WHEN JESUS DOESN’T FIT

You and I have a mental image of Jesus and what he is like in different situations.  That visual may be based on what we have read in Scripture about Jesus, or it may be based on what we have heard others say or just ideas that we developed from something we read or heard.  But Jesus is impossible to pigeonhole.  There are times when his actions just don’t fit that image we have, and we either have to change our image or ignore things that the Bible tells us about Jesus.

In Matthew 15:21-28 we have such a picture of Jesus.  He and the twelve apostles had traveled from the predominately Jewish areas of Galilee to the district of Tyre and Sidon which were primarily, Gentile in population.  He was trying to get away from the crowds to be able to spend some quality time with the apostles training them for the mission that was quickly going to be laid on their shoulders.  “And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, ‘Have mercy on me O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”  Suppose we stop at that point for a moment and raise the question, with that introduction, how would you fill out the rest of the story about this woman and her daughter?  If you aren’t already familiar with the story, you would likely complete the story with that mental image of Jesus that dominates your thinking.  For most of us, it would mean the story continues with Jesus having compassion for the woman and her little girl and telling her to go home for her daughter is now well and the demon has gone out of her.  But is that the way the story continued?

The truth is that story goes forward with Jesus not answering her a word.  The disciples came to Jesus and begged him to send her away, for she is crying after us.  Jesus then answered her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  Already, this is difficult for us since it seems like rejection because of her race.  The woman reacted by coming closer and kneeling before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”  He answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”  Wait, this can’t be right.  Surely Jesus didn’t act that way toward a woman and her daughter because she was a Gentile rather than a Jew.  I’m quite sure if such a thing happened in our own time we would begin to shout that he was racist, filled with prejudice and elitist. It must have been tempting for the woman to turn and rush away from Jesus, telling everyone what he had said to her.  If it were our time, it would have led to all kinds of remarks on Facebook, Twitter and would have been carried as a lead story on the different cable news channels.  The woman would have been interviewed on all the news shows, and her hurting daughter would have still been in agony.

What really happened?  After Jesus answered her that it isn’t right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs, the woman said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table?’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘O woman, great is your faith!  Be it done for you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.”

The Bible doesn’t tell us why Jesus said what he did to the woman.  Maybe it was to test her faith.  If she had run away to shout to the world how Jesus had spoken to her and hurt her feelings so deeply, her daughter would have remained demon possessed and afflicted.  But her longing to have her daughter healed led to her refusing to be upset and pushing for her child to be made well again.  It is somewhat like going to a doctor who is an excellent surgeon but who has a horrible bedside manner and says things that hurt your feelings at times.  Would you exchange them for a doctor who was kind to you but not as good a surgeon?

I’m for caring, gracious and considerate words in all situations.  But the words used don’t matter near as much as the healing of the demon-possessed child.  No one ever cared for all people like Jesus who took our sins upon him and paid the price that sin deserved on the cross so we could be forgiven and have new life in him.  “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down his life for his friends.”  Whatever the reason Jesus spoke to the woman as he did, it didn’t take away from what he did in healing her daughter that same day.

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BEWARE THEIR LEAVEN

In reading the gospel accounts of Jesus and his work among the disciples, I often try to picture myself in the boat with Him and the twelve.  Try putting yourself into this scene recorded in Mark 8:14-21.  Jesus had traveled with the twelve into a predominantly Gentile area preaching the good news and healing those who were hurting.  It was there that he fed the crowd of four thousand because of compassion for the people who had been with him for three days.  Right after that the Pharisees came and began to argue with him and try to test him asking for some kind of sign.  Jesus told them an evil and adulterous generation sought for a sign and no sign would be given them.  He then got into a boat with the disciples to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.  Mark mentioned that the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread with them for the trip.  On the boat ride, Jesus cautioned them, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”  Their immediate thought was that Jesus was upset with them for not bringing any bread.  Looking back over time, it seems funny that they would think of bread when he brought up the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod.  But they had just seen the miracles of the loaves and fish being multiplied and they did know they had forgotten the bread, so I guess it is more reasonable that at first, I might have admitted.

