I've heard and read SO many stories in the bible where it is easy for me to sit here and think such things. But the truth is ANYTHING but that simple.
How many stories can you think of where choices had to be made and looking back they seem so simple? What would you have done? I urge you to take a real hard look at these things and more...
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
I used to sit and think that, with ALL the FREE food around... certainly that would be quite easy right? I mean, it was one direct order from the mouth of God. Certainly it would be easy to avoid that ONE thing right? How many things in our lives now do we give in to? How many DIRECT commands from God do we often ignore? How about the ten commandments? Have you ever put anything before God? Have you ever used his name in vain? Have you ever stolen?(I have) Have you ever coveted or been envious? Should I go on? Those were some DIRECT and simple rules that you and I are called to adhere to. Quite simple. If you were in the garden and were tempted with a piece of fruit... would YOU have resisted? Impossible to honestly speculate but the truth is we fail that same test quite often.
2 Samuel 11:2
And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon.
Okay, so you've never sat on your roof staring at the lady bathing herself next door(at least I imagine most of you have not)... and you certainly didn't send her husband away to be killed so you could have that woman... right?
But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
That sentence right there came from the mouth of Jesus himself. If you're honest with yourselves, this one should make many of you a bit uncomfortable. Looking at websites you shouldn't? Dreaming of that actor or actress you saw in a movie? "sigh..." I really have met FEW people that do not OPENLY violate Jesus' words on this subject. Years ago I had some friends from my Sunday school class over and we were going to sit down to a movie. I had to BEG them, "if we watch this movie, I don't want to hear oohs and ahs over the guys in the movie..." because there were some BIG name "cute" guys in the movie. They promised but they still slipped up. Fantasizing, day dreaming, drooling over, etc... We're just as guilty as David when we do such things.
17......look not behind thee..... 26 But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.
Another simple request... Hey, don't turn around and look back. Sounds pretty simple to me. How can someone not handle that one?
II used to get stuck on the whole pillar of salt thing. Why a pillar of salt? I'm still not sure I FULLY understand the significance of that imagery... But, I do understand it a bit more now that I'm older and have spent more time looking back myself. How useful is a pillar of salt?
I will admit, I sometimes find myself dwelling in the past... looking back on things... wondering if things would be different if I did this, or that... or dated this person or that... or didn't do this or that, etc... LOTS of things to look back on... Sometimes when I'm unhappy where I am NOW, I find myself thinking about such things. Wondering... When I find myself in those situations... I might as well be a pillar of salt. I am STUCK... I am useless in those moments. I cannot go anywhere...
Think about that for a moment. The more you look back, the less likely you'll EVER move forward... hmmm, that could make a good quote if it isn't one already.
There are a LOT of examples like this in the bible that we can look at and THINK we know how we would act or respond. And now I'm getting closer to where I'm headed with this all(yes, up to now has been an introduction of sorts...)
Well, same sort of thing but more focused on our most present day holiday. Easter. We all feel SO secure in so much of what we believe and do. For a while it was a fad to wear bracelets and shirts that said WWJD as if we had any clue as to what He would do. (truthfully, we don't know) Jesus' closest disciples had NO idea what was going on half the time. They were there WITH Him... taught by Him... studied, followed more closely than any of us could imagine or have the opportunity to do. And they still didn't have a clue half the time. Where am I going with this? Easter?
When we look at the story of Jesus dying and how horrible it was... how many of us ever look at it and think of what we would have done or said if WE were there? How many people joined in shouting "Crucify Him!!!"? Would we have? Do not be too quick to answer that. I'll explain that a little more in a moment but let's look at a character or two.
Judas... Many don't think too highly of him. He loved Jesus. His betrayal was his way of trying to FORCE Jesus to take over the world. How on earth could he do that? How could he not trust Jesus? Etc... lots of things to think about there. Ever try to force God's hand? I can't say I've tried to FORCE it... but I sure have tried to sway it. Back in 1995 I was on a missions trip in Venezuela and was having a good time. The first week there I drank more soda than anyone should drink simply because it was the ONLY cold thing we had access to. When we were traveling somewhere one day, one girl was feeling quite sick. I was a young, emotional teenager and I kind of liked the girl... and, I honestly don't know if it was simply that or if I was really worried about her or what... but, I started to bargain with God... SERIOUSLY... strenuously... Hey God... if you make her feel better I'll never drink soda again. I know, that sounds pretty dumb. It was actually quite a few months before I drank soda again....
As silly as that sounds... I think many of us try to do such things from time to time. IF _____ THEN _______. That bargaining is basically a form of manipulation. We try to convince God to do OUR will. That is exactly what Judas was doing.
Now... how about Peter?
Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.
Who me? No way Lord... There's no way that I, Peter, your servant would EVER EVER EVER deny you!!!!!!
You can bet that I feel the same way... I imagine you do as well.
Here's where I was going with ALL of this... The truth is many of us have, do, and will do exactly that. Whether it was/is while Jesus is being ridiculed or when Peter is being questioned... Mob mentality... conformity... PEER PRESSURE... They're all very, VERY powerful things that sway even the strongest of men. I mean, look at Peter... When faced with a group of people that might have seemed a bit scary... he denied ever knowing Jesus.
Before you shout out and say that "I would have stayed strong and stood up for what I believe in..." I want you to take a long hard look at both the situation back then and the situation now.
Jesus had just been BRUTALLY killed. Imagine being in a crowd where people were insulting him, hitting him, spitting on him... a crowd anxious to watch him die. Imagine that for a minute. Think of a lynch mob... a group of ANGRY people with torches and pitch forks if it helps. You JUST witnessed what these people are capable of. In ALL honesty... if you admit your association, they might very well come after you. Imagine someone pointing a gun at your head and asking you if you know Jesus... Imagine being in one of the world's nations where Christianity is outlawed and punishable by hanging. Imagine yourself there and someone asks you... "hey, are you a Christian?"
