Sunday, December 16, 2018

Lord's Day 31

Thoughts on Devotions – LD31

Q. 83 What are the keys of the Kingdom? Q. 84 How does preaching the Gospel open and close the Kingdom of Heaven? Q. 85 How is the Kingdom of Heaven closed and opened by Christian discipline?

DeYoung, in The Good News We Almost Forgot, titles this chapter “The Keys of the Kingdom.” He discusses preaching of the Gospel and church discipline as the two keys. Preaching proclaims that the Kingdom is open to all who would receive Christ, while discipline (blocking full participation in the sacraments) is meant to be a wake up call for Christians who stray from faithfully following Christ, with the goal of repentance.

Monday: When Peter acknowledged the Jesus was the Messiah Jesus said that this knowledge and trust which can only come from God and that this truth becomes the means or key by which people can enter heaven.
Matthew 16:13-19 When Jesus came to the area of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They answered, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven! And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.”

Tuesday: The primary task for the church is to preach the Gospel. The Holy Spirit generates faith in the believer upon hearing the promise of God for redemption through the saving work of Jesus Christ. Those who do not believe reject God's plan of salvation.
2 Cor. 2:14-17 But thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and who makes known through us the fragrance that consists of the knowledge of him in every place. For we are a sweet aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing - to the latter an odor from death to death, but to the former a fragrance from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? For we are not like so many others, hucksters who peddle the word of God for profit, but we are speaking in Christ before God as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God.

Wednesday: Both believers and non-believers need to hear the Gospel preached repeatedly. The Gospel calls non-believers to put their faith in Christ, but it also proclaims to believers that even though they continue to struggle with and fall into sin, they must continually look to Christ as the only way that they can stand as righteous before God. This promise serves as an assurance and comfort to all who put their trust in Christ.
Romans 7:22-8:1 For I delight in the law of God in my inner being. But I see a different law in my members waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Thursday: Whether people outright reject the God's way of salvation, or whether they live in a way that is at odds to the Gospel message, even though they may profess to be a Christian, the “key” of the Gospel message announces judgment for all who do not place their trust completely in Christ – i.e., they are outside of the Kingdom.
Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness,
Romans 2:3-5 And do you think, whoever you are, when you judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself, that you will escape Godʼs judgment? Or do you have contempt for the wealth of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, and yet do not know that Godʼs kindness leads you to repentance?

Friday: Preaching is one of the keys of the Kingdom. Church discipline is the other. Church leaders use discipline to warn those who are either teaching or living in a way contrary to the Gospel that they are in peril with the goal of repentance and inclusion back into the fellowship (i.e., restored to full communion). Discipline is also meant to protect the rest of the church from such influences that might cause others to stumble.
2 Thess. 3:14-15 But if anyone does not obey our message through this letter, take note of him and do not associate closely with him, so that he may be ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

Saturday: Jesus teaches us to care for other Christians by lovingly showing them if they are living in sin. If they are unwilling to listen, we are to go with others to encourage them to return to following Jesus. If they still refuse to listen the church as a whole is to be told of the problem and church leaders are to go to call the person back. If they refuse to repent the church is to treat the person as though they are not a church member – i.e., they are welcome to hear the preaching of the Gospel, though they will not be able to participate in the sacraments. The goal is the protection of other church members from false teaching and influence, as well as the member under discipline showing repentance so that they can return to full membership.
Matthew 18:15-18 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you, so that at the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. If he refuses to listen to the church, treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector. “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.

Reading between the lines...

