT IN:
Are you one of millions who are confused by this passage? Doesn’t this passage seem to say, just be a punching bag? This Scripture verse and the next two, in my opinion, have been misunderstood for way too long. I hope after you read this, you will have total clarity on what Jesus meant and your new understanding of it will help you advance the strengths of the Kingdom of Heaven.

“Eye for an eye, and tooth for tooth.” What an easy passage. What an easy law to understand. Call me sick, but I often wish this Old Testament Law were still in affect. If you are a person of peace and innocence, you would never have to worry about this law. If something bad happened to you, it would have been very clear what to do about it. This passage would have caused anyone to strive to avoid/resist an evil person. For if evil were done to you, you could return evil back to the person and it be perfectly acceptable. I don’t know about you, but personally, I have no desire to injure someone’s eye or remove someone’s tooth…even if it happened to me first. This fact would cause me to resist an evil person. To resist an evil person is to run from them, to avoid them and completely stay away from them. To do this I would have to always be alert and in avoidance mode. It would cause me to fear evil people. I don’t necessarily fear having my tooth knocked out or eye injured, although it would be horrible, but what I don’t like about this law is that if it happens to me, I’m supposed to do the same back to the person. I would resist an evil person for fear of having to pluck out his eye or knock out his tooth. To resist an evil person is the same as resisting chocolate. To resist is to completely say no. To keep it out of my life. To resist is to not take a bite, or eat the whole chocolate bar. Resist, means to stay away from. Agree?

Enter Jesus and the New Testament times.

Jesus walks onto the scene and says, “Do NOT resist an evil person.” Don’t avoid them, don’t run from them, and do not fear them. Do not resist an evil person, is best understood when compared to this phrase; do not resist a chocolate bar.

So what is Jesus saying when He says, “Do not resist an evil person?” I think to fully understand what Jesus is saying here we have to read some other things that He said, or the Bible says.

I think I have to mention Deuteronomy 32:35(NLT) immediately. I want to preface everything I am about to write with this passage. “I will take revenge; I will pay them back.” The “I” is God, not us. Revenge is God’s business, not mankind’s. Verse 36 goes on to say, “Indeed the Lord will give justice to His people.” Another passage that is good to preface what I’m about to write is Proverbs 19:11 (NLT) “Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs.” Alright, a couple more verses like this to reinforce the powerful message of kindness and love and respect from the Bible. Romans 12:14 (NLT) “Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.” Over and over in the Bible, we can read passages that reiterate to not return evil for evil. We will be known by our love. So, in what I’m about to write, please understand that we are to be a daily demonstration of Jesus Christ. Jesus bore the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control on a daily basis, everyday of His life. We are to do the same. Revenge belongs to God.

However…
Nowhere in Scripture are we taught that Christians are to be a walking mat. We are not told to take another beating. I think Matthew 5:38-39 has been taught incorrectly way too much and thus has been misunderstood for a long time. Read the passage again from Jesus, “But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

At its simplest reading, it seems to read as if Jesus is telling us to stay around evil people and if they beat us, turn the other cheek, ignore it, and take another beating from the other side. If you are a Christian wife, just stick around your evil husband as he beats you and take another one for the Gipper, because you might save the soul of your husband someday….just cover the bruises with make up! (I wish there were a font for cynicism and sarcasm.)

Many people think that we are supposed to act just like Jesus as He was being crucified. I agree that we should, if we are being crucified. When was the last time you witnessed a Christian being crucified? Are you in danger of being crucified today? If you are, then please behave just like Jesus. He didn’t resist the evil that was happening to Him. He forgave while He was on the cross. He took the beating…over…and over…and over….and over. Please understand something here. This is what Jesus was born for. He was born to be the sacrificial lamb that was slaughtered so that all of mankind’s sins could be forgiven. This is not something you can duplicate or replicate. We can replicate Jesus’ forgiveness. We can replicate His love for others. We can replicate His holy behavior. However, what happened to Jesus on the cross and the fact that He allowed it to happen to Him, is not a standard of how we should live our lives as we live amongst evil in a dark world. Jesus is not asking you to lay down your cross and be crucified for the sins of the evil person you are not resisting. Only Jesus was required to lay down His cross and lay down on it for the Father. Jesus is asking you TAKE UP your cross and carry it. He laid down His Cross and was mutilated and annihilated on it. You are to TAKE UP your cross and carry it. Let me explain how this is different and how Matthew 5:38-39 should empower you to hold your head high and walk right into the mix of darkness and evil and continue to shine like a bright light.

What does Jesus really mean when He says things like, “Don’t resist an evil person”…and…”if you get struck, turn the other cheek?”

Please be patient with, me as I preface what I’m about to write, with two more very important teachings of Scripture, especially for this specific passage, and thus be able to fully understand what Jesus means by this turn the other cheek stuff.

The first passage is one Jesus spoke and is recorded in Matthew 10:16.(NLT) I wrote about this specific passage in HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 14 (Mt.5:25-26) “Before Court.” I will write more about it when I get to this exact teaching of Jesus as I follow the order of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

The passage Jesus spoke says this, “Be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.” Jesus told us to behave this way when we are around evil.

The second passage is one that Paul wrote in Romans 12:21. (NLT) “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”

Can you see how it could be seen as a contradiction when you compare Romans 12:21 with Jesus’ total submission and passivity on the cross? He just let them kill Him. He was conquered by evil. (Some could argue that He knew He would be raised from the dead in 3 days and nights. I think that is a fair argument, but, the reality is that Jesus’ purpose was to be killed so as to pay for all the sins we’ve committed. Nothing we do or should do can be compared to that, ever.) Jesus came to earth to be conquered and killed. Thank God that He rose from the grave, but when His heart beat its last and we see the water and blood come out of his chest when the Roman guard pierces him with a spear….Jesus was officially conquered. Dead.

