Readings: Isaiah 4:9-11, Romans 6:1-4, Matthew 25:18-19, 24-27

The Christian life is not about behavior modification – not about staying on top of things, but rather getting to the root – the bottom – the heart of things.

It’s not about performance, but our heart towards the Master.

The man with 1 talent “knew” the Master to be a “hard man” – cruel and violent. He was wrong. Jesus doesn’t do things the way we do, but He is full of grace!

The 1-talent-servant was afraid to even try. He trusted his fears over trusting God. Don’t listen to the fears, but the encouragement of the God who loves you! Just TRY. Even if there’s a failure, there’s an opportunity to grow and learn.

The 1-talent-servant let his fears dictate his belief in the King. His actions (or rather inaction) were driven by this false belief (or unbelief). This is why the Master calls the servant evil and lazy.

The root: If you don’t believe the King loves you, you will grow fearful and resentful… unbelief leading to weariness and feeling buried. Claim (or reclaim!) faith in the Sovereign Lord and the truth of God’s love. Don’t listen to the devil’s lies – that one loves to speak into our weakness and drag us downward.

How do we re-orient our hearts?

Focus on the Lord & His Word – the truth, and not feelings.

Our sins are buried in baptism with Christ, and we are raised to new life in Christ to walk free – empowered by our belief in the King’s goodness – for He laid down His life for you to save you – the greatest act of grace, love, mercy, and compassion.

Way of Escape

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

Luther on the Epistle to the Galatians

In cleaning out my Bible study bag, I found a xerox (do people still use that term?) from this book that Pastor handed out during one of his Bible studies. I highlighted the following quotes because they really resonated with me.

Galatians 2:2 – “but privately to them which were of reputation

“Not that Paul doubted that he ran, or had run in vain, forasmuch as he had now preached the gospel eighteen years, but that many did think that he had preached in vain, because he had set the Gentiles at liberty from the observations of the law… Note here by the way, the virtue of man’s righteousness, or the righteousness of the law, to be such, that they who teach it, do run and live in vain.”

Galatians 2:3 – “But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.”

“Paul then did not reject circumcision… But he rejecteth it as a thing not necessary to righteousness,… So we at this day do not reject fasting, and other good exercises,… but we teach that by these exercises we do not obtain remission of sins.”

Further down, it reads (emphasis added):

“none should be constrained to be circumcised, or any constrained from circumcision.”

Galatians 2:4-5 – “And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty, which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage : to whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour : that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.”

“Now the truth of the gospel is, that our righteousness cometh by faith alone, without the works of the law. The corruption, or falsehood of the gospel is, that we are justified by faith, but not without the works of the law.”

Luther continues:

“The true gospel is, that the works of charity are not the ornament or perfection of faith : but that faith itself is God’s gift, and God’s work in our hearts, which therefore justifieth us, because it apprehendeth Christ our Redeemer… But faith being in her own proper office, hath no other object but Jesus Christ the Son of God, delivered to death for the sins of the whole world… but what hath Christ done? What hath He deserved? Here the truth of the gospel answereth thee : He hath redeemed thee from thy sin, from the devil, and from eternal death.”

The final passage I highlight is also from this section:

“For a true and steadfast faith must lay hold upon nothing, but Christ alone.”

My previous religious background placed good works above the saving work of Christ, and I’ve come to know that cannot be true. Our faith in Christ moves us towards good works, but those works do not earn us salvation. The Law (and thus attempting to live according to the Law) only serves to show me how deep my sin runs within me, and how desperately I need Jesus. I simply can’t live up to God’s holy standards without Jesus’ death on the cross redeeming me… and you too, my dear reader.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:16-17

Thank you, Jesus.

The Promise

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
    and you shall bruise his heel.”

The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Genesis 3:15, 20-24

We are longing for home… rest. In this world, our homes are fragile – can be destroyed. Sometimes our home doesn’t feel like home.

