Romans 15:1 – Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
Sometimes it doesn’t massively please us to have to put up with other people’s weaknesses! We’d rather they just sort it out, or we don’t have to deal with them.
But I prove myself as a mature believer, and display the strength that I claim to have, by loving others and helping them in their weakness. Not by cutting and running, but by helping and building. While it may be easier to do what pleases me – it’s not helpful for the building up of the body.
So if we claim to be strong, mature believers – this will be tested and evidenced by how we deal with the weaknesses of other people. It takes huge commitment and strength to continue to show mercy and love when it’s taking a toll on us.
But this is what Jesus demonstrated and continues to demonstrate to us!
Acts 13:39 – and by him everyone who believes is justified from all things, from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.
There’s a few words that the Bible uses that aren’t usually a part of our everyday language – words like sanctified, justified, redeemed etc. But when we understand what these words mean it can really help us grasp what God has done for us.
In this verse we read that by Christ, everyone who believes is JUSTIFIED from all things, and that we could not be JUSTIFIED by the law of Moses. What does it mean to be justified?
Most word processing programs like Microsoft Word have a series of buttons that let you align the text. You can centre it, or push it left or right. But there’s one button which is called ‘justified’. When you click, it pushes out the edges of your text to the margins, giving a nice even flow down the page.
It’s not a bad illustration of what it’s like when God justifies us. The page margins are like perfection, and the words we type are like our thoughts and deeds. They don’t measure up to perfection, often falling short. But when God justifies us, it’s like He makes up the missing difference to make us perfect.
The law of Moses can only point out our sin, showing us where we fall short. It has no power to make us righteous or to clean us up. But through His sacrifice on the cross, Christ now JUSTIFIES us – and even if we fall short – by His grace and mercy HE makes up for it and presents us before God the Father as perfect.
Luke 15:17 (NIV)
17 "When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! i
In the story of the Prodigal Son, the son has an awakening moment when his money has run out and he’s eating pig’s food! Even the servants in his father’s house have it better than this!
The son is motivated by his own need. He now ponders returning to his father but not because he is motivated to set things right at home, or for restoring relationships or anything. He’s motivated by his hunger. He has nothing to eat – and even the least of the servants have more than enough bread in his father’s house.
This shows us two things:
1) It’s vitally important that we have ‘bread in the house’. Jesus refers to healing as ‘the children’s bread’. When healing and life is prevalent in the house of God, it will make what the prodigals are eating in the world seem very, very second rate.
2) When prodigals return, their motives may be less than noble. They may come back simply because they’re starving. But it’s here that the goodness of God is shown – he doesn’t judge the son, but instead he lavishes even more on him! Our response needs to be the same. It’s his kindness that leads us to repentance!
Genesis 39:2 – Yahweh was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man. He was in the house of his master the Egyptian.
Joseph had a dream to lead and rule, but he was placed in a position of servitude instead. Yet he kept a good spirit, and faithfully served those he was placed under.
You can be in a servile position and yet be prosperous. You can be blessed even if your circumstances seem to be less than what you would wish for.
God’s blessing is found by us when we are in the place He wants us to be.
Hebrews 12:24 – to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better than that of Abel.
When Cain killed his brother Abel in Genesis 4, Abel’s blood cried out to the Lord from the ground. The brutal murder required justice, and so Abel’s blood cried out for vengeance.
In contrast, the blood of Christ cries out to the Lord for mercy. On the cross, Jesus said ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’.
In this way, Christ’s blood ‘speaks’ better than the blood of Abel.
Ezekiel 46:16-18 – “Thus says the Lord: If the prince give a gift to any of his sons, it is his inheritance, it shall belong to his sons; it is their possession by inheritance. But if he give of his inheritance a gift to one of his servants, it shall be his to the year of liberty; then it shall return to the prince [..] Moreover the prince shall not take of the people’s inheritance, to thrust them out of their possession…”
God is a giver of great gifts! But just as important as the gift given, is how we receive the gift that has been given.
This passage shows us that if we receive the gift as a son – then the gift is ours to keep and remains an inheritance for our families. But if we receive the gift as a servant – then the gift is returned to the Lord when our service ends.
The difference between a son and a servant, is that one receives as a right of a member of the household – the other receives as payment of services rendered. The servant must work to retain his gift, but the son does not need to work to retain his.
It all comes down to how we receive from God. We must endeavour to receive His goodness as sons, and not as servants. Then what we have will never be taken from us.
This sheds some new light on what Jesus was referring to in Luke 10:42 – with Mary and Martha. Jesus said of Mary that what she had would ‘not be taken from her’.
It also connects with the temporary nature of some of the spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 13:8-10). If our identity is completely wrapped up in these things, then we are servants and not sons.
2 Samuel 9:1 – David said, Is there yet any who is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?
The household of Saul deserves nothing but death from David, who had been badly mistreated by him. Yet because of David’s love for Jonathan, kindness is being extended to this wicked household.
In the same way, the human race deserves nothing but judgement from God for our wickedness and the way we’ve turned against Him. Yet because of His love for His human Son, God wishes to extend kindness to the human race and has mercy upon us.
The household of Saul experienced mercy from David the King, because of Jonathan. In the same way the household of Adam experiences mercy from God, because of Christ. We receive the kindness of God, not because of our own deserving, but for the sake of Christ, whom God loves.