The Cross in the Crosshairs

Earlier this week news broke of a recent video showing “what looks like the largest and most dangerous gathering of al Qaeda in years.” (CNN)

The video features Nasir al-Wuhayshi, described by CNN as “al Qaeda’s crown prince … the No. 2 leader of al Qaeda globally and the head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.”

Nasir al-Wuhayshi is shown in the video inflaming this large group of fellow terrorists, with the rally cry: “We must eliminate the cross. … The bearer of the cross is America!”

Most news reports have focused on the threat made to America in this video – ignoring the true target of these radical Islamists’ hatred – the cross – Jesus Christ.

Whether or not America is still a “bearer of the cross” is a debate I’ll leave for another time.

However, this quote – “We must eliminate the cross” – reveals that it’s not freedom, democracy, or our Western ways that incite animosity and violence – it’s the truth of Christ, the Son of God, whose death and resurrection bought our forgiveness and victory over hell and death!

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (I Corinthians 1:18)

From the halls of academia to the film studios in Hollywood, from the positions of power in government, to the encampments of al Qaeda – the cross of Christ is not only foolishness – but a threat to those lost in sin. A threat that “must be eliminated” not only by bombs, but also by legislation, propaganda, ridicule.

However, no matter in what form or intensity the assaults come, the cross of Christ will forever stand – as will we who are sheltered in its shadowed and cleansed by His blood.

We do not fear those who vainly strive to “eliminate’ the cross; rather we pray for them that they will experience the same mercy and forgiveness which we have received from the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross.

On this Resurrection Sunday as we celebrate the free gift of salvation and victory over death that was won for us when we were yet enemies of God, may we endeavor all the more to spread the gospel of Christ to those who vainly seek to eliminate that Good News.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.

“In Christ Alone”
Words and Music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2001 Kingsway Thankyou Music

Respectable Sin

Ye are like unto whited sepulchres–Mat 23:27

The Jewish Background

The imagery of this denunciation would appeal powerfully to a Jewish audience. These whited sepulchres, gleaming in the sun, were a familiar feature in the landscape. You are not to think of them as separate buildings, like the mausoleums of the Romans. They were just caverns cut in the limestone rock, with a great stone set up to close the opening. And once a year these stones were whitewashed, not for the purpose of making them look beautiful, but to warn people that a grave was there, lest they should touch it, and touching, be defiled. Many a time our Lord had wondered at them, when He rambled among the hills at Nazareth. You know how the darkness and the dead men’s bones would stir the imagination of a boy. And now in the glow of His anger at the Pharisees, He sees again those haunting scenes of His youth–“ye are like unto these whited sepulchres, beautiful outwardly, but full of all uncleanness.”

A Figure of the Hypocrite

Now we cannot have a moment’s doubt as to the spiritual meaning of that figure. That figure is enshrined in common speech as perfectly expressive of the hypocrite. The man who is one thing inwardly, another outwardly–who is not really what he seems to be–of such hypocrisy in its most general aspect, I might textually speak here. But I want to get nearer to the text even than that; to seize upon its characteristic feature; to show you how it stands apart amid the many figures of the hypocrite. Now this, I think, is the emphatic thing here–that the Pharisee never shocked nor startled people. He never outraged the feelings of society; never broke through its unwritten laws. Whatever he might be in the sight of God, in the sight of men there was no fault to find. The Pharisee was eminently guilty; he was also eminently respectable. I want then to speak to you upon the subject of respectable sin. I shall do so plainly, and yet I trust in love, as a matter of paramount importance. And I pray God that the result may be that some of us may be led to higher standards, and to set our lives under a wiser scrutiny than that of the society we move in.

Respectable Sins Are Not Secret but Socially Acceptable

Now the first thing I want to say is this, that respectable sin is not just secret sin. I do not mean by respectable sin that sin of which others have got no suspicion. It is true that so long as a man’s sin is secret, he may still keep the respect of the community. If he is cunning enough to hide his shame, he may still pass as a reputable citizen. But the point to note is that that respectability depends upon the keeping of the secret. The moment the sin is trumpeted abroad, the man becomes an alien and an outcast. It is not such sin that is respectable. It is sin that, when known, carries no social stigma. It is sin that a man may openly commit, and yet not forfeit his place in the community. It is sin that is tolerated in general opinion; that is not visited with social ostracism; that does not shut the door in a man’s face of the society in which he loves to move. There are some sins that are socially fatal. If a man commits them he becomes a leper. You never meet him again at honoured tables. His name is struck from honourable clubs. But there are other sins, and in the sight of God these other sins may be every whit as guilty, and yet the men and women who commit them may move in society uncondemned.

