Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lord, please don't humble me

   “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:4, ESV)

It's funny, sometimes we do such soul searching for the mysterious path to growing in Christ. We agonize over life decisions and reading plans, hoping that we will stumble on that one thing with which we can please the Lord and find new growth.

And as we agonize, we overlook some of the things that the Lord made so obvious to us. In this passage, Jesus, with no mixing of words, tells us that the path to greatness is found in humility.

Humble yourself.

I'm reminded of that (unrelenting) Meatloaf song that goes, "I would do anything for love, but I won't do that..." I would translate that sentiment here as, "I would do anything for my Savior, just so long as it doesn't involve humility."

Personally, I want to pursue greatness in the kingdom through means that still carry some prestige, some special dignity. I tell myself that there are many ingredients to becoming a deep and lifelong follower of Christ, and as long as I'm pursuing those other ingredients, it's okay that I don't pay too much attention to humility.

But that delusion won't hold up under even the briefest examination by God's word. Far from rising to greatness on my "alternative" path, I would stand condemned as one who acted like he knew better than Christ.

So today, I will pray for the humility I lack. I will seek forgiveness for my willfulness. I will seek the face of the Savior who did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but instead humbled himself to the point of death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8).

Father, humble me to follow in the way of your humble Son.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The call to radical forgiveness

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” (Matthew 18:15, ESV)

  “And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’” (Matthew 18:33, ESV)

I can't help but notice how differently Christ views forgiveness than I do.

I am more likely to view forgiveness as the painful and humbling process that the transgressor must facilitate. They have done the harm, now they must do the work to bring healing and reconciliation.

Jesus sees it another way.

Jesus describes something so gracious that it's practically upsetting. He places the responsibility on the one sinned against to facilitate the process of forgiveness. In other words, if you've been sinned against, Jesus doesn't give you the luxury of waiting on the moral high ground for that wretched sinner to come groveling back. He tells us to go to our brother or sister and seek to make things right.

I don't think for a moment that this removes the responsibility from the transgressor to likewise seek reconciliation (e.g. Matthew 5:24), but the radical part for me is that the one sinned against is not released from participating. I see two reasons for that.

First, it's about loving our neighbor. If our brother or sister is in sin, they are not right with God. Regardless of the pain they've caused us, it is more important that they get right with God (e.g. Psalm 51:4). Truly loving our neighbor means looking past our hurt to see how their good might be accomplished. I think their repentance would likely dovetail with our good, but that's not the main reason to seek their restoration. We seek their good because of the second great commandment.

Second, God has always been the one sinned against and he has always been the one seeking our reconciliation. We see this most clearly in Jesus himself. Nailed to a cross and dying, he prayed for sinners: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34) The grace Christ calls us to show is a shadow of the grace he showed us on the cross.

Our bleeding Savior bought our forgiveness and reconciliation, may we likewise seek that same blessing for those who have sinned against us.

A helpful resource for truly forgiving others The Four Promises of Forgiveness

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Faith through trials

As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed.” (Matthew 17:22–23, ESV)

Hearing of Jesus' ordeal to come, the disciples were "greatly distressed." Though Jesus meant to prepare them and even build their faith by telling them ahead of time (e.g. John 14:29), they were still shaken.

The depth of the sorrow to come overwhelmed them and they missed something they should have had.

When Jesus promised the disciples that affliction was coming, he wasn't doing so passively. He wasn't a mere spectator suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. His suffering was actually just another event under his sovereign control. His promise of trials to come were, at their root, another reminder that he was in control. Only the almighty can promise and truly guarantee the result.

Many Christians are suffering through trials right now, trials that Christ promised so many years ago (e.g. John 15:20, Luke 14:27). I don't think we are supposed to celebrate these trials, but the promise of our Lord reminds us that we are still secure in his hands.

Though the world may rage, though your sorrow may be deep–Christian, you are still His.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Gospel's deafening silence

And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.”  (Genesis 22:7, ESV)

I'm not sure there's a story in the Old Testament that contains as much Gospel as this. A loving father is called to sacrifice his beloved son. The son, innocent and pure, submits to the sacrifice of his own life.

We could talk about the whole story, but let's spend today on a single moment. In curiosity over what will serve as the burnt offering, Isaac calls out to Abraham: "My father!"

As you'd expect in day-to-day life, Abraham hears him and responds: "Here I am, my son." Such a small moment. A son calls out to his loving father and the father responds.

Now consider Calvary. Consider Jesus, the firstborn of all creation, nailed to a cross. Bleeding from his beatings, exhausted, struggling to breathe. And with his last gasping breaths he cried out to his heavenly Father from the depths of his soul: "My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34)

And the heavens were silent.

I'm not sure the pain of the Father or the Son can be described, but I consider my own children and my heart breaks. To punish my son for the sins of criminals would, on its own, be more than I could bear; to hear his cries and respond with silence would destroy me altogether.

With tears and with reverence, praise God for the sacrifice that made a way for criminals to be welcomed into the family of God.

Praise God for the deafening silence of the Gospel.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Would God unfollow you?

Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.” (Ecclesiastes 5:2, ESV)

Facebook. Twitter. Blogs (I hate blogs!). Etc.

Enough said.