Today, we talk about more ways to combat pride and how God tries to balance our view of ourselves.
GOD DOES ALL THINGS WELL AND HIS TIMING IS PERFECT
God set me up. Last week we talked about how we, as different body parts, may either exalt or diminish our value in relationship to others, due to our perceptions.
I had been a part of this small Bible study group for a long time. We’d meet and spark over the deep things of God, which resulted in long conversations going back and forth, regarding this verse and that verse. I was in my own “Bible study Heaven.” There was only one problem in this discussion-filled paradise. One quiet group member wouldn’t have much to contribute. Our electrical current kept bypassing her. Honestly, I often felt the disconnect as her problem. Why isn’t she excited about this?
We’d often meet in her home and she’d make these elaborate healthy dinners and snacks for everyone, but she didn’t have much to say as we rattled off our verses and asked, “Well, what about this? What about that?” I just couldn’t understand her. She was the hospitality person in a group of teachers and, as a result, I didn’t always value her the way I should have. She felt it, too. And, we’ve had issues ever since that time. It wasn’t just that but other things got added onto the rift between us. As a result, we had been estranged for a while.
Fast forward to last week. I write the blog post on valuing every other part in the Body of Christ.
When I thought about repenting for being proud and arrogant in the past and being dismissive of other people, she came to mind. More than that, God convicted me of the way I had treated her and my attitude towards her. I could finally see it. I was the one in the wrong. I didn’t love her or value her for what she was: a vital member of the Body of Christ. Oh, I enjoyed her food and hospitality, but I didn’t fully recognize the value of her gifts to our group. God impressed upon me the need to call her.
She, on her end, decided earlier that week that she needed to call me. For the longest time, she didn’t want to talk to me, but God was preparing her heart. I finally called and we had an honest, heartfelt conversation about the issues that had come between us. I apologized for how I treated her in the past and she apologized for some things, too. The spirit of reconciliation was definitely in the midst of our time together on the phone. I also made sure to affirm her and tell her she was and is a valuable part of the Body of Christ and I deeply appreciate her!
And, the result was two body parts got reconnected again to make the body stronger.
HEARING AND DOING GOD’S WORD MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE
Why do I bring up this story? The answer is two-fold.
First, I want everyone to see how powerful the Word of God can be in a person’s life. It has the power to change people’s minds and hearts where nothing else can. God had to open my eyes to the truth, before I was ready to value her in true reconciliation. Ironically, God used my own study of His Word to bring this revelation to me.
Secondly, I want everyone to see how powerful application can be in a person’s life. In the past, it was enough for me to study the Bible simply to gain more knowledge. God, of course, since then has shown me the better way. I can’t really understand the Bible’s truth, UNLESS I walk it out and experience it in my daily life. (James 1:22)
Without that repentance and phone call, I wouldn’t have known the strength that every joint (connecting point) supplies in the body. I wouldn’t have realized the hurt I caused my sister-in-Christ, due to my pride and arrogance. I was that person. “And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of you…” (1 Corinthians 12:21) Without God teaching me through His Word, I wouldn’t have seen my blind spot as clearly in regards to valuing other parts of the body.
Last week I mentioned how I don’t really have pastoral gifts. But, I’d like to make an attempt here. As we approach Christmas, I’d like to encourage us to face the reality of what it was really like for Joseph, Mary and Jesus. Yes, God gave them each incredible honor and a massive calling, but they also experienced misunderstanding, rejection and shame. Romans 11:22 states “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God…” This blog post holds those two aspects of God in dynamic tension. God’s goodness puts the weight of glory upon our lives, but God’s severity puts a heavy price on that glory.
Sometimes, I’m like “Geez, Joyce, soften it up a bit,” but, then, I think, maybe, just maybe, God wants to use a scalpel to cut away our diseased flesh. Who would I be to make dull what God needs sharp? The truth is we’re headed into some rough times. What I find the most loving and most helpful is to adequately prepare God’s people for those times! So, please take what I’ve written with heavy doses of love, empathy, encouragement, fearfulness and trembling! I must walk this same path, too, and rely upon God to give me the courage and strength to do the hard thing when my time comes. I believe in you! God believes in you! He says He will be with you to accomplish His will!
