I've noticed lately that it is harder to remember things than it used to be. I don't necessarily think it has as much to do with age as it does with the fact that there is just so much to think about right now. Family, friends, work, hobbies, politics, culture, the list could go on and on regarding things that my mind is being saturated by every day. Given how much information we are bombarded with, its no wonder that we try to take control and handle everything on our own. Its only natural that it will be harder and harder to remember Jesus and the good news that was given to us. But, we need to remember and we need to know that no matter how good we think we are at the things we do, Jesus is better. This is where Jeff Vanderstelt begins in part 2 which is simply titled, Jesus. Here is a brief introduction video to part 2 of the book.
I have said the same words before about being Jesus. It sounds correct doesn't it? If we are living in a fallen world we should be Jesus for those around us right? Apparently not. Jeff points out that we can't be Jesus to the world because there is only one Jesus and we are not him. When we try to be him we try to take on the role of savior or counselor or king, but that is not ultimately our job. We certainly play a part in those things, but we are not and will never be Jesus. This is heartening because of how often the burden to love others and care for them can weigh us down. This happens because we are trying to be the game changers, the ones who bring about something amazing in a person's life, but that is Jesus' job. Jeff writes in chapter 3:
Our job is not to be Jesus. Our job is to believe Jesus, depend on Jesus, and submit to Jesus working in and through us to accomplish his work. We are not meant to carry the weight of the world or the mission of Jesus on our shoulders. Jesus came to seek and save. He doesn’t expect us to become the saviors.
I'm so thankful to have read that and I believe that it is true. Instead of trusting in the power of God and power of the gospel message I trust in my own power and my own ability to share the message. When I do that, it's fair to say that things never really quite work out. I need to believe that the gospel is the "power of God for salvation" and think about how that gospel affects my past, present and future. Jeff writes:
God wants to save us from the penalty of sin—salvation from what we’ve done; the power of sin—salvation for what we’re called to do today; and the presence of sin—salvation for our future. It is a past, present, and future salvation. And it’s all available to us by faith. We come to experience the effects of God’s salvation by believing the gospel.
Is this the gospel I am resting in? He goes on to ask the following questions and statement:
If we’re going to be effective in seeing people and places saturated with the good news of Jesus, we first have to know and believe the gospel. We need to be saturated with the truths of the gospel before Jesus saturation can happen through us. Do you know the good news of Jesus? Do you believe it? Do you live as if you believe it? We all need the better Savior. Jesus is that Savior, for he did better than us, he does better than us, and he will make everything better than we ever could.
He then takes the next three chapters to address how we have been saved, how we are being saved, and how we will be saved.
Much could be said about this chapter but the crux of it is that we are all sinners in need of a savior. Our brokenness is profound in our lives and we see it in the lives of others. One problem with sin is that we try to hide it so that others won't know that we are struggling or that we won't be embarrassed by what is going on inside of us. Jeff writes:
Where are you tempted to hide or cover up? Do you still believe you have to perform well for God in order to receive his loving acceptance? Do you believe God loves you more when you obey and less when you disobey? You don’t need to look elsewhere. God the Father, the Creator of the universe, receives and accepts you in Christ Jesus. If you believe this, you can rest. You are loved. You are accepted. You are already significant!
