Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. I was attracted to an interview with President Obama last night at Night Line. When he answered the question about his spirituality, he said that a good friend of him held him accountable to focus on God each day, by sending his daily devotional to his ‘blackberry.’ It is amazing how this person’s devotional can shape the mind of a person who has political power to change the world. If our president needs to do daily devotional reading to focus on God, I am sure you need it too regardless of your opinion toward this president. Let’s continue to pray for our president just as the Bible said, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone--for kings (or Presidents) and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Tim 2:1-2). Amen? Let’s look at our devotional reading today.
"For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:20). The characteristic of a disciple is not that he does good things, but that he is good in motive because he has been made good by the super-natural grace of God. The only thing that exceeds “right-doing” is “right-being.” Jesus Christ came to put into any man who would let Him a new heredity, which would exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus says - If you are My disciple you must be right not only in your living, but in your motives, in your dreams, in the recesses of your mind. You must be so pure in your motives that God Almighty can see nothing to censure. Who can stand in the Eternal Light of God and have nothing for God to censure? Only the Son of God, and Jesus Christ claims that by His Redemption He can put into any man His own disposition, and make him as pure and as simple as a child. The purity that God demands is impossible unless I can be remade within, and that is what Jesus has undertaken to do by His Redemption.
No man can make himself pure by obeying laws. Jesus Christ does not give us rules and regulations; His teachings are truths that can only be interpreted by the disposition He puts in. The great marvel of Jesus Christ's salvation is that He alters heredity. He does not alter human nature; He alters its mainspring.
This concept seems to be very profound or abstract. We still operate with the same mindset and attitude after becoming a Christian. We don’t really feel the changes. I am sure the Apostles did not feel the change in them after they decided to follow Christ. As a matter of fact, they reacted by their human nature – Peter stopped his Teacher from heading to the Cross; John asked Jesus to burn the village that had rejected them, and one of them drew a sword and cut off his enemy’s ear. We did not see any “change” in them at that time. But after they were filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, something seemed to happen within the core of their being. This group of “scary cats” suddenly became “bold lions.” They were confident and bold in proclaiming the gospel in the place once they were filled with fear. What caused such significant change in them? Was the dramatic or supernatural experience that transformed them from inside out? I don’t really know for sure. But one thing I am sure was that their faith in Christ was deepened through their experience at Pentecost, and their courage was born out of their passion for Christ, who died and resurrected for their sake.
Something had happened to the early church that permeated the whole community. They no longer were afraid of death and persecutions. Even non-Apostle like Stephen died with a similar serenity and passion like Christ. Dr. Luke described, “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep” (Acts 7:59-60). The love of God richly filled this person’s heart even at his violent death. We cannot tell for sure what had happened to Stephen within his being. His life was taped to a new source or spring of strength and love from above. Somehow the first martyr was not one of the Apostles but a “lay leader” in the early church. It means this transformation could take place in any followers of Christ, regardless of their title or what they do in the religious community. It will happen to you too.
Have a blessed weekend to spend more time with the Lord! Please also remember me in your prayer, as I will preach in a summer retreat tomorrow, and teach a Mission class on Sunday.
Love you because of His transformation in me,