Jesus Was Persecuted

Posted by on 19 Sep 2011 | Tagged as: More Jesus, Less Me

We American Christians seem to have a different perspective about persecution than many other Christians in the world. Many of us seem to think that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the widening cultural gaps between us and the rest of our country are examples of persecution; however, we are still free to gather openly and worship God, while many Christians throughout the world are not. While we may be uncomfortable on occasion because of our faith, we are not persecuted.

That troubles me. I certainly do not desire to face the choice of rejecting my faith in Christ or dying or watching my family be killed, which does happen throughout the world. What I do desire is to be more like Jesus, and it troubles me because I know that Jesus was persecuted, even to the point of death. In John 15:20 Jesus said, “‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” Paul made it clear that persecution is an identifying mark of being a Christian; in Romans 8:17 Paul wrote, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

It troubles me more knowing that in 2 Timothy 3:12 Paul wrote, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Does this mean that the reason we are not persecuted is because we are not living godly lives? I pray that it means our country’s Christian heritage is strong enough that we continue to enjoy living among Christians, if not merely among people who continue to hold fast to Judeo-Christian principles. However, that will not continue for much longer if Christians do not live the godly life in Christ Jesus to which Paul refers. As we continue to grow together in our faith and knowledge of Jesus, let us help each other live godly lives in Christ Jesus so that we will know for sure that we are persecuted for our faith.

Jesus’ Life Was Joyful

Posted by on 22 Aug 2011 | Tagged as: More Jesus, Less Me

I don’t know where this perception began, but Christians don’t necessarily have a reputation for being happy people. Maybe it’s because too many Christians spend their time condemning everything the world says and does. Maybe it’s because so many Christians focus on the dos and don’ts of the Bible at the expense of the Good News of the freedom we have in Christ.

Regardless of the reasons why we don’t always seem to be happy, joyful people, the simple fact is that we have been given the power to be joyful despite the attacks of the world. We know that Jesus suffered, on our behalf, more than any of us will ever suffer, and yet Jesus still had joy in his life. If we want to be more like Jesus, we need to imitate Jesus’ joy.

We find a great expression of Jesus’ joy in Luke 10. Jesus had sent 72 followers ahead of himself to heal, and to preach the Good News of God’s Kingdom. He had warned that they would face opposition, but when the disciples returned, they were excited about the miracles they performed. Jesus had to warn them, in verse 20, not to be distracted by the miracles but to rejoice in their salvation. Still, it gave Jesus joy to see them perform their mission and revel in God’s power, and so he praised God. Luke 10:21 says, “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.’”

What brought Jesus joy? His followers accepted his message and took up his mission despite persecution. Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus found joy in that mission. Paul commended the early church when they found joy in taking up that mission. Let us also be imitators of Jesus, his disciples, and the early church and take up his mission, despite persecution, and live joyful lives rejoicing in our own salvation and sharing the Good News of God’s Kingdom.

Jesus Was Unequivocal

Posted by on 25 Jul 2011 | Tagged as: More Jesus, Less Me

I probably don’t have to tell you, but we live in a confused world. It’s pretty clear, considering how often we find people doing wrong when they ought to know better. For those who are making disciples, we understand that it’s difficult, if not impossible, for people to do what is right if they have not been told what is right. But what about those of us who have been told the Truth? Why does it seem that followers of Jesus seem to be just as confused about what is right as the rest of the world?

It might be a matter of our culture; this so-called “postmodern” culture does not believe in objective truth, that there is an indisputable difference between right and wrong. The world believes that “my truth may not be your truth and that’s OK.” However, that’s not Jesus’ position.

When it comes to Truth, Jesus was unequivocal; he was unambiguous; he was absolutely clear. While the world might wrestle with what they do not know, Jesus made it clear what he believed about many things. For example, in Matthew 6:24, Jesus said this about money: “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” In Matthew 24:36, Jesus said this about “the end times”: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

Most importantly, in John 14:6 Jesus said this about God and salvation: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” If we want to be more like Jesus and less of ourselves, we must be unequivocal in our understanding of who Jesus is and how He alone is the way to God. The world is confused enough, we must be absolutely clear that Jesus is the only way to God. We must show it in the way we live, the way we speak, the way we interact with other people. There should be no question about who we follow.

Jesus Prayed

Posted by on 20 Jun 2011 | Tagged as: More Jesus, Less Me

In Luke 5:12-15 we read that Jesus healed a man who had leprosy. The man revealed his faith by telling Jesus, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus said he was willing, touched the man, and said, “Be clean!” Immediately the man was healed. Jesus told him not to tell anyone what had happened but to go to the priests and offer the appropriate sacrifices “as a testimony to them.” Verse 15 makes it pretty clear that the man told people how he had been healed, because many others came to Jesus to be healed. And Jesus healed them.

