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Can you define Christian? (Bond Servant)

From the instant Jesus left earth and returned to His gated community by ascending back to the right-hand side of the Father in heaven, there has been controversy about how to follow Jesus. The book of Acts in the Bible has multiple accounts where, even the apostles, argue amongst themselves about what to specifically do when it comes to following Jesus. We are a passionate people, and when it comes to our faith, things get very personal. Add to this natural phenomenon all the denominations and different religions throughout the world, and what we have is a mixed bag of ideas about what it means to get to heaven and what it means to follow Jesus. In fact, a majority of the New Testament is simply letters from the apostles, written to answer questions from local churches that were having problems. The Bible is a grouping of solution letters written under the guidance of the Creator, Jesus Christ Himself. This blog post is long but I hope worthwhile in painting a perfect picture of what it means to be a Christian.

I think the most important issue that we must deal with, in this blog post pertains to something that Jesus said Himself. It is recorded in John 14:6 (NLT). Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

That is a very intense, bold, and what could be called, arrogant, statement. Could you imagine your child’s teacher sending home a letter with all his students that read like that statement. The letter sent home would be a short statement that reads like this: “To all parents of the students in my class: I wanted to simply inform you that there is a heaven and a hell, and I wanted to inform you that if you or your student wants to go to heaven, then please know that I am the way, the truth, and the life, and you or your student will not be able to enter heaven or meet the Father in heaven unless you go through me.”

Can you imagine the uproar? Can you imagine the controversy, the headlines? Yet, this is exactly what Jesus did. This statement from Jesus has caused an uproar since He said it. This statement has created controversy and anger ever since He said it. So, before we can become a follower of Jesus, we must sort it out in our own head and heart as to whether or not Jesus is who He says He is. I love the thought process that C.S. Lewis created a long time ago, in which he says that Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or He is Lord. It’s a fair proposal from Lewis. Someone can’t just show up on the scene, calling themselves the Way, the Truth, the Life, and not be considered one of those three. So as you read this blog post, I ask you to decide what you believe. Do you believe that Jesus is a liar? Do you believe that Jesus is a lunatic? Do you believe that Jesus is who He says He is, and thus, is Lord of Lords, King of Kings, and the only way to get to heaven?

If you chose either of the first two options about who Jesus is—a liar or a lunatic—then you can live the rest of your life however you want. I do not want to be cynical with you, if you have chosen either of these two options or both, but if you did choose liar and/or lunatic, then please eat, drink, and be merry…do whatever you want, for this life is as close to heaven as you will ever get. Enjoy it immensely. Indulge and grab life by the horns and live to the max. I would, if I were you.

However, if you chose Jesus to be who He says He is—Lord—then I want to welcome you to the path less traveled. You have chosen a narrow and challenging path that will rock your world. I am excited for you, and I hope the rest of what you are about to read will give you clarity on what it truly means to be a follower of Jesus.

The best example I use to help others fully understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus is actually an Old Testament example. The example is what is called a bond servant. I do not think someone can have a true and full understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus or a christian, outside an understanding of what a bond servant is.

A bond servant is an Old Testament term for what we might call a voluntary slave. I want to directly challenge the reader to remove all presuppositions from your mind as to what the American mentality of a slave is. Please understand that in the Old Testament Hebrew culture, to be a slave could be a very wonderful and voluntary form of making a living. It could be a lifestyle that someone would choose.

Now, when someone would become a slave in a Jewish culture, there were rules that God required to be followed, and they can be found in the book of Exodus in the Bible. Some of these rules may or may not make sense to us in our cultures today, and that is okay. They were still rules that God wrote, and thus, the people of that time must follow. Just for the sake of what I hope is your own curiosity, I want to include these rules below. Exodus 21:1-5 (NLT).

“These are the regulations you must present to Israel. If you buy a Hebrew slave, he may serve for no more than six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom. If he was single when he became your slave, he shall leave single. But if he was married before he became a slave, then his wife must be freed with him. If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave and they had sons or daughters, then only the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master.”

So, this gives us a perspective on some rules of slavery of the Hebrew culture in the Old Testament times. But something amazing is about to happen as you read the next verse of this same Bible passage I have quoted above. The next sentence is where we get the term bond servant. Just for clarity, it is Exodus 21:5-6 (NLT):

“But the slave may declare, “I love my master, my wife, and my children. I don’t want to go free.” If he does this, his master must present him before God. Then his master must take him to the door or doorpost and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will serve his master for life.”