We don't have to be witty or wise in order to share our faith – even a babe can do it! The testimony to the world that God wants come from “babes” - little children, unsophisticated, simple trusters – that is the witness that God wants. We should not ask whether we are mature enough, but whether we are meek enough to share my faith. Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple – he violently opposed what the leaders had allowed to develop – yet right after this the blind and lame present themselves to him for healing. Jesus' actions polarize people – the weak and the strong have very different reactions. When Jesus opposes the strong, the weak flock to him – his strength is employed in their liberation – and the “vindictive enemy” is defeated.
Matthew 21:14-16 The blind and lame came to him in the temple courts, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the experts in the law saw the wonderful things he did and heard the children crying out in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant and said to him, “Do you hear what they are saying?” Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ʻOut of the mouths of children and nursing infants you have prepared praise for yourselfʼ?”
Psalm 8:2 From the mouths of children and nursing babies you have ordained praise on account of your adversaries, so that you might put an end to the vindictive enemy.

The parable begins with the King throwing a banquet for his Son's wedding – God is the King, Jesus is the Son, and the Kingdom of Heaven is a joyful wedding feast thrown by the Father for the Son. Modern royal weddings have a dress code; in Bible times, a RSVP was received in person by a servant and wedding clothes would be provided by the Host – there was no excuse for not showing up and not being properly dressed. In the parable people ignore the invitation and even abuse or kill the summoning servants – they show hatred for the King and his Son. Jesus parable is a retelling of the OT story. After those initially invited refuse, people off the street are invited in. Then someone without wedding clothes is found among the guests. He has refused to put on the clothes that were provided and he is thrown out. He has refused to acknowledge the occasion. Heaven is a party, but it is a God's party in celebration of his Son – it is not a celebration of abstract blessing and general pleasures. The chosen do not celebrate the supper, they celebrate the Son. If we do not acknowledge Jesus we are not chosen. The question in the parable is not whether we belong to a secret guest list but whether we belong to God's people here and now. The chosen love the King, they are happy to be clothed by him – we must look to our bridegroom, Christ – if we belong to him, we belong to the chosen.
Matthew 22:2-14 “The kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to summon those who had been invited to the banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ʻTell those who have been invited, “Look! The feast I have prepared for you is ready. My oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.”ʼ But they were indifferent and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest seized his slaves, insolently mistreated them, and killed them. The king was furious! He sent his soldiers, and they put those murderers to death and set their city on fire. Then he said to his slaves, ʻThe wedding is ready, but the ones who had been invited were not worthy. So go into the main streets and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.ʼ And those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all they found, both bad and good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the wedding guests, he saw a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. And he said to him, ʻFriend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?ʼ But he had nothing to say. Then the king said to his attendants, ʻTie him up hand and foot and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth!ʼ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Give honor to whom it is due – your identity is not tied up with this question. If we belong to God we have the security to be citizens in the world while still maintaining our identity as a one who belongs to God.
Matthew 12:15-17 But he saw through their hypocrisy and said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” So they brought one, and he said to them, “Whose image is this, and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesarʼs.” Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesarʼs, and to God the things that are Godʼs.” And they were utterly amazed at him.

The world hates leaders who don't practice what they preach. Jesus uncovers the doings of pretentious religious leaders – and the first accusation is that they don't practice what they preach. Does Jesus practice what he preaches – yes, he has an integrity and transparency is beyond human standards.
Luke 23:34 But Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they donʼt know what they are doing.”

Usually in saying the “blind leading the blind” we are referring to the ignorance of a leader, but Jesus applies the phrase to the pharisees – they are not ignorant, but it is their hypocrisy and not practicing what they preach that blinds them. We do not see and evaluate ourselves accurately because we justify ourselves, which then shapes our view of everything else. To square our sin on one hand with our need to project a pious veneer we will have to lie and present an false front. We loose our ability to see and live in unreality. We are naturally lost and Christ has come to find us. Our ability to lead others away from the pit is based on our ability to admit that that is where we belong.
Matthew 23:16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ʻWhoever swears by the temple is bound by nothing. But whoever swears by the gold of the temple is bound by the oath.ʼ

The Pharisees act as heaven's gatekeepers, yet by their actions show that they themselves are excluded. They are worried about keeping the details of the law, yet ignore justice and mercy. Jesus makes fun of these leaders – and in Aramaic does a word play on gnat and camel. The religious leaders have a lack of proportion when it comes to judging the seriousness of issues. We need to ask ourselves in what way are we similar and fall into the same problem – losing perspective on issues. Are we concerned about God's concerns – justice, mercy and faithfulness.
Matthew 23:23-24 “Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You give a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you neglect what is more important in the law - justice, mercy, and faithfulness! You should have done these things without neglecting the others. Blind guides! You strain out a gnat yet swallow a camel!

