The itch of self
Mar05

The itch of self

self-reliance and self-sufficiency have become the hallmark signifiers of maturity and success in American culture.  We use phrases like, “stand on your own two feet” and, “cut the apron strings” as idioms to express these concepts in a positive, cultural light.  Although I support the ideology of personal productivity in the framework of godly stewardship, I have seen this mentality ooze into our churches to an unhealthy extent. In John 5, Jesus confronted something similar. The churchy people of the day had entrenched themselves so deeply into their tradition, that they both rejected the teachings they based this upon (the writings of Moses), and the God whom they claimed to worship.  The result was a ritual lifestyle that reflected a religious belief, but was void of passion, purpose, and God.  Essentially, the churchy were more concerned about impressing each other, approving one another, than in seeking the approval and glory of God. John 5 records Jesus healing an invalid and the resulting backlash from the churchy.  The wave of criticism, hatred, and anger towards Jesus is obvious.  Why?  What spurred this sort of response?  Jesus placed His mission and God’s glory above all else, even tradition and approval of others. Instead of ignoring the wave of dogmatic rhetoric and criticism, Jesus uses this as a teachable moment.  His instruction covers a broad area, but one of His assertions captured in John 5:44 regarding the motivation of self and the approval of others is particularly relevant: How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? Jesus does not challenge their tradition, He challenges their faith.  Jesus does not call into question if their rituals are biblical, He questions their allegiance to God.  I like the way John Piper describes this: This empty craving for the praise of others signals the failure of pride and the absence of faith in God’s ongoing grace. Jesus saw the terrible effect of this itch for human glory. He named it in John 5:44, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” The answer is, you can’t. Itching for glory from other people makes faith impossible. Why? Because faith is being satisfied with all that God is for you in Jesus. And if you are bent on getting the satisfaction of your itch from the scratch of others’ acclaim, you will turn away from Jesus. It is impossible to seek the approval and glory of God and man at the same time.  The principle here is...

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A True Legacy

Over the last couple of weeks I have considered the condition of our Southern Baptist churches in Arizona. Nikki and I have been blessed with the opportunity to visit and serve many of them over the years, but, sadly, this was often at their lowest point… Often, we would enter the building and find a sanctuary filled with pews, enough to hold hundreds of people. As I prepared and prayed to preach I would read the names of those who had made significant financial contributions towards the buildings engraved on metal and wood. My heart would sink, considering those dear souls; how they sacrificially gave and loved their God and their church family in such a way, just to see it empty and hollow a generation later. How I wish these precious people had given their sacrifice towards engraving the Gospel upon the hearts and minds of the next generation, instead of upon the wood and stone! The building may have not been built, the pews may have been fewer in number, but the Church would be full! In Luke 7:1-5, the scriptures describe a similar man, who loved his people enough to build them a place to worship, a synagogue: 1- Now when He concluded all His sayings in the hearing of the people, He entered Capernaum. 2- And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear to him, was sick and ready to die. 3- So when he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant. 4- And when they came to Jesus, they begged Him earnestly, saying that the one for whom He should do this was deserving, 5- “for he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue.” Ask yourself, “do I love the people that I will see today enough”… How will you express that love?  What will you engrave today? Your name upon the wood, or His Name upon the...

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What can I do?

For so the Lord has commanded us:   ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles,   That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’   –Acts 13:47 Men and women are questioning now, as they never have questioned before, whether Christianity is indeed the true religion which is to be the salvation of the world. Christians, it is for us to give our bit of answer to that question. It is for us, in whom the Christian church is at the moment partially embodied, to declare that Christianity, that the Christian faith, the Christian person can do that for the world which the world needs. You ask, “What can I do?” You can furnish one Christian life. You can give a life so faithful to every duty, so ready for every service, so determined not to commit sin, that the great Christian church shall be the stronger for your living in it, and the problem of the world be answered, and a certain great peace come into this poor, perplexed phase of our humanity as it sees that new revelation of what Christianity is. –Phillips Brooks Sometimes, the greatest changes and impacts to the world begin with the dedication of a single individual. Will you be that one who is so dedicated? Will you be the light of salvation to those around...

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