Friday, September 27, 2013


Luke 16:1-13
16:1 Then Jesus said to the disciples, "There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property.

16:2 So he summoned him and said to him, 'What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.'

16:3 Then the manager said to himself, 'What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg.

16:4 I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.'

16:5 So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he asked the first, 'How much do you owe my master?'

16:6 He answered, 'A hundred jugs of olive oil.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.'

16:7 Then he asked another, 'And how much do you owe?' He replied, 'A hundred containers of wheat.' He said to him, 'Take your bill and make it eighty.'

16:8 And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.

16:9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.

16:10 "Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.

16:11 If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?

16:12 And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own?

16:13 No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."

This is one of the toughest parables in the canon of parables of Jesus, because it seems like he's preaching the exact opposite of what he preaches everywhere else.  I've seen lots of godly people turn somersaults to interpret this parable.  Lots of commentaries try to address this by changing the meaning of certain parts to mean something else.  Well, I prayed and mediated on this passage, and I didn't want to avoid it any longer.  I'm going to tackle it.

First, we should look at what it's NOT.  We have so many parables from Jesus that are about the kingdom of God (the KoG is like, etc) and about how to live a Christian life, that we assume that this is another such parable.  For example, Jesus could be saying that the kingdom of God is something that is gained deceitfully, or if you are unable to cheat your way into the kingdom, then quickly put yourself at a disadvantage so that God will say, "well done, crooked and deceitful servant!"

But Jesus never says that this is a "kingdom of God" parable.  He's just telling a story about a worldly, ungodly person.  His point is that if this person, who is chaff, is able to figure his way out of his problem when the chips are down, why cannot the children of light?  If, with the aid of the money he has stolen, the wicked steward is able to quickly right his wrongs, why cannot the children of light use their money for God's kingdom in the same way?

The confusing phrase, the one that upsets the apple cart, is "dishonest wealth."  The NASB uses "unrighteous wealth."  What confuses us Christians is that when we read that phrase, we assume it means "wealth gained dishonestly."  Why, as a Christian, would I even be in possession of dishonest wealth?  But here is Jesus assuming that his children all have this sort of money lying around and they aren't using it properly.

Now, everywhere this phrase "dishonest wealth" is used there is a footnote.  Down at the bottom of the pages we find that the direct translation is "mammon."  What is mammon?  Well, we've seen that word before, and we know that it means money, right?  It's just the word they used in ancient times for money.  Well, I think it is much more than that.  Mammon is a god--a false god, but a god nonetheless--an idol that we bow down to.  Mammon is the god of wealth, and because every single person on earth is affected by it--from the Amish to the celebrity to the starving child in the third world--we can't just destroy the idol.  We can't just burn all the money we have, because it is a necessary tool for life.  That's why it is the worst competing god in existence.  Notice in the last verse above that Jesus doesn't say "you cannot serve God and Baal" or even "you cannot serve God and Satan."  He says God and Mammon.

So, this dishonest wealth was probably not gained dishonestly, but Mammon as a whole is dishonest, unrighteous, ungodly.  We are in possession of ungodly things and there's nothing we can do about it.  Jesus is telling us in this parable how we must handle this god we interact with each day.  Just as the wicked steward used his wealth to make friends among the ungodly, we are to make friends among the saints.  We are to use this money to build Christian community here on earth.

This is not the only place where the final, recognizable verse is used.  Here is the context of the verse in Matthew 6:

24 “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 

26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 

27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?

28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 

29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 

30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 

31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 

32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 

33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

The parable of the wicked steward is nowhere near the verse this time, but the verse leads into the popular passage about not worrying about food and clothing.  Why?  Because Mammon will overpower you the most through those two necessities.  We spend our money on food and clothing for survival, and then we quickly move onto food and clothing as luxuries.  It's the slipperiest of slippery slopes.

The passage ends with one of the most famous verses in scripture.  Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.  This mirror's Jesus' exhortation to us in the parable.  We must use mammon for the kingdom of God, to build his kingdom on earth.  We must not use it selfishly.  Even the wicked know how to use the money wisely when rubber meets the road.

