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Holier Than Who?

June 12, 2012 — Leave a comment

I was never really a bad kid. Just saying that, though, negates the entire statement I think. I have generally been a “I’ve done what I’ve done” kinda guy – I do what ever it is I’m going to do and I’m happy with whatever the outcome is, good or bad. I’ve changed recently (for the better – ask my wife or my boss!), but the majority of my life was spent exerting my own will. And again, the outcome was either spectacular brilliance, or utter failure.

When I’d have one of my “spells” there were many people on hand to let me know just how bad it really was. I started calling those people “Holy Spirit” since they were trying to make me feel convicted for messing up, but they were also there to knock me off my horse when I did something really good and started getting a big head or bragging.

A long time ago, I was a youth minister in a small church in my college town. It was a wonderful experience – and the ministry grew beyond the means of the church to support it. Other youth guys from bigger churches were asking me all the time what I was doing, and I was even interviewed once by a mega church guy.  Maybe it was for a project or something. Probably. But either way, I was thinking, “Wow look at me! I’m the bomb!”

I came to the conclusion it was all about me, and forgot all about Jesus. I still preached, but it was showboating. I forgot where my source was, and (in case you didn’t see this coming) I lost everything. And when I say everything, I spent one Christmas in a broken down 1971 Buick GS behind a gas-n-sip in the middle of Nowhere, OK. I literally lost everything – ministry, home, vehicle, family.

Can I just say one thing? It was worth it. It was worth doing it my way, on a small scale, and losing what is now comparatively just a little, because now I know. I know it’s not about me one little bit, and when I am serving on church staff again, I will not be that guy. I will never again forget who it was that saved me and called me, I know who I owe everything to, I know who empowers me to fulfill the calling. HINT: It ain’t me.

There’s someone in the bible who did it right the first time, bless his heart. The Apostle Paul – so many great accomplishments, so many reasons to boast, and he did boast, but never in himself or anything he did.

Still, Paul probably had more reason to boast in his accomplishments than any other person. It was his efforts and his willingness to follow God’s plan for him that took the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Even before that, though, Paul had every reason to be proud of who he was. He was the model Jew, and the model Roman citizen. He was of the tribe of Benjamin, which was the tribe of the first king of Israel, with whom he also shared the name “Saul.”

The thing Paul would have been the most proud of, though, was that he was a Pharisee. The Pharisees prided themselves on the way they obeyed the Law of God. Nobody was as close to God as the Pharisees, or so they thought.

This is the life Paul had chosen for himself, before Jesus found him on the road one day and ruined everything. And this is the life we often choose for ourselves. We get so wrapped up in our accomplishments and our own holiness that we forget who called us. We forget that God is the source – the source of life, the source of everything. We rely on our own power, and we fail again and again and don’t understand why.

We should be like Paul! We should lay our desires aside and we should put no faith in our own accomplishments. Instead, we should boast in Christ and what he has done for us!

Read Philippians 3:1-6

Why do you think Paul says in verse 3 that we can have no confidence in our own efforts?

What reasons does Paul give for being able to have confidence in himself? Are these valid reasons? What is the reason for your confidence?

What motivates Paul to boast in Christ? What has Christ done for you that is worth boasting about?

What is the Holy Spirit saying to you right now?

 

 

You might remember many stories from the bible involving Jesus and fish. He was always talking about fish and handing out fish to eat. He traveled all over the place with fishermen, and, more importantly, Jesus chose fishermen for the important job of spreading his word and building his church.

One of the symbols of Christianity is the fish symbol, seen above. The Greek word for “fish” is “ichthus” (here’s what it looks like in Greek – ἰχθύς), and each letter is the first letter of the words Jesus Christ God’s Son Savior (ησοῦς Χριστός Θεοῦ Υἱός Σωτήρ).

What I’m saying is, the fish is a major component of the imagery of Christianity. Here’s what I found in a 30 second Google search -

Jesus called disciples in terms of fishing, saying ”from now on you will be catching men” (Lk 5:1-10). Two stories of miraculous catches of fish are told in Luke 5:1-11 and John 21:1-8. All of the gospel writers agree that he fed thousands with fish and bread. There was the feeding of 5000 (John 6:1-14), and the feeding of the 4000 (Mark 8:1-9). He compares the kingdom of heaven to a fishing net (Matt 13:47-48). Jesus often preached from fishing boats (Matt 13:1-3; Mark 4:1-9; Luke 5:1-3) and sailed in fishing boats (Mark 4:35-41; Matt 8:23-27). Jesus was given fish to eat after his resurrection in Jerusalem (Luke 24:36-43), and he cooked fish for his disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (John 21:9-14).

But there’s one more story.  You may have heard it in church right around April 15th.  Jesus paid taxes with a coin found in the mouth of a fish (Matt 17:24-27).

I have heard this story many times in church and in bible study classes, and I always wonder how in the world did the coin get in the fish’s mouth?  I have made up some unlikely scenarios in the past.  Maybe there was a wind storm and some coins blew off a table somewhere and ended up in the water.  Maybe someone was using the Sea of Galilee as a wishing well.  Could be that someone had a rough day/life and all they had left was a few coins, and in disgust, he pitched them into the water. I mean, coins are shiny, fish like shiny stuff, so if a shiny coin ends up in the water somehow, it’s not inconceivable that a fish would try to eat it. Right?

Think about it from the perspective of the fish. Fish are not all that smart, although apparently they can be trained if you’re a Mythbuster (that’s video proof if you follow the link). Fish just kinda float there until something catches their attention, and if it looks anything like food they lunge for it, put it in their mouth, then dart off the other direction.

I’ve caught fish with a paperclip before – no bait, just a shiny, shiny paperclip. Think what a fish must be thinking if a coin is slowly tumbling through the water – “Shiny. Must be food. I will eat it.”

That’s about the extent of it if you’re a fish. The coin got there somehow, right?

Could be that it was just flat out a miracle.  Jesus said there’d be a coin and there was one, end of story.

It’s not really the end though. The same God who called the disciples, who filled the nets with fish, who fed thousands with a little kid’s Lunchable, that same God is calling you! He wants to fill your nets – he wants to bless you beyond your wildest imagination! He wants to take the only thing we can give him – our lives – and change the lives of thousands!

Jesus once told his disciples, what I’ve done is nothing compared to what you will do. Do you believe the words of your savior? Do you believe you could do more than he did? He sent his Spirit so that we can! Ask anything in his name and he will do it!

A fish – the little fish that could – was sufficient to work a miracle with, not just once, but time and again. A smelly, scaley fish enriched the lives of so many people – and how much more has God got planned for you!

What is the Holy Spirit saying to you right now? Call on him to enable you to be a fisherman, ask him to help fill your nets, ask him to enable you to change the world!