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Follow Me: FLIPPED, Upside-Down Living

Most of us get it backwards. We think the key to the life we’ve always wanted is to believe the right things and behave the right way. Just take a look at social media. Facebook Philosophers regularly post one-liners, pics and quotes intended to inspire, challenge, convict and guilt people into changing what they believe and how they behave. We see this in politics as well. We pass laws based on our beliefs designed to manage someone’s behavior with words on a page.

It makes sense that we would think the key to success in life is belief and behavior. They’re both measurable. One by what we say. The other by what we do. But when it comes to discovering and living spiritual truth there is a far more important practice than belief and behavior. It’s the way Jesus did it and it’s far less complicated than we want to make it.

Jesus says, “Follow me.”

When Jesus approached Peter, James and John, three fishermen on the shore of the sea of Galilee, he didn’t give them a list of qualifications. He never asked for their résumé. He simply said, “Follow me.” Later Jesus goes to Matthew. He’s working in the tax office. Jesus doesn’t look at Matthew and say, “Believe this, obey that.” Instead, he looks at Matthew and says, “Follow me.”

We see this pattern in the Old Testament too. God goes to Noah and later Abraham and essentially says, “Follow me.” And they do. Most people think of religion as a list of rules and regulations. When I say Old Testament I’m guessing one of the first things that comes to mind is the 10 Commandments. The 10 Commandments were first given to Moses. Moses lived about 600 years after Abraham. For 600 years there was no list, only one explicit request, “Follow me.”

When asked what made Jesus tick he responded simply, “I do the things I see my Father do. I say the things I hear my Father say.” In other words Jesus said, “I follow him.”

We get it backwards. We try to convince ourselves and everyone else that if we will believe the right things and behave the right way only then we can follow Jesus. But that’s not what Jesus said. He said, “Follow me.”

Follow him long enough and belief will come. We see that in the Disciples. Following leads to belief. Belief leads to changed behavior.

We understand this. We do it everyday on Facebook and Twitter. We click “like”. We press “follow”.  And suddenly we receive regular updates about the thoughts and actions of the people we find interesting. We may agree or disagree. But either way, the people we follow influence the thoughts we have.

I don’t know what you think about Jesus or Christianity. Maybe you don’t put a lot stock in anything spiritual or religion related. Maybe you grew up in church. Maybe you’ve been burned. Maybe you’re doing all the right things, all the right way. No matter where you are, you’re in a good place to start. My challenge for you today isn’t that you would change your beliefs or behavior, but that you would, for a season try one simple thing.

“Follow him.”

Let me be clear. I don’t mean follow his followers. I mean follow him. Go to Biblegateway.com or YouVersion.com. Search for the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John in the New Living Translation and start reading. Read a little every day. Let’s say, one chapter each day. It doesn’t matter if you believe it or not. I read things online or in the newspaper everyday I don’t believe. Just like checking Facebook or Twitter get in the habit of reading a chapter from the Bible each day. Follow him.

These thoughts inspired by Andy Stanley.

Establishing a State Religion

firstHere’s how this works.

Each day I’ll read and S.O.A.P. one chapter of Romans. S.O.A.P. is a simple way to focus on what God is speaking to you through what you read. It stands for ScriptureObservationApplication, & Prayer.

Every time I read a chapter God always focuses my heart and mind around a specific part of that chapter. Sometimes it’s just a verse. Sometimes it’s more than that. That verse or group of verses becomes the focus of my devo.

There’s one other practice that helps me know, understand and follow scripture – memorization. Consider memorizing the verse or verses you S.O.A.P.


Romans 13

SCRIPTURE

Romans 13:1, “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.”

OBSERVATION

An ancient Chinese proverb – some call it a curse – says, “May you live in interesting times.” For those who are Believers we certainly live in interesting times. History books have called America a Christian nation. Without an official edict or government mandate the history of the U.S.A. is filled with stories of people who have placed their faith in God and called on Jesus as their Savior. Our Ivy League institutions were founded as centers for higher learning. Many were focused on teaching people and preachers the depths of theology in preparation for ministry. Higher learning in these days meant not only the advancement of traditional sciences but a recognition that there is more to this world than science can explain. God is on high and any truly higher learning must include a study of him.

But we’ve gotten away from this as a nation. Our Ivy League schools are more interested in business, law, science and engineering. Our government still doesn’t have an officially established religion, but it would seem we do have a State sponsored set of doctrine.

  • Prayer in schools and government institutions is acceptable, just don’t mention Jesus.
  • Talk about sin is okay, just don’t be so specific as to include sexual immorality in your discussion.
  • Conversations about how faith influences politics are just fine as long as you land on the liberal side of the aisle. If faith talk leads you to a conservative answer your words are not ‘sanctioned’.
  • Diversity of opinion is okay, encouraged even, as long as you agree with the current administration.

There’s more to the unofficial doctrine of the U.S. Government, but I won’t list it here.

Romans 13 is a challenging chapter in light of our current social and political climate. It seems this nation, once open to Christianity, is slowly rejecting the most basic principles of our faith. Our government is becoming increasingly combative toward and exclusive of people of faith. How should we respond?

