Posts Tagged ‘discipleship’

January 19, 2015

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 NIV)

The implication of the word “became”, of course, is that The Word was something other than flesh from the beginning. Jesus later declared to Nicodemus God was spirit, which follows that Jesus was spirit before the incarnation.

Just so we’re clear about history and the legends of human religions, incarnated gods were not all that unique as a teaching. Every major religion has its incarnated god who does something special to reveal the Creator’s will. Oddly enough, the god incarnated usually justifies the doctrinal stance, lifestyle or specific practices of the said religious future.

What does this say of Christianity?

Christian thought grows out of the teachings of the apostles who distilled the message they claimed to have learned from their teacher, Jesus of Nazareth. Apparently the writing of the four gospels (or more, if we include The Gospel of Thomas and other apocryphal writings) spoke of a need at the time for four different styled versions similar in content. Two thousand years later we find ourselves attempting to make sense of the original intent which distance and opinion have twisted or obscured to a greater or lesser degree.

The first thing to attack for detractors of Christian teaching is the incarnation of the deified Jesus, called the “Anointed One” to set Him apart as the Messiah Savior. It stands to reason those who object to this basic tenet taught first by the gospels and subsequently the Epistles would cast doubt on it vehemently. It’s the easiest target to doubt. The moment, however, one recognizes the apparent dichotomy or outright fantastical nature of the gospels’ claims a reaction sets in which defines what the person does next.

Stop right here to reflect how we react to doubt about our favorite teacher.

The first reaction to objections for anyone who believes whole heartedly is defensiveness. We humans cast about ourselves like cornered animals desperately looking for an answer or anything that will shut up those telling or yelling at us about what they consider to be myth–at best–and outright manipulative lies–at worst. How to justify such a belief in a fantastic story such as Jesus’ birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension in an age of science turns many into blubbering defeated believers or hard headed ignorant champions–neither of which is helpful.

I do not see why we beat each other up so much about an issue which at this time in history is pretty much moot. All the evidence doesn’t point away from or to a god or our God creating. Creation just is; we just exist; everything was made by some power more vast than we can imagine and probably more simple than our imaginations allow for at any given argument.

We know light travels at 186k+ miles per second, which then signifies for the creationists a real conundrum when we see exploding stars so far away their light is only now just reaching our best telescopes. I don’t know how far away they are and I’m not gonna’ argue the point except to say our ignorance keeps us looking like fools whenever we make assertions about the age of the universe. We don’t have the biblical authority to draw conclusions about timelines and limits because what we call the Bible is written without a timeline in mind. I mean, just look at the story of David in 1 & 2 Samuel. The incidents skip back and forth along the timeline depending on what the author’s point is. Genesis gives a symbolic/metaphorical timeframe in the seven days of creation because before the sun’s creation God created light. Days on earth can only be measured by its rotation around the sun. Therefore the first two days of creation were not earth days by our measure but something wholly other, which suggests (and I believe demands) we understand creation differently than tradition would dictate.

Atheists claiming conclusive proof there is no god or the Judeo-Christian God specifically have the burden of proof to present. If our God is spirit, then their assertions must first rule out the spiritual dimension before they can conclude anything for certain. I don’t say they are foolish for being atheists, merely their choice is not a fact set in stone but an interpretation of the facts already known. It’s easier not to believe in anything–ok, may be not socially–than deal with all the myriad claims of gods and goddesses running amok in history and human idealism. I don’t blame agnostics or atheists for their stance since I share their disillusionment and doubt since most religions misrepresent their doctrine of peace with genocide or war.

The stakes in this game we call life are not only high but vital to how we conduct ourselves during our time on earth. Belief in anything defines and directs not only our outlook but the interaction we have with other human beings. I’ve noticed on nearly every occasion I interact with other people about strongly held beliefs that each one looks on everybody else in the conversation with either outright disdain, sympathy, condescension, or worst of all pity. Each one of these responses grow out of an opinion based on a strongly held belief in one’s own view of reality–or it’s counterpart insecurity. Each perspective of reality, however, might be (and is to my grasp of reality) debatable. Since strong debate has already occurred in history to the point of killing millions of people over it, I would say we’ve about exhausted our arguments and methods of convincing others.

