As I sit at my computer staring at a blank screen, all sorts of thoughts are spinning through my head. We buried my wife's Uncle today. In one week it will be my birthday and a week after that will be Christmas. Two days later, my wife and I will share our 20th wedding anniversary. And, one of my friends may never talk to me again because they don't like someone I call friend.
"They don't like someone I call friend..."
James said that "Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God." (James 4:4) So maybe I shouldn't associate with anyone who isn't doing the will of God. But, Jesus was "... a friend of tax collectors and sinners." (Matthew 11:19)
Jesus also said, "You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." (John 15:14-15)
So, maybe I shouldn't be friends with anyone who doesn't do what Jesus commands. But, Paul tells me that we "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)
So, what do we do? Who do we call friend?
Only God knows what is in our heart and in the hearts of those we call friend. However, God gave us very clear guidelines concerning how we should react to others even when we don't understand or agree with their actions.
"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Luke 6:36-38)
I may not understand you; I may not agree with you in all things. But, if you say you love Jesus - Jesus who died for us on the cross and rose again on the third day - Jesus who sits at the right hand of the Father and intercedes for us - Jesus who will come again (maybe real soon); who am I to call you anything except friend.
Only God knows your heart; but, if you love the same Jesus I love, you are my friend. Share my birthday and our anniversary celebration. Mourn with us the passing of a dear Uncle. But most of all, sing praises with us as we worship our Lord and celebrate His birthday - The day we were set free.
I'm sure you know this story; however, have you ever thought about how you would feel if you were one of the witnesses? You saw her committing adultery with your own eyes! You know the Law of Moses! Maybe you knew her husband or the man she was committing adultery with. Maybe you knew them both!
She's guilty! We don't need the ability to know what's in someone's heart to know what we see with our own eyes. Isn't that right...?
Jesus' word that we translate "condemn" actually means to "judge worthy of punishment." Jesus did not judge her sin as worthy of punishment. Why? She was clearly guilty of adultery because you saw her "in the act!" What's going on?
Several years ago, one of our twins, Alyssa, received a very special gift from a friend for her birthday. However, her sister Angell only received a small, very inexpensive gift from that same friend. Angell was very hurt.
A few days later, I got a call from Angell's teacher telling me that she was being extremely mean and hostile toward that friend. When Angell got home, we had a talk. I told her I understood her frustration and hurt; but, I also told her that her reaction was wrong - a sin in God's eyes. I ended our talk by saying, "Don't treat your friend that way any more."
Angell's teacher knows her very well. However, because I knew much more about the situation than the teacher, I was able to say, "What you did was wrong. However, because of my great love for you, I will not punish you; but, don't do that again."
Do you see the truth of the situation? Even if you were a witness to the adultery described in John 8; even if you knew all the parties involved, you cannot know what Jesus knows and you cannot love like Jesus loves. That's why He told Luke to record His commandments that if we do not judge, we will not be judged; if we do not condemn, we will not be condemned; if we forgive, we will be forgiven. We cannot know what He knows; so, we can only trust Him to be the judge and the forgiver - The one who condemns and the one who does not condemn.
Our mission on earth is to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. There are no commandments greater than these.
As for judgment, the Lord will judge his people, not us. So, if the Lord ever says to you, "Go and sin no more," you can be sure He is speaking from full knowledge and from complete love. Heed His words, accept His mercy and "try not to do it again."
We were lost! Through the blood of animals and strict obedience to hundreds of laws, the Israelites were able to stay one step ahead of their sins; but, where was the joy, the intimate relationship with our God? It happened for a few; but, for most, God was just a fearsome Master, a distant Ruler, or an exalted King, unapproachable except by a select few.
The rest of us, the gentiles, had no hope.
Our God is an awesome God; and, He is merciful. He loves us and He desires to have an intimate and personal relationship with every one of us, not just a select few. God had a plan to bring us all back to Him; to repair the separation that occurred in the garden. But, God's plan required a perfect sacrifice; a sacrifice unlike any ever seen before. God's plan required that He, the Master of all Creation, take the form of a man, a perfect, sinless man and sacrifice Himself for us.
