David McLemore

Remember the Birds

We do not have a cold, distant deity sitting idly by, watching us worry and work. We have a heavenly Father who loves us more than he loves the birds, who cares for us more deeply than we do even for ourselves, and who wants us to know how deep his love is.

Hi. My name is David, and I’m an anxious person. In fact, just saying that makes me a little anxious.
Mostly, I worry about everything. I wake up worrying, and I go to sleep worrying, and in between, I worry some more. I even worry about worrying about the right things. What if I forget something and my family doesn’t have what they need when the time comes? What if, by my failure to worry, I lead us straight into hardship? What if I fail them?
It’s a miserable way to live, honestly. But it’s my way.
I know it’s not the way I’m meant to live. I worry about that as well. I need to change, but it’s hard. In this kind of world, how can one not be a little anxious all the time?
Who can save me from this body of death?
The Cure for Anxiety
The Bible, of course, isn’t silent in the face of anxiety. It’s well known that the most repeated command in scripture is “Do not fear.”
There is a whole section in the most famous sermon ever preached, the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus addresses this issue. I’ve read it a thousand times. Maybe you have, too. But, if you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to point out something that has changed my life. I don’t mean to be hyperbolic (that’s an anxiety trait, I know), but it has made a bigger difference in my mental health than anything else ever has. And the thing is, it’s been there for thousands of years.
The key verse in this whole thing for me is Matthew 6:26. The ESV heading for this little section is “Do Not Be Anxious,” which, honestly, gives me anxiety. I like the CSB heading better: “The Cure for Anxiety.” That’s much less anxiety-inducing. Maybe the cure will work. Maybe it won’t. But that’s not up to me. So, let’s try it out, shall we?
Consider the Birds
Matthew 6:26 is such a simple verse. “Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?”
Tim Keller used to say that good preaching connects an intellectual truth to a sensory experience. Jesus was a good preacher, of course, so he knew this too. That’s what he did in this verse. We are anxious people, constantly worrying about provision. Will we have enough tomorrow? Will we be okay? The intellectual truth that God will care for us takes us only so far. We need some sensory experience to help us actually believe it.
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When Jesus Comforts the Accused

When you come to Jesus “caught in the act,” you expect the full weight of the law to crash into you. It’s what you deserve. But with Jesus, you get what you don’t deserve. You are guilty but not condemned because he was condemned for you. All you have to do to receive that is receive that. Just open your empty hands of faith and accept his cleansing blood. That’s the scandalous grace of the gospel.

