Humor in Christ’s words

Christ’s Words

— What Is Lost in Translation from Greek

http://christswords.com/main/content/jesuss-speaking-style

Jesus’s Humor

Both because of the way the Bible is translated and because of the way we read it, we miss some of the most entertaining speeches and interchanges ever recorded in history. This site didn’t begin with any idea of discussing Christ’s humor, but, after over a decade of studying the Greek, that humor is clearly the main aspect of his teaching that is lost in translation. Accurate translation is often impossible without highlight the humor.

The Greatest Story Teller Ever

Christ’s popularity during his life was due to the fact that he was an extremely interesting speaker, but part of the reason he was so interesting was that he was so entertaining. Jesus got people laughing, then he got them thinking. His humor was broad, ranging from the intellectual to the childish. This seems odd today because Christ gets translated so self-righteously, when, in fact, he was so willing to make a fool of himself, or, more accurately, a child of himself.

Christ’s words were not translated to be witty, certainly not in translation to English. We can even see some of this “cleaning up” in the translation to the Latin Vulgate. Even Luke’s version of Jesus’s sayings was simplified to eliminate certain repetition elements that were primarily humorous. For example, he eliminates a lot of the “amen’s” meaning “truly” or “honestly” that is often associated with the “I tell you” line because its value was primarily humorous. 

The Official Approved Version

It is no wonder, we don’t laugh when we read these words today. They have been “sanctified” of all their original humor when put into their current written form. However, originally they were  not written at all. They were spoken. (Read this article on the differences between spoken language and written.)

The fact that Jesus’s words were spoken makes the Gospel Greek different from the rest of the New Testament, which was written as letters. All those who wrote letters, however, clearly spoken  in Greek (see this article). This is not the common academic view, which teaches that Christ taught in Aramaic, but that opinion is not based on evidence as much as historical politics. Those that make the claim for Aramaic simply cannot explain the Greek words we see today nor many aspects of their humor, specifically the Greek plays on words that don’t work in other languages (a verse-by-verse description of wordplay here). The oldest Greek versions of the words themselves make it impossible to imagine an earlier Aramaic version that could possibly give rise to the Greek we see today as a translation. (NOTE: I would love to debate this issue with someone who is honest and knowledgeable about language translation because every article I read on this topic ignores all the key evidence we see in the Greek words themselves.)

The Actual Words as Recorded

These words were not spoken like formal grammatically correct written language, cleaned up by editors.  We see them that way they are often presented in the Gospels that way. They were much more likely performed, that is, many statements were structured in order to entertain as well as educate. To understand the difference between written humor and spoken humor, think about Shakespeare. If you read Shakespeare’s comedies, you may not find them particularly funny. However, if you see any of them performed, you will laugh from beginning to end. This humor is not stand-up with simple jokes. It is a performance, creating humorous scenes and situations.

Most of all humor is in the performance and the interaction with the audience. We must imagine the performance and interactions today because they were not recorded. Shakespeare was written first, then performed later. In that case of Jesus, however, his words were performed first, then written. However, like Shakespeare, many of the words don’t quite make sense unless you imagine them performed by someone with great wit, warmth. and lots of shtick. However, with Jesus, we also have to imagine the audience interactions because the complete script was not recorded, just his part of it. 

The Common Forms of the Humor

This article discusses some of the most common forms and elements of humor that Christ uses. Of course, jokes aren’t particularly funny when they are explained, so don’t expect to laugh out loud reading this article. The goal is only to give those reading his words a different way of understanding them. This article also helps people understand how to read the “Spoken Version” versions of his verses on this site, which are written to emphasize Christ’s humor and imagine the type of shtick that the recorded words suggest. Some of this business is clearly childish, but this is consistent with Christ’s title for himself as “the son of a man,” which has the sense of a “child of a man.”

Let us start. not with Christ’s words, but his silences.

The Pause between the Set Up and Punch Line

The famous humorist Mark Twain observed, “No word was ever as effective as a rightly timed—pause.” In translating Christ’s words into a spoken performance (see these verses here), it is easy to see where these pauses go. Many of them follow what is translated as the “and’s” and “but’s” that, in written translation, create so many run-on sentences. However, many of these pauses occur before final keywords. Keywords at the end of a Greek sentence or phrase is uncommon since Greek word order normally puts the most important words first, not last (again see this article).

The pause works in humor because it “sets up” the laugh. A surprising number of Christ’s verse can be broken down into classical comedy form called the “set up”, “punch line,” and “tagline.” The set up creates expectations. The punch line confuses those expectations and generates a laugh. The tagline is a second punchline to keep the laughter going.

Again, Christ’s “body of work” was spoken, not written. Punctuation, even spaces between words, didn’t exist in written Greek at the time. The translations here try to capture how the words would be spoken today, which includes the pause. Of course, this is not entirely possible because Greek is constructed differently than English. The verbs are not usually in the middle of the phase but at the end. This is important because the word order is what makes the pause work. At least one example below shows an example of why that is sometimes necessary for the joke to work.

Of course, there are too many examples of Christ’s use of the pause to capture even a good sample. In some “sermons” practically every other verse leans on that pause.

In the Greek, these places for the pause are easy to spot. Whenever an unexpected or surprising word appears following a “set up”, it is easy to imagine a pause before it. Of course, these surprises themselves are hard to hear today because we think we are familiar with what Christ said. To quote Christ, we hear but we do not listen. The truth is that the many, many of the phrases with which we think we are familiar often do not even come close to what Christ actually said. They are changed, almost always in word order and too often to simplify meaning. The meaning that the translators think is important is emphasized. This usually isn’t the funny one. Of course, wordplay based on word sounds is lost entirely. Still, let us start with some easy examples, starting with the basic pause.

The First Beatitude

This pattern of “set up”/pause/”punch line”/pause/”tagline”/pause, starts very early in the New Testament with the “Beatitudes.” This method is used there almost to the point of zaniness. Of course, this is lost in translation because these verses have been “sanctified” to a shocking degree. They are changed to the point that not only is the humor lost, but Christ’s point (pause) and its sharpness (pause), is often blunted as well.

Let’s start with the first beatitude. This is normally translated as “Blessed are the poor of spirit blah, blah.” Now, this version sounds very religious, especially because it seems to praise the poor, but it isn’t what Christ said. Not really. I can’t even imagine him saying something like that in the way we hear it today. Too sanctimonious.

What he said in these verses starts with a single word.

“Lucky!”

That word only means “blessed” in the sense that the lucky and fortunate are blessed by good luck. It doesn’t mean “blessed” in the sense of “holy” at all. It also means “happy,” which works as well with most of the humor in the Beatitudes. “Happy-go-lucky” might even capture the feeling of the word as well.

Of course, we don’t know how he said it, but it wasn’t followed by a verb. There is no “lucky are” and certainly no “blessed are” here. Just the statement: lucky! Perhaps it was addressed to someone as we might say, “You are lucky!” Or perhaps Christ pointed to someone when he said it. Gestures too have to be imagined when we read Christ. He didn’t say these things in an auditorium on a stage, but with a group of people, around him, often huge groups.

However, here is where the pause it critical. After Christ says, “Lucky!” the pause gives the crowd time to think, “Who is lucky?”

To which thought, after the pause, Christ’s responds, “Beggars!”

This is a punch line. No one sees beggars as lucky and no one sees this word coming. So, it is a surprise. Of course, translating “beggars” as “the poor” makes this phrase seem more caring, but it also waters down the joke.. We will see why in a moment. The word Christ used means “beggars.” Said with the right tone and twinkle, you can see how saying beggars are lucky would get a laugh, though perhaps a few nervous giggles at the very beginning of this “sermon.”

At this point, we need to imagine another pause as Christ waits for the giggles to die. Then Christ adds:

“For spirit.”

Now, when I read this, the image I get is bums begging for booze. Calling these guys lucky is crazy enough to work. Now in English, this joke works because we call alcohol “spirits.” Did it work in Greek koine the same way? It is hard to say but in modern Greek oinospneuma(the words for “wine” and “spirit”), refers to alcohol. In ancient Greek, the word meant “wine spirit” (or, more humorously, “wine breath”) and referred to the courage fighters got from drinking. Was “begging” associated with drinking as much during Christ’s time as it is in modern society? Well, the nature of drunks hasn’t changed, so we can guess how they behaved then when they were out of drink and money.

However, the surprise works on other levels as well even if we abandon the one that is obvious in English. The word pneuma means “spirit” but it primarily means “breath.” (You can read another whole boring article about that word here.) So Christ is saying someone begging for breath is lucky. Not a joking matter? Ahh, but the word has a double meaning which automatically trip up the expectations of the audience.

Of course, the secondary meaning of pneuma is “spirit” as in “spiritual.” Since Christ was a spiritual teacher, this meaning is obvious, though more to us today than his listeners then. We cannot even hear the “breath” meaning, but that was the every day meaning of the word and the idea of “begging for breath” makes more sense than “begging for spirit, then and now. But that meaning “beggar for spirit” it is funny too. What does it even mean? All these people have come to hear him talk. Is he calling them “spiritual beggars?”

The end of this verse is so familiar today that it is difficult to hear as those words as those during the period heard it. Especially as how the fit it together with the first three words here: “Lucky! Beggars! For spirit!”

