A Little Rebellion Is Worth It

How do you usually approach improving yourself? Do you do it piecemeal? Do you use motivational phrases? We know that God urges us to be like Jesus. Yet, have we considered how He speaks of getting there?

The reason I ask these question is that I was reacquainted with an interesting encouragement from Paul’s letter to the Romans. It put some light on why Jesus urges us to deal so harshly with ourselves when we sin. Jesus said, “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire.” (Matthew 18:8) That does sound harsh, doesn’t it? I find it hard to imagine anyone not finding such a statement harsh. Yet, Matthew records Jesus saying this not once, but twice in His ministry. (see Matthew 5:30) A general rule of thumb in interpreting Scripture: if God says something more than once, then we better pay close attention because we obviously will struggle with that!

So, I was reminded of this passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans. It sheds light on why Jesus was so serious about sin. Paul says,

1  What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2  May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

Romans 6:1-2 ​

I know we usually think of this passage as one of those encouraging passages on our eventually victory over sin in the resurrection. As Jesus was resurrected to glory, so we shall be resurrected to glory. However, that truth (which is wonderfully true!) is just the background for what Paul is urging us to embrace. Paul is urging us to embrace rebellion as our normal way of life. Rebellion, you ask? Yes, rebellion. Paul is urging us to rebel in a new way. He is urging us to rebel against the false king – Sin. He says,

6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin.

Romans 6:6-7

Paul’s declaration is that those who believe in Jesus have died to sin. We have died to king sin. Paul is using “kingdom” imagery. The dead do not have to obey the government  anymore. The government that Paul is talking about in this passage is personal sin. We have died in Christ to king sin. Sin no longer has legitimate dominion over us. Do we see it that way? In our struggle to be more like Jesus, have we given thought to what power sin legitimately has in us anymore? Sin is an illegitimate master. We are free!

What is the proper response of a free person when someone wants to take over their life again? They rebel. They say no. They fight back. So Paul urges us,

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

Romans 6:12-13

“Do not let sin reign.” Such mild words, yet they are so rebellious! When sin calls, I have an imperative to truly fight back with a clear intention: the death of sin in me. Rebellion, clear and simple. As I right this, I am reminded of America’s Declaration of Independence. Those revolutionaries did not just declare their independence. They then fought a war to achieve it. Patrick Henry declaration, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” was the turning point of Virginia’s discussion regarding the American revolution. This is Paul’s urging in Romans 6. Our freedom from sin is worth rebellion. Sin must not reign anymore! It has got me thinking… am I fighting the continued attempts of sin to be king over me? Do I fight on purpose, or do I just go along with the commands of sin? I intend to renew my fight against sin. I am sure sin will also fight back, those who rebel must be ready for that. Yet, freedom is worth the fight for I want the freedom to love people faithfully; and I want to be able to approach God in the holiness of Christ. Freedom is worth a little rebellion!

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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At Calvary – Ep 13 – How Do I Pray with Confidence for the Lost?

As everyone thinks anew about spiritual matters and how God meets us in our struggles, many of us are finding God-conversations more normal. So, how do we pray for our lost friends and family members and how can we share with them  our hope?

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Is Following Complicated?

Sometimes we make things difficult that are actually straight forward.  Have you ever put together a tent?  I have seen people spend what seemed like hours in a jumbled up mess.  Then, suddenly, they looked at the directions in a different way and poof their tent was up in ten minutes. (no, I won’t admit that the person I was watching was really myself!)

I wonder if the same is true when we talk about following God.  We use big words like discipleship, sanctification, and commitment when we could just as easily use words like follow, walk, and live.  Why do we do that? Do we feel that if we make following God sound mystical that it will have greater meaning?  Instead, I suspect that when we make it sound difficult that we find ourselves following less.

Following Jesus is actually quite simple.  When He asked people to follow Him, He said simply, “Follow me.” He invites – you follow.  “How do I follow?” you say.  In the days of the disciples, following a Rabbi was pretty straightforward. You listened to them. You sought to understand what they taught. You copied their way of life. Not complicated. You just lived the way the Rabbi lived.

