One more thing… (about this weekend’s message)

alfredeneuman.jpg What, Me Worry?

Yes, the tagline of my favorite cartoon face, Alfred E. Neuman, inspired the title of this last weekend’s sermon. A message on worry. Click here to listen/watch/read it. It’s usually posted on Wednesday; this week probably on Thursday because of the holiday.

I based my message on what Jesus said about worry in his Sermon on the Mount.

For me, the most important point was a new perspective on Matt 6:33:

““But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33, NKJV.

worry.gifWould it shock you if I said that this verse is not a call or command to do MORE for God? to serve him better? to make him your first priority?

Before you judge me for rafting down a river of heresy, let me affirm that I believe in doing more for God, and serving him better, and making him my first priority… all empowered by Christ within me. It’s just that this verse is not teaching that.

I vote for Matt. 6:33 getting the prize as the most distorted verse in American Christiandumb.

Why? Two reasons.

The first reason is context. This verse caps an extensive plea from Jesus for you to NOT WORRY. Here is the context:

““Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; “and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. “Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ “For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” Matthew 6:25-32, NKJV.

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Matt 6:33 culminates a list of reasons why you shouldn’t worry. And every reason has something to do with what God does without your help.

QUESTION:  So far, is this paragraph more about (a) what you do for God or, (b) about what God does for you?   I pick (b).

And then… the famous verse that pastors use to motivate our churches to do more for Jesus: “seek first the kingdom of God…” But is that what Jesus teaches in this paragraph? It he really saying: GO FORTH AND DO MORE FOR GOD…? Or is he saying something else? Something that is perhaps the opposite?

I vote ” the opposite.” The first reason is context. This whole paragraph is about what God does for you… and that since God does so much for you, YOU DON’T HAVE TO WORRY.

The second reason is the very overlooked words

busy.png“And HIS righteousness.” Get that? Not my righteousness, striving to please God more, and give more, and serve more. But HIS righteousness, which he brings into me when he moves inside. It is CHRIST’S RIGHTEOUSNESS. And we activate it through faith, not works. Faith. Faith. Faith… as in:

  • “and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;” Philippians 3:9, NKJV.
  • ““I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20, NKJV.

Jesus is not teaching us to produce our own righteousness; he’s teaching that we should trust him for his righteousness… (compare Matt 5:20).  Why do we pastors so often use this verse to send our dear people on a futile quest for their own righteousness?

Even verse Matt 6:24 (about not serving two masters) doesn’t change this: it’s about a singular dedication to HIS righteousness. That is, day by day trusting Jesus to do through me what only he can do. I live by faith… and he takes care of the rest (“all these things” are added unto me).

The kingdom of God is not the rule of Jesus over successful do-gooders. God doesn’t work by improving the improveable, or by incorporating our wonderfulness into his wonders.  Nope.  He only works by RAISING THE DEAD.  Day after day.   Until you can see yourself as dead apart from the power of Christ, you’re just like the Pharisees and your righteousness is NOT a key to the kingdom (Matt 5:20).

He is God.  You’re not.  Quit worrying.

In my sermon, I bottom-lined this paragraph of Scripture this way:

The day you will stop worrying is the day you start doing less for God and start trusting him to do more for you.

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8 thoughts on “One more thing… (about this weekend’s message)

  1. Bill,

    It was an awesome message this weekend that spoke directly to me. Thanks for being so In Your Face about Faith, Life and Jesus. It is appreciated!!

    Keep it up!

  2. “The day you will stop worrying is the day you start doing less for God and start trusting him to do more for you.”

    This may seem like semantic juggling, but to me it is vitally important, and ties in with what you said a few posts back about faith. I don’t think this passage is about God doing stuff ‘for’ us, so much as God doing stuff ‘with’ us and ‘through’ us. (Again, maybe I am saying what you were saying only in words I can understand.)

    If we seek God’s good authority (Kingdom), then we are giving God the space in our lives to do what He wants to do within us, and through us in the world around us. Otherwise it seems like we might be in danger of thinking that His righteousness will have no impact whatsoever on our here-and-now lives; that we can be ‘raised from the dead’ and yet still be the same as we were before.

    …us embracing/responding to God’s action, as opposed to the passive posture of a spectator.

    Here is a question (and I think this is at the heart of why we seem to bump worldviews so often):

    I personally see, throughout American Christendom (radio, television, Sunday morning sermon, popular christian music, magazines, books, etc.), an emphasis by the mainstream on a way of understanding grace that is passive, that provides little to no fruit in the present life of the Christian.
    Do you agree with that assessment of our current culture?

