Servant Leadership

I think the Bible tells us to live and love like Jesus, and the scriptures tell us a lot about how He lived and loved. Last time, I offered some thoughts about what I think that means. Keep reading your Bible! You can see for yourself what it says about Jesus, and how we’re supposed to love our neighbor as ourselves.

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. Whether you are blessed with them or not, you can still be fulfilled through discipleship.

Living like Jesus is also not about your best life now. Not all the time. I know sometimes 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 that, and they get saved. They think they’re going to become rich!

And 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 we’re done. I truly don’t believe that’s where it ends. I truly, truly, truly believe that salvation is just the beginning of a lifestyle of discipleship that we begin to live. 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? I’m sorry, but you’re seriously telling me that sounds like good news? 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’ll say He couldn’t have. They’ll 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 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 Christian 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. That’s the question! 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. 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.

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 to live as a disciple of Jesus. 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 fulfilled, I’m happy, and I’m full of joy.

I have more to tell you about this! See you Monday.

Living Abundantly

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. You don’t need to find food, you have it. You don’t need to find water, you have it. You don’t need to find a place to live, you live somewhere. You don’t need to find a job, you have a job.

It doesn’t mean you have millions of dollars. I think abundance is having enough, plus some for somebody else. And if you have enough, and you have extra, then you live in abundance.

An abundant life involves so much more than having a lot of consumer goods. You can get caught up in buying more stuff for yourself — stuff you don’t even need — while there are people who will die if they don’t get your help.  That’s the situation we’re in. Consumerism can actually kill people! Living like Jesus is the answer to the problem. Jesus came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.

I know people are going to tell me, “Well, Jeremy, you have stuff.” It’s true! I have an iPad, an iPhone, and a laptop. I’ve got three things that get on the internet all at once. Maybe that’s excessive! But I also give, because saving lives is so important.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have anything. But what if you never even have a mindset to help someone in need? That’s shallow. 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 that 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.

We think “abundance” and we see dollar signs. I think that’s our habit here in the US. But abundance can mean something really different, depending on where you are. There are so many places in the world where someone might say, “Abundance? That’s when I’ve got a home. I don’t care if it’s a 600 square foot home. It’s a home. Now my family doesn’t have to live on the street. I’ve got a home, I’ve got a job, we’ve got food on the table, I’ve got a well to get clean water from, and my kids aren’t dying of dysentery. In fact, they’re going to school. That’s abundance. I know what it’s like to not have these things. Now that I have them? And my family’s safe? That’s abundance.”

We need to help make that happen. We’re ambassadors for Christ! He said He came so that we may have life, and have it more abundantly. He gave us the message. He gave us the example. And He gave us that quality of life when He was with us on earth. These things didn’t leave when He did. He gave them to us, so that we’d live by them. If we are to represent Him, we need to follow His example. We need to spread His message. And we need to give that quality of life to others. Let’s bring abundant life to others!

See you Thursday.

Salvation Is Only the Beginning

I’ve never been in the back of the room at a church meeting, but I can almost see how some go. “Hey,” they say, “How are we going to get people saved? We’ve got to figure out how to get them to say the prayers.”

I think we’re used to thinking in terms of numbers. It’s only human to play the numbers game. I mean, think about it. In the baseball world, or anywhere in sports, the concept is, “How many fans can we get in the seats?” After all, that’s where the business is. And so we see it in some churches. “How many butts can we get in the pews?” After all, there’s our tithe.

And you see that a lot, man! You see churches saying, “Fifty people got saved today!” Or, “One hundred people got saved today!” But being a Christian is a lifestyle that we live, not a decision that we make. It doesn’t end with being saved. That’s where it starts. We should be asking, “How are we going to get people to live a life of Jesus?” That’s the concept, because that is joy. That is true joy.