Let's look at one last passage about mammon, to tie all of these thoughts together:

1 Timothy 6
Teach and urge these duties. 

3 Whoever teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that is in accordance with godliness, 

4 is conceited, understanding nothing, and has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words. From these come envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, 

5 and wrangling among those who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

6 Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; 

7 for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; 

8 but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. 

9 But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 

10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

11 But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. 

12 Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 

13 In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession...

Paul is exhorting Timothy concerning false teachers, but notice where he quickly goes.  Arguments and contesting among leadership is founded in that false god mammon.  And the antidote is being content.  We are content by pursuing righteousness, godliness--the kingdom of God--just as Jesus says in the sermon on the mount.  We fight this good fight by making a good confession.  Does this mean confessing all of your sins in front of many witnesses?

Does it?  The next verse answers that.  Jesus made the good confession in front of Pontius Pilate.  Did Jesus confess his sins?  No he didn't have any.  Jesus confessed to Pilate that he was the son of God, that he WAS the king that they were about to crucify him for.  He confessed his divinity.  And so, too, are we, in front of many witnesses, to confess that Jesus is LORD.

That is how we seek the kingdom of God, that is how we use mammon for the kingdom, to make friends among the saints: by first confessing Jesus as LORD.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Faith Applied

It seems that every few weeks we discuss faith.  This is important, because something that seems so simple is actually very deep and complex.  We have discussed how faith isn't believing IN God but believing God, his promises, that he is truthful.  A few weeks ago we went deeper and discussed how faith in Christ involves not only believing in Christ, believing Christ, but also believing that he is our savior, and that we NEED a savior, because we are guilty of crimes against God and humanity.  If we don't believe in the whole package, we aren't truly believing in Christ.

1 Timothy 1:12-17 is a short passage from Paul that explains how we get this faith.  We have faith in things all the time: faith in people, in things, in ideas.  But faith in Christ is something that we naturally reject.  This sort of faith--that involves our guilt and Jesus' salvation--comes to us from Christ himself, through his Holy Spirit.  We tend to have faith in things we can see, not the immortal, invisible God.  Let's take this passage one sentence at a time:

1:12 I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service,

1:13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. 

Jesus has done something incredible here.  He has judged Paul to be faithful EVEN THOUGH he was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence.  Saul was a scoffer, a sinner's sinner, who not only sinned but encouraged others to sin and applauded them.  Jesus judging him faithful would be like Hitler getting a Nobel peace prize.  We are not even talking about Jesus giving Saul of Tarsus faith.  That comes later.  This is about Jesus JUDGING him faithful even though he is still a scoffer.  As it says in Romans 5, while we were still sinners, Jesus came and died for the ungodly.  He is judging Saul as faithful, because it is actually Jesus who is faithful.  He was faithful to the point of death on the cross.  Now he is imputing that righteousness to Saul, without Saul having done anything to deserve it.

You would think that Saul would now respond to Jesus' judging him faithful by having faith.  No, Saul doesn't even do that.  We are still incapable of building up our own faith in Jesus, even though he judges us faithful.  Here is the next sentence:

But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief,

1:14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Through grace, the Lord imparts upon Saul the faith and love that is required to be saved.  So, while he was a sinner, Jesus judged him faithful, and now while he is still completely ignorant of who God is, he is given the faith and love of a Christian.  Everlasting life is knowledge of God, and in order for Saul to be a scoffer, he has to be completely ignorant of who God is and how he is opposition to him.  This is no excuse.  Saul is still guilty of crimes against God and humanity, but the point here is that Saul did not wake up when he was judged faithful.  He was still as lost as he could be, and yet God gave him the faith and love he needed to be called a child of God.

1:15 The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the foremost.

1:16 But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life.

There are two sentences this time.  The first is the gospel.  Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.  It is also a confession that Paul is the worst of sinners.  This is important to say, because it reveals that he is no longer ignorant of the gospel, and it reveals that there is nothing special about Paul that merited his receiving this faith and knowledge.  Everything is under God's sovereign will, even who is judged as faithful and who is not, because we are all unfaithful sinners at the time, like Saul.  God wills who is given faith and love and who is not, because we are all ignorant in unbelief, like Saul.

