Following Jesus can be a treacherous path of trying to change the world, as we see it, and running straight into the truth that we are, indeed, the one with the problem. We need deliverance from:
Think about this:
In the beginning of Luke 19 – the story of the tax collector Zacchaeus.
(Raise your hand if you just started to sing “Zaccheaus was a wee little man, a wee little man, a wee little man was he!”)
Jesus is in Jericho and a crowd has gathered. The crooked tax collector Zaccheaus was there. He can’t see over the crowd so he climbs up a tree to see Jesus. In the middle of that crowd – which likely would have included more than a fair share of holy or influential or important or preferred or religious people – Jesus heads right for that tree and calls out to that guy – the one who is a social and religious outcast, ridiculously perched up in the branches – to come on down because Jesus wants to go to that guy’s house for supper.
Huh? How do I explain that to my religious friends?
I mean, honestly.
Of course, everyone in the crowd gets quite indignant, muttering among themselves about how Jesus is now the guest of a sinner. Not only did the guy betray his religion, Zacchaeus has betrayed his people, his nation, colluding with the powers that be for his own gain and oppressing the very people who were supposed to be his people.
Or how about the story of the town harlot of Samaria? The infamous, “Woman at the Well”? (John 4:1-42) The longest conversation recorded of Jesus and one person was with this woman who had five husbands, and was with a guy she wasn’t married too when Jesus approached her.
There is our Jesus, sitting by a well…in forbidden Samaria.
Does anyone else see the humor in this story?
The town slut, (or Ho, Hussy, Loose, Sinner, etc. (as she would be called today) approaches Him.
Isn’t she hopeless and an embarrassment? And openly living in sin, (deep breath)!
Plus, Jesus, as a Jew, was not even supposed to be in Samaria, let alone talk to a woman, for heaven’s sake!!
We hate that woman! Don’t we? We can’t be seen talking to her.
Imagine if Jesus was in our world right now in the flesh, and he heads right over to someone who cooperated with and benefitted from oppression of innocent people, someone who had traded integrity for political power, someone we distrust, someone who we feel is dangerous, someone who stole from people in a socially acceptable and governmentally blessed way, someone who took the very religious or national identity that we cherished and basically stomped all over it for his own gain.
I can think of a few already, but I won’t mention names.
Ugh. We hate that guy.
Don’t we? I mean aren’t we supposed to keep ourselves clean by dissing those who are not living up to our standards as we interpret them?
Would we be murmuring and complaining and wondering about this Teacher who apparently had missed the important parts of the very Law he claims to teach.
Never mind He really came to fulfill the law Himself.
We don’t hang around with people like that, Jesus. (Insert whine)
Don’t you know? Good people wouldn’t be caught dead with a man like that.
Just like we don’t hang around with women who are caught in the act of adultery, or fornication, and….
Get it together, Jesus.
And, hey, news flash, we certainly don’t go to the personal home of a corrupt politician for a bite to eat or the apartment of the town prostitute for a cup of tea.
But Jesus does it anyway.
Jesus seems not to care about our who-is-in and who-is-out line in the sand. He doesn’t seem to care about what we think about all the wrong folks hanging around with him.
Jesus came to fulfill the Law but while also revealing the Love behind the Law, and the inadequacy of it, he came to replace the real love of a real God for their people.
Jesus came because God so loved the world. After all, as Jesus tells Nicodemus in the book of John, it was because God so loved the world that Jesus came to us.
Jesus came, not to condemn the world but to save the world.
…Including the guy we would rather see condemned, to be honest.
How can we miss this?
Now take note of this fact: because of an encounter with Jesus, Zaccheaus turns around gives half of everything away. He is so moved by Jesus, he vows to pay back anyone he has cheated four times the amount he stole.
The Samaritan woman?
Oh, she just became the first woman evangelist telling the whole town about Jesus.
Wild, reckless love for a man who was like no one they ever met.
They both were not just fulfilling the letter of the Law, they were repenting into the heart of Love Himself.
Looks like the presence of Jesus transforms everyone…even those of us who think we have it all together.
Zaccheaus was lost, Jesus sought him out, and in this moment of repentance – which was so much more than just money or position – he’s reoriented to the Kingdom of God. The woman at the well discovered that her bucket could only be filled with Jesus, not a multitude of lost men.
Now that is something to get excited about!
The time is now.
We’d rather another day, another house, another time, another kind of sinner. Don’t bother us with the now.
But today is the day for the wrong guy…or the wrong woman.
It’s perhaps telling, where we see ourselves in that story.
Are we the crowd, resentful and muttering because we think THAT PERSON shouldn’t be included because they aren’t righteous enough or holy enough or good enough or acceptable enough or just enough?
We have our sort of people we want to keep out.
Sure, we’re okay with this kind of sinner being included –but not that kind.
But over and over, Jesus picks the wrong person in our eyes.
He even picks you, and me!
Or perhaps we see ourselves more in the one who everyone else wants to keep out.
“Today, today, today, I’m coming to your house.”
And all we can do is receive Jesus with such joy and relief.
And our own sin – everything that damages us and damages our relationship with God and damages our relationships with one another – is over!
We stop putting God into a box of our own self righteous rules and let Him do what He came to do.
…Love on all of us and see lives transformed.
So we turn everything in our lives upside down and inside out to be with Jesus, to be Him extended to everyone…not just those we think won’t contaminate us.
…To cooperate in making all things right, today.
So, Ephesians chapter four tells us:
Always be humble and gentle.
Not “sometimes” or “whenever you think about it”… but ALWAYS be humble and gentle!
Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.
I love this! It couldn’t be more simple, clear, and applicable.
Skipping down to verse eleven:
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching.
I call this “new teaching” that Paul is writing about “Oprah teaching”. Too often, well-meaning Christians are swayed by whatever was deemed “Oprah’s book of the week” and get hung up on seeking truth in other places besides God’s Word. These “Oprah teachings” almost make sense and fool us into listening to them as if they are truth. But they’re simply not true. We can’t find peace from looking inside ourselves, or to our auras. We aren’t the masters of our own domain. We can’t empower ourselves.
In fact, that’s the opposite of what the Bible teaches. Only God has the power and peace we are seeking, when we humbly submit to Him.
Skipping down to verse seventeen:
17 With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. 18 Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. 19 They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.