The best argument for Christ has to be the way it changes the believer.

And when I say “has to be” I’m not asserting that it is the best argument for a given debate but the only one capable of demonstrating the truth of what is taught in any debate. Unfortunately, with over 1 billion fragmented believers fractured even further into a combination of large to small denominations we have a credibility problem. The loudest voices rule the public discourse as a general rule. It makes no difference whether or not these people shouting down the opposition come from a knowledgable point of reference or not since what they do sets the stage for the observer.

On several occasions I have spoken to street preachers running the gamut of emotional pleas with their mostly reluctant, bemused, amused, or offended audience. The general consensus from all of them is that they are called to preach to save the unchurched/unbeliever from hell. Now while I can’t dispute their claim to their particular calling, my understanding of Jesus’ teachings lead me to believe shouting out to strangers about love while speaking of punishment for refusing Him is about as effective as telling a stranger’s child you love them while abusing them in some way. Both are manipulative and harmful, belying the very love we claim to support.

And it may be I’m wrong, that the God I serve believes in bringing in the lost by hook or by crook; scaring the hell out of them or throwing them into the darkness to suffer.

From the teachings and stories of how Jesus interacted with acknowledged sinners I don’t think “scare them into heaven” is the gospel’s message though. A city on a hill just shines it doesn’t attack other cities, the jungles or wild places around it. It offers safe haven to citizen and traveler alike with a loving acceptance–albeit disengaged–of its detractors and its supporters. It witnesses to its characteristics by lighting up the darkness–not for the purpose of contrasting itself to the darkness (which happens by default) but to see clearly. Those who don’t want to see clearly will leave the city or try to destroy its light. Those who ache to understand defend it by becoming part of it, adding and increasing the reach of their own light.

How does all this rhetoric relate to the incarnated Jesus?

The greatest miracle Jesus ever performed was life transformation. Those who focus on healing miss the point. Those who decry the world’s sin miss the point. Those who attempt to shout down the opposition miss the point. Anyone who declares the gospel as a means to world domination or wealth have missed the point. The message of the gospel can be summed up very simply: If we love God through Jesus, we will value not only ourselves but the people around us more. The value we place will not be merely utilitarian but wholesale care for the inner and outer person. We will be changed from demanding our own way to finding ways to lift our lives out of the the traps, holes we or others dig for the purpose of setting artificial limits. The teachings of Jesus tell us we will learn to live to the greatest possible limit of our beings. We will not attempt to change the world through means historically proven to fail human progress. We will not ever disparage truth for past held opinions or limited perspectives, but will embrace it fully.

The Wish Factor Context

May 6, 2010

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourself to be my disciples.  John 15:7, 8.

I don’t know about you , but telling a child to “ask whatever you wish” is a fairly dangerous idea from my experience.  The list could go on and on and on and on…  The clever way Jesus proposes we ask, however, is first to set up a condition for the answer,  “If you remain in me and my words remain in you…” places a qualifying clause on getting an answer.

God’s character and nature is taught in every Christian church around the globe.  I’m not gonna’ debate whether or not they get it right (the law of averages and human nature dictate we all have it wrong somewhere in our equation), what I would like to do, however, is debunk this idea that God doesn’t like to give us good things—or won’t.  The answer to our wish list is always a “yes” in Christ when our lives are open to Him and follow His word.

I don’t like conditional generosity because it usually smacks of earning something that should be given free (and many times the person giving owns the receiver), but on this one I have to agree.  A person who will misuse the gifts of God for selfish ends can’t be trusted with them.  Now there are many types of gifts, as we well know, so we have to qualify again what we mean by them in this context.  Since God sends His rain on the just and unjust alike, we can’t think what is natural is out of God’s gifting to humanity at large.  Jesus speaks to that which can only be found through submission to Him, the connection with God’s nature growing out of being conformed to the mind of Christ.