The Leaven or yeast was certainly a common topic for Jesus.  He had even said that the kingdom of heaven was like leaven or yeast that a woman hid in the flour to demonstrate the influence the kingdom of the Lord is intended to have in the world.  But it is a fact, that once our minds get set on one thing it is difficult to switch to something entirely different.  Jesus was quickly aware of their thoughts and asked, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread?  Do you not yet perceive or understand?  Are your hearts hardened?”  He reminded them of the five small loaves with which he had fed 5,000 people and the twelve baskets full that they had picked up afterward and the feeding of the four thousand and the seven basketsful they picked up afterward.  Then he asked, “Do you not yet understand?”  While Mark’s account of the story stops at that point, Matthew filled in a little of the gap by saying that they then understood he was talking to them about the teaching of the Pharisees.  Matthew has the account referring to the Pharisees and Sadducees instead of the Pharisees and Herod.

What are some things about the teachings of these groups that may have been on the Lord’s mind at the time?  When it comes to the Pharisees, most of their doctrinal stances were in harmony with what Jesus taught.  They believed in angels, heaven and hell, and life beyond the grave.  The Sadducees, on the other hand, denied all the above.  It is more difficult to tie down any particular teaching Herod.  Perhaps the point was that Herod stood for getting along with the ruling authorities of Rome while still having some semblance of faith in God and following his law.

But I suspect Jesus had more in mind that just the doctrinal thoughts of the different groups.  Their teaching had as much to do with their attitudes as with their doctrines.  The word Pharisee means “Separate” and they felt they were set apart from all others.  Instead of striving to be that influence on the world to bring them to faith, they took the notion of being separated from sinners and building all their ties with each other so they wouldn’t be led astray.  Their biggest complaint against Jesus was that he was the friend of tax collectors and sinners.  He would go to the home of Matthew or Zaccheus to eat and spend time with those who were sick to offer them physical and spiritual health.  The Sadducees were an elite group.  While they didn’t call themselves separatist, they were deep in the ruling class of the Jews.  They had the priesthood and often controlled the Sanhedrin.  The Herod crowd were political and wanting to work through the powers that be to accomplish their goals.

So, what was Jesus talking about when he said to avoid the leaven of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herod?  Anything that pulled us away from the people who are hurting and struggling in life.  He demonstrated the faith of being among the people, feeling compassion for them and working to show them a better way.  Jesus would often leave the multitudes to work with one person who was hurting or who needed God.  He never sought to accomplish his work through the government or its power.  While he would become the great high priest after the order of Melchizedek, he came into the world as one without any religious or political connections, growing up in a small town with ordinary parents who had to work with their hands to get by.  He made the world but he learned from Joseph how to work and make things from the wood or clay around him.  Think of the fact, Jesus constantly told the disciples to “Follow me.”  His training school was one filled with action and doing the very things that helped people where they were.  Following the leaven of Jesus isn’t just a matter of making a list of his commands to go down them like the rich young ruler to declare “I have done those from my youth.”  It is learning to live, think and be like Him in our dealings with people and in our relationship with God all the time.

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WHEN A FRIEND WAS ARRESTED

Have you ever gotten one of those phone calls, probably late at night, to say that a close friend has been arrested?  It may be another friend of both of you that calls, or it may be the wife, husband or parent of the one arrested or it may well be the friend who calls.  They may be looking for help or just someone who will take care of some things for them that are about to happen.  Sometimes it is a plea for you to help bail them out of jail.  It took place with Jesus when he received word that his friend, partner and first cousin, John the Baptist was arrested,  It was not long after Jesus had gone to John at the Jordan River to be baptized by him.  People from all over the area were coming to hear him preach about the coming kingdom and to be baptized for their sins to be forgiven.  He was not the average preacher or teacher for that day or any other.  He lived in the desert, ate locust and wild honey and wore camel’s hair with a leather belt.  He had pointedly spoken to the religious leaders among the people telling them that they were not living right and if they thought that being the physical descendants of Abraham would make them right with God they were wrong.  God is able to raise up descendants of Abraham from these rocks.  But that wasn’t what led to him being arrested.  He had preached to King Herod about his marriage to Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, telling him that he had no right to her.  It not only angered Herod but it put Herodias into a rage.  She wanted his life for it.  One might think that preaching is a safe life.  But if one tells the truth to others about things that are very personal and sensitive to them, it often leads to angry words and violent deeds.

