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Christ Criminalized

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.

1 Peter 2:19-22 (ESV)

Christ Suffered Even Before He was Crucified

As we approach the fifth installment of our Live @ Lunch Bible Study series on God and Government, we have to take a look at the subject of the Savior. It is difficult to discuss how Christians should conduct themselves without shedding some light on how the Savior acted within the realm of earthly laws and in the midst of religious corruption during His lifetime. In essence, we look deeper at how Jesus was criminalized in order to be crucified.

No Christians Without Crucifixion

Argue whatever point you care to, it really does not change the fact that Jesus came to save and sacrifice Himself for the sake of others receiving salvation. That’s the simplest summary sentence I can offer for the coming of the Messiah in order to become Lord and Savior to those who were dead in sin and darkness. That’s the best that I can give you. After all, it was the prophet Isaiah who shared that His stripes and being stricken was for our redemption.

Look at Jesus Criminalized Differently

Take into account how Jesus was criminalized. Roman soldiers on patrol did not find fault in this Nazarian rabbi and His ragtag band of followers. The local governor did not send out a decree and sign a warrant for the arrest of Jesus Christ of Nazareth who posed a potential danger and threat to Caesar or its citizenry. The common people in the marketplace were not thrown off by Jesus and teachings throughout the region of the Sea of Galilee and beyond.

No, it was the religious elite of His time who sought to take out Jesus. In fact, John’s Gospel account gives us an indication that they also sought to take out Lazarus as evidence of His power which caused others to see and believe in His claims as the Messiah, the Son of Man. Their plot had been in the making and awaiting an opportunity to “put Him to death.”

I love the way that this whole thing played out. In light of what positions these men held (priests, scribes, and elders), the stance that they took should shock the believer to his or her core. Aside from dipping into the treasury for 30 pieces of silver to pay the betrayer of Jesus and the usage of the betrayer’s intel to capture Jesus in the dark of night, these folks had a plot to get rid of Jesus for good. And they knew that they could not do it themselves, citing that it was unlawful for them to put a man to death.

Tune in to Learn More

Join us on Wednesdays at 12 PM PST as we discuss this more in depth

We have covered God and government for 4 weeks already and seek to share more. Today’s lesson is all about how Jesus was both criminalized and crucified. Gain some more insights by checking out our lesson available online for download.

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He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8 (ESV)

Oftentimes, Christians see issues of their days and times and superimpose them into the biblical prophecy of the Last Days and point out the most likely public figure who fits the bill to be the Antichrist. This is usually a futile exercise in trying to give it a name and a label rather than trying to deal with the matters of the day.

Black Lives Matter & Protests for Social Justice

Is it still a question for some who believe if Black Lives Matter or not? I wish that I could say that it is an unfair question, but there are plenty who profess the love of Christ who find it difficult to love all of God’s creation and creatures, including their fellow man.

Look at blog posts from others that speak to the fact that Black Lives Matter has to be defended or justified as a statement. I read posts from folks like Cynthia Reyes and I feel like the depths of the despair experienced by countless people of color has been echoed in the kindred voice of another in the blogosphere. I read Thinking Moon’s post and realize that we both share a love for Toni Morrison (and she picked my two favorite works by her, too), but we both have two entirely different walks on this earth as a person of privilege and a person of color.

Christians do not have to hold a come to Jesus meeting about coming to an agreement about protests for social justice, police reform, and Black Lives Matter. We do need to acknowledge that there is a problem within our communities and across our nation in the United States that has captured our attention in the midst of a major health pandemic. We do need to agree that, despite many of the best intentions of good Bible-carrying believers, many Christians will not act on such matters until the pastor, the shepherd of the local church, has shared spiritual words of guidance on these same matters. The matters of today have come before the altar of the house of the faithful and await a word from on high as heavenly light from above shine upon them like a spotlight.

Doing What’s Right is Right

Seeking social justice is right. It is biblical. It is the Christian thing to do. The words in Micah 6:8 said for us to “do justice.” Naturally, English makes for a poor translation but I think we could get the point. Our measure for our religion is a matter for how we treat others. The question to answer is: Are we doing right by what the Lord calls us to do?

Aretha, the Queen of Soul, said it in a secular sense when she spoke a Do Right Woman and a Do Right Man. Could you be considered to be one who is in the business of doing right, especially doing right by others?

