What God Has Trusted Us With: Luke 17:1-10

Focus Passage: Luke 17:1-10 (NIV)

Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves.

“If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.

“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

Read Luke 17:1-10 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Occasionally, I wonder where we fit into the grand scheme of being servants of God.

In the 2,000ish years since Jesus walked on this earth, a lot has changed in the culture, and I think that in the amount of time that has passed between the New Testament authors and us living today, we don’t fully understand one of the key truths that Jesus is sharing in this passage. Quite simply, our first world culture doesn’t allow us to really understand this.

The part of this passage I am referring to is verses 7 through 10:

“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ”

In our first world culture, we expect to have “time off”, “vacation”, and/or other benefits for working for someone or some company. While we have an incredible benefit package being connected with God, Jesus’ words in this passage seem to indicate that when we sign up for serving God, we give up our lives, and any piece of “self” that we want to have. Our time is now no longer “our time”.

Is this what Jesus is saying here, or is He hitting on a deeper truth that lies under the surface?

Part of me thinks this teaching pushes us to look deeper. All too often, we like to see the scriptures from our perspective in places where God might be trying to teach us things from His perspective. I think this passage blends the two ideas; I think we are to take this passage as understanding our role as servants of an eternal God.

This passage places on us the responsibility of giving up ourselves to God’s will. This is not God being a dictator, but God telling us that every single second we are alive, we are His witness to others. We are never to let the glory for this rest on ourselves, but instead, we are to always be pointing upward to our “Master”.

The closing words hold the key. We are to picture ourselves as “unworthy servants” who “have only done our duty.” There should be no pride drawing focus onto us. This passage speaks to us in light of our role as ambassadors of Jesus.

God is not a dictator. He is Someone who empowers us to be His representatives. This is not a role to be taken lightly. With great responsibility comes great trust. We are God’s servant-representatives to the world. He has trusted us with carrying on His character.

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The Subtle Follower: John 7:37-52

Focus Passage: John 7:37-52 (NIV)

37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

40 On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”

41 Others said, “He is the Messiah.”

Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? 42 Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” 43 Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44 Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.

45 Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”

46 “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied.

47 “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. 48 “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.”

50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51 “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?”

52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”

Read John 7:37-52 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, John’s gospel introduces us to a key spiritual leader who most likely lived in or near Jerusalem. This leader’s name was Nicodemus. Many people know Nicodemus from the late night conversation he has with Jesus early on in Jesus’ ministry, and Nicodemus also happens to be one of the unlikely heroes who shows up on crucifixion weekend to help with Jesus’ burial.

But sandwiched between these two events in Jesus’ ministry, Nicodemus shows up again in John’s gospel. While the other chief priests and Pharisees are speaking out against Jesus, Nicodemus asks a very perceptive question in an attempt to turn the focus of the conversation around. Nicodemus somewhat rhetorically asks their group, “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?” (v. 51)

This question is very perceptive because it shines a light on what these religious leaders had done. They had drawn themselves away and trapped themselves in a room where the ideas were all one-sided and biased against Jesus. They had condemned Jesus based on their own impression of Him and not based on something Jesus actually had said or done.

Nicodemus calls them out on their bias, but it was already too late. Instead of responding to Nicodemus’ question, they turn on him while also showing their prejudice. They responded by stating, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.” (v. 52)

The Jewish leaders had closed their minds towards Jesus because He didn’t fit their mold of where a prophet would or should come from. Regardless of where Jesus was born, these leaders rejected Jesus on the basis that Galilee was never a source for any prophet. But even if no prophets had come out of Galilee before, that doesn’t stop God from doing something new.

In an odd, but also God-like way, the fact that Jesus was raised in Galilee actually helps give us a picture of Jesus’ character. If Galilee was the most secular, most worldly, and least “Jewish” part of the country of Israel, then that would be the perfect place for God to send Jesus to. Jesus came to seek and save those who had fallen away from God, and if Jesus was to reach those who God wanted to reach, He would need to be able to interact with them. The unconventional place Jesus was raised may have helped His ministry among those who the Jewish leaders had also rejected.

