10 Seconds On Joy


Just straight Scripture, here.  

Jesus, to His disciples the night before He was led to the slaughter to save His people: 

When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 

John 16:21-22

No one will take your joy from you.  

Amen and amen.  

Maundy Thursday

 

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.  During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper.  He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.  He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, do you wash my feet?’  Jesus answered him, ‘What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.’  Peter said to him, ‘You shall never wash my feet.’  Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.’  Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’  Jesus said to him, ‘The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean.  And you are clean, but not every one of you.’  For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’  When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, ‘Do you understand what I have done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.  Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.  I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen.  But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’  I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.  Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.’

John 13:13-20

We who are Christians worship a Servant in a culture that worships self.  Self-expression, self-identification, self-gratification.  And the poisonous root under all that 2017 selfie soil is the same one that was buried underneath Adam’s sin:  Self-salvation.  We sinful humans want to stand in the place of God.  We want to be at the center.  We are, to borrow from C.S. Lewis, adjectives who want to be nouns.

And yet here, in Jerusalem on Passover, is Jesus.

Here stands the One through whom all things, visible and invisible, were created.  Except, wait, He’s not standing. No, He’s starting to kneel.  Wait, what?  What is He doing?  He can’t be…  The towel, the bowl of water…  No.  No way.   Like a slave?  He’s putting the towel around his waste and washing their feet like a slave?

God.  The Lord.  Rinsing off feet as though he were a bondservant.

We worship a God who was made, for a little while, lower than the angels to rescue us from our own filth.  A God who died that the dead might live.  A God who knelt to raise others up.  We who trust in Jesus live differently from the world because the One we love and praise is Himself different from the world.  The heartbeat of this darkened place, and of Hell itself, is self-worship leading to self-destruction.   But our rhythm is better, freer.  We lose ourselves as we kneel at His Cross, His feet, and in service to others, and as we do we find who we were always meant to be.

We have a beaitiful story to share as Christians this Maundy Thursday.  We are free to do the jobs no one else wants to do, pray the prayers no one else has time for, love the outcasts everyone else snickers about.  We can love because we are the beloved.  We can serve because we have been served.  We are free to look foolish because we know the God of all wisdom.

We are free to stoop like slaves because we have been made sons and daughters.

Today is a day for kneeling.

Just Be It

  
There is nothing ignoble in simply being what God has called you to be, however small or large, plain or beautiful it may seem to human sight.  “Use me as an instrument for Your salvation, Lord, however you will” is a good prayer.  It’s a freeing prayer, too. 

Spurgeon said that at the Last Supper there was a chalice for drinking wine and a basin for washing feet, and maybe you’re the chalice and he’s the basin.  But, he said, let the basin be the basin, and let the chalice be the chalice.  

You and I don’t have to sweat it out trying to earn our identity.  The blood will rinse off our pride if you and I will let it; we are free to humble ourselves and just enjoy Jesus, His church, and serving His people.  Whatever service for the Kingdom you’ve been truly called to, find a way to do it and do it.  

The Kingdom of God is an ego graveyard. 

There are no alpha males here.  After all, it’s wolves that have alphas and betas, and we’re all sheep in this economy; different heights and colors, maybe, but sheep all.  Or, to paint with a different metaphoric brush, none of us have to be the head of this body; she already has One.  

This ain’t Hollywood, brother.  Nobody has personal assistants and nobody’ll be comparing accolades.  Here, we’re all slaves and all sons, and we work from acceptance, not for it.   

You and I have been adopted to be things, all for love and for the glory of Another.  

So let’s be them. 

I’ll Be Found Out

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And so will you.

Every secret sin, every careless word, every greed and hatred and unfought lust; each human being will have to give an account to God. You know that web site that got hacked recently? The one where people (mostly men, it turned out) paid to have (or flirt with the idea of having) affairs? I’ve heard a couple of tragic stories about it, and Monday night night I read one Christian leader’s public confession of having browsed it once. And something he said made me think: Nothing I do will stay hidden.

I haven’t done what he did. But what about secret hatreds I’ve nursed? Grudges I’ve held? Faithless fears, idolatry of television or food or other physical pleasures, prayerlessness and bitterness and hypocrisy? What about my selfish fits of impatience or anger? Do I think those will always just stay in the quiet dark?

