Yesterday we finished discussing how God’s people when they are flourishing like palm trees will have to decide if “God is right”, “God is immovable”, and “God is good all the time”. I think there was something in the sermon about eventually having to “drink the poop water”, but I won’t take this conversation down the crapper… ANWAYS.
Sometimes, we may be misunderstood, represented wrongly, or criticized. But here’s the thing, just like King David (who we talked about yesterday as well), the accusers may have the details wrong, but they are right that we are broken and sinful people. ALL have sinned and fallen short. Instead of telling someone off or fighting to have your case reviewed, let’s trust that God is in control. “The Lord is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him!”. Paul, who was no stranger to being represented wrongly, wrote these words in a letter to the Philippians many years later. I’ll let them speak for themselves:
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Jesus preached some amazing sermons. I’ve posted a good portion of a well known sermon he preached. Near the end Jesus says, “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit.”. As we aim to flourish (are you sick of hearing that word yet?!) in 2015, we recognized how we are doing by our “fruit” Are you producing good fruit in your life? Are you not just loving those who love you, but also loving your enemies? Are you passing judgement on others decisions and situations and not looking at your own? Is your foundation sturdy? Is what’s coming out of your mouth a reflection of your heart? The words of Jesus have so much life-giving wisdom, take some time to read through these verses!
27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
39 He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.
41 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
43 “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
46 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47 As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. 48 They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49 But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”
14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.
There’s a lot of good stuff in this verse. It’s just general good life advice to stop grumbling & arguing. One of our goals in living a Christian life should be to stand out, to live so differently that we “shine among them like stars”. Our lives should be so focused on living like Jesus wants us to that we will be able to look back and see that by our actions the world around us changed for the better. In the end, though, what matters is that we are “being poured out like a drink offering” for each other and for those who don’t yet know Jesus. That will be cause for great rejoicing.
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Matthew 16:24-27
These ideas, denying yourself, taking up your cross and losing your life to find it are not normal. This Sunday, we loosely quoted Andy Stanley who was explaining the verse above. “The essence of following Jesus is self denial, not self improvement.” My default mentality is to look out for myself, my family, or even my community. While that sounds good and might get me some applause, it’s still all about me. If I choose to “lose myself” and go look out for you, your family, and your community I will find a new life in Jesus. I hope you are taking some time this month to not improve yourself, but deny your selfish ambitions and lose your life in loving God and loving all people.