Too often someone will say they’re a Christian because at some point in their life they said, “Oh, I believe Jesus is Lord.” They made that decision at some moment in time. But how does it affect their lifestyle throughout the next 30, 50, or 70 years of life? A lot of times it doesn’t. I think that’s why you see Christian marriages failing at the same rate that you see non-Christian marriages failing. Using this type of salvation theology, Christianity is not a lifestyle that people live. It’s just a decision they made.

When you admitted that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, and rose again three days later, you were saved. And that is awesome! You were saved! Now the resurrection empowers you. It gives you the salvation that you’re looking for. You’re in the family of God. You’re justified!

But justification by faith is only the beginning of your fulfillment. Confessing that Jesus is Lord is not what makes you a Christian. Life in Jesus, the life of a Christian, is a life of discipleship. A Christian lives this life by living as Jesus lived. Scot McKnight expands on these exact same concepts in his book, The King Jesus Gospel, where he shows that if you stop after confessing that Jesus is Lord, then you’re not going to feel fulfilled in this life.

If the life of a Christian began and ended with confessing that Jesus is Lord, then love and mercy and grace would be lived out through all Christians everywhere. Salvation alone would make us God’s instruments of love and of mercy and of grace. That decision we made to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior would be enough. We wouldn’t have to do anything else.

But we don’t love very easily. We don’t do that. We don’t show much mercy. In fact, McKnight talked to a number of non-Christians and found that they’ll tell you sometimes Christians are the meanest people they’ve ever met!

So it can’t just be justification and salvation that makes us different. I believe it is a Spirit-led lifestyle. If you feel empty, like you can’t accomplish something in life, it could be because you don’t understand why you’re here. I believe I understand why you’re here, and why we’re all here. Living the lifestyle of Jesus helps us understand.

See you Monday.

I Can Do All Things

I think one of the greatest injustices anyone could ever experience is to not know who Jesus is. In fact, I think it is the greatest injustice.

It’s not necessarily that Jesus died on the cross, although not understanding that is definitely part of the injustice. But simply put, the greatest injustice of all is to not know Him. And I think the church, in some ways, has tainted our view.

When you live like Jesus lived, will you make mistakes? Yes, you will! Human beings are not perfect. We fail. Sometimes we fail a lot. The mystery of God is the church, but the church is part of man. So the church can’t be perfect, and it can’t expect perfection from you. What it can do is help you experience the grace of Jesus.

What is it like to experience His grace? Jesus had turmoil around Him all the time. People tried to kill Him all the time. And yet, even hanging on a cross, He looked over at a guy and said, “Today you’ll be with me in paradise.” He understood what it was to love a human being. He knew the hearts of people and He said, “I love those hearts. And even though they’re bad at times, I still believe in them and I’m going to love on them faithfully and help them change.”

I think Jesus looks at you right now and says, “Look. I’ve redeemed your sin on the cross. I’ve taken sin away. But you’re still going to make mistakes. I know.”

My sons make mistakes. They make mistakes all the time! But they still feel loved. And while they live in my home, they will feel safe. I fear that a lot of people don’t feel safe in their own homes. I think that’s why they don’t understand their purpose in life. Even in their own homes, they don’t feel safe. Living the life of Jesus can change that. There is freedom in Christ Jesus. There is no condemnation in Him.

I believe that’s why the Word says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

I know we put that phrase on our hats. We tattoo it on our arms. You see that a lot with athletes. They rely on the strength it delivers. But it means so much more than mere athleticism. It’s not simply, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me physical strength. That’s why I can be a professional athlete.” No, no. It’s a lot more than that. You can do all things in Christ, because you follow Him. Because you are His disciple. Because you live as He lived, the lifestyle of Jesus!

And if you truly lead that lifestyle, you’re strong in all areas. I walk in the lifestyle of Jesus. Things are not always going to go right, but I’m confident that I’m always going to be able to deal with problems. I’m always going to be able to overcome obstacles. I’ll be able to do all things because of who I am in Jesus. I’m in His family. In His family, I’m always safe. Even when bad things happen, Jesus is always going to love me. He’s always going to help me. He’s always going to encourage me to move on, and so I press on. I don’t look back. I look ahead.

