Was Jesus the First to say “Don’t Worry, Be Happy?”

(Luke 12:22-31)

smiley faceHow many times have you heard the expression, “Don’t worry, be happy?” There have been songs singing about it and it has appeared on Tee shirts, bumper stickers and so. It’s easy to say and just rolls off the tongue. But who was the first to say it? I don’t really know, but I reckon Jesus said something similar that could have been the basis for this saying. Here are five reasons why you can say, “Don’t worry, be happy” with Christ Jesus.

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Why the Buck Doesn’t Stop Here

(Luke 12:13-21)

Most people would look at this title and wonder what the heck is going on. It is a common saying that “The Buck Stops Here” which was popularised by President Harry Truman who meant it to mean that ultimately he took responsibility for most things. Some have “bent” its meaning over the years and wish for the buck to stop with them, that is to accumulate wealth.

But Jesus taught in this section a different perspective on this attitude, both in terms of responsibility and money.

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Our Home is in Heaven

(Luke 9:57-62)

Jesus gave several teachings in this short section of scripture which discuss the fact that our home is in heaven and warns us to get our priorities in order.

Our Home is in Heaven

A man said to the Lord that he would follow him wherever he would go. Buit Jesus says to the man, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Verse 58)

The Lord’s home was in heaven not here on the earth. In this statement he shows that his home was not here but was with God in heaven. Jesus was not of the earth. John the Baptist testified to this fact saying, “He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth belongs to the earth, and of the earth he speaks; he who comes from heaven is above all.” (John 3:31)

And we too need to have this same thought in our minds. We need to recognise that when we come to God through Jesus Christ, our life is not of this world but a life in the Spirit. As Paul testified, “For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3)

Our home is in heaven with Christ and in the spirit we are already seated at the right hand of the Father in Jesus Christ. So let us live our lives accordingly and act and behave in a manner that befits a people who bear the name of Jesus Christ. We should think as the great men and woman of faith thought as spoken of in Hebrews 11:13, “These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”

Get Your Priorities in Order

The second teaching that the Lord gave in this part of Luke 9 was to get our priorities in order.

Just consider for a moment. If you had something so valuable and so important that it outweighed anything and everything by comparison, wouldn’t you want to put it first in your life?

Well that is what we have received in Christ Jesus. We have the promise of eternal life with Jesus, and it is given to us as a free gift, provided we don’t reject it. Our number one priority is to ensure we take hold of the gift he has given us. This does not mean that we reject friends and loved ones because if we are living as Christ lived we will embrace our friends in the love of God.

But when we are being led astray or taken away from the Lord through the things of this world that is when we need to get out priorities sorted out. We cannot serve two masters and we cannot let anything get between us and the Lord.

The final verse in this section makes it plain. “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Verse 62) If you look back in your walk with Christ you are lost.

Think about it when you are driving. Could you drive your car by only looking in the rear view mirror? Of course not! Likewise a farmer could not plough a straight path by looking at where he has been. He needs to look where he is going. And so do we. We cannot walk a straight path to the Lord if we look back to the things of the world from which we have escaped. Look forward to Christ and find the pathway to life.

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Seek First the Kingdom of God

Warnings and Woes

(Luke 6:24-26)

Do you have young kids?

Have you ever had to watch kids in the kitchen or on the beach or around the barbecue? They run around without a fear in the world and if you don’t watch them it often ends in tears.

Even when you do watch them, they are so darned quick that they are into mischief and hurt themselves before you can yell, “Look out!”

Listen to Good Advice

What about when it is you instead of a young child? Do you take warnings and listen to advice?

Jesus in this section of scripture is giving you and me some really good advice. He is telling us that seeking the satisfaction and comfort of this world is not necessarily the best use of your time or your life.

Look at his words. Woe to you that are rich, or are full now, or that laugh now or who the people of this world think highly of. He is telling you that it is not a good thing to be in these places.

The Problem of Seeking the Things of this World

When you seek the things of this world you are not seeking Jesus.

All of the pride of this world and the things that man values so highly are not important to God. God knows that the things man seeks are futile for man seeks the things that are temporary and transitory.

Money can be lost in a flutter of the economic markets. Possessions can be lost, stolen or damaged. Other goods will wear our, rust or fall into decay. Position and power in the world does not last.

So why seek the things that are not going to last? Why look for the things that will wear out?

