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Saved By Grace Alone

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday School Thoughts: Who is Your Neighbor

I Can Choose To Be Kind

From: Luke 10:25-37;
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" 26 He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?" 27And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." 28And he said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live." 29But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" 30Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' 36Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" 37He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise."

From Clay and Bobbi Miller
The lawyer here was testing Jesus to see whether Jesus understood the law or not. What he got back was a lesson from the Lawgiver. The fundamental flaw of this man’s question is his presumption that “works” could save him. If someone “could” keep the whole law, never sin, never transgress…then that person could live forever with God. The problem is, no one can…not even close, because every man and woman is born with a sinful nature. We sin because we are sinners. So Jesus drew this man of the law to the law and asked him “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” To which the man recited from the phylacteries (Strips of parchment with four passages, rolled up and attached to leather bands worn around the arm or the forehead) which were recited everyday.

The problem is, merely reading the commandments and assenting to their rightness is not the same as “doing” the commandments…and cannot save…likewise no one can do these commandments completely or perform them perfectly as is prescribed inherently in the commands. Jesus did this to show the man and the listeners and us, that obtaining eternal life by works is impossible.

The man wanted to justify himself (v.29). He did not touch the “love the Lord your God perfectly” part. No wonder. What he did was go to an area that he felt quite confident about for himself…loving his neighbor. Jews commonly interpreted “neighbor” to be “other Jews” or those who were like-minded as the Jews. Basically, their interpretation for neighbor was “those who were their neighbor in the Law”, i.e. others who have the law. Jesus was about to squash his self-righteousness.

Jesus answers the lawyer’s question with a story of a man, an unnamed man, of an unidentified ethnicity, who was beaten badly by robbers. He was left for dead. While lying there a Jewish priest walks by and showed no kindness, no mercy. Likewise a Levite passed by showing no kindness, no mercy. It was as if Jesus were showing that the moral and ceremonial law (which these two were priest of) offered no mercy. It does not. The law was given to show us the sinfulness of our sin and drive us to the cross where there is mercy and there is grace and there is forgiveness for not fulfilling the impossible requirements of the law.

Then Jesus introduces a third man. A Samaritan. Samaritans were “half-Jews” and therefore hated by Jews. They would fall into the category of a “non-neighbor”. So the Jews would feel quite justified in not “loving” them as part of “love your neighbor”. So Jesus is about to show them that this Samaritan, whom they despised, was not only a neighbor in the truest sense, but proved to be a better neighbor and friend than this smug lawyer who asked the question. This Samaritan had compassion, doctored and bound up his wounds, put him on his animal, brought him to an inn and cared for him and paid someone to continue his care until he was healed up. Jesus asks straightly, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" The lawyer answers the only way he could correctly answer…”He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus then commands them,,,”You go, and do likewise."

Jesus showed at least two things to us from this answer to the lawyer’s test. One, if we think we are keeping the law perfectly at any point, and meriting salvation, we are misinterpreting the Law. Jesus could pinpoint many ways in which we break commandments we might think we keep. The lawyer wanted to justify himself. That is impossible. And if we try it, we will be condemned. Only Christ lived and kept the law perfectly. He was not born with a sinful nature (miraculous conception; virgin birth). He did not inherit that sinful nature as we do. He did live perfectly righteous. He did keep the law without blemish. And the only way we can be justified is by having his righteousness imputed to our account. That happens when we put our faith in Him, His righteousness, for our salvation, knowing our own lives cannot meet the standard at all. We cannot justify ourselves. Justification (being declared not guilty) can only come by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone and all for the glory of God alone.

Second, Jesus is showing us that although the law cannot save us, it is still good and we should still strive to abide in it, not for merit but because if we are to love God, we are to love the Lawgiver. We love the Law because we love the lawgiver. The law to the Christian is not obeyed merely out of duty, but because we want to show our love to God.

So our lesson today was “I can choose to be kind”. What we really hoped to emphasize to the children today was how to be kind, ways to be kind and how to be kind not just to be kind, but to show our love for God to others and to God. The kind of kindness God seeks is kindness that is God-centered, God-sourced, and God-glorifying. Something to strive for always in all we do!!!!

Thank you for letting us be a small part of your child’s growing in the Lord!

--Clay and Bobbi