In John 8:1-11, we find the story of the woman caught in adultery. After her accusers drug her before Jesus in the temple, and after Jesus confronted them with their own guilt of sin, they turned and walked away. In verses 10 and 11, Jesus spoke to the woman for the first time, comforting her. It’s worth looking at their interaction because, at some point in our lives, we might find ourselves in need of comfort amid accusations, and John 8:1-11 shows us the kind of Defender we have in Christ.
In John 8:10, Jesus stood, looked at the woman, and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
Commentator Colin Kruse points out that this is the first time in the whole episode that anyone addressed the woman. They dragged her in, accused her of adultery, and demanded her death, but until then, no one spoke anything to her.
Jesus did not start with her sin. He started with her accusers. Isn’t that interesting—and just like him? When she answered that none of them condemned her, Jesus said something amazing in response. “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
How can Jesus say this? Well, in a way, he could say it because now that everyone is gone, there is no real case against her. The charges are dropped, as it were. But there’s a more puzzling question. The scribes and Pharisees weren’t totally wrong. If the law is violated, doesn’t that demand punishment? Shouldn’t Jesus act justly? Is he ignoring the law?
Well, notice what he doesn’t say. He doesn’t say, “You aren’t guilty.” The last thing he tells her is to sin no more. He’s not saying she’s innocent. But he doesn’t condemn her. Isn’t that interesting? Jesus is the most holy person that exists. He can’t overlook sin because if God overlooks sin, that is a real problem. How can there be any justice in the world if God overlooks sin?
Here’s where we get straight to the very heart of Christianity. Christianity says that we are guilty, but we aren’t condemned. How can that be? If we are guilty, we must be condemned. Justice demands it. If we are truly guilty, there is no way around it. Try telling parents whose child is murdered that there is no condemnation for the murderer. They would be outraged, and rightly so. So, how can Jesus say this? How can we be guilty but not condemned?
Perhaps the most amazing verse in the Bible, Romans 8:1, says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Here’s how we can be guilty but not condemned. Only if we’re in Christ. It can only be true if Jesus takes our guilt for us. It only works if 2 Corinthians 5:21 is true. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Only if Jesus takes our guilt and our sin and pays the price for us can we not be condemned. It’s only true if Jesus is condemned for us. The guilt and sin don’t just disappear. The penalty must be paid. Someone must pay it.
We can only be guilty but not condemned by the law if Jesus upholds the law for us. Jesus can only not condemn this woman now if he’s going to be condemned for her later, and that’s exactly what he will do. Jesus knows she should be stoned. He wrote that law! As God, he does demand perfect holiness from his people. But as Savior, he knows that cannot come apart from himself. Instead of throwing the first stone, he will let stones be thrown at him. Instead of her being crushed beneath the weight of their blows, he will suffocate upon the cross under God’s wrath for her sin. Jesus didn’t condemn her then because he would be condemned for her later. That’s why Paul says in Romans 3:26 that God is both just and the justifier—he is just, and no sin will go unpunished, but for his people, he is also the justifier, the one who sets things right on the cross. That’s the only way this works. He can only forgive because he will pay the penalty himself. That’s the heart of Christianity.
Left before Jesus, the only one who really could condemn her, she finds a rock she didn’t expect to receive—the rock that will be struck for her, the cornerstone that becomes a new foundation for her life. If she found that, you can too. This is not a one-off story. One of the things that makes this so powerful is that this is the normative way Jesus works. We don’t see this only here in John 8. We see it throughout his interactions in the Bible.
Throughout the gospels, we see Jesus moving toward sinners and sufferers in ways that shock and surprise us. Jesus shows us that God’s heart isn’t trigger-happy to condemn. In Luke 7, When the woman of the city (likely a prostitute) poured ointment on Jesus’s feet, and wiped them with her hair, and kissed them, the Pharisees were repulsed, but Jesus welcomed and forgave her for her many sins. In Luke 19, Jesus ate with Zacchaeus the tax collector. When the friends of the paralytic brought their suffering friend to Jesus in Matthew 9, Jesus didn’t even wait for them to speak. When he “saw” their faith, he told the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven,” and the paralytic got up and walked out. As Jesus traveled and saw the crowds, he had compassion on them. He taught them from God’s law but bent down and healed their diseases (Matt. 9).
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Grace is the Main Theme of the Bible

Understanding that grace is the main theme of the Bible changes our entire approach to it. It motivates us to seek it out, frees us to receive God’s words—even the hard ones—and motivates us to live for him in all aspects of our life. Only grace truly motivates because only grace truly frees. And grace—praise be to God—is the theme of the Bible!

Last week, I argued that Jesus is the main character of the Bible. This week, I will argue that grace is the main theme of the Bible.
John 1:16 says, “For from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” Romans 5:20 says, “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” Hebrews 4:15-16 tells us about the “throne of grace” that we can approach to “receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” James 4:6 says Jesus gives “more grace.” Romans 6:14 declares we are “not under law but under grace.”
Matthew 11:28-30 is the one place in the Bible where Jesus speaks of his own heart. What does he say? “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” That’s grace.
But, you say, that’s all in the New Testament. What about the Old Testament?
After the fall of Adam and Eve, what did God do? He clothed them (Gen. 3:21) and promised them a savior was coming (Gen. 3:15). When Israel was in slavery, what did God do? “God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.”
When God gave the Ten Commandments, where did he begin? On terms of grace. Exodus 20:1-2, “And God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.’”
      Isaiah 55:1 says, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”
      Psalm 86:15 says, “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”
      Lamentations 3:22 says, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end.”
Time fails me to mention all the times we see God’s people fail and deserve death, and instead, God saves them and redeems them. Grace permeates the Bible, covering it like the waters cover the ocean.
The Princeton Seminary stalwart and New Testament scholar J. Gresham Machen said, “The very center and core of the whole Bible is the doctrine of the grace of God—the grace of God which depends not one whit upon anything that is in man, but is absolutely undeserved, resistless and sovereign. The theologians of the Church can be placed in an ascending scale according as they have grasped with less or greater clearness that one great central doctrine, that doctrine that gives consistency to all the rest; and Christian experience also depends for its depth and for its power upon the way in which that blessed doctrine is cherished in the depths of the heart.”[1]
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Jesus is the Main Character of the Bible