Christ Rebukes Respectable Sinners

We may illustrate this distinction between sins by one of the most remarkable moments in the life of Christ. I refer to the incident of that poor woman of whose shame and misery we read in Joh 8:1-11. They dragged her before Jesus when He was standing in the Temple court. He said never a word, but stooped down, and wrote upon the ground. And then He rose, and spoke a single sentence, and they all went out. They had come there to be the woman’s accusers, and everyone of them went home condemned. They were not sinners as the woman was, for she had broken the barriers of womanhood. They were respectable, and went to synagogue, and violated no rule of society. Yet to Christ, who saw into the heart with eyes that pierced like a flame of fire, these men were further from the kingdom than the woman who lay dishevelled at His feet. “Neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more.” He knew her story and knew how she had been tempted. He was filled with a great pity for the woman–a pity that was mighty to redeem. But for the men who charged her, Christ revealed no pity–they were so cold, so bitter, and so loveless. Hers was the deadly sin of wild passion. Theirs the deadlier sin that was respectable.

The Middle Class Prone to Respectable Sins

I should like also to say this in passing, that this is peculiarly the temptation of the middle classes. No class is so prone to respectable sins as the class to which you and I belong. There are two sections of society which are notorious for their defiant sin. The one is the smart set of fashion; the other the sunken and degraded poor. We have a proverb which says that extremes meet, and certainly in this matter it is so, for it is in our highest and our lowest classes that sin is most reckless and defiant. Have you ever thought why that is so? Well, I shall tell you what is the reason for it. It is not merely that these are the idle classes, ensnared by the perils of the idle. The reason is that in the heights and depths public opinion is almost non-existent; there is no general judgment to be feared: no common sentiment to be considered. No one in the smart set cares a straw about the reputation of its women. No one who is detected thieving is banished from the society of criminals. And it is this absence of a social standard, this lack of a public and controlling judgment, that in the heights and depths of our society makes sin so flaunting and so unashamed. But in the middle classes it is different. There is a certain moral standard there. If a man flout it, he has to suffer for it–to suffer in his business and his family. Hence men who are prudent shrink from open vices, and from things that their class reckons as disgraceful; and the whole power of the devil is employed to tempt them to sins that are respectable.

Christ’s Judgment of the Respectable Sins

Now when we study the earthly life of Jesus, there is one thing that we soon come to see. It is with what terrible and dread severity He judged those sins we call respectable. There is often an element of unexpectedness in the moral judgments of our Saviour. He is sometimes severe where we should have been lenient; He is often lenient where we should be severe. And nowhere is this more remarkable than in His attitude towards actual sins, as He saw them in the streets of Galilee, and in the homes and in the marketplace. All sin was hateful to Jesus Christ, because all sin was rebellion against God. He never condoned sin in any form; never thought of it as the other side of goodness. And yet undoubtedly the sins that stirred Him most were not the sins of passion or of weakness. They were the cold and calculating sins which masqueraded as respectable. Think for example of the Temple traders. Did anyone think the less of them for trading so? Was not that traffic a general convenience, allowed by society without protest? Yet never in all His life was Christ so angry–so filled with a passion of tumultuous scorn–as when He knit His scourge, and drove them forth, and hurled the charge of robber in their teeth. It was not in that way that He spoke to Peter. It was not thus that He had addressed the Magdalene. Toward them, in the whole conduct of the Saviour, there is the throb of unutterable tenderness. But towards the Pharisees and towards the traders I look for any such tenderness in vain. Christ hurled His bitterest and sternest judgments upon the sins of respectability. If that be so there must be reasons for it, for the judgments of Jesus Christ were never arbitrary. I shall therefore, in closing, try to make plain to you why Christ was so severe on respectable sin.