When we have the mind of Jesus, we know the will of the Father, which then means we know what we can and can’t wish for, then in turn what God will answer.  Since God cannot sin nor be tempted to sin (sin being a denial of His sovereignty), we must conclude anything which smacks of greed, self-ambition, lust or immorality is outside of the “whatever you wish” category.  What we can wish for in Christ, however, takes us into a territory unrealized by the average experience.

As we get to know the mind of God, we begin to understand how protected we are in Christ.  Our lives are of infinite value to Him therefore we know He wants us to enjoy our lives, become happy, content and satisfied with good things.

I need to digress here for a minute because I, along with my teachers and mentors, thought the Christian life was about suffering, a constant martyrdom which only had its reward(s) in the afterlife where we would be (bored) for eternity.  Getting to Know the word of God debunked this view for me like the reference in John 10:10 “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Jesus created all life by design, not by accident.  Things didn’t just accidentally fall into place with Him at the helm of creation.  Instead, He set out to create not only living organisms but the characteristics and parameters by which they would operate.  He had in mind a complete picture of what He wanted the human existence to look like.  So when He says He came to give us a full life, He knows what that should look like…which means we won’t unless we have Him and His word as a constant presence in us.

Notice one other thing from this text that’s of utmost importance:  Jesus doesn’t simply tell us His word must remain in us and then we’ll be able to ask whatever we wish, but He must live in us as well.  The combination of Christ’s presence through the Holy Spirit and His word is where we find our knowledge of the truth for without the Spirit to guide us into all truth, we will pervert the meaning because we will misunderstand its intent.

I confess I haven’t sweated in prayer over the things God has promised to provide us.

I can hear some of my friends asking,  “Why would you need to?  I mean, didn’t you just say God wants to give us good things?  Don’t you believe in grace?”

The reason we need to wrestle in prayer, I’ve discovered, is our closed off spiritual condition will not open without it.  God is pouring  out His blessing through Christ on the world, but the world (and, sadly, many believers like me) don’t receive it because of those crusty hard spots closing off our hearts.  We think somehow that God should be able to bless us despite the blockages but He’s just being pissy about it.  God made the rules of believing and receiving for a reason.  As He told us through Jeremiah,  “You will seek me and you will find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” I don’t think He’s speaking about a perfected, healed heart in Christ but all the heart we have available for the effort.  The time we spend opening ourselves to the Master will be time where the crust is chipped away—not by our own efforts, mind you, but through His presence coming in to break apart the stuff that hinders us.

You and I have sin to reckon with on a daily basis which hinders not only our growth but our reception of God and His word as well.  Jesus spent all night in prayer; the prophets fasted and prayed for days on end.  The method isn’t there to earn something from God, however, but a means of opening up the heart so we can hear Him.  I don’t know about you but I have a lot of clutter in the way of my spiritual eyes and ears that distracts me from comprehending God’s will for my life.

If in the past every prophet, servant of God and Christ Himself had to seek God’s will in this way, what will we accomplish if we don’t?  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  Hebrews 12:1-3.

htjtp://jonnysoundsketch2.wordpress.com/2010/05/04/habitation/

While I’m Away…

March 22, 2010

“My children, I will be with you only a little longer.  You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now:  Where I am going, you cannot come.

“A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13:33-35.

It’s as if Jesus were saying,  “While I’m away, the best means for those around you to know that you are my disciples is if you love one another.”  Just like any boss, business owner or ruler Jesus had business to attend to we couldn’t understand, so we have to wait until He’s finished with whatever that business is for Him to come back and bring us home.  It’s not like it has to take Him 2000 years to build a city or homes for us; He’s God, so whatever He’s doing must be important or He wouldn’t have left us behind.

