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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God says, “Eat the tithe!” and gives us awesome instructions on how to be a generous community.

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22 “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. 23And before the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. 24And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the Lord your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the Lord your God chooses, to set his name there, 25then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the Lord your God chooses 26and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household. 27And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you. 28 “At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. 29And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.                                                         Deuteronomy 14:22-29

With a few conversations and internet searches you will know that the critique of tithing and the church abounds. Yet throughout the Scripture, tithing, (regularly returning 10% of your income to the Lord) is connected to celebration, care and mercy, and blessings.

Celebration
This is amazing! God says, “Eat the tithe.” God gracefully commanded the tithe so we can be free and generous as a community. His vision for people is one in which their response to Him and to His deliverance into the abundance of His provision is to honour Him regularly. As we honour Him we invite our family to celebrate God and His grace towards us. Gather with your family, I would suggest your larger church family, and eat the tithe!

Care and Mercy
Every three years the tithe was also to be gathered in the local community for the care of those engaged in leading the work of God’s people and for those who are especially vulnerable in the community: the “foreigner,” the orphan, and the widow. Jesus critiqued people who tithed and neglected the weighty matters that tithing was meant to support: justice, mercy, and faithfulness toward people. He says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” Matthew 23:23-24 Tithing supports our community’s gracious generosity for the benefit of vulnerable people, people under pressure.

Blessings in Our Work
The tithe and the gracious generosity its connected with comes with the promise of God’s blessing in our work. I’m going to make “the interpretive leap here” and connect the promise to our life together in the church. God says he will do an amazing thing when we give for the work of our church: He will “bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.” In the age of “thorns and thistles” (Genesis 3:17-19), God promises that our regular giving response to His grace towards us will yield more. As Bill Hybles has observed, God can get us not only from “A” to “B” (the basic vision of enough in our society) but also to “C,” doing and accomplishing far more good that we can imagine!

Scarcity and worry. Part 3.

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32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:32-34

One of the traits of an entrepreneur is that she is asking, “What do I want to do next?” I believe there is a related and similar question for the follower of Jesus.

However, scarcity and particularly worry about scarcity can keep us from asking the question and from giving our lives to the answer. Jesus is resetting the internal automation of the disciple. His Spirit is turning our affections and our questions towards Him.

So Jesus assures His disciples, My Father cares for you. My Father knows you. And now He assures them, if you are seeking His kingdom and His righteousness, God will add the “things” you require.

Here’s the question followers of Jesus are free to ask and to give themselves to daily: “My Heavenly Father, would you show me what you are doing in the world, and how you would like me to be a part of it?”

The question must come with a declaration of intent: “Lord, even as I go about the work of this day, I’m available to you for your Kingdom and for doing life in your ways.”

We really do have a hard time acting like we believe the Lord has an abundance of what we need for the trouble of this day. How often has obedience to Him been stopped in its tracks by worrying about “what if I don’t have enough… ?”

Let’s give our selves to the Lord Jesus Christ again believing He has enough.

Scarcity and Worry. Part 2.

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30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. Matthew 6:30-32

Scarcity creates focus. The authors of Scarcity: Why having so little matters so much, call it tunnelling. Our mind focuses in on what we “need” and excludes all the rest. For those of us who have faced a deadline, we now how this works for us. But over time it also works against us. We can be so keyed into an outcome and a task that we miss that important call or even miss the signal at the intersection. Costly!

Jesus knows it too. He knows that scarcity creates a worry and a perpetual focus on the stuff of earth: “What shall we eat? What shall we drink? What shall we wear?” He knows we doggedly run after these things. And we do it to our detriment.

So Jesus would ground us in the reality of our Heavenly Father’s knowledge. He knows we need them all. But He also knows we need the freedom of dependence on God.

No doubt death, decay, and the broken nature of our world makes “getting what we need” a challenge. And for some it is desperate. But even when its not desperate if we have conditioned our soul to lust after these, we may fill our stomachs and clothe our bodies, but our souls will be empty.

Trusting our Heavenly Father to care for us even in these basic matters of life opens us up to His supply and His Presence so that we enter into His joy in both our work and our rest.

Scarcity and your worry. Part 1.

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25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

Matthew 6:25-27

Chronic scarcity can ruin the soul. Not having enough preoccupies a person so that they miss opportunities in each day to experience God’s grace and provision. Most of Jesus’ audience at the Sermon on the Mount would have been intensely familiar with the grinding weight of poverty. Jesus shows them how money and wealth, or rather the lack of money and wealth, generates worry.

Perhaps you aren’t worried about money, clothes or food today. You might be worried about having enough time, knowledge, strength, happiness, professional attitude, control, wisdom, or patience. Worry actually turns you toward yourself and away from engagement in the Lord’s good work prepared for you.

Worry wastes life. One of Jesus’ first “abundance directives” shows the disciples the waste of worry. He wants them to anchor their minds on this truth: I am valuable to our Heavenly Father! Often when we worry we diminish the presence and truth of God in our lives, in this very moment.

Have you rejoiced in the mercy and grace of God today? Let your mind turn this truth around like a diamond in your hand.

My Heavenly Father treasures me. He values me. Not for what I can do for Him or be for Him; its all mercy and grace! He considers me. Thank you Lord!