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Why Are We Here?

390What are we here for?

Many have asked that question throughout the ages. What am I here for? What is my purpose? As believers in Jesus Christ, we now know the answer: God created us for His purpose. Then mankind rebelled; and sorrow, emptiness, and despair filled every heart to some degree or another. For those of us who have been reconciled to God through the redeeming work and power of Jesus Christ, we are back where we belong: in God’s loving family. Hallelujah!

So, why are we still here!? This world is not our permanent home. We are “just a passin’ through,” as one old-time Gospel song-writer put it. We look for the same City as did Abraham; a City with foundations, whose builder and maker is God. So why did our Lord leave us, for a time, here in this dark, confusing, pain-filled world? I can think of at least two very good reasons: To train us and help us to grow so we can be holy and be made fit for heaven and ready for God’s tremendous and awesome presence; And to be lights and witnesses of His gracious offer of rescue and salvation to others who are just like we once were: lost; in darkness.We are ambassadors of our Precious Mighty King, the Lord Jesus Christ. And He offers citizenship in His Kingdom to whosoever will … through us.

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It is of being lights, witnesses, and ambassadors that I write today. Jesus said much about our light; letting it shine for all to see. This is no secret society to which we belong; no hidden message to which we cling. The invitation we give and our witness of its truth are to be public and obvious. He said to take the message, the Good News of His Redemption, to all the people of the world. He speaks of scattering the Word of God like seed, and of watering it; He promises He will make it grow in the hearts of men, women, and children. In the Revelation which He gave to the Apostle John, our Risen Savior, with eyes like blazing fire and feet like bronze, walks among 7 lampstands. He tells John, the 7 lampstands are the churches. The Savior and Head of the churches walks among them. He is in the midst of them. In the midst of us. I find this very encouraging. He knows each church intimately and gives words of encouragement and of correction; of praise and of rebuke. He even warns one church, that if they do not repent and go back to what they first knew, and first loved, their lampstand would be removed. By Him. Their light would go out. They would no longer be representing their Redeemer, their Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. How sorrowful!

This brings to mind the vine and branches Jesus spoke of in the Gospel of John, chapter 15. In the precious moments leading to His suffering and death, Jesus taught His disciples about abiding in Him and bearing fruit. He used analogies they could understand and relate to. What is simpler than a vine with branches? The life comes from the roots into the main body of the plant and then out into the branches. Obviously, if you were to cut off a branch, removing it from nutrients and moisture, the branch would dry up and die. No branch is a self-sufficient entity. It needs to draw life from somewhere. For us, believers in Jesus, His church, His people, we draw our life from Him. Without Him everything good in us would dry up and die. All life, hope, and power would be gone. And obviously, a dead branch cannot have fruit on it. A dead branch cannot help anybody.

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In a very simple analogy, think of believers in and followers of Jesus as conduits; bringing His Water of Life to a thirsty world. Think of us as a garden hose. The water is not of our making; but it is our job to bring it to those who need it. Just as when Jesus fed thousands of people using a few loaves of bread and a few fish; He multiplied the food, passed it into the hands of His disciples, and they dispersed it to the hungry people. They were His conduits. We are His conduits today. He has chosen to give His message of life and reconciliation with God; through those who have already experienced this profound re-birth. We have been given the amazing privilege of sharing the Bread of Life and the Water of Life with those who desperately need Him.

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As I was watering our various plants around the yard, the hose kept kinking up. Every time the hose would bend and get turned on itself, the water would stop flowing. Ugh. This reminds me of the Church, as a whole. We have branches or denominations among us who are turning from the simple message that Christ saves sinners, and bending to the world; they are promoting themselves, or fighting against other believers, so they can comfortably conform to the world’s standards. As simple conduits of God’s Great mercy and grace to a desperately thirsty world, it is heartbreaking to see all the strife. What good are we to God’s Kingdom and to obeying our Master’s Great Commission of spreading His Offer and Invitation of Life; when we are promoting our “distinctives” while ignoring His distinctives? Rather than obsessing over what sets us apart from our redeemed brethren, should we not focus on that which sets all true believers apart from a dying world? Life!!! Life sets us apart! The very Life and Resurrection Power of Jesus is in us! Remember beloved, we are not here to become one with the world. We are here to offer the world union with Christ. There is a huge difference. We do not love the world by joining them in darkness. We love the world by showing them the light of Jesus.

Can you imagine if Peter, John, or Andrew stopped to admire their clothing as Jesus was handing them miraculous food for hungry people? Can you imagine if Philip started triumphing over Thaddeus, because he was “doing it better”? Or what if Bartholomew goaded Thomas about “not really understanding what it was to be hungry”? How silly and ineffective would they have been?! They simply took what was given from the Master’s hands and humbly passed it along.

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Let us not turn in on ourselves. Let us not become proud, distracted, or divided. As the shadows deepen and the darkness spreads, let us clothe ourselves with the humble heart of Jesus and be the simple conduits He means for us to be. Let the life and power of Jesus flow through us to those who need Him. Let our lights shine in the darkness; that is, the light of Jesus shining through us. Let the water of life flow freely through us. Let’s ask our Master to remove all the barriers and strife that keep us tied in knots and ineffectual for His Kingdom. It’s not about us, after all. It’s about Him. And it’s about those for whom He died who are not yet safely reconciled to God; who are not yet re-born into His family.

This is one enormously and eternally significant reason why we are still here. Let the Water of Life flow! The world is thirsty!

John 6:35

John 4:10-14

2 Corinthians 5:11-21

Philippians 2:1-18

The Value of Humility

The Bible repeatedly urges God’s servants to: Be courageous; and don’t be afraid.

The Bible also continually warns God’s servants (and others) to: Be humble; and don’t be proud.

These bits of counsel may seem contradictory. Yet, by looking deeper, we see they are beautifully harmonious. I believe the common sense of the world has muddled our understanding.

To many people, courage is synonymous with bold, out-front-style leadership; much like a hero dashing into a fight. Many a brash and reckless person has been considered brave. And with our flawed, sinful natures, any kind of success, victory, or heroism usually leads us to pride. So, we have often linked courage to pride. We continue this charade when we continually wink at the excesses of the egotistical especially when they are good at what they do. We have come to believe that courage and pride are flip-sides of the same coin; that we cannot have one without the other; a weakness for every strength, etc.

To some people, being humble is synonymous with being a fearful, weak door-mat; the kind of invisible, unimportant person everybody steps on and nobody wants to be. A humble attitude does not jive with our culture’s current Self-love/Self-respect philosophy. So we tag humility as fear and timidity and lock it away with the other weak, undesirable traits.

When we begin to understand the true nature of both pride and humility, the picture becomes much clearer and simpler. A mix-up has, indeed, occurred. Pride and courage do not belong together; and a humble heart and a fearful heart are not the same.

In truth, pride is closely related to fear. Pride has to gather all honor and rewards now, because it is fearful of not being paid its due. Fear screams to be noticed and calmed. Neither pride nor fear can wait; having no patience, faith, or trust. The proud heart is a fearful heart; and a fearful heart is a proud heart. Pride and fear both devastate the human heart with extreme weakness.

The courageous is brother to the humble. They are both strong in a manner the world has long forgotten; a quiet, deep trust in God. Bravery and humility are both free from the frantic cries of fear and the me-centered demands of pride. The humble heart is a courageous heart; and a courageous heart is a humble heart. These are the strongest hearts of all mankind.

So, you may ask: How can I be courageous and avoid pride; And how can I be humble and avoid fear? The answer is found, as are all answers, in the person of Jesus Christ.

Jesus was humility personified. He purposely laid aside His Godhood and took on the nature of a servant. Holy God touched unholy humanity. He laid down everything He was and picked up everything we were; taking our sins, our shame, and our punishment … on Himself. Yet, can we think for a moment that Jesus was weak … or fearful … or lacking in courage? Never. He faced His grim task head-on. Jesus was strong and determined; stronger than anyone else in all of history; more courageous than all other heroes combined. It took great courage to purposely lay down His might and allow Himself to suffer so intensely; for crimes He had not committed; for those who were currently His enemies; for many who would never reciprocate His love. Not once did Jesus forget who He was and what His mission was. He had a peaceful, confident strength that did not need to be on full display to be effective. Just as the setting sun and the night sky do not negate the fact that the sun is still shining in all its glory.

Subtle SunLet’s explore this trait of meekness.

Many have supposed the meekness of Jesus to be weakness. Yet, He had complete control of every situation and could have destroyed every mocker, beater, and persecutor. He held back out of love and great mercy. Meekness is great power under even greater control. If this be God’s weakness, it is vastly superior to all of man’s strength combined. Man roars at God and does not even squeak in a tiny speck of the vast universe … God whispers to man and thunders throughout the cosmos.

So, where does a mere human, easily swayed toward pride and fear, gather the deep peace and confident trust necessary to be humble and courageous in the face of difficult troubles or even stunning victories? From Jesus.

Let’s be strong in the power and might of our Lord Jesus Christ; in the grace and strength only His Holy Spirit can give. We gather this strength directly from Him by abiding or dwelling in Him. Jesus likened this power transfer to a branch attached to and gathering its life from a vine, possibly a grapevine. (See John 15.) David and Jeremiah both compared this power transfer to a tree reaching its roots deep into the soil and tapping into a nearby ample water source. (See Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17:7-8.) Practically, this means spending time in Jesus’ presence; talking to Him, listening to Him, and learning from His written Word, the Bible.

So let us reject pride and fear as the weaknesses they are, and use our Lord’s great strength to courageously, humbly, and meekly serve Him. In this way, we can walk gently and kindly among men as He did.

Ephesians 6:10

“Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.”

Psalm 27:13-14

“Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous.Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.”

Matthew 8:26

“Jesus responded, ‘Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!’ Then He got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.”

John 13:3-5

Jesus knew that the Father had given Him authority over everything and that He had come from God and would return to God. So He got up from the table, took off His robe, wrapped a towel around His waist, and poured water into a basin. Then He began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel He had around Him.”

John 14:27

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” ~ Jesus

Romans 8:15-16

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when He adopted you as His own children. Now we call Him, ‘Abba, Father.’  For His Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.”

 James 3:13

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.”

 James 4:6

“And He gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, ‘God opposes the proud
    but gives grace to the humble.’”

 1 Peter 3:8

“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.”

Starve the Pride, Feed the Humility

A little child is relieved when Mama or Daddy says, “That’s okay, you’ll do better next time.” We all love a second chance, a fresh start, or a clean slate.  Every Christian has been forgiven of serious sins against our Almighty God. And we are so grateful, that our hearts swell with worship and love toward our Savior. What a blessed gift is this forgiveness! We are clean! We are free!

So, why is it so hard to forgive others when they trespass against us?

“But you don’t know what he did!” some cry.

“She can’t hurt me that way, and get away with it!” others vow.

It is very ironic that those of us who revel in the forgiveness of our Lord, still hold grudges against our brothers and sisters. Jesus spoke about this in Matthew 18:21-35.

Yet, I don’t want to dwell only on forgiveness, but on the flip side, repentance. Repentance is a lovely gift. It springs from the humility planted by the Holy Spirit as He works in our hearts.

Humans are so stubborn, that we often cling to our opinions and rights as if we were falling from a high cliff and those were our only handholds.  Yet, we are often in the wrong. We bruise someone’s heart, and insist they shouldn’t be so sensitive. We push our opinions, when someone just needs a listening ear. Often, we act as if everything is about us, when in reality it’s all about Jesus.

So, when we have been real jerks, have no doubt that others have noticed. Our spouses, siblings, children, co-workers, neighbors, associates, or friends are probably smarting from our harsh remarks, or are deeply wounded by our thoughtless actions. Since we are human, even when we do not intend to hurt anyone, we can still leave paths of devastation in our wakes.

“I’m sorry,” are just two little words, but they are, oh, so powerful.

“I think I hurt you, and I am so sorry,” delivered with sincerity, is very freeing.

“I didn’t mean to hurt you, but I see I did. I apologize.” Offered with the softness of humility, this is like cold water to a thirsty heart.

Have you ever been wronged and keenly felt the sting and injustice of it? Then, the person who did the deed came and humbly took responsibility and offered a heartfelt apology? Do you remember what that did for your heart? Granted, this does not always happen, and we should let go of the hurt even if we never receive an apology.  Yet, when it comes it is sweet, isn’t it? Well, we can do this for others. If we discover we have hurt someone, let them see us repent.

Sometimes, we are afraid that if we apologize or even back down, we will lose something: our status, our standing, our pride, our reputation. Yes, well, we may lose those. And that may be a good thing. Instead, we will develop characteristics of far greater value, like those of Jesus: love, kindness, gentleness, goodness, meekness, and temperance.

What do we protect, feed, and nurture? The stubborn pride of our sinful natures, or the wise humility of our new natures?

1 John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world nor the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.  The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

1 Peter 5:5 “… and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Proverbs 16:18-19 “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling. It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly than to divide the spoil with the proud.”