If the world hates you

The world. Unredeemed society, estranged from God, held in the grip of sin and the evil one, blind to spiritual truth and hostile to those who have the life of God in them… Hostility is rooted in spiritual dissimilarity.

Everett F. Harrison, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary

More and more, it would seem, the world hates the Church. I don’t believe that it is so much because we carry a message of hate—our message is quite the opposite—but that they do not understand our message. It’s different than what they’ve been told to think. Talk to anyone who is militantly against faith in Christ. More often than not, they don’t even know why they carry so much anger or hatred nor do they know enough of the Bible to make any relevant argument against the faith.

As frustrating as this can be to Christians around the world, Jesus gave us fair warning.

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, That is why the world hates you.

John 15:18-19 (NIV)

People fear what they do not know and that fear can easily be turned into hatred. A child may claim that he hates all vegetables. As it is unlikely that he has tried every vegetable in existence, it can be assumed that their conclusion of dislike for all produce stems from either a bad experience with vegetables or a fear of the unknown. That which hasn’t been sampled can seem strange and different and uncomfortable.

The world’s ignorance is the true cause of its hatred to the disciples of Jesus. The clearer and fuller the discoveries of the grace and truth of Christ, the greater is our sin if we do not love him and believe in him.

Matthew Henry

The mention of Jesus, however, elicits a far stronger reaction than broccoli. Most people who claim to hate Jesus along with those who follow him really know nothing about him and what he really taught. Their opinions are often based on hearsay or that one bad experience. Because we don’t share common values or beliefs, we all become like vegetables—hated for no other reason than being a vegetable, or in our case, Christians.

There are those who believe that, if Christians would just act more like the rest of the world, it would be better. Wrong. It wouldn’t be better. Jesus called us out of the world. We shouldn’t look like the world. That’s like a mother mashing cauliflower and carrots into the potatoes to make her kid eat vegetables. Sure, the cauliflower is still cauliflower and the carrots are still carrots, but they’ve been blended in with the potatoes so much, you can no longer tell what’s what. The original substance, texture, shape, and flavour has all been lost.

How did Jesus respond to the haters? He loved them. It is our love for one another and our love for the world that sets us apart.

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Luke 6:27-31 (NIV)

Read: 2 Chronicles 17-19, John 15

Teach. Pray.

It is our duty as believers to pray for one another and to pray for the Church. Prayer is good and it is right, but it cannot take the place of teaching.

Near the end of Samuel’s life, he has a heart-to-heart with Israel. He’s been their spiritual Father for many years. He’d made his fair share of mistakes. So had Israel. But at this point in time, Israel was on the road to repentance. What Samuel really wanted to do at times was walk away from them as a parent might wish to walk away from a belligerent child who just can’t seem to learn his lesson. But because the Lord was faithful to Israel, Samuel would be, too.

He encourages the people to set aside all idols and worship God alone. He tells—he teaches—Israel the right way in going about life as God’s chosen people. Prayer is all fine and good, but if someone is never taught the right way to do something, their chances of getting it right are slim. In addition to praying for them, Samuel chose to tell Israel what to do.

As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.

1 Samuel 12:23-24 (NIV)

And he prayed that God would help them to do what is right.

Train a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not turn from it.

Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)

Obedience and faithfulness must first be taught. To neglect teaching it to remain ignorant and immature.

Then we must pray that those lessons we have learned take root and grow and become fruitful. Once we learn what God says and how He says it, our prayers allow us to hear His voice so that He can continue to train us in the way we should go.

Read: 1 Samuel 10-12, Luke 13:22-35

Pick me!

Do you remember being a kid on the playground just waiting and hoping that a team captain would pick you? Of course all the best players got picked first. Then the best friends (that is, if they weren’t the very best players). And last, the kids who weren’t really friends with anyone and would rather be sitting inside with a book than out on the dusty field with a kick ball.

If you were one of the kids who wanted to get picked, but weren’t fortunate enough to be friends with a captain or talented enough to be in the top five, chances are that you played your hardest that first time in hopes that you’d get picked higher up in the draft the next time the teacher hauled you all out to the diamond. You wanted to prove your worth. Contribute. Be a productive member of the team. You wanted to be on the winning side.

As cliché as it may sound, you’ve been picked. And at the top of the draft no less. But that’s the easy part.

So make every effort to apply the benefits of these promises to your life. Then your faith will produce a life of moral excellence. A life of moral excellence leads to knowing God better. Knowing God leads to self-control. Self-control leads to patient endurance, and patient endurance leads to godliness. Godliness leads to love for other Christians, and finally you will grow to have genuine love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more you will become productive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:5-8 (NLT)

Even if you were the kid who got picked last, you didn’t want to let your team down. The only thing worse than being the last one chosen is being the last one chosen who loses the game for the rest of the team.

The team we’ve been chosen to join is the Church. The body of Christ. And no one has been called to the sidelines. There is no such thing as a benchwarmer.

So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you are really among those God has called and chosen. Doing this, you will never stumble or fall away.

2 Peter 1:10 (NLT)

First, be proud that you’ve been picked. Put on the jersey, so to speak. Let everyone know that you’re on the team. Second, be worthy of wearing the team logo. If you’re going to call yourself a Christian, act like one. Make your other team members, your brothers and sisters in Christ, look good because of what you do and say. Third, be a team player. Be a part of what God has called you to. Be active. Be productive. Do all that you can to make your team—your church—as successful as you can. Prove that you are on the team and worthy of it. If you do all of this, not only will you be less likely to quit, but you’ll draw others in to be a part of the team.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 41-42, 2 Peter1

From called to chosen

For a long time, the Church portrayed itself as an exclusive club. That only certain people were worthy of even an invitation to join. How this ever became a doctrine is beyond me because it is completely contrary to what Jesus taught.