That was me. And when you’re in the middle of it, like I was, you don’ t care. You don’t want to hear about God. You don’t want to hear about His saving grace. You only want to live the way you feel like living.
20 But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. 21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.
25 So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. 26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.”
Now, THAT is tough! Anger is a combination of hurt, sadness and fear, and we deal with it every single day. And we’re supposed to not let it control us? This is no easy task!
Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.
If you are mad at your spouse, at your kids, at your parents, at your friends or co-workers, don’t go to bed without making an effort to make up with them.
28 If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. 29 Don’t use foul or abusive language.
Did you catch that? “Don’t swear” isn’t just your mom’s nagging words, IT’S IN THE BIBLE! I know Christians who curse A LOT. Yet, it’s important that we don’t.
Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
That’s a tough verse, too. It’s not easy to forgive one another. Yet, God forgave each of us, to the extent of dying a brutal death on the cross TO forgive us. So, for us to forgive the guy in the cubicle next to us for stealing our stapler is pretty simple in comparison.
Our lives needs to represent Christ. This can only happen by being constantly reminded what that means by reading God’s Word… by reading Scriptures like Ephesians chapter four. And when we fall short, that’s when we need to repent, seek forgiveness, and be restored so that we represent Jesus again. We need to pray. All day. Talk to God about all the things that you find yourself thinking about.
And we must attend church. If you haven’t found a church that you like, then keep looking an find one that you do, and attend it regularly. But don’t just show up on Sundays. You need to make relationships there with fellow Christians and actually fellowship with them.
This is how you grow.
This life is too short to not make the changes today that God desires for us.
Take it from a guy who has completely gone off the rails and realized that I need to change out of my love for God in order to spend eternity with Him. After all, that’s why He sent His Son, Jesus down to be beaten and die… FOR ME! To spend eternity with me!
Even though I’m a mess most of the time.
You may say, “I’m not like that. I don’t need that”
And you’re wrong. We all need it. We just need to realize how much we need it, and the reward that lies ahead, if we choose to follow Jesus!
To purchase the entire DVD set of the Summit Lecture Series, visit summit.org.
In the political classes where I spent my professional life, when you embarrass the President or the Senator or Congressman, there is a kind of divorce that takes place. I was cut off. Persona non grata.
And that was fully what I expected and deserved for what I had done.
I immediately wrote a letter to President George W. Bush, resigning from my position at the White House, and I left the White House in total and utter disgrace. It was as if I had opened up the double doors and descended down, not into the cellar, but into the sub-cellar.
I was a hypocrite.
God had blessed me, yet I had embarrassed the President, my White House colleagues, not to mention my wife, kids, parents, and everyone who had ever believed in me and trusted in me.
And, when I came in on the Monday after the Friday I resigned to begin cleaning out my office, I received the call that no one wants to receive: the call from the White House Chief of Staff telling me, “The boss would like to see you.”
You see, there’s a code amongst White House Staffers. If it’s good news, the message is, “The President wants to see you.” But, if it’s bad news, it’s “The boss…”
Needless to say, I was ready for my much deserved woodshed moment.
So, I went to the Oval Office and it was just the President and me.
When I shut the door behind me, there seemed to be an echo. I knew that the worst was about to come. So, I looked President George W. Bush squarely in the eyes and I said, “Mr. President, I owe you…” and before I could get another word out, he told me, “Tim, I forgive you.”
Now, I have to tell you, in my whole life, this was one of the most surreal moments ever. I was actually inclined to clear out my ear and ask him to repeat himself. I tried to apologize again. And he interrupted me again.
“Tim, grace and mercy are real. I’m extending them to you, and you are forgiven.”
I told him, “Mr. President, you should be taking me by the lapels and tossing me out onto Pennsylvania Avenue for what I have done.”
Instead, he repeated himself. “Tim, I’m going to say it again. You are forgiven. Grace and mercy are real. I’ve known them throughout my own life, and I forgive you. Now, we can talk about all of this for the next 20-30 minutes, or we can talk about the past eight years. Reluctantly, I walked over to take my place on one of the two couches in the middle of the Oval Office. Instead, he directed me to the chair below George Washington’s portrait – the place of honor in the President’s office where either the Vice President or another Head of State sits when they meet with the President. The two of us spoke together. We prayed together. We embraced. And I thought to myself, “This will be the last time that I will ever see George W. Bush.”
Yet, as I was leaving, he told me, “By the way, I want you to bring your wife and children here so that I can personally tell them what a wonderful husband and father you have been.”
It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or Republican, Liberal or Conservative, Independant, None of the Above, or All of the Above – that is NOT how Presidents behave. Sure enough, my bride and my sons were invited to come to the Oval Office. He gave them gifts and hugs all around. He kept his promise. And today, he and I remain dear friends.
Now, it’s very tempting for me to speak about the relationship between politics and the Christian faith. And I can tell you that the U.S. is the greatest country in the world, without peer. As Christians, living in the United States is Thanksgiving Day every day. I could go on and on about the theoretical and philosophical discussions about faith within a political context. But, for me, at the most vulnerable and lowest part of my life, I was extended a grace and a mercy – and a love and a forgiveness – that could have only come from Jesus Christ.
So, the takeaway is singular: Proverbs is right, pride does go before the fall.
I hope that if there is even just one person who hears this who is prideful by nature, I pray that they would immediately make a commitment between them and God to toss pride out on its ear.
But even more importantly, “humility is endless”. And those three words are the most beautiful consequential in the English language. They were written by my favorite poet, T.S. Elliot. Humility, in my view is the seedbed of true greatness. And, in the Christian life, it is the seedbed of our obedience to God, Himself and love and service to other people. It’s very tempting in a world of boundless theories and ideas to conclude by saying that intellect is really preeminent.
But it is not.
I have learned that, in actuality, the real world is run by B and C students. At the end of the day, it is Character and Integrity before Intellect.
Character and Integrity are preeminent. Everything else follows therefrom.
Tell you what…
If you want to see up close and oh-so-personal the heart of Jesus, look no further than this PODCAST’S passage here in Mark 9.
You are about to see a side of Jesus that is both breathtaking to behold, and irresistible to consider. A high definition video of Jesus that says so much even though it emerges from one very short story.
