Luke 5:33 | Intermittent Fasting

A new trend in health obsessed culture is called intermittent fasting. Claims of cure all benefits range from weight loss to the end of Alzheimer’s. I think this fad will be shorted lived since there is not much money to be made in fasting and it is incredibly hard to do. The idea of this fad is that one must shorten the window of time in which one eats for a particular day. For example, eating dinner two or three hours earlier with no late-night snack before breakfast the next morning would be a good start. Speaking of Breakfast that is an interesting word. The first meal of the day does indeed break a fast.

Fasting is not a new idea or a new practice. Most every culture and religion have ideas about fasting. Jesus famously fasted for 40 days in the wilderness. Was Jesus on a diet for this famous fast? No clearly that was not the purpose of his fast. However, fasting to improve health may be unique to western culture.  What does the Bible have to say about fasting?

Jesus in one of his interactions the community receives what I think is a genuine question.

33 And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.” 34 And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? 35 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” Luke 5:33-35 ESV

It was common for the Pharisees to fast. Their tradition was to fast twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday. So, the question is raised to Jesus why he and his disciples are at a party with tax collectors enjoying themselves while other religious people are fasting? Jesus responds saying that one does not fast at a feast indicating that while he, Jesus, is with the disciples there is no need for fasting. But in the future when Jesus has left this earth then the disciples would fast.

This interaction tells us two key things. First once Jesus is glorified, he expected that Christians would want to fast. That means fasting is a valid topic for contemporary Christians. Second Jesus indicates that there is a right time to fast and a right time to not fast.

If fasting is something, we should think about certainly the Bible would then give us some rules about how to fast and what is considered a fast? But no there are no details on how to fast and there is no actual command by Jesus to fast.

11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ Luke 18:11-12 ESV

Jesus told a parable about how not to approach God. In this parable he tells of a Pharisee praying in public a loud and arrogant prayer boasting of how much he fasts and how much money he gives away. The community Jesus told this story to would have connected with the experience. Jesus tells us two key things about fasting. First Jesus links fasting to giving. So again just as we know we should give we may also want to think about what role fasting might have in our spiritual life. Second the Pharisee boasts on his fasting and his tithe. What we know about giving is that it is not something to boast in. It is something that should be done with a cheerful heart and it should be done quietly.

3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:3-4 ESV

In the same way fasting should be done in secret before God and for God. Fasting is a mostly private and intimate act of devotion.

16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:16-18 ESV

Jesus has left us with two key things to think about when it comes to fasting. First it should be done quietly and intimately. Second fasting is something that has a season and a purpose. When I was young and single, I practiced a weekly 24 hour fast. I would wake up on the fast day and not eat and sometimes not drink anything for an entire day (this took time and practice to do successfully). The next day I would wake up and eat breakfast. It was a season where I was able to draw near to God. I did this privately and prayerfully. After marriage and children, the practice of fasting was long lost because dinner is so important to the social structure. I am not in a current season where fasting like that is practical. There may come a time in the future when the children are grown where fasting may yet again be part of my prayerful devotion.

Having practiced a personal fast in devotion to God I have a few practical suggestions to anyone who might feel called to devote themselves in this way.

Start Slow: Replace one meal (start with breakfast, lunch, or if really brave dinner)

Set a Time: Something that is workable to your situation and your schedule.

Set Rules: What is in and what is out while fasting for you. This is personal between you and God. Pray about this rule.

Fasting is hard but it does not need to be impossible. Failure is likely as well. Our society revolves around food so scheduling time to not eat is incredibly difficult. And that difficulty is compounded by the negative reaction our bodies have to being deprived of caffeine, sugar, and everything else we love about eating.  

Also, one more thing. Have a singular reason to fast. The purpose of fasting is to focus ourselves to prayer. Fasting gives us additional focus and intent. Fasting will if done with the right heart and motive draw us closer to God.

Luke 5:8 | Gift Giving by Jesus

Have you ever given a gift and received an unexpected response? As a child I threw a tantrum when I opened a Christmas present from my parents that had socks and underwear. I think they gave that gift to have a good laugh at my expense. I wonder if they expected me to go into drama mode. Regardless I remember, ashamed to say, even to this day my terrible response. The correct response should have been a simple thanks even if I could not appreciate the gift in that moment.

Jesus at the beginning of his ministry gives Peter a gift and Peter responds exactly how Jesus wanted him to respond but it is not how I would have responded and most likely Peter’s response is unexpected to anyone reading Luke’s account.

