Are you Jealous of Jesus?

iStock_000003913257SmallFor many the question will sound ludicrous or perhaps even blasphemous. But for some of you I’ve just touched on an unspoken gnawing in your soul.

You couldn’t put words to what was going on in your heart, but jealous of Jesus seems to fit. You may wonder, “How can I be jealous of Jesus? I’ve known him since I was a kid. I’ve spent my whole life in church. I’ve served Him in every way imaginable: Sunday school teacher, missions committee, choir, kid’s ministry, nursery ministry, visitation.”

Yes, like the Jews before you, you might have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. Paul speaks of this in his letter to the Romans when he shares his ongoing prayer and desire that his fellow Jews be saved. (10:1) He laments that “they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” (10:2)

This was his own testimony as he described who he once was to the saints in Philippi: “If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” (Philippians 3:4b-6)

Paul, like many of his countrymen, pursued the law as if it were based on works and not by faith. Unfortunately, we can do that, too, and it leads us to the same end: stumbling over Jesus.

Coming to Jesus is terrible for our pride. For we need to see ourselves as “unclean, and all our righteous deeds… like a polluted garment.” (Isaiah 64:6) I was challenged anew when my husband recently prayed, “There is no righteousness in me apart from Jesus.”

That is a hard thing to recognize, especially when you’ve been in church since your first memory: memorizing scripture, singing about Jesus, avoiding a list of sins, and generally seeing yourself as “a good person.”

Even believers in Christ can be tempted to desert the gospel of grace in Jesus Christ and turn to another “gospel.” God provided Paul’s letter to the Galatians in His Scripture to warn us of this type of turning from justification by faith to justification by works.

Paul declares, “…we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.” (2:16) And he asked the Galatians a pointed question, “Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” (3:2) The answer, according to the Word, is that we receive the Spirit by hearing through faith, “for Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:4)

When we submit to this truth, we will be grateful to, not jealous of, Jesus and His righteousness.

Can This Be the Christ?

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Over the past several months, I’ve had a number of commitments that required more effort, time, and emotional energy than I initially expected.  Perhaps Christmastime is that kind of season for you.

Near the end of this demanding time, two friends came alongside me to ask if there was anything they could do to help. Now, I’m not one to turn down good help, but the things that I had left to do, I needed to do. No one else could study for the ladies retreat I committed to teach. No one but me could prepare the songs I agreed to sing, and I alone could spend time in the scriptures allowing them to transform my mind regarding some emotionally difficult situations. Only I could do these things, and they all seemed pressing.

Now that the songs have been sung, the retreat is a mere memory, and my thinking about my difficult situation has become more biblically grounded, I find myself reflecting on the Lord’s goodness to me as he led me through this season. My gratefulness was only enhanced when I began reading the passage about the woman at the well in Sychar.

John, the beloved disciple, tells us of her conversation with Jesus. In all likelihood shame brought her to Jacob’s well in the noonday sun, a time when no one else would be there. But today she wasn’t alone—that was surprising. But when Jesus requested a drink from her, she simply couldn’t believe it. Not in a feministic, “get it yourself” way, but in an incredulous, “I can’t believe a Jewish man is talking to me and willing to drink from the same jug as me” kind of way.

The fact that he wasn’t despising her— neither for her heritage, “for Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” (4:9), nor for her gender “[his disciples] marveled that he was talking with a woman” (4:27)—was truly unbelievable to her.

Yet Jesus wasn’t looking down on her He was offering this shame-filled woman new life.

With the invitation, “Woman, believe me,” Jesus clearly told her what kind of worship God sought and who He was: “I who speak to you am [the Christ].” So why, when she leaves her water jar and goes into town, does she ask the people “Can this be the Christ?” (4:29) He had told her he was. Did she not understand?

Oh, she had understood, for He told her all she had ever done. But she also understood people, and wisely invited her neighbors to decide for themselves if Jesus was the Christ. She knew the evidence was on His side.

There are some things we must do ourselves, and allow others to do for themselves. One of those things is to decide if Jesus could be the Christ. This Christmas share Christ’s story. Invite others to consider “Can Jesus be the Christ?” Then let the Spirit do His convincing, convicting work.

The Wrong Enemy

by Guest Blogger, Pastor Bryan Craddock

enemiesThere was a time in history when warfare seems to have been relatively simple and straightforward. Your enemies were those lined up on the opposite side of a field wearing a different colored uniform. But modern combat situations are not so simple. Soldiers can easily find themselves targeting the wrong person.

