authority, Bible promises, discernment, Jesus Christ, Kingdom of God, leadership, lordship

My Kingdom, #98

 “Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

John 18:36

Jesus perfectly understood his kingdom. Three times in this one verse, Jesus uses the statement, “My kingdom.” Three times. Perhaps there is something here we should look at closer? Maybe?

First, Jesus tells Pilate that, yes, he was a king. Second, that this kingdom was not a political rival kingdom. Its boundaries were not physical ones–they’re spiritual, and Pilate and the emperor were not in the equation. King Jesus’ kingdom was not “of this world,” which also by the way, is repeated three times in this single verse.

These 40 words declare to Pilate that he shouldn’t be worried.

Those who look to King Jesus have renounced the tenets of this world’s ideas–force, pride, public image and power. The kingdom of God comes to us in the Red Letters of Jesus–the Beatitudes and the parables.

“Romans thought they knew about kingdoms and their might; that armies, navies, swords, and battles measured the strength of kingdoms. What Jesus knew was that His kingdom – though not of this world – was mightier than Rome and would continue to expand and influence when Rome passed away.”

David Guzik

Brokenness, humility, love, servanthood and sacrifice are the ways his kingdom comes to people. The world’s methods of doing things–even religious and “moral” approaches, are never the way things work under his authority. At times even, they may seem very noble and right; but that isn’t the way Jesus’ rule truly comes.

Interesting. I believe the church, especially here in the West, understands Jesus as a Savior, but not as the King. The idea of a king and lord aren’t automatics for us. We have senators and constitutions, media outlets and freedom of speech–but that somehow never prepares us for the rule of a true sovereign.

Jesus is calling us to live out his rule in our lives, and to embrace him as King. He’s much more than our Savior, and we must understand that. If we want to really grow in him, we must understand his lordship.

The lordship of Jesus is not simply a hope of Christians that someday might be realized; it is a truth that has already taken place.

R.C. Sproul

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authority, disciples, follow Him, humility, Jesus Christ, leadership, offense, Simon Peter, sin, truth

Celebrity Servants? #92

drsunil.com, art by Takla

“He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”

John 13:6-8 (context vv. 3-17)

Chapter 13 always rocks my world. I visualize this, I’m like a fly on-the-wall, watching it happen–and then I replay it over, and over in my mind. It always unravels me. Why does this have to happen? What does this passage tell me about Jesus, and his kingdom? (John 13). Why can’t I just walk away from it, and leave it be?

Jesus made himself a slave (or perhaps he was always a slave all along, and we just didn’t realize it?) Foot-washers were pretty much regarded as sub-human, mindless drones who mechanically performed a necessary duty. The lowest of the low, the very least of the least. Today they’re the burger flippers and the pool cleaners.

But Jesus took that role on himself, he laid aside his garments, and his Godhood. (They landed in a pile in the corner of the room). When he knelt down to scrub feet (making sure he got between the toes), it was deity serving man. This God/rabbi intentionally did this, not reluctantly or halfheartedly–but carefully.

He was their teacher, and custom demanded he enjoy the prerogatives of that position. But he wouldn’t, and didn’t. He mustn’t. As I stress over this, I must conclude he really was their “teacher,” but not in the way I expect. What he was doing on his knees, was instructing them in the art of loving each other. He showed us a leader in action.

And isn’t making disciples all about loving someone else more than ourselves? We get things turned around sometimes–we think that spiritual authority is moving up, when it’s all about going down. We elevate our pastors and elders, maybe subconsciously–and human nature lets it happen; and then we’re amazed why our leaders struggle so.

Leaders function best when they wash between the toes.

There was a point in Jewish history when the people actually demanded that God would give them a king, instead of a judge (1 Samuel 8:5-9). God warned them that this wasn’t in his plans–but they insisted. They had to have one, everyone else did. We still must have celebrities, and then we wonder why they short circuit on us. Who can resist the privilege, and the limelight?

The Church was never meant to operate like this. That’s what Jesus said. Instead it’s we who’ve turned it upside down. It’s we who insist on turning our pastors into minor celebrities. We assert that they take on the role of a “king” (albeit, a little one maybe). Perhaps leaders who stumble and fall do so because we want them to be front and center? Who can handle the privilege, and the adulation? I know I can’t.

Peter was classic Peter. It seems that whenever he resists, he gets rebuked. He makes it quite clear that Jesus will never wash feet–that Jesus will never use a basin or towel and serve him like this. It was outrageous. Unacceptable. It didn’t fit in Peter’s personal theology. He had no room for Jesus the slave. (Perhaps he knew that to follow meant he would have to do the same thing? IDK).