I confess I don’t understand God the well.  There’s so much nuance in Scriptures that anyone who claims to have a complete grasp of them is lying as far as I can tell.  I’ve met enough theology professors and men who study the Word of God constantly to know one person cannot take all that God is or come close to grasping His purpose for us.

And this is what makes me trust and serve Him.

Right now God wants us to learn to trust Him in the most uninviting circumstances imaginable and in this way become loving people despite what we encounter.  The test of our faith would not be a true test if we didn’t have opposition, which means if our lives are free of frustration, we’re being set up for a fall.  Over confidence in the continuity of the good life  will set us up to be disappointed when the crash happens.

Love is kind when all else is unkind.  Love speaks of the good when there’s no one else who’ll notice it.  Love rebukes the evil so as to promote the good.  Love stands for right no matter what the hateful do.  Love does good to all, deserving or not.  If we practiced love toward each other this way, what would those who watch know about our God?  What would the message be if the world saw us demonstrating love toward everyone in our path?  What would the witness be like if we constantly responded in loving ways to those who least deserve it?

The greatest test of a person’s connection to Christ is not their understanding of Scriptures or deep truths of God, but love being demonstrated in their lives.  Jesus’ instruction to the disciples addressed a group of men divided by lust for position, greed for power, prestige and the wealth being close the King of kings would bring.  They were so far removed from the true wealth at this point the Master had to tell them what He expected for they hadn’t learned it by this time.  I think it made Jesus sad and a little disappointed that even those closest to Him ignored or simply couldn’t grasp this basic foundation block of the kingdom of heaven.  I’m sure He expected them to fail, but it still probably hurt His heart to know they didn’t understand His teaching.

At the same time, that’s why He gave these instructions, because He knew they would get it eventually.  Once He was raised to life and their hope was restored, they would begin to grasp in leaps and bounds everything He had taught them in word and deed.

Gives hope for us, huh.

Worshiping the Wrong Prophet

December 30, 2009

Then they hurled insults at him and said,  “You are this fellow’s disciple!  we are disciples of Moses!  We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where He comes from.”  John 9:28, 29.

Odd retort.  I guess it follows hard on their complaint to Jesus that they don’t know where He came from, not at all saying they didn’t know His parents or city.  The fact that they “hurled insults at him” tells me they were threatened by his answers, frustrated in their attempts to discredit Jesus and angry because they couldn’t find anything else to say.

As if being a disciple of Jesus were something bad or foolish, the Jews were almost thumping their chests in superiority.  They followed Moses, a man proven by miracles and writings to be approved by God.

Wait a minute!

Did they just ignore some vital evidence standing right in front of them?

I think they did.  Here’s a man who was born blind now able to see and all they can do is insult the very one God displayed His power through in an unprecedented way.  They were being quite childish, stubborn and slow of heart to believe all that the law and prophets had written.  In fact, like most of us, they used the power of their vehemence to shut him up and shut out the call on their own hearts.

The man answered,  “Now that is remarkable!  You don’t know where He comes from, yet He opened my eyes.  We know God does not listen to sinners.  He listens to the godly man who does his will.  Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind.  If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.”

At this point their pride took over and they threw him out for presuming he could question their conclusions.  Those who listen to the gospel will fall into one of three major categories:  1) acceptance  2)  apathy  3)  outright rejection.  There are, of course, mixtures of these which we won’t go into right now except to say sometimes people accept Jesus on certain levels but not on others.  The man healed gave the best argument he could ever give by being a miracle himself.  His ability to see was beyond question, his past blindness an obvious fact testified by his parents and friends, and his healer was the only one in history who had ever done this type of thing.

What’s the best way to kill a truth?  Shut it out?  Silence the messenger?  Deny it?  Spread rumors about those who support it?

We were all blind in our sins.  If we now see it is only because the Savior put eyesalve on our useless spiritual eyes and showed us the light.  Whatever the Word of God says, we adhere to.  Our study should include the whole of the Bible so that we get a balance between what is required of man in his sinful state and what God’s grace has delivered us from in order that we might become the righteousness of God.

