Christian correction

A lot of Christians feel that it is our religious duty to correct other people. Some of us think that we are supposed to tell other people that they are sinners.

This verse is often used to justify this:
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. 17 If he pays no attention to them, tell the church. But if he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you.” Matthew 18:15-17

Notice that this only refers to fellow Church members. Notice also that the first part is that the member is rebuked privately. This is never a public censoring, to be aired outside of the Church. Also, it most certainly is not meant for unbelievers.

Some of us will also refer to Matthew 5:23-24. I have included the preceding verses to put it in context.
21 “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. 22 But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ will be subject to hellfire. 23 So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:21-24

We are not to insult or attack anyone. We are to reconcile – to balance the accounts. We are to make peace.

The trouble with the usual manner of “correction” by calling someone a sinner is that it isn’t Christ-like. Jesus never called anybody a sinner. Jesus spoke a lot about religious hypocrisy, in fact. He spoke often against religious people who thought they had it all figured out. So what we are doing when we condemn people is not only not correct in the eyes of Jesus, it isn’t building up the kingdom. It is tearing it down. It is pushing people away from wanting to follow Jesus.

Note these words of Jesus, right after the most famous verse in the Gospels –
“For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:17

Jesus didn’t come to condemn anybody, so neither should we. We represent Christ here on Earth. We serve as his ambassadors. Your face may be the only face of Christ that people see, so make it a good one.

We have certain moral obligations as followers of Jesus, certainly. We are set apart and are commanded to not follow the ways of the world. There is no reason to water down the rules that we are commanded to follow – that is not what I’m saying. But we need to change what we are focusing on when we interact with people who do not yet believe.

Non-believers aren’t obligated to follow our rules, because they aren’t part of the Body of Christ. It is as if we are getting angry with people for breaking contracts they never signed.

“Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2

Our first goal must be to have the person hear the words of Jesus. Give them a copy of the Gospel. Share verses with them. Pray for them. Because once they have the Lord in their hearts, they will change their ways.

“…whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:16b-18

Don’t focus on other people’s sin at all. Focus on the Spirit. Encourage people. Be a good example.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 HCSB

I’ve heard a story about African Christians who would move to a different village to be missionaries. Instead of preaching to them with their words, they did so with their lives. They lived among them and showed the light of God through everything they did. The other villagers would come up to them and ask them what was the secret for their happiness. Only then would they share the message of Jesus with them in words. All along, they had been sharing it with them by their example.

You know a tree by its fruit. We can see when people are producing good results – fruit of the Spirit.

“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

Our call is to imitate Christ, who waited for people to ask him to be healed. People had to admit their illness to themselves first, and then to him. He didn’t heal people who weren’t called to him first.

The Hebrew word that is translated in English as “sin” does not have nearly the same weight as it does in English. It is from an archery term, and means “missing the mark”. You aim your intentions, act, and your actions fall short of the goal. It isn’t a moral failing. From observing the result of your action, you learn to aim higher so that you can achieve the goal.

To get better, aim higher. This should always be our goal – to set our sights on Heaven at all times.

“6 So he answered me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by strength or by might, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of Hosts.” Zechariah 4:6

May God bless us and strengthen us, and help us to be good shepherds – to feed his sheep with the spiritual food of his Word made flesh, Jesus. I ask this in Jesus’ name.
Amen.

(all Bible translations are HCSB)

The blind man’s sight and the blindness of the Pharisees

Jesus went and found the man after they had thrown him out. He said “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

The man asked “Who is that, Sir, so I can believe in him?”

Jesus answered, “You have seen him. Actually, he’s talking to you right now.”

“Lord, I believe!” he said, and he began to worship Jesus.

Jesus said “I have been sent as a sign of God’s judgment, so that those who are blind will see and that those who are sure of their sight will become blind.”

Some Pharisees who were standing nearby overheard this and asked “Are you saying that we are blind?”

“If you were blind,” Jesus replied, “you would be free of any guilt that would cause your sin. But because you say that you can see, you are fully accountable for your sins.”

JN 9:35-41

The healed man’s testimony

The man whose sight had been restored was brought to the Pharisees. Jesus had made the mud paste and healed him on the Sabbath. The Pharisees asked the man again how his sight had been restored. The man told them that Jesus had put mud on his eyes, he washed, and then he could see.

