Tenderness is not a sign of weakness 

Reading through 1 Thessalonians this morning, and as a follow up to my last post, I am struck by Paul’s care and desire for the Thessalonians. Certainly, his care extends to their physical needs, but his focus is on the spiritual in the latter verses of chapter 2 into chapter 3. His own boasting before the Lord is wrapped up in their spiritual steadfastness and growth (1 Thess 2:19). His desire to know how they are doing spiritually causes him to send Timothy ahead of himself and leaving him without his trusted associate (1 Thess 3:1-2). Upon Timothy’s return, his good report causes him joy (1 Thess 3:9). 

Paul as Model

Paul is a model in many ways. His boldness to proclaim the gospel and plant churches is inspiring. His willingness to put his life on the line for the sake of Christ time and time again is convicting. But his boldness and bravado are balanced by tenderness. As Christian leaders, we must not only be bold and brave, but we must also be tender with those whom the Lord has placed under our care. 

Tenderness is not a sign of weakness.

Rather it is evidence that the gospel has affected your heart. Our Lord is tender. He cares for those who are His like a nursing mother cares for her child. 

There are no pictures of Paul. Photography didn’t exist in Paul’s day. But I can’t help but think of Paul as a big, burly guy. I could be wrong. But that is the image that comes to mind when I think of Paul. If a big burly guy like Paul can be tender and caring so can we. Men, Pastor, allow Paul to be your example.

Tenderness is not a sign of weakness. 

Don’t Retreat, Engage!

While it might be the case that many of you work and live among non-believers, it is also true that Christians often look for ways to retreat into their holy huddle.

Instead of gathering together in a holy huddle, I believe we are supposed to interact with and engage non-believers. If we don’t, we can’t accomplish the Great Commission — to make disciples because we don’t know any non-believers. If we want to win non-believers to Christ, we have to know some non-believers.

The reason I bring this up is because I know it is easy for us as Christians to gather together in our holy huddle. That is fine for a time, but at some point we have to break the huddle and engage those around us with the gospel, especially knowing that Jesus could return at any point. 

Imagine throwing down a couple of hundred dollars for a ticket to a Cowboys game, fighting traffic all the way over to Arlington, and spending even more time finding a parking spot and even more money at the concession stand, only to see the Cowboys never break the huddle after fielding the first kickoff and having to turn the ball over to the other team because of delay of game penalties. Imagine that? Imagine seeing that? 

That is exactly what we do if we remain in our holy huddle. Sure it is safe in there, but if we never engage anyone with the gospel, all we are doing is turning things over to the other team. That’s not good because the other team isn’t just going to score a touchdown. The other team is scoring someone’s soul. Instead of remaining in a holy huddle, we need to engage those around us with the gospel.

In order to do that we have to know people who are non-believers. When I say know, I don’t mean know of, but actually know them — as in you have a relationship with them. If we are going to accomplish the Great Commission, we have to know non-believers. We have to interact with them on a regular basis. 

We have to be like the world, engaging them in relationship with the gospel, while at the same time we must be unlike the world, so that they can see what it would look like for them to live as a Christian. 

Use the relationships you have. Engage the people you know on a regular basis. Get to know non-believers and engage them with the gospel.

Stop trying to create Jesus in your image!

Creating is in our DNA. It is built into us. God created the world and everything in it, including you and I — humans. We are created in His image — Male and Female alike. In Genesis 1:26-27 we read:

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…

Just a little bit later you read:

” …So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Ge 1:26–27)

As those who are made in God’s image, we are gifted towards creating. Some of us are more gifted than others, but we are all designed to create.

Not only is creating built into us, but we are tasked to create by God.

In Genesis 2:15 we read:

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” (Ge 2:15)

To “work it” carries the meaning, the idea, of creating, of making. To take the raw materials of the garden and work it to make something glorious. Creating itself is not a bad thing. It’s more of a neutral thing. It is the why and what we create that matters.

Not only does man create in order to make a name for themselves, but man also creates in order to make gods for themselves.

Idolatry is one of the oldest forms of rebellion.

Since the beginning, man has been fashioning gods in their own image. But God abhors idolatry. We know because in the first and second commandments of the 10 commandments God says,

““You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” (Ex 20:3–4)

God abhors idolatry!

Idols never provide us with that which we desire. Israel learned this through the prophets. One was Habakkuk, who asks:

““What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it”” (Hab 2:18–19)

Other prophets such as Jeremiah and Isaiah, join with Habakkuk in condemning and pointing out the futility of creating and worshipping idols. But man continues to do it. Even those in Jesus’ day continued to manufacture idols.

