Ephesians 3:6 (CSB): “The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
Acts 1:8 (NASB2020): “You shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and as far as the remotest part of the earth.”
MY STRUGGLE TO BE LIKE JESUS
LET ME ADMIT UP FRONT that I find it difficult to be like Jesus, especially when it means being like Jesus 24 hours a day, every day.
I cannot match the incredible love He displayed toward everyone, even his enemies. He forgave the Roman soldiers nailing Him to a cross because they did not know what they were doing! (Luke 23:24)
I’m more like the Bob Dylan song of old: “You say you’re lookin’ for someone … Someone who’ll die for you and more, but it ain’t me, Babe; it ain’t me you’re lookin’ for.”
The more you follow Jesus, the more you’ll see that He takes what we do, that which seems natural to us, and turns it upside down—turn the other cheek, walk the second mile, pray for those who harm you, love those who hate you, be last instead of first, serve others instead of expecting others to serve you, bear one another’s burden.
Everything Jesus did — and expects us to do — is completely opposite, upside-down, and inside-out from the way most of us live.
The problem is this: Too many Christians have turned following Jesus into a religious pursuit instead of a life pursuit. To them, He’s a Sunday morning ornament to decorate their self-image, when He wants to be a guide who leads His people in all righteousness.
JESUS HOLDS US ACCOUNTABLE
With great privilege comes great responsibility.
Jesus proclaimed it this way: “Much is required from the person to whom much is given; much more is required from the person to whom much more is given.” Luke 12:48 (GNT)
In His Great Commission, Jesus gave His disciples — and us — the task of taking His message of salvation and reconciliation to the entire world, but He assured us that He would stay with us and help us through this process.
That brings us to the critical question: During times of trouble, what are Christians called to do?
THE ISSUES OF OUR DAY
What should our response be, as believers, in the aftermath of, say, a mass shooting?
We watch in horror as news reports come in of young lives being snuffed out at a school, or worshippers at a church or synagogue being shot, or shoppers at a suburban mall mowed down like ducks at a county fair.
What do we say about the images of left-wing rioters breaking storefront windows, while scores of looters cart off electronics, sneakers, and other coveted items?
How do we handle the often acrimonious postings and counter-postings on social media? Do we speak up? Let comments slide? Rebuke the intemperate?
Many of those comments come from unbelievers, who have not received the Holy Spirit, but believers also express themselves publicly, and there should be a difference in tone and substance, but is there?
Are we Christ-like in our reactions and comments about the affairs of our time?
FOLLOWING GOD’S PLAN
How would our culture differ if we lived the way Jesus lived?
Our text source reminds us that God grafted the Gentiles (non-Jews) into the “natural olive tree” of His people when the Jews rejected His Son as their Messiah.
God, speaking through the apostle Paul in Romans 6:22, tells us that through Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, we are freed from the power of sin and live under God’s grace … so we should resist the natural temptation to “act out” as the unbelievers do.
Instead, we are called to show grace. Grace in our actions, grace in our speech, and grace in our thoughts. Why our thoughts? Because we learn in James 1:15 and Matthew 15:18 that the evil that grows in our hearts drives our actions and words … unless we come under God’s restraining power. (See “Exposing Our Secret Lives”)
EMBRACING THE PRIVILEGE
It’s a Privilege for God’s People to be a part of His Plan, even though God’s plan often does not line up with our plan.
God’s love is for everyone. God is calling on both Gentiles and Jews to proclaim His will for the world. (Ephesians 3) Once God allowed His Son to die on the Cross for our sins, we should see everyone we meet as a potential child of God, not to judge them or condemn them, but to show love and grace toward them.
God wants Jew and Gentile to “share equally in the riches” of being God’s children. (Eph. 3:6) The body of Christ would have Jews and Gentiles together. For centuries, we’ve lived in animosity toward one another, but God wants us to come together under the banner of Jesus Christ.
Jesus calls us to engage in ministry with Him to reach lost souls.
That is a privilege! The apostle Paul praised God for the privilege of his calling to take the message of salvation to the Gentiles, a people despised by him and his fellow Jews.
Imagine. The God of the Jews proclaimed His love for all of His people. He calls us today to reach all of the “others” we see with the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and to treat them with love and grace.
For me, it means stretching beyond comfortable limits if that’s where God is calling me.
What does it mean for you?