giving up our rights

CB065532

“Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3).

“He must become greater, I must become less,” John the Baptist (John 3:30).

“Paul, a servant of God….” (Titus 1:1).

Humility is elusive, because just when you think you’ve got it… you don’t!

For some humility is a gift.  It comes extremely naturally.  To very few humility is second nature (my maternal grandmother was like this).  However, for most, humility is a daily choice that runs contrary to our nature.  A decision that is willfully made.  Day after day.  Moment by moment.  To humble ourselves and be ever so willing to become obedient to death, even death on a cross (connect Philippians 2:8 with Luke 9:23) whether that cross is physical or metaphorical.  To give up our rights and die to ourselves so that Christ might be lifted up and exalted through us.

When someone is being questioned in regard to a crime by a governmental official they will first be advised of their rights before any questioning begins.  The Miranda warning reads, “You have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say may be used against you in a court of law.  You have the right to have an attorney present prior to and during any questioning.  If you cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint one to you.  Should you choose to begin answering questions, you have the right to terminate the interview at any time.  Do you understand you’re rights?”  When the answer comes back, “Yes,” the next question asked is, “Will you voluntarily waive your rights and answer some questions?”

In Christ, humility demands that we give up our rights.  We give up our rights to be first.  We give up our rights to be center stage.  We give up our rights to be heard.  To be proven right.  To be exalted.  In order that He might be first.  Center stage.  Heard.  Proven right.  And exalted.  The cross of Jesus requires that we give up our rights, take up our cross daily, and follow Him.  That we would willfully empty ourselves of self.  And that in turn, we would be filled by Him.

I wonder how this God-ordained approach might impact some of the struggling relationships that exist today? In particular, relationships that are struggling with God….

Glory to God!

Jason

too easily derailed

tracks-through-forest-worship-background

Imagine as Christ’s church our having to meet in secret because of persecution. We tend to trivialize the notion in our Western worldview but the reality is that much of the church of both the past and present was/is forced to gather together in secrecy for the valid fear of oppression and persecution (either by government or society and culture). The first century church and Christians today in Muslim and Communist countries have much in common.

Beneath the city of Rome lies hundreds of miles of “catacombs.” The catacombs are underground burial places where Christians often met for worship and fellowship. For the almost three hundred years after Christ, Christians sought asylum in this underground maze of tunnels beneath Rome seeking to worship God in community with one another and as they were in constant fear of Roman violence.

In these underground tunnels a common inscription has been repeatedly found. Many recognize the symbol as the Jesus or Christian fish (the Greek word ichthus means “fish”) but it served as an early acrostic, which stood for: “Jesus Christ, Son of God, our Savior.” (I avoid acrostics at all costs in preaching – but this one I have to let slide….) What we have as magnets on the back of our luxury SUV’s complete with seat warmers, originally served as a ray of hope in caverns of darkness (physically and spiritually) for the early church.

I wonder about our investment of the Christian life. If in our ease of worship and ease of faith we aren’t crippled in our commitment. Not that I’m praying for persecution. But in times of oppression in the church’s history valiant faith has abounded. Why? Because it forced our hand whether we were in with both feet or not.

Here’s my question: Are we? Are we all in? Are we completely, totally, whole-heartedly invested (heart, soul, and self) into the Christian life?

Luke records these words of our Savior: “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to” (Luke 13:24).

We’re tempted to think that Jesus is talking about “them.”

I think it’s about us….

Steadfastness. Dedication. Investment. An investment of self. An investment of life.

We are too often too easily derailed.

We tend to take lightly the things we have not wholly invested in. The things we’re not completely committed to. Arenas in which no sacrifice has been required. The same is especially true of faith. For this reason Christ calls us to make every effort.

Glory to God!

Jason

to be Christian, but not a disciple

I Have Decided Christian Wallpaper

“Once when Jesus was praying in private and His disciples were with Him, He asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.’ ‘But what about you?’ He asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Peter answered, ‘The Christ of God.’ Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And He said, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.’ Then He said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, they must deny themself and take up their cross daily and follow me.’” (Luke 9:18-23)

This is one of my favorite passages. For so many reasons…. When Jesus asks the disciples who the crowds understand Him to be, to be honest, I don’t think He’s really concerned with their answers. Certainly He knows what their responses will be, the generalizations of the masses. The presuppositions of those who have heard of His ministry. And so the disciples respond with the understanding of others. “John the Baptist?” “Elijah?” “Maybe a prophet from long ago who’s come back to life?” Jesus wanted them to say it. He wanted them to mentally process it. He wanted them to verbalize it. But then He asks the question to which He truly wants an answer. “What about you? Who do you say that I am?” Of course it’s Peter who responds with the belief of those who are closest to Him: “You are the Christ of God.” “You are the Messiah.” “You are God, in humanity, who’s come to redeem the world!”