Jesus is everywhere in the Bible. He is the meaning and purpose of every word, every story, every book, every genre, every section, every theme, every figure, every image, and every storyline. When you realize that, the Bible becomes like the movie, The Sixth Sense. Once you know the ending, you can’t help but see the clues all along the way. You see it everywhere. We need to develop a sixth sense for Jesus.

The Reformer Martin Luther said, “Take Christ out of the Scriptures, and what will you find remaining in them?”[1] But seeing Jesus in the scriptures isn’t easy. It’s not automatic. Some of the greatest Bible readers in history have failed to see him. The Pharisees were the most proficient and diligent Bible readers in the history of the world. Yet what does Jesus tell them? John 5:39, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.”
      The Pharisees weren’t the only ones missing the point. Jesus’s disciples did too. After Jesus’s resurrection, Luke 24:13-27 tells the story of two disciples on the Emmaus Road. Jesus approached them, unrecognized, and asked them what they were discussing. They said, “Well, we thought Jesus was the Messiah, but he was crucified, so I guess we were wrong.” Jesus responded with a reprimand, saying, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then he does something amazing. “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”
The Bible is one big, unified story about Jesus. Remove him, and you have nothing left.
I’m arguing for a Christocentric reading of the Bible because I think that’s what the Bible itself argues for.
Now, here’s what I’m not saying. I am not saying you can see Jesus’s name in every verse. You can’t even see it in every chapter. You can’t even see it in every book of the Bible. Esther doesn’t mention God’s name. But think of it like a trajectory. The tension builds with every story.
A Christocentric view of the New Testament isn’t as difficult because Jesus is mentioned by name so often. But what about the Old Testament? Though he is not named, we see Jesus everywhere. We find the pattern of Jesus—a Savior rising to redeem God’s people. We hear the promise of Jesus—one to come that will undo the curse and bring the blessing. We feel the presence of Jesus—divine help amid God’s people in all their struggles and sins.[2]
As Tim Keller famously summarized it, Jesus is the true and better everything.

Jesus is the true and better Adam who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience is imputed to us.
Jesus is the true and better Abel who, though innocently slain, has blood now that cries out, not for our condemnation, but for acquittal.
Jesus is the true and better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfortable and familiar and go out into the void not knowing wither he went to create a new people of God.
Jesus is the true and better Isaac who was not just offered up by his father on the mount but was truly sacrificed for us. And when God said to Abraham, “Now I know you love me because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from me,” now we can look at God taking his son up the mountain and sacrificing him and say, “Now we know that you love us because you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love from us.”
Jesus is the true and better Jacob who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserved, so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us.
Jesus is the true and better Joseph who, at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his new power to save them.
Jesus is the true and better Moses who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant.
Jesus is the true and better Rock of Moses who, struck with the rod of God’s justice, now gives us water in the desert.

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Three Applications of Christ’s Intercession

With Jesus Christ, you are never without an intercessor that can overcome all your enemies, comfort all your wounds, advocate for all your needs, and sustain even the greatest of doubts and the weakest moments of faith. You are covered in his grace from this day until the very last. You may feel weak and unworthy, but take heart, Jesus lives for you!

