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

He was found

They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul. All who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, were to be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman. They took an oath to the Lord with loud acclamation, with shouting and with trumpets and horns. All Juda rejoiced about the oath because they had sworn it wholeheartedly. They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them. So the Lord gave them rest on every side.

2 Chronicles 15:12-15 (NIV)

I am amazed at the intensity with which Judah swore their oath to seek God. We’re not used to such excitement when it comes to commitment. Most people are consider themselves committed if they’re only five minutes late for church instead of fifteen and then are upset if someone happens to mention their perpetual tardiness. Be glad you weren’t in Judah at the time this covenant was made. You’d have been put to death.

A little much, you think? Perhaps. Or perhaps not. While the penalty for not taking the oath was great, the reward for taking it was even greater. And he was found by them. So the Lord gave them rest on every side.

We have a bad habit of looking at our faith as deeply personal. It is, don’t get me wrong, but it is not just for us as individuals. Our faith and our commitment to the the Lord is also for the entire body and the entire body is to reach a lost and dying world. When Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross, it was for you and it was for me. But it was also for the church—his bride. His death was meant to bind us all together like Judah’s covenant united them.

While death may not be a bit of an extreme punishment for a lack of commitment these days, we have somehow lost our connection to each other and forgotten the great importance of community and sharing a common covenant. We can all take an oath as individuals and experience a certain amount of peace, but look at the effects Judah’s nationwide oath had on the people—rest on every side. And that rest lasted as long as they kept the oath.

If the church—not just a church, but The Church—would stand up and make a serious covenant not only to seek God with all their heart and soul, but to keep each other accountable to it, imagine the effect it would have on our nation. If God is not found where we are, maybe we’re not seeking Him as eagerly as we thought. But if we would all join together as Judah did in that time of rejoicing over a renewed covenant, perhaps we’d find God along with our rest.

Read: 2 Chronicles 13-16, John 14

Mutual, I’m sure

Everyone wants a label. A title. We want to be called by a name that defines us. That announces us. That lets everyone else know who and what we are. If someone doesn’t have a label, we immediately want to give them one. A singer. A banker. A president. A streetwalker. An addict. A hero. Once given, we are usually disinclined to offer another label unless that person makes a grievous error or heroic effort. Then the original label is nearly impossible to get back.

While being known for one big thing is not an issue, carrying multiple labels tends to be. It’s confusing. Are you one thing or are you the other? Honestly, we can all be, and should all be, more than just one thing.

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

John 13:14-17 (NIV)

Through his teaching, Jesus gave his disciples all sorts of contradictory labels. Be a teacher, but be a student. Be bold, but be humble. Be a leader, but be a servant. Matthew Henry said that duties are mutual; we must both accept help from our brethren, and afford help to our brethren. 

By disrobing, getting down on his knees, and washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus displayed for all of us the example that a man can be both a leader and a servant. His entire ministry, he was leading people to serve. These things are not exclusive, but as Matthew Henry stated, mutually inclusive. All of these things that may seem contradictory are in reality complimentary.

One cannot teach without a willingness to learn. One cannot be bold without truly knowing what it is to be humble. One cannot lead unless they understand how to follow.

We can call Jesus Lord, and that wouldn’t be wrong. Neither would it be incorrect to call him Savior or Son of God. But we cannot stop there. Jesus doesn’t fit under just one label, but many. He is also a servant to mankind. He is a follower of his Father. And because Jesus did, so that we may follow his example, so should we be called by many things, and possibly the greatest of which being servants.

Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.

Matthew 20:26 (NIV)

Read: 2 Chronicles 7-9, John 13:1-17

The way we worship

As a worship leader, I think I’m often drawn to scriptures about worship. I like to see how others express their love for God. David, of course, is the best example we have in the Bible. Some know him as the boy who defeated a giant. Others as a king. Some yet a shepherd. I look to him as a singer/songwriter.

As the leader of all of Israel, David could have very easily appointed his worship team and walked away to let them do their thing. I’ve seen many pastors do it (my pastor gives me a lot of leeway in worship, but we still sit down and discuss songs, leadership, and direction on a regular basis). Even worse, I’ve seen many ministers sit in a green room or office during the worship service only to step on stage when it was their time to shine and scurry back to that room once they had delivered their message.