You see what Jesus truly wants an answer to is personal. “What about you? Who do you say that I am?” I think we’re tempted to think that this is a verbal acknowledgement. And although included, I think it’s much deeper than that. Who we believe Jesus to be is profoundly revealed in our fidelity to Him. In our commitment to the cause of our Savior. In our beliefs. In our faith. In our priorities: How do I spend my time, my energy, my money, my life? Am I faithful in every way? To my Lord? To my spouse? To my family? Am I kind to my children? Do I cultivate faith in them? Am I a trustworthy friend? When others look to me are they convinced that I believe Jesus to be the “Christ of God”?

It is for this reason that Jesus calls for His disciples then and now to deny ourselves. To die to ourselves and take up our crosses of sacrifice daily.

Then and only then will we be capable of fully following Him. Fully following.

To be a disciple of Jesus is to fully belong to Him and to be fully committed to Him. Half-hearted Christianity is not Christianity.

Is it possible to be Christian, but not a disciple?

Who do you say Jesus is?

Does your life confess what your lips acknowledge?

Glory to God!

Jason

too easily derailed

Tracks Through Forest Worship Background

Imagine as Christ’s church our having to meet in secret because of persecution. We tend to trivialize the notion in our Western worldview but the reality is that much of the church of both the past and present was/is forced to gather together in secrecy for the valid fear of oppression and persecution (either by government or society and culture). The first century church and Christians today in Muslim and Communist countries have much in common.

Beneath the city of Rome lies hundreds of miles of “catacombs.” The catacombs are underground burial places where Christians often met for worship and fellowship. For the almost three hundred years after Christ, Christians sought asylum in this underground maze of tunnels beneath Rome seeking to worship God in community with one another and as they were in constant fear of Roman violence.

In these underground tunnels a common inscription has been repeatedly found. Many recognize the symbol as the Jesus or Christian fish (the Greek word ichthus means “fish”) but it served as an early acrostic, which stood for: “Jesus Christ, Son of God, our Savior.” (I avoid acrostics at all costs in preaching – but this one I have to let slide….) What we have as magnets on the back of our luxury SUV’s complete with seat warmers, originally served as a ray of hope in caverns of darkness (physically and spiritually) for the early church.

I wonder about our investment of the Christian life. If in our ease of worship and ease of faith we aren’t crippled in our commitment. Not that I’m praying for persecution. But in times of oppression in the church’s history valiant faith has abounded. Why? Because it forced our hand whether we were in with both feet or not.

Here’s my question: Are we? Are we all in? Are we completely, totally, whole-heartedly invested (heart, soul, and self) into the Christian life?

Luke records these words of our Savior: “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to” (Luke 13:24).

We’re tempted to think that Jesus is talking about “them.”

I think it’s about us….

Steadfastness. Dedication. Investment. An investment of self. An investment of life.

We are too often too easily derailed.

We tend to take lightly the things we have not wholly invested in. The things we’re not completely committed to. Arenas in which no sacrifice has been required. The same is especially true of faith. For this reason Christ calls us to make every effort.

Glory to God!

Jason

transformative thinking

transformed

“You’ve heard it said…. But I say….” we hear our Lord proclaim over and over in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus reinterprets. He reforms. He reprioritizes. “I know that you’ve heard it this way….” “I know that human nature says to respond like this….” “I know that you bring your own presuppositions to the table….” “I know this is the way that you once thought of things… but now, things are different.”

Jesus steps into our world and transforms our thinking, our ideologies, our worldviews, our way of life.

Here’s a tough one He tackles: “Love your enemies.” “You’ve heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44).

Love your enemies!? I have a hard enough time getting along with my friends!

Pray for (bless) those who persecute you!? Are you serious?

And it’s an active love for our enemies. And it’s a very tall order! More than just a passive bearing of persecution or hatred. Loving them. Blessing them. Doing good to them. For them. Regardless of who they are or what they’ve done.

In this and in countless other ways Jesus calls for a radical paradigm shift. A radical change of mind. A change of perspective. A change of heart.

We see Jesus exemplify His own teaching as He prays for God to forgive those who are responsible for His death (Luke 23:34). But what about we who are ultimately those who are responsible because of our sin?

The Apostle Paul connects the dots for us: But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:8-11).

You see while we were still enemies of God, Christ died on our behalf.

“Love your enemies.” It’s one of those areas of the Gospel and one of those areas of our life and faith that we would just as soon ignore. It’s about a radical change of mind. From a mindset that is worldly to one that is of the Kingdom. It’s about seeing the potential for the magnificent impact of the Gospel of Jesus in the most unlikeliest of places. Just like God saw it in you, and in me.

Glory to God!

Jason

what good is knowing about Jesus?

