Saint Patrick’s Day 2016: Beer Bash or Christian Call?

st-patrick-213x300Someone told me today, “I don’t know why my kids have to go to school today, I consider St. Patrick’s Day a national holiday.” Why? Why does America get so excited and choose to celebrate about old, dead Pat? Here’s an interesting post titled, “St. Patrick’s Day Around the World”.

But more importantly what did Saint Patrick do?

Patrick had Christian parents in Roman Britain but didn’t take it seriously until he was kidnapped and made a slave (“as a swineherd”) in northern Ireland. He prayed faithfully and escaped, traveling “two hundred miles on foot to the coast.” He then got a job on a ship and went to France then to a “Mediterranean monastery.” He returned to his homeland but he kept having dreams of Irish children asking him to come back to them and teach them about Christ. He felt inadequate to preach the gospel so he went to France to study at a monastery and returned to Ireland in 432 AD.

Patrick had to deal with Druids (“keepers of the old paganism”) and hostile chieftains but somehow got through to everyone. Years before Patrick was a missionary a man named Palladius tried to convert the Irish people but had very little success. It seems Patrick’s time as a slave helped him understand the people in a way that they listened to him. It is estimated that he planted 300 churches and baptized around 120,000 people! (Source 4)

It’s incredible that a guy who came to fame because he wanted to tell everybody about Jesus 1584 years ago in Ireland is celebrated with an unofficial holiday in the United States today! “You bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:8). So Jesus says that by the “fruit” or works of a believer they will be known. These aren’t what I call “striving works” (as if you could do good works to get into heaven) but instead what I call “proving works” (where Jesus works through us, proving He is the only real hope). Wanna know what that “fruit” looks like? Read my Devotional # 93.

Now we’re beyond drinking beer and wearing green…we’re looking at the heart of Patrick who truly had a heart for others. Whether you’re a Scotchman called to preach to the Irish or a Japanese American called to speak to Zimbabwe, what matters is that when Jesus said to go out and tell all the world – that was an emphatic command to all Christians (Mark 16:15). Do you understand that?! I hear something like this all the time: “I don’t have the gift of preaching” or “I’m not called to speak to people about Jesus.” We’ve mistaken our discomfort for feeling like we are not called, but that’s not the case. It’s fine if you don’t want to tell others about Jesus but you can’t do that and call yourself a follower of Christ. You don’t get to walk into the pizza place down the street and demand a paycheck, right?

“Do you work here?”
“No.”
“Then I’m not giving you a paycheck.”

Jesus asks us, “Do you work here?” He doesn’t ask, “Do you tell people you work here?” He asks, “Do you work here?” “Do You bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

I believe too many of our pastors let people off the hook nowadays. We say you can just be a missionary in your own backyard. Yes, that’s true for some but sadly most people use it as an excuse, ignoring Jesus’ call then live an uneventful life never mentioning the name of Jesus outside of church, if they even go to church.

I’m calling you out. 1. Jesus commanded you to lovingly tell others about him. Period. 2. Jesus may have told you to drop everything and move to the other side of the world to tell people about Him. You don’t have to be Saint Patrick, be you, but recognize the same Holy Spirit that allowed Saint Patrick to be a slave and then moved him out of his comfort zone, moves you today. As Jesus said, “Go!

 

References:

Source 4: A. Kenneth Curtis, J. Stephen Lang & Randy Peterson, The 100 Most Important Events in Christian History, Christian History Institute, Fleming H. Revell (a division of Baker Book House Company, 1991, 1998, pp. 47-48.

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Devotional # 92. Galatians 5:1-25

Devotional # 92. 6/23/14. Galatians 5:1-25.

Intro: Paul’s letter to the Galatians has called them out on their problem of knowing the truth but not living like it. They came from a Jewish religious background but recognized that Jesus fulfilled the Law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17). So after agreeing with Him and committing to becoming a Christian why did they want to add extra requirements to their spiritual lives? Many times its because we allow our flesh to influence our spiritual decision making. As humans we feel guilty about living sinfully and want to be punished or try and earn righteousness.

vv. 1-6. Through all of this section we must remember that Paul’s point is that nothing we do or don’t do improves our standing with Jesus, instead it’s “faith working through love” (v. 6). Notice Paul uses his name here which should call to our mind what his background is. Who was Paul? He was Saul, the religious leader. Remember we talked about his conversion in Acts 9 (Devotional 50). Paul has realized that once a person knows the Savior there is no religious ceremony (“circumcision”) that can bring them closer to God. Anything that a person trusts in addition to Jesus’ all encompassing sacrifice is just “a yoke of bondage.” What is a yoke? A yoke is the wooden beam that keeps two cows together so that a farmer can plow straight lines. A yoke itself isn’t bad. In anything from marriage to business partnerships, if both parties are believers they are considered “equally yoked” (2 Corinthians 6:14). And if we take Jesus’ yoke it is easy (Matthew 11:28-30) but if a yoke is like the stocks that prisoners used to be put in that’s bad. That’s never what God ever intended for His children.

