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Outside The Gates

Downward Mobility

Matthew 10:1-10

Lesson audio

Prologue

Faithful readers will remember the last two lessons:

Caring for the poor

It is necessary for the faith that we care for the poor. We are to act justly, treating them fairly and upholding them when they are wronged. We are to love mercy, granting both forgiveness and charity. We are to do so in humility before our God.

Fences

We, as human sinners, often to put up barriers to such care. To cure this, we must remember the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man – and the imitation of Christ. These not only forbid the fences, but mandate that we take them down.

So we have established the mission, and destroyed one of the barriers to it. Now then, how do we accomplish this mission? I do not mean in the sense of specifics – this giving campaign, that orphanage, as good as they are – I mean in the sense of what we must do to and for ourselves.

The Example of Christ

The title of the lesson is “Downward Mobility”, as taken from the series given at Eastside. What is “downward mobility?” It is a cute phrase that means we must, as the Scripture puts it, take up the Cross. Now, we are not so much commanded to take up the Cross as invited to do so:

Mar 8:34-35 NIV Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (35) For whoever wants to save his life[3] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.

“If” is the operative word here. We don’t have to take up the cross; it’s just that if we want to follow Jesus, we will have to. And what an example that sets! More than that, what an Example we follow.

Christ our example

It often appears to Christians that Christ, as an example, is too high and pure to follow. That may be; but we are commanded to try. Consider the example He sets for us:

  • See how He emptied himself of the glory he had in heaven to come to earth as we do. Picture yourself as an earthworm – to save the other earthworms – and you have an idea of downward mobility in the original.
  • Nothing on earth could compare with his heavenly home, but he chose not to be a member of the rich and elite. Instead, he lived the life of an itinerant preacher – depending on God every step.
  • Indeed, there is no record that Christ ever asked for money – and he was rather direct about telling the disciples to spend theirs.
The style of a disciple

So, then, given Christ our example, what does our Lord require of his own itinerant preachers?

Mat 10:9-13 NIV Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; (10) take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep. (11) "Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. (12) As you enter the home, give it your greeting. (13) If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you.

May we summarize?

  • Be content with your lodgings. (Do you really need the house in the better neighborhood?)
  • Travel light. (Ever complained of how much “stuff” you have?)
  • Don’t beg; rather, trust God to provide. (It’s called a rat race for a reason.)

Motivation

So, just why would I want to do such a crazy thing?

  • First, you were bought with a price. When you accepted Christ as Savior you also took him as Lord. His commands are for your benefit – no matter how crazy they may look.
  • Second, you’re not perfect. And you don’t know how to get that way. This is the way to being perfect in Christ.
  • Finally, this is the only way that really works. I know that sounds crazy, but it is the only way it really works.

That last deserves some explanation. Consider it this way: Have you ever seen a professional baseball player “dogging it?” All that money doesn’t make him a better ballplayer; it merely determines which team he’ll play for. Greatness doesn’t come from money.

Is there anything I get?

OK, what’s in it for me, then?

Joh 12:26 NIV Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

At the very least you will be with Christ. You will also be honored for your service. Is that so light a thing?

Indeed, we are to look at our service and suffering in this life as an occasion for joy:

Jas 1:2 NIV Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,

How can we do that? Perhaps the easiest of ways is to see it by comparison: suppose you decide that nothing is worth suffering for. Even in this world you know that doesn’t work – hard work is necessary to get ahead, right? Now if this is so in the kingdom of earth, how much more so in the kingdom of heaven? A star athlete suffers so that he may win the prize before him.

Indeed, as those who have taken it up can tell you, his burden is easy and his yoke is light.

Eternal consequences

All this is true in this life – but even more so in the life to come. If you will recall the sheep and the goats at the last judgment, the point of separation was not whether or not you went to the right church (though there are plenty of people out there who will tell you that the right church is all important) but rather what have you done for those around you.

We had in our class, at one time, a flight attendant. One day I asked her what percentage of the passengers said “thank you” when they were served. Her reply: “You mean, including the parents who tell their kids to do so? Less than one percent.” The measure of a Christian gentleman is how he treats the invisible people.

But it is not just acceptance, but exaltation. God the Father exalts Christ for his service, and will exalt those who serve Christ. If you suffer with him, you will reign with him.

There is a danger in this. Christ is asking you to be an exemplary Christian – one who is an example for others. “Follow me, as I follow Christ,” as Paul said. But doesn’t this make you so visible that it would seem you are showing off? “Look at what a grand fellow I am!” We must let our lights shine so that others will praise God. How can we shine and yet not appear to brag? The matter is simple:

If you want to hide a leaf, put it in a forest.

If you want to hide a book, put it in a library.

If you want to hide a man, put him in a city.

If you want to hide a candle, put it in a lighthouse.

The Power of Paradox

It seems a contradiction: lose your life to save it, save it and lose it. It is indeed a paradox. How can this be resolved?

The Glory of God

We often forget that one of the prime purposes of the church is to bring glory to God. As one author put it, glory is what God looks like when all you have to see with is eyes. Who has not been awestruck by a clear view of the stars in the sky? Yet that is just God’s glory in the natural world; consider how his glory shines when the world sees us caring for the poor.

God’s glory is revealed in human foolishness:

1Co 1:18-20 NIV For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (19) For it is written:

"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;

the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate."[3]

(20) Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

His glory and power are revealed in our weakness:

2Co 12:9 NIV But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

When someone sees the ordinary Christian doing extraordinary things, showing extraordinary power, the conclusion is inescapable. It is not man who does such things, but God working through man – bringing glory to God.

Lose/Save your life

There’s a simple analogy to explain this. If you’re a hypochondriac, you spend all your time worrying about your health. You’ll eventually wind up with pills and prescriptions by the dozen – and also be worse off than if you weren’t such a hypochondriac. Hypochondria is hazardous to your health.

That’s why our Lord tells us to take no thought for tomorrow. Let him worry about that for you. You just do as he commands instead.

If you do, suffering is sure to come. Now, we rightly think that anyone who chooses deliberately to suffer must be mentally ill, a masochist. But athletes choose to suffer pain so that they can improve their bodies. We do not choose to suffer; we choose to follow Christ, knowing that suffering will inevitably accompany that decision.

The paradoxical life

The life in Christ is a paradox: it costs everything we have; it gains everything we need. There is no middle road; Christ did not intend to leave you such a choice. Follow him completely, or do not follow at all. As Michael Card put it, “the power of paradox opens our eyes, and blinds those who say they can see.”

Seems I've imagined Him all of my life
As the wisest of all of mankind
But if God's Holy wisdom is foolish to men
He must have seemed out of His mind

For even His family said He was mad
And the priests said a demon's to blame
But God in the form of this angry young man
Could not have seemed perfectly sane

Chorus
When we in our foolishness thought we were wise
He played the fool and He opened our eyes
When we in our weakness believed we were strong
He became helpless to show we were wrong
And so we follow God's own fool
For only the foolish can tell-
Believe the unbelievable
And come be a fool as well

So come lose your life for a carpenter's son
For a madman who died for a dream
And you'll have the faith His first followers had
And you'll feel the weight of the beam
So surrender the hunger to say you must know
Have the courage to say I believe
For the power of paradox opens your eyes
And blinds those who say they can see

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