The number ONE reason we should follow Jesus… isn’t to get eternal life

Why do we invite people to come to Jesus?

This questions was raised in my lunchtime Bible study group today, which amazingly, this year, includes two atheist students. I see reflected in it many mistakes of my own evangelical history.

Over the years I have invited people to come to Jesus for many a reason, some more flawed than others:

To some I promised a more purposeful life

To others, increased happiness.

At times it was because they were at risk of hell

And on the flip side, who isn’t enticed by the promise of heaven?

Shamefully, I admit, there were also times when I merely wanted to recruit allies; people who would see the world from my point of view and not oppose me.

Today, however, I was reminded, as I studied the Word with these students, that the number one reason that we should invite people to come to Jesus is because He is worthy.

If God is as powerful as he must be as creator, and Jesus is truly Lord of all, then people should come to him in humble worship, simply because He deserves it.

The beautiful paradox of Christianity is that God invites us to come, and then blesses us with every spiritual blessing and life eternal when we do.

It is His kindness that brings us to repentance, but we must never forget who He is or how worthy He is. We must call people to worship the giver, not come for the gifts.

 

 

 

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The glory of Vegas

eiffel-105506_960_720I was recently in Las Vegas. I had low expectations of glitzy facades attempting to cover seedy bars and casinos, and filthy streets; I wasn’t expecting to love it.

But love it I did. It was fabulous: glitter and glamour, bright lights and creativity and a central strip that never sleeps. It was like a giant, adult carnival, and the seediness, while certainly present, wasn’t as overt as I’d feared. I remember walking down the strip one night, past the extraordinary fountains of the Bellagio and the soaring spire of the Eiffel Tower and thinking that human creativity had outdone itself. Here in Vegas, was everything that man had to offer.

Two days later, I drove out of Vegas and went to the Grand Canyon. The contrast was immense. Not just in size and in grandeur, but in heart. In Vegas, human creativity was at its peak, at the Canyon, we caught a glimpse of God’s. And it won, hands down.

The next day we were in Monument Valley, and we rode through the desert on horseback.20160104_074834 The silence was overwhelming. The monuments rose, towering trough the frigid air. They were so sure of themselves. Their majesty did not need the adornment of bright lights, or the lure of naked women. They didn’t care whether people came to look at them or not. They reflected the glory of their creator, and they will likely stand in worship of him, long after Vegas falls.

It’s not Carl

carlOne of the guys at our Church, Carl Robinson, preached a cracker of a sermon last night. He has a real heart for loving people and, at the end, during the closing song, I found myself thinking: ‘I really rate that guy.’

Suddenly I felt God speak to me in a surprising way: “It’s not Carl.” With that revelation, I got more clarity about godly speakers than I have, perhaps, ever had before. Instead of just seeing Carl, I saw Jesus.

That heart for people? That was Jesus. The compassion for the broken? Jesus again. The Gospel that changes people? That’s Jesus. The ability to speak with passion and conviction? Even that is Jesus working through a man to show love to his people.

How quick I was to glorify Carl and forget Jesus. I saw Jesus more clearly last night and he used his servant Carl, but all the great bits? They were Jesus, not Carl.

Next time you are inspired by a great Christian, remember that the glory you see belongs to Jesus.

Programmed to respond to greatness

4-living-creatures

I was thinking yesterday about how God is surrounded by mysterious living creatures who never cease, day and night, to say “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord.” (Rev 4)

Why do they do that? Are they just mindless, broken-record-like beings that God has programmed to praise Him? It’s easy to think of them this way.

Much as I know very little about them, I think it’s probably more like this: These heavenly beings were created to respond to greatness.

On their creation, when they first encountered God, their immediate and natural response was worship; constant, intense, passionate worship, because they were so captured by His glory.

It makes me wonder, what is wrong with us? Were we not also programmed to respond to greatness?

We were, but we were given a choice too. We have left behind the wisdom of the heavenly creatures and are captivated with things of far inferior worth. Through the fall of man, it became possible for us to be passionately captivated by that which is not great, while completely ignoring that which is.

Claiming to be wise, we have become fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Rom 1: 22-23)

We would do well to learn a lesson from the heavenly beings, and not waste our worship on that which is not worthy of it to the highest degree.

It’s not the worship songs that are the problem…

599799_56053393‘Yuck, she’s singing to God as though He’s her boyfriend!’