Something that I have noticed to be true for most people is that when they sin, they feel the shame and guilt of that sin for hours, days, months or even years. Taking what Jesus did for us on the cross and applying it to our sin is hard for us. We feel like we have to make amends, that we have to earn back whatever we lost by sinning. And yet, we can't. What we must do above all else is look at that sin and then thank God for the cross of Jesus. In Jesus' death we find forgiveness. We can look at our past sins and move forward as repentant people who are Christ's once and for all time. Jeff writes at the end of chapter 4:
Have you trusted in Jesus’s life and death yourself? Are you still trusting in it? Do you believe that what he did was sufficient for you? Do you believe Jesus perfectly lived in your place, and that he humbly and sufficiently died in your place? Disciples of Jesus do believe this. We have to. We can’t live the life he calls us to apart from it. Are you striving to gain approval or acceptance? Rest in Jesus’s perfect work on your behalf. Are you living with regret or self-hatred for what you’ve done in the past? Accept Jesus’s payment for sin. Are you striving to do enough good now to remove the guilt of the bad you’ve done in the past? You don’t have to. In fact, you can’t do enough. Instead, believe that Jesus has fully removed all the guilt from your life. We have all sinned, but Jesus did better for us. Because of him, we are forgiven and cleansed. We are loved and accepted by God.
Admittedly this is one area where many Christians have been in error. We have somehow made the gospel only about salvation (justification), but not about becoming more like Christ (sanctification) or our final salvation from this world into the eternal presence of God (glorification). This is why we need the gospel as much now as we needed it the day we first believed. We far too easily trust in ourselves rather than in Christ. Jeff writes:
I was not believing the gospel. I was depending upon my strength, my skills, and my ability to inspire, persuade, influence, and lead. Because of that, I was living the old life and not experiencing the new life Jesus can make possible in me.
But we have to understand that we need Jesus now, and we need him to be working in us in order that he may also be working through us. Our striving to save ourselves or save others by our own ability will get us nowhere. We are, at this moment, experiencing the salvation of the Lord in that he will not let us remain who we once were, but that we would truly be the new creations that he has made us to be in Christ.
In chapter 6, Jeff writes quite a bit about fear. Considering how fearful I can be at times I gave this chapter my full attention. Fear is not always a bad thing, for instance, we know that we are called to fear the Lord. But it is the fear we have of what might be, or what might not be that can cause us to fall into spiritual paralysis. When we think about what motivates us, much of it is fear-based. You may work hard at your job because you are fearful about losing it. You may raise your children a certain way because you are terrified that if you don't they will live horrible lives when the leave the house. It's actually amazing to me how much we do, and continue to do in a specific way, because we are motivated by fear. Jeff writes:
Fear does motivate. It just doesn’t always have the desired result. In my case, fear didn’t push me forward with unbridled resolve. It bound me in shackles.
If we live this way, he points our the result:
We won’t see Jesus saturation happen through us if we are captured by fear. I’m convinced from my experience that people will not step out on mission if they don’t have confidence about the future. Their fears control them.
How true this is. I have had a few conversations recently where we have spoken at length about following Jesus with young children. What should it look like, how risky should be for God, what if something happens to our children? In much of those conversations fear can become a dominating factor. Jeff points this out in regards to mission and children in the middle of chapter 6 when he talks about a couple that home-schooled their children because they were scared of what would happen to them other wise. He writes:
I wonder how often we thing of our children or our spouses or our jobs as idols that we are giving too much weight too because of fear. When we think about what Jesus is going to do, and the wonderful future that he has for us, doesn't it make this world a little less intimidating? I read a quote recently that has helped me to battle fear in my own life, especially in regards to following Jesus no matter where he leads. Henry Martyn was quoted as saying:
I am immortal until God’s work for me to do is done.
What an amazing thought! Until God is done with me or my wife or my children, I can move forward in following Jesus in this hostile world. My future is going to be glorious because of God, and I can take that to the bank. I can fight my fear with that.
At the end of chapter 6, Jeff ends with this, and I hope that we all consider it:
The main point of these chapters was that Jesus did it better, he does it better, and that he will make it better. Our past, present and future is glorious because of Jesus, not because of us. As we seek to move forward towards the future God has for us we must saturate ourselves with the person and work of Jesus Christ. We need more of him, and less of us.
For this week we will read chapters 7-10 on the topic of Discipleship. I hope that you are finding the reading helpful and that you are discussing it with others in your life. There is lots of gold to be found in this book and I'm thankful to be reading it with all of you.
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