From Fans to Followers. Jesus calls us out of the crowd.

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Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23

 

Its great to blend in and disappear in the crowd sometimes. There is an almost cellular compulsion to just be like the other. Part of maturing is the acceptance that I’m a lot like and a lot different from folks in a crowd. I can be a part of crowd, enjoying the music, the art of another, or the vibe of a public event. Most artists are going to be just fine with that. But, when Jesus gets in front of crowd he calls people out. He doesn’t seem to be content with “fans.” He wants followers.

His invitation is winsom. He truly does assume the best about the crowd. “If any of you wants to be my follower.” I like that. Jesus knew that being about the Father’s love-work would create attraction. You like hanging around together in this movement? So, you want to be a follower? Jesus is actually looking to move people from being “fans” to becoming “followers.”

Jesus also clarifies what its going to take to be a follower. Followers of Jesus have a disruptive calling: “You must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily and follow me.” People who have become fans like to look at and observe The Gospel at work. People who have become followers like to become participants in The Gospel work. It starts in them. Jesus transforms all of life and relationships through HIS life, death, burial, and resurrection. The Gospel changes everything.

I’m naturally resistant to the Gospel changing everything. We all are! We are all infected with this resistance. So it does take the work of the Spirit to move us into a sacrificial, submitted-to-God, kind of life. There is an ease to the Christian life — Jesus said it himself — “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and lowly.”  But there is also a narrowness to the Christian life that does constrain against my selfishness— “Enter through the narrow gate for wide is the gate that leads to destruction and many enter through it.” Selfishness — the desire to be lord of my life when Jesus is the Lord — will be against what Jesus wants. Fans can do what they want. Followers do what Jesus wants. So, when I’m trying to live the Christian life in my own strength because “its what I should do” its really going to be a slog! On the way to the new life that comes from Him, I’m going to have to also attend to the death and burial of a “thing” resisting Jesus. That’s the cross of discipleship — the movement into obedience. There’s so much blessing on the other side of being aligned with Jesus! There’s no other way to be in His joy.

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Resurrection People have been disrupted by Jesus.

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5Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. 8And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. 9We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. 10When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. 11So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.
Romans 6:5-11

 

Jesus is the master of disruption. He disrupts our lives so we can love and connect by first being loved and connected to God through Him. When His disruptions begin we may be troubled by the challenge we feel to our beliefs, behaviours, and attitudes. We may worry — what do others think of us? We may fear — what we are going to miss out on? But surely as we engage faith and become curious about the rumbling in our mind, body, and soul we will see a new day and a new life emerging.

Disruption is required! Its required so we can enter into the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Gospel life is not a life of dual citizenship. Really! Today many countries allow “dual citizenship” and people are walking around with multiple passports. But the Kingdom-life with Jesus is not like that. We must surrender our passport to the “old life” and the “old nature” in order to fully receive and live into the new life of the Kingdom of God. That’s disruptive! We have to die to the old life and its claim on us. Turning over a passport may initially seem limiting and scary if you have retained deep connections, hopes, and dreams fuelled by a residence in the “old country.” But life in the new country, as my father who immigrated from Ireland declared to me, “cannot be lived looking over your shoulder.”

We must reckon with with this truth about the Kingdom of God: it is not meant to be lived looking over our shoulder. Life in the Kingdom of God is meant to be looking forward to Jesus and what He redeems and plants anew in our lives.

Discipleship, then, is a continual process of consideration of our union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. We are intended to be Resurrection People so we must

“consider [ourselves] to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.”

Why would we bother with the hard work of waiting and wading with Jesus? Because He is the master of disruption; He disrupts death!

“And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. 9We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. 10When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God.”

So now, we too may live for the glory of God as Resurrection People!

 

Unmasking our thirst for God.

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As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
Psalm 42:1-2

Apparently many people on a typical North American diet no longer recognize thirst. They mistake it for hunger. Thirsty? Let’s eat!

