Jesus: The Glory Of The Father

Going To Church For The Wrong Reasons

For much of my life, as a Disciple of Jesus, I went to church for all the wrong reasons. I went to be seen— so everyone would know that I was a faithful, born-again believer! I went to see people— my friends at church! I also went out of duty or obligation— fearing punishment, from God, if I didn’t go! But, all those things left my faith experience empty. There had to be more to church than impressing people & fearing punishment! It’s been a spiritual work in progress for me— I had to move away from “checklist Christianity” or “cultural Christianity” where I did things, like church, so I could check them off my spiritual “to-do list” & be accepted in the church culture!

Pursuing God

Instead, I needed to move toward God and do those things out of love and respect for Him! I had to pursue Him! For me, church became a whole new experience when I began to pursue God— when I began to come to meet HIM; to worship HIM; to experience the glory of His work in HIS church! Here’s what I’m saying:  “Church Is About God!” It’s not about US! Oh, we have to show up; but, we come to make much of HIM! We worship Him together as a community of faith; to praise Him & bring Him glory! And, if HE doesn’t show up, there’s something wrong with our worship! It’s misplaced; or, it’s misguided, isn’t it?

God’s Glory In The Son

And, God reveals His glory through His Son, Jesus. The Apostle John said that when they looked upon Jesus, they “…beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father…” John 1:14. They beheld God’s glory IN JESUS! And, the Father calls for His Son’s praise:  “The Father,…has given all judgment to the Son, so that all people will honor the Son just as they honor the Father.  Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” John 5:22-23.  The Father is offended when we fail to make much of Jesus! He is glorified when Jesus is worshipped & praised:  “So that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow— of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth— and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” Philippians 2:10-11.

Making Much Of Jesus

If the Father makes much of Jesus, the Son, then certainly so should we! God honors the church that makes much of Jesus— the church that worships Him; praises Him & glorifies Him. In the same way, God refuses to honor any church that fails to worship Jesus! God, the Father, is outraged by any worship gatherings that fail to honor the Son in the same way they honor the Father.

Jesus: The Exact Expression

In Hebrews 1:3, the writer says that Jesus was “…the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature…” In other words, to “see Jesus is to see the Father.” He said that, by the way, when they asked him to show them the Father! In Colossians 1:15, the Apostle Paul said Jesus “…is the image of the invisible God.” You wanna see what God is like? Look at Jesus! Do you want God to speak to you? Listen to Jesus! He is the radiance of God’s glory! Like the radiance of the sun is inseparable from the sun, you can’t have the Father without the Son! The glory of the Trinity! Don’t ask me to explain it! I cannot! But, we are not commanded to explain all the intricate details about God! How could we? He’s infinite! We will spend all eternity plumbing the depths of God’s holiness, perfection, love, mercy, grace, omniscience, and omnipotence. We will study to know Him deeper for all eternity, and that study will never be exhausted.

Motivated By God’s Glory

What Does A “Win” Look Like?

I greatly enjoyed the years I helped coach the varsity boy’s basketball team for our local Christian school! One of the things we constantly focused on was cutting down on the number of “turnovers”— giving up the ball to your opponent because of a bad pass, a double dribble, or some other violation. Our mantra was:  “Every PASS counts! Every SHOT counts! Every DRIBBLE counts!” The ultimate goal was to win more games & it’s hard to win when you keep giving the ball away to your opponent! So, what does a “win” look like, if following Jesus is the goal? To the Church of Corinth, Paul wrote:  “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory” 1 Cor. 10:31.

A “Win” Is When God Is Glorified

To use the basketball analogy, Paul is saying that a “turnover” occurs whenever we do anything that FAILS to bring glory to God! And, a “win” happens whenever God is glorified! Someone said it like this:  “When someone or something evidences the reality of God’s existence, that revealing is God’s glory. We don’t see God; we see the evidence that He has been at work; we see His glory.” So, glory is like a “trail” that evidences that God had been there; that, He has been at work! It’s like His “supernatural signature.” 

