6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. 7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.
Romans chapter 8, verses 6-7; from the New Living Translation (NLT)
Recently I had a conversation with a fellow United Methodist clergy on Facebook. It was focused on a post this individual had made. It was surprisingly civil (up to this point)–still, I couldn’t help but think: What are they teaching now in United Methodist Seminaries? Here’s the screenshot of that comment:
This person compared understanding Scriptures to a 3-legged stool. The top is the Scriptures and the 3 legs are tradition, reason, and experience. Thus, without tradition, or reason, or experience, one cannot adequately understand Scripture. The primary (and often times “sole determining factor”) way to understand Scripture is through tradition, reason, and experience. Now, before you call me that dreaded “fundamentalist”, hear me out. We do not study the Scriptures in a vacuum. There are traditions. We all have experiences. And God created us to be able to reason, or think if you prefer.
But it seems that many of our clergy are using reason as the final determining factor. In other words, if it doesn’t make sense to us, or if the culture tells us something contrary, then we are free to change or ignore what the Bible clearly teaches. This is what many seminaries are teaching. Not all of them, mind you; but enough of them are and the result has been the dilution and devolution of the power of Scripture to guide us and form in us the life of Holiness demanded by God for His Image Bearers. Go back to the writer’s analogy of that three-legged stool.
The writer is correct in stating that for a three-legged stool to be secure enough to sit on, it needs all three legs. And, by implication, those 3 legs need to be the same length. Otherwise it is unstable. But do not overlook the other implication–that Scripture (the seat of that three-legged stool) cannot safely support us until all three of those legs are the same length. In other words, Scripture is to be formed by OUR traditions, experiences, and reasoning.
Can I be frank with you? I know, my name is Randy. But I need to be FRANK with you this morning. Using the writer’s analogy of that three-legged stool, when those who are supposed to be our Spiritual Leaders are taught that human reasoning overrides the Scriptures and that we need to change our beliefs about anything in the Bible, then the result is the chaos and soon to follow destruction of the United Methodist, and any other church that follows the same primrose path. And to my fundamentalist friends, if you allow your traditions to determine your beliefs about the Bible, then your three-legged stool is just as unsteady.
Hear me out! Yes, reason, tradition, and experience are helpful tools when it comes to understanding Scripture! But they do not determine what is THE TRUTH! The Truth is set by the Bible for all matters of faith, life, and conduct. But none of them gives us the permission to change The Standard clearly set in The Bible! From my perspective, many seminary professors took a bite of that apple Satan offered Eve and Adam, and unlike Eve and Adam who recognized the shame and mistake, they “reason” that the apple is good, and that Satan was right. Is there any doubts now as to why the United Methodist Tribe is imploding? It looks like that three-legged stool analogy doesn’t work after all.
11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. 12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
Luke chapter 15, verses 11 and 12; from the New Living Translation (NLT)
The other day, The Spirit planted this thought in my mind and heart: But Which One Was It? Out of nowhere (actually it came directly from the Throne of Grace and HE who sits on it) I started thinking about what is commonly referred to as The Story Of The Prodigal Son. And I got to thinking, “Did Luke, who wrote this letter, really put a heading on this section that read The Story Of The Prodigal Son? Well, don’t most preachers give their message a title? It just goes to show how our thinking is influenced by HOW we think. When a writer sits down to write, they always put in chapter numbers and often titles. But Luke, and the rest of the writers didn’t write that way back then. In fact, (this may be a shocker to my fundamentalist friends), not only did they NOT put in chapter numbers as they wrote, they didn’t put in the verse numbers. These were devices added later on by editors and translators to assist the readers find a particular passage. Which only makes it a wonderful miracle that day Jesus opened the scroll of Isaiah and found the exact passage He wanted to use that day.
