Jesus’ Unique Requirements—Part I

June 11, 2014

I am in a unique season in my life; I have good news to share with just about anybody who will listen. My glad tidings, as my regular readers know, is that after six months of messing around with a diagnosis of lung cancer and all its treatments (chemo, radiation, and surgery), I am now cancer-free with little expectation that it will come back. Disclosing this part of my story is coming very naturally as I am welcomed back to the grocery store where I have been a regular customer for sixteen years. My hair stylist gave me my first post-chemo haircut ten days ago, and he held onto every word of my account of the past seven months. The presumably Buddhist pedicurist was genuinely blessed when I said my doctors had God’s help to heal me. The list goes on and on. The power to witness has overflowed out of the intensity with which I experienced God in my life this year.

As we bask in the afterglow of Pentecost celebrated by the church this past Sunday, I am thinking about how that experience propelled 120 disciples out into the city of Jerusalem (Acts 2). The Holy Spirit had given them the power to witness, and their good news was that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead and was offering new life to anyone who would believe in him. Many of these disciples were hicks from Galilee, and yet God gave them the supernatural ability to communicate with everybody, even the international crowd. The story of Jesus’ death and resurrection simply rolled out of their mouths, and nothing could stop them from proclaiming and their audience from hearing.

Christians of our century, having been reminded of the mandate and power to witness by the feast of Pentecost, are urged to recognize the uniqueness of our calling. This is a good week to go over some of the aspects of our faith that make our mission not only distinct from the non-religious world but different from other religious groups world-wide. Jesus’ teaching leading up to his crucifixion pointed to his radical expectations. Particularly in the gospel of John, the last public discourses and private instructions he gave focused on how Jesus’ followers were to conduct themselves once he was gone from their sight (the “ascension” we talked about last week). I’d like to comment on three of these requirements for the missionaries Jesus sent out into the world by the power of the Holy Spirit.

First requirement: It is to Jesus, not ourselves, that we give witness. I’ve noticed over the years that church people are more apt to extol the virtues of their worshipping community than they are to extol the virtues of God. I think the psalmist really meant it when he wrote, “One generation shall laud your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4). When God has done something really cool, it’s hard to keep quiet about it.

And yet, many Christians are very quiet about Jesus. I can see a few reasons for this: 1) people experience Jesus as a quiet presence in the background of their lives, while in the forefront they are busy with other concerns; 2) people’s faith has waned since the first time they got to know Jesus by name, perhaps in childhood long ago; 3) people are afraid that sharing what God has done in their lives will be ridiculed or dismissed; 4) people have not actually experienced the presence of God at work in their lives, and therefore have nothing to say; and 5) people are worried that if they bring up God in conversation, somebody is going to ask them a question they can’t answer.

It is so much easier and more natural, they say, to talk about what’s going on at church or to invite someone to a concert happening there this weekend, or even to wax eloquent about feeling good and blessed without giving a hint as to the Source of that blessing. Right now, in the Presbyterian tribe, it’s easier to talk about hopes and expectations for next week’s General Assembly, which is a church activity, than to talk about the Lord of the Church himself.

Jesus made it quite clear that the outcome of our testimony would be God’s glory. Our job is to point people to what God is doing and to show gratitude for that. Of course it is possible that God is doing something in and through your church, and it is fair game to share that with others. But rather than praise the church, are we not called to praise God from whom the blessings flow and make know the mighty acts of God?

So, the first hallmark of Christian mission is that it is about Jesus, not about us. No other religious body lifts up the name of Jesus as Lord of all, head of the church, or shepherd of our souls. Some may acknowledge his teaching ability, his role as a prophet, or even his good and pure life. But nobody but the Christian bows and worships Jesus Christ as God-come-in-the-flesh to redeem the world. The power of the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to acknowledge the truth of biblical proclamation a d the mighty acts of God testified to therein. Given this first unique aspect of Christian mission, how are you doing talking about Jesus instead of yourself? What would equip you to do this better? Whom can you ask for help to develop skills or summon the courage for giving witness? Food for thought, and then power for action!

Next post: the second unique requirement for Christian mission, sacrificial servanthood.

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One Response to “Jesus’ Unique Requirements—Part I”

  1. emd5542 Says:

    Amen, revmary. And why are we not standing firm in faith against cultural onslaughts? Is it easier just to go along rather than proclaim Jesus Is Lord over all? Mind boggling! Just can’t buy into these progressive takes on what God means in Scripture. And the General Assembly PC(USA) will soon rear its head. Any projections? Looking forward to next blog, Eleanor

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