Again, we have to imagine the pause during what I hear laughter. As it dies down, the audience wonders, “Okay, why are these beggars lucky?”

Christ says, “Because, the kingdom of heaven is made up of them.”

The joke here is that heaven is made up of beggars. (Or that it is owned by beggars, which seems less likely.)

Of course, we cannot hear the “kingdom of heaven” in the same way as Christ’s audience. It was a new phrase then and nobody knew what it meant really. Christ spends most of his teaching explaining what the idea is. But they knew what a kingdom was and they knew what the word translated as “heaven,” bt not how we think of it. The word meant “the sky”, “the universe beyond our world,” and, more specifically, the the home of the “stars,” that is, the heroes of history and mythology, both Greek and Jewish. Christ is not only putting beggars among these heros but saying that it is made up of the beggars, not the heroes.

Repetition and catchphrases

Another very common form of humor in the repeated pattern. All humorists use this technique because the audience get trained by repetition. The audience learns where the laughs are coming. This is make the timing of the pause all that more effective. It also builds the laughs as more and more people catch on how the pattern works. When a bit is used the first time, it is too surprising for many. But through repetition, they learn to anticipate the punch line.

Of course, the simplest repeated pattern is the “catch phrase.” The history of humor is filled with repeated catchphrases, especially the golden age of TV, where, for awhile, every successful comedy had a character catchphrase. “To the moon, Alice, to the moon.” “Honey, I’m home.” “Kiss my grits.” “Dy-no-mite!” “Na-noo, na-noo.” catchphrases aren’t only used in humor, but in commercials as well because they are memorable, but all end up being funny, if only through repetition. “Where’s the beef?” “I ate the whole thing.” “Does it hurt and have a temperature?”

Of course, Christ had is own catchphrases. “Amen, I say to you,” is the most obvious, which is more like “Tell you true!” this is repeated to the point of pure humor in the Gospels. “the kingdom of heaven,” and “the son of man” are two more. One of the funniest is “Boo-hoo to you!” (discussed later) which, unfortunately, gets translated as “Woe to you.” Of course, we have a hard time hearing these phrases as humorous because we didn’t hear them that way originally, but each one is rooted in humor. Even “the weeping and gnashing of teeth” hits me as humor, though as a different kind (exaggeration), which we will discuss later in the article.

Christ uses repeated patterns in many different ways and I may list a number of them in the future, but for now, we will stick with the beatitudes because they are an obvious example. They appear right at the beginning of the Gospels. The repeat the same patterns and even words in different ways. Let us look at how the fourth beatitude repeats the pattern set up in the first beatitude.

The Fourth Beatitude

Again, we start with “Lucky!” Now, when Christ pauses, the audience knows what is coming next, and people are probably already tittering. The thought is, “Who is ‘lucky’ this time?”

“The hungry and thirsty!” Obvious laugh line. By now, of course, the audience is in on the joke. Of course the hungry and thirsty are as every bit as lucky as beggars! But the pattern lead them to ask, “Okay, which hungry and thirsty?”

“For justice!” The tagline. Of course, this turns the meaning of “hungry and thirsty” completely around. Another laugh, bigger than the first.

But the audience now knows how this works. They are set up to expect an explanation of why these people are so lucky. The pause waits for the laughter to die down.

Then Christ says, “Because they will get their fill!”

This is a BIG laugh line, a tagline on top of the tagline.

It brings together both the idea of being hungry and the idea of getting justics, BUT getting “your fill of justice” is clearly a double edged sword. Those who think they want justice may want to rethink what they are asking for.

This is also a great example of how a verb at the end of the sentence works so well in humor. The last part “get their fill” is not a series of words in Greek, but a single verb.

Exaggeration

Of course, a lot of humor is based on exaggeration. A lot of this exaggeration suggest the humorous business that accompanied it when it was delivered. A lot of what Christ says is “over the top” and wouldn’t have worked at all if the people of the time didn’t see the humor in it. A lot of it would have simply come across as crazy.

No one can read Christ statement about seeing a speck in our brother’s eyes while missing the beam in our own without being struck by how exaggerated it is. Even, then you have to imagine it being performed in front of a crowd, with Christ having one arm over one eye, acting at the “beam” while offering to remove a speck from a friend’s eye. This is very broad humor, slapstick. Christ wasn’t afraid of embarrassing himself by seeming childish.

Unfortunately, people reading Christ today take every humorous exaggeration as gospel. (Pause). For them “a beam in the eye” is a weird outlier, rather than what is absolutely typical of Christ. They cannot hear the “perpetually flaming trash heap” as funny, partly because it has been translated into the boring “eternal fires of hell,” but partly because generations of people have been brought up to see Christ as “holy”, “divine,” and little besides that. So, we don’t hear the “weeping and gnashing of teeth” as a humorous illustration, as much as the Truth, with a capital “T.” This makes Christ a really grim character, like John the Baptist, but that certainly isn’t how he acts in the Gospels. He acts as though he doesn’t have a care in the world.

A great repeated example of this grimness is the repeated phrase “Woe to you,” which Christ uses many places, most noticeably in his long diatribe against the religious leaders of his time in Matthew 23:13-39. “Woe to you” sounds properly religious because you never hear anything like that said in real life. The Greek term translated as “woe” is an exclamation of grief like a wail or a sob, not just a term for sadness. It is an exaggeration.

However, people say something that means “woe to you” all the time in real life. They say, “Boo-hoo to you!” Notice, however, this phrase cannot be said seriously. Closer is the Jewish, “Oy vey”. “Oy vey” is often, perhaps usually, used humorously, but it can also be a sincerely expression of sorrow as well. The Greek word translated as “woe”, ouai, is very similar. In English, we might use “so sad” in a similar way, with multiple meanings. It has an ironic edge. It can be used to minimize a list of people’s complaints about their hardships, rather than emphasize people’s mistakes. Christ uses “So sad for you” to make fun of both. It makes the condemnation lighter, not heavier because it is exaggerated and entertaining.

In listening to thousands of sermons, it is clear that pastors prefer quoting Paul, instead of Christ, even when both make the exactly same points. Indeed, most of Paul’s points comes directly from Christ. Since the faith is called “Christian” and Christ was the son of God, you would think that every pastor would go directly the source, the words of Christ. But few do. Why? Because Christ exaggerates and plays around so much and that pastors cannot explain his words in any logical way except as grim warnings. They cannot see or admit that Christ could see the humor in very serious matters. But what is humor other than the ability to see something from two perspectives at once?

Paul takes Christ’s messages and tones them down. Paul would be politically correct and say “sadly for you,” not “boohoo to you.” Paul was a writer and a preacher, while Christ went beyond preaching into entertaining. Christ work was spoken, not written. It takes a certain force of personality to make his material work in front of a crowd.

People clearly “got” Christ’s exaggerated humor for centuries and centuries. Remember, the movement was started with Christ’s words written in the Greek. People read it and got the exaggerations as entertainment. The philosophy came later, but the sharpness of Christ’s points was always there. It fit the overall pattern of the historical Christ as an exaggerated character in real life: the lowest of all men, a “bastard” who was condemned to death as a criminal who rose from the dead to become the highest of the high, the son of God, the most famous man in human history.

It wasn’t until Christianity got “churchified” that the humor and exaggeration were completely lost. The Bible became the Vulgate and, in the process, more formalized. That process continued as the Vulgate gave birth to the various translated Bibles, with every version focusing on the “religious” issues of its age.

Adultery and Cutting off “Members”

To illustration how Christ’s exaggerated humor works, we will look at Christ’s discussion of adultery, also from the Sermon on the Mount, Christ’s first sermon in the Gospels. This is a great example because of the exaggeration clearly has sexual overtones. Christ was never crude, but here he comes close. Everyone listening understood exactly what he was saying, even if people today don’t get it.

First, he give the traditional commandment, as follows the pattern in this section, then he says:

“But I tell you what. Everyone staring at a woman.”

Imagine him exaggerating the “staring” and drawing out “woman” to make it sound very, very womanly. The first necessary pause comes here.

“Pining for her,” he continues, again exaggerating the passion of the idea, which is a very euphonic, multi-syllable verb in Greek.

“Has already defiled her,” he continues. Again, imagine an exaggerated “defiled.” Then comes the necessary pause.

“In his…” Here he stops again, perhaps seeming to search for the word that keeps it clean. He comes up with it and says triumphantly, “Heart!”

Now, imagine this kind of exaggeration in the next section.

“So, if it is your…uh…,” He says, searching for the word, “Eye trips you up.”

Imagine him pointing at his eye and acting it a little stumble.

“Puck it out! Toss it away!” Again, imagine him acting this out.

“Because it is altogether better to have your…uh,” Again he searches for the word. “Member destroyed.”

Again, a pause as the audience figures out the member to which he is referring.

“Than have your whole body just tossed,” he says, with the word “tossed” having a lot of double meanings, making it one of this favorites in these situations. “In the trash heap!”

Again, using the repeating pattern, Christ does the last section. Again, just imagine a lot of exaggerated words and gestures.

