Sunday, March 12, 2023

Who Can Be Made Right With God?

                                      Who Can Be Made Right With God?

Psychologists say Self-Justification Chokes Love Out Of a Relationship. In their book Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me), social psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson describe how a fixation on our own righteousness can choke life out of love.

"The vast majority of couples who drift apart do so slowly, over time, in a snowballing pattern of blame and self-justification. Each partner focuses on what the other one is doing wrong while justifying their own preferences, attitudes, and ways of doing things. … From our standpoint, therefore, misunderstandings, conflicts, personality differences, and even angry quarrels are not the assassins of love; self-justification is."[1] There is a lot of truth in it.

During His ministry, Jesus met many people who justified and exalted themselves above others. They thought they would never do anything wrong it is always the others. As Jesus was winding down his ministry, Jesus had a few choice words for those who thought they were right in their own eyes. What is the standard of righteousness? Who decides who is right and who is wrong? Who can be made right with God? Our passage will answer some of these questions.

Last week we learned that Jesus was leaving the region of Galilee for one last time and heading toward Jerusalem to complete His final mission. Along the way, he did some sequential things. He spoke about the Coming of the Kingdom of God. We embrace God's Kingdom that has invaded our lives and live accordingly rather than fixate on the one yet to come.

After that, He shares two parables on Prayer. One was about a persistent widow who never gave up knocking on the door of an ungodly judge until she got justice. Then he picked on those who were righteous in their own eyes. To address the dangerous traits of self-righteous attitudes among people, He told this parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. 

I. Prayer time in the temple

 The Jewish people prayed morning, afternoon, and evening in the temple. People could also go to the temple at any time for private Prayer. It was prayer time in the temple, and two men went up to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised Tax Collector. They were not just two individuals but represented two broad people groups: Pharisees and Tax Collectors.

The Pharisees: Were an influential religious sect within Judaism during Christ and the early Church. They were known for emphasizing personal piety. Some Pharisees hated anything Roman, including taxation and Jews who served as tax collectors. They were unwelcomed.

The Tax Collectors: These were Jews who worked for the hated Romans. They were seen as traitors to their own fellow citizens. Somehow the Pharisee and the Tax Collector went to the temple to pray simultaneously. Perhaps the Pharisee wanted to announce in everyone's hearing how good he was. The tax collector went to confess his sin and beg for mercy.

II. The prayers of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.

The Prayer of the Pharisee. Interestingly, Jesus points out how the Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this Prayer to himself. It's an image of the self-sufficiency found in his Prayer. Like many of us, his Prayer begins with thanksgiving. Except his gratitude is based on his self-esteem, piety, and charity. He prayed a very lengthy prayer consisting of 35 words.

In his prolonged Prayer, he referenced himself five times. He categorically put himself above others, such as cheaters, sinners, adulterers, etc. He distinguished himself by saying I am certainly not like that tax collector! What gave him that superior edge over others, so he thought?

Fasting and giving were prescribed in the law. Jesus fasted at least on one occasion for 40 days and taught about fasting. Some Pharisees considered fasting a public exercise to display one's spirituality. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for such outward hypocritical fasting.

The Pharisee in our story "fasted twice a week, more than necessary. He gave what the law required, nothing more, but bragged about his giving. He must have thought he would score more brownie points before God with all he did. What can we learn from the Pharisee’s Prayer?

What are you bragging about when you come to Church to worship and pray? What self-righteous attitudes might you be carrying? Are you proud of all you do for God? Are you self-righteous and look down on others? God sees what is going on in your heart. Let's listen to the most heartfelt Prayer of the Tax Collector, containing only 11 words.

The Prayer of the Tax Collector. Jesus described the tax collector as "despised or hated." I could only imagine the demeanor of this Tax Collector. He was broken and could hardly lift his head toward heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, "O, God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner." We understand his remorse when we know his actions.

What does "beating one's chest in sorrow mean? There are two kinds of beatings of the chest. One type is worldly, which conveys pride and arrogance. Like the Basket Ball players often beat their chests when they score a three-pointer. The Biblical chest beating in sorrow expresses one's remorse and shame over the sins one committed. In the Bible, the chest or heart is considered the seat of sin. Two people prayed; who do you think went home Justified?   

III. Who can be made right with God?

 Let’s follow the logic of the scripture. First, Jesus talked about the Kingdom's coming, then addressed who would be accepted or rejected from entering it. In this parable, we see the characteristics of recipients and rejecters of the Kingdom most sharply defined.

The Pharisee was proud and self-righteous, whereas the tax collector was humble and remorseful over his sins. Ultimately, the tax collector's heartfelt Prayer made him right with God. Jesus said, “I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God.