And in these scriptures Jesus shows us that if you seek the comforts and satisfactions of this world, you have received your reward and there will be no reward from God. This is because when you seek the things of this world you are not seeking God for God is not found in the things of this world.

Jesus is Priority One

In this section Jesus is telling us that our priorities need to be realigned. We need to make Jesus our first priority and seek the things that are of God.

So should you not laugh? Should you have no money or not be comfortable? No, Jesus is not saying that at all. But when it is your focus and your priority to seek these things first, then you have missed the point.

God will and does provide for his people. He will never forsake his people or leave them in need or in want of the things to sustain life. And he blesses those who seek him.

But the first priority is to seek his kingdom and the things that please God. Then all the rest come later. When we do this we receive the benefits of all that Jesus offers and most importantly we receive the eternal blessings of life that does not fade, rust or decay and cannot be taken away from you.

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For more information and further reading check the following:

Seek First the Kingdom of God
Salt of the Earth and Jesus Establishes the Standards of Christianity

The Christian Value Proposition

(Mark 8:34-38)

Yesterday I wrote about what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his life. Overnight I felt there was more that needed to be said, especially in relation to the second question Jesus posed. He said, “What can a man give in return for his life?” (Verse 37) Jesus actually answered that question in this section, and has also answered it elsewhere, so I would like to address this question further.

fair-valueBefore doing so we need to understand what he is talking about when speaking of profit. I touched on this yesterday, but overnight had more information and insight given to me by the Lord.

When man talks about profit he is talking about something of value. In this world every person spends their time whether they know it or not, seeking value. When we work we are seeking value, wages so we can buy things we need. When we buy something we are exchanging one thing of value, our work effort converted into money, for something else of value, the goods or services being purchased.

Money is only the medium of exchange. The real value in the transaction is in the work we perform and the time we put into working, in exchange for goods and services to satisfy our needs; food, shelter, clothing, entertainment or whatever.

In everything we do in life we are looking for a value proposition that is acceptable to us and the other party we are dealing with. Basically there are three types of value proposition. When we are satisfied with the exchange of value we have a “fair value” transaction. If we think we have paid too much for something we feel “ripped off.” On the other hand if we believe the value of the goods or services is greater than what we have paid, we believe we have a “bargain.”

Now when Jesus asked, “What can a man give in return for his life?” I have often thought of this as sort of a rhetorical question. As I considered this overnight I realised it isn’t. What the Lord asks of man to give in return for his life IS his life! That is, if we are to receive eternal life the Lord is seeking us to forsake the things of this life that would lead us astray and away from the Lord.

In a nutshell, the Lord is seeking our obedience to the word of life so that we can receive life eternal. He says as much in this same section. Verse 35 says, “For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” That is, whoever would seek the things of this life, wealth, riches, power, material possessions and so on, will lose the opportunity of eternal life. All the trappings of this world are of this world and not of God.

However the second half of this scripture says that anyone who will forgo all the trappings of this life and the world as we know it for the sake of Jesus Christ and the gospel will receive his eternal life. Is this consistent with other scriptures? Yes it is. For we see in the following scriptures from Matthew 13:44-46 this same sentiment expressed.

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls,
46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

In both these parables the two men discovered something of great value that they desperately wanted to possess. In order to gain this thing of great value they went and sold everything they had so they could own it. The value of the treasure and the pearl were so enormous that they outshone the value of everything else they possessed and everything else was completely insignificant by comparison.

That is what entry to the kingdom of God is like. The opportunity of eternal life so exceeds anything on this earth that the value of it makes anything else seem worthless. So in answer to the question Jesus posed saying, “What can a man give in return for his life?” the answer is that we must be prepared to give up everything in this world and of this life to receive the far more valuable treasure of eternal life.

Coming back to the value proposition, is this a “rip-off,” or a “fair value trade” or is it a “bargain”? The truth is that there is one other value proposition that is better again and the gospel of Jesus fits into that category. The only thing better than a “bargain” is to also get a “bonus.” What we are trading our life in this world for is a life into eternity. By any measure that is a great bargain. We are trading a life of typically sixty to eighty years in a world full of sin, trouble, pressure, stress, suffering and anxiety for a life into eternity without any of those things. That has to be the greatest bargain of all time.

BonusBut it gets better because there is a bonus as well. By following the teachings of Jesus in the Gospel of the truth we also get a better standard of life here and now. We get a great treasure in this world, not in a monetary sense, but in the things that really matter in this world. In Jesus we have peace, security, joy, love, happiness and the knowledge that any and every problem we may come up against we can hand over to Jesus for he cares about us. Now that’s what I call a bonus!