“And if your, uh…” he says, starting a gesture downward with his hand, suddenly lifts it up and flexes it. “Right hand! Trips you up, you should cut it out! Knock it off! And toss away! It is SOOO much better to have a, uh, ‘member’ destroyed than have your wholly whole body dumped into that trash heap.”

Now, try reading the “original” in any Bible you choose. Is it easier to image the grim man who made that speech drawing everyone from miles around or this entertainer? Which makes his point about looking at a woman as sex objects more persuasively, the “threatening” preacher or the moral humorist?

Christ and His Interactions with Others

How did Christ contemporaries criticize him, as a stern moralizer or as a party animal? John was the stern moralizer, and they called him crazy (Matthew 11:18 For John came neither eating nor drinking,). Christ took his message and made it something new, something amazingly entertaining. So what did they call him? A drunkard and party animal (Matthew 11:19 The Son of man came eating and drinking.)

And when Christ joked, people joked right back at him and he loved it! The most famous example is the discussion with the Canaanite woman where Christ refers to her people as “puppies.” Of course, in most translations, this comes across as a cruel insult instead of a joke. But if it was an insult, why does the woman come back with what is clearly a joke about the puppies getting the crumbs (Matthew 15:27). Christ liked her joke so much her granted her wish instantly.

However, Jesus was not above the humorous insult. When the Pharisees warn Jesus that Herod wants him dead, Jesus sends word back to Herod referring to him as a “vixen” (Luke 13:32). This is lost in translation, which renders it as the more polite “fox”. But the Greek word has both male and female forms, fox and vixen. Jesus chooses the female form, which is much less of a compliment than “fox”, which simply means “crafty”. 

Or look at the apostles. Admittedly, they are not portrayed as the brightest bulbs on the tree, but, again, that is because we don’t see the humor inherent in so many situations. A lot of time, these people are having fun. They were criticized for enjoying themselves on a holy day, and Christ explains by asking, “Can the children of the bride chamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them (Matthew 9:15)?” So there was a sense of celebration in their group. This explains a lot of verses with which many people seem to struggle.

For example, when Christ says that people shouldn’t divorce, Matthew 19:9, the apostles come back with the statement, “if that’s the case, it’s better not to marry!” this is clearly a joke. It is say, “Well, if I can’t get divorced, I can’t marry.” It is especially funny because these apostles were all or almost all married men. During these times, hardly anyone got divorced, even though it was legal. The comment is a typical married men complaining about marriage. It works in any era. Even today, with divorce so common, this joke still works. We might phrase is as, “I was about to get married, but then I found out what a divorce costs.”

Christ’s follow up to the apostles in this scence is just as light hearted, “Well, everyone can’t welcome this lesson [about staying married], except those to actually get it.”

Other Forms of Humor

There are many other forms of Christ’s humor, but it would take a book to cover them all. However, some of them are even more common than the one’s we’ve discussed. Among his other forms of humor are:

  • Playing with double meanings. This is perhaps the most common form of humor. Any verse which seems particularly impossible in English translation is probably a play on words. For example, the word for “mountain” and “mule” are the same in Greek. So when Christ says that with enough faith, we can command a “mountain” to move, is he really taking about a mule.
  • Playing with sound-alike words. Christ does this a lot as well. For example, thefirst-person pronoun “ego” is usually unnecessary in a sentence because it is part of the verb. It is used only to emphasize the role of the speaker. However, Christ most frequently uses “ego” with the verb that means “to say.” Why? The phrase is “ego lego.” I am always reminded of the commercial “let go my Eggo” when I run into it.
  • Using complicated words for the sake of humor. Christ normally speaks very simply, especially in conversations with people. However, sometimes, especially when confronted by the scribes (the academics of the period) and Pharisees, he will start to use big, complicated words that he almost never uses otherwise because they are the kind of words they use. It is his way of making fun of them. Whenever we see a verse with a lot of very uncommon Greek words, it is usually this type of situation. For example, see Matthew 7:23.
  • Making up words. The Bible is written in koine, which is described as the “common” Greek, as opposed to educated Greek. However, a common feature of koine is the “coining” of new words. Putting the parts of other Greek words together to make new words. Christ does this, not to make deep philosophical points, but to be funny. For example, the word that gets translated a “thee of little faith” is a made up word where Christ makes put the lack of faith into the form of an personal address. “Mr. Tiny Trust’ is a close approximation in English. This seems to be humorous to me.
  • In the parables, Christ usually uses a minimum of tricks to tell the story simply. However, it is easy to imagine him doing funny voices portraying the characters. He often tosses in a trick or two from the list above but nothing to distract from the story. However, often at the end he will add a subtle punch line. The “some a hundred fold, some sixty fold, some thirty fold” at the end of the Parables of the Sower is a good example. Why offer diminishing returns except to get a little laugh at the end? We only have to imagine the “hundred fold” being said dramatically and the “sixty” being said with a little disappointment, and the “thirty” being said with a shrug and a sigh.

Ancient Greek Humor

Finally, we should also note something of what we know about ancient Greek humor. Humor was a common feature of the Greek theater. Aristophanes mades political jokes, imitating actual politicians. Gree humor, like all humor and that of Jesus, uses exaggeration and caricature make its points. Symbolic characters, like those in the parables, were common. The caricature of for the “common man”, for example, was often an old man who is easily fooled. 

The Greek-speaking people of the ancient world told jokes, just like we do today.  They actually had  ‘joke-groups’ who met and traded jokes. One such group gathered regularly in the Athenian Temple of Heracles in the 4th century B.

Jesus often makes “actors” the foil of his humor. More commonly, the ancient Greek foil for jokes was the idiot (baffon). One such joke goes: “An idiot, wanting to go to sleep but wanted a pillow. He asked his slave to give him an earthen jar for his head. The slave said that a jug was too hard. The idiot told him to fill it with feathers.” If we read Jesus some of the most severe statements made by Jesus regarding cutting off members, we hear these ancient echoes of jokes exactly like this. 

One of Jesus’s favorite targets was the intellectual elites of his society, the Pharisees, their lawyers, and writers.  When we read his statements about them, we should keep in mind the ancient tradition of jokes about all of the “educated” classes, For example, jokes about doctors. There was an ancient Greek job about someone who went to see a physician.  He complained, “I feel groggy for a half hour after I get up, and only then do I feel normal.” The physician prescribed a simple solution,  “Get up half an hour later.”

As research continues, this article will be updated to reflect other common types of humor as they are encountered.

 

Three Easy Ways You Can Keep the Sabbath Day Holy

Three Easy Ways You Can Keep the Sabbath Day Holy

The Bible teaches that the Sabbath is a day of rest that we need to keep holy.  But what exactly does it mean to rest on the Sabbath? What can you do to keep it holy? 

God created the world in six days, and on the seventh day, He rested (Genesis 1:1–2:2). This seventh day is the Sabbath day. When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, one of His commandments was to “remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). 

The word Sabbath comes from a Hebrew word that means “to rest from labor.” The word holy means something that is sacred or dedicated to God. God wants us to make the Sabbath day feel different from the other days of the week by resting from our normal daily routine and dedicating our thoughts and time to Him. Here are three things anyone can do to make their Sabbath day holy.

1

Worship God on the Sabbath day

One of the best ways to keep the Sabbath day holy is to devote time to worshipping God. During the other six days of the week, it’s easy to get caught up in all of our responsibilities. On Sabbath, we can take some time to turn your thoughts and hearts to God. We can attend church services. We can read the Bible and other books of scripture. And we can commune with God in prayer. These activities can help us feel closer to God, even after the Sabbath has passed

2.

Prepare during the week to keep the Sabbath day holy

Without some planning, Sabbath can easily become just as busy as other days of the week. Plan the rest of the week with the Sabbath day in mind so that you have plenty of time to rest and worship. Run errands, clean your house, and get other tasks taken care of on Friday when possible. That way, the Sabbath day really will feel separate and holy. 

3

Plan uplifting Sabbath day activities

The Sabbath may be a time for us to rest from our labors, but this doesn’t mean that we can’t do anything on that day. We can plan activities that are focused on God, family, and providing service. Here are a few uplifting activities to consider.

  • Visit family and friends.
  • Write in your journal.
  • Learn more about your ancestors and family history.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Take food to someone who is sick.
  • Plan a service project.
  • Have a weekly family game night.

God has promised amazing blessings to those who keep the Sabbath day holy. It will strengthen your family relationships. It will give you greater focus and confidence. As you show the Lord your love for Him by keeping the Sabbath day holy, He will help you feel His love more in your life. 

JUSTIFYING SIN IN OURSELVES AND OTHERS

by Rob Trahan

I have two brothers. With three boys in the house, there was always fighting of some sort. One of the most popular exchanges you would hear in my house went something like this:

Boy: “But he started it!”

Parent: “I don’t care who started it, I’m ending it.”

What my parents were saying, without saying it, was what we did was wrong, regardless of what the other person did.

We all have a bad habit of justifying our actions and our sins. We think if there’s a good reason for what we did, then maybe the sin isn’t quite so bad. As much as that might sound noble, the Bible disagrees with us.

We may think the other person deserved it, or no one will know what we did. We’ve been taught that the end justifies the means. It doesn’t matter how we get there, as long as ‘there is a good place. Or, perhaps worst of all, we think God already forgave our sins, so we might as well just keep doing it.

