The Brotherhood of Jesus

Jesus is not ashamed to call you brother. Let that sink in a little. Don’t rush past that sentence. You. With everything you thought about yesterday (yeah, he heard those thoughts) and the temptations to which you yielded (yeah, he saw that too). Yes, you, struggling Christian. Jesus is not ashamed to call you brother (or sister).

As I recently read Hebrews, I was struck in a fresh way with the power of this reality. Jesus is not ashamed to be associated with me. And not simply in a friend sort of way or even a servant sort of way. The Bible says that Jesus calls me “friend” and “servant” but it also says more. His pride of association with me is on the familial level. He is not ashamed that I am a part of his family. But not only is he not ashamed of me, he delights in me. The writer of Hebrews goes on later to say that it was “for the joy set before him” that he endured the cross. What was that joy set before him? It was me. And it was you. Brothers and sisters added to the family of God that they might reign with Him in the new heavens and the new earth. When Jesus looks at us, he is proud. 

But I fear that while we would all check the box and say we believe this truth, in practice we fail to live out its implications. 

Personal Implications  

Too many Christians walk through life as if the Gospel is not true. When we sin, we rightly feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit. And rather than boldly coming before the throne of grace in our time of need, we cower and shrink back. We allow the guilt that invades our conscience to dominate our lives rather than drive us to Jesus. We worm back under the yoke of slavery from which Jesus freed us. We begin to think that our performance is what gains us acceptance. And rather than seeing the throne upon which Jesus sits as one founded on grace, we see it as one founded on judgment. And before we know it, we have practically denied the Gospel. 

This spiral is always downward. If we do not correct this (or better said, if we do not have others help us correct this), the yoke of slavery will drive us deeper into despair as we attempt to perform and only continue to fail. The end of failing to believe that Jesus is not ashamed to call you brother is rejecting Jesus all together. Eventually, you will tire of the performance treadmill and your despair will only deepen until the darkness consumes you. Knowing that Jesus is not ashamed to call you brother is key to holding fast your confession to the end. 

Social Implications

If Jesus is not ashamed to call a man “brother” then neither should I. If every man who puts his faith in Jesus is my brother (not like a brother, but a real brother), then that reality has social implications. I cannot claim to love Jesus while refusing to love those whom Jesus calls brothers. Now, I think that most Christians would say they are not ashamed to call anyone brother. Anyone is welcome in their church. Rich. Poor. Black. White. Smelly. Clean. All are welcome. And while this may be true, I believe it falls short of what it means to be unashamed of all our brothers and sisters.

Jesus is active on behalf of his brothers. He is never passive. Jesus pursued us. He did not wait for us to come him. No. He came to us. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) And not only did he come to us, he became like us. In order that he might be a sympathetic high priest, he took on human flesh and experienced the life we all experience. Jesus understands us fully because he is walking around in our skin. This is what the love of God towards us looks like. This is what our privileged older brother did for His under-privileged little brothers. When we weren’t even looking for him, he came. He acted. Not on his behalf, but on ours. If we would be like him, we must do likewise. 

Our failure at this point is precisely why we find ourselves unable to have productive conversations amidst the racial tension we face in America today. For too long, separate but equal has been the foundational paradigm for the church in America. For the most part, white brothers and sisters and black brothers and sisters do not worship together. We do not know one another on a familial level. So when the protests erupted over the grand jury decisions in the Mike Brown and Eric Garner cases, many whites could not fathom why. And frankly, many refused to even attempt empathy. Why? Why did many white brothers and sisters seek to reflexively dismiss the concerns that were voiced by black brothers and sisters? Why did many white brothers and sisters write insensitive and tone-deaf social media posts? Because although Jesus is unashamed to call us all brothers and sisters, we whites, too often only view the world through the lens of white dominant culture. We have relationships with many ethnicities but we almost exclusively have familial relationships with our own ethnicity. We are culturally reaping exactly what we have sown in our segregated churches—an “us” vs. “them” divide. 