So, how do we measure and compare these two passages; “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good,’ and “be as shrewd as a snake and harmless as a dove,” with “Don’t resist an evil person, if someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek?” It seems that some actions of Christians that are backed up with this passage seem to tell us to be conquered by evil. But Jesus is really saying…do not let evil conquer you. In fact, conquer evil! I love that. Conquer evil by doing good.

These three passages seem to cause contradiction. We know that the Bible does not have any contradictions. If the Bible doesn’t have any contradictions, but we understand this as a contradiction, then the Bible is not wrong, our understanding of the passage is wrong.

Let’s correct our misunderstanding.

I wish I could stand before you right now and demonstrate this passage to you instead of try to explain it through writing. But here is my best effort.

If you look really carefully at Matthew 5:38-39, you will notice that Jesus is very specific about which cheek you get struck on. It is specifically written, “If someone strikes you on the RIGHT cheek.” If Jesus wanted us to just keep getting struck and to be a walking mat for an evil person, then He would have very simply stated, If someone strikes you, turn the other cheek. He didn’t say this. He said, “If someone strikes you on the RIGHT cheek, turn to them the other (left) cheek.”

This paints a very clear picture for us, especially when we understand some basic Hebrew/Jewish culture practices that coincide with this passage.

I have had the privilege of traveling to the Holy Lands many times and my plan is to go back every 2 years, taking a group of 50 or less each time. If you are ever interested, please contact me and I’ll get your name on the list for the next trip. When I travel to this incredible place I always make it a point to find an elderly person who is has always been Jewish and I speak with them about ideas I have about the Bible. I am convinced, that having a strong understanding of ancient Hebrew culture, is the best way to understand what Jesus taught in the Scriptures. I am shocked at how Christians think of Jesus and try to understand what Jesus taught by using their own cultures to understand it. Many Christians are guilty of thinking that Jesus’ teachings are based off of the the culture they live in today. For instance, I think many Christians that live in America think that Jesus is white skinned and thinks with western culture presuppositions. However, Jesus was raised in a Jewish home, where He would have learned the Jewish Culture and followed it very seriously. Jesus’ skin would have been a dark olive tone and He would have been what the average Jewish man looked like in that day. Did you know that the average Jewish man in Jesus’ time was 5’4″ tall? The Old Testament says that there was nothing about Jesus’ physical appearance that made Him stand out from the average person. That’s all beside the point I want to teach here. My point, in all of what I just wrote, is that having an understanding of the Jewish Culture is the best way to understand what Jesus meant when He taught. I can, pretty confidently say, that if there is a passage in Scripture that is causing you confusion, then the confusion would probably end if you understood what is confusing you through a Jewish Culture and a Jewish understanding. The rest of this post is teaching Matthew 5:38-39 through the understanding of the Jewish culture and understanding of this passage.

Here are the details.

In the Jewish Culture your Right Hand is the hand of power, control and protection. Think with me about some things that Scripture records. The Bible references the Right hand of God. Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father. The right hand of fellowship. The strong right hand of God. Right hand of God’s protection. I would guess that the creation of the word RIGHTeous is a derivative of the word Right. You get the idea? Should I say sorry to all the South-paws” out there!? LOL

Now, understanding the powerful right hand of God and how important this is to the Jewish people, here is something I learned from an elderly person in Jerusalem during one of my trips.

The people in the Bible times had a very different life than the ones we live. For a fun example, think with me about sewer systems and using the toilet. There are ancient toilets that still remain to this day and it is fun to see how they would have used the toilet back in those days. (I love weird stuff like that) What I’m about to write is not written to be weird or gross, but to help us all understand this teaching about turning the other cheek. In Jesus’ day, toilet paper was nonexistent, unlike in America today. Even today, my trips to South America and Africa have shown that toilet paper is still not readily available to a majority of the population around the world. So, in Jesus time, how did the people clean themselves after going to the bathroom? The farm boy in me wants to ask it like it is. How did they wipe their butts in Jesus’ day? In the Jewish culture, as long as someone wasn’t very poor, they would carry with them a stick with a natural sponge attached to it. This cleaning instrument would be kept under their robe at all times unless it was being used in the toilet room. After going to the bathroom, the person would use his LEFT hand to grip the cleaning instrument, dip it in the clean water in front of them and then clean themselves. I say all this to say that the left hand, in the Hebrew culture, was considered an unclean hand…for reasons you should now understand. It was considered very inappropriate and gross to use your left hand for anything that entailed public interaction. The left hand was for personal use only. Whether or not you think that is right or wrong is not the point. The point is…a Jewish person in Jesus’ time didn’t touch other people with his left hand in any way…ever.

Back to Jesus’ teaching about someone striking you on the right cheek. Question. If you know you do not use your left hand for public use at anytime, and at the same time you are going to strike somebody on the right cheek, what hand do you use, and how would that hand have to be angled to strike that right cheek accordingly? I have added a picture of me below to help you visualize and imitate this striking the right cheek stuff! Go for it. Strike away…just remember its really not me, don’t break your computer!