OK, OK, I’m turning into a professor of biblical studies. Let me get back on track. At some point, an editor added this heading for today’s passage: The Story Of The Prodigal Son. Notice, no “s”! Therefore, people assume only 1 of those sons was the Prodigal. Notice carefully what the Father did in this story: So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. Now notice that there’s an “s”. This means the youngest and the oldest received their portion of the estate. Are you clear on this point? Good! So, answer my question: Which one was the Prodigal? Write down your answer. Got it? Good! If you said it was the youngest son:
Did you assume that because the youngest left home that he is automatically the prodigal? Well, doesn’t the word “prodigal” mean “spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant.”? As a matter of fact, it does. But listen very carefully–Jesus never used the word “prodigal”. This is a story about a Father who had 2 sons–neither of which He identified as “prodigal”. WE and others have given that designation–but not Jesus. So, what’s my point?
It’s rather simple: This “Father” had two sons, neither of which understood their Father at the beginning of the story. Both sons were lost; but only one ended up knowing he was lost. We know this because of the ending of the story:
28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’
Luke chapter 15, verses 28 thru 30; NLT
The eldest son did not share the heart of his Father. Instead of being thankful for all the money that had been given to him at the beginning of the story, he chose to be ungrateful because his Father didn’t kill and bar-b-que a goat for him and his friends. Can you see it now? We can be lost in the “foriegn” land, wasting our resources on things that doesn’t fill us with life. Or we can be lost right here at home, lamenting that we never had a party with bar-b-que goat. So, which son–the youngest or the eldest–was the Prodigal?
Sure, the youngest “wasted” his inheritance of money. But the oldest wasted his inheritance of the values that his Father had tried to impress on them both. And in case you’re not connecting the dots–we can be just as lost at home, sitting in a church building every Sunday morning, as the person who goes out on Saturday night and parties like there is no tomorrow. If we waste what God has given us on the things that don’t really matter when it comes to The Kingdom Of God–then WE are just as much a “prodigal” as the youngest son in the story. I’ll end today’s musings right here. But be warned, I may take this thought about “wasting what God has given us on the things that don’t really matter when it comes to The Kingdom of God” at a later date. But for now, let me say: “Be very careful who you label as the prodigal!”
For my fellow United Methodists, I don’t have to tell you we are nothing but The Denominational version of the Titanic. If you are a United Methodist and don’t know what I’m talking about, “SHAME ON YOU! GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THE SAND!” Why? Because this problem isn’t going away. And we cannot remain true to our Wesleyan heritage as long as This Problem exists. They (meaning Progressives, or as I prefer to call them, ‘ProAgressives’) want–nay DESIRE–nay again–they are DETERMINED to throw out the Bible and our Orthodox faith like yesterday’s trash. They “know” more than what The Bible clearly says–and for more than the Saints who sought and fought to preserve the Orthodox Faith. In case you may not be familiar with the word Orthodox (because it is a big word like mahogany), perhaps these synonyms will help you understand it better.
Three of them in particular fit the bill to understand what I mean by the Orthodox Faith: authoritative, buttoned down, and by the numbers! But. . . there are those in this Tribe I have been a part of for over 66 years who are convinced (or should I say deceived) that the tried and proven truth about sexual ethic of the Bible is. . .well. . .just plain wrong. Jesus was all about the love, they claim. And they claim that only 2 genders, male and female, are way too restrictive for people to really be who they are. So, they’ve added 72 additional gender designations. Forget the science, forget the biology, and forget Genesis chapter 2. And forget how our stance on sexuality has been unchanged since 1972. It states that all people stand equally in need of God’s grace. However, the practice of homosexuality is incompatable with Christian teachings–i.e.–the orthodox faith. Homosexuality is not any worse than any other sin–but it is outside God’s design and thus it is a sin–along with that long litany of stuff that puts all of us outside of God’s Desgin.
