Has Jesus Passed This Way?
'Why am I doing what I am doing? What do I believe and stand for?' Break free from cobwebs and let God's wind blow through our lives and shake what needs to be shaken. The church that Jesus is building will never exist as an institution and will only exist as lives are devoted to each other and Jesus.
In God’s heart and mind, as God sees it, the church will never exist as an institution, per se. It only exists to the extent that relationships exist. It only exists in His mind insofar as lives are devoted to one another, and to the Son, in a real way rather than to form. The church only exists as people are devoted to Jesus rather than things to do. The church He is building is indestructible. Always, there is never any place to go but forward. There is no such thing as retreat. There is absolutely nothing that could ever be done to set back His purposes. Where His seed has been planted and where fertile hearts and loving hearts have received it, retained it and covenanted with Him to persevere in it and produce a crop 30, 60 and 100-fold whatever life might bring them, wherever that kind of heart exists, wherever that kind of fertile soil exists, God’s purposes will never be set back or thwarted in any way. Insofar as any of us would fall individually into that category of being devoted to Jesus and His purposes—zeal for the Father’s house consuming you, and zeal for the Father consuming you—insofar as that’s deeply rooted in your individual life, nothing whatsoever, not height nor depth nor past nor present nor future, not financial problems, not difficulties in relationships or confusion about issues, not persecution from without or within, none of those things can ever set back a life in any kind of constant way or any sort of continual or permanent way. Nothing can ever set back a heart that is devoted to Him. It’s based on God’s promises. Lives that are hidden in Christ will prosper, no matter what the circumstances may be.
These things came up in a lunchtime discussion today. The subject was spring cleaning in our lives and the ability to enjoy having spring beginning to blow into our lives. This requires a new set of eyes. When you’re cleaning out your garage or your closet, there’s just stuff that has to go. If you want a life that makes sense and is orderly, there’s gonna have to be a simplification, and a clearing out of the unused things or the misused things, the things that block the freedom and the simplicity—an unencumbering, a simplification of life. There’s a transition. It’s a process of God shaking the things that can be shaken. There’s a process of God bringing things to the surface and exposing our hearts. Where there is an expression of genuine devotion to God and a simple life with Him and a liberty and a courage in Him, to know Him in whom we’ve believed, we will find that He is able to keep that which we’ve entrusted to Him against that last, final, mighty day that’s approaching. These are some of the good things that come from the shaking process.
The thing that got Jesus crucified—what do you think that was? Did they come up to Jesus and say, “Deny Jesus or you die”? They didn’t call Jesus to deny Himself. They called Him to deny that radical way of life that He was living. They called Him to change His course, to fit in. “If He would just join the synagogue.” In the United States, there’s not likely to be pressure to deny Jesus in our lifetimes. Instead, it will be, “unless you do it [live out christianity] the way we say do it, you’ll lose the rights of a citizen and the privileges of this earth.” There will be a pressure to deny Truth and accept something lower than what Jesus of Nazareth lived, and what Jesus of Nazareth and the Holy Apostles taught. To accept something lower than that, still call it christianity, and go on.
Could we face Jesus, just for Jesus’ sake and say, “I will never deny You, I will never forsake You. I will not turn back from the course that You have set my feet on under any circumstances, nor will I compromise any of the precious truths that are represented by Your life and by Your teaching. The Word became flesh and dwelt for a while among us, the Word was with God, the Word was God. To deny His truths is to deny Him. To compromise His truth, the things that He’s shown us and imparted into our lives is to deny Him. Somewhere in the back of our hearts and minds, there’s an alternative route because the pressure is not to deny Jesus. The pressure is to live a certain way and call it christianity. There will be mounting pressure in that area in your lifetime. You’ll have to take a step back from that and say, “is it not true that to deny the Word is to deny Jesus? To deny His life is to deny His salvation? The substance of who He is, His atonement, all that is wrapped up in His life is Him. The Word became flesh and dwelt for a while among us, the Word was with God, the Word was God. Something about the nature of what Jesus said IS christianity and is of “the way, the truth and the life.” Something about all of that is going to come up in front of each of us, with an opportunity to turn our back on it and to say, “Well, there are alternatives. We can still wear the fish logo on our lapel and on our bumper and live in a mode or manner that conforms to the pattern of the world that’s more acceptable to the world. Isn’t it possible to not lose your life? To not live that kind of life, and to not call others to live that kind of life and still be ‘laa-laa-laa’ Christians?” Well, the world would say certainly, “Yes, there is an alternative kind of Christianity. There is a way to follow Jesus that picks and chooses and takes a road that is socially acceptable.” Well, God said, “If you love the world, you become an enemy of God.” To conform to the patterns of the world is to cut off our fellowship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. We will, each of us, be called to that test. Maybe not with tinsnips for our tongue, and maybe not with that clear, easy to discern call to deny Jesus, but a call to deny Jesus just the same. If you’ll just attend services properly, then everything will be ok. Any reasonable person is going to figure that one out. Unless you conform to a certain accepted pattern, you are a satan worshipper, but if you will conform, you’re fine, you’re a good worshipper of God and a devoted christian. The thing that got Jesus crucified was not an issue of denying Himself or denying His Father. That really never was the issue. It was how He chose to live out His relationship with the Father that was such a stench to the people around Him. He didn’t even really need to say anything to them. All He had to do was do it. The very act of living the way He did brought such conviction and anger and jealousy to the people around Him that they wanted to kill Him. They literally wanted to murder Him, and did, and found a legal way to do it.
