Thinking Through Scripture

"but the word of the Lord remains forever"

Tag: Jesus

God and the Unexpected

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God has a way of keeping us guessing.  He’s not very predictable. Throughout the Bible and throughout our lives, God works in ways that transcend social customs and human rationality, thus earning the epithet: “He moves in mysterious ways.”

Beginning in Genesis this notion is already evident.  Who does God choose to be the parents of a great nation? Not the young, fertile, newlyweds; but the old man and his barren wife.  Abram and Sarai strive to bring (or even manipulate) God’s plan into reality by introducing Hagar into the situation. This only complicates matters.

Consider also God’s choice of Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Ephraim.  What do these men all have in common?  They are all younger siblings.  While ancient society would select the firstborn to be the true heir, God often chooses the unexpected.

This idea is central to our understanding of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God as a whole.  Who is the greatest in the kingdom? The child. The servant of all (Mark 9:35-37). Who is the blessed? The poor, the hungry, the mourning, and the hated (Luke 6:20-23). Who is the true King and Messiah of the whole world? The man crucified by the Romans between two criminals.  To many, this idea is foolishness or a stumbling block, but to those who trust and follow God, it is the very demonstration of His power and wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).

So here is a helpful tip that we can all stand to benefit from: spend less time trying to figure God out and spend more time simply following Him. Don’t try to predict His path or run ahead of Him, just follow and see where you end up.

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If You Want To Be Taken Seriously About Homosexuality…

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Christians talk a lot about same sex marriage.  As such an important discussion in our culture and in the church; Christians should be engaged in it.  Especially today and for the next few weeks, there is going to be a lot of heated debate.  There is a lot of anger and heartbreak surfacing right now.  There are a lot of important things that Christians need to be saying, and will be saying. But there is a difference between saying true things, and being taken seriously while you do it.  Before writing all over Facebook about this issue, make sure you provide some incentive for others to take you seriously.

Get the log out of your own eye.  Now, I believe that Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged” is one of the most over quoted and misused passages in Scripture.  But I think there is some pretty good application when it comes to the way many conservatives address homosexuality.

If you are not willing to follow the Lord’s teaching on divorce and remarriage, you don’t really have a leg to stand on when it comes to addressing homosexuality.  If you are having sex outside of marriage, even heterosexually, you better focus on your own purity before anyone else’s.  It makes me cringe when I read about the “sanctity of marriage” or the “Biblical definition of marriage” from someone who is, through divorce and remarriage, fornication, or adultery, rejecting the Biblical definition of marriage.  Hypocrisy kills your credibility and influence.

Don’t make this your only sermon.  This seems to be the primary hobby-horse of many.  If we cannot get through a sermon, blog, conversation, or tweet, without harping on this one sin, we eventually begin to lose some credibility.  Our motives look artificial.  It looks like you sincerely care about degrading one group of people rather than sincerely care about souls.

So ask yourself the question, who are you attempting to help by this?  Is it a soul, person, or community you care about?  Or is it some political ideology?  Or are you just angry and want to be heard?  That’s understandable, but not always helpful.  There are plenty of sins in the world to rebuke and plenty of groups to chastise.  There is also much encouragement to be given in a world as lost as ours.  The Bible covers a whole host of topics, not just modern political issues.

Have some compassion.  Please try not to demonize people with whom you disagree; especially not people that we are supposed to love and try to save.  I know of no conversation where this is helpful.  Think about what you are asking another human being to do.  You are asking them to deny their feelings.  You are asking them to deny a critical part of who they are.  You are asking them to deny any foreseeable future happiness in marriage or family.  You are asking for radical self-denial.  This is not wrong; Jesus demands radical self-denial.  He requires us to pick up our crosses and follow Him.  But let us never lose compassion or respect for those who sacrifice much for the cause of Christ.

