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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Jesus: Not a Motivational Speaker

Have you ever thought about what a poor motivational speaker Jesus would be? In a world that wants to feel good and get pumped up, Jesus would get booed out of many auditoriums.

Consider the evidence of John 15. Jesus is mere moments away from being arrested and later killed on a cross. He has a few hours left with his followers to prepare them for this coming trial. Maybe these guys were expecting some encouraging words (you can do it!), but Jesus takes a different approach. Instead of feeding them sugar candy, he goes for some meaty stuff:
-"If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first."
-"Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you."
-"If they had listened to me, they would listen to you." (Implied: but they didn't and they won't)
-"You will be expelled from synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God."

If I'm in this crowd, I'm thinking to myself, "Thanks Jesus- those are just the words of hope I need right now!"

Yet Jesus had a very specific purpose in bringing up these dire warnings: "I'm telling you these things now so that when they happen, you will remember my warning." In other words, Jesus tells them about all of this ahead of time, so that when it happens, they won't be surprised. They will understand this is part of the cost. They will know that this is all part of the deal. Jesus wanted them to accept that being a partner with him in testifying to the world meant they would also be partners with him in suffering.

I have been pondering lately how little I suffer for my faith. Jesus seems to say in this passage that pain and hurt WILL BE directed from the world towards those who follow him- towards those who understand his radical call to not be of this world. I know we live in a much friendlier and "politically correct" society than these disciples, but I can't help but think that my complete lack of suffering MAY have something to do with me, and not just my culture. I'm wondering if I take seriously enough Jesus' call to join him in proclaiming the truth and actually living like I'm from another world. I'm not saying I want to become a crazy person, but I do want to be more like Jesus. And being more like Jesus just might mean that my actions result in hate and rejection from the world, because that's exactly what happened to Jesus.

"The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of this world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you."

On your journey, may you be okay with a world that hates you if it means being more like Jesus-


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Does This Make Sense?

I have been pondering lately if my faith can be logical to those who don't share it.

In our local area, we have a weekly feature in the newspaper called "Ask a Professional." Various business leaders write answers to people's burning questions as a way to promote their business. One of these articles is always written by a local pastor, who attempts to take a major issue of faith and simplify it into three short paragraphs. I think he does a great job overall, but I am wondering if this approach really makes any sense.

Recently, I read a book called Resident Aliens, in which the authors bring up the point that Jesus wasn't crucified for talking about things that made sense to everyone. He was crucified because he so radically challenged people's way of thinking that they just couldn't handle him anymore. When Jesus preached, he didn't appeal to people's common sense and he didn't believe that if they just understood him they would want to accept his teaching. Jesus called people to become citizens of a kingdom where the values were completely upside down from what people knew. This kind of decision required repentance, conversion, and faith.

How often do I try to talk about my faith so it will make sense to other people? Do I really believe that if they "get it", then they will feel compelled to believe because it just makes sense? The letter of Paul to a church in Corinth reminds us that "the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing." The Bible seems to tell us that faith doesn't make sense- our spirits must be made alive and awakened by God. When we are drawn to Him, we must make decision along the way that don't workout logically in our brain, but somehow in hearts we know them to be true.

So, perhaps when we talk about our faith, we should not look for "understanding" as a good sign on the part of the listener. When our message is confusing, troublesome, and rejected frequently, then we'll know we're sharing the gospel in its truest form- the gospel of king a who died in shame as ultimate victory.

Journey on!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Duty or Love?

It's always nice to be convicted by your own message.

This past weekend, we looked at John 14 and I was really encouraged to remember that God never intends for us to do this life- to try and follow Him- on our own. The Holy Spirit, given by the Father, is truly a gift. How often I loose sight of this!

There is a passage in John 14 that truly puzzles me. Not that I don't know what it means- the meaning is pretty clear- but I'm puzzled by how it can be true. Jesus says in John 14:31, "I will do what the Father requires of me, so that the world will know that I love the Father."

These are two ideas that don't go together in my way of thinking- doing what is required (or duty), and love. For instance, in marriage, if I only do what is required of me, if I only "do my duty", I would hardly call it love. In order to make our marriage work, I stay faithful to my wife, communicate my schedule, and pick up my dirty socks. I would hardly call this love.

But Jesus looked at something God required of him, which in his humanity he really didn't want to do, and said, "In doing this, I show I love God". For Jesus, to be obedient to the Father even unto death was how he communicated his love for God. And I would say the world took notice. We are still taking notice of this requirement of love.

I usually think of love for God as an emotion, or a deep heart commitment. But what if God is really looking for a life that is completely sold-out to him, following His word even unto death? What if this kind of life, offered gladly and willingly, is the true measure of love? Then I have work to do. Room to grow. Call it what you like, I need to rethink the way I "show" my love for God.

Have we made our love of God such an emotional, heart-issue, that we've forgotten the essential nature of obedience?

May your journey today be a wonderful adventure of fulfilling the requirements of love for God.