But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.
Acts 20:24 (NLT)
Can you imagine being completely dedicated to spreading the message of God? All activities, decisions and behaviors point to Jesus. The manner in which we carry out the necessities of life reflect God’s character. Nothing is more important.
La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona is an example.
This translates to ‘The Holy Family’ and is a masterpiece cathedral by Gaudí. There are many cathedrals in Spain, but this one is different in that every detail tells the story of God’s love in Jesus.
We followed the audio guide as did most other visitors. It described each sculpture’s intricate details and its symbolism. Beginning with the beauty and variety of God’s creation, stepping through the events of Jesus’ life and finally to His glory in heaven, Gaudí wanted this cathedral to point to Christ, not himself. He used his gifts well to put God on display.
I love that thousands and thousands of people hear the story of Jesus every day as they listen to the audio guide. Not sanitized or politically correct, but welcoming all. One door is carved with the phrase ‘give us this day, our daily bread’ in almost all of the world’s languages.
Though Gaudí has been dead nearly 100 years, he continues to spread the Good News.
What would it look like to use all your energy and gifts to point to Christ?
Can you imagine giving your life in this way?
Is this what it means to surrender to Christ?
When we surrender to the Holy Spirit, Christ is magnified, not us.” – Francis Chan
The covenant-call to be God’s people, far from being primarily an invitation to special privilege, is first of all a summons to special responsibility. God calls a people to live in response to the needs of others, to live in right relationship with God, to bring justice and mercy to the land, and to lead the way toward peace and freedom. The covenant binds [God’s people] to trust in God alone, not putting confidence in false prophets or false securities.
–From Seeking God’s Peace in a Nuclear Age: A Call
to Disciples of Christ
God promises life to those who believe in Jesus. We are set apart but not with special privilege. Instead, we become servants because God’s people live in response to the needs of others.
Rather than privilege, we have a special responsibility to express God’s radical justice and mercy through our lives. Jesus shows particular concern for the poor, the social outcasts, the ill, the mentally ill and for those without a support network. His mercy even extends to those who have committed the worst kind of evil. In contrast to our idea of fairness, both long time believers and late-in-life believers receive the same reward.
God’s justice and mercy is radically different from ours. (tweet this)
In addition, God’s people trust God above all else. Our confidence is not in our career, bank balance, social standing, family, or health. None of these is secure. Only God is truly reliable. We trust Him to provide our needs as we follow His guidance (at least it’s our goal to trust Him that well).
How can you show God’s justice and mercy in your circles of influence?
Could you expand your circles?
When have you trusted God to provide instead of relying on yourself?
Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then throw you into hell. Yes, he’s the one to fear.
Luke 12:5 (NLT)
Aren’t these some of Jesus’ most encouraging words?
I grew up hearing about hell as a very real, scary, painful, forever place and I did not want to be there. So I chose the way out and avoided destruction by following Jesus.
I didn’t love Jesus, nor did I feel loved by Him. But I selfishly wanted what He had to give: a ticket to heaven. I began doing what I thought God required: attending every church event, memorizing Bible verses handwritten on index cards, and kneeling
bedside in prayer.
As time went on, my enthusiasm faded. It was too hard and it didn’t mean much. I avoided thinking about God, Jesus and hell for the next 25 years. With my questionable behavior, I figured I was doomed. Then my nerdy curiosity (or was it God?) led me to join the Disciple Bible study.
God was wooing me back.
This time, my ticket to heaven came bundled with helpful guidance, explanation and discussion about the Bible which helped reshape my angry, judgmental, ‘damning me to hell’ image of God. I began to see God’s true character and to know that He loved me. And I began to love God.
In His own words, God revealed the life He wants for me right now, not later in heaven and certainly not hell. The Disciple Bible study was the beginning of the best part of my life, thank God!
Jesus is more than a ticket to heaven. (tweet this)
Does your picture of God match His self portrait? How do you know?
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 (NIV)
Is Jesus the only way to heaven?
Jesus says yes. “No one comes to the Father except through me.” This one statement prevents many from believing. How could a loving God exclude good people? How could He ignore the faithful of other religions? Don’t all religions really worship the same God? Doesn’t God love everyone?
I don’t have answers. But I do believe that Jesus is the Son of God who carried our sins to the cross. And as the one whose blood covers sin, He alone is qualified to decide whether or not a person enters into God’s presence. So I believe Jesus is one way to God.
That said, there may be many ways to Jesus. We don’t know. Jesus is the gatekeeper and gets to decide. But why, after knowing the one sure way, would we take a chance on an unknown possibility?
You may unfollow this blog because of this post, but I hope instead that it will prompt deep thinking. Wrestle with the question. Read scripture. Engage in conversation. Pray. I have come to this place in my beliefs over years of study, prayer and conversation. Is my view correct? It’s impossible to know. I, too, am disturbed by the possibility that not everyone I love will live in eternity. I can’t know the answers. I can only know and trust Jesus. By His wounds we are healed.
