Saturday, January 15, 2011



Jesus always stood with the common, disenfranchised, non-religious people in His world. He never castigated the sinners in any way. This brought on all kinds of criticism and anger from the religious community. He embarrassed the super-religious community, challenged them, criticized them and was relentless in pointing them in a different direction and emphasis.

Jesus made them very uncomfortable. He even warned His disciples that the world will hate them as much as they hated Him. Then Jesus described their actions of hate, which included disagreeing with the followers of Jesus to the point of throwing them out of their religious assemblies. When followers of Jesus genuinely follow Jesus-doing what He says and does, they will also make the super-religious uncomfortable.

Jesus was so upset with the super-religious that He gave an extensive denunciation of them in Matthew 23. Matthew records eight woes or warnings against them. They are not nice or super-sensitive. Jesus was ticked off and He didn't hide His feelings. A couple of the woes are of interest to me, when it comes to the urge to convert others into your religious system or experience.

Jesus says, "For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and then you make that convert twice as much a child of hell as you are."

As I've shared earlier, in the past I have participated in the acts of shutting the door of the Kingdom on a few of my friends and many others. I've also participated in traveling far and wide to win converts-to convert people to my particular religious system or way of thinking about God.

I grew up in a Baptist Church and our goal was to convert everyone into becoming a Christian, not only a Christian but a Baptist Christian, and not only a Baptist Christian but our kind of Baptist Christian. We sent people all over the world to convert people into our faith. We believed that's what God wanted us to do. That was our end game in life-to convert or change the world.

If you think you must change the world, you will create an agenda for every person you approach. If a person is from a different religious persuasion, then your agenda is to talk them out of their religion and into yours. If a person believes in evolution, then your agenda is to argue with him about creation. If a person is doing something you want him to change, then your agenda is to figure out a way to change him. If you think you must change the world, you believe you are "right" and disrespect all others from different backgrounds. If you think you must change the world, then you may not include the only one who can change those in your world of influence-Jesus. If you think you must change the world, then you tend to think you are in charge of the results and actually making the changes happen.

When we observe the life and teachings of Jesus, we see a very different approach. Note this vital interaction between Jesus and His disciples: When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of death will not overcome it." (Matthew 16:13-18) NOTE no one taught Peter that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the living God, but the Father revealed this to him.

NOTE who it is who supernaturally draws people to Jesus: "Stop grumbling among yourselves," Jesus answered. "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: 'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me." (John 6:43-45)

If the Father is the one who reveals to people who Jesus is and actually draws them to Jesus, then it is the Father who is doing any converting work. And, if the Father is the only one who can do the converting of a person's life, then what role do we play in the process? It seems the end game of the Father is to draw to Jesus and reveal Jesus to those who have ears to hear and eyes to see.

As followers of Jesus, what ought our end game be? Two observations come to mind. FIRST-The role of converting people has already been taken by the Father, therefore we are not to be into the conversion business. NOTE the Father has no interest in converting anyone to become a part of any religious system or theological set of beliefs. His end game is converting-transforming their lives-to be related to Jesus. The Father's end game is all about Jesus.

SECOND-Since we can't function in the conversion business, we are to be about introducing Jesus to all who are interested in Him. Followers of Jesus need to focus on advancing the conversation of Jesus in every way we can. We are not to concern ourselves whether someone is a Baptist, Buddhist, Christian, Catholic or Muslim; the end game for all followers of Jesus is to introduce people to Jesus. We are to make this our total and only agenda.



New Year's resolutions! Whether you make them and keep them or make them and break them, there are many good things that can come out of the process. It certainly makes me a better person just to reflect on and evaluate my life each year and for that exercise there is no doubt a little improvement in some areas.

However, I am through with any medium to high expectations that may come through my New Year's resolutions. Life is too short to count on resolutions to make significant changes in my life. Resolutions can only REFORM what I already have going for me or not going for me. In 2011 I am for revolution. Revolution can TRANSFORM my life.

In Diana's favorite verse, Psalm 51:9, it is very clear what David is asking for. He says, "Create in me a clean heart, O Lord." He isn't making a resolution to change his heart nor is it a prayer for God to change or reform his heart, but to create in him a new heart. I don't want Jesus to change or reform my old heart, filled with habits that just aren't working or moving in the right direction. What I need is a TRANSFORMATION-a new heart altogether. I want my heart to be beating with the heart of God. I want to be transformed. By the way, I've seen this work in Diana's life and it's not only transforming; it's beautiful!

