Monday, April 09, 2007

The Jesus Way: Your Life Isn’t About You!

About ten years ago a number of Buddhist monks and scholars, including the Dalai Lama himself visited Christian a monastery in Kentucky. After several days of discussion and cordiality one of the Buddhist participants finally spoke of a deeper question in their midst. "Why are there so many crosses and crucifixions all over the place?" The crucifix represented suffering to him and the meditation and practices of Buddhism were the solution. What was the point of showing this terrible scene over and over again?

That’s the reason we’re hear celebrating Easter together; Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross but was resurrected, was brought back to life. And in over coming death He offers the same life to all of us.

We have been looking at Dante descending to hell, realizing that he is a sinner and coming face to face with the pathetic nature of Satan. In the Divine Comedy that occurs on Good Friday. Dante then surfaces for the next stage on Easter, to see the light of God giving hope for the ascending of purgatory and the mount of God. That hope is for God’s mission.

The ancient philosopher Plotinus said that the goal of the spiritual life is to be alone with the Alone. That isn’t in the Bible. Again and again in scripture we see people come into contact with God, the author of life and creator of the cosmos, and then be sent out on a mission.

Abraham hears the call of God and is sent to a different land. Moses sees the burning bush and is sent to liberate God’s people. Isaiah see God in all His splendor in the Temple, becomes crippled by his sin, is cleansed by God and says, “Here I am; send me.” In the New Testament Saul is blinded by a light and subsequently sent as a missionary to the Gentiles, all the non-Jews. Their lives weren’t about themselves.

I’ll let you in on The Secret. Your life isn’t about you.

At the end of the Gospel of John Jesus says to Peter, “When you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." That’s the spiritual life.

When we’re young we set the agenda. Whenever we wake up, perhaps like Dante, “Midway along the road of life”; we get tired of worthless causes, and our own ideas, and really desire God’s best.

And God’s best is really good. Listen to Paul in Ephesians 3:20-21:
God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

James Hillman in his book The Soul’s Code said that we are all born with a seed inside of who we are destined to become. He calls it the acorn theory. As we looked at the idea of being a friend of God, a saint, we realized we needed to come to grips with a real problem: there is evil in the world and it’s in our hearts. But we also realize that there is something amazing inside of us, something resilient, something beautiful- the image of God.

Jesus likens this to a buried treasure in Matthew 13:44-46. A man stumbles upon the treasure buried there so he sells everything that he has to buy that field. Could the field be the human heart, the treasure the image of God, and the selling of everything be the surrendering of all for the sake of the cause of Jesus Christ?

Jesus says we are like a merchant who searches for a beautiful pearl; the thing that we’ll devote our life to. When he finds one of great value he sells everything he had to buy it.

How many of us have climbed the ladder of success only to find it propped up against the wrong building? Do you want to spend your entire life pursuing goals that are worthless, or good goals; things that you want, or do you want to pursue Christ’s goals for you? Do you want to sing with Billy Joel,

My Life
Got a call from an old friend
We used to be real close
Said he couldn't go on the American way
Closed the shop, sold the house
Bought a ticket to the West Coast
Now he gives them a stand-up routine in L.A.

I don't need you to worry for me cause I'm alright
I don't want you to tell me it's time to come home
I don't care what you say anymore, this is my life
Go ahead with your own life, and leave me alone
Keep it to yourself, it's my life.

Billy Joel was really hurt by some early experiences with Catholicism. I wonder whether this song is sung to a friend, an old flame or to God Himself.

Most of us think that we are the directors, writers, and most importantly of all, the stars of our own movie, with other people functioning as the supporting cast and the villains. Of course, our dramas are always uninteresting, even if we are playing the lead role.

It's My Life, Bon Jovi
This ain't a song for the broken-hearted
No silent prayer for the faith-departed
I ain't gonna be just a face in the crowd
You're gonna hear my voice
When I shout it out loud

It's my life
It's now or never
I ain't gonna live forever
I just want to live while I'm alive
It's my life

My heart is like an open highway
Like Frankie said I did it my way
I just wanna live while I'm alive
It's my life

Now instead of our own pathetic little homemade video, we can enlist the master and discover our part in the great movie of history- His story. God is in the midst of creating a Theodrama, involving the whole cosmos. Finding your role in God’s drama is the pearl of great price. When you find it, sell everything you’ve got to buy it.

The key is finding the role that God has designed for us, even if it looks like a bit part.

And therein lies our problem. We live an ego drama! Egocentricity is our problem. We have a script written by me, produced by me, and most importantly starring me.

This church building began its life with the name of Sir Thomas More. In the movie about Thomas More, A Man For All Seasons, Richie Rich, a real character, asks More for a job in the prestige of the Kings court. After sometime More finally offers up a teaching job at a little a school. Rich is clearly disappointed and so More tells him, “You’d be a good teacher.” Rich balks, saying, “And if I were, who would know?”

Thomas More tells him, “Yourself, your friends, your pupils and God would know it.”

