Just this past Christmas, I took the week between Christmas and New Year’s off for vacation. I didn’t go anywhere, just stayed home and spent time with family and grandchildren. It was great, but I also thought I would take time off from going to my CrossFit workouts, which for me have been a real solution to fighting atrophy. When the time came to go back to CrossFit, I didn’t want to go because of the pain I would experience while getting back into the workouts. It’s not a negative pain, but a pain that is a result of really doing my body some good. It is our natural tendency to avoid pain and we will look for, or confabulate, excuses to avoid pain if at all possible. Sometimes we avoid pain in marriages that need attention, relationships, employment, or areas of our finances or personal development. Over the years I have noticed that what I avoid often invades. Our foundational scripture for our series Grace Full is John 1:16-17 which says, “And of His fullness for grace for the law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
Grace has been defined as unmerited favor or power to enable you to live out what truth demands, and truth always demands change in our lives. For instance, we all have memes in our lives. These are patterns or behaviors from a cultural upbringing or family traits that are not congruent with following Jesus. In John 4:4 it says that Jesus needed to go through Samaria. One translation says Jesus had to go through Samaria. Jesus had His disciples with Him and they were all Jews. Samaria was a place that Jews avoided at all cost because Jews were raised to despise and even hate Samaritans. They saw them as less than, not fit for economic growth or even to do business with. They had a profound prejudice against Samaritans because of the culture and how they were raised. It was imperative to go through Samaria because His disciples were taught to avoid it. The areas of my life I want to avoid are usually where Jesus takes me first. While Jesus was talking to the Samaritan woman at the well, the disciples had to interact with people they were raised to hate and despise. Jesus was teaching them and showing them what was in them that needed to change if they were going to follow Him.
You cannot have prejudice towards any people group and follow Jesus. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you, that you also love one another (agape love=God’s love). By this all will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) Billy Graham says that the number one problem in America is not the economy, but racism. As followers of Jesus (Christians) we cannot have racism or any kind of unforgiveness, bitterness or resentment towards people and follow Jesus. When bitterness, resentment or unforgiveness takes up residence in our hearts, it is then that we stop following Jesus and produce what is alien to Christ. Oswald Chambers says we are either deserters or disciples. When bitterness and unforgiveness reside in us we are deserters, and the fruit will not be of the Holy Spirit but will have a negative effect in our culture and with those who are important to us-family, children, grandchildren. We are to be grounded and rooted in the love (agape) of God (Ephesians 3: 17).
1 Corinthians 13:3 “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love (agape), it profits me nothing.” The word profit here means what’s left after the exchange. So when I’m not functioning in the agape love of God there is nothing left after the exchange, no fruit to advance God’s will or His kingdom. John 15:8-9 “By this my Father is glorified that you bear much fruit so you will be my disciples. As the Father loved me, I also have loved you: abide in my love.” Let’s be disciples of Jesus and not deserters. As we follow Jesus we will walk in the grace and truth of God that brings salvation (Titus 2:11-12). Salvation=wholeness=security=peace that has appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness (racism, hatred) and worldly lusts we should live soberly, righteously and Godly in this present age. This grace and truth will assist us in following Jesus and will empower us to fulfill the destiny, calling and purpose for which He has created us.
The writer is the senior pastor at Russell Road Church, Sidney.