I have had heart wrenching Bible studies with heterosexuals who have come to realize that because of their divorce, they have no right to be married again (Matthew 5:32; 19:9; 1 Corinthians 7:10-11).  I hate these discussions.  They hurt me and they hurt others.  But sometimes Jesus asks us to do extremely difficult things for the kingdom (Matthew 19:10-12).  So teach the truth, but teach with compassion and remember you are talking to a fellow human being, not the incarnation of evil.

Make a better stand.  This is not an argument that will be won with anecdotes, insults, or slurs.  To those who make their stand against homosexuals by withholding tips, refusing to hire, bullying, insulting, or persecuting; shame on you.  Not allowing them in church buildings, making rules that we will allow funerals for anyone except homosexuals, and general cruelty, will not only hurt us, but will give ammunition to everyone else.  Even if they are your enemies, “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28).

Persecuting them does not help anyone or anything.  It makes them the victims, and us the aggressors.  It makes us look prejudiced and ignorant.  And it certainly doesn’t make us look like Jesus.  While He never approved of sin, you will be hard pressed to find Him advocate cruelty or mistreatment of the sinner.  Let persecution be our burden and no one else’s.

Be honest about your worldview.  If we are honest, our primary stand against homosexuality derives from Scripture.  Sure, we have some social studies and historical arguments that we put forward.  Plus there are some blindingly obvious inconsistencies in the arguments of those in favor of same-sex marriage.  But really, if the Bible was in favor of same-sex marriage, we probably wouldn’t stand so firm against it.

The difficulty is that Biblical arguments are not going to work well at changing American laws.  A politician who argues all his positions Sola Scriptura will not be taken seriously.  But remember, our primary concern is not modern American law.  God’s kingdom is infinitely more important than the temporal American kingdom.

Same-sex marriage is now legal in this country.  Well, that is wrong and unscriptural.  Just as wrong as any homosexual practice.  Whether it is legal or not, whether “married” or not, the Bible condemns the sin.  The world will do what the world will do.  American law is not our priority; the gospel of Jesus Christ is our priority.  Regardless of what laws our country passes, we can still practice Christianity and Biblical morality (even if under persecution).

Christianity did not originate as a world power, but as a persecuted religion.  Yet it managed to change the world.  The divine mandates of Christianity were not given to govern countries but to govern lives.  Rome did not follow Christian morality and neither does America.  But our responsibility does not change.  If every law is against you, do not fear as long as God is with you.  We change lives, countries, and the world by living and teaching Jesus.  It’s not hopeless, and we don’t need government approval of our message.  We need conviction, zeal, perspective, sincerity, patience, faith, hope, and love.

What to Expect as a Christian

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Being a Christian is not all daisies and cupcakes.  It’s not always easy.  It’s not always friendly.  What should you expect as a Christian in this world?

Persecution from the World:

“Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

Persecution is a fundamental part of Christianity.  There are Christians in various parts of the world who are suffering intense persecution now, even to the point of losing possessions, freedom, and life.  This history of persecution can be traced back to the beginning of the church.  Early Christians were both persecuted by the Jewish religious leaders and the Roman Empire.  Many of the great Christians you read about in Scripture were executed for Christ.

While many modern Christians face very light persecution, and sadly many try to overplay or invent persecution stories, actual persecution really does exist here and now.  It is nearly impossible to have a discussion about any relevant moral issue once somebody finds out you are a Christian.  Your motives are attacked, you are insulted, and productive communication ceases.  Christians are often judged as being judgmental, called ignorant by the ignorant, and hated for being hateful. The hypocrisy of those who call us hypocritical is blindingly obvious.  Yet, this is one of the many ways we carry our cross while following Jesus.

Animosity from Family:

“For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.  He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me…” (Matthew 10:35-37).

Now, there are some, myself included, who have been greatly blessed as to have the majority of their physical family also be in their spiritual family.  What this means is that their family rejoices with them in their conversion to Christ. This is not always the case, however.