But David took an active role in how Israel worshipped.

That day David first committed to Asaph and his associates this psalm of thanks to the Lord;

1 Chronicles 16:7 (NIV)

Not only did David actively participate in leading worship (not just worshipping from the back of the room), but once the Ark of the Covenant was back with the people, he gave the worship leader the title song for the new album.

Sometimes, I think we can get so caught up with labels and descriptions that we box ourselves in to one small area. We never give ourselves the opportunity to explore other areas—especially in the church. Jesus gave us many examples of ministry, but he never said that one thing was for a certain person while another thing was for another type of person. He did it all. And aren’t we supposed to emulate him in all things?

David redefined what it was to be a leader, mostly because he was a worshipper long before he was ever anointed as king. Showing his love for the Lord was priority number one. That was followed up by showing his family how to love the Lord.

Then all the people left, each for his own home, and David returned home to bless his family.

1 Chronicles 16:43 (NIV)

We were created for worship. Everyone worships someone or something. We don’t have to be taught to do that. But we do have to be taught to worship the right someone. How will anyone ever learn to worship God if they never see the people closest to them worship themselves? As leaders, as believers, as children of God, we are the ones who will show everyone else who and how to worship. We must be worshippers of God before we can be anything else for God.

Read: 1 Chronicles 14-16, John 9:24-41

Jesus is a gentleman

If Jesus wants me, he can come and get me. I’ve heard lines like this from many cynical people over the years. They want nothing to do with the church or the message of Jesus Christ, yet seem angry that God isn’t chasing after them and miraculously making them change their lives. Why not? Jesus is a gentleman. He doesn’t barge into places where he isn’t welcome.

I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word.

John 8:37 (NIV)

The statement, you make room for what matters, is as true as any statement can be. We make room in our lives for family and friends. Some make room for church and gathering together with other Christians. Some make room for prayer, worship, and time reading and studying the Word of God. And some make room for none of it while fully expecting God to work in their lives even though they pay no attention to Him at all.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.

Revelation 3:20 (NIV)

If you’re wondering why Jesus doesn’t appear to be active in your life, you might want to check the front door. He’s probably standing there patiently waiting for you to let him in. And he’s already made the first move by knocking and announcing his presence. Whether or not that door gets opened to allow Jesus entrance into our lives is another story. Jesus only does what we allow him to do in our lives. He’s the guest here. How much liberty will you allow him?

Read: 1 Chronicles 8-10, John 8:37-59

I’m working

Jesus took a lot of flack for the things that he did on the Sabbath day. Those that would seek to destroy him looked for any and every opportunity to see him come to ruin. It is interesting to think how often Jesus was “caught in the act” by the Pharisees. How did they know what he was up to unless they were following him? If Jesus told a man to get up and pick up his mat because he’d been healed, that was considered work? If getting up was considered work, getting dressed was surely work and we don’t read stories of the Pharisees walking around naked on the Sabbath.

It is true that God rested on the seventh day after spending six days creating the universe. He also instituted the Sabbath as a day of rest and reflection on Him. Work was to be set aside and the focus of the people was to be on God. The Pharisees, for all their not working, certainly set their focus on something—someone—else.

Let’s work this out, shall we? God created the Sabbath—a day of rest. Jesus is God. Jesus created the Sabbath. Jesus was sent to walk the earth. Jesus did stuff on the Sabbath. Jesus never went against God’s word. So was what Jesus did on the Sabbath to be considered work or not?

Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”

John 5:17 (NIV)

Well, how does Jesus get around this then? He’s working on a day where no one self-respecting Jew is supposed to work!

God rested on the seventh day from His work of Creation. But Jesus pointed to the continuous work of God as justification for His Sabbath activity. God sustains the universe, begets life, and visits judgments. It is not wrong for His Son to do works of grace and mercy on the Sabbath.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary

Just because God rested on the seventh day didn’t mean that His work stopped. God is always working on our behalf, even Sundays (or Saturdays, depending on which day you recognise as the Sabbath). Despite what religious leaders may think, God’s work cannot be put on pause or stopped. Because God’s work is never truly done, Jesus’ work was never done. No matter what we need or when we need it, God is ready and able to fulfill our needs, uninterrupted and without fail. A day of the week can’t stop Him if He’s working.