More crooked than creating an idol from wood, hay, or straw was their desire to create Jesus in their own making.

We have a tendency to try to make Jesus into who we want Him to be.

Instead of believing and accepting Jesus’ message with joy, The religious and even the irreligious, they reject the Jesus of the Bible and seek to make Him into the god they want Him to be.

The religious seek to make Him into:

  • A rigid and hard figure whom we must work for in order to earn or keep our salvation.

The irreligious seek to make Jesus into:

  • A “woke Savior” or what you might refer to as “Hippie Jesus”. He would never say anything that hurts anyone’s feelings. No trigger words or actions come from Jesus. He is fully welcoming. Accepting everyone and anyone into the family no matter what they believe.
  • Or Jesus is made into: “A meek and mild figure”. One who doesn’t judge anyone. Hell is not a reality, except for the really bad people like Hitler. Everyone else is going to heaven. No one will suffer or experience judgment.
  • Still others seek to make Jesus into what I like to refer to as: “Genie in the bottle Jesus” He will give you whatever you want. Whatever your heart desires Jesus will provide. All you have to do is say the right thing and have enough faith and you can have whatever your heart desires.

The religious and even the irreligious, they reject the Jesus of the Bible and seek to make Him into the god they want Him to be.

Jesus doesn’t accept our image of Him. He is not an idol.

Jesus is not someone we can fashion and form any way that we like. He is not someone we can make in our own image. That is not who Jesus is. Instead, Jesus is the God sent Savior of the world.

Instead of becoming who we want Him to become, Jesus is who we need Him to be — a gracious God who calls us to repent of our sins and trust in His sacrifice on our behalf.

Idols can’t provide us salvation. They can’t provide us release from the bondage of sin, Satan and death. Idol’s can’t change us. Idols are what we make them to be.

If we make them, that means we make them in our image.

How do we know if we have made Jesus in our image?

I don’t know about you but I don’t make things that cause me to change. I make things that support me for who I am so that I can be who I want to be. That is how you know if you are worshipping an idol of Jesus or the true Jesus. The Jesus we make doesn’t disagree with us. He doesn’t hold us accountable because there is nothing we need to be held accountable for. We are good. We have it together. The Jesus of our own making affirms who we are. But that is not the real Jesus.

The real Jesus calls us to repentance.

He knows we are sinners who have rebelled against Him. He calls us to turn from our rebellion to follow Him.

The real Jesus also calls us to believe the joyous message of the gospel.

He offers us forgiveness, salvation, and a different way of life that reflects God’s wisdom.

That is who the real Jesus is. He is the God-sent Savior. He is not an idol. He is not someone we have fashioned. Instead, He is someone in whom we should find hope and salvation.

Stop trying to create Jesus in your image!

When will God deal with evil?

God has a plan for this world.

A plan that has existed before the foundation of the world. Before anything was created, God had a plan. God’s plan involves Him dealing with evil.

If you don’t believe God has a plan, look at His prophecies and promises throughout Scripture. Look and see how He has fulfilled them.

God has a plan. A plan He is bringing to fruition. A plan that will not be thwarted.

Hard to Believe

That might be hard to believe, because our best laid plans. They don’t always work out. If you are a parent, especially of young kids, you know this to be true. You might have an entire day planned out. You are going to get out of the house with the kids. Head to park. Wear them out a bit. Then run a few errands before stopping at the grocery store to pick up some food to cook that evening for your friends that are coming over.

You have full day but you have it all planned out. You are getting ready to go. Your kids are being quiet. You can’t believe they are being quiet and letting you get ready. Then you think, maybe they are being a little too quiet. You walk back to their room to check on them, and to your horror you find their new clothes you just dressed them in covered in paint. Then you see hand prints all over the wall.

Guess what you are doing that day? You aren’t going to park. You aren’t running errands. You might make it to the grocery store, but most likely you are ordering pizza for your friends that are coming over, if you don’t just throw your hands up and cancel your plans altogether.

Our best laid plans don’t always work out, but God’s do.

God is our Creator. He is the One who created you and I and the universe in which we live. He controls all things. He is the all-sovereign God. His plans don’t fail. He has a plan to deal with evil.

In the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13, Jesus tells us when He will deal with evil.