Show Me Your Glory

That’s what Moses saw, in Exodus 33,  when he asked God for permission to see His glory. He couldn’t look upon God; or, he’d die, God said! So, God showed him his “back”; or, literally where God had been; or, His “trail.” Here’s the application we take from Paul’s admonition to the Corinthian believers:  we will see the glory of God; or, the evidence of His presence; or, His supernatural signature, on our churches, in the changed lives of our members! Changed lives— that’s the proof that God has been there! Lives that do everything with a passion for God’s glory!

Only The Holy Spirit Can Do That

And, we can’t manufacture that! We can’t produce changed lives! Only lives, under the influence of God’s Holy Spirit, will live for God’s glory rather than for self-glory! God’s glory isn’t present where ministry is done “in the flesh”— leaning on our own understanding! It’s worldly wisdom that says, “God helps those that help themselves.” You won’t find that anywhere in the Bible! That’s man’s glory, not God’s! God reveals His glory through us as we yield to Him & His wisdom! We leave room for God to be glorified when we come to Him and say, “God, I’m just your little child down here & I don’t know what to do in this situation! I need you to lead me & guide me! Otherwise, I’ll just mess it up!

When It’s Not God’s Glory

The more I get used to “walking in the Spirit”, the more terrified I become of doing anything, in my life, that’s not for God’s glory; for, His praise & honor! The opposite of His glory is “my glory”; and, that’s pride. God hates pride! “There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to Him,” Proverbs says (6:16-19). And, what is #1 on the list? “A proud look.” Anything that looks like pride is an abomination to God! We need to pray that Christ’s Church would be motivated by a passion & a desire that our Sunday Worship services bring Him glory; that, our Small Group ministries shine forth His glory;  that anything and everything we do be bathed in prayer, with a God-honoring longing for God to be revealed in our cities and our nation! God is glorified when we make much of His preferences, plans & program!

Growing Up Spiritually In Community

The Greatest Commandment?

We’ve often pointed out that the world generally obsesses over the “self.” But, God, in the Scriptures, directs us to be “God-focused” and “others-focused”! When Jesus was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” He responded, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). Love God supremely; and love others in the same way that you love yourself! That means looking out for their best interests in the same way we look out for our best interests.

“Self-Centeredness” In Our Churches

Unfortunately, this “self-centeredness” has trickled down into our churches; so, even our spiritual growth is seen as something accomplished as an “individual.” For many modern believers, here in the West, being part of a church or a “community of faith” is seen as “supplemental”, and not “essential”, to our spiritual growth. We believe the Scriptures debunk that individualistic mindset.  God uses our local church— our faith community— to grow us at a deeper & more intimate level than can be accomplished alone.

Build Up The Body

Paul often reminded the local churches (as he did the Church of Ephesus in ch.4:11-16) that they were to function as a “body” functions; not as a group of self-centered, self-absorbed individuals! The “work of the ministry” is to “build up the BODY”, he said. The spiritual growth God intends to accomplish in us individually happens in the context of the local church body. It’s NOT that we don’t grow as “individuals”; we do! But that growth comes, in part, through our interaction with others! God uses our fellowship & even our fights to sanctify us! He teaches us humility, forgiveness, and how to resolve conflicts. When we live an isolated life outside of the church we live as though we are autonomous!

Only God Is Autonomous

Only God, however, is truly autonomous! He alone answers to no one! We must give an account of our lives to God; and, He has devised the church body to keep us accountable! It’s His plan that by holding ourselves accountable to other believers we will be stretched & matured so that we might hear a “well done good & faithful servant” when we stand before Him! We are called to “bear one another’s burdens”; and, those burdens come in different shapes and sizes. Sometimes we are burdened by sin. At other times, our burden is physical or emotional; and, God intends to use our brothers & sisters, in Christ, to help mature us!

Why Are We Here?