If anything, the church should the be the most inclusive* gathering on the planet. There should be no one left without an invitation.

So what happens when everyone is invited? Jesus shared a story of a king who was putting on a wedding feast. He’d prepared and sent out invitations and all those invited declined. (Who passes up the opportunity for a free feast?) In fact (and this sounds a little too familiar), some of those who were invited responded in anger and violence. Finally, the king sent his servants out to invite anyone they could find since he deemed the original invitees unworthy.

The servants brought in anyone and everyone they could find who would accept the invitation. Good people. Bad people. All people.

But there was one man who accepted the late invitation, yet failed to properly prepare. The king had him bound and thrown out.

This may seem extreme, but the man was invited into the presence of the king! If you suddenly received an invitation to Buckingham Palace, I’m reasonably certain that you wouldn’t show up in sweatpants and a tank top. You’d more than likely immediately head out and find something appropriate to wear in the presence of royalty.

I’ve heard many in and outside of the church whine and complain about the church being an exclusive place where they don’t have a place. Here’s the thing: we’re all invited. God has done His part by sending out the invitation. It is up to us to RSVP. It is up to us to show up. And it is entirely up to us whether or not we show up prepared.

If you’re invited to try out for your favourite CFL team and show up without any of the proper equipment, you’ll be immediately struck off the list of candidates. You can’t very well then complain about not making the team because the team did their part in sending the invitation. The preparation is on you.

For may are called, but few are chosen.

Matthew 22:14 (NLT)

You are called. Whether or not you are chosen depends entirely on your level of preparation.

*I feel that, by using the word inclusive, I need to  offer further explanation. Today’s  culture would have the word mean that we must not only invite all, but accept all choices and preferences regardless of what the Bible teaches. I do not condone this use of the word. Jesus was welcoming of all as humans, but urged all those invited to leave their sin behind. The inclusive part is in the invitation, not the lifestyle.

Daily Bible reading: Exodus 29-30, Matthew 22:1-22

Persistence

How long will you chase after someone who does not want to be chased? An hour or so? A day? A week? How about centuries? Millennia?

If you’ve been following along in your Bible, you will have noted long ago that Israel and Judah couldn’t make up their minds about whether or not they wanted to serve God. One king would do right in the eyes of the Lord and another evil. One would rebuild the temple another would tear it down. One king followed the law another made his own law.

Yet through it all, God still held on to His promise.

The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place.

2 Chronicles 36:15 (ESV)

When God has chosen someone – whether it be a group of people or an individual – He is persistent in His pursuit. No matter how many times you turn away, He will always want you back. When the world scoffed at Him, He sent His only Son as a sacrifice.

His compassion far outweighs your sin.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Chronicles 34-36; John 19:1-22

Reject

How would you like to be one of God’s rejects? To be the one whom He had chosen and then turned His back on?

Even when we think we’re doing well, what is good in our own eyes may not be good in God’s eyes.

Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.

1 Samuel 15:22b (ESV)

Saul had just come back from raiding the Amalekites. God’s instruction had been to destroy them utterly. Leave nothing. Leave no one.

Samuel had heard from God that Saul missed the mark.

Saul thought it would be a good idea to keep the king along with the very best of the flocks. The intent was to sacrifice the best of the spoils.

God was not impressed.

God’s mind was made up. Saul would no longer have His stamp of approval as king. In fact, He said to Samuel,

I have provided for myself a king among his (Jesse’s) sons.

1 Samuel 16:1b (ESV)

Was Saul’s intent to sacrifice the best of the spoils a bad idea? He did what he thought was a good thing. But that good thing wasn’t the thing God had told him to do.

For the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.

1 Samuel 16:7b (ESV)

Saul’s heart was no longer one that longed to obey God. He had lifted himself up. Admittedly, it would be difficult not to get big-headed being Israel’s very first appointed and anointed king, but he lost his way and, as a result, lost his throne and he lost the very thing that mattered the most – God’s approval.

Obeying God’s word is far better than making the sacrifice He never asked for.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Samuel 15-16; Luke 14:25-35

Chosen One

“This is my Son, my Chosen One, listen to him!”

Luke 9:35 (ESV)

The voice of God coming in a cloud, while not a common occurrence, happened multiple times throughout the scriptures. It usually meant something big.

In this text, Peter, James, and John have been with Jesus up on a mountain praying. The Spirit of God came upon Jesus and he shone brightly. Not only did Jesus dazzle in appearance, but Moses and Elijah showed up to the party. Now, I’m not sure if Peter, James, and John actually recognised Moses and Elijah (after all, there were no photos or video podcasts kicking around), but the recognised that these were men of great importance and wanted to honour them.

Then a cloud came.

God’s voice spoke through the cloud and commanded that the men present follow Jesus. When the cloud lifted, Moses and Elijah had gone along their way leaving Jesus to stand alone on the mountain.

Even I am unsure of the completely significance of this text, but what I see is God showing men deserving of great respect and honour and then commanding us to listen to Jesus.

All around us are mighty men and women of God. Should we listen to them? Certainly. God, after all, was the one who set up the authority of the local church. We need to honour and respect those in the five-fold ministry (pastors, teachers, prophets, evangelists, apostles), but not at the expense of listening to Jesus.

Look to Jesus, God’s Chosen One. Listen to him!

Daily Bible reading: Judges 10-11, Luke 9:1-36