Thursday, October 31, 2013

Psalm 23:1 – The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want

Ps 23:1 - The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

Psalm 23 is a psalm by King David. 

How do we handle such a statement in Scripture? This is NOT a promise by God, nor was it a declaration by God.  It is a declaration by a man; NOT just any man, but one declared by God as the man after His own heart, and he was a shepherd when young, who looked after his father’s flock.

It is important we have some knowledge of the Bible characters if we want to more appropriately, understand words, prayers, exhortations, exaltation or declaration they made, in Scripture. 

Firstly, there is no way one can have such understanding, unless he goes through big blocks of Scripture, chapters, books, and even the entire Bible.  Many of us spend time reading novels and story books or go see movies, but we do NOT read the various stories in the Bible or the accounts in Scripture; we have to do that, we cannot just pluck singular verses from Scripture, and then claim this and that.  I am NOT saying we cannot memorise and quote singular verses; I am saying we have to have the correct understanding of the verses, and for that, it is necessary for us, where appropriate, to have the context in which the verses are found, even who (the Bible characters) were involved, what kind of persons they were, even their stations in life, even some understanding of the culture involved may be necessary. 

Secondly, we can start off, by reading the accounts in Scripture like we are reading a novel or story book, but over time, we must advance to be studying the accounts/stories.  The Bible is the “manufacturer’s manual” for us to maneuver through our Christian life, and to gain understanding of God and His ways, and to found our hope, faith, and love, solidly.  We must NOT neglect the Bible.

Thirdly, we can learn from the study and exegesis of contemporary  disciples (generally us, scholars, pastors, teachers, ministers and preachers, and strongly word-grounded believers), but we need to be careful to know, if possible, the theological slant of these individuals, and, most importantly to verify what we heard or read against the Word.  Be like the Bereans who checked the Apostle Paul’s teachings against the Word (Acts 17:11).

I have read against this Psalm 23, a writing that said to the tune of “we have to bear in mind that such words, prayers and declarations of individuals in Bible are like those of any believers we have (today) who could be praying incorrectly, asking for the inappropriate things, and having the wrong understanding of things”.  This is a wrong way of teaching people on how to handle the many words, prayers, exaltation and exhortation by characters in Scripture.  Scripture was inspired by God, and God allowed what were written for purposes known to Him; we have to believe that writings inconsistent with His purposes were excluded. 

Because things happened a long time ago, and so, there are things we do NOT understand, since often much details were NOT recorded; we sometimes, unless given revelation by the Spirit of God, have to admit ignorance.  We can fill in the gap, in exposition of Biblical accounts, but the fundamental rules must include (1) we state our assumptions, and (2) whatever were assumed, they must NOT contradict in any way what were already unambiguous in Scripture.

The LORD is my shepherd
As said in the preamble above, this Psalm 23 was by King David, a man after God’s own heart, and he was a shepherd when he was young; and this verse 1 is a declaration by David.

David said that the LORD was his shepherd.  The word “LORD” as in the OT, refers to Yahweh or Jehovah or the Father God.  It was NOT referring to the Lord, Jesus, in particular.  In the NT, we find that the Lord, Jesus, Himself, spoke about Himself as being the good shepherd (John 10:14 - "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me--. 

From the doctrine of Trinity or Triune God, we can understand that Father God is God (the Father), Jesus is God (the Son), and the Holy Spirit is God (the Spirit of God or Spirit of Christ).  And so, it is alright to say the LORD is my shepherd, or the Lord is my shepherd  (Similarly, what is said of the Lord, Jesus, concerning He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever, also applies to the LORD or God the Father or simply, God).

Generally, the Lord, Jesus, was NOT manifest in the OT time; although my belief is that certain people of the OT were given revelation of the Lord (Jesus), including His coming to be the Saviour and Lord. In my separate exegesis of Psalm 16, I talked about it, Psalm 16, as being David’s profession of faith in the LORD, as well as his profession of faith in the Lord, Jesus; you can read it here: Ps 16 – King David’s profession of faith.

What is significant is that the same shepherd-sheep metaphor was used in both OT and NT to depict our walk with God. 

Shepherd-sheep metaphor
Verse 1 tells us one of the most fundamental ways the Christian life is meant to proceed!  Because God is our shepherd, we shall NOT be in want.  Expressed in this way, “The LORD (or Lord) is my shepherd, I shall NOT be in want”, the understanding is to be that, it is NOT about the one who leads us or our leader, has given us outright, everything we would desire in our life.  We have everything we need, NOT as we have them, outright, as in they are in our hands, but we have them IN CHRIST JESUS/LORD.

We have to understand that the shepherd gave nothing of the sort that the sheep could be now on their own able to find the green pastures or the quiet waters (as said of, in verse 2).  Figuratively speaking, no maps were given or no (electronic) chips were given that the sheep could press some buttons, and they would be automatically be moved to the green pastures and quiet waters; or on the press of a button, be transformed with an impregnable suit.  The sheep with a shepherd has them, green pastures and quiet waters, protection, and all; she has them IN THE SHEPHERD.  The sheep has them BY FOLLOWING THE SHEPHERD.