All of those are lies from Satan. He wants nothing more than to convince us it’s acceptable to continue in our sin, when Christ says the opposite. Paul says it this way in Ephesians:

“We were dead in the sins in which we walked … but God made us alive in Christ”

Ephesians 2:1,5

Not only do we try to justify sin in our own lives, but many times we justify it in the lives of others as well. We overlook the mean things the leader we support says because of his stance on our favorite issue. We look the other way when our co-worker is unethical because we are afraid of confrontation. We let our kids get away with disrespect because they’re just kids after all.

Whether it’s in ourselves or others, we are called to kill sin, turn away from it, not justify or embrace it. Here’s what the Bible says.

Sin in Ourselves

The book of Romans is Paul’s explanation of the Gospel and how it applies to our lives. It’s the most comprehensive, detailed breakdown of how the Gospel works. In one section, he described how Christ’s death and resurrection paid for our sins and made us righteous. He said that God’s grace covers all of our sin and, in fact, the more sin we have, the more grace God shows. Then he did a brilliant thing. He anticipated our next question. Check this out.

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

Romans 6:1–2

Paul goes on to say that God’s grace frees us from sin, but also frees us TO righteousness. In other words, because we are given Christ’s righteousness, we are free to leave ALL of those reasons to justify our sins behind along with the sins themselves.

Did the other person deserve it? Maybe, but we also deserve death because of our sin. But God gave us grace to cover our sin; why wouldn’t we want to give the same grace?

Sure, you could probably get away with that private sin. At least no other person will know what you did. But God will, and His gift of abundant life is so much greater than any short-lived satisfaction you might get from that sin.

And when we see the means by which God saved us from our sin, literally dying so that we can be justified, why would we think anything less than selfless sacrifice would be worthy of our new stature in God’s eyes? The end is never important enough to justify any sin it might take to get there.

Sin in Others

In another of Paul’s letters, he addressed an issue with allowing the sin of one of the members to continue uninhibited. The church members of Corinth thought they were showing all kinds of grace because they didn’t say anything to this guy who was having improper relations with his relative (1 Corinthians 5:1-2). Not only were they turning a blind eye, but they were actually boasting about how Godly they were being by allowing it! As you can imagine, Paul was not too pleased.

“Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

1 Corinthians 5:6–8

Here’s Paul’s point. Sin is sin. It is never acceptable. And when you allow, and even celebrate, unrepentant sin in your group, it taints the whole group. Think about it this way.

I’m an Astros fan. That’s a hard thing to admit after they got caught cheating the last couple of years. Stealing signs and using them to your advantage is against the rules and shouldn’t be done. Many of the players took advantage of the scheme, but the evidence and testimony of some of the players suggest that not all did. But does it matter? When people look at any member of the 2017 Astros team, they are going to think that guy cheated. They are going to think that because every member was part of the group and no one stood up and tried to put a stop to it. Even the guys who didn’t cheat, cheated by association.

Paul says not standing up to sin in others is “malice and evil” and should be dealt with instead in “sincerity and truth.”

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “But doesn’t the Bible say we shouldn’t judge people?” Sure. But it also says, “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of [sin]” and “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?”1 Corinthians 5:11,12

We ARE called to confront fellow believers who are living sinful lives, in truth and love. That means the character of your favorite leader matters as much as their actions. The way your friend achieves success is just as important as the money he brings into the company. Your kids should learn early how grace should lead to greater obedience, not less.

I’ll be honest, this is easy to talk about, but hard to live out. As believers we know we should strive for Christlikeness; that means less sin and more righteousness. But it’s much harder to live that out when righteousness could make this life more difficult, or could result in the loss of friendships. But at the end of the day, are we living for this life or the next one? Are we seeking our own glory or God’s?

Who is Justifying Your Actions?

Lisa Bevere                                 

“Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” Romans 10:3

It’s scary how often we choose to justify our own actions instead of seeking God’s grace in our lives.  How often have you heard yourself justifying your anger, sarcasm or actions by saying, ‘I was tired,’ ‘I’m going through a hard time’ or ‘I just did that because…’  We can all think of the excuses we use. I’ve often heard Christians excusing their actions by saying “It’s just the way I am.”  When our actions hurt or cause others to stumble, it is sin.  Grace doesn’t give us freedom to sin or justify our sins.  And if we justify our own sins, are we really depending on the grace of God? Or are we trying to convince ourselves we aren’t really sinning if we have a ‘good enough’ excuse?

Years ago, a friend of ours that was a significant part of our ministry team would regularly make sarcastic and inappropriate remarks going into the services and even during times of prayer.  Finally, my husband let her know that her remarks were hindering the Holy Spirit.  She responded by saying, “It’s just the way I am.” When he tried to encourage her not to grieve the Holy Spirit, she quit the team. Other people came to her defense and said, “It’s just who she is.  She’s always been sarcastic.”  It’s scary if we have allowed ourselves to live in such a way that the Christians around us accept our sinful actions as normal Christian behavior.  

Self-justification is more dangerous than a bold lie, because it allows us to minimize our sins and make them ‘okay’.  It is common in our culture to hear someone rationalize their mistakes and offensive behaviors.  Because we have allowed this, the offensive consequences to others are usually ignored because our Christian culture has made it acceptable. We often self-justify our behavior when we hurt or offend someone. Consequently, we devalue the offended person, because our selfish behavior is now justified. When self-justification becomes a habit, we call it hypocrisy.  When our friends allow us to live this way, we create a culture of hypocrisy.  When new believers or unbelievers are devalued or exposed to a culture of hypocrisy, they will often walk away from faith in Jesus Christ.  It grieves the heart of God to see hypocrisy or stumbling blocks in His Body.  In fact, scripture reveals the only time Jesus became angry was when He witnessed hypocrisy. He despised hypocrisy. The sad truth is that when we start down this path, we often do not recognize it, because it is so common and acceptable among believers.  If we validate another believer’s excuse, then we can use a similar excuse when we offend and sin.  After all ‘I was tired’ or ‘it’s just the way I am.’   

Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.  As we are walking, we must be constantly asking the Holy Spirit to examine our hearts and to keep us humble. As it is with many sins, the root is pride. In the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, the proud Pharisee is obsessed with justifying his own virtue, while the tax collector humbly asks God for mercy.  We often don’t recognize ourselves as the Pharisee in this parable because we know Jesus is revealing his self-obsessed heart. But when our prayers become explanations and excuses instead of humble repentance then we resemble the Pharisee whether we like it or not.

Self-justifying is easier to recognize if we look for the red flags.  Are you defensive? Do you tend to explain why you do what you do?  We know that we are self-justifying when our excuses start with ‘I’. The only ‘I’ sentence we should say when we sin against someone is “I am sorry.”   Ask the Holy Spirit to show you the ways that you justify anything that is displeasing to Him.  Ponder your words and responses to others. Read over your texts, emails and messages from the last week.  How often do you use the word ‘I’? Are you using it to explain, defend or justify your actions? Hopefully, your ‘I’ words are used in repentance or bringing value to others and God. When we sin, humble yourself, repent and depend on the grace of God.  

When we do our worst, we own it!  Lisa Bevere

https://clcburg.church/

Why Pray?

“God also bound Himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that He would never change His mind” (Hebrews 6:17).

Have you ever wondered, if God never changes, what is the purpose of prayer and other communication with God?

I want to caution you about using God’s immutability (meaning that God never changes) as an excuse not to pray or to ask Him to intervene in your daily life. Although He will never change His overarching plans and purposes, Scripture passages abound that show how God sometimes alters His plans on a limited basis in response to our faith and actions.

For example, He reverses His judgment because of sincere repentance of sinners, such as when the city of Nineveh believed God and repented so that God withheld judgment. At other times, He responds to the needs of human beings or the fervent prayer of the righteous, as illustrated by the parable Jesus told about the widow who persistently pled with the judge for justice. This is one of the mysteries of God’s nature.

We know that God never changes, and yet He relates to us and gives us our free will. When we pray and ask Him to intervene in our lives, He does so—when it is in line with His will. He works through us as we walk and talk with Him.

So I encourage you to take comfort in the fact that God never changes; but realize that when we seek His face, we can expect Him to respond to our prayers.

Your View of God Really Matters …

Where do you need God to intervene in your life or even your community today? How will He be glorified by answering your prayer? Pray in humility, understanding that God is the sovereign God who sees the entire picture.


Because God never changes,
My future is secure and eternal.

When Should we worship

When Should We Worship?

By Ron and Nathele Graham


One of the most divisive questions Christians face is which day we should assemble to worship. Saturday? Sunday? Wednesday? As in all things the answer is in Scripture. In the creation account we are given facts of God’s work during the six days of creation, and then we read:

“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made” (Genesis 2:1-3).

That sounds pretty simple but is it really that simple? Did God really need to rest? No, but He gave us an example to follow and we need to pay attention. At that time in history there were only two humans…Adam and Eve. They were neither Jew nor Gentile, so this example of a day of rest is to all people.

The seventh day is sacred to the Jews and Scripture tells us that it is a sign between them and God.

 “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my Sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you. Ye shall keep the Sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.

Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed” (Exodus 31:12-17).

The Sabbath is so important to God that He said that the Jews who did not keep it were to be put to death. These words were written on stone tablets by God’s own finger. Notice that it is a day of rest and that it is a sign between God and Israel.

This simple instruction that the Jews were to rest from work on the Sabbath was expanded into a list of rules—a list of 39 actions which define work. Then, those 39 actions were expanded upon so that observing the Sabbath by Jewish Law and tradition is quite an undertaking. Nobody was more meticulous about such things than the Pharisees.

The works required by the Law were vigorously enforced by them, but when Jesus—God incarnate—walked among men, He seems to have gone out of His way to challenge this Law as interpreted by the Pharisees. For instance, one day He and His disciples were hungry on the Sabbath:

“And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn” (Mark 2:23).

According to the oral law this act broke a number of laws: reaping, threshing, winnowing, and selecting for instance. Why would God, Jesus who gave the Law to Moses, break His own law? Jesus didn’t break any of the other laws such as stealing or committing adultery, so why pick on this one? He wasn’t breaking the Law but was making a strong point to the Pharisees, and to us.

“And he said unto them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath: therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28).

People need a day of rest and God approves of it, but turning it into religious works is not what God intended. Works cannot save anyone.

There were many instances when Jesus went against the Pharisees idea of keeping the Sabbath. Many times He healed people on the Sabbath, which was also prohibited. In fact, this is what angered the Pharisees enough to seek to destroy Him. One Sabbath Jesus healed a man who had a withered hand.

“And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him” (Mark 3:6).

If they had only understood who they were seeking to destroy they might have reconsidered their feelings. Jesus demonstrated that the Sabbath is a day of rest given to man by God, not a day to prove how holy you are.

Eventually the Jews did have Jesus arrested and crucified, but instead of destroying Him like they intended, He was victorious. Because of His death, burial, and resurrection we who earnestly place our faith in Him will live eternally; Jews and Gentiles alike. Jesus fulfilled the Law, but He did not destroy it.

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17-18).

When Jesus did “work” on the Sabbath He was not breaking the Law; He was demonstrating that the Pharisees had missed the point of the Sabbath. It was not just another work of religion, but a day of rest.

After Jesus had ascended into Heaven the Apostles and other believers continued to share the Good News. Many Jews came to accept Christ as their Savior, but so did many Gentiles. This caused a problem. How could Gentiles be saved without first being under the Law?

“But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (Galatians 3:23-25).

Paul, a self-described “Pharisee of Pharisees” recognized that the Law taught God’s “rules” and also the sacrifices required to atone for our inability to keep the Law. Christians are saved by grace through faith in the once for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He paid our sin-debt in full. Works of the Law cannot save anyone, nor can any works of religion.

The question regarding Gentile believers was an important one and the Apostles came together to prayerfully decide what should be required of them. After much discussion Peter said:

“Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they” (Acts 15:10-12).

Though the specific question being considered was whether Gentiles would have to be circumcised in order to be saved, Peter’s words bring into question the entire Law. After more discussion, James declared his thoughts:

 “Wherefore my sentence is, that we not trouble them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: but that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood” (Acts 15:19-20).

The Gentiles who turn to God – those who have earnestly accepted Christ as their Savior – need not first come under the Law. It is faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross that saves and not the Law or works.

Aside from having a day of rest it is important for Christians to have fellowship with other Christians. The writer of Hebrews encourages Christians to assemble together.

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another, and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).

There is a strong need for Christians to meet together, but does this mean that if you sit in a pew for an hour or so one day a week you meet this need? Not really. Attending worship services, singing hymns of praise, and hearing a stirring sermon are important to Christian growth, but assembling together isn’t limited to one day a week. Everyday get-togethers with fellow Christians are important too.

This is one way we encourage each other and stay strong in our faith. Become a part of a home fellowship or host one, invite fellow Christians to your home for dinner and then talk about our Lord rather than the latest baseball scores, spend time with Christian friends and encourage each other to remain steady and true in following Christ. These are all ways to assemble together in addition to formal worship services.

So, the question remains, when to we worship? Do we worship on the Sabbath (sundown Friday through sundown Saturday)? Do we worship on Sunday (the first day of the week recognizing that Jesus arose from the grave on that day)? Paul wrote:

“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17).

???? If you are a doctor and are busy healing people from sundown Friday through sundown Saturday, or even on Sunday, are you going against God? If you work in a restaurant and feed people on the Sabbath or on Sunday, should you change jobs? Christians look to Jesus, the Creator of all things, for our example of rest. Don’t get tangled up in works by setting rules as to what you do on a certain day of the week, but do take one day to rest.

Turn off the alarm clock, spend time with your family, and relax. Are you breaking God’s Law if you work on the Sabbath or on Sunday? Jesus (the Author of the Law given to Moses) did “work” on the Sabbath. Following Christ’s example we can harvest grain, prepare meals, etc. any day, but we need a day to rest.????

Still the question is when do we worship? The answer is every hour of every day.

“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).

Assemble together often with fellow believers and encourage each other to walk in the ways of the Lord. Take a day and rest, but praise and worship Him always.

God bless you all,

Nathele Graham

What is your Treasure?

What Is Your Treasure?


What was it that Jesus said in Matthew 6:21 and Luke 12:34?

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

This is a question for you: What is your treasure? Or, what is really important to you? Some may already know the answer to this question straight away, whereas others may need time to consider it carefully as to what it actually means to them. And there will also be others who will ignore it for as long as they can, mainly because they don’t consider this relevant or important enough to think about.

This is a question that all of us have to give serious thought to and answer truthfully .Why? Because our eternal futures depends on the correct answer being given, and seriously, there is only one right answer to this question—if we want what Jesus has offered to us.

This is not like a game show host asking you a difficult question and then you win a prize like a brand new dishwasher or freezer. This is not something that you can pass off flippantly with a shrug of the shoulders or with verbal responses such as: Whatever; not important; or I’ve got other things to do at the moment; or maybe later.

You should not pass this off at all, because nobody knows what might occur in life. All sorts of terrible things are happening to people that are so sudden and final. There may be no tomorrow for some, so yes, it is a very important question for all of us to give serious thought to it while we still can).

As human beings we are the only species on the planet to be set apart exclusively from the rest of creation, to be given this rather unique and special ability of free will; to be able to perceive and make decisions on our own utilizing some wonderful heavenly attributes that God has made available to us all such as: Wisdom, patience, mercy, understanding, compassion, forgiveness and love, just to name a few.

We are able to consider all sorts of matters that come before us both small and great, and then make judgments on those matters, just as our wonderful Father in Heaven originally had the ability to make judgments that come before him as well.

Even Satan, the serpent in the Garden of Eden when talking with Eve, did say in Genesis 3:5:

“For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

He was manipulating Eve into giving serious consideration that she and Adam could be like the Almighty, to be as gods, knowing good and evil. Eve was enticed by this, not realizing that this was indeed a very powerful choice that she was making. And Adam would also make that choice soon after with far reaching ramifications that would anger the Almighty greatly. And as we all know now, had terrible consequences for all of creation from that point on.

The way that Satan put this before Eve was very crafty, he virtually waved it in front of her, enticing her with the “prize.” He put it within her reach, to take it with a simple choice. This is exactly what Satan has always sought after and worked toward from the beginning. To sow as much discord and chaos amongst the creation that he could possibly do with free choice, to deceive and entice as many as he could get his hands on, so they would die in their sins as well, again by their own free choice.

It is fair to say that for most of us, our own common sense levels in life are supposed to get better with age as we grow older, and we learn from our mistakes by remembering our own personal experiences. A young teenager for example, might have little or no wisdom dealing with certain issues, compared with an older more experienced person who has already dealt with those same issues in the past.

If for example, somebody chooses to participate in an extreme sport like Windsuit Flying, essentially, what they do is put on a birdman type outfit with a parachute and jump off high structures like tall skyscrapers or towering mountainous formations. They swoop downward at well over 100 MPH, and fly really close to these lofty structures on the way down to the ground. 

All it takes is an error in judgment or a sudden gust of wind that can’t be seen, and the participant can be dead in seconds (or at the very least seriously injured), and sometimes with life changing consequences that will ultimately affect his or her family as well. Sadly, these risk takers forget about how it will affect them too when serious injuries or death occur.

They know, or should know that potentially they can and will sustain deadly injuries if they make a wrong move, but often they have already made up their minds that the risks are worth it. This is because they are always looking for that adrenalin rush by doing dangerous activities like extreme sports. 

They have already used their free will in weighing up the risks relatively quickly, and then justify their decision by saying, “A super experience awaits me man, I’m just going to do it.” Remember this, our free will is a very powerful thing. We can potentially live or die on what choices we make.

Jesus said in Matthew 4:4:

“But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”

And also in Matthew 6:33:

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

These two verses are the key to this very important question at the top of this article. It is precisely because we are flawed and imperfect by our sinful natures, that we really do need the guidance and patience of Jesus when we make our choices in life, because everything in and of this world was delivered cleanly into the hands of Satan with the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

For everyone here who does not have “the kingdom of heaven and his righteousness,” that is Jesus, as his or her personal treasure, Satan already has the upper hand. He can and will tempt anyone into doing whatever he so desires, ensnaring and trapping them easily, with the pleasures and distractions of this world when they least expect it. We must have a Lord-focused viewpoint in our hearts, no question about it.

