If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? The unsaved do that…. But love your enemies and do good and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great…. –Luke 6:32-35
I was a freshman in college, with everything that implies: I was green, scared, eager, excited, learning, stupid, silly, and a hundred other things.
Among the civilians working on our campus was Mrs. Grigsby. I can see her to this day: stern, tight-lipped, unfriendly, and unloving. We thought she looked more like a man than a woman. She was all business, never a ‘good morning,’ and generally unpleasant, we all thought.
Walking our dog this morning at dawn, the breeze was just right and the air so refreshing. I thought, “How could the feel of Heaven be any better than this?” So sweet, so satisfying.
In truth, I’ve not seen anything yet. Heaven’s blessings, of which we have just a foretaste here on Earth, are going to be indescribable.
His sweet peace is one of those foretastes.
Jesus said, “My peace I leave with you. Not as the world gives.” –John 14:27
“God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit therefore to God” (James 4:6).
“Clothe yourself with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5). “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time….” (5:6).
A Facebook friend said, “I’m very proud of my humility.”
Humility is not a subject most of us would claim to know much about. In fact, we would shy away from anyone claiming to be humble. The very claim contradicts itself.
In fact, by the paradoxical nature of this trait, a truly humble person would be the last to know it. So, when told that “You are a genuinely humble person,” the appropriate response might be something like “Who, me? Thank you. I wish!”
“Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem saying, ‘Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders?….And He answered and said to them, ‘Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?'” (Matthew 15:1-3)
“The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6).
Historians tell us the Pharisees started off well, as revivalists in a way, calling the nation back to faithfulness. Eventually, however, their insistence on righteousness settled down into a code of laws and rules. They went from being encouragers to harassers, from lovers of God to bullies and legalists.
The legalist is someone who says, “I know the Lord didn’t say this, but He would have if He’d thought of it!”
The legalist is smarter than God. He helps the Lord by completing His Word, by filling in the gaps where the Lord clearly forgot to say something, explain something, or require a thing.
“And when He approached, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.'” Luke 19:41-42
You’ve seen the bumper stickers and billboards. “KNOW JESUS; KNOW PEACE,” followed by “No Jesus; No Peace.”
That’s almost right, but not completely.
We hear Christians say, “If the world just knew Jesus, we would have world peace.” It sounds right, but we might be missing something.
A lot of Christians do not have peace. They are constantly beset by worries and fears, angst and anxieties. Christians are taking the prescriptions along with everyone else to settle their nerves. Something is going on. What?
Many churches–made up of born-again, Bible-believing, Christians (a redundancy if ever there was one)–are constantly at war among themselves. They argue over doctrine, where to situate the organ, whether to even have an organ, whether the pastor should wear a suit and tie or jeans and sneakers, and how much to pay the preacher. They argue over who is to run the church and divide over how long the sermons should be. And they love the Lord.
Something is wrong.
“I have spoken openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I spoke nothing in secret” (John 18:20).
Something happened this week to remind me of why, as a young teen, I hated the typical television sitcom. I could never say “I Love Lucy.” And here’s why.
I was listening to the replay of a 1950’s radio program “The Life of Riley.” William Bendix’ character, the husband and father of the Riley household and namesake of the program, was a bumbling, stumbling embarrassment to the males in the audience, always jumping to conclusions and misunderstanding what the normal people around him were up to. He needed a good whupping, I always thought. As a nine-year-old as well as today, I find that hard to listen to.
In the early 1950s, we had no television. To watch anything, we had to walk down the country road either to my grandmother’s or to Uncle Cecil’s. Now, Granny would watch whatever you wished–she was just glad to have the company–but at my uncle’s, you sat there and watched whatever they chose. And the one program they loved above all others was “I Love Lucy.” They even named their youngest child after the baby in the show.
“Do not lie to one another, seeing you have put off the old self with its practices” (Colossians 3:9).
The current issue of Vanity Fair magazine (February 2016) carries a story to keep you thinking for a week or two. You read it and think, “What? How could this happen?”
One of the producers of Meredith Viera’s NBC program fell in love with the famous heart-transplant surgeon on whom they were doing a feature. Paolo Macchiarini was amazingly accomplished, stunningly successful, and fabulously rich. He was handsome, suave, and a charmer.
The producer, Benita Alexander, on her second marriage at the time, promptly forgot her altar vows and fell head over heels for this surgeon, who wined her and dined her. Soon, they were flying all over the world, living a life of luxury, and making plans for a wedding of their own.
Meredith Viera said about the surgeon, “He’s the doctor who does the seemingly impossible, going where no other has yet dared.” The New York Times had done a front page feature on the man. He was clearly somebody.
So you’ll know, the narrator talks about the conflict of a producer having a relationship with the subject of their feature, but I’ll leave that for other people. There was something else about the story more fascinating.
A friend once wrote a book titled “Down with Anxiety.” The contents were excellent and the suggestions were helpful, but I teased him that the title was a real downer!
Scripture has two primary texts dealing with anxiety, that I know of. Doubtless there are many others, but these two have meant a great deal to me, personally…..
First, the lesser known of the two…
“Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you” (Psalm 116:7).
That’s self-talk. And it comes highly recommended.
The Psalmist knows about anxiety. He is saying: “Get back down there, anxiety! Go back to bed! Quit worrying! You’ve been blessed far more than you deserve. So, how about being strong and stopping this needless worrying.”
Anxiety, they say, is worry in search of a reason. Or perhaps, fear in search of a cause.
“Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it” (Luke 18:17).
Big shots need not apply.
Pride disqualifies all applicants.
Therefore, “Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time,” meaning, whenever He gets good and ready. That’s I Peter 5:6. Well, the first part of it is.
This fellow wrote to me recently to say why he no longer attends church. He is burned out on four decades of shallow sermons and considers himself far beyond the kind of pap his pastor ladles out to the unthinking sheep on Sunday. He has written scholarly essays on his beliefs and would be happy to send them to me.
Even if this were the case, that the pastors all serve milk to babies on Sundays and never meat to the healthy, the man is missing a huge point about church participation.
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for me will find it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or, what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26)
What do you have to give up to serve the Lord? Well, for starters, you give up your sin and guilt, your anguish and your lostness. You give up your waywardness and fears, your selfishness and your pride. You give up being lord of your own life and master of all your own choices.
Paul called this “presenting your bodies as a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1).
It’s a daily exercise, by the way. While we wish we could do a one-time-works-forever thing, it’s not to be. “I die daily,” said the apostle (I Corinthians 15:31). And so do we, if we get this right.
Before long, as we grow in Christ, we begin to realize that not only did we give up a lot of bad things to come to Him and to serve HIm, now, He is asking us to give up some good things which happen to be outside His will for us.