But the second sentence now gives us the "why."  Why are we given faith at all?  If Jesus is just going to judge us faithful, why are we then given faith?  So that Jesus might display the utmost patience, making us examples to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life.  We know the story of Paul.  He was blinded by Christ, Ananias came and prayed over him, he received the Holy Spirit, the scales came off his eyes, he visited with the disciples in Damascus, and then he was immediately preaching in the synagogues.  He was no longer ignorant.

Does this mean that our service to the Lord as Christians is to merely educate the ungodly?  We know we have an epidemic in this world where people are completely ignorant of the gospel, even if they have heard it before, but does that mean that we are to argue our point until they "get it?"  We are to make disciples, so is this the case?  C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity brought me to Christ, but does that mean that all we have to do is get everyone to read that book and we will have a world full of Christians?  No.  In fact, there are many who have read Lewis' book and found it unconvincing.

What did Paul do that convinced the people to follow Christ?  Was it his well-reasoned argument?  No, it was the fact that he was NOTORIOUS for being anti-Christ, and now here he was preaching in the synagogues FOR Christ.  All he had to do was show up, because everyone knew who he was.  We don't have the same luxury, because none of us were notorious anti-Christians, but neither are we commanding large audiences, either.

So, our service to the Lord, the way that Christ can display the utmost patience and use us as examples is on a one-to-one or small-group level.  No one knows who we are, so we have to tell our stories, and we have to tell them in such a way that people can identify themselves with us.  "I used to be just like you," is the phrase we need to use.  We need to be able to show people who we used to be and who we are now, so they can see that Pauline transformation in us.  We need to know our testimonies backward and forward.  We need to be examples for those who would come to believe in Jesus for eternal life.

And those are the ones who Jesus judges as faithful.  They are the ones to whom he gives faith and love through the grace of God.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Between Slaveries

We are all slaves.  I'm not talking about physical slaves, though sometimes our hearts turn us into physical slaves, but we are slaves nonetheless.  According to Romans 6, we are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness.  This affects all of us.  Every single man woman and child.  No matter their condition.  We have trouble getting our minds around that fact.  Everyone is a sinner, even babies.  Here is a conversation from M*A*S*H that I find interesting and frustrating:

I know Hollywood has trouble writing priests, because overall they don't understand the gospel and how to defend it real life, much less on paper.  But here are the changes I would make to the above conversation.  Instead of "Sinners, I believe," I would have the priest say what every priest SHOULD say, "EVERYONE is going to Hell: women, children, old ladies, the handicapped, EVERYONE not saved by Jesus.  If "wise" Hawkeye continues, I would, after the last panel, have the priest say, "there are no innocent bystanders on Earth, either."  Everyone is a sinner.  Everyone deserves Hell unless Jesus saves him or her.

No one is untouched by this slavery.  We are either a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness.  There is no middle ground.  Everyone is a slave to sin, unless Jesus saves him or her, and then that person is a slave to righteousness.  You can't go back and forth between the two.  You can't dabble in either or be neither.  You are a slave.  Listen to the whole passage from Romans 6:16-23:

16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 

17 But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, 

18 and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 

19 I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.

20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 

21 So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. 

22 But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. 

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Examples of these two slaveries abound in the Bible.  The Prodigal Son is a good example: he is a slave to every kind of sin, but then he comes to his senses and returns to his father, willing to become a hired hand.  The father accepts him, slays the fetted calf, has a party, but the Prodigal Son is not going to run off again.  He is going to serve the father for the rest of his life.

Saul of Tarsus was a slave to the worst kind of sin.  He was a scoffer, someone who not only sinned but encouraged others to sin.  He watched Stephen get stoned by others, and he encouraged them.  He is on his way to persecute some Christians in Damascus, when the Lord "knocks him off his horse."  From that point on he becomes a slave to righteousness.

