Wednesday, 9/19/18 – Pressing on…

Yesterday we discussed imitating Jesus, yet several of the Bible passages I cited had to do with Paul telling his readers to imitate himself! “Be imitators of me,” he wrote, “just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1), Wow! How many of us would be that confident?

20180917_132226Yet, like it or not, we don’t get a say in this! Each believer already is a letter to this world, “known and read by everyone” (2 Cor. 3:2), “Christ’s ambassador” (2 Cor. 5:20), announcing, ‘This is what Christ is like!’ Daunting indeed, but that’s exactly what this whole “light of the world,” “salt of the earth” stuff is about!

The good news is, whether you believe it or not, you are already equipped to do this. Here’s something from an old Our Daily Bread devotional:

Some Christians assume that being a good example means keeping up an appearance of strength — even when they are weak. They have the misconception that any appearance of weakness hinders their testimony… Are unbelievers best won to Christ by ‘strong’ people who pretend they’re never weak, or by ‘weak’ people who testify of a strength not their own? Unbelievers often say of the former, ‘I could never be like that.’ But of the ‘weak’ people they more often say, ‘If Christ can help them, perhaps He has something for me.’ – Our Daily Bread, Aug. 16/96.

There’s no need to hide your weakness, your fears. Your weakness is in fact your strength in disguise. It forces you to Christ for a strength beyond yourself. As Paul acknowledged, “…I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me… For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12: 9, 11) He will do what you cannot.

Now, if we are going to imitate Christ completely, there’s another bit that we simply must accept – crucifixion. I rather suspect that is what Pastor Steve is going to touch on this coming Sunday at Lincoln Baptist Church.

Be brave, and don’t miss it!

Press on..

Tuesday, 9/18/18 – Pressing on…

Impersonator or Imposter?

Does impersonating Christ sound hypocritical to you? If so, it may be because you’ve not understood the difference between an impersonator and an impostor.

An impersonator is one who “assumes or acts the character of,” or “pretends to be (another person)”

An impostor is one who “assumes false identity or title for the purpose of deception”

If you’ve seen the movie Catch Me if You Can you’ve watched an impersonator (actor Leonardo DiCaprio) play the part of a true impostor (Frank Abagnale, Jr.).

Paul speaks of us “putting on” Christ like an actor dresses for a role: “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh” (Rom. 13:14), “…all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal. 3:27)

He urged the believers in Corinth saying, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1), and those in Philippi, “Join in imitating me, brothers, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us.” (Phil. 3:17), and Thessalonica, “For you yourselves know how you must imitate us… we did it to make ourselves an example to you so that you would imitate us.” (2 Thess. 3:7,9) [See also 1 Cor. 4:16, 1 Tim. 4:12, Heb.13:7]

Does this whole idea of “acting” like Jesus still disturb you? Consider these insights of C.S. Lewis…

Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already. That is why children’s games are so important. They are always pretending to be grown-ups—playing soldiers, playing shop. But all the time, they are hardening their muscles and sharpening their wits so that the pretence of being grown-up helps them to grow up in earnest.

Now, the moment you realise ‘Here I am, dressing up as Christ,’ it is extremely likely that you will see at once some way in which at that very moment the pretence could be made less of a pretence and more of a reality. You will find several things going on in your mind which would not be going on there if you were really a son of God. Well, stop them. Or you may realise that, instead of saying your prayers, you ought to be downstairs writing a letter, or helping your wife to wash- up. Well, go and do it. – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

So… today… try it out! Start “acting” like Jesus! Find ways to show others what Jesus would do if He were here in bodily form instead of you. By doing these things, you in fact will be transforming that little bit more that we talked about yesterday. This is not being a hypocrite, but becoming a better disciple. It’s an exciting business!

“Therefore be imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father].” (Eph. 5:1, Amplified Bible)

More tomorrow.

Monday, 9/17/18 – Pressing on…

Back in the early sixties I used to watch a lot of cartoon shows. There was ‘The Flintstones’, ‘Quick Draw McGraw’, ‘Rocky the flying squirrel’, and one I remember just now in particular was ‘The Jetsons.’