People chase money, wealth and power in the hope of have peace, happiness and security, but money and possessions can never provide these things. Money and possessions can be lost, stolen and destroyed as we have seen in the recent financial crises around the world. Money cannot be relied upon, but God can. If we want happiness, peace and security then we need to come to Jesus for these things do not exist in a reliable form anywhere else.

It seems the church has fallen for the same trap as the world. Those ministers who preach a wealth ministry are basically telling their flock that they cannot find happiness and security in God. They are replacing the God of Creation and Jesus Christ with the false god of this world, money. There is no security in money as the value of currency is at the whim of the markets. Some years ago I travelled around the USA when the Australian dollar was worth around fifty US cents. Today the Aus dollar is worth around US$1-06 because of the financial crisis. This dramatic shift was caused by the greed of a few financiers who have brought the global economy to the brink of bankruptcy for their own gain.

Should you then rely on money as a saviour? Can you rely on the dollar for security when it can be so quickly devalued? No. And neither should it be preached as the will of God for us to be rich. These wealth ministers have fallen into the trap of the church at La-odice’a written about in Revelation.

15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot!
16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.
17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
18 Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.

Thinking they are rich they have missed the truth. The gold they need to buy from God is the knowledge of the truth so they can be truly rich, not in monetary terms, but in spiritual terms.

We must seek his kingdom first and then we will be in a position to receive the greatest bargain of all time and the bonus that goes with it. Eternal life in God’s kingdom and a life of peace, happiness and security now. That is the real value proposition of Christianity that is on offer to all of mankind. Who in their right mind would pass up on such a bargain? Nobody, but many still will and do for they are blinded by the trinkets of the here and now rather than the greater value that is on offer in the future.

(Picture sourced from stock.xchng http://www.sxc.hu)

What Does It Profit to Gain the World and Forfeit Your Life?

(Mark 8:34-38)

What does it profit to gain the whole world and lose your life? This question was posed by Jesus to his disciples and the people along with another. What can a man give in return for his life?

Too often today we see people make the wrong decisions and forfeit their life for the wrong reasons. This world is driven by greed and the desire for money.

profit-moneyProfit is the driving force behind most decisions that are made for the sake of making money. The welfare of people comes a distant second or third for business after the all consuming greed for making money.

This lust for money has also found its way into the modern church. There are many in the church preaching a wealth ministry where it is supposedly God’s plan for his people to be wealthy. This is a false teaching that has no basis in scripture.

While there is great value to be had with godliness, as Paul wrote to Timothy (1 Timothy 4:8), nowhere in scripture does it promote that the people of God should seek after wealth.

Money is of this world, not of God. Jesus showed this when they brought him a coin to pay the tax to Caesar saying, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mark 12 :17) He showed that money belonged to this world for it belongs to Caesar, not God.

Money is shown to be a hindrance, especially the lust for money, “For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:10) So if the love of money causes some to wander away from the faith, why do some pastors and teachers today think it is God’s will that people should be wealthy? Why do they think that people should surround themselves with wealth, material possessions and riches, when all of these things are of this world, and will fail?

It is the devil who controls the wealth of this world. He offered all the kingdoms of the world to Jesus when he was in the wilderness saying, “And the devil took him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.” (Luke 4:5-6) So if it is the devil who controls the wealth of this world, why do some preachers consider that to be wealthy is a promise of God?

What does it profit to gain the whole world and lose your life? It profits nothing. The only true profit is to seek God and his kingdom. Jesus said not to worry about what we will eat, drink or wear. He said not to worry about the things of this world for he knows we need to eat, be clothed and sheltered and he has promised to provide for our needs. But of much greater importance is to, “…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

Our priorities as Christians are not to be focussed on the riches, wealth and material possessions of this world. Our priority lies with focussing on the things of the Spirit and seeking God’s kingdom. That is where our true profit is to be found. That is where we will find our life rather than any and all gain that might be had in this world, which is doomed to destruction.

(Picture sourced from stock.xchng www.sxc.hu Created by Svilen Milev http://efffective.com )

Cleanse the Inside of the Cup First

(Matthew 23:25-26)

The Pharisees were very concerned about position. They wanted to look good to men. They wanted the praise of men rather than the praise of God. But Jesus taught that it is not what is on the outside that matters but what is on the inside. That is the essence of this teaching to cleanse the inside of the cup first so that the outside would be clean too.