Jesus used a parable to speak about the “least of these.” He pointed out that the way to do right by the Lord was to do right by others. He depicted through this parable a way to do right for those who could not do you a solid and pay you back. He let us get a glimpse of what it truly means to be godly and gracious, by showing that we can show compassion towards and offer comfort for the hungry, the imprisoned, the naked, and the others that life seems to easily overlook.

And What Does the LORD Require of You?

And what does the LORD require of you? It is inserted in a retort in this passage due to the insinuation by the people that the Lord is asking them to do the impossible. The notion that the people presented to the prophet was that the Lord was being too hard on them in what He sought from them.

. . .but to do justice

We can say a lot but our actions speak louder and in greater volume than our words. We can say that Black Lives Matter is trending on Twitter and will fade away like the chants of “No justice, no peace.” The truth is that justice is right and we are called to do right as claim to love our neighbors as ourselves.

. . . and to love kindness

Kindness is like love. It’s all action and feelings. It’s not double talk. It comes down to our interaction with others, especially those who do not look like us, sound like us, or even believe what we believe.

. . . and to walk humbly with your God

Humility is a lost art. It is as ancient as things like respect and righteousness. To “walk humbly” requires us to humble ourselves. I believe C.H. Spurgeon said it best when he is quoted as saying: “Every Christian has a choice between being humble and being humbled.”

What will be your choice today?

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“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” – John 10:11 (NKJV)

The modern society has made what we consider pastoring a mere shadow of what we truly should expect of the man of God today.  We may never get out of ordained and anointed pastoral leaders what we could get out of them because we can never drop or shed expecting more out of them than they have been called to ever do in the first place.

After all, just like the rest of us believers, pastors are Christians.  That point sometimes gets missed.  Plain and simple, they are Christians just like us.

Secondly, pastors are called from among the flock to stand set apart as “called” by God.  They’re still Christians but they have a greater responsibility in regards to standing firm and handling God’s Word.

Finally, God plucks out a set of His own chosen few to serve as pastors and shepherds.  He places His Spirit in them and allows manifestations of Word to emerge within their messages, sermons and Bible lessons. 

He uses them.  He molds them.  He shapes them.  He directs them.  He guides them.  He orders them.  He trains them.

After all, He called them. 

He called them to walk as He walked.  He called them to live as He once lived.  He called them to work just like Jesus did the works of the Father. 

If you want to see Jesus on display in your pastor, help your pastor do the things that allow Him to be display Himself in your pastor.  If you can’t help with that,  maybe you can just adjust your expectations.  After all, they’re still just Christians.

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I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. – John 12:46 (KJV)

Jesus came as a light into the world.  He came as light to shed light and so that no one who believes in Him will live in darkness.  He was the Light that men failed to comprehend, according to John’s gospel.

We are followers of the Lord.  He have seen the light and we are to act as the light of the world.

But do we live so?

Are we living like the light of the world or are we hiding it under cover in the midst of darkness?

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Many of us have heard the rallying cry of “Carpe diem!” at some point in our daily walk.  The romance language of Latin seems to give off a hearty scent like that of uncorked wine or succulent roasted meats over a crackling fire as it urges and encourages each and every one of us to simply: Seize the day! Take it for all that it has to offer and give it your all today, for indeed today is the only opportunity that we have at hand.  Yesterday is gone and tomorrow has yet to arrive.

So how are you going about seizing the day?

Matthew chapter 6 offers us a whole lot of how-to knowledge for implementation as believers.  It runs down how we should pray, fast, give and other related to-do items for us.  Yet, this chapter ends with some glorious advice attached to a warning about worrying.  Jesus points out that the birds and flowers do not have closets, but the Lord feeds them and clothes them (v. 26, 28-29).  He even poses the question: Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? (v. 27).  Jesus offers a simple warning based on biblical and ancient wisdom.  Worrying gets you nowhere and does little for you or your health, even your situation.

Worrying will not change:

  • Your Past: You did what you did and you have been through what you have been through in the past.  It is over.  You do not have to relive past mistakes and remain hostage to their haunting you daily or for a lifetime.  Get out of the past and live for today.
  • Your Possibilities: You can predict, prospect and project, but none of it is with any level of certainty.  The future is not promised.  The brother of the Lord, James said it best: Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:14-15, NIV).  Don’t bank or bet on the future because you may just vanish.
  • Your Present: No, contrary to popular belief, you cannot change your present circumstances or situation.  That is to say that you cannot control what happens to you.  You can control your own thoughts and actions, keeping your emotions in check.  However, you cannot alter that situations arise to: build us up, buffet us or break us down.