Is it possible, we have also masked our thirst for God as well? I believe many of the desires of the soul meant to direct us into the Presence of God have been masked. Instead of interpreting the longings of our soul as an impulse to seek the Living God we have accepted substitutes to quickly cover the emptiness. Internet searches and coasting through the newsfeed deliver a quick hit to our brains and masks the longings for God.

And that’s a problem. The search for the flowing streams of God’s presence is sometimes and most often lengthy.

Slowing down.

Letting the tears flow.

Raising and listening to the questions.

Directing the accusations to the Cross.

Meditating on the Scriptural narratives of others who met God.

Waiting on God.

Being still before God.

Taking time. And most of us, including me, get antsy trying to be still. I’d like to quickly move past the tears, the questions, the accusations, the stories, and the waiting.

I would probably never be the author of Psalm 42, unless I was willing to sit, wait, listen, watch. I would have scared off the deer looking for refreshing water in the midst of a dry spell. I would have missed the metaphor God provided to make obvious what is unseen, but very real for me:

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

The Folly of Collecting Wise Sayings

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1 The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:

2To know wisdom and instruction,

to understand words of insight,

3to receive instruction in wise dealing,

in righteousness, justice, and equity;

4to give prudence to the simple,

knowledge and discretion to the youth—

5Let the wise hear and increase in learning,

and the one who understands obtain guidance,

6to understand a proverb and a saying,

the words of the wise and their riddles.

7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;

fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:1-7

 

I enjoy proverbs and enjoy reading collections of proverbs from a variety of cultures. I’ve been making my way through a collection of proverbs and sayings from Haiti.

Here’s one from Hidden Meanings, the Truth and Secret in Haiti’s Creole Proverbs by Wally R. Turnbull:

Figi ki vann nan credo se pa li ki ranmase kob la.

The face that sells on credit is not the one that collects the debt.

Meaning: One changes personalities when collecting a debt.

 

So true.

There is a problem or danger for the collector of wise sayings and its noted in the first chapter of The Proverbs in the Bible. As a collection of wise sayings from a variety of authors within Israel’s wisdom literature much of the work is attributed to Solomon. Solomon is aware that simply knowing proverbs and having them in your head is not enough. Wisdom is relational; its a mix of knowledge: content and observations about relationships in life. Solomon contends that the first relationship to  establish wisdom as a “knowingness” in our lives is a relationship with God.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”

So you could collect and memorize all the sayings, but if you live without the  fear of the Lord you will lack knowledge.

The fear of the Lord.

What is it?

An abiding and disturbing sense.

An abiding sense of the bigness, mysteriousness, “I will not be controlled by you-ness” of God?

An abiding sense of being seen, known, examined by, measured by, cared for, and even loved by God?

An abiding sense that God does not miss a thing about us?

An abiding sense that God enters into relationship with us?

An abiding sense that God is God an I am not.

Collecting proverbs will never provide the fear of the Lord. However, the Bible’s Proverbs contend that people who have an abiding and disturbing sense of God will love, treasure, and apply wisdom.

We have the forgiveness of sin.

 

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7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. Ephesians 1:7-10

The large problem standing in between our union with God is sin. Its the problem Jesus came to deal with as He came from the communion of God, took on flesh, was born of Mary, crucified on the cross, buried in the tomb and raised from the dead. The word for sin here indicates a “trespass” against God. Trespassing occurs when we cross a boundary and enter space that is not ours. Its not that we have entered God’s space, but that we actually left the bounds of His character, will, and word. In leaving that boundary we have been taken captive. Now Jesus came to pay the price.

Jesus paid our redemption price so we can be united with Him again and become participants in the full union work He is planning: the union of things in heaven and things on earth. Jesus’ redemption price – the giving of his blood – is constantly available to you for the forgiveness of sin. When it seems like we are being taken captive by sin again, its time to enter into God’s glorious purpose for you: Jesus shed his blood for the forgiveness of your sin that you might be with Him!