Present Application

Rapper Lecrae rhymes, “It’s not a guilt trip, it’s a field trip that’s gon last more than one day.” This is where we are. The field trip was ugly. So where do we go from here? Two suggestions. First, we reclaim the pride that Jesus has in us. He is not ashamed to call us brother. Live in the freedom of that reality. Second, we look for ways to engage our black brothers and sisters. I don’t know what that looks like for you. I’m still trying to figure that out for myself. But I know one thing for sure. Something needs to change. Bryan Loritts said at a recent event, “without proximity there is no empathy.” Let’s make 2015 a year where we get a little more proximity to our black brothers and sisters. Let’s see their lives by inviting them into our own. Perhaps, for the first time, we will begin to see what the brotherhood of Jesus truly looks like.

-sdg 

 

 

  

If I Have Greedy Children: A Modest Proposal

John Pavlovitz seems like a typical dad. He wonders about his kid’s futures. Specifically, he wonders if they will be gay. In response, he has made four promises to himself and his readers about how he and his wife will respond to his kids coming out of the closet.

The problem with his post is that he calls evil good. He makes it clear that he believes a homosexual lifestyle is a perfectly acceptable lifestyle for anyone to lead and its high time the rest of us with “misplace anger issues” get with the program (and the spirit of the age said, “Amen!”). And yet, the Bible (even Jesus himself for your Red-Letter types) speaks a different word. The homosexual lifestyle is outside of the bounds God has set in His word.

As a thought experiment, I have taken the text of his post and replaced “gay” with “greedy” (along with a few minor edits, such as changing “you’ll all” to “y’all”).

Let’s begin. Continue reading If I Have Greedy Children: A Modest Proposal

The Cosmic Pity Party Pooper

 

Every party has a pooper, that’s why we invited you. Party pooper. Party pooper. – Franck Eggelhoffer

It is common in our world to think of God as a Cosmic Party Pooper. Man just wants to have fun and here comes God ruining it. The unbelieving world has looked at God and come to the conclusion He exists to kill joy. Or rather, he is a construct of those who wish to kill their joy. It’s understandable. God has said “Do not” to many of the things they wish to do. Now, this view of God is wildly inaccurate (Ps. 16:11). However, there is one type of party we Christians like to throw that God is in the business of pooping.

I just sold my townhouse (Praise God!). Literally. I signed the contract yesterday. And it only took over a year of being on the market with multiple price drops and much anxiety. When my family and I set out on this adventure, I expected it to take maybe six months. Townhouses sell slower than your typical home. But as month six came and went, I started planning a little party. A Pity Party. As we waited, we saw many friends put their houses on the market and sell them (sometimes within days). Suddenly, the date for the party got pushed up and it became a multi-night event. Invitations, however, were limited. I generally only invited my wife and God (It’s funny how we reserve our best for the ones we really love. *end sarcasm*). God never RSVP’d. But He sure did show up. Continue reading The Cosmic Pity Party Pooper

The Gravity of Sin

Nothing reveals the gravity of sin like the cross. For ultimately what sent Christ there was neither the greed of Judas, nor the envy of the priests, not the vacillating cowardice of Pilate, but our own greed, envy, cowardice and other sins, and Christ’s resolve in love and mercy to bear their judgment and so put them away. It is impossible for us to face Christ’s cross with integrity and not to feel ashamed of ourselves. Apathy, selfishness, and complacency blossom everywhere in the world except at the cross. There these noxious weeds shrivel and die. They are seen for the tatty, poisonous things they are. For if there was no way by which the righteous God could righteously forgive our unrighteousness, except that he should bear it himself in Christ, it must be serious indeed. It is only when we see this that, stripped of our self-righteousness and self-satisfaction, we are ready to put our trust in Jesus Christ as the Savior we urgently need.

