When you’re reading the Bible or sitting in a Bible class do you ever secretly think you’re better in some ways than the characters you’re studying? Before that sounds terrible let me explain.
Moses is walking along minding his own business and tending to his father in-law’s flock in Exodus three. As the chapter progresses we see that he has a supernatural encounter with God when God appears to him from a burning bush. The voice of The Angel of the Lord is speaking from a bush that isn’t consumed by this supernatural fire— incredible. Would that be enough to convince you to go and confront the most powerful and powerfully stubborn world leader of the day?
What about the disciples when Jesus calms the storm in Mark four then walks on the water in Mark six? After these encounters the disciples still respond, “Who is this Man?”
Maybe on occasion we find ourselves thinking that we would react and act more favorably in similar situations.
As Christians there are certainly times when we fall embarrassingly short, but the same God that spoke from a burning bush to Moses and calmed the seas is the very God that reaches out to pick us back up when we fall. It’s tragic that some, even in the church, have this image of God in their minds as a stern tyrant waiting for us to become hopelessly tangled in this messy world. Your Creator is just too perfect to act like that. If you find yourself struggling spiritually then may this be a friendly reminder to look up and grab the hand of our Savior. He understands how human we are and how desperately we needed the One He sent in the first place.
Inasmuch as we don’t want laws or policies enacted that violate God’s Word and we want precious freedoms, especially religious ones, preserved and protected, we can really get into what is going on in Washington, from Capitol Hill to Pennsylvania Avenue. Many know that “D.C.” is an abbreviation for “District of Columbia,” an area of land created at about the time of our nation’s founding under the direct jurisdiction of the U.S. Congress that is not a state.
However, as politics has vied for sports and entertainment as an idol in our culture, it has become the source of unnecessary and even immoral strife between Christians. Blind support and allegiance for one major political party or the other can do more than make us inconsistent. It can make us a stumbling block. It seems to me that D.C. can stand for some dangerously different things.
Distracted Christians. Search high and low in your New Testaments, written during the time of the wicked, often unfair-to-Christians, Roman Empire. The disciples were about the business of evangelism (Acts 8:4) and growing the church (Acts 6:7). Can the rumblings and drama from the nation’s capitol get us so transfixed that we cannot see past it or through it to our individual and collective mission as God’s people? He has us here to get people into the Kingdom of His dear Son (Col. 1:13). Everything else is secondary.
Divided Churches. For as long as I’ve been preaching, I’ve seen politics come between brethren in the local church. Thankfully, it does not usually become significant enough to trouble the entire congregation but I have seen it do so. What’s more, I’ve seen brothers and sisters become so confrontational and flagrant about politics–especially through the relatively recent medium of social media–that it has been a stumbling block to new and weak Christians. Perhaps the political world in our country has never been so intensely divisive as it currently is, and what typically troubles the world troubles the church. But, when souls are negatively impacted, God will hold the offenders accountable.
Devil’s Cauldron. Please don’t misunderstand. Politics, like money, is a neutral matter. But, like money, it can become the root of all sorts of evil (cf. 1 Tim. 6:10)–enmities, strife, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, and factions (Gal. 5:20). Just prior to this list of activities that are the carrying out of the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16), Paul warns, “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another” (Gal. 5:14-15). Who benefits when things like politics distract and divide Christians? It is not the lost, the church, or the Lord!
I can think of a least three godly, wonderful Christians who are public servants in political office and making a profound impact for good–Bill Reiboldt, Sheila Butt, and John DeBerry. They demonstrate that God’s people can devote themselves to politics without sacrificing their faith and example. For those of us “on the outside looking in,” in our love of country and freedom, may we never allow our attitude, words, or actions to betray our highest calling. The more effectively we reach lost souls, reflect the mind of Christ, and reveal the hope of the gospel, the better our nation (and world) will become. What will that make us? Disciples of Christ!
How many household conversations begin, “Where is my?” Women leave purses in restaurants, men leave their wallets in the other pants pocket, and kids are apt to leave just about anything anywhere. How many vacations begin with the family wondering where some vital item is, fearing that it is sitting at home and not packed in the suitcases?
The disciples had just heard Jesus deliver some powerful lessons (Luke 8:10- 21) and now they were heading across the lake from Galilee to the country of the Gerasenes. En route, while Jesus slept, a fierce windstorm descends and rocks their little boat. In a panic, they awaken Jesus, pleading, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” (Luke 8:24). Jesus calms the storm and subsequently their fears, but He admonishes them, “Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:26).