Some of the Pharisees exclaimed “He can’t be from God! He breaks the Sabbath!” Others said “But how could a sinful man perform such miracles?” They were divided about this.

They asked the formerly blind man “What do you think about him, since he healed you of your blindness?”

The man replied “He’s a prophet.”

The Jewish authorities didn’t believe that this man had really been cured of his blindness, so they called for the man’s parents. Then they asked them “Is this your son, the one you claim was blind from birth? How is it that he can see now?”

“We assure you that this is our son, and that he has always been blind,” the man’s parents said, “but we don’t know who restored his sight or how it happened. He’s an adult. Ask him.” They said this because they were afraid of the authorities. The leaders had already proclaimed that anyone who said Jesus was the Messiah wouldn’t be allowed to go to the synagogue.

The leaders summoned the man again and asked him to solemnly swear the truth by saying to him “Give glory to God.” Then they said “We know that Jesus is a sinner!”

The man answered “I don’t know if that is true or not, but I do know that I was blind but now I can see!”

“Tell us exactly what he did and how he did it” they demanded.

“I’ve already told you and you didn’t believe me. Why should I tell you again?” he replied. “Do you want to become his disciples?”

They started to make fun of him and said “You’re his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. God definitely spoke to Moses, but this man is a mystery to us.”

“Isn’t that interesting?” he retorted. “He healed my blindness, but you aren’t sure about him. God doesn’t act for sinners – only those who fear God and do his will. In the history of the entire world, there has never ever been anyone who could heal the blindness of a person born that way. This man has to be from God, otherwise he couldn’t do this.”

“You were born full of sin, and you’re trying to teach us?” they shouted. Then they threw him out.

JN 9:13-34

Healing a man who was born blind

While he walking along, Jesus saw a man who was born blind. His disciples asked him “Teacher, who is guilty of sin to cause him to be blind – this man, or his parents?”

“Neither he nor his parents are guilty of sin,” Jesus answered. “This happened so that the work of God could be revealed through him. We all must do the work of the One who sent me while it is day. Soon night will be here when no one can work. As long as I am here, I am that light.”

After saying this, he spat upon the ground, made a paste of the mud, and then spread this on the blind man’s eyes. He then said to the man “Go and wash in the pool of Siloam.” (Siloam means “sent”). The man did as he was instructed and then returned with his sight restored.

His neighbors and those who had seen him beg asked “Is this the same man who begged?” Some said “Yes, that’s him” while others said “No, but he looks just like him.”

The formerly blind beggar said “I’m the guy!”

Then they asked him “Then tell us how you can see.”

“A man named Jesus made a paste of mud, put it on my eyes and said ‘Go wash in the Pool of Siloam.’ I went there, washed, and my sight was restored!” he answered.

Then they asked “Where is he?”

“I have no idea,” he answered.

JN 9:1-12

Poem – the two trees.

Sin and shame came into the world
at the same time.
Adam and Eve ate fruit
from the tree
of the knowledge
of good and evil.

After that,
they were full of shame
about being naked,
about who they were,
about their very being,
and so they hid themselves
when God came around.

Before that,
they were
as they were created.
God saw them exactly
the way
God created them.
All was well.
They could be themselves
around God
without any
fear or embarrassment.

Thousands of years later,
Jesus
was placed on the cross,
a wooden pole
stuck in the ground
with a horizontal bar across it.
It was symbolically a tree,
and in fact,
it was symbolically
That tree,
that same tree
in the Garden.

Jesus tells us that
He is the fruit of that tree,
and that we are to eat it.
We are to consume
his flesh
and drink
his blood.

He is the antidote
for that first tree,
that first sin.
He is the cure
for what ails us.

When we eat the fruit
that is Jesus,
we are restored.
We have re-entered
the Garden.
He makes us able
to stand
before God,
as we are,
without sin or shame,
without fear or embarrassment.

What does “covenant” mean?

What is the word “covenant”? You know when you’ve heard a word so often that you take it for granted, and you don’t really know what it means? I feel that this word is important enough to slow down with and try to really understand it

Jesus speaks about his blood being the blood of a new covenant in the story of the first Lord’s Supper. This takes place in MT 26:26-30, MK 14:22-26, and LK 22:14-20.

Matthew 26:28 (HCSB)

28 For this is My blood that establishes the covenant; it is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.

I tried a different translation to see if I could get more meaning out of the word “covenant”.

