Meditating on fundamental aspects of the Christian faith, such as those expressed in the Creeds, helps us grow closer to God. Jesus suffered for us. May God grant us grace to suffer for him as we suffer for others.
- Jesus experienced intense agony while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, as he began to bear the punishment due for all the sins of all people throughout all time.
- Jesus was beaten mercilessly by Roman authorities; he was mocked mercilessly by Jewish soldiers, by Roman soldiers & by spectators at the events surrounding his execution. Yet he never objected or resisted. Instead, Jesus willingly took the punishment due for all the sins of all people throughout all time.
- Jesus was made to carry his cross, the instrument of his execution. May God grant us grace to carry our crosses, daily putting to death the independent self-life that insists on living apart from God.
- Jesus gave up his life on the cross as a perfect sacrifice, sufficient to satisfy God’s holy anger at all our sins.
- The amazing passion of Jesus to rescue us from ourselves is also seen in the ways in which he reached out to people, even as he suffered for us:
- Malchus had his severed ear restored.
- Peter was brought face-to-face with his selfish nature.
- Simon of Cyrene got to carry the execution cross with Jesus.
- Weeping women were encouraged to examine their hearts.
- A repentant thief was promised life in heaven.
- Provision was made for Mary, the mother of Jesus.
- John, the Witness, was given a ministry of mercy.
- A Roman commander recognized the divinity of Jesus.
- A perfect way was made for you & me to be reconciled to God.
God, please help me to love suffering with You.
Timothy was leading the local Christian church in Ephesus (Turkey). Paul opened his first letter (332) by telling Timothy to contend against false teaching by some church members.
Underlying Paul’s comments are two ideas presented explicitly in his earlier letter to Christians in Rome: (1) All men are naturally sinful. (2) God must punish sin; he cannot & will not tolerate sin in his holy presence.
Apparently, some in Ephesus were teaching slavish obedience to the law of Moses as the sole means of avoiding God’s punishment for sin. But Paul reminds Timothy that we cannot rescue ourselves from God’s punishment by slavish obedience to the law. Instead, God graciously & mercifully rescues sinners through the sacrifice of his son Jesus.
This actually frees us from the futility of trying to obey God’s law in the strength of our flesh, and empowers us to obey God’s law in the strength given by God’s Holy Spirit. Genuine faith is the key to this power for righteous living. Genuine faith results in purity of heart & a clear conscience.
Paul then says that worship is an offering to God. We can see that worship is being offered from a pure heart & a clear conscience, when men & women are praying with modest humility before God & one another, without any hint of anger or argument.
Paul goes on to tell Timothy that faithful leaders are essential for the church to fulfill its role as the proclaimer & defender of God’s truth.
- Choose people to lead & serve in the church because they live in modest humility all week long, not just on Sunday.
- Emphasize that the power to live in modest humility all week long comes only from God.
God, please help me to love worshiping You in humility.
(332) 1 Timothy 1-3
Another time, Jesus taught his students about temptation & forgiveness (146):
“Things that tempt people to sin are bound to happen; they cannot be avoided. But God will bring terrible judgment upon the person responsible for the temptation.
“Anyone who tempts a child or a new believer to sin should be drowned in the deepest part of the sea, because that would be better than facing God’s punishment. So consider carefully how your example may be influencing other people.
“Now, what about when your brother sins against you? In that case, you may rebuke him. But if he repents — intending not to sin against you in that way again — you must forgive him. Even if he sins against you seven different ways in just one day, you must forgive him every time he comes to you & says, ‘I repent.'”
The chosen witnesses, realizing that great faith in God was necessary to do what Jesus taught, appealed to Jesus, “Make our faith greater.”
So Jesus taught them that faithful obedience is the key to building faith. “Faith is powerful because God is powerful. Faith as small as a mustard seed could command this mulberry tree to pull itself up by the roots & plant itself in the sea, and the tree would obey.
“In your case, suppose you are master of a servant who is plowing your field or looking after your sheep. When he comes in from the field, you don’t tell him to sit right down & eat his meal. Instead, you say to him, ‘Get my supper ready & wait on me while I eat; after that you may have your meal.’ Naturally, your servant would do his duty; he would obey you. And he really wouldn’t deserve any special thanks for obeying.
“It is the same with your service for God. Even when you have done all that God has ordered you to do, all you can say is: ‘We are simply his servants; we have only done our duty.'”
(146) Luke 17:1-10
Jesus then taught his students the importance of readiness (130): Always stay focused on God; always be ready to serve God.
God is like a master who comes home from a wedding & finds his servants ready & waiting to serve him, even if he doesn’t return until after midnight.
In fact, God is so pleased with such faithful servants that he will actually serve them! God will bless such faithful servants in ways that will make them happy beyond measure.
Keep this in mind, though. If a homeowner knew that a thief planned to break into his home at a specific time, that homeowner would definitely be home at that time, ready to prevent the break-in. He would not let the thief break into his house.
However, God’s timing is not predictable like that. You must always be ready to meet God, because I will return to you at a time when you’re not expecting me.
Peter asked Jesus: “Master, is this teaching for everyone, or just for us?” Jesus applied his teaching — both to his chosen witnesses and to all his followers – with this illustration:
A master sometimes needs to set a manager over his household. If the manager carries out his responsibilities effectively & efficiently, the master will reward him & promote him to greater responsibility.
But if the manager neglects his responsibilities & abuses his position of authority, the master will punish him severely.
The bottom line is this: the more God allows you to do in his service, the more God will expect you to do in his service.
(130) Luke 12:35-48