Prepare Our Hearts – September 30

A Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church.Find another day here.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Mark 4:24-25

 And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. 25 For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

In the sixth grade one of my teachers handed out a test and said, “Please carefully read through the entire test before you begin to answer the questions.” Although at the time I wasn’t known to be a particularly good listener (still not one of my strong suits), something in her voice caught my attention and I actually followed the instructions. To my surprise, the very last line of the lengthy, multi-page exam read, “Leave every question blank, write your name in the top corner on the first page, and place this on my desk.” So I wrote my name, turned it back in, and then proceeded to watch the rest of my classmates struggle their way through the first page. Twenty minutes later, one by one the other students furiously started erasing all of their answers as they finally reached the end. The true test was not intended to measure our capacity for information recall, but to gauge our ability to carefully listen to instructions.

Jesus often warned His disciples that they must be careful about what they hear by using the phrase, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” In our passage this morning, He issues a similar admonition but adds the warning, “with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Not only were the disciples supposed to make sure that they listened to instruction, but it was also important how they listened.

Religious leaders in the first century were highly educated and extremely familiar with the words of Scripture. A child raised in the tradition of the Pharisees would begin to memorize the book of Leviticus starting at age 4, by 12 would have memorized the five books of the Law, and then as a teen work to memorize the Psalms and Prophets. If it came to a question as to the content of Scripture, their knowledge was unrivaled. However, as Jesus taught and applied the Scriptures during His public ministry, it became quickly apparent that many of the Pharisees believed that the blessings of the Bible belonged solely to them while the curses of condemnation were intended for others.

The fact of the matter is that I have found that I am not immune from falling into a similar pattern of thinking. Upon reading a particularly challenging portion of scripture or hearing a rather convicting sermon, instead of examining my own heart I often catch myself thinking, “I hope (insert someone else’s name) is paying attention right now; this is exactly what they need to hear.” My typical modus operandi is to give myself a pass for failing to practice the things of God while being quick to look down upon other people who do the exact same things that I do. I am far more gracious and forgiving of myself than I am in regards to others.

When Jesus tells His followers here that they must measure carefully, He is actually referencing both positive and negative measurements. Although we are not the final arbiters when it comes to how we are measured, when we are gracious with others, the Lord will be gracious with us, and every more so! But when we are harsh and condescending and quick to condemn, we will likewise experience the same.

It is important to recognize that Jesus is not saying that our standing before God is a direct result of our attitudes and actions, but rather our attitudes and actions towards others reveal the degree to which we have received or rejected His gift of grace. Those who understand the true depth of their sin and their complete inability to come before God on their own merits will live and walk in humility. There is no room in their life for pride or prejudice because they know that the condemnation and judgement they rightfully deserve has been replaced with blessing and righteousness they did not earn.

Conversely, when we fail to acknowledge our need for grace, our lives will tell that story as well. Jesus said, “he who is forgiven little, loves little,” but He did not mean that some of us require less forgiveness. Just like the Pharisees, when we believe that our superior knowledge and morality have secured us favor with God we will naturally look down upon the “sinners” all around us. While through our own eyes we look good compared to those we have measured, we reveal our spiritual blindness and ignorance in the process.

Christians are called to live our lives following the example of Jesus. In Philippians 2, we read that Jesus, who actually did deserve all praise and glory and honor and praise, emptied Himself and humbled Himself on our behalf; He went to the cross for you and for me. Because Jesus made Himself low, “God highly exalted Him and bestowed upon Him the name that is above every name.” Jesus is great, not us. Because we have been forgiven much, we can and must forgive with abandon. May we be made low so that He can be made great in our lives today.

Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, we confess that You alone are worthy of all honor and praise. We do not deserve Your mercy or forgiveness, yet You lavish it upon us. Help us to be known not as a people who judge and condemn but as gracious and forgiving. We acknowledge that our forgiveness came at a cost, it was not cheap or easy for You, and we ask that You would empower us to give grace with the same measure that we have received it. May You be glorified in us today, Amen.