Mean what you say
Too often, we say thing, or make statement, but we do NOT mean what we say.  Or at times, this is expressed as “We do NOT walk the talk!” 

Since “The LORD (or Lord) is my shepherd, …” was expressed here, by David, who was a man after God’s own heart, and who was a shepherd of his father’s flock when he (David) was young, we can safely say in making that declaration, David knew fully well what he was declaring, and he meant what he said.

Do you mean what you say, when you call Jesus, Lord?  I have read writings that said, that Jesus, He is Lord, you and I, do NOT necessarily have to hold him to be our Lord!  One hyper grace community even said that when we enter into salvation, we are holding Jesus to be our Saviour only, Lordship NOT included; this is clearly apostate! 

When you enter into salvation, Jesus is your Lord and Saviour.  It is prevalent, across times, even perhaps, more so, in present times, people don’t mean what they say:  We (and that, I include myself) call Jesus, Lord, but we often, do NOT obey; we call our superiors at our work, boss, but we do NOT take their instructions and wishes at heart, and we call our parents, father and mother, but we do NOT try hard to listen to them, or care and provide for them when they have aged.  Disobedience is so prevalent; rebellion is so widespread.  It is NOT just we worship other gods, besides God, that, that is rebellion; disobedience is rebellion, and rebellion epitomizes evil. 

When we call Jesus, Lord, do we mean what we say?  When we say He is our Shepherd, do we mean what we say?  King David knew what he meant when he used the word, “LORD”, and he knew what he meant when he said the LORD was his Shepherd.  Yes, we can take Ps 23:1 – “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in a powerful statement of what we can expect in our lives as a believer – “I shall NOT be in want”. If the statement to you, has been coming in as “nonsense declaration” or “it doesn’t apply at all – “it does NOT work””, it is NOT because David was a "half-baked" believer who knew NOT the LORD and prayed or declared “nonsense” or wrong thing.  It is that, perhaps, you have NOT been walking your declaration – that He is your Lord and He is your Shepherd; or you lack the understanding of what is represented in the shepherd-sheep metaphor (like what it was explained above - NOT only we got to live out {NOT in mere words} our lives holding Him as our Lord and Saviour, it is also that He is leading us, NOT that He had given everything outright that we can lead ourselves, without Him). 

For example, if you have expected much things as being “you having them outright”, things would be “aren’t true” for you, because the metaphor implied more to the opposite – much things given to you, aren’t given you outright, but it is that you have them, IN CHRIST JESUS, and just as the sheep would need to follow the shepherd, you need also to FOLLOW the Shepherd, the Lord or be WITH Him, to avail yourself to them.

“I shall not be in want.” (v1b), is contingent upon your living out your declaration of ”The LORD is my shepherd”.  Mouthing, “Lord, Lord”, does NOT necessarily carry any weight (Matt 7:21-23).  Scripture is clear that mere words are NOT enough (eg. Love in words is NOT enough [1 John 3:18]); all three, the heart, the words, and the actions, must be in agreement, and be in agreement with God or pleasing to God.  When you truly have Jesus as your Lord, and have Him as your shepherd, you can truly be in a position of “I shall NOT be in want”; you will lack nothing you need (or want, if that’s what you prefer to use; for when you are truly following the Shepherd, your want is only (your) need, and your want will NOT be frivolous desires!).

Need always to be in submission
I cannot stress enough that we need always to be in submission to the Lord; we can never be arrived, NOT in this lifetime, anyway.  Micah 6:8 tells us that we are expected to be walking humbly before our God.

Chances are that teachings that promote you to think you are arrived, they are heretic.  All teachings that explode the “I” as in the “ myself”, or “ will do it my way” or “Independently”, and suppress the “O” as in the “Son, Jesus”, “Others, needed, or Others, to be considered”, they are suspect. 

We are ready when the Lord said we are ready; and we can be ready for some assignments, but NEVER ready for all; we need to be submissive to be led by the Shepherd; and in NT time, be led by the Shepherd, by His Spirit (the Holy Spirit), we say.

Of course, we do fail from time to time, but we must repent, and return to the shepherd-sheep relation.  David, for example, did fail: he went independent; he thought he could take things into his own hands when he had become king of Israel and was at the liberty to be resting (from all his hard work of fighting, etc).  We should NEVER (and I do find it hard to do), for a moment, think that we could blind-side the Lord; once we have made that salvation commitment that He is Lord, He is always Lord; you and I, cannot “box Him off”, even for a moment. 

It ever happened to me, concerning business, a brother’s company business (he is the sole owner); when I tried to say the ways of the Lord must be taken into account, I got this reply in my face, “It’s business, you-know!”  Is God only in your church life? Family life?  NOT in your work or business life?!

The Lord, He is the Lord of all, the Lord of all the world, even when some do NOT recognize Him as such; but for all who profess that He is their Lord, then it is He is Lord of all, in all of their lives, personal, family, church, work, and recreation etc.; all of life.