How did the Pharisees get their perspective so out of whack? They made the same errors that we are prone to make. They focused on externals rather than their spiritual purity. All of their efforts were focused on appearances. Nothing was devoted to unseen efforts that might produce real maturity and holiness. What is our own measure of spiritual health? We all have a fountain of uncleaness, so how do we “clean the inside of the cup”? An internally focused Christian will end up with the same problems as the one with external focus, so what is the solution? Only in Jesus can
become truly clean and the our self-focus becomes irrelevant. We can than focus on service to others rather than keeping up appearances.
Matthew 15:19-20 For out of the heart come evil ideas, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are the things that defile a person; it is not eating with unwashed hands that defiles a person.”
Ezekiel 36:25-29a I will sprinkle you with pure water and you will be clean from all your impurities. I will purify you from all your idols. I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you; I will take the initiative and you will obey my statutes and carefully observe my regulations. Then you will live in the land I gave to your fathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God. I will save you from all your uncleanness.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Lord's Day 30

Thoughts on Devotions – LD30

Q. 80 How does the Lord's Supper differ from the Roman Catholic Mass? Q. 81 Who should come to the Lord's table? Q. 82 Should those be admitted to the Lord's Supper who show by what they profess and how they live that they are unbelieving and ungodly?

DeYoung, in The Good News We Almost Forgot, titles this chapter “The Lord's Supper and the Mass: How Wide the Divide?” He points out that eating and drinking the Lord's Supper unworthily shows contempt for the Lord's covenant risks bringing covenant curses on God's covenant people. He also discusses Q. 80, whereas Meade ignores it as it risks being controversial. Namely, the question compares the Reformed and the Roman Catholic view of the Supper/Mass. The Mass is a sacrifice (part of a continual sacrifice of Christ) and borders on becoming an idolization of the bread/wine. DeYoung softens the language that the catechism uses in regard to the Mass, yet still calls it mistaken and suggests that the the adoration of the elements of communion is offensive to God.

Monday: The Lord's Supper is a source of blessing for God's people – but only for God's people. It has no power or magic in and of itself; but if received in faith with a penitent heart the Supper brings comfort as we spiritually participate in the blessings of Christ's sacrifice.
Psalm 139:23-24 Examine me, and probe my thoughts! Test me, and know my concerns! See if there is any idolatrous tendency in me, and lead me in the reliable ancient path!

Tuesday: The Lord's Supper is a serious time – we remember the suffering and death Christ endured for our sins. We confess our sins, repent and acknowledge that we are still sinners. Yet we are joyous at the great deliverance we have through Christ's work. We come to the Table trusting that our sins are forgiven and that our remaining weakness has been covered.
1 Timothy 1:13-16 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor, and an arrogant man. But I was treated with mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief, and our Lordʼs grace was abundant, bringing faith and love in Christ Jesus. This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” - and I am the worst of them! But here is why I was treated with mercy: so that in me as the worst, Christ Jesus could demonstrate his utmost patience, as an example for those who are going to believe in him for eternal life.

Wednesday: Those who come to the Lord's Supper must be God's people, displeased with their sin, yet trust that it is pardoned through Christ's sacrifice. We must desire to strengthen our faith and turn from sin – as we take the elements of the Supper we know that we are forgiven and our thankfulness gives us a new hunger to live for Christ.
Ephesians 4:30-5:2 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. You must put away every kind of bitterness, anger, wrath, quarreling, and evil, slanderous talk. Instead, be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you. Therefore, be imitators of God as dearly loved children and live in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.

