If you read any of Paul’s epistles it’s easy to see that he had a one-track mind after he met Jesus Christ. What an encounter he had! You can read about his encounter with Jesus in Acts chapter 9. It wasn’t that Paul was blinded that made the most impact on him, though it certainly got his attention. Paul, after his encounter with Jesus was overwhelmed; not by the situation, not by the circumstance but by Jesus Himself!
Paul initially did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God, but when he met Jesus, that all changed. When Paul met Jesus he had to deal with him the same way everyone does as described by C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity. This paragraph in Lewis’ magnum opus has been distilled down by many as “liar, lunatic or Lord.” This is how C.S. Lewis describes how people must, or must not, view Jesus:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” This is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising [sic] nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Every encounter with Jesus Christ demands a response.
The encounter Paul has with Jesus is one that affects him in such a way that the rest of his life will be telling others about Jesus that they may have an encounter with Him too. Paul knows if they do, like him, they will never get over it. No one who has a true encounter with Jesus will ever get over it. No one walks away from Him thinking He’s no big deal.
That’s why Paul preached, wrote and even endured trial, affliction and persecution the way he did. His encounter with Jesus changed his purpose and life-direction. That’s why he tells the Ephesians to pray this way: “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”
You may not have been blinded by a light when you met Jesus for the first time, as Paul was, but your encounter with Him was, no doubt, just as overwhelming; wasn’t it? So, what’s your response been? In all of history, since Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, the response has been to leave all to follow Him. Don’t think that your response should be any different. Are you still overwhelmed by Him? If not, take a look at Jesus again. He’s still incredibly beautiful and overwhelming. You won’t get over Him!
I happened across a tweet from Jim Shaddix this morning in which he quoted from a Kindle book of prayers that were written by Puritans of the past. Here’s the one He quoted.
“May I view all things in the mirror of eternity, waiting for the coming of my Lord, listening for the last trumpet call, hastening unto the new heaven and earth. Order this day all my communications according to Thy wisdom, and to the gain of mutual good. Forbid that I should not be profited or made profitable. May I speak each word as if my last word, and walk each step as my final one. If my life should end today, let this be my best day.”
I downloaded the ebook (here’s the link if you’re interested: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B003UHVXDI/ref=r_soa_po_i) and here’s a few prayers that impacted me this morning. They struck me because the prayers are requesting the sufficiency of Christ in their lives. Take a look and see what you think:
“When I am afraid of evils to come, comfort me by showing me that in myself I am a dying, condemned wretch, but in Christ I am reconciled and live; that in myself I find insufficiency and no rest, but in Christ there is satisfaction and peace; that in myself I am feeble and unable to do good, but in Christ I have ability to do all things.”
“God of my end, it is my greatest, noblest pleasure to be acquainted with Thee and with my rational, immortal soul; it is sweet and entertaining to look into my being when all my powers and passions are united and engaged in pursuit of Thee, when my soul longs and passionately breathes after conformity to Thee and the full enjoyment of Thee; no hours pass away with so much pleasure as those spent in communion with Thee and with my heart.”
“Thou hast produced and sustained me, supported and indulged me, saved and kept me; Thou art in every situation able to meet my needs and miseries. May I live by Thee, live for Thee, never be satisfied with my Christian progress but as I resemble Christ; and may conformity to His principles, temper, and conduct grow hourly in my life.”
Oh that the drive of my life and my prayers would reflect such a desire to see Christ as my all encompassing sufficiency, regardless of my circumstances.
I’m not much of a photographer, however, like a lot of people I do like to look at a good photograph. I couldn’t tell you what makes a photograph good, I can only tell you when I see it. The only thing I like more than looking at a good photograph is taking one. Fortunately for me, there are cameras these days that do most of the work for you. Automatic settings and focus help non-photographers like me pull off a decent photo every once in a while. For me, it’s pretty much the blind squirrel finding an acorn scenario.
I think the feature that helps the most with my “point and click” is not just the autofocus but my camera automatically locates the focal point. The truth is, unless there’s a focal point, autofocus does little to help.
So it is with the church. The church must have the proper focal point. If it doesn’t then all the focus in the world will amount to nothing. What do you think should be the focus of the church?
Your view of the church growth movement may affect how you answer this question. Also, depending on whether you’re in the vocational ministry or a lay-leader in the church or simply a church attender may make a difference too. However, I fear this question is more commonly answered incorrectly than not. Is church about people, the Great Commission, discipleship, worship services or social justice?
Sure, church should include all these things but none of these should be the focal point of the church. If they are, focus can quickly become attentive to the wrong things.
What, then, should be the ultimate focus of the church?
As I look at the New Testament epistles the answer should be easy. But, how many of our churches, church members and attenders come into “worship” services and programs in our churches and completely miss the focal point? Honestly, it shouldn’t be possible but unfortunately I think it happens all the time.
I could give many, many more references from the Epistles but here are a few to make my point:
“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:9)
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according with the Scriptures…”(1 Corinthians 15:3) Emphasis mine
“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)
“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God…”(2 Corinthians 3:5)
“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)
“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Galatians 6:14)
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace…”(Ephesians 2:13-14)
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
“….I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:8)
“And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” (Colossians 1:18)
As I said, I could give many more examples but as Paul wrote to the church, he always focused on the centrality, the focal point of Jesus.
All the difficulties we find in the church: division, dissatisfaction, gossip and faded worship are all symptoms of the real problem, Jesus isn’t the focal point.
But, when Jesus is the focal point the fruits are obvious:
1. Authentic, Spirit and Truth worship in the church.
2. Fulfillment of the great commission including the necessity of discipleship.
3. A heart for others that will result in social justice.
4. Unity within the Body. (Remember, Jesus never causes division within His church. If there’s division, it’s not from Him.)
5. Believers who follow Jesus with obedience [to Jesus] that stems from love for Him and His Word. Obedience to Jesus causes the Christian to abide in Him and therefore produce all kinds of good fruit. (Matthew 7:16)
Lord, help us that Jesus may be our focal point, our only focal point. I understand, by that, the rest of your purpose will come into focus. I pray for Jesus to be our focal point, and I pray it starts with me; today.
The above picture is of Ebenezer Scrooge. I thought it appropriate since I don’t believe in Santa Claus. Shhhhh. Don’t tell anybody.
I got a little heat last Christmas because I mentioned in a Sunday sermon that a news anchor said that Santa didn’t exist and the television station received all kinds of angry calls and emails from parents with terror struck children who just found out the easy way that mom and dad were leaving those presents under the tree which were signed “Santa.” (Let me say here that I don’t have a problem with kids having fun with Santa.) But….
I intend to spend my time trying to convince adults and kids alike of the One who does exist, not someone who doesn’t.
I’m writing and preparing for my Christmas series that I’ll be preaching this December. As is the same every year, I’m excited about December and the Christmas season, and at the same time I wonder if I can present Christmas in such a way that it will be fresh in the ears of many who have heard a thousand Christmas messages.
This year I’ve decided to preach about adoration. I’m not preaching to define adoration, I don’t think we need to do that. I’m going to preach several reasons why we would extend adoration to Jesus this Christmas and why it is He alone who deserves it.
So, let me challenge you with this:
I’m confident that many things other than Jesus receive much of our adoration during Christmas: families, parties, presents and the kids picture with Santa. None of these things are bad. But…
Jesus alone deserves our adoration!
My challenge; let’s make sure “Come let us adore Him” is more than a song this Christmas. Jesus Christ is worthy of ALL our adoration.