Jesus’ Harsh Words: The Grace of Rebuke

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In Luke 11, Jesus offers a series of rebukes to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. These leaders not only had the Word of God but held authority for the Word of God in the lives of others. This should stop us in our tracks as pastors, ministry leaders, elders, or anyone who has some role of authority in the lives of others.

There are certain things about us—things we do and things inside of us—that are distasteful to Jesus. We must hear this side of Jesus’ teaching. We must reconsider whether we only take in Jesus’ loving, gentle words or whether we hear the comprehensive breadth of Jesus’ words. We must open our ears and hear even the words of rebuke as if they were spoken to us.

If our first response to Jesus’ rebuke is to think of how they apply to someone else, then we are likely avoiding the word that Christ is speaking directly to us. We must receive the hard words of Christ with radical humility and openness to correction for our thorough transformation. The spotlight is upon us and we should not be quick to divert it toward another.

The piercing sword of rebuke is a grace and it is vital that we remember that fact. The first step toward healing is an accurate diagnosis. Jesus’ rebuke is the difficult diagnosis that leads to the Soul-physician’s surgical grace in removing sickness from us in order to make our souls whole.

Jesus rebukes the Pharisees first of all because there is a different and better type of cleanness than what they are concerned about. They are concerned about external and superficial cleanliness but not the internal and deeper cleanliness. They are concealing deeper uncleanness of soul under the cover of superficial cleanness. They are like whitewashed graves that are clean and beautiful on the outside but hold death and decay inside.

The cure is found through Jesus the Life-giver who points the way through generosity to the poor (Luke 11:41), attention to justice, and practicing the love of God (11:42). Is this a salvation by works? No, it is the fruit of repentance as we turn toward God from self-seeking religion and hypocrisy. As we repent, Jesus leads us beyond ourselves into something stronger and more alive. It is the healing pathway out of soul-sickness.

Jesus secondly rebukes the experts in the Law because they have kept life from others. They weigh people down with religious burdens, locking the door to life by their mishandling of God’s Law. God’s Word intends to bring life but they wield it in such a way that life is snuffed out through incorrect usage.

The anger of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law reflects the reality that Jesus has touched upon a nerve with His rebuke. Do we feel angry or uncomfortable with the words of Jesus? Do we attempt to turn the attention of the difficult diagnosis toward someone else? Is it too painful to hear?

Linger in it. Do not flinch. Open your heart and mind to the rebuke of Jesus. Inside the rebuke is the grace of a loving and healing God.

10 Questions to Assess Your Spiritual Growth

There are many different means for evaluating our spiritual growth. Recently I have been working my way through and looking over a lot of different approaches to spiritual growth.

Donald Whitney, author and Associate Professor for Biblical Spirituality, put together a resource for assessing our spiritual health that is built around a series of ten questions.

As I look at the questions, I’d like your feedback on whether you think these questions are helpful, as well as which of the questions particularly hits home for you.

Here they are:

  1. Do you thirst for God?
  2. Are you governed increasingly by God’s word?
  3. Are you more loving?
  4. Are you more sensitive to God’s presence?
  5. Do you have a growing concern for the spiritual and temporal needs of others?
  6. Do you delight in the Bride of Christ?
  7. Are the spiritual disciplines increasingly important to you?
  8. Do you still grieve over sin?
  9. Are you a quick forgiver?
  10. Do you yearn for heaven and to be with Jesus?

So, do you think these are helpful questions for assessing spiritual health?

Also, which question hits home for you right now?

3 Transformational Ways to Read Scripture

This past weekend in my message, “The Messiah’s Call,” I emphasized the importance of regular, transformational reading of Scripture. If we are going to truly hear Jesus’ call toward discipleship, we need to put ourselves regularly before the Scripture, asking God to speak into our lives.

For some of us, this is an easy practice to develop. We have experience with reading the Bible and we may have figured out what works well for us. For others, this may seem overwhelming or hard to figure out. Because of that, let me suggest four ways we can read Scripture for transformation. Each of these approaches to reading Scripture are things I have written about previously, so I hope you don’t mind if I refer you to other blog posts about them.

First, let me encourage us to consider slowing down to read Scripture meditatively through the ancient practice of lectio divina, or divine reading. These three posts will help you familiarize yourself with this practice:

Second, if you have never read through the Bible in a year, let me encourage that practice. There are many Bible reading plans that you can access, such as Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s plan or the One Year Bible reading guide. Several years ago, I invited our entire church to read the Bible in a year and I have an introductory letter about that: “Guidance for Reading through the Bible in a Year”.

Third, while reading the entire Scripture through methodically can be powerful, I have found that a helpful balance to that is slowing down to memorize passages of Scripture for ongoing meditation and prayer during the day. Read this post for guidance on Scripture memory: “Tips and Tools for Memorizing Scripture.”

What have been some of the ways you have most transformationally engaged with reading Scripture?

Jesus Pursues Sick People

Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32)

I am glad that Jesus pursues sick people. In Luke 5, Jesus reaches out to a man with leprosy, a paralyzed man, a social outcast who collects taxes for Rome, and even calls some people peripheral to society to be His closest followers. Jesus does not always look for the respectable people. No, what He most often does is to search after those who know they need help. He heals them (the leper), He forgives them (the paralyzed man), He spends time with them (the tax collector), and He commissions them for His purposes (the disciples).

I am glad that Jesus pursues sick people. Although I was familiar with Christianity from my upbringing, I did not really know Christ until my later years of high school. When Jesus truly took hold of my life I was deeply sick. He sought after me and confronted me with His truth. I didn’t know how sick I was until then. It became so obvious that I needed help. When I responded to Him, Jesus saturated me with His grace and filled me with hope. He began to heal my life and transform me. Then He invited me to serve Him and brought purpose and direction to my life. I am sure that you have a story of your own about when and how Jesus pursued you.

But here are some pertinent questions for those of us who follow Jesus today: are we still glad Jesus pursues sick people? Do we let Him seek after the sick and needy through us? Do we let Him take us to risky or uncomfortable places so He can place His hands on the lives of others who need healing and life?

If He has pursued us and reached us, may He also pursue others and reach them through us.

Resurrection and Fear

After Jesus rose from the grave, the Apostle John records four meetings Jesus has with people. The first of these that I want to look at today is Jesus’ appearance in the locked room to His disciples. We read about it in this way:

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After He said this, He showed them His hands and side. (John 20:19-20)

There are three major things happening as Jesus enters this story bringing resurrection power in the midst of fear.

Jesus Comes Into and Stands Within Our Fears

It seemed like the locked room would not be penetrated by anything good or evil. The disciples were holding the door closed out of fear from others and fears circulating in their own minds and hearts. But Jesus came through the locked door and entered into their midst. No lock could hold Him out – neither could any fear hold Him out – because of His resurrection power.Read More »