So, how does following Jesus influence your trip to the supermarket today?
After Jesus had been crucified, we’re told the disciples were in a room with the doors locked for fear of the Jews (John 20:19-20).
There was much to be feared. When Jesus died on the cross all their hope and dreams had died with him – at least that may have been their perspective before Jesus’ resurrection. For the Eleven, it would have been reasonable to expect that the people who wanted Jesus dead would want his key followers dead as well. So they were petrified. Inside that room they held their breath at every footfall, every knock on the door, every sudden sound.
So they had taken appropriate measures, and barricaded themselves in a room, locked the doors, turned out the lights, speaking in muted whisper of how they would hold the line and what they would do to make a last stand together. These actions were sensible, and we should not mock them.
My own capacity to cower before my fears never ceases to amaze me. I admit: I lock the doors and draw the curtains way too quickly. In that initial response I think I am working for my own preservation, but it tends to cut me off from those who are near to me. It deafens me to their words of hope and encouragement. It keeps me insulated from the comfort and nearness of those who love me more than I know. So, there are always some bills to be paid.
And then I see here what Jesus does, not just in our fears, but to our fears. Almost imperceptibly, he enters by miraculous, sovereign, and surprisingly gentle means. He does not rebuke the Eleven for their fear or their lack of faith: he just enters into it, and as he does, those fears are transformed into all joy and hallelujah.
Somehow I imagine these followers, some years down the track, reminiscing over a meal and saying, “hey, remember the time we’d locked ourselves in our room, and we were packing it, and how Jesus just showed up…?”
Displaying his hands and feet reminded them of two things. One: the victory had been won. Two: now there was only love and life. In that very act they were changed.
So now, when I retreat, I will do well to recognise that even in that locked room Jesus is with me. He not only enters my fear, he shows me his resurrected hands and feet, and takes that ‘locked room’ of ‘what’s going to become of me?’ and it becomes instead a place of “peace be with you” and “receive the Holy Spirit.” All joy and hallelujah!
When I am gripped with fear, and all I want to do is retreat to my locked room, I should tell that to all my insecurities.
(Apologies that my posts have been a little irregular these last weeks. Leonie and I have visited a few churches, as well as ReCharge – The CRCA pastor’s conference, we have considered a few calls from churches, we’ve decided to accept a call to Gateway CRC, and this last week we’ve out our house on the market, and it appears to have sold. I am hoping that I can now maintain a little more regularity…)
It’s tough being church these days. You have to wonder how even hi-tech and well managed church ‘productions’ compete with easily accessible forms of entertainment. Or why people attend a local community when they can access Driscoll, or Piper, or Ortberg on their smartphone or computer. How can local church ‘Pastor Bob’ compete with all of that? With these choices so readily available, it seems more people are staying away from church, and managing their own spiritual development.
Do we still need the local church?
Ephesians 3:14-20 says we do. If we’re mapping out our own DIY spiritual growth, we are selling ourselves short, as well as dishonouring the community that Jesus gave his life for.
Your local church community can teach you things that the world’s best preachers and writers never can
Paul prays that we may grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. He prays that we might know the full dimensions of Christ’s love. All its texture, every nuance, every subtlety and variation. The surprising thing is that this does not come from the world’s best preachers, or the Christian book of the year, or even the work of the world’s most erudite Christian scholars. Instead, it comes ‘together with all the Lord’s people’. It comes as the Christian community does new life together. That doesn’t mean preaching or scholarship is not required. It just means that when it comes to you growing into the full dimensions of Jesus’ love preaching, scholarship, and books have considerable limitations.
Your local church community can teach you things that the world’s best preachers and writers never can. Yes. Your church. That failed and fallen group of people, with all of their quirky and irritating aspects. These people are the very means by which God draws you into the full dimensions of his love.
How does that work? Here are a few suggestions:
• Only your church can love you with all of your faults and failings
• Only your church can express the forgiving grace of God when you fail
• Only your church can draw you into reconciliation and bring the grace of a receiving and welcoming God to full expression
• Only your church gives you a context to use your gifts and to serve others. Stay at home Christianity is basically self worship
• Only your church can express the hope of the New Heavens and the New Earth to the people of your neighbourhood
• Only your church can bring healing and restoration to the broken lives and the troubled families that live in your local community
All of this comes as a loving and sovereign God does his work in his people, through the power of his Spirit, to the glory of Jesus. Without him, we can do nothing, but as he works in us, his people express the truth that Jesus is the hope of our world.
Sure, it can be tough, and not church is perfect. But don’t give up n your local church: it’s God’s means, God’s personally selected context to bring you into the full dimensions of his love.
Q: How is God calling you to renew your love for the local church today?
Read: Heb 13:1-6
Sometimes when I am met by a need or a context where I know I should move forward and respond, I push back and either procrastinate or simply turn away.
Why do I do that? Is it fear that my incompetence might be exposed Is it a sense that I might not be safe? Or is it prejudice? Or some combination of a whole raft of reasons? This passage speaks of ministering to prisoners (v.3) – do I fear their violence, and back off? We also read of strangers (v.2) – can they be trusted? Sometimes I am so prejudiced and governed by insecurity with moves me toward self protection and avoidance. Too easily, my fears blind me to what I really need to see. This is the interference of self.
Quite often the truth we need to hear is uncomfortable
Quite often, the truth we need to hear is uncomfortable. It interferes with the ‘realities’ we construct to protect ourselves from inconvenience. If one of these uncomfortable truths threatens my material wealth, my financial independence, or my leisure, I often try to push it away. Sometimes, I don’t even think I realise what I am doing. Yet through defensiveness or dismissal, or something as harmless as well directed humour, I persist in my denial. I would rather that people affirm me, and confirm the sometimes lesser story I have chosen to live at that time.
Well, there is only one affirmation that really matters. One reality worth living for. On Kingdom deserving the focus of my life, one relationship that brings love, peace, life and hope. And it is God (v.6). I don’t have to worry about what others may think, because living with God, or rather Him with me, I have all I need to survive the day.
Q: Does relationship with God really make that much difference to you? Leave a comment and tell us what you think.
Read: Gal 5:13, John 13:3,4
When we think of power, and self, and what we might do if we had unlimited power and freedom, it is understandable that we start to think about ourselves. Take a different career track. Or retire and cruise the Whitsundays. Buy a new house. Deal with the challenging relational situation which has been keeping us down, and out.
God’s plan for restored humanity, and therefore for you and me, is different. His plan is for us not to use our freedom for ourselves, but instead to serve others humbly in love (Gal 5:13). Want to be like God? Then use your freedom to address the needs of others.
Same with power. God’s plan is not for us to use our power to bolster our own authority, to build our own kingdom, or to serve our own wants, but to serve others. Power, in God’s economy, is to help others thrive, and to lift up the helpless.
Power, in God’s economy, is to help others thrive
There is an astounding couplet on John 13, where we read that Jesus knew that the Father has put all things under his power – did he use this for himself? Or even to receive something he might rightfully have deserved? No. He directed this power towards others and to cause them to thrive in his grace and his mercy: He got up, took off his outer clothing, wrapped a towel around his waste, and washed his disciples’ feet.
It is any wonder that God reminds us that love is the mark of the Christian? The measure of those who are in relationship with him?
Can you imagine the power of good that would be poured into our world if every Christian and every church were to do this filly and freely?
This can only happen in us when God rules our hearts and values: when his Son and Spirit transforms us into his image and character.
Q: What would change in your church, community, or family if you were to embrace these values fully?