Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Bold Weakness


I Cor.2: And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

II Cor.12: And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

We who follow Jesus should be the most compassionate, humble, merciful, gracious, non-condemning, loving, philanthropic, selfless, meek, and redemptive people in any culture. But, sadly, many people in this culture consider those things a sign of weakness. They are not weakness; they are Jesus.

So just what are the values that accurately define and project Christ in this fallen world? We all know that God is all powerful and can do anything He pleases. If He chose to destroy the entire universe and leave not one atom as evidence He could do it with a word. His power is limitless and eternal and cannot even be comprehended by a human mind. So if we are still here that would indicate that God has chosen not to use His awesome power against us. We understand that God is all knowing and knows everything past, present, and future without having to think as do humans. But does God wish to lord it over us that He is infinitely wiser than us?

And yet the Spirit of God exhorts us to be imitators of God and thereby we become ambassadors for Christ. (II Cor.5:20) Paul exhorts us in Romans chapter 13 to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ”. Well just what does that mean? You see, this individualistic and self centered culture has confused and deceived us into thinking that power is when you wield strength over people. Boldness is usually defined as having a better argument, or being louder and more vocal, or taking a verbal stand for morality of some kind. In fact, many western believers desire to be John the Baptist more than they desire to put on Jesus Christ.

And because there is this affection for western boldness which also emanates from a competitive atmosphere, believers have a sense of standing for truth when they are aggressive and drawing attention to themselves. But if we examine the preponderance of the gospel narratives we will see that Jesus, who was God in the flesh, lived a life that was overwhelmingly defined as humble, compassionate, and loving. The only time He revealed any anger was to the religious Pharisees. But to the world He was the embodiment of redemption to all kinds of sinners.

But showing weakness in this culture is seen as losing. And so many professing believers see weakness in the same light. They seek to overwhelm the forces of darkness through organization and legislation and mobilization and the strength of the democratic process. And as they go about attempting to defeat evil within these fallen systems they inevitable take on the character and nature of that which is against Christ. Loudness and name calling and mockery and demeaning monikers and condescension are employed as they press their agenda which they believe to be divine. But in the final analysis, they do not represent the interests of Christ nor His gospel, and they are not emulating His character through their carnal means and ways.

Which leads us back to the core question. Just how shall we then live? What should be our speech, our behavior, and our heart? And if the exhortation to us is to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, then just how did He live? The word “weakness” as it is normally understood in the culture significantly misrepresents the word as a negative rather than a virtue. We see weakness as subordinate and strength as superior. But as we understand things through the Spirit we will see that weakness for a believer is great strength because it crucifies self and allows Him to come forth through us.

Throughout the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus there are great and wondrous paradoxes. The first shall be last; the servant shall be the master; to die is to live; the least shall be the greatest; and more of these kinds of comparisons which seem completely incongruous with what we have been taught and what we have seen in this fallen culture.

Paul acknowledges and even embraces the concept that he is seen as the offscouring of the world, but today men rise up and say “God doesn’t want us to be a doormat”. That may sound reasonable, but when juxtaposed against the life and teachings of Jesus it is a carnal lie. If we are to understand the word “doormat” as being meek and humble and not returning evil for evil, then yes, we are to be a doormat for Christ. But so many desire to be saved and grow through God’s grace but they take on the mantle of the law for others.

Unless we not only project weakness and humility, but actually embrace them sincerely from the heart, we then are promoting ourselves and not Jesus. The first men who became the disciples of Jesus were in awe of Him and were confused as to His mission. But they held out some hope that He could lead the nation of Israel out of Roman bondage. Peter attempted to project strength and even violence in order to help Christ, however he was to be corrected often. You see, they could not comprehend how anything could really be accomplished through meekness and humility. And so it is today as well.

But there is no greater and more perfect prism through which we can see and understand the life and nature of the Lord Jesus than the cross itself. The church has made the cross a redemptive talisman through which we can gain eternal life and then discard its teachings and example as if they were electives and irrelevant since we have our heavenly ticket already punched. But if we have truly seen and embraced the cross as our only sacrifice for sins, then we also must embrace its essence in our lives. Did you pick up your cross yesterday? Who really even thinks about such things on a daily basis if at all?

And there it is in all its appalling truth.
We have learned the ways of the heathen and adopted them as our own.