Clearly Jesus had compassion for all people, since he healed so many and spent so much time ministering to them. However, Jesus’ purpose wasn’t simply to heal people; he was here to serve God. Luke 5:16 tells us that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Despite all the amazing things Jesus did for people, from his preaching and teaching and healing to dying on the cross and rising from the dead, his primary focus in life was his relationship with his Father.

As we strive to be more like Jesus and focus less on ourselves, we have to be careful even how we serve God. That is, we must keep our relationship with God as our primary focus in life, making sure that even our service is secondary to our love for God. While I do think that more of us in this body of believers should be doing more to serve, I don’t want anyone to confuse their service with their relationship with God. Service is a spiritual discipline that comes from our dependence  upon God, and that can grow only as our relationship with God grows.

If I could encourage you in one way to build that relationship, I would recommend working on your prayer time. Take the time to get a weekly prayer list from the Welcome Center or sign up for the weekly prayer list email. Read through the Psalms or Proverbs and use the writers’ words of praise and thanksgiving and petition as your own. Begin a prayer journal, writing down your prayers completely or as lists of your praises and requests, noting when God answers your prayers. Take the time, like Jesus, to be alone with God. Then see how God blesses your life and service to him.

Jesus Was Obedient

Posted by on 16 May 2011 | Tagged as: More Jesus, Less Me

Through the course of the EACH (Everyone A Chance to Hear) the 2WordStory campaigns, I have encountered something I didn’t expect, Christians who have started doubting their relationship with God. I’m not talking about people giving up on their faith but people who are questioning how they came to faith. The doubts are more common among those who have grown up in the church and who had become Christians as children or teenagers.

These doubts seem to come up when Christians start thinking about their story, about how they came to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. Those who grew up in the church sometimes believe that they don’t have a story, at least not a dramatic story like some who became Christians later in life. That can’t be further from the truth. Growing up in a Christian family and accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior is an exciting story of faith and obedience.

It’s important to remember that Jesus was obedient from a young age (Luke 2:51, 52) and that he grew up in a home with parents whom God considered to be righteous (Matthew 1:19; Luke 1:30). It certainly wasn’t a given that growing up Jewish in Jesus’ day made anyone righteous, just as growing up in a Christian home today doesn’t guarantee that kids become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. However, it certainly does help, which should encourage us even more to make our homes and home life more focused on God and his Word.

Regardless of what kind of home you grew up in, remember Jesus’ words in John 15:10, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” But do not confuse hearing and studying God’s Word for obedience. Paul writes in Romans 2:13: “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” If your story is one of faith and obedience passed down through generations, praise God and share your story!

Jesus Opens God’s Kingdom

Posted by on 25 Apr 2011 | Tagged as: More Jesus, Less Me

In Matthew 11:2-5, we read, “When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’ Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.’”

John the Baptist was in prison at the time, and as the one appointed by God to prepare the way for the Messiah, he probably had some doubts about Jesus. Jesus came to open God’s kingdom to everyone; even though he might not have done it in the way that some people, like John the Baptist, would have expected.

As we continue to pray to be more like Jesus and to focus less on ourselves, we can follow Jesus’ example of opening up God’s kingdom to all people. Jesus healed people, and he preached the Good News. We have to remember that sharing the Good News isn’t always a matter of preaching a sermon; many times it’s simply showing God’s love through good deeds.

On Saturday, April 16, we saw about 75 people from Memorial Church of Christ following that example by serving others and sharing the Good News. We had people working in our food distribution; we sent a large delegation to the prayer walk in downtown Detroit; and we sent a crew to Wolverine Christian Service Camp to clear a new camping area. Nobody preached a sermon, but hungry people were fed physically and spiritually, and God’s people showed his kingdom to many who may not yet know Jesus. It may not seem like a lot to us today, but for those who hear the Good News and experience good deeds prompted by God’s love, it could make an eternal difference. Watch for more opportunities to share the Good News and do good deeds throughout the month of May.

Jesus Changes Minds

Posted by on 10 Apr 2011 | Tagged as: More Jesus, Less Me

As we approach the celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we start to realize that adopting the mindset of “More Jesus, Less Me” has greater significance than simply deciding what we do on a Sunday morning. Becoming more like Jesus leads us to change the way we think about others and, more than that, how we live for others.

In 2 Corinthians 5:14-19, Paul writes: “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”

The message that we have believed—that God sent his son Jesus so that we can have a relationship with God—is so important that it changes the way we view others. Before Christ, we thought of others as our enemies. Didn’t it show in how we treated others? Does it still show?

Paul says that we don’t think that way anymore. In fact, the change of mind that we experience in Christ compels us to look at others through Jesus’ eyes. At one time, the world was God’s enemies, but because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we gained the opportunity to become God’s children, through Jesus’ act of reconciliation. As we celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection, let us allow God to change our minds so that we can help others to be reconciled to God through Jesus. Consider who you once viewed as an enemy and determine how you can share God’s message of forgiveness through Jesus and help them change their mind about God.