Is there a NT Bible example of one who tried to go independent?  Yes, it is in the Parable of the Return of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11:32), where the younger son wanted to be given outright all that he desired/wanted – his share of inheritance.  The older son was NOT (yet) given outright, his portion; his everything was still under the father who still led the older son, in the parable. 

Some preachers, overly grace ones, talked about the prodigal son as NOT having to repent or acknowledge the error of his ways, and everything became well again for him; it is NOT right.  The son was repentant, acknowledged the error of his ways, and wanted to return to the submission to the father.  In fact, he said he did NOT mind to be as just a hired man under his father, for he said if he returned in submission (like a hired hand), he would NOT be in want, anymore. Now, the older brother was upset with the treatment the younger brother had, on his return, and said that he disobeyed NOT, and was in lack (and he worked hard, too):

Luke 15:29 - But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.

The father replied:
Luke 15:31 - “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.

You see, the older brother, according to the father, did have everything, only that the all the things was in the father.

You can look at the Parable of the Return of Prodigal Son from many angles; one angle is this:  the younger son (the prodigal son) no longer wanted to subscribe to “The LORD (FATHER) is my shepherd; I shall not be in want”, but later realized he was wrong, and returned; and the older son did NOT realize enough that he was NOT in want, even though he has held onto “The LORD (FATHER) is my shepherd”.  Both the sons did NOT epitomize the right posture, which is to truly have the Lord as our Shepherd, AND have the faith that the Shepherd, He, would take of all of our needs, in His time.  When it is the right thing, have the faith to ask!

Nothing is outright-meh?!
I am NOT saying that God did NOT and will NOT give what you need.  Indeed, certain “things” were given us, all of us (even non-believers were given something, as men, the pinnacle creation of God).  But it is NOT everything for the rest of our mortal life is given us, outright.  And something is given us, as we go along.  And we are to be possessing the faith to ask, when it is the right thing to ask, and the time to ask.

If you still do NOT get the picture, the exodus (journey) of the Israelites to the Promised Land clearly illustrated this (every believer should know the Exodus; read about it if you don’t, yet).  It is we walk or travel with God, and what we need, He will provide, when the need arises.  Most of the time, it was and is to be like that, although it is possible that He may send the portion for tomorrow, “just for tomorrow”, but NOT to “settle you for good”.

If you still do NOT get it, I give you a plain illustration: God does NOT ordinarily give you your desired multi-million dollars which could settle you for life – so that you work no more, just bask in grace or be carefree or be idling! (Our God is a purposeful God; even His grace is for a purpose; given NOT so that you could idle!)

“God as the shepherd” metaphor points to the shepherd or leader is able and knowing, and the sheep would just follow him, and trust him to, each day, lead them, the sheep, to get what they need for the day (and at times, the next).

When Jesus, in the NT, reiterated this metaphor (in John 10:14 quoted above), He was intent to say He is the best shepherd (good there, is good, absolute); and He ginosko-knows (knowing from personal experiences or know in a personal way) His sheep, and His sheep ginosko-know Him (the sheep, if indeed were His, would know Him, the Lord, in a personal way, and this would include how He deals with them, as they follow Him).  Are you ginosko-knowing the Lord, more and more, by the days?

Do you walk the talk when you declare that the Lord is your Shepherd?  When you are truly regarding the Lord as your Shepherd, do you know and have the faith, that you shall NOT be in want?

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall NOT be in want (Ps 23:1) is a powerful epitomisation of how Christians are to live out their lives.  We are to adopt it; we may struggle, though, at times.  How true, without faith, it is impossible to please God.  Heb 11:6 reads, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

God’s love is max. out; ours, to grow

We should know that the extent of God’s love and men’s love are different; God’s love is max. out, while for men, our love need to be grown, in term of extent, as well as, its wholesomeness or correctness.

God’s love does NOT go through growth, like He loves us, 10% and then 30% and then 70% and then finally 100%; God’s love is 100% or max. out.  That is why we cannot make God love us more.  You may feel or think God loves you less or more, today, but that is NOT the truth, for the truth is that the love of God for you does NOT increase, like when you have done good, or diminish, like when you have done bad (God may like someone more, and someone may have more favour than another, but we will NOT go into this, here.  Also to be noted is that approval and love are NOT the same). 

God does NOT grow; He is arrived, and that includes His love for a person.  When God loves you, He loves you 100%.  You see, it is NOT He loves you less when you are unrighteous; it is that His love for you is love unto righteousness ('ahab love), and so, it is still 100%, although it may appear to you as God has lessened His love for you, when He does NOT accede to your fancy which is unrighteous in His eyes.  The love of God for men is subjugated to His holiness, and so, His righteousness (God’s love for men as love unto righteousness has been covered in a separate article: `ahab love – love unto righteousness, go read it, for understanding).

