In Which I Give A Bible Study (and boy is it LONG!)

Caution: read only when you have a good amount of time on your hands. Yes, I’m aware that that means some of you just won’t read it: so be it.

When I was in 5th grade, 10 or 11 years old, I remember doing our bible workbooks in Mr. S’s class at REDACTED. This incident stuck out to me because it was weird. I can’t remember if this was a question in our bible workbook, or just something Mr. S was doing. I think it was a question in the workbook… I’d like to get ahold of an old one and see, now.

Anyway, the question was something like, “if you were to go on a long car ride, and had to pick one of the 12 disciples to take with you, which one would you pick?”

I remember thinking that the question was insanely weird. At this point, I might or might not have finished reading all 4 gospels. I know I was working my way through them at that time, but don’t think I’d finished. I remember thinking, “how would I know? I don’t know the disciples well enough to know.” In reading the bible directly, one sorta has to be able to read between the lines to get a picture of what the disciples’ personalities were like. Unless one reads The Desire of Ages, one wouldn’t really know much about the disciples, and what 10/11 year old reads Desire of Ages? (Well, I had tried, but was literally unable to understand it, so I gave up.)

Mr. S said that he would pick Peter, because Peter was such a talker, and they’d always have something to talk about.

I think, officially, on the worksheet/workbook/whatever it was we were doing, I copied my teacher’s answer, because the question was, to me, stupidly weird, and I couldn’t think of a better answer.

Or maybe I was just too afraid to put down my real answer. There was no question in the workbook that asked WHY you picked the particular disciple. Actually, I remember that. I remember coming up with a real answer but being too scared to write it down.

I’d pick Judas.

Judas Iscariot, to go on a road trip with. So I could lecture him about what he did to Jesus. I figured maybe he’d repent, come back to Jesus, and go to heaven. (Before I read Desire of Ages I was under the illusion that perhaps Judas had repented and we just didn’t know it. After all, the bible doesn’t really say whether he did or not, and just because he hanged[1] himself doesn’t automatically grant him a one way ticket to hell. Sure my teachers told me he hadn’t repented, but if the bible didn’t say, how would they know?)

I’m 23 now. I’ve read Messiah (contemporary adaptation of Desire of Ages) twice, and am working my way through it a 3rd time. And the chapter on Judas was insightful before, but it never fully hit me like it did this time.

Because Judas is just like me. Or, since he came first, I am just like Judas.

Judas always had a strong love for money. I have a strong love for money. Judas was greedy. I am greedy. Judas loved money more than Jesus. –I- love money more than Jesus.

When Judas first joined Jesus, it was because he wanted to be a better person, and he hoped that this would happen when he joined Jesus. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this. Our initial reasons for coming to Jesus aren’t always perfect. However, Judas seems to have expected to become a better person without any effort on his part.  He seems to have thought that just being around Jesus was enough. That Jesus’ character would rub off on him.

How many of us today join up with Jesus because we want to be a better person, yet don’t make the effort to get to know Him and become like Him? How many of us make Christian friends, go to church, prayer meeting, bible study, and expect the character of our Christian friends, or the atmosphere of religious meetings, to somehow rub off on us and make us a better person?

Guilty.

Judas sought Jesus halfheartedly. He didn’t surrender his entire self to Jesus, nor did he cultivate a love Him. Judas thought he could be changed just by being around Jesus. But just because we are around Christlike love doesn’t mean we will automatically respond to it. Judas didn’t. He is an example of that.

Being around Christian people is often a good start, but ultimately my friendship with Christians will not cause me to become like Jesus, though it may produce an outward change. Outwardly, Judas was a model citizen. But inside, his heart was unchanged. He still stole from the money bag, he still tried to push Jesus onto a throne, and he still cherished his love of money and greed. Judas thought he could seek God halfway, and that is ultimately why his story has such a sad ending.

The bible talks quite a bit about seeking God with the whole heart.

Hebrews 11:6

…for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Emphasis mine.)

Jeremiah 29:13

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.(Emphasis mine.)

The Rich Young Ruler (I hate it when the bible doesn’t name people, it’s so impersonal. We’ll call him “Bob.”) Also sought God halfheartedly.

Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ ”[a]

And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.”

So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.

Luke 18:18-23.

Bob was A Godly Man™. Outwardly he appeared to be righteous. Ever since he was a child, he avoided murder, theft, and lying. He always obeyed his parents whenever the asked him to do anything, and, when he got to adolescence, he made the decision to avoid adultery.

Everybody around him thought Bob was seeking God with his whole heart. After all, why else would he be such a goody two shoes? Everyone else disobeyed their parents on occasion, but not Bob. Bob told the truth, even when it could’ve gotten him into trouble.

But Bob lacked one thing: surrender. Bob was willing to give Jesus “everything,” but he wasn’t willing to give Jesus his money. Therefore, Bob was unwilling to give everything to Jesus.