Jesus Has a Family

Posted by on 28 Mar 2011 | Tagged as: More Jesus, Less Me

It would probably surprise many of us to discover that even Jesus had to face the busyness of life and family. In Luke 8:19, 20 we read: “Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. Someone told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.’” Jesus makes a startling statement in verse 21: “He replied, ‘My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.’”

Jesus had a family. We know his parents, Mary and Joseph; and Matthew 13:55, 56 tells us that Jesus had brothers and sisters. Yet Jesus said he had another family: those who hear God’s Word and do what it says.

Jesus has a family, and it’s us, the church. Paul says as much in Romans 8:16, 17: “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

So, brothers and sisters in Christ, we have a challenge. We have to make a change in our thinking. We, God’s children at Memorial Church of Christ, have to stop thinking that we are an organization of volunteers and start thinking like a family.

I know that we must take care of our own families—1 Timothy 5:8 says that those who do not take care of their families are “worse than an unbeliever”—but we need to give God’s family, the church, a higher priority than our commitment and participation seems to show. For example, we have 517 active members, but our weekly attendance is not close to that number. We also have only 188 people (including nonmembers) who are actively serving. Of the 308 families who are listed in our directory, only 72 have made a commitment to support our missionaries through Faith Promise giving. Consider these numbers and think about what you can do to help our family grow.

 

Jesus made it clear that his relationship with God had greater priority than his relationship with his family. If we continue to pray that God would make us more like Jesus and focus less on ourselves, we will find ourselves wrestling with this concept and its daily application.

It doesn’t have to be all that difficult, however, if we understand that our goal isn’t finding a “balance” but focusing on God. Granted, there are a lot of things we have to get done within the 24 hours we have every day, but if we focus on balancing all of those things, we will never be satisfied. However, if we can focus on God and align everyone and everything in priority related to him, then we will

 

 

Jesus Was Consistent

Posted by on 14 Mar 2011 | Tagged as: More Jesus, Less Me

Perhaps one of the most exhausting habits of our lives is being inconsistent in what we believe and say and do. Whether it’s parents struggling with telling their kids, “Do as I say, not as I do,” or any of us knowing and hating the sin in our lives but sinning anyhow, it’s difficult to be consistent with what we know to be right.

As we continue our prayer that God would help us to have “more Jesus” and “less me” and to be filled with the Holy Spirit, we may see God transforming us to be more consistent, helping us to have alignment with what we believe, say, and do. Hebrews 13:8 tells us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Jesus was consistent.

Our prayer to be more like Jesus is certainly the first step that we must take to be consistent like Jesus, depending upon the Holy Spirit to transform us, but there are other things we can do to grow. First, we need to know what Jesus was like. When everyone was wearing those “WWJD?” bracelets, one Christian publisher had another acronym that meant “How Can You Ask What Jesus Would Do If You Don’t Know What Jesus Did?” Sure, it was too big for a bracelet, but the point is clear: if we want to be more like Jesus, we need to spend more time studying what Jesus said and did in the Bible, whether in personal study or in a smaller group that meets at the church or in someone’s home.

Second, we can follow the example of others. Hebrews 13:7 says, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” Not only should we study the Word of God, but we ought to follow the example of those who are living it out. As we begin to see God answering our prayer to be more like Jesus, becoming more consistent in our faith, words, and actions, then we can become an example to others—in our families, at work or school, in our community.

 

Jesus Went to Church

Posted by on 28 Feb 2011 | Tagged as: More Jesus, Less Me

When I was growing up, I was privileged to have a family who always went to church. I don’t mean every Sunday but nearly every time the doors were open. Now, I’m not going to say that everybody ought to attend everything there is to do at the church—there is a lot to get involved in—but I will say that we ought to have a habit of going to church regularly. If we truly want to have “more Jesus” and “less me” in our lives, we need to consider Jesus’ example.

In Luke 4:16, we read that Jesus had a habit of going to church: “He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read.” We can learn several things from this event.

First, Jesus likely considered the synagogue to be “home.” When Jesus returned to his hometown, he knew that this was the place to be, especially if he wanted to announce that he was going to become a preacher and not the carpenter everyone likely expected him to be. Second, this is likely the place where Jesus learned the Scriptures that he used to battle Satan’s temptation in the wilderness—who better to hear first the announcement that Jesus would be preaching God’s Word than the people who likely taught him God’s Word? Last, we can see that not only did Jesus go to church, but he participated as well.

I know how busy life can be, especially with kids. However, if we want to be more like Jesus, we need to make sure that we put the proper emphasis on being among God’s people. Hebrews 10:25 tells us that we shouldn’t give up on meeting together but that we should encourage each other. Let’s continue to meet together, at least to worship our Father God, every week. Let’s make sure that our children develop the habit of meeting together so that they may also, when they face temptation, be able to defeat Satan with the Scriptures they learn here. Let us also be regular in our service, participating in God’s work and encouraging each other.

 

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