Jesus was preaching to a crowd on the shore by using Peter’s boat as a platform. At the end of this speech Jesus asks Peter to put down the fishing nets. Peter being a life long fisherman knew this was not a simple task and would require more work on his part. This request from Jesus is like I had just worked a 12 hour shift and in the process of putting away all my tools for the day Jesus asked me to go back to work. Yet because Jesus asked the nets went into the water. The result is a gift from Jesus to Peter. The nets were filled with fish and were filled to such an extent that that Peter was overwhelmed.

5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. Luke 5:5-7 ESV

This is a wow factor type of gift. How many fish would it take to sink two boats? If the idea had ever crossed Peter’s mind it was only from fanciful daydreaming of how to be rich. This record haul of fish is a miraculous gift from Jesus to Peter.

So how does one respond to such a thing? A simple thank you? No that is not enough. An exuberant shout to Jesus proclaiming to him some kind of praise? Well maybe but what did Jesus expect from Peter? I think Jesus knew exactly how Peter would respond and it is not what I expected.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” Luke 5:8 ESV

Peter realizing what just happened in front of his very eyes with fish spilling out of every inch of his boat drops to his knees and asks Jesus to leave him. An unexpected response except that the response is exactly what Jesus expected. Peter’s response is instructive for the reader in two ways.

First Jesus by his very nature will rock the boat of our lives. Peter was just shown that his view of the world and how it works is way too limited. Also, Peter is shown a power greater than any he knew on earth. Get away from me is a fearful reaction that is common when the glory of heaven collides with the unholy earth. Take the moment Isaiah an Old Testament prophet is called to serve God.

4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Isaiah 6:4-5 ESV

Peter saw Jesus for who Jesus really is at that moment and Peter realized to some small degree how far he was from the holiness of God’s presence. And that realization leads us to the second part of Peter’s reaction regarding his own sins.

Jesus being God in the flesh represents righteous holiness that leaves us recognizing our unjust failures. Peter was fearful because he saw his sins clearly without the rationalization of our dark and cloudy self. If my sins were brought to my conscious self all at once I would also be overwhelmed. The self-cringing thoughts at my childhood gift receiving tantrum would be nothing in comparison to how I have chosen my own sinful desires over God’s perfection. I shutter at the idea of being exposed before God in such a way. But this is our very human nature from the beginning of Adam’s fall.

8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” Genesis 3:8-10 ESV

So what did Jesus expect to happen when he gave Peter a gift of more fish than Peter could manage? Did Jesus really expect to see Peter fear and despair because sin? The reaction is real but that is not the goal. Jesus is God in the form of a man seeking reconciliation. The reader sees the miraculous gift of a boat overflowing with fish but that is not the actual gift that Jesus was giving Peter. The gift that Jesus is giving Peter in this moment is a gift of clarity to see God more clearly and to see God work in salvation and relationship. Jesus needed Peter to be ready to give up his old life and start a new life following God.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. Luke 5:10-11 ESV

Whatever anxiety I have at the thoughts of my sin exposed like Peter was exposed before God is pushed aside by the glorious chills of God seeking me out for a relationship and being invited into his kingdom. Dear reader Jesus is working out the miraculous in your life. Now is the moment to respond and follow him.

Luke 4:28 | White Hot Wrath

Facts are bright, hot, and painful. Facts can also shape us into who God wants us to be if we will listen. When I was younger, I thought everyone would respond to facts, logic, and reason and I foolishly engaged with anyone to discuss truth. It did not go well. I made more than a few people mad, but that was never my intent or desire. The real world has proven to me over and over that facts are not all that useful when dealing with a group of people. A twitter mob moving from timeline to timeline to roast and skewer others is devoid of reason or facts. Watching cancel culture rage on without facts or reason is terrifying. And I think I know why. Facts are unfeeling and they can be wielded in ways that cut deep. Facts, truth, and reason are inconvenient when social standing and peer perspective is more important. One on one someone might admit that a certain fact is true but in public that same someone will move along with the culture in lockstep to their own doom.

Before Jesus had even called a single disciple at the beginning of his ministry, he spoke a factual truth to the people of his hometown and the reaction of those he had grown up with was that of a full-blown mob and all the scary evil that comes with mob behavior.