If you turn your life to Christ, be prepared for your family to resent you for it.  To see you as “holier than thou,” “pious,” or “judgmental.”  They might think you are throwing your life away.  They might see you as drifting farther from the family, joining a cult, or losing your mind.  This is often the initial reaction, sometimes it remains, sometimes it does not.  But this can be an extremely heavy cross to bear.

Frustration from Brethren:

“So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16).

One of the saddest truths about Christianity is that many of our biggest critics are other Christians.  Brethren divide over the most pointless and derivative minutiae one can possibly imagine. Hateful words are spoken about those who preach “grace” and about those who preach “obedience.”  Lines of fellowship are drawn over semantics, schools, political parties, evangelistic methods, and church budgets.  Commands for unity, patience, and tolerance are neglected in favor of “that time Paul rebuked someone by name,” while some brethren will condemn anyone who rebukes anyone for any reason.  And as a result, brethren drift farther and farther from each other, and the teachings of Jesus.  Even Christians will not always act like Christians.  This cross will break your heart when if you try to carry it.

It to be Completely Worth it:

“the time of my departure has come.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

There is no better life in this whole world than that of a faithful Christian.  If you really let the teachings of Christ radically change your life, you will become a better spouse, parent, friend, employee, and person.  It’s impossible not to.

The best people I have ever met are faithful, loving Christians.  They don’t get a lot of publicity. The headliner is when Christians fail, the pastor has an affair, or the church sign says something hateful.  But behind the terrible news stories, inflammatory rhetoric, and bitter vitriol are people.  Godly, real, imperfect, generous, loving, forgiving people.

I love my brothers and sisters in Christ.  I love our fellowship.  The relationships formed by the blood of Jesus far supersede any persecution from the world, criticisms from family, or immaturity from brothers in Christ. There is no comparison.

The spiritual bond of the church makes everything else worth it, but fellowship with the Lord Himself is my greatest joy.  In this relationship I have grace, forgiveness, and acceptance.  I have a mighty Friend who no enemy can overcome.  I am granted freedom from my past, unfathomable joy in the present, and access to God for eternity.  That is what you can expect as a Christian.

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.”

2 Corinthians 4:17

How is Jesus Equal to the Father?

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Jesus was condemned by the Pharisees “because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18).

That’s a pretty major accusation: the capital crime of blaspheme.  During the days of the Roman Empire several of the emperors fancied themselves equal with God.  There have been radical religious figures throughout history who have called themselves equal with God.  I think I’ve even seen a few people in my day who considered themselves equal to God.  However, the truth is that no mere human can ever be equal to God.  He is greater than us in every way.

So why did Jesus claim this?  Well because Jesus was no “mere human.”  Jesus in fact was equal to God.  There are many passages we use to illustrate this, but I think Jesus’ response to the accusation is pretty clear.  He did not deny it, rather He explained the ways in which He was equal to God.

He begins with an illustration about fathers and sons (John 5:19-20).  Children learn what they see from their Father.  Jesus was a carpenter; Joseph was a carpenter.  Many things I’ve learned only because I saw my father do it.  Because fathers love their children, they want to teach them and show them what they are doing.  In this way, sons are equal to their fathers.  Jesus lists 3 major ways that He is equal to God.

  1. Giving Life—John 5:21, 26. Both present eternal life and in the final resurrection, Jesus gives life to mankind.  He learned this from His Father.  Just as God raised the dead and gave them life, Jesus also “gives life to whom He wishes.”  Jesus gives eternal life to the one “who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me” (John 5:24). Jesus is equal to God because they give life.
  2. Judgment—John 5:22, 27, 30. The Father has always been seen as the Judge, but He “has given all judgment to the Son…He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man” (John 5:21, 26).  Judgment, which began with the Father has been handed to the Son.  The Son judges based on His Father’s will (John 5:30).  Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth was not to judge, but to save.  But the words He spoke will certainly judge mankind (John 12:48).   Jesus is equal to God because He was given judgment.
  3. Honor—John 5:23. All the honor that God deserves is also deserved by the Son.  “All will honor the Son even as they honor the Father” (John 5:23).  As the one who gives life and judgment, Jesus is worthy of honor, glory, worship, and praise.  Jesus is equal to God because they deserve the same honor.

