Imagine that you met someone new, and you’re the first Christian they’ve known. Nonverbally, what does your life communicate about Jesus?
I am teaching two sections of American National Government this semester, and I love it. Some people don’t like teaching freshmen because they are, well, freshmen. I think it’s awesome. I love those light bulb moments when they realize that my class isn’t going to be a complete snorefest like they expected. Anyway, we were talking last week about different forms of government and how the colonists were trying to escape what they viewed as an oppressive government. Although our Founding Fathers disagreed on a lot of things, one thing they rallied behind was NO KING. They did not want to create another monarchy.
I thought about that particular class when I came across a passage in Matthew 27. Verses 32-44 detail Jesus’ crucifixion. The soldiers, religious leaders, and even the general public seemed to be hung up on the notion of Jesus as King of the Jews, or King of Israel, as some translations state. They hung a sign of mockery above his head reading, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” (v. 37). The religious leaders taunted him, saying that if he’s the King of the Jews, then he should save himself (v. 41-43).
Here’s the catch: whether we’re talking about a political science class or trying to make a spiritual application, there can only be ONE king. In a monarchy, there may be a ruling family who passes down the crown from generation to generation, but at any given time, there is one king or queen in charge. Trying to have two people wear the crown is a recipe for disaster.
The same concept holds true in our spiritual lives. Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13 remind us that we cannot serve both God and money. We have to choose one over the other – either God or our worldly desires.
Jesus did not come to serve as a political leader. Instead, he challenged our traditional ideas of rulership by introducing us to a personal relationship with the Lord. We don’t need a political king to sweep in and take over; we need a spiritual Lord to whom we willingly submit our lives. He is fully capable of leading and guiding us, but only if we allow him that position in our hearts. He does not demand our loyalty. We retain the free will to choose the world over him, if that’s what we really want.
However, I implore you to give him authority over your life, and I feel confident in saying that you will not regret it. Walking in a relationship with Christ is more spectacular than all the ticker tape parades and inauguration parties in the whole, entire world.
This week we looked at the Greek word Kyrios, which means “master.” Is Jesus the master of your life in practice, or just in lip service?
Think of something you own that you had to save up for – wasn’t it worth the sacrifice? Likewise, following Jesus is costly but so worth it!
My little brother and I fell in love with a pair of soft & cuddly plush puppets at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo one year when we were young. They were puppies, and if you held them in the crook of your arm, it looked realistic (in our imaginations, that is!). I liked the brown one, and he wanted the black one. Our parents surprised us with the pups as a gift, and we played make-believe games with those puppets for years. I still have mine to this day.
Think about some of the favorite gifts you have received in your life. The gifts that come to my mind are things that I wore, used, consumed, or played with. I can’t think of any gift that I ever left in its wrapping paper, unopened. The simple act of accepting a gift involves action.
The Bible says that God has equipped each of us, as believers in Christ, with spiritual gifts (see Ephesians 4:7, Romans 12:6a, 1 Peter 4:10). These aren’t just things to keep tucked away for a rainy day; we should be putting them into practice. 1 Corinthians 12:7 (NLT) says, “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.” Some gifts are to be used within the church, while others are for sharing with unbelievers, as well. None of the gifts are just for our own enjoyment, and none are intended to be hidden away.
Later in that same chapter, Paul uses the human body as an example of how our gifts are supposed to work in tandem with each other. It wouldn’t do much good if all of us were eyeballs, would it? We often talk in church-ese about being “the hands and feet of Jesus,” but if no one serves in a behind-the-scenes role as the brain or heart, then the hands and feet can’t get very far.
If you have never taken a spiritual gifts inventory, then it’s a useful (and perhaps revealing!) exercise. Confession: I used to feel put out that I always score high in Administration, because that sounded awfully dull. But then, God opened doors of opportunity for me to lead and serve in different capacities that were a good fit for me, and I was able to use my gifts in ways I hadn’t realized before. I encourage you to be open to however the Lord has equipped you, and give back to him by way of service to your church family and community.
What does it mean to you, personally, when you read 2 Corinthians 5:17 about being given a new identity in Christ?
Think about the last big trial you endured. Did you handle it in a way that pointed others to Jesus? He’ll see you through it! Rom. 8:31-34
Think about Jesus’ character reflected in your life: what traits need more refining? Does he have permission to make the necessary changes?
If I see another online post featuring a pretty text box with a serene image in the background and a paraphrase of Romans 8:28 printed on top, then I’m issuing a warning right now that I might very well scream. “God works all things together for our good,” says the sign. That sounds sweet, but what does it really mean? You need to read the whole chapter to put it in context.
Two verses earlier, the Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit helps us when we are weak; in fact, when we don’t know what to pray in our distress, he even pleads on our behalf (v. 26). A few verses before that, we learn that our sufferings pale in comparison to God’s glory that we’ll experience in eternity (v. 18-21). Later in the chapter, we read about how God is on our side through every spiritual trial (v. 31-34) and that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love – no troubles, danger, or even death threats (v. 35-39).
So, with all that talk of trials and suffering, does verse 28 really mean that life is supposed to be sunshine and roses, because God works everything out for our good? I think we have a general misunderstanding of what “good” means. We’d like it to mean that things work out the way we want, so that we’ll get what we want, when we want, how we want. On the contrary, I don’t believe that’s what it means.
Look at verse 29: God has called us, and he wants us to become like his Son, Jesus. That’s for our ultimate good. When we experience trials and come out on the other side stronger in our faith, then we’re becoming more like Jesus. When we encounter setbacks or face opposition, but we don’t compromise our faith, then we’re taking more steps toward having a character like Jesus.
Living a life that mirrors Christ is for our good; that doesn’t mean we are exempt from suffering! What it does mean is that God can use every circumstance (even the gut-wrenching ones that keep us awake at night) to his glory and to help us become closer to his character. Sometimes those situations aren’t even reconciled in our lifetimes; it’s a hard pill to swallow, but you may not ever have all the answers about why things happen in your life the way they do. In eternity, it’ll all make sense, but in the here & now, it often doesn’t make sense at all. The challenge is how we handle those issues. Do we behave like the world – blaming God and cursing our lot in life? Or, do we stand firm in our faith, despite the inexplicable circumstances?
1 Corinthians 4:20 says that the kingdom of God is living by God’s power. How might he want you to live that out in your own life?