28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. Luke 4:28 ESV

Wrath here is the kind that boils up and then quickly subsides. It is unreasoned like the kind of a husband and wife toward the end of a marriage where they can set one another off at every unseen slight. The words of Jesus to those in attendance sparked a wildfire of dry pinestraw that is quickly consumed because there is no real substance. This wrath was so white hot that here we are in just Chapter 4 of Luke’s gospel and already the people are ready to kill him.

29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away. Luke 4:29-30 ESV

Many falsely believe that Jesus was all full of love and only love. I can do anything I want because Jesus loves me reason some. However, that is just not the case and does not hold up to facts. Jesus spoke inconvenient facts to this community of devout Hebrews right where their pride would be wounded most. Their reaction to the facts betrays the evil in their hearts. What was it that Jesus said to them? He spoke to them about all those that God healed and saved who were not Hebrew. Jesus dared to give a complement to the godless gentiles. Interestingly Luke, a gentile, wrote of a similar message from John the Baptist in the Chapter right before this one.

8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Luke 3:8-9 ESV

Jesus wants the people to understand that God is in the business of saving all of humanity not just a single culture or a single people. Racism has not part in God’s kingdom. God is in the business of saving those who would humble themselves and follow him.

28 Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” Acts 28:28 ESV

Dear reader what facts have you pushed way? Is running with the mob really that satisfying? Come let us reason and discuss true truth. Put away the personal truth that is not really true and does not align with God’s creation. Jesus came to speak facts about himself, about God, and about relationship with neighbors. Jesus has proclaimed salvation from sin and that people all over the world will listen. I pray that you will be one of those to hear him speak and respond with repentance.

Luke 4:6 | Satan is not a King

The topic of Satan, the devil, is interesting to me. My interest is not in the sensationalism of Hollywood or middle age gothic paintings. My interest is a little more philosophical. I would like to know how Satan views his role as a fallen angel. Satan must have believed he could overpower the Creator in the beginning. He lost and was cast out of heaven. But now what is his motivation? Does he know the war is already lost or does he still think he has a chance to win when Christ returns?

Clues to an answer of Satan’s place in this world is revealed when he tries to corrupt and temp Jesus. The fascinating exchange occurs with Satan offering Jesus power and authority over all of the kingdoms of earth.

5 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6 and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Luke 4:5-7 ESV

There are two keys that stand out from this act of Satan that help paint a picture of his current state of mind. First is that Satan shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in a “moment of time”. Time is a complicated reality. We know that time is not constant and we know that it is part of the creation. Time does not exist separate from the physical world. Jesus claims to be the beginning and the end meaning that he is not constrained by the limitations of time. The Creator, Jesus, is not subject to the rules of the creation so he can operate outside of time. Before time and space there was God and God exists separate from the physical creation and God exists separate from time. If Satan can show Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time then Satan to some degree is able to operate outside of what is normal time for a mortal man. However, Satan appears to still be constrained to some degree by time. He still needed a “moment”. If that is true then he does not possess eternity apart from God his Creator. Satan cannot claim to be the beginning and the end. While powerful enough to reduce the amount of time needed to show Christ all the kingdoms of the world, he still must operate with limited knowledge of what is to come. It could be that this blind spot leaves him to believe that just maybe his rebellion could be successful. But realistically he must know that he is finite and constrained by this physical creation of heavens and earth just like all other men and angels.

The second key and most interesting is what Satan promises to give to Jesus. He tells Jesus that he will give authority and glory of these kingdoms to Jesus. This is no surprise. Satan is the ruler of this world and the ruler of the power structures that promote evil, pride, and selfishness. This is where people understand that there is evil in an ugly world. Satan offers all this to Jesus if Jesus will worship Satan as if he is god. But in this offer Satan reveals a truth. That truth is that Satan has limited power. Notice in the offer of all the kingdoms Satan acknowledges that those kingdoms are what have been given to him. Satan is not the real owner. Satan has no power or authority that has not been given or granted. Satan is a prince of this world but he is not the King and owner of this world. Satan is nothing more than an evil steward of something that is not his.

Jesus rightfully rejected Satan’s offer because there is only one Creator. There is only one true God who is worthy of worship. Paul clarifies the rightful order of this creation and Satan is deluding himself if he thinks there is anyway for him to own a creation that does not even exist apart from God.

