“Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” Acts 3:6
Reflecting upon the healing of the lame man at the Gate Beautiful, one can infer a parable that illustrates the purpose and function of the Christian Church.
Here was a man lame from birth, carried daily to the temple so he could ask for alms. His paralysis is a metaphor of the biblical view of the condition of mankind: we are born in sin, lost, and crippled in our ability to conquer the devil, temptation, and sin solely by our own strength.
The world is unable to address the problem of sin. All it can do is to give “alms”. We can turn to entertainment, art, literature, music, philosophy, and science, but these only give temporary relief, a momentary escape from our problems.
Just as the lame man was expecting “alms” from Peter and John, mankind often expects the wrong things from the Church, stemming from erroneous notions about its message and function. People expect moral advice, philosophical teaching, or perhaps psychological treatment. At times, they expect the Church to give political pronouncements on what needs to be done in terms of social issues.
But Peter declares the primary and essential purpose of the Church in a resounding and memorable phrase: “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.”
Silver and gold have I none. The business of the Church is not to “give alms”, but to deal with the real problem of man, to be here for one thing: man’s soul. Here is the call, the commission for which the Church is sent: not to be a cultural, psychological, political or social entity, but that which is concerned about the very center of man’s life and his problem: the dilemma of the paralysis in his soul, that which incapacitates him and sends him astray — his estrangement from God, his ignorance of God.
In response to the man’s need, Peter deliberately points to Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth, who is the Christ, the Messiah in the flesh: the One who has the power to heal man’s disabled soul, to give him a new life, to reconcile him to God.
What the lame man received through Peter surpassed all his expectations. He expected alms, but instead the bones of his once lifeless feet and ankles received strength. He became a man now able to live a fully functional life.
What a person receives from Christ is not temporary relief, but a cure. The Lord cures our guilt from past sins because He gives us absolute forgiveness through His shed blood on the cross. He gives us an abundant life through the new birth. A fresh beginning.
As we walk with Christ and discover the power and unspeakable joy that He offers us in this new life, surely we cannot help but go through our days on earth leaping and praising God!
*** Reference: Martyn Lloyd-Jones Sermon: Healing of the Lame Man at the Gate Beautiful
*** Painting: by Nicolas Poussin, 1655 (French, 1594-1665), http://www.metmuseum.org
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” I John 4:7
As children of God, we are commanded to love one another. If it were simply a matter of liking one another, then our obedience would easily be fulfilled. The commandment to love, however, is more difficult to accomplish.
What is the difference between liking and loving a person?
The two concepts are not degrees of the same thing. To like somebody is something instinctive and elemental; it does not necessitate effort; it comes naturally and is dependent to a large degree upon the physical senses and outward appearances.
The word “love” has sadly been debased and misused in modern parlance, often being associated with infatuation. But love is something that must be thought of in terms of God, because the Bible tells us that God is love.
Love is a highly intelligent process. In contrast to liking somebody, love is not driven by instinct or natural responses, but operates at a higher level. It is determined to go beyond the superficial, infiltrating the inner person, to dig into something deeper and of more value. Love overcomes obstacles and excuses, overlooks the superficial unattractiveness, in order to behold the person behind the imperfections.
We employ our mental faculties, as an act of the will, to love even the people we do not like; we treat them as if we do like them, and choose to act with kindness towards them in spite of our natural feelings. It is an act of obedience.
And yet there is more to love. As the apostle John asserts: “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how can the love of God abide in him?” I John 3:17
Love drives us out of our seat of theorizing and romanticism, to do something about easing the pain of our fellowman. By its very nature love must express itself, not in words, but in actions.
Such are the salient attributes of love, and the reason we are commanded to love one another is because love is of God. And love is the litmus test of our being born of God, of our knowing God, and of our passing from death unto life.
** Reference: Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Life in Christ, Crossway:Wheaton, Illinois, 1982, pp. 357-366.
** Photograph: On Golden Pond by Artemis
“Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Mark 10:21-22
Can great worldly possessions cause sorrow? A wealthy young ruler’s encounter with Christ left him grieving because of the choice he made.
At the outset, he came running to Jesus, knelt by Him, and asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Here was a man who seemed to possess everything in life: he was noble and excellent, and yet he felt that something was missing. There was this concept of eternal life which gave him a curious desire to attain. He sensed the urgency. He came running.
He asked the right question, but when Jesus gave him the answer, he walked away. Why did he give up his pursuit of eternal life?
He expected Christ to confirm his own preconceived notions about the Kingdom of God. The Lord demolished his understanding. Attaining eternal life is not simply a matter of following God’s commandments; it demanded something else. Christ probed into the very depths and center of his being and exposed his real dilemma: his trust in riches, his pride and confidence in them.
”Give it away”, says Christ, “and let me decide.” The kingdom of God must be entered Christ’s way. It is a radical transformation, the way of the cross, of following in Christ’s footsteps.
He did not like Christ’s answer. He walked away, deciding to hold on to his possessions and the life he was accustomed to. But in leaving, he was sorrowful. A deep heaviness engulfed him as he opted for worldly riches over eternal life, as he walked away from Christ.
Judas turned his back on Christ and was filled with such remorse and sorrow that he took his own life. To abandon Christ is spiritual suicide, to turn away from eternal life, from the only one who can give true riches, happiness, joy and peace.
Oh do not walk away from Christ! If you leave Him, you will have left your last and only hope, and nothing else remains but grief and eternal unhappiness. Run towards Him, embrace Him, and never let Him go.
*** Reference: Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “The Kingdom of God”, Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois, 2010, pp. 155-172.
*** Photography: After Sunset by Andrew Koksharov