In the parable Jesus tells us a story about a Farmer. He sows wheat on his own land. But the farmer has an enemy who comes at night and plants weeds in his field.

The weeds that his enemy plants are what is known as Darnel. Darnel closely resembles wheat. At first, they look identical. You can’t really tell the difference until the wheat matures. Only then can you tell that the weeds weren’t wheat but weeds because there was no head — no fruit.

What we see then is that the bad crop grows alongside the good crop. As it grows their roots intertwine with one another. The weeds end up soaking up all the nutrients and moisture in the soil. It stunts the growth of the wheat so that it doesn’t produce as it would have if the darnel hadn’t been planted in the first place.

Once you are able to tell the field was infested with darnel, you couldn’t pull the weeds up because of the intertwined roots. If you did, you would end up pulling up the wheat crop, so the farmer tells his servants to allow the weeds to exist among the wheat until the harvest. At the harvest the darnel would be gathered out and burned while the wheat was put in the barn.

When Jesus returns, those who are evil will be gathered up and burned in the fire.

Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Mt 13:40–43)

Even though evil is allowed to continue in the world, judgment is coming.

When Jesus returns, all those who are not His disciples: All those who haven’t repented of their sin. Who don’t recognize He is the Messiah. That He is the One who provides them with salvation. All those who don’t call Him Lord will face judgment.

For now, Jesus allows His disciples to live in the world among those who are evil. Those who are evil do evil things. We have seen that on the news regarding Afghanistan. People are being oppressed, beaten, and even killed. 13 soldiers and over 160 civilians lost their life because evil people decided to set off a bomb. Evil exists in the world. We live among it every day.

But Jesus promises us that evil won’t continue forever. One day, He will deal with it. Those who are not in His kingdom will be judged and the world will be purged of evil. But that won’t happen now. It will only happen when Jesus returns.

Two Choices — Biblical Wisdom or Worldly Wisdom

Are you able to distinguish between worldly wisdom and biblical wisdom? Do you know which is more beneficial for your life and why?

Jesus’ parable of the two builders comes at the end of His famous Sermon on the Mount teachings. ****We don’t have time to go through all of Jesus’ teaching on the Sermon on the Mount. But suffice it to say His teaching tells us who are apart of His kingdom and how we are to live in His kingdom.

Two Choices — Biblical Wisdom or Worldly Wisdom

At the end of His teaching on the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offers His listeners, He offers us, two choices. A choice between hearing and doing the wisdom of the world or hearing and doing His wisdom.

Look at the text starting in verse 24:

““Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Mt 7:24)

Skip down to verse 26:

And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.

(Mt 7:26)

Using a building analogy, Jesus distinguishes between worldly wisdom and heavenly wisdom. He uses an everyday occurrence in Palestine to show us the folly of building our life on worldly wisdom. The wise man builds His house on the rock.The foolish man builds his house on the sand.

If you were a wise man in ancient Palestine, you would build your house on the rock so that when “... the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.” (Mt 7:25)

But those who were unwise, they didn’t build on the rock and there was a different outcome for them. Look at verse 27,

And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.””

(Mt 7:27)

Through this parable, offers us two choices.

  • (1) Build your life on the rock — on biblical wisdom — experience safety and salvation.
  • (2) Or build your life on the sand — on worldly wisdom — experience destruction.

Those are the two choices we have. Allow the Bible, allow Jesus to guide us, allow biblical wisdom to direct our lives. Or allow the world, worldly wisdom to guide and direct us.

Why should we allow biblical wisdom to direct our lives?

When it comes to understanding why we should allow biblical wisdom to direct our lives, James is super helpful:

In James 3:13-18, James contrasts two types of wisdom — heavenly wisdom and worldly wisdom. Those who are wise according to the world’s standards live by mantras like:

  • “You do you”;
  • “let it be”;
  • “just do what feels right to you”;
  • “be true to yourself”;
  • “do what makes you feel good”;
  • “Just follow your heart”.

I’m sure you have heard those before. You might have even voiced them yourself. As good as they might sound, that is representative of worldly wisdom.

You might think following worldly wisdom will result in success. We live in the world after all. But that is not true.

Worldly wisdom, James says, results in “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition” (James 3:14). It results in boasting that seeks to puff up self while tearing another downAs well as it results in lies, because, after all it is all about self.

Heavenly wisdom is different. Heavenly wisdom comes down from above. Heavenly wisdom is what Jesus has been pouring forth throughout the sermon on the mount. Heavenly wisdom produces good fruit:

  • Humility, peace, and mercy.
  • It is pure and gentle.
  • It’s impartial.
  • and it results in sincerity (James 3:17-18).

