Change Your Position

When we were living in South Africa it was amazing to us to realize that not more than 20 years ago the level of communications available to us for calling back to the US was the stuff of Dick Tracy comics. Today we live in an age of unparalleled communication. In the “christian” world there is a plethora of information about Jesus. But have you noticed that so many people are still unclear about Jesus and what it means to follow Him? The message sounds garbled. Even the meaning of the word “christian” is garbled. And it is no wonder. We Christians keep providing the media with lots of dirt. Headlines are consistent: Pastoral moral failure, embezzlement, wrong Biblical interpretation on the date for the return of Christ, using number sequences to bring meaning to prophecy, the correct day to have church services, health and wealth doctrines, and the list goes on. We fight among ourselves to keep hold of our fortress of the truth.

Leighton Ford said in his Bible Study on Mark: “Sometimes I think we should stop using the term Christian. It carries a great deal of negative cultural baggage. In some societies everyone assumes they are Christians unless they happen to belong to some other religion. In other cultures “Christians” may be viewed as a political party – or even the ones lobbing the bombs. Perhaps it would be better if we simply talked about being followers of Jesus.

An old axiom says “It costs nothing to become a Christian but will cost everything to live as a Christian.” Becoming a Christian is a one-time decision. Living out that decision for the rest of our lives is a process involving daily choices. Jesus made that clear when He told the crowd: “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” [Mark 8:34] He goes on to talk about the profit and loss of those daily choices we will experience.

Peter, when asked by Jesus who he thought the Son of Man might be answered: “You are the Christ.” This is an amazing statement for a Jewish man to make in that time and place. Does stating that make one a Christian? Some think so. Some would say that saying those words makes one a follower of Jesus. That claim is misleading. It misses an important part for becoming a follower of Jesus. Peter did not make that statement because it suddenly hit him that this was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” standing in front of him. Jesus made it clear to Peter and the other disciples that Peter did not come up with that revelation on his own. “… for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” [Mat 16:16-17] “For by grace have you been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” [Eph 2:8-9]

Immediately after Peter’s proclamation, Jesus goes on and tells the group about what choices He would be making as the Christ. He would be choosing to go to the hotbed of persecution … Jerusalem. He would be making the choice to suffer many things at the hands of the religious leaders. And finally He knew He would choose to place Himself in harm’s way by allowing mortal men to kill Him on a cross but rise on the third day. Peter, immediately upon hearing this news pulls Jesus aside to counsel Him, making a private proclamation. In so many words Peter told Jesus that He was making a critical error in choosing these things to happen. This was not good political strategy!

The rebuke that Peter and the other disciples got from Jesus was a shock to them. They were envisioning their country free from Roman tyranny; the things of men. Jesus wanted them to see a new vision; a land focused on the ways of God. The narrative of the blind man needing a second touch is the illustration that Jesus used to make His point. We all need a second touch to clarify our sight. We need to understand the Jesus’ destiny; the cross that Jesus headed to in order that we might be able to fulfill our destiny. We are image bearers if we have met the living Christ and not just made a verbal assent. Otherwise we are just political pawns in a world of darkness. Ask Jesus for a better understanding of His way; ask Him for a second touch.


Simple Solutions

“…you are my followers if you love each other.” (John 13:35)

When Andrew Jackson was a general in the Tennessee Militia during the War of 1812 his troops were fighting and bickering among themselves so he called them together and said, ‘Gentlemen, let’s remember the enemy is over there!’ We’d all do well to remember just that. It’s easy to love God; it’s harder when it comes to loving those we have to live with.

Someone once said: ‘If there’s anything that would keep me away from Christ if I was lost it would be the attitude of Christians towards one another.

Everything we need to know about living with one another can be found in these two verses, ‘Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself…look out…for the interests of others’ (Philippians 2:3-4 NAS)

Sounds like something a teacher might say to a roomful of nursery children. Adult problems could be solved if that was the driving force in our relationships.

How many couples could reconcile their marital differences if they applied what Jesus said, ‘People will know…you are my followers if you love each other.’ (John 17:21).