So, the support for the claim that God’s love is max. out included these:
1.   God is arrived; God is perfect; He will NOT need to get better, or can He degrade.  God is the same, yesterday, today and forever.  Some may say there is no direct verse on God is the same, yesterday, today and forever.  But there is one on the Lord, Jesus Christ, and it is Heb 13:8 (“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”).  The Lord, in His fullness, is one with God (the Father, or the LORD); John 10:30 {Jesus} said so: I and the Father are one."; and so, it is right to say God is the same, yesterday, today and forever. Mal 3:6 reads: "I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.; and Rev 1:8, "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."

What does it mean when Scripture said that God is the same or does NOT change?  It is referring to the arrived state of God; it is that God is good absolute; cannot get any better. 

Luke 18:18-19 reads:  18A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"19"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good--except God alone. Matt 19:17, "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments." These 2 texts collectively tell us that the only arrived one and is truly good, and good absolute, is God.  Jesus then, did NOT claim “good” (teacher), because He was NOT in His fullness yet (still was a man).  The resurrected Christ has returned to His fullness. 

Since God is arrived or perfect, He does NOT improve on love, faithfulness, etc. 

2.   God is love.  1 John 4:8 (KJV) - He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.  What does it mean that God is love? What does it mean God is light (1 John 1:5) or wisdom?  When God is love, it does NOT mean God cannot be light or wisdom; God is multi-attributed.  When we say God is light or wisdom or love, it means God is the source of light or wisdom (Pro 2:6, Dan 2:20, James 1:5) or love; and He is the definer or creator or originator of such (light or wisdom or love).   As such, the source, originator and definer, God does NOT increase in love; whatever is there, it is there; it is all there.
So, when we want to know true love, where do we look?  God; get to know Him, and His love.  Because God is source, of such, as light, wisdom or love, He can give such, but more often than NOT, we need to (and God expects us to) develop in such, with knowing Him.  For example, we need to develop our capacity to love (God, and one another) or have the capacity restored of its extent and rightness.  Our capacity to love was wrecked (distorted or corrupted) by the Fall of Men, in the Garden of Eden. 

3.   God’s love for men is love unto righteousness ('ahab love).  I have already given the link to my separate article on this, above.  In fact, the understanding of the love of God as such, i.e. love unto righteousness, helps us to understand and reconcile the apparent (NOT real) fluctuation of God’s love for us that we felt or perceived (wrongly). 

God does NOT grow; for us, men, it is different, and the significant difference is that we learn and grow over time, hopefully positively. In other words, for love (this is just one aspect; others included faith, hope, etc), we grow over time.  Our love for God grows over time; it is NOT straightaway we are able to love God 100%.  We love God more and more, as we know Him and understand His love for us, more and more. 

Concerning men's
1 John 4:7-8 - Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
The above calls for us to love one another.  It also stated a number of truths:

1.   Love or the right (kind of) love, is of God.  Or as I commonly quote - God’s kinda of love, it is of God.  

2.   Those who love with God’s kinda of love, are born of God.   

Born of God can simply be viewed as having entered into salvation; much like the saying, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (1 John 5:1a).  In other words, if you claim you are born of God (or born again), firstly, you must have, at some point in time, believed Jesus is the Christ. If you no longer believe that Jesus is the Christ, you still have been born of God, for you do NOT get unborn (or like going back into the mother’s womb).  That is why born of God is NOT cited as a test if someone is a believer, for being born of God is a one-off event, a past event for every believer, presently not visible and cannot be proved, in the absence of external evidence like the testimony of a witness to the conversion event.   

A visible test which we can use is given in the 1 John 4:7 text, and it is whether the person loves (with God’s kinda of love) or NOT; this is NOT an one-off event, but is of a heart-condition and on-going conduct.  So, a tell-tale sign of one is born of God is that he loves (with God’s kinda of love). 

NOT only a person’s love is a tell-tale sign of one has been born of God, it is also a sign that he knows (ginosko) God.  As have been said, born of God is a one-off past event.  Knowing God, on the other hand, is a progressive endeavour; and so, the extent of one’s love does tell on the extent of one’s knowing of God.  The Amplified Bible version of 1 John 4:7 reads: 

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is (springs) from God; and he who loves [his fellowmen] is begotten (born) of God and is coming [progressively] to know and understand God [to perceive and recognize and get a better and clearer knowledge of Him]. 

In other words, the more we know Him and understand His love for us, the more, the restoration of our capacity to love, and the more we are able to love rightly, with God’s kinda of love ('ahab love), God and fellowmen.  While it is true, for the Word indicated so, that we are NOT able to fully know and understand God (we cannot comprehend Him fully), it is still we are to know Him more and more; and so, too, our love could only be growing more and more, in extent and rightness or purity, and NOT ever arrived; we always can improve, and should want to improve. 

