Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Matthew 10:32-33

Those are a couple of verses where I wish I could just look at those verses and say "this is what that means" without concern for context. I think in fact that a lot of people do just that with these two verses. We look at these and think "ok, cool, I can handle that, I'm all good here." Haven't read those verses lately? Here they are in a nut shell (not that I should need to summarize two verses), if you disown Christ, he will disown you. See, we can handle that. I mean, seriously, how many people that "know" Christ will ever disown him before other people? And even if we do, we can always look at Peter's denial of Christ and conclude Jesus must not have been too serious with that one. Or just, as we should (I do mean this) point to 1 John 1:9 when we realize our denial and repent of it.

Now of course when I dig in a bit deeper on this and actually get some context these two verses are MUCH more difficult for me. At the least you have to read down through verse 39 to get the immediate context. When you do that you see the real sentiment of Christ's words. Again, summarized: it's all Christ, or it's all self. Maybe that is a bit too concise, but it really is the heart of what he says there. You either choose Christ and his desires, or you choose yourself and your own desires. If you choose your own desires, then according to Christ's own words, that choice is equated to disowning Him. Likewise, if you avoid "picking up your own cross" then you disown Christ. Read Matthew 10:32-39. See what I mean?

Now take let's actually look at Peter's denial and see how that fits. Peter had mostly given up his entire life to follow Christ for three years. Peter left his job, left his family, went on the road without concern for food, clothes, or shelter to be with Christ. Now, granted he did worry from time to time about those things. But still, he DID acknowledge Christ and followed Him. Then at Christ's arrest, he turned on Him. Peter three times completely denied Jesus, even knowing Him. His fear of losing his own security, his own life suddenly overtook him and Peter disowned Christ. So, according to the Matthew text, Peter's gets disowned by Christ now, right? Well, maybe if the story ended there at Peter's denial, then yes. But it doesn't of course. Nope, Peter repents of that after Christ's victory over death and now fully gives up his own life to choose Christ's life for his own. Peter now devotes himself completely to following Christ and Christ alone. He now gets along his way with no concern at all, no worry at all for things not of Christ. Clearly, then the Matthew text isn't just about an outward, verbal statement. While it may include that verbal side, it is much deeper and about the inward, heart-changed life. This will show in every aspect of what we do and say in the "fruit of the spirit" being produced in our lives.

So, while I think I usually take a half-baked view of what it means to disown Christ and think there is no way I would EVER do like Peter and deny Christ, in actuality I probably deny Christ, as the Matthew text defines it, every single day many times a day. In truth then, I have disowned Christ. If you wonder why I seem so urgent and concerned for my salvation in many of these posts, this should start to help you understand that a bit more. Take a hard look at whether people looking in on you would say you choose Christ over your own desires. See if people would think you choose sports, TV, brothers/sisters, wives/husbands, kids, work, whatever over Christ. Better yet, imagine yourself before Him and HONESTLY answer to the One who knows for certain your motives whether you choose Him or your own life. I know my answer at this point would have to be I have been choosing my own life. It is time for repentance for me. And that is when I turn and hope in 1 John 1:9. He is faithful and Just. He will forgive me. WHEN I confess and repent. I still have work to do and choices to make. My actions, fruit will show when that happens.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Convicting Sermon

I went to MANY church retreats, mission trips and camps during my high school years. I also sat through a sermon message nearly every Sunday during those years. I remember a lot of those Sunday messages still today, and some of them are still convicting for me. Likewise, I can vividly remember most of the trips and conferences I attended and the convicted feelings I had as I returned home from each. But, I also remember the inevitable letdown that came after only a week or two back home.

I still sit most Sundays in my church building to listen to a weekly sermon. I occasionally am convicted by that message, but in truth I am convicted these days more by my own reading (both the Bible and other stuff) and prayer than anything I hear on Sunday mornings. That of course is in no way a critique of the church I attend or the pastors or their messages. It is just where I am right now. I don't think there is any "sermon" that would bring deeper conviction than the Spirit, the Bible and my own heart have brought of late. The rub here is though, that whether convicted by a sermon, an event, mission work, or whatever else I STILL haven't really done anything about it.

So then, what really is the point of our Sunday morning messages? Are they really meant to convict us of something? Are they meant to "refresh" us for another week in the world? Are they used to teach us the Bible? Maybe it's a little of all of that. Still, I ask then, really – what's the point of all of that? If all that message does is convict me of something, refresh me to deal with the world another week, or teach me a lesson from the Bible then I am pretty sure that 40 minutes or so of my life could be MUCH better spent elsewhere. No, I am NOT saying I think we should stop going to church or stop having sermons. I AM saying that I think for the most part the focus of our "worship services" might need some evaluation. And again, this is not a singular thing with my local church. It seems to be a common theme across western culture according to many of the books I am reading.