That passage is astonishing to me. Let me put this in my own words. Remember, if someone becomes a slave, they can only serve as a slave for six years. In the Hebrew culture, every seven years, they forgave each other’s debts. Can you imagine how wonderful this system would be? I’m sure there are people who took advantage of this system, but it is still the system that God ordained. I have always wondered what this system would do to an American economy. I personally believe it would create an environment of honor and gratitude that would not allow the few bad apples to ruin it for everybody else. Call me an eternal optimist and idealist. I say all that to simply say this. I can’t wait for heaven!

So, back to point about this slave stuff. Once someone worked as a slave for six years, the Hebrew law required this slave to be set free. Now, a lot can happen in six years in the life of anyone, including the life of a slave, and even back in the day, where change came more slowly than today. So a man who became a slave, for whatever reason, in the Old Testament times, and six years later was set free, now was faced with a free choice and multiple choices at that. He could accept his freedom and move on with his life however he chose. One of those choices was to go back to his master and voluntarily become a bond servant. This was where we can begin to understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

This slave could go back to his master and stand at his master’s front door and commit himself to his master. He would do this by stating to his master that he enjoyed being a slave under him. He would acknowledge that his life with his master, and as a slave, was the kind of life he wanted to live for the rest of his life. Now remember, when this man went to the door to say that he wanted to remain a slave to the master for the rest of his life, he was doing it as a completely free man and in a voluntary free manner. So when this free man, previously the master’s slave, came back to the front door of the master’s home and declared that he wanted to voluntarily remain the master’s slave, there were some critical and permanent things that voluntarily happened. The master accepted this free man’s lifetime offer, if he wanted to. This lifetime offer from the requesting person was one that acknowledges that everything he owned or had in his life, now fully belonged to the master, including his own life and his own family and material things, for the rest of his life, voluntarily. This act of commitment was a lifelong, irrevocable, and voluntary commitment.

It seems to me that for this kind of thing to actually happen, the master must have been a very special person for this kind of commitment to take place. In fact, to demonstrate how permanent this is, the man making the commitment would stand in the threshold of his master’s home, and the master would take a hammer and awl and drive it through the earlobe of man, making the voluntary promise. It would be through the right ear of the man that this piercing would happen. The man who made this lifelong commitment would stand, for a brief time, nailed to the doorframe of his master’s home, to allow for people to witness, and be witnesses, to this irrevocable life long commitment.

When the awl that is piercing the man’s ear and permanently fastening him to his master’s doorframe, is removed, the master would give this man a gold hoop earring to wear, and a title would be given to this man; bond servant. How remarkable. What a commitment. The quality of person that this master must have been to result in such a lifelong permanent, life-changing commitment is remarkable. I hope you see the similarities of the story with being a follower of Jesus Christ. However, our situation with Jesus Christ is even better.

In the bond servant’s case, the man had to work off six years of his life to be free. In a Christian’s situation, we don’t have to work off anything to be free. Jesus is the one who paid the time for us. His death on the cross is the time that was paid for our crime. Jesus’s death on the cross is what removed God’s anger from us and made us free men and women. Jesus’s death took all of God’s anger away from mankind. Heaven and Hell are full of people who were free to choose and God honored their choice. Hell is full of people who were given freedom to choose how they wanted to live their lives; they simply chose to live in the qualities of hell and evil, and God simply honored their free choice and extended it into eternity. I think it breaks God’s heart that hell is full of people whom He loves. I think it’s for these people that God wishes He were a control freak, and I’d bet He wishes He would have forced them to love Him. But God is love. Love does not control or force. Love allows freedom of choice and then simply gives consequences to those choices. It is a choice to become a bond servant or not, and each choice has one consequence. Choose to be a bond servant of Jesus’s, and when we die, we will be reunited with the Father in heaven for eternity. Choose not to be a bond servant of Jesus’s, and when we die, we will be separated from the Father and go to a place called hell that, by the way, was not created for people. Jesus says in Matthew 25, that hell is a place that was created for the devil and his demons. God never intended for people to spend eternity in hell. He only honors our choice to live with Him or without Him. How hard it must be to honor the wrong choice of people who He loves. But, this is how God created the whole thing to work and then placed it all in the hands of His only Son, because of the price that His only Son paid.

