Saturday, November 27, 2010

You Probably Won't Want To Read This

So many people think they know God but they only know the god we have created. I have written posts in the past about the "plastic dashboard Jesus" describing an attitude where we want a convenient and silent god. We want one that we can mold after our own image and who will remain close enough to respond when we need help. We want a Jesus like what Peter wanted; one who will fit into our expectations; one who will give us health, wealth and happiness, as if that is God's purpose in our life. What a self-centered generation we are. In the last two days we have seen Peter declare who Jesus is and then deny what Jesus must do simply because it did not meet with his expectations. So Jesus turned to his disciples and made it very clear what it meant to be his disciple:

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done." (Matthew 16:24-27)

Even though Jesus spoke plainly here I am finding that most people follow an "idea" of Jesus and not the "reality". We follow Jesus for what we can get, not realizing that to be a disciple means to give. We go to church with an expectation to receive but few of us understand that we must go with an readiness to give to the Body of Christ. We ignore these things that Jesus taught:

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:31-33)

Following Jesus requires that we "deny ourselves" to "take up our cross" so that we can "follow Jesus". This means a harsh reality check. Our life, our comfort, our pleasure must come second place to the Kingdom of God.This is where we get stuck. This is where we find it easier to ignore the reality of Jesus and make our own little plastic version. People would rather chase after their own comfort, pleasures, riches, fame then deal with the reality of the attitude in which Jesus called us to serve. He set an example for us that we too easily dismiss. What do we really think "taking up our cross" means? Blessing people so we will get something back? Seeding money so we will get 100 fold back? Is our bottom line always what we will get out of it? This is not the attitude of a servant, or a disciple of Jesus Christ. Let Paul's description sink in:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  
Who, being in very nature God,
   did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
   taking the very nature of a servant,
   being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
   he humbled himself
   and became obedient to death—
      even death on a cross!
  (Philippians 2:5-8)

Not too many of us are able to achieve this attitude because we have allowed ourselves to become duel citizens. We want the best of both worlds but it doesn't work that way. We are far too attached to the things of this world, ignoring the warning of Jesus:

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other." (Matthew 6:24)

Although our heart has been transformed and our spirit desires to serve God, our body has yet to be transformed and is the source of a lot of struggles for us.Jesus stated that the spirit is willing but the body is weak. It takes effort and a decision to "deny ourselves" and to "take up our cross". To cast off the trappings of this world is not easy but everything is possible for those who believe. Faith is not simply singing praises. Faith is turning those praises into actions. Faith is allowing the fruit of the Spirit priority over the fruit of the flesh. There is a reason why Paul states that we need to work out our salvation daily until we also reach that point of submission as Paul did when he declared that he had learned the secret of contentment in a life that saw such extremes:

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13)

Can we find contentment in Jesus and only Jesus, accepting the season of need and the season of plenty without being distracted from our service? Can we give the highest priority of our life our service to our King and set aside the distractions of this world? It is what Jesus said we had to do to be his disciples. Not only that, the mission he gave us was not to go and make believers but to go and make disciples. How can we do that if we do not even know what it is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? It is time to put away our little plastic Jesus and bend our knee to the King of kings and Lord of lords, to deny ourselves and take up that cross that has been waiting for us. It's time for the Body to rise up in power and strength as we discover our true inheritance. Arise my soul, arise! 

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