Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Humiliation of Jesus

Somewhere in a darkened room a young girl descends into a place from which she is powerless to escape. She has been close before but today she has taken that last fateful step. She is now helpless. The memories of her life begin to swirl around inside her head. She remembers one year ago when she last saw her father for a couple of days. She always felt close to her mother until her mother married a man with whom she had no relationship.

And now in the darkness she wants this torture to end. She wished her mother really loved her. She wishes her father cared. She wishes other kids would not make fun of her. She wishes she was prettier. She wishes she was smarter. She wishes God loved her. She wishes people who say they know Jesus loved her. She bows her heavy head and just wishes for something…anything.

Depression had become her closest friend. It went before her and followed her. After several years of cutting herself the pain just would not subside. She could not escape herself and she longed for even one breath of fresh air. But here she is now, just minutes away from the inevitable. She hangs her head not even able to really cry. Placing her brother’s gun up to her head, she hesitates for just one moment. Why would any reason enter now? This is what she wanted. This is what she needed. She drops the gun completely out of strength to even do what she knows is the only way out.

She wanders out of the house and heads for the park where others like her gather. Her consciousness is so detached that just being confused would be an improvement. She is a dead girl walking and she has nothing for which to live.

And while this scenario plays out all across this nation the church continues to condemn sinners and play games. And does our theology suggest that God really cares about a young girl like that? If so, do we care? Week after week we treat sinners and their sin like a political issue without even realizing there are lives literally at stake. How can we say we follow Jesus and yet speak so carelessly about those who dwell in prisons of sin and desperation? Can it be that the heart of God is as callous as ours?

The church has become a well organized institution which serves its own and ministers to unbelievers in ways that require little sacrifice and with an arm’s length distance so as not to get soiled by their sin. Can we not see how self absorbed the church has become?

Robert McCheyne, that faithful Scottish preacher, shared this story of servant hood and ministering the good news to sinners. About the beginning of the 1800’s there were many lepers in the continent of Africa. It was a miserable disease and most contagious. There were many camps to which lepers must go and live and be removed from society.
One day a missionary from England happened to be on a hilltop in South Africa, and as he glanced over the wall that surrounded the leper camp he saw two lepers plowing a filed. One had lost his hands to this horrible and painful disease while the other had lost his feet. The one without hands was carrying the one without feet, and they would stop at each pre-dug hole in the field. The one with hands, riding on the other’s back, would drop a seed into the hole while the other would cover it with dirt by his foot. The missionary was undone. Who could, who would go and be a gospel servant for such as these?
Two young boys, Moravian missionaries, heard about the situation. They began to pray, and both boys felt the leading of the Spirit to go into the leper village and be Jesus to these pitiful souls. They knew the consequences. Once a person enters such a village they were forbidden to come out again. It was a death sentence. But both boys did not hesitate since they were both convinced by the Spirit that this was to be the filed to which they were called.
Those two boys willingly and humbly forsook their entire lives and went to preach to and love these people. And through their example the Spirit drew others that hoped they may soon join them. That my friends is servant hood. That is the faith once delivered to the saints. That is Jesus.

But to fully understand that kind of Christianity we need to look way beyond any narrative and see right into the heart of Jesus. That brand of Christianity has something that is missing in today’s culturized American faith. What those boys had was authentic. Can you imagine giving up your entire future to be a gospel witness to people who were diseased and were treated as worthless by the world? Take a look and understand what the Spirit of Jesus looks and feels and acts like.

Acts 8: 32 “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.” (NIV)

Phil.2: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

The word “humble” has been so codified and so diluted that it is almost without teeth as it applies to our lives. People use it carelessly and apply it to all sorts of people and behaviors. Let a person allow someone to cut in line at the grocery store and people say they are humble. Let an actor win an Oscar and if he gives much thanks to others he is humble. And so it goes. But let us replace the word humble with a sharper and more robust and penetrating word that is related to the word humble. Let us say “humiliation”, for I believe that word carries a more accurate description of what our Lord endured in the incarnation and throughout His life and culminating with the unfathomable and august humiliation of the cross.