Genesis 3 says we are in exile. This is not our home. Our longing is not satisfied here – there’s a promise… home is waiting in heaven because Jesus won the battle against sin, death, and the devil.

There is hope.

And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

Genesis 3:21

God reminds us of His promises when he clothed Adam and Eve. God bans them from the garden to ensure they weren’t stuck in the damaged world forever.

Exile was judgment and mercy.

God and Jesus are bringing us home.

Havens of Healing

While we are here, offer a temporary home – places of rest, renewal, and healing – through grace to our neighbors and those in need.

The Consequences

The Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,
    cursed are you above all livestock
    and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
    and dust you shall eat
    all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
    and you shall bruise his heel.”

To the woman he said,

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
    in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
    but he shall rule over you.”

And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
    and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
    ‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
    in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
    and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
    you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
    for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
    and to dust you shall return.”

Genesis 3:14-19

The Mexican Petunia is so deeply rooted that you can’t ever really get it out. It’s an attractive, but invasive weed. This is exactly how sin is in our lives. Sin is deeply rooted, often starts small, and then grows to unwieldy proportions before you know it.

Adam and Eve didn’t really understand what they planted when they ate of the fruit – not even when their eyes were opened – but they would.

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
    and you shall bruise his heel.”

Genesis 3:15

There will be enmity, conflict, warfare, pain, and struggle.

To the woman he said,

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
    in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
    but he shall rule over you.”

Genesis 3:16

The woman’s contrary desire is a desire to take on the husband’s role as head of the household. This is introducing conflict into the most intimate relationship… conflict in all relationships.

And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
    and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
    ‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
    in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;

Genesis 3:17

The Fall introduces conflict with nature itself.

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Romans 7:18-25

Evil is close at hand. We wage war with ourselves. We are captive to the law of sin. Death is coming.

that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:16-19

This fallen, conflicted, sinful state is where we are until we reach paradise. The roots are still there, but Jesus keeps the wild Mexican Petunia trimmed and changes the very soil – we are rooted and grounded in Jesus’ love.

Potter’s Lesson 3

Value and Worth

How the world evaluates and how God does is different. Our value is derived from Christ.

Simple does not mean crude.

How we see ourselves vs. How God sees us

We see ourselves as human beings, people going about life. God sees us as vessels, made by His hands, meant to contain the Holy Spirit and spill over with His glory pouring into/over others.

Know the truth so that you can tell the lie when you hear it.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

2 Corinthians 4:7

We have this amazing treasure – the Gospel. It’s all through Him, by Him, and for Him. That means it’s not on me. When I fail, I am not a failure.

When in that battle against the enemy in the desert, Jesus used the Word of God.

It’s easy to criticize from the outside. Harder and better to be on the inside and part of the solution. Not to be responsible for others, but to be responsible to Christ and be a model to others.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Understand the enemy’s tactics & put your sword (God’s Word) where you can use it.

Trust God.

What is God asking me to do?

It might feel impossible.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2

The battle is fought in your mind and heart.

Sometimes you go to a place and it’s a dead-end, and that’s ok. The things where you fail or crash is where perhaps God equipping you and showing you where you need to be.

These are my notes and thoughts while listening to Rachel Norris from Joy Pottery during a Women’s Retreat.

The Result

How you see the world is heavily influenced by what you consume.

We are all being molded & formed by what we consume.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Genesis 3:1-13

If you consume, then your eyes will be opened.

Their eyes were opened. Their life was now marked by sadness & shame – not grand and wonderful things or maximum fulfillment. They weren’t liberated, free, or even like God. Instead, they found themselves in a prison of shame, enslaved by sin. They couldn’t get out. So, they hid, avoided responsibility, and blamed others.

Instead of power, they received powerlessness.

Instead of having their eyes opened, they became blind.

God refuses to abandon them in their blindness. God makes it – all things! – right again. ==> JESUS!

The power of Christ who awakens true faith is more powerful than any physical ailment like blindness. Jesus opens our eyes not to shame but to salvation.