In the picture above, my right cheek is more readily available to be slapped. So, go ahead and slap my right cheek with your right hand. If you are like me, then when you imitated a slapping or striking pattern to strike my RIGHT cheek, it was awkward. UNLESS…you used the back side of your right hand. Try it again, but this time “back-hand” my right cheek? It works! Note this…when you struck “me” with the back side of your right hand, you actually gave me what is called a “smite.”

Now, back to Matthew 5:38-39. The actual word should not be translated strike, but SMITE. The word smite has many definitions linked to it. You can look it up yourself and see that there are many ways to smite somebody. To smite someone is another way of saying you are going to kill them, punch them, ridicule them, etc. Smite is not a word we use in our culture so much today, so most of the translations we have in our Bibles today use the word, strike, slap or other terms that are more culturally relevant. The use of these words may be more relevant to our current cultures, but they also make it very easy to misunderstand what Jesus is actually trying to say in this passage.

In one of my conversations with an elderly woman in Jerusalem, when I asked her about this passage, she explained to me that to be struck with the back of the right hand (smite) is the ultimate form of ridicule and discrimination. In the Jewish culture, when someone took the back of their right hand and gave you a smite across your right cheek, it was their way of saying they are above you and better than you. To receive a smite across the face was very demeaning and embarrassing. (I imagine a snobby person with their black leather gloves in their right hand, looking down over their designer glasses and smiting me with the gloves across my right cheek and face…very demeaning.) Do you get the idea?

So, go back to my picture above. Imagine, after you have given me a “smite” across my right cheek with the back of your right hand…and I did not “resist” you, but instead simply stood my ground with you and turned my left cheek to you, as if to say, “go ahead and smite my left cheek.”

Now, try something. Go ahead, and do the motion of giving me a smite, with the back of your right hand delivered to my OTHER (Left) cheek? You can’t do it without looking like an idiot. This fact, in your indignant anger, would force you, at this point, to do one of two things. One, you would walk away and yourself be humbled as I stood my ground against you. Or two, it would cause you to use your open right hand or with a closed fist to slap or punch me and therefore admit you are my equal.(More on this in a moment.) The whole point of a smite, is to show the person you are giving the smite to, that you are better than they are. So, if you struck me with your open right hand or closed fist, how would that make you admit that we are equals? Where do you think the sport of boxing comes from? In our boxing world when two men or women enter the competitive ring, you never see a lightweight going toe to toe with a heavy weight. No, always light weight vs. lightweight, or middleweight vs. middleweight. From the beginning of competitive boxing, two equals always got in the ring to determine who could outbox who. Boxing is with a closed fist for punching or in some cases open handed slaps between two equals. The elderly lady, I visited with in Jerusalem, told me that in the Hebrew culture, to slap or punch somebody is to admit that you are an equal with the person you are fighting. Smiting/back handing is a way to demonstrate dominance over the one being struck.

So, back to my picture above. If after your gave me a smite on the right cheek, I then turn the other cheek (left cheek) as if to say, “go ahead, try it again!” By doing this, I actually put you in a predicament of several factors. First, I am NOT resisting you, like Jesus commands in the passage. I am actually standing up to you. I am also obeying what Jesus said about being sly as a snake and innocent as a dove. If I turn my left cheek to you after you gave me a smite on my right cheek, I am strategically setting you up to admit that you are my equal, when your whole point of the smite was to demean me and demonstrate to the witnesses watching, that you think you are better than me. And third, I also obey the scripture of Romans 12:21 that says, conquer evil by doing good.

Do you get this?
After you smite me on the right cheek, I then turn to you my left cheek…in this moment, now answer the following questions…
In my position in front of you and with my left facial cheek exposed towards you…
Am I seen as a person of timidity?
Am I seen as a person of revenge?
Am I seen as a person who is weak?
Am I seen as a person who is just asking for another beating?
Am I seen as a person of patient endurance?
Am I seen as a person of strategy?
Am I seen as a person of strength?
Am I inspiring to those who are watching?

You see, when I turn that other cheek, the person who wants to strike me again is forced to make a decision. Slap me or punch me and demonstrate that you are my equal. I would be okay with that! Or walk away and demonstrate to the witnesses that they just got outsmarted, outwitted and outplayed.

You CONQUERED evil, by DOING good!

And, the whole time, they remained holy, pure, and an inspiration of what it means to be a follower of Jesus!

There’s more. The next verse following this turn the other cheek passage…does the same thing but in a court setting and while facing a lawsuit. If you like what you just read about turning the other cheek, the next two posts are of the same nature but about being taken to court, or being forced to carry something for someone.

As you go out and about in the world and undoubtedly will be confronted by different kind of evil remember to
Conquer evil by doing good!
Turn the other cheek and watch them squirm!

You will be known as a follower of Jesus Christ, and as having incredible patient strength, and self control!
That’s living like Jesus.


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 18 (Mt.5:33-37) “Oaths”

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ 34 But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”
Matthew 5:33-37:

DRINK IT IN:

Have you ever participated in a “swearing in?” That’s what Jesus is talking about here. He is clearly commanding us not to swear to anything other than God Himself. To swear on something is what we do when we want to strengthen our swear/oath by giving credit to the Bible, to death, or to “your mother’s grave, etc.

So what about “being sworn into office?” What about raising your right hand in court proceedings and “swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God?” This is what Jesus is talking about. Jesus is saying, don’t do this anymore. So back in 1772, some people requested a change in the court system.

