The Tabloids Were Scandalous!

scandalous‘Scandalizing is celebrated openly today. We’ll manipulate and defame so all will pretty much see our enemies as disgraceful or hypocritical. It makes me want to cry when I hear of this intimidation inside the Church. Jesus told us that this would really, truly happen. We shouldn’t be at all disturbed. To be hurt this way is very much part of being his disciple.

In Matthew 11:2-6, 2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 

4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Offended. The word in our Greek N.T. is “skandalon.” It’s used in many ways, but the most amazing one is defined as, “the trigger of a trap, to kill an animal. To be the trap wire or stick used to catch prey; a snare.” We have the word scandalous, or to be involved in a vicious manipulation, scandal. Another metaphor is that it’s like the “fly paper” that’s hung up in the barn to catch those big nasty flies. 

Jesus dug up his dictionary, and chose this very specific word to communicate what he wanted. Of men and women, boys and girls caught in something they can’t get out of without help. John the Baptist, languishing in a dark place, wants to understand Jesus. John seems to expect Jesus to hop on a white stallion, and forcefully exert his messianic role.

Jesus will send his message. “You’re blessed indeed, if you do not stumble” (or get trapped) by the misconceptions. John confined in Herod’s dungeon, would be meticulously praised by Jesus. The Lord honors his own openly.

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It is easy to take up offense, (whether right or wrong.) When we hear a message causing shock, anger, repulsion, or disgust; that is a pretty good indicator that you are being “scandalized.” And turn-around is fair play. We might be the scandalizer, or the victim. It happens all the time.

Are you trapping– or are you trapped? Either way we need to stop it. We can’t continue to trip others up– nor can we allow others to foist their trap on us either. The Gospel regards itself as a ‘stumbling block. For some agnostics’, Jesus is someone they keep tripping over. But for the believer, Jesus is a ‘climbing up’ stone!

Worship is the finest defense. People who stumble, or cause another to stumble are usually…

  • grim,
  • guilty,
  • and grouchy.

They become graceless and sterile in the important matters of the heart. They become rigid and bitter.

The man or woman who stands up for their faith, and who doesn’t fall away or let their zeal ‘leak away,’ is incredibly blessed. God however is ready to forgive all those who backslide and then repent, but is especially pleased with those– like John, who hold firm to the faith.

 

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Zero Spirituality

Zero:  Diminishing 

He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.

John 3:30, NLT

 

Before our Lord appeared, John the Baptist had incredible popularity.  Thousands and thousands came to him as he preached in the wilderness of Judea.  However when Jesus initiated His own ministry, people left in droves to follow Him.  Imagine having a wildly successful thing going, and the next day having it fizzle.

I have discovered that it is one thing to be the center of attention, and quite another to be a minor player.  John was the MVP, but overnight he was sent to the farm team (baseball metaphor).  Men and women reach for center stage, to be in the limelight.  But very few can move in the other direction gracefully.

A conductor was asked what the hardest instrument to play.  The interviewer expected that it would be a saxophone or trombone or some other.  The conductor just smiled,  and said, “The hardest is the second violin”.

How great victory was that which Jonathan must have gained over himself, when he rejoiced to see David raised above him! He discerned the mind of God in David, and had so learned to delight in God, that he did not see in David one who was to outshine him, but another faithful man raised up for God and Israel.”    –Robert C. Chapman
 
Jonathan understood, first who David really was.  He had a sense of who David was, his destiny and giftings.  Second, he knew himself in the light of who David really was.  He turned his back decisively on being made king.  Ambition was not in his vocabulary.  He could rejoice in David; you see Jonathan was a free man.
 
The challenge of the day in our Churches is not leadership.  That is something relatively easy to fix.  But the real issue is servanthood; of being a great follower.  Thomas a Kempis counseled,
 
“Be desirous, my son, to do the will of another rather than thine own.”
  
That is an interesting place to find yourself.  But that is the need of the moment.  He must increase, become greater, and I must decrease, become lesser.  There can be no room for personal aggrandizement.  We need people to play second fiddle.