I had to stop, be still for a moment. I had to catch my breath and unplug. Bog after blog about politics, God, God and politics, Republican, Democrat…and I felt the tug to enter the un-winnable war and to alienate some of my friends, hurt some of my brothers and sisters, not for the sake of the Kingdom, but for the sake of what?? Really...
So, back to scripture and to the fixing our eyes on Jesus. Which reminds me of this verse at the end of Hebrews after the preacher has told us why Jesus is superior in every way to the Old Testament ways and teachings…
12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
I often forget that Jesus is not only above and beyond the Old Testament system, but every system of any age, people, place, and nation. Sometimes I get so caught up in Jesus fitting into the system that I forget to ask if the system needs to fit into Jesus. Let’s Consider some of the major aspect of Jesus’ way:
We are surrounded, not by champions or victors, but by witnesses to the faith whom Jesus has made victorious in their death…and it is this group who encourages us in our battle against sin and evil.
Jesus stands as the focal point, being the founder and perfecter. How So? Not through election or a power play, but through enduring the cross and its shame.
Jesus now sits at the right hand of God, earned through endurance and faith. To be with God is the reward for all those who endure and are faithful; first Jesus, then those before us, and now us.
Consider this as we go through life (may want to add the hymn in Philippians 2 as well) for our struggle has not led us to the cross and we have not shed our blood.
The way of Christ is paved through discipline and endurance, Jesus has walked this road before us, others have too and they surround us. So, chin up and chest out, let us not lightly regard the people God wants us to be.
Christians are called to focus on Jesus, to go through life with endurance and faith, and to always remember that God has not forsaken us in times of trouble…for people who go through trouble are often made better through it. They are disciplined. And at the end of the day, I think the world could use a few more disciplined Christians…I’m asking Jesus to make me into one. Not sure what all it means, but I have to trust the one I have made my Savior and Lord. You want to join me?
You might recall Jesus quoting from the prophet Isaiah when confronted abut why his disciples don’t practice the ceremonial tradition of washing their hands before a meal. The quote comes from Isaiah 29:13 and is a charge that God has against his people, Israel:
And the Lord said:
“Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me,
and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,
There are a couple of things that strike me in this passage. First, the obvious is that these people have learned to say the right things, project holy things on the outside…but their hearts are far from God. Therefore, there is little to no relationship with the Lord, they just listen to the holy words and memorize them. They sing the songs they know and go through the rituals, but they do not KNOW God. Second, God charges that the fear they are to have, due to the closeness of the relationship has also been cheapened. This “fear of the Lord” is now something that is taught. Perhaps it is practiced and perfected, and then performed, but the fear of the Lord is not authentic; something that would grow out of real relationship with the Lord.
So, the very things and people God set up to draw his people closer and provide them with a healthy “fear of the Lord” has become a barrier to authentic faith. Now, when we see the “fear of the Lord” we must understand God’s holiness and God’s care to truly engage this phrase. Fear can mean respect, yes, but with the Lord it is that understanding that the holy God who has every right to destroy us and the evil of the world has invited into relationship to care for us. This is more than respect, but the awe and wonder of how this is possible mixed with the responsibility to live in thankfulness for this opportunity.
What Jesus doesn’t share with the Pharisees is the verse a few passages down. Listen to the words of Isiah 29:16 =
You turn things upside down!
Shall the potter be regarded as the clay,
that the thing made should say of its maker,
“He did not make me”;
or the thing formed say of him who formed it,
“He has no understanding”?
I sometimes wonder if in our construed way of making God our divine servant who exists to make us happy and content, if we have indeed turned things upside-down. You see, the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders made the mistake that God served them, and I think that Christians have bought into a popular version of American Christianity that does the same thing. How can the clay regard the potter as the clay?
I must admit that it is easier for me to say the Christian things and read the Christian book than it is for me to spend time with God, walk with God, and relate to God. It is also easier to think that God wants me to be happy than it is to live as if the purpose of my existence is to make God happy. God’s priorities are not my priorities, and God’s happiness is not even close to the things that make me happy. This is why we are asked to follow Jesus and learn to be disciples of Jesus; because it was his life, not ours or the Jews or anyone else, that truly glorified God…that is “made God happy.”
So, I want God to please remind me that I am clay and you are the Creating Potter. Help me walk with you and talk with you and never substitute what I’m taught about you with who you are in my life. Help me to bring something that is of worth as I worship you with my life that you may be honored by my life…up close…not from a distance.
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.