Christian Living illustrations

The Fulcrum is Jesus

Sometimes I sit in church with the realization that for a lot of folks they think this is the center point of their walk with Jesus. As if, somehow, the fulcrum of the Christian life is attending a worship service?

We’ve been raised (Christian language: Discipled) to make church that “can’t miss” thing of the Christian walk. In evangelicalism, the practical disciplines of the spiritual life are:

  • Go to church
  • Regular Bible reading
  • Daily prayer

If you want bonus points:

  • Join a small group
  • Serve in a ministry of the church

Don’t get me wrong. I do most of those things on a regular basis. And these are very good expressions of the Christian life.

But these are the peripherals of the Christian life, not the fulcrum.

The church is not the centerpiece of your walk with Jesus. That’s idolatry.

You can’t sit in church and say… “YES! This is it.” Attending church (passive action) isn’t it anymore than watching football on TV is the same as playing in the game. (active participation) Jesus didn’t come so you could go to church. He didn’t tear the veil between Levites and the people so you could watch church. That’s a foundational misunderstanding in the person and action of Christ.

Your load... is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. That’s so much more than church involvement, reading your Bible, praying, being in a small group, and serving in the church. There’s nothing wrong with those things, but they are too cheap and easy to be “it.

What Jesus describes is all encompassing. Like two lovers in the first 90 days of their relationship! 

Your output… is to love your neighbor as yourself. The output of your walk with Jesus can’t just be church involvement. It’s can’t be about you and your learning. It can’t be about serving at the church. That’s not what Jesus said was the output.

According to Mark 12, the output of loving God with everything is loving your neighbors. (You know, the people next door.)

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:27-31

Christian Living

Ruin Your Reputation

Photo by Dioboss via Flickr (Creative Commons)

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. Ephesians 5:8-13

There’s a lot of reputation management going on in the church today. Scornful lips espouse warnings about “the appearance of evil” and it’s kissing cousin, “be careful who you associate with.

When I was in Bible college I remember some of this being taught in our Student Life Guide. These community preferences defined social life at Moody Bible Institute… and for many, set the course of their social life going forward.

  • You aren’t allowed in bars, because people drink alcohol there.
  • A male student can’t go to the home of a female adult alone. (And visa versa)
  • You can’t go see movies, because how will people know you are going to the PG movie when Rated-R movies are being shown?
  • You can’t work somewhere in which alcohol is sold.

[In fairness, these were community rules. Students willfully chose the school in full knowledge of the rules. No one at MBI said they were Biblical rules– but the message was clear. This is how Christians behave.]

Two problems with reputation management:

  1. Our Lord had a horrible reputation. He hung out with low-life’s like tax collectors and prostitutes.
  2. Jesus didn’t respond too kindly to religious people and their reputation rules.

Ruin your reputation

I love this passage from Paul’s letter to Ephesus. Ephesus was the Las Vegas of its day. A tourist town. It’s a city with a big harbor and lots of sailors. Consequently, it was a city with a whole slew of brothels and a temple to the fertility goddess Diana.

Ephesians knew dark places. And for the most part, the church in Ephesus was filled with people who knew the dark places all too well.

If the church were to re-write verses 8-13 it would go something like this:

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, so don’t go to those places. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed to darkness is overcome by darkness—and everything that is illuminated by darkness dies.

Striking difference, eh?

That’s the difference between having a religious reputation and having a Christ-like reputation!

Paul’s command was simple: Go to dark places. Seek them out. Even the ones from your past. And bring light.

See, going to dark places and seeing “bad things” doesn’t mean that you have to be a part of it. To the contrary, you can find those in darkness and bring the light of new life!

As believers, it’s our job to go to dark places and bring light. A life pleasing to Jesus isn’t concerned about reputation. Often times, it’s ruthlessly ruining your reputation for the purpose of introducing grace, forgiveness, and hope to the darkest places you know.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.

Christian Living

Let Grace be our language

Is grace enough for you?

Maybe I’m a cynic but I don’t think grace is a hallmark of a lot of Christians. We’re too busy having unrealistic expectations for one another and then wallowing in the disappointment of failed relationships.

I’m too busy judging you for judging me for grace!

Let’s get past this oddity of evangelical culture and descend into the heart of what we believe.

We’re all perfectly imperfect. We need to expect imperfection from the people around us while individually, through the power of Jesus, trying to make our live more like Jesus. Not to celebrate it. But build it into our expectations for one another.

I sin. I am messy. I hate things about my nature. Loathe even. I sadden myself with my sinfulness. Sometimes I disgust myself.

Failure is a part of our walk with Christ. Some would say it is the beginning of our walk with Jesus. It’s part of being a leader. It’s part of maturing. It’s part of learning.

You simply cannot walk with Jesus in a state of false perception of yourself, your mess, and your unique ability to do the wrong thing at the wrong moment.

Think about it like this…

The whole reason God created Eve was not for a sin bringing playmate. It was because the Father looked at his creation and said, “Its not good for man to be alone.”

There is no more alone place than in a broken relationship. Conversely, there is little more powerful on this world than a grace-filled relationship with two people.

Here’s my encouragement

Every day you are given the choice between grace and judgement. In all things, chose grace.