In Ephesians 6:12, Paul identifies a similar problem that all Christians face. He says, For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 

Christians have always been tempted to regard non-Christians as enemies. When someone contradicts biblical teaching or disregards biblical moral standards, we may perceive it as a personal affront.

To make matters worse, both pundits and the press play up this conflict to grab our attention. Nothing draws a crowd like a fight. The result is catastrophic. Christians either isolate themselves in fear or lash out with brash, angry words provoking the very people we are supposed to reach.

We end up fighting the wrong battle against the wrong enemy using the wrong methods, all to our true enemy’s delight.

We have to remember that from the standpoint of the gospel non-Christians are not enemy targets but captives who need to be rescued. Paul says, And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will (2 Timothy 2:24-26). 

We can only rise to such behavior as the Holy Spirit enables us to put on the mind of Christ. Matthew 9:36 tells us, When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 

May God fill us with the grace and love to look beyond offensive words and deeds to the spiritual struggle of the heart, so that we can humbly proclaim the good news of salvation in Christ.

Authentic Rest

As a Bible teacher, I meet a number  of worn-out women wanting to know why they aren’t experiencing rest. These women know the promise in Matthew 11, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” but they look at their lives and think God hasn’t delivered.

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Perhaps you’ve had the same thought. You’ve read the passage in Matthew and expect life to be easy. But life is hard. You find yourself expecting God to fix your problems, but you’re up to your neck in problems.

The same Jesus who promised rest also promised difficulties. “In this world you will have tribulation.” Rest and problems going together, how can that be? Worn-out Christians everywhere want to know, “Where is the rest?”

When we think of rest, we tend to  picture a week with no pressures or responsibilities, often on the beach or at some remote cabin. But is that the rest Christ promised.

When Jesus invited, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden…” He wasn’t talking to Christians; He was talking to Jews—Jews who were laboring under the law to be righteous, heavy laden under the traditions of the Pharisees who taught their rules as if they came from God Himself.

Jesus is inviting these Jewish people to Him for the rest we call salvation, not the rest we call vacation. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:4)

Authentic rest for our souls is given at salvation, when our sins are forgiven and we are given Christ’s righteousness.

Has Jesus Christ delivered on His promise of rest? Absolutely! Has He also delivered on His promise of tribulation? Absolutely!

What a joy it is to see former worn-out women, once embittered with God, develop grateful hearts. They now have a right understanding of Christ’s promised rest along with realistic expectations about earthly tribulations.

Accurately knowing and sharing the promised rest of the gospel is essential. Sadly, there are many in our churches who are weary and heavy laden because they, like the Jews before them, are struggling to be righteous under the law. The law can’t make us righteous; only faith in Christ can justify us.

Let’s invite the weary, worn-out people around us to come to Jesus, to find authentic rest for their souls.

The Mark of a Man

I couldn’t believe my ears. “If a child is the first person in a home to become a Christian, there is a 3.5 percent probability everyone else in the household will follow.”

“If the mother is the first to become a Christian, there is a 17 percent probability everyone else in the household will follow. But if the father is first, there is a 93 percent probability everyone else in the household will follow.”

Grandfather With Son And Grandson In Park With FootballThough it has been several years since Pastor Boyd Dellinger shared with me these statistics from a Baptist Press article, their impact has remained.

I understood fathers play a huge role in the spiritual choices of their children; just a cursory look at families displayed that truth. But a 76 percent difference in impact of a father sharing truth with his family verses a mother—that’s monumental!

This is not to discourage mothers, but to encourage fathers. Your family needs you!

In a culture that devalues manhood and godly leadership, it’s fitting, during the month we celebrate Father’s Day, to remember the undeniable calling and impact a father has on the spiritual life of his family.

Twice in his epistles, Paul gives specific direction to fathers about childrearing. To the Ephesians he instructs, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” To the Colossians he writes, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”

Scripture charges fathers with the responsibility of bringing up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, while also warning them not to provoke their children. Provoking will bear the fruit of  anger and discouragement in the lives of his children, something that is almost epidemic in our nation’s youth.

As a body, we must encourage the fathers in their God-given leadership. We must do all that we can to not hinder, but help them lead their children to the Lord. Statistically if they do, 93 percent of their household will follow them in believing in Jesus Christ and His finished work.