Promises from Chapter 6: “I will live in them and walk among them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people.” …I will welcome you and be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,” says the Lord Almighty.” [NIV]
II Corinthians 7:1 Having such great promises as these, dear friends, let us turn away from everything wrong, whether of body or spirit, and purify ourselves, living in the wholesome fear of God, giving ourselves to him alone. [TLB]
There was a day when we understood those promises of God, turned away from our sin and believed his words: “I will welcome you and be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters.” That first “turning away” brought us the life-changing relief of grace. It was a spectacular beginning but that’s exactly what it was…the first day of the rest of our life.
The relief of grace is God’s gift of courage to look at the challenges of the rest of our life and be willing to confess we still need courage to “turn away from everything wrong, whether of body or spirit, and purify ourselves… giving ourselves to him alone.”
Ephesians 2:3-5 NIV All of us also lived among them [our transgressions and sins] at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
I’m fascinated with the uniqueness of the Greek language to distinguish subtleties of words and meanings. In this scripture there is one word [hamartia] translated “sin” and another [paraptoma] the NIV translates as “transgressions.” What makes it interesting is not the way we might differentiate between those two words but how the Greeks did. These are my edited notes from William Barlclay’s study of Ephesians.
•Hamartia (Greek #266) is a shooting word that means to miss the target completely.
•Paraptoma (Greek #3900)…means taking the wrong road when we knew enough to take the right one.
Sin is a loaded word even for those of us who believe we are sinners saved by grace. The Greek definitions don’t impact the reality of the scripture but they do influence my courage to recognize and confess the truth of it.
What if I read this Scripture as:
I have also lived with missing the target completely and choosing the wrong road at one time, gratifying the cravings of flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like so many, I was by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for me, God, who is rich in mercy, made me alive with Christ when he saw the road I’d chosen was going nowhere—it is by grace I have been saved.
Read Mark 6:47-52. My focus is v50b “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid,”
Those simple red-letter sentences are the summation of real good news for friends of Jesus that are worn out from fighting the storm. The story ends in Mark 6 with those friends that knew Jesus best being amazed and terrified when he showed up in such an unusual way. They had invested their life completely in following Jesus and even with all their firsthand evidence they didn’t quite understand what to expect from him. Verse 52 says “their hearts were hardened.” How could that possibly be?
I don’t know about you but the thrust of much of what I watch or read about the world today is at best sad and at worst scary. It’s a harsh reality to face the fact that just like those other friends of his, I have to blink twice to recognize that Jesus is more than a ghost in today’s broken world. My heart has been hardened by struggling to understand the evening news instead of that good news. I can’t figure out what to expect from current events but I think there’s a solution. I’m just trying to blink twice so I can see a new reality that Jesus is in the boat with us and take him at his word in this storm. “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid,”
Mark 5:21 – 43 This may not be as familiar story as the others in Mark 5 but it’s a dramatic finale to a desperate story of need. Jesus had crossed to the other side of the lake and from another large crowd one of the synagogue leaders came forward and fell at Jesus’s feet. He pleaded earnestly “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him but some from the house of Jairus said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?” Overhearing what they said, Jesus responded: •V36b. “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
Only Peter, James and John followed him to the home. Jesus’s response to the people crying and wailing was
V39b. “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.”
They laughed at him. He took only the child’s father and mother and the disciples in where the child was. Jesus took her hand and said to her,
•V41b. “Talitha koum!”…“Little girl, I say to you, get up!”
The 12-year old girl astonished them and stood up and began to walk around. Jesus gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.
These stories of the people Mark writes about seem to have a common thread…they all have a great need. They don’t approach Jesus with any claims of faith at all. All they have is their need and a little bit of courage to act. Maybe “need” is the reality of faith.
I remember hearing faith was “OK if that was something you need” and being unable to respond. It felt as if need was a weakness and faith like some kind of treatment that could cure you of that. I was embarrassed by that idea. It turns out that statement was exactly true. It’s the courage of need that drives you to the great physician. You don’t get treatment you need unless you make the appointment and tell the doctor your symptoms.
That’s my growing edge; to let the courage of need become what Jesus builds my faith on.
John 13:12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
It’s easy to understand the disciples discomfort to see Jesus kneel before them to wash their feet. They were his supporters. Their support, faithfulness and fervor were for him as their Lord and Teacher. Now it was almost like Jesus was purposely switching places with them as he knelt there to show his support for them with his Perfected Love.
Jesus knew they were not yet able to see this truth: their love was going to be perfected too. Everything would depend on their remembering this example Jesus set before them that night. That would be where they would find the courage to face him again. That would be their assurance that only the support of his Perfected Love could begin the perfection of their own love by overcoming the humiliating reality that their fear had triumphed over faithfulness and fervor.