What is the transition?  What is that place in-between the slaveries?  Obviously this is the place where Jesus meets us, but what is the instance?  What does it look like on the surface?  I think this verse in Romans 6 tells us:

17 But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, 

There is a point where the gospel, as a form of teaching, hits you on an intellectual level, which informs your emotions, your heart and mind being affected, your soul being affected.  This moment of transition is the moment you hear the gospel and understand it.  The moment when you suddenly have ears to hear and eyes to see.  The Prodigal Son only "comes to his senses," but it is a parable.  Saul loses his sight, goes into Damascus, and prays.  After his sight returns, he meets with the disciples and then proclaims Jesus in the synagogues.  Immediately he is informed of the truth; he is entrusted with the right form of teaching, and can preach it immediately.

When Charles Simeon became a Christian, he did it alone, without another human being.  He read the scriptures and convinced himself of their truth. Obviously Christ opened his heart to the truth, but there was no other human being there to share his conversion with.  Indeed, the whole campus of King's College was filled with non-Christians, and he had no one to even share his excitement with.  It was over a year before he found others who had also been entrusted with the same form of teaching.  But the key is, he eventually found them.  What happens when we become Christians is that we seek out a community of like-minded believers.

This is the Church, and it is the body that has been entrusted with the teaching of Jesus.  We cannot be Christians in a vacuum.  There is always a community that we must seek.  The Prodigal Son returns to his father.  When Ananias lays hands on Saul, he calls him "brother" even though he knew Saul as a persecutor of Christians.  Saul then spent time with the disciples in Damascus, his new family.

Onesimus, an actual slave in the book of Philemon, runs away from his master, finds Paul, becomes a Christian, and the relationship with Paul is described as that of a father to a son.  Paul sends him back to Philemon, this time not as a slave but MORE than a slave, as a brother in Christ.  Because, you see, no matter what Onesimus does, he is still a slave, and so is Paul, and so is Philemon.  This time it is to righteousness.

With us today, as slaves, we are to be in community, because this church is the place where the true form of teaching is kept.  We have the gospel.  God doesn't just give it to individuals, he gives it to the body of believers, the church.  We need to be in community, to encourage each other, to learn from each other, and to be a family.

They will know we are Christians by our Love, the hymn says.  Only as a true family, a family entrusted with the gospel, a family of slaves, servants to each other and to righteousness, will we be able to show the love of Christ to the world.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Love as Identity Loss

The amazing thing about the Bible is that it can always take you deeper into a topic than you had previously been.  You think you know everything about love, even Christian "Agape" love?  Look again.  There are verses that take us even deeper into what agape love is.  I want to look at a few of those verses.

Let's start with the verse that the whole world, even the ungodly and all other religions, can get behind: Matthew 7:12:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Every religion and philosophy has some sort of variation of this verse in it.  Usually it is written in the negative sense--don't do evil to others, or it will come back to bite you--bringing out the karmic theme of the verse.  Even in the Christian, positive sense, it still appears to be karmic.  Love is like a bank, we think, and so whatever I put into it, I will get out of it.  Do nice things to other people and they will treat me nice.  The focus returns to us as the recipient of the love.  We are only loving to get love in return.  Even our pop culture says, "the greatest thing you'll ever learn is to love and be loved in return."  So, we now have to go deeper into the golden rule to see how it's not karma but grace that propels love:

Luke 14:1, 7-11
14:1 On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.

14:7 When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable.

14:8 "When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host;

14:9 and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, 'Give this person your place,' and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place.

14:10 But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher'; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you.

14:11 For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

Great idea, Jesus!  I never would have thought of that one.  Now I know how to work the system.  If I want the place of honor, the key is to take the lowest place, and then the host will elevate me.  Great!  We are still in karmic mode, and Jesus knows this, and so he follows it up with another teaching:

14:12 He said also to the one who had invited him, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid.

14:13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.

14:14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

Even though this lesson is aimed at the host, it is really for everyone at the party.  To truly love, you have to humble yourself, but you must not expect anything back in return.  You must be constantly in a state of giving and NEVER receiving.  In fact, if we target people who cannot repay us--even if they wanted to--we are sure that we are loving for the right reasons.  Did we get a little deeper into the Christian way of loving our neighbor?  Let's go even deeper:

Hebrews 13:1-6
13:1 Let mutual love continue.