God did something wonderful, something miraculous and magnificent! He came into this world as a man; but, He was still God. Fully man and fully God; He became our Savior, our Messiah; Jesus, the Son of God.
God gave this indescribable gift to all of us, not just a select few. Those who accept Jesus as the Messiah, as God's Son, are no longer Jew or Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female, but are all one (Galatians 3:28). This gift, a Savior, Christ the Lord, came to earth to bring us His joy, His peace and eternal life if our Lord is pleased with us.
As you read this story and ponder the events that took place 2,000 years ago, remember these words of Jesus: "If you love me, you will obey what I command." (John 14:14)
"And in that vicinity there were shepherds living out under the open sky, watching in shifts over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone all about them, and they were terribly frightened.
But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all people. For to you is born this day in the town of David a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord, the Messiah.'
Then suddenly there appeared with the angel an army of the troops of heaven, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased.'" (Paraphrased from Luke 2:8-14, AMP)
And now, like Simeon, our eyes have seen His salvation, Jesus, Who came for all people. Ask Jesus into your heart. Ask Him to help you follow His commands by sending His Spirit to live in your heart and guide you. Give Glory to God in heaven and pray for His peace on earth as we celebrate the birth of His Son, our Savior and Lord, Jesus.
A few days ago a dear friend shared her feelings with me about a "thorn" in her life.
"I know that we cannot be perfect" she said, "but the things that God has spoken to my heart to do, I can't seem to do; and then, I feel very condemned. Recently, I again fell to temptation and did one of my "repetitive sins." Afterwards, of course, I felt horrible and guilty, and disgusted with myself. I cried out to the Lord, "I'm sorry, pleeeeease forgive me... I yearn to honor You, and not hurt You and disappoint You. I don't know why I cannot say "No" and not do this... I hate myself Lord; I can't bear this pain and the guilt of not doing the right thing in Your eyes... I love You... Search my heart... I want to change, but it seems like I just can't... Help me Lord... I need You... Why aren't You delivering me from this... You say that You are the only One that can ultimately change us, and I don't want to live my live my life like this... I can't live in despair!"
Have you ever said similar words or had similar feelings? Do you condemn yourself because of your repeated failure to be the kind of Christian you want to be? Like my friend, are you beating yourself up to the point of despair? If so, listen to this message from our Savior.
"A Pharisees names Simon invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so He went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table.
A woman who had lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house. She brought an alabaster jar of perfume and as she stood behind Him at his feet weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
Simon objected because of what kind of woman she was - a sinner. Jesus said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? When I came into your house, you did not give Me any water for My feet; but, she wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give Me a kiss; but, this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing My feet. You did not put oil on My head, but she has poured perfume on My feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven - for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little."
Then Jesus said to the woman, "Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace." (Paraphrased from Luke 7:36-50)
What happened here? We're told that this woman was a known (public) sinner. You cannot get such a reputation by occasionally committing a sin. This woman had been living a life of repeated sin.
She did what we can all do. She didn't just hear about Jesus; she acted on what she heard. She sought Him out - She went to Him! But, she didn't fall at His feet offering repentance and confession. She didn't even ask for forgiveness. Everything she did was from the heart - from faith.
Her tears were her repentance. She humbled herself before the Lord as her confession. She sacrificed and blessed the Lord with perfume as a way to show her love for Him. She believed in her heart that because she truly loved the Lord, He would not only love her; but, he would forgive her... And so He did.
"For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision (The things we do publicly) has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." (Galatians 5:6)
When your little child falls while learning to walk, you do not condemn. Because of the child's love for you and your love for the child, you help the child back to his or her feet, wipe away all the tears, and allow them to try again. You know they will fall again; but, you also know that the love between you will allow confidence to grow and that walking will be achieved.
"...When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." He also said, "Get up and walk." (Paraphrased from Matthew 9:1-7)