Because Jesus paid such a huge price for our freedom, God the Father gave Jesus all authority in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. This fact is found in Matthew 28:18. So, after being given all authority and after paying such a high price, Jesus has earned the right to lay down some new laws and rules. If someone doesn’t like that, then they will have to take it up with Jesus when they meet Him someday. We call these new laws and new rules the New Testament. Jesus is now given the authority by the Father to declare that He is the way, the truth, and life, and no one gets to the Father except through Him. The Bible, especially the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are where we have recorded what Jesus means when He says we have to go through Him to enter heaven. To go through Him means we have to go through His approval and His requirements to join the Father in heaven for eternity. These requirements, if we do them, are what cause us to earn the free, voluntary, lifelong title called a bond servant. Please don’t forget that it’s your free choice to become a bond servant or not. Please understand that in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, where we get to the Father in heaven, we must be a bond servant. Please understand that you can’t earn this salvation. You can only earn a title. Salvation is the free gift, just waiting for you to open. The way you open this free gift is to approach Jesus Christ and commit to be His bond servant. Jesus is the one who did all the work, so that all we have to do is commit to the title. But what happens when you do admit that you want to be Jesus’s bond servant? This is where the work begins. The title is a free gift. The question is then, what does it require of me to have the title of bond servant? It requires everything from you. If a man became a bond servant in the Bible times, but then didn’t fully do what a bond servant was supposed to do, the title would be removed. The bond servant could actually be put to death, if the master chose it that way. Being a bond servant is more than a title; it is living as a bond servant everyday. Remove the title or the lifestyle, and one was no longer a bond servant.

Remember, a bond servant owns nothing. He voluntarily and freely relinquished all of his assets and his life to the master. As I think about the physical process that took place to become a bond servant, it causes me to be thankful that when I became a Christian, there was no awl being driven through my ear that day, even though body piercing is pretty popular. I see the awl being driven through the ear of a bond servant as to what baptism is to the one who is making the commitment to be a follower of Jesus.

So, are you a bond servant to Jesus Christ? It is a lifelong, free commitment to become a slave of Jesus Christ. Have you ever wondered, as you read through the New Testament, what Paul meant in some of His letters when He titled himself a slave of Jesus Christ? I think it would have done all of Christianity well if the translators would have, more correctly, translated the word bond servant of Jesus Christ instead of slave. I won’t go into detailed Greek right now, but the word is doulos, which our translators translated as slave. There are some current Bible translations today that actually kept the word bond servant. I know that one is the Holman Christian Standard Bible. There are a few others as well. I think bond servant is the better translation. Keeping the word bond servant in our Bibles would cause us to look it up and study it and define it sooner and fully understand what the term means. James, Peter, Jude, and John titled themselves the same thing in their letters in the New Testament; bond servants!

So now what? I think it is important to understand 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT):

Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.

I do not belong to myself. You do not belong to yourself. We were bought through the death of God’s only Son. That is a huge price. Whether we have chosen to be bond servants or not, we are still owned by God. Whether you believe in God or not, you are still owned by God. I pray you will choose to become a bond servant if you have not. How does one become a bond servant today? As a reminder, a true Christian and a bond servant are the same thing. In the New Testament, there are recorded only nine situations in which an individual or a group of people chose to become bond servants of Jesus Christ. They are all accounted for in the book of Acts. Every time somebody became a bond servant of Jesus’s in the book of Acts, five things actually happened. First, they heard the news of Jesus Christ, then they believed that Jesus was Lord. They then repented from living their lives outside the will of Jesus and confessed Jesus as their Master. It is at this point that each of them was immersed in water, which is what is called baptism.

As I read through the book of Acts and see that these things always happen when someone becomes what we now know as a bond servant to Jesus, I have no authority to change any one of those five things. Hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized. If you have done those things by faith in Jesus Christ, you now are titled a bond servant to Jesus. A bond servant lives his/her life in a very specific way of obedience. The way of a bond servant is the way of obedience to the master. The next big question that I hope we would ask is, “Obey what?”

The answer, before I end this incredibly long blog, is simply, obey the teachings and commands of Jesus Christ. And when I say simply, I do not mean they are easy. The life of a follower of Jesus Christ is a not a path of ease, but a path of simplicity, of trust, and of focus. It is a good life that will someday become a great, eternal life. There are more than 300 specific teachings and commands of Jesus that we should obey, and they are all found in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John of the Holy Bible. Read the and obey them. Of course there is a forgiveness clause added to this when we are not perfect in obeying all 300 plus of these; and none of us are perfect.