Jesus says, “You might experience trials and tribulations, but you belong to my family. Will things go wrong? Yes. Things will go wrong. But because you’re in my family, you are safe. You will feel safe. You will feel joy. You will feel empowered. And when trials come, you can meet them. You can do all things through me. I will strengthen you.”

See you Thursday.

This Way to True Life

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21

I believe that there is something after I die. While I live on this earth, I live because of Christ. When I die, I gain the Kingdom. I gain heaven. I gain a new relationship with God, one that I don’t have here on earth.

But until that happens? I truly believe what Jesus said when He taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We’re supposed to bring the Kingdom to earth. I live under that understanding. While I’m here, I’m an ambassador who is supposed to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth. And I believe that I can help do that. I believe that the Spirit of God helps lead me into areas where I can help.

The Spirit will lead you, if you’re living the lifestyle of Jesus.

That’s what the disciples did. They lived the lifestyle of Jesus. Jesus foretold it. He told the disciples, “Greater things will you do after I leave, because you will be empowered by the Spirit.” And after Jesus was gone, they were! And they did!

The proof is in the persecution they suffered. I mean, no one dies for a decision. There’s no way you can tell me the disciples were hung upside down on crosses, were martyred, jailed, stoned, and beaten, simply because they were trying to get people to say they accepted Christ. For the disciples, conversion wasn’t just a matter of saying that Jesus is Lord. If that’s all we had to do, there’s no way anyone would die for it.

No, you accept that Jesus is Lord and then you live a brand new life. A life in Jesus! That’s what the disciples did. They not only accepted Jesus as Lord, they lived like He lived. They lived with a discipleship mentality. They walked the walk, and then they died for it. They died for the lifestyle of Jesus. True life! When they accepted Christ as Lord, when they believed that He was the Savior, they did not stop. For them, discipleship was a way of life.

What was that life? It was life in relationship. Life using the “love your neighbor as yourself” mentality. The disciples wanted to make sure that they brought God’s Kingdom to earth. That’s why they wanted to live like Jesus lived. That’s why they wanted to love people like Jesus loved people. And that’s what they died for. They died for the lifestyle that they knew was right.

It makes sense to me. If I’m going to die for something, it will be something that I know is right.

I think the disciples knew true life. Paul said, “Take joy in trials and tribulations.” Take joy? How? How are we supposed to take joy in trials and tribulations? Who does that? The disciples did, because they didn’t find their joy in the physical aspects of life. Life for the disciples wasn’t hunky dory on the outside. It wasn’t that they were joyful because they never had anything bad happen to them. In fact, they always had something bad happening to them! Not a moment of life was free of turmoil. There was a lot of stuff that went down.

So why did they challenge people to live a life of Jesus, when they knew they would die for it? They did it because it was fulfilling. They had true joy. They had true happiness. They said, “Things may go wrong around me, but I know where my joy is. It’s in my Savior! I’m filled with joy, because I know what it’s like to love people!”

Now that’s the way to live! That’s the way to live the true life. See you Monday.

Jesus is Our Reason and Our Purpose

A lot of people don’t get why we’re here. They really wonder about the meaning of life. This includes some Christians! So think about the people that don’t believe in God. I think they would be even more lost! Because if you really think about it, what is the point of seventy, or eighty, or even ninety years on earth if there is nothing left when it’s over? If there’s nothing after death, then isn’t life absurd?

The Bible says that everything in life has a reason and a purpose, a beginning and an end. The Forest Service burns trees down specifically so they can re-seed. In the death of trees, there’s a replenishment of life. When you eat an apple, you think you’ve consumed the total fruit, but there’s a seed there. It replenishes life!

