The Uninvited Dinner Guest

 

Imagine that you’re invited to someone’s house—someone you hardly know—and you arrive to find the door open.

As you enter, no one greets you . . . in fact, no one even acknowledges your arrival. No one says hello, no one offers to take your coat, no one offers you anything to drink. How would you feel? What would you do?

In Luke 7, we read about a man who was hosting an intimate dinner party consisting of well-known, well-educated men from the community. It was a special event for the Pharisees, who were among the educated elite and religious leaders during this time.

They knew of Jesus, but had not embraced the new ideas that He had been teaching his followers. Yet for some reason, Jesus had been invited to the dinner that evening, and as a visiting rabbi, He would have been regarded as a guest of honor.

However, the arrival of Jesus at the home of Simon was largely ignored. Even the most basic of rules of hospitality were disregarded toward him. No one greeted him with a kiss (the customary welcome), no water was given for him to wash his feet (the most minimal rule of hospitality), and no oil was put on his head (an optional, but a thoughtful gesture towards guests during this time). This wasn’t an accident, mistake or oversight, but a deliberate slap in the face and everybody knew it.1

Yet, Jesus proceeded to enter and took his place reclining at the table. The tension mounted as everyone waited to see how He would respond.

It was during this dinner party that an unusual interaction began to unfold. To the astonishment of the host and guests, a woman walked in and approached Jesus while He reclined at the table with the other guests.

Even more shocking was this woman’s notorious reputation in the community. Women in ancient Jewish culture didn’t hold an honorable place in society and they were usually not acknowledged or even addressed in public. How much more appalling that this woman would somehow feel compelled to come near Jesus!

Something was different about her. She no longer had a seductive air about her; she no longer hung her head in shame. Instead, she radiated a joy, peace, humility and purity that had not been evident in her life. For after years of feeling dirty and discarded, she had changed.

This woman knew how it felt to be rejected. She knew what it was like to be ridiculed and shunned. Something inside of her demanded to give her all to Jesus, because, after all, He had given so much to her.

Ignoring the cold stares and callous comments, this woman boldly approached Jesus and began to kiss his feet.

Imagine the scene!

Before she realized what was happening, a wave of emotion rushed over her and she began to cry uncontrollably. As her weeping escalated and captivated the attention of everyone in the room, she then proceeded to use her hair to wipe her tears off of his feet!

The feet of Jesus that were unwashed by Simon upon His arrival are now washed by the tears of a sinful woman. Continuing with her display of gratitude, she took her flask of fragrant perfume and lavishly poured it on His feet. This woman withheld nothing, giving her all to Jesus, emptying herself at His feet.

But why?

What would motivate this woman to demonstrate such a display of love and affection towards Jesus?

As I reflect on this passage, I can’t help think that the reason this woman did what she did is because Jesus gave her what no one else had given her – forgiveness and acceptance.

When no one accepted her, He welcomed her. When no one loved her, He loved her as His daughter. When she was alone, He was her friend. When everyone judged her, He restored her. When everyone else labeled her a “sinner”, Jesus gave her a new identity as a child of God.

He valued her, not as an object, but as a woman created uniquely by God.

And when everyone else held her past against her, Jesus forgave her and offered her a fresh start.

 

Jesus explained it this way,

“I tell you, her sins – and they are many – have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven a little shows only a little love.” Then Jesus said to

“I tell you, her sins – and they are many – have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven a little shows only a little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”  Luke 7:47-48 NLT.

The Greek word for forgiveness used in verse 47 of this passage is aphiemi. It means to send away, to let go free or to pardon. When someone is issued a pardon in a court of law, their past actions are not held against them. They have been given a clean slate, a fresh start, a new beginning.

The woman in Luke 7 probably had a long list of things she would have done differently. You may, too. The good news is that God doesn’t want you to live in the past, nor does he want you to live under the guilt of the past in the present.