So, when Jesus was accused of calling Himself “equal with God” (John 5:18), He does not deny it.  He explains it.  A father gives his son the attributes and abilities that he has learned.  God gives Jesus life in Himself to bestow it on whoever He wishes.  God gives Jesus the authority to judge mankind.  This is so that they will be equal in honor.

Da Vinci’s Nicaea

The Da Vinci Code:

I recently read The Da Vinci Code.  I realize I am a little bit late on this blog since most of the buzz about that book died out years ago.  But I have always been a little bit behind on social trends anyway, so I figure I’ll just sit back in my No Fear t-shirt, put in my new Hanson c.d., and write down a few thoughts.

I enjoy teaching and studying about how we got the Bible and the formation of the Old and New Testament canons.  I had negatively referenced The Da Vinci Code several times in teaching without ever actually having read it.  I referenced it based on hearsay and book reviews.  But I always felt a little uncomfortable with that, so I decided to sit down and read the book for myself.  Honestly, I kind of liked it.  I thought it was well written, an entertaining story, and a topic worthy of discussion.  Dan Brown, the author, seems to be a pretty intelligent man who knows a little about a lot.  In fact, I enjoyed it so much I am reading his earlier work Angels and Demons right now.

Historical Blunders:

There were, however, several historical blunders in Dan Brown’s book.  Probably the worst was his claim that many non-canonical gospels were discovered in the 40’s in Nag Hammadi and in the Dead Sea Scrolls.  In reality, the Dead Sea Scrolls contained the library of a Jewish community living in Qumran until about AD 68.  Their library was discovered in 11 caves by the Dead Sea in 1947.  They were not a Christian community, and no Christian gospels were discovered in their library (although a small number of scholars speculate a tiny fragment that might contain a piece of Mark was discovered in cave 7).  So Brown was way off on what he said about the Dead Sea Scrolls.  Brown also claimed that there were roughly 80 gospels that were rejected by the church because they did not present Jesus as divine.  The actual number of known (not necessarily discovered) non-canonical gospels is closer to 40, and generally these present Jesus as far more super-human than the 3 synoptics (although His Deity can still be seen in these also).  For a more in-depth critique of the historical blunders of The Da Vinci Code, see Bart Ehrman.  The blunder I want to primarily focus on was made about the Council of Nicaea in AD 325.

Beliefs about the Council of Nicaea:

There have been many times in personal Bible studies, primarily with college-age skeptics, that the Council of Nicaea was brought up.  I have been told that the Council of Nicaea started Christianity.  I’ve been told that the only reason I worship on Sunday is because of a decree by the Council of Nicaea.  I have been told that the only reason that I believe Jesus is divine is because of the Council of Nicaea.  I have been told that the only reason my New Testament contains 27 books is because of the Council of Nicaea.  It seems like people toss the Council of Nicaea around as the origin of any uniquely Christian belief or practice.

I always wondered where on earth people got the idea that the Council of Nicaea did any of these things.  Especially that it had anything at all to do with the New Testament canon.  Thanks to Dan Brown, I might have figured it out.  Sir Leigh Teabing, a major character in The Da Vinci Code, makes the claim numerous times that Emperor Constantine decided which books would make up the New Testament at the Council of Nicaea.  This is completely fabricated.  The Council had zero to do with the canon.  However, it was an important council.  In the event that you are curious or someone brings it up to you, it might be helpful to know a few things about it.

