You All Are Dogs

Here is another saying of Jesus that makes you do a double-take, “did he really just call her and her people dogs?”

To get started, in all the talk about Christian unity, what are things that still separate us?

  1. Different beliefs or practices.
  2. Worship style (regular, charismatic, liturgy, reading, silent).
  3. Usually we are a gathering of cliques, each devoted to its own members, race, style.

Remind yourself of the mission of the church.

  1. We are to continue the mission of Christ and spread his story.
  2. His last command should be our first concern (Matthew 28:19-20).
  3. He assumed his followers would be going… “as you are going,” make disciples. In the context of everyday life, how can we be involved in making disciples?

Did Jesus really just say that?

  1. None of us can imagine the amount of racial bias inside of ourselves: through ignorance, personal upbringing, experiences.
  2. Who were THOSE people in this story?
    1. They withdrew from Tyre and Sidon (two non-Jewish cities) which were symbols of OT paganism and godlessness (northwest Philistia).
    2. They were specifically condemned by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel: these were poster children for God’s anger and righteous judgment.
    3. So, what is the typical Jewish opinion of non-Jews? Gentiles were synonymous with pagan and heathen, compared to God’s holy nation (Exodus 19:6). Even the Psalmist cursed the other nations (Ps 9, 59, 137).
    4. How did the disciples feel about being in this region?
  3. This woman represented the contempt the Jews felt about other people. The disciples clearly knew their national history.
    1. She knew all this as well, which tells us something about this woman who was willing to approach Jesus.
    2. She knew something about how to approach God (since she was familiar with Judaism): she used a very Jewish title for Jesus (Son of David).
    3. She not only had knowledge, but she had passion: she cried out in a loud voice. Implication is that she did it for a long time.
    4. She also was in desperate need: approaching the Jews with all their turned-up noses.
    5. She believed that Jesus could help: employing the classic attributes to secure a response from God, humility and faith.
  4. How did Jesus respond to her?
    1. First he ignored her, which suited the disciples just fine.
    2. They were uncomfortable not only because of the wailing, but she was a Gentile, unclean, a pagan.
    3. They urged Jesus to just send her away, “I came for the house of Israel.”
    4. She would not take “no” for an answer. “I can’t take the children’s bread and give it to the dogs.” Take the goodness reserved for the chosen people and give it to someone like you.
  5. What is it about dogs? They were not the pets we have today, but scavengers, filthy, and dangerous. It was a dramatic insult to her.
    1. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs from the master’s table.” I know you’re right, but take pity on a dog like me.
    2. Jesus liked her answer. What did her words reveal about her faith?

The key to understanding this event may lie in the story prior to this one: Jesus facing off with the Pharisees (Matthew 15:1-20).

  1. They criticized Jesus ministry, these disciples didn’t even wash their hands right.
    1. They knew nothing about purity, but Jesus defends them, their omission had nothing to do with real purity. Real purity is internal, not external.
    2. They got angry and walked away, and then Jesus explained further to his disciples, which they didn’t get. Purity is from the HEART. Not where you live or your ethnic background.
    3. On the heels of this conversation about purity, they withdraw to Tyre and Sidon.
  2. Now Jesus is able to flesh this teaching out with the disciples, to show them about purity in a real-life sort of way.
  3. What better place to teach about purity than in the most unclean place imaginable?
    1. How do you define purity?
    2. How do you differentiate between inner and outer purity?
    3. What is the most unclean place you know?
    4. This woman taught them about what being clean was all about.

In such a dirty place Jesus found something clean. What could be clean about her willingness to be called a dog? Her desperation. It is in desperation that people can see their need most clearly.

  1. She wasn’t thinking about how foolish she looked.
  2. She was not thinking about the judgmental glances.
  3. She had the purity of desperation, something the Pharisees and his own disciples lacked.

Jesus commends her faith! When we express our need for God, we say something about HIM.

  1. Are we conscious of our need?
  2. Are you comfortable talking to God about your needs, or are you fairly self-sufficient?

In keeping with a theme of the gospel going to the dogs, how about this: Don’t give what is holy to dogs and don’t cast pearls before swine… (Matthew 7:6)?

“Do not cast your pearls before swine” is a portion of the Sermon on the Mount, and to understand its meaning, we have to understand its context and placement within the sermon.

  1. Christ had just finished instructing the crowd on judgment and reproof: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2), and “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5).
  2. Then in verse 6, Christ tempers these admonitions and shows us the difference between “judgment” and “discernment.”