I am grateful God has kept me from great and destructive sin like the earthquake that is adultery, but before I get too glib and judgmental when I’m reading a confession like the one I read Monday, I should pause and remember the blood the perfect Son of God shed for my petty professional jealousies and thoughtlessness toward my wife and kids.

You know, the stuff I did yesterday.

So what is the hope, the Good News? You know I’m a broken and still-rebellious man; what do I do? And more importantly for you, what do you do?

All the sins are coming to the light someday, guys. So what do we do?

What is the hope for all the sexually immoral, covetous, backslidden, cowardly, deceitful little hypocrites and failures? What do we do on the day we’re crushed by the weight of what we’ve done or who we’ve been? What solace is there on the morning after you self-destruct? For the man who wants to repent of his adultery or the woman who’s realized how toxic her gossip has been or the young guy who wants to stop getting drunk but doesn’t feel like he has the will to stop?

Well, here’s what I got: The Good News is that your worst sins being brought to the light doesn’t have to be the end. It isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you, and it doesn’t have to be the last word on your life.

Do me a favor: Picture a man who loved and followed Jesus, then made his life a disgrace through a very public sin. Throughout the world news of his moral failure gets carried to believers and unbelievers alike, to this day. The folly of it all gets repeated over and over, how he thought he was above committing that sort of sin and how he said so to anyone who’d listen and then how he stumbled hard into a shameful spotlight. It’s retold with crystal clarity all over the world.

Okay, now my flesh would say that that is the end of the man. The part of me who forgets the heart of the Gospel, who forgets that terrible, wicked people can be rescued by a loving Father by grace through faith in His Son, would think, Tsk, tsk, what a shame. What was he thinking? Thankfully, I haven’t done that, as I sipped from a big, tall glass of pride.

But my flesh doesn’t call the shots. So that wasn’t the end of his story.

This brokenhearted and greatly humbled sinner named Simon Peter, whose public cowardice the night of the Crucifixion is still told pretty much everywhere there’s a church and at least one Bible, was held in His loving Father’s hands. He was forgiven by his Great Shepherd.

At the same Supper where Jesus told Simon Peter in advance that he’d deny Him, He also said this:

“Simon, Simon, behold Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

I want you picture that part, too. Picture the Son of God looking into this man’s eyes and knowing what he was going to do. Picture him looking square at this man and knowing his hypocrisy and his sin, and then telling him, “I have not forgotten you. I will not forsake you. I have prayed and interceded for you. And now when you turn back to me again, when you repent and receive the blood that gives grace and kills shame, strengthen your brothers, here. They’ll need to know what you’ll have found out: That I forgive to the uttermost.”

So, tell me: Have you screwed up your life? Are you afraid of what will come out someday? Know that you’ve sinned against God? I have Good News for you, and I have Good News for me, too: The Kingdom of God is made up of some formerly wicked, slimy sinners. People who blasphemed the Son before being reborn and who dishonored Him after. People who fought with their sins and their flesh but who often lost. It’s filled with Peters and Sauls and Davids. You see, the banquet feast in Jesus’ Kingdom has a pretty simple entrance policy: The ones who trust in their own righteousness don’t get in, and the ones who turn to the Savior in faith do.

I’m going to be found out, guys. And so are you. All our sins are going to be public someday, like Peter’s. There won’t be anything that stays hidden.

But there will be all kinds of stuff that gets washed away.

If we have been born of God, we have been brought out of the darkness through the kindness and love of the Father of Jesus Christ. We don’t need to fear like unbelievers. We can have confidence in the blood of our Jesus. We can grieve our sin and repent of it and then have peace because we know and have been known by God. We don’t have to fear the light, because we’re not children of darkness. For us, the light is good. It’s sunlight and forgiveness and the end of winter and knowing our Abba as we’ve been known. For us, it’s the beginning of the last good day. The one that never ends.

If we have been born of God, we don’t have to fear the light of the Gospel of Jesus. It’s our only hope.

And it cleans and saves to the uttermost.