“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:34-39, ESV).
In a post-game interview Baker Mayfield, rookie quarterback for the Cleveland Browns was asked how he had led his team to an amazing victory. Mayfield responded, “I woke up feeling dangerous today!”
Following Jesus is a dangerous undertaking! It sets you at odds with the very world in which you live.
Following Jesus can set your family against you when you love Jesus more than them. Following Jesus can set your your friends and colleagues against you when it becomes a higher priority than work or hobbies.
Following Jesus can set you against the popular culture and politics of this world when His values become your values.
It makes you look suspicious… unusual… dangerous!
“Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money. But Peter said, ‘I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!’” (Acts 3:4-6, NLT).
Since it’s the Christmas season, I think this gift-giving story of a different sorts is appropriate.
One day Peter and John went to the Temple for the afternoon prayer service. There was a man who had been lame for more than forty years (vs. 4:22) laying at the Temple gate begging for money.
As Peter and John were about to enter the Temple, the man asked them for money. Peter explained that he didn’t have any money to give the man, but he would give the man what he did have, which was the gift of healing in the name of Jesus Christ.
The man was instantly and undeniably cured and he jumped up and down excitedly and praised God (vs. 8). When all the people coming to the Temple saw and heard the formerly lame beggar, they were amazed and began to gather in the Temple.
“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came down on them, just as on us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if God gave them the same gift that He also gave to us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, how could I possibly hinder God? When they heard this they became silent. Then they glorified God, saying, ‘So God has granted repentance resulting in life even to the Gentiles!'” (Acts 11:15-18, HCSB).
Citizenship is generally a function of where you are born. You are a citizen of the country in which you are geographically born or of which your parents are a citizen.
The same is true for citizenship in the Kingdom of God. Kingdom citizens must be born of God; they must be birthed by the Holy Spirit.
“I love you, Lord; you are my strength…I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise,and he saved me from my enemies…But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears…He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters” (Psalm 18:1,3,6,16, NLT).
This psalm describes how God will move heaven and earth to save those who love Him. David, the psalmist, entitled this as a song to the Lord when He rescued David from Saul and all his enemies.
The psalm first expressed David’s love for God and his assurance that God was His protector. When David called out to God for help, God heard him from His sanctuary in heaven where He resides and rushed to his aid.
“For the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Revelation 12:10-11, ESV).
Some people try to turn the source of evil in the world, Satan, the devil, into a fairy tale. But, the Bible makes it clear that he exists and that he hates those who have been saved by the blood sacrifice of Jesus dying on the cross. He hates Christians so much that he accuses them before God 24/7.
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand” (Zechariah 4:10, NLT).
When the first wave of Jewish exiles returned to Judea, they were enthusiastic about rebuilding the Temple that had been destroyed by the Babylonians nearly fifty years earlier. But when their efforts to start rebuilding the Temple were opposed and resisted by neighboring nations and internally by the current inhabitants of the land, the repatriated Jews became discouraged and the Temple continued to lie in ruins for almost twenty more years.
This meditation is Part 2 in a three-part series of meditations on Romans 6-8.
As Christians, we live life in parallel universes. Our old self has been buried with Christ in His death and He has given us a new self: “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, and the life which i now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, NASB).
In Christ the new self is now the real self, but the old self is still there. It’s like it hasn’t been completely subdued in spite of one’s surrender to Christ. In Romans 7 the Apostle Paul provides a firsthand description of this inner struggle with one’s old self, this duality dilemma.