Bread – Challenges

March 20, 2015


Readings for Friday, March 20, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Jer. 23:1-8; Rom. 8:28-39; John 6:52-59; Psalms 95, 102, 107

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There are many difficulties in the Christian faith, many intellectual and emotional challenges. Our readings today seem to be an entire collection of them.

In Jeremiah, God pronounces woe to those shepherds who would scatter and destroy the sheep of His pasture. Jer. 23:1. And yet we know from other readings in Jeremiah that it was God Himself who caused the collapse of Judah and, earlier, Israel because of their sinfulness. So, in a sense the false shepherds may have been driven by Satan or their own selfish desires, but they may also have been placed on earth by God to mislead the people. So, God is to blame? The bad shepherds are to blame? Or are the people who follow the bad shepherds to blame for not understanding God and His Word so well that they recognize the bad shepherd and leave for more holy, more Godly pastures? God will dispose as He will, but we have responsibility for listening to and following the Word of God, once our minds are open to His truth. We would like to blame God and we would like to blame our leaders, but one of the great truths (and conflicts) of the faith is that we must begin in the mirror – it is us who obey the rules of the world rather than the rules of God, it is us who have faith in ourselves first rather than God first, it is us who sin and fall short. We are intellectually and emotionally challenged in the Christian faith to recognize that we are not number one, we are not over God or equal to Him, we have no right to judge Him, and He has every right to judge us.

In Romans, we are confronted with the Biblical truth that we did not choose Jesus but He chose us. Rom. 8:28-30. One of the great intellectual and emotional challenges we have as Christians is that we, ourselves, have and had nothing to do with our salvation because there is no work of man which meets God’s standards. We were chosen by God because He chose us. The challenge is to recognize that God is sovereign and that we are subject, that God is master and we are slave. The further challenge both intellectually and emotionally is to realize that, when we realize that it was God who saved us and not we ourselves, we are in fact free – that by becoming slave to God we become citizens of the kingdom of God, worthy to stand before God in His throne room, making intercession for others. There is true freedom in Christ, but we can only get there by realizing that while we were still dead to sin God reached down and lifted us from the pit. Our intellectual and emotional challenge as people is to realize that true freedom is gained by abandoning our slavery to the world and its systems and thought patterns and bowing our knee to the true King.

Also in Romans, we see the intellectual and emotional challenges which come from being beat down, being criticized, being sick, being tired and lonely, being weak. We say to ourselves, “We are Christians and saved by grace, why cannot we live with plenty and be well? And there are some shepherds who would pervert the message to say that, as Christians, we indeed may demand the first place in line and full prosperity. But our state as Christians is to be hated by the world – “For Your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” Rom. 8:36, citing Psalm 44:22. But because we have God on our side, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Rom. 8:37. As Christians we do not have joy because we have retirement accounts, we have joy because God is with us and our permanent retirement is assured for all eternity. Our intellectual and emotional challenge is to realize that we do not need worldly approval, position, or wealth to be free; we need Jesus.

And then we are confronted with our reading today from John, where Jesus says “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.,” John 6:53-54. Both our intellect and our emotions are severely challenged when we consider what Jesus is saying here. Great debates over the last two thousand years have occupied our minds and hearts over these words. Many claimed disciples abandoned Jesus over these words; will you? Again, however, we are confronted with our greatest challenge – to realize that we are not up to the challenge, that we cannot climb the hill without help, that we cannot save ourselves through works, that we cannot understand all things, that we cannot pierce some mysteries, that we are not God. If the net effect of the revelation we receive through Scripture, through Christ, through the Holy Spirit, is that we must radically depend upon Him daily for our daily blessing and power, then Jesus’ point has been made. If the net effect of this passage is to drive us away from Christ because “we” do not understand, or “we” are offended, or “we” reject God’s Word, we have missed the point. Our greatest intellectual and emotional challenge is to drive to the edge of understanding and proceed the rest of the way in faith. Faith, not in ourselves, but in the One who is, the “I am.”

Great challenges. All overcome on the cross. If we will but bow the knee, hand over the reins, have faith, follow Christ, and abide in Him.

Our greatest challenge is to figure out who is Lord. Jeremiah, Romans, and John tell you. But do you know?

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© 2015 GBF

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