Friday, April 11, 2014

Choose Right, Live Right Part 2

“He is no fool to give what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” When Jim Eliott made this statement, he may have been applying Mark 8:36-38, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels." With these questions, Jesus challenges us to think about our real focus in life. We believe we will live with Jesus Christ in eternity. How is this fact lived out in our daily lives? Are we living in anticipation of his commendation when he comes again in glory? Are we focused on the temporal things of this world? Our daily focus determines how we live.
People without Christ have nothing better to live for. So their lives are portrayed by chasing after earthly things – eating, drinking and material possessions. The more they have, the more successful they think they are. There is nothing wrong with eating, drinking and material possessions. However, that should not be the main goal of our lives. We should live for what is eternal and not what is temporary.
That means refocusing whatever we do to reflect Christ’s Kingdom in our daily lives. If we are businessmen, we apply Christian principles in the conduct of our business. As workers, we work keeping in mind that Christ is our true boss. In the home, we inculcate Kingdom values in our children. We train them to have values and concerns and priorities and relationships as citizens of God’s kingdom. I am sure every parent is concerned that their children have a good education and future. That is not a bad thing but that is also not the only thing in life. Our children should also learn to put Christ first. It is good to celebrate good grades, goals and the achievements of our children at home. But parents should also celebrate the fruit of godliness, humility, purity, stewardship and self-sacrifice in their children.
In the use of our mind too, we should be kingdom-focused. We may need to think intentionally about making needed changes to reflect our kingdom focus. What can we do to be a better steward of our leisure and entertainment? That means intentionally checking how much time we spend on TV, games, net surfing, etc. We compare that with the daily time we spend reading the Bible, prayer and Christian fellowship. If the gap is wide, we need to cut down on our entertainment and use the time for our spiritual pursuits. After all, which one has temporal and which one has eternal value?
In choosing Jesus over the things of this world, we are not exchanging one form of slavery over another. The cross of faith is light compared to the yoke of sin we once bore. This is because the resurrection power of Jesus empowers us to bear it. That is why we can align ourselves with God’s Will. The Holy Spirit empowers us to do so, as we walk in faith. We put into practice the right focus in life. We will take up our cross, i.e. our Christian responsibilities, and see them for what they really are - the source of freedom in Christ. When we take on the burden of charity, we are freed from the weight of greed. When we take on the burden of humility, we are freed from the weight of arrogance. When we take on the burden of mercy, we are freed from the weight of anger and guilt. In Him, we find the power to live right.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Choose Right, Live Right

In the hours before Jesus was crucified, we see examples of cowardice by his disciples. They fled as he was arrested, Peter denied him. The only apostle present at the cross where Jesus died was John. Yet, in the early days of the church as seen in Acts, we see these same disciples acting as lions proclaiming Christ. What made the difference? It was the fact that they knew Jesus was not dead but risen. His resurrection and victory over death energized his disciples. They now had the courage to make the right choices in life. They now knew how to live right because the resurrection gave them the power to do that.
This is a daily challenge that confronts us today too. Do we live as a citizen of Heaven or of Earth? There are so many choices that seem right to us. How do we know we have chosen to make the right decision? In Mark 8, we see Jesus himself confronting his disciples with their very understanding of him, “but what about you… who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:29). It is only with the power of understanding Christ that they were able to make the right decisions in life. Only after Jesus’ resurrection, did the disciples know how to make the right decisions to live as citizens of heaven as they carried out their Christ’s mission for them.
Our choosing to do the will of God should guide our decision-making. When we consistently follow this principle, we will see the resurrection power is working in us. We will see God’s grace empowering us to live right.
Peter has just proclaimed in Mark 8:29 that Jesus is the Messiah, the chosen one. After that proclamation, Jesus explains to his close friends that there is more to salvation than feeding the hungry or leading a political revolution. He tells them that being the Messiah also meant he must suffer and die and then rise again from the dead. However, Peter does not want to hear about suffering and dying. He finds that unacceptable. He takes Jesus aside and “rebukes” him, “C’mon Jesus. You’re God. You don’t need to suffer. We came to you to escape suffering. We came to you to escape the oppression of the religious leaders. This is crazy talk. We’ve seen what you can do; we know no one can beat you.”
What is Jesus’ response? “Get behind me, Satan! You are thinking in human and not divine terms”. Peter’s words were actually a heady temptation to Jesus. Jesus clearly knew about the suffering of the poor and the oppressed people of Palestine. He had divine power and could have overthrown, if he wanted to, the Roman Empire and taken over the government. He could have fixed all social injustice and cured all of the diseases of the world. To use modern terminology, he could have created a society where the standard of living was unimaginable.
But that was not his objective. His objective was to do the will of the Father. That is why he rebuked Peter with these words, “You do not have in mind the things of God”. To Jesus, the will of the Father was most important above all. Think about it for a moment. The Bible tells us that Jesus was God himself. Yet he obediently followed his Heavenly Father’s will. And if Jesus, the perfect and sinless man chose to put obedience to God above all, then can you and I live a God-pleasing life by doing anything less?
Genesis 1:1 says God is the maker of Heaven and Earth. We read that in the Apostle’s Creed too. He is the same God, who so loved the world that he gave his one and only son so that whoever among us believes in him would be saved. Imagine God, the all-powerful, all-knowing maker of Heaven and Earth, becoming your kind and loving Heavenly Father. How awesome is that to you? Surely his Will must be worth following.
Whose will do we really follow in life? Is it God or the world? If we want to know whose will, all we have to do is examine what we do with our time and money. I heard Tim Keller preach this once. Tim is a Presbyterian pastor in New York City. He said that if anything replaces God as the object of your heart’s affection, that object becomes your god (small g). Are there any other gods that we serve - golf, cars, money, careers, online gaming, anime watching, pornography, high fashion, even our own talents? The list goes on. Let us think about what is really the central object of our heart’s affection. Who really sits on the throne in our hearts-God’s will or our own?  Would you stop coming to church near exam time? Then your exam results and not God sits on the throne of your hearts. Do you work yourself to exhaustion to the point where the Bible and prayer becomes just an option in your daily life? Then your career is now your idol and has replaced God’s will for your life. Do you rush back from school and go online immediately to chat, play games online or download videos for hours ignoring Jesus who wants to chat with you? Then your internet activities have become your idol. When we place anyone or anything above our Almighty God, we are choosing to disregard God’s will and follow that false idol’s will.
No amount of earthly success will carry us into eternity. We cannot even carry our symbols of earthly success into heaven. So, let us rest in Christ and in Him, find the power to choose boldly on how to live right.