To intercede means to intervene on someone’s behalf. It means to entreat, to argue, to plead, and to stand in the gap between two people with a view of reconciliation. Intercession is prayer but of a specific kind. There is much that is mysterious about Jesus’s intercession, but the Bible and great theologians of church history offer some clarity. Referring to Christ’s intercession, the Puritan John Owen defined it as “his continual appearance for us in the presence of God, by virtue of his office as the ‘high priest over the house of God,’ representing the efficacy of his oblation [offering], accompanied with tender care, love, and desires for the welfare, supply, deliverance, and salvation of the church.”[1]
      In other words, by virtue of his all-sufficient atoning sacrifice, Jesus stands at the Father’s right hand in heaven, working and praying for us to accomplish our full salvation.
      Whenever we approach a biblical doctrine, there is the temptation to leave it in the realm of the intellectual. But it is good to consider how the doctrine applies to our lives. How does what we now know of Christ’s intercession make our hearts burn within us (Luke 24:32)?
      Here I will make three primary applications.
Application 1: Christ’s Intercession Reveals His Heart for Sinners
      Though we are justified in Christ for all time when we first trust his saving work, we do not stop sinning until the age to come when we are with him in glory. Though we know the truth of God’s love, we still have low thoughts of God, disbelieving, mistrusting, and doubting him. Though we know we are saved by Christ’s works, not our own, we still fall into the old ruts of our self-salvation projects, denying the power of his life, death, and resurrection. Our fleshly desires may wane, but they do not disappear, and we continue to use God’s good gifts for improper ends. Who will save us from this body of death (Rom. 7:24)? Jesus, by the power of his intercession.
      John Bunyan wrote a whole book about Hebrews 7:25 called Christ a Complete Savior. In that book, he said,
      “Many there be that begin with grace, and end with works, and think that this is the only way…But to be saved and brought to glory, to be carried through this dangerous world, from my first moving after Christ, until I set my foot within the gates of paradise, this is the work of my mediator, of my high priest and intercessor. It is he that fetches us again when we are run away; it is he that lifts us up when the devil and sin have thrown us down; it is he that quickens us when we grow cold; it is he that comforts us when we despair; it is he that obtains fresh pardon when we have contracted sin; and he that purges our consciences when they are loaded with guilt…We are saved by Christ; brought to glory by Christ; and all our works are no otherways made acceptable to God, but by the person and personal excellences and works of Christ.”
      Christ’s intercession is there to save us from the sin that remains. God did not expect us to become perfect and never again struggle after our conversion. He factored our ongoing fight against sin into the equation and provided the intercession of Christ to preserve and encourage us. That shows how great the love of Christ is for us sinners. Why would he intercede if he didn’t care? Why would we be continually on his mind if he did not love us? As a parent loves a child and thinks about them all the time, so Christ considers us and always thinks of our good. He prays on our behalf. He takes our prayers and rewords them on the way up (Rom. 8:26). He holds the door to heaven open for us. He is more committed to our salvation than we are, and he will never leave us nor forsake us. He cares for us and sends affirmations of that care to us by his Spirit.
      The Puritan Thomas Goodwin spoke of 1 Corinthians 2:16, where Paul says we have the “mind of Christ.” You know those moments when you sense a word from the Lord, a verse of Scripture, or a reminder of the love of Christ, those seemingly invasive thoughts that remind you of God’s love? Those are Spirit-sent thoughts from Jesus himself. They are sent down from heaven to tell us what he is thinking of us and for us in that very moment. Those are holy moments with our interceding Christ.
      And in those moments when we find ourselves weak and wounded because of sin, when we long for a holy moment but fear we have blown it big-time, we must remember his intercession. We must remember his heart for sinners and sufferers, how gentle and careful he is with us. Hear Goodwin describe it.
      “Your very sins move him to pity more than to anger…For he suffers with us under our infirmities, and by infirmities are meant sins, as well as other miseries…”
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The Darkness in the Grave

The very place where you see yourself as most undeserving is the very place at which Jesus’ cross says to you, “Come to me.” You say, “But when does his welcome end?” The cross says, “Never.” Jesus has the final word with us. His salvation is not temporary. His sacrifice is not for a limited time. This is a permanent deal.