“One thing you lack.” Has Jesus said the same thing to us? Are we willing to surrender all, and give Him “the one thing” that we lack? Or will we walk away, sad, because we have many…. Well, fill in the blank, I guess. It could be money, could be drugs, sex, partying, etc.

So we see that poor Bob lost Everything, because he wasn’t willing to give everything. Someone else wasn’t willing to give Jesus everything either, and at least this person has a name.

Pontius Pilate.

Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”

Jesus answered him, “Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?”

Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?”

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”

Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?”

Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all.”

John 18:33-38.

 

Jesus has been arrested, and has been questioned by the Jews all night. But the Jews can’t condemn someone to death on their own, because they’re still under the power of the Romans. They need a Roman official to send Jesus to his death. This is why they went to Pilate. The bible says they brought Jesus to Pilate in the early morning, as soon as the light dawned. Spirit of Prophecy says that Pilate was still sleeping. I don’t know about you, but I’m woken up at Stupid O’clock in the morning, I’m grumpy. I don’t imagine that spoiled rich Pilate would be any different. SoP also tells us that Pilate had condemned many innocent men before and thought nothing of it. So the fact that Pilate here is taking the time to even question Jesus, when he’s been roused from his nice warm bed, shows that he is seeking. It shows that there was something about Jesus that made Pilate stop in his tracks and actually think before condemning.

We know this also because of the questions Pilate is asking. Pilate does not ask, “do you claim to be a king” or, “are you trying to become a king?” Pilate was clearly listening to Jesus with at least some degree of certainty that he was telling the truth.

“What is truth?” Pilate asked, and then he left the room. Pilate asked Jesus “What is truth?” But did not stick around to hear the answer.  See, as all this is going on, there’s a mob outside. A big angry mob that wants to kill Jesus. Pilate is under a huge amount of pressure from this mob to sentence this man to death.

Pilate had the Son of God right there in his courtroom! He could have learned anything he wanted. He could have set Jesus free right then and there and invited him to stay a while and teach him.

But Pilate trashed his chance. You see, he was afraid that if he didn’t condemn Jesus to death, the Jews would tell Caesar, and then Pilate would lose his high position. Pilate wanted to seek the truth about Jesus, but he let the pressure of the mob sway him into throwing away the opportunity. How many of us today do not seek the Lord wholeheartedly because to do so would go against pressures of the world?

Yeah, I know I should get up and have devotions, but I just want to sleep. Or, I want to read my bible to seek the Lord, but I have so much homework? I’ll sleep and or do homework now, and seek the Lord later. But later never comes.

Now I want to compare two men. One who did seek Jesus wholeheartedly, and one who did not.

9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 18:9-14

 

Which one of these two men really sough God wholeheartedly? If we didn’t see them here in this temple scene, we might think the Pharisee. You see, the Pharisees in Jesus’ day were very legalistic. They were fond of rules and rituals, and required very strict obedience. In fact, this particular Pharisee does more than many other Pharisees of his time: He fasts twice a week instead of one, and gives tithe of all that he possesses. In bible times, this did not mean money: if you had a harvest of grain, you’d put 10% of your grain in the offering plate, and this would go to feed the priests. I’m not sure what assets this particular Pharisee had, but it is clear that he does not just mean money.

But if you look on the inside, as does God, and as the bible is telling us here, the sinner is the true seeker. This man went to his house justified, not just because he was humble, but because he was sincere. In that day, the phrase “tax collector” was basically synonymous with the word, “thief.” This man likely robbed and cheated his own people, but he repented sincerely. Sincere repentance is all it takes for God to justify us, and sincerely seeking God is all it takes for us to find Him.

So which one are we? Are we like the Pharisees? Are we seeking the Lord on the outside, but in our hearts, we think our own righteousness is enough? Even those of us who do ministry, are we doing it like the Pharisee, to glorify ourselves, or are we like the tax collector, broken and ashamed, not seeking our own glory, but the glory of God?

Now we’re going back to Luke 18 (Have you noticed that I’m mostly using chapter 18s? Yeah, neither did I.)

Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’

 And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’”

Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?”

Luke 18:1-7

This parable illustrates persistence in prayer. If we ask something, sometimes we need to ask more than once. It is not always known right away (or ever) why God does this. Sometimes it is to test our faith, or to see how badly we want it.

The Lord is not like the unjust judge. This judge only listened to the widow’s cries because he was tired of her. But God never gets tired of us. Ever. Jesus’ point here, rather, was that if even a wicked judge will eventually give in to persistent pleading, how much more will a good judge (God) listen to us if we are persistent?

When we pray, are we persistent? Or do we bring our requests before God and get discouraged when they’re not answered? I know personally that this is incredibly hard, but Part of seeking God wholeheartedly is getting over that discouragement.

Luke chapter 10 (finally, a non 18 chapter!) verses 38-42 talks about another woman who sought God wholeheartedly (and, by contrast, one who did not.)

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”

And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Now, I actually don’t like to criticize Martha too much, because in her mind she was doing a good work for the Lord. She was hospitable, and she welcomed Jesus into her home. It was not wrong for Martha to work, but Jesus said Martha was troubled about many things. (I actually like the way the King James puts it better: Martha was concerned with “much serving.”)

