Jesus did the dishes

dishwasher

Have you ever ordered food at a restaurant, enjoyed your meal, and then said, “Oh, where is my wallet?” I have. Gratefully my wallet was in my car, but not before the obligatory joke, “I guess you’re going to have to do the dishes” was spoken. The problem is that even though I could probably do enough work to pay off a meal, that is not an option. It is not a form of payment accepted by restaurants.

In Colossians 1:15-23 Paul writes the “Christ Hymn.” This passage was a hymn about the nature of Christ that was either recited or sung in the early church. This method of teaching was critical in an era where the individual believers did not have copies of Scripture. These things were not true because they were repeated, but were repeated because they were true.

This passage should challenge each of us to ask ourselves, “What do I believe? Why do I believe that? What do I do today because of that belief?” We must understand the position of Christ to understand our position in Christ. The Bible teaches many great truths about the life of a Christ follower. We are the light of the world…the salt of the earth…children of God…more than conquerors. These are true because of who Christ is, therefore, they are true of who we are in Christ.

This passage in the usage of the word firstborn and the word preeminent teach the great truth that Jesus is Creator. He is before all things and all things were created by him and through him. Jesus is the Sustainer because all things hold together in him. Jesus is the Lord because everything is under him. He is the “head” of the Church. He is both in control of the church and he is the source of the Church. Jesus is God because the fullness of God rested in him. It was pleased to do so because it is appropriate to do so.

We learn through these great truths about Christ that today everything is from Him, by Him, under Him, for Him, and through Him. Everything in life is seen differently when it is seen in the light of who Christ is. We must know who Christ is to understand who we are in Christ, but we must also learn who we are without Christ to understand who we are in Christ.

I, without Christ, am alienated, hostile, and evil.
I, in Christ, am holy, blameless, and above reproach.
You might think these two statements go too far, but they go just far enough. You, in and of yourself, are evil. I know it is harsh, but it is true. Acts that are good do not smooth the edges of those that are selfish, wrong, and hateful in your life. You might also say, I am a follower of Christ and I know I am to blame for much and am very reproachable. Remember, you have a righteousness not your own. This is true of you, who are in Christ, because (and only because) it is true of Christ.

Verse 20 speaks to why this is true in Christ. “through him (Jesus) to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, made peace by the blood of the cross.” Jesus is the reconciler. The word reconciler is an interesting term. Reconcilers are typically third party people who simply ensure the books match up to the account. Jesus, however, is the bank the account is owed to, the reconciler of the account, and you are the one whose account “over drawn.” This term reconciler reminds us that he reconciles us to himself in himself…through the blood of the cross. In this great transaction of salvation remember that Jesus (when he took on flesh and became obedient to death on a cross) became the currency to make your wrong account right.

Let’s go back to the restaurant. Imagine Jesus is the restaurant owner. He is the waiter and the host. He serves. He cooks. He prepares all that is needed. But in the end you do not have your wallet. It’s actually worse, you have your wallet; the problem is that you do not have any money. You have no way to pay the bill.

Jesus, in being our reconciler, did not just step up and pay the bill. He became the payment for the bill. Instead of requiring you do the dishes for your bill. Jesus, himself took up the apron and the dishrag and became the very currency of your salvation. His blood is literally the work, the payment, and the price for your sin and unrighteousness.

He calls out to us, in spite of knowing the condition of our wallets, in spite of knowing our absolutely inability to pay, and calls out to us, “Open the door to me and let me come in. Dine with me and I with you.” I am the Bread of Life. Eat. And you will never hunger again.

Praise the Lord, he did the dishes!

Generosity: It’s easy, but it’s not.

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There are many things most people would like to be true of them. Some are so obvious to us in times of introspection the question we must ask ourselves is, “Why am I not more                           ?” We do not even need to consider “Why would I be                                        ?” We know why. The issue is why not.

My current series is titled “Just Give Up.”  We are discussing four character traits I believe all of us would love to be true of us. Hospitality. Generosity. Thankfulness. Appreciation. The question we are seeking a Biblical answer to is, “What must I give up to be who I want to be?”

1 Timothy 6:17-19 teaches great truths about generosity. Read it here.

Grateful generosity is in an authentic and automatic response to God’s grace. There is no greater way to take grace for granted than to fail to give it. Generosity always exists where gratefulness exists. Grateful people are generous people. If you have not seen the videos that show how homeless people are willing to share what food they have compared to those who can purchase it for themselves, you should take a moment to watch one. It is a reminder that gratefulness is necessary for generosity.

