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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Would You Have Joined Jesus' Ministry?

Would you join this church?
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Would you have joined Jesus' ministry if you'd been there?

Especially if you saw how he had no church building, no riches, no property, no formal education, no formal clothes, no titles or degrees, and no home---not even a pillow to lay his head on?

A poor pastor?

On top of that, the popular church leaders with the big ministries all denounced him.

One time he declared:
Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. [John 7.38]
Today, we realize the power of this passage because we already know it comes from the Son of God. But back then, it came from a poor carpenter who had no finances or bank account or property to back up his claims. 

You looked at him and you saw someone looking just as poor and helpless as you were, probably even poorer---and later you'd see him abandoned by his own disciples and haplessly nailed on the cross.

Today, church people clap their hands and shout "Amen!" when pastors or ministers with huge ministries and church buildings and riches and properties and cars and mansions quote the passage above. It's easy to believe when the one quoting it lives in plenty. People would marvel at how the declaration is backed by "proofs."

But have the same passage quoted by a poor and miserable-looking pastor with a tiny church ministry and see if he gets the same applause. The audience would probably frown at him and think, "What he says should be seen in his life first."

Indeed, what you preach should be seen in your life, but this has to do with character, not riches.

Jesus preached about preparing mansions in his Father's House. But seeing him then, the first thing you'd probably notice was how he had no home or property of his own. He even borrowed the donkeys he used for his Triumphant Entry. He had no "car" of his own, so to speak.

So, how could he be talking about providing mansions?

People today tend to join plenty. They seek material prosperity first before they can believe any Kingdom principle and commit to it. The principle should be espoused by someone rich or moneyed before they can applaud and believe it.

How many times have I seen certain principles in the bible espoused by poor pastors and not applauded by church people? But when the same people hear it from rich or celebrated pastors or those who have titles and degrees, they appreciate its worth.

A moneyed pastor with a huge and impressive church building preaching on giving may easily convince church people about it. But when a poor pastor does it, people tend to think he's just trying to get their money for himself.

Most Christians today seek churches that work, not God (in fact, anything that equates to material prosperity). They prefer churches with posh buildings and facilities, where they sit together with celebrities and influential people, churches with big names they can be proud to be part of.

Jesus intently did away with all that in his time. It was in God's grand plan that Jesus would come as a kid of poor parents, born in a dirty, musty manger, and growing in Israel's most backward town.

"Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" Nathanael asked. [John 1.46]

He came that believers may have Life---God's abundant life. And that life was not to be marketed or promoted around like a consumer product, with gimmicks, fanfare and attractions to lure people with.

Like bible quizzes, nice sound systems, musical instruments, fancy worship, church programs, concerts, pop fellowships, etc. Or visitations, motivations or dole outs.

That Life should be willingly pursued with all one's life. In fact, you have to barter your earthly life with it.

If you had to be repeatedly invited, lured or forced to join a church, you were not offered the Jesus ministry. You were offered a fun  or a cause-oriented club membership.

The only way to get that Life is if you totally and willingly surrender your earthly life to God through Christ and start pursuing and living the simple, lowly Life of  Jesus---meek, low-profile and perceived as poor by the world.

You have to pursue it with your all. There's no other way.

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. [Luke 9.23]
So, would you have joined Jesus' ministry if you had lived back then?

Jesus' ministry was too much for the rich, young ruler. He couldn't imagine himself being poor, dispossessed of his priced possessions, position and achievements. And most of us feel the same way today. We do not like to be numbered among the weak, unglamorous and poor. Our flesh can't stand being nobodies to the world.

That's why when preachers cheer about power, riches and possessions, their congregations shout resounding amens and multitudes flock to them, not realizing that in God's Kingdom, real power is made perfect in weakness, real strength is in the frail posture of total dependence on God.

That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. [2 Corinthians 12.10]
In fact, real riches is in knowing Christ's self abasement---that he chose to be poor and despised (though rich) so we can be made rich. And being "made rich" is in living the Life of Jesus alone (not being rich with the world). It's in imitating that self-abasement. In the Kingdom, abasement is riches. True riches is only through the lowly Life of Jesus---when you give up everything for Him.

Unfortunately, it is that lowliness and weakness that most of us are allergic of. We hate the mere smell of it. We want to be associated with material power.

We always look for a "good" church to be part of---meaning, one respected by people. Noticed by the world. At least, one with a decent property, building, facilities and perhaps a vehicle? And we've lose sight of what God's will really is. That in his second coming, Christ will again choose the appearance of abasement---the lamb that was slain---before he shocks everyone, unmasking himself to be really the King and Judge. 

Honestly, if presented with the cross or a pedestal, what would you choose? To help you answer, look at the church you belong to. Why did you choose it over smaller ones?

GOD's Flesh: And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! [Job 19,26-17]

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