Spanish Lesson

Tuesday, August 15, 2017
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Mark 7:8 – You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions. (NIV 2011)

Christ's teaching influences my whole life, but some parts of the gospels directly relate to what I do as a Presbyterian minister. Much of the criticism that Jesus had for the religious clerics of His time still applies today, and I confess to struggling with denominational practices and New Testament tenets. I inwardly flinch when I read about Jesus rebuking the Pharisees and Sadducees, because I see myself doing things similar to what they did. This, in turn, causes me to question whether or not I am guilty of holding on to human traditions, rather than keeping God's commands.

Years ago, I can remember discussing this with a Roman Catholic friend who was training to become a priest. The conversation took place in Valladolid, Spain, and we were talking about our denominational differences and what was personally important about our religious traditions. At the end of the discussion, my friend said words that I will never forget, which still influence me today: "No matter what our differences are, John," he said, "I am a Christian first and a Roman Catholic second."

Can you imagine what kind of positive and effective influence that we would have on the world if church people everywhere became Christians first and their denominational choice second? A lot of the religious wounds on earth would be healed, and we could begin to fix our broken world. For me, this means that the challenge I face is to be a better Christian than a Presbyterian, and to continually become a better disciple of Christ than a pastor. In the end, is that not what Christ expects of me, as well as all of us who follow His ways?

Point to ponder: Do people see me as a Christian or something else?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we all want to be Christians at home, in church, in school, in our workplaces, and wherever else we go. Help us to grow closer to You in such a way that our faith will be honestly and positively displayed to those around us. In Your holy name, we humbly pray. Amen.

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John Stuart <>
Knoxville, Tennessee, USA

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    A bid Amen to that John.

    Thanks for this wonderful message, John.

    Great message, one we all need. Thank you.

    Thanks John for this reminder about what’s truly important. Blessings.

    Yes, thank you John, amen, let it be so ‘they will know we are Christians by our love ‘.

    Loved this. So true. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all be just Christians of one denomination.

    Bang on! Great message.

    Thank you, John, for sharing your gifts with so many and in seeking to follow Christ, bringing glory to God.

    Wow. Thank you so much for speaking out truth. I truly believe that denominations are man-made and God never intended us to be divided. It is so true what you said. Amen and amen to your words inspired by the Holy Spirit to be shared with the world. Keep writing!

    Hi John,
    I agree, it always bothers me when people talk about being Presbyterian rather than Christian, as if being a Christian is a by-product.
    Thank you for writing.

    Your priest’s words reminded me of Mike Pence’s comment, “I am a Christian first, a conservative, and then a Republican.” Wish we had a few more with that thought.
    As always, your thoughts give me thought!
    Thanks, John.

    Dear John Stuart,
    I feel with you re – denominationalism.
    Yes, we are Christians first. and foremost. May we be where God wants us, spiritually, denominationally, and physically.
    Keep moving with Jesus.

    I thank God every day for you who are willing to serve as priests, pastors, ministers. It is a very difficult job with many stressors. Separating being a Christian first and serving a church full of humans with all our faults is incredibly difficult. Thank you for taking on the challenge. The rest of us need your direction, leadership and comfort.

    As a Presbyterian elder who has served on presbytery and been a commissioner to Assembly and been on the national staff, boy do I relate to this!
    How often have we heard the echo of the Pharisees indeed.
    And that good old Presbyterian precept, Decently and in order.
    Jesus wasn’t known for that…I love your quote.

    John, thanks for your devotional posted on PresbyCan, “Spanish Lesson”. A few weeks ago young German tourists attended our Church in Ontario. In speaking with them after the service they indicated that they called themselves Jesus followers rather than Christians as that moniker now has such a negative meaning in Europe.
    Sadly, there is some truth in that as well.

    John Stuart
    This thought of being a Christian first, I believe, would go a long way to being better witnesses to the world. Religion is so caught up in all their traditions, people have lost sight of what Jesus taught us. I attend a Presbyterian church now but was not raised in the Presbyterian tradition and the change has really made me stop and question about what the Bible says.
    I always enjoy your devotionals. Thank you and God bless you as you minister to those in your midst.

    Your friend was absolutely correct! I wish our pastors would remind us of this frequently.

    Rev. Stuart: You hit a ‘tender’ spot because so many of us do assume that joining a Christian congregation allows us to assume it’s the same as being a Christian because, think of all the pulpit teachings and even all the Scripture we may take time to read. I found it a very uncomfortable topic that you initiated… I know, for it is so personally directed. Thank you, Sir.
    May God continue to bless you real good.

    Dear John,
    Thank you for your contributions to the Devotionals. They have a way of hitting home. I am especially moved by today’s. I know my Lord is not a Presbyterian nor Catholic. He continually railed against the Establishment and promoted the cause of the Needy, It is DEEDS, not WORDS that count.
    Often he mentioned the orphans and widows. I tell myself, and others, that just because I am a regular church attender does not guarantee me a place in Heaven. It is ACTION not WORDS that count.
    Joy and Blessings.

    This was brought home to me when my son was born again and then converted to Catholicism. A shock at the time, but makes no difference to us now.
    He’s involved in Protestant ministries as well as Catholic, and our grandchildren easily switch back and forth (rather like being bilingual!)
    In fact, the oldest attended Christian High School – where he met his lovely Catholic girl friend. It’s taught us that it’s we who erect unnecessary walls between denominations. When we get to heaven I’m sure Jesus will not ask us what church we attended!
    Thanks for this, John.

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