APPLICATION

I won’t go into a full response here. This is post is intended to be a more devotional space. Let me point out a few things. When Paul wrote these words there was nothing ‘Christian’ about the government. Political leaders in the Romans Empire were pagan. Caesar worship was common – meaning the man at the top of the government was considered a god. The government of Rome was not inclined to assist people of any faith. They saw religion as a tool to keep the masses under control. When religion stepped out of the bounds the Roman response was quick and severe. They would identify the religion and wipe it out.

They tried this with Christianity. They didn’t like it. They didn’t understand it. They saw it as a threat. So Christians became the stuff of sport, entertainment in the Colosseum, dinner for hungry lions. During Paul’s time Christianity was so young the Roman government didn’t really know what to think about Christianity, but things were headed this direction.

Still, Paul writes Romans 13.

America, as a whole, has an established religion. We may sometimes hear the traditional language of Christianity used to describe this faith, but the heart of our established religion isn’t Jesus or the Bible. It’s secular humanism. This established religion is defended by law and slowly eating away at our religious liberties.

Yet Paul’s response is still the same. Give honor to those in authority. Paul’s example is a good one. He used his citizenship as an opportunity to spread his faith. He used the law of the day as a platform for ministry. His goal wasn’t to establish a state religion. His goal was to establish faith in Jesus Christ in the hearts of people.

His method worked. We’re still talking about his faith today.

Regardless of what our government does. Even if living your faith means facing the same persecution Paul did, respect the authority of those in office. Express your faith. Share your opinion. Use your influence, position and the laws of the day to establish faith in Jesus Christ in the hearts of people. In the end, that’s so much more valuable than trying to legally establish a state religion.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for our President, Congressional leaders and the Justices of our Courts. Bless them with your favor today. They may or may not believe they serve you. Whatever the case, surround them with people who will help establish faith in Jesus Christ in their hearts. Let them know your favor in every position, law, argument and issue that lines up with your will and your way. Resist them in every plan that is contrary to you. Teach them to lead well.

Since we are a government of, by and for the people – convict the people of our nation, grant us the gift of repentance and the capacity for forgiveness. I ask you to bless America, but not simply with prosperity and peace. Bless us with your presence and the courage and strength to follow you.

Show me how I can use my influence, position, citizenship and the laws of our day to establish faith in Jesus Christ in the hearts of people.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad

Hate Religion; Love Jesus

This video has been floating around Facebook lately. Give it a spin, read my comments, then make some of your own.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IAhDGYlpqY

Well produced and well said.

Scripturally, he’s right about self-righteousness. Politically, Jesus isn’t a Democrat either. Culturally, he clearly articulates why so many people are disenfranchised by religion.

I’ve heard people say, “I like Jesus, but don’t like the church.” If what they mean is religion, I’m right there with them. Religion is a fish out of water trying to teach a drowning man to breath.

There is a difference between the Church and religion. By Church I don’t mean a denomination, building or system of organization. I mean the Church described in the Bible. That Church is the body and bride of Christ. Saying, “I like Jesus, but don’t like the church,” is like telling your friend,  “You’re great, but your wife is hideous!” It’s like telling someone, “I find you attractive. You don’t sweat much for a fat boy.”

The Church is what forms when Believers come together. It has a universal expression because of our unity in Christ. It’s why I can go to an underground church in China without being able to speak the language and still experience sweet fellowship with complete strangers as we worship together in spirit and truth.

The Church also has a local expression. When Believers assemble on the local level they are committing to God and one another. They are saying, “This is the place and these are the people I want to grow with, be accountable to, and partner with in ministry.” Anytime people come together there has to be some level of organization. Where and when will we meet? What will we do while we’re together? How will we decide what to do when we disagree? And the most important question of all, who’s making coffee!?

Like people, each of these local bodies of Believers has a personality. Some churches are very formal in their organization, others more free. Some are focused in their mission and methods while others try everything under the sun. None of these organizational expressions is Biblically superior to the other. The Bible gives remarkably few details about the day-to-day operations of the local church. However, the Bible speaks clearly about how Believers are to relate to one another and to people outside their fellowship. It’s almost like Scripture tells us, “How you do what you do is more important than the structures you use to do it.”

The reason churches, and people, fall into religion is because we value our structures and systems, our own opinions, more than our relationships. We choose to walk in self righteousness rather than risk getting too deeply involved in the glorious mess that is people. We ignore the Scriptures that command us to relate to one another in a spirit of mutual submission out of mutual respect. We forget the language of repentance and forgiveness with one another and refuse to recognize the one truth that  ties us all together – we are all sinners in need of a Savior. Anytime people get together mistakes will be made. People will fail. It’s not a question of, ‘if’, but ‘when’, and how bad it will be. How we handle those moments defines the difference between dead religion and a living relationship with Christ and one another.

Religion – or the church – are easy targets. We blame the nameless, faceless, ‘they’ and ‘them’ for all the reasons why we don’t participate with other Believers. When will we recognize that the church is not ‘they’.

The church is me, with you, learning how we can honor God together.

Ephesians 3:20-21, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”