Richie Rich doesn’t take the job, instead opting to wangle his way into prominence another way. In doing so he perjures More who is sent to the glows. As rich passes More on the gallows with the noose around his neck, More says to him, “You know Rich, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world…but for Wales?” It profits you or I nothing to achieve success in our ego drama if we lose our role in the Theodrama.

The only audience worth playing to is the divine audience, God Himself. The audience of One.

Satan always offers up more prestige though. Lucifer says in Paradise Lost, “To reign is worth ambition, though in hell: Better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven.”

Satan always has a big job. He’ll say that you deserve the applause and the promotion. Jesus says, “Clean the toilet.”

Which was does your ego tell you to go?

In his groundbreaking book Habits Of The Heart Robert Bellah introduced us what egocentric religion looks like:

Sheila Larson is a young nurse who has received a good deal of therapy and describes her faith as "Sheilaism." This suggests the logical possibility of more than 300 million North American religions, one for each of us. "I believe in God," Sheila says. "I am not a religious fanatic. [Notice at once that in our culture any strong statement of belief seems to imply fanaticism so you have to offset that.] I can’t remember the last time I went to church. My faith has carried me a long way. It’s Sheilaism. Just my own little voice." Sheila’s faith has some tenets beyond belief in God, though not many. In defining what she calls "my own Sheilaism," she said: "It’s just try to love yourself and be gentle with yourself. You know, I guess, take care of each other. I think God would want us to take care of each other." Like many others, Sheila would be willing to endorse few more specific points. Robert Bellah

Sheilaism, Stewieism, is all about my will, my rights, my needs, my feelings, my desires, my wants- ME!

Sheilaism is the dominant religion of North America, of Canada. Contrast that with what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1,
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul is called out, kaleo. The church is kaleo, called, you are called, and I am kaleo. It’s not my will, my rights or my needs, we are instead called by God’s will.

Paul was an apostle: to send. That’s where the word postal originates, as I sending letters. God says go postal and get sent!

You with all your powers, gifts and abilities are sent by a Higher will. Sheilaism is the opposite of that and will fight with God’s plan.

We define freedom politically, even as Christ followers for the most part. We want freedom from external constraints to have self-expression. Nobody is going to tell me what to do or not to do, least of all the Man, the Bible, God or anybody else! Not my mother or father, my brother or sister, my friends or family, my church or pastor, nobody. I’m free at last.

Holy people, those precious saints are those who realize that they participate in something greater, Someone infinitely greater than themselves, that they are but a fragment of that reality. But far from crushing them, this awareness makes them great, inspired, and whole. It encourages us to live in joyful surrender, and with a sense of wonder.

That's how the Bible speaks about freedom. It speaks of freedom from attachment so I can do the will of God and find joyful surrender.

Philippians 3:7-12
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

That kind of freedom enables us to abandon our lives–even in the smallest details–to this divine love, trusting that God will show us the way.

What is God doing for me now? What path is opening up to me? Why did God send that person, that trial, that pleasure to me just now?

Don’t listen to the lie "It’s all about you." Instead be like the mom whose daughter said of her,

"She taught me that my talents were God’s gift to me; what I did with them was my gift back to God."

Imagine if for one moment you forgot the self and its desires and its rights; you gave a scrap of your life away, and in return you get this incredible candle in the heart for a moment. What if the candle never went out, but spread and strengthened and filled your whole consciousness forever? What new and miraculous life might you hope to get, if you ever managed to throw your life away entirely? That is what Jesus told us to try for. The full blaze of God's love, inexpressible delight of soul and body, joy beyond all joys. That is what we were put into the world to find; and the world itself, seen clearly, exists primarily to help us find it; as a hothouse to nurse our growing spirits along until they are strong enough for the unimaginable outdoors we call heaven." Joy Davidman (wife of C.S. Lewis)

Jesus didn’t just teach principles; he taught practices. He gave people something to do. He didn’t just teach them about forgiveness; he told them to forgive their debtors. He didn’t just talk about love as a concept (eros, phileo, and agape); he told people to love their enemies. He didn’t just tell people to think about changing their behaviors; he told them to repent (change their actions). Sure it’s challenging, but it doesn’t take a weekend seminar to understand what he means. Jim Henderson

He sends us into the world to make a difference! Your life isn’t your own!

["When our depravity meets His Divinity, it is a beautiful collision." This recording is about that collision. It is the collision of our fallen state and our Maker's transcendence. It is a rendering of our mortality and eternal life. It is about the tension that exists in the living of life, here, where the sky meets the broken earth. It is about a tsunami in East Asia. It is about a sunrise over Hiroshima. It is about too many who know too intensely what pain the word cancer holds and the words of my friend whispered in my ear, "It's ok. None of us are getting out of here alive you know." It is about victory. It is about the joy that comes when blood tests come back and a miracle is announced. It is the hope in a rescue that has come. The hope in a rescue that has found us. And the relentless hope in a greater rescue that is still coming. One that has not yet arrived but is no less present. This music, broken, improper and inadequate in its response, is rooted in that hope. The Kingdom of Heaven is here and now and coming. it comes, a beautiful collision is happening now.] David Crowder

Here is our king, the director of the Theodrama. Talk to Him about your role today!


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