I hope that this study has been a motivating one for you. I hope that you will continue to grow as a fully developing follower of Jesus Christ. It is a life long process that only ends when your heart beats its last and you stand before Jesus Christ, the Lord of Lord and King of Kings and are told, well done good and faithful Bond Servant!


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 27 (Mt. 6:14-15) “Forgive”

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15

Is God forgiveness conditional? According to Jesus, Yes, forgiveness is not something you receive just because Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sins. This is a tough teaching. Jesus’ death on the cross ended God’s anger towards mankind for sin and satisfied God’s character trait of Justice. (Thank God that He is also Mercy.) Jesus’ death doesn’t automatically grant us forgiveness. We have to go to Jesus, then through Jesus and be made new in Jesus. We have to accept Jesus as Lord of our life. We have to receive His blood. This is where forgiveness is received as the free gift that it is.

But…

What if, I have done all those things…is it still possible to not receive Jesus’ forgiveness? I will ask you to answer that question yourself after you read a few passages of Scripture. Here are some passages to help us answer this question.

Matthew 18:23-35 (NLT)
Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor
21 Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone* who sins against me? Seven times?”
22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!*
23 “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. 24 In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars.* 25 He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.
26 “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ 27 Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.
28 “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars.* He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.
29 “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. 30 But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.
31 “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. 32 Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters* from your heart.”

Question: Did the servant receive forgiveness? The answer is yes. Did the servant have his forgiveness revoked? The answer is yes. Why did the servant, after receiving the status of forgiven, return to the status of unforgiven? The answer is, because the forgiven servant refused to forgive someone else.

Matthew 6:14-15 (NLT)
Jesus said, “14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Those two passages give me clear proof that if I refuse to forgive anyone, then God will not forgive me. It’s unimaginable to me that anyone would beg for forgiveness from God and at the same time refuse forgiveness to others who have sinned against us.

Our forgiveness is tied in directly with our willingness to forgive those who have sinned against us. Anybody I have spoken with about this agrees, until they have personally been hurt. Its easy to tell others that they need to forgive. Its not so easy to do it ourselves. So maybe the next few thoughts will help all of us understand why un-forgiveness is like a nasty disease and the quicker we forgive, the healthier we will be personally.

Un-forgiveness not only hurts ourselves but also the person who hurt us. In most cases when someone sins against us and hurts us deeply, the person who hurt us doesn’t sit around thinking about us. The person who hurt us, more likely than not, is not waking up every morning thinking about us. People who cause deep pain, usually do so because they have a tendency to think selfishly. If this is the case, and the person who hurt us is not thinking about us, but we are frequently thinking about the person who hurt us, then we are actually hurting ourselves. Pain makes us think about who, what, why and when we are hurt. Its very time consuming.

With un-forgiveness in our heart, we are consumed by the one who hurt us. I’ve heard it said that thinking about the person who hurt you is like letting that person live in your heart rent free. Again…they are not thinking about us much at all. We are dwelling on them and how they hurt us. It begins to fester. Its all consuming. We find ourselves lashing out at others. Why? Because of un-forgiveness. Un-forgiveness means we don’t heal. Without healing, there is still pain. Pain makes us focus. If we have un-forgiveness towards a person who hurt us then we will focus on the person and the pain. Focus is commitment. We become what we are committed to. If we are committed to feeling the pain and not giving forgiveness then we will become people of pain and un-forgiveness. You will become a person of hurt. Hurt people, hurt other people, or as I like to say, “hurt people, hurt people.

I know we do not want to be hurt people that go about hurting other people. The temptation is to think that the anger we feel inside is good. The temptation is to enjoy the anger feeling we have inside. Sometimes it can make us rage internally and sometimes outwardly. Watch enough Hollywood movies and you will actually begin to believe that the rage and anger you feel is empowering. You will think it feels good and makes you powerful. It makes us think we are strong. It will tempt you to seek revenge and you will begin to believe your revenge is justified. Do you see how dangerous this is? Compare it to man who is taking steroids. He is injecting a chemical inside his body that makes him bulk up and look good. His muscles grow and he becomes an impressive specimen. However, he is poisoning his body. That same steroid that made us all think this person is extremely healthy actually causes him to die. Sterilization, bouts of rage and emotions that are out of control, are all side effects of steroids. But the user thought it was all good. This is what un-forgiveness does to us. Its slowly kills us from the inside or causes us to physically lash out and have sinful reactions.

Mother Theresa said it best, “Un-forgiveness is like you drinking poison and hoping it kills the person who hurt you.”

