4 Posts from June 2012

A Self-Description of Jesus

I’ve been involved in a serious study of Scripture for more than fifty years of my life. In all that time I have found only one place where Jesus Christ—in His own words—describes His own “inner man.” In doing so, He uses only two words. Unlike most celebrities, those words are not phenomenal and great. Jesus doesn’t even mention that He was sought after as a speaker.

Although it is true, He doesn’t say: “I am wise and powerful,” or “I am holy and eternal,” or “I am all-knowing and absolute deity.” Do you remember what He said?

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. (Matthew 11:28–29)

I am gentle. I am humble. Both are servant terms. “Gentle” means strength under control. It is used of a wild stallion that has been tamed. “Humble in heart” means lowly—the word picture of a helper. Unselfishness and thoughtfulness are in the description. It doesn’t mean weak and insignificant, however.

Frankly, I find it significant that when Jesus lifts the veil of silence and once for all gives us a glimpse of Himself, the real stuff of His inner person, He uses gentle and humble. When we read that God the Father is committed to forming us to the image of His Son, qualities such as these are what He wants to see emerge. We pastors are never more like Christ than when we fit into His description of Himself.

And how do those things reveal themselves? In what way do we best reveal them? In our obedience. Servanthood and obedience are linked together like Siamese twins. And the finest illustration of this is the Son Himself who openly confessed, “I do nothing on My own initiative . . . I always do the things that are pleasing to Him” (John 8:28–29).

In other words, Jesus’s self-description was verified by His obedience. Like no one else who has ever lived, He practiced what He preached. That’s my goal too. Is it yours?

—Chuck

A Servant Not a Superstar

A familiar essay anonymously written many years ago says this about Jesus Christ:

Nineteen long centuries have come and gone and today he is the centerpiece of the human race and the leader of the column of progress. I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever were built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.

Impressive words regarding the most phenomenal Person who ever cast a shadow across earth’s landscape. Without question, He is unique. He is awesome in the fullest sense of the term.

But what was He like personally . . . down inside His skin? Is there any place, for example, where He describes Himself? The answer is yes. Does that description fit the common idea of human greatness? That answer is no.

I remember my surprise some years back when I received a slick, multicolored brochure in my morning mail announcing a series of lectures to be delivered in Los Angeles by a man who was a well-known Christian “superstar” of the day. He was a popular speaker who traveled all over the country, and his name is still familiar to most folks in the family of God. But I confess, I lifted my eyebrows in astonishment when I read the words used to describe him in that advertisement:

A phenomenal individual . . .

In great demand around the world . . .

Today’s most sought-after speaker!

That’s a far cry from the way Jesus Christ described Himself:

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. (Matthew 11:28–29)

Unlike most influential, celebrity types, Jesus’s description of Himself doesn’t sound like the popular hype we’ve grown accustomed to hearing.

Jesus was a servant, not a superstar. He didn’t consider Himself “a phenomenal individual,” but one who was “gentle" and "humble.” May we pastors follow His example.

—Chuck

Get Involved

Eli participated in his sons' godless behavior. We know this because Eli got fat on the food his boys had stolen from the altar (1 Samuel 3:19–21).

As for Samuel, the boy who heard God's voice, the closing words of this episode tell us that the sleepy, spiritual indifference that had lulled Israel into complacency was about to come to a screeching halt. A man of action was on the scene, and Israel's spiritual drift was about to end. Even as a little boy, he not only heard the Lord, but he obeyed His voice.

As you ponder all of this, especially as you evaluate the condition of your family, remember that hearing the truth isn't enough. Action is the ticket. Only on the rarest occasions does the Lord bless someone for merely listening to Him. Faith is an action. That means His blessings lie on the other side of obedience. According to Scripture, knowledge alone puffs up, but with action comes humility (1 Corinthians 8:1). Besides, problems like those of Eli do not solve themselves. They multiply and intensify with the slow and silent passing of time. A pastor’s home is not immune to any of this.

If you have reached the conclusion that your family is in danger, choose to do something rather than nothing. Refuse to be like Eli. In the end, after achieving public success in ministry, God considered Eli a failure at home . . . and judged him for it.

 Don't go there.

—Chuck

Bringing It Home

What is it going to take to convince us that the last will be first and the first will be last? For some it will take a lifetime, for others only a few semesters in seminary.

Each May, at the end of the spring term at Dallas Seminary, we have the joy of listening to the school's top preachers. They're nominated and selected by pastoral-ministry professors. One year a talented young man preached on that pivotal passage in John 13 where Jesus washes His disciples' feet. After a compelling exposition of that simple text, the young senior class preacher leaned low into the microphone, looked across the faces in Chafer Chapel, and asked his fellow students, "Do you want to have a great ministry . . . or do you just want to be great?"

The packed chapel went silent. Nobody moved. Nobody even blinked. I'll never forget his question. None of us will. I hope he never does either.

In a single question he captured the crucial issue: greatness. Not as the world defines it. But greatness according to the standard of Almighty God. Great leaders are servants first. Like Paul . . . like his Master Jesus Christ.

This is for you, and this is for me. If you've never submitted fully to the Master, this is your moment. If you're still arrogant, you probably won't be struck down with blindness or find yourself shackled in a Roman prison. That was Paul's experience. But now that I have your attention, I suggest you take a good look within.

You do know how strong-willed and proud you are. So do the people you lead. You know how slow you are to encourage and how reluctant you are to affirm. They do too. You know if you're greedy. You know if you're self-serving. Frankly, it's time to give all that up. We're back to the crucial question: Do you want to have a great ministry, or do you just want to be great?

How you answer will determine how you lead.

—Chuck