Rubber of faith hitting the road

I wonder if much of our lives as Christians are lived as a cliché in a sense.  We come to church, we call ourselves Christians, we try to live good, wholesome lives.  We don’t lie, cheat or steal.  We don’t commit adultery and certainly don’t murder.  We try to live up to a moral standard that is in keeping with scripture.  That’s all ok when things are going well in our lives.  Our health is good, blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels are all well within normal range.  All our relationships are happy and healthy.  Our marriages are wonderful, and our children are well behaved, respectful little saints.  Our vocation in not only fulfilling but providing resources and finances for us to live our lives in a way that we are we are financially free.john-3-16-dogtag-wallpaper

What happens when things don’t go according to plan?  What happens when illness strikes, financial pressure looms, our families are under pressure and relational strife begins to show it ugly head?  This is the place where the proverbial rubber of our faith hits the road. 

God is normally the easiest scape-goat, isn’t He?  Why God!  We cry out. We begin to question, we begin to withdraw.  We often begin to get angry with God.  Now many of these emotions are natural reactions.  But do we stop with the emotions and reactions or do we begin to put them into our words, actions and deeds? 

We face much in this life, don’t we?  Illness, pain, death, struggles and strife.  But let me ask you a question.  “If you are not holding onto Jesus and your faith when the tempest strikes, what are you holding onto?”

Let’s read verse John 3:16 from a few different translations: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (NIV) - “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. (MSG) -  For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. (AMP)

This is a strange message to the world isn’t it?  Paul puts it this way in His letter to the church in Corinth, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1Co 1:18. A person goes through life having one of these two experiences: they are either perishing, moving ever downward toward the grave; or they are being saved, moving ever upward toward eternal life.

In the Greek, both words are present, continuous actions; that is, a person is perishing or is being saved. The words are not static; a person is not sitting still. We are ever "perishing," more and more being gripped by the flesh and being conditioned to accept a perishing, dying world; or we are ever "being saved," more and more being freed to walk righteously and godly in this present world.

This is where we talk about the rubber hitting the road of our faith.  When things begin to go badly in our lives, illness strikes, relationships are strained, finances crunch, this is the point where we have a choice to make.  To choose to live as someone who is ever ‘being saved’ or someone who ‘is perishing’.

Could it be that we should be holding onto John 3:16, allowing it to be central in our lives, forming and informing our responses to life? When we do, we can find peace in all circumstances, as Paul wrote, “I’m not telling you this because I’m in need, for I have learned to be satisfied in any circumstance. I know what it means to lack, and I know what it means to experience overwhelming abundance. For I’m trained in the secret of overcoming all things, whether in fullness or in hunger. And I find that the strength of Christ’s explosive power infuses me to conquer every difficulty.” (Phil 4:11-13 TPT)

The point is we should be looking to Christ, putting him first, and in Him, finding contentment in every circumstance, so that the strength of His explosive power infuses us to conquer every difficulty.

How big is your Jesus?

I grew up in a Greek Orthodox home and had a very specific idea and understanding of who Jesus is.  In my own mind and understanding He was a far off, inaccessible, pasty, insipid, white looking fellow with a beard and very sad eyes and a golden halo around His head. Now I am not inferring that this is a Greek Orthodox perspective of Jesus, it was just my own.  I remember many year later, I was sitting in a Vineyard service at Hillside Vineyard Church and Costa Mitchell was preaching.  He described his understanding of Jesus.  He said, “My Jesus is a well-built guy, wearing Levi Jeans, Nike’s takkies and a golf shirt. I was shocked!  How irreverent!  It was a journey for me to discover that I could have a personal relationship with Jesus and just Who He is.  There was a revolution in my heart and mind as I began to understand more and more about this Jesus.  About who He is.powerful-waves3

Do you know who He is? Do you know how big Jesus is?  I am on a journey through the gospel of John with our community of faith at Willow Hill and John records the following: The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel." Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God." The next day John was there again with two of his disciples.  When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!" (1:29-36 NIV)

There are three aspects of Jesus that John highlights here:

Firstly, we read of Jesus as the Son of God. The reality of this is confirmed in other places in the Gospels such as Matthew 3:17 - And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." (NIV) And Matthew 17:5 - But while Peter was still speaking, a radiant cloud composed of light spread over them, enveloping them all. And God’s voice suddenly spoke from the cloud, saying, “This is my dearly loved Son, the constant focus of my delight. Listen to him!”(TPT)

Jesus is the Son of the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, He is the Son of the great ‘I Am’!