Have you ever felt this way, or had anyone else say this? I remember some years back going through a stage where my friends were heavily critical of any song sung to God, that could just as easily had the singer’s boyfriend or girlfriend’s name inserted into it.

As I’ve been doing some research lately though, on the messages our world sends to single people through music, I’ve begun to realize that maybe it’s not the worship songs that are the problem.

Here are some lyrics from popular love songs:

Ellie Goulding sings “I need your love. When everything’s wrong, you make it right.”

Alicia Keys croons “nothing in this whole wide world don’t mean a thing
If I ain’t got you with me baby”

And Whitney Houston says: “I have nothing… if I don’t have you.”

The great tragedy that all of these songs have in common, is that they’re putting a human relationship in a position of pre-eminence. They’re worshiping the created rather than the creator. They’re expressing that they have no greater need than the man in their life.

The problem is not that we insert God into this frame. The problem is that He was ever taken out in the first place.

Who makes you tremble?

awe_babyI’m a bit of a fan of Master Chef. It inspires me to cook, and we all need a bit of that in our lives!

Last week, one of the most renowned and intimidating chefs in the world entered the kitchen: Marco Pierre White.

To say that the contestants were in awe was an understatement. Some fell to pieces, others were lost for words, and all wanted to cook the best they’d ever cooked.

I’m sure Marco deserves their accolades, but he doesn’t deserve their worship, and as I watched them, I wondered if any of them had ever given even half that awe filled response to their creator.

And then I wondered about myself; I who actually believe in God. Are there people on earth who make me tremble with more awe than He does?

Anything that becomes exalted to the level of God in our lives must be cut down. But even more than that, God must be lifted higher.

There was a Christian song I used to listen to as a teenager that had a line that said ‘Let me not forget to tremble.’ It was a great reminder to live in awe of a God whom we so quickly push into the shadows behind our worldly idols.

There are great and accomplished men and women in this world, but they must never hold a candle to our God.

My Anchor within the Veil

chain_2152701I love the metaphor of Jesus as an anchor. Sometimes I can almost physically feel it. On days when it seems as though the world is falling down around me, I remember Him as my anchor and I feel a certain strength through my core; a grounding in my feet.

About a year ago, I was introduced to the song Cornerstone by Hillsong United. (You can listen to it here)

One of the lines of the song says ‘My anchor holds within the veil.’ Had it not been explained to me, I don’t think I would have grasped the significance of the lyric.

In Jewish history, before the time of Christ, a veil separated the Holy of Holies (the dwelling place of God) from the rest of the temple. Only the high priest was allowed to go there to sprinkle the blood of atonement on behalf of the people.

Significantly, at the very time that Jesus died on the cross, that veil was supernaturally torn in two.  No longer was it a priest who had to represent the people, but Jesus, our Great High Priest, made a way for each of us to ‘boldly come before the Throne of Grace.’

Jesus is our anchor, holding fast our access beyond the veil. He gives us a constant, grounded connection to that most holy place. He is an anchor that cannot be moved. He is our security that we, when faced with a Holy God, will stand.

Is it really just ‘Emotional “Penty” Hogwash?’

There has long been a (hopefully friendly) rivalry between Pentecostal/charismatic and more conservative/traditional Christian churches.

The former get accused of being too emotionally and experientially driven and not grounded in the Scriptures, while the latter get accused of being too straight-laced, dogmatic and lacking in the Spirit.

While you will always find negative extremes, both sides need to be careful that their judgment is not clouded by prejudice or ignorance of what the Bible actually says.

This really hit home to me some time back as I was listening to a song by Matt Redman, entitled Undignified (I will dance).i10030

Some of the lyrics are as follows:

I will dance, I will sing
To be mad for my King...

And I’ll become even more undigni-fied than this.

My natural, default bias would ordinarily have written this song off as ‘emotional “penty” hogwash,’ (I mean, undignified dancing!!) but this time was different. Only days before I heard the song, I was reading a fascinating passage of Scripture in 2 Samuel 6:16-23 in which King David was bringing the Ark into Jerusalem, so I immediately recognized the song as being directly from Scripture. (You can read the passage here)

It was a good reminder to me that before we write anything off as ‘emotional “penty” hogwash’ or ‘legalistic conservative dogma’ it would be wise to go to the Scriptures first, and, above all, to remember that Jesus greatly desires the unity of His Church.