Perhaps the best place to begin our discussion is here: I love the disciples. I absolutely love the disciples. More to the point, I love how the Gospel writers consistently give to us a brutally honest, utterly unvarnished series of snapshots of exactly who these guys were. And how these guys thought and acted and reacted to each and every situation in which they found themselves.
I love them because to read their stories, to get into their minds and hearts, to understand struggles of their souls, all of that floods my own soul with copious amounts of hope.
The hope that if Jesus could love men such as these (and He did!), He can love me too; He can love you too.
Which is precisely the point of this week’s podcast.
If ever the disciples deserved a stinging rebuke, here it is, in bold font and living color. Yet, amazingly, no rebuke was given. Even though I know that the disciples’ words, spoken behind Jesus’ back, must have hurt Him enormously. Even though their discussion unveiled the darkest sides of their souls, exposing a monster that dwells within each of our hearts.
A monster which we must deliberately and regularly hold in check, lest he break free and wreak havoc in our lives, and in the lives of those around us. The monster to which I refer?
We begin to learn about it in Mark 9:33
33 Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?”
The monster is pride. Personal pride.
You can’t understand it. And, if you think you can, then you’re just being overly proud.
In fact, if you take the “fallenness” of mankind and describe the darkest part of us all, your description would boil down to pride.
It is mentioned no less than 156 times in the Bible.
Even the wisest man who ever lived, Solomon, struggled mightily with pride. He wrote extensively about it in Proverbs, but unfortunately it seems as though he didn’t heed his own proverbs’ warnings.
Pride precedes destruction,
An arrogant spirit gives way to a nasty fall. (Proverbs 16:18)
Boy, how true that is!
This is the same kind of personal pride that overcame Satan, and to this day Satan uses to try to deceive us. It’s a weapon that was unleashed against the disciples in Mark 9 in an attempt to derail God’s plan for God’s Son.
It’s no surprise that the disciples fell victim to pride – it’s common for all of humankind. But, the timing of it is amazing.
Now, keep in mind that the polar opposite of pride is humility, as Paul wrote in Philippians 2:3,
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus
Before Lucifer came along, there was no pride in the world. After he came, it has never left our world, and the world is forever negatively changed due to it. Lucifer was one of the most beautiful of all of the angels that God created. He was, and is, a breathtakingly beautiful creature. The Apostle Paul even described him as one who “appears as an angel of light, radiant in his beauty”.
There came a point in time – the Bible is not clear when exactly, except to say that it happened before Genesis 1:1 – that God created thousands upon thousands, myriads upon myriads, an unknown to man total of angels. Each one created to sing God’s praise and to minister to and protect mankind.
14 Angels are merely spirits sent to serve people who are going to be saved. (Hebrews 1:14)
So, as glorious and powerful as angels are, they have significant limitations. They were created by God, so therefore they are not gods. For instance, God is the eternal, uncreated Creator, without a beginning nor an end; yet angels were created and thus are finite. God is infinite – always everywhere at all times; but angels can only be at one place at one time. They can move really fast, but they are localized by their nature. (Therefore, so is Satan). God is omniscient – knowing everything; but angels only know what God has revealed to them and what they can observe. That’s it. (Therefore, Satan can’t read minds and is limited just as much as every other angel). Most important of all, God is omnipotent, or all-powerful with no limits to His power; but the angels are quite limited. There is no reference to an “Almighty Satan” in the Bible, but the Almighty God is mentioned all throughout Scripture. Not to suggest that the angels are without power. I wouldn’t want to tangle with any of them on my own. But it is important to know that Satan’s power is severely limited.
humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
He can be resisted, and in fact, we can even put him to flight!
So, let’s look closer at the one whose name means “Shining One” or “Morning Star” or “Son of the Dawn”… Lucifer. Going by his name, you can deduce that he was created primarily as a reflector of God’s glory. Which makes what he did to God that much more heinous.
The Bible explains clearly that there are two distinct types of angels. There are holy angels, which is what Satan once was; and there are evil angels, also known as unclean spirits, demonic spirits, or “the devil and his angels”. So there is no doubt that there are angels who follow orders given by God and now there are fallen angels who follow the lead of Lucifer, now known as Satan (among many other names).
Perhaps the best description of Lucifer, before he fell, is found in Ezekiel 28:
“You were the model of perfection,
full of wisdom and exquisite in beauty.
13 You were in Eden,
the garden of God.
Your clothing was adorned with every precious stone[
red carnelian, pale-green peridot, white moonstone,
blue-green beryl, onyx, green jasper,
blue lapis lazuli, turquoise, and emerald—
all beautifully crafted for you
and set in the finest gold.
They were given to you
on the day you were created.
14 I ordained and anointed you
as the mighty angelic guardian.
You had access to the holy mountain of God
and walked among the stones of fire.
15 “You were blameless in all you did
from the day you were created
until the day evil was found in you.
16 Your rich commerce led you to violence,
and you sinned.
So I banished you in disgrace
from the mountain of God.
I expelled you, O mighty guardian,
from your place among the stones of fire.
17 Your heart was filled with pride
because of all your beauty.
Your wisdom was corrupted
by your love of splendor.
So I threw you to the ground
and exposed you to the curious gaze of kings.
So, what did Lucifer do to throw all of God’s giftings and positionings away and become Satan? What caused his heart to become proud? We read about what he did in Isaiah 14:13-14
13 You said in your heart,
“I will ascend to the heavens;
I will raise my throne
above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.
14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.”
In other words, Lucifer made plans to usurp God, evict Him from heaven and become worshipped by all. And sadly, at some point in time, the devil
Revelation 13:8 tells us,
8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast
The beast – that Satan possessed man who will unite the world in worship of himself as god. You think it’s bad now… you ain’t seen nothing yet! Satan will get his wish of taking over as the king of the universe, but only for a little while… a very little while.
And it all began, in the words of Ezekiel, when his heart became proud.
That’s the baseline of his entire strategy, for himself, for the demons who followed him, and for all of mankind who have followed him: pride. To be like God. And when you think about it, that is the essence of the spiritual warfare that each and every one of us are engaged in each and every day. It’s like a tug-of-war between God’s will and our will.
Yet, so much of man’s strife could be solved by simply keeping in mind one thing: There is a God… and you are not Him. It’s not that complicated.
But Jesus is.
