It seems like winter has finally released its hold and spring has arrived.
God’s creative paint palette and my wife’s green thumb is on display.
Now that spring has finally arrived, one of the more pressing questions to deal with is, “How green do you want your lawn to be?” Will you rely on the rain to water your lawn, or will you use a hose, or perhaps install a sprinkler system? Will you feed your lawn to insure a full carpet? Will you spread pesticides to get rid of weeds?
While a healthy lawn adds beauty to the neighborhood, having a healthy soul brings satisfaction to our heart. Which begs the question, “How holy do you want your life to be?” Will you invest time in Bible study and prayer? Will you memorize Scripture? Will you fill your mind with wholesome music, books, and thoughts? Will you examine your motives on a regular basis? Will you make yourself accountable to a close friend?
Mark 7:1-23 paints a contrast between the traditional approach to holiness and a radical approach to holiness. The one looks at the outside and centers on behavior. The other examines the inside and is concerned with motives. The one is satisfied with following manmade traditions while the other wants to know what God revealed in the Scriptures. The one wants new and improved while the other settles for nothing less than transformation. The traditional approach leads to religion while the radical approach results in true holiness.
Religion tends to focus on surface issues (1-5). The religious leaders of the day were bothered that Jesus’ disciples did not follow the practice of ceremonial washing before eating. To be proper and holy, you had to wash your hands in a prescribed manner. While the washing of hands may not be our issue, we can get hung up on surface issues like style of music, Bible translation, and where we educate our children.
Religion tends to look for loopholes (6-13). Jesus quotes Isaiah 29:13 to point out the danger of hypocrisy. We may have worship on our lips without it ever penetrating our heart. The religious leaders tried to look religious, but they allowed a custom of the day to negate the Scriptures. Instead of practicing the command to honor parents, they withheld support by piously declaring their money was dedicated to God.
Lest we be too hard on the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, we have our own share of loopholes we employ. We’ll avoid serving or giving by saying, “I’ve done my share. Let someone else take their turn.” We’ll skip church because camping on the weekends or having the kids in soccer is “best for my family.” We will justify an affair by saying that “God wants me to be happy.”
In contrast to outward appearances, holiness is a matter of the heart (14-23). Jesus challenges the thinking of the day by pointing out that one’s diet doesn’t determine God’s approval. Eating a bacon cheeseburger might make you less healthy, but it won’t make you less holy. It’s not the food that goes into the body that determines holiness, but rather what comes out of the heart. Jesus listed six evil actions—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, and wickedness—and six evil attitudes—deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness—that all come out of our hearts.
If we want to be holy, we need a heart transplant. We need God to forgive our sins and change our motives. Rather than settle for outward appearances that produce hypocrisy, we need to develop habits that lead to holiness.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on April 26, 2015. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.
CSI: Cyber tackled the subject of cyber bullying last week in “URL, Interrupted” (S1, E7). The tag at the end was one of the characters leaving a video explaining that words have power. It reminded me of Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”
I must admit I am puzzled by current events. With 1,100+ people killed in an earthquake in Nepal, with California suffering a horrific drought, with rising concerns about the violence of ISIS, I don’t understand all the attention being given to Bruce Jenner. I just don’t get it. It hardly seems newsworthy.
For quite some time, I have used the apostle Paul’s prayers in Ephesians and Colossians as a way of praying specifically for my children. They helped shape my prayers for them.
I came across a much fuller list of 26 prayer requests in Paul’s epistles that he made on behalf of other people and/or churches. We can pray these requests for our spouses, children, other people, and churches.
Paul prayed that his spiritual children would …
|Romans 15:5-6||Learn to live in unity and harmony with others|
|Romans 15:13||Be filled with joy, peace, and spiritual energy|
|Ephesians 1:17||Know God personally|
|Ephesians 1:18||Know what God is calling them to do and be, all that is available to them in God, and how great God’s power can be in them as they believe in him|
|Ephesians 3:16||Be inwardly strengthened with Spirit-imparted power|
|Ephesians 3:17||Have faith to be fully open to Christ and make him welcome in their hearts|
|Ephesians 3:18||Experience an ever-growing realization of every possible dimension of Christ’s extravagant love|
|Ephesians 3:19||Live full of God|
|Philippians 1:9||Possess abounding, insightful, discerning, appropriate love|
|Philippians 1:10||Wisely prioritize the best things|
|Philippians 1:11||Be filled with righteous fruits|
|Colossians 1:9||Be filled with a clear knowledge of God’s will|
|Colossians 1:10||Live worthy of the Lord consciously|
|Colossians 1:10||Fully please him in everything|
|Colossians 1:10||Bear fruit in good works|
|Colossians 1:10||Be filled with a clear knowledge of God|
|Colossians 1:11||Be invigorated with glorious strength and endurance|
|Colossians 1:12||Joyfully thank God for all he has made available to them|
|1 Thessalonians 3:12||Abound in and overflow with love|
|1 Thessalonians 3:13||Be infused with strength and blameless holiness|
|1 Thessalonians 5:23||Be made holy and whole inside and out|
|2 Thessalonians 1:11||Be made fit for what God has called them to be|
|2 Thessalonians 1:11||Be energized by God to and fulfill their spiritual ideas and efforts|
|2 Thessalonians 2:17||Experience spiritual encouragement and empowerment in their words and works|
|Philemon 6||Share their faith and understand just how amazing it is|
Adapted from “Following Paul’s example in praying for your flock,” in Pastoral Leadership Is…: How to Shepherd God’s People with Passion and Confidence, by Dave Earley
Please click on the link to download a pdf copy of the list.