What I am getting at is this. The convicting sermon is truly important, yes. But simply being convicted is somewhat worthless if action does not follow. A real convicting sermon is one that not only pricks the heart, but it is one that actually brings hearers into obedient action in Christ's footsteps. A refreshing sermon is not one that simply allows me to "feel good" as I go back to my same old daily grind in the world. No, a refreshing sermon should open my eyes to actions I can take during my week to show Christ's actively. As for teaching Biblical truth, I really think the sermon should be more about reaffirming the truths we each read and discuss on our own. If I am only being taught Bible for 40 minutes each week (and usually less since we don't go every week anyway), then I am NOT in God's word.

For today's churches that claim to want to be Acts 2 churches, how can we really look at our average Sunday meetings and say we ARE being Acts 2 churches? Seriously, READ THAT TEXT AGAIN!!! That first "sermon" wasn't much if you look at it against our polished, prepared messages today. It certainly taught. It certainly convicted ("…cut to their hearts") the audience. It also refreshed them for living against the world. Moreover though, look at what followed that message. Not to mention the thousands who claimed Christ as Lord, but they ACTED (Acts) on it. The church sold everything, committed to prayer, and began to GO and make disciples. That is a truly convicting sermon. Conviction leading to Action.

For me right now I excuse my inaction saying that I am making plans to implement significant change in my life. And believe me, it IS an excuse. There is no doubt in my mind (or heart for that matter) that I have led my family to a lifestyle of excess. I AM convicted. I live in a convicted state these days, and it's hard. I only wish I had the trust and faith to simply act, but I don't right now. I am too afraid of what that total surrender to God looks like for me and my family. I hope and pray God helps me to overcome that fear soon and brings me to action. I am getting quite tired of being a slave to this fear. I KNOW obedient action is freedom, but I FEEL comfort in the "security" I have found in the world. Man, it sure does hurt to say that.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Can I Move a Mountain?

In Matthew 17:20-21, Jesus has one of those moments that I wish I could be there to see his expression as he makes fun of his disciples a little bit. I can picture him sipping a cup of water, eating a little snack just after casting out a demon from a boy. His disciples come over a little put off that he so easily gave the K.O. to the demon that they were not able to even land a punch on. They ask the question he was all too ready to answer for them, (paraphrased a bit from verse 19) "um, so, Jesus…um, why do you think…you know, your disciples, couldn't cast out that little demon?" I see Jesus still holding that cup and bread, not even looking up simple say with a smirk or a laugh, "you got no faith boys!"

I feel pretty good that scene could be made into quite the comedy sketch in a sit-com today. But the really funny part could be the next verse where Jesus tells them with just faith as small as a mustard seed they could move a mountain and NOTHING WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE. Can't you just see those disciples grabbing up a couple of mustard seeds and standing in front of the Mount of Olives?

I do wonder though, how many times do I stand in front of my mountain of problems and yell at them to get out of my way with no result. I also look at those mountains and think to myself, I know I have at least a little faith. Why am I still fighting to get this mountain moved? Sadly, I believe the answer is I really don't have mustard seed faith. Don't get me wrong, I believe with all I am that Jesus is the crucified, raised, son of God. My problem is this: I am not as certain that I believe God will move mountains for me. It pains me to say that because I do believe there is nothing greater than God. So clearly he COULD move mountains for me. So, I guess what my lack of faith in this says is that I must believe God doesn't care too much for my daily struggles.

Hmm. So many places to go from there. Let's go here. If I take all of scripture into view, that statement that God isn't too concerned with my daily struggles really isn't a big deal. After all, Paul, the great apostle who received a direct revelation from the ascended Christ, asked over and over for a mountain to be removed from his way, but God refused him. The whole of God's word seems to indicate that it is that bigger picture, the biggest mountains of salvation that can be moved. Look at Matthew 19:23-24 again. That is a mountain moving situation, a salvation issue. That is what Jesus was all about, seeking and saving the lost. All else was of no concern to him. Therefore, I have to imagine when he says just a little faith makes moving mountains possible, he is referring to our salvation.

I kind of hate saying that, because I know a lot of people aren't going to agree with it. A lot of people will flat out get on me about this too. I am really becoming more aware, however, of how different my "learned" view of God and Jesus seem to be from what I see in God's word. I have always looked at what God was doing for me or to me. That is NOT the Biblical view. The Biblical, Christ-like model is more in tune with J.F.K's famous words, "it's not what your God can do for you, but what you can do for your God." Of course, I modified that a bit. Christ's most passionate prayers while sweating blood say it best, "yet not as I will, but as you will." It is NOT about me, it is ALL about God's glory.

So, YES! I can move mountains. Just not always the mountains I want to move or think need to be moved. That is, unless my vision is God's vision. Then the only mountains I will care to move will be the ones that show his glory to the world. Those truly impossible mountains, the ones that cannot be moved any other way. The mountains that stand in the way of the lost coming to him.