Before we end, I just want to emphasize that the “know” here is the ginosko-know.  For more detailed understanding of the various Greek “know” words, and especially, “ginosko”, you should read: I don’tknow you (you evildoer) – Part I.  Here, I will just say that “ginosko” or know, refers to the knowing and knowledge from personal experiences with God (LORD, Lord or Holy Spirit), and that implies existence of a relation(ship) between the person and God.  The key thing is that a personal experience implies both the person and God are involved.  If you think God is with you in the experience, but He is NOT, that is NOT counted.  Of course, we use our mind in our understanding, but it is clear from the many references to ginosko-know God, in Scripture, we need to know and experience God in a personal way, even as we are to know and understand the logos Word of God. 

God’s love for us, is max. out, 100%.  It does NOT grow or diminish, depending on your performance.  Any fluctuation is apparent (NOT real).  The understanding that God’s love for us, men, is love unto righteousness ('ahab love) helps us to correct any mistaken viewpoint that God is loving you less when you did NOT act righteously.  

Having said the above, that God’s love does NOT decrease, on your unrighteous conduct, it does NOT mean that God approve of your wrongdoings or sins. Love and approval are NOT the same.  I love my children, but I do NOT approve of their conduct or ways when they are wrong. Also, for God, His love does NOT exclude Him from judging, for His love is still subjugated to His holiness (His most fundamental nature-attribute); and His holiness necessarily demands, and so, God judges.

For men, on the other hand, our love had, in the past, been distorted or corrupted, because of the Fall in the Garden of Eden.  We need to have entered into salvation, to start to be able to be loving with God’s kinda of love ('ahab love). We need to come to ginosko-know God, for God is love.  As the Amplified Bible version of 1 John 4:7 has shown us (quoted above), this is progressive, and so, too, our love will develop progressively.  And so, you and I have to move in the right direction for it to happen, i.e. that we must get to ginosko-know God more and more, and know the depth of His love. Mental assent alone is NOT sufficient, meaning, even the mere having of much knowledge of and the mere mental understanding of the Word are NOT sufficient.  Many people can be having biblical studies qualifications (even Masters and Phds), but if they ginosko-know NOT, God, they love NOT (with God’s kinda of love).

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

Comments are welcome here. Alternatively, email them to me @: Or just email me your email address so that I can put you on my blog (new entry) notification list. To go back to blog main page, click here.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

as her great love has shown

“as her great love has shown”, this phrase is taken from Luke 7:47.  It is from the account of a sinful woman who came to the house of a Pharisee, Simon, where Jesus was a guest, and washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair, and perfumed the feet with an alabaster jar of perfume.

Luke 7:36-48 - 36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. 39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. 41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” 48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

A little postulation
I believe this sinful woman could have been Mary Magdalene who was Mary Bethany, the sister of Martha Bethany, and was the woman who was delivered of demon possession {Luke 8:1-3} (prior to this event at Simon’s house); in other words, set free by Jesus, earlier, and forgiven by God of her many sins, did this washing of Jesus’ feet; and who went on to support Jesus’ ministry, introduced Jesus to her sister, Martha (and Lazarus, too) of Bethany, and later followed Jesus down to Jerusalem on His last leg of His journey; and was at the crucifixion, at His burial, and was the first person, Jesus met up with, when He resurrected.  If you want to know how I come to my belief, you can read this: Were Mary Magdalene and Mary Bethany the same person?

If you want to just regard this woman as simply “a sinful woman”, it is fine, too, but you may have some difficulty in coming to how is it that this woman could come to love the Lord so much, if you do NOT think she was the same once decadent woman (Mary Magdalene) who was delivered of demonization, as given in Luke 8:1-3.  Of course, you can also believe there was no prior incident, and that the moment the woman was at the house (of Simon), she was touched by God; but my take is that it was NOT so, for she came prepared – the alabaster jar of perfume showed it.

The key lesson
What is the lesson to be drawn from the story?  What picture was it painting?  The key is in verse 47.  Jesus said, “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown.” What this verse was saying is that Jesus was saying the sinful woman’s many sins had been forgiven her, and we could come to that conclusion because her great love indicated so. In other words, chances are that a great love is an outflow from forgiveness.  The sinful woman had developed a great love for the Lord. 

Has great love, but NOT showing, possible?
How come she could have developed that great love for the Lord?  We will say a little more on this, in a while, but first, we want take a look at if Simon was also having that great love that the sinful woman was having, but only NOT showing.

We need to address: is it normal to have great love and it is NOT showing, or we say is it tenable to have such a scenario – you have a great love but it cannot be seen or felt or received? Simon had it, a great love for the Lord, although NOT seen, felt or received; possible? 

I am NOT the worm in his stomach!
My mother would say, “I am NOT the worm in his stomach, how would I know!”  That just a common idiom, we Chinese have, to say “How would I know; I am NOT him!” 

Between men, it is indeed difficult to know.  Only when you have lived with a person for a long time, like a couple married and living together for a long time, you may be able to guess, more or less, how great is his love for another or for God (as the case, maybe).  How do you know; or how have you come to know?  It was from prolonged interactions with the person, what you managed to see, feel, perceive or received over time.  In other words, between men, the love in that person needed to manifest, in order that you would know.  

