“We must never separate our labors for the Lord from our transformation by the Lord.”
Thoughts from daily Bible reading for today – September 8, 2022
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. Matthew 23:15, ESV
I am blessed to come from a family of missionaries and ministers, people who labored tirelessly in the Lord’s vineyard, longing to see those who are distant from him draw near and encounter his peace. This work often required great personal sacrifice, giving up many comforts and earthly securities in the name of Christ and his Kingdom.
Interestingly, the Pharisees, often the “bad guys” in the gospel stories, are described by our Lord Jesus in Matthew 23:15 as people who go to great lengths to bring converts into their fold, noting their willingness to “travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte.” In and of itself, this industrious spirit is not condemned by our Lord. Jesus himself sent his disciples “to the ends of the earth” in his name (Acts 1:8). Yet interestingly, this verse in Acts is also a key to why the Pharisees actions are so problematic, for it is there that Jesus prefaces his “ends of the earth” comment with these words: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”
We must never separate our labors for the Lord from our transformation by the Lord.
The Pharisees could not be faulted for their efforts or commitment to their cause! Yet Christ’s harsh condemnation was rooted in their own inability to live by what they preached. They may have won someone over by their rhetoric or knowledge, yet once a convert got close to them, they failed to find someone whose life had been transformed by their message. Because of this, their mission and message came up woefully short and was unable to preserve a convert to the end.
Similarly for us, lasting conversion to the way of Christ is not persevered by clever arguments or hard work, helpful as both may be. No, the most powerful witness to the message of Christ is embodied holiness, witnessing through your very life to the sustaining and transforming power of God. This is the “secret” to the greatest missionary successes in the history of our faith. The mission work that endures for generations is built not on power, money, or empty promises, but upon lives that know the power of God at work in and through them. May this be true of us today, wherever the Lord has called us to work and serve as witnesses to his resurrection.
Father, keep us from working for you yet failing to abide in you, we pray through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Are there ways in which your labors in Christ’s name have run ahead of you first abiding in his presence?
Hillsong Worship ft. Brooke Ligertwood: Resurrender
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