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I am a follower of Jesus.
Like you, I am faced with choices, desires, options, and possibilities. Some options are obviously contrary to the heart of God, and so I know not to consider them as viable. But what about those other options? What about my desires, dreams, and hopes? Everyone has them, or had them at one time.
As a follower of Jesus, there are many paths that are considered acceptable by my church culture. If I want to pursue something, and it has a “Jesus element” to it, then I usually get approval by most people that I know. There are other activities that are considered good and acceptable by my popular culture, and are not obviously “wrong”, and so once again I receive a nod of approval.
Following Jesus is completely contrary to the two scenarios that I have just described. Neither public approval nor my church culture approval is enough to validate a trajectory for my life. My own desires, predispositions, and tendencies are not to be the compass for my existence. Someone has said that, “the enemy of the best is the good”. It is incredibly easy to be a few degrees off regarding what one ought to be doing with their life. A few degrees off doesn’t seem like much when a pilot first takes off, but obviously, the further he flies, the more off course he gets. Such can be the outcome of a person’s life. We can be well intentioned, but way off course. We can “land” in a place that is distant from where we should have landed.
To some I may sound idealistic. To others, legalistic and confined. I have considered those possibilities as well. I have wondered if I ought not allow myself to be more free, to follow the impulses and passions of my heart.
As I understand it, following Jesus is neither a matter of pragmatism, or logic. Pragmatism dictates that we ought to do the things that “works”. Logic is the thing that seems obvious.
A Christian man might be a very talented athlete, with a great possibility of a professional career. Pragmatism and logic would dictate that that is the course he ought to pursue, but it may not necessarily be the path that God has chosen for him. Just because a man can follow a path and be successful at it doesn’t mean that he should. Two examples of this come to mind: Jim Elliot, and Eric Liddell. Both men were incredibly gifted athletes, but both set aside their athletic pursuits to pursue a greater prize.
People undoubtedly called Elliot and Liddell foolish for choosing Christian service over athletic careers, but both men stayed their courses as they felt led by God, and their lives and deaths have become models of faith for the Christian Church. Pragmatism and logic would have dictated different paths for Elliot and Liddell. Their personal passion for sports, coupled with their athletic talents would have seemed to be evidence of an athletic career, but the Spirit of God had a greater plan.
Let me conclude with some scripture that points to what I am suggesting.
Philippians 3:12-14 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
John 8:29 And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.
Both Paul and Jesus could have been incredibly successful in the eyes of the world if they had chosen different paths. Paul would have been a shaper of culture, a great author, and a philosopher. Jesus could have changed the temporary course of history for Israel by driving out the Romans, and He would have been an amazing king.
Aren’t we glad that neither of them chose the good instead of the best? Aren’t we glad that they did not allow pragmatism and logic to dictate their actions?
Dear reader, if you are a Christ follower, don’t miss the best because you choose the good. Don’t allow pragmatism or logic to dictate you life path. Just because you can do something well, and because you have a passion for it doesn’t mean that those pursuits should be the focus of your life. God may allow you to pursue some things as part time hobbies, but keep the main thing the main thing.
I think that that is a funny, slightly clever saying. I have been “that” pastor more than a few times.
It’s a weird feeling. I walk into a gathering, such as a reception after a funeral, or something. People are “doing their thing”, and when I walk in I hear things like, “Oh, excuse my language pastor, or, I know I shouldn’t smoke, or….they look at me and look away sheepishly, imagining that I think they are horrible or something.
I always feel weird. I am “there” artificially. I am not part of their world, except when someone dies, or gets married, or some other “un”usual reason. I’m glad to be there, but it is awkward to be the one who changes things simply by being there. I know that as a Christian, I am to be salt and light, etc., but sometimes I feel like a parole officer in a drug house.
Sometimes I respond verbally. Something like, “Hey, it doesn’t bother me if you smoke”, or, I just smile back sheepishly. It’s weird for me. I’m trying to be invisible, but I’m pretty sure I’m not.
I am not a choir boy. I actually had a very different life before I was a Christian. I’m not shocked at a lot of stuff. I don’t cover my mouth and gasp at the sight of such things. I know…it’s hard to believe.