Traditional views said God could not work through sinners.  This is accurate only in so far as it means those who are unrepentant sinners for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God except One.  Since we know that Jesus never sinned, His ability outstrips ours as the Sun outshines the moon.  Yet in Christ we take on His power, His ability, His character and His mind.  We do not become Him but like Him.  Only through Him can we “do greater things than these” for the kingdom of God.  Yet our motivation must never be the need to display “our” power through Christ but to serve the world for Him.

Ignoring his healing the Jews called on their traditional view of disease and misfortune by reminding the man he had been “steeped in sin at birth” or, in other words, completely outside the mercies of God in their opinion.  The fact that he stood there whole as a testimony of God’s grace and mercy failed to move them at all.  They didn’t want to acknowledge Jesus and nothing, not even a miracle could make them question their position.  So they did the only thing left for them to do:  insulted his background and made him an outcast.

It wouldn’t work for them because the power of a testimony that says,  “I was once blind but now I see” is far too effective and powerful to keep quiet by social pressure; especially when God determines it otherwise.  What does Proverbs say?  There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD.”  Proverbs 21:30.  It’s complete madness to think we can silence God’s voice just by social pressure.  If God wants something done, it will be done.

The Hard Truth

August 30, 2009

On hearing it, many of His disciples said,  “This is a hard teaching.  Who can accept it?”  John 6:60.

Jesus doesn’t play games with life and death matters.  O, I might call Him a “Master Chess Player” but that is a way of giving an example of His ability to win the struggle against sin and our Adversary, not a way of making the contest for our hearts seem like bet between God and Satan.  These men of the synagogue didn’t get it, Jesus’ disciples didn’t get it, and why?  Because their minds were too tied to a worldview which had nothing whatsoever to do with God.

Sure they knew the Scriptures but they didn’t understand their import, meaning or purpose.  As a general rule, most people consider religion as an advice column which helps them navigate the ups and downs in the world as it is, it probably doesn’t cross their minds there is a change coming to the whole enchilada.  In other words, the change the Jews were looking for was a glorified more-of-the-same product not a cataclysmic, radical upheaval of everything they had worked so hard to obtain.  Most didn’t look for sin to be eradicated at all nor the other nations to be converted rather they thought their only thought was gain power over them.

Some times we look at the people around us as necessary evils.Their beliefs, practices and cultures might run counter to our own, but we don’t see them as anything more than landscape.  God wants to recreate our paradigm yet we are hanging on to this reality with all our might to the point of even arguing with Him about it.

Aware that His disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them,  “Does this offend you?  What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where He was before!  The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.  The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.  Yet there are some of you do not believe.”  John 6:60-64.

Ah, the key to understanding the teaching.  It makes all the difference in the world for us doesn’t it?  Or does it?  We hunger for the things we desire so hard that God many times has to deny us something so we’ll pay attention.  Notice that John says the disciples were grumbling not just the Jews.  Since he didn’t see fit to separate out the twelve from among the general category of disciples, I suggest even the twelve had a hard time swallowing what He said.  To make it even clearer who was doing most of the grumbling, John goes on to say,  For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray Him.  The process of elimination tells us all His disciples, including the twelve, were offended by what He said.

Notice that Jesus doesn’t present a question about where He lived with God but makes it an exclamation.  In other words He’s not pleading with them to understand or using it as an argument counter to their objections but emphasizing their unbelief.  These people would resent seeing Him in His previous glory, hate everything about His powerful heritage and reject Him anyway.

You object to my reasoning here?

These Jews had just witnessed Jesus perform one of the greatest miracles of His ministry the day before yet here they were immediately rejecting the truth His teaching.  Now wouldn’t you or I expect the power of a man to perform such a miracle such as feeding several thousand people would be enough authority for us to trust or at least want to understand Him?  Jesus knew that they couldn’t accept God for who He really is but preferred their image of Him.  In this they showed they hadn’t given up idolatry at all since they worshipped the image of God they created for themselves.

