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Jesus Predicts His Death June 2, 2018

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 16:21-28.

Summary: In this passage, Jesus begins to privately instruct His disciples, stating that He will obey a divine imperative to:

  • go to Jerusalem
  • be tried by the orthodox religious leaders of Israel
  • be murdered
  • be raised up in three days.

Peter responds by vehemently asserting that this divine imperative is incompatible with his conception of the Messiah.

Jesus is cognizant of Satan’s attempt to work through Peter to ensnare Him; thus, He rebukes Satan.

He then asserts that those who come to Him must:

  • deny that they have the capacity to save themselves
  • be willing to endure persecution for His sake.

Indeed, those who live only to save their physical lives will lose their spiritual souls, but those who are willing to lose their physical lives will save their spiritual souls. This stems from the fact that He is about to reward – and judge – all men according to their deeds.

Thoughts: Here, we see that Jesus stresses the centrality of suffering in the Christian life. Ryle offers some thoughts on this point:

It is good for us all to see this point clearly. We must not conceal from ourselves that true Christianity brings with it a daily cross in this life, while it offers us a crown of glory in the life to come. The self must be crucified daily; the devil must be resisted daily; the world must be overcome daily. There is a war to be waged, and a battle to be fought.

This raises the following question: as believers, can we actually crucify ourselves on a daily basis? We occasionally deny ourselves, e.g. by making a decision to forgo a diversion of some sort. Yet it is difficult – if not impossible – to consistently forgo such diversions. How can we resolve this tension in our relationship with God? One thought is that we should not expect to live perfectly on a daily basis. Another thought is that at the end of each day, we should ask: what have I thought, spoken and/or done today to please God? Instead of focusing on the negative – denial of self – perhaps we should focus on the positive – indulgence of God.

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The Cost of Following Jesus February 3, 2018

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Matthew 8:18-22.

Summary: In this passage, a scribe declares his commitment to Jesus. Yet Jesus knows that he is actually unwilling to deny himself; thus, He asserts that those who are genuinely committed to Him are willing to deny themselves.

Another man declares his commitment to Jesus; before acting on this commitment, he wants to fulfill his obligation to his (living) father. Yet Jesus knows that his request undermines his declaration; thus, He asserts that those who are genuinely committed to Him are willing to place the kingdom of God above personal attachments.

Thoughts: This passage caused me to ponder the challenges of committing to Jesus at a given watershed moment. In particular, since we cannot predict the future, committing to Jesus at that point entails trusting in Him regardless of future circumstances. One potentially encouraging thought is that if we can conceive of at least one potential benefit of committing to Him at that point, that benefit should outweigh the potential calamities that stem from that decision. For example, assume that He is calling you to share the Gospel message with an unreached community. God can assuredly work through you to convert at least one member of that community; that truth should outweigh the risk of their rejection of your efforts.

Yet we cannot discount the following possibility: what if our commitment to Jesus at that point does not yield any benefits? What if that decision only results in calamities? Perhaps it would be instructive to reflect on the conversion of the Waodani tribe, which was depicted in The End of the Spear. We see that in that case, those five missionaries perished without observing the conversion of the Waodani. Can we commit to Jesus at a given watershed moment if we will not necessarily observe the fruits of our labor during our lifetime? I certainly struggle with this question, and I need His grace to respond to Him with obedience.