conversationI have done this countless times, especially while at work.

Somebody asks me a question or states an opinion on a matter that Scripture clearly answers or addresses.  However, I’m working.  I have more productive things to do than get bogged down into deep and potentially lengthy philosophical or theological discussion.

Sometimes the opinions they offer are flatly false.  I have access to Truth and that Truth declares the opposite of my co-worker’s or employee’s statement.

Yet most often I just smile or remain silent or say something along the lines of, “Well, that’s one way to look at it.”  I say or do whatever it takes to not get wrapped up in such a conversation.  I don’t even say, “I disagree.”

At the end of Luke 11, Jesus blasts the lawyers, the experts in the Mosaic Law, for not only being unable to discern deep Truth, but also for not sharing it with the multitudes dependent on their resources and expertise in order to learn Truth.

The lawyers knew the Old Testament inside and out, yet failed to learn from the mistakes of past generations.  Just like their predecessors, the lawyers were unable to recognize true prophets and proceeded to persecute them and kill them.  They even killed Jesus, the greatest embodiment and proclaimer of Truth the world has ever known.

The layers had a responsibility to be wise…to actually recognize Truth and to teach it.  Not shallow knowledge or legalistic rules, but a deep, living understanding of the point of it all.  They had all the resources and training needed…luxuries in those days. 

But they failed.

Me, too.

This hurts.  I realized yesterday that I am just like them when I do not share the Truth God has graciously allowed me to know and study with those around me.  Maybe I’m the only “expert in the law” some of these people at work will ever know.  My refusal to get into meaningful conversations about Truth is akin to, as Jesus would say, taking away the key of knowledge and hindering those who were seeking it (Lk. 11:52).

I have a responsibility to be as wise as I can be, to be deep, and to affect people around me accordingly.

So…it looks like I’ll be in for some potentially long and deep conversations at work.  But, really, that matters more than any other thing I could be doing anyway.  And I always say that I want to be about things that really matter.

I have the privilege and responsibility of doing the hard, messy work of proclaiming and defending Truth, come what may.  To do it tactfully and responsibly, but to do it nonetheless.

It is one of the tasks Jesus gives to those who claim to be His disciples. 

It is a part of really living.

fetterIf we imagine living a life of complete, unhindered pursuit of God, many different images come to mind. We think of taking greater risks, positing less weight on other’s opinions, participating in daily uninterrupted communion with God and His Word, and giving more freely of ourselves.

Yet we don’t live that way. Why not? What are those things that keep us from following hard after God, with abandon?

We saw how Jesus targeted a few such fetters (Luke 9:57-62)…self-inflicted restraints that tie us down to something less than full discipleship. Something less than full LIFE. Something less than, in Jesus’ words, suitable for the Kingdom of God.

We pursue this foreign, twisted, partial discipleship as soon as we say, almost always unconsciously, “I’ll follow you Jesus, but…”
“I’ll follow You, but I won’t move.”
“I’ll follow You, but don’t infringe on my time. Or possessions. Or…”

What are our “buts?”

Jesus confronted directly the fetters of comfort, concern of social status, the past, our own timings, and cultural expectations. We also saw how good things, without proper spiritual discernment and discretion, have the ability to actually draw us away from God…things even like family responsibilities/obligations and other good works and ministries.

The Bible calls these fetters, these “buts,” idols. Ouch.

This is hard stuff, especially practically. To consciously rid ourselves of those things that hold us back hurts. Sacrifices hurt. Yet this is part of our call. And true deep life is not found elsewhere. Do we REALLY want to live? Do we REALLY desire God?

Jesus tells us it’s all or nothing. Now, not later. Leave it and follow.

Thankfully, God has given us the power for these sacrifices through the Holy Spirit. And we have each other.

What are you learning as you take steps to more fully pursue God? How are you succeeding and where are you struggling?

self-denial1The last couple of weeks, we’ve talked about denying ourselves (Luke 9).  Here, a lot of rubber meets a lot of road.  Self-denial is meaty stuff.  It is hard.  It is essential.

This past Sunday, we focused on the purpose of self-denial–to further love God and to love others.

Yet how easily we substitute these loves for the love of self!

If denying ourselves is ever easy, often it is because we are denying ourselves for ourself, strangely enough.  The purpose has become subtly twisted from losing our life for Christ’s sake, to losing our life for our sake.

Two personal examples:

A) If I ever put in the time, effort, “sacrifice,” to put together a Sunday teaching in order to impress others’ with style or content, then I’ve missed the point.  I’ve twisted the purpose into serving my pride rather than God or others.

B) If I ever sacrifice time to pray or read/meditate on the Bible in order to check it off my to-do list, then I’ve twisted the purpose into a duty to finish rather than a relationship to nurture.

The act of self-denial is meaningless without the right purpose. 

What is hard about purposed self-denial?  How can we better lose our lives for the sake of God?