23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. –1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
But, always remember we work in partnership with God. We do our part to prepare and God does His part to redeem!
WE ABIDE IN JESUS OUTSIDE OF THE CAMP
12 And so Jesus also SUFFERED OUTSIDE THE CITY GATE to make the people holy through his own blood. 13 LET US, THEN, GO TO HIM OUTSIDE THE CAMP, BEARING THE DISGRACE HE BORE. 14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. –Hebrews 13:12-14 (Caps mine)
Let me tell you something disturbing up front about being a Christian. It’s not popular. It never will be. There’s often a stigma* attached to Christianity. Some of the words and phrases that come to mind: foolish, backwards, outcast, old-fashioned, outdated, intolerant, judgmental, unloving, anti-science, against progress, “myths and fairy tales,” “You don’t really believe that stuff, do you?,” etc., etc.
*Stigma is “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.” (bing. com)
Jesus’ death on the cross was scandalous! He died naked as a common criminal. He was rejected by his own people and most of his followers abandoned him out of fear and disillusionment.
The Hebrews 13 passage above encapsulates the stigma of Christianity, the invitation to be a disciple anyways and the reason why “Jesus is worth it” in 3 verses.
Verse 13 starts off with “Let us, then, go to him outside the camp…” This invitation for deeper intimacy comes with a price tag. It may cost us our reputations, our popularity, our relationships, etc. Jesus doesn’t force us to go to Him. In fact, many Christians choose NOT to go to Him outside the camp. They’ll serve him up to that point, but then back away. After all, “disgrace,” rejection and being marginalized was not what they originally signed up for when coming to Christ. If it was in the contract at all, it was in fine print back on page 34.
The problem, of course, is that being a Christian means “follower of Christ.” According to these verses, where is our beloved Jesus? He’s outside the city gate and outside the camp. In other words, Jesus lives outside of respectable, acceptable community and society, even within the Church. What would propel us to go to Him into possible scandal, rejection and isolation? God succinctly put the answer in verse 14: For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. (Hebrews 13:14)
We live and die with Christ, because this world is NOT our home. We don’t live for this world, but we live for eternity and our citizenship is in heaven. (Philippians 3:20) To do the difficult thing we’re called to do, we must grab hold of that eternal, heavenly perspective!
STIGMA: THE PRICE OF INTIMACY AND THE GLORY OF GOD
Scandal and stigma followed Jesus His whole life.
As we approach Christmas, our thoughts return to a glowing angel Gabriel announcing good news to Mary. She, as the highly-favored, blessed one, will conceive and give birth to the long-awaited messiah. (Luke 1:26-38) This was every Jewish girl’s dream! HALLELUJAH!
Oh, but wait, with this weight of glory comes a balancing weight. She comes back from her visit to cousin Elizabeth, clearly pregnant. She was only engaged to Joseph and not yet married to him. Gossip swirled throughout the town and surrounding areas: sweet, little Mary had sex out of wedlock and she will give birth to an illegitimate child.
Why did God bring forth His Divine Son in a situation steeped in scandal???
MARY’S HIGH FAVOR CAME WITH A STIGMA
God focused his glory, honor and favor upon Mary, for only to her came the privilege of the ages! She would carry “God in the flesh” in her body and be His mother. Instead of Mary being able to bask in this glory and honor and go full “media explosion,” she probably just wanted to pack her bags on a donkey and quietly slink out of town.
Instead of honor, she got dishonor. Instead of congratulations, she got silence and whispers behind her back. Instead of happy smiles, she got scowls and averted faces. Instead of a baby shower, there could’ve been a potential stoning.
Mary may not have thought this all through when the angel appeared to her, but she had already made up her mind to be obedient to God, no matter what the perplexities, complications, stigma or cost.
And May said, “Behold, the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. –Luke 1:38 (NKJV) In the NASB version, it says “bondslave of the Lord.”
JESUS LIVED HIS LIFE WITH STIGMA
The scandal of his birth didn’t just fade way. This stain of illegitimacy remained with Jesus well into his adult life. In Jesus’ conversation with the Jews, the Jews make references to the shadowy nature of his birth. (John 8:31-47) At one point, they ask him, “Where is your father?” (verse 19) Later on, they make the statement “We are not illegitimate children.” (verse 41) In the King James Version, they don’t pull any punches in order to be subtle or polite. They say straight out, “We be not born of fornication.” (Ouch!) And, yet, Jesus doesn’t try to explain or vindicate himself. He continues to live under the shadow of the stigma.