This subtle truth also has a bigger truth we can apply in our lives today. Regardless of where we have come from or where God will take us, He has a plan for every location He places us in. Our stories, while often sharing similar characteristics, hold a unique and key place in the grand story of history (His-Story) that God is writing. Just like Jesus was rejected because He didn’t grow up in the best or most obvious neighborhood, never let your past determine or limit what God can do through your present and future!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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Being a Disciple: Matthew 10:16-42

Focus Passage: Matthew 10:16-42 (GNT)

16 “Listen! I am sending you out just like sheep to a pack of wolves. You must be as cautious as snakes and as gentle as doves. 17 Watch out, for there will be those who will arrest you and take you to court, and they will whip you in the synagogues. 18 For my sake you will be brought to trial before rulers and kings, to tell the Good News to them and to the Gentiles. 19 When they bring you to trial, do not worry about what you are going to say or how you will say it; when the time comes, you will be given what you will say. 20 For the words you will speak will not be yours; they will come from the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

21 “People will hand over their own brothers to be put to death, and fathers will do the same to their children; children will turn against their parents and have them put to death. 22 Everyone will hate you because of me. But whoever holds out to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, run away to another one. I assure you that you will not finish your work in all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

24 “No pupil is greater than his teacher; no slave is greater than his master. 25 So a pupil should be satisfied to become like his teacher, and a slave like his master. If the head of the family is called Beelzebul, the members of the family will be called even worse names!

26 “So do not be afraid of people. Whatever is now covered up will be uncovered, and every secret will be made known. 27 What I am telling you in the dark you must repeat in broad daylight, and what you have heard in private you must announce from the housetops. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather be afraid of God, who can destroy both body and soul in hell. 29 For only a penny you can buy two sparrows, yet not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. 30 As for you, even the hairs of your head have all been counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are worth much more than many sparrows!

32 “Those who declare publicly that they belong to me, I will do the same for them before my Father in heaven. 33 But those who reject me publicly, I will reject before my Father in heaven.

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the world. No, I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 I came to set sons against their fathers, daughters against their mothers, daughters-in-law against their mothers-in-law; 36 your worst enemies will be the members of your own family.

37 “Those who love their father or mother more than me are not fit to be my disciples; those who love their son or daughter more than me are not fit to be my disciples. 38 Those who do not take up their cross and follow in my steps are not fit to be my disciples. 39 Those who try to gain their own life will lose it; but those who lose their life for my sake will gain it.

40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes God’s messenger because he is God’s messenger, will share in his reward. And whoever welcomes a good man because he is good, will share in his reward. 42 You can be sure that whoever gives even a drink of cold water to one of the least of these my followers because he is my follower, will certainly receive a reward.”

Read Matthew 10:16-42 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

During Jesus’ initial “job description” for His disciples, He outlines a number of challenging ideas. But even with these challenging statements, Jesus shares a promise and He describes a bigger perspective regarding our life on planet earth.

Tucked within this challenge near the beginning of their time together, Jesus tells the disciples, “So do not be afraid of people. Whatever is now covered up will be uncovered, and every secret will be made known. What I am telling you in the dark you must repeat in broad daylight, and what you have heard in private you must announce from the housetops.” (v. 26-27)

In these few verses, Jesus gives the disciples their mission. The disciples are to repeat Jesus’ words and His teaching, regardless of whether it makes them “friends” or not. I put friends in quote marks because someone who will only be your friend if you choose to give up something is not a very good friend. But neither is someone who will only be your friend if you must do something for them to keep the friendship.

The truth of history would show that the disciples made more enemies than friends by sharing Jesus’ message following His death. While the disciples succeeded in sharing God’s message and opening the door for the Holy Spirit to draw thousands into the truth about Jesus, many more people chose to ignore or be hostile towards what Jesus’ disciples taught. Many of the most hostile ones were the Jewish leaders – the very same ones who put Jesus to death.