So what must I give up to be more grateful and generous? The number one of enemy of generosity is greed. Greed is the assumption that everything I have is for my consumption. (Thank you, Andy Stanley, for wording things so clearly.) Why do you have what you have? Do you have it to have it? Do you have it to live for Christ with it?

Greed is easily tested with these two questions.
1. When do you decide what you have to give?
2. Do you decide what you have to give before or after you decide what you have to have?

Greed is not something we simply displace. It is something we must replace. Life is not lived well through an “out with the old” mentality alone. We need an “in with the new” mindset.

We must give up greed by taking up gratitude.
You must fight for an attitude of gratitude.
You have to fight for it. Once you have it you must maintain it. It is not easily maintained. My family’s situation with a house fire this year has caused us to live with the necessity to replace many material things. The simple constant chore of looking at the material has caused me to have less gratitude for what I have. (I have committed to read Crazy Love by Francis Chan for a fresh reminder.)

We must give up false security to take up true trust.
What is your hope in? The security of our lives must be in God, Himself. Generosity is impossible when that which we believe makes life have deep and rich value is also that which we would be called to give.

We must give up inaction by taking up good in action.
You will never become an activist for the cause of the Gospel (or any good cause for the record) through the inactivity of posting on social media your opinions. It is through getting involved and serving and giving that we become rich in good works. This requires each of us to intentionally live on less so that we might give more. You will never have anything to give unless you plan for it. Your “right hand not knowing what your left hand is doing” does not mean to give up accounting. People, who do not account for giving, typically give less than 2% of their annual income to good causes, charity, or others. Jesus never told us to stop accounting what we are giving. He said stop counting it up. If you do not account for it, there will be nothing to give.   I am personally committing to getting back in the practice of having a “generosity budget.” Set aside money in your regular budget so that you might be prepared when the opportunity for generosity presents itself. (Jesus taught of a man generous towards those he hired late in the day. That type of generosity requires preparation.)

We must give up value in having to take up value in living.
Why do you have what you have? Do you have it to have it? Or do you have it to live for Christ in and with it.

We must give up false limits to take up the freedom to give.The wording ready to share is the idea of giving liberally. This is probably the only time I will ever teach you to be liberal, but liberal in giving. People who give liberally ask a different question than those who have set up false limits for their generosity. Stop saying “I cannot do that” and ask, “What can I do?”

This mindset for life is impossible unless you remember the supreme value of the Gospel.  We have been given so much. Give because you have been given.

We all want to be generous. It is easy to do because you actually want to do it. It is hard to do because you do not want to do what is necessary to be able to do it. Yet, if you read this far, you probably do really want to. Give up the greed. Take up the challenge to budget to give. And live in the freedom to give.

Wrong Ways

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We all take them in life. In making decisions, everyone eventually goes the wrong way. The Bible explains this simply by stating, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23) People typically say things like, “We all mess up sometimes.”

This is a fact of life. It is a truth. A reality. It is a principle of life. This whole Decisional series is about life principles. The truth that your Life Decision makes your life’s decisions is not a way one should live their life. This principle is how live works.

The Life Decision one makes about how they view life and what they believe determines the other decisions in their life. Many decisions are made because of the One Decision you make. Faith is the decisional decision, but there are others too. Marriage. Parenthood. These are directional decisions. These are decisions that make decisions.

The principle I am talking about today is that we all eventually go the wrong way. The most critical decision after a wrong decision is the next decision, not the wrong decision. In 1 John 1:5-2:6 we learn some great truths about how we should deal with our wrong decisions.

Your next decision, after a wrong decision, reveals what you truly believe about Jesus. 1 John 1 tells us that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Do you believe that? If you do then confession is not an act of fear; it is an act of faith.

This passage uses a deep and rich word about Jesus. It states that “Jesus is the propitiation for our sins, for ours and for the sins of the whole world.” Jesus is the substitutionary sacrifice that covers over our sins. That is the best way I know to describe this rich word. He is our substitute. He died in our place. He is the sacrifice. He is the willing offering given for the penalty of our sin. He is the covering over our wrong. We have a “righteousness not our own.” It is the righteousness of Christ.

When we place our faith in Jesus Christ, we accept the truth that God has carried out his faithfulness and his justice in and through Christ on our behalf. Do you believe this? This belief is revealed in what we do after we fail.

There are 2 wrong ways people respond to going the wrong way. First, we deceive ourselves through denial. We say sin is not sin or we simply deny we did it. We have the “not me” syndrome that was humorously articulated in the Family Circus comic strip every time a child was asked who did something wrong.

