My memory verse for this week:
"Therefore, let us stop passing judgement on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way." Romans 14:13
NTC Day 18
Mark 7-8 and 1 Corinthians 3-4
I think I picked a good memory verse for this week's lessons because over and over in God's word this week, I have read about how judging others is NOT what God wants us to do!
In Mark 7, the Pharisees are once again judging Jesus and his followers...and trying to bring them down by bringing up the fact that they are are following Jewish traditions, such as the ceremonial washing of the hands before eating. They have already questioned the things they had eaten and who they were eating with. Jesus explains that it is not what goes into our bodies that makes us unclean, but what comes out.
An unclean heart produces things like evil thoughts, greed, sexual immorality, theft, adultery, malice, deceit, lewdness, slander, arrogance and folly.
Jesus is trying to get the Pharisees and the listeners around to understand that if we follow God's commands instead of getting so wrapped up in our religious traditions that we lose sight of God's commands. And, using those traditions to judge the worthiness of a person is an act of judgement which is saved only for God, not man.
In Mark 8, the Pharisees ask Jesus for a sign from heaven. Verse 12 says that Jesus sighed heavily and asked WHY people need signs from heaven as proof of God. He was frustrated with them and with others around them. They just weren't getting it! There were miraculous signs all around them, but their hearts were hardened so they couldn't see and accept them.
Again, even the disciples didn't get it! Jesus again had compassion on the large group of 4 thousand around him listening to him preach...they were hungry. He once again uses a small amount of food to feed the many, right in front of the disciples' eyes. But later, when they were in a boat and Jesus warns them about the "yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod," the disciples took what he said literally and thought he was talking about their one loaf of bread in the boat. They STILL didn't get it! They were seeing and witnessing the miraculous signs from heaven but didn't understand.
As I read this, I begin judging those disciples. I think, "Come on! He just fed 4 thousand people with a few loaves and fish! He just healed a deaf man! He just brought a little girl to life! He has healed hundreds of people! Do they not see who he is???"
But, as I turn that judgement on myself, would I have seen? Putting myself in the shoes of the disciples, would I have been able to understand that Jesus was God? Would I have been able to understand his sometimes cryptic lessons? Knowing myself, I probably would have taken Jesus literally too, and worried about that one loaf of bread in the boat.
Jesus begins teaching his disciples about his coming suffering and death. Peter takes Jesus aside and argues with him. Peter thinks of Jesus as the Messiah, but doesn't understand, or doesn't WANT to understand that in order for the Messiah to save us, he has to suffer and die FOR US.
Jesus says, " Get behind me Satan!" I have read these words he said to Peter before, but I never realized before that Peter was in a way tempting Jesus not to suffer, much like Satan tempted Jesus in the desert.
Jesus goes on to say that if we want to be his followers, we must take up our cross and follow him. (my memory verse from last week!) Exactly what did he mean by taking up our cross. I used to think that this meant we must deal with those things that trouble us and give them to God in order to move toward forgiveness and salvation. But, reading this today, I realized that it could mean something much deeper.
Pick up our cross...Jesus had to carry the heavy beam to his cross...he had been condemned to death. If we are to carry our cross...that means we are already condemned to death! He says to follow him...he died on his cross, but was raised again in heaven...if we follow him, we die and are raised. In order to save our eternal lives, we must die to our physical lives, as Jesus did.
Wow! That is pretty deep stuff for an early Thursday morning! I'm not sure I was ready for those revelations.
That cross carrying and dying to live stuff sounds pretty personal...like it is between God, Jesus (whom I am following) and me. No wonder Jesus and Paul talk so much about not judging others! There's not time to judge others...we should be spending all our time figuring out our own crosses to bear!
In 1 Corinthians 3 and 4, Paul is speaking to a church that had been quarreling amongst itself about religious philosophies. Paul explains that he planted the seeds by teaching the words of Jesus, Apollos and other teachers watered those words with more teachings, but it is God who makes them grow.
WE are the church. If we build it on a good foundation, the word of God and the teachings of Jesus, but we try to continue building it on religious traditions and false teachings, and then judge each other and fight with each other about it all, then our church will fall. God won't make something grow that isn't built on his pure word. If our work and our teachings are pure and of God, then he will make it grow.
As we have read in these New Testament readings so far, Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God, and then love people (your neighbor.) If we truly do those two things, then judging others will become a habit less and less. If we continue to love God and love people, we will find ourselves serving others more and more. When we stay true to loving God and loving people, then our church will grow.
Does this make us wonder why our church, Christianity, has been on the decline? Does this make us wonder why Christians are looked at as judgmental hypocrites by those outside the church? If it doesn't...it should.