Today I want to talk in a different way a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago. In that post I talked about the idea that as Christians in our current culture we need to lead with the truth of Jesus. We can’t let Jesus become simply a means to our end. I talked about how we should use the truth of Jesus vs. the language of the present. Or at the least we should let the truth of Jesus be our larger context for any language we use. I said we need to lead with The Truth instead of being in constant reaction mode.
Today I want to think about another angle of this same basic idea.
What should our goal as Christians be? What are we aiming at? Yes each individual believer but also corporately. What is the ultimate goal?
Today I want to continue a series about what it looks like to lead as a Christian in today’s culture. We first looked at the importance of starting with looking at our own heart and what we are really all about. Then we looked at the importance of defining and living out of the narrative of God’s story vs. narratives dictated by current culture. Next we took an inward turn to look at taking care of our own business first.
Today I want to look at leading with Jesus and His truth.
Now that sounds sort of obvious. But I honestly don’t see a lot of it right now. What I see is a lot of Christians using Jesus to back up their side. I also see a lot of Christians saying true things about Jesus, but only the parts that they want to virtue signal with. I also think there are a lot of Christians who are sort of fixated on a particular part of Jesus and are just trying to follow that one part.
Finally I think there are people who are trying to show that Jesus is relevant to all that is going on right now in an attempt to win particular people over, or perhaps keep particular people from leaving Christianity.
But frankly this is creating confusion and it’s all hijacking Jesus. Now understand I’m not accusing everyone, or anyone in particular, of meaning to do that (although there are certainly people that are). It also risks splitting the body of Christ in places it just doesn’t have to be split.
What often ends up happening is that Jesus ends up being the support for a truth rather than the truth itself.
Mark 10:46-52 tells the story of Jesus’ encounter with Bartimaeus the blind man.
Jesus and his followers are entering the city of Jericho. As they are walking along what is probably the main road it seems there is a crowd of people gathering. Bartimaeus was a blind man sitting and begging on the side of the road. When he hears that it is Jesus who is coming by he begins to call out to Him, asking for Him to have mercy on Him.
Bartimaeus had obviously heard of Him. He cries out to Him. The crowd tries to quiet him. They basically say, get back to your side of the street. This is Jesus, He has important things to do or teach. Stop crying out. But this doesn’t stop Baritmaeus. Instead he cries out all the louder.
A few weeks ago I wrote a 5 part study on the parable of the Samaritan. Following that in a related post we looked at the idea of what it might mean to love our enemies. In a way this all points toward the idea of loving our neighbor.
Jesus uses the parable of the Samaritan in response to a Jewish lawyer who had asked what the greatest commandment was. Jesus answered that the greatest commandment was to love God with all of our heart, strength and mind. The second follows; that is to love our neighbor. The lawyer then asks who is our neighbor. Jesus uses the parable to make the point that every person, yes even our enemy, is our neighbor.
I’m a big lawn guy. I love a good looking yard and I work probably too hard to have one. There are a lot of keys to a good lawn and I’ll come back to this analogy at another time. But today I want to talk about preparing the soil for seeding.
If you want to have a good lawn you have to prepare the soil. If you just throw seed on top of the bare spots nothing will happen. You can water it and everything else, but it won’t matter much. What you need to do is till up the soil. Get at least three inches deep. You need to get rid of anything else growing there as well as any sort of rocks or debris. Then you rake it smooth and if you’re really into it, which I am, then you get a roller and roll it smooth. Then and only then do you drop some seed, spread evenly of course. Then you gently rake it in to the loose top soil. Then I typically throw some straw on top of it to protect it from erosion and getting washed out. Finally you water it . . . . for a while. You have to keep it moist until it grows. This is to say nothing of the maintenance of the yard to keep out weeds and encourage deep rooting. It’s a continual process.
The same is true of our hearts when it comes to the soil we become for the word of God.
Luke 7:36-50 tells an interesting story that I think is often misinterpreted or glossed over. Jesus is at the home of a pharisee who has requested dinner with Jesus. Let’s push pause right here before we go further.
One of the mistakes we make reading the gospels is that we often turn the Pharisees into one monolithic group. They were not. They were actual people. And Jesus loved them too. Yes they got a lot wrong. Yes many of them did not like Jesus. But Jesus didn’t hate them. He loved them. He kept loving them all the way through the end. Even when He was challenging them He was doing it to try to get them to see the truth. He asks them once – who will save you from hell?! Jesus was trying to get them to get it. Just like everyone else. And some of them were interested. Obviously this Pharisee was curious.
Today is the final part of a three part series on Mark 2:1-12. This is the story where some people bring a paralyzed man to Jesus and because they can’t get him to Jesus they dig a hole in the roof and lower him down. The first week we looked at what Jesus did and why He may have done it. Last week we began to see what we might be able to learn about ministry and evangelization from this story. We talked about how these friends loved their friend, worked as a team, and avoided two traps – they realized they couldn’t fix him, and they didn’t stop because there were obstacles. Today we continue this line of thought.
Their Faith Mattered
These people who brought the paralyzed man had faith in Jesus. They knew that only He could offer eternal forgiveness and that only He could heal the man. Not only that, but they had so much faith that they were really to work really hard to do it. They didn’t let obstacles get in the way. They didn’t quit because it was hard. They were sure that if they could get their friend in front of Jesus that good things would happen.
In the account it says that it is when Jesus saw their faith He said to the man, “You sins are forgiven”.
This is a really tough thought. It doesn’t say that Jesus saw the paralyzed man’s faith. He sees the faith of those who had brought him.
Last week we began to take a look at Mark 2:1-12. This is the story where Jesus is teaching at a house and some people come bringing a paralyzed man to Him. They can’t get him to Jesus because of the crowd so they go to the roof and drop the man down in front of Jesus. Jesus forgives the man of his sins and then heals him. Last time we looked at Jesus and what He was doing in this story. Today I want to look at how this might be applicable to us in evangelization.
One of the things that is clear throughout is that we are called to love everyone. Which leads us to today’s scripture. Matthew 5:43-48. Jesus is working His way through the sermon on the mount.** He says:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,45 so that you may [a]be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and theunrighteous.46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?48 Therefore [b]you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
On its surface this idea does make sense, at least theologically. After all we are called to love everyone. God loves everyone. God loves your enemy. The one who persecutes you was created in God’s image. Jesus died for your enemy. Jesus prayed for and loved His enemies while He was here, even while they were crucifying Him. We’re supposed to follow Jesus.
I’ve decided to start a weekly look at scripture, or bible study here at the blog. For the next five weeks I’d like to take a look at one of the most recognized parables of Jesus. The parable of the good samaritan.
Jesus tells the parable in Luke 10:25-37. Here is a brief rundown:
A religious lawyer comes to Jesus and asks what must he do to inherit eternal life. Jesus replies by asking the teacher what the scriptures say. He replies that with the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind (in other words make God number one) and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus agrees and says go and do this, and you will have eternal life.