Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Way It Was

Being in the military something I hear often is, “At my last base we...” or “The way we used to do it was...” The impression is that the way we used to do things is always better than the way we are doing them or are leading toward doing them. That way of thinking never made sense to me. As if the type writer was a better, more effective method of doing paperwork than the computer. Or propeller planes were more effective than the amazement of technology that we call jets.

What I've realized in the last few years is that those type of comments are not exclusive to military life. It seems that it is a prevalent way of thinking in most areas of our culture, ministry being no exception. The more I hear that stuff lately the more I wonder if the Apostles longed for “the way it was”. Specifically, when they were years into their ministry, facing persecution and imminent death, did they long for the days of old? The days that they physically walked with Jesus or the days of the early church when 3,000 people were added to the church in one day. I think they probably did. I have to believe that at the moment Stephen was facing death from stoning, while Peter was being crucified, as they were getting ready to throw James from the temple roof or the years Paul spent chained in prison, one if not all, longed for the “good old days.” Who wouldn't miss lounging with Jesus as opposed to stoning? But here's the thing...even though what they were facing was, well...death, they NEVER recanted on their faith. Their service to Jesus, their calling from Christ to advance His kingdom trumped EVERYTHING else. And it's because He changed them. Peter was no longer the same guy that blatantly denied Christ, Paul was no longer a murder and persecutor of Christians. They were different men all together.

That's the point of what Jesus does in us. We are to die to our old selves and be made new in Christ. In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul tells them, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 In Romans 12:2 he says, “Don’t copy [conform to] the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” We are NOT meant to stay the same, He means to transform our hearts, our minds, our whole self. He did not come so we would remain the same selfish, self seeking, hurtful and hurting people that we were before Him.

He came to save us, to love us and to reconcile us into the arms of His (and our) Father. 2 Corinthians 3:8 says he came, “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” He came to change us into people that look like Him and reflect His glory. If we stay the same, we don't reflect Him. Jesus' love and everything else about Him says revolutionary, not relevant. He didn't come to relate to us, but to introduce a radical change in us that allowed us to relate to Him.

Bottom line is this...Christ came with the intention of changing us. That change is meant to draw us to a place that we desire to love people, advance His saving grace and see others changed by Him. We are NOT meant to hang out (that's a club) and we are not meant to focus on “the way it was.” We are meant to be so impacted by the love of Christ that we are transformed (made into something entirely different) for His sake. If your relationship with Christ is based on what was and not focused on what He's doing now, then you're not advancing His kingdom. No one that has ever sat on the side lines, ever scored a point. The aggressive player is the one that helps to advance the team. After all, “from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it.” Matthew 11:12.

His kingdom is being attacked everyday, are you just gonna keep “sitting this one out”?

Seeking His Transforming Power,
Bruce