Respectable Sins Can Deaden the Conscience

In the first place, sin that is respectable has an unequalled power of deadening the conscience. In the mirror of the society he moves in, a man sees nothing to alarm or terrify. When you glance at the mirror in the morning, and see the usual signs of health upon your face, you take it for granted, in a general way, that you are in your customary well-being. And so when in the mirror of society a man detects no sign of disapproval, he too is apt to think that all is well. No one around suggests that there is danger; and so the feeling of danger disappears. Others are not shocked by what we do, and so we come not to be shocked ourselves. So is born that deadliest of states, in which we are complacent and self-satisfied; no longer ill at ease with our own selves, because others are not ill at ease with us. Think of the Pharisee and publican in our Lord’s parable. The publican could never forget he was despised. He saw it in the face of every child, in the contemptuous looks of every woman. Wherever he went his sin was mirrored to him in the attitude of every honourable Jew. He tried to disguise what he was from his own heart, but his society stripped his disguise away. His was a disreputable sin, but it was not the most dangerous of sins. There was a warning in every man he met, in every child who drew away from him. Until at last, utterly sick at heart, and with a conscience stabbed into activity, he flung himself upon the Temple floor, crying, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Now compare with that, the Pharisee. He had no mirror to show him to himself. There was nothing in the society he moved in to warn him of what he was in God’s sight. He read himself in the respect of others; came quietly to accept the general estimate, until his heart was hard, his conscience deadened, and himself on the verge of being damned. Had his sin cast him out of human fellowship, he never would have been tempted so. Had honourable doors been barred on him he would have soon lost his self-complacency. And so you see his peril lay in this–not in the bare fact that he was sinful; but in the deadening of conscience that had come, because his sin was perfectly respectable.

Respectable Sins Are Pernicious in Their Influence

Then lastly, is this not true of respectable sin, that of all sin it is most pernicious in its influence? I think that Jesus Christ condemned it so, because He was the lover of mankind. There is nothing in the forger to attract us. There is nothing in the drunkard to allure us. When we see vice in all its shame and misery, there is that in it which disgusts us and appalls us. Every profligate with his diseased body, every embezzler with his ruined home, is waving a red danger-flag, and telling us audibly that death is there. But with respectable sin it is quite different. In it there is nothing shocking or disgusting. It has not the look of death upon its face; it has the look of health and prosperity. And what I say is that just on that account it is a thousand times more tempting and alluring than such a sin as drunkenness that reels to a degraded home, or rots upon the pallet of the hospital. That is why Jesus was so hard on it. He saw its untold power to allure. He saw how mightily it would appeal to natures that would turn in loathing from coarse vice. And therefore did He terribly denounce it, out of His great love for foolish men, who are so ready to think that anything is right when they can do it without social censure.

What’s In A Name?

My friend wrote a letter to his newborn child that he wanted him to read when he was older: “My dear boy, Daddy and Mummy wish that you will find and stay focused on the Light. Your Chinese name is xin xuan. Xin means faithfulness, contentment, and integrity; xuan stands for warmth and light.” He and his wife carefully chose a name based on their hopes for their baby boy.

When Jesus renamed Simon as Peter/Cephas (John 1:42), it wasn’t a random choice. Peter means “the rock.” But it took a while for him to live up to his new name. The account of his life reveals him as a fisherman known for his rash ways—a shifting-sand kind of guy. Peter disagreed with Jesus (Matt. 16:22-23), struck a man with a sword (John 18:10-11), and even denied knowing Jesus (John 18:15-27). But in Acts, we read that God worked in and through him to establish His church. Peter truly became a rock.

If you, like Peter, are a follower of Jesus, you have a new identity. In Acts 11:26, we read, “The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” The name “Christians” means “Christ-ones.” You now are one of the Christ-ones. This title lifts up who you are and calls you to become what you are not yet. God is faithful, and He will complete His good work in you (Phil. 1:6).

Dear Father, thank You for the incredible privilege
of being called Your child. May we understand
more fully what it means to be identified with Your
Son, Jesus Christ. Work in us and through us.
We honor God’s name when we call Him our Father and live like His children.

Today’s reading records a call to discipleship. After John the Baptist identified Jesus as the “Lamb of God,” two of his disciples followed Jesus. Andrew is named, but the second spiritual seeker is not. Many commentators believe that the apostle John is the second disciple. Notice the easy conversation which takes place between the two disciples and Christ. He asks what they seek. They inquire about where He is staying, and He invites them to come and see. The tenth hour by Jewish reckoning was 4:00 p.m. Obviously, the day was coming to an end. Andrew became so excited about Jesus’ invitation that he went to find his brother Simon and brought him to meet the Master.