The second wrong way to respond is crippling ourselves through condemnation.   If you believe is faithful and just and forgives sin, then why are you still condemning yourself for what he has forgiven you of?

The one way to rightly respond to our wrong way is repentance.   Repentance is confession with right direction. It is more than an obligatory “I am sorry.” It is a genuine expression of wrong with an intentional decision to go in the right direction. Repentance does not rewrite our past, but it does redirect our future.  Jesus does not rewrite your wrong decisions, he covers them.

Your past is covered do not live in it’s condemnation. Your future is fresh and new. Walk in the freedom he has given you. Now realize that your freedom to walk a new path does not mean you go back to where you first went wrong. You must move forward from where you confess that wrong. Trust his faithfulness and justice right there.

Really?

Stop-Sign

“Indeed the safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” (C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters)

The Screwtape Letters is a very unique view into life. The story is written from the perspective of one demon training another on how to deceive people and prevent them from following Christ.

This particular quote makes a Scripturally true observation. The road to destruction is wide and many choose it. The road to eternal life is narrow and few choose it. On this wide road of destruction there are no milestones reminding you of where you are actually headed or signposts to warn you about the dangers involved in the decisions you are making.

Your life decision makes your life’s decisions. This principle is the Decisional principle of life. There are decisions that, once made, make other decisions. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” This truth reminds us that the decision to come after Christ makes many, many other decisions in life.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick;
 who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9) It is a tough truth in life but sin, ours and others, has so damaged us that our own heart is sick and deceives even us. The worst advice you can give in life is “just follow your heart.” Follow wisdom. The heart will lead you into folly, failure, pain, and problems.

Before making a decision, stop…collaborate and listen…wait, not that is not it.

Before making a decision, stop and measure your motives. If the heart is deceitful, then we know motives are not always easily measured. Ask yourself this question. Why am I doing this, REALLY?

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
 dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act. (Psalm 37:3-5)

Motives are best measured through the filter of the Eternal Decision. Are you or are you not a follower of Christ? Does this look like following Christ? Did he tell me to do this or not do this.

If you want to measure your motives, measure your trust. Who and what are you trusting in? If you want to understand your own trust, measure your direction. You are going in the direction you trust, or at least once trusted.

There is a direct relationship between delight and desire & desire and direction.

Delight in the Lord leads to your way being committed to him because you desire what he desires. This relationship, however, can be difficult and deceiving. We delight in what we desire and we head in the direction of what we desire. But we also find that the direction we headed because of what we desire is often not nearly as delightful as we thought it would be.

This leads us to three questions this passage causes. These are questions we must ask ourselves to examine our delight, our desires, and our direction?

What am I doing?

The verse says do good. Are you doing good?

What am I dwelling on?

The verse says to dwell in the land…the Promised Land. Dwell in the promises of God. What is consuming your thoughts, soul and mind?

What is delicate in my life?

The verse says befriend faithfulness. It means to tend to with care and concern. What in your life gets special attention and concern to guarantee that it happens.

If you want your delights to change, your desires must change. For your desires to change, your direction must change. Yet it is the Lord that sets himself as our delight. We must simply choose to go in the direction that delights in Him.

Let the Lord, himself, be your delight. Move in that direction and He will change your desires.

Decisional: Navigating Life’s Decisions

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We kick off a new series today titled Decisional.

We all make decisions every day in many, many ways. We choose one option among many in life day in and day out.

There are certain moments in life, however, that we must make a decisional decision. A decisional decision is directional. It affects the decisions that come after it.

Jesus says in Matthew 16 “if anyone would come after me…” He then spells out what one must do. It requires denying yourself and taking up your cross. It requires us to lose our life so might find life.

The decisional decision is “if anyone would come after me.” That decision makes many other decisions for you. Following Jesus means doing certain things in life – worshipping, speaking the Gospel to others, giving sacrificially, etc. The decision to do those things is made the moment you decide to follow Jesus, whether you realize it in that moment or not.

This one decision also decides some things you will not do. Commit adultery. Murder. Hate your neighbor. Etc. Whether you realized in the moment you decided to follow Jesus or not everything you decided, in that moment, you decided to not do some things in and with your life.

This week we kick off a series about Decisional decisions. Following Jesus is THE Decisional Decision in life, but there are others, too. There are decisions you make that make other decisions.

What are some other decisional decisions people make?

The Big Picture Continues…

The Big Picture of the Bible focuses on Jesus.