The Jews showed their metal, the consistency of their character by their reluctance to grasp what God wanted them to know through His Son, Jesus.  Jesus gave them the code to unlock His words by telling them,  “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.  The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”  The words about eating His flesh and drinking His blood pointed to a spiritual reality they refused to submit to, preferring the hard reality of the physical realm.  The Lord knew their hearts, He read them like an open book, so His purpose in confronting them was to break into their that hardened place and bring light to their darkened minds.

It is a warning to us to beware of worshiping our own image of God instead of conforming to His description of Himself.  History demonstrates mankind’s inability to accept God as He presents Himself, instead we tend to set up visions of God according to our own cultural perspectives or to the preferences of the powerful.

Jesus knew humans would never accept Him as He is, that’s why He wouldn’t trust Himself to them because He knew what was in them.  We must stop being conformed to the earthly perspective and renew our minds through the Spirit’s influence so that we may conform to the mind of Christ.  If Jesus’ words pointed us to a spiritual reality, what do we think we doing by using His truth (which in essence is the only reality there is) to make our own reality here?

“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.  The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”

Name that Connection

June 8, 2009

“I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.  John 1:34.

John B. uses this name for the first time in Scripture to apply to Jesus, the first time for a human, that is.  Being called a “son of God” would not be all that rare in the Jewish world because they all believed this about themselves in a way, however, John used “the” to indicate separation from the general application.  It’s not clear if John himself understood the significance of what he said, because later we’ll see he questions Jesus’ on His identity, which means he was unsure at the time.  The text claims the Spirit took the form of a dove to convince John of the truth of Jesus’ identity at the time, but it wasn’t conclusive or John wouldn’t later doubt his own convictions while in prison.

Here’s a trustworthy saying which this story reminded me of:  Never doubt in the darkness what we learned in the light.

It’s easy to get sidetracked by the struggle to survive the dark hours and minutes that seem to drag on and on as if in slow motion.  It’s easy to forget the reality of what we saw revealed in the light when the heaviness of dark times presses in around us. 

Back to our text.

John reveals the special connection between Jesus and God.  Israel is a small country so the news of John B’s announcement wouldn’t be a secret but would spread like wildfire as fast those travelling the trade routes could take them.  The circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth, the incident in the temple when He was 12 and these occurances at the Jordan were not kept a secret by any means, which tells us the Jewish world was being primed with significant teasers by God to heighten Jesus’ reception once He began His work.

John B calls Jesus “the Son of God” not because he fully understood the significance of the connection, but because he was a prophet.  He most likely didn’t grasp the incarnate God nor the fact of Jesus’ mission to die—even when he called Him “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”  I bet he wondered at that title since a lamb died for the sins of the people, but he was a child of his age so his understanding would be affected.

Jesus, as I’ve said before, turned the world on its proverbial ear by doing everything “wrong” by our standards.  Instead of taking the world by the force of armies or rebellion Jesus healed and gave us through His teachings the principles of the kingdom so profound we’ve still yet to grasp all that He’s said.  His methods impressed even the worst skeptics then and continue to do so now.  The problem with Jesus and the world comes down to His claim to be anything more than a good man with wisdom for life and happiness.  His claim on deity suggests the supernatural, which in our “modern” thinking is paramount to barbarism and superstitious nonsense.  The age of science discredits the message due to our inability to prove miracles on demand or Jesus’ claims in a test tube, and, since most don’t want the authority of such a teacher to be absolute, the writings of the gospels and other NT books are said to be biased, compromised and spurious.  To discredit the message one has to raise serious doubts about the messenger or the source of the message.

But John B, John A. and Jesus, Himself, all told those who wanted to really know the method by which we would know the truth.  The truth of a teaching comes in the fruit it bears in the heart and life a person given wholly over to it.  We only become sons and daughters of God by our connection to Jesus not our acceptance His religion.  The religion we practice (I’m sorry for the redundancy here for the word “religion” means practice) grows out of a heart change not merely something we apply for ourselves.  According to Scripture our change of mind comes as a supernatural event not a determined effort on our part.

