March 9 – Devotion Sharing (Luke 17)
Submitted by Kaitlyn L. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church
· According to this passage, I am responsible towards others in what three specific ways?
I am responsible towards others (1) not cause them to sin/introduce temptations (things that cause people to sin); (2) rebuke/correct my brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ when they sin; (3) forgive them when they repent and ask for forgiveness.
· How seriously have I approached each of these relational responsibilities?
I don’t think I approach the first 2 of these commands seriously enough. Jesus says to “watch myself” that I do not introduce temptation/cause my brothers and sisters to sin. For instance, I can stumble people by being sharp-tongued and sarcastic – that would perpetuate a culture of cutting others down. Taking this first responsibility seriously requires me to be a lot more thoughtful and other-centered, not simply doing whatever feels comfortable/natural, but being extra-sensitive and taking care to guard those around me.
Secondly, the responsibility to rebuke my brother/sister when they sin is equally challenging. I have a responsibility to uphold biblical values which are so different from what we see from the world every day. For me often the incidence may not seem so blatant, and out of my own fear of rocking the relationship or being rejected, or just dampening the mood, I hesitate to say anything. Being permissive is not love, it’s just saving my own skin. It is through seizing the moment to say something, unsettling the atmosphere, that I can help shape others and speak the truth in love. This is not just optional, this is the calling that God’s given me as members of God’s household to fellow brothers and sisters. And it is also hard to bring up something uncomfortable when it’s my friend (and even my husband!) – but I need to be faithful and zealous about God’s honor first, and I need to have greater and higher vision for these people as God sees them, rather than just wanting to preserve my comfort and their comfort.
· What is the standard of forgiveness for Christians?
The standard of forgiveness for Christians is to forgive them each time they sin against us and repent and ask for forgiveness.
· How forgiving am I?
One way I am not forgiving is my hesitancy to fully hope that a complete restoration is possible. For example, after a serious breach of trust by a close family member, there are times I just feel like there is no way the relationship can become like what it was before. While it may be true that I can’t pretend nothing happened, it doesn’t mean that my relationship with this person cannot continue to deepen and mature after he has repented. This lack of forgiveness is related to my resistance to go through the emotional hard work of accepting that each of us are broken sinners and rebuilding the relationship based on who this person really is, rather than who I had hoped this person would be.
So I may not be consciously refusing to forgive, but there are many ways when I do not allow the relationship to become fully restored because of some prejudice that I hold onto or because I just don’t want to re-engage because of some hurt. What I need to remember and meditate on is that Christ never treated me like this. Even though I treat God over and again with contempt, insult, rejection and refusal to listen and trust, even though I betray God’s love for me again and again and am often so proud and insolent, God always receives me with perfect love and forgiveness when I repent. And it is because of the kind of love and forgiveness that I’ve received again and again unconditionally from God, that I have the roominess in my heart to be able to really forgive the far smaller wrongs I’ve experienced.
· Why might the apostles have asked Jesus for increased faith in response to Jesus’ command to forgive?
Maybe the apostles asked Jesus for more faith after hearing how often they have to forgive their brothers because they felt like it’s just so impossible. Perhaps they thought that in order to do this, they have to have some kind of super-natural endowment. However, God does increase our faith, when we submit to Him and obey. When we obey him first, we experience that what we thought were the limits of our faith, can actually be stretched.
· What kinds of things do I refuse to obey on account of having insufficient faith?
I think a lot of these are things that I omit to do or not push myself and I excuse myself by saying it’s too hard. Anytime I justify myself or feel like something is too hard to do, it is my way of saying – “God you need to do something (give me more faith or zap me somehow) to get me to be where you want me to be.” But Jesus’ response is – if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, it will be done. The problem is not that God has to change me somehow, but God’s already given me what I need to get started and as I obey, God will supply the rest and I will realize that what I feel daunted by is not so big after all.
· Reflect on Jesus’ description of the proper attitude of a servant. Are there times when after a period of working hard in some area of service, I find myself having some kind of sense of entitlement toward rest, or appreciation of some sort?