The analogy of the dogs:

  1. The analogy actually comes from Proverbs: “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly” (Proverbs 26:11).
  2. Swine are also described in this way, as illustrated by Peter: “Of them [false prophets and teachers] the proverbs are true: ‘A dog returns to its vomit,’ and, ‘A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud’” (2 Peter 2:22).
  3. The dogs and swine here are representative of those who would ridicule, reject, and blaspheme the gospel once it has been given to them.
  4. We are not to put forth the gospel of Jesus Christ in the direction of someone who has no other purpose than to trample it and return to his own evil ways. We identify such people through discernment, which is given in some measure to all Christians (1 Corinthians 2:15-16).

This does not mean we refrain from preaching the gospel. Jesus Himself ate with and taught sinners and tax collectors (Matthew 9:10).

  1. In essence, the instruction in Matthew 7:6 is the same that Jesus gave to His apostles when He said, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town” (Matthew 10:14).
  2. We are not to judge others, because we are guilty of the same things they are, but reserving judgment does not prevent us from discerning those who would accept, or at least respect, the gospel from those who would ridicule, mock, and trample it, and then turn on us and abuse us.
  3. Balancing judgment with discernment is the wisdom of serpents Jesus refers to in Matthew 10:16.

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The Importance of Purity

God gave man and woman the joy and pleasure of sexual relations within the bounds of marriage, and the Bible is clear about the importance of maintaining sexual purity within the boundaries of that union between man and wife (Ephesians 5:31). We take this to extremes, outside of marriage and it causes all sorts of troubles. The secular world’s philosophy of “if it feels good, do it” permeates our culture to the point where sexual purity is seen as archaic and unnecessary.

Let’s look at what God says about sexual purity.

You should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, 7).

This passage outlines God’s reasons for calling for sexual purity in the lives of His followers.

We are “sanctified” and for that reason, we are to avoid sexual immorality.

  1. The Greek word translated “sanctified” means literally “purified, made holy, consecrated [unto God].”
  2. As Christians, we are to live a purified life because we have been made holy by the exchange of our sin for the righteousness of Christ on the cross and have been made completely new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
  3. Our old natures, with all their impurities, sexual and otherwise, have died and now the life we live, we live by faith in the One who died for us (Galatians 2:20).
  4. To continue in sexual impurity (fornication) is to deny that and doing so is, in fact, a legitimate reason to question whether we have ever truly been born again.
  5. Sanctification, the process by which we become more and more Christlike, is an essential evidence of the reality of our salvation.

We see the necessity of controlling our bodies.

  1. When we give in to sexual immorality, we give evidence that the Holy Spirit is not indwelling us because we do not possess one of the fruits of the Spirit—self-control.
  2. All believers display the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) to a greater or lesser degree depending on the length of time they have walked with God.
  3. Uncontrolled “passionate lust” is a work of the flesh (Galatians 5:19), not of the Spirit. So controlling our lusts and living sexually pure lives is essential to anyone who professes to know Christ. In doing so, we honor God with our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

We know God’s rules and discipline reflect His love for us.

  1. Following what God says can only help us during our time on earth.
  2. By maintaining sexual purity before marriage, we avoid past emotional entanglements that may negatively affect present relationships and marriages.
  3. Further by keeping the marriage bed pure (Hebrews 13:4), we can experience unreserved love for our mates, which is surpassed only by God’s enormous love for us.

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Getting to the Point

I recently read about the effectiveness of an advertising campaign that you probably have heard about.

In the annals of US advertising history, one of the most efficient slogans ever is the California milk producers’ two-word question, “Got milk?” With that phrase, the group captured almost everyone’s attention. In surveys, the slogan was recognized by more than 90 percent of the people polled.

If “Got milk?” is so good at reminding people to drink “cow juice,” perhaps we can create some two-word slogans to remind ourselves to live more godly lives. My Sunday Bible study class is going through the book of James. While we are only into the second chapter, chapter four has some great two-liners that can help us live a godly life.

  1. Give in! James 4:7 tells us to submit to God. Our sovereign God loves us, so why not let Him run the show? Submission to God helps us resist the devil. I love the fact that when we submit to God and resist the devil, the enemy will flee from us!
  2. Get close! James 4:8 reminds us of the value of drawing near to God. It’s up to us to close the gap between us and God.One old saying is that when we feel as though God is far away, guess who moved?
  3. Clean up! James 4:8 also reminds us to make sure our hearts are clean. That happens through confessing our sins to God. It’s about being committed to purity in speech, intention, thought and deed. We are sinners by nature and by choice, which is the reason for our separation from God. So purify the heart, because our lives reflect that which is in the heart.
  4. Get down! James 4:6, 10 says we need to be humble before God, which includes viewing our sin as something to weep over. We won’t strut into the presence of God, we will come to him in humility, knowing that there is no human reason he should allow us into heaven. We come to him by his grace alone, through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), trusting in the sacrificial death and resurrection of Christ.