Read: 2 Kings 9-11, John 5:1-24

Because He said so

When you were a kid and your mother told you to do something you didn’t really want to do and you argued about it, what was her response? I bet it was something like, “Because I said so.” If Momma said to do something, there was no arguing allowed. You weren’t allowed to question motives or reasons why. She said so.

So why do we question Jesus? Should his word not be enough for us?

For some, seeing is believing. But that’s not what faith is about.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)

How can we trust what Jesus says is true? How do we know his words will come to pass? Because he is the Word.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:1 (NIV)

We can take Jesus at his word because God sent him as His Word and He promised that His Word would accomplish the purpose for which it was sent (Isaiah 55:11).

We can take our example from the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus spoke to her. He performed no miracle. But the truth of his words drew her to him.

And because of his words many more became believers.

John 4:41 (NIV)

The royal official, too, took Jesus at his word. He believed that his son would be well if Jesus would only say the words.

Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed.

John 4:50 (NIV)

Words have become so cheap that we have devalued that which the Son of God spoke. We struggle to believe that what he said is really true. Yet, because God said so should be all the proof we need to believe. Even more than the Samaritan woman and the royal official, we have a long record of the lengths God will go to just to keep His Word. We can see, yet many still do not believe. What more should it take for people to see the truth of God’s Word? His Word should be enough simply because He said so.

Read: 2 Kings 6-8, John 4:31-54

The verdict

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved the darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done was been done through God.

John 3:19-21 (NIV)

A verdict, according to Noah Webster, is a decision, a judgment, an opinion pronounced. Jesus proclaimed a verdict. He declared that something like no other had come into the world. Webster also said this of light:

This word furnishes a full and distinct explanation of the original sense of light, to throw, to dart, shoot or break forth. [Light is] that ethereal agent or matter which makes objects perceptible to the sense of seeing, but the particles of which are separately invisible. It is now generally believed that light is a fluid, or real matter, existing independent of other substances, with properties peculiar to itself.

I was sitting in a meeting with my pastor the other day and the power went out. For a while we were able to continue using our laptops and tablets on battery, but as evening progressed, the room got darker and darker. The atmosphere changed in the absence of light. We looked at things differently as we continued our discussion in the dark.

The detection of light is a very powerful tool for probing the universe around us. As light interacts with matter it can be become altered and by studying light that has originated or interacted with matter, many of the properties of that matter can be determined.

What is Light, www.andor.com

Isn’t it amazing how a scientific explanation reaffirms what the Bible said thousands of years ago? When light interacts with matter, we can learn stuff about that matter. When the Light interacts with people, it says something about us.

When God introduced light into the universe, it was not the sun or any other star. He introduced His own Son, and in him was life, and that light was the light of men (John 1:4). Without Jesus first being sent out, life would not exist. We cannot exist without light.

Naturally speaking, a person may not die strictly due to a lack of light, but other issues caused by perpetual darkness can lead to serious illness or death. Benefits of natural light include:

  • boosting vitamin D storage, which helps absorb calcium and can aid in the prevention of certain types of cancer;
  • higher productivity;
  • healthier vision;
  • better sleep;
  • mood improvement.

If our physical bodies were created with a need for natural light, wouldn’t it stand to reason that our spiritual bodies were also created with a need for Light? Our bodies thrive when the sun comes out. Our spirits thrive when the Son comes out.

So what’s your verdict? Do you hate the Light and do evil or do you love the Light and do good? Like a trial in the court of law, there can only be two choices when it comes to a verdict, guilty or innocent. Evil or good? Dark or Light?

Read: 1 Kings 21-22, John 3:1-21

Bandwagon

Every season, no matter what sport, the teams that make the playoffs always have an influx of fans. We call this jumping on the bandwagon. They may not watch the sport all season long, but if a certain team ends up in the postseason, suddenly, they’re superfans. The excitement draws all sorts of people out of the woodwork who act as though they’ve been fans all year long. The true test of these “fans” is the next season. Through the off-season, many of those who jumped on the postseason bandwagon will quietly slide right off, never to be seen again until the next time the team makes the playoffs. But there are a few who will continue to follow the team through their down time. When the season starts up again, those jerseys they bought at the end of the previous year get aired out, ready to be worn again through the year.