So what must we do to rid ourselves of un-forgiveness? We have to give forgiveness. Now, in full transparency, I have never felt like forgiving someone who has hurt me. If we are waiting on the feeling to come around, it won’t. Forgiveness is an act of discipline. Forgiveness is an act of sheer holy will. Forgiveness is a choice to be healthy. Forgiveness is one of the most difficult decisions we can make.

I hope the following thoughts will help us give forgiveness to the one(s) who have hurt us. First of all we are dying a slow death if we don’t forgive. It will rot us. Think about this. Just because we forgive someone doesn’t mean they just get off without any consequences. A murderer who is about to receive a lethal injection for his crime can be forgiven by the family of the loved one he murdered. But he still receives the lethal injection. If a family member wounded me deeply, I can forgive the person, and I will be smarter in my dealings with this person from now on. I will create boundaries. If a woman has been abused by a family member, she can forgive that family member, and from that point forward not spend any more time with her abuser. To forgive someone doesn’t mean that we have to be in each others company in the future. If we have been hurt by someone, forgive them and then create boundaries. Don’t forget that God is a god of Restoration. He deeply desires us to be in healed and holy relationships. God desires for you to forgive and restore, but God also understands that if one of the parties doesn’t honor the new boundaries set, then God doesn’t expect us to stay around abusive and unholy behavior. Especially if the person who is abusive and displaying unholy behavior calls themselves a Christian. Be smart with this. Don’t trust your feelings on this issue. Trust God’s Word and common sense. We may need to seek some trustworthy counsel from holy friends or seek a good Christian counselor to advise us on these life altering issues.

The critical factor in all this is to triple check our motives as to why we are creating boundaries as we give forgiveness and work on whatever this restored relationship is going to look like. If we are creating boundaries to control and hurt the person back, then we truly haven’t given the person forgiveness and we now are having sinful reactions towards the person who hurt us. How? All control, judgement and praise belong to God only. If we ever do anything for the purpose of control, praise or judgement then we are taking the role of God. If we do this, even if we won’t say it, our actions are screaming, “I am God!” As we create boundaries for the person who hurt us, we must carefully guard that we aren’t actually having sinful reactions of control and judgement.

Forgiveness ultimately frees us from the prison we have been trapped in. If we are trapped in a prison of forgiveness then we must recognize that we hold the keys to our freedom in our own hands. The keys that unlock our jail cell of un-forgiveness are in our hands. The key is forgiveness. Forgiveness allows us to let the person who hurt us go. By doing this they can no longer live in our hearts rent free. We unlock ourselves from the prison we have been in. A popular “churchy” phrase is “let go-and let God.” When we forgive we release this person into the hands of God and trust that God will do what is right to and for that person. If we try to control the situation because we believe that God will be too kind to the person, then we actually believe that God will make a mistake and that we can do a better job of making this person face the consequences they deserve. Again, if we do this, we actually act as if we are God. We think we can do a better job than God. How dangerous is that?

If what I have written above still is not helping us grant forgiveness to the people who have hurt us, then here is my last desperate attempt.

I am going to write this as if I am talking directly with you.

Have you ever hurt someone?
Do you agree that what you did to hurt that person was a sin?
Did Jesus die to pay for your sin?
Did Jesus die to pay for the sins of the person who hurt you?
As I personally answer the four questions above…The answer is yes to all.

Forgive.

How.
Write a letter.
Send a text.
Facebook Message.
Skype.
Phone call.
Personal visit.

We cannot control how the person will respond when we tell them we are forgiving them. They may not even know that they hurt you. They may get angry, lash out, try to hurt more. Don’t worry about or try to control how they respond. Remember forgiveness is for us to be free. Give forgiveness. Live free.

Don’t forget 1 John 1:9(NLT) I would recommend that we all memorize it. “If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

Forgive.
Be Forgiven!
Its the good life.


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 5 (Mt.5:7) “Merciful”

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
Matthew 5:7

DRINK IT IN:
Do you believe the phrase, ‘What goes around comes around?” Its obvious that Jesus believes in it. Read His phrase above again. It may as well say, “What goes around comes around.” Jesus also is the one who preached The Golden Rule; “Do unto to others as you would have them do unto you.”

But here is my fear. Jesus showed Mercy…pretty much…to everybody, and it landed Him on the cross. But before He ended up on the cross, He was rejected, spit upon, beaten, humiliated and ultimately murdered…as an innocent, merciful man. How did all His “mercy” work for Him? Not so well.

