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Archive for the tag “Passion of Christ”

Three Billion

As I tended to the plants in my yard yesterday, I started reminiscing. When I was in high school, I studied horticulture in my junior and senior years. I don’t remember what began the fascination with plant life, but I do remember taking care of my Mom’s house plants after we moved into our new house back in the mid 70’s. The new house had lots of windows, and plants were positioned all around. Dad and I did the majority of the landscaping at that house, and the houses that came after it.

I once thought I would go into that field once I graduated from high school and college. However, I applied for a part-time job at a local nursery for a summer job and got turned down. And the door slammed shut on that particular interest. I didn’t consider it any further as a career.

During my life, I turned from one passion to the next. Before plants, my passion was golf. I just knew I would grow up to be a professional golfer; until we moved to that new house in the new city – far away from a golf course. I still love golf and play every chance I get.

I followed college basketball and professional football for years on end. Certain teams at different times depending on the “star” at the time. It was NC State while Coach Jimmy V was there. Miami Dolphins were my team during the mid 70’s. Washington Redskins because my Dad followed the team. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype and jump on the bandwagon when seasons are going well. I used to get so worked up about winning or losing. I stopped watching a few years ago when I was convicted about all the time I wasted watching television.

Recently, I listened to David Jeremiah talked about the signs of the times. In one of his messages, he talked about apathy. He explained the Greek for the word apathy – pathos is passion and an “a” in front means it’s “anti” whatever. So for apathy, it’s a lack of passion. To me, I don’t believe we have a “lack of passion” in the world today. Just look to the sports arenas throughout the world; there’s plenty of passion. I think it’s just the wrong passion or wrongly placed passion which is the problem today.

I see Facebook posts all the time about animals in trouble and people get stirred up about abuses. Or people get worked up about injustices. I’m not saying these are a bad thing. Are we stirred up for the right reason? Or are we stirred up for the right thing? Persecution. Abortion. How about the lost people of this world who will never hear about Jesus because they are in a place that is not open to the Gospel message?

David Platt recently had a message at Passion City Church where he spoke about the three billion unreached people who will never know or hear the name Jesus in their lifetime. Spiritually speaking, we all stand condemned unless we know the Savior who sets us free from our sins. If they do not know and will never hear, then they stay condemned and will be forever apart from God. Levi Lesko said recently that “good people don’t go to heaven, forgiven people do.” That can be quite shocking if someone is banking on the “good people” heaven theory (all good people will go to heaven). Or I have heard it said that all religions are the path to heaven. Well if that were the case, then Jesus didn’t have to die such a cruel death.

My pastor reminded us on Sunday, Christianity is the only religion where there is an empty grave. All the other religions, the founder has a grave where worshippers can go to pay homage to their prophet or god. But not so with Christianity; there is only an empty grave in Israel marked with a plaque. The resurrection happened and eyewitnesses wrote about the encounters with the risen Jesus. Throughout the centuries, people have died because of their passion for the risen Lord. All the disciples, except for John, were executed because of their testimony of the risen Lord.

The idea of a risen Lord should change any apathy we may have to one of complete joy and a willingness to go to the ends of the earth to tell others before it is too late. It begins with prayer for hearts to be softened for the Good News. David Platt quoted Carl Henry, an old theologian, “the Gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.”

This message has been one to check my heart: passion or apathy? My passion has been misplaced throughout the years. I followed many things that were not worth my attention. Let the right passion fuel my life with the right focus on what matters to God. Three billion people separated for eternity should matter to me because it matters to God.

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” Romans 10:14-15 (NLT)

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Paul’s Walk

When I was first started studying the Word, I had a difficult time understanding Paul’s writings; Romans in particular. It was just deep stuff! This past week I listened to a sermon concerning Paul’s (or Saul at the time) conversion. He was a religious man, zealous for God’s law. He thought he was doing God a favor by killing or persecuting those who walked in the Way (aka the followers of Jesus). Paul was a brilliant man; very passionate about religious law. He had been taught by one of the masters of the Law. He knew the Law; memorized the Law. However, his focus was wrong. He didn’t understand the truth of the Law. He didn’t understand Jesus was the one who would fulfill the Law. He had the book knowledge, but did not have the heart knowledge. His heart was hardened to the truth.

His conversion is known as the Damascus Road conversion. It was pretty drastic. Paul (Saul) had a letter from the ones in charge to go about the countryside clearing the land of those who proclaimed the name of Jesus. He was willing to travel miles upon miles to stamp out this rebellion. Along the way, Paul was confronted by Jesus in a supernatural way. When Christ’s church is hurt, He is also hurt. If the church didn’t survive, the message of Good News would not reach the ends of the earth as it was intended. We wouldn’t know it today. The church would not have survived if Paul had continued his quest. But Jesus stopped Paul in his path, and changed Paul’s focus. Paul was blinded physically so that his spiritual eyes could be opened. When his eyes were opened to the truth, his whole focus changed. However, his determination didn’t. He was still zealous, but zealous for Jesus and His message. He was still willing to walk mile upon mile to reach the ends of the earth for a new purpose; not to kill the message, but to give a life-giving message.

As I have grown in my spiritual maturity, I have developed a deeper understanding of Paul’s writings. The Holy Spirit did a major work in Paul and used his brilliant mind to bring us wisdom in the written word. Sitting under Paul’s teaching now is still difficult if I didn’t have the Holy Spirit guiding me to the truth. But learning from Paul is part of my process of growing to maturity. I don’t want to stop learning. Like I wrote last week, I want my hunger and thirst to be even greater. However, what I am most concerned about today is my willingness to go mile upon mile for a cause greater than me.

The preacher asked his audience “what are you willing to walk 20 miles for?” That was usually the amount of miles walked by Paul on any given day. Ever since I heard that, I wondered. What am I passionate about? Passion is about suffering for a cause. Can I actually say I am suffering for anything right now? Tough questions; with little answers. God is looking for those who are willing to go the extra mile. He is searching for those who want what He wants. I want to want it. Paul had a message to share. His testimony is powerful; but so is each and every one of us who know Jesus’ salvation. We all have a decision to make. Will we use what God has given us for His glory or will we try to kill the message by our disobedience? Each decision made for God’s glory will bring us closer to a passion that cannot be extinguished. Paul had it; I want it too, don’t you?

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)

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