Everyone else was doing it

Who never used the excuse that “everyone else was doing it” when you were a kid? It was a pretty simple go-to reason for why you did something your parents explicitly told you not to to. But did it ever work? If you tried it, you may have received “if they all went and jumped off a bridge, would you jump off, too?” as a response. Of course you wouldn’t. You’re smarter than that. Yet you did do something for which your only reason for doing it was because everyone else was.

John warns against following evil influence. The influence he’s talking about has far greater repercussions than getting your bicycle taken away or being grounded from the internet for a week. It’s your eternal soul at stake.

Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God.

3 John 1:11 (NLT)

The evil influence John is talking about here is that a man, Diotrephes, is going around telling the church that they don’t need to welcome or care for travelling ministers—a teaching that is completely contrary to the example Jesus set. But we can take this word of advice and apply it to far more than just travelling ministers. It is advice for life.

Influence comes at us from all directions—all day, every day. It’s unavoidable. It comes from Christians as well as unbelievers. It is up to us as individuals to determine how we let it affect us. In this passage, John gives us a pretty simple answer—know God. When we know and love God, good deeds will be the visible byproduct. If we don’t know God, evil deeds will be the byproduct. And we cannot assume that everyone who calls himself a Christian knows God (John’s warning here was against someone in the church).

It’s all so confusing! How am I supposed to know what’s what?

It’s a good thing that God doesn’t expect us to know it all. And it’s a good thing that He does know it all. And it’s an even better thing that He gave us His Holy Spirit to guide us in that regard. The closer we are to God, the more in tune we will be with His Spirit and can allow ourselves to be influenced by Him rather than those around us. And the stronger God’s influence is in our lives, the more of a good influence we will be on those around us.

If you need an influence to follow, Jesus is your prime example. Get to know him. Don’t do something just because everyone else is doing it (even Christians), do it because Jesus did it.

Daily Bible reading: Daniel 11-12, 3 John 1

Faithful

FAITHFUL: Firm in adherence to the truth and to the duties of religion; fidelity, loyal, true to allegiance; constant in the performance of duties or services; constant.

Faithfulness is a rare trait these days. Contracts are broken when it no longer suits one or both parties. Vows are unmade when temptations become too strong. Promises are about as strong as thin ice over a puddle after the first frost.

Since fidelity is no longer a trait we strive toward, it makes our walk of faith even more difficult. No longer do we hear my word is my bond and then see such statements carried out. A handshake is nothing more than a greasy agreement, easily slipped out of. So how can we possibly remain faithful in our Christianity when we have nothing with which to base our fidelity on?

But if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.

Hebrews 3:14 (NLT)

Just because faithfulness hold little value in society doesn’t give us an excuse to allow the world’s views to spill over into our relationship with God. The world may not be able to give us a solid example of faithfulness, but they don’t have to. God already has. Open your Bible. Those thin pages are full of accounts of weighty promises that have never been broken. At one time, we all as believers, put enough trust in Christ to rescue us from an eternity in hell and we must do all that we can to hold on to that first faith.

We have our example and we must strive to follow it to the very best of our ability—with a little help from our friends.

Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, as long as it is called “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.

Hebrews 3:12-13 (NLT)

Being faithful doesn’t have to be a lonely walk. It shouldn’t be. By instituting the fellowship of the saints, Jesus set in motion a plan to help us help each other. If we only hold each other accountable and allow ourselves to be held accountable, this whole business of remaining faithful becomes a lot easier.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 43-45, Hebrews 3

Servant

Last weekend, we had a work day at the church. The men were lured in under the guise of a breakfast meeting and, after pancakes and sausage, were immediately put to work doing an assortment of tasks around the building. Most of these men are leaders in the church. Our head usher spent much of the morning hauling branches and trees into the back of a truck to be taken to the dump. Our sound man/bass player/greeter was put to work building lockers in the basement. A board member mowed and trimmed the lawn. And our pastor was armed with a chainsaw cutting down the last of the trees damaged in a winter ice storm.

For our church, this is normal. When there’s work to be done, the leadership team is first to arrive—no matter what that work is.

