“He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” Hebrews 11:26
American society is wealth and prosperity focused. Men and women alike dedicate themselves to climbing the corporate ladder in an attempt to attain the level of financial and societal accomplishment that they perceive as “success”. In fact, Webster’s dictionary defines success as “the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence”. In a society that embraces this definition of success, even considering the reproach of Christ is not only unappealing, it is ridiculous.
But for those of us who have been born of the Spirit, sharing the reproach of Christ becomes desirable as we seek to be like our Master in all things. This One who left the glory of heaven to become one of us, Who suffered the ultimate reproach for us – yes, we will choose to be identified with Him and share in His sufferings.
There is a secret known only to those who follow the way of the cross. It is not a secret that we have been told. It is one that we have lived. And it is this – though the cost of following Christ means the loss of all things, though it means the scorn of others, though it means trial after trial that seemingly would crush us to pieces – there is a holy sweetness in the crushing as we see the character of Christ being formed in us. Oh, how we will gladly be hated for His sake, for as we surrender ourselves to Him in the midst of the vilest cruelty, the greatness of His love poured out in us far outweighs the depth of the hatred displayed towards us.
Hebrews 13:13 “Therefore let us go to Him outside the camp and bear the reproach He endured.”
As we separate ourselves from the empty pleasures the world chases after, let us remember that we do this not as some outward show of piety, but for a purpose – so that we can go to Him. Suffering in and of itself holds no value, but when we suffer for His sake, we have the hope of a reward that is greater wealth than all the riches this world could offer.
So let us look away from the distractions this world flaunts before our eyes and fix our gaze firmly upon the greatest treasure – the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going. How can we know the way?” John 14:5
I sometimes travel a bit with my job. Whenever I have to go somewhere I’ve never been before I call to make sure I have a good address and then I look it up on Mapquest. I print out the map and I print out the driving directions. And if it is still unclear at that point I call back for clarification. I hate being lost.
If someone called and scheduled a time for me to come to their place of business, but left no address, chances are I’m not going to make it there. If I don’t know where you are, how can I get to you?
Thomas’ question makes a lot of sense to me. Nobody wants to get lost or waste time going in the wrong direction. We just need clear instructions, so Jesus please just map out all of life for us so we can see where it ends and what path we need to take.
In this day everyone is crying out to know their purpose. It sells lots of books. Somehow I don’t think the Lord is nearly as interested in showing us our purpose as we might think. To Thomas’ question Jesus’ answer was “I am the way”.
I don’t think the answer has changed.
I was very blessed many years ago by this phrase from a song by Gianna Jessen “He doesn’t ask me to know, only to follow”.
So when life at times feels directionless, I am learning to be content to know this – Jesus is still the way.
Today marks day 21 with no electricity thanks to hurricane Gustav. I have done everything I can. I have made phone call after phone call. And still I wait. I am thankful to have a place to stay during this time, but I am anxious to get home. The whole process has been frustrating at times. There have been tears.
Last night when my youngest son came home (to my parents house where we are staying) he said he had stopped by our house and it had been broken into. He checked his room to identify what was missing and I will go today to check the rest of the house and file a police report.
Needless to say, this news was disheartening. As soon as I was able, I retreated into my room where I lay on the bed, staring at the ceiling. With tears, I told the Lord “I have no idea how to respond to this. Lord please show me how to respond.”
Moments later, so very clearly, this verse from the apostle Paul came to mind – “none of these things move me.” And as it came it brought strength. This word from God was so packed full of life in that moment that I began to feel free from the sorrow that had filled my heart and was instead filled with a wonderful sense of peace. And this song flooded into my mind –
When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot
Thou hast taught me to say
It is well
It is well with my soul
While reading through the Gospels over the last few weeks I noticed that all four gospels include the detail of Christ being wrapped in a linen cloth when He was buried. It struck me as a curious detail to be included, especially in all four gospels. Seemed like something worth looking into a bit more.
My search brought me back to the 16th chapter of Leviticus where the instructions for the Day of Atonement are given. This was the one day during the year that the high priest entered into the Holy Place, where the Presence of God dwelt, and put the blood on the mercy seat to atone for the sins of the people. When performing this ceremony, he was to be dressed as follows:
“He shall put the holy linen tunic and the linen trousers on his body; he shall be girded with a linen sash, and with the linen turban he shall be attired. These are holy garments. Therefore he shall wash his body in water, and put them on.” Leviticus 16:4
What amazing significance this passage gives to the linen cloth that Christ was buried in. For when Christ rose, He performed the high priestly duties of the Day of Atonement, bringing His own blood into the Holy Place for the forgiveness of our sins.