Did you know that there is an “Alternative Oath” that you can request, so as not to break this command of Jesus, in the American court system? It was created in 1772 in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania’s oath is derived from colonial Laws of the Commonwealth, enacted in 1772, and reads:

“You [and each of you] do swear by Almighty God, the Searcher of all hearts, that the evidence you shall give this court [and Jury] in this issue now being tried shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth and as you shall answer to God on the last great day.”

Did you notice that the swearing was to no one, but God? This is a technical issue. Some might argue that this is a ridiculous technicality and a waste of time. I might push back and say that details matter to God. What if Noah ignored a few details from God about building the ark? Where this command is tricky is in the wording. The command says not to swear and then gives details about not swearing on heaven, earth, Jerusalm, etc. It seems to give us the okay to swear on the name of Almighty God. The dilemma we face is trying to determine which law we want to obey. The Bible tells us to obey the law of the land. If this is the case, then we are called to have a swearing in when we testify in court, or need to be sworn in as a public servant. But, we also must guard swearing on anything but Almighty God. I think the alternative oath is the answer. Next time I am in court or being sworn into office I will request this alternative oath and thus honor this command of Jesus. (Hopefully it will never happen. I have no desire to be involved in something that causes me to testify in court and even though I’ve always had a childhood dream of being President of the US, its highly unlikely!)

This command of Jesus is really simple and not needing deep explanation. The previous devotions I have been doing are longer…but of course…good! (Just ask me.) So…this devotion is shorter.

Jesus is simply saying to all of us, ‘if you commit to do something, don’t over promise, don’t swear on your mother’s grave, just do it!” If you say you are going to do it, then do it. If you say you are not going to do it, then don’t do it.”
This is integrity. This is one area where Christians should be known for doing.

We’ve seen it in the movies. When someone says they are going to do something and then they back it up with all kinds of promises, over promises and then they throw in a few extra guarantees that it is going happen. Its as if the person is trying to persuade themselves. When this kind of thing happens, its like a person saying they are going to come through for you, but as they say it, they don’t recognize that they are shaking their head in disagreement at the same time.

Have you ever met someone that is known as, “a man of his word?” “A woman of her word?” You’ve heard people say, “Back in the day, a handshake is all that was needed.” Or, “If ‘so & so’ says, “yes,” then consider it done!” These are comments of trust and integrity and if you know someone like this, you value them greatly.

Those phrases are earned. That reputation is earned through hard work and integrity. You can’t wake up one day and own this kind of reputation. You and I have to wake up today and begin to do what we say we are going to do. And then tomorrow, repeat. Then the next day, repeat! Over and over again.

SWEAT IT OUT:

Are there things in your life that you have been making promises about, but you are failing in following through on your word?

If you are doing this…do you agree with me that it is creating a horrible reputation of you?

Is there anyone in your life that you need to apologize to for not coming through on your word? If so, contact them and simply apologize and end the conversation. Then, after you apologize, just go about coming through on your word without saying anything else. Let your actions prove your apology.

If you are a person who has been doing a lot of promising and making false oaths…it means that your word means very little to people, and because of this, you will not be a very trusting or trustworthy person. If this is the case for you, then admit it, confess it to God, and start re-earning your new reputation.

If you are a person who comes through on your word…then keep it up! Its a great thing to continue. You will hold high value in other people’s lives.

Today…pay attention to yourself and the people around you and be observant about what they say they are going to do and whether or not their actions back up their words.

I know that you agree with me in the fact, that Christianity needs more people of integrity who do what they say and say what they do!

Its starts with you. Don’t let this devotion make you focus on others and their short comings. Only focus on you.

Make a life long commitment to simply let your yes, be yes, and your no, be no! How refreshing.

Watch how it will impact the people around you.
If you do this…you will be a lot like Jesus and you will win in life, and it will be because you started winning from the inside! This focus is about internal strength and integrity. This is something that is best done when you are focusing on being just like Jesus and keeping in His presence moment by moment throughout your day. Your word matters. Keep it simple. Yes. No.

Keep Hydrating! I hope these are good challenges for you. They are for me.
Do you swear you are going to stay committed?
Swear on your Mother’s Grave that you will!
That was a test.


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 17 (Mt. 5:31-32) “Divorce”

“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.”
Matthew 5:31-32

DRINK IT IN:

Let me be clear in this “nasty” teaching of Jesus’.
Jesus loves people who have never been married.
Jesus loves people who are married.
Jesus loves people who are fighting in their marriage.
Jesus loves people who are filing for divorce in their marriage.
Jesus loves people who are divorced.
Jesus loves people who have been divorced multiple times.
Jesus loves people.
Jesus loves you.

Is that clear as mud?

Let me be even more clear. JESUS HATES DIVORCE. There is a HUGE difference in hating divorce and hating people. They are not the same thing. Jesus loves the sinner and hates the sin. Jesus hates divorce but loves the divorcee. We all need to be extremely honest here, and call divorce what it is. Divorce is a sin and, yes, God/Jesus hate it. They hate it as much as lying, murder, drunkenness, gossip, idol worship, foul language and all other sins.

I have a big question for you to think about. When did divorce seem to become the unforgivable sin? I’m not trying to let divorce off the hook. I’m not trying to justify it. I am simply fascinated at how people tend to think and feel that divorce is worse than other sins. What is fascinating to me is how different cultures view different sins. In America, adultery and divorce are the big nasties and yet we are almost numb to murder. I traveled to Africa recently where divorce and adultery are rampant, but if you neighbor steals something from you, the whole village goes into an uproar, while sexual sin seems to be overlooked. I traveled to Jerusalem, where you cannot mix meat and cheese together (horrible pizza there) because of Old Testament Jewish Law, but revenge and being judgmental towards others is a daily occurrence and doesn’t seem to upset many people at all. There is something deep inside us that causes us to rank sins, overlooking some and being appalled by others. I’m not sure why.