When you take Isaiah 14 and put it side-by-side with Philippians 2, it’s amazing to see the comparisons that the authors have penned. In Isaiah, we read how Satan was continually boasting “I will… I will… I will…” Yet, as Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians, we see a very different picture when it comes to Jesus Christ:
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, He made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
He humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
What a contrast!
Who do you want to follow? Paul paints the ultimate picture of humility for our benefit, especially in light of what he had just previously wrote (if only the disciples had the opportunity to hear these words, then the discussion back in Mark 9 would have been drastically different):
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1-4)
Yet, sadly, this wasn’t the mindset of the disciples in Mark 9:
33 After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in the house, Jesus asked his disciples,“What were you discussing out on the road?” 34 But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest.
It’s hard for me to even imagine how, just after Jesus broke the news to them that he was about to be betrayed and killed, these guys simply brush that aside and all the way through Galilee to Capernaum (which is about a three-day walk), they argue about which of them is the greatest!
All I can say is that this gives me such hope for you and me! Think about it… when you start to get down on yourself, thinking that your priorities and mindset is nowhere where God wants it to be, you’re no different than Jesus’ chosen twelve.
And yet, as they argued for three days, Jesus didn’t lose His temper. He didn’t wave a judgmental finger in their faces. He didn’t quote Scriptures about humility versus pride.
Instead, Jesus saw their raw ambition, pride, and desire for personal recognition… He saw the pride festering in their souls, and…
35 He sat down and summoned the Twelve. “So you want first place? Then take the last place. Be the servant of all.”
36-37 He put a child in the middle of the room. Then, cradling the little one in his arms, he said, “Whoever embraces one of these children as I do embraces me, and far more than me—God who sent me.” (Mark 9:35-37)
It’s when we choose to be humble before God, that’s when we will be able to truly relax and find peace in His embrace.
When we are prideful – jockeying for position, even within the ranks of Christians – we miss Jesus’ point by a mile. Yet, He still pursues us and is patient with us, just as He was to His disciples.
I’ve got three boys: a nine-year-old and twin six-year-olds. And yesterday, I made the biggest mistake ever! I offered to them that we could do “…whatever you want!”
They didn’t have an immediate answer, but eventually the topic of donuts for breakfast came up.
You wouldn’t think this would be a big deal… until the day played itself out. First off, we had to run by Target that afternoon, so on the way I called the donut shop. It was 3:00 in the afternoon, so I had to leave a voicemail… but first I had to listen to their outgoing message… over the car’s Bluetooth… for all the boys to hear. The message politely said that their hours of operation are 4:00am – 2:00pm.
This is where my mistake began to take fruition.
“Dad! Let’s get donuts at 4:00am tomorrow!”
“Ain’t no way we’re getting donuts at 4:00am.”
“You said ‘anything we want to do’… you’ll do it!”
I tried to reason with them. I told them we’re all adults (45, 9 & 6 year old adults). I tried to compromise with them. I offered 6:00.
“Alright, fine. 5:00?”
Begrudgingly, they agreed on 5:00am.
I thought I had pulled one over on them. I’d wake up at 5:00 and “attempt” to wake them up. They won’t want to get up that early, so I’ll roll back into bed for my snoozefest!
I underestimated their excitement for 5:00am donuts! They were dressed, buckled in and ready to eat sprinkled donuts before the sun ever even considered rising! Even my oldest, who we have to shake awake on Christmas morning was ready to roll at O-Dark-30!
Then it got worse.
Little did I know that it would be pouring rain that day at that hour. Not a huge deal for most families, but my oldest HATES the rain, because it’s often accompanied by thunder and he can’t handle the sound of thunder. So, at 5:00am, I crank up… and begin to sing along with… Michael Jackson in order to thoroughly distract my donut-deprived son.
What does that have to do with the fourth chapter of the Book of James? Maybe very little, but it’s what’s been going on in my life, along with me being convicted by James’ words!
Like in the movie Reservoir Dogs, where the cop is getting a beat down by Michael Madsen… I sometimes feel like I’m strapped to a chair getting a verbal beat down by James: “…and your tongue can set a forest on fire…!”
I feel convicted. There’s no way around it!
What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? 2 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. 3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.
Talk about convicting!
But don’t get me (or the Bible) wrong – there’s nothing wrong with wanting a pleasurable life. God gives us each gifts that He wants us to enjoy. But if all we are looking for is pleasure from the world, we will never get what we truly want. The pleasure we seek and strive for MUST come from God.
Otherwise, if we try to find happiness, pleasure, fulfillment – whatever you want to call it – from other places (relationships, sex, shopping, food, alcohol, etc.) you will never, ever, ever be happy. In fact, that stuff will eventually actually bring you down. The only way you can experience actual joy is by allowing the Holy Spirit to work inside of you.
I’m living proof of this!
I once lived a life that was completely morally bankrupt. Then I began to follow and pursue God’s will. Then, over the last year-and-a-half, I strayed… maybe not to the point that I would call morally bankrupt, but definitely away from God’s will. But I was definitely making choices that I know were not the right choices. But instead of feeling the happiness that I was striving for, all I actually felt was a longing for God.
I relate to Adam and Eve. When they sinned and ate the fruit, they realized that they were naked and were ashamed. They ran off, hid and made some fig-leaf underwear. God then came around looking for them and called out, “Where are you guys?” But, they were so ashamed, they didn’t want to come out of hiding.
That’s how I felt. I was ashamed of what I had become and how little I was talking with Him. Especially since there was a time when I was so in love with Him, I was incrementally ashamed when I took that hard look in the mirror at myself.
James continues in verse four:
You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.
Again! I feel like I’m strapped down in that chair and James is just pounding on me with hard truth! I hear this and can’t help but think, “Yeah… I think I’m a ‘friend of the world’. You know why? Because I still like BMW’s. I still think they’re cool. I don’t drive one anymore, but I still think they’re cool. And I’m still really into Fantasy Football.
Now, I’m not saying that these things are wrong. They’re not. There’s nothing wrong with BMW’s or Fantasy Football.
The problem is prioritizing.
When those things become more important than the Lord, that’s when they become problems. That’s what James is saying here.
And here’s the flipside – go down to verse six:
And He gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say,
“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”
He gives grace to the humble! So, what does this tell us? It means that the cure for evil desires is humility. Pride makes us self-centered and leads us to conclude that we deserve all we can see, touch, or even imagine. It creates greedy appetites within us.