The stark reality for all of us is this: The further that we are removed and the longer we spend away from the presence and source of where these wonderful attributes come from (that is wisdom, patience, mercy, understanding, compassion, forgiveness and love), that originates from our Heavenly Father, the more we will spin off aimlessly into oblivion—lost and without hope.

We truly cannot stay away for long from that which is perfect without terrible consequences. We all need to spend every single moment close to our Creator through his son, because he genuinely cares for us and wants to hold us close, as a loving father does to his beloved children.

If that doesn’t bring tears of gratitude to your eyes, then nothing will.

[Jesus said,] “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

These are powerful and comforting words that say to all of us who have gone through our own personal suffering, that Jesus has already overcome the world on His own, through his own blood, sweat and tears. Jesus Himself went through the greatest temptation that a human being could ever endure successfully, and was crucified and raised from the dead for our benefit, so we could walk with him, in the presence of God without blemish.

He has personally defeated Satan’s plan. This means that he can and will help us through anything or anyone that Satan can throw at us, if we ask Him. We must learn to depend on Jesus for everything we need; in good and bad times—so we can be victorious against the powers of darkness.

Remember, when you are down and vulnerable, Jesus will help you up onto your feet with love and a smile in his heart. Whereas the world will kick you in the head while you are down and spit on you with all the venom of a poisonous snake.

Yes, the consequences are indeed too terrible to consider otherwise.

There are so many different things of this world that can potentially capture and enslave us and suddenly throw us off guard unexpectedly at some point in our lives. We must learn a valuable lesson from the One who has walked every hard step on this earth (with a burning desire to fulfil his Father’s will). His attributes such as compassion, mercy and forgiveness are available for everyone who sincerely asks for them. Jesus has personally experienced the pain of a world groaning under the terrible weight of sin.

This message is for those who know that they have a problem with something in their lives or someone that they have been caught-up with that takes their focus off of Jesus.  The Activity may not be “bad” but it removes our eyes off of spiritual living.  Gaming, Facebook, job, lake, hunting, …

This message is also for those who know that they have a serious problem with something evil in their lives or someone that they have been caught-up with; perhaps it is an obsession that they crave for every day, or an activity that has brought out the worst in them. Something that they have been able to keep hidden for many years from their family or loved ones.

It may be a destructive way of life that some are heavily involved in and so obsessed with, that it is the last thing they think of when they go to sleep, and the very first thing they think of when they awake form sleep. Something that they are very much ashamed of but don’t know how to stop.

The bottom line is this: If you are really serious about getting out from under whatever it is that has you trapped, all you have to do is put Jesus first at the top of your life. You can make Jesus your treasure right now, it is as simple as that. You only have to want to do this and Jesus will take up the fight for you, so you can and will be victorious through your darkest hours.

You will be victorious if you genuinely move the crosshairs of your heart from whatever it is that has you in its grip, and lock it firmly onto the crucified and risen One, and His hard fought victory will be all yours by His grace.

Doing Good for god?

Nothing you do is of your own goodness or strength.  Christians are often guilty of feeling like they are doing good for God.  They are righteous and it is their own accomplishments for God.  Humility is acknowledging that God or the Holy Spirit enables you to do everything. 

It is tough to stay focused on God with all that life throws at you.  Work, family, relaxation in those few moments, even our daily Bible Study, all demand our attention.  We get so busy that we forget to “take God with us.”  One of the worst co-workers I ever had was a self-righteous person who dutifully did a Bible study every day, but somehow forgot to bring those self learned lessons to work.  It was like a Jeckle and Hyde. 

We often have little idea how much God does to protect us from the attacks of our unseen enemies. We sometimes feel that we are overwhelmed in a present spiritual struggle, but we may not know what it would be like if the LORD pulled back His protection.

Looking at the Law

Martin Luther once observed that no sooner does someone fall off a horse on the right side, than they get back on and proceed to fall off on the left side. The Torah-observant groups are in part a reaction against negative views of the Law found in some Christian circles. It is the unfortunate case that in much of evangelical Christianity the Old Testament is hardly taught, rarely preached on and little understood by the average congregant. Where the Law is mentioned, it is often portrayed as merely a burden from which Christians are now free.

The biblical picture of the Law is quite different. The Law in the Old Testament is spoken of as a gift from God, a guide to life, something to be cherished and enjoyed, as well as something to be obeyed under penalty of punishment for disobedience. It is intimately bound up with the covenant wherein God graciously reiterated His relationship with His people.

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul reminds us that the Law is good.1 The idea of obedience is continually highlighted, from the Sermon on the Mount to Jesus’ words in John’s Gospel2 and in the epistles.3 In fact, nine of the Ten Commandments are explicitly reinforced in the New Testament.

The Law itself is not bad; it is sin, the misuse of the Law, and the way that human traditions can end up supplanting the Law, that are bad. The principles of the Law, especially the Ten Commandments, have become the bedrock of Western civilization and of the Church itself—even those churches that portray the Law negatively.

Having said this, the Christian Church has universally recognized that the Law of Moses is not meant to be kept as a body of law by Christians today.4 The Law of Moses was part of a covenant that God made with Israel at a particular time and in a particular place. With the coming of Christ, the New Covenant prophesied by Jeremiah has come into effect and we are no longer under the Old Covenant.

The fact is that for the past two thousand years it has been impossible to observe all the commandments of the Law of Moses because so many of them depend on the existence of a Temple, a priesthood, animal sacrifices and living as a theocratic nation within the Land of Israel. Orthodox Judaism recognizes this, and when the Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, Judaism was reconstructed as a religion without a Temple or a priesthood, a religion dependent on the authority and decisions of the rabbis. Reform Judaism, a recent movement of the past 250 years, views the Law as often antiquated and outdated, but useful as a reminder of our history, a symbol of our people and a source of ethics.

It is, however, equally important to note that the recognition that we are not intended to keep the Law of Moses today does not mean that Christians believe in lawlessness! The specific commands of the Law of Moses each reflected something of the nature of God, and behind each commandment is a principle. Those principles, reflecting God Himself, are still incumbent on all Christians today.

A Response to Torah-Observant Groups

In evaluating the Torah-observant groups within the Messianic movement, there are several things worth considering. To be sure, the exact nature and function of the Law of Moses are debated among Christians, but with an understanding that the Church, including both Jewish and Gentile members, is not mandated to keep the entire Law of Moses. The following, then, is not intended as a final word by any means (as if it were possible in just a few paragraphs!), but is meant to give food for thought, and hopefully pause to those who would rush into attempting to observe the Law of Moses today.

  1. It is no longer possible to keep all 613 (if we accept the traditional rabbinic enumeration) laws because we no longer have a Temple, or a priesthood, or live as a theocracy in the Land of Israel. Because of this, the Torah-observant groups end up being extremely selective in their “law observance.” For the most part, the emphasis is on holy days, Sabbaths and festivals, with perhaps some attention given to other parts of the Law. In essence, these are not so much Torah-observant as festival- observant groups. And since the Temple and priesthood are gone and a majority of Jews live in the diaspora (outside the land of Israel), even the festivals, for instance, must be observed differently than they were in biblical times. Perhaps without their realizing it, Torah-observant groups must either depend on rabbinic tradition, which is distinctly post-biblical, or must construct their own traditions. For instance, members of such groups do not send their men to appear before the Lord in Jerusalem, as required in the Law of Moses, nor do they offer sacrifices. So there can be no question of this being an authentic, first- century way of observance. 