The Truth about the Council of Nicaea:

The Council of Nicaea was the first major ecumenical council of the ancient church.  It was called by Emperor Constantine, the first Emperor to pay lip service to being a Christian.  In Alexandria, Egypt there had been several large disturbances.  There had been a serious disagreement about the nature of Christ by a prominent teacher, Arius, and a bishop, Alexander.  Arius taught that there was a time when Jesus did not exist (Arianism, not to be confused with Aryanism).  Thus, Jesus was a created being, lesser than the Father.  Alexander taught that Jesus was eternal, and equal to the Father.  After excommunications, lines being drawn, riots in the streets, an attempt to unify the empire was called in AD 325 in Nicaea.

Bishops from all over the ancient world assembled and discussed many issues.  The date at which Easter would be celebrated, the exaltation of bishops in Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch, and the substance and nature of Jesus were among those issues.  The 27 year old Athanasius argued on Alexander’s behalf for the eternal equality of Jesus to the Father, and Eusebius (not the church historian, who was also present) argued for Arianism.  The council agreed with Athanasius, and made an official decree about the eternal nature, substance, and equality of Jesus with the Father.  This decree actually didn’t influence the church for very long, since Arianism grew exponentially after the council’s decree, leading to the excommunication of Athanasius.

What the Council Did Not Do:

The Council did not decide that Sunday would be the day of Christian worship.  That practice had been the norm since the days of the New Testament (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2), and was unanimously confirmed by many Christian writings which predate the Council of Nicaea (Didache, Ignatius, Epistle of Barnabas, Justin Martyr, Epistle of the Apostles, Tertullian, and Eusebius).  Consider this quote from Justin Martyr around AD 155:

“And on the day called Sunday there is a gathering together in the same place of all who live in a city or a rural district.  We all make our assembly in common on the day of the Sun, since it is the first day, on which God changed the darkness and matter and made the world, and Jesus Christ our Savior arose from the dead on the same day.  For they crucified him on the day before Saturn’s day, and on the day after (which is the day of the Sun) he appeared to his apostles and taught his disciples these things” (Apology, I, 67:1-3, 7).

The Council did not have anything to do with the New Testament canon, which had already started forming in the days of the New Testament (2 Peter 3:15-16).  In the 2nd century, Irenaeus wrote about the four Gospels, “It is not possible for the Gospels to be more in number than they are nor again to be fewer.  Since there are four regions of the world in which we live, and four universal winds (and the church is scattered over all the earth), and the gospel is the pillar and support of the church and the spirit of life, it is fitting for the church to have four pillars” (Against Heresies 4.11.8).  His reasoning might not be great, but he does help us learn about the four gospels in his day.  Long before the council of Nicaea, certain books were being collected, copied, circulated, and viewed as Scripture.

Finally, the Council did not create the doctrine of the deity of Jesus, as Dan Brown claims.  The Gospel of John is replete with reference to the Deity of Jesus (John 1:1-3; 8:58; 20:28), and His equality with the Father (John 5:18-29).  This belief is corroborated with many other New Testament references (Matthew 3:3; 14:33; Mark 1:3; Acts 20:28; Hebrews 1:8; Titus 2:13, etc.).  Even Pliny the Younger, the governor of Bithynia at the beginning of the 2nd century, after learning more about Christians, wrote that they habitually gathered early and sang hymns “to Christ as to a god.”  Long before the council of Nicaea, Christians viewed Jesus as divine, eternal, and equal to the Father.

Dan Brown is a talented writer, but an early Christian historian he is not.  Myths about the Council of Nicaea rage, but knowing a few facts about it can help you be prepared when you’re called on to give an account for what you believe.

You Pharisee!

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“You Pharisee!”  “I’m a recovering Pharisee.”  “That’s just Pharisaical.”  Have you ever heard an accusation or admission that sounded like this?  I know I have.  These statements are generally made in reference to how strictly someone applies the Bible.  Terms often thrown out in conjunction with Pharisee are “legalist,” “ultra conservative,” “judgmental” and, well, “jerk.”  These are fairly common accusations and are sometimes fitting.  However, lumping “Pharisee” with these other derogatory terms can lead to a misunderstanding of what Jesus’ relationship with the Pharisees was actually like.