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” This parable begs the question, Who Can Be Made Right With God? It all depends not on our outward actions but on our inward attitudes. No matter where you pray, either in the Church or your private room, Prayer is a time for confession to get our hearts right with God.

In the parable, the Pharisee's self-righteous attitude and self-justifying mindset disqualified him from entering God’s Kingdom. The Tax Collector’s humble Prayer, “O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner,” made him go home justified before God.

The scriptures tell us,God looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise if anyone seeks God. But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one!” (Psalm 53:2-3). Prophet Isaiah mourned, “All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own.” Isaiah 53:6

Jesus the Good Shepherd, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36. In the parable of the lost sheep, how the shepherd rejoiced over his one lost sheep, Jesus said, “In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! (Luke 15:7)

In the parable, the Pharisee was one of those who were righteous in their own eyes. The Tax collector was, on the other hand, like the lost sheep. With whom would you identify yourself this morning, the Pharisee or the Tax Collector? No matter who you are, we all have sinned and need God’s mercy and forgiveness. You would be bypassed and disappointed if you were like the Pharisee, full of pride and self-righteousness. But if you are like the humble tax collector in humility, cry out to God, “O God be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.” You will go home, justified before God. In other words, you will be made right with God.






Sunday, March 5, 2023

The Coming of The Kingdom

                                               THE COMING OF THE KINGDOM

We have been praying for countries where Christians have been experiencing intense persecution for the past several weeks. Information on these countries is available at Open Doors' annual World Watch List 2023[1]. For instance, "North Korea is the number one country in the list as the most hostile place for Christians to live. Even owning a Bible is a serious crime and will be severely punished. North Korea is followed by Somalia, Yemen, Eritrea, Lybia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Iran, all are facing either war or internal strife or under authoritarian regimes, where Christians suffer the most. Yet, they continue to hold on to and proclaim their faith.

In India, where Narendra Modi's Hindu-nationalist government has curtailed the rights of members of other faiths, 1,750 Christians were arrested without trial in 2022. Open harassment is often accompanied by more subtle pressures, including daily abuses at workplaces, schools, and public facilities. Though difficult to quantify, they strongly impact communities and contribute to forcing Christians to displace internally and internationally."

What would your prayer be like if you were living in one of those countries? I would pray, Lord, when would your Kingdom come, and when would you establish Peace on Earth? You are not the first one who has asked such a question. The Pharisees asked Jesus the same question, when will the Kingdom of God come? The essence of this message is Jesus' answer to that question. I title this message "The Coming of the Kingdom." Luke 17:20-37.

We will be shifting our focus from Satan to the Savior. For the next six weeks, we will trace the Journey of Jesus to the Cross and how He healed, delivered, interacted with religious leaders, saved people, and taught principles of God's Kingdom at several crossroads. Our journey will conclude with the grand celebration of His resurrection from the dead. 

I. What is the Context of this passage?

As Jesus traveled through the region of Galilee, he healed the sick, delivered people affected by demons, fed the hungry, and saved sinners. For much of his ministry, Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God, preparing people to enter it, and the cost of following Him.

For the last time Jesus left Galilee, he would not return before his death. He passed through Samaria, met and healed ten people with leprosy, and continued to Jerusalem. One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, "When will the Kingdom of God Come?

They were focused on "when" the Messiah would come, topple down the Romans and establish his earthly Kingdom. His disciples asked in Matthew 24:3, "Tell us when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world? It looked like the skeptics and saints had the same questions, "When"? Let's see how Jesus responded to their questions.

II. The Coming of the Kingdom

Vs. 20-21, "Jesus replied, "The Kingdom of God can't be detected by visible signs. ( Or by your speculations. You won't be able to say, 'Here it is!' or 'It's over there!' For the Kingdom of God is already among you." (Or is within you or is in your grasp).

The Pharisees asked when God's Kingdom would come, not knowing that it had already arrived. The Kingdom of God is unlike an earthly kingdom with geographical boundaries and military power. Instead, it begins with the work of God's Spirit in people's lives.

When Jesus said, the Kingdom of God is already among you. He referred to His Kingdom's work of healing the blind and the sick and saving lives. Jesus wanted Pharisees and his Disciples not to be fixated on when it would come but on where the Kingdom was. They were to live in the moment and see God's Kingdom at work. Where do we see God's Kingdom at work among us? God is at work when lives are changed, and people live as Children of light.

We see God's Kingdom among us when lies become truth-tellers and thieves stop stealing. When angry, people become kind and forgive one another when people clean up their act, and grumblers and faultfinders become people of praise, gratitude, and appreciation.

We see God's kingdom right here when people stop reveling in drinking and parties and instead pursue God's righteousness and peace. When people stand up for justice, care for the poor and the needy, and come together on Sunday to worship, read God's word, and love and serve one another. We only see a fraction of God's Kingdom's work among us here and now.