John B. never claimed to do the supernatural baptism, instead he made it clear,  “I baptize with water…He who comes after me…will baptize with the Holy Spirit.”  The water baptism of John B. symbolized the mission of Christ to baptize with the Holy Spirit.  John A. writes with understanding of these things later in life because the Spirit had already come.  Yet he also makes it clear he and the other disciples didn’t get it at the time it was said, which suggests strongly they didn’t grasp even what John B said about the baptism of the Holy Spirit—at all.

If you’ve read anything I’ve written over the time of this blog’s existence, you’ll know I believe staunchly that perspective colors our understanding of truth.  Proverbs states,  Understanding brightens a man’s face and changes its hard appearance.  Ecclesiastes 8:1b.  The change which happens in us changes how we do everything, from attitudes to our treatment of others.  If the truth of Christ plants itself in us, we know the truth and it sets us free from everything that would stop us from being like our Master.

Mere wisdom is not enough; mere knowledge is never enough; only the supernatural interference with our dual natures makes any difference.  John called Jesus “The Son of God” possibly without grasping that connection, but the name carried weight far beyond what any of us could have imagined.  The truth of this name once accepted changes everything for those who understand it.

A Sound Investment Strategy

May 24, 2009

“The master commended the dishonest manger because he had acted shrewdly.  For the people of the world are more shrewd in dealing with there own kind than are the people of the light.  I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.  Luke 16:8, 9.

Last night Jerome taught on this text (you can hear his teaching on it here) and it struck me just how clever our Master Jesus really was and is.  Sometimes we forget to connect the dots with Christ’s teachings, thinking His subjects jump around a bunch of times in random sequence without really being intertwined.  Jerome reminded us last night that Jesus demonstrated the vital connection between the Prodigal son’s tale and this subject of the shrewd manager.

For one thing (and I’m ripping you off a little here, Jerome), Jesus shows how much the Father’s heart longs for His children to come home and become part of the family again through the tale of prodigal son.  But what He also goes on to say in the Luke 16:1-15 is quite different than it seems He said in the wayward son’s story.  What He says here speaks to how we deal with the gifts given us here on earth.  The younger son wasted his inheritance then returned to be welcomed home sure, but hard on the heals of this story Jesus warns His disciples about squandering their gifts.  The rewards will be lacking in the kingdom to come because the gifts were not invested in eternal goods. 

What are these eternal goods?  Jerome pointed out it was the friends we used our worldly wealth to bring to the light.  At that great party where the bride (the church)  meets the Groom (Jesus) will we have used our worldly wealth to His purpose of saving those we come in contact with or squandered it on temporary pleasures in the here and now?  The younger son represents those who have squandered their gifts on making a name for themselves or gaining security only for this life.  When the son was welcomed back, he had no friends except the father to be glad of his return.  Sure the servants celebrated but not from a personal connection to the son, rather they were just glad for the Father. 

One other thing that struck me, though Jerome didn’t emphasize it as much:  The jewels in our crowns are not a physical thing in the sense of actual rocks, for what man values, God despises as worthless.  No, the jewels are the people we have invested in for eternal returns.  Paul speaks to this by saying,  For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when He comes?  Is it not you?  Indeed you are our glory and joy.  1 Thessalonians 2:19, 20.  The crown we work for as believers is not a hat with jewels in it but people in whom we have invested our time, energy and money.  Let’s exhaust all our means for the sake of showing the attitude of Jesus who invested everything He had to save a world that doesn’t really seem to want Him.

If we invest in earthly security more than eternal, our rewards will be small, for earthly security is fleeting and temporary at best.  Our reward in heaven is the friends we make for the kingdom here and now.  So let’s exhaust our means and energy on the family of God—and by that I mean increase the numbers of disciples.  I believe Jesus tells us we need to be as shrewd about eternal investments as the world is about earthly.