Since making disciples is the main reason why a church exists, everything in the corporate body of the local church needs to be aligned in a way that funnels people toward these discipleship environments, the most notable of which is the relational small group”—from the chapter titled “Rethinking Our Practices” p.171 in Jim Putnam’s excellent book,  DiscipleShift.  Depending on the English translation of the Scriptures that you use, there are between 60-65 “each other” or “one another” admonitions in the New Testament. All of them relate to the interaction of believers in the body of a local church! I would conclude that it’s not even possible to obey those “each other” or “one another” commands unless we are part of a local community of faith! God uses even our “bad experiences” in the church to sanctify & grow each member!

Fishing For People

I Will Make You Fish For People

Growing up in central Wisconsin, fishing was a routine part of my life for me. Our property bordered a river we frequently fished; and, a great fishing lake was only 15 minutes away. It was not uncommon for us to catch 20-30 fish in one evening. But, when my young bride and I moved to Colorado in 1984, fishing became a frustration for me. Catching Brook Trout in Colorado was a lot more difficult than catching bass and crappies in Wisconsin! It was work! You had to sneak up on them! If they spotted you, on shore, they’d go into a crazy frenzy and stir up all the dirt & sand, at the bottom of the stream, so they couldn’t be seen.  In Matthew 4:18-22 we see Jesus calling His disciples to Himself; and, because many of them were fishermen by occupation, He uses it as a metaphor when He tells them, “I will make you fish for people.”

Sneaking Up On Sinners

Now, I’m guessing that, for many of you, the whole topic of evangelism & disciple-making conjures up images of my fishing experience in Colorado— sneaking up on sinners; throwing them a line w/ some kind of “spiritual bait” on it; and, trying to hook ‘em & reel ‘em in! But, with little success to show for it,  you’ve given up; you’ve quit fishing for people; and, declared that you must not have the “gift of evangelism.” I feel your pain! I’ve been there! But, I thank God; that, over the last 20 years, He’s helped me to see the process differently. Making disciples; or, fishing for people is not about our giftedness or our clever words! It’s Jesus who has all authority over the disciple-making process— because of His person; because He is God, He carries with Him all the authority that comes with being God!

All Authority Is In Jesus

In the words leading up to His Great Commission to the Church, Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…” Matt. 28:18-20. When we fish for people we go, not in our own wisdom & authority; but, in the authority of God, the Son! And, we depend on the Holy Spirit to go ahead of us & lay the groundwork by “…convicting the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment…” John 16:8.  The entire process is a spiritual work that Jesus oversees! When we believe it’s up to us to “win” people to Jesus, we’ve overstepped our responsibilities! We get in the way! In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” We are NOT the way to the Father! Only Jesus is the way to the Father!

What’s The Implication?

Jesus also taught that “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44). It is the Holy Spirit who convicts, and the Father who draws! It’s because Jesus has all authority that He sends us by the power of His authority! We have no authority, over the disciple-making process, on our own! We “go” under the umbrella of His authority! Read Luke’s account in ch. 5:4-11 to fill in some of the details Matthew left out— when Jesus told them to cast their nets, Peter said, “…we’ve worked all night & haven’t caught a thing; but, because You told me to I’ll do it…” What happened? They caught so many fish that the nets began to tear! Jesus was teaching Peter— and us— that it’s not about our effort! When doing Jesus’ work it’s about His power & authority! We’re only called to be faithful to go share the gospel!

How Important Should Politics Be?

-The Reaping & Sowing Principle

In my last post I talked about the Church’s well-intended; but, disastrous decision, to exchange Jesus’ commission to “make disciples” in the hope that their political clout— as a “Moral Majority”— could change our country, for the better, by electing the right individuals to office & through legislation.  Five decades later, we’ve discovered the accuracy of God’s word in Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” It’s the reaping & sowing principle!

-A Biblical Theology Of Politics

The Church has severely shrunk in size; and, for the most part, the strategy of the “Moral Majority” of the 1970s and 80s, has failed to elect God-Honoring public servants or pass God-Honoring legislation. However, let us NOT get back on the pendulum; and, swing it to the other extreme, making government & politics of no importance! That’s reactionary, and it’s not a Biblically acceptable response either! What we need is a Biblical Theology of the “Christian & Politics.” Our Theology; and our Doctrine always have to begin with God! He’s the starting place for everything.