And now to this past week–and it shows how far my beloved Tribe has wandered. According to our approved procedures and rules, no self avowed practicing homosexual can be licensed, commissioned, nor ordained. To assure fidelity to the Bible and our procedures, we have this group called The Board Of Ordained Ministry. Some call it the BOOM or BOM for short. In the most recent session of the Florida Annual Conference, their BOOM recommended 16 candidates to be commissioned on the path to full ordination. Of the 16, two admitted that they were self-avowed practicing homosexuals–clearly in violation of The Bible and our rules. However, the Florida BOOM approved them. But they still needed 3/4 of the ordained clergy to give final approval. And the stuff hit the fire.
What Bishop Ken Carter and the Florida BOOM did was to put all 16 candidates in a single vote. As a group, vote up or down. Now, in fairness, I do not know that the other 14 candidates met the requirements. However, we do know that 2 did not! And the resulting firestorm has been aimed at the 27.3% who voted against the 16 because Bishop Carter would not allow them to vote on the candidates one by one. 27.3% voted according to their ordination vows and the Bible, and now they are the villians. So, the 27.3% who acted in the same spirit as Joshua and Caleb (see the story of the 10 spies) are treated with great disdain and anger.
And a fellow blogger joins in the disdain and anger, Rev. Jim Harnish. You can read his blog here. Jim asserts that the orthodox faith is invalid because, well because we are such more enlightened. And during the eventual commissioning and ordaining service, Bishop Ken Carter apologized to that group with these words:
“I grieve the harm you have experienced. I am committed to the support of your callings … I would have gladly commissioned each of you, and gladly appointed each of you …“
Bishop Ken Carter
So, Bishop Carter would have gladly thrown away both the Bible and our Discipline. Whether that’s what he meant or not, this is exactly what he was saying and doing. And to my fellow Brother Jim I say that simply because you have changed your views about The Bible and our Discipline, a Discipline you promised you would faithfully follow when you were ordained, doesn’t mean you are right. I am grieved that you would allow culture to define your faith rather than allow God’s Word to Transform the culture. And thus, we see the 21st Century version of the Titanic raising her bow in preparation for sinking. I am not angry–I am sad–and I am disappointed that there are those who will abandon John Wesley’s passion to be people of “homo unius libri.” (a people of One Book!)
To candid, reasonable men, I am not afraid to lay open what have been the inmost thoughts of my heart. I have thought, I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God: just hovering over the great gulf; till, a few moments hence, I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God Himself has condescended to teach the way; for this very end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be “homo unius libri.”
John Wesley (June 17, 1706-March 2, 1791)
Footnote: Though I am saddened, maligned by others, accused of quitting and giving up–I am still praying and hopeful that this blight and disorder–this cancerous lie–can be put in it’s rightful place. Back to hell where it came from and where it belongs! Furthermore, I am confident that the Wesleyan desire for renewal and revival is not dead on this earth. The signs are everywhere. And if our leadership in the UMC doesn’t have a change of heart–it will happen with another people–NOT in the UMC!
For this Lenten Journey, I want us to look at the most profound statement ever made by Jesus while He was here in our human form. We are going to be in John’s Gospel looking some of the “I-Am” sayings of Jesus—those moments and situations where He identifies Himself in a very specific way.
Let’s lay the groundwork for today’s passage before I read it to you. Moses had this unbelievable encounter with God. We call it “The Burning Bush” story. God tells Moses to go back to Egypt and inform them that God has appointed him to lead them to the Promised Land.
But before Moses agrees, he wants to know who it is that is sending him. They will want to know who has sent him, so Moses poses the question: “Who shall I tell them sent me?” And in that moment God reveals His true Name: I Am Who I Am! In Hebrew, the word is Yahweh! And God goes further with this statement:
This Is My Eternal Name, My Name To Remember For All Generations.
Why am I telling you all this? Because without this knowledge, nothing that we look at this season will be really understood. The first one we need to look at is from John 4:4-26 (N.L.T.).
He had to go through Samaria on the way. Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.
The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?” Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”
“But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?” Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”
“Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.” “Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her. “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband—for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”
“Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?”
Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus told her, “I Am the Messiah!”
