Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Lining Up 2

“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’  Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.’  Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’  He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’  Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep.’  The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’  Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’  He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’  

Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep.  Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’ Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, ‘Follow me!’” (John 21:15-19 NIV)

The Lord’s questioning of Peter was meant to redeem his previous denials that he even knew Jesus.  But it is what He said afterward to which I want to draw attention.  He gives Peter a sense of what lies ahead for him—imprisonment and death.  And then the Lord says, like a platoon leader preparing his soldiers for deadly battle to build up their courage, “Follow me!”  And Peter did, ultimately giving up his life for Jesus. 

I wrote yesterday about how our culture hypes events and merchandise to get people excited to line up for them, and how many are looking for the same kind of excitement when they are looking for motivation to follow Jesus.  For that reason, I wrote, many people find it difficult because what Jesus offers us is the call to take up our cross and follow Him.  It is the path of self-denial and sacrifice.  That path is hard to hype and is why few will find it.  Sadly, however, many in the Church indeed try to hype it in hopes of making it attractive.  But it is a mistake and here is why.

I often receive mailings and messages touting an upcoming conference, typically geared toward youth, and they always proclaim how my life (or those of students) will be changed by attending. Typically, they promote a catchy theme, and a well-known speaker (“he has spoken around the world and is the author of many books”) or band.  I also see the same on social media regarding Christian gatherings—hype upon hype of how this or that event will be life-changing.

I don’t know about you, but in my life I have literally attended hundreds of conferences, retreats, and concerts, and I can only name one that truly changed my life, meaning its purpose and direction.  It was the Urbana missions conference, the gathering of mostly students every three years sponsored by Inter-Varsity.  The rest, for the most part, have been encouraging, enjoyable, and often challenging, but not life-changing.  

Where I have experienced the most life-change, rather, is through the experiences I have had in my daily life, and, quite frankly, many of them have been difficult and often extremely painful, such as the deaths of my parents when I was a young adult, my first wife’s unfaithfulness and her abandonment of our marriage, and being forced out of a ministry I dearly loved.  Others have been immense blessings such as deep friendships and a second chance at marriage.  Many have taken me out of my personal comfort zone, stretched in ways that caused me to depend more and more upon the Lord.  I am the changed man I am today because of God working through the ordinary, and often mundane, things of life.  

We live in a world of hype and, unfortunately many Christians think that is what God needs to help Him change people.  On the contrary, the Creator of the universe needs no hype.  Rather, what He needs are people, like Peter, who are willing to follow Him day in and day out no matter what the cost because they love and trust Him.  This is truly how lives are changed.  

Today, if you want your life to change or those of others, know it will likely not be a conference or a concert that does it.  Rather, it will be an intentional decision to obey the Lord’s command, “Follow me!” and then doing it out of love for Him and trust in Him no matter what lies ahead. Based on my life’s experience, that’s worth lining up for!

© Jim Musser 2016

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