God is wanting us to see who we are and what in the world we are doing with our lives. What are we doing? Who am I? What am I doing? What does all of this mean? Those are good questions. Don’t immediately cast that off as unbelief. That might very well be the Holy Spirit saying, “Let’s get this thing down to the most simple terms. Let’s get it down to the basics. Let’s do find out what you really believe and why you believe it and what you are willing to do about it and what price you are willing to pay to walk it out.” Whatever it takes to get to that simple place is what we need to do. If our existence has sheltered us on an individual basis from coming to grips with that, if it’s protected us from having to face those questions so those questions never really come up—Why do I do what I do? What do I really believe?—if something, anything, has ever sheltered us from having to face those questions, it is purely and simply the traditions of men. We’re not talking about incense candles and bell towers. We are talking about that which shelters us from a knowledge of God and an intimacy with Him, and a sense, a knowledge of what our own heart is, and what we really stand for. What do I stand for? I have to have space to come to grips with that. It’s so easy to get cluttered from a time standpoint, from a busyness standpoint, from the repetitive nature of dinners, late bedtimes, work, meetings, dinners, late bedtimes, work, dinners…. It’s easy to get caught in a cycle that has some nice components to it, certain valuable aspects to it that have been genuinely life-changing, but sometimes we need the fresh winds of spring cleaning to shake out the dust and come face to face with the basics of God’s intentions in our lives.
We need to do whatever it takes to find the Jesus of Nazareth that the Spirit speaks of with a still small voice. Find Him, and let your life be totally transformed by Him. Whatever it takes to get to that point is what needs to happen. That’s what the Holy Spirit will do. If we need to forfeit liberties, make sacrifices, or whatever else, in order to get down to the most basics of Christianity, the purest essence of what it means to be a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, whatever it takes, that’s what’s gotta happen. I’m convinced that God’s going to take us to the very end of anything that we would hold onto that would shield us from that intimate knowledge of Him and a real understanding of who we are with Him and who we are without Him and how that relates to our families and leadership in our families, in our households, in our relationships.
Envision the Judean countryside, the hustle and the bustle, people beating each other up, arguments in the marketplace over the scales, the fighting with the children on the way back to the cottage, the arguments between the husband and the wife about things at home, the vices, the things in the back alley, the secret things, the sin, the dark things, the hidden vices and those sorts of things that are part of humanity in its rawest, ugliest nature, but they are everywhere you look. And then, Jesus of Nazareth comes through town. He just walks through town, touches a few lives here and a few lives there, and He looks into men’s hearts and He speaks words of peace, words of freedom, and He walks on through the village and goes on. And then a traveler comes into town. He’s a frequenter of that particular village for business reasons, etc. He looks around, and it’s like a “love bomb” has gone off. He sees peace and tranquility, harmony, commitment, devotion, sensitivity. There is the ability to hear, the ability to see, instead of the blind gaze and deaf ears. He sees a transformed life. What happened around here? Jesus of Nazareth passed this way. Be affected by Jesus of Nazareth passing this way instead of being too busy with religion to even notice that. When someone visits your household, with you and your roommate, would they have that same response? “What in the world happened here?” “Jesus passed this way, and we will never be the same.” When they see us, in any environment, is it just some dumb ritual we are going through, or is there something so innately changed, so deeply transformed within us, that someone would say, “What happened? Why this gentleness that’s evident to all? Why this peace that transcends understanding? Why this kindness? Why the self-control? Who ever heard of such a thing? Where did that come from? You control your tongue! You have words of grace and kindness! When you look at me, I know that you love me! What happened? Jesus passed this way!” Those words have been echoing in my mind. The lack of seeing the transforming wave of Jesus passed this way, the lack of that from time to time because of busyness, because of a commission to accomplish a purpose or a task, to solve some problem, to whatever, the lack of that indescribable thing that I’ve been trying to describe for a few minutes is an indicator that God has some spring cleaning to do because sometimes that’s missing, if we’re honest. That simplicity of, “What happened? Jesus passed this way!” Jesus has been here. That healing touch physically, emotionally, spiritually. The thing that only Jesus could do. Not all the things about Jesus, but the things that only Jesus can do in your home, in your marriage, with your children, with your next door neighbor—Jesus passed this way! The people in your hallway, the people in your strip, the people that live thirty-five, forty minutes away from you—everyone feels it, everyone experiences it, no matter how far away they live or how close, when Jesus has really passed that way. I want to invite Jesus back to have His way in those areas, to expose what needs to be exposed and to touch and heal what needs to be touched and healed, to open blind eyes and deaf ears and to cleanse lepers as He always has, as He always will, if we’ll just give Him the time and attention to let Him do that. That’s why we need the fresh winds of spring to blow through our lives. It’s a call to open your ears and your eyes like the blind man who couldn’t even see but cried out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Have time for that kind of heart instead of being too busy to notice that. Cry out in the crowd for the Son of David.