Pray Without Ceasing Christian Stock Photos

15th century monastic, Thomas A Kempis, writes in his masterpiece The Imitation of Christ, “Indeed it is not learning that makes a person holy and just, but a virtuous life that makes one pleasing to God. I would rather feel contrition than to know how to define it. For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and then live without the grace and love of God? Vanities of vanities and all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone.”

We are linear thinkers. A+B=C. We like reason. We like logic. Much of New Testament theology develops out of a hermeneutic, an interpretation, derived from reason. But the goal of Scripture is not mere knowledge or reason (is it?), rather, the goal is assimilation.

Jesus asks, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (Luke 9:25). Derived out of the call to take up our cross and follow Him, the Messiah asks, “What good is anything that we can possibly gain if in the process we lose our very selves? What good is anything we could accomplish, if we fail as disciples?

We are called to have a high view of God and His Word and a humble view of ourselves. However, if our understanding remains intellectual exercise and mental ascent (that which is cognitive), rather than that which is relational and covenantal, we’ve missed the calling of Jesus.

Too often we approach the Kingdom like a math equation. Like a test we’re trying to get an A on (or at least a passing grade), rather than the only way of life that is truly worth living.

Somehow I’m afraid we’re tempted to believe that “right thinking” equals “right relationship.” That somehow if my theology is “right” (as if any of us have the market cornered on God or have mastery of His Word) my relationship with Him is as it should be.

In 1 Corinthians 13 the Apostle Paul gives us such insight when sharing, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (vv11-12). Paul, in one sense, compels us to recognize that we are nearsighted this side of eternity. However he sternly refuses to allow us to shy away from the call to conviction the Gospel demands. Both are crucial.

Reflecting, imitating Christ, is our call.

What good is knowing about Jesus, but never knowing Jesus?

What good is reading about His love and grace, but never truly experiencing His love and grace?

What good is having an understanding of the Kingdom, but never fully living into the Kingdom?

Glory to God!

Jason

to be Christian, but not a disciple

Meditation Christian Stock Photo

“Once when Jesus was praying in private and His disciples were with Him, He asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.’ ‘But what about you?’ He asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Peter answered, ‘The Christ of God.’ Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And He said, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.’ Then He said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, they must deny themself and take up their cross daily and follow me.’” (Luke 9:18-23)

This is one of my favorite passages. For so many reasons…. When Jesus asks the disciples who the crowds understand Him to be, to be honest, I don’t think He’s really concerned with their answers. Certainly He knows what their responses will be, the generalizations of the masses. The presuppositions of those who have heard of His ministry. And so the disciples respond with the understanding of others. “John the Baptist?” “Elijah?” “Maybe a prophet from long ago who’s come back to life?” Jesus wanted them to say it. He wanted them to mentally process it. He wanted them to verbalize it. But then He asks the question to which He truly wants an answer. “What about you? Who do you say that I am?” Of course it’s Peter who responds with the belief of those who are closest to Him: “You are the Christ of God.” “You are the Messiah.” “You are God, in humanity, who’s come to redeem the world!”

You see what Jesus truly wants an answer to is personal. “What about you? Who do you say that I am?” I think we’re tempted to think that this is a verbal acknowledgement. And although included, I think it’s much deeper than that. Who we believe Jesus to be is profoundly revealed in our fidelity to Him. In our commitment to the cause of our Savior. In our beliefs. In our faith. In our priorities: How do I spend my time, my energy, my money, my life? Am I faithful in every way? To my Lord? To my spouse? To my family? Am I kind to my children? Do I cultivate faith in them? Am I a trustworthy friend? When others look to me are they convinced that I believe Jesus to be the “Christ of God”?

It is for this reason that Jesus calls for His disciples then and now to deny ourselves. To die to ourselves and take up our crosses of sacrifice daily.

Then and only then will we be capable of fully following Him. Fully following.

To be a disciple of Jesus is to fully belong to Him and to be fully committed to Him. Half-hearted Christianity is not Christianity.

Is it possible to be Christian, but not a disciple?

Who do you say Jesus is?

Does your life confess what your lips acknowledge?

Glory to God!

Jason

gnats, camels, and following Jesus

camel

“These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” – Matthew 15:8-9 (Jesus quoting from Isaiah 29:13)

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill, and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” – Matthew 23:23-24 (Jesus telling the Pharisees what’s up!)

There is a point where religion gives way to faith. In order for this to occur there must come a point in time where God becomes real. To us. Where His kingdom begins to break in all around us. It is a pivotal moment. A crucial moment.