When Jesus began his ministry, he knew he would draw the bandwagoners right along with the truly faithful. Some followed because of what Jesus could do, but they never stuck around long. Others followed because of who Jesus was. Those people he discipled.

Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.

John 2:23-25 (NIV)

Jesus is no dummy. He can tell his true followers from those who are just along for the ride. Just like wearing a team jersey doesn’t necessarily make a person a true fan, showing up at church on Sunday doesn’t necessarily make you a true believer. God looks at what is inside of us, not what we show everyone on the outside. Not only does God look, but we should be inviting Him to do so.

Test me, O Lord, and try me,
examine my heart and my mind.

Psalm 26:2 (NIV)

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10 (NIV)

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.

Psalm 139:23 (NIV)

We cannot hide who or what we are from God. He sees through every façade, every fake smile, every insincere word. But even if we are a bandwagon Christian, only showing up when things get exciting, it doesn’t mean that we can’t become true worshipers. The Psalms are filled with lyrics of insufficiency and defeat, treachery and deceit. Yet, if we turn our hearts fully toward God, He will be faithful to draw us in and to help us (not make us) become true believers, worshipers, followers.

God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.

John 4:24 (NIV)

Read: 1 Kings 19-20, John 2

There is a cloud

On a cold winter night in 1933, a boy was born. It was Christmas Eve. The boy’s parents were poor. Dirt poor. To add to his trials, the boy’s parents were not married when he had been conceived. Soon, siblings followed and they all learned to work on the family farm. But that boy, born on Christmas Eve, had bigger plans for himself.

When the boy got a hold of a catalogue, he would eagerly flip to the menswear section and stare intently at the men dressed in sharp suits. The boy wasn’t destined to keep working on the farm. His imagination was bigger than that. Someday, he would get to wear a suit and tie to work every day.

The boy grew and continued to work on the farm. Circumstances led him to drop out of school before graduation. But he worked. He met a lovely young woman and, after a time of long-distance correspondence, he convinced the girl to marry him. Soon, they welcomed a baby girl into their family. The first of three. They were poor. Dirt poor. But that boy born on Christmas Eve still had bigger plans for himself and his growing family. He still wanted to wear a suit and tie to work every day.

The boy, now a man, had his sights on a certain company, but that company was not hiring. The boy, now a man, didn’t think that should stop him from working for them. So every day, he got up, got dressed and went to work. He earned nothing but the respect of those he helped on the loading docks each day. It wasn’t long before the company decided to start paying the man who wanted to work so badly, he’d do it for nothing. Surely he’d work even harder if he knew he’d be earning a paycheque.

The man born on Christmas Eve worked his way up in the company. Then another company, and then another. By the time he retired, he’d been wearing a suit and tie to work every day for decades. All those days of looking at catalogues daydreaming of the future had finally come to fruition.

In addition to becoming a very influential businessman, the man born on a cold Christmas Eve to poor parents who hadn’t been married when he was conceived, the man who never finished high school, also pastored a church. And then another church and another after that. When the man finally went home to be with Jesus, the building where his own church met was not large enough to contain all of the people whose lives he had touched.

Nothing in the way his life began indicated that a boy born on a farm to poor parents would have had the capacity to affect so many lives in both business and ministry. But that is exactly what my grandfather did. Even when it was no longer fashionable, he still wore a suit and tie to work every day and to preach at church every Sunday.

“Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked.

“There is nothing there,” he said.

Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.”

The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.”

So Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.'”

1 Kings 18:43-44 (NIV)

Like a cloud on the horizon the size of a man’s hand, where and how we start has little consequence on how we finish. That small cloud saved a nation from drought and famine. That boy born on Christmas Eve brought countless lives into the kingdom of God through the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and his legacy lives on in every life he touched and every life those lives touch. Even if you are told, there is nothing there, look again. And again. And again. Surely there is a cloud. Maybe you just can’t see it yet.

Read: i Kings 16-18, John 1:29-51