The person himself, does he know for sure?
Now, let us talk a little about the person himself.  Does he or does he NOT know, if he has a great love for another or for God?  How does he know?! 

Firstly, when we talk about how great or how much, we necessarily have to have a point of reference to measure from.  Then we have to ask ourselves, vis-à-vis the yardstick, what are we prepared to do or sacrifice.  But then, that is only a claim - you claim to yourself that you would do such a thing or sacrifice, or you could be claiming it, in the form of holding out as a promise, to another, that, that would be what he/she could expect you to do or sacrifice.  Only when the occasion actually arises, and your action is called for, or we say when the rubber (or tyre) meets the road, that is the moment when we (also he, himself!) really know.  Scripture said of the heart of men this way: 

9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? 10 "I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve." (Jer 17:9-10)

So, is a man absolutely sure of his love for another or God?  I don’t know about you, I will only dare to say, “I BELIEVE (and it is I believe, NOT absolutely sure) I will do this or that, when the time comes or if the occasion arises.”

God knows?
How about when it is between God and men?  Does God know the heart of a man, and so, would know the extent of His love for another or for God, Himself?  We know God knows the hearts of men (Acts 1:24 {KJV} – God is the knower of heart), but does it therefore has no need of that love to manifest (by deeds or sacrifices, as the case may be), for God to know the extent? 

My belief is: from one angle, God has an advantage; He knows the extent of the love of the person at the time He (God) looks at the heart; whereas, for us, men, we still needed the interactions over time, that I talked about, earlier on.  In another angle, God is faced with the same “I BELIEVE…” that I referred to earlier; God, unless He intervenes against the volition of the person, also BELIEVE he will do this or that, when the time comes or if the occasion arises.  This is why I said it so:

God can look into the future, and does look into the future, but the future is NOT fixed, meaning if God looks at your future now, and then looks at it again 1 year from now, it (your future) may NOT, it probably does NOT, look the same!  The simple reasons are (1) you grow positively (that is what God wants) or negatively; and so, something God saw this morning of your future 2 years away, if He looks again, 1 year from now, that something may be different or completely absent; maybe it is a sin you will commit, but a year later after you have grown, you will NOT be committing that sin, a further one year later down the road. 

God exercises “faith” or trust, too!
I know some people would object to my using this term, faith, on God, but if you think about what has been said here, even as God expects faith from us (in Him), God also exercises faith in us (or if you don’t like the word, faith, on God, you can use “trust”).  The story of Job of the Bible is a case at hand; God had faith in Job, and so, accepted Satan’s challenge.  We can believe that God did NOT “play cheat”, and controlled the volition of Job; surely Satan knew that much about what God could do, and the challenge was on the ground of Job was free to exercise His volition.  If you like, you can read an article of mine on this, here – God also exercises faith

It is both – the heart then, & the love manifests (manifestations)
After saying all of the above, my point is that, even for God, to be sure, of the extent of the love of a man (with an eye on the future; God always have an eye on the future), He looks at, apart from his heart, that man’s love manifests. It is NOT God operates like a man, but this is one case of us operating like God, in that He (God) perceives and knows for sure (we perceives only, NOT knowing for sure) the heart and so, of the heart’s love, but He still (and we, too) has to look at actuals (deeds or sacrifices), to arrive at the strength of the expectation that, that love (its extent) would continue, unabated. 

Deeds and sacrifices are evidences of love at the moment, even as the state of the heart (which God does know) is, and they could point to more of the same extent of love, but nothing is a “MUST happen”, unless God over-rides men’s volition.  So, the question, whether or NOT, God looks at our deeds and sacrifices, when evaluating our love, the answer is yes.

Actually, it is NOT too difficult to understand; what you and I are NOT prepared to do or sacrifice, does tell God directly the extent of our love for Him or for another.  Many people want to claim absent-mindedness or forgetfulness, but we know God cannot be fooled, for the priority you accord to God, directly speaks of the extent of your love for God (when you give top priority, you are NOT likely to forget!).  Where your treasure is, there your heart is, said Scripture (Matt 6:21).

The woman had it, Simon, NOT
All of the above exposition is to come to the reasonableness of Jesus’ equating the deeds and sacrifices of the sinful woman, as indicative of the great love she had for God; and Jesus’ insinuation of Simon was NOT of the same – the great love for God.

Your deeds tell on you
Do NOT be fooled, what you do or NOT do, tells on you, the real you, even when it comes to love.  It is NOT directly spelt out this way, but the ways of God are along that same line. 

I am going to give us, the Scripture text that refers to righteousness, that deeds of (or living out) righteousness tells on you, whether or NOT, you are truly righteous; for the righteous necessarily does righteous, just as Jesus who was righteous, lived or practised righteousness; and so, His deeds while He lived on earth, were righteous.  When you substitute the word, righteousness, with love, for the Scripture text below, you will get the idea:

1 John 3:7 - Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right {practise righteousness} is righteous, just as {in the same manner} he {Jesus} is righteous.