JESUS DIES A SHAMEFUL DEATH ON THE CROSS
For the joy set before him HE ENDURED THE CROSS, SCORNING ITS SHAME, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. –Hebrews 12:2 (Caps mine)
Jesus dies a seeming failure, scandalized by death on the cross.
I so love Isaiah’s description of Jesus! Consider, he spoke this by prophetic revelation directly given by God. His description is so against today’s slick and glossy world of marketing and promotion. It defies our celebrity culture and celebrity Christianity. This description is for people like me and you who may escape notice, who live under the radar. Some of us may be sincere disciples who suffer silently under rejection, persecution (to whatever degree), misunderstanding and general marginalization.
He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. –Isaiah 53:3-4
At this point, some of us might be asking, “Why did it have to be this way, God?” What is it about stigma, shame and rejection that makes it such a good thing when walking out Your will?
For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. –Hebrews 2:10 (NKJV)
If scandal and stigma marked Jesus’ life, and He’s our leader, then, what must our life include to be raised up as a “son (or daughter) of glory?” Jesus is the example we are meant to follow. [Please, just think about this for a moment.]
THE BIG QUESTIONS WE DIDN’T EVEN KNOW TO ASK
- Jesus’ life of disgrace begs the question, “Do we have it all backwards in what we call our modern Christianity?”
- Do we honor what God doesn’t honor and dismiss what God is highlighting and even promoting?
- Do we judge what is legitimate and valuable to God from the perspective of being INSIDE THE CAMP or OUTSIDE THE CAMP?
- Do we see people and situations with the world’s eyes or God’s eyes?
- Do we only choose leaders who are popular and strong and dismiss those marked by affliction, rejection and stigma?
- Is most of our individualized Christianity conducted INSIDE THE CAMP or OUTSIDE THE CAMP?
- Have we largely accepted OR rejected God-given assignments marked by possible scandal or stigma? For what reasons?
- Do we choose the honor and esteem of men over and above the honor and esteem of God?
Misty Edwards, in her song “Servant of All,” sings how we live in “the inside, outside, upside-down kingdom.” We must always remember this truth of opposites. The world versus God. Man’s opinion versus God’s opinion. Man’s way of raising up a “son (or daughter) of glory” versus God’s way.
And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” –Luke 16:15 (NKJV)
Do we believe that Jesus overstated things? Really, Jesus, an abomination? Or do we believe He meant what He said? If we take seriously “the words in red,” why, then, do we always seem to opt for those things that are “highly esteemed among men?”
Do we not realize the scandal, shame and stigma associated with Christianity keep us from pride, touching God’s glory and the need to express bragging rights? Do we not realize God uses those things to separate growing disciples of Jesus and God’s truth from those with other agendas at play? [Please, take some time to think about these things!]
GOD’S GLORY USUALLY HAS A COUNTERWEIGHT
As mentioned before, God wants to BALANCE our view of ourselves. He doesn’t want us to either overestimate or underestimate ourselves. He brings down our mountains, as He raises up our valleys. (Isaiah 40: 3-5)
Picture a scale. When God decides to put great glory on one side, he balances out the scales by hoisting into the other plate scandal, stigma and/or humility.
For example, Jesus, who would be destined for the highest place at God’s right hand, first chose to go to the lowest place! (Philippians 2:5-11)
God may not always use scandal or stigma. He may try to cultivate humility in our hearts in another way, which serves as the counterbalance to God-given glory and honor.
Moses, who was faithful in all of God’s house, who had carried incredible glory, honor and responsibility, was also known to be “the meekest man on Earth.” (Hebrews 3:5; Numbers 12:3) Something God cultivated within Moses’ personhood kept the scales balanced and kept him humble.
Moreover, Jesus declared in the Gospels how God balances out leadership and glory with humility.