Over all, it is God’s purpose to have a city set on a hill, not a bunch of candles flickering nervously in the wind, scattered abroad. It’s His desire to be joined and knit together by every supporting ligament and to have a testimony of the Christ life together, one heart, one mind, one purpose, of one accord. That’s a real offense to people; I don’t know if you know that. That’s a stench in the nostrils of people that don’t want to live that way; they want to have it all on their calendar in their time at their convenience. They despise it with great hatred—great energy is exerted in the fighting of something as simple as people loving each other and trying to live it out and help each other rather than just pretending. I’m constantly amazed at human nature and how strong it is. Humans are prone to being slaves to fear. It so controls the human race and the religious world that they will not stop and say, “What’s going on here?” The cycle of fear ensures that no one will help each other, no one will face reality and deal with the real facts and try to help each other not be slaves to satan and to fear any longer. And when anybody dares to raise a question about it, then names fly and tempers rage and accusations multiply and lies fill the air. It’s all about that simple bit of honesty and vulnerability. Just the simplest thing, like, “Would you please stop and rethink this?” And, “How dare you?” rages the answer.
Dwell in the land. In the midst of hatred and accusation, God Himself will be a refuge. If you will feed on His faithfulness, morning by morning by morning and not budge a step but dwell in the land, then He will meet you there. Our futures and our lives are tied into this discussion. We can look back and ask, “How did it get to this place? Why didn’t I notice it sneaking up on me before my life was totally, irreversibly, permanently altered forever? Why’d I have to be so stubborn, why’d I have to be so naive and foolish? Why didn’t I make the decisions I needed to make in order to salvage this thing before it was too late?” Don’t take anything for granted. Don’t let life sneak up on us to the point where irreversible things happen, and we look back over our shoulders and wonder how it got this way and how we forfeited something that could have been retained and multiplied and enhanced and purified—good things could have come out of it, but I was too foolish, too naive, too undiscerning, too selfish, too busy, with too much junk in my life to even notice the path that it was going on until it was too late.
When Moses struck that rock and, with his attitude problem, was angry with the people of God and got self-righteous, which was totally the opposite of the way he had been a few years earlier, that didn’t just happen. That was an attitude that was developed over time as he let certain resentments fester—he heard people responding in some certain way and instead of running to help and to lay his life down, he resented and accused in his heart. That builds up to the point where striking that rock was the obvious conclusion of the overflow of his heart. It totally altered the rest of his life. There was no promised land for this great and mighty man of God that had done many wonderful things. A rich heritage with God, awesome miracles through his hand and, yet, he himself was unable to see come to fruition the whole destiny of his life up to that point. He never saw the end of it. Irreversibly damaged because he let things in his life sneak up on him and momentum built until he made a move that was going to forever alter his future and his family and all the people of God—two million of them or more, at that point were affected by these “little” things that he let sneak up in his life. Let the spring cleaning happen in your life. Let the things in your life get broken down to the most basic. Don’t kid yourself, and surely don’t try to kid anybody else. Ask the questions you need to ask, not out of some foolish arrogance and preposterous pseudo-intellectualism. That’s filthy. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about simple questions in your own heart, with a desire to resolve it before God and to find answers in simplicity, in submission, in obedience in your heart to the Son of God. Break free from the cobwebs that have developed over the winter, from the dust that’s collected in the hidden places, from the stale air that you’ve breathed again and again all winter long. Open the windows, and let God, by his Holy Spirit, the pneuma, the wind of God, blow through your own personal life. Let it shake your marriage, your child-rearing, your neighborhood, your hallway, your relationships—who your relationships are, how you carry yourself in those relationships, why you have the relationships you do, why you don’t have other relationships, what questions you ask, what way you present yourself to other people in the Body of Christ, how you would submit one to another, how you would bear one another’s burdens, what you do when you’ve got a big meal in front of you and the highways and byways are calling and Jesus is saying, “Don’t just invite your friends!” Shake loose from the patterns of winter and the gray skies of winter and open the windows and let the sun shine in and the wind blow through and find out what this thing called christianity is for you and how that relates to the people around you and to your own relationship with Jesus. Don’t stunt your own growth by grieving the Spirit and backing away from that and just falling back into selfish, mindless patterns. Let God help you to see Him. Let it be a mandatory mark of everything you do and every place you go that you expect clearly, observably, Jesus of Nazareth has been this way, that’s why it’s this way. That’s why it’s different. Let it be that way in your own personal life. Why are you like you are? Well, Jesus has been this way. He touched me. He spoke to me. He looked at me.
