January 31, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Luke 8)

Submitted by Hannah C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

  • How does Jesus’ response challenge the world’s view of family?

The world’s view of family usually consists of nuclear or extended family. This definition of family is very narrow and fixed as family is something given from birth and cannot be changed. Jesus challenges the world’s view of family by broadening the definition of family to include “whoever hears God’s word and puts into practice.” His definition changes the criteria of family from blood line to hearing God’s words and putting it into practice. He challenges the narrow view of the world regarding family and shows that a purpose in God can redefine the boundaries of family.

  • What does Jesus redefinition of human closeness reveal about God’s vision for how we should relate to one another?

Jesus’ redefinition of human closeness reveals God’s vision for Christians to become like a family. What makes families close? It is because family members don’t have to put up a front and are accepted for who they are. They are known for all their faults and issues since birth, and there are many shared stories of embarrassing and funny incidents. Even though you might not even like them, you are bound by familial relationships.

God’s vision for Christians is that we relate to one another as family members. Hearing God’s word and putting it into practice not only includes works of service, but also being honest with one another and receiving forgiveness for our sins. We no longer have to play games in church because we are clear about our unifying identity as broken sinners who have been saved by the grace of God. Therefore, our petty differences in intelligence, appearance, academic achievements, social status and wealth can be put aside, and we can relate to one another closely and honestly.

  • What implication does this have for other tribal-type associations and loyalties?

The implication this has for other tribal-type associations and loyalties is that they should be evaluated by its basis of association. Some clubs where they create “families” are based on mutual interests, common goals or social reasons and often do not lead to closeness and honesty. When this common factor wanes or the membership ends, the association and loyalty will die down as well. This implies that the other tribal-type associations and loyalties need to be based on something deeper than just common interest. The closeness that Christians experience is based on the gospel, which frees up people from pretension and superficiality and unites people as children of God.

  • Who or what kind of people would be threatened by Jesus’ view of human relational loyalties, and who would be encouraged and comforted?

The people who would be threatened by Jesus’ view of human relational loyalties are those who have an exclusive view on family or are not used to trusting anyone outside of their immediate family. They do not accept the notion that families can include those who are not directly related to them. But people who would be encouraged and comforted by Jesus’ view of human relational loyalties are those who never had a good or any family, have been disappointed by human ties and want to belong. For them, the notion of being adopted into God’s family would be great news. This reminds me of why the Pharisees and “sinners” responded so differently to Jesus’ invitation to follow him.

  • What has been my experience of family as Jesus redefined it?

I have concretely experienced this picture of family of God through church when my mom had a stroke. My dad was in Korea, and my extended family was in LA, so my brother and I were all alone in the cold ICU room during a time of uncertainty and difficulty. I was only 18 back then, and it was my first time being hit by the reality of death. It was then my church embraced me even though so many people did not know my mom. Even though it was late at night, the ICU room was flooded with visitors who brought food and sleeping bags for me and my brother. As I looked around the room full of people, it was as Jesus had said – “my mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” They put God’s command to love their neighbor as themselves and put aside their own agenda and even their own family, and drove over to the hospital to pray for my mom and to comfort me. They did not let the word of God be at the intellectual level, but they took the word to heart and put it to practice through treating me as they would do for their own family. I was deeply encouraged and comforted by this kind of love I have not seen in the world. This is what I have seen over and over again as family lines are redrawn and extended to include many people because of the gospel. Even yesterday, I had to go to the hospital to visit my friend to be there for her during this difficult time. When we were freshmen at Cal, we were superficial and annoying. Our common bond was created around shopping and silly things. But now she is like my own family as we have grown in our commitment to God and have gone through ups and downs of life together. Our relationship now consists of leading a bunch of students and helping them mature as Christians. As we work hard together and care for each other through difficult times, Jesus’ words became real in my life that my sisters are “those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” My life has become so much richer as my family includes so many others who share the same vision and purpose in God.

Submitted by Daniel C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

•       Lamp, light, listen

If the lamp is the Word of God, Jesus is telling us in this passage how we ought to hear and apply it. It doesn’t make sense to hear God’s Word and then “hide” it by not thinking deeply about it, not working out its widespread implications. Just as a lamp is meant to be put on a stand so that its light can fill its entire surroundings, so God’s Word is meant to have that same kind of effect of reaching into every area of our lives. As absurd as it is to light a lamp and put it under a bed, it is equally absurd to hear God’s Word—which is so personally involving and has radical consequences—and deliberately try to minimize its impact. We do this in all sorts of ways. We manage to not think about God’s Word and its implications in our lives because it’s offensive. We get caught up in practical day-to-day living and attend to matters of much less importance than thinking about what God says about our lives. We allow worries, desires, appetites, and feelings all bury our ability to hear what God is saying to us.

Jesus exhorts me to consider carefully how I listen to God’s Word. Do I hear it, give it a prominent place in my life, put it on a stand so that it can reach down into every area of my life? It’s a sobering thing that Jesus says: how you listen and apply God’s Word is going to be revealed. You can’t fake it. You can’t be hearing message after message, and continue to not apply it, because one day all your motivations will be made known. What you really value in your life will be unveiled. All it takes is for some really difficult life circumstance that really stretches you, and what’s inside you will be revealed. Whether or not you had been hearing God’s Word correctly and whether you have been practiced in letting God’s Word root you, will be made known. Whether you are living a hypocritical or compartmentalized Christian life, just hearing Bible studies and then fooling yourself into thinking you were faithfully and rigorously applying it, will be made known. You can’t toy with God’s Word or merely keep listening to it without effect forever.

[…]

I’ve been a Christian for a long time. I’ve heard countless Bible studies. I get a daily dose of God’s Word through DT. So every single time I do DT or hear a message, I must do the hard work of listening to God freshly. I need to share my DT or what I’ve getting out of messages with others, even though I often don’t like doing so, because doing so ensures that I have to make sense, have to be concrete in my applications rather than general and vague. If I’m not attentive to how I listen, I’ll inevitably start to get comfortable, thinking I’m well versed in the different aspects of Christian life, thinking that I’ve already demonstrated lordship in important areas in my life—and then even what I have will be taken away from me. I will slowly lose ability to gain insights into God’s Word, lose ability to really recognize myself being described by it.

I need to give God’s Word a prominent place in my life. I think about the recent College Winter Retreat and how it was such a powerful time where God’s Word gave all of us such spiritual clarity. Even as I’m helping a number of students work out the implications of those messages in their lives, I need to go back and review those messages as well and apply them concretely. Even in just a few short weeks, I can feel how the effect of what I heard can so easily wane. This is how I let what I have be taken away from me. I need to carve out the time and do the work of thinking through what I heard, reviewing some of my notes again, and making some commitments to God.

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