How is it we are supposed to live? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
I’m someone in ministry, so I’d like to think I get it right a lot of the times. I mean by that not just intellectually as in having my doctrine all accurate, but also the way I live. Sadly, there are too many times that I don’t. There are too many times that I lose sight of what’s important. There are too many times that it’s easy to fall into the “It’s all about me” trap.
Sometimes it can be with thinking about people who I seek to do good for and then in the end, it looks like it goes unnoticed and my efforts don’t matter. In some cases, when my efforts don’t seem to matter, I can ask myself if what I’m doing really matters at all. I can easily enter into a “why bother?” stage. This stage woke me up in the middle of the night last night and I ended up praying seeking to deal with it.
“God. How is it you can do so much good for some people and they end up placing their focus elsewhere?”
Now keep in mind, I don’t believe that God normally speaks to us today. I have written on that elsewhere here on this blog, but that’s neither here nor there now. Still, I can often try to picture what God would say. In this case, I could picture it clearly.
“You mean like you’re doing right now?”
There are times I think God takes His proverbial two-by-four and whacks us upside the head. I think this was one of those times and it was just the whack I needed. As I sought to regain sleep again, I thought of a time when it would have been easy for Jesus to lose focus. If there was any time, I think the cross would be the greatest.
Let’s start with the facts about this. For one thing, Jesus was betrayed. Many of us know what betrayal can be like. Jesus did. We can look at the obvious case of Judas. Yes. Judas betrayed Jesus. In that betrayal, Jesus still had love for Judas. While Scripture doesn’t record that Judas repented, would Jesus have forgiven Him if He had? I have no doubt. I have no reason to think that Jesus delighted in the death of Judas.
Judas wasn’t the only betrayal. How about Peter? Remember Peter? Peter was Jesus’s right-hand man. He was one of the people who had got to go on the miracle tour of casting out demons. He had been at the Mount of Transfiguration. He had done many miracles and seen many miracles of Jesus and seen Jesus best His opponents in debate time and time again.
In some ways, Peter’s cowardice could have been harder than Judas’s betrayal. Peter had been in a great position being part of the inner three and had been the unsaid leader of the group. If anyone should have known Jesus and what He stood for, it was Peter, and yet when the moment came, Peter lost sight of Jesus entirely and thought more of saving his own hide.
It was betrayal.
Yet when we get to the cross, what do we see? Jesus is pronouncing forgiveness for those who had crucified Him. Forgiveness. Now before you say “Sure. It’s easy for Him. He’s the Son of God.” keep in mind that Stephen when stoned in Acts 7 does the exact same thing.
When we see Jesus on the cross, we don’t see Him uttering one word of condemnation. In fact, He’s practically still doing evangelism on the cross. Jesus is making sure His mother is taken care of and providing salvation to a thief.
“But didn’t Jesus say ‘My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me?”
Indeed He did, and yet that’s Psalm 22 He’s quoting. It starts in sorrow but ends in tragedy. Jesus is still maintaining His focus on God. In the midst of His worst suffering, Jesus is not complaining. Jesus is not focusing on what others have done to Him. Jesus is focusing on His Father.
It was then that I thought about how we’re to be like Jesus and how in my own thinking I had lost the focus and was placing it elsewhere. We can all easily be assured, the more we lose our focus on Jesus, the harder our lives will be. The more we focus on Him, the easier our lives will be.
Now I want to be clear on that last point. I am not saying with that things will automatically work out for you. They won’t. Paul described many of his sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11 and let’s keep in mind he wrote of great joy from a Roman prison cell. Those weren’t the best places to be in. Am I saying his life was easier because he focused on Jesus?
Yes I am. Because Paul had that focus, he was able to bear suffering. Just look at his writings and see what he says about suffering. Suffering will happen. There is no avoiding it this side of eternity. The question is what are we going to do with suffering? How are we going to handle it? Are we going to treat it like the enemy itself, or could we look at it as the tool of the Father to make us more like Jesus if we will let it? Could it be that if we do not do that, that we will have to keep repeating the lesson? I can say for my part that when I did remember to focus on Christ last night and started that looking again and the prayer to be like Jesus, it was amazing how quickly the internal mental anguish vanished.
I also do think that this has some great apologetics value. Not only is living like Jesus a powerful motivator for the life-changing power of Christ in our society, but keep in mind, it’s not about us but about Jesus. Jesus in the Gospels is such a powerful and awesome figure in how He handles Himself that as I thought about it last night, I remembered the claim that it was preposterous to think that someone would invent Jesus. There is just something about Jesus that is so unique and amazing in His presentation that none of us could invent Him. Those who see Jesus as a myth I think have never taken the time to consider how Jesus is in the Gospels and I mean not just in His doing miracles, but the very way He carried Himself and presented Himself.
There’s a reason Jesus is the figure that our calendar is built around. There’s a reason that churches have His name in them. There’s a reason we bear His name in us. There’s a reason most every religion after Jesus still wants to do something with Him because He’s such an amazing figure. It was this that got me thinking back to an argument Tom Gilson made. You can read that here and I highly encourage you to do so.
Once again, I’m reminded that in my suffering and whatever I’m going through, I should look at Jesus and see if He went through likewise. Are there any parallels? If so, I am to walk as He walked. It’s not easy. It’s a battle. It’s going to involve constant dying to the flesh and I can’t do it in my own strength of course. Thankfully, we have the Holy Spirit to help with that. The question is simply going to be am I going to do it and if I try, Jesus will help me as I walk in the right direction, no matter how many times I stumble.