Martha wasn’t just setting the table and preparing food on the stove, oh no. This is Jesus, the king of the universe! She’s going to get out the fine china, polish it, make eggplant parmesan, pull out the fancy table clothes from storage (which probably needed a good dusting), etc.

In other words, Martha was overdoing it just a bit.

Jesus said one thing is needful: spending time in The Word. Jesus is basically saying that he would’ve been fine with no table clothes, regular dishes, and haystacks instead of eggplant parmesan (whatever that is.) He would rather have simpler circumstances if it meant that Mary and Martha could take the time to listen.

We might not have Jesus in our living room, but we have His Word. Are we spending time in it like we need to, or are we busy with “much serving?” Seeking God with the whole heart involves spending time with Jesus. Not just privately, but it also includes spending time where Jesus is spoken of, like church and bible study.

Are we diligently going to where people are seeking Jesus? Or do we skip church sometimes because life happens? I’m so tired, I just want to sleep in on Sabbath. I have a lot of midterms to study for, so I’ll just skip church.

It is of vital importance, if we want to truly seek God with our whole heart, to spend time in His Word.

Mary was so concerned with seeking Jesus, that to her, cares of this life did not exist. We should be so concerned with seeking Jesus that, while we have to do other things, we don’t get overwhelmed by them.

One last example before I close.

Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.”

And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”

So he said, “Teacher, say it.”

“There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”

Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”

And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.”  Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil.  Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”

Luke 10:36-50

 

This woman, who we know was Mary Magdalene, was seeking Jesus with her whole heart by ministering to him.

See, in bible times, it was normal for friends to greet each other with a kiss. Also, when going to one’s house, especially the house of someone who was rich, the host would have a servant come and wash the guest’s feet. I’m not sure about the oil, but I do know that, in these two areas, at least, Jesus has been slighted. Mary sees this, and she decides that, because of her love for Jesus, she will minister to him.

The bible says in Matthew 25:40 That whatever you do to others, you do to Jesus also. We may not have Jesus in our dining hall to minister to, but we have others. We have the homeless people right here in Ypsilanti. We have the broken, shattered hearts of our fellow students who just need someone to listen to and care about them.

Part of seeking Jesus with the whole heart is ministering unto his people.

The woman in this story sought after God with her whole heart by ministering to Jesus. But she was only following the example set by God: God sought after us by ministering to us through his son Jesus.

When Adam and Eve sinned, God didn’t wait for them to come to him, He came to them. Also, if you read the chapter, you’ll see that Adam and Eve didn’t even ask for Jesus to die for them, Jesus just offered. Because he loved them. Because he loved us. Loves, present tense.

If you read the old testament, you will see that Israel was constantly caught in a cycle: Israel would fall away, God would send them a prophet, Israel would repent, then the next generation grew up, Israel backslid, God sent a prophet…. And that’s pretty much the entire old testament. There, now you don’t have to read it: I just summarized it all for you. Anyway, my point is that, a lot of times, when Israel would fall away, God would send a prophet to remind them to repent. He was constantly calling them back to Him. And I do mean pretty much constantly.

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.

Luke 15:4-7

John chapter 10:11 says that Jesus is the good shepherd. Now, in bible times, when one lost a sheep, he panicked. He counted and recounted the others just to be sure, and then he set out. In those days, wandering around looking for a lost sheep could be dangerous: the woods/mountains/wilderness contained lions and tigers (and bears, oh my!). Often the shepherd would have to climb steep, rocky cliffs to get to the sheep.

This is not just a sort of halfhearted glancing around the sheep hill. This is actively searching and seeking with the whole heart.

Luke  15:11-32 tells us the story of the prodigal son. I’m going to call him “Larry.” Larry left his father’s house to go waste his money on drugs, sex, and alcohol. When he did finally come crawling back, he didn’t find his father just sitting around in his home office waiting for Larry; his father was out in the road looking for him. Both the father and the son in this story wanted a relationship. Jesus Christ wants a relationship with you. He seeks you with the whole heart. When two parties are both seeking a relationship, it is a guarantee that that relationship will happen.

God sent his son Jesus into the world in order to save us. This is not half hearted seeking, that is literally giving of himself. Jesus sought after us with such enthusiasm that he was beaten, whipped, and mistreated in almost every horrible way imaginable for us. He died for us.He seeks after us with his whole heart, with his whole being. Do we?

If God loved us enough to give himself for us, should we not then seek after him the same way? Should we not surrender ourselves to God, and do whatever it takes to secure a relationship with Him? Are we, then, willing to seek God wholeheartedly, as he seeks after us? Are we willing to crucify the parts of ourselves that are not in harmony with this purpose? Are we willing to become diligent seekers, diligent bible readers, diligent pray-ers?


[1] Note to my editor: yes this is proper grammar: hanged= a person, hung= an object. Look it up, I’m right.

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