Our big perspective shift comes in the next statement, and it focuses on where we should place our fear. Jesus cautions the disciples by saying, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather be afraid of God, who can destroy both body and soul in hell.” (v. 28)

Some might take Jesus’ words in this verse as a license to convert people by inspiring them to fear God and His “Hellfire” punishment. By itself, this definitely sounds like it supports a cruel picture of God, but Jesus again puts this fear statement in perspective with the next three verses. “For only a penny you can buy two sparrows, yet not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. As for you, even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth much more than many sparrows!” (v. 29-31)

Jesus describes how we are so much more valuable than the least valuable living thing at that time. In the market, one could purchase two sparrows for a penny, meaning that each sparrow was worth half a penny. In some ways, we might believe that God sees us in a similar way.

In the expanse of the universe, on a speck of a planet, are some tiny two-legged and two-armed creatures. It might be easy to picture God like the first century culture pictured sparrows: “worth less than a single coin”, but Jesus counters this idea by first giving value to sparrows, before giving value to each of us humans. “yet not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. As for you, even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth much more than many sparrows!” (v. 29b-31)”

The reason we serve God is not because He will destroy our body and soul in hell if we don’t. The reason we serve Him is because He values us so much that Jesus came from God to be a sacrifice for our sins. God loves us so much that He was willing to pay the penalty of sin so that we could be restored to Him. This endless, limitless love is the reason we serve, and when time ends and the heavens and earth are recreated, we will live together with God because of His love for us!

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God-Given Peace: John 14:15-31

Focus Passage: John 14:15-31 (GW)

15 “If you love me, you will obey my commandments. 16 I will ask the Father, and he will give you another helper who will be with you forever. 17 That helper is the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept him, because it doesn’t see or know him. You know him, because he lives with you and will be in you.

18 “I will not leave you all alone. I will come back to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. You will live because I live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father and that you are in me and that I am in you. 21 Whoever knows and obeys my commandments is the person who loves me. Those who love me will have my Father’s love, and I, too, will love them and show myself to them.”

22 Judas (not Iscariot) asked Jesus, “Lord, what has happened that you are going to reveal yourself to us and not to the world?”

23 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will go to them and make our home with them. 24 A person who doesn’t love me doesn’t do what I say. I don’t make up what you hear me say. What I say comes from the Father who sent me.

25 “I have told you this while I’m still with you. 26 However, the helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything. He will remind you of everything that I have ever told you.

27 “I’m leaving you peace. I’m giving you my peace. I don’t give you the kind of peace that the world gives. So don’t be troubled or cowardly. 28 You heard me tell you, ‘I’m going away, but I’m coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I’m going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I am.

29 “I’m telling you this now before it happens. When it does happen, you will believe. 30 The ruler of this world has no power over me. But he’s coming, so I won’t talk with you much longer. 31 However, I want the world to know that I love the Father and that I am doing exactly what the Father has commanded me to do. Get up! We have to leave.”

Read John 14:15-31 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Often when reading a passage from a different translation, I catch new words or ideas that I have never seen before. Perhaps this is the translation’s or translator’s fault, or maybe, the original language used a word that conveyed something more that this translation wants to draw out.

Whatever the reason, this passage includes a word and an idea that I have not ever noticed before.

In verse 27, we read Jesus’ promise, and see this “new” word/idea:  “I’m leaving you peace. I’m giving you my peace. I don’t give you the kind of peace that the world gives. So don’t be troubled or cowardly.

Jesus tells us not to be cowardly?

What does that have to do with the peace He promises?

Some might believe that God gives us peace in situations where we have no power to change the circumstances. This is often the case. But where people go too far in their thinking is that God’s peace excuses them from being engaged. Receiving God’s peace is not a sign that we can now retreat. That would be “cowardly”.

The peace God has promised comes on a deeper level. His peace fills your heart. His peace assures us that we are loved, forgiven, saved, and now empowered to act. His peace says that He will be with us as we face whatever the future holds.

Peace that the world gives is different. This peace is bartered and temporary. It could be the lull in a storm of circumstances. The world’s peace is nice, but it cannot fill our lives like God’s peace. God’s peace is present when things get out of control. God’s peace remains when the world’s peace has expired and left.

God’s peace is peace that I want. When life throws us doubts and uncertainties, with Jesus’ peace, we can be empowered and freed to move forward – and moving forward with God is not cowardly!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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