28 for this is my blood, sealing the new covenant. It is poured out to forgive the sins of multitudes. (TLB)

Then I looked at the other Gospels to see if they said it any differently, looking at both translations.

Mark 14:24

24 And he said to them, “This is my blood, poured out for many, sealing the new agreement between God and man. (TLB)

24 He said to them, “This is My blood that establishes the covenant; it is shed for many. (HCSB)

Luke 22:20

(TLB)

20 After supper he gave them another glass of wine, saying, “This wine is the token of God’s new agreement to save you—an agreement sealed with the blood I shall pour out to purchase back your souls. (TLB)

20 In the same way He also took the cup after supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant established by My blood; it is shed for you. (HCSB)

I still wasn’t getting very far.

According to Google, “covenant” is defined as an agreement. Synonyms include – contract, undertaking, commitment, pledge, pact, arrangement, and understanding.

What is the first covenant? God promises to not destroy the earth by flood. He says this to Noah after the waters have gone away.

Genesis 9:8-17 (HCSB)

8 Then God told Noah and his sons, 9-11 “I solemnly promise you and your children and the animals you brought with you—all these birds and cattle and wild animals—that I will never again send another flood to destroy the earth. 12 And I seal this promise with this sign: 13 I have placed my rainbow in the clouds as a sign of my promise until the end of time, to you and to all the earth. 14 When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will be seen in the clouds, 15 and I will remember my promise to you and to every being, that never again will the floods come and destroy all life. 16-17 For I will see the rainbow in the cloud and remember my eternal promise to every living being on the earth.

So why is it significant that God makes a new covenant through Jesus? He promises not only not to destroy the world, but to save it. Instead of being a negative, it is a positive. While it is good for someone to promise to not hit you while you are in a pit, it is better if they promise to hand you a ladder to get out of that pit.

Let us look at more examples of God making covenants with people.

God made a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17:1-22 (CEB)

When Abram was 99 years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am El Shaddai. Walk with me and be trustworthy. 2 I will make a covenant between us and I will give you many, many descendants.” 3 Abram fell on his face, and God said to him, 4 “But me, my covenant is with you; you will be the ancestor of many nations. 5 And because I have made you the ancestor of many nations, your name will no longer be Abram but Abraham.6 I will make you very fertile. I will produce nations from you, and kings will come from you. 7 I will set up my covenant with you and your descendants after you in every generation as an enduring covenant. I will be your God and your descendants’ God after you. 8 I will give you and your descendants the land in which you are immigrants, the whole land of Canaan, as an enduring possession. And I will be their God.” 9 God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants in every generation. 10 This is my covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Circumcise every male.11 You must circumcise the flesh of your foreskins, and it will be a symbol of the covenant between us. 12 On the eighth day after birth, every male in every generation must be circumcised, including those who are not your own children: those born in your household and those purchased with silver from foreigners. 13 Be sure you circumcise those born in your household and those purchased with your silver. Your flesh will embody my covenant as an enduring covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male whose flesh of his foreskin remains uncircumcised will be cut off from his people. He has broken my covenant.” 15 God said to Abraham, “As for your wife Sarai, you will no longer call her Sarai. Her name will now be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and even give you a son from her. I will bless her so that she will become nations, and kings of peoples will come from her. 17 Abraham fell on his face and laughed. He said to himself, Can a 100-year-old man become a father, or Sarah, a 90-year-old woman, have a child? 18 To God Abraham said, “If only you would accept Ishmael!”19 But God said, “No, your wife Sarah will give birth to a son for you, and you will name him Isaac. I will set up my covenant with him and with his descendants after him as an enduring covenant. 20 As for Ishmael, I’ve heard your request. I will bless him and make him fertile and give him many, many descendants. He will be the ancestor of twelve tribal leaders, and I will make a great nation of him.21 But I will set up my covenant with Isaac, who will be born to Sarah at this time next year.” 22 When God finished speaking to him, God ascended, leaving Abraham alone.

