Tag Archives: christians

Christians, has Jesus transformed your life? Here’s how you can tell.

29 Aug

Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

A question for any of you who consider yourselves Christians, followers of Jesus: would you say that Jesus has transformed your life?

Yesterday we saw that Jesus transformed Peter’s life.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Peter has that memory in mind as he continues his teaching in 1 Peter 4:1-6.  In verse 3 he builds on what he has already said in verses 1-2.  To review, Peter has taught that through suffering you are learning to be done with sin.  He says that Christians can choose to no longer live for evil human desires, and thus live for God’s desires, for God’s will.

Now in verse 3, I hear Peter saying: “Frankly, don’t you think you have lived a really sinful life long enough?”  In other words he is saying to them, “You have spent enough time in the past following evil human desires.  Keep following Jesus.”

Peter wants them to take a step back and review their life.  Apparently some of them had really lived it up in the past.  What Peter describes here is some risky behavior.  There is no self-control in this.

The scholars tell us Peter is referring to “drinking parties involving unrestrained indulgence in alcoholic beverages and accompanying immoral behavior.” (Louw & Nida) This is out of control stuff where you are risking your health on a regular basis.  In 2018, it would like getting high on heroine, sleeping around with anyone, getting drunk on a regular basis, and then driving vehicles drunk.  It is very selfish, wasteful, and irresponsible.

Maybe you’ve experienced some of that lifestyle yourself.  Maybe you know people who have.  Maybe your sinful behavior was rebellion in other ways.  Maybe there is some rebellion still going on in your life?

In what area of your life are you lacking self-control?  Is it your mind, mouth, attitude, money, time spent on TV, social media, video games, food, and you know God would say, “Follow me”?

Peter is saying to these Christians and to us that it is time to be done with that old life.

And that is exactly what happened!  Look at verse 4.

Peter reviews their spiritual story.  There was a change.  The people who were formerly partying it up had made a change. They had started following Christ, and they are living the new way of his Kingdom, or at least they are trying to.  The way of Christ is a way of self-control.  Think fruit of the Spirit growing in you and flowing through you.  Love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control.  The new way is exact opposite of the way they used to be.  Where there was lust, there is now love.  Where there was anger and rage, there is now joy, peace, and gentleness, kindness.  Where there was rebellion and fighting, there is now patience and self-control.

Peter is talking to people who actually went through these changes.  So why would he need to warn them, if they had already made the change?

It could be that Peter knows how difficult persecution can be.  Especially when your friends are involved.  And that’s what we we’re going to talk about tomorrow.

The surprising weapon followers of Jesus arm themselves with

27 Aug

Photo by Cmdr Shane on Unsplash

One of the biggest questions followers of Jesus ask is: how much should we be in the world, exposing ourselves to the world, participating in activities or behaviors that are considered normative in the world?

And by contrast, how much should we remove ourselves from the world? Which behaviors should we stop?

How much should we play video games, watch movies and TV, and which ones?  Should we trust the ratings systems?  Is it okay for 13 year olds to watch PG13 movies, for example?

And what about the many varieties of food, drink and drugs available to us, for our pleasure?  How much of that should we partake of?  As substances like marijuana become legal, should we partake?

What clothing should we wear?  How much skin should we show?  What is modest?

This was as big a deal for the earliest Christians 2000 years ago as it is now.  How do we be in the world, but not of it?

Where it really gets tricky is in the area of friendships.  If you are a follower of Jesus, and you have friends who are not followers of Jesus, how much should you do what they do?

As we continue in 1 Peter, we have arrived at chapter 4, and Peter addresses these issues.

In verse 1, the NIV’s “arm yourselves” is a great translation of the word Peter used.  It truly has military overtones!  Think of soldiers preparing for battle.  Strapping on bullet proof vests, helmets.  Lacing up boots, attaching a knife, grenades, ammunition and of course their gun.  A backpack with all kinds of equipment.  They are ready for battle.  No doubt Peter is talking to those early Christians this way because he sees that they, too, are in a battle, but it is not a military battle.

So how should followers of Jesus arm ourselves?  How should we get ready?  What equipment do we strap on?  The attitude of Jesus.