At the end of the day, when everyone was tired, sweating, and hungry again, I was set to leave and someone pointed out that one of my tires was rather low. The pastor was cleaning off his tools with an air compressor. I thought I’d see if he had the right piece so I could put air in my tire. Rather than hand me the piece so I could do it myself (which I was completely prepared to do), he got down on his artificial knees and did it himself.

For me, having my pastor do that extra small task of putting air in my dirty tire, was akin to Jesus getting down on his knees to wash the feet of his disciples.

We often look at the story in John 13 as Jesus humbling himself to bless his followers. He did do that, but that wasn’t all he did. The moment Jesus got down on his knees, he not only blessed, but he empowered his disciples.

In Jesus’ day, the caste system was alive and well. Servants served and lords lorded. Lines were defined and no one dared to cross them. But in order for God’s plan to work, Jesus had to put himself in the lowest position possible. The job of washing the feet of guests went to the lowliest servant in the house.

You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because it is true. And since I, the Lord and teacher have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. How true it is that a servant is not greater than the master. Nor are messengers more important than the one who sends them. You know these things—now do them! That is the path of blessing.

John 13:13-17 (NLT)

By taking the position of the lowest servant in the house, Jesus not only showed great humility, but he put his disciples in a position greater than his own. Had Jesus remained sitting and allowed someone else to wash his feet, his followers would have always seen him as Lord and Teacher and never servant. But because they saw him as a servant, they could suddenly see themselves as master. Jesus was preparing them to hear his next words.

The truth is, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.

John 14:12 (NLT)

A servant could never do greater things than the master. In order for the disciples to do greater things than Jesus, Jesus had to become the servant, and they the master. Jesus not only humbled himself, but he empowered his followers.

When my pastor got down on his knees to put air in my tire, he was following the example Jesus put forth. What would seem to be a menial task that someone of a lower position should be doing showed me that my pastor—a man deserving of great honour and respect—is willing to humble himself and put those who serve under him in a greater position. By emulating Jesus’ humility, he empowers his volunteers to do greater things.

It is great to be a master. But it is better to be a servant.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Chronicles 7-9, John 13:1-17

Imitate

I am unique. Just like everyone else… In a world where everyone is trying to be their own person, it sure seems like there is a lot of imitating going on. And it’s not the biblical sense of the word, either.

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.

Ephesians 5:1 (NKJV)

We should all aspire to something, not someone – at least no one presently on earth. It’s great if you want to change the world with electronic innovation like Steve Jobs. Or help the lost and lonely like Mother Theresa. But in the end, aspiring to be like someone has no real value.

There is only one person we need to be imitating – Jesus. He was the one and only example of perfection on earth. He remained sinless until the point of death – at which point He took on the sins of the world, everyone who had lived, was living and had yet to live. Whether you believe Jesus to be the Son of God or not, all history points to the fact that He was a good man. All He did in His earthy live was to serve humanity. If that’s not an example to follow, I don’t know what is.

Rules

I have been to and heard of many churches that have rules. Lots of rules: girls must wear skirts to cover their ankles, men must not associate with single women, no one can pierce their ears (or any other body part, for that matter), children can be seen, but must not be heard… The lists can go on and on and on. What I’d like to know is, where in the Bible is all of that?

An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.

2 Timothy 2:5 (ESV)

What does that have to do with anything, you ask? Let me tell you what I think this means.

A lot of Christians think that we still need to follow the letter of the Old Testament law. This just isn’t so. Jesus came to fulfil the law. He replaced it with a new one – love. If you think about it, all of the important things in the Old Testament can be summed up in that one simple word. God knew full well that we, as fallen man, could never keep the law. If we could, redemption wouldn’t have been necessary.

So what are our rules if not the law? Jesus gave us some examples:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

John 14:6 (NKJV)

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

John 14:12

All through the Gospels, Jesus was giving examples of how He wants us to live. These are the new rules and, as I stated before, they are all summed up with that one word. Love.

Being good isn’t good enough. I can throw a football. I can catch a football. But that doesn’t mean that I will ever be the quarterback for the team that wins the Grey Cup. I know a lot of the rules of the game, but not all the rules of the game. I am not qualified to win (or even play) the game.

Being able to do some of the things Jesus commanded is not enough. Knowing the things Jesus commanded us to do is not enough. We have to know the rules and play the game. It’s the only way to win.