Ends, then, are beginnings. Why should it be different with people? It’s not. It’s the same with human life. Our lives don’t end. In the Bible, when people died, Jesus said, “They’re just sleeping.” In Jesus’s eyes, the dead are not dead, they’re just sleeping. Life after death might look different, and it might end up being different. I think it will be different. But it won’t end.

I believe in eternal life. I believe there is an eternity for me. There is more for me after I die. I will join up with the King.

But I don’t think our reason and purpose is merely to continue on after death. There is a reason we’re here. There is something we’re here to do. And that is to live a life of Jesus. In other words, we’re here to serve. We’re here to be Ambassadors of Christ.

A lot of people forget this, even in the Christian world. You’d be amazed at how many Christians regard the Old Testament as just an old book that they don’t need to read. The Old Testament is part of our story! It’s part of the Gospel message, and part of Israel’s story. You know, when God created Adam and Eve, He created life in its perfection. Imperfection was brought in by a decision that Adam and Eve made. And then Jesus came down to redeem that mistake.

Through one man’s decision to eat the fruit of a tree, judgment entered the world. Through another man’s decision to die on a tree, there’s redemption for that judgment. That’s our story. That’s the concept of salvation. But it’s too easy to finish the story there. That isn’t where it ends.

Those of us who truly understand who Jesus is realize that following Him is not just a matter of saying, “Well, I’ll accept Christ as my savior and then I’ll just hang out.” No, choosing Christ is choosing a very special way of life. You don’t just accept your salvation and then do nothing. Christ is our reason, even when we don’t understand. He is our purpose, even when we’ve lost our way.

The purpose of life, the reason we’re here, is to live a life of discipleship. The reason and purpose of your life is to follow Him.

More on this next time. See you Thursday.

Sola Gratia

What is the goal of life, the thing most worth striving for? I strive to sit before the throne of God and hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

This doesn’t mean that I have a works mentality. Truthfully, I don’t believe my works will get me to heaven. I believe in my faith will get me to heaven. I’m justified by my faith.

But I believe that the works I perform are the result of the life I try to live every day. You can boil my whole theology down to one concept: discipleship. I try to live the lifestyle of Jesus.

We don’t have to resolve the works/faith “issue,” because when we live the lifestyle of Jesus, there is no issue. That’s what you see in James. He said, “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18)

Some people say that James and Paul were having a disagreement, but they weren’t. They were talking about two different things. When Paul said that you aren’t saved by works, he meant that works alone will not get you into heaven. Paul said, “Look, you’re not going to be able to just do good things and expect to get to heaven.” In my belief, that’s true. But James is talking about a whole different idea. James is talking about the believers, the ones that have already given up their souls to God. When James said, “I will show you my faith by my works,” he was talking about the lifestyle that you live when you’re a believer.

Once you confess that Jesus died for your sins, you are saved. But then what? Nothing? Do you say, “Oh, now I can just sit around and do whatever. My salvation is all about grace and I can just live my life however I want to live it.”

Here’s what James and the other disciples said to that: No! They said, “Live like Jesus!” They didn’t say, “Look, I’ve hung out with Jesus! Now I can just sit around and do whatever.”

The proof is in the persecution they endured. Doing whatever they wanted to do is not what got them persecuted. It was their lifestyle – the lifestyle of Jesus – that got them in trouble. It was a lifestyle that got them crucified upside down. It was a lifestyle that got them thrown into prison. It was a lifestyle that got them stoned to death. The apostles were living a lifestyle that shook people up, man. They were going into pagan Greece and pagan Rome. They walked into the temples of a ton of different Gods. They walked into places where people were having orgies. They walked into these places and said, “No! No! This is not the lifestyle you are supposed to be living! It’s unfulfilling.”

The disciples showed us how to live. They challenged people’s worldviews. That was their lifestyle. And that’s what James is saying. Show me a believer that lives the lifestyle of Jesus. That’s Christianity. But what if you show me a lifestyle that is without works, a lifestyle where you don’t do anything? What is that?

You say you have faith. Let’s see it!

See you Thursday.