God made a covenant with Israel as a whole in Deuteronomy 30:1-10 (HCSB)

“When all these things happen to you—the blessings and curses I have set before you—and you come to your senses while you are in all the nations where the LORD your God has driven you, 2 and you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey Him with all your heart and all your soul by doing everything I am giving you today, 3 then He will restore your fortunes, have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. 4 Even if your exiles are at the ends of the earth, He will gather you and bring you back from there. 5 The LORD your God will bring you into the land your fathers possessed, and you will take possession of it. He will cause you to prosper and multiply you more than He did your fathers. 6 The LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants, and you will love Him with all your heart and all your soul so that you will live. 7 The LORD your God will put all these curses on your enemies who hate and persecute you. 8 Then you will again obey Him and follow all His commands I am giving you today. 9 The LORD your God will make you prosper abundantly in all the work of your hands with children, the offspring of your livestock, and your land’s produce. Indeed, the LORD will again delight in your prosperity, as He delighted in that of your fathers, 10 when you obey the LORD your God by keeping His commands and statutes that are written in this book of the law and return to Him with all your heart and all your soul.

There are a lot of conditions there! If you do this, then I will do this. This is known in legal terms as quid pro quo, (this for that). This doesn’t sound very mature or healthy.

Jacob makes a covenant with God in Genesis 28:18-22. This is right after he’s had the dream of angels ascending and descending to and from heaven on a ladder where he is sleeping in the desert.

18 Early in the morning Jacob took the stone that was near his head and set it up as a marker. He poured oil on top of it 19 and named the place Bethel, though previously the city was named Luz. 20 Then Jacob made a vow: “If God will be with me and watch over me on this journey, if He provides me with food to eat and clothing to wear, 21 and if I return safely to my father’s house, then the LORD will be my God. 22 This stone that I have set up as a marker will be God’s house, and I will give to You a tenth of all that You give me.” (HCSB)

Once again, quid pro quo. I’ll do this if you do that. It is kind of like saying “you first”. I’ll serve you as God if you prove that you are God.

I’m getting somewhere with this, but it still doesn’t synch up with Jesus at the Lord’s Supper.

What is the “new covenant” that Jesus speaks about? The prophet Jeremiah speaks of a new covenant that God is to make in Jeremiah 31:31-34. Jesus would have known this writing, and expected his disciples to know it too.

31 “Look, the days are coming”—this is the LORD’s declaration—“when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32 This one will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant they broke even though I had married them”—the LORD’s declaration. 33 “Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days”—the LORD’s declaration. “I will put My teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. 34 No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least to the greatest of them”—this is the LORD’s declaration. “For I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sin.” (HCSB)

This is what Jesus is referring to when he speaks about his blood being the blood of the new covenant. His blood was like an offering on the altar in the Temple that was used to atone (pay for) sins. People would bring bulls, sheep, and other prescribed animals if they had broken a commandment. The animal would be ritually slaughtered by the priest and the blood poured out on the altar. The animal would die, and their sins would be erased.

If we accept the blood offering of Jesus as paying for our sins, then God will forgive them. Everyone in the world who accepts Jesus’ offering will know the Lord in their hearts, completely, without having to be taught. All sins will be erased.

Lifting up the snake

What is Jesus referring to when he says the following words to Nicodemus?

John 3:14

14 “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life.”

He’s referring to when the Jews were wandering in the desert. Once again, they are impatient and irritable. Once again, some of them complain. The Lord sends snakes to kill many of them as a response. Here’s the story he is referring to –

Numbers 21:4-9
4 Then they set out from Mount Hor by way of the Red Sea to bypass the land of Edom, but the people became impatient because of the journey. 5 The people spoke against God and Moses: “Why have you led us up from Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread or water, and we detest this wretched food!” 6 Then the LORD sent poisonous snakes among the people, and they bit them so that many Israelites died. 7 The people then came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you. Intercede with the LORD so that He will take the snakes away from us.” And Moses interceded for the people. 8 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake image and mount it on a pole. When anyone who is bitten looks at it, he will recover.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and mounted it on a pole. Whenever someone was bitten, and he looked at the bronze snake, he recovered.

This time is different from the many other times they have complained. Often it is Moses who intervenes, but here the people admit that they have done wrong. Often Moses steps in to avert a mass destruction of all of Israel by the Lord when they are ungrateful. This time they realize they have sinned and ask Moses to intercede with the Lord for them. The Lord tells Moses to mount an image of a snake on a pole, but they have to look at it. They have to seek it out to recover.

What Jesus is saying is that in the same way and for the same reason, he is to be mounted on a pole. Only those who admit that they have sinned and seek him will be saved from death.