What was his attitude?  It is most clearly described in a place called the Garden of Gethsemene, just a short walk outside the city of Jerusalem.  Jesus was there on the night of his arrest, praying with his disciples.  Remember his prayer?  It was intense.  He knew that his arrest, beating and death were right around the corner.

How would you feel if you knew that within hours you would be severely beaten, falsely tried, and killed?  I would be freaking out.  While Jesus was definitely emotional, he wasn’t losing control.  The anxiety was massive.  And yet what did he pray?  “Father, not my will, but yours be done.”

In the face of severe bodily harm, Jesus remained 100% committed to do the will of God.  That is the attitude Peter says we should arm ourselves with.

Why?  Because, Peter says, “he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.”  But what does Peter mean when he says suffering in the body will lead to being “done with sin”?

Peter’s flow of thought from 3:18 all the way through 4:6 has Christians in mind, and how Christians can handle suffering.  In other words, he is saying, “Christians, when you suffer, it puts things in perspective.”  You’ve maybe experienced that yourself.  When you go through a hard time, you realize so quickly and clearly what really matters in life.

When you are suffering, you’ll realize that your previous sinful choices were so wrong.  We might even call this the process of sanctification.  Sanctification is a big long Christian theological word that refers to the process of being set apart for God.  During that process of being set apart, we are being shaped and changed, so that gradually we act more and more like Jesus would.  All disciples of Jesus are undergoing this process, where the Spirit of God, if we allow him, is at work in us.  What we find is that suffering, as painful and difficult as it is, actually grows us faster and more deeply, when we allow it.

Unfortunately, some people do not allow suffering to shape us to become more of what God wants us to be. Some people wallow in their suffering.  You know the Eeyore syndrome?  That’s when, instead of sitting in the suffering and listening to what God might want to teach us, we have a pity party.  Poor me.  We followers of Jesus should not approach suffering like Eeyore.  Instead, Peter says, we should have the attitude of Jesus, to follow God’s will no matter the difficulty.

Two things Jesus did not tell us to do (but we do), and one he did tell us to do (but we don’t)

5 Aug

I’m super excited that the Olympics start today.  Soccer is my favorite sport, so while I’m disappointed the US men’s team didn’t qualify, the women’s team looks to make a gold medal run, and I’ll be cheering them on!  In honor of that quest, I thought I’d show you this picture of a Jesus figurine doing a bicycle kick, one of the most acrobatic and impressive ways to shoot a soccer ball.  In particular, notice the caption, which is meant to be humorous.  As fun as it would be to imagine how good Jesus might be at soccer, this picture raises a question.  Obviously Jesus did not teach someone how to do a bicycle kick.  But he did teach a lot of other things, and there is misinformation about what he taught!  We Christians can do a lot of things thinking that Jesus taught us to do them, when in reality he didn’t.

As the title of the post suggests, what comes to your mind when you think about the possible two things that Jesus did not tell us to do, but that we do…a lot?

A few years ago, I read the book Jim & Casper Go To Church, and in the book the question regularly comes up “Did Jesus really tell you to do that?”  The book is the true story of Jim Henderson, an evangelical Christian, and Matt Casper, an atheist, who travel around the United States, dropping in on worship services at twelve churches of varying stripes, shapes and sizes.  Jim and Matt spend time discussing what they experience, and numerous times, in response to what he has seen at a particular worship service, Matt asks Jim “Did Jesus really tell you to do that?”

Most often Matt asks that question in critique of churches that have placed great emphasis on buildings and highly-produced worship experiences.  Matt’s is a penetrating question.  I ask you to think about it because the answer is very easy to come by.  Just take a few hours and read through the four Gospels and you will find the answer.  I would suggest that there are two things in particular that we Christians do a lot of that Jesus did not teach us to do.

What are those two things?  While Jesus spent a lot of time talking about the Kingdom of God, and teaching and leading his disciples, he did not instruct them to build buildings so that they could hold worship services.

First, let’s take a look a the practice of building buildings.  On one particular occasion while the group of them were walking near the temple grounds, the disciples remarked how amazing the temple building was.  Jesus’ response went in a surprising direction.  No doubt the temple grounds were actually an astounding work of ancient architecture.  Beautiful and majestic.