I appreciate the respect and deference that people show me because I’m a pastor. That’s a cool thing. I might try to dodge their smoke, not get any alcohol on me, and sit down and hang out with them, and get to know them. It rarely happens that way, in those kinds of gatherings, but it’s all good. Sometimes I get to connect with people, but often times, folks don’t wanna be seen with the likes of me. ;-)
If I could say a few things to them (and sometimes I do), it would be something like this:
“Thanks for saying that. I appreciate that. It doesn’t bother me. Actually, I’m not the one you need to worry about. I’m not your judge, God is. He loves you, and he is the one you need to think about, not me, but thanks”.
Somehow, many people have gotten the idea that drinking and smoking are deal breakers with God. I recently told one guy to not quit drinking or smoking unless Jesus inspired him to. Just come to church, listen, and be open, and then make up your own mind.
Gosh, I know a lot of Christians, including pastors, that were drinking and smoking and doing other stuff when they came to Jesus. It seems like some of us have forgotten that.
Anyway, to all my future acquaintances: don’t worry about me. If I don’t like what you’re doing, I’ll leave the room. But honestly, Jesus is the One you need to think about.
Cheers! Where’s the Martinelli’s? ;-)
I apologize to those who submitted questions as church last week, and which I was unable to answer. I had to make an emergency trip to Mexico, and couldn’t get to your questions. I still have them, and will try soon…
Until then, consider this nugget I discovered while studying for Colossians 3:1-4.
Colossians 3:1-4 1If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
The challenge the Colossian saints had was that religious legalists were persuading them that Jesus wasn’t enough for holy living. They were convincing them to adopt lots of weird beliefs and practices, which the Apostle Paul refuted with great energy.
As I thought about this passage, the following thoughts came to mind:
“Perhaps the overbearing legalism of the heretics came forth because the outward lives of the saints at Colossae didn’t look “good enough” to those who looked at externals. Perhaps they were not progressing fast enough to suit these legalists, or didn’t look holy enough, or in any number of ways, didn’t appear to be what the legalists thought they should be. Paul assured them that “their lives were hidden with Christ in God”. What was true about them God surely knew, and that in the good sense. God knew their holiness, their longing for change, and their pure motives. While it is true that ‘fruit’ from a Christian’s life ought to be evident, it is also true that much of what God is doing in someone is ‘hidden with Christ in God’, and will be revealed when Christ appears”.
Some pursue religion from false motives, others from pure. Some with impure motives seem to succeed with their religious pursuits. Others with pure motives seem to struggle and look less successful spiritually speaking. Our lives are “hidden in Christ with God”. While some might judge our externals, He knows us from the inside.
“As Christ died, & went into the tomb, His life was hidden with God, until he came forth & was fully & completely seen & known for Who he truly was. We died with Christ, & while part of us is truly known, the fullness of who we are in Him is hidden, until He appears. Then who we are, will be fully known”.
Blessings all…I have a crazy schedule coming up…I appreciate prayers…
God’s evaluation of a man is altogether different than man’s evaluation of man. Religious people habitually look upon the appearance of a man and determine his degree of holiness. They listen to his words and decide if he meets their standard of godliness. We easily and often evaluate another’s standing with God based upon a standard of godliness that we ourselves have invented.
Such was the case with the Pharisees in Jesus’ day. They had taken the commandments of God and misinterpreted them to such a degree that they exalted their own traditions, while in actuality, they broke God’s Law.
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It is true that Christianity often misrepresents the heart of God. That can be said of many other religious groups as well, but I will comment on Christianity and its misuse of the commandments of God.
It takes spiritual maturity to understand the heart of God which is behind a commandment of God. When considering the commandments of God, we must try to understand God’s intentions, not just His words. Why does God issue forth commandments for men to live by? What are His motives? Is God capricious in His decisions about how man should live, or is there a Loving Heart behind those Well Known Words. Are we to simply obey the commandments of God, and not be interested in God’s intentions?
In Matthew 12, we see Jesus confronted and spiritually attacked by the Pharisees, who were the religious legalists of the day. They were the so-called experts in what God had said, but they had lost all understanding in why God had said what he said. They had taken the laws of God, and expounded upon them. They had taken the simplicity of God’s Laws, which were intended for man’s good, and had written commentaries on them. They had created ridiculous scenarios about what God did and didn’t mean.
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