We sometimes have the allusions that it must have been amazing to spend time with Jesus. To walk with him and hear all of his messages, first hand. I mean, wouldn’t that have been cool? But then again, sometimes we see how real and ordinary it was between all of the disciples:
A controversy arose among the disciples as to which of them might surpass the others in worth, and authority (Luke 9:46)
Some translations are much more direct about it and don’t say anything about a “controversy,” or a “discussion,” and call it what it was: an “argument.”
Now what we might find interesting, is that during this “argument,” Jesus also told them, “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into human hands.” Now that seems pretty straight forward to me. But we read that the twelve didn’t understand, and in fact, they were afraid to ask Jesus what he meant. So instead, an argument broke out as which one of them was his favorite and would be the greatest.
But hey, there is no reason of us to criticize them for this, because we aren’t much better. First, they didn’t have the advantage of over 2000 yrs of history behind them. Plus, they weren’t endowed with the Spirit of God and walking around as reborn men. No, they were just common men and although they had seen some pretty miraculous things, they certainly didn’t fully understand who this man they were following around was. Oh sure, they may have had some glimpses. Like the time Peter proclaimed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” Well, then he goes and denies even knowing him. So it wasn’t such a life-changing revelation for him, was it?
But let’s admit it, we are not much different from them. Oh sure, we may never have argued with someone openly about our own greatness, but our hearts deceive us, as well. Our society thrives on ambition. And if we are not extremely careful, we bring these same ambition into the Church. You see, the biggest hindrance to our greatness as Christians, is our desire to be great.
I realize that’s not what all the motivational preachers will tell you, though. We need to pursue victory; to be positive in a negative world. When I owned my own business I would listen to some of the most stimulating motivational speakers to keep positive in my desire to be a successful salesman. And I know you have heard all of those speakers and trainers, yourself. But for me it became a major hindrance. Winning became my only priority.
As my pastor has written:
I sometimes wonder what modern Christianity has to do with Jesus. The gulf between Jesus and His teachings, and what currently passes for faith in Him leaves me dumbfounded. It’s not as if the ‘clues‘ to what following Jesus is supposed to look like are hard to come by – the biblical narrative is pretty clear, but you wouldn’t think so, given the way following Jesus has been ‘wrapped‘ in recent years. Mega churches that make almost no impact on their community whatsoever, Jesus viewed as if following Him is something of a ‘lifestyle choice,’ like one buys a Prius or eats mung beans, worship leaders in it for the applause, that they say is really ‘for Jesus,’ but is something their own ego and lack of humility – sometimes nearly ever present – really gets off on.
Am i complaining too much? Maybe? But humility is in short supply. I am almost completely convinced that social media is a work of the enemy – far too many people using their Facebook page and twitter et al, to PR themselves ad nauseum – as Howard Wolowitz says on the Big Bang Theory, ‘There’s no room for truth on the internet.’
Narcissism is the new epidemic, and it’s now so prevalent that we’re losing the ability to see it, like we don’t see greed and obesity. The church has for years taken the grace and then run with it – ‘cheap grace‘ is the term used by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945):, in The Cost of Discipleship – it’s a long quote, but may just be the most inspired thing ever written – apart from the bible itself: I suggest we all read, and re-read it – until humility become our new, ever present norm.
Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace. Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing….
Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian ‘conception’ of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins…. In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God.
Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. ‘All for sin could not atone.’ Well, then, let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let him model himself on the world’s standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from his old life under sin….
Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man’ will gladly go and self all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.
Costly grace is the sanctuary of God; it has to be protected from the world, and not thrown to the dogs. It is therefore the living word, the Word of God, which he speaks as it pleases him. Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus. It comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. Grace is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
On two separate occasions Peter received the call, “Follow me.” It was the first and last word Jesus spoke to his disciple (Mark 1.17; John 21.22). A whole life lies between these two calls. The first occasion was by the lake of Gennesareth, when Peter left his nets and his craft and followed Jesus at his word. The second occasion is when the Risen Lord finds him back again at his old trade. Once again it is by the lake of Gennesareth, and once again the call is: “Follow me.” Between the two calls lay a whole life of discipleship in the following of Christ. Half-way between them comes Peter’s confession, when he acknowledged Jesus as the Christ of God….
This grace was certainly not self-bestowed. It was the grace of Christ himself, now prevailing upon the disciple to leave all and follow him, now working in him that confession which to the world must sound like the ultimate blasphemy, now inviting Peter to the supreme fellowship of martyrdom for the Lord he had denied, and thereby forgiving him all his sins. In the life of Peter grace and discipleship are inseparable. He had received the grace which costs, (pg. 45-49).
Look at the contrast of Christ and our desire for greatness. Christ was on the road to greatness, but His road would take Him through betrayal, rejection, suffering and death. Philippians 2:6-8 tells us Jesus “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.” And we certainly don’t believe that either, but He “made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness . . . He humbled Himself and became obedient, even to death–even death on a cross.”