    Moreover, among the commandments of the Law are penalties for its violation, including the death penalty in many cases. Torah-observant groups do not apply the death penalty to those who are not Torah- observant. Indeed they cannot, for if they did, they would be subject in modern society to criminal charges in a court of law! We no longer live in a theocracy subject to the penalties of God’s Law.
  • One gets the impression that, far more than they emphasize faithfulness to Christ, the Torah observant groups emphasize Torah-observance as their distinctive, and in fact imply that they are being more obedient to God, or have a deeper spirituality, than other believers in Jesus. Perhaps they would argue that their obedience to the Torah is faithfulness to Christ, but there is a distinct imbalance in their approach. Inadvertently, perhaps, they have created a two-tier system of believers: the more spiritual ones who observe the Law and the less spiritual ones who do not. This is not only unbiblical, but it also separates these groups from the rest of the Body of Christ in an unhealthy way.
  • Since much of the Torah-observant movement is a reaction to negative teaching about the Law, there is likewise a failure on the part of this movement to recognize that large segments of the Church take a very positive view of the Law. What they mean by God’s Law, however, is not the specific 613 commandments of the Law of Moses—which was part of the Mosaic covenant intended for that time in redemptive history—but the principles that God intends for us and commands us to live by. For many of these churches, those principles are embodied especially in the Ten Commandments, which comprise the standard for all Christian obedience.
  • Actually, the obedience required under the New Covenant is more radical than that under the Old Covenant. For instance, in Deuteronomy 22:8 it is required for one to build a parapet around the roof, a safety feature in a time when the roof functioned as both a living room for entertaining and a bedroom. I doubt that the Torah-observant groups require such parapets. But under the New Covenant, much more is required. That particular commandment is an example of how to follow the general rule to love our neighbor, and is an outworking of the sixth commandment, “You shall not murder.” In principle, its application today would range from preserving safety for our family and guests all the way to working for national security or in public policy. The New Covenant broadens and deepens the requirements of the Law of Moses: “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke 12:48). To stress obedience to the Law of Moses without stressing the fuller applications of the principles embodied in those laws is to miss the point (Galatians 3:24).
  • The Torah-observant groups justify their position on the basis of selected verses, while ignoring others. Much is made of the term “forever” used in regard to some Old Testament laws, while verses such as Hebrews 8:13 that speak of the first covenant as being “obsolete,” are not dealt with. (Actually in the Hebrew Language and Culture there is no concept of “Forever”.  A Translation would better read, “As far as the eye can see”.)  Further, they ignore what theologians commonly call the “history of redemption,” the progress of God’s dealings with humankind throughout history. Jesus has indeed brought something new, but the Torah-observant groups minimize the newness that the coming of the Messiah has meant. In addition, they minimize the way much Old Testament law functioned to distinguish Israel from the nations. While there is indeed distinctiveness to the Jewish people, not all the Old Testament distinctions apply. For example, one can make a good argument that the food laws were intended to symbolize the separation of Israel from the nations. Under the New Covenant, Jewish and Gentile believers in Jesus become one in the Messiah (Ephesians 2:14) in a way not realized under the Mosaic Covenant. As a result, one can build a good case that the mandatory keeping of kosher laws is no longer required for a Jewish believer in Jesus.
  • Many in Torah-observant circles are not Jewish. Thought should be given as to why non-Jews are so eager to observe a law never intended for them, and to the New Testament teaching on the place of the Law of Moses in the lives of Gentile Christians.

Conclusion

Questions arise about whether or not particular Jewish observances are proper for a follower of Jesus, and these questions have been debated among Jewish believers. One problem is that it is often hard to separate cultural from religious expressions. For an Orthodox Jew, celebrating Passover is a fulfillment of a divine command, and is done in accordance with the accretions of 2,000 years of rabbinic tradition and rabbinic law. For a Reform or secular Jew, celebrating Passover is often simply an opportunity to enjoy doing something Jewish: having a get- together with the family, going through a few traditions familiar from childhood and sharing a meal. Is Passover then a cultural expression or a religious one? Similar questions arise pertaining to other aspects of Judaism, because Judaism today is not a monolith when it comes to religious and cultural expression.

Therefore, a word needs to be said about the place of the Law of Moses in the life of a Jewish believer. Some Messianic congregations have a Sefer Torah, a scroll of the Law. Many, even if they do not own a Sefer Torah, incorporate readings from the Torah that correspond to the passage being read that week in synagogues in their services. Many Jewish believers choose to celebrate the holidays or keep kosher. Usually, though, this is something quite different from the intentions of the Torah-observant groups. For instance, all the above examples might be done to show solidarity with the rest of the Jewish community, to express worship in a Jewish manner, to be a testimony to other Jewish people, or simply as a mark of personal Jewish identity. If done voluntarily, without a belief that one accrues higher favor with God for doing so, there is freedom in Christ to do these things. However, the emphasis of Torah- observant groups is on mandatory law- keeping as an expression of greater obedience to God. So in their case we are dealing with something quite different.

A word also about churches that enjoy such celebrations as Passover: this is also something quite different from the Torah- observant groups. Churches that have an annual Passover Seder generally do so as a teaching and worship tool, with fulfillment in Christ as the focus, and an emphasis on enriching the observance of Communion. In such circumstances, it is not done as part of a mandatory requirement to observe the Law of Moses. As such, this activity should be encouraged.

In summary, if you hear of a group calling themselves “Torah-observant,” keep in mind the above responses and remember that it was never the Law, only its misuse, that the New Testament criticizes.

I’m Wounded… Don’t Shoot Me Again


By Dr. Glen Clifton 
1.
 

“Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (NASB)

Galatians 6:1

The Williams translation gives this verse as:

“Brothers, if anybody is caught in the very act of doing wrong, you who are spiritual, in the spirit of gentleness, must set him right; each of you continuing to think of yourself, for you may be tempted too.”

While I was pastor in California, a friend of mine, a man in a nearby church sinned against God, his church, and his family. Being a prominent member of one of the leading churches in our area, I just knew some of our pastors and churches would seek to help restore him to the faith. But, they didn’t. However, the Rotarians and the Masons appointed committees to talk with him and his wife … and they helped restore him to his wife and family.

He said, “The darkest hour in my life came from my church.” The deacons of his church met secretly behind closed doors and voted to kick him out of the church. They made no visits, no calls or ever tried to contact him for prayer to help restore him to fellowship with God and his church family. This is a tragedy! It is a “black spot” on the cause of Christ Jesus and His kingdom’s work!

In 1955, while attending Ranger Junior College in West Texas, our Baptist church had a revival. A young man, who had just been saved a few years, came to town. A former drug addict and police figure, he was loud, bold and brash. He walked allover the platform and up and down the isles with a black bible in his hand. He preached like a machine gun. Before I could digest a sentence, he was speaking the next one. The Holy Spirit fell upon our church, and that little town. Several hundreds came each night. And God added hundreds to the church, such as should be saved. My life was changed! It was there I knew that God was calling me into the ministry. 

That man was Freddie Gage, one of my mentors and “fathers” in the ministry. Freddie has led more revivals and crusades and spoken to more people than anyone else in the Southern Baptist Convention, other than Dr. Billy Graham. He is the founder of “wounded heroes,” a restoration program for hurting Christians (ministers, missionaries & members), who have fallen into sin.

Dr. Gage has been quoted as saying, “The Christian army is the only army that shoots and buries its wounded.” Then, “We leave them to bleed to death in the field.” Believe me, thousands have fallen into temptation, then have been shot in the back by the church crowd.

It seems that many of the so-called “spiritual” people think it is their duty to beat this fallen one over the head with a baseball bat. There is a danger of many who would just want to “hit” him or “shoot” him again, and not want to restore him. They would rather criticize and condemn him. 

I would like to list four effectual ways of shooting a man when he is down …


I.  We shoot them by just leaving them alone

Remember the Bible story of the wounded man who fell among thieves, who was robbed beaten, and left for dead? Both of the religious people, (the priest and the Levite), “passed by on the other side.” (Luke10:30-32). They just left him lying there … they just left him alone. 

There are none so cruel, so merciless, so unbending, so unrelenting, and so damnable as the religious crowd, the “holier than thou’s” … that freeze you out by leaving you alone. I believe I prefer an enemy (that I don’t know), to a friend (that I thought I knew).

This seems to be the spirit of the age. Unfortunately, many in the church have this selfish, pharisaical, judgmental attitude. They make those caustic statements like: “Well, they made their bed, let them lie on it,” or “They knew what they were doing, and should have known better,” or “I’m not responsible for them,” or “They couldn’t cut the mustard,” or etc., etc.

This also happens in our churches. It’s hard enough to get people saved, baptized and into the church. But, they seem to be coming in the front door and going out the back door as fast as we get them. They come in excited. We shake their hands and welcome them, sit them down and forget them. We take the new Christians, “dip ‘em and drop ‘em”. They are not discipled and loved. They are just left to fend for themselves. So, un-cared for and un-loved, they leave. You can’t hatch chickens in a refrigerator … you must have an incubator. When new ones come in, we must be in the business of “bringing them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4) Why? Because we are family to these new children.

I know one gifted minister in Texas who got financially over-extended. He was slowly paying off his debts, when an old judgmental deacon found out about his plight. He called a deacons meeting and they “called him on the carpet.” He was forced to resign in disgrace. They then, found out that they owed him some back pay, but didn’t want to pay him after he resigned. I tremble for those men and that church on judgment day.

This verse (Galatians 6:1) mentions, “If a man be overtaken in a fault…” this word ‘fault’ comes from a Greek word which means “a falling aside or a mishap.” Literally, it means “to stumble.” Now Christian, what do we do with a person who stumbles?

Although some may deny it … everyone has faults! A man leading a seminar asked the audience, “Is there anyone here who does not have a fault?” He asked it several times. Then, a “Mr. Wilbur Milquetoast” type raised his hand. “Are you one who has no faults,” the speaker asked. “No,” the man responded. “Then do you know someone who has no faults?” “Well,” he said, “I’ve heard of him.” The speaker said, “Who is he?” The little fellow said, “He’s my wife’s first husband.”

Burdens are common to the human family. We all have burdens and faults. We come into this world with a cry, and we need comfort and help. From the very beginning and all through life we need comfort because of the fact that we have been born into this world of woe. What stumbling church members don’t need is to be left alone.

When someone is down, we just can’t leave them alone. It does little good to preach “God is love” and “we should love one another,” if we hold individuals at arms length, for fear of contamination, those who have been overtaken in a fall or fault. What hypocrisy!


II.  We shoot them with our criticism

The “law of revenge” has always failed. My mother taught me never to say anything about someone, and you’ll never have to defend yourself. But our day is a day of dismembering, dissecting, defamation, censure, crimination, and castigation.