And so often we read about the humiliation of Jesus and feel sympathy for His struggles and persecution. But we as followers of Jesus are called to that same humiliation. Oh but the flesh recoils violently at even the thought of being humiliated. It goes against everything we have been taught. It goes against the flow of the culture. And, sadly, it goes against the teaching and practice of the evangelical church in the west. The church would have us to be bold and outspoken champions that not only stand our ground but move forward and take the ground of others. Our goal is to change the culture not redeem its inhabitants.

Are you ready to endure, or even embrace, personal humiliation? Are you willing to so diminish your own life so you can reach the lives of others? Will you take the whips and scorns of others with joy? We live in the lap of luxury for the most part. And from high atop our ivory towers we look down on the worthless pieces of humanity and cast a net of condemnation. Without caring for their eternal souls, the church rallies to pass laws that would protect us from rubbing shoulders with such scum and thereby sully our moral atmosphere. The church has no clue as to the pain and heartache that walks just minutes from where we live. And furthermore, the church could not care less.

If we really desire to walk in His footsteps then be prepared to be fully invested. Be prepared for humiliation and self denial. Be prepared to walk in a love that far surpasses a love which is reasonable. Be prepared to love the most despicable sinners on the planet. Be prepared to love those that hate you. Be prepared to love the unlovable. And be prepared to consider the needs of others of much greater value than your own. Be prepared to actually do what Jesus teaches. By prepared to demand your tongue ceases it reckless stream of self serving opinions. Be prepared to place your heart on God’s altar and allow the Spirit to filet it open before your eyes. Be prepared to endure the circumcision of the Spirit as He removes that which is of you and replaces it all with what is of Him.

Be prepared to be made conformable into the life and image of Jesus Christ. And after you have known Christ and drawn near to Him with a searching and broken heart, and after you have consumed the Word and sought the Father in prayer, then you will arrive at the final hill that leads to being Jesus. But again, be prepared, that hill just might lead into your own leper colony where Christ can minister life to those for whom He died. Remember, we live in the midst of all kinds of dirty lepers and who will reach them if we do not? And if you still desire to be His servant among these sinners and completely deny your own will, then you will only need to do one more thing.

You will need to be clothed with humiliation, and therein you will find life.

And oh by the way, the next time you are out and about, the young girl about whom I wrote will still be there. You will recognize her by the stench of sin around her. But what fragrance will you bring to her? But if you go talk with her, or buy her lunch, or give her a ride, by very careful. Your reputation with the church is at stake and you run the risk of being humiliated.


AnonymousNoMore said...

While reading your post, it struck me that the church today functions (unintentionally?)so as to keep the members contained, while outreaching just enough through community good-will acts to state they are community minded. But nothing truly transpires that actually impacts or changes lives outside the walls. Not a true outreach...does this make sense? The children's ministry will foster the environment of Christ to the members but what are they doing outside of VBS to reach outward? The church does a concentrated job of ministering inside their walls, but falls short when it comes to changing communities and the individuals therein.

Now, this statement doesn't apply to all churches, but from what I've seen - it's how it's played out, generally speaking.

The pastors yearn and wait for the revival to occur, but how in the world can that happen if the walls are a barrier to the outside world. The church is actually keeping the revival from happening (as you've mentioned before....)

The only true heart change comes when we die to self and live for others....there are no heart changes going on!

In turn, church doesn't look like anything more than a club to which select members belong. Where is the appeal to the lost, hurting and unsaved? The last thing they want to do is go to a place (club) where they will be judged or worse, condemned.

It upsets me SO MUCH to see "Christians" with their signs and protests against the sins of others - actually condemning others for their sins. Jesus did not condemn -- followers of Christ who do this are not showing love and to the sinner it is an act of hate and not love. Does this not push the sinner away from "Christianity?" If these protesting "followers of Christ" have stones and begin to throw....well, that will surely lead the lost to a spiritual death and not to the feet of Christ.