I can identify with this servant who feels this sense of entitlement to rest and just relax – after a long weekend where I’ve cooked and prepped a message, after a mission trip, after welcome week, etc. – I often feel like now I deserve some rest, some calm/down time. I feel this way because I’ve lost sight of my identity – it would be absurd for the servant to feel like he’s done such a great service by serving and doing what the master told him. He’s forgotten that that’s who he is. When I feel this way, I need to stop myself and not excuse it thinking it’s “natural” but see how against God, it must feel so offensive and so baffling, because I am not like a slave, but I’m someone rescued from death and undeservingly entrusted me with such a high calling, and that what I’m doing is not just chores but it is the Father’s heart that he’s sharing with me.
· How fresh is my sense of privilege toward my role as an “unworthy servant”?
Often my sense of privilege waivers when I don’t consciously remember how I got to be here in the first place, the life of self-destruction and the kind of puny, selfish, meaningless life that I was saved from. Sometimes my sense of privilege is crowded out by my task/performance-oriented-ness. But I must remember that God’s given me this calling to impact people’s eternal destiny. Sometimes my struggle with my sins, seeing the same or new character issues and realizing how much I’m still so immature, etc. – causes me to forget that sense of privilege – when really it is the reality of the gospel and this amazing calling against the backdrop of the kind of hopeless sinner I am that gives me the renewed energy to struggle and not get defeated by my sin. But overall, I think as I engage in ministry and learn to engage in it more deeply, through regular reminders like Bible studies, through DTs like this reminding me of the truth, I experience a greater sense of my own unworthiness and the amazing privilege of this call to service that I’ve been saved into. When I was younger it was a more surface level excitement that I get to do this grand thing. But as I get older and see my own sinfulness more, and see how difficult it is to bring one person closer to God, I feel more deeply indebted and grateful to God who has come this far into the mud and mire to redeem me, and I feel humbled and grateful that God would entrust this kind of high-stake and serious calling on someone like me.
Please write out a prayer of commitment or confession either based on today’s text or upon reflection over recent events in your life.
Heavenly Father, thank you for your entrustment and calling for me to engage in the most meaningful work there is – to share in your heart for each lost soul, to search for them and bind up their wounds and bring them home into your fold. Thank you for how tenaciously you have sought me and how you consider me worthy to share in this work with you, against all my track record and against all the inconstancies in my heart, the lack of love and all the ways that I get so easily distracted. Please help me to come back again and again to this fresh sense of awe and wonder, that I would consider it the greatest privilege and joy in my life to be called servant of this life-giving gospel. Please help me also in the area of genuinely forgiving others and not withholding my whole heart, not daunted by the emotional toil of rebuilding the relationship. Please help me to take my role to guard the potential of becoming a stumbling block and speaking truth in love to my brothers and sisters seriously, knowing that not only have you called me to such a high calling, but also you have given me the strength and wisdom to carry it out. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Submitted by Susan I. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church
FRIDAY, March 9
- Causing others to sin
The idea of causing others to sin is a terrible thought – I would never want to do it. But as I read this passage, I was reminded of the different ways that I have caused others to sin. There are things from my past that I remember with great shame and regret, where I chose my desires over obeying God and I dragged others down with me. There are the ways that my pride and stubbornness frustrated my sisters and it would lead to tension and fights. Or the times when I was critical of different things around me and tried to get other people to feel the same way I did. As I reflect on my past, I see how my actions, my words, my attitudes, my sins affected others – how I was a stumbling block, a bad influence, a negative voice. And I see that even one word, one episode could affect someone to the point of them turning away from God and rejecting Him. My life has this kind of impact on others. The older I get, the more people God brings into my life, the more I see that this is true. And so I want to take v. 3 to heart – “So watch yourselves…” I need to be spiritually alert and vigilant for my own spiritual life as well as for the sake of others, especially “these little ones” – the younger ones, our students, newcomers, non-Christians – who are looking to me to see what it means to have a relationship with God, what it means to live by the Spirit, what it means to be part of the church. I need to watch myself – my view of God, my view of myself, my attitude towards sin, my hunger and eagerness to hear from God’s Word, my relationships with people, hints of lovelessness or selfishness or self-preservation in my heart. I need to quickly repent, quickly clean the glass so God’s light can shine through my life rather than being muddied and clouded by my sin and spiritual dullness.
