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“I want an updated Bible!”

August 4, 2017

3rd Sunday of Holy Trinity

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.  But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Then Jesus told them this parable:  “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders  and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’  I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?  And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’  In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Luke 15:1-10

In today’s pattern of thinking, you can see that there are many who approve and cheer love between people as an important virtue in itself. Many, if not all, regardless of whether they are Christians or not, value love for one’s neighbour. Many affirm that the most important thing is to love. This includes affection, good values, being virtuous, doing good and being a good and loving person. And many do not know that all those values or virtues have been instilled in our current society mainly by Christianity; more concretely, by Jesus’ teachings.
This message of love has taken root so well over the last two millennia that everyone tries to love everyone to the point of not discriminating against anyone, regardless of race, religion, social levels, gender, etc. Many truly do not know, including non-Christians who defend and ‘preach’ this way of life, that all this has arisen in our modern society in an exclusive way by all these centuries of Christianity, even though many today are not so keen on Christianity. Most people who reject Christianity do so because of bad experiences with the church as an institution (which is nothing more than an institution formed by human beings) and others, unfortunately, because they have not had Christian parents or mentors who have been able to teach them the faith properly and lovingly. Still others reject Christianity because faith was lost, or they just turned away from faith, just like that.
Nonetheless, the widespread common believe that “we must love everyone and not discriminate against anyone” seems to be the most important slogan today. And for us Christians, this is of course understandable, and it is clear to us that this command comes from our Lord Jesus Christ, whom we want to obey.

In today’s Bible reading, we find that Jesus was approaching sinners. In other words, he was showing his great love to everyone without making distinction of social or religious status. But on this Sunday we would also like to describe what a sinner is, or what sin is. Jesus uses this expression; he does not deny the existence of “the sin” but he affirms that “there will be more joy for one sinner who repents than for ninety-nine just who need not repent.” He acknowledges that sin and the sinner still exist. He makes a difference, therefore, between the one who sins and the one who does not. For him it is clear that these two types of people are not alike.
We have spoken many times about what sin means. In our society, and mostly for non-Christians, the word sin sounds like an old-fashioned expression. Like something from the past, outdated and retrograde, even among certain church members. It seems that the word sin can only be used within some churches or backward theologies. For us, it is not an outdated word. It is a word that continues to have importance. Sin simply means separation from God, to be away from God’s laws and the benefit of His fellowship.
And what does this separation mean? Or how can we realize that we are living apart from God? The only way we have to test it is the Word of God– collected in the form of a book we call the Bible. And we especially read the Bible in the light of the message of Jesus Christ. When we don’t live our lives according to the word of God, that is, according to what the Bible asks of us, we are living a life according to our wishes and not in the way that pleases God, that is, according to His will.

There are many who call into question what the Bible says and think they have authority over it when they interpret it for their own convenience or supersede it with other philosophies or principles. There are many who call into question the Bible, saying that the Bible needs to be adapted to our times. It’s as if they, or this generation, are the authorized keepers that can give another interpretation or omit parts of the Bible they find inconvenient. I have even heard: ‘God doesn’t intervene in the world by means of “simple books” – referring to the Bible – They say that God appears, manifests Himself in other ways. And that is true, God is manifested through His Holy Spirit, but that doesn’t contradict that He has also mainly manifested to human beings in the written form through what we call the Bible, where the authorized Will of God is expressed. Many criticize that the Bible is written by men. That is true, but those men have been inspired and motivated by the Spirit to leave the word of God in writing, and even at a later stage, to decide which books of the Bible should remain there, for being still faithful to the same Holy Spirit of God.
Let us not confuse the spirit of this world with the Holy Spirit of God. Every time we come to the Bible with faith and respect, we will receive a message that goes beyond our human nature.

In this society, there are many who allow themselves to be carried away by the spirit of this world, thereby becoming fake Christians, that is, people who believe they are Christian, but on their own terms and not in the manner of the Word of God. They believe themselves to have more authority than the apostles themselves, and to be able to define what parts of the Bible are still the Word of God and is not anymore.
For Jesus, sin was something clear. It was to be separated from God because of a behaviour that went against His Word. Jesus never discriminated against anyone; he was there, he approached sinners, but with the intention that they repent and turn to God. And he understood this, obviously, because he is God, but also because of his love for his neighbour. That is the love that Jesus commands us to put into practice:
I read the other day a saying that I liked: “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to love”. Billy Graham–
We have to see the entire world as our neighbour and worthy of love. But we mustn’t necessarily approve of everything that people do that doesn’t coincide with the will of God. Jesus did not approve of sin:
He threw the merchants out of the temple that wanted to take advantage of the people and desecrate and disrespect the temple; He accused Judas of betraying him; He faced the corrupt life of Zacchaeus the tax collector and the disorderly life of the Samaritan woman; or the morally wrong life of the adulteress. While he accepted all of them, he also forgave them “of their sin” and told them more than once: “Go now and leave your life of sin”. He also said: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”. (Lc 5:32)
The society in which we live, however, is often pseudo-Christian and tells us to do all that makes us feel good, to do your own business, to enjoy life, that the most important thing is to feel happy and to love the whole world, and to embrace peace, happiness and love. And that is all true; it does not contradict Jesus’ promises when he assures us a “life to the fullest” for all who follow him. But that life to the fullest is based on a new life in Christ; it is based on his teachings.
When Jesus speaks: “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent”, He is speaking not only of a conversion, that is, of beginning to believe in Christ as the Son of God, but also speaking of a change of life, of behaviour. It is not enough to say: I believe in God, we must show it, live it out. This is evident in what Jesus says about identifying true Christians: “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them” (Matt. 7: 16ff.)
And if we would ask Jesus today, “Where can we get the information to know what are the things you want us to change and “repent?” He would surely tell us: “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them” (John 14:21). Where are those commands? They are in the Word of God, the Bible, which is the foundation of our faith.
Throughout the history of salvation, we see in the Bible and church history that God worked and manifested through his Spirit in personal lives, in families, and in congregations that were faithful to his word. It has not been otherwise.
May God allow us to remain faithful to his Word that still stands and isn’t watered down. We ask that through our obedience to it, which is the only way that the Holy Spirit can work in our midst, our lives may be filled with God’s wisdom and the true love of his Son Jesus Christ. Let’s ask for forgiveness of those sins of which we are conscious so that God can transform our lives. And we ask that God’s favor and joy in heaven for our life to become a reality.

Amen

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