I was reading the paper the other day and happened across this cartoon. Beetle Bailey rarely posts anything controversial or anything in support or against any political stances or religious concerns, so this caught my eye.
It immediately reminded me of a true story about a congregation in a large city quite a few years ago.
The ministers of this congregation would meet once a week to pray. They were all relatively young men and had formal ministry education. They truly were passionate about doing a good job for Jesus and tried their best to be doctrinally sound and take care of the people who attended their services.
During one meeting, the lead pastor looked up and asked the other ministers this question:
“Do you think Jesus would feel welcome in our church?”
There was a stunned silence and then the other ministers began giving their reasons why Jesus would feel welcome there. They spoke of the programs, the style of music, the Bible classes, Vacation Bible School, the quality of the preaching….all good things.
When they were done they sat there looking at the lead pastor who sat looking at the carpet…which he had done while listening to what they were saying.
They were silent and he kept looking down.
He looked up and said, “I don’t think Jesus would feel welcome here.”
I don’t remember what they decided to do about that.
I really don’t WANT to know what they did…because I know what their first reaction was: they all four started talking about what to DO about it.
They wanted to formulate an action plan.
They wanted to institute some new system to fix the problem.
They wanted to somehow re-tool what they currently had to make it more appetizing to the Lord.
What happened is that these five men began to re-read the Gospels and WATCHED Jesus in action.
They looked for the systems He used.
There were none.
They looked for programs.
There were none.
Jesus did NOT function as an institution while He was on the earth and He doesn’t function that way from Heaven.
Jesus functioned as an obedient Son.
Have you ever wondered why He did that? He was God…even while walking around on the earth in a human body.
Why did He function as a Son?
He was MODELLING a style of living using terms with which all humans are familiar: father…..son.
“It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven, ‘YOU ARE MY BELOVED SON, in whom I am well pleased.’” (Mark 1:9-11)
Father God referred to Jesus (God) as His Son.
Later Jesus was asked how we should pray and He replied, beginning like this:
“In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.” (Matthew 6:9)
I’m told that prior to that people never referred to God as Father.
I can see where the Jews would refer to David, Abraham, and Jacob as their Father, but they never referred to God as Father.
John tells us that it was God’s intention that people who became Christians would have the right to refer to God as their Father?
Why? Because they would be given the right to be His SONS (His children).
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name…” (John 1:12)
Years after Jesus ascended back to Heaven, Paul, the former Pharisee named Saul who most likely would have NEVER dreamed of approaching Father God as a son refers to Him as “our Father” in EVERY ONE of his letters. So do Peter, James, John and Jude in their letters.
Jesus modeled the idea of being Son to God the Father and lest we think that this was something reserved just for the original apostles, we should never forget what Paul tells us about Jesus as the Son:
“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He (Jesus) might be the firstborn among many brethren (WE are the many brethren...fellow children of Father God....to Jesus).” (Romans 8:29)
I quote that verse a lot in my writing because it means so much to me and I have found it to be VERY valuable as I have learned to live as a child of God.
So, we Christians are the Children of God, the very daughters and sons of God.
How did the Firstborn, Jesus, operate in His time on the earth?
Did He rely on programs and institutions and earthly systems (that ALL, no matter how “religious” they may seem, draw from the world which was and still is under the power of the devil)?
Of course not!
He simply paid attention to the Father, and did what the Father was doing and said what the Father was saying.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.” (John 5:19-20)
“For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.’ (John 12:49-50)
“So Jesus said, ‘When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.’” (John 8:28-29)
Jesus, the Firstborn, modeled FOR US how to operate in a way what was pleasing to the Father and, since Jesus IS God, it’s right and good to know that this same way of living is also pleasing to Jesus.
The question, then, that I pose to myself and also to you is this:
“Is He welcome?”
If you lead God’s people in any way, be it a ministry, a congregation, a business or a home…..or your LIFE….would Jesus feel welcome there?
Would the way you conduct yourself be familiar to the Lord? Would he see evidence of you being His spiritual sibling in how you operated?
Would it be pleasing to Him?
Paul said that it was “our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:9)
In the words of Zero, that character in the Beetle Bailey comic,
“Does God ever come to your parties?”
My wife Laurie and I were in another part of the country once at a Christian gathering of some sort. We were guests of a friend there.
The leaders took us through a predetermined pattern of “spiritual” activities.
I couldn’t sense the presence of the Lord AT ALL but I was ready to attribute it to being tired or to being in a different climate or to being unfamiliar with the worship style we were experiencing.
I glanced over to Laurie and noticed that tears were streaming down her face. I whispered, “Is this service touching you?” and she shook her head “no”.
I asked, “Why are you crying, then?” She replied that she was seeing a vision of Jesus sitting on the roof.
I said, “That’s a good thing, right?”
She turned and looked me in the eyes, tears streaming down her face, and said sadly, “He isn’t welcome inside here.”
“Is He welcome in your life, your praise, your worship?”
I don’t know exactly what the ministers of that church I mentioned at the beginning of this article specifically changed but I DO know that they stopped depending on earthly programs and systems to “do church.”
They started trying to listen more attentively to the Father….watching for Him as He moved…and simply obeying Him. They tried to say only what He said to them and to do only what they saw Him doing.
All I really know is that whenever we visited that place….the Lord seemed to be welcome because we almost always felt His presence.
“Is He welcome in your life, your praise, your home, your ministry, your worship, your business?”
Are you pleasing to Him?
The place to start, it seems to me, is to be willing to be pleasing to Him…moment by moment…and to live as the sons and daughters of the Most High God that we are.
“Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, WORKING IN YOU WHAT IS WELL PLEASING IN HIS SIGHT, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)