We will see its fullness when the Son of Man returns and establish His earthly Kingdom.   

II. Who is the Son of Man?

Vs. 22-23, "Then he said to his disciples, "The time is coming when you will long to see the day when the Son of Man returns, but you won't see it. People will tell you, 'Look, there is the Son of Man,' or 'Here he is,' but don't go out and follow them." Who is the Son of Man?

Son of Man is the primary title Jesus used when referring to Himself. Other titles for Christ, such as Son of God, are overt in their focus on His deity. Son of Man, in contrast, focuses on the humanity of Christ. Son of Man is a fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel 7:13–14.

"As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world so that people of every race and nation, and language would obey him. His rule is eternal—it will never end. His Kingdom will never be destroyed." What a glorious day that would be when God finally reigns.

One day Jesus will fully fulfill this prophecy. Suffering must precede glory, however, as his death is necessary for the kingdom's arrival. We will look into Jesus' suffering more on Good Friday, but for now, we will pay attention to the signs that Signify His return to the earth.

III. The signs that signify the return of the Son of Man

            Jesus compared the days before His return to the days of  Lot and Noah. He was not referring to the wickedness of those days but people's preoccupation with Mundane things.

People of both times were occupied with banquets, parties, weddings, feasting, drinking, buying, selling, farming, and building. Lot's generation continued their daily activities until the fire and burning sulfur rained on them and destroyed all of them.

Noah's generation ignored the warnings and continued their revelries until he entered the Boat, and the flood came and destroyed them. Jesus draws parallels to the days of his return. Vs.30, "Yes, it will be 'business as usual' right up to the day when the Son of Man is revealed."

Are we any different than those two previous generations who neither knew God nor sought His Kingdom? As we look around for many, including Christians,  it is business as usual. Instead of seeking His Kingdom and righteousness first, we run after material things like the pagans. We are preoccupied with pleasure, comfort, security, wealth, and success.

After laying out what signs to watch for, Jesus warns them to be ready for his imminent return. Similarly, he warns us to be prepared. He may return anytime. Matthew 24:40, "So, you, too, must keep watch! For you don't know what day your Lord is coming."

Finally, the disciples seemed to have gotten the point, so they asked Luke 20:37, "Where will this happen, Lord? Jesus replied, "Just as the gathering of vultures shows there is a carcass nearby, so these signs indicate that the end is near. What does this mean? A single vulture flying over our heads can be a random act and no big deal, but if you see a swarm of vultures suddenly appear in the sky, it indicates a dead body nearby. Similarly, when we see one earthquake, crime, murder, and famine in one place, it is no big deal. But when we see them happening at random speeds and intensity, we pay attention to the signs and prepare. His return is very near.








Sunday, February 26, 2023

Victory Over Satan

                                                            VICTORY OVER SATAN

We are continuing our series on Spiritual Warfare. We have exposed our enemy's lies and insidious nature. We saw how he relentlessly roams around like a lion to devour God's people. We came to recognize and learn how to protect the three strategic battlegrounds from our enemy: The Mind, heart, and mouth. Today we will learn about the remaining weaponry in the Full Armor of God, how to ensure victory over Satan, and his final destination.

I. Spiritual Warfare is Defensive and Offensive.

The Apostle Paul's final words to the Ephesian believers were, "Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God's Armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the Devil." This scripture advises that when facing the enemy's supernatural power, we have to be strong in the Lord and His mighty power. It also tells us that every piece in the Armor is essential and has its place, and none of them should be forgotten.

The call to "put on" God's Armor recalls a similar appeal in 1Th 5:8. This Armor is provided by God and modeled on what he wears himself (Isa 11:5; 59:17). It is a complete outfit ("full armor," also v.13). The soldier must be protected from head to foot. His Armor consists of various pieces, both defensive and offensive.

"Stand" is a keyword in this passage (cf. vv.13-14). It is a military term for holding on to one's position. The equipment enables the soldier to ward off the enemy's attacks and make a stand against him. Before any offensive can be launched, one must, first of all, maintain his own ground. We began with the first critical piece of the Armor, the belt of truth.

The belt of truth here is not about just knowing the truth about something but knowing the one who said, "I am the Truth," and His name is Jesus. Putting on the belt of truth means putting on Jesus. Why? Because Spiritual Warfare has always been His fight. Jesus severely bruised the Devil's head on the Cross. He gives us strength to fight our battles against Satan.

II. Three defensive weapons: The Breast Plate, Helmet, and Shield.

The Apostle Paul calls them "the Breastplate of righteousness, the Shield of faith, and the Helmet of salvation. A. Breastplate of righteousness: The "breastplate" covers the body of a soldier from the neck to the thighs. It was made of bronze, though more affluent officers wore a coat of chain mail. What does the breastplate of righteousness mean?

