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’ve been dealing with some things recently. Maybe you’ve had this happen to you. Here’s what “this” is:
I’ve been dealing with a lot of frustration and discontent over the last several months. Really over the last year. Recently I’ve begun to ask God to show me what was going on in my heart and why I was dealing with all this stuff.
You gotta be careful what you ask God for in prayer. When you ask Him to reveal to you what’s going on in your heart, that may very well be the most painful thing you could ever ask for. When I asked God to show me what was going on in my heart. He was gracious enough in His love to do that.
And it has not been pretty. My heart is a dark chasm of idolatry and self. Actually, let me put it this way. I have made self my idol. It has taken on many forms but at the bottom of this deep darkness is self. My very identity has been taken over by self rather than Christ.
And then, of course, I also asked God to take away from me the things that were keeping me from a closer walk with Him.
Can I just tell you that you better be sure about that prayer before you pray it?! I think too often we pay lip service to being pruned and made into His image. Truth is, pruning usually hurts.
Let’s start with fitness. Anyone who knows my life and me over the last 8-9 years knows I’ve been all up in the fitness world. I drank the CrossFit Kool-Aid in 2009 and never looked back. I competed in 2010-2011 and even reached the pinnacle of Regionals in 2011. 2012-2015 I owned an affiliate and did some local competitions. I now work for Iron Tribe Fitness in Birmingham, AL.
A huge part of my identity has been tied up in being the fittest guy in the room for quite awhile. Now, in fairness, I’m not the fittest guy in the room in some rooms but in others I am. Heck, my wife and I met at a CrossFit gym in Noblesville, Indiana. Intensity is my middle name. Get the picture?
Over the last several months, things have changed. I was recently diagnosed with ulcers and told, not to stop working out, but to take it a bit easier in life in general. During this time, I have seen a dramatic drop in strength (for me at least) and then 2 weeks ago, I injured my shoulder again.
My doctor said to me this week, “Listen, I think at some point you have to accept the fact that you are getting older and there are some things that maybe you need to think about. Like risk and reward kind of thinking. Sure, you can keep pushing the levels but at what cost?”
I had to take a step back mentally and ask myself some hard questions. I don’t have to stop working out but I need to be a little smarter about the volume at which I train. I mean, let’s be real, I’m not a competitive athlete anymore. And that’s when it hit me.
If I’m not training and performing at that level, who am I? I had a real struggle of identity for a minute…actually for a few days.
Let me bring it a little closer. I left my law enforcement career to follow what my wife and I truly believed was the call of God to go into vocational ministry. We sacrificed a lot to go to seminary. Then we became real super Christians and went into church planting, following what we believed and our elders confirmed was a legitimate call on our lives.
And things fell apart. Went down in flames. And we were left holding the pieces and burnt ashes of dreams that got torn down and burnt up. And it hurt a lot. But we moved on.
Or so I thought.
We prayed for God’s provision and He provided the job I now have. We are close to my family for the first time in many years and part of a really good church here. Things are seemingly beginning to settle down for us.
So why am I still struggling with these issues of self worth and identity? This last Sunday our pastor preached on the High Priestly prayer from John 17 (we’re in a series in John). The pastor talked about how we are in Christ and about our identity. I don’t remember the exact words the pastor used but he said something along the lines of identity and being in Christ and our identity being found in Him alone and man, the Spirit pricked me. It was like He said, “Your identity is found in everything around me but not me.” That hurt.
Then yesterday I was having a conversation with a pastor friend of mine in Indy and he talked about how gracious God has been to me in this time; by giving me a job that has provided for my family financially, by allowing us to live closer to my parents in the their retirement, by blessing us with yet another healthy child…and I was pricked again by the Spirit. It was like He said, “See, I have been gracious to you. Am I not enough?”
Then I read an article yesterday by Jared Wilson in which he talked about leaving ministry and the idolatry that being in ministry had been for him. Jared made the statement that along the lines of ‘if God takes something away from you and it causes an identity crisis, it’s an idol.’ And it hit me like a truck.
My idol was me and my desires.
Sure, they were good desires. It is a good and Christ honoring thing to plant churches and preach the Word and share the gospel with others.
Unless it becomes an idol.
At the heart of our deepest desire, if we’re not careful, we find idolatry. If our deepest desire isn’t Christ and who He is, then our desire is not for him but for ourselves.
I had taken a very good desire to serve Christ and His Church and, in my flesh, twisted it into my own identity. Who was I without being a pastor and church planter? Who was I if I wasn’t doing what I believed God called me to?
But then the Spirit comes, reminding me that my very identity is Christ. My existence is now Christ and Him crucified.
I find myself comforted by the fact that many of the heroes of the Bible were idolatrous in some way. Yet God used them. Why? Why would God use idolatrous and sinful people?
Because they’re not the point. I’m not the point. You’re not the point. The goal is not to be the savior but to model the Saviour.
Christ is the point.
God used all those idolatrous and sinful people and He still uses sinful and idolatrous people like me because Christ is the point. He gets the glory.
And how does He work for His glory and my good? By conforming me to His image (see Romans 8:29).
And what is His image, what are we to be like?
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:6
Taking on the form of a servant.
If Jesus’ identity is found in who the Father says He is, how much more is my identity found in who the Father says I am.
He calls me son.
That is enough.
Soli Deo Gloria!