This was the hardest thing for me. My heart was so hardened by pride that I didn’t even realize my need for humility. It took me so long to get humble.
But that’s where God wanted me. And it’s where He wants all of us. He wants us all to have humble hearts.
7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
In other words, when you are tempted to gossip about someone, or have sex outside of marriage, or face any other temptations to go against God’s will for your life… when you are tempted and you don’t take the bait, but instead resist, the devil will move along.
Now, know this – it’s not a sin to be tempted!
We all are tempted – even Jesus faced temptation – but it is a sin to take the bait and fall into sin.
But, getting back to humility, James writes more in verse ten:
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.
This is mind-blowing! If you can do it… if you humble yourself. My Bible has a note at this verse that says: “Bowing in humility before the Lord means recognizing that our worth comes from God alone. To be humble involves leaning on His power and His guidance and not going our own independent way. Although we do not deserve God’s favor, He wants to lift us up and give us worth and dignity, despite our human shortcomings.”
That NAILS what humility is. As we are faced with whatever temptation comes our way throughout the day, and we put God first and ask Him for His strength and guidance on how to handle the temptation, then He promises to meet us and lift us up!
James goes on to make perfect sense in verse eleven:
Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. 12 God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?
Think about it… you didn’t knit Bob in the next cubicle from his mother’s womb, so stop trying to figure him out so much. God knitted him together – not you. So, let God be the Judge – not you.
James continues in verse thirteen, talking about self-confidence:
Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” 14 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. 15 What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” 16 Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil.
17 Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.
Verse seventeen says it all!
So many times, people run around, driving themselves crazy trying to decipher what is a sin and what isn’t. James makes the argument very clear: If you know what you ought to do and you don’t do it, then you have sinned. It’s simple.
So, one thing we need to do is to search within ourselves and say out loud what our toughest temptations are. Because that’s where the enemy will attack us with the most power and stealth. He’s cunning like a prowling lion, waiting to devour us. But, when we put on the whole armor of God, we are prepared to resist his temptations.
So, pray, read your Bible, serve others, connect with a local church for fellowship and accountability. Otherwise, you have a huge target on your back that the enemy will go after with a vengeance.
James is a tough book for me to wrap my arms, head, and heart around. It sometimes seems to run contrary to the letters Paul wrote, which discuss at length how we can’t do anything to earn our salvation, we are saved by grace alone… it’s all good. But then James writes “You know… if you don’t do anything then you’re up the creek.”
So, these books seem to be in contrast to one another, but they’re really not.
Let me start off by telling you this: You’re going to hear all kinds of stuff that sounds Biblical, especially when it comes to signs of Jesus returning and the End Times coming upon us. The truth is in the Bible – very plain and clearly – we have no idea when Jesus is returning!
So, you need to live a way that is in preparation for that day, but don’t freak out.
Getting back to James. The third chapter of James is short, but perhaps one of the most important chapters of the whole book. It talks mostly about controlling your mouth, which is one of the greatest areas of weakness in my life. My first instinct, whenever I hear someone say ANYTHING, is to pop off with an opinion of my own. The greatest lesson I have learned (and struggled with) is to wait.
If you get an email from someone, or a text message, or a voice message, or hear something live from someone that instantly ticks you off – do not respond immediately. If you can, give yourself 15-30 minutes before responding, in order to cool down.
This is what James is saying in James 3:2-6
Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.
3 We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth.4 And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. 5 In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.
But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. 6 And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.
Let’s chew on this for a bit.
If you’re like me and you believe that what is written in the Bible is truth and infallible, then this verse is INCREDIBLE! The problem is that most of us find it incredibly DIFFICULT to control what comes out of our mouths.
And if verses 3-6 doesn’t make you squirm, I don’t know what will!
7 People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, 8 but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.
Did you get that? It doesn’t say “a few chosen people can tame the tongue”. It says “NO ONE can tame the tongue”.
9 Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. 10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! 11 Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? 12 Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.
There is so much wisdom here! Speaking of wisdom, that’s exactly what James writes about in the ensuing paragraph:
13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.
Are you familiar with that word? Humility? It’s the opposite of boastfulness. It means, “Yes, sir. No, sir.” It means not talking down to someone. Humility is making someone else more important than yourself.
14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying.15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic.
Demonic? Holy Cow! If that doesn’t punch the air out of you, what will? Let that resonate in you!
17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.
Here’s something that I really, really want you to think about it. Write it down, if you can. Before you speak, write the reply email or text, ask yourself, “Is what I want to say true, necessary, and kind?” If it passes that test, then by all means, hit SEND. But hold back if it doesn’t pass this test.
You go through life as a Christian and as you roll through life, day to day, you’re going to be faced with so much garbage. It hits you from all over. You’re inundated. And it’s heavy. And the reason that I wanted to do a Christian podcast is so that I could possibly help build you up and equip you to go out into the world and take on all that garbage.
Conversely, I ask that you would remember to pray for me for this very same reason. Remember your bald Mexican friend, Mikey!
The book of James is interesting on many levels. The author, James, was Jesus’ brother. He didn’t believe that his brother was the Messiah for a while. Eventually, he finally came around and realized that Jesus is, in fact, the Son of God!
Recently, as I was reading through the second chapter of James’ book, there were a few verses that really jumped out at me. The first one, right off the bat is James 2:1.
Dear brothers, how can you claim that you belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, if you show favoritism to rich people and look down on poor people?
You know, the Bible says that if you read the Word, you should meditate on it. Don’t just let your eyeballs fly over the page without really taking it in, but allow your mind to focus on what you read without distractions. Read the passages over and over again, if you need to, in order to absorb and devour it!
Think of an ice cream that you LOVE. Each verse should be like that scoop of ice cream that you savor with each and every bite!
In James 2:1, we are hit with the reality that each of us should show the same regard to a poor person standing outside of Vons, who is holding a sign that says “I need help” as you would if you were to walk inside of Vons and bump into San Diego Chargers Quarterback Philip Rivers. The only way stuff like this can happen is if your heart changes. And the only way your heart can change like this is to read the Bible as if it’s your favorite ice cream!
