Words & Actions, Week 2 - Daily Steps
Welcome to Daily Steps!
A weekly devotional message with daily scripture readings, prayer prompts, and action steps to help you spend time with Jesus and strengthen your relationship with Him.
Luke 4:18-19 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor."
The Most Illogical Love
It’s so easy for situations and feelings to turn on a dime… to change in a heartbeat… to go from good to bad in an instant. In the last half of Luke’s fourth chapter, we see just how quickly a crowd of people can shift from a mood of absolute amazement and adoration to murderous intent. Initially when they heard Jesus speak, the men in the synagogue “All spoke well of Him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from His lips.” (verse 22) Then, like a stick of verbal dynamite, Jesus ignites a firestorm in verses 23-27 when He declares that some of God's most notable blessings were given to the Gentiles because His own people had rejected the prophets whom He'd sent to them.
Since Jesus had been speaking to the religious elite of His day, His words enraged the crowd. Verse 29 says, "They got up, drove Him out of the town, and took Him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw Him off the cliff.” Of course, it was not Jesus’ time to go, so He miraculously "walked right through the crowd and went on His way.” Just imagine this scene... one minute the hateful and violent throng has Jesus in their grasp, and the next minute He’s casually walking out of harm’s way. Luke doesn’t imply that Jesus magically disappeared, but something miraculous definitely occurred right in the middle of the powerful mob. God’s intention was clear in sending His Son, but those who claimed to be the most devout rejected His plan outright, and in a manner of seconds Jesus changed history forever. The foundation of empty religion with all its legalism, judgmental superiority, haughtiness, and exclusivity shook to its core and Jesus took His first steps toward the cross.
As followers of Jesus today, it can be hard to see ourselves among the murderous crowd that drove Jesus out of town and toward a cliff. Yet how many times are we guilty of loving Jesus’ words one minute and then turning on Him when we realize the full implication, conviction, and cost of what He’s saying? Luke may have written his account of Jesus more than 2,000 years ago, but human nature hasn’t changed and this scene is important for us to continue pondering in our modern society. The Jewish people who pushed their way into Nazareth's synagogue to hear their hometown's "boy wonder" weren’t a group of thugs, criminals, or evil villains. They were remarkably similar to any modern church attender or religious adherent. Yet when presented with a mirror to see their own true motivations and prejudices, they were moved to violence and revulsion. The very One they had prayed for… waited for… yearned to see with their own eyes… had come to offer love everlasting and the way of true peace. It just wasn’t in line with their expectations or within their scope of reason. The path Jesus came to lead them down defied logic and they decided in an instant that they wanted no part of it.
Every day that we live here on earth presents us with similar decision points, only some seem far bigger or more serious than others. However, in the way that Jesus would come to define them, every moment and each decision has eternal significance. Jesus is still whispering to our hearts and asking us to live in a way that defies logic, breaks social and cultural barriers, and pushes us out of our comfort zones. Luke 4:18-19 encapsulates His mission, declares His intention, and calls out the opposite of what the religious elite — both then and now — expect of their long-awaited Messiah. "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” The Lord’s favor… His salvation… His freedom is for everyone. As you reflect on the daily readings in the coming week, ask the Holy Spirit to help you see yourself as Jesus does. If His perspective brings conviction to your heart receive it without fear or shame knowing that His love has already covered it all and His power is more than enough to sustain you in the mission that lies ahead.
Daily Bible Readings
This week, as you go through the daily readings below, ask the Holy Spirit to make each of the passages deeply personal and applicable to you. (NOTE: We suggest that you read each of these passages in several different versions of the Bible, including at least one paraphrase version.) As you contemplate these passages, make time to pray before and after you read them. Write down anything the Holy Spirit whispers to your soul.
Monday - Read Mark 12:30-31. Jesus tells us to love others. That means all “others,” not just the ones who are like us… and not just the ones who we think are living right. Letting Him do His work without our judgment is one of the hardest aspects of Godly love. Some Christians make excuses for practicing exclusivity, condemnation, and being judgmental by saying things like, “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” and do their best to make it clear that they are adept at knowing the difference. Even though it's a well-intentioned remark, no one will feel that they are loved as long as you hate anything about them. Love and hate simply cannot co-exist in the same heart space. Embracing the attitude of this expression unintentionally, but inherently, links judgment to the action of loving. It makes an offer of love conditional in some way, no matter how much we argue that it doesn’t. As you spend time in prayer today, ask Jesus to help you truly listen to yourself and how your words are perceived by others, particularly people who make you feel uncomfortable in some way.
Tuesday - Read Luke 10:25-37. Though most of us have heard the story of the Good Samaritan many times, it's worth meditating upon with fresh ears and a softened heart. Using your imagination, put yourself in the shoes of the injured man. We usually prefer to see ourselves as the Good Samaritan, but imagine that you are the person in serious jeopardy and the one who comes to your rescue is someone who is the exact opposite of you in terms of culture, preferences, beliefs, and socioeconomic status. Now spend time sitting with Jesus, asking Him to reveal to you any sides you've chosen that have eclipsed the importance of His command to love others — all others — as yourself.
Wednesday - Read Luke 23:32-56. As Jesus sacrificed Himself for all humankind, He looked down at His murderers and said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Spend some time thinking about this simple, but earth-shaking statement. Although the plan to kill Jesus was several years in the making and was clearly pre-meditated, Jesus offers His killers the unfathomable... forgiveness. Not only that, He's giving up His life for them too, not just the people who followed Him. There are times when God calls us to take a stand, but only if our intention is completely Spirit-led and Gospel-centered. Ask Jesus to help you see things as He does, extending grace, mercy, and forgiveness even in the midst of differing perspectives, opinions, and alliances.
Thursday - Read Galatians 2:11-13 and Acts 10:9-35. The story of Peter and Paul's disagreement about offering the Gospel to any person regardless of culture, ethnicity, or beliefs, gives us one of the most powerful glimpses into the Holy Spirit's transformative work and God's expectation that we love impartially, just as Jesus demonstrated. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter's ingrained bigotry and cowardice were transformed into unconditional love and courage. He no longer allowed the side he had been taught to uphold at all costs to dictate his faith or his calling. He was still Jewish, and always would be, but he realized his true identity was defined by Jesus, not a side... not an ideology... not a way of life.
Friday - Read 2 Corinthians 5:16-21. Some of the sides we feel compelled to choose or are taught to defend will at some point exact a price on our allegiance to Jesus. There is no human-made ideology that is worth that price. As you read this passage, ask the Holy Spirit to help you discern the difference between human-devised truth and His Truth. Spend time making a list of things that you may be encroaching in on your faith and how God is leading you, despite being something that your upbringing, culture, or your friends strongly expect you to believe and defend. How should your decisions and actions change if you follow the Holy Spirit's leading versus others' expectations or creeds?
TAKE YOUR NEXT STEP
Grow closer to God each day and explore what it means to be a part of bringing the Kingdom of Heaven down to earth.
Want to Go Even Further?
Check out our companion study guide to use with your community group, neighbors, or family members! Each week includes thought-provoking questions for discussion or individual study based on this week's sermon topic.