-Government Was God’s Idea

The earth is the LORD’S and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it” Psalm 24:1.  “For the earth is the Lord’s, and everything that is in it” 1 Cor. 10:26.  Government was God’s idea! He created it—  “Submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God…the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves” Rom 13:1,2.  The principle in Scripture is that God is Sovereign over human governments; and, uses them to advance His ultimate plans (Prov. 21:1;  Dan. 2:21; 2 Chron. 20:6).  At the same time, God blesses the nation that chooses Him (Psa. 9:17; 33:12; Isa. 60:12; Prov. 14:34).  There’s an element of man’s free will involved.

-Personal Responsibility Required

He’s made us a free moral agent; and so, people often get the government they’ve “chosen.” There seems to be some personal responsibility required; especially, if we have the freedom to choose our public officials as we do here in the United States of America. If we’re given the opportunity to choose good governments that exalt God, that’s what we’re called to do! Paul told Timothy to pray for good governments— “…for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity that provide a peaceful atmosphere for us to do the Lord’s work…” (1 Tim. 2:1,2).

-Balancing The Tension

In Philippians 3:20, Paul puts government & politics in its proper perspective—“But our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Peter says to “…conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your temporary residence here” 1 Pet. 1:17. It’s ultimately a matter of “identity.” I must view my identity as a “citizen of heaven” and a “temporary resident” of this world and my home country!  The moment I lose sight of that I’ve made my nation an “idol”! As one whose identity is “in Christ”, my goal must always be to pursue Christ as the prize! At the same time, we’ve been blessed with the privilege and responsibility to vote! And we must vote our conscience, based on our understanding of Scripture! But, then we leave it there! We leave the results in the hands of our Sovereign God! No anger or rudeness toward leaders that God has installed for His eternal purpose! Now we pray for those leaders!

Politics Is Like A Skunk

-The “Moral Majority” Years

That’s what a pastor friend of mine told me once:  “Politics is like a skunk: Touch it and that’s all anyone will notice about you for a long while.” Now that another election has come to an end, I thought it might do us well to talk a little bit about politics. When I was in my 20’s and 30’s I was very much involved in the political scene. I was part of the “Moral Majority” back in the ‘70s and listened religiously to political talk shows during the ‘80s and ‘90s. 

-Perspective Is A Great Thing

But, “perspective” is a great thing! It’s the only great thing about growing older! Perspective is “the ability to see all the relevant data in a meaningful relationship to one another.” Over the last 20+ years, I’ve gained a different perspective on the Church’s level of involvement in politics during the “Moral Majority” years. From my perspective, the Church exchanged Christ’s commission to “make disciples” for the hope that their political clout (because of their “majority” status) could change our country, for the better, by electing the right individuals to office who would see to it that God-Honoring legislation would be passed. 

-We’ve Reaped What We Sowed

Almost 5 decades later, we’ve “reaped what we sowed.” Because we backed away from our calling to “make disciples” the Church has severely shrunk in size. Some of the most recent statistics I’ve seen reveal that 9 out of every 10 churches in America are in decline.  And, only 1 new church is starting for every 2-3 that are closing! We’re no longer a “moral majority”! So, we’ve— for the most part— failed to elect God-Honoring public servants; and, we’ve failed in the battle to pass God-Honoring legislation. We’ve lost the “Culture Wars”! We’ve paid a great price for our disobedience, Church! And, I’m pointing fingers at this guy at the same time I’m calling out the rest of the Church! I’ve been disobedient to my calling! There, I said it! Will you admit it?

-God Is Still Sovereign

But, wait! This is not a message of hopelessness! All is not lost! God is still Sovereign! He’s still on the throne! He still listens & is moved by the repentant prayers of His Children! He continues to raise up “modern day prophets” who call the Church back to God; to brokenness & humility; to return to our calling; to fulfill our Lord’s Great Commission to “make disciples” as we “go” about doing life! We must remember that that is our calling! Jesus did not commission the church to “go” and make a “Christian nation.” Our core theology & doctrinal beliefs must be based on Scripture! We can’t make stuff up just because it would help us feel better or safer!