We need be begin our journey with boldest statement ever made by a human being. Jesus tells her: I AM! For what I am about to say, some would want to tar and feather me and run me out of town, but I’m going to say it. Jesus did not say “I Am”. Now, you look confused. “Preacher, you just read that Jesus said I Am.”
But Jesus did NOT say I Am—because He did not speak English. Jesus spoke in both Aramaic and Hebrew. So when He identifies himself to her, the word He used is Yahweh! The Eternal Name of God that everyone is to remember! Can you imagine the shock on this woman’s face when Jesus identified Himself as Yahweh? It was a name so sacred that Law prohibited its use in public. No human being since Moses was allowed to use that name.
And no one dare named their child Yahweh! Yet this is the name Jesus calls Himself. What were the first thoughts running through her mind? “Is he crazy? Has he been out in the sun too long? Is he playing mind games with me? Is he mocking me because I’m a Samaritan?” Whatever her first thoughts might have been, they didn’t stay long.
Somehow she knows His words ring true, so she runs back into Sychar with the news, telling everyone she can find: “I’ve found Him! I’ve found Him!” And the people may have laughed, “Who, husband number 6?” She catches her breath, “No, no, I think I’ve found Messiah! I just know He must be Messiah!”
I know it says she asked a question: “Could He be the Messiah?”, but it’s not a question of doubt. Hers is the question of hope. And here’s the One Thing you need to remember today:
The Deepest Longing Of Every Human Heart Is To Be Near To God!
Hers may have been a tarnished hope, or it may have been a secret hope that no one could see in her life. But somehow, deep down in her heart, there must have been that hope that God would come near to her to satisfy the deepest longings of her heart. As we make our Lenten Journey, we need to know that we are going to find that same longing in our heart—to see and experience the nearness of the One, True and Living God. And we can count on Jesus being that just for us, as He was for her! And it is all because of The Name: Yahweh! Jesus is Yahweh and here’s why:
1. He Is Yahweh Because He Looks For Us
Jacob’s Well was the place ordained by God for this woman. He Has A Place Ordained For You, To Meet Him Face To Face, For You To Surrender Your Life To Him. And Jesus planned it out for that moment when she would be coming to draw water. As Jesus and his entourage arrives at Jacob’s Well, Jesus announces, “Guys, I need to stop and rest; besides it lunch time. Tell you what, go into town to McDavid’s and get you something to eat, and bring me back a #7 combo. I’ll just wait right here. Now, go on guys.”
Have you ever wondered why Jesus sent them ahead while He stayed behind? Well, I have and I’ve come to this conclusion. If there had been several of them with Jesus, that woman probably would have stayed away. But just one man there, it’s not as threatening to her. Jesus wanted this moment with her. He had been looking for her and the time was right.
And He looks for us. There are God-ordained moments where He is looking for us. He is looking for us to have this special relationship with Him. God wants us to have more than a mental knowledge about Him. He longs for us to give Him our hearts. But God-ordained moments go further than for us to become a Christian. There are God-ordained moments to comfort us, encourage us, strengthen us, and to take us deeper into this relationship with Him. And you never know when they will appear. This woman came in the middle of the day; not the usual time to draw water. And God may surprise you with ordained moments because He is always looking for us.
2. He Is Yahweh Because He Knows Us
Everyone in Sychar must have known this woman. Five divorces and shacking up with another man. They looked at her and saw someone who couldn’t keep commitments. They saw someone who had no morals. They saw someone whose only contribution to the community was to keep the gossip lines hot. They saw her as dirtied and all messed up. They saw everything that was wrong with her. They thought they knew her. But there was so much about her they could not see because they had made up their minds about her. But Jesus knew there was more to her than what was on the surface.
Only God, Only The One Whose Eternal Name Is YAHWEH Can See Into The Deepest Recesses Of The Human Heart.
