Kristin spoke again about the significance of controlling our finances. She offered up the reasons and gave clear and convincing proofs of her viewpoint that God is the one in control of our assets; we are stewards and administrators, but he is the owner. I will let you download the podcast for fuller details.
What struck me – what got me shaking – was the weight of that statement. That God speaks to us and tells us his priorities and concerns. If that is true (and I believe it is), then we have some things to think about.
Now, I am the last person to lay something out for you that I won’t do. That way lies guilt and shame, and I don’t use those tools if I can help it. So stay with me here if you would – we’re not going to go off into the bushes into performance or measurement. I want to really think about what this means. And I have to warn you: it will be difficult.
We have these words given to us from Jesus himself, the one we follow in our journey. It is my belief that he came to rescue us from our chains. For most of us, those chains are not visible – most of us do not have outright physical restraints. Most of us are chained by our actions and our beliefs. Jesus came to free us from those chains.
So we receive this freedom from Jesus. We are energized by the spirit of God. We are freed from the chains.
And then…and then something happens. Instead of growing more free and more alive, we retreat into a ritual. Of doing the same things. Of saying the same things. Of living a rather ordinary life that does not greatly reflect the awesomeness of the changes. And the saddest thing is – we think this is what it’s all about. The journey becomes a treadmill. A routine. A rut.
I want to interject – again – here. Because I am not leading you into a path where I will give you a new set of rules to replace the old set of rules. It doesn’t work that way, and if that’s all you’re doing, then you’re not really living. I’m trying to get at something deeper, more profound, more real about life.
And I’m not trying to make you think – in any way – that the basic duties you’re asked to do are meaningless or small. That’s totally wrong. Most of us will have rather ordinary tasks for the most part – being faithful, being consistent, being honest, doing our jobs, rearing our children, paying our taxes.
What I am saying is something that I overlooked myself, maybe because it was hard to find, but mostly because I didn’t want to see it.
You see, I wanted to keep my faith small. Yes, I wanted Jesus to save me from my chains. I wanted the freedom to believe and live, but – and this is where I am struggling so hard to be honest – I was mostly concerned with having just enough religion to make me a better person and a nicer guy. I wanted the gloss of a kind soul. I wanted people to think well of me.
But I didn’t want to go that next step, and really take his words seriously in my day-to-day actions and in my larger life goals. (And yes, this ties into what Kristin said.)
It’s about the very plain words of Jesus for me to act in the way he would act if he were in my place. Yes, he was kind. Yes, he was good. Yes, he was nice (unless you were a moneychanger or a two-faced talker – then, not so nice).
But he was more than nice. He was an upturner of expectations. He set things right. He restored people. He spoke the good words of God.
I think about what Kristin said about money and finances, speaking the words of God about who owns our assets and who administers them. (Hint: God owns them and we administer them.) I think about what Monty and Marty have spoken from the pulpit about doing the works of God. I think about the opportunities for change in our communities. That the followers of Jesus have his awesome power in their own lives.
And then I think of my own life, how I have been careful not to rock the boat or speak out when something’s wrong or to just do something extraordinary and normal. I think of the incomprehensible claims of God to be in charge of things. I think of the many believers throughout the centuries who saw massive hurt and injustice and responded with the actions of Jesus, who did things that represented the mercy of my Jesus. I think of my own self, in a situation where things are wrong, and I have these words of God, and I have these clear directions. I have all these clues.
And I can talk and write and preach, and I can tell you things, and I can give clear and convincing proofs of anything. But the thing I am not doing is what Jesus asked me to do most: to do what he says. When he talks about finances – to bring my finances under his control. When he speaks of his mercy and love – to act well and deeply. And when he speaks about the justice of God – to act with justice.
I don’t know if you are in that same situation. I don’t know if you are tracking with Jesus on what he says, and you simply nod your head and say “You go, man. You keep following,” because you’re living that full life of honest obedience.
I suspect that some of you are in the same boat with me. Thinking, “Lord, are you really calling me?” Because the awful reality is dawning that he is asking us to follow – to really follow – him.
The reality that he means what he says.