Monthly Archives: May 2013

Camel in the eye of a needle

Luke 18:25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a
rich man to enter the kingdom of God

Greetings in the matchless name of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. Hope you all are doing well.

For the last two centuries, this has been a common teaching that there is a gate in Jerusalem called the eye of the needle. A camel could not pass through this unless it stooped and first had all its baggage removed. After dark, when the main gates were shut, travelers or merchants would have to use this smaller gate, through which the camel could only enter unencumbered
and crawling on its knees! Since at least the 15th century, and possibly as early as the 9th century, this story has been put forth. However, there is no evidence for such a gate in the history. This is a sweet example but it has lost the true message of Jesus Christ. The problem with this illustration is that we are trying to prove that a rich man can enter the kingdom of God, if he humbles himself. But this was not what Jesus meant. He said that it is hard for a Rich Man to enter the kingdom of God, but a camel can enter through eye of the needle.” We all know that our Lord used metaphors in many cases. Once He spoke about a plank in an eye. We should not take these terms literally for when we do that, we actually miss the true point. Let us understand the word as it is written and learn what Jesus is trying to say.

Once, a rich ruler came to Jesus Christ seeking for eternal life. His intention was good and rare in those days. Many sought Jesus for materials blessings but here we see a man who came to Jesus for eternal life. Secondly, He was a man who obeyed God’s commandments since his youth. He did not earn money in a wrong way. Thirdly, He came to the right person looking for eternal life. If we look at these good qualities, we come to the conclusion that that this man is worthy to receive eternal life. But Jesus pointed out that he lacked one thing in his life. Sometimes we too think that we have attained eternal life, but it is always good to hear what God wants to tell us about us, because he knows what we lack. He came to Jesus seeking eternal life, but Jesus pointed out the hindrance in his life. Jesus Christ is the way to eternal life but before getting into the way of Life, He wants us to remove all the hindrances that will make us stumble. The Lord told him to sell his possessions and give them to the poor. Though this man had many good qualities, his heart was on his possession. He loved his wealth. When this rich ruler heard this, he became very sad and went on his way, because he was a man of great wealth. That shows his love for money or possession. He wanted to inherit eternal life but the love of money was a hindrance. He was rich both religiously and materially. His heart possessed the riches of this world. That’s why he could not possess the riches of heaven. If we possess anything of this world, we will not have any part in the riches of heaven. You may disagree with me but this is the word of God.

Further to this conversation, Jesus looked at this rich man and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”. This is written is such simple words and I don’t understand why we need to make up stories to illustrate this. Jesus is not against rich men. If He would have, He would have never gone to the house of Simon, the Pharisee or Zacchaeus. Jesus was against their love for money – He loves men but hates sin. Those who heard this asked Jesus, “Who then can be saved”? Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God”. Here is the secret of the message. It is impossible for men to enter the kingdom of God by themselves, but it is possible only by God’s grace. God’s grace is a free gift but it is available only for those who accept it. God’s grace is not only an unmerited favor but also a power to overcome the love of money from heart. Zacchaeus was a rich man who earned money through wrong ways. He had possessed a huge amount of it. But when he decided to see Jesus and welcomed Him into his heart and home, the amazing power of God changed the value system of Zacchaeus. He declared “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount”. The wind blows where it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

Peter, hearing the conversation about the camel in the needle’s eye said to Jesus, “we have left all we had to follow you” Let us see the reply of Jesus Christ which will clear all our doubts. Jesus said to his disciples “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, will be repaid many times over in this life, and will have eternal life in the world to come.” When we give up everything for the Lord we are not actually loosing it, but possessing something better and much more precious. John 12:25, ‘Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.’ When we note the reaction of the rich ruler when he was told to sell his possession, we realize how much he loved this life of this world. He did not want to lose it and follow Jesus Christ. Jesus said to hate our life in this world …That doesn’t mean that we should torture our body. But it means that we should not love this life more than the life which Christ will give us. Till yesterday, Zacchaeus loved money but now, when Jesus came into his life, his value system changed…He gave value to Christ rather than money. So when Christ comes to our life, we realize what the true riches are. We may posses not only our wealth but many other things. Where possession is there, our heart is also possessed. Some posses their children, some job, some education and some pleasure. What is that we posses today? Have we given them up or are we still holding unto them? Do we still love this life? Do we have eternity on our eyeballs? If we posses anything in this world then we are not loving or trusting God. It hard for you and me to give up our possessions, but if we confess about them today before our Lord, He will give his grace to give up the possessions and follow him.

May God help you.

