Mastered by Jesus

“A Christian is not a person who believes in his head the teachings of the Bible. Satan believes in his head the teachings of the Bible!”

“A Christian is a person who has died with Christ, whose stiff neck has been broken, whose brazen forehead has been shattered, whose stony heart has been crushed, whose pride has been slain, and whose life is now mastered by Jesus Christ.”

–John Piper

No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.”

John 15:15

It seems that the purpose of life is not to find our freedom. It’s really meant to find our Master.

Yes, the idea of being a slave to anyone is repugnant. We chafe at this, and yet man was never meant to be seperated from the Lordship of Jesus. We’re instructed repeatedly with the New Testament idea that “our life is not our own”  Over and over God proclaims Himself as the King.

That troubles us somewhat.

Not so much when life is fairly good, granted, but in those hard moments when a decision must be made between enjoying the titillating “lusts of the flesh,” or accepting the fruits of the Spirit. This is one of those “lordship moments.” They come, and go, and they show us exactly who we are.

If you’re really going to be authentic–a legitimate and real disciple, then you must determine who is going to be “boss.” This isn’t one of those casual decisions. You must securely fix it in your heart.

Your decision must become a settled issue.

The thief on the cross knew salvation, he was promised an eternity with God simply by faith. But I submit to you that he had put himself under the Lordship of Jesus, simply by recognizing the sign, “the King of the Jews.” I believe he saw and understood its imlications. Jesus was King!

This is a very hard word for some, but many of our personal issues hinge on this.

I know this first-hand. It can be a monumental struggle. You must admit to not only having Jesus as your Savior, but you also must put your life under His total Lordship.  You need to pick up your cross daily in order to follow.  You need to learn how to kneel.

I’ve chosen a crown to open up this post–it’s done on purpose.  I simply want you to to understand the supreme call He has on your life. Here’s Bob Dylan, and he nails this idea down:

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You must learn here and now to kneel before the Sovereign King

 

Admitting I Need Jesus

When I was in the sixth grade, a friend invited me to her church. My parents didn’t go to church, but said I could go with Clarissa if I wanted to. Before long, I was spending at least three days a week with my church friends. I learned who Jesus was and that if I believed in Him I would be saved. I believed, though I didn’t truly understand my need for a Savior.

It would be many years and much wayward living later before I would realize the importance of the Apostle Paul’s words to the church in Rome. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16–17 NASB).

It’s easy to think “of course I’m not ashamed of the gospel.” Why would anyone be ashamed of the good news that Jesus died for our sins so that we might be reconciled to Him?

But at its core, faith in the gospel requires the believer to say “I can’t do this myself.” That realization, I think, is what trips up believers and nonbelievers alike. We humans like to be independent and self-sufficient. We like to pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. We encourage our children to be independent as well.

I remember a time when my son was in high school and because of a snow day his class schedule was changed. As a result, he took the wrong books. He called to ask me to bring the right books to the school office on my way to work, which I happily agreed to do. When I got to the office to drop them off, the school secretary chided me for bailing him out. “These kids need to learn to be responsible or suffer the consequences,” she said.

I’ve thought of that encounter often, being thankful that Jesus didn’t say the same to the Father when the plan of salvation was put into place. What if Jesus had said, “You know Dad, these humans need to be more responsible or suffer the consequences.” We’d all be doomed.

In a world where DIY is all the rage and dependence on anyone else is frowned upon, Paul’s message is all the more important. We cannot be ashamed to admit that we are unable to perfectly do the right thing always. As the prophet Habukkuk wrote, Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.” (Habukkuk 2:4 NASB).

And so, although it requires me to admit I can’t do it alone, I choose to live by faith in the One who gives me His righteousness.

For the broken believer (which is all of us, if we’re honest), it is all the more important to be okay with something less than full independence. We were created to be dependent on God and on one another. We were created to live in community and relationship with others.

Note: A version of this article was originally published in the January 2020 issue of The Christian Journal, a publication I highly recommend, and not just because they publish some of my writing.

When Truth Meets Love

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“You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’

And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”

Rev. 3:17, NLT

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If you would come to me and speak this boldly, I’d run you off.  “You have no right speaking to me in this way!”  Our personal relationships are essentially based on “boundaries.”  My continuing friendship with you is based to a large degree on your respecting these social rules and restrictions. We look to social protocol to guide us.

God is the only one we would allow to speak to us so boldly and directly (and even then it’s still unwelcome).

