I have been a Christ-follower for over thirty years and I have thought a lot about why the Church has lost its effectiveness in impacting and changing our culture. Today, I think I have found the answer. I wish I could say that it was due to my own intellectual prowess but the truth is my “discovery ” came from watching a message by Andy Stanley (http://yourmove.is/episode/pro-motion/)
Allow me to share the truths that I have gleaned from his message.
Christians for the most part have substituted devotion for action. We have a tendency to believe all the right things, so that means me and God are good because I believe all the right things. Believers are often content to believe something rather than do something.
We are good at making a point; showing what is wrong but if all we do is make a good point and don’t make a difference; we are not good Christ-followers.
It is NOT enough to believe, you have to DO something with what you know! We need to “put some motion in our devotion.” James 2:27 “…faith by itself is dead if it doesn’t cause you to do any good things.”
Your devotion to God is authenticated by love for others. When my faith stops at “How am I doing God?” we are telling the world “we know it all and are better than y’all.”
Mark 8:22 “…and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. vs. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village…”
Amazingly the first touch from Jesus was not for the man’s physical healing but for his emotional and psychological healing. Jesus could have told the people to take the blind man out of the city. But instead the Bible tells us that Jesus held his hand and lead him out. Jesus did not drag him out; He led him out.
This man literally followed Jesus blindly. He could not see and he didn’t know where Jesus was taking him. As Christ-followers, where we literally follow Jesus blindly. You cannot tell where He is taking you. It may not feel right, He is taking you out of your comfort zone. All you need to know at such times is that Jesus is leading you and you follow.
Mark 8:24 He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” The blind man could not see the people clearly. Your life in Christ is a process. (“…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”) You will not reach spiritual maturity overnight. Jesus understands you are a “work in progress.” You must be totally honest with Jesus and yourself. He loves you and wants you to tell it like it is.
Prayer: Lord, as You show me Your way, I make a commitment to walk with you no matter how uncomfortable it is.
Suffering comes in many shapes and sizes. You can suffer from a cold or cancer; from a trial or a tragedy; from the loss of a friendship to the loss of a friend. Suffering can last for a few moments or months or years. If you are normal, you will try to avoid suffering at any cost. A large majority of television commercials are geared to the elimination or the avoidance of pain.
Let’s face it, we do not like to be uncomfortable. The reason most of us do not exercise as we should is that it is unpleasant [suffering]. The reason we do not eat the proper foods is we do not want to deprive [suffer] ourselves from those foods we crave. But the reality is life, to some degree, is suffering is a part of life.
Sometimes suffering is the result of the trials of life or the challenges that come from following Christ. Suffering is inevitable: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” 2 Timothy 3:12 Other times, suffering is the result of living in a fallen world. “Though our bodies are dying,…” 2 Corinthians 4:16
Suffering can be beneficial: “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James 1:2-4 The Message
Ultimately, suffering is preparation for reigning with Christ eternally. “ If we endure, we will also rule together….” 2 Timothy 2:12
My wife and I have friends who have three year-old twin girls, Rebekah and Hannah. The parents are doing such a great job raising them to love God. Their mother over-heard them talking and discovered they were reciting Scriptures they had learned. Here is the passage they quoted:
“In the beginning, God created the heaven and earth.” And like all Bible scholars, they quoted the Bible reference = God 1:1 Out of the mouths of babes,
The Bible is an amazing book; it contains adventure, romance, poetry, wisdom and a host of other topics. Often the Bible describes a situation that people were facing and you just know how it is going to turn out. All the facts considered there is no other option how this will end.
Unless you consider the Power of the “but.” In Acts 12, Peter has been arrested, placed in prison and guarded by four squads of soldiers; no bail, no escape plan, no lawyer. Peter will be placed on trial but Herod has already decided Peter will die. Acts 12:-34
I love how God intervened, verse 5 “So Peter was kept in prison, BUT the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” [emphasis added] FACT: Peter was kept in prison. No one, including the praying church and Peter, thought he would be ‘rescued.’ Everyone forgot that God is not constrained by the facts. That is why it is called a miracle!
All through the Bible we see the power of the “but.”
- Everyone expected Goliath to kill David…but God
- Jericho expected their walls to protect them…but God
- Paul was bitten by a poisonous snake, everyone expected him to die…but God
- Pilate, the Jews, the disciples didn’t expect Jesus to be resurrected…but God
No matter how bleak or impossible your situation do not forget the “Power of the But.”
I have never doubted that God knows everything. I have said many times in my sermons, “God is never surprised. He is never caught “off-guard.” In Matthew 12:25 and Luke 11:17 I read that Jesus “knew their thoughts” which I have no problem accepting.
But then I read Matthew 8:10 “When Jesus heard this, he was amazed...” Now that started me thinking; if Jesus is God (And He is) and if He knows what people are going to say before they say it (And He does Psalm 139:4), surely He should not have been “amazed” at this Gentile’s faith! Nothing should “amaze” God, right?
As I looked at several commentaries, just as I expected, they explained it that it was Jesus’ humanity that caused Him to be amazed. I can understand their interpretation, for you can fully explain the incarnation; the God/Man? That is difficult to get our minds around!
I guess we will have to file this (and some others) passage under the Deut. 29:29 clause ““There are some things that the Lord our God has kept secret. Only he knows these things…”
Confession: I love electronic gadgets; especially my phone! The GPS is a tremendous help (most of the time.) When I type my destination into my phone, the first question that come on the screen is this: “Directions from current location?” In other words, “Do you want to start where you are?”
Of course I want to start from here. Sometimes I am not sure where “here” is! As soon a I tell the GPS yes, it begins calculating my route – not from where I started before I lost my way, not from the direction I should be headed but from right where I am now!
The most common reason people give for not following Jesus is that they want to get their lives together first. They want to start their journey from somewhere else than where they currently are.
Jesus reaches out to with grace and love and invites you to follow Him, right where you are. Start following Him right where you are and He wants you to start now!
Trust His directions!