What am I saying in all this? I’m saying that God hates sin…period. Be careful if you are really picking on one sin at the ignoring of others. Its really not our job to be judging what sins are stronger than others. That is God’s job. This teaching of Jesus’ is a tough one. Again, like in other teachings, Jesus is being very direct. He is “stirring it up” with those who are listening to Him as He teaches this, and He’s “stirring it up” with us as we read it nearly 2000 years later. I think its fair for me to say that Jesus had a “no holds barred” teaching philosophy and in this teaching He opened up a can of “whoop awes!” Do you know what this can is? “Awwwe…I wish He wouldn’t have taught that!”

Let’s get into the nitty gritty of this teaching. First of all, I think it is important that we recognize that God’s law of marriage is a bit different than the governments law of marriage. The government produces a piece of paper, that you pay for as a “couple,” and after some witnesses under the guidance of a state approved officiant sign it with you, you are viewed as married. That is State Marriage.

A God ordained marriage is when God observes you having sex. (God does know and see everything right? This doesn’t make Him a “peeping Tom” is makes Him God of ALL.) When a male goes into a female sexually, they have become what the Bible calls, “one flesh.” In God’s eyes, that is marriage…with or without the paper signed by your local government. With or without a Pastor officiating the ceremony. SEX = MARRIAGE. Why? Because sex is the full consummation of the Mental, Physical, Emotional and Spiritual union between a male and a female. It is how God designed it. The two becoming one flesh can go even one step further. If the sperm and the egg meet up and the timing is right, they create another person, thus “one flesh” is created from the two who were “wed.” Make sense? The two became one flesh and often created one more flesh together, a baby. This is all Marriage!

God created marriage to be a beautiful, sensual, adventurous, vulnerable, emotional, physical, mental, social and spiritual experience. MARRIAGE. Marriage is community. Marriage is how God ordained the entire world order to flow. Marriage is the #1 theme throughout the entire Bible. Some might argue and say that Salvation is the #1 theme in the Bible. I would ask, “What is salvation?” Salvation is the restoring of a person who broke their relationship with God. For a person to become restored with God is to reunite with God. To reunite is union. Marriage is union. God titled it sufficiently in the Bible, by calling Jesus the Bridegroom and the Church the Bride. You are the church. When someone doesn’t’ commit to a local church and also chooses to not be in a relationship with God….this is a form of divorce. God desires marriage. God said from the beginning, right after creating Adam, “its not good for man to be alone…therefore He created woman. God is a God of community. From the very beginning there has always existed The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. Its community, union, relationship, thus marriage.

Understanding what marriage is created by God to be, is the best way to understand why God hates divorce. Marriage is a man and woman teaming together to live life to the full. They compliment each other because they each bring different strengths and weaknesses into the relationship. I love the Hebrew understanding of Man and Woman. The ancient Hebrew spelling for Man is spelled in word pictures. We might better understand them as what we know as ancient hieroglyphics. The word-picture for man, husband and father is…

You might say…”That looks like greek to me.” Well…its actually Hebrew! Now remember, when reading Hebrew, one reads from the right to the left. So, the first letter for man/husband is the letter, “A”. In its most ancient form, written language was written by using “word-pictures.” The A that we have today was first an “Ox-Head.” If you use your imagination you can see that the letter “A” we have today could be an ox head, if you tilt it sideways. The legs of the “A” would then become the horns of an ox head. Got it? This, in the Hebrew language, is called the “Aleph.” Pronounced “u-lef.” Its where we get our English “A”. The ox-head, or the Aleph means, “Strength, Protector, and Leader.” The other hieroglyphic that is on the left side of the Aleph is where we get our English letter “b”. In Hebrew this is called the “beth”. Pronounced, “bet.” The word picture that this letter depicts is a “tent.” If you use your imagination you can see how this could be a tent. The tent, or the bet means, “Family, House.” Again we should read these two word pictures from right to left, opposite of how we read English. When we read these two word pictures as if they were actual letters, this is where we get our word, “Ab.” Translated…Abe, Abraham, “FATHER” Abraham. Thus Father! Jesus said, while dying on the cross, “ABBA.” That means Father. Are you learning Hebrew with me here? So, in this word picture, the man of the house is the husband and father. He is “Abe…Ab” This means the husband is the STRONG(ox) protector of the house(tent). Strong protector of the house. Now the ‘Ab’ has a very difficult task. To protect the house means more than packing your 9mm hand gun and being prepared to take-out the bad guy who is breaking in to your home. Protector of the house, means protector of the Social, Mental, Physical, Spiritual, and emotional state of the household. Wife, Children and self. This is no easy task. As the ‘Ab’ of the house, you are to protect those elements of the home with the same kind of focus and passion you would if an intruder came into your house and you had to use your handgun to protect. The reality is that an actual intruder coming into your home, in the form of a thief or rapist is very rare. But the intruders of greed, selfishness, hate, laziness, anger, etc are intruders that many times live under our own rooftops on a daily basis. Father/Husbands…are you the strong protector of your tents? You are the “Ab.”

Now the word picture for woman, wife and mom is just as fascinating.

