Reflections for the Week of March 11, 2018 Fourth of Lent

Gospel: John 3.14-21. This selection from John tells the story from Numbers 21.7-9 about rebellious Israel being attacked by fiery serpents and how the Lord told Moses to make a bronze serpent on a pole which lifted up like the crucified Lord would save them by faith. Jn 3.16 says God sent His Son so the everyone who believes in Him will be saved.

Perhaps the most important question anyone can ask himself is ‘what must I do to be saved?’ To be saved means to be rescued from all kinds of negative things like addictions and compulsions to various sins which make us miserable, from pride (which is addiction to self), anger, unforgiveness, unbelief in the Lord, and for such values as love, joy, peace, prudence, wisdom, all of which we gain by following Jesus.

To follow Him means to study His life in the Gospels, in the epistles, in commentaries, and in other works devoted to Him and what He said and did. And then to try to put into practice  the things we’ve learned about Him. He exemplified love and we can learn how to love by seeing how He behaved in various circumstances. He had virtually eliminated His Self–so that insults and conflicts didn’t anger Him as they may do us. One of the few things that disturbed Him was offenses against His Father and that may have been because of he effect on the offender. He wanted above everything else to please the Father with whom He sought  a very close connection through prayer and obedience. He was very truthful in His conversation with people. He told them what they needed to hear for their sake, not for His. If they didn’t like it, it was usually a valuable insight for them, like when He told the rich young ruler that he should sell his possessions and follow Jesus (Mt 19.16f.; Mk 10.17-30; Lk 18.18-30). The young man had asked Jesus what he should do to have eternal life? There’s that very important question again. Jesus saw that the young man had a problem with the idolatry of possessions (not an uncommon idolatry), so He told him to get rid of his possessions. Like His advice to the person whose eye caused her problems (Mt 5.29) was to get rid of her eye!  The young man didn’t like the advice (he went away sad), but if he paid attention to what Jesus told him, if he obeyed, he may have gained eternal life. I like to imagine that the young man was Saul of Tarsus and he did become obedient after the risen Jesus confronted him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9.2ff.). At that watershed moment (we might call it a moment of conversion) Saul, now called Paul, began to deny himself, did take up his cross, and began to follow Jesus by becoming the Apostle to the Gentiles. Even if it wasn’t really Paul, it makes a good point, doesn’t it? To deny oneself is to begin to put Jesus ahead of yourself (the reverse, putting yourself ahead of Jesus is idolatry). To take up one’s cross means to begin killing oneself off and putting God in place fo yourself. Following Jesus is what Paul (Saul’s new self) did for the rest of his life. It was not an easy life but he gained the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5.22,23). He devoted himself to something centered in others rather than himself. He was following what he thought God wanted him to do, namely help to bring in the kingdom of God which was the subject Jesus preached most about. There’s food there for thought for the fourth week of Lent. Believers are a royal priesthood in the kingdom of God–reflecting His royal Self into the world for others to sea and love, and reflecting the praise of the world back to God.

Memory Verse: Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Rm 5.1,2).

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