So, is Jesus out of His mind when He teaches this stuff? Was this phrase that Jesus taught, in the very first message He preached, just a rookie mistake. The answer is clearly, “No!”

The big question is…if you and I live a life of giving others mercy, who is going to give it back to us? Because the reality is, many people, if you give them mercy, will shove it back in your face in an unmerciful way. So what is Jesus talking about?

If you think about Jesus’ life, He showed mercy to everybody, through the action of dying on the cross, to pay for everybody’s sins. However, prior to Jesus’ merciful action of dying on the cross, Jesus didn’t always show mercy. The people He didn’t show instant mercy to, were the religious-arrogant ones…the bullies. Jesus promoted the progress and purpose of others…unless you were a bully. Jesus publicly humiliated the bully of His day. The Pharisees, the Religious leaders, they were serious power-mongers over others. Jesus had some choice words for these kinds of people. He called them “Sons of Vipers, White-washed tombs, hypocrites.” (The snake/viper was the ultimate derogatory term, it was a cuss word. Adam and Eve were deceived by a “snake.” To be called a “son of a viper”…was to be called a devil.) And He did it publicly. So…hear me out. Jesus tells people that they will be blessed if they show mercy. However, Jesus is NOT telling them that they HAVE TO be merciful. He is simply saying that if you are merciful you will also get some mercy back. He really is saying, “What goes around comes around.” Think about it….Jesus didn’t show mercy to the hypocritical religious leaders…and sure enough…those hypocritical religious leaders were the ones who instigated killing Him. “What goes around, comes around.” He didn’t show public mercy to the religious leaders and they are the ones who put Him on the Cross. “What goes around, comes around.” Another look at this…Jesus did show mercy to Judas, but Judas ultimately didn’t give mercy back to Him. Judas betrayed Jesus in return for all of Jesus’ mercy. I don’t think Jesus was talking about any guarantees of receiving mercy in return for giving mercy, when He said, “Blessed are the merciful for they will be given mercy.” So what the heck did Jesus mean by saying this?

I think Jesus’ statement of “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy,” is talking about God being the one who will eventually show you mercy. I think you will agree with me, that merciful actions today, do not guarantee merciful actions in return. Its a beautiful thing when it does happen, but its also not the end of your world, if it doesn’t. Isn’t it better to go ahead and show mercy anyway? Jesus doesn’t say you HAVE TO show mercy. Jesus didn’t always show mercy Himself. But isn’t it better to show mercy anyway? Isn’t that the high road? It’s, most definitely, not the easy road.
So it’s fair to say that ultimately, by the time the cross had done its lethal Job, Jesus had shown mercy to everybody. His act of giving His life on the Cross in replacement for the death of each of us, is the ultimate act of MERCY. We call it Grace. Grace and Mercy are close relatives. However, its also fair to say, that in Jesus’ 33 year life span, He didn’t always show mercy to those He encountered.

So when Jesus says, “Blessed are the Merciful for they will be shown Mercy,” I think He’s guaranteeing something in our future. By future, I mean Eternal. Heaven! Remember in this first message that Jesus preached that “Blessed” does not mean happy. Blessed means “Accepted.” So we could read the teaching this way, “Accepted are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” He could have simply said, “The merciful will go to Heaven.” Jesus isn’t saying just because you are merciful today, that you will receive immediate mercy now. It sure didn’t work that way for Himself. Think about this…

If you are a person of Mercy in our world today, you are going to be taken advantage of. You have to agree with me that merciful people are nice people. In our world today, “Nice people tend to finish last.” Nice people are also known as naive people. Nice people are known as pushovers. Nice people get gossiped about for being soft and lacking business savvy.

Do you think Jesus cares when you get grouped in with those stereotypes? You Bet He Does! And when He returns, you will receive the advantage. You will be the leader. You will be first. You will be seen as wise. You will be known as the persevering one. You will be the one who will be known as brilliant, and as having incredible “business savvy.”

THE FIRST SHALL BE LAST…THE LAST SHALL BE FIRST!

SWEAT IT OUT:

So what are you living for? Are you “putting all your eggs in the basket of living your best life right now here on earth, without any focus on your eternal life? Your eternal life will be just as real to you as your current life, except it will be eternal. Which one is more important?

Don’t get me wrong. This life is deeply…deeply important. How you live your life today is a choice of how you want to spend your eternity. Remember this…God does not send anyone to Hell. God only honors your choice of how you lived on earth. If you want to live your life on earth with the characteristics and actions of Hell….Greed…un-forgiveness…being a bully…being a jackass…being selfish…power hungry…etc, then God will simply honor your choice and when you die, He will simply extend your life choices into eternity.