RESOLUTION is just another DO-OVER, reforming and refashioning my old stuff. What I want and need is a REVOLUTION-a spiritual heart transplant by the best heart surgeon in the universe. His name is Jesus.

2. Plan a daily transfusion. A transfusion literally is to pour something from one container to another-to spread throughout something and affect every part of it. You need to transfuse your life every day (preferably morning) with Jesus. He is the one who has created everything and holds everything together, so why not connect with Jesus every day-to what He said, what He did and what He is saying and doing today. (1) Read a paragraph or so out of the gospels (Matthew-Mark-Luke-John). Listen or read the Acts 29 Daily, read a chapter a day of the Acts of Jesus. (2) Lay out to Jesus what you are thinking and what you want. (3) Take the time to be quiet and listen to His answers back to you.

3. Make appointments with other heart transplant patients. Don't even think about walking through life's stresses and difficulties alone. You are not strong enough to handle all that is thrown at you AND you will tend to forget the revolution is still on here on planet earth.

4. Wait for further instructions from your doctor. Jesus is eager to set up all sorts of divine appointments for you. These divine appointments will be a variety of orders from Him and opportunities that only He could set up for you. Jesus will make the appointments. All you have to do is SHOW UP.

Don't just make New Year's resolutions this year. Make some direct and determined moves toward a personal revolution in your heart. Instead of being resolutionary about your life; be a revolutionary for Jesus.

Jesus is and has always has been the greatest revolutionary-turning the world upside down by turning people inside out. And don't forget, THE REVOLUTION IS STILL ON!



About a year ago, after spending lots of hours with a very uniquely gifted, young political aspirant, he unleashed an emotional outrage at me. He said, "I will not let anyone take away from me the substitutionary atonement of Christ!" For some reason this young man believed that I was threatening his theological belief of substitutionary atonement, then proceeded to separate himself from me as fast as he could. We had never ever discussed the subject. In fact, there are very few on the planet who have ever discussed this doctrine. There are only two verses from Paul, two from Peter and one from Isaiah that this doctrine is based upon. Jesus never mentioned it, but it is a mark of fellowship by a few.

Basically, those who hold this doctrine as sacred and holy, even higher than most other Biblical teachings believe that this is why Jesus came-to die for each individual's sin. Now, there is no doubt in my mind that Jesus' death on the cross means everything for you and for me. But to think that this is the reason Jesus came to earth misses the greater weight of the Scripture as what Jesus' end game really was and is.

John referenced Jesus as the lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. Let's check out what John said: The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel." Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' I have seen and I testify that this is God's Chosen One." The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!"(John 1:29-36)

Then later Jesus prayed to the Father, giving us further insight into why He came-His end game. He said, "I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do." (John 17:4) Then, later on Jesus continued, "Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me." (John 17:11-12) What Jesus seems to indicate as the work He came to accomplish is to take care of and teach the twelve men the Father sent Him.

Jesus gives another indication of His end game in coming here, when He speaks of building His "church": "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of death will not overcome it." (Matthew 16:18) Jesus came to build a church, a gathering of followers around Him, who together would be so powerful that nothing will be able to stop its spontaneous expansion. In John's letter later in life he made an interesting statement describing the reason Jesus appeared. He said, "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work." (I John 3:8) I think this gets us to the over-arching reason why Jesus came-His end game! He came to destroy the works of the devil. It's the great conflict between good and evil!

Paul expands on this reason and even spells out what we are all up against in this grand battle between good and evil-God and the devil. Paul uses a term "struggle" to describe what kind of battle we must wage. Struggle is only used here in the bible and means our wrestling match or personal battle against evil. He says, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:12)

No matter who you think your enemy is, you probably don't normally see the big picture of it all. You see, our struggle is not against flesh and blood-other people. Behind every flesh and blood person is a greater influence-a spiritual one. Our battle is against spiritual forces of evil and dark powers in heavenly places. In other words, when you are in a struggle with another person, you are not to be fighting against him, but you are struggling for him. Why? Because as a follower of Jesus you are to be in line with the end game of Jesus-why He came-and that is to be about destroying the works of evil not the people who are used by evil forces.

So, how are we to handle our personal struggle against the evil, spiritual forces of darkness? There are three action steps I suggest here:

FIRST-There's more to life than what you see. SECOND-Everything you do matters. THIRD-Jesus is the lens for all you see and Jesus is the key to all that matters.