He has something much better for you. God’s forgiveness offers you—a fresh start, a clean slate. You are invited to the table!

And this is just the beginning. God’s forgiveness now enables you to enter into the fullness of life God has created for you to enjoy.

Think about it…

  • In your own words, define what forgiveness means to you.
  • Can you identify with the woman in Luke 7? How?
  • How does knowing God has forgiven you and given you a fresh start change the way you see yourself?

 

1John Ortberg, Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003) p. 206-207.

Reflections – My Life-Long Fixer Upper

Day Five

One thing I find most fascinating about watching home renovation shows is seeing the complete transformation of a house from start to finish.

At first glance, the rundown, outdated appearance seems hopeless. It’s hard to imagine any hidden potential beneath the worn, neglected surface.

But then, miraculously over the course of just thirty minutes, a beautiful transformation occurs. The finished product is stunning and it’s hard to believe the beauty that lies hidden within the walls.

God desires to do a similar work of transformation in our lives. He’s committed to a life-long renovation project to make us look more and more like his Son, Jesus. It’s not something we can do for ourselves, nor does it happen overnight. We are God’s life-long, never-ending fixer-upper. And it’s a project He delights in doing!

Check out how Paul describes this work to the church in Corinth,

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same

 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.2 Corinthians 3:17-18 ESV

Freedom is found in Jesus! God loves you so much He provided a way for you to be truly free – free from the hurts and habits of our past, free from the guilt of previous mistakes and free from the shame luring us to us to hide and withdraw.

When we place our trust in Jesus, the Spirit of God begins a work of inward transformation. It’s not, try harder, work harder, do more, learn more; it’s a freedom we receive from the Spirit of God. What great news!

This verse describes a transformation occurring as we “behold the glory of the Lord”. When my children were born and the doctor placed them in my arms for the very first time, I couldn’t stop looking at them.

I beheld them.

They captivated my attention and captured my affection. I fixed my eyes on them to observe all of their little features and mannerisms. I didn’t casually glance at them; I continuously gazed upon them. In a moment, my life, my attention, my priorities forever changed once I beheld them.

When God captures our heart, our passion, desires and focus should change as well. There are adjustments we make to our life because our heart is in a different place with different priorities driving us. We want to be with him and we want to be like him. As we behold his glory, his Spirit works in us and changes us.

The word transformed, in the Greek, is metamorphóo, meaning to transfigure or to change one’s form.Perhaps you’re familiar with this word as it’s the process caterpillars go through when they transform into butterflies. When the caterpillar surrounds itself with a cocoon and later emerges as a beautiful butterfly no resemblance of the caterpillar remains—it is a complete transformation.

God is at work to completely transform you as well, and you won’t look or act the same when He is finished. Christ wants his character and likeness to be expressed in your whole being.

Sin has muddied the waters and clouded the mirror by which we can perfectly reflect God’s image. The voices of accusation and lies deafen the still, quiet voice of God’s spirit affirming us and shaping us. But by his abundant grace and forgiveness, as we allow him to unclutter our souls and shine the truth of his word into our hearts, He changes and transforms us to be more like him.

God loves you too much to leave you the same. He knows that a little pain, a little inconvenience, a little discomfort in time will produce a better you—one that is more like him.

I figure as long as I’m heading in the right direction, every day I’m one tiny step closer to being the woman God created me to be. While I realize I still have a long way to go in my journey to be like Jesus, I’m thankful I’m not where I used to be!

My friend, you can live with the confidence God loves you, security that your relationship with him doesn’t change, and hope that his transforming power can set you free.

Just take a tiny step towards him – everyday.

Stormie Omartian wrote that it is “when you look into the mirror and see the excellence of Jesus reflected back, that’s when you will have a sense of your true worth. The actual transformation takes place every time you worship the Lord for his perfection.”2

Think about it…

  • What area of your life do you desire for God to transform, but feel hopeless in seeing it become a reality?
  • How have you seen how beholding the Lord can over time transform your life?