John Stott, The Cross of Christ, p. 85.

Praying Prayers We Don’t Mean

We all do it. Most of us do it daily. We come before the throne of God Almighty and offer up prayers we really don’t want Him to answer. We know we are supposed to pray for these things. We’ve been around enough to know that these are the things Christians pray for. And yet, in the depths of our hearts, we hope they won’t get answered.

This disbelief is not something we would admit. We think we want all our prayers to be answered. But the truth always comes out. When God starts answering those prayers, our reactions to His methods betray what we really want. We want the ends, but we do not want His means. And this is the rub.

My wife knows her way around the kitchen. The girl can flat-out cook. And I can flat-out eat. We are a good match. Something I have learned while watching my wife in the kitchen is that if you want cookies, then follow the cookie recipe. Do not stray from it. Do not forget an ingredient or step. Otherwise the result will be sadness and a growling stomach. This is the nature of cooking and baking. The means matter when the goal is a particular end.

A land flowing with milk and honey. That was the promise. When God appeared to Moses and chose him to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt, God tells Moses that He is giving them a land flowing with milk and honey. I’m sure that sounded like paradise to the people. They had only know oppression and poverty. And here was God promising wealth and freedom. Finally, after years of crying out to God to rescue them, to remember them, God answered their prayers. As God rescued them from the hand of Pharaoh, the people rejoiced and responded with praise. Whatever God commanded of them, they did. But something happened. Something changed. The path to the Promised Land led through the wilderness. There was difficulty and suffering in their path. And the people grumbled. Manna? In the wilderness? Where’s the water? Did God bring us out here to kill us? Is God a liar? They questioned the means by which God was bringing about the promised end. And their faithless grumbling was their undoing. Rather than receive the blessing promised, they were cursed and fell in the wilderness. For their grumbling revealed that the rescue they prayed for they never really wanted.

Right now, I sit in a townhouse that I want to sell. I have two bedrooms that are both occupied and a new son due to be born in February. We feel cramped. We knew this time would come, so we put our house on the market 10 months ago. And we prayed that God would sell it. But this is not all we have prayed for. I asked God to make us more like Jesus through this process. And of all the prayers Christians are supposed to pray, this is the one I think too many of us pray without thinking about it. I know I did.

Why is this? We like the ends. To be like Jesus, full of love, mercy, kindness, and joy, sounds wonderful. But we often do not consider the means by which God will make us like Jesus. Jesus walked the path of suffering and humility. Today, we celebrate the birth of Jesus. The Eternal Son of God enfleshed to live, die and rise again so that we might be saved from our sins. Where was he born? Most likely, a drafty cave. Who visited him? Mangy shepherds. He had no convenience. He had no comforts. Even in his birth, Jesus lived a life marked by humility, suffering and difficulty.

Yet, somehow we think we should not have to suffer. But much to our consternation, there are no shortcuts to imaging Jesus. If we would be like him, we must walk His path. Humility comes before honor. Suffering comes before glory. It is the way of the Father.

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:16-17, ESV)

We want the Promised Land without the wilderness. We want the milk and honey without first tasting the manna. We want Jesus without the cross because we would rather not bear our own. It is why we pray prayers we do not mean. Thankfully, even though God sees through our half-hearted prayers, He still answers them as if we meant it. Affliction shows up at our door and does his work (1). Sin bubbles to the surface. Sin we had no idea was there. What will we do with it? Will we bring our sin to Jesus so He can kill it? Or will we respond like the wilderness generation and be killed by our sin? Will we grumble as Affliction begins his rehab project or with our eyes firmly fixed on the end, rejoice in the means? The early church rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus. Why? Because they knew that suffering leads to glory. Too often, I forget that. It is why I end up praying prayers I do not mean. But there is hope for me. He still came. Today is still Christmas. Praise God for His grace.

~sdg

1 – I owe this concept of affliction to Doug Wilson’s tweet.