In Mark’s account of the death of Jesus in Mark 15:33-47, he includes a bit about Jesus’s burial in verses 42-47. Why does he record the burial of Jesus? Throughout history, this has been a contested point of the story. Some say Jesus didn’t really die on the cross. Maybe he passed out, was taken down, and recovered somewhere. Muslims say he was taken to heaven before he died on the cross. Others say dogs ate his body. But from the earliest of days, the burial of Jesus was an important and well-recorded point. All four gospels record his burial, and the earliest Christian creed, the Apostles’ Creed, includes it.
But why does his burial matter so much? Because only a dead Jesus saves. Only a dead and buried Jesus experienced the full wrath of God against our sin. Only a dead and buried Jesus can resurrect. If he wasn’t really dead and truly buried, the resurrection couldn’t have happened, it was only for show, and if the resurrection didn’t happen then, as Paul said, “our preaching is in vain and our faith is in vain.”
The details Mark includes lead us to the conclusion that Jesus really did die, and he really was buried. Verses 42-43 tell us that by evening, because it was the day of Preparation, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin council, took courage and went to Pilate to ask for the body. Those details matter because of what comes next. Verse 44 says Pilate was surprised to hear Jesus was already dead. Crucifixion could take days. Jesus was dead in a few hours. So he called the centurion who oversaw the death. After confirming, Pilate gave Joseph his body. This wasn’t normal practice. Usually, to complete the humiliation of crucifixion, the body was thrown in the trash heap. So why did Pilate give the body to Joseph? Mark doesn’t say. All he says is that he did, and that’s important because it’s different from the normal way of things. It’s the kind of thing that is only written down if it’s true.
But it’s important for other reasons too. It’s a fulfillment of prophecy. The Old Testament prophesied this kind of burial for the Messiah. Joseph was a rich man—only a rich man had a tomb like this prepared. Isaiah said the Messiah would have his grave made with a rich man in his death (Isaiah 53:9) and that the tomb would be cut out of a rock (Isaiah 22:16). Even more amazing, John says in his account that this tomb was in a garden (John 19:41). Remember, that’s where the tragedy of this world’s darkness began. The Puritan commentator Matthew Henry puts it this way, “In the garden of Eden death and the grave first received their power, and now in a garden they are conquered, disarmed, and triumphed over. In a garden Christ began his passion, and from a garden he would rise, and begin his exaltation.”
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The Darkness Over the Son

Mark 15:33-47 shows us the cross of Christ. The darkness of sin overcame Jesus on the cross, and he felt it. Verse 34 says Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mark includes both the Aramaic version Jesus actually spoke and the Greek translation for his readers. According to verse 35, some thought he was calling for Elijah. The Aramaic words misheard certainly could sound like it, and in Jewish thought, Elijah, who had not died but had been lifted into heaven, would come back to help God’s people. In verse 36, they took sour wine to him, fulfilling the prophecy of Psalm 69:21, “for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.” This isn’t the wine with myrrh offered to Jesus on the way to the cross. This wasn’t meant dull his pain but to prolong his life, to see if Elijah would come. But Elijah wasn’t coming. He wasn’t crying out for Elijah anyway. He was crying out for another reason—not for someone to save him but to show the kind of salvation he was securing.
His cry was the first verse of Psalm 22. Why that Psalm? Because there, the Psalmist David laments the feeling of forsakenness. The first two verses say, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.” Do you know that feeling? Have you felt forsaken? Have you felt abandoned? On the cross, that’s how Jesus felt as the darkness came over him. He wants us to know he identifies with us. His cry is our cry because our cry is his cry. Dane Ortlund, in his book Gentle and Lowly, says this.

New Testament scholar Richard Bauckham notes that while Psalm 22:1 was originally written in Hebrew, Jesus spoke it in Aramaic and thus was personally appropriating it. Jesus wasn’t simply repeating David’s experience of a thousand years earlier as a convenient parallel expression. Rather, every anguished Psalm 22:1 cry across the millenia was being recapitulated and fulfilled and deepened in Jesus. His was the true Psalm 22:1 of which ours are the shadows. As the people of God, all our feelings of forsakenness funneled through an actual human heart in a single moment of anguished horror on Calvary, an actual forsakenness…The world’s Light was going out.

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What’s in a Name?

Leon Kass comments, “The change of Abram’s name, offered in conjunction with God’s abundant promise, is in fact deeply significant. ‘Abraham’s very identity is now inextricable from God’s promise of abundant offspring. His being depends on God’s speech. If God breaks his promise, Abraham ceases to be Abraham.’”1 Abraham cannot be Abraham unless God is faithful. It all depends on the promise.