Secondly, we see Jesus as the Lamb of God which is explained on so well in 1 Peter, “For you know that your lives were ransomed once and for all from the empty and futile way of life handed down from generation to generation. It was not a ransom payment of silver and gold, which eventually perishes, but the precious blood of Christ—who like a spotless, unblemished lamb was sacrificed for us. This was part of God’s plan, for he was chosen and destined for this before the foundation of the earth was laid, but he has been made manifest in these last days for you. (1:18-20 TPT) Jesus while being the Son of God was ransomed, He was given as a sacrifice that you may be saved from an empty and futile way of life, and in order that you may be reconciled with the Father.

Thirdly, we see Jesus as the One who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.  As Christians we are called to Gods mission on this earth and we need to be empowered for this mission.  What does the mission look like?

Jesus lays out the mission clearly in the gospel of Matthew, “Yet through it all, this joyful assurance of the realm of heaven’s kingdom will be proclaimed all over the world, providing every nation with a demonstration of the reality of God…” (24:14 TPT) Do you see it? Proclamation and Demonstration of the kingdom.

Our mission is to proclaim the fact that the world needs to know about the Messiah. As the Son of God, the Messiah that is so different.  He that brings a new message, a message of God's love—a love so strong that it proclaims the truth:

The truth that humanity is sinful and dying and decaying - "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

The truth that humanity must repent - On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Mark 2:17

The truth that humanity must prepare, for the kingdom of God is at hand - From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." Mat 4:17

All these absolute truths are not very popular in today’s day and age because people do not believe in absolutes anymore.  For me, this is why the demonstration is so very important.  We are called to put Jesus on display.  How do we do that? Jesus gives lays out our mission to put Him on display in Matthew, “You must continually bring healing to lepers and to those who are sick, and make it your habit to break off the demonic presence from people, and raise the dead back to life. Freely you have received the power of the kingdom, so freely release it to others. (10:8 TPT)

Obviously, we can’t do this on our own.  We need to be empowered for this mission.  Who will empower us? John said it in the text we read earlier, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” Luke records Jesus’ words on how we will be empowered and to what purpose in the book of ActsBut I promise you this—the Holy Spirit will come upon you and you will be seized with power. And you will be my messengers to Jerusalem, throughout Judea, the distant provinces—even to the remotest places on earth!” (1:8 TPT)

As you read these words do you still see Jesus as that placid, inaccessible, limp Sunday School Jesus who is meek and mild?  Hopefully you are beginning to realize that this Jesus you had in your mind is different?  Do you know Who He truly is?  How big your Jesus truly is?  The fact that Jesus is the Son of God, the Lamb of God and that He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit should transform some of your thinking?  It should impact your life, your actions and your deeds.  

I wonder if you have been trying to fit this Jesus into an old way of thinking and understanding?  I am reminded of His words to us, “Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved." (Mat 9:17 NIV) Jesus doesn’t fit into your old religious system.  He can’t be contained in the wineskin of worn-out tradition. Jesus is new, exhilarating and powerful.  He makes our hearts and lives new.  Jesus didn’t come to reform religion but to form you!

Are we so comfortable with our inaccessible, insipid, limp, Religious Instruction, Sunday school Jesus that we could not even consider that there may be more to this Christian life?  Like that old jersey or shoes that are just so comfortable that we would not consider buying new ones and refuse to throw the old ones out? Everything has changed with Jesus coming into this world.  Could it be time to understand just Who He is, how big He is?  And perhaps there is a new way of relating to this Jesus. Or is our understanding of Jesus and our religious practices more important than our relationship with the real Jesus? Do you know who He is? Do you know how big Jesus is? 