13:2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.

13:3 Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.

13:4 Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.

13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, "I will never leave you or forsake you."

13:6 So we can say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?"

13:1 tells us we are talking about Christian love.  The next verse is a popular one, and one that is in danger of slipping us into karmic thinking again.  Well, if I help strangers out, some of them may be angels, and then they'll put in a good word for me with the big guy upstairs! Once again we are immediately corrected with the next, very important verse.

Remember those in prison as if you were in prison too.  Remember those who are being tortured as if you were being tortured, too.  We've all heard about how to have empathy: put ourselves in the other person's shoes, but in order to remove ourselves completely from the equation, we have to actually remove ourselves.  I think this is what these two verses mean.  We are not to just pretend that we are in prison.  We are not to just pretend we are being tortured.  We are to take that person's place.  We are to completely give up self and be that other person.  There is no "you" anymore, there is only the one loved.

So it's not just loving someone without expecting anything in return.  There is no YOU.  There is only them.  Expecting something in return is as far from you as possible now, because there is no you.  We can't even put ourselves in someone else's shoes.  If we do that, we can always step out of those shoes again and back in our own.  But there is no YOU.  You have lost your identity.  You can't get out of the other person's shoes.  You must stay there.

The next couple of verses seem to be shifting gears, as if they were items in a proverbs laundry list, but these verses tie in most intentionally.  To honor marriage, to keep the marriage bed undefiled, what must we do?  We don't just put our spouse first.  We don't just put ourselves in our spouse's shoes.  We don't just think "what if my spouse did the same thing to me?"  There is no YOU.  There is ONLY the spouse.  You aren't supposed to think of yourself AT ALL, because there is no you.  That's what it means when we say a married couple is one flesh.  Because there are no longer two individual people in the marriage.  There is only one, and that one is the OTHER PERSON, not YOU.  What vanishes is the "I did something nice for you, so do something nice for me" attitude that all marriages seem to have, and what appears in its plac is mutual service to the other.

The next verse is about money.  In this culture, we are always comparing what we have to what others have.  The only way to be completely content with what we have is to realize that there is NO YOU TO HAVE ANYTHING.  There is only the other person that we are helping.  If there is only the person we are feeding or clothing or giving to, we will give more, we will give EVERYTHING, because there is no US to keep what is left over.  There's no more, "well I need something to live on!"  There is no you.  Read the Sermon on the mount, especially Matthew 5:38-42 about retaliation.  Those verses make sense when we realize there is no more us.

Mother Theresa is a great human example.  She gave up everything and went to Calcutta to serve the poor there.  At the end of the day, she didn't go back and sleep at a hotel near the airport.  She stayed with them.  She lived with them.  She was them.  She was in prison, too.  She was tortured, too.  There was no "her" at all.  There was only the poor of Calcutta.

Jesus is our best example.  He was God, and yet he humbled himself and became one of us, lived with us for 33 years.  He was one of us.  He gave up his identity as the Lord almighty, so he could be fully human.  He was still fully divine, but he emptied himself.  He didn't ascend each night to go sleep in Heaven with his father.  He stayed with us the whole time.  He became one of us.  There was NO him.  For him, there was only us and our salvation.

Am I saying that we need to go empty our banks accounts out now?  Am I saying that we need to sell our houses and move to Calcutta?  God reaches each of us in a different way, and he is working on us, and we will see opportunities now for us to completely forget ourselves and help others.  These opportunities happen every day, right where we are, and the more we take the opportunity, the more frequent these situations become and the longer they last, so that in the end we are living our lives as if there were no us, but only the loved.  This is true Christian love.  Not just self-sacrifice but self-extinction.

And the last two verses of our Hebrews text affirm this.  The Lord says, "I will never leave you or forsake you."  He is our helper in this.  He is going to transform us from selfish, karmic beings into selfless acts of grace.  This is the work of God in our lives.