Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Keeping it real...

I really enjoy football. I like the competition, the strategy, the hard hitting, watching amazing athletes who are ginormous but can move like cats. I have a couple of teams I follow in the NFL and I enjoy watching college kids play if there is a big rivalry.  I tend to be disappointed when I see grown men who make a big play taunting opposing fans, prancing around like children and generally operating with so much arrogant pride that if it were concrete ready to be poured, it would fill the Grand Canyon. The arrogance some of these guys have is sickening and we pay them gazillions of dollars to act that way because they are our idols. One of the most popular shows on TV is starting again tonight with “American Idol”. With the amount of egos filling the air waves of that show, I’m shocked the heads will actually fit on my TV screen.  

What a contrast I see in my morning devos from Luke 7:1-10 with the Roman Commander, a centurion who by title is in charge of 100 elite soldiers of the Roman army, the rulers of the known world. These soldiers enforced the will of Caesar; they were like all the elite branches of our military rolled into one. To be the commander of the best of the best, you had to have your act together. Most of the time, the Jews absolutely hated the Romans because of their oppressive policies and they particularly hated the soldiers who enforced those policies. But in Luke 7, we see a Centurion who was well-liked by the Jews, you could almost say he was their idol. I glean from reading between the lines he had amazing people skills in order to be in his position having to enforce Roman policy on the Jews but yet the Jews thought he was awesome. Luke tells us why in vs. 5 “because he loves our nation and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” If anyone had a cause to be full of pride and arrogant, it was this guy. He was at the top of his game and everyone spoke highly of him.

But he’s not arrogant. The deal is this Roman Centurion had a servant who was highly valued. Maybe the servant was the Centurion’s “right hand man”, the one who does all the behind the scenes work and so forth. Anyway, this servant is very sick and about to die. Word gets out to Jesus about this Centurion and his servant and the Jews want Jesus to heal the servant. In vs. 4, they pleaded with Jesus saying “He is worthy to have you do this for him because…” In other words because of the Centurion’s performance in loving the Jewish nation and building the synagogue  he deserved special treatment from Jesus.  The Jews believed this Centurion; their hero had “earned it.” Jesus starts to head to the Centurion’s home indicating it was indeed an oddity that a man in his position would be so kind to the Jews.  Notice the humility of this powerful man, he doesn’t come to the Lord in person, he sends some friends to Jesus and says, “Lord, I’m not worthy for you to enter under my roof…” Wow! This guy recognizes that as powerful and influential as he was and with as many resources that he had; he was not God because only God could save his servant. The Jews said, “He is worthy…” the Centurion says, “I am not worthy…” He said to Jesus all he had to do was command it, and his servant would be healed. The Centurion’s message to Jesus continued: “I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come’, and he comes…;” What this Centurion said in effect was this: “Lord, you are the ultimate authority, in terms of chain of command, I know the buck stops with you, no one has more power than you. If you issue the order, my servant will be healed because only God can help him.” Jesus was stunned – so much so he told all the Jews following this that he hadn’t seen such amazing faith in all of Israel. Jesus healed the man – and didn’t even issue the command in response to the man’s faith!

I was struck by a couple of principles this morning: 1) Salvation is not for the worthy, but for the unworthy and who have the courage to admit it. 2) Salvation is not based on performance; it is totally a gift of God’s grace. 3) Salvation does not depend on how good other people think you are, but the faith you place in Jesus, the ultimate authority. I could go on and on about this amazing passage but I worry about this: I wonder how many people are members and attenders of churches like Calvary who think they are bound for Heaven because they are worthy? They’ve been declared worthy by others, they’ve performed, they have great people skills, they’re at the top of the game, they give generously to church causes and so forth. But they will go to Hell because they’ve never humbled themselves in front of Jesus, they’ve never said to Jesus, “I’m not worthy…”
My wife observed after a particularly frustrating time in our ministry in New Hampshire one of the best things about Heaven will be that everyone there “will get it.” In other words, they’ll understand who Jesus really is and they’ll be submissive to His authority in their lives because they are not worthy. I’m just keeping it real and giving you something to think about from my little corner of the world to yours…

Pastor Ralph Green
Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church

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