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Who do you seek after?
What a question. Supposedly as Christians, we are supposed to be seeking after Jesus; that is what it means to be a Christian, right? A follower of Jesus. But is it possible that we can say we are seeking after Jesus but our actions and the people we follow betray who we really are? If we take the time to analyze how we behave, it could be that we are servants of people that seek their own glory rather than Jesus. Because Jesus will always call us to humility, humility that seeks to exalt God rather than ourselves. A humility that would rather see our fellow neighbor grow then hold them back. Could it be that we follow political pundits on prime time news shows that demand that we stand up for our rights, and we reject the humility and self-sacrifice that was characteristic of the words and practices of Christ where ever he went? We say that we are Christians first, but it seems that we know more about our flavor of politics than we know the principles of the kingdom of Jesus. We demand to be able to keep what is rightfully ours. When we should be willing to give up what is ours to relieve the burden of our neighbor.
We demand our rights, as citizens, instead of doing the work of Jesus and helping the Widow, the orphan, and yes, the stranger also. Could it be that we follow the rhetoric because it appeals to our desire for self-exaltation? Analyze who you follow on a daily bases. Are they people that want to glorify themselves? These people will always appeal to our desire for self-exaltation. Do you find that your conversations focus more on what you deserve than what others need? Is your social media full of political ideologies instead of the gospel? If so, then it could be an indicator that you have stopped following the suffering servant and are now following that thing that seeks glory and self-exaltation. Remember, that is what got this world in the mess it is in now.
Conviction or Controversy
When we come in contact with Jesus, he begins to change our lives because when Jesus inhabits a place, he never leaves things the same. Jesus' desire is to bring us higher, and when we find ourselves in the presence of Jesus, we realize how much we need a change in our desires, passions, and motives. That feeling of wanting Jesus to change who you are, at your essence, is what the Bible calls conviction. Conviction is that feeling that dives deeper than behavioral changes to the core of who we are. Its a sense that there is something wrong with who I am, and I need Jesus to transform me as a being. The problem lies in that we, as human beings, don't like conviction because it hits us in our pride, passions, and desires. So instead of conviction taking us to repentance, we try to get out of the hot seat and silence conviction by turning to points of religious controversy. In other words, we choose to engage in religious arguments to quiet the call of Jesus to change our hearts.
The fascinating thing is that this is a phenomenon that happens to both religious and non-religious people. In the gospel of John, the woman at the well was, by any estimation, a "non-believer". But when she came in contact with Jesus, because of who He is, she came under conviction because of who she is. The Samaritan woman, noticing that she is under conviction, tries to get the microscope off of who she is, and started to deviate the conversation to the religious controversy over whether God's people should worship in Jerusalem or Mount Gerizim in the north. This happens because conviction will produce repentance, or we create controversy. The same happens with so-called believers in God. The religious leaders of Jesus' day were convicted of their hypocrisy, dead formalism, and burdening traditions. But when they came in contact with Jesus and the conviction that He brings, they decided to create controversy on religious matters such as how Jesus and his disciples kept the Sabbath and how they didn't keep the empty traditions of the day. All of that was to silence conviction that brings repentance. Unfortunately, this happens today. People that have never heard the gospel or are loosely aware of the Bible and religion tend to silence conviction by pointing out the negative aspects of faith. They don't want to be in a relationship with Jesus because of Charlatans, bigoted televangelists, expensive jets, and the prosperity gospel. But this hits home to the church, those who claim to be followers of Jesus, those of us that when Jesus convicts us, we start fights on the way people dress, what they eat, how they worship and all the while what we are really doing is silencing the conviction that comes with following Jesus. Fights over who to ordain, who we admit into fellowship, and how we express our faith may be evidence of a more profound conviction that we are trying to ignore, and to do that, we pick fights on trivial religious problems to get the focus off of ourselves. If Jesus is convicting you today, don't make excuses and look at people's failures to get out of the hot seat. If your encounter with Jesus produces conviction, don't pick fights over trivial religious controversies to silence the changes that you need to make. When Jesus comes knocking, will you let him change you, or are you going to be part of the controversy?
What makes something or someone holy? Just a quick google search of the word holy produces the definition to be dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose; sacred. According to this definition, if I commit a building to God, then that building is holy. If I dedicate the way I dress to a religious purpose, then that means the way I dress is holy. If I talk in a way that is different from the way others speak and sprinkle in words like Jesus, church, amen, or praise the Lord, then I am a holy person. If I act a certain way or stay away from the places that a Christian should not go, then maybe that will make me holy. The problem with this is that holiness, or the state of being holy, is totally dependant on me and my behavior. Is it possible that I can dress holy and not be holy? Is it possible to not to wear jewelry, not listen to "worldly music," dress modestly, say the right things, and go to church every week and still be missing the mark? What if holiness is not so much a set of behaviors as much as it is a manifestation of God's presence. Let's explore, for example, the moment that Moses encounters that burning bush on Mount Horeb. Moses drew close to this bush that was apparently burning but was not being consumed. Then he hears the voice of God saying, "Moses stay back and remove your shoes because the place where you are standing is holy ground." What made that place holy, the presence of God, or the location where Moses was standing? When God gives the ten commandments on Mount Sinai, he orders the nation of Israel to not come close to the mountain on pain of death. Why? Because that mountain in of itself was unique, or sacred, or was it because the presence of God had descended on it, and that made the mountain holy. These examples, and many others, in scripture, seem to indicate that holiness or something being holy is not dependant on what we say or do. However, it IS solely dependent on whether we are in the presence of God or not. The fact is that you can look and act holy and really not be holy. If you are looking to be holy, DON'T change your behavior. DON'T stop sinning. DON'T dress differently. DON'T talk differently. DON'T change a thing! All you need to do is get in the presence of Jesus, and as you are in the presence of Jesus, He will tell you to come closer or stay away. He will ask you to take your sandals off or keep them on. He will tell you what to say, where to go, and how to live because Jesus never leaves you the same as how he found you. Today if you are feeling that you need to change, don't. Just desire to be in His presence because that is true holiness, and that is where lasting change will begin.