Now you are probably recognizing that there is a similarity in the word images for Husband and Wife. The ‘Aleph’ is also in the word-picture of woman. Which means she is strong, protector and leader as well. (Christians who argue about who is the leader of the household, who is in charge, who is over who…miss the entire idea of who Jesus is. He never argued about position. He served and earned His leadership. He washed the feet of those under Him. The best way to husband and wife and who is “over” who is to picture the body. Jesus is the head and the husband and wife are the shoulders.) Woman is also strong leader and protector, but in a different way. Not so much of the “tent/house,” but as the image on the left depicts. The image on the left is the Hebrew letter called the “mem.” It is pronounced like it looks. It is where we get the English letter “m”. So if you say these letters you get “am”…but pronounce it with a short “o….om…am…mam.” Its where we get “mom.” Now the cool thing is the fact that the Hebrew “mem” is a letter that paints the picture of water. Look at the word picture and you will see waves and the “tail” at the bottom of the waves demonstrate the water coming and going just like waves on a beach. There are two different meanings for this letter in the Hebrew culture. The first meaning for water here is…chaos. So mom is the protector of chaos. If that doesn’t fully make sense to you, then understand the second meaning and put them together. The second meaning of “AM” in the Hebrew life was this. A = ox = Strong. M = water=chaos. “AM” was translated to mean “Strong-Water.” Now in the Hebrew world, after a successful hunt, the rawhide of the killed animal, would be skinned and placed in boiling water. The hide would begin to breakdown and the fatty and left over substance from the hide would float to the surface of the boiling water. A trowel would be used to skim this sticky substance off of the boiling water’s surface and the “goo” would be placed on a piece of wood where the extra moisture would be absorbed into the wood leaving a very sticky substance left over. This left over sticky substance was called, “Strong-Water.” This strong water was used for purposes of glue. So, in the Hebrew culture, the ‘AM’…the mother…was the STRONG WATER of the family. Mom is the “glue” that holds everything together. I love that word picture! It is such a true word picture…in most cases.

BUT…hold on…there is another word image for wife/mom/female that is vital in understanding marriage. The word is translated “Helpmate.” God created woman to be a helpmate for man. She is created to be just as powerful as man, but in different ways. (Adam said, bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh.) She is just as powerful as man, but in different ways. She is a true compliment/helpmate to man. God didn’t created her to be man’s servant, dish washer, house cleaner…kind of helpmate. But “co-protector.” Both powerful, both serving and loving and needing one another. The best word picture for helpmate is this.

Helpmate is best understood as “She has an “eye” for the “enemy.” The hieroglyphic on the left is a picture of a person with a weapon and is using it to strike…thus…”enemy. ”

The wife of the household has this innate ability to discern things. God has given a majority of women the gift of discernment. The most important ability a wife can have to help protect her family is to be able to ‘Have an eye for the enemy.” She is always watching for the enemy. A mother is very watchful. She see’s things that the kids do, that we as men don’t see them do, and the act took place right in front of our own eyes! We husbands and fathers of the family have a tendency to be very competitive and we have a strong desire to physically protect our family. The wife can help us see people who are dangerous that we didn’t notice. So understand this…the greatest enemy the wife can see, that we as a man rarely ever see, is the “enemy within.” Sometimes, men, the biggest enemy to our family is ourselves. The dad…the husband…the man, we can be the worst enemy. Our pride sometimes prevents us from seeing ourselves as an enemy and a danger to ourselves and to our families. We can be our own worst enemies. Many times we feel like our wives are nagging us about things we could do different or better and it can be deeply frustrating for a man. Even the Bible says that “a nagging wife is like a dripping faucet.” But…what if…we recognized that a majority of the time, our wives aren’t actually nagging us, as much as she is warning us of the enemy in ourselves, that she sees, but we don’t. She is trying to warn us about an up and coming danger because she is discerning that we as the husband/father/man are headed in a direction that is not healthy…and we don’t see it ourselves. We are our own worst enemies. Our wives see it, try to warn us of it, and we want to divorce her. (God hates divorce!) Is this all beginning to make sense?

Do you understand this? She is helping us! She has an eye for the enemy. The problem usually is that when she “alerts” us of this enemy, she does it in a demeaning or disrespectful and damaging way. When this happens we see this as nagging and we don’t listen. But the matter of fact is that she sees an enemy prowling around the “tent” and it happens to be ourselves. Love her for this God given ability, don’t reject her for it. If you are the “AM” of the family and you see your husband becoming an enemy to himself and his family, then figure out a very loving and kind way of alerting him. Disrespecting him and ‘nagging’ him about it will only make it worse.

So…why does God hate divorce? Because He knows a man and woman who make a commitment to one-another (vows) to spend the rest of their lives together being “strong-protectors” of the tent, and all the chaos, but then have sex with other people, or reject one-another because we think we can live better apart, and thus break the vow, will end up worse off.

There is more to this divorce thing…but this is enough to “digest” for now. In a future Hydrate Devotional we will get to some other issues of divorce and marriage.

Don’t divorce your spouse by having sex with another person. Remember sex is marriage. If you have sex with someone else other than your spouse you are divorcing your current spouse and marrying the person you are having sex with. Divorce and Adultery are really the same thing. It is a sin. It is adultery. It is evil.

SWEAT IT OUT:
Recognize each others differences and see them as complimentary protection services.
Talk with your spouse about the ancient Hebrew Hieroglyphics that I have placed in this devotion.
Recognize that you are better together than a part. (Share with each other the things you are thankful for in each other.)
You obviously will have some tensions that you will have to work through. Talk them through with respect and love and gentleness.
Give each other grace and love and forgiveness.
Laugh at yourself a little more. You are not perfect.
Understanding what marriage IS, is the strongest way to prevent divorce and adultery.
Having a great marriage and preventing divorce is not easy. In fact, its extremely difficult. You will have to be unselfish.
Just like Jesus.


