The Audacity of Jesus

Imagine that you are God. I’m not sure that I’ve ever asked anyone to do this before, but bear with me. Imagine that you are God and that you are capable of creating something out of nothing. You’re not just an inventor who uses preexisting components in new and unique ways; no, you are a creator – you speak and things come into existence. You use this ability to create a habitat full of provision, conducive to community, and primed for pleasure. Into this perfect habitat you place the pinnacle of your creation – a newly formed being that, unlike the components of the habitat, shares a diminished level of your amazing abilities. This new being will be creative. He will love. He will not just remember and react, he will plan and dream. After all of this work is done, you take a look down and see the perfection of everything that you created. You give some basic instructions to the being of how to use or not use the habitat. You can’t help but enjoy every bit of activity that the new being does in his new habitat because everything he does demonstrates the greatness of your creation – and you truly love him.

But then something goes wrong. The being, aware of your creative work, becomes suspicious of your motives. Despite the fact that you have created this entire habitat for this being and have equipped him with so much more than the other created things, he wants more and believes that you’re holding out on the good stuff. So he, believing himself to be wise (although he should clearly know that only you are truly wise), decides to rebel against you by disobeying your instructions for him. Immediately, the pleasure you have in this creation is gone and all of his actions, all the time, are offense and rebellion against you.

So, what do you do? Remember, it was nothing for you to create all of this in the first place. The habitat was created with just some breath. The being was an easy creation too – just because it pleased you to create him. So now that he is no longer pleasing, wouldn’t it just be easiest to wipe the slate and start over. Just a few breathes is all that it will take. Plus, no real loss because your next created being might be pleasing for much longer. As all powerful creator, wouldn’t it just make sense to start over?

When God was faced with this situation, He didn’t just wipe the slate and start over. Instead, He did what seems to be the most ridiculous solution possible – He took on the form of one of the creatures. He lowered Himself into the habitat to demonstrate righteousness, pay the price for the rebellion, and reconcile the beings back to their Creator. He endured insult, attack, beatings, and even death. He was the only one qualified to do this work, so He did it. He could have started over with a new creation, but He didn’t. As the result, human beings have the unmerited privilege to get a second chance with God. And those who trust in Jesus – God who came to earth to do this work – also have daily hope that nothing in this world can separate them from the love of God. This world may hurt, but eternity is secure in Jesus. This truth is fragrance of life to those who believe and the stench of death to those who do not.

Saints, followers of Jesus Christ, may at times lose perspective and begin to think that the trials and challenges of living in this broken habitat are the most important things. But we must remember the audacity of Jesus and the sacrifice He made to retrain our thoughts and our hope onto eternal things. In this way, God again looks down with pleasure on His creation. And we look up in joyous thanks to the One to whom we owe our very existence and in whom we have life.

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!

#thankfulforJesus

Thankful? Today is a day we celebrate Giving Thanks. It is a national holiday built around remembering that we have much to be thankful. It is rooted in a celebration of the settlers being helped by the native population. It is a celebration of receiving what you are desperate for from someone capable of helping.

It is an unpopular thought in our culture today to consider oneself desperate for anyone or anything. Desperation is a sign of weakness to the majority of us. Yet, truth is, it takes a great deal of strength, character, and humility to declare your need for another.

The #thankfulforJesus challenge I gave Fellowship this week is for us to take time to consider who Jesus is. We are thankful for Jesus because of who he is, not just because of what he has done for us. Jesus has done because Jesus is.

I challenge you to consider these truths and be thankful…
1. We need Jesus.
Ephesians 2:1 reminds us that sin causes death. We are dead in our sinfulness. We deserve hell. Hell is our deserved reality, not simply because of how bad we are, but because of how holy He is. Grace does not just make life better. Grace makes life.
2. Jesus is ALL we need.
Colossians 1:15-20 is a great reminder of the greatness of who Christ is. Jesus IS the firstborn from the dead. He lives and, therefore, we can live.
If today you had nothing but Jesus, would you be thankful?
3. Thankfulness must be expressed.
Appreciation is gratitude that gets out. Where there is no expression, there is no appreciaiton.
One day “every knee will bow and every tongue will confesss that Jesus Christ is Lord.” On that day there will be no choice. That act of worship, which every person will experience, will either be a day of great joy or a day of great dismay. Today you have the opportunity and ability to choose to worship Jesus because He is worthy.

Being #thankfulforJesus is more than about today, the Day of Thanksgiving, it is more than about Sundays and times of planned expression. #thankfulforJesus is a lifestyle of gratitude. Be thankful for Jesus in what you do, what you say, and how you serve others in the name of Jesus.

Be thankful for Jesus…and him above EVERYTHING else…and you will be properly thankful for the rest of it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Don’t Get Caught Napping

But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.  (Mark 14:71-72)

 This part of Simon’s Peter story and life is well chronicled and often communicated.  Peter is seen as a great example of failure and restoration.  There are some key thoughts about what happened this night that we should consider, but often do not.  First, how threatening were the circumstances even if the people asking were not? Secondly, Peter is immediately broken over his denial of Christ.  I believe the fact that Peter had gone this far with Jesus while no one else had and the fact that he wept bitterly over his denial of Christ, speaks volumes about the spirit of Peter.  He wanted to honor Jesus that night.  Yet, he failed.  Can you relate?

Yesterday, at our local Association Passion Week noon services, I had the privilege of hearing a great message on this chapter.  John Carrigan, from Oak Grove Baptist, made a correlation between two events that ill, yet wonderfully, fated night that I had never heard before.  Some hours before this event, Jesus had a very different interaction with Peter.  I am not speaking of when he told Peter he would deny him.  We all know that connection.  It was after that, but before this moment of denial.

And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”  And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled.  And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.  And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”  And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”(Mark 14:32-38)

power-nap_2498353b

 The emphasis in this passage is mine.  The truth is Christ’s.  Peter’s problem was not that he did not have the spirit nor the desire or passion to stand for Christ.  There he was standing alone on behalf of his Savior, yet in the face of a slave girl he crumpled.

I wonder what would have happened around that fire if Peter had not slept while Jesus prayed.  Jesus was dealing with the flesh in the garden.  He was putting the request for another way before the Father, yet was willing to do the will of the Father.  He prayed.  He prepared.  And he finished.

Peter failed to prepare.  And he fell into temptation.  A willing spirit means little when our weak flesh wins.

At Fellowship we have challenged you to pray for those who do not know Christ and to share that hope with them personally this Easter season.  We have encouraged you to invite them to worship with us this Sunday.  I encourage you to not just say you will do this, but do it.

Start with prayer though.  Get ready.  Be prepared.  A willing spirit means allowing God to prepare your flesh for his purposes.  Set yourself aside in prayer.  If you have not been able to be a part of a corporate prayer time at Fellowship this week there is one more today from 6-9 AM or from 5:30-6:30 PM.  These are come and go prayer times.  If you have 10 minutes to come pray then show up, grab a prayer guide, and pray.

Don’t get caught napping.