The Jetsons was set in the future and the opening always began with George Jetson in his flying car dropping off members of his household to school or the shopping mall then arriving at his office in the sky. George would hop out of his glass domed vehicle, push a button on the front of it and magically the car would transform into a carriable attache case. He’d then pick up the case and saunter off to his office.

20180916_200115So what does George Jetson have to do with discipleship, Pastor Steve’s topic this past Sunday? Read on…

A distinction was drawn between a follower and a disciple. To understand these terms better I looked them up.

A follower, it appears, is someone who supports and is guided by another person or group, someone who likes and admires a thing very much. Some followers are followers by nature. Rather than think for themselves they will adopt the beliefs and opinions of others—any others. These are chameleons.

A disciple, however, refers to “one who follows another for the purpose of learning.” A disciple is a pupil–a student of his instructor. The word is also related to the idea of discernment, which is to distinguish a thing by the senses: to perceive, make out, pick out, detect, recognize. Jesus often taught the deeper truths by using parables which required discernment to comprehend. Parables separated followers from disciples.

If we are to call ourselves disciples of Jesus we must be hearing from Him and learning from Him on a regular basis — and being changed by what we hear and learn…. transformed bit by bit into His likeness.

Paul wrote about this process in Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” That word “transformed” is the Greek word μεταμορφόω (metamorphoō) from which we get the English word “metamorphosis.” A disciple is not a chameleon, but a worm being transformed into a stunning butterfly!

What a privilege! Just think, before you go to bed tonight you can become just a little bit more like Jesus! (And that’s way better than a dome topped car or a briefcase!) So go now… open your Bible… pray… listen… learn… obey…

How will you be transformed today?

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, 9/12/18 – Pressing on…

Considering again our question: “Would I serve Jesus and follow Him if there were NO benefit to me?”

Jesus points out that we if we are not following Him, then whomever or whatever we are following is already of NO benefit! Are we following fame, wealth, vengeance, social status…? Or perhaps you say, “I’m not following anyone or anything; I make my own way.” Well, OK just add “self-will” to the list. It too is of NO benefit. All of these may be filling our suitcase, but as mentioned yesterday the luggage must stay behind.

Someone once coined about society’s “rat race”: “Even if you win you’re still a rat!” and for us, whatever we seek we seek as still mortals. Ever since sin entered this world we immortals, have become mere mortals. “It is appointed to each of us a day when we will die.” (Heb. 9:27). It will make no difference then what we have chased, what we have caught, or what eluded us. As Job observed, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart” (Job 1:21), or as Solomon summarized, “…all come from dust, and to dust all return” (Eccl. 3:20). No luggage allowed.

20180911_183804Jesus’ question is as relevant today as it was at the dawn of humanity: “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36). We can spend our life “climbing the ladder of success” – only to find that all the while it was leaning against the wrong wall!

So in yet a third sense now we come to that question: “Would I serve Jesus and follow Him if there were NO benefit to me?” It seems now that there is no other logical action to take than to embrace Him… whatever the cost, whatever may befall.

20180911_184112Joyfully casting all luggage aside, we run to Him. We grab that ladder that rests on nothing here but which drops from above, leaving all behind as it pulls us upward, not from our home, but to it. For all along this is that for which we were intended. Jesus has gone ahead, prepared for us a place and has said, “I am the way” (John 14:26), “follow me” and we, broken and humbled, will do so!

Press on…

Tuesday, 9/11/18 – Pressing on…

Did you ever have some important news or announcement to make and call the family together to share it, or perhaps the office staff, or dart club buddies?

20180910_172743Mark’s recounts a time when Jesus did this. He “called the crowd to him along with his disciples.” Clearly He wanted to share something of primary importance. Everyone needed to hear this, both the masses and His disciples. Then He spoke: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35)

Turn your back on the allures if this world if you want Me, He says. I’m the only One Who can collect your soul and bring it safely to eternity, but you’ve got to leave your luggage behind! “But it’s Bottega Veneta Six-Piece Alligator costing $157,000.00!” you protest. If you want the luggage you’ll have to stay here! You can’t bring it along.