Give in! Get close! Clean up! Get down! I believe James is getting to the point, and being very concise. These pairs of words may not look as good on a T-shirt as “Got milk?” but they sure will look good on us.

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Leadership is About Modeling

I suppose that when someone mentions modeling, the image of a too-skinny woman swaggering down a runway might come to mind, but I submit to you that modeling is what we do as Christians. We are to live out what we say we believe.

As a minister of the gospel, and an employee of a local congregation, leadership is a defining quality of whether one is doing a good job or not. I have always believed that if I am to do a good job, I should work myself out of a job; and that involves building up other people.

If you want to be a people builder, you have to start by giving people an example to follow. Paul and Peter wrote about this (Acts 20:35, Philippians 3:17, 1 Thessalonians 1:7, 1 Timothy 4:12, Titus 2:7, 1 Peter 5:3). Leadership begins with you and with how you live. At its most basic level, leadership is about being a model for others.

Why? I believe that you can only take a person as far as you have gone yourself. People can go beyond where you are, but you are not going to be the one leading them there. You can’t teach what has not already impacted you, and has already changed your life.

One problem is that we don’t always know the difference between being a leader and a boss. Dictators demand. Leaders model. You don’t lead by telling people what to do; you lead by example. The Bible says, “Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care but lead them by your good example.” (1 Peter 5:3 NLT)

Jesus never asked anybody to do anything he hadn’t already done, wasn’t already doing, or wasn’t willing to do. The Bible says in John 13:15, “I’ve given you an example to follow. Now do as I have done to you.” Jesus said he did it, now you do it. In this particular case, he had just washed the feet of the disciples and modeled servanthood. Now he expected his followers to do it. He modeled it first.

Application: Men, in what ways are you modeling for others? How are you serving others? How can people follow your lead in different areas of life? Paul gives us five particular characteristics of leadership in 1 Timothy 4:12:

  1. Speech – How do you talk to people?
  2. Life – How do you live your life?
  3. Love – How do you really show love to other people?
  4. Faith – How do you really trust God?
  5. Purity – How do you live a life of integrity?

Are you modeling those behaviors for your family? Are you modeling them for our congregation?

Leadership is a choice. The role of the leader doesn’t come automatically when we’re given a title. There are plenty of people in leadership positions who aren’t leaders. But you can be a leader. It starts by making choices that other people choose not to make, and providing an example to others.

Anyone can be a leader; John Maxwell says that leadership is influence. Think of all the people over whom you have influence. Now go lead them.

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Could it Happen to You?

If you wanted a study of character, nobility, wisdom, courage, and devotion; you could not find a better man than David. The Bible calls him, “… a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22).

Yet there was a dark chapter in David’s life. Even though he was a great man and lover of God, David committed a horrible sin against God and others. He entered into an adulterous relationship with another man’s wife, Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:3, 4). Then, in an attempt to cover his sin, he arranged to have her husband, Uriah, killed (2 Samuel 11:6, 15).

We need to be warned! If it could happen to David, it can happen to us. First Corinthians 10:12 says, “…let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” So, we need to see how and why this happened in David’s life to help it not happen to us.

Second Samuel 11:1-2 says, “In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites. They destroyed the Ammonite army and laid siege to the city of Rabbah. However, David stayed behind in Jerusalem. Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath.”

The Sin of Casualness:
What was David’s sin? In the beginning, it was simply the sin of casualness. The harvest time was over, and there were battles to be fought; yet David remained at home. He did not do anything wrong in itself; he just failed to do what was right. He was a king, but he lay around in bed all day while others fought.

Maybe the battle-scarred veteran thought, “I’ve done my time on the battlefield; I need a little rest and relaxation.” Don’t ever think you have done your service to Jesus and you can quit.

The Sin of dis-Connectedness:

I think David was also alone; he did not have another man to keep him accountable or faithful. A man who is disconnected will fall for lack of focus and counsel. Life unchecked will often lead to ruin. Had David been in an accountability relationship, perhaps this whole scenario could have been avoided. Every man needs to be connected to other men, or he will be led astray by his own desires, passions and weaknesses.

The Sin of Carelessness:
It was also a sin of carelessness. David had failed to keep up his guard. How different David was from Joseph. When tempted by Potiphar’s wife, Joseph immediately fled (see Genesis 39:11-13). He obeyed what later would be an imperative by the apostle Paul, “Flee fornication” (1 Corinthians 6:18). Jesus also warned the apostles in Matthew 26:41: “Watch and pray, that you don’t enter into temptation.”

You will have times in your life when everything is going just fine and you don’t feel any unusual temptation, but watch out for the sin of carelessness.

The Sin of Compulsiveness:
David’s sin was also a sin of compulsiveness. It has been said that sin is an undetected weakness, an unexpected opportunity, and an unprotected life. That was true in David’s life. He didn’t intend to sin; it just happened. He looked over the wall and there she was. He called his servants and said, “Get her for me” (2 Samuel 11:4).