-Know What You’re Responsible For

Like most of you, I’m sick to death of all the negative campaign advertising! Glad it’s over for another couple of years! It would be really easy, for me, to just walk away from the political process altogether! I’d have no problem finding something else to do on election day & I’m sure many of you feel the same way. But, we can’t! Based on Scriptural principle, there is simply no way that I can—in good conscience—recommend that you stop voting. Just because politics is less important doesn’t mean that it’s not important! There’s tension there! It’s all about being a good & faithful steward! We need to know what we’re responsible for! As citizens, of this nation, we’ve been given the responsibility & privilege to vote! And vote our conscience, based on our understanding of Scripture, we must! But, then we leave it there! We leave the results in the hands of the Sovereign God! No anger or rudeness! Now we pray for our leaders!

What Happens After We Die?

-Death Has A Certain Anxiety Attached To It

That question has a certain anxiety attached to it, doesn’t it? I’m convinced that even the most devout follower, of Jesus Christ, approaches death with some anxiety. You can be secure in your faith & your relationship with Jesus! You can believe that you’re going to spend eternity with Him; but, still have a certain fear because of the “unknown”! There’s always some anxiety when we’re forced into something new; what does it feel like to die? In part we fear death because it’s beyond our control, isn’t it? It’s that image of the Grim Reaper lurking around the corner; stalking us; and, we never know “when” he’s gonna show up, do we?

-Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled

John 14:1-6 begins with Jesus’ words to His disciples:  “Let not your hearts be troubled…”; and, He tells them why in v.6:  “…because I am the way, the truth & the life.” If you’ve placed your trust in Jesus’ atoning work on the cross then you don’t have to fear death because Jesus IS your life! The fear of death can paralyze you; but, knowing you have eternal life in Christ sets you free from that fear! And, in that text, Jesus tells the disciples that they don’t have to fear death because after they die, they get out of here! In Romans, chapter 8, the Apostle Paul says that “…we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now.” And, not just creation at large, but, “…we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our bodies” (vs.22-23).  Every genuine child of God knows that groaning!

-I Will Come Again

That’s why we love these words:  “I will come again,” Jesus says in John 14:3, “and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” That’s a great death benefit, isn’t it? We get out of here! No more heartaches & betrayals; no more worries & anxieties! Jesus said:  “In this world you will have trouble.” And, don’t we know it? Jesus shared another benefit in v.2— after we die, we get a room in God’s Big House! “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told that I go to prepare a place for you?” God has a house! Not a hotel! Not an Inn; but, a big house! He’s not going to run out of space; and, if you have life in Christ, there’s a room reserved for you, with your name on it! We’re not going to be guests in a lodge! We’re His CHILDREN! We’ll live in His house with Him! In v.3 Jesus said:  “I will take you to myself!” That’s the best part of death! We “inherit” Jesus!

-We Don’t Grieve Like An Unbeliever

Jesus is the real “treasure” that we seek; and, we’ll have Him — ALL of Him— when He takes us to Himself! In Paul’s 1st letter to the Church of Thessalonica, he wrote: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, concerning those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope” (4:13).  I have watched many friends & loved ones die; and, I grieve! But, not for them! I don’t wish that they could come back to me! I would never wish that upon them! I would never wish for them to come back to this place! I grieve for ME! That I remain behind! While I suffer & mourn the temporary loss of their friendship, I rejoice for them! I’m jealous of them; and, I long for the day when we’ll be reunited in a better place; but, NOT HERE! Oh, there’s some tension there, isn’t there— we still have Jesus’ Kingdom work to do while we remain! But, we don’t hold too tightly to anything here! Even so, come Lord Jesus!

No Sexually Immoral-Part III

-But You Were Washed

This is what you used to be like! Those are the words the Apostle Paul wrote in his 1st letter to the Church of Corinth:  “Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom.  And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) Make no mistake, God’s inspired Word condemns the homosexual lifestyle along with all other forms of sexual sin! But, don’t make it a bigger sin than God does!

