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It’s what comes OUT of a man that matters…

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Do you agree that we often place far too much emphasis on outward appearances? And in doing so, are sometimes guilty of misjudging someone? After all, isn’t it still true that looks can be deceiving?

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Consider this lesson from the gospel of Mark.

One day Jesus was confronted by a group of Pharisees and scribes because they had observed his disciples eating bread with unwashed hands.

You see, the Pharisees were all about maintaining outward appearances, and they used this opportunity to inform Jesus that his little band of followers were now defiled for failing to keep up with tradition.

Then, as now, we humans seem to have this need to elevate ourselves while tearing down others. Why is that?

At any rate the Pharisees were all about outward appearances and traditions, believing that putting on a good external show somehow equates to a healthy inward relationship with God.

NOT.

Hmmm…makes one wonder if not a lot has changed over the space of a couple thousand years. OK….back to the topic at hand.

After Jesus admonished the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy, He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.”     Mark 7:9 NKJV

In other words, Jesus is telling them that they rejected God’s word and his teachings in favor of their own man made traditions. And this is a snare that all of us must be on guard to avoid. Jesus came to set us free, but I dare say many of us are ensnared in traditions of our own making, thus rendering the word of God of no effect.

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Instead of worrying about and focusing on trivial things that mattered little, if at all, in the grand scheme of things, Jesus went on to explain to them what truly defiles a man.

And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.””
Mark 7:20-23 NKJV

Notice anything missing from this list? None of the things on it are matters of tradition or outward appearance, but matters of the heart!!

What defiles us, what condemns us are the evil, sinful acts born out of an unregenerate heart. That’s what Jesus is saying here. A heart that has resisted the love of Christ and has determined to forge its own path is a heart that is capable of doing the unthinkable.

As lest any of us should be lifted up with pride because we are so good, residing within each of our hearts are the seeds of each of the sins Jesus mentions above. I don’t care who you are, that’s a powerful and sobering thought.

The point is, our good intentions will never be good enough, but instead a life lived apart from God will give way to a heart that is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it”?   Jer. 17:9

There is but one cure for such a thing; the Lord Jesus. He alone has the cure for what defiles a man. Only Jesus can transform our hearts from one of stone into one that is fully alive in Him. He is the heart mender.

It’s what comes out of a man that matters most, and when Jesus has been given control of our lives we must continually strive to gain control of the flesh that produces the things which defile.

Walking with Jesus is not about keeping church or religious traditions, it’s not about maintaining appearances or your standing in the church. Walking with Jesus is about relationship, one that produces the fruit of the Spirit, not the deeds of the flesh.

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Be blessed,

Ron

 

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A personal God. A personal Father.

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The word “Father” is an important one in nearly every society. To some, Father denotes the elder, or leader of the family. Others use the word Father when referring to someone who originated something, like the Father of a particular industry.

In today’s post however, I want us to look at how God was first revealed as our Father.

In the prelude leading up to Jesus teaching his disciples about how they should pray, on no less than five occasions do we find Jesus referring to God as “your Father”.         Scripture reference Matt. 6:1-9

Why is this important? It is important because with the words “your Father” Jesus did something that had never been done before.

He personalized Almighty God by attributing to Him an intimate nature.

Think about that statement. I cannot find one instance in the Old Testament where the Jews ever referred to God as their Father in the first person. When I first realized this I was stunned!

To think that the God who revealed Himself to mankind, first in the garden and then throughout the Old Testament history of the Jews, was never thought of in a personal way as Father was almost unbelievable.

In fact, studies have been done (by real scholars) of every book of the Old Testament, as well as every known Jewish writing up until about the tenth century, and there is not one single reference of a Jewish person addressing God personally as their Father.

This makes Jesus referring to God as “your Father” all the more remarkable!

As a matter of fact, the very first Jewish rabbi known to have called God “Father” was Jesus of Nazareth!  In Judaism, this was such a radical departure from tradition that it cannot be overstated in its importance.

So great was the Jews anger against Jesus for suggesting that God could have an intimate relationship with man, that He was somehow approachable by mere mortals, that it incited the Jews to want to destroy Jesus.

To refer to the One True God as “Father” was unthinkable to the Jews, who would have deemed such a name as disrespectful. Of course, they used many distinct names for God; in fact in the Old Testament they used as many as sixteen different names that were deemed appropriate when addressing God. Perhaps you have heard most of these?
* El Shaddai (Lord God Almighty)
* El Elyon (The Most High God)
* Adonai (Lord, Master)
* Yahweh (Lord, Jehovah)
* Jehovah Nissi (The Lord My Banner)
* Jehovah-Raah (The Lord My Shepherd)
* Jehovah Rapha (The Lord That Heals)
* Jehovah Shammah (The Lord Is There)
* Jehovah Tsidkenu (The Lord Our Righteousness)
* Jehovah Mekoddishkem (The Lord Who Sanctifies You)
* El Olam (The Everlasting God)
* Elohim (God)
* Qanna (Jealous)
* Jehovah Jireh (The Lord Will Provide)
* Jehovah Shalom (The Lord Is Peace)
* Jehovah Sabaoth (The Lord of Hosts)

None of these names, however, refer to Him as “Father”. They are all names that reflect Holiness, Worship, and respect. They reflect upon his many incredible attributes.

In revealing the intimate nature of God by referring to Him as “our Father”, Jesus introduced to mankind the concept that God Almighty was also approachable.

Jesus revealed to the world for the first time that God was not some cold, unfeeling entity in a galaxy far, far away. No, Jesus pulled back the curtain of religious mystique and revealed God as Father, a title that suggests intimacy and personal relationship.

Because scripture teaches us that God has adopted us into his family and made us joint heirs with his only Son, we have been granted the right and the privilege to come into the presence of God and call him Father.

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”           Romans 8:14-17

A personal God, a personal Father, has adopted us into His family. We belong to Him, and as such we can call Him our Father.

I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t get any better than this for me.

Be blessed, and have a wonderful day,

Ron