Look at what Jesus did when John was arrested.  John had been deeply involved in preaching the message of the coming kingdom.  The epitome of his preaching was, “repent and be baptized for the kingdom of heaven is near.”  In Matthew 4:12 it says, “Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee.”   Matthew had just recorded the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness where he had spent forty days, fasting and praying.  When Jesus completed the battle with the devil, Satan left him for a time and angels came to minister to Jesus.  Then he heard the news of John’s arrest and determined to go back to Galilee.

It seems to me that Jesus’ actions on learning of the arrest of John give us insight into how to handle those tough situations that arise in life all along.  Focus on what he did for a moment.  First, he went back to Galilee, the area where he had grown up.  Judea was the place for the religious authorities, the temple and the ceremonies.  But Jesus always seemed more at home in Galilee.  The next verse says, “And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali.”  In Capernaum is the place where Jesus was at his home, and the crowds gathered so tightly that when four men brought a paralytic to be healed, they had to tear away part of the roof to let the man down in front of Jesus.  This became his new home.  When hard, tragic times come, it often helps to get back to familiar territory among people you already have a connection.  Plus it had the effect of getting him away from the religious leaders in Jerusalem and of Herod.  Jesus was able to carry on his ministry until the proper time came for his death by staying outside Judea where most of the friction was, most of the time.

In Galilee, He took up the work John had been doing.  He began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  Jesus always avoided being in conflict in any way with John or his disciples.  When the word got out that he and his disciples were baptizing more than John, Jesus left the area and went through Samaria for a time.  In Matthew 4:23 it says, “He went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.  So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them.” He preached the same message that John had proclaimed, but along with the preaching, he did miraculous deeds in healing people who were hurting in all kinds of ways.  When we are struggling in some hard time in life, it is powerful to see the difference it makes for us if we are involved in helping others with their pains and issues.

Finally, Jesus walking along the Sea of Galilee saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.  He said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  They left their nets and followed him.  Their lives changed tremendously.  Jesus had close companions that would walk with him throughout his life on this earth.  Nothing helps us more in facing life’s challenges than having others we love, walking along with us and sharing life together.

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IMMANUEL

Merry Christmas to you and all your family.  I pray that you enjoy a wonderful time together for the Christmas season and for the New Year.  The day of a person’s birth is always important.  If someone approached you asking what were the greatest 5 days or 10 days in your life, would the times when your children or grandchildren were born, make the list?  The day when Jesus was born was truly one of the greatest days of all time.  We don’t really know what day that was, but it isn’t the specific day that makes it special but the one who was born on that day.  There were certainly lots of other babies born on that day, but no other child like this one.  God had Isaiah the prophet to tell of that day in Isaiah 7:14 when he promised the Christ would be born of a virgin and would be called “Immanuel” which means “God with us.”  Micah foretold that he would be born in the city of Bethlehem and Isaiah said when he came in birth his name would be called, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace and Everlasting Father.”

When both Mary and Joseph were visited by the angel of the Lord it was to prepare them for this amazing blessing that was coming.  Most likely they were like everyone else and believed that when the Messiah was born it would be to royal or very wealthy parents and he would grow up in a mansion somewhere.  Mary was even more confused in that the Angel promised the one to be born would come while she was still a virgin.  She asked, “How can this be since I’ve never had sex with a man?”  God’s angel promised it would be the Holy Spirit that came upon her and made her pregnant.  When Joseph learned she was pregnant he thought she had been unfaithful to him with some other man.  God’s angel informed him that the child was of the Holy Spirit and he was to take her as his wife and not have sex with her until after the birth of Jesus.