The apostle James said, “The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by Hell … it (the tongue) is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:6,8b)

It may seem manly to strike out at someone who has failed or fallen, but, it is divine to forgive! Remember when Saul died, and the false friends of David came and said, “Saul is dead, here’s your chance to strike back. He embarrassed you and humiliated you. It’s time to get even.” The great heart of David replied, “Is there anyone left of the house of Saul to whom I may show the kindness of God?” Wow! (2 Samuel 9:1, 3) what a magnanimous heart of love and forgiveness.

Alexander The Great stood before an artist who was painting his portrait. The artist painted him with his hand covering a great scar on his face, as if in a salute. Oh, dear friends, can’t we with the hand of love, throw a veil of forgetfulness over the faults and scars of our fellow brothers and sisters, and pray for them?

There are too many still in our churches who want to call “fire down from heaven” to consume those who do not live up to their standards or who do not believe like they believe.

In Dr. Luke’s account of the Prodigal Son, we notice when the fallen, repentant son came back home, the elder brother “was angry and would not go in.” (Luke 15:28). He got mad at his forgiving father. Notice verse 29: “I … me … I” so self-righteous! “I have served you.” “I never transgressed against you.” “You never gave me …” “That I could make merry …” what reverse psychology this is. I’m so good and this sorry “Son of yours….” (v. 29). What criticism!

During the invitation, at the close of the service, one lady came forward, weeping aloud. She told her pastor that she had been gossiping about other church members. She told him, “I just want to lay my tongue on the altar.” He told her, “I’m sorry lady, but our altar is only seventeen feet long.” You may smile at that … but, in reality, it is so sad!

Jesus was criticized. He was called a winebibber and glutton, because he hung around with the wrong people … the sinners. He was called a Samaritan, which was an insult in the Jewish culture. Jesus, the son of God, the one “Come down from God out of Heaven,” was not religious enough for the religious crowd. These criticizing, religious Pharisees had a standard that even Jesus didn’t meet.

Harry Truman was one of our most criticized presidents, once said, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” And, “If your head is made of butter, don’t stand to close to the fire.” He was criticized!

Every great endeavor has its critics. Remember Robert Fulton. He invented the steamboat. Great crowds of skeptics lined the bank yelling, “It will never start! It will never start!” It did, and made its way down the river. Then the skeptics started yelling, “It will never stop. It will never stop.”

Christian: we can speak out and criticize all we want, but the person we are talking about has still fallen, and needs help. The Greek word, “restore” in this verse is a verb which literally means “to set a broken bone.” If a friend you’re with falls down and breaks his arm or leg, are you going to walk off and leave him in pain? God says, “You who are spiritual set the broken bone.” God didn’t ask you if you wanted to, he said, “Do it!” It might inconvenience you, but if you are spiritual, you will help that one who is fallen. You will not be his critic! 

Remember: a critic a day, may mean you are on the right way!


III.  We shoot them by lying about them

Did you know that criticism usually ends in lies! There are a thousand ways to lie without ever moving your lips. Some men’s entire life may be a lie. We are living in an age of prolific liars. 

Look at the signs in our cities. “Going out of business.” Lie! They have had that same sign for the past seven years. “Selling below cost.” Yeah, right! “Must vacate building.” Lie! Same sign for the past four years. We are living in an age of prolific liars.

Too many of our brothers who have been “overtaken in a fault” have become the subject of “embellished truths” or “lies.” After sharing a word of my disgust at the way the discussion was going, I had to leave a meeting of ministers who had met for the exact purpose of helping another fallen minister. What a travesty of so-called loving, caring, brotherhood! We had gone from prayer, to quiet discussion, to critical analysis, to castigation. 

My own brother went through a divorce when he was a high school football coach in Texas. He was well liked and respected by all the community. After his divorce, many in the business world and in the school stood beside him during his time of struggle and embarrassment. Only the church shut him out and gave him a cold shoulder. The pastor never came to talk and pray with him … they just left him alone and began to criticize him. Through some leaders in the church, his indiscretions were “embellished” and turned into reputation destroying lies. How low some church people sink. 

It’s a fact of life that the leader of the pack, often gets shot in the back! Critics and liars are everywhere … even in the church. Someone has said that, “Any fool can criticize, lie, condemn and complain, and most fools do!”

A pastor friend of mine once said to me, “Glen, if I ever fall into sin, I pray that I don’t fall into the hands of these critical judges in this church. I’d rather fall into the hands of bar-keepers, streetwalkers, and dope peddlers than the rulers of this church, with their long, wagging, gossiping tongues, cutting me to shreds.” This is the attitude of the legalists who run many churches! What an indictment on church leadership!


IV.  We shoot them by slandering them

Remember the prodigal son and the elder brother? When the prodigal came home, the elder brother tried to stain his brother further by telling his dad, “Your son, who has spent your substance with harlots (prostitutes).” (Luke 15:30) how did he know that? He wasn’t there with the prodigal. There were no telephones, newspapers, computers and e-mails. He just had to slander his brother. He thought he had the “inside-dope.” There are just too many in the church that are guilty of whispering and idle talk. 

We have no right to gossip or listen to it! The most “yellow coward” of all is the person who comes and says, “Someone told me…” or “I heard that…” or “I think you should know …” even though the information may or may not be true, it is no more than damnable, hypocritical gossip.

Someone told Freddie Gage, “The church is full of hypocrites.” He replied, “Well, so is hell.” The choice is yours! 

I would rather be a non-entity, than a chattering, jabbering, iconoclastic, caustic, loquacious blatherskite whose foul verbosity would blacken the reputation of someone else. All the saloons, brothels, and gambling halls have not hurt the church half as much as gossiping tongues of so-called “spiritual people” who are in the church. 

Twice, in one church, I had to interrupt a women’s missionary meeting, because someone was “catching it” from those present.
Prayer and passion for the mission field turned in to pompous, pretentious, exaggerated castigation of another lady in the church. So sad!

Evangelist Sam Jones once said, “That there were women with tongues so long they could sit in the front room and lick the skillet in the kitchen.”

And ladies, this is not an attack on you. Unfortunately, I have had to stand before a judgmental, hypocritical, caustic, lying, vicious, “Gestapo-type” group of men, as they wanted answers about my life and agenda. This church, for several years was one of the fastest growing churches in Texas. We had hundreds saved and baptized, and many more joined from other places when they moved to our community. It was an exciting, live-wire church. When this church became a passionate, soul-minded, soul-winning, caring church … these old timers in the church lost control, and they wanted me out of there. I stayed two more years with many more coming to the lord, but it was never the same. 

Remember: in Jesus day, there were none so dangerous as the faithful, very religious, law-keeping Pharisees. And, believe me, they are still alive and well in our Baptist churches today. A spirit of self-righteousness always renders one incapable of helping or restoring another person. 

Dr. Billy Graham has been credited with the often-repeated claim that he believed that 50 percent of our church members are not even redeemed. After my almost 50 years in the ministry, I believe he may have understated the problem … especially with older churches. Some have been claiming salvation so long, that they can’t even give a statement of personal testimony of when they received it.

Dr Gage has said, “It has been a sad experience to see the lack of loyalty toward one another. Surprisingly, I have witnessed more loyalty at a nearby bar than among many people in some of our congregations. There are some who are more loyal to a church building than they are to Jesus. Many Christians are shot by friendly fire – – I was.”

The bible says, “A friend loves at all times.” (Proverbs 17:17) loyalty is what you do, not what you say!” (Matthew 26:33-35; 69-75)
Scripture teaches us the only reason that excuses Christians to separate loyalty from someone is when they become a heretic.

The apostle Paul said in this verse, “You who are spiritual, restore.” How are we to restore a person who has fallen … and is broken? Paul says, “In the spirit of meekness.” 
 

A “spiritual” person possesses the fruit of the spirit in his life.

The “fruit of the spirit” is listed in the verses just above this one. In chapter 5, verses 22 and 23 say, “… the fruit of the spirit is love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness (meekness), self-control. Against such there is no law.” 

A spirit-led believer, (someone who is “spiritual”), feels genuine sorrow for one who has fallen into sin. And, it really makes no difference what sin it was, or who’s fault it was. He does everything possible to help rescue and restore that person from sins grasp. 

A “spirit-led” Christian is not interested in retribution, but in the restoration of the sinning brother in Christ. Spiritual freedom demands our obedience to an even greater law – The Law of Christ. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34)

I grew up singing the songs of Fannie Crosby. They always had such a biblical message. Although we think of lost sinners when we sing this, it is also for the fallen Christian, and the spiritual restoring brother.

“Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
snatch them in pity from sin and the grave.
Weep o’re the erring one; lift up the fallen.
Tell them of Jesus the mighty to save…”

“Down in the human heart crushed by the tempter,
feelings lie buried that grace can restore.
Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness,
cords that are broken will vibrate once more.”

Responding in love is a good place to start restoration. We are to love one another, as he loved us. Our churches must have the expression of a love-spirit as a lifestyle, if we want to reach others for Christ. In other words, we must not just talk-the-talk, we must walk-the-walk! James 2:13 includes the phrase, “mercy triumphs over judgment.”