How brave are you now? How sure are you now that if you were in Peter's shoes you would have been stronger?
I'll admit, I'd still like to think I would respond differently. But, I wouldn't bet my life on it. Fear and bullying are persuasive forces.
Now I'd like you to think of more simple things in your life right NOW. Do your friends KNOW you're a Christian? Do they REALLY? Do they KNOW what you believe? ( you don't hide it under a bushel do you?)
For many... far too many, people... being a Christian means you go to church once in a while but otherwise, you blend in with everyone else. You believe and do whatever society dictates. If you disagree... well, most people keep it to themselves. What am I talking about? I'm not going to tell you what YOU do specifically... but, I'm going to ask you to take a hard look at your daily life and see if there is ANYWHERE that you deny Jesus.
When I was younger and worked at a pizza place... the guys made comments about every girl that walked by. Because I did not join in their comments, they started to wonder whether I liked girls or not. I am ashamed to admit, I never spoke up and gave good reasoning for my differing behavior. A few years later, God made it easier for me to be more open. Another workplace and some guys were asking if I had done certain things with a girl I dated. I said "no" and they asked "why not, are you religious or something" which provided me the perfect opportunity to say YES... which led to further discussions(and some teasing but mostly light stuff).
What about now? What if I was in a group of people that were MEAN bullies? People that might actually, physically hurt me if I gave an answer they didn't like?
What about all the things people do on a daily basis that is just conformity? ALL the guys are at the water cooler(not sure I ever worked somewhere with a water cooler) and they're making jokes about a coworker? Do you join in? Do you walk away? Or do you stand up for the person? What if? What if? SO many what ifs....... You are faced with MANY challenges every day. Even if you're never directly asked "hey, are you a Christian", the way you respond to your daily challenges should have everyone around you wondering why on earth you're different. To be less than you are and less than you are called to be is not very different than denying Christ the way Peter did.
There may come a day where your actual life may hinge on your response. You may actually be killed for being a Christian. Our future is uncertain and our world is definitely anything but certain. But even now... every day, we are given opportunities to deny Christ. We live in a very worldly world(you know what I mean) where morality is becoming more and more clouded. Black and white is blurred. And sadly, the chaos has crept into the church as well. Our churches are almost as worldly as the world... and we are CALLED to NOT be of this world.
Why did Jesus die? What comes from that?
He died to save us... to FREE us from our sins... So... be free. Release yourself from those bonds. The price has been paid. We have been given NEW lives. We were born again. It's time we start living those new lives to the fullest. It's time we let the world know what we have and not hide it. Now is not the time to shrink in fear as Peter did.
I challenge you to REALLY examine your life with all of this in mind. Find places where you need change and seek it out. I challenge you to be more than public with your faith. Wear your faith like a new tattoo(from a newsboys song) If any of my dad's biker friends or anyone that likes tattoos reads this... I think they'll understand. When you get a tattoo that you're proud of, you show it off. That's how we should ALL wear our faith.
You know... you WILL be persecuted. The bible actually promises that. People might make fun of you, insult you, even harm you. But we are called to stand firm.
I wish I could convince the church as a whole to dispatch of the pagan traditions it has held on to so dearly in regards to holidays like Easter. Bunnies and eggs have NO place in a church. they have nothing to do with Christ no matter what spin we try to put on them. I am unable to reach the church... but, I can reach you... at least in words.
This Easter I challenge YOU to see what you typically share of yourself in regards to Easter. I know many of my friends will post on facebook about the resurrection... but many will post mainly stories and pictures of their egg hunts and similar things. I challenge people to drop those things from their typical sharing... and share MORE about Jesus' death and resurrection. I want for us all to be able to say "Why YES, I DO know Jesus" when those questioning voices come calling... they are calling already.
Egg hunts, dressing kids up in cute clothes... it's all fun and cute... but, none of that has anything to do with Christ's death and resurrection. When talking about Easter with your friends, on facebook, or anywhere else... I challenge you(yes, I'm aware I'm saying those words a lot... I want you REALLY feeling the challenge) to share far more about Christ, his death, resurrection, what it all means to You... and what it all means to your friends and acquaintances. I want you to be SO challenged by this that you'll turn around and challenge others... and at least put FAR more focus on Jesus and the AWESOME meaning of what He did for us... when you start sharing on facebook this weekend...
I could go on but probably shouldn't... Looking back at those bible stories... I definitely still can't say what I would or would not have done. I don't think any of us really can. I hope that challenges you like it challenges me to focus right NOW on how you and I can respond to our situations NOW. Every moment of every day... Let's find those areas in our life where we goof just as badly as the most famous of Bible characters... and let's change our stories.
Dear Lord, I can never thank you enough for the gift you have given me. Jesus, thank you for taking the cup poured out before you so that it may pass us by. As we face this Easter season, I pray that we will all want to share that message with everyone around us just as much as you were willing to BE that message. I will not be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Friends... more good news for all of us. The story with Peter was not the end... not at all. Jesus challenged Peter just like I'm challenging you, and myself right now.
15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep......"
Guess what... we've messed up a lot... and we will again. But, Jesus knows that already. Look at how He knew exactly what Peter did. And Peter continued to serve God. We are offered the same chances... even while we make some of the same mistakes.
I urge you to read the above passage and focus on the red text... substitute your name in place... While the question might seem ridiculous, as it did for Peter... Do you love Jesus? Let that question come to you... and answer it. Then...... HEAR Jesus' response to YOU. Feed His lambs... Take care of His sheep... Feed His sheep...
Whether in literal terms or in spiritual, this calling is for you and I.
Seek out the lost... today.