October 19, 2020
Matthew 7 - Loving God
I had a bit of a revelation the other day to which I immediately relayed, quite excitedly, to my sweet fiancé. I wasn’t sure if it came across as clearly or as profound as I had it intended it to, and as it truly was, but nonetheless it had a great impact on me and I think he understood and agreed. I’m hoping and praying that this post reaches you in a place where you’re ready and eager to receive it.
It started with a long, 7-hour car ride full of podcasts and sermons. I don’t know about you, but I always have a rather long list of “watch (listen) later” so car trips are perfect for knocking some out. I had been listening to some John Piper talks and in one, he briefly discussed Luke 7:36-50 involving Simon, Jesus, and “a sinful woman.”
“36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and reclined at table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Luke 7:36-50 (ESV)
When he finished discussing these verses, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I had heard the story before but it hit differently this time. I thought over and over about verses 42-43. If someone were to cancel a debt of fifty denarii (each denarii was worth a day’s labor), the debtor might be grateful but it would likely be forgotten or taken for granted soon after. The debtor would not feel as grateful and loving towards the moneylender as he should. But a debtor that owed five hundred denarii would be a different story. That debtor would be overtaken with thankfulness and love. It would be impossible to ignore such a significant burden lifted. And this was easy for Simon to grasp. When put in this way, he was able to answer Jesus correctly, “judge rightly,” for he knew that the answer was quite obvious. But Simon had completely overlooked the parallelism of the story to his own life.
Jesus convicts him saying, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet.”
The woman had a low reputation and it was shocking to even see her enter a Pharisee’s house. Because the Pharisees showed nothing but contempt for sinners, Simon was sure that Jesus would send her away once He knew her character. But a woman that Simon condemned and brought shame upon was now being affirmed by Jesus. A woman that Simon thought to be far below him in every way was now being used as an example of what Simon should have done had he loved Jesus as he ought to.
Similarly, I thought of this story in relationship to a scenario that certainly arises today. There are those that come to Christ from the lowest of lows; a lifestyle anyone, believer or not, would condemn. It’s a beautiful representation of God’s grace and divine sovereignty to see an image bearer go through such a transformation. There are also those who grew up in a Christian home and had a seemingly “easy” and “small” transition to following and having faith in Christ. These cases are also a beautiful representation of God’s grace and divine sovereignty. The difference between these two is not the goodness of the person in their most natural, humanistic state. We can do no good without God (Jn 15:4-5). Our flesh is hostile to God and desires sin. And those who are in the flesh cannot please God. The difference between these two is God’s grace and mercy. The difference between these two is the woman’s true faith (v.50) that led to salvation. God imparts His grace and mercy in whichever way at whatever time to whomever he likes because he is completely and absolutely sovereign. He is Creator of all, Ruler over everything, and nothing can thwart His purpose (praise Jesus!).
So when we see some go from seemingly darker places than others to being brought in the light of Jesus, it shows more of who God is than who we are. None of us deserve God’s love and grace. The wages for our sin is death but it is God’s free gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23) that brings us from death to life. So we must remember that all of us are dead in our sins without faith in Jesus Christ...no matter how “good” one’s life appears from a worldly point of view.
As I was thinking through these things on my road trip, I thought about how easy it might be for a believer who has been surrounded by Christianity their whole life to take for granted the immeasurable and profound grace that has been gifted to them. It’s also likely that a believer who has been distant from other believers and who has come from a place of despair, addiction, illegal behavior, you name it, or who simply feels lost and hopeless in this world would feel an enormous amount of freedom, love, and thankfulness that results in bold praise, firm proclamation of the Truth, devoted study, and utmost sincerity and repentance to God. Why is that? Both people are depraved and dead without God. They were both dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1). In them, “nothing good [dwelled]; for to will is present with [them], but how to perform what is good [they could] not find” (Romans 7:18). Because they were both dead and then raised to life through faith in Jesus Christ, you would think that both believers would drop to their knees in reverence to the almighty King who graciously saved them. You would think that both would be eager to share the Truth with others, would desire to study His Word deeply, and would be intent on obeying His commands. Instead we often notice that the opposite is true. Believers allow their worldly surroundings to determine how grateful they are to their Savior. Believers see their “goodness” based on worldly factors and man’s opinion and then decide for themselves how gracious God was to them and if it really was that big of a deal.
I’m here to tell you to stop listening to the world. I’m here to tell you to stop thinking of your salvation as small, insignificant, or something of the past. I’m here to tell you to stop making excuses for disobeying and dishonoring God.
Be courageous and share the Good News of the Gospel to others.
Do not have a spirit of fear.
Be zealous about reading and studying God’s word.
Do not keep pushing it aside.
Be bold in praise to the almighty King.
Do not be embarrassed or hide it away.
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.
Matthew 22:36-38 (ESV)