Archive for August, 2014
“Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe” (Jude 5).
For too long the confessing church in western culture has associated knowing with believing; that acknowledging and offering intellectual assent to the historical reality of Jesus, and even the biblical assertion that he is the Son of God, is to be a believer and the only thing necessary to wear the label, “Christian.” In today’s text, however, Jude offers the needed reminder that biblical belief is associated not with knowing certain things but, rather, true belief is translated into an obedience that emerges out of relationship.
“I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3).
In boxing, the contender is the one vying for the championship; the crown. It is the one toiling, laboring, practicing fastidiously the discipline of self-denial to reach the highest level of performance. To contend for the faith doesn’t mean we work harder and harder to attain the favor of God but, rather, as a product of God’s grace and the transforming power of his Spirit, I never reach a point of arrival. There is never a point that I can be satisfied in the journey of faith. I must embrace and live it as a contender.
“But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God” (1 Corinthians 11:16).
Whatever the women of Corinth were failing to do in regard to their hair or head-covering, it was such an egregious breach of culturally expected behavior that it became a contentious matter of distraction in the corporate worship experience. Paul’s teaching in this chapter is a reminder of the distinction that exists between private and corporate worship; that the notion we are free to do whatever we want in corporate worship is not only without biblical merit, it dangerously impedes the clear communication of the Gospel. Corporate worship values tradition (v.2), subjugates individual expression and emphasizes, instead, complementary expression (v.3-15), and is to be attended with a teachable spirit (v.16).
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
In order to model for his disciples that a life of service is the pathway to Kingdom greatness, Jesus gave himself over to the cross and death. It was of no selfish benefit but procured for “whosoever will” the gift of God’s grace and eternal life. He would never ask of others what he, himself, would not willingly endure.
“But whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all” (Mark 10:43-44).
A child lacks the skill set—the savvy, experience, knowledge, authority, wisdom, cleverness—necessary to achieve greatness as it has been defined by the world’s standard of success. Interestingly, none of these are necessary to serving the Kingdom of God with greatness. What a child does possess, however, is the capacity to follow direction. In fact, it is this willingness to serve obediently that the Kingdom’s law of greatness is accomplished.
“Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4).
Perhaps it is to the simplicity of a child’s prayer that we should return…”God is great, God is good…”. By this we are reminded that next to Him no others are good or great. Not the famous; not the rich; not the powerful nor the popular. A child’s perspective keeps us from pursuing what these appear to have that we might be better postured to receive what He desires to give.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24).
I’m convinced that spiritual formation is akin to geological formation. It is accomplished through vast amounts of time and pressure. The faithful reading of God’s word has a cumulative effect. Just as I may not be able to quote lengthy recitations of what my wife has said in our thirty-one years together, I have, nonetheless, considered her words important and vital to our relationship, and foundational to the life we have lived and share together. God speaking through his word is vital to a lasting and meaningful relationship.