24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 1 Corinthians 15:24-26 ESV

When Christ returns as the King of Kings, Satan the ruler of the kingdoms will not be able to keep what he offered to Jesus because every authority and power will be made subject to Christ. The harsh result for Satan is that even his greatest tool, death, will also be destroyed. We have a moment of grace in this life to choose who we will worship. Would you worship self like Satan has done or would you submit to the one true God? Only one of those powers has any true authority as the King and Creator of all.

Luke 1:34 | Why a Virgin Birth?

Why is the virgin birth of Christ such an important doctrine for Christianity? The desire to question, ignore, and reject this doctrine as important is primarily due to a lack of understanding to the significance of the claim. A review the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John will be informative when we see how each author approached the topic.

Both Matthew and Luke deal with the traditional birth narrative and they both explicitly tell the reader that Mary is a virgin at the birth and conception. It is clear from the text that the audience, the writer, Mary, and Joseph all understand that a virgin birth is not possible and would bring shame to the Mary and Joseph because people would not believe that Mary conceived by way of a supernatural act of God.

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Luke 1:30-34 ESV

Matthew quotes directly from Isaiah 7:14 about God’s promise of a virgin giving birth.

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:22-25 ESV

A virgin birth as odd as that might seem is clearly there in those two gospels and everyone clearly understood what was meant by saying a virgin will give birth to a son. To help clear up the “why” we should look at this from God’s perspective. The answer can be found in the birth narratives of Mark and John because those two texts do not give the physical birth of a baby boy type of story. These two gospels provide the history of Jesus not from man’s perspective but from God our Creator’s perspective. These two Gospels highlight the other side of the story that God wants humanity to know about Jesus and these two narratives are the key to understanding the significance of the virgin birth.

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:9-11 ESV

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 ESV

Jesus in Matthew and Luke is a baby born from Mary. God through the Holy Spirit intervening in the curse that humanity lives under. Jesus in Mark and John is the son of God who existed as God from the very beginning.

Jesus is heir to God’s Kingdom and because of the virgin birth he does not have a biological birth father in the same way as the descendants of Adam (you and me). By not having a biological earthly father Jesus is able to break the curse of the sin nature.

For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 ESV

Together these four gospels complete the truth of the origin of Jesus, Immanuel “God with us”, who is fully man and fully God. The virgin birth allows Jesus to be both man and God at the same time and furthers the claim that Jesus is God. Not just God, but also the Creator God. Without the virgin birth Jesus would not be God and could not have saved anyone from sin.

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Hebrews 1:3 ESV

Revised and Edited Originally published to Human Effort Sept 2013

What about that Guy?

What about the person who does not own a Bible and has never heard of Jesus Christ? God will send someone in that predicament to Hell? This common question found its way into an ESPN feature story on the famous Football Quarterback Aaron Rodgers. This feature article included the QB’s journey away from more traditional Christianity of his parents to an open and fluid Christianity of spiritual leader Rob Bell. Bell is famous for pastoring a large church, writing a book concluding Hell is not Christian, and working with Oprah to bring spiritual enlightenment to the commercial masses. Bell’s influence on Aaron Rogers is pronounced and here is the quote from Rodgers he used as a reason to doubt and leave the traditional Christianity of his youth.

“I think in people’s lives who grew up in some sort of organized religion, there really comes a time when you start to question things more,” he says. “It happens for some at an early age; others, you know, maybe a little older. That happened to me six or seven years ago.”…  “I remember asking a question as a young person about somebody in a remote rainforest,” he tells me. “Because the words that I got were: ‘If you don’t confess your sins, then you’re going to hell.’ And I said, ‘What about the people who don’t have a Bible readily accessible?'”

His recounting of growing up and questioning “is this real” is normal. Unfortunately the conclusions he has drawn means he did not get the needed answers or he rejected the truth along the way. Only Rodgers and God know the heart, but I pray he would find the real character of the Creator God. Below is what the Bible, God’s word, has to say on this topic.

Rodgers is not the first person to pose this question and in my personal conversations with people this is a common objection. The objection has two flaws that need to be discussed before providing the reasoned answer. First the, what about those people, question challenges God’s grace and his plans for humanity. Second the, what about those people, question is a diversion avoiding God on a personal and relational level.

God’s grace and his sovereign plans are His to know and execute. God has not revealed why everyone is born at the time and place of their birth. But He has revealed that you and I are living today with, our color of skin, our cultural heritage, and our station in life exactly as He planned.

