Lent 2013 - Vol. 66

It's Not About You!
by Bob Tedesco

Culture of self
Many of us live in a culture that is soaked in enthusiastic chants such as “You deserve a break today!” “It’s all about you!” “You’re worth it!” I think that most of us want to feel that we are needed so we welcome the chants and cheers that seem to affirm our importance and value. In the midst of all of this self-esteem building a growing narcissism is eroding the core values of our civilization. Narcissism is no longer considered abnormal by many therapists. Is it any wonder that a selfish and self-centered orientation to life blinds people of their responsibility for the common good of society and how they treat individual members of society? We notice the growing selfishness in our environment, yet we seem puzzled or even surprised at the atrocities that we hear reported on the daily news. 

Narcissism not only erodes the core values of society, it also affects how Christians view their relationship with the Lord and his call on their lives. 

Jesus is Lord and Savior
In a group setting, if you asked the question, “Who has accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior?” most Christians would raise their hands. Since most of us have been formed in a culture soaked in selfishness we might want to raise our hand only half way, or up and down quickly.

My point here is that we do a good job with the “savior” part: my salvation, my soul, my eternity, my health, my improvement, my growth, etc. (It’s all about me!). I like the title “Redeemer” because it implies that Jesus saves your soul and your life.  And, how does he save our lives? He saves them by giving us the power to turn them over to him. So, he saves our soul and in return we give him our lives. A fair trade, isn’t it?

Consider the following scripture verses: Luke 17:7-10

 “Will anyone of you, who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep, say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down at table’? Will he not rather say to him,’ Prepare supper for me and gird yourself and serve me, till I eat and drink; and afterward you shall eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what he was commanded? So, you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’
This Scripture is very offensive to our modern sensibilities. We want to cry out, “It’s not fair!”  “I’ve worked all day!”  “You don’t appreciate me!” “I want to talk to your supervisor!” “Savior” is a lot about us (what we get), and “Lordship” is a lot about him! (What he gets: a life dedicated to him and willing to serve even when tired.)

How this life is given over to him is the next question. How do I love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ?

1 John 3:16-17:
 “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
One of the main ways that I love and serve him is in my love and service of the brethren.

The Path Between
We were all born selfish and maybe some of us became deluded with the notion that we were  number one or the center of the universe.

We know that human maturity is moving away from that selfishness toward a healthy concern for the rights and the needs of others. The process of Christian maturity could be seen as the path between my salvation and his lordship. So, conversion to the Lord Jesus is the first step and not the destination. We can call that path between Savior and Lord discipleship: more on him and less on me. Or as John the Baptist said, “He must increase, and I must decrease.”

Discipleship and People

Scriptural emphasis
When presented the question, “What percentage of the Ten Commandments deals with spiritual things?” a professor of business administration quickly replied, “Thirty percent!” No matter how you arrange the Ten Commandments, a fraction of them are dedicated to spiritual directions; the rest deal with human relationships and interactions. The New Testament seems to be overwhelmingly about how we should orient our lives and how we should treat one another. 

The Sermon on the Mount has been called Jesus’ greatest teaching, and much of it has to do with our postures, our attitudes, our relationships. And much of the teaching of Jesus is directed at or to the body of Christ, the people he has redeemed.

Jesus identifies with the body of Christ
Consider the judgment scene presented in Matthew 25:31-34, 44-46:

“When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’ “

 44-46 “Then they all will answer, ’Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or  naked or sick or in prison and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to  you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into  eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. 

Because it is a final judgment scene you could classify it as a “spiritual” teaching or a predictive prophecy.  It has devils, angels, the King, his royal throne, eternal punishment, and eternal life. Stepping back from it though, it is simply the Lord saying, “I identify with my body, the people I have redeemed who are now joined with me. What you do to them, you do to me, and the consequences are eternal!” 

We again see Jesus almost equating himself with his body in Matthew 18:18-20:

“Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or more are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
The incarnation of the Incarnation
One final observation about Christ and his body on earth. Notice the parallel between the Incarnation and Pentecost. The angel announces to Mary that she will bring forth the Son of God (Luke 1:26-33) because the Holy Spirit “will come upon you” (vs. 35). Then at the Ascension, Jesus tells them to wait in the city until the Spirit comes “down upon you” (Luke 24:29), and at Pentecost, the church is born. The parallels are striking. Christ intends to be physically present in all the world through us!

Four levels of Christian responsibility
As a disciple of Christ and a member of his body – the body of Christ, I am responsible to the Lord for the way I live my life. I have certain responsibilities which the Lord expects me to carry out. 

  1. The first is a responsibility that concerns myself: I need to get myself in right relationship with the Lord. 
  2. The second is a responsibility for my immediate family. Whether single or married, I have a real responsibility toward  my immediate family. The teachings of the New Testament mostly assume that you will understand this.
    1. Matthew 5:46: 
      “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the  same?
  3. My third area of responsibility is for the Body of Christ (community, congregation, parish, denomination). These represent my nearest relationships outside of the family. 
  4. The fourth area of responsibility is for the world (local, country, continent, whole earth)
Discipleship has a very important place in this spectrum of responsibility.

Jesus’ final days
When people know that they are about to die, their words, concerns, and directions take on a special importance. When that person is the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, we should all take notice and give his words top priority.

Jesus’ final prayer, given on the eve of his sacrifice on the cross, was for unity.

 John 17:11:
“Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”
And that unity has a consequence: it is a life saver, not only for us who know the Lord Jesus, but for all who will come to recognize and believe in the Lord Jesus through his body here on earth!
 John 17:20-21:
“I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as you, Father are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 
Jesus’ final command (to my way of thinking) is in John 15:12-17: 
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have call you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another.” 
There is also a final warning (John 15:18-25)
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of  the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But all this they will do to you on my account, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. It is to fulfil the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.’” 
and a final promise (John 15:26):
“But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me.” 
and a final purpose (John 15:27): 
“...and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning.”
Considering the final prayer and final command, I draw the conclusion that the third level of responsibility is the focal area of discipleship. Our discipleship will result in service to the world; the breakthrough area of discipleship is the body of Christ. If we don’t show real earnest care about the body of Christ, our love will never spill out of his family into evangelizing the world. Our unity and our love for one another will have the consequence of witnessing to the world. 

Him and us
It’s not about you...or me.  Christianity is about him and us.  The main substance of discipleship has to do with our life together and caring for each other.

Then if someone asks, “Who here has accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord,” we can happily raise our hands because we have accepted the call to follow him, not simply as individuals, but as members of his body who are united with him as the head! 

> See other articles by Bob Tedesco

Bob Tedesco is past President of the North American Region of the Sword of the Spirit, a founder of the People of God community in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, and has been one of its key leaders for the past 38 years.

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