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen


Imitate those men who imitate Christ

People imitated Paul because Paul imitated Christ Jesus. There is no doubt that we must put our trust only on God. But as we live in this wilderness, we come across true men of God who follow the Way of Christ. Since we see such  men of God, we can imitate their way of life because they imitate Christ. But we must know the Way of Christ first. Only then can we identify rightly the true men of God and imitate them, or else there is always a chance that we might follow a way which is not Christ’s way. Let us turn our attention to the epistle of 1 Thessalonians 1:6, ‘and you became imitators of us and of the Lord.’ Paul and his fellow workers did not preach the Gospel in mere words, but also demonstrated it with power of the Holy Spirit  with full confidence. That’s why we see transformation in the lives of the people in Thessalonians. In the midst of many afflictions, they embraced Gospel, turned from Idols and started serving living and true God. These gentiles became the imitators of Paul and his companions. What was that good quality which inspired these new-comers? For that, let us read 1 Thess 1:3, ‘remembering before our God and Father your WORK OF FAITH and LABOR OF LOVE and PATIENCE OF HOPE.’ They imitated mainly three things :  working in faith, laboring out of love and staying in patience of hope.  Let us go through these points, one by one and see whether we can also imitate these good qualities.

 

WORK OF FAITH: 

1 Thess. 2:2, ‘ But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.’ 

The first thing they learned from Paul and companions is their work of faith. Though they suffered mentally and physically in Philippi, their faith in God took them to Thessalonica. They did not turn back, but declared the Gospel of God with power, in the Holy Spirit and with complete knowledge. That’s why their effort did not go in vain. Gospel of Jesus Christ transformed many Idol worshippers to God worshippers. Thessalonians saw the work of faith in Paul and companions. They could work because of their faith in God. In other words, if they had no faith in God, they could not have worked. So it was their confidence in God that made them to work in the midst of much conflict. Verse 9 clears this, my dear friends; ‘you surely haven’t forgotten our hard work and hardships. You remember how night and day we struggled to make a living, so we could tell you God’s message without being a burden to anyone.’ God’s message was more important than getting extra penny. They did not want to hinder the message of God among people. That’s why they did not demand any help, although they had all the right to do that as the Apostles of Christ. Paul tells this in verse 7. He could have demanded help but again, we see their faith in Him who had sent them to do the work. They didn’t have any hidden motives. They did not try to fool or trick anyone. They didn’t speak to please people but to please God, who knew their motives. Their motive was to win souls for Christ. So they worked hard without expecting anything from the people. They lived by faith in God. Dear brethren, if you are a true child of God, there will be conflicts and loneliness. But it is our trust in God that helps you and me to carry out the work of God. It is hard to work in the midst of conflicts, when things around you frustrate you. But at the end, when we lean on Him, we will get great strength to carry out His work…work done by faith in God. When our faith increases, our work out of faith in Him also increases. What a lesson to follow…. right? He who began a good work in us is faithful to complete it. Work without faith is as dead as faith without work . Faith is the base that gives power to work. The believers of Thessalonica followed Paul and the Lord. They  become an example to all believers in Macedonia and Achaia by spreading the Gospel throughout Greece and beyond. In fact their faith in God  become known everywhere. It is one thing to follow God but it is another thing that others should also follow. If we are true followers of God, then we should encourage others to follow us just like we follow God.

 LABOR OF LOVE: 

 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8, ‘But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our ourselves because you have become very dear to us.’

Thessalonians learned from Paul and his companions that the preaching of gospel was not just some target that they needed to accomplish, but it was their way of love. Paul did not just preach the Gospel and travel to a different city. Instead, he gave himself to the work wholly. He labored hard, fought with the beasts, endured shame, encouraged and exhorted them, cried and prayed for them, taught them etc. If we ask Paul why he  labored in such a way, he would say  that it was the love of Christ that compelled him to labor. When love for our Lord increases, our labour also increases.  Jesus had compassion on people. Paul loved people. If we love God, then only we can labor for him and if we love people, then only we can labor for them. There is a difference between a mother and caretaker. A mother will take care of her child out of love, but caretakers do it because they get salary. A mother can even go hungry to feed her child. She can spend sleepless nights,  take pain and labor with patience  out of love because she bore her children. Paul was the spiritual father of  Thessalonians. So he exhorted, encouraged and charged each one of them to walk in a manner worthy of God. Love is the base that helps you and me to labor for Christ. Thessalonians not only learned to labor out of love, but they also practiced it. 1 Thess 4:10,..’ and you have shown your love for all his people in Macedonia, but my dear friends, we ask you to do even more.’

 PATIENCE OF HOPE: 

Paul not only preached the crucifixion of Christ, but also spoke about His resurrection. That’s why in the midst of great affliction and rejection, he could wait and not drift away from what he had received. He had kept his hope on Jesus Christ. This was imitated by the Thessalonians. Hope is the base that helps us to stay in power. We wait for a person whom we know. Our patience to wait for that person is based on this knowledge. Paul and his companions had kept their hope in Jesus. Their hope was that Christ would come back and their afflictions would end. If Christ had not resurrected, our faith and labor would be useless. Christ was resurrected. This confirms our resurrection. They had put their hope in crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ. Thessalonians learnt the reason behind why Paul and companions were working and laboring without expecting anything from them. It was because of their hope in Christ Jesus. The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of archangel and the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

Let us work with faith, labor with love and wait patiently with hope of coming of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. God bless you.