Ninety-nine years is a long time to wait for a new name. Most men make a name for themselves well before. Through their work, they conquer their field and make their contribution. Through their family, they establish their progeny and expand their influence.
But for Abram, it was a different story. We meet him in Genesis 12, where God calls him to go to a land he will show him (Genesis 12:1). He was a foreigner in a strange land, unknown by the world, childless, landless. In a world that depended so much on one’s family line, he was as nameless as they come.
The irony is the name Abram carried meant “Exalted Father.” Would he ever live into his name? That question constantly nagged. In his seventy-fifth year he heard a word from God and followed him into a new land, chasing promises from a God previously unknown but one whom he deemed trustworthy, Abram put all his chips on God’s square. What had become of the gamble? So far nothing.
But the promised remained. Not only did it remain, but it was also constantly reinforced. God kept coming to Abram, bolstering his word with covenants and signs and everything else.
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You Serve A Higher Master

Jesus is saying to us today that the motivation for our good, hard work is not to be noticed by him but comes from already being noticed by him. We are under his kind watch. He is not only infusing our work with his grace to honor and glorify him and provide goods and services to others that help them flourish, but he is also receiving all our work unto himself as service to him. No task is meaningless. How could it be? Jesus is in it.

Last week, I posted a word about slavery in Paul’s address to bondservants in Colossians 3. This was, basically, an excerpt from a sermon i preached on the entire passage of Colossians 3:22-4:1. It is a passage often used to speak to how Christians are to work. I think that is the right way to approach the text, and i wanted to provide another excerpt from my sermon today.
In Colossians 3:18-4:1, Paul shows the fullness of Christ for our home life. In the first four verses, he addresses husbands, wives, children, and parents. Then, in verse 22, he addresses bondservants, or slaves. It’s the same word. In this address, we might expect Paul to start a different way. Why address the slaves before the masters? But this is how Paul arranged the entire section. Why not the husbands before the wives? Why not the fathers before the children? Paul started with the powerless because the powerful are always first. He started where there is the least natural hope. There is grace and mercy in even the arrangement of the verses. God’s word is amazing.
Paul tells the bondservants to “obey in everything those who are your earthly masters.” This is similar to his command to children. Of course, Paul is not condoning sinful behavior. Bondservants are not to be disobedient to their masters, but if their masters ask them to do something sinful, they have a higher master. They are to obey their earthly masters, but they are to fear the Lord. Jesus not only limits the slave master’s authority but also frees the slave to disobey when morally necessary. Their earthly master is only earthly. Jesus is the big boss.
We all have an earthly boss. Someone demands our time and attention. How are we to obey? How are we to work? “Not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.” There are two things here—a positive and a negative. Negatively, we can’t slack off when no one’s looking. Jesus’s eye is ever upon us. Positively, we don’t have to hope someone notices our hard work. Jesus’s eye is ever upon us. Both of these are good news. There isn’t a meaningless moment. The King of the Universe is right there with you. When the King notices you, you can’t slack off. You don’t want to. When the King notices you, you need no other praise. His is enough.  Someone once asked G.K. Chesterton, “If the risen Christ suddenly appeared at this very moment and stood behind you, what would you do?”
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The Gospel Never Does Nothing

As we continually expose ourself to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and as we just open our empty hands before him, we can trust that he will do his work. He will not leave us as we are. He will increase our joy. He will soften our sorrows. He will heal our wounds. He will, if he must, even cause the fish to get sick and spit us upon his shores to witness his redemption.

Christ who is the content of the gospel leaves no one in a neutral state.
—Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God, page 399

The one thing the gospel never does is nothing. Under the preaching of the gospel, no one remains the same. We are either moving closer to God or further from him. No one remains neutral. No one remains unchanged. We soften, or we harden.
Encountering Jesus is a life-altering event every time it happens. His word is always fresh. Even if we believe we know it, because he is God, his word is not returning void. Every time it is spoken, something happens. We fall in love with him, or we grow to despise him. We lean in, or we turn away. In every church meeting every Sunday morning, there is a massive movement in the hearts of people all over the world because of the gospel of Christ. Because Christ is the gospel, when we hear his word, we hear him, and when we hear him, we either fall down before him, or we run the other way. The one thing we don’t do is nothing.
It’s not always easy to perceive this movement. Perhaps we notice the leaning in more than the turning away. Yes, we can sprint in the other direction, but that’s not how it works for most of us. It’s more like drifting away at sea.
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