All wisdom is not created equal.

All wisdom doesn’t lead to flourishing relationships and a loving community. There are two different types of wisdom to which we can listen and apply. They originate from two different places. Notice I didn’t say they came from several different places, but that they originate from two different places. Wisdom either originates from God and His kingdom, OR from Satan and his kingdom. There is not a third or fourth type of wisdom. There are only two types of wisdom upon which we can base our life, our actions. God’s wisdom, Jesus’ wisdom. The wisdom found in God’s Word, what James refers to as heavenly wisdom. Or worldly wisdom.

Those who build their life on worldly wisdom will experience a great loss.

Destruction, disaster will come upon them when they least expect it. Your entire life will come crashing down if that what you have built your life on instead of the rock. Sand that is easily moved. The things of this world can promise us happiness, joy, pleasure, peace but those can be quickly taken. If the world is all that we have based our life on, we will experience disaster.

But those who build their lives on Jesus’ wisdom, His teaching, who operate according to a Christian worldview, they will stand firm when destruction comes knocking. Jesus doesn’t change. He is the rock. That which He offers, He always offers. There are no shifting sands with Jesus. Even if things around you come crashing down, you always have the Rock.

It is not “if” but “when”.

Those things that seek to destroy us will come. They will often come at a time we are not expecting. Life is going great. All is well. Then boom! The storm comes. Depending on what foundation you have built, you will either survive the storm or you won’t. That is what Jesus is getting at.

Worldly wisdom doesn’t save. It doesn’t protect. It only results in destruction.

What does it take to be Jesus’ disciple?

In Luke chapter 14 Jesus highlights key ideas we must be willing to forsake to follow Him and be a part of His kingdom. He tells several parables in this section. These parables help us to see a number of things.

Jesus wants us to see that those who enter the kingdom must not immediately expect that they are kingdom people (vs 7-24).

The Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day, believed themselves to be kingdom people because they sought to keep the law. They believed they pleased God through their works and deserved to be a part of the kingdom as a result. But Jesus flips the script on them. He reveals it is not those who believe they are deserving, but those who are humble, who recognize they are not deserving that are invited into the kingdom.

Jesus also wants us to see that those who enter the kingdom are willing to forsake all for Him (vs 25-33)

This is the point that landed on me this morning as I read the Bible in my devotional time. At the end of His teaching on the cost of discipleship, Jesus wraps the section up by saying:

So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Lk 14:33)

I have read this Scripture a number of times in the past, referred to it in conversation, and even included it in my preaching and teaching. Though I am familiar with the passage, today it landed on me differently.

How did it land on me?

Jesus reveals that His disciples must be willing to renounce all that we have in order to be His follower. I am afraid that those of us who live in the West hear those words, champion them, preach them, teach them, but don’t take them to heart. We want to add Jesus to our comfortable lives, to the American and cultural dream of what it means to be happy and successful. I am not saying we shouldn’t be successful, we shouldn’t work hard, or that we shouldn’t have things that make life more comfortable. If the Lord blesses us in that way, praise God. Instead, what I am driving towards is that we can’t make those things ultimate. They can’t be those things that define us. Our relationship with Jesus should define us. It should be what makes us happy and joyful. It should be what gives us meaning and purpose, as well as peace in life.

We must not add Jesus to our cultural idea of success.

Instead, we must allow Jesus to define success. I am afraid that is where many of us fail, myself included. We chase after the things of the world as if they are ultimate. We get frustrated when they are not manifested in our life. We believe Jesus has abandoned us. Jesus, however, hasn’t abandoned us. He is right there with us, teaching and guiding us. He wants us to see that He is the One to whom we should look to for ideas of success, not the world.

If we are going to be Jesus’ disciple, we must renounce all worldly ideas and be willing to live according to biblical ideas and convictions, regardless if they are popular or not.

“All things” is all things.

We must be willing to forsake, to abandon and renounce all things, pledging our full allegiance to Jesus. But more than that — we must find our life and being in Jesus. As believers, our kingdom is not of this world. We must live as if that is true.

Once we are able to renounce all things, living in the world, no matter how blessed or how difficult life might be, we will be joyful and peaceful because we will be living as Jesus’ disciples, allowing Him to dictate and determine what should and shouldn’t bring us joy, meaning, and purpose in life.