vv. 7-10. Sometimes Paul compares things to sports to help us understand. He’s saying ‘you started well, “you ran well”, so finish strong. If you know the truth why aren’t you obeying it?’ The people trying to put the Galatians in religious bondage weren’t sent from God. In fact Paul says whoever they are they will be judged for causing division and confusion among the Christian church. The word for “judgment” here is krima (G2917). Krima has a meaning of temporary judgment. So the person leading this church astray will be held accountable by God while on earth, but they will still have the opportunity to be forgiven and have eternal life. It is important to note that God is always good. He gives plenty of chances for people to come to Him and accept His love and transformation.

v. 11. Paul says if he was still teaching circumcision and the ways of Judaism then he wouldn’t be persecuted for his faith. But obviously he was persecuted for his faith so there had to be something distinctive between Christianity and the Jewish religion. He calls the cross offensive, which I believe many Christians today would actually be offended at! But it is offensive it makes us look at our sins and realize that the only penalty for our sins is death. And the only substitution must be blood. This forces non-Christians to come to terms with being a sinner and being incapable of saving themselves. Yes, the cross is offensive to the unrepentant sinner, but a beautiful image of love to the repentant sinner.

vv. 12-15. Verse 12 is a sarcastic, funny comment. Paul, recognizing that circumcision is cutting off foreskin, says if these people love cutting stuff off so much then the only cutting they should do is their ties to your church. In verses 13-15 Paul reminds them that it is love that changes men, not religious rituals. Jesus told them love was the second most important commandment (“love your neighbor as yourself” comes from Leviticus 19:18 and He said it in Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31). And we love ourselves! We feed ourselves, wash ourselves, go to the doctor, watch entertainment. If we took care of others with the half the amount of time we spend on ourselves the world would be a better place.

vv. 16-18. Paul explains that the way of our old life is in contradiction to our new life. A person who doesn’t have Jesus in their heart and hasn’t asked the Holy Spirit to help them understand the Bible will not be able to really understand it. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them,because they are spiritually discerned.” So just as Paul expertly explains the war between our flesh and the Spirit in Romans 7 we can understand that this is because they are contrary and can never enjoy each other’s company. My favorite part of verse 17 is that Christians no longer get to do what we wish. We must be subject to God and self-control. The things of the flesh are what we want to do but the things of the spiritual are the only thing worth doing.

vv. 19-21. Paul says that it is obvious what is from the Holy Spirit and what is sinful and from the flesh. He gives us a list, some of the lesser known words I’ll expound on:

adultery– This is unfaithfulness in your marriage covenant. Unfaithfulness isn’t limited to sexual intercourse; we can cheat on our spouse emotionally or intellectually. Remember that Jesus said if a person looks at someone other than their spouse with lust then they are committing adultery (Matthew 5:27-28).

fornication– This is “unlawful sexual intercourse” (Source 1). We know that according to God we shouldn’t have sex if we’re not married but what is the heart of God in this? Marriage was set up to be a picture of God’s relationship with each of us. Isn’t the Church called the Bride and Jesus the Groom (Ephesians 5:25-27 & many, many more references)? So if we don’t have a covenant and relationship with God then we are cheating on Him if we practice “idolatry” (see note below) or if we sin against Him.

lewdness- This is “shameless conduct involving absence of restraint” (Source 1).

idolatry– As mentioned above worshipping an idol is cheating on God. It is pretending as if some created thing deserves glory more than the Creator. It is also “the immorality that accompanies demon worship” (p. 52). If there are things that sit on the “throne of your heart”, things that are a priority over God, that you love more than God then those are idols. Whether it’s your car, music, relaxation, your job, hobbies, your family, or food (these are just examples, ask God what is sitting on your heart) if they overrule God then we need them to take a backseat or be completely eradicated.

dissensions- These are “separations caused by disagreements” (Source 1). This list is in reference to sins that all people participate in. If you, being a Christian, immediately thought of dissensions between other brothers and sisters of the faith how much worse is it if you participate in disagreements that cause sinful division with non-Christians?

heresies- These are “sects formed by men with self-willed opinions” (Source 1). Have you heard of a religion that doesn’t fit with what the Bible says? Stay away. Have you gone to a Bible study or a church that doesn’t apply God’s word to every aspect of life? Do they pick and choose certain parts? Do they even use the Bible? Is the sermon more about the speakers’ soapbox for the week? Don’t get caught up in what men say, what does God say?

envy– What’s the difference between jealousy and envy? “Envy is the displeasure at the success or prosperity of others” (Source 1). When we wanted a position and someone else gets it, are we bitter towards them?

revelries-These are “riotous gatherings for entertainment, accompanied by drunkenness” (Source 1).

