readers will remember the last two lessons:
for the poor
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.
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
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.
Example of Christ
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 will lose it, but whoever
loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.
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.
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:
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.
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.
there is no record that Christ ever asked for money – and he was rather
direct about telling the disciples to spend theirs.
style of a disciple
then, given Christ our example, what does our Lord require of his own itinerant
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.
content with your lodgings. (Do you really need the house in the better
light. (Ever complained of how much “stuff” you have?)
beg; rather, trust God to provide. (It’s called a rat race for a reason.)
just why would I want to do such a crazy thing?
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.
you’re not perfect. And you don’t know how to get that way. This is the
way to being perfect in Christ.
this is the only way that really works. I know that sounds crazy, but it
is the only way it really works.
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.
there anything I get?
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.
the very least you will be with Christ. You will also be honored for your
service. Is that so light a thing?
we are to look at our service and suffering in this life as an occasion for
Jas 1:2 NIV
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
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.
as those who have taken it up can tell you, his burden is easy and his yoke is
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.
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
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.
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:
you want to hide a leaf, put it in a forest.
you want to hide a book, put it in a library.
you want to hide a man, put him in a city.
you want to hide a candle, put it in a lighthouse.
Power of Paradox
seems a contradiction: lose your life to save it, save it and lose it. It is
indeed a paradox. How can this be resolved?
Glory of God
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.
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."
(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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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