When you think about a cup, if it has been used you will always wash it out before re-using it. And when you wash it your focus will be more on the inside of the cup than outside, for it is the inside that will hold your drink. You do not want your drink contaminated by grime so you will always focus a greater attention on cleaning the inside first. Even if the outside were unable to be properly cleaned, you could always use a spoon or a straw to eat or drink the contents, but the most important thing is that the inside is clean first.

In this analogy Jesus uses the cup as a representation of men, specifically the Pharisees. His beef with them is that they will go to great lengths to clean up the outside but spend little or no effort on the inside. Back in Matthew 23:5 he said, “They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long.” They focussed on wearing the cloaks and clothes of their office as priests so that they would look “righteous.” They wanted people to look at them and say, “Look at him in those clothes. He must be a righteous man of God.” But contrary to a common saying, clothes do NOT maketh the man. Jesus did not go about in robes that made him stand out from the crowd. He did not were the clothes, cloaks and garments of the clergy. He just wore the same kind of clothes that the rest of the people wore.

In Jesus it does not matter what you wear or what you look like on the outside. The focus of the New Covenant is not about making us look good, it’s about training us how to be good. The New Covenant and the teachings of Jesus are aimed at transforming us into his image. They are meant to bring us to maturity in Christ in our spirit, not in the flesh. Jesus said, “It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (John 6:63) If we are to have our spirit changed and if we are to receive life, then it is our inside that must be transformed. It is our spirit that must be cleansed.

The Pharisees were focussed on making a good show in the flesh. They were trying to look good on the outside. Paul also upbraided those who did such things saying, “It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that would compel you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For even those who receive circumcision do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may glory in your flesh.” (Galatians 6:12-13) There were some in the early church insisting on converts being circumcised according to the law. But Paul opposed them and repelled such actions for circumcision is not necessary under the New Covenant. As he said, they were doing this so they could glory in the flesh.

This is exactly what Jesus was saying too. They were trying to cleanse the outside without first cleansing the inside. It does not matter if a person is wearing the cloth of the clergy or is circumcised. These things do not make you any holier. It is only by focussing on the inside and being set free from sin that you can come to the Lord. It is only by accepting Jesus as Saviour and learning his teachings that we may be cleansed from sin and set free from law. Then our spirits will be changed and this will work from the inside out. We will be cleansed within which will cleanse the outside as well.

Woe to You Blind Guides

(Matthew 23:16-22)

Jesus condemns the priests, Pharisees and scribes for being blind guides saying, “Woe to you blind guides.” He calls them this because their focus is wrong. The things they consider important are not what God considers important.

Jesus said elsewhere, “Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:14) Again he was speaking of the Pharisees and it is clear that anyone who follows a blind man will stumble. If you cannot see where you are going you need guidance by someone who does see clearly. Think about a time when you have got up in the middle of the night and moved about the house without turning on a light. You bump into things, perhaps stub your toe or fall over. But these problems go away when you turn on the light.

In a spiritual sense it is the same. If you seek the light of knowledge that comes from the Lord you will see clearly to navigate the waters of life. But these blind guides, the Pharisees, were teaching wrongly. They focussed on the wrong things. When they said that a person is not bound by their oath if they swear by the temple, but only if they swear by the gold of the temple, they were quite wrong. The temple makes the gold sacred, not the other way around. Take the gold out of the temple and it is just gold. But the temple remained the house of God.

Furthermore, such teaching leads to loopholes in the law. They offer what is called “wriggle room” by lawyers today, which is anathema to God. They allow the people an “out” so they can renege on their vows, and in God’s sight this is wrong and comes from evil. In fact Jesus taught that a person should not even make oaths but let their yes be yes and their no be no. (Matthew 5:37, James 5:12) What he wants is that we should be a people who keep our word. He wants us to be trustworthy in what we say with no shades of grey or “wriggle room.”

But these Pharisees showed their lack of knowledge through what they were teaching. They were blind to the truth. As Jesus showed, because the temple is holy, so too is everything in it. Likewise, as the altar is holy, then so too is everything on it. There are no ifs, buts or maybes in God’s sight, but that is exactly what the Pharisees were preaching and were rightly condemned for it.

Is it any different today? Do teachers and preachers focus on the priorities of God or of men? Fortunately many teachers and preachers do focus on the right things, the things of God. But there are “Pharisees” still around today. When the preachers of today are focussed on the things of man, when they focus on money, works and power for themselves they are clearly blind. When they consider themselves as greater than others they show their blindness. As an example of the kind of church in this category look at what the Lord said to the church in Laodicea in Revelation 3:15-18.

