The Discipleship Lifestyle

The Bible tells us to live and love like Jesus, and it shows us how to do it, by showing us how He lived and loved. Last time, I told you what I think it’s all about.

Now I’ll tell you what living like Jesus is not about. It’s not about health, wealth, and prosperity. These are things that God chooses to bless us with as He sees fit. Living like Jesus is also not about your “best life now.” Not all the time. I know some Christians say that once you’re saved, everything’s going to be hunky dory. But that’s a tactic they use to get you saved. And it works! People hear a promise like that, and of course they get saved. They think they’re going to become rich!

But then when they don’t become rich, they say there is no God.

We get into this salvation mentality. We think we just have to get people saved, and then once we do that, we think we’re done. I truly don’t believe that’s where it ends. I truly believe that salvation is just the beginning. It’s the beginning of a life of discipleship. It’s living out an understanding of what the Gospel means.

What is the Good News? I mean, what is the Jesus Gospel? That you have to accept Christ or rot in hell? There are people out there who are seriously claiming that a threat like that is “good news.” I’m sorry, but that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

The lifestyle of Jesus, the one He lived and taught us to live, is good news. The discipleship lifestyle is the Gospel. Salvation and justification are part of it. They are our beginning, but we’re called to live it.

You hear people ask, “Did Jesus speak the Gospel?” And some people will say He didn’t. They will say He couldn’t have. They will say the Gospel didn’t come until after Jesus died.

That’s a little mind-boggling to me! I mean, Jesus is the Gospel! Jesus is the good news! Whatever Jesus did was the good news. He was IT! Of course He preached the Gospel, because He did the Gospel! But people don’t think like that.

That just shows me where we’re at. We’re stuck in this salvation mentality. We focus everything on Jesus’ death. We think we’re done being Christians when we acknowledge His death for our sins. But what about His life? How can we ignore that, when the Bible contains a detailed account of all the things He did and all the things He said, and all the instructions He gave to everyone who wanted to be His disciple?

Sometimes I ask myself why I live the way I live, and that nails what I’m saying here. Why do I live the way I live? I don’t ask myself why I am the way I am. I know the answer to that. I’m saved. I’m justified by Christ. But I don’t assume that means I’m good. I’m not necessarily good. I’m not necessarily right. I’m not necessarily on the right path. I examine the way I live, because I want to be His disciple.

Do I mess up? Yes. Am I always good? No. Am I always on the right path? No. But when I get off on the wrong path, I ask the Spirit to lead me back. And I believe that the Spirit does, because I want the discipleship lifestyle. I want to be deeper, I want to go further, I want to be on His path. How do I know when I’m on His path? I’m there when I’m fulfilled, when I’m happy, and when I’m full of joy. How about you?

See you Thursday.

Giving Jesus Something to Eat

In a recent post about youth participation in our Something to Eat program, I wrote:

It really feels good to see people getting excited about feeding the hungry. The Gospel of Jesus Christ feels good. Our community is finding fulfillment because with every meal we package, we feed Jesus Christ Himself. Last weekend we packaged 175,000 meals. We fed Jesus Christ 175,000 times! Think about that!

I hope you’ve had a chance to think about that. I think about it a lot. Here’s part of what Jesus says in Matthew 25:

sheep from goatsWhen the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:31-40)

You see? When you feed somebody who’s hungry, when you clothe somebody in need, when you visit somebody in prison, or help the hurting,or  the dying, or people in pain, Jesus says, “You have done that to Me, because they are a part of Me. Whether they are living for Me or not, they’re still a part of Me. I created them.”

God created man and woman in His own image. When He did that it was as if He said, “I’ve created you with Me in you.”

You have a spirit of God inside of you. When you were in your mother’s womb, God said, “I created you in my own image. You are part of me. And though you may sin, and though you may fail, you will be fulfilled in me.”

Now think about that. If something you created or something that’s a part of you is under attack, you would feel attacked. If you attacked my son, I would feel like you were attacking a part of me. If you attacked my wife, you’d be attacking a part of me. And if you go up to my son and give him a hug and show him love and care, then that’s how you feel about me.

Since we are creations of the Almighty God, I think He feels the same way. We are sons and daughters of Zion. We are a part of His family. So when He sees someone that is hungry, He’s hungry. And when you feed someone who is hungry, you feed Him.

That’s what He means when He says, “If you do this for the least of these, then you’ve done this for Me.” You can donate one meal, or gather your friends together to donate more. Either way, you will do something amazingly fulfilling. You’ll feed Jesus Christ Himself. I’m telling you: the Gospel of Jesus Christ feels really good!

See you Monday.

