Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Just Like Him

I’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus lately. Specifically, I’ve been dwelling on his ministry here on earth. I’ve been studying it, looking closely into his earthly life, because his life was lived not only to be a sacrifice for the sins of the world, but as an example of how a servant of God lives. I have recently starting reading a new book by author Max Lucado, called Next Door Savior. In the book, the point the author is making is that our Savior is near enough for us to touch, and strong enough for us to trust him totally. I’m not here to review the book. In fact, I’m only a few chapters into it. It got me thinking about the Lord in fresh way, though. Let’s review some of Jesus’ ministry, shall we?

I think first of all of the temptation of Jesus in the desert. After a forty day fast, Satan came at Jesus at his weakest point physically. This tells me that when we are in God’s will, we can expect to be attacked, right from the outset. I like what Pastor Jim Cymbala spoke about in his book, The Church God Blesses. He said that just as the enemy tried to kill Jesus early in his life through King Herod, so he will come after us when we first step out to do something for Christ. Just because we experience hardship in life, and bumps in the road, does not mean that we are out of God’s will. Quite the contrary, we can expect to be attacked.

In Mark’s gospel, we read that after Jesus began to call his disciples to follow him, he has an encounter in the synagogue with a demon-possessed man. Right away, he confronts the spirit and commands him to depart from the man. Yes, Jesus is a picture of meekness, but that doesn’t rule out the need for forcefulness and confrontation. The result? A man bound by demonic powers is finally free.

Then there was the leper. He was cast out of his home, away from his family, living a miserable life in quarantine. But then he saw Jesus. He must have heard of his power. He must have heard the stories from the others in the leper colony of the power Jesus had over sickness, disease and the Devil. He came running to him, begging him to heal him. This was an especially dangerous move on this leper’s part. He wasn’t allowed to come near people that were free of the horrible disease. But something drove him to run and bow down to Christ that day. “If you are willing, you can make me clean”, he said. What Jesus said that day would have been utterly repulsive to the “religious elite” that day, and what he did would have probably given them a heart attack. He said, “I am willing. Be clean” and he touched him.

Then there was the time when he was walking with a man named Jairus, to heal his daughter of a fatal illness. No, it wasn’t just the two of them; there was a massive crowd all around him, pushing into him, thronging him. And one lonely, sickly woman was there. Suffering from some kind of hemorrhage that rendered “unclean”, she, like the leper earlier, set aside legal requirement because she said within herself, “If I can just touch the hem of his robe, I’ll be healed”. She mustered up whatever strength she could and crawled on her hands and knees through the crowd. And she made it. As soon as she reached out and took hold of his robe, she was healed. She knew it, and so did Jesus. “Who touched me?” he asked. When he found out who touched him, he proclaimed her healing.

Then there was the day he received word from the town of Bethany that his friend Lazarus was gravely sick, nearing death. Did he drop whatever he was doing and rush of like some divine paramedic to the scene? No, he did just the opposite. He stayed longer. Why would he do that? He knew that his friend was dying. Yet, upon arriving at Lazarus’s house four days after he died, he assured his grieving sisters that if they would just believe, they would see the glory of God. “Take away the stone”, said Jesus. “But Lord, he’s been dead for four days. He has got to stink by now.” But Jesus didn’t care. He isn’t afraid to go where it stinks. Once the stone was removed, he called Lazarus back to life at his own funeral.

How about his sacrifice on the cross? He didn’t do it because it was good for his health. It killed him. But that was exactly why he did it. “He is the sacrifice for our sins. He takes away not only our sins but the sins of all the world” (1 John 2:2 NLT). How much greater a display of his love for us, than to die for us? “…the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends” (John 15:13b). That’s just what he did, isn’t it. He loves us so much, friends, that he died for us. He took our sins upon himself, and the One who created us laid down his life for us.

As I said before, Jesus is an example for us to follow after. Like Jesus, we need to shine compassion to others. Perhaps you know of someone who you think is a modern-day leper or woman with a grotesque physical problem. Not in the physical sense as much as someone you want to simply avoid. I’m talking about the person that if you are caught with would ruin your reputation among your “friends”. People like that are looking with desperation for someone to “touch” them. They want someone to reach out to them. Follow our Lord’s example, and be his hands and feet. Go ahead and reach out to that person.

As I said before, just as Jesus went to the smelly tomb of Lazarus, he will go to those whose lives are stinky and messy. That was my life at one point. Be honest, yours too. Some reading this today may still be in that place were you need Jesus to come to the tomb of your life and raise you out of the spiritual death you are in. That’s what the cross was for.

I just want to mention one last thing. Let’s remember that Jesus came not to care about himself and his interests, but ours. He didn’t die for himself, he died of you. Let’s follow his example of a life of sacrifice. “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, {and} being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2:5-8). Look for others around you to reach out to. Don’t think of yourself as being above anyone. What if Jesus thought that way about us?

I hope this little study has encouraged us all to live a little more like Jesus. Get out your Bibles and take a dive into the life and ministry of Jesus. Allow his Spirit to mold you into his image. God bless as you seek to be more life him!


Henry Haney said...

Good stuff. We could spend our whole lives just studying the life and ministry of Jesus and probably never scratch the surface.

Thanks for the encouragement today!

michigan preacher said...

Amen to that. And remember that John says that if all that Jesus did were to be written in books, the world couldn't hold them all!

Darrell said...

On a side note Jeff, what's the word on the church?

michigan preacher said...

Right now, I'm still waiting on word. Our AB has been out of town for a couple of weeks, been sick, and a meeting in Cleveland. I spoke with my pastor last night, he's kind of a go between with me and the AB, said when he hears something, he'll give me a call. Our associate pastor, a retired pastor on the disctrict, is also quite involved with placement, and he wants me to take a drive by and see what I think. I'll do that Monday. I'll keep you all posted.