This world is not our reward. If it were Christ would not have been humiliated, but rather he would have been born set upon an earthly throne.

May we all see through Christ eyes those who need to know the love of our savior and put down our stones so our arms can be lifted to embrace them in love!

--my apologies for the lengthy post--

michael said...

This salty message is the kind that will turn stomachs inside out! So be it. It needs to be spoken out. I would add a couple more verses from Acts 8, the next two because they underscore the point so well about Jesus "not" opening His mouth. Here's the next two verses that shows because Jesus did not open His we need to "open" ours:
And the eunuch said to Philip, About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else? Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. (Acts 8:34, 35 ESV)

Also I'll go a bit farther and paste a poem that encourages me on to maturity. I hope it encourages you too?

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!
Rudyard Kipling

Anonymous said...

Oh so true. Amen.

The church is creating a false image to the country that it's some spiritual moral police organization. It doesn't want to live side-by-side with the unclean ones. The church wants the government to make sin stop. The church wants government to keep certain sins away from the street corners, markets, schools, every facet of society. It demands it's constitutional and moral rights to be exercised first by MEN.

How come the church doesn't turn to God? Because if they did, the Lord would ask them why they are so concerned about the sins of others and not their own sins.

To think the church turns to it's political representative, a MAN, to protect the nation against homosexual and abortionists' right, is counter-biblical. The church has forgotten who it's Master is. And the church has forgotten what forgiveness is. It's forgotten what discipleship is and the great commission is; and how the church is supposed to be the feet, legs, hands, arms, the whole Body of Christ, where He is the Head. What are the different parts of the Body of Christ doing? Using governments to make people obey?

Somewhere the church has lost her way, she's no longer on the straight and narrow path. She's gone off on other roads. believing herself to be the Head of Christ.

Anonymous said...

There's so much light shed on the church today, by how it reacts to people like this young girl. It would spurn her, turn it's back on her, and the petitioning and sign-waving christians would make her feel worse by telling her she's going to hell. This isn't the Jesus I know. No wonder people become atheists.

When the church asks the nation to turn from it's wicked ways, insinuating that God will turn His back on her, it's only concern is how the economy will fall and how churches will lose their prosperity and their tax-exempt status. They reject our new purpose, which is in Christ only.

Many churches use 2 Chronicles 7:14 - "if My people who are called by My name, will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." ----- But they ignore the verse preceding this verse. In verses 12 and 13, it says: (12) "Then the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: "I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. (13): "When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, (14) If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves......"

It would seem that American christians forget that King Solomon was not only the government ruler, but also the spiritual ruler of Israel, and the "people" were the old covenant people of God. Today, christians are the New Covenant people, Christ's church is the "My People" and we are the living temples not made with man's hands; we are filled by God's Spirit and are supposed to be temples of the Holy Ghost. Therefore, if pastors use the Chronicles verses directed at today's church, it would concern the CHURCH, and not the NATION.

But, pastors do use it concerning the nation. They subtly direct those verses towards anyone who doesn't repent of their homosexual or abortion sins. They misuse those verses and say if the nation doesn't repent and heed God and turn from their wicked ways, that God will send disasters of all sorts. Is this why people like Pat Robertson and others believe that hurricanes and floods and storms and drought are God's punishment on the nation because of homosexuality and abortion?

Interesting how the Pat Robertson's do not realize that it would be the Church that must heed those verses. If and when it does repent of it's own wicked ways, it's greed, it's hedonism, it's power-lust, it's un-Christ-like behavior, then and only then will God heal the land.

For those who don't know Jesus, how can they be responsible for God's wrath? It's the church that is supposed to be the Ambassador of Christ, not the nation. Judgment comes to the church first. And, the oppressed, the weary, the suicidal, and those who are conflicted with sin and confusion, the church, instead of seeking them out, blames them for the Dow to go down 500 points.

The church, instead of loving all men who Christ died for, are angry at sinners for ruining their wealthy abundant lifestyle. And they wage a spiritual war against sinners just so they can enjoy the summer home in the Bahamas.