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Tuesday
Jul132010

Even A Cup of Cold Water

Perhaps we have become so accustomed to letting someone else take care of our obligations that we no longer see them as personal duties. If we are willing to let the church, the charity, or the government take care of what should be our burden, we will soon lose any share in the fruit that results from learning to sacrifice and share with others, especially in the dearest commodities we own – our time and our hearts. The trouble is that churches, charities and governments don’t appear in judgment; individuals do.

I. Discipleship

    A. Pure and Undefiled Religion

        1. to many people today, religion is an abstraction or an institution; religion is a statement of loyalty to a certain faith system or a section of it

        2. religion even has a negative connotation to many of the seeker-sensitive preachers, who speak of it disdainfully, but religion is far from negative if used according to the New Testament

            a. there is religion that is false or at least superseded (Acts 25:17-19, 26:4-5)

            b. there is religion that is self-made because it is not according to the New Testament (Colossians 2:20-23)

            c. and there is religion that is worthless because it is impractical (James 1:26)

        3. the kind of religion that God approves is consistent and selfless, being derived from the example and authority of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit (James 1:27)

            a. from the Greek Threskeia (qrhskeiða, pr. thrace-ki'-ah), religion is a matter of discipline and worship that seeks God’s approval by adhering to his revealed will

            b. pure religion neither ventures beyond divine authority, nor purposely aims to come up short of it

        4. pure, undefiled religion bridles the tongue, steers clear of the world’s filth, and practices personal charity among those most vulnerable

            a. it does not wait for a program or a parish or a pastor

            b. you can see where we might be tempted to think we have exercised pure religion simply by paying our taxes or contributing to the church, but God expects something even more personal than that

 

    B. Even A Cup

        1. Jesus warned that this religion of his would prove to be very divisive and that his followers might meet with hardships as a result of it (Matthew 10:34-39)

        2. a cup of water or a bit of stale bread might not sound like much to you, probably because you’re not that hungry or thirsty right now and because you are accustomed to much richer fare; what if you were starving, however, or so thirsty from your labors that you would drink almost anything like the rich man in Hades begging for just a drop of water on his tongue

        3. Jesus taught that pure religion compels us to share with his disciples who are in such need (Matthew 10:40-42)

        4. it’s the kind of promise that worked out miraculously in the days of the prophets (First Kings 17:8-16)

        5. your reward might be less tangible or even more distant, but it will also be far sweeter and more enduring

 

    C. Sheep and Goats

        1. in fact, Jesus identified this willingness to share as evidence of righteousness or unfaithfulness (Matthew 25:31-33)

            a. sheep go to heaven (Matthew 25:34-40)

            b. goats go to hell (Matthew 25:41-46)

        2. what made the difference?

            a. the sheep of Christ’s fold are willing and ready to visit kindness upon the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the prisoner, while the goats who are only masquerading as sheep are reluctant to make the necessary sacrifices

            b. understand, it is not until the final judgment that the distinction between sheep and goat becomes clear, and even in this fold, there could be some of each species

        3. visitation makes the difference again – a willingness to sacrifice time, money, emotion, energy, and materials to visit kindness upon someone who is in desperate need

            a. no pastor, preacher or priest can do your sheep qualifying for you; neither can any organization or taxpayer-funded government program

            b. when the sheep are separated from the goats, you must stand alone

        4. know that when you work kindness for the least disciple today, you do it also for Christ himself (Colossians 3:23-24)

 

II. Our Duty

    A. To Do Good and Share

        1. sharing is a sacrifice and that’s what makes it difficult and less common than it should be

        2. we see people in need or hear of their ordeal through the media or other announcements, and we might feel saddened, but unmoved to reach out; perhaps we are so far gone that we feel nothing (James 2:14-17)

        3. sharing begins with a soft heart of compassion, like the Hebrew believers, who “joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one” (Hebrews 10:34).

            a. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12).

            b. “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13:16).

        4. a heart that is unwilling to share and to sacrifice is hardly Christ-like (First John 3:16-18)

 

    B. Church in Distributive Sense

        1. the impulse that we fight is sometimes apathy, but at other times, it is just the hope that someone else will take care of it and we need not be bothered

            a. we expect our weekly contributions and paycheck withholdings to cover all of our undefiled religion and visitation and we complain when it doesn’t work out that way

            b. instead, we should see those realities as nothing more than a supplement for what we do personally and with our own two hands

        2. which might the widow appreciate most – food stamps issued by the government, a frozen dinner dropped off by an overworked deacon, or a hot meal cooked by a member of the church and enjoyed together?

            a. that is not to denigrate the first two options, but surely the superiority of the last is obvious

            b. and that is the one that requires more than money; it demands time and self

        3. institutional churches struggle with the concept that some program or para-church organization should be funded to do this work in our stead; conservative congregations sometimes struggle with the idea that the preacher, or the elders and deacons must carry the entire burden

            a. it is true that the church appoints men to minister to widows and others in serving tables and other like things, and it is true that the New Testament charges the elders with visiting the sick who have called upon them, and it is true that preachers must be happy to carry the Bible wherever it will take them

            b. but it does not follow that any of these relieves the ordinary disciple from discharging his own duties in the interest of pure and undefiled religion, for we are each part of the priesthood of believers and no institution or office should separate us from practicing our faith

        4. when each member does his or her share, the church works in a distributive sense – the church works by means of its individual components each doing its work; each of us can minister to others (First Peter 4:10-11)

 

    C. Especially the Household of Faith

        1. on Crete, the disciples were to “learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful” (Titus 3:14).

        2. as individual disciples, we must be moved with compassion to aid those around us who are in need, especially if they share with us in our faith (Galatians 6:9-10)

            a. “They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (First Timothy 6:18-19).

            b. the Acts and epistles are filled with examples of early Christians making sacrifices and sharing with brethren they had never met

        3. a willingness to share even a cup of cold water with a righteous person goes a long way toward determining whether that description fits us as well (James 1:21-25, 4:17)

 

Conclusion

Apathy is rampant in the world today as people turn away from neighbors in need because they cannot be troubled or assume that someone else will handle it. That attitude is what separated the Good Samaritan from the priest and Levite who passed by and ignored the plight of their injured countryman. 

 

Questions For Review

  1. What makes for pure and undefiled religion?
  2. How does the tongue counteract pure religion?
  3. How is one rewarded who shares cold water with another?
  4. What distinguishes sheep from goats? Which are you?
  5. What attitudes are necessary for sharing?
  6. How many ministers should a church have?
  7. What is true of the Christian who will not share with a needy brother?

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