There are a number of passages within Scripture that Jesus spoke about that I have had and continue to have difficulty with. It’s not that I don’t understand what Jesus said, it’s the difficulty that I experience within myself in adhering to what He said. Loving your enemies is right up there near the top of my list as well as practising humility. My list goes on but in order to keep this post short ……..
If you ever need to get a bit of a reminder of how much work yet needs to be done in yourself may I suggest reading Luke 6:27-36 NIV where Jesus says:
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
To me, the meaning behind all of those words that Jesus spoke about is relatively clear, if you want to receive mercy from God you need to be willing to give mercy to others. Why, because we are to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:16}. Matthew 9:13 NIV also comes to mind where Jesus says: “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
These concepts about being merciful to receive mercy, forgiving others to receive forgiveness, not judging others so that we are not judged and not placing oneself above others are all through the Bible. It’s where God shows us of Himself so that we can become aware of what He is like and the gulf that exists between us.
It’s not that I don’t understand the concepts, it’s personally following through with the principles or personally implementing these principles that Jesus explained to me, where I run into problems.
One of C.S Lewis’ quotes is “No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.” I can testify to the truth within that quote.
But Jesus doesn’t stop there, He and the Apostles also touch on our humanistic trait of thinking about ourselves as superior or better than others.
Luke 14:10-11 NIV “But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honoured in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
1 Peter 5:5 NIV “In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,“God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.”
Colossians 3:12 NIV “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
The Apostle Paul is really special to me because he so clearly exemplifies the struggle that all of us experience in our walk with the Lord. Paul never beats around the bush so to speak, he tells it like it is. I don’t know about you but I need that.
In his Epistle to the Romans 7: 21-25 NIV Paul says: “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”
That’s about as much as anyone can tell it like it is. This is the Apostle Paul calling himself a wretched man. A dear Christian brother of mine who is now with the Lord used to say, “Move over Paul, it’s a long bench.”
The most noteworthy part of this particular passage to me is where Paul shows us where his deliverance is. “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
The Christian walk can be a struggle, not because it has to be, but because it takes us so long to understand that we can’t in ourselves do what Jesus asks us to do, which if you stop to think about it, it much like perfectly adhering to the Law of the Old Testament. It can’t be done, not in ourselves. Jesus also said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NIV)
IF YOU REMAIN IN ME AND I IN YOU, YOU WILL BEAR MUCH FRUIT.
That was the key for Paul and it is our key. In fact, it is the only way in which we can, with our short comings, accomplish anything in Christ.
A lot of my prayers include me asking God for mercy. Oh I start with praise, I thank Him for all He has done and continues to do in my life but I don’t kid myself, I know what I can do within myself and I know what I can do when I let Him live within me. There is a big difference between what one pursuit achieves and the other. And the latter can only be maintained through closeness to the Lord. I’ve got a long way to go to be holy like God. A long way. But my focus in not on me, it is in Jesus and really, that’s what it’s all about.
Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!