Another text that prescribes for us, the general way of God as this “The proof of the pudding is in the eating”, is this:

1 Pet 1:6b – 7 - though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Whether it is righteousness or love or faith, God’s way or prescription is the same – does your deeds or life (your living) evidence it?  In this Peter’s text above, faith got to be manifested by you.  Faith without deed is NOT operative faith, it is dead or useless or NOT genuine.

God is NOT just looking at our words of love, He is looking for our deeds of love, and sacrifices we made in love, for Him, and so, too, for our neighbours (1 John 4:21).

How did it come about, the great love of the woman?
“as her great love has shown” or “as her great love has indicated or revealed”; what was the thing indicated or revealed?  That same v47 said it – that the sinful woman’s many sins were already forgiven her.

And so, we are coming back to our earlier question of how come the sinful woman could have developed the great love, evidenced by her deeds and sacrifices, which Simon, without the equivalent deeds or sacrifices evidencing, did NOT have.  The answer is that she was forgiven much; Jesus said her many sins were already forgiven of her.

If you are NOT convinced that the sinful woman was the same woman of Luke 8:1-3, the same Mary Magdalene who was once a decadent woman with demons, and who had been set free by the power of God through the Lord, Jesus, you will just have to believe at any earlier point, the sinful woman had met Jesus, and Jesus did something or preached something, and she responded, and God forgave her of many sins; and she received it.

We are to forgive by grace
Forgiveness is to be given.  Now this is revelation and is consistent with the Word – Forgiveness is given, NOT merited.   It is given, NOT bought or merited.  So remember, when you forgive, you give; you don’t demand “payment” of any sort or get people to merit it.  Col 3:13 is very clear – we are to forgive as (the same manner) the Lord forgave (which is by grace; give it).  Jesus indicated so, in the text above, in the parabolic mention of a creditor forgiving two debtors when both had no money; both the debtors were forgiven, without paying or meriting.

Forgiveness needs to be received in
At the same time, forgiveness need to be received in; if the targeted person did NOT receive it, the power in the forgiveness cannot do its wondrous work. 

Suppose Mr A caused you to fall into a big drain, and you became a crippled, and Mr A repeatedly wanted to visit and tell you how sorry he was, but you refused his visit every time; and then he stopped coming. Then after sometime, you forgave him, in your heart (and it is the right thing to do, and we are commanded to do that, to forgive from the heart and in our heart), but you did NOT release it to him, Mr A.  Mr A still lived without receiving in, of your forgiveness, despite you have forgiven him.  It could very well be that Mr A, because of that, be burdened of guilt, condemnation, and developed dysfunctional character traits, and be impaired of his capacity to love and be of compassion, especially, when deceptive voices of the evil ones, got to him.  If he receives in, your forgiveness for him (for that you have to release it to him), the forgiveness received in, can break yokes and bondages, and, with ministry help, he could be a lot more wholesome, including be repaired of his capacity to love.

Restoration of the capacity to love
The receipt in, of forgiveness, helps us to repair our capacity to love.  Or with forgiveness, we can love again.  Jesus turned to Simon and quizzed him concerning who would love the creditor more, the one forgiven of a little or the one for much?  It was a parable, yet, it is still part of the scene of the sinful woman’s coming to love the Lord.  What this parable was pointing, and was helping to explain the scene is this:  The one forgiven (we have already known above, that, forgiveness are to be given freely – for both the debtors had no money and not needed any more to pay), much, was turned more grateful and so, would love more greatly.  The sinful woman was such a case, Jesus was hinting, and did say – “many of her sins were forgiven.”  Many could NOT understand why Jesus quizzed Simon or targeted Simon.  It was because Simon did NOT love the Lord like the woman did, and did by deeds; Jesus contrasted it for Simon, what he, Simon, did NOT do, but the woman did, for her love.

Humility, gratefulness, & then the restoration comes
Although Jesus was pointing to the lack of love of Simon compared to the woman, the more critical understanding that Jesus was giving was that we need to be humble of heart, turned grateful, and so, restored of our capacity to love much.  Simon was NOT of that – humble of heart, turned grateful, and restored of the capacity to love much.  The receiving in of forgiveness is that which would turn us grateful, and be restored of the capacity to love much, and so, love much.  The quoting of the forgiveness of debts (as a parable) was to illustrate this to Simon, and to us – need of receipt of forgiveness, before we are restored of our capacity to love.

I am NOT like that sinful woman-what!
Some may argue, thinking, “But then, that woman, she was sinful-what; bad, bad woman, but Simon was NOT like that, a Pharisee, you know!”, as if a Pharisee necessarily has NOT much to be needing forgiveness from God. It can be untrue. 

I sometimes tell people that a sick person who does NOT think he/she is sick, and so, will NOT come to the doctor, he/she is impaired the most or very sick.  When that sickness is NOT physical, but referring to spiritual unwholesomeness, such an individual cannot love correctly or properly.  Such people rarely think that they are wrong, in terms of their claim of NOT being unwholesome, or in their love or lack of it, or the improper of it (their love); true humility is absent. 