However, if you choose to to live your current life and so choose to live as a person who brings the elements of Heaven to earth, like showing mercy…giving forgiveness…peace…patience…kindness…faithfulness…love…etc, then God, when you die, will extend your life choices into eternity and thus you will live in Heaven forever.

When you think of it that way, who cares how you get treated today simply because you choose “good” behavior! Bring it on! Right?

Today, no matter how you get treated, choose to be the one who brings the elements of Heaven to earth.

Be prepared for today. Think right now about who you are getting ready to encounter in the next 8 hours or so. You know most of the people you are going to encounter. So prepare yourself, right now, for the negative encounters. Choose to show mercy, even if its not given to you. Its only the negative encounters you need to prepare for. If you prepare for them now and make a choice to give mercy even when its not given to you, then your day will be one of power and love and serving.

That sounds a lot like the life of Jesus.
I think its going to be a good day.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
Maybe He doesn’t mean you’ll get mercy today.
But I guarantee that He means you’ll get mercy in Eternity.

Show Mercy…sooner or later…it will all “pay off!”

What a great day ahead of you.
Be merciful.


Retweeting Jesus “RT@JesusChrist #14”

Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands! –JC
Luke 23:46

The very next sentence that Luke records in the Bible is, “And with those words He breathed His last.” (Would you pause for a few seconds and quietly thank Jesus for what He suffered through so that we, His followers, would be forgiven and free?)

Jesus’ last words on the cross were a Tweet of Trust. Of Letting go. Of ultimate submission. He could have controlled. But He chose to trust His Father in Heaven with the control.

The way Jesus “behaved” on the cross must have made quite an impression on the Roman Guards. Luke records that one of the guards said something right after Jesus breathed His last. Its recorded in Luke 23:47, “When the Roman Officer overseeing the execution saw what had happened, he worshiped God and said, “Surely this man was innocent.”

Can you imagine the burden and sorrow this Roman Officer carried home with him? I imagine it haunted him the rest of his life. I wonder if this Roman Officer was aware of what happened 3 days and 3 nights later. If he did know that Jesus rose from the dead, was it good news for him, or did it only make him feel worse about how he had to oversee and approve of in the killing of Jesus?

I hope to meet this Roman officer someday. It says that he worshiped God, so I am hoping he became a true follower of Jesus after Jesus rose from the dead. I’d like to ask this Roman officer some questions about that horrible day at the cross. I’d love to hear his full version of the story.

So Jesus says…”Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands.”

The human side of Jesus at the tweeting of this sentence must have been a bit nervous. Of course Jesus knew He was going to raise from the dead in 3 days and 3 nights. I still think the human side of Jesus had to of struggled in this final moment. He spent 33 years walking the land, encountering people and representing the Father in Heaven perfectly. We know that the Father never let Jesus down…but the “what-ifs” might have tempted Jesus to have bouts of nervousness while hanging on the cross. I wonder if those 33 years flew by or if it was one long day after another. He sure was mistreated a lot. But I also believe that Jesus laughed a lot. I mean…most of His time was spent with 12 other guys. You know how guys are when they camp together, walk together, spend a lot of time with each other. The fun side of Jesus had to of played some pranks on the guys. When a group of guys get together, somebody is trying to scare someone, sooner or later. Have you ever wondered if Jesus’ miracle of walking on water wasn’t to top a previous attempt by one of the Apostles’ at one of their “Gotcha!” moments? I don’t know. It sure seems like Christians have settled into believing that Jesus didn’t have any fun. We all know He faced many hardships and sorrows. The book of Isaiah says this in a couple prophecies about the Messiah. We know that Jesus faced unbelievable mistreatment at the hands of His own created people. But I still hold onto the hope that Jesus laughed…a lot. Surely, after Jesus caused the Blind man to see, while walking away from this miraculous moment and talking with the Apostles about it, surely Jesus said….”Hey guys…did you see the look on the faces of the religious leaders when I healed that blind man?” Or when He raised Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus had been dead for four days. Lazarus’ sister warned Jesus that it was too late and not to open the tomb for the smell would be unbearable. I wonder if Jesus, after raising Lazarus from the dead whispered in Martha’s ear, “I told you so,” and then laughed a laugh of love and joy…while giving her the perfect hug. Think about it…you have to be a pretty “fun guy,” to be accused by the religious leaders of being a “drunkard and a glutton.” We know Jesus wasn’t a sinner of any kind…but He must have had some fun to be blamed for being a drunk.