That should be our pattern as well. We listen to what Jesus has said and do it.  We learn about His desires, hopes, and character.  We then seek to copy His desires, His hopes, and His character in our life on a daily basis.  It is amazing how He leads if we will simply be faithful in that.  Don’t underestimate the power of a day.  This day. Today.  The book of Hebrews says that we should follow Him today. It says:

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:13, NIV:

This passage warns us that sin deceives. Sin seeks to deceive us in many ways. One of those ways is to tempt us to believe that following Jesus is not just challenging, it is impossibly complicated. Sin tells us that discipleship must be for the incredibly spiritual or truly godly. We must, sin claims, must simply not be good enough (morally, intellectually, spiritually, etc.) to follow Jesus. It is a lie.

Jesus invites you to follow Him today.  Don’t make it complicated.  Don’t make it something only the holy or the ‘spiritual’ can do.  Just follow and see what great things He will do as you follow Him daily. Listen to how He wants us to live. Copy how He lived with God and others. Just walk with Him. That alone will stretch us. We don’t need to make it complicated.

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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At Calvary – Ep 12 – Trust in the Lord… During a Pandemic?

We are in the middle of what our medical experts call a global pandemic. That means that there is a viral outbreak spreading across the globe. Yes, I am talking about the coronavirus. Our topic today: what does trusting the Lord look like during such an event?

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An Encounter with God

I have a wonderment this week. I wonder if the only ones who truly try to meet with God are the fringe elements of our family. No, I am not talking about all of us who have meetings about God, but when it comes to meeting God on a Sunday morning (or any day of the week for that matter) is an experience of God’s presence only reserved for the fanatic or the disturbed? Could it be possible that in our desire to reflect the truth of God’s Word that we have lost sight of one of the key truths of God’s Word? That is, have we forgotten that the Bible declares that God is real, God really moves, and God really can be known by people? What are we expecting when we come to worship?

One word of caution before I go on – I am not talking about a seeking a created experience. Especially in these days of concern over this global pandemic, it should be clear that I am not interested in seeking a laser light show or always searching for the bigger, better, bolder, or more mystical experience of God. All that is stripped away, isn’t it, when we are sitting in front of our computer, television, or phone and watching a streaming picture of our pastor while we are wearing our pajamas! No, I am simply talking about that when we come to meet God that we do not settle for anything less than actually meeting with Him. Do we push through all the junk (our own personal struggles, the inadequacy of our leaders, the distractions of our circumstances, or concerns about the current crisis, etc.) until we have seen what we see so often the individuals in the Bible saw? They saw God. I read in Isaiah that he saw God. Moses saw God. Even those who didn’t see God felt Him and experienced Him.

Is that what we are doing when we come to worship? When did worship become just another meeting? Consider the words of the following song by the sidewalk prophets. I hope it says much more eloquently than I can what I wish to communicate:

If I saw You on the street
And You said come and follow me
But I had to give up everything
All I once held dear and all of my dreams

Would I love You enough to let go
Or would my love run dry
When You asked for my life

When did love become unmoving?
When did love become unconsuming?
Forgetting what the world has told me
Father of love, You can have me
You can have me

If You’re all You claim to be
Then I’m not losing anything
So I will crawl upon my knees
Just to know the joy of suffering

I will love You enough to let go
Lord, I give you my life
I give you my life

When did love become unmoving?
When did love become unconsuming?
Forgetting what the world has told me
Father of love, You can have me
You can have me

I want to be where You are
I’m running into Your arms
And I will never look back
So Jesus, here is my heart

When did love become unmoving?
When did love become unconsuming?
Forgetting what the world has told me
Father of love, You can have me
You can have me

When did love become unmoving?
When did love become unconsuming?
Forgetting what the world has told me
Father of love, You can have me
My Father, my love
You can have me