HYDRATE –WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 16 (Mt.5:29-30) “Sin”

29 “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”
Matthew 5:29-30

DRINK IT IN:
When you and I chose to sin, it broke our relationship with God. God had to pull back from us. God will not be around sin. He had to distance Himself from us, because we sinned. Oh…please don’t’ misunderstand, it didn’t change how much God loves us. It did not change the fact that nothing can separate us from His love. But, it did change our ability to join Him in Heaven for eternity. When God created us, He simply had Heaven and Earth as the same place. Then we sinned, and Heaven and Earth had to become separate places. That’s why in the prayer Jesus taught the Apostles to pray, “The Lord’s Prayer,” Jesus taught us to pray to the Father this, “Thy Kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven.” To repeat myself, they used to be the same place. This teaching of Jesus that is recorded in Matthew 5, is what I call a “Salvation Issue.” Jesus is being very direct in this teaching.

When we chose to sin and go against God, we joined the curse that was placed on the world, when Adam and Eve chose to sin. When we chose to join that curse, even unknowingly, we opened the door to Hell for us. It was closed to us prior to this sin thing. The Bible actually says that Hell was created for Satan and the angels that followed him and disobeyed God.(Matthew 25:41) I wish people understood this better. So many people don’t want to believe in God because they say they can’t believe in a God that would send people to Hell. God never intended for people to go to Hell and He doesn’t “send” people there either. I think the following thoughts will explain this fact.

The Bible says, that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, thus God separated Himself from us in our sin. You and I have sinned, and if the sin isn’t paid for, we will remain separated from God.

This is why Jesus was sent to earth from Heaven. God the Father, made Jesus leave their “gated community” in Heaven to become one of us. To come and live “on the other side of the tracks” with us, among us, and in us.” When we sinned, God was forced to make a choice. You see, if God is a God of integrity, then He must follow His own rules. God created two rules soon after He created everything. You can find the rules recorded in Genesis 9:4-5 and Leviticus 17:11. The two rules, are 1.) “Life is in the Blood.” 2. “The blood makes atonement by the life.” Hang in here with me as I explain this a little bit. Put on your thinking caps.

God is the one who created the rules/laws that are referenced in the Bible. These rules/laws are meant for us to follow. Have you thought about the following question? “Does God have to follow the rules? I mean, He is God, and He can do anything He wants, right? Here’s the answer. The very nature of God is perfection and Holiness. Perfection and Holiness ARE Integrity. For God, not to follow His own rules/laws, it would make God a Hypocrite, because He would be asking us to do something that He doesn’t do Himself. A hypocrite lacks integrity. If God lacks integrity, then He is not God at all. God must follow His own rules. It’s the only real guarantees we have in life. God is integrity and God is the same yesterday, today and forever!

So God has these two “strange” rules that He created. One, Life is in the blood, and two, the blood makes atonement by the life.

So, when God’s prized possession, which is mankind(that means You), broke His rules… we sinned. When we sinned, we separated ourselves from God, who is pure holiness and perfection. This is where Rule #2 of God’s, comes into play. “Blood makes atonement.” This word, “atonement,” can be best understood when broken up into three words. “At-One-Ment.” When we all chose to sin, God had to remove Himself from us. But God loves us and wants us to be with Him for eternity. This put God in a situation where He had to appeal to His own law. God says that a life must be taken, in order for a sin to be forgiven. God knew at this point that we needed to be made pure in order for Himself to be with us again. So, God has a major dilemma. The Bible explains God as being two parts. God is JUSTICE. And, God is MERCY. God knows that blood must be taken, which means somebody dies, in order for “at-one-ment” to happen. Atonement means forgiveness. For JUSTICE to be served, a life has to be taken. For MERCY to be served, a life must be spared. Do you see the dilemma that God is facing at this point in time?

So, it makes sense that God chose for animals to be the “life-blood” that is taken to pay for the sins of mankind. This is the way of the Old Testament. A man/woman who had sinned and separated themselves from God, would choose a perfect animal and take it to Jerusalem to the priests of the Temple, and the priests would sacrifice the animal, by taking all its blood from its body, and putting some of the blood on the person who sinned, and then took some of the blood and sprinkled it on the altar of the Temple to show God that blood was shed to pay for the sin. Any left over blood would be burnt as an offering to God. When the blood was shed and placed on the person and then offered to God, God forgave that person for their sins. This was done once a year, every year and had to be done in Jerusalem. By doing this, God’s justice was fulfilled because a life was taken to pay for the sin, and God’s mercy was fulfilled because He was able to spare the life of his most beloved of Creation, and instead took the life of an animal. (To you animal lovers out there…God does love all animals, but not as much as people.) In this plan of God’s…. Justice and Mercy are both fulfilled. That’s a good plan.

However, over time, and for reasons I can’t fully explain, the animal sacrifices became insufficient for mankind as an offering. My opinion is that the offering and killing of an animal was supposed to be a way to prevent people from sinning. I think God was wishing that we as mankind would have enough compassion towards animals that we would want to stop sinning to spare the life of the animal. However, I think, it turned out to be a form of a free ride for people. People became apathetic towards the animal sacrifices and began doing the sacrifices for the purpose of fulfilling religious laws instead of doing the sacrifice as a way of sorrowful regret and repentance. To say it more succinctly, people kept on sinning and did even more sin, knowing that a simple killing of an animal would pay for the sin. It became an easy out for people.