Jesus birth was like no other birth.  He was born in a stable and placed in the small bin out of which the animals ate, called a manger.  He was born of a virgin.  He was from Nazareth instead of Bethlehem.  All of those things are unusual but that wasn’t what made his birth unique.  It was that his birth was a shout of IMMANUEL.  He would be called “Jesus” which means “God saves us.”  But he would constantly be “God with us.”  In Philippians 2:5-12 his journey was explained.  He was in his nature on an equal with God the Father.  But he didn’t grasp or hold on to that place of dignity.  He became a human and was born among us so he could be the merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God.  He was Immanuel.  He was God who became one of us and walked alongside us in this world.  Even as a man he emptied himself, made himself of no reputation and took upon him the form of a servant being made in the likeness of man.  As a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.  Because of his humble actions God has highly exalted him and given him a name above all names that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

It is amazing that Jesus was only going to be on this earth as a man for a little over 33 years, yet the first thirty of those years were spent in the activity of a very ordinary man.  He learned carpentry from Joseph.  He stayed home to help Mary with younger children after Joseph died.  He lived in a way among the people that he fit in with them and even his own brothers and sisters didn’t recognize him as God in the flesh.  The writer of Hebrews notes that he had in every way to be made like his brothers and sisters.

His mission of walking side by side with people could only be fulfilled if he lived among us as one of us knowing the trials, troubles, and temptations we face on a regular basis.  He demonstrated his humanity to all.  But he also came to show us the Father, John tells us.  He was from the beginning God and without him, nothing was made that was made.  God became a man but didn’t lose his deity in the process.  “In him dwelt all the fullness of deity in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9).  He humanity made it possible for him to speak of the kingdom of heaven in terms that were clear to ordinary people who listened to him.  He told stories that were out of the regular lives of the people and tied them to the kingdom of God.

In the process of it all, “He who knew no sin, became sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”  He took our sins on him and then paid the price of our sin on the cross.  At the same time, the righteousness of Christ was placed to our credit.  The Son of God became the son of man that sons of men might become sons of God.  He was and is the IMMANUEL.  He is God with us all the time.  The Christmas celebration is great that we can remember the birth of our savior.  But the real celebration needs to run throughout the year on every day of the year.  Jesus Christ never leaves or forsakes us.  In giving his great commission according to Matthew he not only told us to make disciples for him as we go about the world.  He told us to make them of every ethnic group there is, to baptize them into the name of the father, the son and the Holy Spirit and teach them to observe all that he commands us.  Then he offered the promise, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.”  The Savior who is with us now, will bring us home to heaven where we will live in his full presence forevermore.

Praise God for our Immanuel.

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I DESIRE MERCY, NOT SACRIFICE

Jesus had multiple discussions with the religious leaders of the Jews during his earthly ministry.  One came when he called Matthew the tax collector to become one of his apostles.  Tax collectors were seen as traitors to the Nation of Israel and just rejected by the synagogues and by their leaders.  But Jesus didn’t just call him as a follower and apostle, he went to his home to a party thrown for other tax collectors.  The notion you can tell a man by the company he keeps was prevalent in that day as in our own.  So the Pharisees asked his disciples “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  When Jesus heard their questions he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous but sinners.”  They continued asking why he and his disciples didn’t fast like the Jews and their religious leaders and Jesus explained to them that they were trying to patch an old garment with a new piece of cloth and the result would be that the new patch would pull away and the garment be ruined.  He said they were trying to pour new wine into old wineskins and the result would be the wine would ferment and stretch the wineskin and it would burst and lose all the wine.

Think of these two statements for a moment.  The first one was a quotation from Hosea 6:6 which said, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”  Jesus quote was only a part of it, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”  His challenge was for them to go and learn what that meant.  In Hosea’s time, they were set on doing the rituals that God had given them, but had missed out on the heart they should have.  They were intent on offering the sacrifices in just the right way but demonstrated none of the mercy, love, and compassion for those around them who were in need or trouble.  Tying that to the situation Jesus was talking about, they were intent on following their traditions which involved the rejection of people like Matthew and his friends the other tax collectors but not interested at all in showing them mercy, forgiveness or a fresh start on a different way of life.  Jesus, on the other hand, saw the heart of Matthew and even cared deeply for his friends to offer them hope, grace, and forgiveness.It is quite easy to apply the principle involved to our own time and situation. Far too often we are set on things staying the same and not changing anything that we have gotten used to, even though they may have no connection with Scripture and only relate to expediency.  In such times it is easy to think only of what we like, feel or want and show no mercy or compassion for those who are searching for God’s way or even for the young or new in the faith.  Mercy is at the heart of God.  He has always cared more about our mercy to others than in following every ritual we think of.

