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Do you ever get the feeling that someone has been talking about you?  I’m sure that all of us have experienced that unsettling sense that you have been the topic of someone else’s conversation, and an unflattering one at that.  Maybe it’s the way he seemed to avoid eye contact with you when you passed him in the hallway, or the way she appeared to change directions in order to keep from crossing paths with you.  Perhaps someone has shared a totally out-of-left-field comment with you on a personal subject matter that you know you have never discussed with them, and you immediately begin to conclude that someone else has.  It’s not a very comfort-inducing or confidence-enhancing feeling!

Well, you should know that it’s true.  Someone has indeed been talking about you…. today.  I’m absolutely sure of it.  You were mentioned by name, and more than once.  It’s been going on for quite some time now.  But, please don’t let this disturb you or cause you any emotional distress.

Jesus has been talking about you.  As your heavenly advocate and high priest, He has been confessing your name before the Father as one of His disciples who walks in His Light and is covered by the sin-cleansing, guilt-removing, hope-restoring power of His atoning sacrifice (Matt. 10:32; I John 1:7 – 2:2).  Jesus has been explaining your situation: the hardships and temptations that you face, the height of your joy, the depth of your despair, the fear, the frustration, the anger, the disappointment, the laughter, the tears… all of it.

Jesus has described this to the Father with precision and complete accuracy because He truly does know exactly how you feel.  Since Jesus shared our nature (John 1:14; Heb. 2:14,17), He can come to our sympathetic aid.  He precedes us in drawing near to the throne of God so that we may confidently follow Him there to receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:14-16).  Since the living Jesus is our “forever priest,” He never ceases to speak to the Father on our behalf (Heb. 7:23-25). While it’s true that Jesus cannot personally identify with the guilt and shame that come as a result of our sin, there is no need to worry.  He does something far better than relate to it; He provides the remedy for it.

Oh, it gets “worse”; others have been talking to God about you as well (Eph. 6:18; James 5:16).  The Holy Spirit even joined in with them in bringing your name before the Father (Rom. 8:26).

Sometimes it’s really nice to be talked about!

 

A friend told me a joke several years ago, the punch line of which included the question, “Is that your final answer?”  I didn’t laugh.  My failure to respond prompted him to say, “You haven’t seen the show, have you?”  I had not.  The show that I hadn’t seen was Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?  My friend was incredulous.  Everyone had seen that show!  How could I live in such a state of cultural depravity, and how dare I ruin his perfectly funny joke?

I eventually did see the show a time or two, but never became a regularl viewer.   However, Regis Philbin’s question “Is that your final answer?” became deeply ingrained in our cultural consciousness.  The question is reminiscent of a parable of Jesus in which a father asked something of his two sons.  Each of the sons answered their father differently; and, in each case, it was not their final answer. 

The parable is recorded in Matthew 21:28-32.  The chief priests and elders in Jerusalem had just attempted to entrap Jesus with a trick question.  As usual, Jesus quickly turned the rhetorical tables on them and silenced them with a question of his own.  He then told them this parable which contrasted their rejection of the good news of God’s kingdom with the joyful reception that it was gaining among tax collectors and prostitutes whose hearts were being touched and led to repentance.

In Jesus’ story, a man approached the first of his two sons and directed him to go and work in the family’s vineyard.  The son flatly refused.  “No,” the insolent little cuss replied to his father; rude, brash, disrespectful, and disobedient.  However, the young man later rethought his answer, regretted the shameful way in which he had spoken to his father, and went to work.   “No” was not his final answer.

The father approached his second son with the same instruction to work in the vineyard.  “Yes, sir!,” he replied.  “Right away; I’m on it; no need to ask me twice; I’m always happy to do my part and carry my share of the load; it’s never a burden or a bother; I count it a real joy to do what you ask of me.  Love ya, Dad!”  Nice words; but only words.  He didn’t go to the vineyard.  “Yes” was not his final answer.

Jesus asked his critics which one of the two sons did the will of his father: the one who said he that wouldn’t and then did, or the one who said that he would and then didn’t.  They answered His question correctly. 

By outward appearances, the scribes and Pharisees were talking a good game by their ability to quote long sections of the Law and the Prophets and by sporting broad phylacteries and long tassels.  But, by their traditions, double-standards, self-righteousness, and hypocrisy, they were ultimately saying “no” to God.  On the other hand, the tax collectors and prostitutes who had been saying “no” through their dishonesty and sexual immorality were sincerely and penitently saying “yes” to Jesus, just as they had positively responded to the message of John the Baptist.

No matter how deeply we have fallen in sin or how far we have wandered away from God, “no” does not have to be our final answer.  God graciously allows us time to rethink our response to His grace and mercy. 

If you have said “yes” to Jesus Christ, let that be your final answer!

In a village on the borderland between Galilee and Samaria, Jesus encountered ten leprous men while on His journey to Jerusalem to face betrayal, trial, torture, and death (Luke 17:11-19).  The men raised their voices to Jesus from a distance, observing the social isolation and separation that their leprosy demanded, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”  Despite the nearness of His own suffering, which could have easily (and understandably) consumed all of His focus and concern, Jesus was moved with compassion and directed the men to go and show themselves to the priests.  According to the ritual requirements of the Law, a leper could be declared clean and free from the disease only after examination by a priest and the offering of sacrifices (Leviticus 14:1-32).

All ten of the lepers demonstrated great faith by following Jesus’ instructions, especially since their leprosy was still upon them as they began their journey.  Somewhere along the way, their disease was taken away by the power, grace, and mercy of the Lord.  One of the ten, only one, a Samaritan, turned back to find Jesus.  He glorified God with a loud voice, fell at Jesus’ feet, and gave thanks to Him for the gift of restored health.

We often use this story (and rightfully so) to illustrate our need to offer thanksgiving and praise to God and to caution against having a heart of ingratitude.  However, it is interesting to note that the other nine men still enjoyed the blessing of healing, despite their failure to return and thank the Lord.  The attitude of Jesus wasn’t, “I’ll heal you only if you promise to be grateful.”  He healed them because of who He was; loving, compassionate, and merciful.

Jesus instructs us to be merciful in the same way that our heavenly Father is merciful, loving our enemies and doing good, expecting nothing in return (even gratitude); “for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men” (Luke 6:35-36).  “God causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45).  There are multitudes who enjoy the warmth of the sun and the sweetness of the rain who never acknowledge the divine Giver of those blessings; some of the them even overtly deny His existence.  Still, He blesses.

Acts of kindness to others are self-authenticating.  They need no justification.  They do not require anyone’s permission.  They are not dependent on the gratitude, or lack thereof, possessed by the recipients of the kindness. 

We do good for the sake of doing good and for the sake of the Savior in whose steps we follow.

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