Daily Reflections July 21, 2017
No serious reader of Scripture can utter, “people are generally good”. The repeated narrative of moral failure throughout the Bible counters this notion. Further, we are given clear texts that exposes the fact that our sin is real, deep, and damning. Jeremiah gives us a vision of human sinfulness as he speaks of the sin of Judah. Their sin is not characterized as lapses of judgment or behavioral and ethical faux pas. In the first verse of this chapter, Jeremiah metaphorically attests that their sin is a permanent heart condition and a detriment to true worship.
In verse 9 of this chapter, the specific concept of Judah’s sin is generalized to be true of all hearts. He says,
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
The heart is poisoned beyond hope and leads people astray. The outward things that we often associate with sin are simply the result of this reality. Jesus revealed this when he said,
“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.” (Matthew 19-20a).
Because sin is a spiritual, heart issue and evil actions are a result of that, the solution cannot be obtained with an unspiritual, behavioral therapy. Both Jeremiah and Jesus knew that a facade was not a sufficient answer to the problem of sin. Nothing less than a new heart would be able to save God’s people from sin. Jeremiah says in chapter 31,
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33).
He exclaims that God will give them a new heart, not one with sin carved into it but with the sweet law of the Lord engraved upon it so that they can be God’s obedient people. Similarly, Jesus told Nicodemus that a new birth, a spiritual birth is necessary for entering the kingdom of God.
It is no wonder that if the natural state of the heart is polluted with sin, then the attempted worship of God with such a heart is adulterated and therefore a rebellious act toward God. The Psalmist, David, says,
“Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully.” (Psalm 24:3-4).
For true worship to be made possible, a new spiritual heart is necessary. All the rituals, sacrifices, prayers, and acts are spiritually worthless without a new heart.
Naturally, people are not good and only worship their foolish selves. But thanks be to God that Jesus Christ has paid the penalty of sin for God’s people and the Holy Spirits takes hearts of stone and turns them into hearts of flesh. He has provided a way for us to be made holy and be able to sincerely worship him forever!
Yours in Christ,
Associate Pastor Evan Webster
When one reads the third chapter of Mark’s gospel it is hard to miss the various ways the author depicts people reacting to Jesus. We see in the first pericope (vv. 1-6) that the Pharisees are offended at Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath and thus they begin plans to have him killed.
As the story continues, we are introduced to a large crowd who has heard about Jesus’ healing miracles and approach Him in hopes of receiving their own miracle. Some of the people in this crowd come with unclean spirits, and it is from these spirits that we see a third reaction to Jesus. The demons recognize who Jesus is and cry out His identity as the Son of God before being silenced.
Next, in verses 13-19, we are introduced to the twelve apostles who respond to the call of Jesus and form His inner circle. Following this we are told perhaps the most striking response to Jesus, and it comes from His family who believe that Jesus is out of his mind (v.21). Finally, in verse 22 we are told that the scribes believed that Jesus was Himself possessed by Beelzebul.
In total, chapter three presents us with people responding to Jesus in six various ways. As it was then, so it is now. One does not need to travel far from his doorstep to meet people with a host of ideas about who Jesus is and how we should relate to Him. What is striking is that despite the passing of two millennia we still see people respond to Jesus in the same way. We meet people, who like the Pharisees, are offended at the words of Jesus and think the world would be better without Him.
Also distinctly negative, we meet people like His family, who believe that Jesus was just a regular man out of His mind with visions of self-grandeur. At first glance, the response of the crowds may not seem as deplorable, but even they approach Jesus in a shameful manner. They are excited not about the man himself, but rather about what He can accomplish for them. This response we find not only on our doorsteps, but in our own churches.
It is interesting that it might at first appear as though the demons have the most appropriate response to Jesus. They recognize who He is and cry out His identity as the Son of God. Let it be noted, however, that they cry out not in praise, but with fear and trepidation (see James 2:19). They are silenced not because they are wrong, but because Christ’s time of complete revelation had not yet come, nor are demons the appropriate heralds of this news.
All of this begs the question, what is the proper response to the person of Jesus? According to Jesus Himself the proper response is to “repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Let us, therefore, seek to imitate the response of the Apostles who left everything behind to sit at the feet of Jesus. As Mark’s Gospel depicts, Jesus is the only one worthy of all that we are, He is indeed the eternal Son of God, and it is our privilege to live a life of obedience to Him.