If you look at some of the models recreating what the temple mount probably looked like, even the small-scale models are impressive.  The temple mount was the pride of the city of Jerusalem, the nation and the people of Israel.  But Jesus had other thoughts.  He said to the disciples “it will all be destroyed.”

Jesus was saying “Hey guys, don’t put all your eggs in that basket.  God’s doing a new thing, and it doesn’t involve a building.”  Those early Christians took Jesus’ words to heart.  For the first few hundred years of the church’s existence there is absolutely no record of Christians building buildings.  They met in homes.  Building places of worship was not the mission of God’s Kingdom.

Did Jesus tell us to build buildings?  No.  He did not.  And yet, we have, haven’t we?  Lots of them, all over the world.  Is it wrong for Christians to build meeting places?  No.  Jesus did not prohibit the building of meeting places.

But here’s where it gets murky, and where we need to be exceedingly cautious when we Christians purchase property and put up buildings.  Jesus’ comments about the destruction of the temple suggested to the disciples that they not become enthralled by buildings.  Though God had made a building, the temple, to be a central element of his interaction with the nation of Israel in the past, God was now doing a new thing.  God was relating to people through a new means, and Jesus himself was paving the way for that new relationship with God.  After Jesus’ death and resurrection defeated sin, death and the devil, making it possible for our sins to be forgiven and for us to have a restored relationship with God, the temple was unnecessary.  It was at the temple where sacrifices for sin were made, atonement for the nation.  But through Jesus’ sacrifice, the old system of sacrifice and the temple that housed it became obsolete.  In fact, one of Jesus’ earliest followers, Paul, would go on to write that we, Jesus’ followers, are the temple of God.  Amazingly, wonderfully, God lives in and with those people who give their lives to become his disciples.  We no longer go to a building to meet God, he is always with us.  So when we endeavor to build a building for gathering, we should be very sober-minded about it.  It is all-too-easy for that building to dominate the life and ministry of our church family.

Very much related to building buildings, there is a second practice that Jesus did not tell us to do.  He did not teach his disciples to have worship services.  Again, read through the four Gospels and you won’t find a shred of teaching about having worship services or what they should include.  For as much energy and money and personnel as we Christians put into our Sunday gatherings, you’d think there would be at least a little bit of teaching from Jesus about it.  There is none.

But once again, I ask, just because Jesus doesn’t mention it, does that mean it is wrong to have worship services?  No.  While Jesus’ disciples and the other writers of the New Testament mention nothing about building buildings, they do mention worship gatherings quite a bit.  In fact, we read in Acts that the early church did gather regularly, and perhaps, in order to commemorate Jesus’ resurrection, carved out time for a worship gathering on Sundays, which in their culture would have been the first day of the work week.  It would be like us worshiping each week on Monday nights.  Early in the second century AD, before the church was even 100 years old, there is also clear evidence, through the writings of Justin Martyr, who was discipled by John the Apostle, that Christian worship gatherings had standardized orders.  None of this is wrong.  In fact, like the building of buildings, a regular day of the week for worship, and orders of worship services, can be used for good.  But to answer Casper’s question, Jesus did not teach us to do this.  And if we are honest, we have placed an enormous emphasis on it.

At one particular church worship gathering that featured a large building, smoke machines, video screens, and a highly produced service of worship, Casper was particularly incredulous.  “Really?,” he asked Jim, “Did Jesus ask you guys to do this?”  But we need not focus on a spectacle like that.  The reality is that even tiny churches that cannot afford an expensive production can still invest a lot of time, energy and money into their worship gathering.  I would guess that tiny churches invest probably a very similar percentage of their resources into the Sunday worship service as a megachurch.  I do not know this for a fact.  I simply suspect it is probable.  Consider the salary the staff makes, and how much of their time is directed to Sunday morning.  Consider the infrastructure of buildings, utilities, equipment, and upkeep.  Consider the volunteers and all the hours they put into meeting, planning, lessons, practice.  Add that all together, and let us humbly remember that Jesus did not tell us to do any of it.

What remains, then, is to ask, “What did Jesus tell us to do?”

Join us Sunday, August 7, 2016, at Faith Church to find out.