Matt.11: 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

Instead of embracing and heeding those words we find fleshly arguments and carnal weapons much more satisfying to the flesh. Weakness and humility have been all but lost to the church to say nothing of a selfless and sacrificial journey to walk in them. We desire a festival rather than a cemetery; a megaphone rather than a whisper; affirmation rather than persecution; speaking rather than praying. Just consider this horrifying possibility: The church in which we all were members has completely lost the Jesus of the gospels and now lifts up a Jesus who thinks and speaks and does things contrary to His own character and teachings. And while we castigate Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses for preaching another Jesus we ourselves have an orthodox view of the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus but we preach another Jesus as it pertains to His life and teachings. What an incredible incongruity! What a treacherous falsehood!

How can we say we are in awe of the sacrifice of the cross and all its shame and humility and condescension, and yet create a caricature of that Jesus who resembles us and our lusts rather than the Jesus who exhibited the immensity of His love through humbling Himself even to the death of the cross? How is it that Jesus proclaimed that He was not of this world and yet the church plays Him like a marionette that goes about dancing to all the earthly battles and issues? How can it be that God has given Him a name that is above every name and yet we use his name as a political resume stuffer or give it a place in our statements of faith, but then force Him into obscurity when it comes to a visible, tangible, and remarkable manifestation through our lives? How comes He is not of this world and yet we are?

So how do we rectify this dire situation? We begin with an acknowledgement of what we have done accompanied by a sincere repentance. And then? Run, don’t walk, to a deep place of prayer and fall on your knees and begin a sacrificial journey of prayer which sees your life being changed from glory to glory until you are dead and He now lives. We do not need a new reformation. We need a transformation.


Lori Alexander said...

My ministry in life is teaching young women to be sober, love their husbands, etc. Whenever I teach about submission, I often get the "women aren't to be doormats" speech. I have always disagreed with this. Jesus was a doormat to the point of death in I Peter 2 and I Peter 3 begins with "Likewise..." Just as Jesus suffered, wives may also suffer under a husband who is disobedient to the word but she may win him with a godly lifestyle. Yes, maybe even becoming a doormat as Jesus was for the greater good, her husband's salvation.

Anonymous said...

From a wise old sage from long ago:
Take courage, brethren, let us go forward together and Jesus will be with us. For Jesus' sake we have taken this cross. For Jesus' sake let us persevere with it. He will be our help as He is also our leader and guide. Behold, our King goes before us and will fight for us. Let us follow like men. Let no man fear any terrors. Let us be prepared to meet death valiantly in battle. Let us not suffer our glory to be blemished by fleeing from the Cross.

Anonymous said...

He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:30

What I desire most is that when someone meets me or I speak to someone that they see Jesus, not me.


Anonymous said...

My youngest son decided to attend a church service last week where he was saved. He actually went with an open mind, seeking to hear a good preaching. The pastor, as usual, was galavanting across the southern US, going to a prophecy conference in FL Missouri, and 2 other states. So his much depended-upon junior pastor had to preach that morning and the two pastors' wives preached Sunday night.

A church associate, who is titled as a 'home missions' pastor, took some young adults with him after service to 'decorate' (oops), and my son went along to help, and there was lots of conversation about how the needs were great in this homeless shelter. There weren't enough people to reach out. They did reach out to several, bringing them to church service that day, but the men got two women talking about (what my son described as nothing). The pastor was gone, and he usually hops on a jet at least once a month.

The story made me feel so sad that young people are willing to reach out, but all need role models, and shepherds that stay in one place. It just seems that creating a church empire is more important, as well as pastors being aggressively vocal and losing the suffering servant way. Church is dying from the inside. While self-seeking pastors are attending prophecy conferences for the last days, people back home are dying spiritually, it doesn't make any sense. Sorry if this is somewhat off topic; It's a confusing time to keep people on the narrow path. The strong, energetic, bold and ambitious christians seem to be all that the world sees these days.


Anonymous said...

No one should volunteer to be a doormat in the marriage relationship. Christians, say "No" to being a doormat, for a doormat is one who submits meekly to domination or mistreatment by others.

Jesus' atoning sacrifice was a unique event. He allowed Himself to be our atoning sacrifice not because He was doormat but out of love for us! What courage, compassion and perfect obedience.



Anonymous said...

Matthew 20:25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.
:26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.
:27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—
:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

What more can you say?


Rick Frueh said...

James, your teaching would make the martyrs fools. The doormat metaphor reflects humility, meekness, and submission to the will of God.

Anonymous said...

Dear readers, a doormat is a mat that is walked over. It unlike a woman isn't living. It is a totally foolish metaphor which will never do anything but create confusion. The martyrs were martyred because they stood up bravely for the name of Lord Jesus Christ not because they saw themselves as doormats.

