A realistic and challenging insight…
We have builders outside who have just started building an extension to our house. I’m glad I’m not having to do it. The muck. The heavy lifting. The reality of rain at some point. It’s a job for someone else, not me. But the finished job, hopefully that will look great: clean lines, new fittings, more space.
The end result, we hope, will be worth the upheaval. For us, we get the increased room we desire. For the builder, he gets paid his money, and the satisfaction that HE built it, HE got through the messy bits, HE found solutions.
And perhaps that’s why Jesus said that it is He who builds His church, not us. Yes, we are fellow workers. Yes, we have to deal with mess, frustration, discouragement, weariness, and so on. But it is Jesus who will, on judgment day, stand back and look at what we thought was substandard and mess, and say “well done for being faithful on that building site, it will last forever. I’m glad you joined me.” And our satisfaction will not be that we built it, or that we found the solutions, but that HE did it all, and we were His privileged labourers on the building site.
We have 12 more weeks or so with the build, and hopefully then it will be finished. But it won’t last forever. It will eventually be replaced or fall down. What Jesus is building through our labours will last forever. It will never be replaced. It cannot fall down. When we seek to build for the gospel, for the Lord Jesus Christ, it is a project that will be successful and complete, because it is Jesus who is doing the work. And that should give us great joy and confidence in what He is building!
There is a kid’s song called “O-B-E-Y” which, among other things, involves spelling the title word a la the Village People. Leaving that lovely vision aside, one of the more memorable lyrics is “obedience is very good for you”.
In our 21st century world, we don’t like the sound of obedience. In our conversations, obedience is not a hot topic. Even in Bible-believing churches, where we are rightly concerned about making Christianity into lists of do’s and don’ts, we then can have a tendency to shy away from calling people to obedience.
I have just read Deuteronomy 1. Lots of detail there, as Moses begins to revisit the previous 40 years in the wilderness. But one thing that strikes me is the role of God’s Word. They are to go and take possession of the land God promised to Abraham – i.e. obey God and trust His promise. The land is being given to them by God – i.e. it’s not earned, but a gift. He is going to fight the battles on their behalf. Yet they do not believe God’s Word – they rebel, disobeying His command to enter…and then when they hear God’s condemnation, they decide to go and fight even though God tells them not to. Ultimately, Caleb and Joshua do believe God’s Word…and they will take the land; all the others who rebelled will wander in the desert and die.
Serious stuff. And we might have lots of questions about it. But the big thing is this: obedience to God is very good for you. It does not earn your salvation – that comes only through faith in Christ, believing God’s promise that He died for our sin on the cross and dealt with it forever. But that faith brings obedience, because ultimately faith believes what God says, faith trusts God’s promises for the future, and like the heroes of the faith listed in Hebrews 11, faith obeys God now because these promises will lead to a glorious eternity.
That glorious eternity comes to us only because Jesus is our hero of the faith – He obeyed God completely, trusted God’s promises completely, and is now at the right hand of His heavenly Father. Jesus proves that obedience is very good for you.
It’s a famous line of Jesus, quoted by Matthew, and part of what we call the Beatitudes. This week I was reading The Hole in our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung, and he makes the point that Jesus’s words are a great motivator to being holy. I won’t tell you his own personal illustration of putting this into practice (it’s in chapter 6 of his book if you want to look it up), but I can see his point. Yes, the Spirit makes us holy, but at the same time we are to strive for holiness. Do I really want to see God? Do I really want to meet Jesus, not as judge, but as friend? Do I really want to be in the new creation? If so, then am I motivated to be holy? Am I aiming for purity in my heart? Am I saying “no” to ungodliness (Titus 2v12)? It’s easy to say God accepts me just as I am, which is true. But it’s also true that His purpose for us is that we become holy, and ultimately pure in eternity. He is at work in us. But we are to be at work too.
I have jut started reading “Gospel-Centred Leadership” by Steve Timmis. One chapter in, great stuff already, and here’s a taste:
“Leadership is important, but it must be leadership that gives expression to the continuing leadership of King Jesus over His people. True leadership does that in two ways:
1. Faithfully expounding God’s word so that it is God’s voice that is heard.
2. Conforming to the servant-hearted, cross-shaped leadership of Jesus Himself.”
And he finishes the section with this: “God rules. Ok? You bet it is!”
And here’s part 2 – Seven Dangers of Social Media: