It Starts with You

In Acts 1:8, Jesus told His followers, “you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

These instructions paint a picture of widening concentric circles spreading out to cover the globe. And indeed, the influence of the church spread out all over the Roman Empire and to the ends of the earth, and it continues spreading to new places to this day.

The church here in Mankato would like to see this as a model for our own efforts to spread the good news. Start in this city, then spread out all over the state, the country, and the world.

But there are times when the Bible would teach us to think smaller for a moment, instead of always thinking big.

In Philippians 2, Paul told his audience to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Some translations even say “work out your own salvation,” in order to emphasize the fact that this is a personal task for the Philippians to think about themselves.

The church has a lot of work to do, but we must make sure that we know where are we are going before we try to lead others there.

In Luke 6, a parable of Jesus is recorded: “A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into a pit? A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”

If we go out to halfheartedly spread a gospel that we ourselves have not been transformed by, we risk succeeding only in converting people to the same apathy and hypocrisy that we are practicing.

If we go out with logs in our eyes trying to remove specks from the eyes of others, we may succeed only in making matters worse.

This is exactly what Jesus accused some of the religious leaders of His day of doing in Matthew 23:15, “You travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”

Consider also the common scriptural illustrations of salt, light, and leaven. Salt can be spread out all over a large peace of meat in order to preserve it, but what if the salt loses its unique quality? A lamp can shine out on a hilltop for all to see, but what if a bushel is placed over it? Leaven can spread out to affect an entire loaf of bread, but what if the leaven is dead?

Let’s be a light in our city, our state, and our world. But let’s also be a light in our local congregation, our own homes, and even when we are alone in our rooms with the door shut. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, then go and share what you have found with the world.

 

 

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Living with Passion

A few years ago I read “Miracle in the Andes,” written by Nando Parrado, one of the 16 passengers who would ultimately survive a plane crash and 72 days of isolation in the Andes Mountains at high altitude. After two months stranded, Parrado and another man named Roberto Canessa trekked ten days through the mountains to ultimately find help.

The most moving part of Parrado’s account, which I will never forget, is the feeling he had very early into that ten day trek, when he finally got to the top of a high ridge, expecting to find Chile, and salvation, on the other side. Instead, there was nothing but more mountains as far as the eye could see.

All of the anxiety, the anticipation, the crushing weight of responsibility for the other passengers, and the desperate hope for the preservation of his life, was lifted from Parrado’s shoulders, and he describes an immense feeling of joy and relief. Parrado says that in that moment, he became certain that he would die in the Andes, and in that certainty he found a peace and a freedom.

Of course, Parrado was wrong. He went on to find help. But that feeling of peace never left him. He describes living each day to the fullest, with complete gratitude for the time that he has. In Parrado’s case, the old adage is true, life can only be truly and fully lived in view of death.

Another account of a terrible situation that has affected me deeply is a talk online by Journalist Sebastian Junger that seeks to understand “Why Veterans Miss War.” Junger personally spent time in heavy combat, and describes the paradoxical, but common scenario in which a soldier comes home from war, only to find him or her self longing to go back. His conclusion is that the connection of brotherhood felt by men in combat is a force of incredible power, and is so unequaled by the petty connections that dominate modern society.

Both of these accounts, and so many others like them that are based on true events, emphasize to us the reality that sometimes the most dramatic circumstances draw out from us something very deep and powerful. Deep within ourselves, men and women long to be a part of a cause that matters, to have an important reason to get up in the morning, and to feel the full depth and weight of a life lived to the fullest.

Contrast that with much of what goes on in the Lord’s church today.

Friends, the Bible tells us that we are at war (Ephesians 6:10-17). The Bible tells us that we have an adversary who stalks around like a lion eating people (1 Peter 5:8). The Bible tells us that we have the opportunity to save souls from death (James 5:20). The Bible tells us that we will suffer and be reviled (1 Peter 4:12-14), and hated my all (Mark 13:13), as we strive for a prize that far outweighs our afflictions (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Do the problems of social or economic or political injustice that fill so many with passion not have their root in the necessity for the hearts of the world to find and savor Jesus Christ? Do the family problems that tear lives apart and leave so many so deeply and tragically wounded not fall under the authority of the Divine Author of the family itself?

Is there not a war raging in your heart over whether life is even worth living, and if so, what it is worth living for? Is the world not full of suffering that God calls us to address? Do you actually believe even a fraction of what you say about how much of the world is lost and truly hell bound?

Jesus came that we might live life and live it to the fullest (John 10:10).

If God in Christ is not drawing out from deep within us the strivings of hearts that are truly living and fighting with passion, it is not because He has not issued a call to arms. It is only because of our pathetic, hypocritical apathy.