I don’t know about you but I have a love/hate relationship with the Bible.
Before you get all upset, let me explain. I love the Bible. It is God’s revelation of Himself to us, His story of redemption, His very Word to us. I read and study the Bible incessantly. I do this because it is the very Word of God. How else can I hear His voice? How else can I come to know Him except by His Word? Granted, He has revealed some things about Himself in nature, in humanity, in the world. But the primary means by which we may know God is the Bible. I love it.
I also “hate” it. I don’t mean hate as in hate hate. I mean hate as in it makes me very uncomfortable at times. God confronts me in my sin by His Word. He calls me to confession of sin and uses His Word to point out the darkness of my heart. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way,
“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, NASB)
Here’s my point in all this.
I was reading this morning during my time with God…You know what, let me back up a second. I have spoken ad nauseum about all that has gone on in my family’s life over the past few years; there has been heartbreak and heartache, painful situations, tears and mourning and uncertainty. I recently, in a conversation with my dad, was talking about following the call of Jesus into ministry. Eight years ago I walked away from my law enforcement career to follow the call of the Master. My dad and I were talking the other day and I said this,
“Yeah, what a stupid decision that turned out to be. It’s caused us nothing but pain.”
Now, on its face, this is a ridiculous statement. There have been many times of joy, not the least of which is my wife and I marrying and having two beautiful children, meeting many people along the way, telling them about Jesus and many other things.
But we’re in the middle of a painful season and all we can see sometimes is the pain and discomfort. And then, this morning, I read this.
“As they were traveling on the road someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus told him, “Foxes have dens, and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Then he said to another, “Follow me.” “Lord,” he said, “first let me go bury my father.” But he told him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me go and say good-bye to those at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”” (Luke 9:57-61, CSB)
I was struck to silence and conviction and tears by the Word this morning. Not because Jesus is harsh and was mean to me but because His Word speaks directly to my heart and reveals my sin. Did you notice how many times Jesus, in this text, told someone to follow Him and they say ‘yes but…’
Yes but is not obedience. Yes but is not submission to our Master and Lord. Yes but is so us though, isn’t it? Jesus, I’ll do what you want me to do but….
Don’t ask me to actually witness to who You are and what You have done to anyone.
Don’t ask me to quit my job (that one hit me hard).
Don’t ask me to go there and do that.
Don’t ask me to move to somewhere where I know no one or away from my family.
In fact, Jesus, don’t ask me to do anything that is uncomfortable to me.
If our yes to Jesus is in any way a yes but, then it is not obedience. I’m struck by the obedience of Jesus to the will of the Father.
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8, NASB)
But God is gentle and kind with us. He gives us chance after chance to repent. Maybe this is you today; it certainly is me.
Don’t hold back from Jesus. Don’t give Jesus your ‘yes but.’ Don’t look back from the plow before you. I don’t know why Jesus calls you or me to do what we are doing or what we will do. But I know that we must do what our Master bids us to if we love Him. The truth is that if we give Jesus a yes but, what we’re really saying is, “You’re not worth it, Jesus.”
Faithfulness matters more than our comfort.
What is God calling you to do? What is He calling me to do? What is it in your life and my life that we say ‘yes but’ to? Jesus said if we love Him, we will obey His commands. Hey, it’s hard for me also.
Don’t look back.
Don’t be afraid.
Pray for me. I’ll pray for you; that in all our lives the great worth of following Jesus would be shown to the world in joy and sacrifice and love!
Soli Deo Gloria!
I’m having a hard time knowing where to even start what I want to say. I am struggling to find adequate words and, for those who know me, that should be shocking that I don’t know what to say.
My wife and I experienced something very recently that has forever changed us. At least, I pray to God that we are forever changed by this time. It is no secret to those who know us that things have been hard for us over the last year or so. We have been wounded in ways that cannot even really be expressed. Those wounds have come from a group of people that we thought could be trusted with us, with our hearts. I have heard far too many stories of the gaping holes blown in someone’s heart by the very ones they thought could be trusted in the Church.
It speaks of our own wretchedness that we feel that even those in the Church cannot be trusted. Friends, this should not be so.
After all the fighting and struggling over the last year, last week my wife and I got to take a break. Even the most elite soldiers need to come off the front lines at times and we were battered and tired and discouraged. We were in a place where some healing had begun but we were very tired from the pain, tired from the struggle, tired from it all.
I had personally resigned myself to an existence of merely hope. That sounds weird so let me explain. I had come to a place in my heart where I believed that hope was all I had to hold on to. Hope for true friendship, hope for being known and knowing someday. Someday but not now. I had come to believe that my wife and I were simply going to go without being truly close to anyone else ever again; that we would merely live on the hope that one day, when Christ returns, we could finally be vulnerable and accepted.
And then this last week happened. We were gifted a trip to Greece (I know, right?!). I don’t know who paid for it and don’t care. What I do know is that God’s hand was in it. On that trip we visited with some of my old high school classmates. It had been almost 30 years since many of us had seen each other.
And something remarkable happened.
The Sunday night we were there was one that will forever be branded on my soul. We came together for a time of sharing. What happened was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. Real life struggles came pouring out of people. Tears were shed. Lots of tears. Searing soul pain was shared, prayer abounded. There was laughter and anger and sorrow. I truly don’t have the words to express what happened in that room.
There were faithful men and women of God in that room and there were people who are not so close to God right now. There were devout Church folk in that room and there were people who have been so wounded by the Church that they have given up completely.
And it was breathtakingly beautiful.
Even as I write this and reflect on the moment, I have tears in my eyes. What I saw, what we experienced was stunning. I saw the children of God embracing one another right where each individual was. There was no judgment and no one was pretending to have it all together. I’ll state this as plainly as I know how:
There was no bullshit in that room. Only real people who were experiencing real life and were unafraid to rip open their soul and share it with us. It was absolutely wonderful. It was like coming home, being known and knowing. I can’t stop crying as I think about how wonderful it was and how healing it was for me personally. To know that I could be known without fear was utterly freeing.
I’ll never be the same again. My heart has been forever changed by the knowledge that I don’t have to just hope that this is possible but to know it is real, right here and right now. I imagine that this is what life on the new earth will be like when Jesus returns. Having long and deep conversations about the mysteries of life and our own inadequacies, eating rich food and drinking dark wine, walking and talking along the streets of the city and finally resting in the peace of being known. Ah…the sweet embrace of knowing and being known!
May I offer some advice to you reading this?
1. Give yourself away. Yes, it is dangerous and it will hurt and some may reject you. But it is only in giving yourself that you can receive the gift of knowing and being known.
2. Be vulnerable. You may be surprised to find that you aren’t the only broken person in the room. Don’t hide yourself. Jesus died for you exactly as you are; don’t hide.
3. Give space. Stop talking so much and listen more. Pay attention to the moment you are in and the people you are with. Sometimes we just need to shut up and sit there.
4. It takes time. Be patient. My brothers and sisters in that room and I have known each other for over 30 years and that kind of openness takes time.
I want to go back. I want to be with my friends again, to laugh and cry and eat and drink with them. See, now I’m ruined. Now I’ve tasted and seen the joy of deep love and I can’t go back to so-so. I can’t go back to pretense. I won’t.
This is the gospel in action. This is what Jesus has done for us in the Spirit at the behest of the Father. He has restored us to a right relationship with Abba and each other. No more pretense, no more hiding. In Jesus you and I can know and be known. This is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ! You are known and loved by God in Jesus.
Walk in that.
Soli Deo Gloria!