-God Hasn’t Changed His Mind

Despite attempts to “explain away” this text, there is not one passage of Scripture anywhere that indicates that God has changed His mind about homosexual behavior.  Let’s talk about sin! Let’s define it!  Let me just expand on that a little bit—because He ALONE is God, He has the right to declare “sin” to be whatever He determines it to be. He alone is the divine lawgiver! If He declared it “sin” to drive a pink car then sin it is! If He declared it “sin” to be a football fan then sin it would be! God has created everything with divine order. Because of our sin & rebellion, in the garden, our natural bent from conception is self-will and rebellion (Psalm 51:5).  It’s futile to fight against Him (Psalm 2).

-Unconditional Surrender

We can try & play God with our life! We can rebel against Him by practicing a homosexual lifestyle, or, any of the other 8 sins mentioned here; but, we’re not gonna win! The only acceptable response to God is the “unconditional surrender” of our will & all our ways to Him— Not grudgingly! God is not the big “killjoy” in the sky! His commandments are for our good! He is benevolent & “well-intended” toward us! And, everyone who submits to His will & to His way finds the ultimate joy in their obedience— despite the difficulty of overcoming addictive behaviors!

-His Commands Are Not A Burden

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome”— 1 John 5:3.  The commandment is not burdensome, but that’s NOT to say that overcoming the former sins will be easy! Sins that have become “addictive behaviors” will require the ongoing support & encouragement of mature believers who “disciple” them in their faith! But, God’s indwelling Spirit can give them victory in the same way that He gave victory to many in the Church of Corinth.

-The Key Word

What is damning, according to this Scripture, is the “practice” of homosexual behavior! God does not eternally condemn a sexually immoral “act”. He’s not condemning to hell anyone who’s ever been guilty of idolatry, adultery, homosexual behavior; or, anyone who’s ever stolen, been greedy, drunk, or verbally abusive! Or, NONE of us could be saved! God not only removes the sin from our account when we confess it and trust Jesus to save us; but, He gives us His Holy Spirit to indwell us and slowly deliver us from the sin that once enslaved us! The condemnation is for “practicing” a “lifestyle” that God condemns! An unwillingness to confess it as sin— to agree with God about it—is what condemns a person. That’s the test! The person who loves God will give up their sin; including their sexual sin! To live a habitual life of rebellion is what confirms a person’s lost condition!

Consider It Joy To Be Tested!

-Are We Prepared For Persecution?

It seems it’s time to ask ourselves if we’ve prepared our children and our grandchildren for a time when it might be against the law to be a Christian in this country! It doesn’t seem like the church, in general, has done a very good job of that! We have “Americanized” what it means to be a follower of Jesus! Christianity was birthed in a world that crucified its Founder! Jesus said, “If they crucify Me, they will crucify you!” The 1st-century follower of Jesus was considered a revolutionary! Do you know what the Roman government did with revolutionaries? They killed them!

-We’ve Sanitized The Faith!

All but one of Jesus’ disciples were killed or martyred for their faith! American Christianity knows nothing about that kinds of tests and trials. We’ve sanitized the faith! Somehow, we’ve accepted the lie that all you have to do is ask Jesus to be your Savior and you’ll never have another problem! Many believers have learned to look down on an individual who struggles in life like they’re just not very spiritual! We’ve accepted the lie that we’re entitled to live in a Christian, God-fearing, Bible-honoring America! But, God never made that promise! Quite the opposite!

-Called To Be Jesus To The World!

God calls us to be revolutionaries; He calls us to be Jesus to the world that crucified Him! He calls us to love them as Jesus loved them; even if it means dying to see them saved! God’s revolutionary looks a whole lot different than the world. Our revolutionary warfare is fought by the Spirit; not like Peter attempted in the Garden. Jesus told him to put away his sword. This war is fought on our knees in prayer! Our sword is the Word of God! He intends we take the Gospel to everyone around us! That’s Christ’s commission! The book of James is a dynamic declaration of what real discipleship looks like; how it’s fleshed out even as we go through testing.