Self-sufficiency has become the specific goal of the speaker, it is how he measures a respectable Christian life.  Respectability however, is a disturbing development for simple believers.  “I don’t need a thing.”  Within our hearts there is a hunger to be independent.  Self-sufficiency and pride are disturbing thought processes for simple disciples.

There is a delusion that is quite prevalent– we may feel that we have arrived.  We finally are capable of something important.  We have done all the necessary things, we have jumped through all the hoops, and have “made it.”  It somehow feels like we have accelerated the sanctification process.  Much of this comes from a feeling of being ‘spiritually exceptional.’

Jesus is confrontive.  He will not diminish the truth, to spare our feelings.  I think that that is quite remarkable.  We esteem and value honesty, but when it is focused on us it seems difficult.

“You don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17).

None of these five words would we use to describe ourselves. Let’s consider them anyway:

  1. wretched– terrible, very bad
  2. miserable– unhappy, depressed
  3. poor– lacking sufficient resources
  4. blind– sightless, without vision
  5. naked– bare, without covering

These five words that describe the “real” position of the believer in pride.  These five words dismantle us, stripping us of our lies.  We have evaluated ourselves and discovered that we must be exceptional believers. (Perhaps my innate specialness is true after all!)

Twenty years ago my wife and I took an evaluation for placement in a language school.  I assumed I was quite exceptional, but two hours later I was told that I failed the test and would be assigned to the lowest level for the rest of the semester.  I was shocked!  And my dear wife, was put into the highest. What a blow to my pride!

“We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ.”

Eph. 4:15

He reaches out to us because He loves us profoundly.  It is a love that is not based on any kind moral performance.  However, it is quite necessary for us to step into the piercing light, and an intense desire to enter reality.  It is difficult for us to slough off the lies, and to understand what is true.  Trust me, Jesus speaks nothing but the truth, and He loves us while He does it.

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Frozen

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The all-glorious Mr. Freeze

 Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

Colossians 3:13, ESV

Remember “Mr. Freeze?” (Not the rapper, but the supervillain.) He was a DC Comics ‘evil-bad guy.’ He wreaked terrible havoc using ice. It was his specialty, his weapon of choice. In the later issue comic books he wore a cryonic suit and used a “freeze gun” and his victims would be turned into an instant icicle.

But “freezing” people happens far too often. We don’t need a suit or a special gun. We do it with our words, attitudes, actions. It is called unforgiveness, or stigma, or just plain contempt. It locks another person in a place were they will stay forever, and you won’t ever have to deal with them.

We glaciate others with extraordinary ease. Someone offends me, or irritates me and I blast them. In my mind I solidify them into one spot, and there they are locked. Sealed away, and out of my thinking. (And I can avoid those pesky urges to humble myself.)

I have been frozen by others— and I have been the ‘freezer’ as well. The sad part is that we ourselves are so far from perfect. When we zap someone we will never, ever ‘receive’ from that person. We can even preclude them as outside of the grace of God. “You offend me, and I will never forget it, and you will never be more than an evil miscreant to me.” My rationale is “life is too short for hassling with jerks like you.” But I can’t fully accept that idea. That is not God’s will for me, and I know it.

We end up debasing ourselves by our own unforgiveness. We restrict others from the Holy Spirit’s transforming ability. In our mind’s eye, the wicked person will never be able to offer up anything of value. We freeze–locking them into a place. And a vast amount comes from an unforgiveness that is ‘fallen’, and an unbelief in God’s grace and power.

Mr-Freeze-1Perhaps all our personality conflicts are merely chances for us to learn how to love and receive special things from God. But we get confused with ‘our difficult people’ and situations. In our immaturity, we simply put them away where they cannot hurt us again. We may even encourage others to do the same.

Furthermore, any use of our ‘freeze gun’ freezes us as well. Unforgiveness turns on us (which we didn’t count on) and the effect is cumulative. We can only absorb so much and we get hard and cold.

One more thing. We do this to whole groups of people. The alcoholics, the mentally ill, other races. This can be called prejudice or stigma. Ask yourself this–have you ever been stigmatized or demonized?  You will usually know it. But we cannot afford to be controlled by our unforgiveness. There is far too much at stake.

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop (leave it, let it go), in order that your Father Who is in heaven may also forgive you your [own] failings and shortcomings and let them drop.”

Mark 11:25, AMP

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