My memory verse this week:
"You have made known to me the paths of life; you fill me with joy in your presence." -- Acts 2:28
NTC Day 5
Matthew 9-10 and Acts 13-15
Again, I am amazed how two books in the Bible, written by two different hands, in different time periods, in different locations can be so closely tied together in their themes. It must be God's hand...HIS word to us!
In Matthew, we hear the words of Jesus, teaching his disciples and others about why he has come...to teach us about God and how God wants us to live in this life so we can continue living with him in heaven.
In words that are now familiar, Jesus tells the religious leaders that it's not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick. He didn't come for the righteous, but for the sinners. (Matthew 9:12) Jesus hung out with the "unworthy" kinds of people, like tax collectors and other sinners and not with upstanding religious leaders...they already knew the laws and thought they knew God. But, when you think about it...there are not ANY of us who are righteous or worthy...we are ALL sinners. Jesus could have been hanging out with me!
But it's FAITH that really works wonders! In Matthew 9, we read of MANY people who were healed by Jesus in many towns along the way as he was teaching. The woman who knew if she just touched the cloak of Jesus she would be healed....the men who brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus because they believed and knew Jesus could heal him...the daughter of the Jewish leader who was brought back to life after dying because of her father's faith. Jesus made a point of pointing out that it was their faith that caused him to heal them.
Faith leads to grace. When you believe and have faith in Jesus, God grants grace to you. In Acts 15, Paul is explaining to some believers who think that Christians need to follow Jewish laws in order to be saved, that it is by GRACE that we are saved...just as we are. (Acts 15:11) He says that new believers shouldn't be burdened with a yoke, the law, because we have proven over and over that we can't keep the laws ourselves! God knew that his creations, we humans, couldn't keep the laws, but he wanted us to be saved, so he provided us a way out...the Grace of Jesus. If we believe in him, we will be saved!
So, if all we have to do to be saved is believe...why would we ever want to follow God's commands and Jesus' teachings? God's commands and Jesus' teachings were given to us so that we might have a better life on this earth. They are guidance for our daily lives. When you don't follow them, you are putting your needs and desires ahead of God. God knows those behaviors will only cause trouble for us, so Jesus urges us to not be selfish, and think of ourselves less...to humble ourselves.
Matthew 10:39 - if your first concern is to look after yourself, you'll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to Jesus, you'll find both.
In Acts 15:20 Paul says that even though we are not bound by the law, we should still follow some Jewish customs, such as not eating food that had been sacrificed to idols, staying away from sexual immorality, and eating blood. Why would he say those things if our actions don't result in our being saved?
I believe those practices could be harmful to our human bodies and Paul's advice to the new Gentile believers was to protect them from themselves.
When you believe that God is a loving and protective Father, you find his grace and you learn that the wise thing to do is to follow his advice for a better life...you open your mind and your heart to a different and better way of living. Being humble enough to think of yourself is not easy...as Jesus said in Matthew 10:34 "I have not come to make things cozy, but to cut through the cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God." (The Message Translation)
Your faith leads to the saving power of God's grace and your humble behavior leads you to have a more rewarding and peaceful life on this earth and an eternity in heaven.