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Repentance and Faith for the Idolization of Success

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Mark 10:25 Jesus said to them, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God."

An interesting phenomenon is found in every professional sport.  The fans and media follow the story lines of the winners and the stories of the defeated times are ignored and forgotten.

Corresponding to this, Winston Churchill famously said, "History is written by the victors."  Victors place their interpretation on events, and the study of history is often simply a chronology of winners.  History follows the stories of those with power and wealth and largely ignores everyone else.

Yet, when we encounter Christianity we find that it is the exact opposite.  Jesus' ministry transpired in a backwater region of the Roman Empire.  He didn't possess the noble birth, education, political power, or wealth which makes someone a factor in this world.  His life ended in being arrested, tried, flogged, and hung from a Roman gibbet.  In the world's terms he was a loser.  

Yet, what appeared to us as weakness, folly, poverty, and failure was the very means God ordained to accomplish His eternal plan.  Furthermore, redemptive history has progressed along the same lines through the centuries.

God chose Abram, with his old age and barren wife, to be the father of a great nation.  He chose the nation of Israel, not Egypt, Babylon, or Greece, to reveal His law and covenants.  He took Joseph from the dungeon, Moses from the wilderness, and David from the pasture.  

When you come to a local church, does it feel weak and frail?  Do the people seem mostly uncool and average?  Know that God uses what appears weak and frail to accomplish his purposes.  Know that God works mostly through the uncool and average.

What about your weakness, inadequacy, immaturity, folly, and sin?  Have you embraced them and learned to boast in them because they prompt you to reply completely on Jesus Christ as your righteousness, wisdom, and strength?  

Have you learned to distrust your strengths?  You may be smarter, better looking, physically stronger, or more socially adroit than others.  Yet, if your area of strength causes you to trust in yourself and not to rely upon Jesus Christ, then it is a snare to you.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is good news to the poor, to sinners, to outcasts, and to losers.  It grows best in the lives of people marginalized by the world.  

1 Corinthians 1:26-27 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.

Posted by Matthew Roberts with

Love Without Strings

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Many disciples of Jesus Christ begin their journey with an unbiblical assumption.  The assumption is, "If I put Christ first in my life, if I devote myself to obeying His commands and advancing His kingdom, then He will protect me from harm and He'll prosper my health, career, and family."  

It doesn't take long to learn from experience and to read in the Bible that it doesn't often work out this way.  The Bible has many accounts of people putting Christ first and experiencing harm.  Consider the stories of Abel, Naboth, John the Baptist, James the brother of John, and Stephen.  They were faithful to Christ and He didn't protect them from harm in this world.  It is precisely because they were faithful to Christ that they experienced suffering and death.

Why does God ordain suffering for His people?  One reason is that God wants our love, faith, and obedience to be purified of self-interest.  God wants us to love Him because He's supremely worthy of our love irrespective of any ancillary benefits.  

God want us to have the type of faith that says, "Whether this life goes well for me or poorly for me, Christ Jesus will still be first."

We see vignettes of this in the Bible.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when threatened with the fiery furnace respond, "God is able to save us, but if he doesn't save us, we will still obey him."  (Dan. 3:17-18).  Esther makes the same decision.  She makes a decision to honor God and help others even though it puts her at risk.  She says, "If I perish, I perish, but whether I live or die I'm going to do what's right.  God doesn't have to protect and prosper me for me to be obedient to Him."  (Esther 4:16)

The supreme example of this is Christ himself.  In the Garden of Gethsemane he prays, "Father if it is possible, take this cup from me, yet not as I will but your will be done."  Jesus doesn't want to be arrested, beaten, spit upon, mocked, and hung from a Roman gibbet.  Yet, He loves, believes, and obeys the Father regardless of what the Father ordains for him to experience.

God wants you to have the same type of faith.  He will ordain suffering and loss to test whether you love Him for what you can gain from Him, or whether you love Him for Himself.  If He takes away your health, your love relationships, and your career - if He ordains for you to experience disease, loneliness, and unemployment - if He ordains for you to experience loss that will never be mended in this life - will you still love and obey Him?  

Posted by Matthew Roberts with

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