Jesus still washes his people. He sits us down and takes off our shoes and socks, and scrubs us clean. And we hate it. But to be washed by him is a condition of our discipleship. Every follower must be clean, and he continues his work to this day. We sin daily, even as his own, and he cleans us up–and somehow that really bothers us.

The gifts of leadership are one way of washing feet. At least that’s what our leaders were designed to do. That’s Jesus’ way of doing things. But it seems we’ve adopted Peter’s attitude, and embraced the ‘pre-king’ thinking of Israel. We need our celebrities, we want our kings. We simply can’t imagine it any other way.

“The very first thing which needs to be said about Christian ministers of all kinds is that they are “under” people as their servants rather than “over” them (as their leaders, let alone their lords). Jesus made this absolutely plain. The chief characteristic of Christian leaders, he insisted, is humility not authority, and gentleness not power.”

 John Stott

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baptism, called, compassion, disciples, evangelism, Jesus Christ, Kingdom of God, leadership, light, missions, Peter, work

Night is Coming, #69

“We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

John 9:4-5, (context, vv. 1-12)

Jesus now understands that his earthly ministry is ending. He’s been working a long, hard day, and night is quickly coming. He has been doing what the Father has asked him to do on planet earth–but the work has its limits. The most challenging act of obedience will soon be upon him. Can he endure the shame? Will he really go to the cross–for us?

When he really resides within us, he will glow like a light-stick does in the dark.

It’s starting to get dark, the night is creeping in, and it’s getting to the point where one can’t see to do his work. It seems there are certain limits, one does what he can, as long as he can. Jesus understands this–but there are certain restrictions that must be considered. He will only do what the Father has laid out for him. Nothing more, and nothing less.

Jesus says he is “the light of the world, and I believe him. Oh yes, the darkness is still there–sin, selfishness and pride continue their ugly work. But there’s someone who illuminates everyone around him. When he’s present, he glows like one of those light-sticks.

Peter and two others once saw Jesus catch on fire up on the mountain top, and that’s what his whole ministry was like. When he arrives we can really see–and when he has worked out his earthly ministry, he has done his job.

The most astonishing thing is that he has made believers light, a city on a hill which can’t be hidden, (Matthew 5:14). He does it, not us–never us. It seems that the closer we get to him, the more we’ll shine. And Jesus shows us how to do ministry, in its truest sense.

“If I don’t do the things my Father does, well and good; don’t believe me. But if I am doing them, put aside for a moment what you hear me say about myself and just take the evidence of the actions that are right before your eyes.”

John 10:37, the Message

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authority, called, discernment, faith, hypocrisy, Kingdom of God, leadership, love, truth

God’s Sign Language, #47

“You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”

Matthew 16:3, (context, vv. 1-12)

This disturbing union of Pharisee and Sadducee was telling–they were polar opposites. One group was ultra-conservative, and the other flaming liberal, the yin and the yang. They detested each other. To somehow unite these hated enemies must have taken someone with some flair!

Leadership could no longer discern between what was right and what was wrong. These men had gravitated into high office for selfish reasons. They were hypocrites; they loved the praise of men immensely, and would never dream of giving up the power and prestige.

Hypocrisy becomes my way of ensuring that I can retain all that honor. When our positions of oversight, direction and wisdom are taken over by confused leaders who haven’t the slightest idea of what God is speaking we are in critical danger. We need those who can interpret these things to us without caving into either the fear or praise of men.

The Jews of Jesus’ day had a saying that if all the hypocrites in the world were divided into ten parts, Jerusalem would contain nine of the ten parts. Jesus wasn’t the first one who saw the religious lies of His day. It was more or less understood by everyone.

Jesus the Messiah had truly come. He preached, taught and healed. He revealed Himself over and over to the Jewish people. He explained the Kingdom of God. The Jewish “leaders,” didn’t recognize Him, they refused to see. They were the hypocrites who gravitated to ministry for the prestige that was given; never for the responsibility of the office.

Truth is as critical to a church as love is.

We are to be known by our love, but we’re also to be understood as being people of truth. We must understand the difference between black and white. We need leadership who will look at these sticky issues and explain it to us. We need them to decipher the moment.

I don’t know what the future holds for the Church. Whatever it is, I’m sure it will be an adventure. Let’s keep listening to Jesus, reading the Word, and hearing each other. Let’s avoid hypocrisy as if it were the smallpox. Let’s pray for leadership that understands the moment, and that knows the dark evil of the praise of men.

“For not only does sound reason direct us to refuse the guidance of those who do or teach anything wrong, but it is by all means vital for the lover of truth, regardless of the threat of death, to choose to do and say what is right even before saving his own life.”

A.W. Tozer

  

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