Without true humility, there is no true gratefulness, and without gratefulness, the capacity to love cannot be healed or restored, and great love does NOT come from such a vessel.  Did Simon exhibit this (flaw)?  The answer is yes; we read it in v39. I reproduced vv38-39 here:  38 As she {the woman} stood behind him {Jesus} at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. 39 When the Pharisee {Simon} who had invited him {Jesus} saw this, he said to himself, “If this man {Jesus} were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”  Now, where is the true humility of Simon?  In fact, he thought he was above Jesus! He also said to the tune of “the woman was a sinner”, as if he, himself, was NOT!  Metaphorically speaking, do you think Simon think that he is sick, will he go to the doctor?

Please, I am NOT suggesting you go & commit sin, to be forgiven!
So, was it Simon’s fault?  Brother Anthony, are you trying to say we should allow ourselves to be sinning greatly, so that we can be forgiven much, so that we can be humbled, turned grateful, and be restored of our capacity to love, and so able to love greatly like the sinful woman?  No, that is NOT my drift; and so, please do NOT go sinning, in the hope of being able to love greatly. 

The Apostle Paul did address similar questioning; Gal 2:17 said this - "If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! We don’t go round sinning so that we could magnify the grace of the Lord through His forgiveness for us, by grace.

God is sovereign, yet there is your volition
God is sovereign, and if He wants to force you to your knees, so to speak, He can, but a lot of the time, He is waiting for you to exercise your volition to come to kneel before Him, to come to the place of forgiveness.  He may help you along, to come, but generally, it is still you have to come. The drift was NOT Simon was NOT as sinful, but was that Jesus was pointing to the need to come to the place of forgiveness, and actually receive in, forgiveness. 

Well, can we argue that Simon loved little (or none; I don’t think it was none), because God forgave him little, again NOT his fault-what; God’s fault?!  The point is we need to come, and we need to receive.  Scripture has parables and stories, incorporating this way of God.  For example, in the Parable of the Wedding Banquet, the banquet was made ready and the invitees were to come, but many would NOT come.  Is it NOT true, we even say, we still have to come to the Cross, despite Jesus already died on the Cross; everything necessary He has made ready, and before He gave up His breath, He said, “It is finished”.  We have to come into salvation; even as the Word said in 1 John 2:2, that Jesus is the propitiation for the world (all men).

Please encourage the coming to the place of forgiveness
As ministers, our role is to facilitate people coming to the place of forgiveness, and receive in, forgiveness.  As far as possible don’t stop short, don’t truncate, let the entire process goes right to the end, i.e. people receive in, the forgiveness.

From the Cross, (we gotten) the forgiveness, and the restoration of our capacity to love God back, is it NOT?  And when we love God, we love our neighbour (1 John 4:21).  This understanding is foundational, and when it is foundational, it is to be cascaded through and throughout our life.

So, while Jesus was NOT rebuking Simon in any harsh manner, the urge was for Simon to reflect, and in this regard, for us all, too, on his need for forgiveness for any sins in his life; to be humble, be turned to gratefulness, and be restored of capacity to love more and more, God, and so, too, men or neighbours.

The fault is NOT God’s, of course, that we are forgiven little.  God is waiting to forgive you and I, to come the place of forgiveness, and we do need to be practising 1 John 1:9.

Jesus was saying it, after His Father
There is still an interesting observation from this text of Luke 7; and it is this:  Jesus having said that the sinful woman was forgiven of many sins (v47), still said this, to the woman, in v48 - “Your sins are forgiven.”  

Why did Jesus still say that, that her sins were forgiven, when the woman was forgiven already, which led to her show of great love?  My understanding is this: In verse 48, Jesus just declared it that the woman’s sins were forgiven, for Jesus knew God the Father had done so.  Jesus was so led by the Spirit (or abiding in God), that He knew, and in fact (John 5:19), Jesus did say He would do only that which He saw His Father (God) doing.  It was NOT after all that which the sinful woman did, that Jesus forgave her sins; she was in no way meriting her forgiveness; her deeds and sacrifices of love came after her forgiveness and restoration.

Forgiveness empowers men to love
Forgiveness empowers men to love.  Now, did the occasion point to one needs to merit forgiveness, that the sinful woman did those things, washed Jesus’ feet, kissed them and anointed them with expensive perfume (and she was forgiven afterwards)?  No. Verse 47 is saying love is evidence of forgiveness received.  Or forgiveness received, empowers love.  And of course, I have taken the liberty to expound on, love got to show up in deeds and sacrifices, or that it cannot be, that you love, when you have nothing to show it, by deeds or sacrifices; only words!

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

PS: This account of Luke 7:36-50 is different from the account in John 12 and Mark 14; the later happened at Bethany, days from Jesus crucifixion; this Luke 7:36-50, happened early in Jesus’ ministry, back in the north, in Galilee.

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