He sees the secret sins we hide from others. He knows the dark secrets we keep pushed down deep. But He knows more, much more. He knew what she was truly longing for, and He knows what we are longing for. This woman wasn’t ignorant of God’s promises. She knew one day Messiah would come. Though it may have been a weak hope, there was the hope that Messiah would come to save her. Listen to your heart; your heart knows it wants to be known deeply and intimately by God.
3. He Is Yahweh Because He Offers Us Life
At Jacob’s Well this God-Ordained moment was for one single purpose: To Bring Real Life To This Dirty, Broken Woman! It wasn’t an accident Jesus was there. It didn’t just so happen that this woman appeared. She needed life and Life is what Jesus has to offer. Nothing Can Give Us The Life We Long For, Only Jesus.
Some people settle for a life of thrills, but there are never enough thrills. Some settle for a life of wealth; but there’s never enough. Some settle for a life of respectability—but they are hollow and empty inside. This woman was looking for life through one relationship after another. But none of them satisfied the cravings of her heart.
Nothing in this world can give you real, abundant, lasting, eternal life. This is something only God has—Jesus is Yahweh because only HE has the life that we hunger for. Only He Has The Life That Will Survive The Ups And Downs Of Life Here On Earth. Only Yahweh can offer us this kind of life—and He does it as The Gift. He and only He paid the price necessary to take away the dead things of our life, and put in their place Life. It’s not just any ordinary life, but the most extraordinary life of all—His Very Own Life.
It is His Eternal Name, Yahweh and He is looking, looking for you because He knows you. He knows you need more than an ordinary life—but the most extraordinary life of all. Only Yahweh, only The Great I Am can put the life of Christ in you. Since you can’t follow Jesus and stay where you are, here are your Next Steps:
Identity Anything That May Have Robbed You Of Hope. The news; This controversy going on in our Tribe; Guilt; Some fear, named or unnamed; Crushing grief that you keep holding on to, that you never completely give over to Jesus; Feelings of inadequacy. It’s the thing that is limiting your potential. Once you identify it—
Give It Up To Jesus. Make it your offering to Him. He’s not looking for only the good things to offer Him, He wants the pain, the burdens that you carry to be given over to Him. You don’t have to keep carrying them because He carried that weight, while on that Cross!
“This morning is hell!” Doesn’t sound nice, does it? Yet this is exactly what many are feeling; not just a morning feeling–but an all day kind of feeling for many. It’s because of the Great War And Horrible War. And yes, even this Preacherman understands this feeling–because sometimes. . .it’s the truth about me. If you think this isn’t you–Remember The Eighth Command–Don’t you dare lie–to others, about others, or even to yourself! I know it says “your neighbor”, but who lives closer to you than YOU?
Satan knows which buttons to push. His strategy in this Great And Horrible War is rather simple–but effective. Successful military strategists understand this and put it into practice–if they want to win a battle. Satan’s strategy is this: Hit At The Weakest Points! He does this daily. . .constantly. And the casualties he causes–though they won’t make the news this evening–are mounting up into catastrophic proportions.
And one of the weakest points in many lives, even mine, is our Will! But something my mentor, Andy Andrews, is teaching me is that our Will is stronger than our feelings. But the Opposing General doesn’t want us to believe this truth. There’s much I could say at this point. . .but I defer to someone with more battle scars than myself–a guy known as Paul. Read carefully what he wrote in Romans 7:14-25. This is my personal autobiography. Here’s what it looks like from The Message:
14-16 I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.
17-20 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
21-23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?
25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.
Be honest with God. He is GOOD, you know. He will change you from having your feelings into knowing His Will in your life. And more–HE will give you HIS strength to live in that Will rather than your feelings. WE cannot stop this Great And Horrible War, but we can’t stop becoming another casualty by asking HIM to change our “want to”, which is nothing more than our feelings, into Will; and Satan can’t stop that Will. He tried in the Garden of Gethsemane–and failed. He tried on that cruel Cross–and failed. And he tried in that Tomb–AND HE FAILED! Daddy’s Grace is the field hospital where our wounds are tended and our hearts are mended. . .and our feelings are transformed into HIS WILL!
