Popular evangelicalism wants the atonement to touch every last man, woman, and child. But in order to get it to do so, the touch is made ineffectual. Pessimistic Calvinists want the touch to be effectual . . . for half a dozen people. – Doug Wilson
Anger is a killing thing: it kills the man who angers, for each rage leaves him less than he had been before – it takes something from him.
Louis L’Amour (H/T Milly)
Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
– Proverbs 16:32
The passage beginning in Luke 14:25 starts with these words . . .
Now great crowds accompanied him . . .
“Him”, of course, being Jesus.
I read this passage yesterday, kind of randomly. Every time I read it it hits me like a ton of bricks. I wonder sometimes if I’ll hear this on judgment day too, and be cast away. No, I’m not trusting in works to save me and, yes, I am trusting fully (desperately!!) in Jesus Christ as my only way to the Father. He’s my only shot.
But, still. Let this sink in:
. . . and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
“Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
– Luke 14:25-34
I suspect anyone who thinks Jesus is easy to understand (but then I wonder if this is terribly easy to understand – thus the terror) or soft and cuddly is either far, far deeper in the Lord’s service than I am or they don’t read passages like this. It’s been said elsewhere, and far better than I can, but Jesus here is speaking of being executed, of giving up everything for his sake. I wonder, I wonder . . . how can I call myself his disciple? Only by his grace. And only in a good-faith effort, by the power of his Spirit, to truly live that sacrifice. We must start with the small things. Help me Lord.
As a side note, it’s interesting how Luke continues, in the first verse of the next chapter:
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.
I suspect the “great crowds” in 14:25 had begun to slink away at his words, and tax collectors and sinners were filling the void.
May I too draw near to him.
Bob brings it.
Yesterday I went to hear a talk about sharing your faith in the workplace. Two speakers. Each of them emphasized that the workplace was a mission field (good). And they both also emphasized that you don’t have to beat people over the head with a Bible (that of course is a warn out straw-man, but let it pass). They both said we should let our lives and our demeanor be our message. And one of them repeated the alleged St. Francis quote, “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary use words.”
About that quote . . .
I’ll admit that the first time I heard it I was beguiled. “Hey, yeah [that’s what I say when I’m beguiled], it’s really that easy!”
Now I think someone ought to take that quote out behind the barn and shoot it. Would somebody do that please?
Here’s the thing. “Preach the gospel” really does mean “use words.” When Acts 8:40 says, “But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea,” do you think Philip was just loving people and sharing his life, etc. Or was he SAYING SOMETHING? [Sorry about the caps; I get excited sometimes, and exclamation points just aren’t enough.]
When Paul advises Timothy, “preach the word,” well that little word “word” is a dead give away.
Read the whole thing. Convicting.
He works through people like Kumar (as reported on the excellent Letters from Kamp Krusty):
Kumar was on a crowded bus in Chennai, India. He heard God’s voice. “Unmistakably,” he says. I heard God say, twice, ‘Seek Me.’ That was it. Twice.”
Just “Seek Me”?
“Just ‘Seek Me’. And I knew it was God, but which God? I was Hindu. Was it Vishnu? Calli…? No idea. I just knew it was God. Somehow, I knew it. Unmistakable.”
And Kumar isn’t the gullible type. He has multiple advanced degrees in Aero Engineering and Physics, for starters, from the M.I.T.-equivalent in India.
He studied and researched, but just wasn’t satisfied that it was one of his familiar gods, and eventually found a friend with a Bible — a “good luck charm” — and traded a textbook for it. He started reading, got confused, but eventually was pointed to Jesus.
He became a Jesus-follower. Costly decision.
You should go read the rest. And then come sit with me in speechless silence.
[Hat tip: Jared]
At age 23, Doc was deer hunting with a friend when he slipped and fell into a direct shot. The shot entered the back of his head and came out under his eye. The picture- which he didn’t show- is of a man with a massive head wound, obviously affected the brain, vision and mobility.
He shouldn’t have survived, but he did. Multiple surgeries and major expenses followed, but God supplied his physical, financial and emotional needs. He not only lived, he walked and was able to return to a normal life.
Now blind and deaf on one side, with immobility because of brain damage, he met and married another hospital patient. She had MS.