I can only marvel at the perfection of God’s plan, completed to the last detail in Christ.
How many times have you been reminded of the importance of the way you live “because the world is watching”? Many times I have acknowledged the importance of this in my own heart. But if we’re not careful we can become more interested in how our behavior appears to others than how our heart is before the Lord. While I in no way diminish the importance of living in such a way as to not bring dishonor to the name of Christ, I would propose that there are two ways of doing this.
The first way is by way of the nice person syndrome. It is a fabricated façade placed before the watching eyes of others, that conforms to the proper etiquette of the day so as not to offend anyone. It does not reflect anything of what is going on in the heart, but is purposely designed to be what is expected from others. This life is dominated by a desire to please others, to have their approval and to know that they think well of us. We present to people a self that is not us at all.
The second way is the overflow life. It is effortless in that there is no need for pretense. Regardless of what people expect or what society demands, we are living before an audience of One and our desire is only to please Him. We are glad when in the process of living for Him we are also able to please others as well. But the overflow life makes no allowances for putting the desires of any man above the desires of Christ. We live an authentic life, with our words and deeds motivated only by our longing to bring glory to Christ.
Those who live the overflow life, who are living before an audience of One, will be misunderstood. This is a certainty. The world will not appreciate our devotion to One other than themselves. But we were not called to be appreciated. We were called to follow and obey, which is something that the world cannot understand. Let the world watch, and let them marvel.
My dear Jesus, the world may be a curious onlooker, but I am living for Your eyes only.
Matthew 26:6-9 And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.”
Mary seemed to have no difficulty giving Jesus her very best or expressing her devotion to Him in full view of those who were present. Surely they would have understood – they were His disciples, the ones most intimately acquainted with Him.
They did not.
Following Christ, witnessing the miracles, hearing His teachings, receiving insight into the mysteries of heaven, and even ministering the gospel of the kingdom with miraculous signs, the disciples failed to fully grasp the value of Christ.
“Why this waste?”
When holy things become common to us, when the sense of reverent awe and wonder is lost, worship seems wasteful. There are other, more beneficial things I can do with my money, time (__________ insert the thing of value that is too precious to you to lavish upon Jesus).
Have we forgotten that worship is more than singing a song or mouthing some religious sounding words? If our heart has not been captivated by how supremely valuable our God is, are these things really worship? And if He does not have our heart Monday – Saturday, does it really mean that much to Him if we show up in church on Sunday?
Oh, how my heart cries to be one who lavishes my all upon Him! Dear friends, let us press on to know Him, to love Him and worship Him with the fervency and devotion He is worthy of. For absolutely nothing is wasted that is given to Jesus.
Tragedy has a way of bringing hidden things to light. I am thinking primarily of inner things, like attitudes and motives. It would surely be an exaggeration to categorize hurricane Gustav as a tragedy for me personally, but it was most certainly a terrible inconvenience. Over the course of the days that followed there was a wide range of emotions that I have dealt with: sorrow over all the damage that had been done to our city; irritation with all the inconvenience associated with daily life; and sadness because I felt that little concern was shown by people I know in other parts of the country for how I might have been affected by the storm. This last one has been most troubling to me.
As I have pondered this issue (for it has affected me deeply), I have taken it to the Lord in prayer. Although it may be a factual issue, I was concerned that my heart was not right in this matter and that offense was beginning to creep in. So I cried my sorrow out to the Lord and asked Him to adjust my perspective and to help me see this situation as He did.
That night as I was finishing up the book of Colossians, I read these words written by the apostle Paul in the final verse – Remember my chains. I felt the Lord drawing my attention to that verse, so I stopped and read it again. Yes, this is what I want. I want someone to remember my chains. I have felt forgotten. Neglected. Somebody should remember me.
Feeling quite self satisfied, as though this Scripture justified the ugliness that was growing in my heart, I breathed a sigh of relief, certain that God was on my side and that my hurt feelings were warranted. But so softly and more gently than I deserved at that moment, He spoke to me through that verse – “Whose chains have you remembered?”
I had no defense. I had no excuse. Utterly ashamed, I could only cry out “No one’s Lord!”
So, before the world (whoever may be reading this) I confess that there was a plank in my own eye while I was angry about the speck in yours. And I pray that the Lord will help me to remember the chains of others and forget my own.