And Paul notes that from the beginning he has said these things are bad. This isn’t a new list. Notice he says those who “practice” these sins. To practice is to have it be habitual, you have made it a habit. I am not saying it’s OK to do these sometimes but I am saying don’t beat yourself up over an angry outburst.

vv. 22-26. The best part about God is that He doesn’t wallow in the negative. He gives us guidelines (like the verses we just read) but even the 10 Commandments aren’t just a list of “do’s and don’ts”. God is getting us to see the heart of the issue. So we must see that the heart of God was love in the Ten Commandments. So what is our “positive” list filled with? These are the “fruit” of the Spirit. Why “fruit”? Because just like a tree grows fruit as a measure of usefulness a Christian grows spiritual fruit as a measure of usefulness. Next week I will spend more time on the fruit of the spirit.

Conclusion: If we’re continually worried about how close we can get to sin without it being sin, then we’ve missed the heart of God. When we are fruit-bearing we don’t care about walking the fence, we just care about loving others. We see a measure of the maturity of a Christian when they have stopped trying to touch the fire without getting burned and they have steadfastly, effortlessly been bearing fruit for the kingdom. There will be trials and difficulty but those who continue on caring for others will bear fruit without trying.

 

References:

Source 1: William MacDonald, The Letter to the Galatians, 2007, p. 52-53.

Devotional #29. Mark 11:1-14

Devotional #29 (4/15/13). Hosanna and a fig tree.

Intro: Last week several disciples jockeyed for position to help Jesus overthrow the Romans. Also a blind man received healing because of his faith. These two stories will help us understand Jesus’ purpose as Messiah here in the first half of chapter 11.

This Week’s Reading: Mark 11:1-14.

vv. 1-3. Jesus tells two disciples to go and get a colt and bring it back to Him. If anyone questioned them they were supposed to say that the Master needed it. I have heard people say that some time before this Jesus had paid for the colt and told the owner He would send two guys to get it later. I don’t know if this is because people don’t like to think that Jesus stole a colt or what but since it doesn’t say exactly it seems possible that it was a miracle. He very easily could have known where the colt was, sent the guys and the owner be OK with it. Either way we’ll see the reason for it in the next set of verses.

vv. 4-7. Just as Jesus said it would happen people asked the disciples where they were going and they answered as Jesus told them. They were fine with it and the disciples brought it back to Jesus. Matthew explains why Jesus did this. It was to fulfill Scripture about Himself (Matthew 21:4-5). Notice Jesus directed how he came into Jerusalem by picking a colt. “He deliberately chose a young horse, not a stallion, not a donkey, not coming on foot. This is because in that day, to come riding a colt- as opposed to a mighty war-horse – was to come as a man of peace. Jesus didn’t come to Jerusalem as a conquering general, but as a suffering – though triumphant – servant” (Source 1).

vv. 8-10.This is where we get “Palm Sunday” from. The people put down their clothes (which was a sacrifice because they didn’t have many changes of clothes and they were expensive), this was like a “red carpet” for Him. The tree branches signify “joy and salvation” and will be used in the future (Rev. 7:9) for Christ (Source 2). “Hosanna” means “save now!” so when the people called this out they were saying they wanted Jesus to conquer Rome.

v. 11. It is interesting because as He entered the city the people would have wanted him to go right towards the Antonia (or Antonio) Fortress to overthrow where the Romans were set up (Source 3). But He goes left towards the temple, this is significant because this was 6 days before Passover when the priests were bringing the sacrificial sheep into the temple. Jesus was offering Himself as the sacrificial sheep at that exact time. Here Mark leaves out that Jesus threw out the businessmen (“moneychangers”) which is important to understand the next part. Read Matthew 21:12-16 for the specifics but Jesus was angered that people were committing fraud in the temple and the religious leaders were OK with it. Not only that but when He healed people in the temple the religious leaders were mad at Him.

vv. 12-14. As mentioned above the gospel of Matthew helps us see the whole picture (see Mt. 21:18-22) here. Jesus was hungry and saw a fig tree with full leaves but no fruit. It was a picture of religious people who, on the outside present themselves as good and godly but really there is no fruit. A Christian will be known by God working through them and blessing others. That is the fruit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. So here Jesus gives the disciples an example of how the religious leaders paraded around with “big leaves” but since they had no “fruit” they would wither and die. The disciples are amazed that the tree, cursed by Jesus, would shrivel before their very eyes. Interesting that they are still amazed that Jesus controlled nature after they’ve seen so many examples (calming the storm, walking on water etc.).

Conclusion: Jesus was the Messiah but not in the way the people expected or wanted. As always Jesus was more concerned with their eternal wellbeing instead of the temporary, earthly comfort. If we are a Christian then we should be praying for (and seeing) changes in our lives as we long to help others, make the Christ known and not be hypocrites.

 

References

Source 1: David Guzik, http://www.blueletterbible.org/commentaries/comm_view.cfm?AuthorID=2&contentID=7904&commInfo=31&topic=Mark&ar=Mar_11_1

Source 2: John MacArthur, MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1485.

Source 3: Sermon by Troy VanderWende on March 24, 2013.