After ten years of caring for her, Lori, Doc’s first wife died. In the midst of grief, his pastor directed him toward Bible college, and he took the opportunity. Three years later he was graduating and married again to his current wife. Now both serve with us.
When I hear this kind of story, it is almost more than I can take. My faith is small and my tolerance for pain and loss is low. Questions of suffering and loss are not easy for me to contemplate. What would I do? Would God keep me? Would I despair, quit, abandon faith?
And here is Doc. Standing in front of our students, saying again and again that God is good. His suffering and loss can’t be measured, but his faith has grown every step of the way. In his gentle, Minnesota accent, he says over and over, “God is good. I’m so thankful.”
What is a testimony like Doc’s worth in this world? Maybe nothing to some. Maybe a priceless amount to others. I do not know. What I do know is that Doc is untroubled by the problem of evil. He is untroubled by the questions of theodicy. He doesn’t know the answers of the philosophers. If he has thought about the objections of the atheists, it was long ago. He isn’t a Calvinist and he won’t be lecturing on the comforts of various theories of God’s Will. He’s simple. He is, today, a grateful man.
Doc is the work of God in a world of absurd suffering. Whatever has been taken from him has not left him empty and bitter. He is full of the love of God, and bitterness is nowhere to be seen or heard.
I read the following tonight in Philip Yancey’s excellent book Prayer, Does It Make Any Difference?:
Prayer, and only prayer, restore my vision to one that more resembled God’s. I awake from blindness to see that wealth lurks as a terrible danger, not a goal worth striving for; that value depends not on race or status but on the image of God every person bears; that no amount of effort to improve physical beauty has much relevance for the world beyond.
Alexander Schmemann, the late priest who led a reform movement in Russian Orthodoxy, tells of a time when he was traveling on the subway in Paris, France, with his fiance. At one stop an old and ugly woman dressed in the uniform of the Salvation Army got on and found a seat nearby. The two lovers whispered to each other in Russian about how repulsive she looked. A few stops later the woman stood to exit. As she passed them she said in perfect Russian, “I wasn’t always ugly.” That woman was an angel of God, Shmemann used to tell his students. She opened his eyes, searing his vision in a way he would never forget.
Jollyblogger nails it:
We say that Christians are different, and we are, and one of the main ways we are different from the world is that we don’t take offense at offensive behavior or treatment. We are the people who love our enemies, who bless when cursed, who pray for our persecutors. We follow the one who only wanted forgiveness to be shown to those who crucified Him.
May this be the mark of the church. Amen.
[Hat Tip: Transforming Sermons]
But there has also been the thrill of seeing people’s lives change as they started to make good decisions, excitement as people began to understand and respond to the message of Christ and find his blessing, satisfaction as individuals and families gained access to health or education or basic needs that would transform their lives. There has been the privilege of friendships and relationships made across vast cultural divides, the honour of being accepted into a culture so different from my own, the pleasure of watching the carnival of colour and humanity at the local market, or of sitting under the vast starry canopy, drinking tea on a mat in the bush among the cows with Fulani herders. And there have been the many unique opportunities for pure fun and wonder that life in Africa provides.
And there has always been God’s presence. And the more I have walked with him along that path, the more my perspective has changed on what is important in life, and the more I have got to know God in a way I could not have done if I had remained in the UK.
Life is not found in the amount of stuff you can acquire. Nor is it found in getting the highest high. Nor in the honour and comfort the world can bestow. All those things are temporary and fragile. Life is found in abandoning yourself totally to Christ and his way, living for others and not for yourself. In being willing to lose all we can have in this world, we are given a different sort of life – one that flows from the throne of heaven. It is painful to acquire because it is only found through death – the death of the cross. But it is the life that God gives.
That has been my experience. In spite of my failures and inadequacy, God’s faithfulness has been constant and dependable.
[Hat tip: Jesus Creed]
Haven’t read GospelDrivenLife yet? What’s wrong with you?
In his latest post, Mark takes a hammer and hits a nail, square on:
I think faithfulness with the Gospel in any time is to be expressed by speaking the whole truth in a way that make sense to the hearer — in their language and metaphors (more on that in the next post). But it does not mean catering to their agenda. The Gospel counters the agenda of the human heart.
Read it all. Excellent stuff.