The Faults of the Pharisees:

The Gospels portray the Pharisees as having a lot of negative traits.  They are pictured as elitist, arrogant, and uncaring.  They were hypocrites who taught others hard truths that they were unwilling to do themselves.  They had no compassion for the infirmed or those who were deemed “sinners.”  They cared more about the traditions of their fathers than the actual Law of God.  They cared more about getting praise from men than giving praise to God.  Their deeds of righteousness: giving, prayer, and fasting, focused primarily on self aggrandizement.  They made and broke their vows based on contrived technicalities.  Their goal was to try and trap Jesus with their dishonest Scripture games and word plays.  Simply, the Gospels do not paint a pretty picture of the Pharisees.

Jesus and the Pharisees:

The problem with the modern insult, however, is that it’s rarely used to talk about these negative traits.  It’s usually used to talk about “strictness” and “legalism.”  Interestingly, these are two things that the Pharisees are NOT rebuked for.  In fact, at times Jesus seems to rebuke them for not being strict enough.

Remember the Sermon on the Mount, one of the most challenging sections of Scripture you will ever read.  The call of the sermon is for a righteousness that “surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees” (Matthew 5:20).  It is to surpass their righteousness in sincerity (6:1), priority (6:33), but also in practice (5:21-48).  Whether the subject is anger, insults, violence, lust, adultery, divorce, honesty, revenge, self sacrifice, or love, Jesus calls His disciples to an incredibly high standard, unparalleled by anyone, far exceeding the Pharisees.

In Matthew 15 Jesus levels a harsh rebuke at the Pharisees, not for binding the law too strictly, but for ignoring the law in favor of traditions.  “Why do you transgress the commandments of God for the sake of your traditions?…by this you invalidate the word of God for the sake of tradition…In vain do they worship Me, Teaching for doctrines the precepts of men” (Matthew 15:3-9).  Jesus appears to have a pretty big problem with ignoring or transgressing the law.

In Matthew 23, Jesus makes it pretty clear that His problem is not how strictly the Pharisees teach the Law, but that they ignore important parts of it.  He says, “all that they [the Pharisees] tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds.  They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger” (Matthew 23:3-4).  Later in the chapter, Jesus will say, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law; justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.  You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:23).

Notice several points in this passage.  1) Jesus saw some teachings of the law as more important than others. 2) The Pharisees stressed doing the less important stuff. 3) Jesus stressed doing ALL the stuff.

He didn’t rebuke the Pharisees for doing the less important parts right, but for neglecting the most important sections of Law.  His problem was that they “swallowing camels” not that they “strained gnats.”  Jesus ends verse 23 by saying, “these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.”  If it is important Jesus want you to do it.  If it is less important, Jesus still wants you to do it.  The Pharisees majored in minors, and Jesus wanted them to major in all of it.

Are You a Modern Pharisee?

If you pick and choose which of God’s teachings to follow, then you may be a Pharisee.  If you show no compassion to the man on the street because it was his sins that got him there, then you may be a Pharisee.  If you care more about looking “conservative” or “sound” than sincere devotion to God, you may be a Pharisee.  If you bind beloved traditions on others, then you may be a Pharisee.  If you care more about winning arguments with word traps than you do souls, you may be a Pharisee.  If you expect more of others than you do of yourself, you may be a Pharisee.  But, if you are strict or even “legalistic” in your adherence to divine teaching, rest assured, you are following the path of Jesus more than the Pharisees.

Lofty Expectations

Lofty Expectations

I hate this blog.  I have written exactly one post for it.  Well, I guess this makes two.  But I have tried to write several others.  It weighs on my mind.  I feel I need to write something.  Then behold, I get an idea.  I sit.  I write.  Then I stop.  I call myself an idiot, shut my computer and go on with my day.  Every time I start writing I feel woefully inadequate.  I don’t want you nice folks to take time out of your day to read this blog if it is just going to be wasted (I sincerely hope that I am not wasting your time right now).  That’s just my personality.  I’m never satisfied with what I write, and I feel people expect better from me.  I can tell myself that God gives the increase, but honestly, even planting or watering make me nervous.  I feel the weight of other people’s expectations and it makes me want to just avoid it altogether.