“15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot!
16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.
17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
18 Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.”

They are blind but believed they had it all. By contrast the Lord says they are blind. They cannot see that they have gone astray and are chasing the things of the world rather than the things of God. They are seeking wealth, power and riches, but have ignored the truth. So the Lord counsels them to seek the truth and the righteousness that comes from God.

For us we need to look out for those who would take us into captivity with false teaching. We must be aware of what we are listening to and seek the light of the knowledge of truth. Place your focus on the things of God and not the things of men so that the Lord will not say to us, “Woe to you blind guides,” as he said to those Pharisees.

Parable of the Marriage Feast – The Great Invitation

(Matthew 22:1-10)

The parable of the marriage feast is interesting for several reasons. It was given to the chief priests and Pharisees and showed how they and those who acted similarly to them were unworthy of the kingdom of heaven. It also shows how the great invitation to all mankind was given so that every person may have the opportunity of coming to God and entering the kingdom of heaven.

First we see the king in the parable of the marriage feast send out servants to call in all of those who were invited. The ones who were invited in this sense were those who were supposed to be the followers of God. This included the chief priests and Pharisees and those who followed their teachings. They were the office bearers and those in control of God’s house and the teachers of the Old Covenant and so should have been in a position to know and understand his ways.

However we see from this parable and other teachings that these people had gone away from a pure devotion to God’s ways and turned aside into other things. They were holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. Thus we see Jesus say of these people who were invited that they made light of the invitation, they refused to come to the marriage feast, they went off on other business and worst of all they beat, killed or treated shamefully the servants sent to call them to the marriage feast. These servants were the prophets, teachers and apostles of Jesus and God who were treated badly by the supposed people of God.

So they were all found to be unworthy. They made excuses why they could or would not attend the marriage feast, or they turned on the king by attacking his servants. Thus the king sent and destroyed those murderers and their city. God broke down the power base of the temple by bringing into effect the New Covenant through Jesus Christ. The New Covenant has now replaced the Old Covenant.

Now we see the great invitation go out to all of mankind. The king in the parable tells his servants not to go to those who were invited and found unworthy, but to go to the world, to the streets and thoroughfares and invite all of mankind. In Jesus Christ under the New Covenant we see the way is open for all mankind to come before God. There are now no intermediaries between man and God. There is no clergy and laity in God’s kingdom, no group who are to have authority over other and stand between man and God. All are equal in God’s sight and come to him through Jesus Christ only. Jesus is the only intermediary between man and God and the only one through whom we may be saved.

The servants of Jesus Christ have delivered the great invitation. The preachers, teachers, apostles and so on of the Lord are the servants going out to the thoroughfares and streets of the world to invite all mankind to the marriage feast. That is, they are all offered the opportunity to come to God through Jesus Christ and enter into his kingdom.

We have still yet to see the full effect of the great invitation. The time is soon, but has not yet fully arrived. Jesus says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) This is to occur just prior to the time of the end. When he says, “this gospel,” he is talking about the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Not the many things that is preached as truths but have no basis in Christianity or backup in the Bible. There are many things taught in the name of Christianity that are false and sometimes even opposed to the New Covenant. When the time comes I believe we will see the truth of the gospel preached. It will come attended with the signs and wonders as testimony to the truth of the words spoken.

There will also be pretended signs and wonders from Satan to lead astray the people. So it is important now to ground yourself in the knowledge of the truth. You must find out for yourself the truth of the New Covenant and to follow the ways of Jesus Christ. Thus when the truth is preached and the great invitation goes out, you will be ready to hear it and accept God’s invitation to the marriage feast.

I do not pretend for one moment to know all of the truth of the New Covenant or the ways of God. But as Paul said, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Philippians 3:12) Likewise we must all press on to make it our own. We must listen to the words of God and learn from the Bible. Listen to the teachers and preachers and compare what they say with what the Bible says. Find the tests in the Bible by which you can compare these teachings and apply the tests to understand if what is said is truth or error. As an example, the New Covenant calls us to freedom in Christ Jesus. Thus any teaching that brings you into bondage is not of Christ. Always look to the Lord for guidance and leadership and you will find the truth and gain entry into the marriage feast and the kingdom of heaven when the great invitation is sent out.