Continue then, to love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM!
Have you ever been lost? I’m not talking about forgetting where you parked the car at the shopping center. I’m talking about being by yourself, no one around and unable to find your way back kind of lost. I was back in 1987. I was living in Winston County not far from the Bankhead National Forest. One day I decided to go deer hunting. After not seeing anything I decided to do a little scouting and go back to my truck a different way. I did not have a compass because I thought I didn’t need one. After 6 hours I finally walked upon the house of a friend, some 12 miles from where I had parked. I understand how easy it is for people to panic. I had to fight it every step of the way. It’s unnerving and panic can unravel us at the seams. After that I made sure I had a compass in my hunting gear.
The fear of being lost is about being disconnected; cut off from home, friends, and community. This fear is not limited to Forests, and for some, it goes much deeper. Every day can be a battle. We all need a way to keep our heart focused on the God who loves us perfectly. How do we keep our focus? I think this passage is Luke 7:36-50 (The Message) has the answer.
36-39 One of the Pharisees asked him over for a meal. He went to the Pharisee’s house and sat down at the dinner table. Just then a woman of the village, the town harlot, having learned that Jesus was a guest in the home of the Pharisee, came with a bottle of very expensive perfume and stood at his feet, weeping, raining tears on his feet. Letting down her hair, she dried his feet, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfume. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man was the prophet I thought he was, he would have known what kind of woman this is who is falling all over him.”
40 Jesus said to him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Oh? Tell me.” 41-42 “Two men were in debt to a banker. One owed five hundred silver pieces, the other fifty. Neither of them could pay up, and so the banker canceled both debts. Which of the two would be more grateful?”
43-47 Simon answered, “I suppose the one who was forgiven the most.” “That’s right,” said Jesus. Then turning to the woman, but speaking to Simon, he said, “Do you see this woman? I came to your home; you provided no water for my feet, but she rained tears on my feet and dried them with her hair. You gave me no greeting, but from the time I arrived she hasn’t quit kissing my feet. You provided nothing for freshening up, but she has soothed my feet with perfume. Impressive, isn’t it? She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.”
48 Then he spoke to her: “I forgive your sins.” 49 That set the dinner guests talking behind his back: “Who does he think he is, forgiving sins!” 50 He ignored them and said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
Think about this woman. Her morals were a far cry from God’s standard. Her reputation in the community was well-known. Everyone looked down on her, especially the Religious Police. And her own self-image? The community didn’t have to heap shame on her, she already felt it. She was told that her heart was unworthy of God and that God wouldn’t accept her heart. She lived with this mind-set day after day after day.
But one day, she must have heard Jesus speaking about the real God of real love. Perhaps she’s in the crowd listening. She’s not too close to Jesus because people wouldn’t allow her around them. She is on the edges. But even on the fringe, she hears enough that something stirs in her heart that she believed died so long ago: Hope! And this hope that God plants in her heart refuses to go away. God’s Prevenient Grace keeps going before her until that moment she finally surrenders her heart, such as it is, dirty as it is, unworthy as it is,—she surrenders it to God.
What she had heard would never happen, did happen! God accepted her heart, cleansing her and releasing her from all her guilt and shame. Can you imagine the relief she felt? The weight of it all had been lifted from her. So what can she do for the One who set her free? Does she volunteer at the local homeless shelter? Does she become a street preacher to other women who have been living like she has? Does she try to read and memorize the Torah? The answer to all of these questions is NO! Let’s learn something important from this shameful woman; this woman who had been deemed unworthy and unlovable. Let’s follow her steps:
She Is Determined To Seek Jesus First.