This so different from our own idea to greatness. And yet the Scripture uses Christ’s model to urge us not to grow weary and lose heart, since Jesus “endured the cross, scorning its shame” for the “joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2-3). He “tasted death” on our behalf, God the Father chose to “make the author of our salvation perfect through suffering” (Hebrews 2:9-10).
The word “perfect” in that verse is teleioo, and means “to complete, make perfect by reaching the intended goal.” Christ reached His goal (our salvation and His exaltation) through suffering. His road to greatness was a rocky one. A painful one. He knew it in advance, and yet He set His face resolutely toward the goal and accomplished it for all time. Simply put, we were worth it to Him.
And no matter how resistant we may be to this call, our road to greatness will be the same as His–the highway of humility. At times it will involve suffering, rejection, betrayal, ridicule, and, yes, even death. The question becomes, “Is He worth it to us?”
We have never been promised anything but suffering, tribulation, and rejection in the world that rejected him. Jesus made no secret of this to his disciples, but said, “Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man” (Luke 6:22).
Such a pursuit demands denial of many desires, and causes the misjudgment of many people, even brothers and sisters in the Lord. Nevertheless, just like Young Christian from John Bunyan’s tale of The Pilgrims Progress, we must put our fingers in our ears, and run on crying “Life! Life! Eternal Life!”
Jim Elliot stated a profound truth when he said, “He is no fool who gives up what he can not keep, to gain what he can not lose.”
Psalm 63:8 says “My soul follows hard after you; your right hand upholds me . . .” That doesn’t make any sense. How can you be following or as another translation says, Pursuing ardently, at the same time he is upholding? What a strange paradox, isn’t it?
But here’s the secret: we don’t pursue in order to find Him, but rather, pursue Him in order to know him. Tozer taught that “to have found God and still pursue him is the soul’s paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too-easily-satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart . . .”
Tozer encouraged us to:
“Come near to the holy men and women of the past and you will soon feel the heat of their desire after God. They mourned for Him, they prayed and wrestled and sought for Him day and night, in season and out, and when they had found Him, the finding was all the sweeter for the long seeking. Moses used the fact that he knew God as an argument for knowing Him better. ‘Now, therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, show me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight’; and from there he rose to make the daring request, ‘I beseech thee, show me thy glory.’ God was frankly pleased with this display of ardor, the next day called Moses into the mount, and there in solemn procession made all His glory pass before Him.
“David’s life was a torrent of spiritual desire, and his psalms ring with the cry of the seeker and the glad shout of the finder. Paul confessed the mainspring of his life to be his burning desire after Christ. ‘That I may know Him,’ was the goal of his heart, and to this, he sacrificed everything. ‘Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may win Christ.’”
I desperately want to encourage this mighty longing after God. I want to experience it in my own life! The emptiness we may experience in our hearts and the stiff quality of our spiritual lives is a result of our lack of Holy desire. This is why I will soon take us through the Song of Solomon. It is our complacency that is the death of all spiritual growth. As Steve Camp says;
“There’s safety in complacency but God is calling us out of our comfort zones into a life of complete surrender to the cross. To live dangerously is not to live recklessly but righteously and it is because of God’s radical grace for us that we can risk living a life of radical obedience for Him.”
Folks, without that driving desire present in our lives there will be no manifestation of Christ. He waits to be wanted. In The Race, John White put it so clearly:
“Our quest must be the quest of a suitor, a suitor too blinded by beauty to descend to calculating self-interest; too intoxicated with love to care about the cost or the consequences of his suit . . .
“It must be the love of Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet, enchanted by his words and grace, but deaf and blind to the frustration and fuss of her resentful sister (Luke 10:38-42). An enchantment of that sort will not be broken, nor its pleasures denied . . .
“It is time we threw spiritual pragmatism out of the window. We come habitually to God carrying shopping baskets and armed with a checklist of needed purchases, when all the time he wants to put his arms around us and draw us to himself. We know no other way. Custom and tradition have drilled us in the art of celestial bargain hunting. It is time we forgot about our spiritual performance and our spiritual needs and gave ourselves up to passion.”
Here’s the big lie: Satan has convinced us that putting down the “stuff of our life” is some huge sacrifice. Not true!! That is what makes us most miserable! What an albatross the stuff of our lives are — and that self-absorption!
I assure you, getting over that self-stuff is a daily challenge. As long as we live in these physical bodies, it is going to trouble us. So . . . we must choose to “deny ourselves and take up our cross daily” (Luke 9:23). The challenge demands total honesty before God. Remember, He never convicts us to condemn us. He wants to liberate us.
My friends, He has told us quite clearly to clothe ourselves with humility toward one another, because He resists the proud, but gives grace (His ability) to the humble. So humble yourself under His might hand, so He can exalt you in due time (I Peter 5:5-6)
Also see: Humility—The Strength of the Lamb, by Andrew Murray.
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