We’re a pretty dense people when it comes to this sort of thinking, so Jesus spells it out clearly: “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (v.36-37). What good is it to have your stuff if you haven’t got you!

20180910_171453Missionary Jim Elliot understood this. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” he summarized. This was not just an intellectual understanding for Jim Elliot gave his life. He was martyred Jan. 8, 1956 while serving as missionary to the Waodani people of Ecuador – a tribe which years later turned to Christ.

Luke relates another incident of required self-sacrifice. Jesus and others are walking along and a man professes to Jesus: “I will follow you wherever you go.” No hotels, says Jesus. “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” “Oh!” I can well imagine the man responding as he raises a palm to cover his mouth.

“Follow me.” He says to another. “First let me go and bury my father.” comes the plea. Nope! No waiting. My followers must follow me now! “First let me go back and say goodbye…” begs another. But no deal. “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (see Luke 9:57-62) Followers, follow. They don’t re-negotiate the route.

This isn’t a parade, its a rescue mission!

More tomorrow.

Monday, 9/10/18 – Pressing on…

This past Sunday morning Pastor Steve challenged us with this searching question: “Would I serve Jesus and follow Him if there were NO benefit to me?”

Interestingly, the apostle Paul has already volunteered his responses to this question in two strikingly different statements:

If by this question we mean “Would you serve Jesus and follow him if there were no benefit to you personally yet still your ministry was to the effectual salvation of others?” then Paul replies:
“I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race…” (Rom. 9:3). So great was his desire to see the salvation of others that he was willing to sacrifice his own eternal blessedness!

But if by this question we mean “Would you serve Jesus and follow him if there were no benefit to you or anyone else?” Paul’s answer is something quite different:
“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” And “If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’” (1 Cor. 15:19, 32)

A hit song in 1969 was Peggy Lee’s Is That All There Is?
The stanzas of the song are more properly narratives in which the singer describes several life events and the emptiness found when they had ended. These narratives are interspersed with the chorus somberly sung to these lyrics.

Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all there is

Apart from the resurrection of Christ such melancholy is appropriate. There is no point to life! As Solomon summarized “’Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)

But Christ is Risen Indeed!

This one fact has transformed time and eternity! That thing deep inside us that screams “No! Death is wrong!” is correct. Death was never intended; we are eternal beings! Christ has proven this, and determining where we spend that eternity is the most important business of life on this Earth.

Jesus says, “Come, follow me…” The wise soul will do so — whatever the consequences.

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, 9/5/18 – Pressing on…

In my early twenties I almost died because I was unfamiliar with the principle of buoyancy.

A group of rowdy pre-teen campers for a lark decided to push me into the camp swimming pool. Due to health concerns in my younger years I had always avoided pools and oceans. This was the first time I had ever been in so large an amount of water!

My assumption was this is okay… I’ll go along with this… I went in standing erect feet first. I  closed my eyes to avoid the sting of chlorine and waited for my feet to land on the bottom of the pool.

When several seconds had passed and this didn’t happen  I decided I had better raise my arms so someone can pull me up. I extended my arms to what I thought was overhead. But the reality of my situation was quite different.

Though I had gone into the pool feet first, buoyancy – which I had never before experienced – had lifted my legs up! Rather than descending into the water vertically as I imagined, I was merely lying stretched out, face down, eyes closed, upon the surface of the water!

After some further seconds I began to run out of air. Involuntarily I took a deep breath and filled my lungs with a significant amount of water! By this time folk on the surface were realizing something was wrong and several hands pulled me from the water. First Aid was applied and I obviously survived. If only I had known and learned to trust the reality of buoyancy!

Well, you can see where this analogy is going: confidence requires first getting to know the object of your trust. Confidence in Christ, like confidence in any person, grows as we get to know Him and experience His trustworthiness in ever increasing degree as we turn to Him amid the challenges of this life. These challenges should come as no surprise, for as He has told us:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Press on…