It’s a confidence thing.  I just returned from the Harding Lectureship and I went to “Better: Texas Style” earlier in September.  I love going to lectureships and hearing sermons from godly men, but again, I always leave feeling woefully inadequate.  I meet and listen to men who are extremely knowledgeable, talented speakers and by all appearances are godly passionate Christians.  Then I look at myself.  I know my sins and I see in myself so many things that I hate.  I listen to my sermons and realize I mixed up the names “Jesus” and “John,” and then asked everyone to turn to 2nd Philippians or something goofy like that.  I get intimidated when I preach to a group of Christians.  I am speaking in a lectureship later this year where I am easily the most under qualified speaker attending, and it is stressing me out in cataclysmic ways.

But here is the thing.  I am going to speak in that lectureship.  I am going to because I have been given the opportunity to teach God’s word and even in my frail human condition I trust that God will be proud of me.  I am going to preach again on Sunday.  Can other people be found who preach better?  Certainly.  But I have a responsibility to God and His people to do my absolute best.  Am I going to write another blog?  YES! (Maybe.  It could possibly be 2 years from now).  But, I am going to try.  God expects us to try.

One of the most intimidating passages in Scripture is in the Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus says to the multitudes that followed Him, “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13, 14).  YIKES!  Talk about expectations.  I could see myself nodding along to those words, but in my head thinking, “Um…I’m pretty sure that You are the light of the world.  I’m just trying not to mess it up too bad.”  In fact, Jesus even says that He is “the Light of the World” (John 8:12 and 9:5).  How can we be described in the same way that Jesus is?  Because God has great expectations of us.  We are expected to make an impact.  God put a valuable treasure inside us; clay pots (2 Corinthians 4:7-10). God expects us to represent Jesus to the world.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is the master Teacher and Healer.  He is the one persecuted and killed in service to God.  But in Acts, which serves as Volume 2 to Luke, the ministry of Jesus is continued by His followers.  The Apostles now become powerful teachers and healers.  In Luke the fringe of Jesus’ garment heals the woman with a 12 year hemorrhage (Luke 8:43-48), and Jesus raises the dead girl who was 12 years old (Luke 8:40-42, 49-56)?  Well, in Acts it’s Peter’s shadow (Acts 5:15, 16) and the handkerchiefs touched by Paul (Acts 19:11, 12) that have the power to heal.  In Acts it’s Peter and Paul who are able to raise the dead (Acts 9:36-43; Acts 20:8-12).  Jesus was persecuted and killed in Luke.  Jesus was on trial in front of those in authority.  Upon His death He cried out for the forgiveness of those killing Him (Luke 23:34).  In Acts, the disciples are persecuted and killed.  Peter, John, Stephen and Paul all have to stand trial to the authorities.  Upon Stephen’s death he cried out for the forgiveness of those killing him (Acts 7:60).  It is the disciples who continue the work, life and ministry of Jesus.

Basically, the point I am trying to make is that we all have expectations laid upon us.  Christians are supposed to be the lights of the whole world.  Christians are supposed to carry on the work and ministry of Jesus.  God expects great things of us.  This can certainly be intimidating.  We might look at ourselves and feel unworthy.  We might feel that others can do a much better job than we can.  Some people may even grow weary and give up because of these thoughts.  Some, ahem, might never write another blog.  But don’t.  Do not give up.  Do not rely on others to do this work.  Try as hard as you can.  Try to meet God’s lofty expectations.  Try to be, like Jesus was, the light of the world.  Try to be the best teacher, servant, comforter, Christian that you can be.  Try to make an impact for Christ on the world.  Try to be the best you can be for Him!

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