Thursday, November 17, 2011

Less is More

John is standing at the pinacle of his career.  He is famous.  He has drawn a massive following and has his own set of disciples.  He has probably even become a household name.  John is "there".  He has reached stardom.  If there had been twitter during that time, his name might have been at the top of the buzz.

And then he meets Jesus.

He knows who Jesus is.  John knew that he was given the responsibility of being the "standard-bearer".  If you have ever seen the olympics and watched the opening ceremony, he would be like the flag bearer that walks in front of all of the important athletes.  This had been John's duty ever since he was conceived.  This is what he was "born" for.

If I were in John's sandals I wonder how I would have responded.  Would I have become defiant about who Jesus was (and is) so I could keep my popularity?  Would I try and make myself of more importance since I knew what people were about to see?  Would I even have denied Him so I could be "it"?

So John then stands at a crossroads.  Does he follow the flesh and set himself up further and claim the fame that was coming to him?  Or does he do exactly what he was called to do, to point the glory to Christ?  It seems that with no hesitation, as in answer to this question, we find him saying:

"He must increase, but I must decrease." {ESV}

As Christians, we are called to be salt and light in this world.  We are in essence called to the same calling that John was called to.  We are called to be standard-bearers for Christ.  How do we respond to our mandate?  Do we look at our lives and try to increase our own position and person, rather than trying to lift Christ into prominence in our lives?  Are we constantly trying to increase ourselves and decrease the characteristics of Christ in our lives?  Or do we respond with John in saying that Christ must always be first in our lives and we must always be in the background (if people see us at all)?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


When someone calls us a "fanatic" often they are using it more in a negative way.  The word has come to mean "someone who is overly passionate about a certain subject, often to the neglect of others."  There are a few cases where this word is used and it is a good thing (to certain associated people).  If I were called a sports fanatic (it would be a lie) than it could be meant as a compliment if it came from another sports fan.  If it came from my wife than I would know that I probably need to spend less time watching ESPN and more time taking care of my responsibilities.

I have heard the word "fanatic" used in many different contexts, but I have never heard anyone labeled "church fanatic".  Fanaticism brings with it a passion and a love that dedication lacks.  Don't get me wrong, dedication is a great thing because, even when the emotions aren't there to accomplish an action, the will often pushes through to complete the action.  But fanaticism embodies dedication and goes far beyond it.  Whatever the fanaticism is fixated on becomes a consuming subject in our lives.  We cherish it;  we desire it;  we seek to defend it if it is attacked;  we talk about it;  we promote it;  we support it.  In essence we love it.

"[Jesus'] disciples remembered that it was written, Zeal for your house will consume me." {ESV}

Christ was consumed with a love for the House of God.  We see Christ kicking out the corrupt businessman from the temple (most commentaries say that these "moneychangers" were stealing money by overcharging for animals used in sacrifices and by not fairly exchanging one currency for a different one).  Christ was so fervent about the House of God that He wanted to defend it and purify it.  He continues to accomplish actions like this in the Church as He sanctifies and purifies the Body of Christ.

"who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. " {ESV}

"And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." {ESV}

Now comes the hard part: If our ultimate, perfect Example is so consumed with love for the Church and the House of God, what about us?  Do we seek to promote the church?  Are we defending the church? Are we looking to keep the church pure?  Are we sacrificing for the church?  Are we faithful to the church?  Do we love the church?  Would people look at what we do and say and call us "church fanatics"?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Don't Despise Me

"Let no man despise [your] youth."

This snippet of a verse has been running around in my mind recently.  As a kid I always wondered why someone would ever "despise" someone's age.  I would try to imagine some kid making fun of another kid because he was only 9 and not 10.  As I went through college I gained a little more insight into this verse.  A lot of it has to do with what the entire verse says:

"Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity."

As we grow through life, youth often has a way of proving itself through actions.  We refer to this as "immaturity".  When someone rebels against authority;  When someone acts like they know better than what everyone else tells them they need to do;  When someone lacks the desire to show responsibility for their actions;  When someone "acts their IQ and not their age."

Often these actions cause others to look at teens and tweens and say things like "they're just young" or "they'll eventually grow out of it" or "they are so immature".  Often times our (and I will currently list myself in the youthful age group) actions are so contrary to what scripture says that our life should be that people blame our actions on our age.  Wouldn't it be nice if people could look at our actions and "blame" Christ?  "Hey Johnny, you have been so loving recently.  I really appreciate how you have served in the church these last few weeks.  I can really see Christ in you."  Or maybe this would be a jaw-dropping statement "Who has replaced the Jill I thought I knew?  You have washed the dishes and vacuumed the house 3 times this week without ever being asked, and you haven't complained once about not being able to use the car this week.  You have been so Christlike recently."

The verse explains itself when it says we are to "be examples of the believers";  we are to have actions that signify that we are growing in Christ, trying to mimic Him in every aspect of our conversation and conduct.  When someone thinks of things that describe us, do they think of us as loving, faithful, honest, patient, kind, pure and honorable?  Or is the word that comes to their minds "immature"?

So, I hope that when people look at my life they don't despise me--because of my age or actions.  I hope they look at me and see someone besides myself.  I hope they see Christ.