The second part of this teaching relates to trying to bring aspects of the Old Law into the New Covenant of the Lord.  Sometimes it wasn’t even a part of the law, but only their traditions around the law that they wanted to make certain became a part of the New Law.  Jesus told them they were trying to patch an old garment with a new piece of cloth. They were pouring new wine into old, stiff and hardened wineskins that would burst when the new wine began to expand with fermentation.  In Hebrews 8 the writer quotes Jeremiah 31:31-ff to say that the New Covenant wasn’t like the old one written and engraved on stones.  The new was written on the heart and was known and read by all.  God would be our God and our sins and iniquities would be remembered no more.  In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul compared and contrasted the Old Covenant with the New.  The Old was a ministry of death written and engraved on stones and was being brought to an end.  The New is a ministry of the Spirit and comes with even more glory.  The old was a ministry of condemnation and the new a ministry of righteousness.  The old was like trying to see God and his will through a veil and the New is one that brings freedom and that we should all with unveiled face, behold the glory of the Lord, being transformed into His image from one degree of glory to the next by the Spirit of God.

Luke’s account of this same statement adds one thing that I find especially intriguing.  He added, “No one after tasting the old wants the new.”  Even though the New Covenant or Testament is far greater, filled with grace and mercy and for all people alike, when people are used to the Old way of Law, condemnation, limited grace and lots of rules, they don’t normally want to change.  Think about people you know who have lived their whole lives trying to keep every law and demanding that others do the same.  They can’t see grace as overflowing and amazing but only tied to perfection in obedience.  Offer them the picture of grace as presented by Jesus and the New Testament and they will always prefer the Law and condemnation, even when it leaves them always in doubt of their own salvation.

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BEING REAL

“What are they really like when no one is watching?”  “I just never know who I’m going to see each night when my husband comes home.”  “If that guy had a mask for each personality he has it would fill the whole closet.”  You have heard the questions and the remarks as often as I have.  Jesus called this whole kind of thing being a hypocrite.  Interestingly, the word “hypocrite” was the word used for actors who went on stage wearing a mask both to project their voice out to the people and to portray the person they were trying to be.  It is great for an actor to be able to take on different personalities and become that person for a time.  It is a great skill and gives us all kinds of entertainment as well as huge lessons in life.  But when people become such actors in ordinary life it is a completely different matter.  When we are around a person to takes on a different persona in every situation they face, we go away wondering who they really are.

One of the huge things that set Jesus apart from other religious teachers and leaders of his time was that he was the real thing,  all the way to the bone.  Can you imagine someone coming up to him after a day teaching saying, “That isn’t what you said yesterday.”  He was the constant model of stressing what a person IS rather than just what they DO.  In his great Sermon on the Mount, he started with “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs are the kingdom of God. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.  Blessed are the gentle for they shall inherit the earth.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled.  Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.  Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.  Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.  Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  He would go on from this to talk about things that we need to do in his service, but the foundation of it all was about what a person is.

Let’s face the fact, it is near impossible to trust a person in any aspect of life if you believe they are one way with you and something entirely different when they are with other people.  If a person talks tons about God, faith, and family, but in their personal life there is the abuse of power, dishonest dealings and even taking advantage of other people, especially of young, innocent or defenseless people, then something is horribly wrong.  I understand there may be accusations made against another person that they have done something wrong when nothing actually happened.  I’m thankful that the atmosphere is changing so that women are coming out with the charges of men taking advantage of them and then keeping it somehow hidden so that they can go right on doing the same thing to someone else.  Personally, I hope every religious leader, every politician, every manager, every newsperson or any other area of power who has taken advantage of another person sexually is found out and driven from their place of power. The ridiculous notion that such action is private and has nothing to do with what they do in their job is both, insane and ungodly.