Today is here.  You have a chance to make the most of it,  Go and get what He has offered you for today as your “daily bread.” Seek the best of His blessings, and then seize them as you seize this very day.

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In those days there was no king in Israel;

everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

– Judges 21:25 (NASB)

We can go down some problematic pathways if we are not careful in how we handle certain things.  Here are four things that can lead to major problems down the road.

  • Prosperity: Things can get so good and can go so well that we neglect the very things that got us to such a point of peace and prosperity.  Israel had lost its way many times and had gone astray from God.  In many cases, it was due to their times of peace and prosperity.
  • Pride: The Bible tells us that “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2, NIV).  The proud can get beside himself or herself as if they did everything on their own and without God’s very present help.
  • Pleasure: Pleasure seekers do not seek to please God, only themselves.  If it feels good, they’ll line up and pay up to do it, see it and even get a taste of it.  Pleasure can even lead to a problem.
  • Pressure: If anyone who has read the Old Testament can recall, the people of God did not want Samuel’s boys running things.  They demanded that a king be placed over them like other people. But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD – 1 Samuel 8:6 (NASB).

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If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. – John 15:18 (NLT)

Think about the Avengers or X-Men.  Those guys were bitten by spiders, struck by gamma rays or born mutated, only to emerge with super powers that spanned the full range of strangeness.  As much as we may love Professor Xavier, we certainly do not want anyone reading our minds or trying to control our thoughts.

We’re like these mutated brothers and sisters to a degree.  The world does not understand us, so in turn, it despises us and seeks to destroy us.  The world resists what we have to say, especially about Jesus.  It will consider us weird because of how intensely we follow the steps of Jesus along with His words, almost in the same way that some follow Star Wars or Star Trek.  For us, our church conventions and praise festivals are like our own version of Comic Con spread from town to town.

No one in this world will ever hate the follower or fan as much as they hate the original icon.  We are not hated because Captain Kirk and Spock grew old or that someone got thrown off because Mr. Sulu came out of the closet and that viewers discovered somewhere around Babylon 5 that the same plots keep playing over and over.  No, we’re hated because the world first hated Him. 

Just like Professor X and the Uncanny X-men, we represent the world’s opposition to tolerance.  We stand in outright defiance of all that seems so-called normal to the folks who cannot accept change.  We live as the litmus test of the degree of openness such an “open society” really has for all of its people, even the ones who seem to be as weird as mutants.

The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil. – John 7:7 (NIV)

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The Christian has truly been blessed.  Each of us has been blessed to bear certain things as Christians.  Oddly enough, we may not view them as blessings, but they are exactly that.  There’s no other way that you can explain God choosing to use us to strengthen and support our brothers and sisters, even so-called ‘outsiders,” the way that He does with His power.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2 (ESV)

God calls on us to bear the burdens of our fellow believers.  By doing so, the Word says that we fulfill the law of Christ.  We manifest love when we bear the burdens of others.

Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. – Luke 14:27 (ESV)

The Lord wants us to bear our cross.  He calls us to discipleship.  He says that we cannot be His disciples if we do not bear our cross.  Taking up your cross daily is part of being on the Lord’s team.

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. – John 15:8 (ESV)

The Lord wants us as his disciples, but he also wants us pleasing the Father.  He desires that we do a good work in His name and to the glory of the Father in heaven.  The works that we do should bear fruit.  Our fruit will stand as proof of our connection to the Lord. 

People will not question much about what we do when it is done in a manner that bears burdens, bears fruit and causes us to bear our own cross.  When there is something that seems misleading to our actions, even our good deeds, people begin to question such acts as well as our connection with the Master as His followers.

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Prayer = Essential

The Lord talked about prayer as if  it were a given. In Matthew 6:5, the Lord said: “And when you pray.” In Matthew 6:6, He says:”But when you pray.” Then, in Matthew 6:7, He says again: “And when you pray.” It is safe to say by this passage that the Lord expects us to pray. The Lord addresses prayer as an essential for Christian believers. Think about how He presented and prescribed prayer. He shared it as something He expects us to do. He stated it  as something that we need to do in connection with God and His power of possibility. Pray up. In fact, pray upward. Let your petitions touch heaven’s abundance as answers come flowing down upon you.

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