Not a Fan of Jesus

See the source image

“Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God’” (Matthew 16:16).

My husband was watching a program on television, a famous singer was belting out their latest hit song and the crowd was almost louder than the amplified music.  They were applauding and shouting and whistling their adoration.  I walked through the room just as the camera zoomed in on one girl with a t-shirt that had the singer’s face above the words “I’m your #1 fan.”  The singer saw her too and took an elaborate bow and blew kisses aimed directly at her.  She was ecstatic and the people near-by looked at her like she was royalty.

Popularity is a fickle thing.  One day you’re everyone’s favorite celebrity, the next day you’re old news.  Last year you were on the cover of People magazine, this year your name is buried on the back page of the local newspaper. Celebrities live and die by their fan count.

Jesus had fans.  The gospels tell us of people who flocked to Him, who hung on His every word, who wanted a front-row seat to watch Him perform miracles.  They lined the streets when He came through town and jostled one another to walk nearest to Him.  But I am not a fan of Jesus.

I am a follower of Jesus.  It’s true that I want to be near Jesus, but not for some thrill. I want to be in His presence because His presence is peace.  His presence is hope.  His presence is wisdom and power.  Like Mary of Bethany, I want to be near Him to soak up His words and take in every inflection of His voice.

I am a servant of Jesus.  Paul identifies himself and Timothy in his opening statement in Philippians: “Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:1).  I love how Mary responds to the angel: “Behold, [I am] the handmaiden of the Lord” (Luke 1:38).  The purpose of my life is to do the will of Jesus.  To serve Him by serving others.

I am a disciple of Jesus.  By His example, He can teach me how to walk in righteousness.  He can teach me about the Kingdom of God and how to go to heaven.  And He alone can teach me who God is because He is God.

I am a friend of Jesus.  Fans are not often friends.  Fans are there for the show.  Friends sit around after the show is over and talk about real life.  I love to talk to Jesus about what’s happening in my everyday life.  I love to listen to Him talk through His Word about heaven. My friendship with Jesus is as real as my friendship with my best friend.

I am a witness of Jesus.   I want to tell others what He has done for me.  He has saved me, redeemed my life, and given me a place with Him in heaven.  He took all my sin and all my shame and the punishment that I deserved and gave me freedom and eternal life.  He died so that I would live.  I want to tell the world about my Jesus.

Most of all, I am a worshipper of Jesus.  I’ve seen old pictures of fans of Elvis Presley and the Beatles and their “worship” of their favorite stars.  Their adoration is misplaced.  There is only one who is worthy of worship – He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  The Bible says that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).  One day Jesus will return to earth and every person that ever was will bow before Him and declare that He is Lord.  No one will be exempt because it will be an uncontrolled response to seeing Him in His splendor.  Those who refused to acknowledge Him in this life will, by the sheer force of His glory, give Him the exaltation they withheld.  I want to worship Him now.  I want to give Him the praise and honor that He is due today so that when that glorious day comes, I am well-practiced and my response is as natural to me as breathing.

Jesus is worthy of so much more than fawning fans.  He is worthy of our focus, our time, our efforts, our service, our friendship, our witness and our worship.  He is worthy of our love.  He is worthy of our lives.  To be a fan of Jesus falls far short what He deserves.  And it falls far short of what He desires for you.  Don’t just be a fan.  Be all-in.

Advertisements

I Promise (part 2)

170419

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

I love Hebrews 11 – the great Hall of Faith.  There we see portraits of men and women whose lives were marked by extraordinary faith.  Abel, who gave a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord, and suffered his brother’s wrath.   Enoch, who so pleased God he was spared death and directly taken into heaven. Noah, the ark-builder, who was foolish in the eyes of his neighbors, but wise and obedient in the eyes of God.  There is Abraham who, despite a few stumbles, was called righteous because He believed God for the impossible.  There is Isaac, and Jacob and Joseph – all stalwart in their commitment to faith in God.  The list goes on and on – Moses, Gideon, Samuel and David and even a prostitute – Rahab. The list includes many who were persecuted and martyred, all because they believed God was greater than even their own lives.  These people inspire me and challenge me to endure and live a life of faith.

But there are a couple of verses in this passage that have always given me pause: “All of these people were still living by faith when they died.  The did not receive the things promised; they only saw them from a distance . . .” (v. 13). Go forward a few verses and there it is again: “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised (v. 39).

Wait. What?

They believed God, obeyed God, gave their lives for their faith in God and still they “did not receive the things promised.”  How does that make sense?

In the modern world, we equate success with outcome.  When we look at these heroes of the faith, we expect to see results, like Moses, who led the Israelites out of bondage and Noah, who obediently built the ark and saved humankind, and David, the slayer of giants who became the King of Israel.  In the world of faith, a successful saint is not always the one who wins.  Hebrews tells us that some of these heroes endured torture, oppression, persecution, prison, poverty, and death – yet they are listed along with these mighty men and women of faith.   They too were “commended for their faith” (Hebrews 11:39).  Why?  Because they believed God.  They believed He is good and righteous and faithful.  And they believed that the outcome of their situation did not change who God is.  As the three Jewish youth in Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace said, “The God we serve is able . . . and He will . . . but even if He does not” He would still and always be their God.

Abraham is one who pleased God with his faith.  The Lord told him, “The whole land of Canaan where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you” (Genesis 17:8).   Yet we learn in Acts 7:5 that “[God] gave him no inheritance [in the land], not even a foot of ground” (Acts 7:5).  Still Abraham is commended as a righteous man “because he considered Him faithful who had made the promise” (Hebrews 11:11).   Abraham’s faith was grounded in God, not in the ground on which he was standing.

By contrast consider Abraham’s wife Sarah.  She knew about the promise that Abraham would have a son through whom God would build a family and a nation.  She believed the promise, but she didn’t believe God to fulfill it. She turned to the traditions of culture to make the promise a reality and the world is still reeling from it. Her hope was in the outcome not in the Lord.

My friend, the call to faith is not a call to believe God for something; it is a call to believe God. Period.  To believe that He is who He says He is and He able to fulfill his promises.  Genuine faith is in the Promise Maker, not in the promise.  When God says, “I promise . . .” our eyes should always stay fixed on Him, not darting back and forth in search of the thing.  It will come, but in the interim, we must keep our focus on the One who made the promise.  He is the Promise Maker and the Promise Keeper, but the greatest promise He made to Abraham is the same promise He makes to you and me: “I will be their God” (Genesis 17:8). That is a promise you can trust.