Abundant Life

I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10

Abundant life! What does that mean? Well, abundant life is a life that is not in need. It doesn’t mean you have millions of dollars. It means you don’t need to find food, because you have food. You don’t need to find water, because you have water. You don’t need to find a place to live, because you live somewhere. You don’t need to find a job, because you have a job. If you have enough, and you have extra, then you live in abundance.

If you could go around the world and ask people, “What does abundance mean to you,” a lot of them will tell you, “You know when I have abundance? It’s when I’ve got a home. I don’t care if it’s a 600 square foot home. It’s a home. Even in a small home, my family doesn’t have to live on the streets. Abundance is when we’ve got a well to get fresh water, so my kids aren’t dying of dysentery. Abundance is when I’ve got a job so that my kids are going to school and we’ve got food on the table. That’s abundance. I know what it’s like not to have those things. When I have them? And my family’s safe? That’s abundance.”

Sometimes Americans have trouble grasping just how much we have. We’re so accustomed to abundance that we don’t recognize it! Instead we define abundance by how much we can buy. But consumerism can actually kill people. We can get caught up in buying more stuff, and people that need our help can die.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have anything. It comes down to what you have in your heart. We have to have it in our hearts to help those in need. I’m not saying that you should never buy anything for yourself. I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying that if our drive, our heart, our focus, is simply to make sure we have what we need, then we have the wrong heart. If we’re always saying, “I want this and I want that, and I know I could live without it but I’m going to get it and I’m going to get that too,” and we don’t have a thought for anybody else, then we have the wrong mindset.

An abundant lifestyle is so much more than having a lot of consumer goods. We think “abundance” and we see dollar signs. I think that’s America. But abundance can mean something really different in other parts of the world. Let’s learn to think about abundance in a new way. Let’s say that abundance is having enough, plus some for somebody else.

Jesus said He came so that we may have life and life abundantly. He gave us the message, He gave us the example, and He gave us that quality of life when He was on earth. These things didn’t leave with Him when He left! He gave them so that we’d live by them. As Christians, we’re ambassadors for Christ! It’s our awesome calling to represent Him.

How do you know when you have enough? This is where reverential fear can help you. More on this next time. See you Thursday.

Judgment and Blessings

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:37-38

There’s Jesus telling us not to judge, but judgment is such a basic part of being human. Baseball is full of judgments. The media illustrates that better than anything. If you’re doing well, the media tells you you’re great. And if you’re not doing well, the media tells you that too. Not only do they tell you you’re bad, they tell you why you’re bad. They tell you why you shouldn’t be there, and why you should be traded. They even question why the GM signed you!

Every baseball player is paid based on a judgment. I’m paid based on a positive judgment. And if they make a negative judgment, I don’t get re-signed. We’re full of these judgments. It’s a normal human thing. Continue reading

Witnessing to the Non-believer

The righteous should choose his friends carefully,
For the way of the wicked leads them astray
. Proverbs 12:26

After these last few blog posts, you can see that the lesson of the copper pipe has been so big for me. This is how I deal with my judgment now. It’s opened my eyes to a whole new way of relating and I’m so much more comfortable now. It’s an encouragement to me to think of human beings in their flesh – including me – as copper pipes, and to think of Jesus as the hot water.

I feel very strongly that we are going to have all kinds of people in our lives. If we can stop judging people, then we can better love them and witness to them.

Still, the Bible says, “Be careful in who you hang out with lest you become like them.” Does that mean believers should shut themselves off from non-believers? Continue reading

Saints Who Sin

The more this lesson of the copper pipe sinks in, the more peace I find. I’m so focused on what’s in the present. I’m so aware of what’s going on at any given moment. I’m so mindful of my own feelings and reactions.

I might be driving down the road and a guy cuts me off and gives me the finger. It makes me so mad! I realize how much I want to snap on that guy. But I don’t. Now I realize how irritable I am before I snap at someone.

And you know that in the past, I have snapped on that guy. I’ve been angry. I’ve been frustrated. I have cussed somebody out. And yes, I have flipped somebody off. I’ve done all those things. As a believer!

And I still feel anger or frustration. I’m just getting a lot better about not acting on it. Continue reading

The Lesson of the Copper Pipe, Redux

Lately I’ve been writing about how we can use the metaphor of the copper pipe to avoid passing judgment on others, as Jesus instructed us in the Gospel of John. Here’s the bottom line. Every human being, in their flesh, is a copper pipe. As such, we cannot change. We can’t change ourselves any more than a copper pipe can be anything but a copper pipe. But we can be changed. We can be changed the same way a copper pipe can be changed. A copper pipe can heat up when hot water flows through it. Hot water can change us. So if you want to change, you need hot water. And the hot water comes from Jesus. Continue reading