God determines that this Old Testament payment for sins was not sufficient anymore. He needed to “up the stakes.” This is a serious dilemma for God. If animal sacrifices weren’t working, then what sacrifice, in all of creation, would work? There isn’t much more to choose from. It basically left US to be the ones who needed to die, to pay for sin, so we could be “at-one-ment” again with God. This dilemma is intense, because if God chooses to kill us, to pay for our own sins, then He kills us…thus loses us and our relationship with him. You can’t have a relationship with dead people. In this scenario, Justice would be served because the sin would be paid for, but mercy would be left unfulfilled, because we would be dead. The opposite idea of this doesn’t work either. The opposite would leave Justice undone. The opposite would be to let you and me off the hook for our sins by simply forgiving us and letting mercy rule the day…but then Justice would be unfulfilled. God is Justice AND Mercy. God is the same Yesterday, today and forever. He can’t just change His very nature. God is who He is. He is the great “I Am.” Anyway, that would mean that God broke His own rules, thus He would not be integrity anymore and thus would not be God. Big dilemma. Right?

So, God comes up with the perfect solution to this grand dilemma. God, the Father, while in Heaven, looks to His right, and there sits Jesus, the only Son of God. Jesus is the one whom God created everything with and through. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the “Us” in the very beginning of the Bible when God said, “Let US create mankind in OUR image, to be like US.” Jesus is the ONLY SON OF GOD and has always existed with God.

Can you imagine how much God must love us in order for Him to look at His only Son and choose Him to be the one who is killed, so the Life-Blood would be shed and our sins forgiven, thus fulfilling His Justice. But, because Jesus is the Only Son of God, God knew that He could raise Him from the dead and also fulfill His Mercy. And…its gets better! Since this is such an incredible Sacrifice. God would only do it once for all time and for all sins. This IS what is called Grace. Grace is nothing more than this but it is everything. The fact that Jesus came to earth and had His life blood shed for us…IS GRACE. Grace is a free gift. You couldn’t make Jesus not give His blood. You couldn’t make Jesus give His blood. He chose to go and give His blood because He wanted to please and honor His Father. This is a free gift! This IS Grace.

How hard must it have been to be the Father in Heaven and for Him to ask His only Son to leave the comforts of Heaven, be born as a vulnerable baby, live a perfect life, be beaten, scourged, humiliated, and crucified?…………….So you and I could have our sins washed clean? So God could have you and me back? What a price!

Don’t tell me, or anyone else, that God doesn’t love you. Don’t tell me, or anyone else that God sends you to Hell. He only honors our choices after paying such a huge price for us.

God did EVERYTHING He could do for you. To do anything else…to make it easier for you…would make God break His own rules and thus not be integrity, thus not be God. Please do not tell me that you actually wished God would have done more for you? What a price. For me. For you.

All that…to pay for our sins. We are loved.

So when Jesus says, “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell,” you and I can understand why, right?

So here is the big question…Jesus didn’t mean this literally did He? Because, if He meant this teaching literally the Apostles would have plucked their eyes out on the spot. The Apostles would have been walking around with no hands. If this were literal, can you imagine what the Church services each weekend, around the world would, look like? We wouldn’t need multi-media presentations because none of us would have eyes to see it. We would have to sing our worship songs a cappella because all our musicians wouldn’t have any hands. None of us would have eyes or hands.

So what was Jesus teaching here if He didn’t mean it literally?

Jesus loved to get our attention. He used some pretty cool and amazing illustrations to make us ponder, as long as possible, about His ways. All Jesus is saying here is this….”Do everything you can in your power and with me helping you, to not sin.” If every time you get on the computer, you sin, then wouldn’t it be better to get rid of the computer than to continue in your sin and eternally be separated from God the Father?

The computer is just one example of a million things that we use when we choose to sin. What Jesus is saying here is simply this, “Stop CHOOSING to sin!”

If there is anything in your life that helps you choose to sin and you keep using it as an excuse as to why you sin….then put it away until you can have the self-discipline and the strength to resist the sin. Throw it away forever, if that is what it takes for you to quit using it as an example to continue to live in sin. Jesus is saying…”Please…after all the crap I went through to show you how much My Father in Heaven loves you…please don’t keep on sinning….Please don’t make My pain and sacrifice a waste of your eternal life….please.”

SWEAT IT OUT:
Is there anything in your life that you are using as an excuse to continue sinning?
What are you continuing as sin?
What does God have to do in His relationship with you if you choose to keep on sinning? (If you don’t know that answer, please go back above and read about what God has to do when we sin.)
What sin or sins do you HAVE to keep on doing? _________________________________________________ (fill in the blank…and seriously think about whether or not you HAVE to keep on committing it.) Remember, when Jesus died, He broke the power of sin and its curse over you. By giving your life to Jesus you “can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.”
Be a conqueror! Not an excuse maker!

This is tough stuff!
You can do it!

Remember these two passages and it will help you conquer all sin in your life.

1 Corinthians 10:13, “13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

1 John 1:9, 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

Live Holy! A huge price was paid so that Justice would be served to pay for your sins and Mercy was served so that God could keep you in a relationship with Him.

Don’t keep Crucifying Jesus because you choose to live in sin. You and I are not perfect and we will make mistakes. But there is a big difference between making mistakes and CHOOSING to sin.

Choose Holiness.
You will be eternally grateful.
The Father in Heaven will be too.