-Responding To Trials & Tests!

You need James’ message because all of us are either coming out of a testing, we’re in the middle of a trial or test right now, or we’re heading into one! No one leaves this world unscathed. So, let me point out how James, under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells us to respond to the trials & the tests & the disappointments of life! “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing” James 1:2-4. What? Consider it a joy to be tested by God? That’s what he said!

-Committed To Facing Trials!

We need God’s supernatural help if we’re going to be committed to facing our trials with a joyful heart as James says! We need God’s help because “joy” is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-26). That means that your flesh cannot produce a joyful heart! It’s incapable! Let me add that he’s not talking about “temptations” to sin here. We’re not supposed to be filled with “joy” when we face temptations to sin! We’re supposed to FLEE those kinds of temptations the Apostle Paul told Timothy (2 Tim. 2:22-24). James, here, is referring to the trials, tests, and difficulties of life! And, our flesh will never respond with “joy” when those things enter our lives! Because of our sinful flesh, our natural response is never going to please God, is it? Our flesh always wants to please our flesh! A spiritual response is counter-intuitive for us. It’s not natural! It’s God’s work in us! So, what James is calling for here will require that we crucify our flesh!

The Testing Of Your Faith

-A Terrible Secret!

The daughter of missionaries, to the Congo Republic, told the story of her participation in the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 1st missionaries coming to that part of Africa. It was a huge celebration to commemorate the lasting impact of the work of those original missionaries. Special speakers were invited. There was lots of special worship music, festive meals, and many other planned activities.  At one point, she said that an aged native came forward & introduced himself as the last person alive who was privy to a terrible secret.

-They Tested Their Sincerity!

The old man confessed that 100 years earlier, his ancestors didn’t know whether to believe the message those 1st missionaries brought. So, to test the sincerity of the missionaries, they devised a plan. Slowly, secretly, and systematically they began poisoning the missionaries. Then, they watched intently as mothers said goodbye to children; husbands said goodbye to their wives, and friends said goodbye to one another. The old man explained that it was only as they saw how the missionaries died, that the truth of their message was confirmed. As a result, many came to believe & embrace the gospel message!

-A Faith That Remained Firm!

They observed a faith that remained as firm in death, as it was in life. It’s in James, chapter 1, where the writer— James; Jesus 1/2 brother— began his epistle like this:  “James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ: To the 12 tribes which are scattered abroad…” Let me tell you why that introduction is significant. He’s writing to Jewish followers of Jesus Christ who have been “dispersed” or scattered in persecution for their faith. James’ purpose, for writing this letter, was to encourage them & offer them a basis & a reason for their suffering! To teach them that their pain was not pointless! That God had a purpose for it!

-On Display In An Unbelieving World!

And, part of His purpose for the pain & the suffering & the setbacks we endure, is to put us on display in an unbelieving world. The genuineness & quality of our faith is most visible & apparent during times of intense pain and testing. In other words, the gospel is seen most plainly & Jesus is seen as most valuable when we continue to pursue Him even during life’s trials & tests. Jesus’ ministry was authenticated, in part, by His response to betrayal, to false testimony & to His unlawful death. And, because He did not condemn them; but, said “Father, forgive them”, we see centurions & soldiers & many of the priests (who approved of His crucifixion) coming to believe in Him!

-Jesus In The Flesh!

There are people all around us who need to see Jesus in the flesh before they’ll believe! Like the 1st believers in the Congo, they need to see our response to pain, suffering & setbacks before they’ll come to faith and believe in the Jesus you say you believe in. James continued from his opening sentence with these words: “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4) I sense a storm brewing in our land! Don’t you? We might be closing in on a day when it’s against the law to be a Christian! Church, we need to be teaching our children & our grand-children how to live in a culture & environment like the believers of James day lived. I don’t believe we’ve done a very good job of that! We haven’t prepared them! Will you pray for God’s help to do that?