Crossroads Connection for the Week of January 19
 
 
 
Article #1
 

 Take Off the Mask

By Skip Heitzig

In ancient Greece, actors in the theater typically wore a smiling mask if they were reciting funny lines and a frowning mask if they were reciting sad lines. The Greeks called these actors hypokrites, which is where we get our word hypocrite—someone who wears a mask.

We often wear a mask when it comes to our sin—even as Christians. In Matthew 23, Jesus confronted the religious elite of Israel—the scribes and Pharisees—and unmasked their hypocrisy, shining light on five characteristics of sin:

1. Sin is detectable. Sin can be defined as any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature—and God can always detect it. Here, Jesus could smell the hypocrisy of the religious elite a mile away, and He confronted it.

2. Sin is dangerous. Eight times in this chapter Jesus said "woe" to the scribes and Pharisees, or "Man, are you in trouble." That's because the disease of sin is dangerous. For instance, in verse 13, Jesus said, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in." Sin in its undetected and unrepentant form bars a person from heaven, separates them from God, and brings His eternal judgment.

3. Sin is diverse. It takes many forms. Jesus here touched not only on what the scribes and Pharisees did, but on what they didn't do. They tithed their spices, which they weren't required to, but they were so meticulous about that small, insignificant thing that they neglected big things like mercy, justice, and compassion (see v. 23).

4. Sin is deceptive. Jesus described the scribes and Pharisees as "whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness" (vv. 27-28). They were skillful at making a good appearance of right living, but they did "all their works…to be seen by men" (v. 5). In the same way, you can cover up a lot with a Bible in your hand, a cross around your neck, and a smile on your face.

5. Sin is dismissible. Jesus' tender language at the end of this chapter revealed His desire to forgive, heal, and dismiss the sin He had just confronted (see vv. 37-39). That's the good news: sin is forgivable. It's the whole reason Jesus came from heaven to earth.

And I contend that you can't understand our great salvation until you understand how much you need it—then you can appreciate the Savior you have.

Every single one of us live by and desperately need God's mercy and grace. So let's be thankful those are ours through Jesus Christ and, in turn, take off our self-righteous masks of hypocrisy and be much more gracious with the people around us when they falter and fail.

 




 


Article 2

Trapped by Sin

 By Greg Laurie
 
 

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”

—John 15:5

I love the story of David and Goliath. Goliath, nine-feet-six-inches of solid muscle, came down to the Valley of Elah to face off with young David.

He saw David with his slingshot and effectively said, “What am I, a dog that you come at with a stick?”

But David replied, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied” (1 Samuel 17:45 NLT).

Then David started running toward Goliath. I love that. David didn’t simply hold his ground; he gained ground. Then he whipped that sling around, building momentum, and let the stone fly like a guided missile.

That stone planted itself into Goliath’s forehead, and he collapsed to the ground with a tremendous thud. David walked over, pulled out Goliath’s sword, and cut off his head.

That is how you face the giant of sin in your life. You have to call it out, and you have to cut off its head. You were trapped by sin before you were a Christian. But then one day you came to Christ. You know what God can do and has done for you.

But then you walk back into your old, sinful patterns, and you’re miserable. That’s because you’re trying to live in two worlds. You have too much of the Lord to be happy in the world and too much of the world to be happy in the Lord.

So how do you get out of that place? Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 NLT). You don’t have to be a slave of sin. No giant should be overpowering you or taunting you. You can live in the victory that Jesus purchased for you on the cross.


  


    
 

Article 3                                      

 The Marketplace Minister and the Pulpit Minister Partnership

 

“When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The LORD's anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God.”- (2 Samuel 6:6-8).

David was the ultimate marketplace leader. He began his life as a shepherd. He later became a warrior, then king. He never lost a battle. He amassed wealth and was responsible for building the greatest physical testimony to the living God on earth when he established the plan for his son Solomon to build the temple of God in Jerusalem.

David wanted to honor the Lord by bringing the tabernacle home from Balah of Judah. He prepared for this glorious day and worshiped God during the entire trip. However, David moved the tabernacle using a cart being drawn by oxen. During the journey, a crisis took place. The cart tilted and one of his favorite men grabbed for the cart in an effort to sturdy it. He was immediately struck dead by God. Yes, by God!

David was devastated. He thought he was doing a good thing. He became so angry with God that he delayed the transfer of the ark for three months. From this point forward, David's belief about God radically changed.

The problem was that David had passion without knowledge. The Ark could only be carried with poles by the priests. Had David consulted the priests about his desire to bring God's presence into the city, he would have been informed of the requirements for moving the ark. The lesson here is that David moved out of presumption. His presumption cost him dearly.

Today, the role of priest is to equip the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11). It does not mean that saints don't have a responsibility to seek God on their own. However, God desires a partnership between the workplace minister and the pulpit minister. We are a team that needs one another to accomplish the task of bringing God's presence into the city.


 Article 4
  

 

 

Discernment to Understand God's Word

By Kurt Selles 

Scripture Reading: Psalm 119:121-128

Give me discernment that I may understand your statutes.
Psalm 119:125

In this section of Psalm 119 we find some of the most memorable words in the entire psalm, as the writer declares that he loves God’s Word “more than gold, more than pure gold.” But if we lift this beautiful confession out of its context, we miss a more subtle truth in these verses: the psalmist’s plea to understand God’s Word.

In declaring how he treasures God’s Word, the psalmist isn’t merely offering a beautiful senti­ment. He offers this like evidence in a court of law, as if he is testifying like a plaintiff. Because he loves God’s words above all else and seeks to follow them, God should rescue him from his oppressors.

Knowing that we tend to see only our own point of view and that we often fall short, most of us would hesitate to put God on trial in a way like this. Nevertheless, we can learn from the psalmist’s request. He acknowledges his need for help in understanding God’s precious Word.

Though we may not all dare to call God to account in pleading for his help, we all need guidance in discerning the truth of God’s Word. We hear God’s voice most clearly when we ask him to remove our distractions and reveal himself and his will to us.

And when God does speak to us through his Word—as he certainly will—we must apply God’s teaching to our daily lives.

Teach us your Word, Lord, and help us to love your commands more than pure gold or anything else. Amen.

 

 


 


 

Article #5 
 

 

 

 

 

Of Your Own We Give

But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You, and of Your own we have given You.
1 Chronicles 29:14

In churches that follow The Book of Common Prayer, when it comes time to collect the congregation’s financial offerings, the leader chooses from several suggested verses to recite. A frequently used invitation to worship by giving is from 1 Chronicles 29:14: “For all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee” (KJV).

 


Recommended Reading:
Psalm 50:8-12

The context of that verse in First Chronicles is striking. King David is praying following the overwhelmingly generous offering of Israel’s leaders, including David himself, to fund the building of the temple. As David prays, he becomes forcefully aware that the people’s ability to give is because God had first given to them. They were only giving to God what was already His: “and of Your own we have given You.” When we give to God, we don’t give from our own to Him; we give from His own that which He gave to us.

God owns everything—including all that we have. What impact should that have on our use of time, talent, and treasure?

The steward needs an open hand to receive from God and then an active hand to give to God and to others.
Murray J. Harris

 


.