James continues in chapter two by saying:
If a man comes into your church dressed in expensive clothes and with valuable gold rings on his fingers, and at the same moment another man comes in who is poor and dressed in threadbare clothes, 3 and you make a lot of fuss over the rich man and give him the best seat in the house and say to the poor man, “You can stand over there if you like or else sit on the floor”—well, 4 judging a man by his wealth shows that you are guided by wrong motives.
A good friend of mine saw this exact scenario once and it completely turned him off to church! He saw a poor guy, dressed kinda shabby, walk into a really nice church, filled with really well-dressed people… one of those churches that televise their services and have a home audience that they take into consideration when it comes to who is shown on camera.
But this guy was broken and needed the Lord!
Yet, they actually escorted him out because he didn’t look right for television.
This is exactly what James is writing about!
We can’t separate the rich and the poor, the celebrities and the everymen, or any other people we come into contact with and treat them differently simply because of the size of their bank accounts.
We need to remain humble.
I remember when I had the opportunity to interview NFL Great LaDainian Tomlinson. He was one of the – if not THE – greatest running back of his era, and yet he answered every question from little ol’ me with a “yes, sir” or “no, sir”. He was incredibly humble and set a great example!
Personally, I thought that I was humble. Yet, in most recent months, I have been humbled beyond belief. I have realized that perhaps what I thought was humility was actually a false sense of pride. After what I’ve been through recently, these verses in James really hit home for me.
Skipping ahead to verse 10, we read:
And the person who keeps every law of God but makes one little slip is just as guilty as the person who has broken every law there is. 11 For the God who said you must not marry a woman who already has a husband also said you must not murder, so even though you have not broken the marriage laws by committing adultery, but have murdered someone, you have entirely broken God’s laws and stand utterly guilty before him.
Now, you really do have to understand something about the Book of James. This is really important…
Remember when Luke Skywalker is flying through the Death Star’s trench about to fire his laser missiles into the tiny exhaust port? He had to hit his target perfectly in order to blow up the Death Star and save the galaxy. He had to lock in.
That’s how I want you to lock in on what I’m about to say…
James says some things in his book that some people might argue contradicts what Paul had written in some earlier books. For instance, Paul wrote that there is no condemnation in Christ. He also said that there is no way to earn your way into heaven. Yet, James says that faith without works is dead. How could you prove that you have any faith at all if you are not doing stuff that puts your faith into action?
But, the truth is that there is no contradiction between James and Paul at all. The truth is that we can’t work our way, or be good enough on our own to get into heaven. It doesn’t matter how many old ladies you walk across the street or how many water bottles you hand out to hot and thirsty commuters. When you stand before Jesus, all the good stuff you did in your life do not amount to enough to measure up to God’s holiness.
On the flip-side of this, there’s not enough bad stuff you can do that will get you into hell. If you are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, if you have repented of your sins, confessed them, and asked God to take the steering wheel of your life… then all is forgiven. So, when James says that if you had broken one of God’s laws, then you are just as guilty as if you have broken them all, he is not saying that by sinning you are sentenced to hell.
Especially if you repent.
Repentance means to turn away from your sin and say, “I’m not going to do that anymore.” First of all, when you become a Christian, the Holy Spirit enters into your life and He will transform you from the inside out. Therefore, if you stole something or lied about something and then you repent, then you turn away from that behavior, make things right and you don’t go back into that behavior.
Which leads me to forgiveness.
Let’s say you’re in a car with a buddy. He asks you to pull over for a second and you comply. After a couple minutes, he comes running back into your car, tosses several bags full of cash into the back seat and yells at you to drive away as fast as you can.
You quickly realize what just happened – your buddy just robbed a bank and now you are an accessory to the crime. You’re upset, but you drive away as fast as you can. Here’s the analogy. Forgiveness looks like this: Now, after being led around town by the person who just hurt you, you pull over, get out of the car and tell him that while you are really hurt by what he did, you aren’t going to continue to drive him and his baggage around.
When you don’t forgive someone, you are simply carrying along the weight of the baggage, pain and wrongdoings of someone else everywhere you go.
Then, you allow God to be the ultimate distributor of justice… not you.
Finally, James 2:15-16 says
If you have a friend who is in need of food and clothing, 16 and you say to him, “Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat hearty,” and then don’t give him clothes or food, what good does that do?
This is a great passage because it’s telling us that if we know someone in need, don’t just give them lip-service, but offer to actively help. Some people say, “Be there for others just as God is for you.” I’ve learned that part of being a healthy individual is helping and loving other people. It sounds strange, but you actually become much healthier by helping and loving other people. It’s simple. It’s true.
That’s why James tells us to not just tell people in need that you’ll pray for them… do something!
(This post is written only and exclusively to Christ-following business people about the new same-sex marriage ruling.
The reason I clarify the audience for this post is because context matters.
Someone who is not a follower of Christ could read this post or watch the accompanying video and come away with all kinds of misunderstandings.
That’s because they are not the intended audience. They don’t have the background or experience with Jesus to help them understand what I’m about to say.
And I’m also likely going to say things in ways that apply only to Christian people.
I’m not writing to cut people down or disparage anyone.
I’m writing to exhort a certain group of people to a certain way of thinking and acting.
So for what it’s worth… that’s who I’m talking to and where I’m coming from.)
We recently had a Supreme Court decision that a business that was a bakery and was asked to make a cake for a gay wedding refused because they were Christians and they believed that of good conscience they couldn’t make the cake because it would be part of celebrating the wedding, and they didn’t have a conviction—and that’s a key word; let’s think about that in just a minute—they didn’t have a conviction that it would be okay for them to do that.
In fact, their conviction was the opposite: that they could not do it in good conscience.
Now, how should we Christians who are business people think about issues like this? I think it’s a very confusing subject to many of us, and it’s a very difficult subject, honestly, because of quite a few things.
The first thing is: I want us to think about two passages in Scripture that really deal with the same issue. There is Romans, chapter 14, and then there’s First Corinthians, chapter 8.
Now, in those passages, Paul the Apostle is writing to believers (to Christians) about the issue of whether or not they should eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Now, in the Christian mind of that time, participating in a meal that included meat that had been sacrificed to idols could be construed as an act of worship, could be construed as taking part in that pagan practice of sacrificing to an idol or worshipping an idol; which to Christians would be a bad thing to worship an idol because it’s a false god.
Now, I think those passages have similar—not identical, please understand that—but similar considerations as does this issue with the bakery that didn’t want to make the cake.