That is a fair question. They had just heard the Master teacher doing His usual, masterful job (Luke 7:22-28, 31-36; etc.) and seen Him do some incredible miracles (Luke 7:1-10; 11-15; etc.). Between disembarking and the present distress, where did their faith go? The question Jesus asked His disciples is a fair question for each of us today. “Where is your faith?”
IS IT LOST (Luke 18:1ff)? Jesus positively teaches a parable about this in His story about the widow and the unjust judge. The woman was persistent and the judge, who feared neither God nor man, granted her petition due to her tenacious pursuit. Jesus makes application by asking, “When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). It is possible for any one of us to lose our faith. The parable of the sower and the soils shows that people can lose their faith as a consequence of both good times and bad times (cf. Luke 8:11ff). It is equally tragic to see people lose their faith just a few steps into their spiritual journey, several miles down the road, or especially near the end of the road!
IS IT HIDDEN (Luke 8:16)? Jesus demonstrates how ludicrous a view hidden faith is from heaven’s vantage point by illustrating it this way: “No one, when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed” (Luke 8:16a). His point is that light is not doing its job when it is covered, and our faith is not doing its job when it is covered. There will be many settings throughout life when being a Christian and standing up for the Lord will not be popular, admired, or congratulated. What will we do with our faith in such circumstances?
IS IT MISPLACED (Luke 18:9ff)? Everybody puts their trust in someone or some thing. The Bible says that people trust in their own power and might (Psalm 44:6), their wealth and riches (Psalm 49:6), their national leaders (Psalm 146:3), their own hearts (Proverbs 28:26), their idols (Isaiah 42:17), mankind (Jeremiah 17:5), their own achievements (Jeremiah 48:7), or their physical beauty (Ezekiel 16:15). Many of these attributes can serve us in properly placing our faith in God, but far too many are resting all they are or hope to be on those rather than God. In Luke 18:9, Jesus speaks a parable in warning against those who “trust in themselves.” Despite a culture that preaches the preeminent idea of “believing in yourself,” God makes that subservient to trusting in Him.
IS IT VISIBLE (Luke 7:9)? A centurion whose servant was dying was humble, devoted and perceptive in his approach to Jesus, pleading with Him to heal that dear one for him. Jesus marveled aloud, “I have not found such great faith, even in Israel!” The Centurion did not have to wear a badge or button that said, “I believe in the Lord.” People are watching us every day, our speech, decisions, attitudes, actions, and reactions. While it is nice when someone asks, “Are you a Christian?,” how much better for them not to have to ask?
Social media is abuzz about both the caustic criticism of fans commenting on how poorly they think Carrie Fisher has aged and her withering response to their mean, thoughtless remarks. Barely in her twenties when she appeared as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars in 1977, she reprised her role 38 years later almost in her sixties. You will inevitably add some wrinkles and lose some tone in four decades. Fisher gave an interesting interview to Good Housekeeping that appeared just before the debut of the historic blockbuster earlier this month. Apparently, she felt she had to lose a significant amount of weight for the movie. How did she lose the 35 pounds? She says, “I did it the same way everybody has to—don’t eat and exercise more! There is no other way to do it. I have a harder time eating properly than I do exercising. It’s easier for me to add an activity than to deny myself something” (Good Housekeeping UK, staff, 12/7/15).
Most of us can relate to her insight. Being active and doing something takes some resolve and endurance, but withholding or removing what does not belong often challenges our appetites, desires, and cravings much more. This battle rages on an infinitely more serious front than weight-loss, though. Jesus makes self-denial a salient ingredient of discipleship (Luke 9:23). BDAG indicates this word for deny means, “To refuse to pay attention to, disregard, renounce (oneself in this passage)” (Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature 2000 : n. pag. Print.). Restraining myself from saying a sarcastic, bitter, angry word is harder than lifting my voice in song or prayer. Fighting the urge to give in to a temptation requires more effort than doing something kind or necessary for someone in need. Our relationships are not just damaged through neglect or omission, but also by failing to conquer unhealthy and unwholesome attitudes, words, and actions.
Doing and denying are dual elements essential to overcoming this world. God wants obedience, but He also wants self-control. It was a staple expectation of Paul’s gospel preaching (Acts 24:25). It is listed among the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23). It is among the Christian graces (2 Pet. 1:6). But as we regularly master it, we will shine Christ to those around us in a memorable way! As we do God’s will, let’s also deny ourselves.