Episode 1. WARNING: The Countercultural Christ
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They say that following Jesus isn’t easy. And not just “they”. In fact Jesus said that following Jesus wouldn’t be easy. Because following Jesus means swimming against the tide of popular …
They say that following Jesus isn’t easy. Not not just “they” in fact Jesus said that following Jesus wouldn’t be easy. Because following Jesus means swimming against the tide of popular opinion. Following Jesus means, all too often … in fact most of the time … going in the opposite direction. That’s why we need power … power unlimited … to follow Jesus.
Over the last couple of weeks on the program, we’ve been talking about the unlimited power that’s available to you and me through God’s Word. It seems like a bit of a crazy notion, this idea that you can find incredible power, unlimited power in a book. But the Bible, well … the Bible isn’t just a book. It’s the living Word of the living God and when God speaks, amazing things happen.
This is what the Bible says about the Bible – two key verses that change everything about how we look at God’s Word:
Hebrews 4:12: Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
2 Tim 3:16-17: All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
It never ceases to amaze me how people who call themselves Christians think that they can live their lives in peace and joy and power and service … by never, ever opening the Bible. By never, ever drinking in the living, active Word of God that helps us discern the intentions of our hearts. Because let’s face it, it’s in our heart that we deceive ourselves. It’s in our heart that we conceive sin and give birth to it. And so we do need teaching, we do need reproof and correction and training in righteousness in order to be proficient and equipped for every good work.
What I’ve discovered in my life is that there are fundamental flaws and weaknesses in my personality, that, try as I might, I am powerless to change. And yet, when I let God’s Word wash through my heart, when I allow the Holy Spirit to write God’s Word on my heart, He does things that I could never do, He unleashes power … power unlimited … to do the things I cannot do. That’s what happens when we listen to God through His Word. Because God calls into existence the things that do not yet exist (Romans 4:17).
Think about it, how did God create the universe?
God said “Let there be light and there was light.” (Genesis 1:4)
God said “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters. (Gen 1:6)
God said “Let dry land appear” and it was so (Gen 1:9)
God said … God said … God said … and so the universe was created. In other words God spoke the whole universe, the trillions of stars, the great lights, all the creatures and plants on the earth … God said … and it was so. That’s the power of God’s Word. And if that isn’t power unlimited, I don’t know what is.
But … there always seems to be a “but” doesn’t there? … but you and I, all too often, we want that power for all the wrong reasons. We want it to make our lives better, rather than to empower us to sacrifice our lives for Christ’s sake. We want it to get ahead, to overcome this, to get that … rather than to take our Cross and follow Jesus. I said at the beginning of the program that Jesus said that following Him would be hard. Here it is:
Matthew 16:24-26: Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life.
Let me ask you plainly, quietly but very honestly: Why do you want God’s power, God’s unlimited power, in your life?
Is it in order to change the difficult circumstances, the difficult people the things out there, the things around you that are causing you grief? Or is it in order that God would change you, to empower you, to enable you to be the light of the world, the salt of the earth? Is it that the Holy Spirit would give you the power to take up your Cross and lay down your life, to potentially lose it all, for Christ’s sake?
This whole series of messages Power Unlimited, comes with a warning. Don’t try this at home, unless you’re prepared to lose it all because this wild, untamed, Jesus, is radically counter-cultural and He’s calling His followers to a radical, counter-cultural life. A life that could cost you, will cost you, everything.
Have a listen to these couple of encounters that Jesus had with the religious establishment. It’s worth taking a few moments to see how Jesus upset the prevailing culture of His day:
Matthew 12:1-8: At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests. Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and yet are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
He left that place and entered their synagogue; a man was there with a withered hand, and they asked him, “Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath?” so that they might accuse him. He said to them, “Suppose one of you has only one sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath; will you not lay hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and it was restored, as sound as the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.
Do you get it? This is what got Him killed. This is why they crucified Him … because He shone light where there was darkness; because He brought truth where there were lies … and that upset people. Have you noticed how vitriolic people, society, culture becomes when you stand up for the rights of the unborn child, or when you speak with love of the wonder of God’s plan for marriage to be a sublime union between one man and one woman, or when you pull back from the filthy jokes that people tell at work? Have you noticed that?
Or have you noticed about the “dangerous religious teachings” in schools that people talk about these days in the news … when it was Christians who are responsible for taking education far and wide across this globe, founding schools, founding hospitals, caring for the needy. Have you noticed?
Jesus isn’t calling you to an easy life my friend, make no mistake about it. You follow Jesus and you are going to upset people, and they will come against you like nothing else on earth. And what you’re going to need the power for, is to make it through in love, to continue shining the light of God’s love into this earth, despite the opposition, the persecution, the difficult people, the difficult circumstances.
As Adrian Pass wrote: You’re going to need the joy to bear the pain and sorrow. And yet, when we get God’s Word into us, the promise of Jesus, the Son of God Himself, is this:
John 15:7-8: If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.
Did you get that? If the Word of God abides in you, dwells in you, has say in you, and if you abide in Jesus – you can ask for whatever you wish – whatever – and it will be done for you. There it is. Power unlimited. But not to do the things that you want, because once God’s Word abides in you, you’ll be asking for the things that He wants. Let your will be done on this earth … as it is in heaven. Power unlimited.