You see, in that passage, Paul teaches that each person must be convinced in their own mind, okay. And that has partly to do with the Scriptures, what the Holy Spirit has taught you through the Scriptures, and with what you believe the Holy Spirit is guiding you personally to do.
Now in this issue with the bakery and the cake, I’ve heard a couple of different opinions from believers. Some are just very strong, “No way! That business should stand their ground. They shouldn’t be baking that cake because that is taking part in a gay marriage and it’s celebrating the union of these two people which shouldn’t be unified at all.”
And that’s all from a Christian standpoint.
There are others, who are believers, who are saying, “Hey, I would bake the cake if it were me. Out of love for the couple, to show them love, to demonstrate that I am not any more judgmental of them than I am of an alcoholic or a drug addict or something like that. And I don’t see this as perpetuating or taking part in the celebration; I see this as more as an act of love towards an individual or individuals.”
Okay, now, I can see both sides of the argument. I really can. And I can understand how that issue could be a matter of conviction for a person on either side.
Now, you may be on one side or the other; and you may look at it and kind of cast doubt at the people on the other side of that argument—and I would encourage you to slow down if that’s where you’re at because Paul’s argument in both of these passages is that we need to, out of love for our brothers, let them work through the issue according to their own convictions.
And really the emphasis is on trusting God to give those people direction as to what He wants them to do.
This is a very gray issue. There’s not a black and a white in an issue like this, even though we may want to press it and make it into an issue that has a black and a white to it. You see, we’ve got to be very careful that love, for our brother first of all, our Christian brother or sister, is overriding our opinion and our impressions of what should be done.
I think it’s important in this case of the bakery—hey, I support the bakery, that they’re standing on their conviction that is based on their Christian faith; I support them in that. I don’t know that I would have done the same thing. If I were in those shoes, I may have done the same thing, I might not have. I don’t know.
It’s hard to say until you actually get there.
Now, there’s another issue in this that I think is important for us to think through, and that is that we as Christians in business are going to face these kinds of issues sooner or later. Now, it depends really on what your business is. It depends on the kind of services you provide, the kinds of products that you have, as to whether or not you’re going to run into this in a real obvious way or not.
But I guarantee you this is an issue where our culture is becoming more and more accepting of the gay lifestyle. We can see that in the way that the Supreme Court ruled, and we can see that in the reactions in all the people who are having the little rainbow coloring on their profile image on the social media and things.
There are a lot of people who support this. And our culture is progressively becoming more and more attuned to those issues—and actually sympathetic toward them.
So you, as a Christian in business, you need to start thinking that through. Don’t wait until it’s at your doorstep.
Start thinking it through in light of the Scriptures, in light of conviction, in light of the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and most of all in light of love.
We have to be careful that we don’t come off as pharisaical hypocrites, where we’re kind of winking at one thing, but where actually we’re strongly condemning another, when both are clearly Biblical sins and both are clearly outside the realm of what a Christian would expect to do.
Now, there’s some guidelines in this, some things I’d like for us to think about as believers.
Number one is: we should not be expecting non-believers (people who don’t know Christ) to adhere to morals that are Christian and are things Christians should be doing, okay. There’s no reason for us to think that should be the case!
So non-believers, being homosexual, being alcoholic, being murderers, whatever, we should not be surprised at that.
Now, I’m not saying that in a condescending way. We all have our own sins. Even as believers in Christ, we struggle with the power of sin that still resides in our mortal body.
But we’re struggling with the Holy Spirit’s help to overcome those things; we don’t want them; we don’t appreciate them in our lives; we want to push them out, in time, with the Spirit’s help.
And that struggle should make us sympathetic with those who are outside the family of Christ.
It should make us eager to pray for them, eager to love them, eager to encourage them toward Christ in ways that are winsome and appealing, ways that appeal to them on the basis of God’s love for them.
If you read the Scriptures carefully—especially the New Testament—you’ll see that all references to people outside the family of Christ are references that are exhorting us as believers to approach them in love.
We are not to be condemning toward them.
So keep that in mind. You should not expect non-believers to act as believers. You should be praying for them; you should be loving them; you should be serving them… in whatever ways you feel in your conscience, in the leadership of the Holy Spirit, you are able to do so that they can be drawn toward Christ through the love that you’re giving.
And the second thing that I think we need to consider is that the way that we communicate our standards as a Christian business person needs to be done in a way that clearly identifies our stance while at the same time expressing love for the people involved. It’s a corollary to this first one that I mentioned, but it’s a little different.
We’ve got to be able to be clear in what we believe.
If we believe—and we should if we’re believers in Christ, and if we hold to the veracity of the Scriptures—we should believe that homosexuality is wrong just like any other sin is wrong.
But we need to communicate that to people in a way that does not condemn them as an individual, but rather expresses love and compassion.
That’s a hard balance to strike sometimes. You and I have to admit that.
And that’s why I want to encourage you to start thinking this through now.
I want you to just start considering: how would you do this?
Write out some ideas; think through some scripts; journal about it. Get under your belt these ideas and start considering: how would you respond in a way that would express both love, but also express a clear standard?
And then the third thing we as Christian businesspeople need to consider—and I want you to really consider this and think about this—is that we have got to be bold, and we’ve got to be courageous maybe more than bold.
As Paul said in another place, we should live lives among the pagans, such that they will give glory to God because of the purity of our lives. So we’ve got to live that kind of life and we’ve got to speak about why we live that kind of life when the time comes—and that may mean we have to become very clear about what we believe about issues like this gay marriage thing.
We can’t cave in because of some threat or some sense of fear, because our God is in control over all these things. We’ve got to keep Him in the center.
We’ve got to keep moving forward in our faith no matter what the difficulty is that may be facing us at the time.
These are not easy issues, and I’m speaking—please hear this, too—I’m speaking to Christians. I’m speaking to people who are Christ’s followers. If you’re committed to living your life and running your business in a way that honors and glorifies Christ, these are issues you have got to take seriously.
I don’t have easy answers. I don’t think there are easy answers.
We have to walk by the Spirit, taking His lead, and not gratifying the desires of our own flesh—which may be to run from the issue, to ignore the issue, to cave in when the pressure comes.
We’ve got to ignore those things, and we’ve got to submit to the power of the Spirit and let Him lead us so that we can be light in these dark times, when evil is being called good and good is being called evil.
I’d love to interact with you about this, so feel free to do that in the comments below the video or hit me up at Carey@CareyGreen.com so that we can interact about this. I don’t think there are easy answers. I don’t want to get into any hot and heavy debates about it, either.
But at the same time, as believers, this is an in-house debate. We’ve got to work this through and have grace toward our brothers who don’t have the exact same perspective on it that we do, but at the same time have boldness in our stance—in love, with compassion, but at the same time being clear.
(The following was originally published at CareyGreen.com.)
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
But Jesus said that the poor in spirit would actually be blessed.
Granted, that’s not necessarily financial or physical blessing that He’s promising, but at the very least we can say that you’ll be better off in the end if you’re blessed, than if you are not.
And being “poor in spirit” is the way to receive that blessing.
In today’s business world, there are tons of books and podcasts out there that I categorize as “Rah, rah” resources.
They’re all about pumping us up, encouraging us to believe that…
Why do I call them nonsense?
Because we know… WE BELIEVERS know that the truth is that nothing we have is about us. It’s all about God.
1 Peter 5:6-7 tells us –
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.”
“Poor in spirit” is a description of humility… and is the way we are to walk before our LORD and our God (Micah 6:8).
It’s an attitude that gives Him honor for the generosity He has shown and depends on Him for every bit of forward motion.
So how do we apply that in a business world where we’re vying for attention and dollars at every turn?
Maybe the thoughts I share in this video will help… it was shared in the Christians in Business community I run on Google Plus. You’re welcome to join us there if you’d like.
In 1 Samuel 18, we begin to follow David’s career as a military man. Additionally, we see foreshadows of Jesus, as well as the path for David eventually becoming Israel’s king. Let’s begin right at verse 1:
After David had finished talking with Saul, he met Jonathan, the king’s son. There was an immediate bond between them, for Jonathan loved David.
Now, in chapters 13 and 14 of 1 Samuel, we were introduced to Jonathan, and saw that anything good that came out of Saul’s kingship came as a result of Jonathan’s actions. We also saw that Jonathan was a “type” of the Holy Spirit. In other words, many Biblical scholars have pointed out that Jonathan typifies the ministry of the Holy Spirit, in that as the Holy Spirit is always pointing people to Jesus, Jonathan is always pointing people to David. Jonathan never lifts himself up, even though he has every right to do so, as the king’s firstborn son. Instead, at great expense to himself, Jonathan continually points to David. Note that the Holy Spirit is the only member of the Holy Trinity that doesn’t point people to Himself, but always to Jesus.
2 From that day on Saul kept David with him and wouldn’t let him return home. 3 And Jonathan made a solemn pact with David, because he loved him as he loved himself. 4 Jonathan sealed the pact by taking off his robe and giving it to David, together with his tunic, sword, bow, and belt.
Remember, this all occurred after David’s triumph over Goliath, so he was already held in high esteem as a national champion, and I’m sure that people from all around were showering him with gifts. But Jonathan, the king’s son – sort of the “vice-president” of Israel – chose to take all of the signs of his own authority and privilege and hand them over to David.
For those of you in leadership type positions, keep this in mind: There are people in your life that God wants to use – perhaps in a greater way than He has planned for you. How are you responding to that? Are you responding in envy, jealousy or frustration? Do you wonder why things are happening for them and not you? Or are you willing to submit to God’s work no matter how it happens or what your role might be?
I promise, if you take this approach, even at your own expense, you will be blessed. Because this perspective follows Jesus’ example of servant leadership.
Philippians 2:5-11 says:
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
6 Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
We see this attitude personified in Jonathan in 1 Samuel 18, when he gave up everything that was rightfully his in order to bless David because he understood that he was God’s anointed one.
5 Whatever Saul asked David to do, David did it successfully. So Saul made him a commander over the men of war, an appointment that was welcomed by the people and Saul’s officers alike.
6 When the victorious Israelite army was returning home after David had killed the Philistine, women from all the towns of Israel came out to meet King Saul. They sang and danced for joy with tambourines and cymbals. 7 This was their song:
“Saul has killed his thousands,
and David his ten thousands!”
Now, even these thousands of years later, we can easily see how these songs could make Saul jealous. But there’s even more going on here. It’s important to know that in Israel’s and their neighboring ancient cultures, it was necessary for the king to be confirmed by the people. We read in chapter 10 that at his first public confirmation, Saul was hiding behind the baggage. They had to forcefully bring him out and acclaim him king.
Contrast this to chapter 17, where David leaves his stuff with the baggage and went to the front of the battle lines in order to defeat the enemy. And now we see the people confirming David as Israel’s champion. Thus, David the Israeli hero was born.
8 This made Saul very angry. “What’s this?” he said. “They credit David with ten thousands and me with only thousands. Next they’ll be making him their king!” 9 So from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.
There are a couple of important things in this passage. First, we’ve read earlier that Saul knew the Old Testament law and knew his responsibilities as king, but still wanted to follow the desires of his own flesh. Verses 8-9 show how Saul actually sensed that God was about to do something different than what he would selfishly desire. He began to consider the possibility of David becoming the next king, and he had a choice at that moment: Respond God’s way or in a human way.
If he would have followed his son’s example, Saul would have responded God’s way. Jonathan had the most to lose, but chose to respond according to God’s will and make room for David. Saul chose to respond in a natural, human way and tried to make trouble for David (though he actually only succeeded in making trouble for himself).
Secondly, we see a warning for us in verse 9. We need to be careful of the sins that we allow to fester privately inside our hearts.
By the end of 1 Samuel, we will see Saul’s jealously absolutely consume him. This jealousy started here in chapter 18, simply because a crowd of people sang something. It started festering here, and later it raged out of control.
On a final note, as we look at David’s heralded victories, consider this in your own life:
Even the victories that God allows you to accomplish on behalf of Jesus can cause trouble for you. They can cause trouble for you because it puts a target on your back. The enemy knows that you are not one to back down. You are a warrior in a spiritual battle and the enemy will use new and more tactics from that point on to get you on the sidelines instead of in the battle.
So, use the gifts that God has given you. Be the person that God has created you to be. But understand that as you enter into spiritual warfare, you are putting a target on your back just like David did as his path was being revealed from a humble shepherd to the king of Israel.