Maybe it comes about in a moment of victory. Maybe it’s in a moment of defeat.   Maybe it comes about through the words of God in Scripture. Maybe through the words of a friend. Certainly the Spirit is involved, softening our hearts. Whatever it is that brings it about, we must come to a point in our lives and in our faith when a decision is made. God is either God, or He is not. Jesus is either Lord, or He is not. The life-saving work of Christ is either everything to us, or it is nothing to us. Relationship with God is either a get out of jail free card at the end of this physical life, or it is the transformative covenant that it is intended to be here and now.

ugly camelSomehow, too often, discipleship is divorced from faith. As if that’s possible. As if that’s biblical. As if that’s acceptable! The call is to follow Jesus (faith). Not simply a system of belief (religion). And too often we find ourselves straining out the gnat but swallowing the camel.

What is discipleship? Taking up our cross daily and following Jesus (Luke 9:23).

Where does religion end and faith begin? Only, only, when we follow Him.

If we understand anything from the cross, anything from the resurrection, anything from the design of the Gospel, it is that half-hearted Christianity is a hollow shell of existence, and nothing compared to the overwhelming greatness that comes from living a life defined by Jesus.

Only when we willingly, intentionally give our whole selves over to Him will we begin to live into the fullness of the Kingdom. And only when we are defined by Christ, will we begin see life with the clarity that only He provides.

Until then we swallow the camel one loathsome chunk at a time….

Glory to God!

Jason

a radical change of mind

man praying

“You’ve heard it said….  But I say….” we hear our Lord proclaim over and over in the Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus reinterprets.  He reforms.  He reprioritizes.  “I know that you’ve heard it this way….”  “I know that human nature says to respond like this….”  “I know that you bring your own presuppositions to the table….”  “I know this is the way that you once thought of things… but now, things are different.”

Jesus steps into our world and transforms our thinking, our ideologies, our worldviews, our way of life.

Here’s a tough one He tackles: “Love your enemies.”  “You’ve heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44).

Love your enemies!?  I have a hard enough time getting along with my friends!  Pray (bless) those who persecute you!?  Are you serious?

And it’s an active love for our enemies.  And it’s a very tall order!  More than just a passive bearing of persecution or hatred.  Loving them.  Blessing them.  Doing good to them.  For them.  Regardless of who they are or what they’ve done.

In this and in countless other ways Jesus calls for a radical paradigm shift.  A radical change of mind.  A change of perspective.  A change of heart.

We see Jesus exemplify His own teaching as He prays for God to forgive those who are responsible for His death (Luke 23:34).  But what about we who are ultimately those who are responsible because of our sin?

The Apostle Paul connects the dots for us: But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!  For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!  Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:8-11).

You see while we were still enemies of God, Christ died on our behalf.

“Love your enemies.”  It’s one of those areas of the Gospel and one of those areas of our life and faith that we would just as soon ignore.  It’s about a radical change of mind.  From a mindset that is worldly to one that is of the Kingdom.  It’s about seeing the potential for the magnificent impact of the Gospel of Jesus in the most unlikeliest of places.  Just like God saw it in you, and in me.

Glory to God!

Jason

victorious in our salvation

alive in christ

In Luke chapter 4 we are given insight into the human and divine nature of our Savior as Jesus is led into the desert by the Spirit. During forty days of fasting (or at the conclusion of them depending upon your understanding of the text) Jesus is tempted by Satan. “‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.’ Jesus answered, ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’ The devil then led Him up to a high place and showed Him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to Him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’ The devil led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He will command His angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ Jesus answered, ‘It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left Him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:3-13).

Much could be said about this event in Jesus’ life and ministry. The fact that it occurred (when you consider Matthew’s account) immediately following the baptism of Jesus is significant. Jesus’ discipline and complete and total reliance upon God in fasting during this time powerfully speaks to us. Jesus’ response to each test while abiding in God’s Word is crucial. Certainly Satan’s distortion of Scripture in Jesus’ testing is something that should be emphasized. But what I’d like for us to consider are the reasons behind the specific ways in which Jesus is tempted/tested.

“If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Notice Satan’s condescension: “If….” Did Satan know that Jesus was God’s Son? Absolutely. Did Jesus know? You better believe it! Was there anyone else present for this conversation besides the two of them? No. So why begin with question? He’s testing Jesus’ character! And why bread? Because of Jesus’ hunger? Yes. But even more so, if ever there was going to be a moment where Jesus was susceptible and fragile in His humanity this would have been it. Our Lord, however, stood firm. And why the temptation of the kingdoms of the world? Power. Prestige. Authority. Ego. The temptation of salvation while falling from the pinnacle of the temple? Along those same lines: Pride. Arrogance. Ability. Worth. The writer of Hebrews acknowledges that Jesus was “tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). And we see this reality clearly lived out in our Lord’s life in His testing. But in doing so, do we to see our own humanness as we are tempted by Satan every day as well?

John the Apostle writes, “For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2:16). Precisely the three areas in which our Savior was tempted.

We are in such dire need of salvation. So God sent us Jesus. But He sent Christ not only to save us, but to show us. To show us how to live victorious in our salvation.

Glory to God!

Jason