Who are you?  Who am I?  Who are we when no one is looking?  Character runs deep!  If we lack character then we may well have a picture of who we are that is totally different from how others see us or even more important, how God sees us.  I know we all have flaws and make mistakes.  But that is a totally different thing than having a pattern of life that we are constantly trying to keep things hidden about us for fear that if it comes out our whole lives will be ruined.  Even the best of people make mistakes, but they don’t try to hide the mistakes or pretend they never happened.  They, upon realizing they did something wrong set about to change it.  It is true that Jesus is the only perfect person that ever lived.  But he calls all who follow him to be real, to be people of character and people who have integrity in all aspects of their life.

I remember having a person say about another person, “I wouldn’t trust them with my wife or daughter, but I trust them with my money.”  The statement stuck in my mind and even at the moment I responded, “If you can’t trust a person in one area of their life, then you can’t trust them period.”  But the other person couldn’t see that at all.  It wasn’t a lot of years after that conversation that I ran into the same person and they said, “Well, I guess you were right.”  I didn’t know what they were talking about at the time.  They went on to remind me of the conversation we had had those years earlier and then said, “Sure enough I shouldn’t have trusted them with my money either.  I lost everything I had with them and he got away like a bandit.”  Trust isn’t something you can give piecemeal.  Integrity isn’t something that we have in one area of life but it is missing in others.  If we have areas of life we want to keep in the dark, it is past time to bring them out and clean them up, making it right with God and other people.  When such things start unfolding from the words of someone else making accusations it will be far more unpleasant and far more difficult to ever regain trust from those around us.  Be real!

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ARROGANCE IN CHURCH LEADERSHIP

The two shortest letters in the New Testament were both written by John, the apostle near the end of the first century.  In many ways, they both deal with the same topics.  They are about hospitality and sound teaching.  The first letter was to the elect lady, which many believe was a local church, but seems more likely to be a godly lady who was a prominent member of the church.  Her home had been a place of hospitality.  The traveling preachers and prophets who traveled about preaching God’s word needed to be taken in by Christians and given a safe and clean place to stay.  She had done exceptionally well in offering such good work.  But she hadn’t always shown discrimination about who she took in.  Many false teachers were going about who refused to stay in the teaching of Jesus.  They kept going on in their messages long past what Jesus said or led them to say.  Those who go on and refuse to abide in the teaching of Christ, John said, did not have God and those who did stay in his doctrines had both the Father and the Son.  John warned the elect lady that by taking in these false teachers and showing them the same hospitality, she did to the ones who were faithful to Jesus she was encouraging them and giving them validity.

In Third John, he wrote to Gaius, another leader in the church.  Gaius was a good man who was also very hospitable and took in those preachers and teachers who traveled in their area.  But there was another leader in the church named Diotrephes, who had a very different spirit.  He refused the teachers who passed through the area and would even cast them out of the church.  John declared that the reason he acted as he did was that he was proud, longing to have first place in the church.  His arrogance led to him spreading ungodly rumors about John and his work as an apostle of Christ.  It is interesting that John doesn’t tell Gaius to deal with Diotrephes but says, instead of that he will deal with him when he comes that way.  He challenged Gaius to follow the lead of Demetrius who is a good man and had a good reputation among all the people.

Have you ever wondered why the New Testament says so much about being hospitable?  The word literally means to entertain strangers.  In Hebrews 13:1 the church was commanded to show hospitality to strangers because some by doing so had entertained angels without knowing it.  But in both these letters, it is clear that being hospitable had to do with those Christian teachers who traveled that way.  They needed a place to stay because the inns that were available were usually not clean, lice-infested and homes of prostitution and crime.  More often the need to take others to ones home and treat them with love and respect had to do with being evangelistic in trying to reach others with the gospel of Christ.

The truth is that hospitality and reaching others for the Lord go hand in hand.  If Christians really desire to bring their friends, neighbors, and associates to Jesus, it is vital they offer them love and acceptance in their home, around their table.  Peter encouraged the Christians he wrote to show hospitality without grumbling.  If we bring others into our homes and grumble about it the whole time, it isn’t going to have any influence either in winning them to the Lord or encouraging them to live closer to the Lord.  When Paul wrote both Timothy and Titus about the qualities to look for in appointing men as elders, he said they had to show hospitality to be good shepherds.

It should be a concern for us all the time as to how we can best show such love and care for other people that they feel accepted and cared for in our presence.  That opens the hearts of others to the great news of Jesus.

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