- Rebuke, repent, and forgive
These verses on how to treat a brother who sins and a brother who repents shows me how seriously God views sin and how seriously God views us. God can’t ignore sin in our lives. When I sin, something is amiss in me and amiss in my relationship with God. I shouldn’t be able to ignore that in my own life, and I shouldn’t ignore that in my brother or sister’s life either. But that isn’t what I naturally want to do. I want act like everything’s okay with me, or when it’s my brother or sister, I want to avoid tension or conflict or an awkward conversation. I don’t want to be the bad guy, the one who says, “You need to realize you’re doing this or see that you’re like this, and you need to see how God sees it.” But this is what Jesus is saying I need to do. Similarly, what Jesus tells us to do when our brother repents – “forgive him” – also doesn’t come naturally to me. I remember the wrong or hold a grudge against them or just feel uncomfortable. But when I repent before God, though the consequences of my sin are still there, God forgives me and doesn’t hold my sin against me. This is also how God views my brother or sister who repents and this is how I should view them too.
I have experienced being on the other side – the one who sins and my sins – my pride, my deceit, my hypocrisy – are pointed out. But then, when I repent – when I see my sins before a holy God, when I see my sins properly and grieve over the way I have wronged God, I have experienced forgiveness and grace from God and the people I sinned against. Through being rebuked or corrected, I was able to see my sin, I stopped in my tracks and faced the truth about myself, and then was able to repent. Though uncomfortable and hard to receive, those corrections were life-giving to me and I was able to experience God’s forgiveness to a greater depth.
- Unworthy servant
After reflecting on the effects of my sin on myself and on others over the years, and reflecting on the ways I have experienced God’s mercy again and again when I confess and repent, this passage on the servant who just does what he was told to do and says, “We are unworthy servants…” is a true and accurate statement of me. I was a rebel, a law-breaker, an enemy of Christ, but God had mercy on me and saved me, rescued me, and forgave me. He invites me to join in his work of speaking truth to others with the hope of ushering them into true life, into a richer and fuller life. He invites me to show mercy, forgiveness and love to others as I have received it and experienced it in my own life. In light of this passage, it is so clear that I am an unworthy servant – I don’t deserve to be here. And if I wasn’t here – serving God and serving others, doing God’s kingdom work, where would I be? I would be living a life of trying to ignore and cover my shame and guilt, trying to distract myself with movies, books and the internet. I would be a loner, having shunned people as a bother and having hurt people with my pride and ego and selfish and demanding attitude. I would be so compartmentalized, my conscience so seared and ruined that I wouldn’t know myself, I wouldn’t know right from wrong. It is a frightening thought, and I am so thankful for God’s mercy on me – allowing me to see the truth, putting people in my life who spoke truth and His Word to me, and bringing me to a point of repentance so that I could experience true life.
- We have only done our duty
In response to this, what else can I do but serve God, love people, be available to help others, and try to share this message of good news with others. “We have only done our duty” isn’t said with an attitude of reluctance or resentment, but it’s a statement of gratitude and devotion. When I feel tired of battling my sin, or feel hesitant to bring up an issue with someone, or feel intimidated at the thought of doing outreach on campus, I need to return to my testimony – my story of how I have experienced God’s mercy and forgiveness again and again, no matter how many times I fell, no matter how far I fell, no matter how far I wandered away. I need to return to the truth that God has lavished his love on me, and as a redeemed child, He invites me to join Him as he seeks his lost children and tries to bring them home. Serving God shouldn’t be an act of drudgery. It’s a response of love to my heavenly Father who doesn’t hold my sin against me, but forgives me and invites me to experience His heart of concern and burden for the lost as well as His joy when a lost sinner returns home.
Please write out a prayer of commitment or confession either based on today’s text or upon reflection over recent events in your life.
Heavenly Father, thank you for your grace and mercy on me. I am burdened and grieved by the ways I have caused others to stumble, and I see how my life can have this kind of serious impact on the people you have placed in my life. I cling to your forgiveness and I also want to respond by being watchful – watchful of my heart’s condition, watchful of my attitude towards sin, watchful against any dullness or resentment or a critical attitude. Thank you for using this text to remind me of my story with you – of the ways I have received forgiveness from you though I didn’t deserve it. Please help me to return to this again and again to give me clarity and to live a life of genuine love and devotion to you and to others. Thank you for your grace on my life that you redeemed me and invite me to join you in searching for and finding your lost children to bring them safely home. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.