Jesus is worth pushing through to really meet Him. He is worth that effort. I want to give Him that. If that makes me a fanatic or disturbed, I am okay with that. I think that is what love would call me to do. What about you?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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It’s Not About Doing, It’s About Being

Think with me for a moment about the rich young ruler in Mark 10. Notice that the man thought about what he could ‘do’ to be saved. He asked Jesus, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life.” I know that this is a grammatical nuance, but consider with me that so many times this is what we do with God. We make our relationship with Him about what we do rather than who we are in Him. It becomes about activity and not about reality. It is clear by what happens next with the young ruler that his problem was not in outwardly doing anything. His problem was that his inward heart was not truly willing to let God be God in his life. When Jesus gives him a real challenge, he buckles like a house of cards. I hope that his was only a momentary lapse of faith, but the Scripture does not tell us his future.

Image result for rich young ruler

As we talk about this I wonder how often we Christians do the same to God even today. We take His instruction about what we are to be and turn it into something that we are to do. We create checklists that either excuse our behavior or convict our hearts depending on the situation and our own personal needs. In other words, God tells us to forgive our brother and we make that a checklist to determine if God will hear our prayers. Instead of understanding that God is talking about who we are (a forgiving person) we make it into a requirement (I’ve forgiven enough). Is that what God is after? I know that He cares if we sin, but is it His goal for just our actions to be righteous? Isn’t His goal for us to be righteous in our innermost heart?

Another way to say it is this: how forgiving is forgiving enough? –or- How unforgiving is being unforgiving too much? There aren’t answers, are there? God’s point is that He wants us to be something (forgiving), not just do something. This must be the goal of our heart as believers. We want to be the person God wants us to be. The doing then comes naturally.

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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What Makes Church Different

Have you ever thought about what difference there is between worshiping God on your own by the lake and worshiping God with God’s people on a Saturday night or Sunday morning?

Hebrews 10 says,

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

Hebrews 10:23-35

Have you seen this truth before? He tells us to not forsake gathering together. That command is sandwiched between two slices of encouragement. Do you see that? He first tells us to think deeply (consider) about how to help others love more. Then he tells us to encourage each other.

Image result for God's people worshiping

There is something extremely valuable here that we miss. Sometimes, when we are asked why we folks should go to church we answer something like, “To get a blessing,” or, “To meet with God.” I would suggest that we have missed the key part to worshiping together. Receiving a blessing can come anytime. We can meet with God anytime. The difference, for Christians, is that life is not just about us anymore. For the believer, the “me” part of the equation slips behind the “we” part of the equation. In other words, the key part of church is the others we see on Sunday morning.

What will this mean for us? Let me go through the typical Sunday morning if we were to really embrace this teaching. We get up. Maybe we are ready for to worship God, maybe not. However, either as part of our morning routine or as part of traveling to church we prepare ourselves by thinking of the people we will see at church that Sunday. We pray for them. We prepare to speak to them (especially if we know they are struggling or if they make us struggle!). When we arrive at church, we are looking for a person to give a special touch or word to. As we sing, we are sensitive to those immediately around us. Do they need help with their Bible or hymnal? Do they need a friendly and encouraging smile? Do they need a friend to stand beside? We may not have the gift of encouragement or mercy, but we all can certainly reach out in prayer for those who appear to be hurting or struggling. If we share prayer concerns during the service, we intentionally write down names for later prayer. During the sermon, we listen attentively to the pastor, knowing that he too needs our encouragement. After the service, we make a point of letting our speech be seasoned with encouragement, love, and peace. Our whole time at church is about reaching around one another in love, grace, and hope. Yes, we focus on God. And yes, we focus on one another. Why? Because it is there that we find the great ministry of the church.

As Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:35
Image result for washing each others feet

Would this be a new way of thinking about church for you? Would it surprise you to know that this can be the way to think about all of life? It isn’t about me. It is about how can I serve others for the glory of and through the love of God in Christ. Wow! What a way to live every day!

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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