Humility, meekness, and submission to the will of God is God's gracious gift to His children but they shouldn't be passive in the face of injustice. If a husband is mistreating his wife she should endeavor to respond humbly, meekly and in submission to the will of God. This involves resisting peacefully violence and emotional abuse.



Rick Frueh said...

James, you are the one who connected doormat to a wife. I did not. You have amplified that metaphor, which was not mine originally, in order to present something about which I did not project. Perhaps this post was not for you.

Anonymous said...

Friends, do some research and you'll discover that the doormat personality is very different from someone who is submissive to the will of God!

Comparing a mat with God's blessing of meekness is not something I recommend as a teacher!



Cherie c. said...

Dear James,

I just found out that Luke, one of the Apostles was not one of the original twelve Apostles of Jesus. You know why I just learned that? Because I never really read the Word of God where the Holy Spirit could teach me something. If you go to Luke chapter 6, you will find the list of disciples, and Luke is not one of the twelve. I had always thought he was. To my surprise he is not. LOLO, what a Joy it was to learn from God the Holy Spirit.

Pastor Rick is correct in using the metaphor he did to describe meekness, etc. Jesus was very clear about His followers being passive. Please read Matthew 5:38-40

Matthew 5:38-39

38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Jesus is clearly describing a violent situation in the text. Therefore if this was me in this situation, I am not to fight back. If someone was watching this event, they would describe me as being a door mat. I must be honest and say that as recent as five years ago I would have probably fought back, but not so today. From a stranger it is easier to take, it is a bit more difficult for me to take from a family member, but I am learning.

You know, I need a lot of prayer, if you would all be so kind. I don't know how you all feel about the changes taking place in us and around us. I am grieved at times. The battle with my flesh is exhausting. Sometimes I feel strange, different. I don't really know how to describe it. Resisting the sentimental things of this world is so hard to do. As I see my sons drift further and further away from me, all I can think of is them perishing. Then another minute I think about them coming to a saving knowledge of the Lord and all this misery is worth it.

James, the connection between the word doormat and wife are synonymous because of tv and other worldly media. It is not true. Most women make their own hardships, I should know, I have been there. Some women are truly terrorized by their husbands but still remain. I know, I watched my mother go through it. I at one time thought she was a doormat, but she never viewed herself that way. She was a peace maker. She loved her husband and children no matter what. She always had her door opened to you. However, I do not know if she was saved and that is the biggest hurt of all.

No, doormat is an appropriate metaphor for this post. Peace brother.

your sister in Christ Jesus,
Cherie c.

Anonymous said...

I think the problem is (you've spoke many times) - mixing politics, nationalism and patriotism with the bible...

Somehow, once we are saved, we think we have the commission of "saving America", not the people, the Nation...

John tells us, "the entire world" lies in wickedness...

We are to be "examples", "ambassadors" of the kingdom that we have been translated to...

We have been "transferred" from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Jesus Christ...

Apostle Peter speaks of an example to follow (I believe the right wing of politics would struggle with this) -

1 Peter 2:11-23

11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;

12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.

13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;

14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.

15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:

16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.

17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.

19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.

20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

21 For even "hereunto were ye called": because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:

23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:

Is this a doormat?...rather, it sounds much like "Humility"...

I've had this same discussion with a brother...we don't see "eye to eye", yet he is involved in politics and believes if you are not forcefully doing something to change America, that Christians will be judged by God because of their pacifism and has labeled me as a pacifist...blessings

Anonymous said...

I'm all for being humble and meek but Jesus doesn't want His follows to be passive. We are to be active in doing good, for we are to overcome evil with good. Offering biblical instruction, correction and rebuke when used appropriately are valid forms of doing good and they involve being active and not being passive.

The subject in these verses from Mathew 5:38-39 is taking revenge. Jesus teaches us not to take revenge because Judgment belongs to God. Yes, we are not to fight back. Not fighting back doesn't make you a doormat. Nothing has changed. A Christian remains a Christian and a non Christian remains a non Christian.



Anonymous said...

@Anonymous -

To be active is to "share the gospel" and just as important, "live the gospel"

The rest will take care of itself...

Our mission is to be an ambassador of Jesus Christ...

An ambassador imitates God, treats others the same way one wants to be treated...never holds an account of a suffered wrong...forgives 70x7, loves his enemies, does good to those that use and abuse them, sees everyone as better than themselves, understands the lost do the things they do because they are blind and God does not hold it against them as we shouldn't...

Agape Love is far from being passive...Agape Love is hard to live by...

It takes sacrifice...