Do We Really Believe “Apart From Me You Can Do Nothing?”

Can't live without Jesus

A leader once asked me a revealing question regarding caring for God’s people.   He had just tried to help a long standing church member with some challenges he was having.  “How can someone who has been around Jesus and the church so long almost never pray, spend time in worship, or read their Bible outside of corporate meetings.”

As I was reflecting on this later in prayer I felt the Spirit of God bring up a riddle to me that touched something important in situations like this.  It came in the form of a riddle like Samson used.  Jdg 14:12 Then Samson said to them, “Let me now propound a riddle to you…

Which of the following two people is in a better condition in their life with Jesus.  The first is a very disciplined person.  They take care of their household in an orderly fashion (clean, kept, and well furnished).   They are good employees and have a great reputation at their workplace.  They handle their finances well. They are generally seen as good church members and responsible members of their community.  They even have a recognized “ministry” in both the church and into the community.  They even talk to others outside the church about Jesus.

The second person seems to be almost the polar opposite.  They struggle keeping their homes orderly; they have difficulty finding and keeping jobs; they struggle in the areas of handling finances; and overall their outward progress in living a better life is very up and down. When they do mess up they seem convicted by Jesus, sorrowful, and willing to attempt to do better but many question their sincerity.

It would be easy to say that the first person is in better condition but let me add one important ingredient to the riddle.  The first person rarely spends time with God in prayer, worship, or Bible reading outside of corporate church services.  The second however prays everyday and reads their Bible.   When they falter they are quick to be convicted and repent.  They are very thankful to Jesus for delivering them from the sinful life they lived in the past and praise very easily.  They respond to almost every altar call at church, even though some see it as a weakness because,  “they never seem to get it together in areas they need to change.”

The additional fact that one spend time daily in prayer, worship and Bible reading while the other does not is important  Amazingly the second person, even with their glaring weaknesses is really in the better place.  They are actually walking with the Lord daily.  Their life, even as messed up as it seems, is flowing more from a walk with Jesus than the first person who seems to be an ideal Christian.

This gets at the heart of something that many of the people I walk together with have been emphasizing recently.  We need to “go deeper in God so we can be broader in influence.”   Jesus Himself said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” John 15.  The first person is really not living that way even though they have an outward life that is more “Christian” than the second.  Without a daily, personal relationship with Christ in prayer, worship, and the Word they are doing the impossible, living a Christian life without a vital connection to Jesus.  Outwardly it seems that they are but spiritually they are not.

The second person, while living inferior outwardly to the first is really living “with Jesus” in a vital, everyday way.  Any good thing they do outwardly comes from a real connection with Jesus.  That is the kind of fruit Jesus speaks about as the best fruit in John 15.

I am not excusing the undisciplined life of the second person, nor the challenges and dysfunction they face but if we aren’t careful we can evaluate our lives based more on external things rather than essential things.  There is outward “fruit” that we are known by (Luk 6:44 NASB  “For each tree is known by its own fruit…) but that outward fruit is only good if it flows from a real, everyday connection with Jesus in prayer, worship, and the Word.

Quickest Route to Becoming a Pharisee

Living without a real connection to God everyday is a quick route to becoming a pharisee and sinnerPharisee, older brother, and Martha (to quote Biblical people who lived in a similar fashion).  Then our evaluations (of ourselves and others) will be false like the Pharisee in the parable of two men praying.  It is interesting that even in his prayer (with wrong evaluations) he was praying more “to himself” than God.

Luk 18:9-14 NASB  And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:  10  “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  11  “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  12  ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’  13  “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’  14  “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

 

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Facebook- Deer Hunting – Legacy

Leaving a Legacy Logo copyAt the end of the last school year we were praying for graduates at our local church.  As one of the father’s was praying over his son he became very emotional and turned towards the people from our church who attending and with great passion said, “We all took part in this!  We are all being rewarded!  You all helped us raise him!  We couldn’t raise him on our own, it took all of us!  He isn’t just my son, he is our son (pointing to the church family in front of him)!”  At that point there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

It was a very touching moment and reinforced an important element of vision God has called His church to pursue.  It is exemplified in the last two verses of the Old Testament.  In anticipation of Jesus coming, God promised that He would send the prophetic among God’s people to turn the hearts of children and parents towards one another. Mal 4:5-6 send you Elijah the prophet Turn hearts fathers to children and children to fathers.  He was announcing that in the covenant design He was going to establish through Jesus there would be a restoration family among God’s people.

Jesus reaffirmed this design when He mentioned that there would be a restoration of family among those who follow Him.  They would gain many new family members (mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers) as they laid down their lives for Him.  Mar 10:29-30 Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake,  30  but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children.  This is part of the design of God’s house the psalmist identified as a “home for the lonely.”  Psalms 68:5-6  A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation.  (6)  God makes a home for the lonely

We have a buzzword we use to express this part of God’s design for His people.  We call it “Legacy.”   It is a multigenerational perspective of living in which the heart of God’s people are turned toward the children all around them.  It brings a beautiful family feel to God’s house in which everyone labors together to see children raised in God’s love and purpose.

When a church embraces this covenant design it will stand out as a shining light in a culture among which family is being destroyed.  As we look around today it seems like the opposite is true.  The enemy is seeing to it that the heart of children is turned away from fathers and the heart of parents it turned away from children.  In the past 50 years through such things as no fault divorce laws beginning in the 60s; the downside of the sexual revolution of the 60s (no need for marriage in sexual expression); the unfortunate consequence of the rise of the welfare state in which there is financial reward to raise children apart from fathers and marriage; sex education in the public schools in which children are being taught “how to have sex outside the structure of family; as well as the current movements to redefine marriage have all contributed to undermine family and separate parents from children.

As God’s people live with legacy in mind, we help reverse the effects of the breakdown of family.  We cannot overemphasize the importance of older adults taking an interest in the children God has placed around them.  We have many examples in  which older adults take an interest in, and spend time with children that are not their own biologically, but they are spiritually.  We can’t overemphasize the importance of the life of an older saint touching the life of children around them.  Doing simple ordinary things together often has a much stronger impact on a child than we realize.

We have a saying to help reinforce the idea of legacy, “Everyone should have a Paul (those older in the Lord they look to for wise guidance), a Barnabas (peers they serve Christ together with), and a Timothy (those younger ones whose life they take an interest in to provide guidance and example) in their life. This helps facilitate the multigenerational perspective.

Facebook Post

I came across a facebook post from a young man in our congregation and the guy who took him hunting that exhibited the important things that happen when the hearts of the generations are turned towards each other.  It really showed the importance of one life touching another in simple everyday ways.

Facebook Post :  “I had a fun day deer hunting yesterday with Hunter. After hunting we went and ate some of the best cornbread and BBQ in Kansas. It was beautiful from dawn to dusk. Snow, mud, guns, and nature. Thank you very much Hunter for being willing to take me hunting this year.”

Hunter:  “No prob. I’m bummed we didn’t get anything, but it’s always fun to get out.”

Response: Yea it’s a bummer, but it was still worth it all the way!!!

I found out later from Hunter’s wife that he got a little sick during the day and hoped it (along with not getting a deer) didn’t disappoint the young “Timothy.”  That didn’t matter to him at all.  To that young man it will probably be a day he will remember for the rest of his life.  An older guy he admires, who loves Jesus, took enough of an interest in him to take him hunting and out to eat, it doesn’t get any better than that.  I bet he will end up doing it for another young guy some day when he gets older.  Legacy in God’s house is a beautiful thing.

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