Maybe she looks at that place where she first heard His voice. Up one street and down another. She hasn’t found Him, but she doesn’t give up. Maybe she goes to the local synagogue, but He’s not there. Maybe she knows where some sick people live. So she goes there but He’s not there. So she starts asking people, “Do you know where Jesus is?” Some in the community ignored her because that’s what smug self-righteous people do with “sinners”. Those that do speak say “I haven’t seen Him.” No one seems to have an answer for her. She persists until finally someone says, “Oh, he’s having dinner at the home of Simon the Pharisee.”
And what about you? Do you have the tenacity of this woman to seek the presence of Jesus? Before the act of worship occurs, there must be The Desire For Jesus. Some people come to church because they are determined to fulfill their duty. Others come to worship seeking to hear a good sermon or good music. But real worshippers, people whose heart is for worship, Come For No Other Reason Than To Seek Jesus. Look at what she does next.
She Overcomes The Obstacles In Order To Worship.
What she overcomes isn’t written in these pages, but deeply embedded in her culture. First, she has to find a way into the Pharisee’s house. She’s not on the guest list. Not only is she not invited, She Is Unwanted! No self-respecting Pharisee would invite someone of her morals into their home. But somehow she manages to get into the courtyard of the home, but Jesus is inside.
If she knocks on the front door she will be turned away. Another obstacle! But somehow she gets inside the house. But Jesus is in the one place NO woman was ever allowed. The dinner table! Another obstacle. But that doesn’t stop her. She finally works her way to Jesus. She’s behind him. There He is! She kneels at the feet of Jesus. Now what? She probably hasn’t thought it through this far, So She Does What Her Heart Tells Her To Do. Her tears start to flow; tears of release and joy! They drop on the feet of Jesus. Now everyone sees her and what she is doing! Her emotions are taboo! Respectable people don’t show their emotions in worship! And then she lets down her hair to wipe the feet of Jesus! Oh, no! Women who follow the rules don’t do that either. But she does!
And what are your obstacles to true worship? Is it Pride? Guilt? Fear? To worship God we have to overcome our obstacles—whether those obstacles are self-imposed or pushed on us by our culture. Worship is not about the style or songs or preacher. It is about overcoming any obstacle just to be in the presence of the only One who can set you free. Look at what she does next:
She Pours Her Whole Heart Into Her Worship.
She has an alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. This isn’t Dior J’adore where you can spray just a little bit. The jar is sealed and has to be broken. It’s a one-time use jar. Maybe it was being saved for her wedding day, but that dream has probably long died. Maybe it was being saved for her burial; after all, no one would spend that kind of money on someone like her. She takes all that she has, and offers it in worship. She broke so many rules just to be to this moment, and she doesn’t hold anything back, so she breaks that jar. And the aroma of her perfume, The Fragrance Of Her Worship Fills That Room. And everyone around that table looks at her with contempt—everyone except Jesus. He accepts her act of worship by looking into her eyes and into her heart.
Worship is not about the items we associate with worship: Announcements, Prayers, Hymns, Anthems, Scripture, Sermon, and what many consider the best part of all, the Benediction. It is about pouring out all that is in your heart as the only acceptable response to God’s unconditional love. Worship Is Not About The Acts That You Do, But The Total Surrender Of Your Heart, Such As It Is, To God.
You Never Truly Worship God Until You Break Your Alabaster Jar And Empty All The Contents While You Are At The Feet Of Jesus.
Worship is the compass that helps us find our way back to God. When we get disconnected from life, worship points us to the one who will rescue us from our fears and despair. Worship is about realizing that we have been invited into His presence. True worship reminds us of the Infinite Love, Unparalleled Grace, And Unending MercyGod Has For Us AndThat Keeps Us From Getting Lost All Over Again.
Worship, true worship strengthens us and helps us become more like Jesus. And as much as we may mess up during any given week, it is our worship that keeps us From Messing Up Even More And Even Becoming Totally Disconnected From The Life We Long For And The Life We Were Made For. Have you poured out your whole heart in worship today? If you haven’t, it’s not too late.
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!