Posts Tagged ‘Christian’

Luke 23:13-25 — There are two things that strike you when you read this passage, Luke 23:13-25. The first thing is about Pilate and the second is about Barrabas. All of it having to do with Jesus. Today, let’s look at Pilate and tomorrow we will look at Barabbas.

The first thing we notice is how Pilate handled this situation and what it teaches us. What does it teach us? At my church, we have bracelets that say “Everyday Jesus” and on the other side it has our church verse, Luke 10:27. Everyday Jesus means that we should be more like Jesus everyday. We should be His witness everyday, not just during LifeSong events in the community but in everything we do. It should be evident to the world that we do indeed live out Luke 10:27 by loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and by loving our neighbors as ourselves. That’s everyday Jesus. That’s how He lived his earthly life. However, how often are we more like Pilate than we are like Jesus? We see a glimpse of ourselves in Pilate in Luke 23:13-25.

The amazing thing here is Pilate is a representative of one of the most powerful civilizations known ever in human history. The Roman Empire lasted longer than any empire in the history of man. Yet, for all the power and the might that backed up Pilate, it seems here that he is afraid. He buckles to the will of the crowd. From the histories of the times written extrabiblically such as Josephus and others, Pilate was for the most part an arrogant, ruthless leader that was quick to let the Jews know that Rome was in charge. Most believe that Jesus’ crucifixion occurred in 33AD, which was during the last few years of Pilate’s governorship. He was called back to Rome in 36AD.

Because of the history of constant military intervention in the area, Rome was growing tired of the incindiary tactics used by Pilate. He was as we say today on shaky ground. Rome’s desire was to conquer but then assimilate conquered lands into their tax and legal system. Rome did not want to constantly have to have a large military presence in conquered land. It was disruptive to commerce and thus disruptive to taxation. Rome’s longevity as an empire was built on “conquer and assimilate.” Thus, the constant political turmoil in Palestine was a problem to Rome. If Pilate couldn’t handle it, Rome would find someone who could. Ultimately, by 70AD, the turmoil was so out of hand that Titus, the future emperor and at that time a general in the army, finally sacked Jerusalem and destroyed everything in it.

So, although Pilate was the local presence of the Roman Empire, he could not afford a major rebellion on his hands under his watch in Palestine. He argued with the crowd but they would not hear of it. They wanted Jesus crucified and Barabbas released. Regardless of the fact that Jesus had done nothing wrong, they wanted their insurrrectionist hero released rather than what they considered to be a blasphemous false prophet. Pilate held the power to have Jesus released. He knew that Jesus was an irritation to the Jewish religious power elite but, based on what he saw, Jesus had violated no Roman laws and certainly had committed no crime that warranted death, according to Roman law. He was the representative of the most powerful government on earth at the time, but he caves to popular opinion. He gives the people what they want because of political expediency. He did not stand up against the crowd because he feared rebellion and high military intervention would be needed. He did not stand up against crowd because he knew that if Palestine blew up on his watch, he would be sent back to Rome in shame. He caved when it mattered most. He did not stand up for Jesus because he was more concerned about his own hide than ultimately whether Jesus was innocent or guilty.

How often do we not stand up for biblical principles? How often do we not stand up for Jesus? When I think of how our Christian brothers are dying daily at the hands of ISIS in the Middle East? I wonder if you or I in our comfort here in the US would stand up for Jesus and be counted as Christian when it really counted? Often here we are just like Pilate when it comes to Jesus over less things that our lives and livelihoods. We cave just like Pilate to popular opinion whereas our friends in Iraq and Syria stand firm in the cross and give their lives rather than renounce their faith in Christ. We stand around the water cooler at work and do not mention our faith when the opportunity presents itself. We cover up our Christianity at work so that we will fit in rather than being a witness for Christ one on one with others at work. In our world today, the tolerance of any behaviors is sweeping the nation but we are quiet. We do not want to be singled out as standing against the new normal. We bemoan privately about the godlessness of our country but yet we sit at home on election day. Worse yet, we accept candidates for office and bemoan the lack of Christian leadership in our country but yet none of us want to run for office because we don’t want to be singled out. We condemn Pilate for having no backbone. Yet, we do the same thing with our silence and inaction. In the absence of Christian leadership, the nation will continue to drift further and further away from the Bible. In the absence of leadership from us, the world will continue to rewrite Scripture and call it right and good.