26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, Acts 17:26-27 ESV

If one has an earnest want to understand God’s plan for those living in the “remote rainforest” then maybe that desire is a prompt from God to go to those people, live with those people, and find out what God’s work is in the lives of those people. God is always bigger than mankind can imagine.

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Romans 10:14-15 ESV

This leads us to the second point. Is the question serious? Or is the question a diversion to avoid one’s own state before a Holy God? Jesus being questioned about the 11pm Jerusalem news cast was asked if the people who died in the local awful tragedy were sinners or if they were innocent. Jesus redirects the question back to the individual asking the question.

4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:4-5 ESV

Jesus has a way of making people uncomfortable. He has a way of bringing the focus back to where it needs to be. In his response to the local news of a collapsed building killing so many people he tells the questioner not to be concerned about the spiritual state of those people now that life is lost, after all he is God and they are his responsibility, he tells the questioner that “unless you repent” then the questioner will too perish.

My observation in talking with people about Jesus is sometimes they want to deflect the conversation to someone else. What about that person or what do you think about that bad church? This line of conversation is fruitless and Jesus brings the questioner back to the most important question of all. Have you repented? You are born in this time and in this place to have a conversation with God in the flesh. Will you repent and trust in me, Jesus is asking. He asks today of each reader. He asks today of Aaron Rodgers. The ultimate answer is known only between God and the individual.

Understanding God is in control and God’s plans for everyone is being accomplished we must each take seriously our own spiritual state. It is with this understanding that the Bible does offer a limited answer to the question about those other people.

14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. Romans 2:14-16 ESV

Gentiles in this case are “those other people” who do not have a Bible and have never heard the name of Jesus. God tells us that His laws and nature are written in our heart. We know right and wrong and we know when we have violated what is written in our hearts. God through Jesus will judge every woman and man. For those who rejected Jesus they will be condemned. For those who did not know they will be judged by their conscience and it will excuse or condemn. How that will work and what God plans for each individual is between him and that individual. The real question all of us should focus on is who we are in Christ and are we living the life God appointed?

Luke 4:16 | His Custom

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When Jesus was born he was born into a Jewish family that kept the customs (ethos) of that religion and that family structure. Jesus was raised according to the laws, rules, and customs of Hebrews in his day.

41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. Luke 2:41-42 ESV

Now when it states that the family went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover that celebration was a custom of the family. It was a religious observance that Jesus as a child in that family was forced to follow. Maybe he liked that custom and maybe he hated some other customs but in reality he had no choice but to participate. This kind of custom (ethos) is in the name of religion. It is the kind of custom that one might identify with by being born in a Christian home or nation.

13 and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” Acts 6:13-14 ESV

Not following the religious customs will separate people and like Stephen, the first martyr, might even get one killed. The religious identity of the Pharisees was wrapped up in their customs.

Personal experience tells me that most youth when they leave home for college never return to the church they were raised in. I have even asked some high school teens directly if they had a choice would they be in Church each Sunday. I have also asked if they plan to continue to go to church after high school and the honest response from many is “no” to both questions. Some of those youth do find a church home wherever they live however many simply never return to any church. Even though they attended church as a youth it was never their custom (ethos). The feasts and celebrations might be kept because hey who does not enjoy a good holiday but the custom of actually attending a church or participating in some type of small group is not likely.

Jesus on the other hand became infused with the faith. God is real to him and he feels a call to ministry. After returning home briefly at the start of that ministry Luke writes that Jesus picked up in the home town synagogue right where he left off. Luke says that Jesus “as was his custom” (ethō) was in attendance at worship.

16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. Luke 4:16 ESV

Jesus acted and participated. Jesus of his own desire and mind choose to be in worship reading scripture with others of like mind. Jesus was engaged. None could say Jesus was simply part of a religious custom (ethos) and ordinance required by his family, the religious leaders, or society. Participating in church had become the manner and custom (ethō) of his life. Jesus was living out a pattern of life that he had adopted, identified with, and had become accustom to living.

Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, Acts 17:2 ESV

In the same way Luke describes Paul as living a lifestyle of engaging with scripture before men. Paul’s life is engaged and in tune with the desires and service to God. Paul is not fulfilling a duty but he is living a life as is his custom.

One has several choices about how to engage in life and what things about life to make customary. Many people make the temporary pleasures of life their custom. But why? Because one can receive fleeting pleasure? Why not look eternally to see the example that Christ set and seek to make a relationship with God an integral part of daily life?

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17 ESV