What about now? What about today? Did the story of God end with the New Testament or does it continue today?

The Church is today’s Big Picture.
The Church is God’s current collection of parts and people for his purposes and plans. We are “on screen” in the story of God.

In Matthew 28:18-20 we read Jesus’ last words to his followers before he ascends into the Heavens. They are words of action and mission. They are words of power and authority.

It is by the power of Christ and in the authority of Christ that we know that the eternal victory is won but the everyday battle continues. We know this battle and we have caught glimpses of this victory in our everyday lives as we struggle to faithfully live out our part in God’s mission.

This active mission is spoken in four action words: Go. Make. Baptize. Teach.
Go means, well, go. It means consistent, constant, and concerted effort.
Make means cause people who are not followers of Christ to become followers of Christ.
Baptize means to put under the water and bring up out of the water those who are boldly confessing with their lives that Jesus is Lord.
Teach means to instruct in a way that causes more than head knowledge but life change.

There are three tensions in this mission.
Go to get or get to go?
Is church something you go to get what you want and/or need in life? Or is church what you get to go be in the world around you?
Make meetings or meet to make?
Is church something you need to make sure you make the next meeting at? Or is church a place where you gather with the purpose of being a part of making disciples alongside other followers of Jesus?
Taught to learn or do we teach to teach?
Is the responsibility of leaders and pastors in your church to teach you so you might learn or to teach you so you might teach others?

We are not the ending point of this story. We are never the focus of any chapter in it. Jesus is the focus and he is the ending.

We get to go as ambassadors of Christ and make his appeal to the world around us.
We meet to make disciples. We have the privilege of not forsaking the gathering of the saints as we are corporately and individually made more into the likeness of Christ.
We teach to teach. The purpose of everything the Church teaches you is so that God might use you to teach others. Everyone is not a “teacher” in the traditional sense but we are all teachers in the spiritual sense. Who is learning who Jesus is because of you?

God has not invited us to church activities, but to be the Church in action.

This is not a call to abandon faithfulness in the gathering and working of the Church but a call to understand why you are there. You are not there for you. Jesus is the focus of this Big Picture. So get focused and get active.

How to respond to the question of why there is suffering in this world?

The answer to this question will not satisfy. It just won’t. Ultimately, we don’t really want the answer.  We want hope, peace and comfort.

It is what makes this reality so beautiful: God’s ultimate answer is not an explanation, but the incarnation.  Suffering is a personal problem; it demands a personal response. And God isn’t some distant, detached, and disinterested deity. Jesus is the answer.

And it’s not just that God knows and sympathizes with you in your troubles. After all, any close friend can do that. Any close friend can sit beside you and comfort you and empathize with you. No, Jesus is much closer than your closest friend. Because if you’ve put your trust in Him, then He is in you. And, therefore, your sufferings are His sufferings; your sorrow is His sorrow.  

If you don’t know who Corrie ten Boom is, google her. And be amazed at her story.  From the darkest corners of a Nazi concentration camp, she said this…“No matter how deep our darkness, He is deeper still.”

 Jesus entered into our world and personally experienced our pain. Out of a DEEP love for you and me, Jesus is there in the lowest places of our lives.  Are you broken? He was broken for us. Are you despised? He was despised and rejected of men. Do you cry out that you can’t take any more? He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Did someone betray you? He was sold out. Are your most tender relationships broken? He loved and He was rejected. Did people turn from you? They hid their faces from Him as if He were a leper.

He took every sin, every pain, every hurt, every suffering we endure and it was nailed to the cross with Him. And in His suffering, He was not consoled. He didn’t have a Life Group bring Him meals or send Him encouraging text messages with Scripture. He was mocked. He was spit upon. He was insulted. And in a moment, God the Father had to turn His face away. Could He have done something about it? Could He have made it stop? You better believe it! And Jesus knew it! And in that moment…even the Son of God cried out! “WHY?!?!? Why have you forsaken me?”

In complete brokenness and suffering, the Father said… You may not see it now my son, but I love you. And the people I love need this. I want them back. This is necessary and the eternal reward is worth it.

Life’s not fair. Jesus would be the first to tell you.  Fairness ended in the Garden of Eden.  Through His own suffering and death, He has deprived this world of its ultimate power over you. Suffering doesn’t have the last word anymore. Death doesn’t have the last word anymore. God has the last word!

Do not give up. Don’t look to what is seen, but to what is unseen. For the sorrows we face today are not even worthy to be compared to the eternal weight in glory of seeing Jesus face to face.