 

 

1 Spiros Zodhaites, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament(Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 1992) p. 968.

2 Stormie Omartian, Lord, I Want to Be Whole(Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000) p. 78.

Reflections – Lose the Filter

Day Four

Every year when I was growing up, we’d go to the Puyallup Fair. I looked forward to it all year – early release from school, the yummy fair food, the sketchy rides…all of it!

One of my annual faves was an attraction called the Fun House. Perhaps you’ve experienced it? You enter a building and walk through a maze filled with all sorts of silly things. But what I remember most is the room containing a bunch of crazy mirrors. (It was the old-school equivalent of today’s Snapchat filters.)

I’d run back and forth giggling as I looked at my warped reflection. Some mirrors would make me look tall and skinny; other mirrors would make me look short and stumpy. But all of them were distortions of reality and didn’t accurately reflect how I truly appeared.

If you were to think of your life as a mirror, what do you see reflecting back? Do you think the reflection you see is an accurate one?

Quite possibly, the “mirror” into which you’ve been looking, has been terribly warped, clouded and distorted.

I believe it’s time for you to get out some Windex, change the filter, and do whatever it takes for you to see yourself through the lens of God’s Word – the true, undistorted mirror for your life. Because if we’re going to get an accurate picture of who we truly are in Christ if we’re going to accurately reflect who Jesus is to a broken world, we need to begin painting a picture of ourselves that resembles who God says we are.

You are created in God’s image.

In Genesis 1:27 God provides a “frame” for how we should see ourselves,

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

An image is an accurate representation or reflection of something. So when God says He created us in his image, He means He created us to be like him and to accurately reflect who He is and what He is like.

This is what distinguishes you and me from everything else that God made. While God made flowers to be like flowers, birds to be like birds, fish to be like fish, He made us like himself.

His image is seen in the eyes of the orphaned children in China; his likeness is found among the impoverished in Africa. From the faces of the poor and oppressed to the successful and wealthy, his presence and likeness are found in his children—all of them.

In the movie, The Help, one of the main characters, Aibileen, makes an intentional effort to mold the self-image of a little girl. Daily, she has the little girl repeat, “I is smart. I is kind. I is important.” While the people around her may not affirm the girl’s worth, Aibileen determines to be a positive voice speaking into her heart.

God desires to be this voice in your life. He wants to be the guiding voice shaping your image, molding your character and defining you.

I love how Bob Goff put it in his book, Everybody Always, “God has never looked in your mirror or mine and wished he saw someone else.”1

 If we’re not careful, we can find ourselves investing a lot of energy attempting to be who we think we should be or trying to be who others think we should be.

God knows you intimately. Your birth wasn’t an accident; it didn’t catch God off guard. In fact, He planned your life long before you were formed. Before you even took your first breath, He had a wonderful plan for your life. Before you did anything, accomplished anything, or achieved anything, you had value to God simply because He created you.

As we close, I’d love for you to read Isaiah 44:3-5,

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams. Some will say, ‘I belong to the Lord’; others will call themselves by the name of Jacob… Isaiah 44:3-5

You may be thirsting for significance; your hope may have run dry. Your “mirror” may be warped, distorted or just plain dirty. Time to take off the filters, clean off the mirror and allow the Word of God to wash over your soul, filling you, shaping you, refreshing you and molding you into his image.

An image that gradually comes more and more clearly into focus as you grow in your knowledge of the “Whom” to which you belong.

Think about it…

  • If you were to think of your life as a mirror, what reflection would you see?Do you struggle to see yourself as being created in God’s image?
  • If so, what hinders you?
  • Do you believe that your life has purpose and that God knows you intimately? If not, what hinders you?
  • Can you confidently say, “I belong to the Lord”? Why or why not?

 

1 Bob Goff, Everybody Always(Nelson Books: 2018) p. 66