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Peace

Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!
He has conquered sin and death!
He has made a way for us to be made right with a Holy God.

Jesus gives us good news, bad news, and more good news in today’s Bible reading from Matthew 10. He begins by giving His apostles authority over unclean spirits, and every sickness and disease. He sends them out to preach the Gospel.

Next, Matthew records Jesus giving some “bad news”. I put that in quotes because of the following good news. But the “bad news” is that the apostles (and us) will be persecuted. Note: They/we will be persecuted. (Matthew 10:16-25)

But couched in that section, Jesus gives them/us good news: His Holy Spirit will give them/them the words to say to those who persecute them/us. (Matthew 10:19-20)

Matthew concludes Chapter 10 with even better news: God is in control!

“Therefore, don’t be afraid of them, since there is nothing covered that won’t be uncovered and nothing hidden that won’t be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the light. What you hear in a whisper, proclaim on the housetops. Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Matthew 10:26–30 (CSB)

Let me say that again. God is in control.

Application

There is a great deal of comfort to us in those four words: God is in control. He gives his Apostles authority over the enemy. There is no competition between God and the enemy where we wonder who will win. God wins! And by extension, we win!

Sure, we may be persecuted. We may encounter “storms” in our lives. In fact, Jesus promises that His followers will be persecuted. But He couches this “bad news” with good news because He is in control! Nothing will happen to His kids without His direct control. And Paul reminds us that He will work out all things to our good: that we would be more like Jesus. (Romans 8:28-29)

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Today’s Bible reading is the beginning of The Sermon on the Mount. Throughout the Sermon, Jesus gives some very practical behaviors that believers should strive to emulate, not to give you a right standing before God, but because you have a right standing before God.

Hidden in today’s reading from Matthew 5, we find a striking statement. Don’t miss it!

So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you,  leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23–24 (CSB)

Jesus says that our relationships with other people need to be right and healthy before we give an offering to God. In fact, he adds that we should do everything we can to have a good relationship with our adversaries. (Matthew 5:25-26)

Application

How are your relationships with your friends? Your family? Your spouse? Your coworkers? Your superiors/inferiors at work? How are your relationships with others in your church?

How are your relationships with people who seem to always know which buttons to push to push you over the edge?

You will never grow in intimacy with God if there’s something within your control that isn’t right with someone else. Yes, it’s that important!

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anointing with oil

Today’s Bible reading from James 5 includes a verse that people frequently read incompletely. When someone quotes James 5:16, they are referencing the second half of the verse regarding the power of prayers from righteous people. Again, read the context. In the first half of the verse, James links the prayers of righteous people with the possible cause of their illness, hence the need for righteous people to pray.

James says that if anyone is sick and needs healing, call the local church leaders and have them anoint the sick person with oil. Then he says that the sick person should confess their sins to others and pray for them. That’s the part we miss.

In this case, I don’t think the verse divisions are the cause of the problem; I think our problem is our theology. Protestants, like myself, don’t believe we should have to go to a priest to confess our sins, so we bristle at the thought of confessing our sins to anyone but Jesus. And that’s a problem. And that may be the reason believers aren’t healed.

Now, before you brand me with a “heretic” label, let me say that God is still in the healing business. Not all sickness is caused by sin. Sometimes God uses miraculous means and sometimes God uses therapeutic means to heal people. (Acts 28:8-9) And sometimes God heals through physical death.

Application

If you’re sick or suffering from any physical or mental ailment, by all means, seek medical care. There is — or there should be — no shame for a believer to take medicine or have surgery. And by all means ask God for healing, enlisting others to join with you. Both of these healing methods are mentioned in Acts 28:8-9, where Paul instantaneously healed Publius’ father and Dr. Luke used medical therapy to restore others to health.

But don’t neglect asking if yourself if your sickness may be sin-related as well. Faithful believing friends may be able to help you determine if you may be blind to your sin. If you see that your ailment is sin-related, confess your sins to your brothers or sisters, have them pray for you. Ask someone to anoint you with oil.

And trust God for healing by any of the three methods I listed earlier.

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repent

In today’s Bible reading from James 2, we see the issue I mentioned yesterday about a supposed contradiction between James and Paul on the basis of our justification before God. Paul says that we are justified by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9) and James says we are justified by works (James 2:24). So which one is right? And isn’t this just proof that the Bible is full of contradictions?

On the second question, no. No, the Bible is not full of contradictions. It may have differences in the way it presents things (like this topic), but if something seems like it’s contradicting something else, there’s more you need to dig into.

On the earlier question of whether James or Paul is correct, the answer is that they are both right. Huh? Their statements are complementary, not contradictory. Paul is looking at how we have been saved, James is looking at how we prove/demonstrate that we are saved. There are different aspects of our salvation: believers have been saved, believers are being saved, and believers will be saved. Paul is looking at the first aspect, James is looking at the second aspect.

Look at what they say: Paul agrees with James that our salvation will work itself out (Ephesians 2:10). And James agrees with Paul; even demons believe (“believe” [verb] and “faith” [noun] are the same word), but they aren’t saved.

Application

Believer, look at your life. Is your life any different than when you were lost? Assuming you weren’t saved yesterday, your life will experience some changes. It may be behavior, it may be attitudes, but your life will be different if you are really saved. And if your life hasn’t changed, you need to revisit the question of whether you are really saved. Walking down the aisle of a church doesn’t save you. Praying a prayer doesn’t save you. Being baptized doesn’t save you. Saying you believe doesn’t save you.

Putting your trust in Jesus’ sacrifice for your sin
and turning from your sin to embrace a relationship with God
does save you.

Have you done that?

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