Here are the words from that famous sermon “Seven Way King” (aka That’s My King) as spoken by Dr. S.M. Lockridge many years ago.  Why not slowly read and reflect on them?

My King was born King. The Bible says He’s a Seven Way King. He’s the King of the Jews - that’s an Ethnic King. He’s the King of Israel - that’s a National King. He’s the King of righteousness. He’s the King of the ages. He’s the King of Heaven. He’s the King of glory. He’s the King of kings and He is the Lord of lords. Now that’s my King.

Well, I wonder if you know Him. Do you know Him? Don’t try to mislead me. Do you know my King? David said the Heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork. My King is the only one of whom there are no means of measure that can define His limitless love. No far seeing telescope can bring into visibility the coastline of the shore of His supplies. No barriers can hinder Him from pouring out His blessing.

He’s enduringly strong. He’s entirely sincere. He’s eternally steadfast. He’s immortally graceful. He’s imperially powerful. He’s impartially merciful. That’s my King. He’s God’s Son. He’s the sinner’s Saviour. He’s the centerpiece of civilization. He stands alone in Himself. He’s honest. He’s unique. He’s unparalleled. He’s unprecedented. He’s supreme. He’s pre-eminent. He’s the grandest idea in literature. He’s the highest personality in philosophy. He’s the supreme problem in higher criticism. He’s the fundamental doctrine of historic theology. He’s the carnal necessity of spiritual religion. That’s my King.

He’s the miracle of the age. He’s the superlative of everything good that you choose to call Him. He’s the only one able to supply all our needs simultaneously. He supplies strength for the weak. He’s available for the tempted and the tried. He sympathizes, and He saves. He’s the Almighty God who guides and keeps all his people. He heals the sick. He cleanses the lepers. He forgives sinners. He discharged debtors. He delivers the captives. He defends the feeble. He blesses the young. He serves the unfortunate. He regards the aged. He rewards the diligent and He beautifies the meek. That’s my King.

Do you know Him? Well, my King is a King of knowledge. He’s the wellspring of wisdom. He’s the doorway of deliverance. He’s the pathway of peace. He’s the roadway of righteousness. He’s the highway of holiness. He’s the gateway of glory. He’s the master of the mighty. He’s the captain of the conquerors. He’s the head of the heroes. He’s the leader of the legislatures. He’s the overseer of the overcomers. He’s the governor of governors. He’s the prince of princes. He’s the King of kings and He’s the Lord of lords. That’s my King.

His office is manifold. His promise is sure. His light is matchless. His goodness is limitless. His mercy is everlasting. His love never changes. His Word is enough. His grace is sufficient. His reign is righteous. His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. I wish I could describe Him to you … but He’s indescribable. That’s my King. He’s incomprehensible, He’s invincible, and He is irresistible.

I’m coming to tell you this, that the heavens of heavens can’t contain Him, let alone some man explain Him. You can’t get Him out of your mind. You can’t get Him off of your hands. You can’t outlive Him and you can’t live without Him. The Pharisees couldn’t stand Him, but they found out they couldn’t stop Him. Pilate couldn’t find any fault in Him. The witnesses couldn’t get their testimonies to agree about Him. Herod couldn’t kill Him. Death couldn’t handle Him and the grave couldn’t hold Him. That’s my King.

He always has been and He always will be. I’m talking about the fact that He had no predecessor and He’ll have no successor. There’s nobody before Him and there’ll be nobody after Him. You can’t impeach Him and He’s not going to resign. That’s my King! That’s my King!

Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory. Well, all the power belongs to my King. We’re around here talking about black power and white power and green power, but in the end all that matters is God’s power. Thine is the power. Yeah. And the glory. We try to get prestige and honor and glory for ourselves, but the glory is all His. Yes. Thine is the Kingdom and the power and glory, forever and ever and ever and ever. How long is that? Forever and ever and ever and ever… And when you get through with all of the ever’s, then …Amen!

This Jesus didn’t come to reform religion, He came to form you!  He is the Son of God, the Lamb of God, He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. Could it be as you read this there needs to be a revolution in your heart and mind as to Who He truly is?

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