Archive for July, 2010

20
Jul
10

what is a follower of jesus?

When you get right down to it, what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus Christ?

I know the theological answer to the question begins with what Paul told his prison guard in Philippi: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31) He adds to that, in Romans 10:9, when he writes, “For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

But where do we go from there? That’s a dangerous question. Wars have been fought over that question. (I think those folks missed that passage in John 17:21 where Jesus prayed: “My prayer for all of them is that they will be one, just as you and I are one, Father– that just as you are in me and I am in you, so they will be in us, and the world will believe you sent me.”) There are untold numbers of confessions of faith, commentaries and theological treatise that weigh in on the subject. New denominations have been formed because of different answers to this question.

To be sure, this is an important question. There are many New Testament passages that warn against heresy and urge us to guard the truth at all costs. It is interesting to note that the majority of those passages stood as rebukes to those who were trying to re-introduce religion to the church of the day and, in some cases, profit from the naivety of gullible and immature believers.

So what is the bottom line? Certainly the words of Jesus should have some bearing on the discussion – “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:35) I know there are some who will over simplify this concept building their whole philosophy on a distorted definition of love (i.e., emotion, so-called tolerance, etc.), however, it should be noted that real love is more than an emotion; it is a commitment to what is best for the individual it is directed towards. It is clear, however, that Jesus’ intention is that we live our lives as a genuine expression of his love to the world.

13
Jul
10

a time to plant

In the words of Ecclesiastes, “To everything there is a season.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) In verse 2 of that chapter we are told that one of the seasons that has been established is “a time to plant”. We all know this, and most of us would willingly extol the virtue of being diligent, but our message and behavior are not always in sync.

Here’s why I say that-A time to plant suggests everything our culture is diametrically opposed to: patience, endurance, sacrifice and delayed gratification. We feel we have paid our dues and so now we “deserve” the good life. We want a perpetual season of harvesting without ever having to go through the rigors of the planting season again.

But that’s not the way it works. Ecclesiastes is clear, the seasons are cyclic, they come and they go. For sure we can build on the success of previous years, but we cannot rest upon that success perpetually. We have to do the work of preparing the ground and planting the seed over and over again. Proverbs 12:11 summarizes it this way: “Hard work means prosperity.”

The same is true spiritually speaking. If, in the words of 2 Kings 19 (verse 30 and 29, respectively), we are going to “take root, flourish and multiply” spiritually (e.g., become more Christ-like, develop and utilize our spiritual gifts, be a part of a growing ministry, etc.), we must be willing to diligently “plant crops and harvest them”. We cannot have the attitude that “I planted last year and the year before that as well, so this year I’ll skip the planting season and simply wait on harvest time.” Again, it is the book of Proverbs that says: “Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper and be satisfied.” (13:4)

06
Jul
10

Responsibility

One of my fondest childhood memories was sitting on my Dad’s lap while he was driving. (I know this is a very foreign and unthinkable concept for most us today. It is along the same line as sleeping in the back window of the car on long trips. Quite common for my generation growing up; considered child endangerment now.) Anyway, my Dad would sit me on his lap and let me steer. As I got older and could reach the pedals, I learned to shift, clutch, brake and accelerate sitting on my Dad’s lap.

No doubt that’s why I love driving so much to this day. It’s great to be out on the open highway. It’s one of the best ways for me to relax. In some ways, I suppose it is a source of security. It provides me with a sense of identity. (Interestingly enough, a few years ago when I took an online personality/vocational survey someone forwarded to me, I discovered that the perfect job for me would be a NASCAR driver!)

Perhaps the greatest thing about this is the sense of freedom driving my vehicle down the open road gives me. However, all of that freedom comes with a huge responsibility. I have the responsibility of being alert to what is going on around me and obeying all the traffic laws that protect me, other drivers, and the pedestrians I encounter. Imagine the damage I would do if I disregarded traffic laws and did as I pleased.

It’s a lot like grace. The Scripture is clear – because of God’s grace we are free; free from all the rules and regulations of religion (1 Corinthians 6:12). However, with this freedom comes a huge responsibility. Paul states it this way: “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to (serve, do what is best for) one another.” (Galatians 5:13 NRS) In Christ, I am free to do as I please, but as I mature in Christ, becoming more like him, I willingly accept the responsibility of putting the interests of the Kingdom (i.e., other believers, the advancement of the Gospel, the good of the community, the reputation of Christ, etc.) above my own. And, just like driving my car down the open road, I get to enjoy the benefits of being a grown-up!