The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. –Matthew 23:11-12
25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave– 28 just as the SON OF MAN did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” –Matthew 20:25-28 (Caps mine)
THE HIGHER YOU GO, THE LOWER YOU GO
Most people think the term “Son of Man” refers to Jesus’ humanity and, thus, his humble identification with us as created beings. I, myself, thought this for a long time. But, this term actually refers to the DANIEL 7 EXALTED MESSIAH who comes with the clouds in all power, authority, glory and splendor.
I saw in the night visions, and, behold, ONE LIKE THE SON OF MAN CAME WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN, and came to the Ancient of days,… and there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. –Daniel 7:13-14 (KJV) (Caps mine)
Jesus used the term “Son of Man” most to describe himself during His ministry. Every time He used that term, it was like flashing lights and a huge signpost referring back to this passage in Daniel 7. He’s described as “one like the son of man,” because Daniel in the face of such immense glory couldn’t quite make out this being. He appears divine, equal with God. He has full rights to every power and authority that God could give to another. Yet, why is He in the form of a man?
It is this Son of Man who chose to humble Himself, become a servant and give His life as a ransom for the whole world.
JESUS IS ABOUT TO RAISE UP A PURE AND GLORIOUS BRIDE, WHICH MEANS…
As more people in the Church promote a fleshly, worldly perspective, based on the esteem of men, we need to move in the OPPOSITE DIRECTION! We, as Christians in our generation, grow ever closer to the return of Jesus. He will only come back for a pure and spotless bride, full of victory and glory. We need to be prepared for what this will mean for us both individually and collectively.
For all the glory that will be poured out upon us, God will bring the counterbalance of scandal, stigma and humility! Not to mention persecution and even martyrdom.
Not to say that everything that happens smoothly in your life will be followed by disaster or that every promotion will mean an obvious loss of something else. We don’t always have to be waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. But, there IS a Biblical pattern here that can’t be denied!
When God repeats PATTERNS, it means He wants to show us His WAYS. If this is indeed a way that God relates to His people, then, we better wake up and pay attention, lest we (continue to) honor that which God doesn’t honor and we (continue to) dishonor what God honors. Lest the true wine of God’s Word bursts open our wineskins, because we’re so conditioned to believe as the world believes. Lest we think we’re fine, but in actuality are woefully unprepared for what’s to come and the way God will prepare an equally-yoked bride for His Son.
Remember these vital points from this week’s blog post.
- Mary’s response to the possible scandal of God’s assignment.
- Jesus’ invitation to go to Him outside the city gate, outside the camp!
- Jesus’ life of example marked with disgrace and stigma.
- Jesus’ willingness to go to the lowest place in order to receive the highest honor and authority from God!
- That which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination to God!
- The way God works is often seen as weakness and foolishness to men!
- Glory is often paired with scandal, stigma and lessons in humility.
Most of all, remember God calls us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and to think like Jesus!
HAVE THE SAME MINDSET AS CHRIST JESUS:.. (who) made himself nothing by taking the nature… of a servant… he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death– even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name… –Philippians 2:5 (b)-9 (Caps mine)
WHATEVER YOU THINK NOW, IT’LL BE WORTH IT IN THE END
Though God doesn’t minimize our troubles or the feelings we have concerning them, He sees our troubles from an accurate and eternal perspective. We struggle. We have pain. We’re often afraid to say “yes” to God’s difficult, perplexing assignments. Rejection and misunderstanding are not fun. Persecution stands as a giant in front of us with a drawn sword. We don’t want to be dislodged from our comfort zones and cozy hiding places. We’d rather sit at a coffee shop with a good book and jazz music rather than be on the front lines with enemy darts whizzing over our heads.
God knows all of it already. But, it doesn’t mean He won’t try to call you out! He sees from the perspective of eternity and He has a higher destiny for you than you can ever imagine. He will forever be fighting for you highest destiny and your highest good! God basically tells us that what we have to go through will be nothing compared to the weight of glory we’ll get in return. All we have to do is keep saying “Yes” and keep moving one step forward each time.
16 THEREFORE WE DO NOT LOSE HEART. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For OUR LIGHT AND MOMENTARY TROUBLES are achieving for us an ETERNAL GLORY THAT FAR OUTWEIGHS THEM ALL. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
–2 Corinthians 4:16-18
We will continue to look at how to combat pride in next week’s blog post.