Thursday: The Lord's Supper is solemn and serious – those who are unrepentant, unbelievers or hypocrites should not partake since “eat and drink judgment to themselves.” As the preaching of the Word judges, being a sweet savor to those who believe and a savor of death to those who reject it, the Supper similarly judges between those who receive it seriously and those who do not.
1 Corinthians 11:27-30 For this reason, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself first, and in this way let him eat the bread and drink of the cup. For the one who eats and drinks without careful regard for the body eats and drinks judgment against himself. That is why many of you are weak and sick, and quite a few are dead.

Friday: God is holy. Yet he welcomes those who come to him trusting in his gracious promise of forgiveness through the work of Jesus Christ. They need to admit that they need a Savior and desire to amend their lives. These are the people that God welcomes to his Supper.
Psalm 50:14-17 Present to God a thank-offering! Repay your vows to the sovereign One! Pray to me when you are in trouble! I will deliver you, and you will honor me!” God says this to the evildoer: “How can you declare my commands, and talk about my covenant? For you hate instruction and reject my words.

Saturday: Paul wrote to the church in Corinth warning that God judges people who come to the Lord's Table without repenting. Elders and pastors must offer the Lord's Supper to people who which to turn from their sins and live for God, but they must warn unbelievers or any who wish to continue sinning. Their warning not is not only to protect the individual from God's judgment, but also to keep the church from sinning.
1 Corinthians 10:21-22 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot take part in the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Or are we trying to provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we really stronger than he is?

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Lord's Day 29

Thoughts on Devotions – LD29

Q. 78 Do the bread and wine become the real body and blood of Christ? Q. 79 Why then does Christ call the bread his body and the cup his blood, or the new covenant in his blood, and Paul use the words, a sharing in Christ's body and blood?

DeYoung, in The Good News We Almost Forgot, titles this chapter “A Real Presence?” He says that not only is the Lord's Supper a memorial with which we remember Christ's sacrifice and proclaim his death, but it is a “communion.” He quotes 1 Corinthians 10:16 which calls it a “participation” (or koinonia) in the blood and body of Christ. He says that in communion we have fellowship with the body and blood of Christ and that we are joined to Christ in a spiritual koinonia. He goes on to say that even this does not exhaust the meaning of the Lord's Supper – we proclaim the Lord's death until he comes, participate in the benefits of Christ's death and gain spiritual nourishment. It also gives us unity as believers as we gather around the “family table” where “we enjoy fellowship with each other and partake of the rich feast of blessings purchased for us at the cross of Christ.”

Monday: In the Lord's Supper the bread and wine (or juice) represent Jesus' body and blood – they do not actually become flesh and blood. Jesus was using a metaphor when speaking of the elements of communion.
Matthew 26:26-29 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after giving thanks he broke it, gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take, eat, this is my body.” And after taking the cup and giving thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, that is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, from now on I will not drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Fatherʼs kingdom.”

Tuesday: Again, a sacrament's physical properties symbolize a spiritual reality. Putting our faith in Jesus is as necessary for spiritual life as eating is for physical life. Without the sacrificial death and resurrection of Christ that we remember in the Lord's Supper we would not have the promise of his benefits.
John 6:47-51 I tell you the solemn truth, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that has come down from heaven, so that a person may eat from it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats from this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Wednesday: When we eat the bread and drink the wine, we are assured that we become one with Christ, just as the elements become one with us. Jesus was God and man – he was able to fulfill the law and was able also, as a human, to suffer the wrath of God against our sin.
Hebrews 5:7-9 During his earthly life Christ offered both requests and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death and he was heard because of his devotion. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through the things he suffered. And by being perfected in this way, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,
1 Peter 3:18 Because Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, to bring you to God, by being put to death in the flesh but by being made alive in the spirit.

