Tag Archives: self centeredness

The Disciple John

fire_from_heaven

James and John often make me laugh.  Did you know that John has only a handful of lines in the Bible? Surprising, I know, but there is reason that what he says was not often written down.  There is very little personal testimony of John’s character from his own mouth and the little we do have reveals his own goofy character.  One of my favorite scenes is when James and John see Jesus rejected in Samaria in Luke 9:51-56.  The sons of thunder see Jesus rejected and they ask Jesus, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them!?”  I imagine the Biblical account leaves out the extended lecture that they received from Jesus.  It simply records, “Jesus rebuked them.”  What is even funnier is the story immediately before.  Jesus has just told them that the

greatest among them is the one who would be the least (verses 46-48).  Then John answers Jesus, “Master we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and he was not with us, so we tried to make him stop.”  Jesus corrects the misconception and moves on.  Now, here in these two snip-it’s a little of the Character of John is revealed.

In the first story, James and John are clearly zealous for the name of the LORD.  Much like the Jews that Paul references in Romans 10:2, “they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.”  You see these two young men had not yet learned the way of Jesus.  Indeed they don’t learn it until the book of Acts.  They think that Jesus came to destroy his enemies and lay fire to those who

would reject him.  They fail to see the love that Jesus has.  Luke records in verse 51 and in verse 53 that Jesus’ face was “set towards Jerusalem.”  So he is focused on getting to Jerusalem.  James and John are probably under the assumption that this is a victory march and they are about to see Jesus lay the smack down on the Religious Elite, the half-bread Samaritan Jews, and the Roman oppressors!  But the way of Jesus is different from the way of the world.  Glory for Jesus is found in death and humiliation.  Glory is found in making the enemy your family.  Glory is found in bending over backward to establish the necessary forgiveness for the salvation of the lost sheep.  James and John think that one must triumph by violence and strength.  But Jesus is going to show them that triumph is found in peace and meekness.  Jesus is going to die, not kill.  James and John do not see

that Jesus is going to die, they think Jesus is going to win.  But the agenda of victory for Jesus is to die so that He God can win, so that the enemy might be saved.  The character of James and John is one of zeal without knowledge.  They persist in proclaiming what they think of Jesus, without actually searching out Jesus’ will.  Did you notice, they don’t say a word to Jesus before proclaiming with pride their intent to burn up those He came to save?

How does one know the will of God?  In John 7:17 Jesus says, “ If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.”  In this simple statement Jesus calls everyone to

conform their life to the will of God.  Make your will to DO His will and you will know.  James and John needed to conform themselves to God’s will before they could understand God’s mission.  Only in laying aside their own desires and striving to desire God’s will are they able to understand God’s heart.   Indeed they would soon understand fully as their master is about to show them.

In the preceding story, John proclaims proudly, “WE STOPPED HIM!”  Again, John is not concerned for the good of the people here.  People were being rescued from demonic oppression in the name of Jesus.  But instead of recognizing the Love of God poured out through a willing vessel, John is concerned for his own agenda.  John was on the team, this other guy was not!  This other guy did not

follow Jesus in the same manner that John and the 11 did, therefore he must be stopped!  John imposed on this other brother the necessity of worshiping the exact same way he did.  Surely you can’t know Jesus unless you do the same thing John was doing!  Again, Jesus corrects John.

You know…  the disciples are often wrong and I like to laugh at them.  But I am

no different.  I sometimes insist that people must worship the same way I do.  They must have the same kind of music, the same preaching style, the same kind of building or they cannot possibly be worshiping correctly.  They must observe the same worship times and teach their children the same way I do.  They must read their Bible the same amount of time I do and they must listen to Piper, Chandler, MacArthur and balance that out reading Bonhoeffer, Hirsch, Mclaren, and Tozer.   (Now just s disclaimer: The Bible is the authority over how Christians should worship, and we need to be careful to obey Jesus through His Word!  But let’s be honest, there is a lot of stuff we do that has nothing to do with the Bible and is therefore not worth squabbling over.)  Like John, I am often zealous for what I deem is right… and yet I find myself having to seek the Lord all the more to understand His love and attitude toward those I deem worthy of death.  Then I find myself asking forgiveness for wrong motives and a self-aggrandizing vision.  So, I keep walking with Jesus and striving to understand His way, I will eventually grasp this love and will be conformed to the image of Him who created me. (Col 3:10, Phil. 3:10

)

Our Great God: Ezekiel 16

It’s been a while since I posted anything… So here ya go interweb:

In my Bible study group thingy that meets at my house on Thursday nights (still not sure what to call this thing we do other than Thursday Night Bible Study), we just started studying Hosea.  A few weeks ago we read Ezekiel 16 for the purpose of cross references with Hosea 1:10-3:1.  I was struck by the graphic depiction of the people whom he loves.

First, verses 3-5 describes Israel as a baby that was unwanted and left in a field to die.   There is nothing intrinsically in the people of God that makes them desirable.  Instead, they are unwanted and left to die.  It actually says the people of God were abhorred!

And God walks by:

When God comes by in verses 6-14 God makes His people beautiful and brings them to life!  In the midst of their depravity and death, God spreads His garment over them, protects them, cloths them, loves them, cleans them, and dresses them up!  Then in verse 14 the people of God become famous because of the beauty that God gives them.  It is remarkable the beauty of the saints as a result of God’s mercy toward them.

Immediately following God’s mercy the people of God begin to trust in their own beauty and begin to sell off the beauty that God had given them.  Verses 15-22 describe a horrific scene.  The people of God begin to make their own gods and begin to worship them… they pay for the privilege of playing the prostitute.  How wicked!  Can you imagine!?  Someone paying to BE the prostitute!?  They take the gold and jewels that God gave them and use them to create images that they can prostitute themselves toward.  They sacrifice the children that they are supposed to raise to “love the LORD their God with all their mind soul and strength” to their false idols.  The sad part is that our culture is no better.  We are prostituting ourselves to consumerism, self-centeredness, pornography, indulgence, license, and immoralities of all kinds.  The people of God give themselves over to false gods.  What’s more, we hand our children off to a entertainment focused consumer driven world, surrendering our responsibilities as parents to the TV, internet, extra-curricular activities, schools, etc… (that list is intended to make us think, not tick us off. Sorry if I accomplished the latter) In sad comparison, we pay for those things too.

In verses 30-34 it just keeps getting worse.  The people of God are pursue unsolicited wickedness!  It’s as if God is saying, “you weren’t even tempted! And yet you chased down sin.”  Worse than a prostitute, the people of God are freely adulterous with strangers.

As you go through the rest of the text, God proclaims that he will judge by giving the people of God over to their own lusts.  (ex. Verse 39) This is the way that God disciplines.  He need not send sever famine or tornados (though He can)…  He simply lets us have our way and we feel the consequences of our actions.   Think about Romans 1, “and God gave them over” is repeated multiple times.  We like to think that we are being oppressed by some outside force, but that is not so.  God is not vindictive or petty.  He is just, and we reap what we sow.  (Gal. 6:7)

As terrible as all this seems, The God of all grace changes the story in verses 59-63.  In our wickedness, God atones for our sin and we are confounded by His great love.  No matter what we have done, Jesus makes His covenant with us and then promises that He will keep the agreement that we have so defiled.  Those last two verses break me in half and I am confounded by the love of God:

” 62 I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, 63 that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord God.”

I love the LORD