    It seems that most people (inside and outside of the Church) have a perception of the Christian faith that revolves around a ‘bar-code’ salvation (I could tell you some horror stories) and that this understanding is caused by the bulk of our preaching.
    Do you agree?

  3. Hi Steve,
    I kind of agree… and I know that’s not satisfying, so let me explain.

    Your first question: You see throughout American Christiandom an emphasis on grace that is passive and provides for little or no fruit.

    I acknowledge that problem exists… and I agree that it is a problem. The remedy is not to emphasize activity, though. It is to emphasize a correct understanding of faith: that faith is active. When I say “faith” or “grace” you (Steve) hear “passivity.” That is not a biblical concomitant of those terms. In fact, I’ve preached about it. I’ve blogged about it. Faith is no less passive than Peter stepping out of the boat. The remedy is to teach a correct view of faith: truth/doctrine + choice + risk = faith, yielding a new experience of grace.

    But as I see it the greater problem is the inverse: an emphasis on fruit and activity to the neglect of the formation of a Christian mind and Christian heart. To me that emphasis on activity, without the corresponding emphasis on inner transformation, amounts to the same legalism that Jesus spanked the Pharisees for. We have a bunch of Christians DOING STUFF, without knowing why, or WHO is doing it thru them… and without knowing the POWER OF THE CROSS. That’s the core problem in my estimation.

    We are beseeched by the MERCIES OF GOD (a.k.a., his grace at Calvary, a great mental void to most Christians) to present ourselves to God… and with that to be transformed (metamorphosized), not by our efforts, but by the renewing of our MINDS according to the living, breathing Word of God–the in depth teaching and exposure to God’s Might Word… the sword of the Spirit. That message is lost in today’s Christian culture. That’s what grieves me.

    Your second question: bar code salvation… I’m not sure what that means, and I’ve never heard that term before, so maybe you could elaborate a little.

    Bill

  4. yes steve….bar code salvation? is that like ‘fire insurance’?

    bill, steve….just wondering……do either of you know anything about ‘anabaptism’?

    rick

  5. “We have a bunch of Christians DOING STUFF”

    I guess it is this that I would disagree with.

    “When I say “faith” or “grace” you (Steve) hear “passivity.”

    I don’t think that is what you mean, and that is certainly not how I understand the terms, but it is something that I think most Americans hear. I have often heard and read people define those terms in exactly that way. (Which is why I was trying to understand what you meant by the terms in our previous exchanges…)

    You and I understand ‘faith’ and ‘grace’ in possibly identical ways (although I think we would define ‘salvation’ and ‘Christian’ in very different ways), but I tend to emphasize the results of ‘faith and grace’ in someone’s life precisely because I don’t see those results. We live in a country where 80% claim to be Christian and yet less than 5% are willing to tithe. That seems like evidence against the idea that Christians are ‘doing’ much of anything…

    As to the ‘bar-code’ comment, it comes from ‘The Divine Conspiracy:’

    Willard describes liberal American Christianity in terms of the social/ethical gospel, and conservative American Christianity in terms of a ‘bar-code’ gospel. Salvation works like a scanner and a bar-code; if someone puts the ‘basketball’ sticker on the HD Television, the scanner doesn’t know the difference and you get a $1190.00 discount; God puts a ‘saved sticker’ on your backside at conversion, in spite of the fact that God can find no signs of your ‘being saved,’ you are able to ‘trick’ God and enter because of the sticker.

    The rest of the book (and in fact much of Willard’s work) is an attempt to show the Way of Jesus as significantly and radically different than either of these alternatives.

  6. Essentially Willard is saying that God wants to literally transform the basketball into a HD Television (pardon the crude metaphor!).

  7. steve, what faith background are you coming from?

    i’m of the opinion that tithing is not for the new covenant…at least not in the way it was expressed in the old covenant, 10% etc. it’s 100% now. tithing to me is one example of a shadow concept that was both fulfilled and transformed by jesus fulfilling the law and all it’s concepts (matt 11:12,13 col 2:14-17). eg. warfare, “israel”, blood sacrifice, sabbath.

  8. Rick

    I am a spiritual mutt (I was raised by incessant church-hoppers), and so I walked away. When I came back I found myself in the Vineyard. It was there that I came to some degree of spiritual maturity (how much I will leave to you!).

    I didn’t intend for the tithing comment to be perceived as a ‘rule’ that Christians are breaking, rather, it is an indicator of an inner reality. If I trust God, I will be a generous person; if I am not generous, I don’t trust God.

    I could have used many other examples (the percentage of Christians who church-hop, etc.) I just happened to know the stats on tithing…

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