We can’t know all the answers. We can only know Jesus and trust His goodness. (tweet this)
For you granted [your Son] authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
Jesus had authority over all people.
Yet instead of wielding his power to stay on top of the power pyramid, Jesus elevated the sick, poor, grieving, humble and persecuted. He declared blessings on the generous, compassionate, peacemaker, and believer.
We have power too.
Our socio-economic and educational statuses often position us within the power pyramid, but we have power in every human interaction. Our words and tone of voice can build or destroy. Our choice to see and hear someone defines their position above or below us.
What did Jesus do with His power?
Jesus paid particular attention to the outcast of His day. He listened, taught, healed, touched, and made himself known to these people. Those who were confident in their status weren’t changed by Jesus’ power. They didn’t comprehend His teaching. They weren’t healed.
In God’s kingdom, the last will be first.
After the God of the universe stooped to touch dirty feet and tenderly, lovingly do a servant’s task, he silently accepted unjust accusations and brutal punishment. He withheld his power and allowed these events to occur with a specific purpose – so that you and I could approach God and have a personal relationship with Him.
For them Jesus sanctified himself so thatthey too could be sanctified.
Discover the Christian meaning of power and learn how to use it for the good of others. –Richard J. Foster (tweet this)
How do you use power? How can you support the Kingdom’s power structure?
I have become a servant… to present to you the word of God in its fullness – the mystery that has been kept hidden for… generations, but is now disclosed to all [believers]… God has chosen to make known…the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you… We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom… To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me.
Colossians 1:25-29 (NIV – abbreviated and emphasis added)
Don’t follow my example.
After my 13 ‘kids’ confirmed their faith, a friend complimented me for leading by example. Oddly, it disturbed me. Part of me appreciated the kind words, but another part said “You’ve missed the point.”
I don’t want to be an example; I want you to see Jesus. I am who I am because Jesus is inside me. What you see is His energy working through me.
My last post encouraged you to follow Jesus’ example. I take it back. Don’t kill yourself trying to meet Jesus’ crazy high standard. It’s unachievable, discouraging, and leads to feelings of guilt.
Let me explain. Even though Jesus himself told the disciples “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:20), in the same conversation He said “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Let’s not strive on our own, but get Jesus inside of us. The Holy Spirit is the motivating force within us, providing the desire, wisdom, and capacity to be good examples.
May people see Jesus in us!
Apart from Jesus we can do nothing. We just get tired trying to be good people. (tweet this)
Do you work hard at being a good example? Could you use some help?
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth.” When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.
1 Peter 2:21-23 (NIV)
Jesus left us an example.
As we follow Jesus to the cross, we learn what it means to be disciples. We are called to love others as He loves, serve with humility, treat outcasts as equals, call out hypocrisy, and entrust ourselves to God. Even in His suffering, Jesus is our model.
He didn’t retaliate. He didn’t threaten revenge. While His lips were sealed, I’m certain His heart was in prayer for His oppressors. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught “But I say love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” (Matt 5:44) Can you even imagine praying for the one ripping flesh from your back or spitting in your face?
What is our suffering?
Is it the dismissive eye roll in response to objections to profanity? Is it being excluded from neighborhood book group because we don’t gossip? Is it explaining to our child that they’re sitting the bench for choosing worship over practice? Is it losing a job for maintaining Christian values?
None of our suffering compares to His and yet He didn’t respond bitterly. He prayed for changed hearts and God’s forgiveness.
Jesus set a high bar and we are called to follow. (tweet this)
Will you make the difficult choice no matter the consequence?
You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.
Matthew 16:23b, 25 (NIV)
When you lose, you win.
Jesus speaks these words to the disciples after telling them of His suffering and death at the hands of the religious leaders and of His resurrection after 3 days. Immediately Peter protests “No Jesus, that’s not how the story goes!” But it is.
Peter had an expectation about how the Messiah would save Israel. But Peter was constrained by his own realm of possibilities. No plan to save Israel included Jesus’ death. It was inconceivable.
Each of us has an outline for how we’d like our lives to play out based in reality. Even our dreams are limited by what we conceive as humanly possible. Jesus says “Let it go. You’re thinking too small. You have no idea what we can do together.”
Jesus tells us that by releasing control of our future and following His guidance, we will lose our ordinary, safe, comfortable (and wasted) life and get one that is truly worth living. His plan might not be easy, predictable, or comfortable, but will be more fulfilling than our own.
God carefully created us with passions and talents. He will certainly use these for His purposes, perhaps in ways we can’t envision. But God makes no mistakes. He is inherently good and has an unimaginable life in store for you.
Will you trust Him?
Will you let God reframe your picture perfect life?
When we give our life to God, we get a better one. (tweet this)