Until we are willing as Christians to be like our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, North Korea, China, etc. to stand up and be singled out, we are right there with Pilate. We must be willing to be ridiculed as being old fashioned. We must be willing to be marginalized to the edges of society. We must be willing to work to change our society rather than being consumed with our houses, boats and cars. We must be willing to take risks rather than sit behind our comfortable possessions. How much like Pilate we are today. We consider our loss of comfort and position first before we consider being singled out by the mob. What are you and I willing to risk to stand up for Jesus?

Father, give us the strength today and tomorrow to be willing to die for our Savior. Give us the strength to be your witnesses in a world that knows your Son less and less. Give us the strength to trust in you and our eternity with you because of your Son to be willing to be singled out by the mob mentality of our world. Help us to stand on your Word and not be willing to rewrite it just to fit into a world that is seeking ways to justify its antibiblical choices. Father, help us to be brave and stand up for Jesus no matter what the cost is to us personally. Amen.

Romans 8:18-30 — Yesterday we talked about our present confidence that we have in the Lord. Today, we talk about our future glory. Paul tells us plain out that there will be suffering, but it is nothing compared to our future glory.

Man, this week, in what I call God’s synchronicity, He is driving home a point to me. In this synchronicity, He drives home a point to me in various different ways and from various different sources. The idea that He is making to me is that there is a price to be paid to be identified with Jesus and how far, how deeply, am I willing to take my faith. How far am I willing to follow. Am I content to sit back while there are billions of people who have not yet come to know Jesus? Do I have the faith of Christians in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia who are dying rather than denounce the name of Jesus. Yes, they are dying today in the 21st century for Christ. Do you have that kind of faith, Mark? How far are you willing to take this thing? God is speaking this synchronously to me – in the chapter of the book, Radical, that I am reading now (which, bam, is using Romans as the source for the discussion in the chapter), in mailing I have received about suffering Christians in Africa and the Middle East, and in my current passage under study, the Book of Romans.

Along with being heirs of God’s glory, Paul, in this passage, mentions suffering. What kinds of suffering are we willing to endure? For first century believers and for many around the world today that are Christ followers, there is economic and social prices to be paid for being Christian. Some face physical torture. Some face death. Even in countries where Christ is still tolerated or is encouraged, we must not become complacent. To live as Jesus did – serving others without expectation of payback, resisting the temptation to conform to the ways of the world, and heeding the call to call out what is evil and against God’s Word, and to love others so much that you are willing to die for them – exacts a price. How far are you willing to go? Being a Christian involves making small choices that separate us from the crowd and sometimes it involves making big ones. Are you content with your American dream lifestyle of me, me, me and gathering all the toys you can? Are you willing to chuck it all and follow where God leads you. Are you willing to say yes to Jesus? or do you say yes to the American dream of stuff, stuff and more stuff.

Comfort. cushiness. Complacency. Just because we go the most up to date current cool church with over the top service to the community and the latest Christian music doesn’t mean anything if we do not answer the call as Christians. If we just sit in a pew on Sunday and that’s the comfy Christian life we want, we are missing the point. It doesn’t matter that you attend a cutting edge church if you don’t heed God’s call, if you do not put your yes on the table. Are you willing to follow God’s call? It may involve selling your house and all your possessions and moving to Nigeria to help Christians being persecuted there? It might involve chucking it all and teaching in an inner city school? Christ did not promise us the American dream. He promised us suffering in His name. How far are you willing to take your faith? This is the question that I am struggling with now. The deeper you go with your faith, the more you are convicted of the inadequacy of it. Jesus went to the cross for us. How far are willing to go to make his name known?

Paul says what we suffer here is nothing compared to the glory that we will be rewarded with in Heaven. Do we really, really believe that? Christians in Nigeria believe it. Christians in Sudan believe it. Christians in Iraq believe it. Nothing that we go through here compares to the glory that we will receive in Heaven. Even dying in the name of Jesus is temporary pain compared to the glory of heaven. Even though we don’t often die in the name of Jesus here, we do still have our personal trials and tribulations, divorce, death of loved ones, job loss, and so on. We suffer in those ways here but the suffering we as humans endure is nothing compared to our future glory in heaven. Nothing we endure here is so nasty and ugly that it can trump our reward in Heaven as Christ followers. Many of us are so worrried out this life and being happy and content that we sell out our souls to chase after these worldly things. Paul says our future glory is what we should be chasing. All this, this is just temporary. Its seasonal fashion. Here today. Gone tomorrow. When we are chasing after Jesus, none of this temporary stuff matters. We have our eyes on the eternal prize. How far your faith? How much in love with this life are you? How deep are you willing to go? Are you all in?