Thursday: We feel sorrow and fear when we think of our own sin – and we doubt that God will really accept us as we are. God's promise is that we can come to him clothed in Jesus' righteousness and that we can never come in our own righteousness – it is a comfort that we can rest in this promise. We are assured that we can not come to God on the basis of anything we “earn” and we have assurance that in Christ we have been adopted and are so united with Christ that it is as though we had never sinned.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15 For the love of Christ controls us, since we have concluded this, that Christ died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised.

Friday: We remember Jesus' suffering and death at the Lord's Supper – it makes us sad and should make us hate our sin. We proclaim what Christ's death means for us and what it has accomplished. We also proclaim the Lord's return – Jesus said to eat and drink at the Lord's table until he returns. He is coming again and will judge those who do not trust him.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread, and after he had given thanks he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, every time you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For every time you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lordʼs death until he comes.

Saturday: In the Lord's Supper we participate in the body of Christ. What he accomplished in his body is ours. Where he now is, we one day will be. We are members of others who are part of his body (the church). The prophet Zechariah promised a fountain that would cleanse us from sin – the Lord's Supper assures us that the fountain, Christ's blood, cleanses us completely from sin.
1 Corinthians 10:16 Is not the cup of blessing that we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread that we break a sharing in the body of Christ?
Zechariah 13:1 “In that day there will be a fountain opened up for the dynasty of David and the people of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and impurity.

Reading between the lines...

Christians need to recognize their weakness and lack of faith. All Christians struggle with a combination of confidence and uncertainty. To claim that we do not have doubt/unbelief is to claim that we are sinless, and claim a self-reliance. Relying on our own faithfulness is the opposite of belief. The father's prayer needs to be our prayer. Keller paraphrases Luther: “Under every sin is the act of idolatry, and under every act of idolatry is a disbelief in the Gospel.” Luther in his commentary on Galatians says “the article of justification must be sounded in our ears incessantly because the frailty of our flesh will not permit us to take hold of it perfectly and to believe it with all our hearts. We constantly need the Gospel because we are imperfect believers – doubting, trying to add to and staying from the promise of God. Faith is not relying on some inner quality of belief; faith is confessing my weakness and relying on Jesus. We can't drum up faith within ourselves. Instead it is pulled out of us by the Gospel promises of Jesus. Faith does not originate in us, it is “in Jesus' hands” - he generates faith within us revealing more of his trustworthiness in the Gospel. We come to him in weakness and he reveals himself to be trustworthy. We need to pray “Lord I believe, help me overcome my unbelief.”
Mark 9:22b-24 But if you are able to do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Then Jesus said to him, “ʻIf you are able?ʼ All things are possible for the one who believes.” Immediately the father of the boy cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
Romans 14:23 But the man who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not do so from faith, and whatever is not from faith is sin.

The Pharisees and teachers of the law have set up a situation in order to trap Jesus – will he side with Moses at the risk of getting in trouble with the Romans, or will he dismiss the teaching of Moses? It is clear that they are not particularly interested in the woman and also not particularly interested in the details of the law (they do not hold the man to account). Jesus avoids their trap and does what the law was meant to do, holding up a mirror to our own guilt and not as weapon to harm others. Jesus exposes the hypocrisy of the accusers, but they do not repent, instead they retreat further into the darkness. The woman is left with Jesus – he is the only one who really could cast a stone; he does not condemn her, but tells her to go and sin no more. The accusers are shamed and she is justified. The judge has become her savior; she has been saved from sin. When we read the story we must put ourselves in the role of the woman – He is accused so that I can be acquitted. The one without did not cast the first stone, but spoke salvation. Today he speaks to every guilty sinner who casts themselves on his mercy, “I do not condemn you, you are free, go and sin no more.”
John 8:6-7 (Now they were asking this in an attempt to trap him, so that they could bring charges against him.) Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger. When they persisted in asking him, he stood up straight and replied, “Whoever among you is guiltless may be the first to throw a stone at her.”

