Discipleship

Satan is Pleased

Disunity is nothing new. It is an old trick, arguably around since the garden scheme to put husband and wife against each other in blame and the resulting separation from God.

But this year’s pandemic-drenched election is confounding with the layers of disunity.

The progressive left is agitated that the party they have tried to transform has as its candidate who some view as a centrist. Republicans are left wondering what it means to be conservative anymore as some shill for the cult of personality while others lament the loss of small government and kindness. Pro-life people are disunified on what the term means, do we only vote for a candidate perceived to be against abortion or do we actually work to value life of all people.

Sadly, the church, a people prone to be discipled more by confirmation bias than the Bible, has allowed the same level of disunity over politics or even response to a global pandemic. All of this leaves the accuser of the Saints, Satan, pleased.

Now I have no insight for the political left, or right, but I do have some encouragement for those claiming faith in Christ. Unity is what we are meant for. If it wasn’t important Jesus could have saved his breath in John 17. A oneness in Christ, with each other is the design for the church.

We are all culpable so where do we go from here? I suggest we become more rooted in the Word, more aggressive in repentance, and more familiar with love.

We must know what Jesus taught in order to be his disciples and we hear it in Scripture. Of course every believer is committed to Scripture, just ask them. But as individuals I wonder if we are ripe for evaluation of our lives and how much we take in that is in opposition to God’s best for his people and his invitation to live as Kingdom citizens.

Can we endeavor to consume more of Christ’s word? And do so not to confirm a bias we have but asking the Spirit to open our eyes and show us how to get to unity with others anchored in the good news of Jesus?

As we read then we should be quick to act upon what we hear. We tend to read Scripture looking for stories of great blessing that we can claim for ourselves but neglect the calls against rampant idolatry and half-hearted worship. Maybe in this season, to get to unity it will take aggressive repentance for the ways we have sinned against each other and the Lord by calling lesser things more important.

A whole-life repentance (given it’s Reformation Day we should reclaim this!) will move us beyond our prayer closet and into each others’ homes asking for forgiveness and seeking restoration with one another. It will also move us into the streets to care for the least among us, those without voice, without privilege.

And it might recenter us in love. Jesus does bold work by calling his followers to not only love our neighbor (hard enough for us) but to also love our enemies and pray for those that persecute us. Some of us find it hard in this season to love the people we sit six-feet away from at church. But following Jesus is death-to-self. A sacrificial life of care for others, even those we are sure are against us. Let’s recommit to that, to love.

Because Jesus first loved us we have nothing to lose in extending love to others. Maybe the Spirit will even give you a tangible way to do that before the election is even over.

In the Word, quick to repent, and active in unlimited love, we will find our unity. In Jesus, who forgives us and gives us new mercy to try again. We are free to throw off what weighs us and separates us and realize the answer to Christ’s prayer that we would be one and he and the Father are one.

Are we up for it?

Grace

Filial Reverence

“Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Nothing more true than this statement. But maybe we need to rightly adapt the word fear to express more clearly its meaning. It is meant to be an awe, or reverence, not the scary sense modern vernacular lends to the word.

One of the guys I am trying to disciple was recently reading an R.C. Sproul devotional that was categorizing the fear of the Lord between servile and filial. Servile being a subdued caution toward a perceived threat of the tormentor. This would be an appropriate response to thinking of the heat and hardship of eternal hell. (Sorry to bring such things up on a Friday).

But that kind of reverent fear is not meant for those in Christ. Those rescued from wrath for sin, those forgiven. We are meant for filial reverence. Seeing the Father through the lens of his love. In awe of his mercy and ongoing cherishing of His children. We might think of how great it is to have a Father, especially one that loves us (as proven by the provision of grace of the Son), what we receive. Or we can think of it from the Father’s perspective, the heart he has for us.

This idea is often brought to mind for me as a dad. My kids are something else. Each with their own personality and quirks, none of which keeps me from loving them. In fact, it is strange, but I can find myself smiling just seeing these kids be themselves. They brighten my heart, they soften my mood.

And that feeling (maybe only healthy dads can feel it) is what God feels towards you in Christ. You make his heart burst with joy. So much so that while we are at our worst he sent his Son to take our place in obedience and punishment. What grace. What love.

It is from the safe place of this love that we live. Reverence for the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, it is the beginning of all life. Praying that you have this in increasing measure today and forever.

Culture, Discipleship

Putting Down the Pipe

A few weeks ago in a sermon I mentioned my grandfather and the smell of his tobacco pipe. I used it as an illustration of how you could tell you had been with Jesus, you smelled like him, just like you might if you were around my grandfather when he was smoking a pipe.

My mother reminded me afterward how my grandfather had given up his pipe out of care for his wife, my grandmother. She developed a morning cough and thinking it might be from the pipe my grandfather gave up smoking. He sacrificed something he enjoyed out of love, willingly giving up to protect someone else.

Since my mom recounted this fact to me I haven’t been able to get it out of mind and I think it is such a timely example. In fact during this moment in history we are want for those that would willingly sacrifice for others. We see it in medical professionals and other frontline workers, the ones fearlessly doing the work. But the voices we hear with increasing volume are those that are done with sacrifice and would like their lives back thank you very much.

I wonder if the church should play a bigger role here. Okay, I don’t wonder, that is me just trying to be more gentle. Christians should be the first to willingly sacrifice for others. Following governement orders to slow the spread of a disease. Caring for the elderly neighbor so they are not endangered. Generously sharing what gifts they have been given. Not prioritizing our own preference but living to be spent for others.

When we are done with the “me first” mentality of our western sensibilities we might live like we are called. “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” 1 Peter 2:21(ESV)

Are we ready for this? Perhaps this is the moment conditions are right for it. And we will certainly have opportunity to set aside our rights for the care of others in the days ahead, even in our opinions. As Brett McCracken so poignantly stated, “little is more Christian than a posture of sacrifice (Rom. 12:1). We should embrace it with gladness.” 

What “pipe” is Jesus asking you to put down?