Well…as I wrap up this “Retweeting Jesus” series, I am wondering if you and I can trust like Jesus did. “Father…I ENTRUST my spirit into your hands.”

Its crazy what we ENTRUST in. How much trust do you put in that Red Light really causing everybody to stop and not go through the intersection? How much trust to do you place in that dotted line as you drive on that two lane highway? How much trust did I place in the parachute when I sky dived? How much trust do we place in the hands of pilots and airplanes as we fly through the air at 30,000 feet? How much trust do we place in the hands of construction workers and architects as we drive over their bridges, live under their beams? How much trust do we place in the hands of physicians as they “put us to sleep,” and then use a scalpel and cut us open and literally replace organs of our bodies? We really are a trusting people. It doesn’t seem like it, but if you really think about all that we trust…we are a trusting people.

But do we really “Entrust” God…enough to…

forgive?
tithe?
help a stranger?
let go of controlling your spouse?
commit to a church every weekend?
apologize for harm we caused?
not judge others?
resist temptation and peer pressure?
not manipulate the situation?
not abuse or manipulate our power of position?
not belittle others to boost our own self-esteem?
let go and let God?

On that cross…Jesus died and His Spirit left the earthly physical body it was borrowing and went into the control of God.

Its a safe and perfect place to land. You can be confident leaving your full trust In the hands of a loving God. He really is a God of love. If you don’t believe that right now, then I challenge you to read the other Tweets I have posted in this series. You can’t read them and walk away thinking God isn’t totally love!

If you are struggling letting go of anything in your life and you are trying to control whatever it is that you can’t let go of…is it working for you?

Its hard work to control.
Its stressful.
It takes a lot of focus.
Its tiring.
It will wear you out.

There is a lot of freedom that comes with being so fulfilled and whole in Jesus Christ that you don’t have to control anything.
That’s the good life. It fees you to serve, and give and love.

What are you controlling?
What would happen if you chose to let it go and trust God with the results?

Q: How do you do let “it” go and trust God with the results?
A: You put all your focus and energy in behaving like Jesus Christ and leave the results in the hands of God.

The early church was great at this. In Acts chapter 2 it says that the “Christians” gathered everyday and they DEVOTED themselves to the Apostles teaching, to fellowship, sharing in meals and to prayer.

Think about those “actions.” Can those actions be actions blamed for being CONTROLLING?
Have you ever heard anybody say, “You are so controlling…all you do is pray!”
Have you ever heard anybody say, “You are so controlling…please stop reading the Bible and learning!”
Have you ever heard anybody say, “You are so controlling…all you are is a good friend to others.”
Have you ever heard anybody say, “You are so controlling…please stop sharing your meals with others.”

Those statements are almost too ridiculous to type them out. Those are actions of trust and faithfulness and have nothing to do with control.

Are you thinking about what you might be controlling right now?
What if you asked somebody who really knows you well? Would they say you are trying to control something in your life?

Let’s keep going for clarity on this issue.

If you are just focused on getting a certain end result…then you are probably trying to control it.
If you are just focused on responsibility and doing what is right and focusing on holy behavior…then you are probably not being controlling.

Maybe a good way to look at it is through what we call, Cause and Effect.

You can’t control causes.
You can control effects.

What are some causes in your life that you simply serve? (trust)
What are some effects/outcomes that you are trying to force to happen? (control)

You are going to have to think on this one.

Here’s what I know for sure. You are made in the image of God and Jesus Christ.

Jesus ENTRUSTED everything into the hands of God the Father.
You are to be like Jesus because you were made in His image.
What must you let go of when it comes to the final results and just trust God by being faithful and let God take care of the results?

Can you and will you pray the following prayer right now and then back it up with action?

“Father in Heaven…I entrust everything in my life into your hands. Help me have the strength to behave like Jesus and leave my life results in your control. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.”

If you really want to get specific and let go of control.
Then ask a trusted person in your life to listen to you pray the above prayer out loud in front of them. And instead of praying using the word “everything,” replace the word everything with a specific thing you are controlling. Be specific…in the presence of a trusted witness.

Now that would take a lot of trust and would force you to let go of control. That is true accountability.

I know how good this would be for you and your whole life. It would be so good for you I would like to force you to do it.

But that would be controlling.

I want to ENTRUST!
How about you?