The darkness we confront is 1) ignorance of God; 2) where we hide from God, our rebellion; 3) death. Jesus is the light of the world. He says that whoever follows him will never walk in darkness, but have the light of life. We cannot illuminate our own lives, but Jesus is the brightness of the Father's glory. The Father has a radiance and glory; Jesus is the radiance of God's glory. We are dark by nature and helpless, but when we hear the Gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God, then light shines into our darkness and gives us knowledge of God and his salvation. When we feel the darkness of our circumstances around us we need to look to Jesus, the light of the world. Whoever follows him will come out of darkness and have the light of life.
John 8:12 Then Jesus spoke out again, “I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Hebrews 1:3 The Son is the radiance of his glory and the representation of his essence, and he sustains all things by his powerful word, and so when he had accomplished cleansing for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said “Let light shine out of darkness,” is the one who shined in our hearts to give us the light of the glorious knowledge of God in the face of Christ.

You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free” - assumes that we do not know the truth and that we are not free. Jesus assessment of humanity is that we are liars and we are slaves – that is why we need that truth that will set up free. Why do we sin? Because we are enslaved to it. We don't just make bad decisions, and we think that we are in charge of our behavior, wishes and thoughts – but actually our sin is in charge of us. We need redemption and deliverance if we hope to leave slavery. If we want true change we need to cry out to our redeemer – but we are reluctant to do that and we don't like to think of ourselves as helpless. In thinking ourselves free, we flee from the truth. Dr. Ashley Null: “What the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies.” We choose what we desire and then use our intellect to justify ourselves. We desperately need the truth to set us free. Jesus is the Truth that sets us free – we must go to him in honest repentance and he will set us free.
John 8:32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:34 Jesus answered them, “I tell you the solemn truth, everyone who practices sin is a slave of sin.
John 8:35 The slave does not remain in the family forever, but the son remains forever.

Jesus is the good shepherd – the OT uses the symbol of the good shepherd in several places as the one who cares for God's people. Jesus promises to be the shepherd and in that claims to be the Messiah. How does Jesus prove his claims of being King? By dying for his people – the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He proves his deity by dying. Calvary is the heights of divinity and the depths of godhood. On the cross we see the true God who would be torn apart to rescue the flock.
John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Ezekial 34:1-2 The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them - to the shepherds: ʻThis is what the sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not shepherds feed the flock?
Ezekial 34:11-12 “ʻFor this is what the sovereign Lord says: Look, I myself will search for my sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will seek out my flock. I will rescue them from all the places where they have been scattered on a cloudy, dark day.
Psalm 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

We think of a “millstone around our neck” as a burden, but the millstone that Jesus spoke of was a death by drowning that was preferable to the punishment that one would receive for “causing one of these little ones to stumble.” It demonstrates his protective for his children. He calls us to follow him as a little child, and likewise to welcome other children into the kingdom. In this discourse Jesus is talking with his disciples who have been discussing which of them is the greatest and have been preventing children to come to him. The warning is especially to leaders, teachers and those who seek to have status in the kingdom. If we raise ourselves up, we will be cast down – instead, to become a great one we must become a little one.
Matthew 18:6 “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a huge millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the open sea.

Do not mess with this” might be a contemporary translation regarding the marriage union. The verse assumes that something has already happened – God has united the couple. The union is not primarily in the couple's hands; it is in God's hands. The human union is enjoyment of the fact of what God has already done. Bonhoeffer, in a wedding sermon wrote, “it is not your love that sustains the marriage, but the marriage sustains your love.” Even the marriage partners may not always be totally focused on maintaining their union, but God has established it. Focusing on the oneness can further promote the oneness. The picture of the marriage union also teaches us of our union to Christ – it is God's work. We just need to recognize it; we enjoy it as we recognize the fact of it. We need to have a conviction regarding the strength of the union – God has joined us to Christ. The union does not depend on our faithfulness or feelings. It is as strong as God's faithfulness. Our love does not sustain our covenant union with Jesus, it is our covenant union with Jesus that must sustain our love.
Mark 10:6-9 But from the beginning of creation he made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”