God has thoroughly captivated many lives. It’s worth being where He is. Don’t leave any stone unturned to get there, like the blind man, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Work your way through the crowd, find a way to get to Him, whatever it takes to do that. Be courageous and daring, if not crazy to get there, and don’t accept anything less than the true life of the Son of Man touching your life. This isn’t about religion. This is about the living Jesus who changes lives, who sets captives free, that turns hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, who actually causes us to keep His commands and decrees by putting His Spirit in us. He actually changes our hearts and our affections. He changes our hormones, He changes our glands. He actually changes us. If we’ll do what Bartimaeus did, if we’ll do what Zacchaeus did, He will actually change us. That’s who Jesus is. Don’t accept anything else. Accept no substitutes. They’re too easy to fall into. Accept no compromises. The Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father except through His way, by His truth and in His life. Be not deceived. No man comes to the Father except by His way, in His truth and by His Spirit, in His life. There is no other way to the Father. The glorious riches of the inheritance of the Father, His life, His wisdom and His fullness, His truth, His freedom, His peace—the Father is the destination and it is only through Jesus’ Way that we are going to get there. Don’t let anybody sell you anything else or you will die in poverty and misery. While trying to save your skin, you will lose it.
Make sure that any outside observer that would ever happen into your life, your home, any environment that you’re in would be given cause to tilt their head and say, “What happened here? Jesus has passed this way.” When you shake everything out, make sure that it can be simplified to that most basic fact. That you are a walking testimony of the healing power of Jesus of Nazareth. That your life reflects that in the way you communicate to your spouse, to your children, the way you view and respond to your boss and your coworkers and the community of mankind. It needs to be so prominent in your life that you are the net result of that simple fact that Jesus passed this way and you’ll never be the same. Take that very personally.
God’s view of things is really not related to right and wrong. Instead, it’s moldability. God will take someone that’s teachable and moldable, that’ll change on a minute’s notice, as they see God and as they hear Jesus’ voice they change. God will take that person a thousand times over someone who’s right ten times as often but is not pliable, is not moldable. It’s not about right and wrong, it’s about being willing to change, being soft and pliable, listening for the Shepherd’s voice and not stiffening our necks. The thing that got Stephen killed and was so representative of the people that were dead right religiously but rejected by God is that he said, “You are a stiff-necked people,” and that comment really hit pay dirt to the people around him and touched a nerve because they knew their necks were stiff and they weren’t pliable, they couldn’t hear the Shepherd’s voice and they wouldn’t. They refused it. They rejected it. They wouldn’t be pliable. They wouldn’t take this enigma, this paradox, this contradiction standing in front of them, this carpenter with no education, with none of the pedigrees, without any of the components that make a man of God, this guy stood in front of them the perfect man in heart, in love and compassion and purity and righteousness and truth. His eyesight was pure and focused and true. They didn’t want any of it. It didn’t register with them. They couldn’t work their way through the paradox. So they crucified the Lord of Glory. They heard the words, but they couldn’t hear the Voice of the Prophets that were read every Sabbath.
How did the apostles ever find favor in God’s sight? By knowing what is “right”? There were many things they didn’t know the answers to, even a decade after Pentecost. They found favor in God’s sight because they were willing to ask the questions, because they were willing to face God about those things and to turn around on everything that ever was in their lives—the food, the cleansing,—they were willing to rethink the whole thing at the drop of a hat because they were followers; they were learners. They knew that only Jesus was right. “I don’t understand the Sabbath, but I want to be a friend of the Lord of the Sabbath, and let Him interpret it as we go along the way, and be all ears to follow the Lamb wherever He goes.” That’s the mark of someone that’s pleasing to the Father, that has found God’s favor. It isn’t a man that’s right, but a man that’s soft and teachable and willing to change everything before God in a heartbeat for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus and the future of the Kingdom of Jesus.