What Jesus did

Luke 1:67-79

I was listening to a preacher yesterday. He had a lot to say, but something he said about the Apostle’s Creed came to mind today as I read from Luke 1. The Apostle’s Creed does not quote Jesus. It does not highlight any of his teaching. Rather, it’s emphasis is on what Jesus did.

He suffered. He was crucified, died and was buried. He descended to the dead, he rose and ascended to heaven. And our final hope is he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Focusing on what Jesus did helps us appreciate more who he was. Not only a rabbi. Not just a moral teacher or miracle worker. But the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Luke 1 tells of the birth of John the Baptist. On the eighth day, his parents took him to the temple for his circumcision and naming. Tradition would have led his parents to name him Zechariah, after his father. The angel Gabriel, though, had already told him to name the child John.

Zechariah had been mute since Gabriel’s vision. At the temple, he is able to speak again and begins with a prophecy about John. Zechariah speaks of what John will do. He will be a prophet and go before the Lord to prepare his ways. John will give his people knowledge of salvation.

Will he use words to do so? Sure. But we recognize what his ministry meant by recalling what he did. Jesus said “among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11). Why? Because of what he did.

As Christians, we speak often of the things we say we believe. Naming our beliefs is helpful, no doubt. What we do with our lives, however, speaks more clearly what Jesus means to us. Do actions speak louder than words? Not always, but often enough.

Enough that in Zechariah’s prophecy we see much more of what God did than hear of what God said. Even the oath God made with Abraham included the charge for God’s people to serve God without fear. 

Do we do that with words? Sometimes, we do. Still, we should pay closer attention to what we actually do as a result of what we say we believe. 

Stay blessed…john

Almost perfect

Philippians 2:12-18

Trying to live perfectly is not a sustainable practice. If it’s impossible for us, it’d be exhausting to try to make it happen. I find it more helpful to emphasize our pursuit of holiness instead. That centers our focus on the holiness of God.

It also helps me see that just because I’m not perfect today, doesn’t mean I’m not better than I thought I could be. Is not being as angry or impatient today as I used to be not a win?

It is.

And I want to offer another practice that goes a long way in our pursuit of holiness. Philippians 2:14 says to “do all things without murmuring and arguing.” Imagine that! Doing everything without complaining about someone else or joining in frivolous hostility.

Think of what we could accomplish. Consider the healing we could nurture and share. 

I have yet to meet a pastor or church leader who didn’t have an abundant supply of murmur stories. We all know what it is to listen to petty argument after argument disguised as helpful feedback. 

The results? 

Well, I know several eager and faithful leaders who decided it was too much. They went somewhere else. More and more, we’re hearing about pastors themselves who have left ministry. The back bighting and infighting was insufferable.

So, let’s note how our murmuring and complaining impacts others and the ministry we say we care about. But also notice more of what the verse from Philippians says. Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent. 

There’s a personal toll to murmuring and complaining, too. It takes us away from the image of God within us. It clouds our perception of others and it steals our joy of life.

Now, I’m not sure the apostle Paul was talking about living a perfect life. In his encouragement to not murmur or argue, though, he did use words like blameless, innocent and without blemish. And that is close enough for me!

Stay blessed…john

Real fast

Matthew 9:14-17

Did Jesus have the talk with his disciples? The fasting talk? Did he sit with them and explain that, when it came to fasting, they would be different?

They would not fast at all!

For sure they knew other rabbis and disciples fasted. It was a holy act of devotion. They could’ve been looking forward to their fasting experience with their teacher. Or not. Did they notice they hadn’t been fasting?

Well, we’re sure others noticed.

At the very least, John the Baptist’s disciples wondered about their fasting practice. Or lack thereof. They aligned themselves with the Pharisees. As best we can tell, they fasted twice every week. But why didn’t the disciples of Jesus even fast once?

The Lord eluded to his being the expected bridegroom–the church is the bride. Wedding attendants don’t mourn when they’re with the bridegroom. My best man took me out to lunch and bought me a gift on my wedding day. He didn’t bring up to me that about fifty percent of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. He didn’t tell me most Americans live paycheck to paycheck. There’s too much to celebrate right now.

To be sure, a time would come when others would take away or snatch the bridegroom, Jesus. Let’s guess that’ll happen on a Thursday evening. Were his disciples fasting behind locked doors the day Jesus resurrected?

The larger point Jesus pointed to was about the new reality God was shaping in Jesus. There was nothing wrong with fasting. There was nothing wrong with praying and giving. But there was a change in perspective and, perhaps, even in attitude. That was what Jesus led his disciples toward by not fasting.

Now, if we want a new or even a renewed sense of joy in our churches, we need new attitudes. New perspectives. Is there something we need to stop doing to pay closer attention to the reality of Jesus? Dressing up our old only creates more problems. Problems that take us further from our mission and purpose.

I won’t suggest we stop fasting because I’m not so sure many of us do to begin with. So, maybe we should fast this week. In the next few days, find a way to fast with joyful expectation. And let’s see what God might show us.

Stay blessed…john