Monday, April 30, 2012

Swapping Addictions

Interesting little paragraph in John's twelfth chapter.  Apparently, even some of the Jewish elite were overcome by the evidence and believed that Jesus was the Son of God.  They got their feet through the door, then those feet got cold and they beat a hasty retreat to the known and the comfortable.  John tells us that they knew that following Jesus would cost them their synagogue cards so they kept quiet.

...for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.

Praise from men.  We are absolutely addicted to it.  And like good junkies, we want our friends to be addicts too.  When we find someone who in earnest doesn't care what the elite think of him, well...just one thing to do: rally the mobs and crucify him.

Praise from men.  Its tentacles are so deeply wrapped around our souls I don't think that any of us can see how insidiously our motivations for doing the right things are corrupted by our heart's addiction to the praise of men.  Why do we work so hard to prepare a great sermon?  Why do we help the little old lady?  Why do we lead worship?  Why do we give to the poor?  Why do we avoid external sin?  Why do I write these blogs?  I'm afraid of the answers to those questions...but I know that for myself, too many times the praise of men, at least in part, fuels my actions.

But hang on a second.  There's something else here.  John's words hold hidden treasure.  These men loved the praise of men more than praise from God.

Praise from God?  Is that possible?  Can we even dream that the God who created the universe might find occasion to be pleased with us?  Can we go there?  What if we dared?

In daring, I find hope for my wandering heart and a breathtaking source of strength for obedience.

It seems that John would be telling us not only that praise from God is possible, but that we should love it.  Pursue it.  Crave it.  Now here is something that can fuel a passion to follow Jesus even at great personal cost.  The thought that by submitting to the Spirit of God, following where He leads, I can hear Him say well done! ... this is nothing short of life-changing.

And, it might even be the way out of the praise of men addiction.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Skipping The Coronation

(My apologies for the prolonged absence from the blog...I do this in my spare time with my leftover energy, both of which have been in short supply of late.)


Meandering through the riches of the Gospel of John.  Chapter six of John's story relates two of Jesus' most famous miracles.  First, he feeds a whole mess of people with a couple of fish and a few pieces of bread.  Then, he walks on water.  Some folks who experienced these amazing events firsthand are convinced that Jesus truly is the Son of God (and later, Jesus tears into others for seeing these miracles and not believing).  Sandwiched between these two never-to-be-forgotten miracles, we have a bland little sentence which, after a bit of reflection, strikes me as not so bland:

Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, 
withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

They're going to make him king, and he'll have none of it.  In the prologue to the film, The Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien's words are paraphrased as follows:

Nine rings were given to the race of men, who above all else desire power.  

Jesus, by this time was a very public figure.  Public figures, at least those from the race of men, do not walk away from being made king.

Multiplying food and walking on liquid convinced some that Jesus was not purely from the race of men, that he was indeed God with us.  Having the laws of nature bend to his whim is proof positive of Jesus' deity...but so is this stunning display of incorruptibility.

I wonder how many humble and passionate followers of Jesus have wandered from the narrow way when the crowd has made them king.  For those of us involved full time in Christian work the almost absolute rule is to say yes to any and every opportunity for upward mobility.  Our Master's example ought to at least make us pause...and maybe even occasionally slip away and skip the coronation.