REFLECTION AND APPLICATION QUESTIONS
1. At the beginning of the blog post, I mentioned how God worked in my life to bring reconciliation between me and another member of the Body of Christ.
Do you have any praise reports of how God has fundamentally changed your thinking in a certain area, due to a closer, deeper study of His Word? If so, journal it and praise Him for it. Let it spur you on to more deep studies of His Word in other areas.
Do you have any praise reports of how God brought breakthrough in a situation or relationship, due to the application of His Word? James tells us that by putting the Word into practice, we will be blessed in what we do. (James 1:22-25) Reflect upon that situation. Journal about it.
How can I make sure to apply the Word to my life more often? Maybe, as I study the Word, I can include a section called “action steps.”
2. In your own words, what does it mean for us to go to Jesus “outside the camp?” Have you been largely willing or unwilling to meet Jesus “outside of the camp?” Whatever your answer is, how can you tell by your past attitudes, words and actions?
What things need to be accomplished in your life in order to be more willing to abide with Jesus “outside the camp?” One big thing we all face is fear of man or fear of certain people’s opinions. Sometimes, individual and worldly opinions ring louder and truer than God’s Word. How can we focus on and meditate on God’s Word to such a degree that it puts steel in our spines?
As the time of His death approached, Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51) He was resolutely determined. Sometimes, we have to do that for ourselves to make sure we get to where God wants us, no matter how daunting.
3. Though Mary didn’t know exactly what awaited her, she probably had a good idea of the negative ramifications of her decision.
What do you think helped Mary respond obediently to God? How was she able to say “Yes!,” despite the questions, perplexities, stigma and vast unknown of the future?
Do a deeper Bible study of Mary’s life in Luke 1? It’s like you’re doing a character study on Mary. Journal what you find. Consider also the witness of John the Baptist, the confirmation of Elizabeth’s pregnancy and her words to Mary and the song that Mary sings. (Luke 1:39-56) God often gives confirmation to those who first believe what He tells them.
4. Mary must have been perplexed at times by the stark contrast between God’s favor and man’s disapproval of her life. How can knowing God’s ways (balancing the scales of glory with stigma and humility) and God’s favor fortify you in your assignment as you face misunderstanding, rejection and potential persecution?
5. We know that Jesus’ life was marked by scandal and stigma. Have you ever felt like the Jesus of Isaiah 53, who was rejected and despised by all men? Reflect upon that time. What was God doing in your life? Was He preparing you for a promotion or transition?
The Bible talks about entering into the “fellowship of His sufferings.” (Philippians 3:10) Was He trying to draw you into a closer, deeper intimacy?
Do a deeper study of God’s view of Jesus in Isaiah 53? How does this view differ from what the Church of our day values and promotes?
6. Answer the questions for yourself under the section heading “The Big Questions We Didn’t even Know to Ask.”
Were there any surprises? If so, what were they and why?
How can we shift from an “inside the camp” mentality to an “outside the camp” mentality? How would that one major change radically transform the way I see myself, others, the world and the Church?
7. Do you believe from our study in the blog post that God balances out glory and leadership with equal doses of scandal, stigma and lessons in humility?
If so, how may that change your view of “celebrity Christianity” and the “superstar Christian?” Though God doesn’t want us to shy away from His greater assignments, He also doesn’t want us to be unrealistic and presumptuous. There is a price to be paid for promotion in the kingdom of God.
8. In the End Times, Jesus will come back for a pure and spotless bride, who is glorious and victorious! In light of this blog post, what will this mean for us as the Church? What kind of process might God bring us through to accomplish His work?
How may the current view of celebrating and promoting the “strong, beautiful and popular” (in the worldly sense) be detrimental and counterproductive for the Church?
Why is it important to change our mindset of God’s value system and ways important in preparing for the times ahead?
Are we ready for scandal, stigma, lessons in humility and persecution to strike the Church in order to prepare us? We need to be able to bear the weight of the glory God has in store for the Bride of Christ.
9. Reread/study the blog post and/or the verses and passages contained within it more carefully and in greater detail. Pray for greater understanding and insight into God’s ways and how he raises up “sons (and daughters) of glory.” Pray for the seismic mental shift that needs to happen for the Church to become what she needs to be!