It means to live a life of uprightness and integrity. When we are tempted to do or say things contrary to God's standards, we resist the Devil by doing what is right. For instance, Wilma was given a card to sign at her workplace to congratulate a gay colleague on her wedding.

Though Wilma loved her colleague, she didn't sign it because her conscience didn't allow her. Was it frowned upon by people? Yes! Was it the right thing to do? Yes! Sometimes doing the right thing in God's eyes is not well-liked by people, but regardless we do what is right.

B. The helmet of Salvation. In NASB, it says, "And take the helmet of salvation." The "helmet" covered the head. It was made of bronze with leather attachments. In Isa 59:17, the Lord wears "the helmet of salvation" and the "breastplate of righteousness." We share that divine equipment.

The verb "take" reflects that the helmet and sword were usually handed to a soldier by his armorbearer. This verb is appropriate to the "givenness" of Salvation. In other words, God freely gives us the gift of Salvation, and we have done nothing to earn it. All we need to do is to put it on as a helmet that protects us from doubts of whether we are saved or fears of losing it.




C. The Shield of Faith:  Vs. 16, In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the Devil." A Roman soldier held a large shield in front of him for protection. It consisted of two layers of wood glued together, covered with linen and hide, and bound with iron. Soldiers often fought side by side with a solid wall of shields. But even a single-handed combatant found himself sufficiently protected. For the Christian, this protective shield is "faith."

            The function of the shield of faith is to stop the fiery arrows of the Devil. What might be the fiery arrows? They could be self-doubt, accusations, condemnation, or conspiracy theories. When the enemy hurls these fiery arrows, we can lift our personal and collective shields of faith in Christ. Our individual faith alone, at times, may not get us through. We need others' faith as well. That is why it is essential that we belong to a Bible-believing and practicing Church to grow in our faith collectively and face any fiery arrows that the enemy might throw at us.


III. Two offensive weapons: The Shoes and the Sword. 

D. The gospel shoes: Vs. 15, "For shoes, put on the readiness to preach the Good News of peace with God." Once the breastplate has been fitted into position, the soldier puts on his strong army boots; these ensure a good grip. The military successes of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar were due in large measure to their armies being well-shod so they could undertake long marches at incredible speed over rough terrain.

What does "readiness" suggest? It signifies a prepared foundation, that is, "the gospel of peace" We were the enemies of God, but through Christ, we have made our peace with God. Our position of being reconciled to God gives us a sure foothold to walk into the enemy's territory by preaching the Gospel of Peace. As Paul encouraged Timothy, we are to "Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not." II Tim 4:2.

E. The Sword of the Spirit: The final weapon is the "sword," the short two-edged cut-and-thrust sword wielded by the heavily armed legionary. The "sword of the Spirit," the word of God, is the Christian's weapon of offense. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus used God's word, the sword of the Spirit, effectively to overcome Satan. All believers are given the same Word of God. Let's use it effectively to thwart the schemes of the Devil. With this, the Armor is complete. Knowing about it will not make us victorious, then what or who will?


By knowing and seeing what the Devil can do, one wonders whether it is even possible to stand against him, let alone defeat him, to claim a victory. Jesus had fought all the battles and won the war against our chief enemy Satan when He triumphed over sin and death on the Cross.

Jesus built His Church upon himself; no one, including Satan, can overcome it. In Ephesians 2:20, the Apostle Paul reminded the Ephesian believers they were God's house, built on the foundations of the apostles and prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself."

All those who believe in Jesus become part of God's glorious Church worldwide. Over the centuries, the Devil tried to destroy the Church, but He failed and will never succeed. We know how his story is going to end. Revelation 12:12 tells us he has little time left.

So he is intensifying persecution of God's Church. The Lord has not abandoned His Church; He has given us tools to combat and overcome the Devil. Part of those tools is "The Full Armor of God." Now you know the truth about every piece of the Armor, what will you do?



On the final judgment day, the Devil will be thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." (Rev 20:10). How can we ensure victory over Satan? By applying the three R principles.

Recognize: Recognizing you're in a war is a big part of the victory. Our enemy has already been defeated, and his destiny in hell is sealed. Refuse: Refusing Satan is passive Warfare. Once you recognize what he is up to, ignore it and avoid it. Turn away and begin to worship the Lord, and lift Him up. Refuse to be hurt. Refuse to be angry. Just let it go by.

Resist: This is active Warfare. We are told to humble ourselves before God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from us. (James 4:7). God won't resist him—you have to. Put on the whole Armor of God and firmly stand your ground against the enemy, and he will flee from you.