You may say, “Well, that couldn’t happen to me.” David would have said the same thing before he compulsively fell into sin. There are three people seated in your seat right now: the person you are this very moment; the person you could be for God; and the person you could be for evil.

The Sin of Callousness:
The sin of David doesn’t end with Bathsheba. David became calloused and tried to cover his sin. When he found out Bathsheba was pregnant, he attempted to hide the fact that the baby was his. When that failed, he arranged for Bathsheba’s husband to be placed on the front line of battle and killed (see 2 Samuel11:5-17).

Can you imagine this is David doing such a thing? When he committed adultery with Bathsheba, that was bad enough; but it was a hot-blooded sin. Now, what he does to Uriah is cold-blooded murder. See where his carelessness led him. David had been hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

It Could Happen to You!
This is a sad story, and God was grieved by it (2 Samuel 11:27). David also grieved over his sin and finally cried out to God for mercy. And as we read about the rest of his life (2 Samuel 12 through 1 Kings 2), we see that the consequences of David’s sin followed him; but David received forgiveness from God.

You very well might say, “That’s an interesting story; maybe I can pass it on to somebody else who needs it.” Then you missed the point. David got into trouble with the sin of casualness. He didn’t go roaring into sin. Don’t ever think it couldn’t happen to you. Is your heart cold? Get it warm. Have you been lazy? Go to work. Have you been careless? Keep the fire burning for Christ and His mission.

Don’t take that first step toward sin. It will cost you more than you want to pay.

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Paul and His Vow

I love that game Trivial Pursuit; you know the one that has players bursting forth with tidbits of random and otherwise useless information. The writer of Acts, Dr. Luke, throws in one item of what seems to be useless trivia, that when Paul left Corinth, he had his hair cut off because of a vow (Acts 18:18). I wonder why Luke thought that bit of information needed to be included in the narrative? Know for sure that the point is not that Paul needed a haircut, but the reason for the haircut.

Paul was deeply rooted in Jewish tradition and coming to Christ did not make him forget that heritage. Luke was referring to the Nazirite Vow (Numbers 6:1-8). Note the purpose as revealed best in the NIV: “If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of dedication to the LORD as a Nazirite” (Numbers 6:2).

  1. Using the word wants: it was voluntary
  2. Using the word special: not only was it voluntary but it was for men and women.
  3. Using the word separation: it was a vow of consecration to the Lord, to be distinguished from all others.

If you know the writings to the Corinthians, this church was in the midst of terrible depravity in a sexually explicit society. The most extreme pagan practice involved the cult of Aphrodite, full of lust and sexual immorality as a part of their worship.

The haircut is not the beginning of the vow but the end of it (Number 6:5). Practically speaking, Paul entered this wicked city with the intention of setting himself apart, to remain pure in the midst of impurity, committing himself to the only One who could ensure victory (2 Corinthians 2:14).

The vow involved abstinence (Number 6:3) from wine and strong drink. I abstain from alcohol not for biblical reasons but for social reasons. I see what alcohol does to our society and choose not to support that industry (drunk driving, road deaths, broken families, ruined marriages, abused children). I know alcohol is not forbidden in the Bible, but for me it is a distraction. It is a voluntary decision I have made. I do not believe that I personally can consume alcohol and be a truly devoted follower of Christ. I’m sure that Satan would use it as a trap for me, so I have made a vow of separation.

A visible sign of someone taking this vow of separation was uncut hair (Acts 18:18). If someone forgot about the vow they made, they could easily look into a mirror and be reminded of their commitment. Once Paul no longer needed this sign of extreme devotion to God, he cut his hair leaving Corinth. I am impressed with Paul’s example.

Paul had insecurities, weaknesses and temptations like all of us, but he dealt with them with wisdom. Jesus told us to be “shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Had Paul not taken precautions, he could have gotten into serious trouble.

He took another precaution, he purposely did not take any money from the Corinthians; he got a job. A Macedonian church sent him money so he could preach freely without being a burden to the Corinthians (Acts 18:5, 2 Corinthians 8:1-2, 3-4). He also found a couple new friends, Aquila and Priscilla, who were also tent makers (Acts 18:3).

Application: Men, it is time to consider taking the vow… it’s not about letting your hair grow, but separating yourself from the world and consecrating yourself to the Lord. How do you keep yourself pure in a society that elevates sensuality, drunkenness, impurity and promiscuity? Do you go out into the world unprotected or worse, with a belief that you would never fall to any of these more grievous vices? Hear the words of 1 Corinthians 10:12, “let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” In short, that is what we call accountability. We can stand better together.

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