What’s In A Name?

The Glory That’s Unsurpassed

. . . the Lord Jesus . . . has sent me that you may receive your sight . . . —Acts 9:17

When Paul received his sight, he also received spiritual insight into the Person of Jesus Christ. His entire life and preaching from that point on were totally consumed with nothing but Jesus Christ— “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Paul never again allowed anything to attract and hold the attention of his mind and soul except the face of Jesus Christ.

We must learn to maintain a strong degree of character in our lives, even to the level that has been revealed in our vision of Jesus Christ.

The lasting characteristic of a spiritual man is the ability to understand correctly the meaning of the Lord Jesus Christ in his life, and the ability to explain the purposes of God to others. The overruling passion of his life is Jesus Christ. Whenever you see this quality in a person, you get the feeling that he is truly a man after God’s own heart (see Acts 13:22).

Never allow anything to divert you from your insight into Jesus Christ. It is the true test of whether you are spiritual or not. To be unspiritual means that other things have a growing fascination for you. Since mine eyes have looked on Jesus, I’ve lost sight of all beside, So enchained my spirit’s vision, Gazing on the Crucified.

The Child in the Midst

And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them–Mat 18:2

Jesus’ Love for Children

I want to speak on Jesus and the child to show you out of the Bible story how precious childhood was to Jesus Christ. And I want to do it just that we may feel that when the Church which is His body tends the children it is certain to have the blessing of the Master.

First, then, we may find how Jesus valued them by the loving way in which He had observed them. With a quick eye and with a loving heart He had been watching them when they never dreamed of it. You can tell how closely He had watched the world by the exquisite beauty of His parables. You can tell how closely He had watched His nation from His certainty that ruin was impending. And so by innumerable incidental references, occurring everywhere throughout His teaching, you can tell how closely He had watched the child. He had watched the mother fondling her babe, and in her joy forgetting all her agony. He had watched the children playing in the market place, and sulking, and quarrelling with each other. And He had watched the boy, when school was over, hurrying home and asking for a piece of bread, and always getting it and not a stone. For Christ the coming ruin was doubly terrible just because children were to be involved in it. For Christ there was no test of loyalty more searching than that a man should love Him more than he loved his children. And all these references to the little people, these recognitions of them in unexpected moments, show you how dear they were to Jesus Christ. That is one of the great and striking differences between the Gospels and the Epistles of Paul. You would never gather from the Pauline letters that the writer was a lover of the child. But when you follow Jesus through the Gospels, when you see how He had observed the ways of children, when you mark the niceness of His references to them, as of One who had watched them for Himself, why then you feel at once that here was One for whom there was a joy for every child. He loved the little as deeply as the lost.

The Busy Jesus Had Time for the Child

Again, the same impression is intensified when we think of the access He gave them to His presence. There was never a more crowded life than His, and yet He always had leisure for the child. The fact is, friends, that in the life of Christ that air of leisure always is amazing. With such a mighty work for God to do, might you not reasonably expect some sign of strain. And yet the one thing that took the hearts of men, and awed them as with the touch of heaven, was just the infinite restfulness that clothed Him. He had a baptism to be baptised with, yet had He leisure for the summer lilies. He had but three short years to do His work, yet He had eyes for the sparrow when it fell. He had to ransom from the power of darkness men and women who were the slaves of Satan, yet always had He leisure for the child. The fact is that Christ like all of us, always had leisure for the thing He loved. It is in the heart rather than in the clock that there lies the secret of the leisure hour. And so when in the midst of all His stress, you find that Christ gave access to the children, you may learn certainly how much He loved them. It is but seldom in the Gospel story that you read of Christ as being much displeased. The impression made upon you there is this, that it took something mighty to stir Him to the depths. Yet one of the rare occasions in the Gospel when we do read that Christ was much displeased was when the disciples sought to keep the children back. It was not done in anger but in kindness. They were distressed because Christ was overburdened. Here was something they could save Him from, as if a mortal man could save the Saviour. But Christ for once made no account of motive, found no excuse in an intended kindliness; He chided His followers because they sought to bar Him from the child. My brother, there was something divine in that; but there was also something human. They were trying to keep from Him, although they knew it not, the very company in which He most delighted. And that–that constant leisure for the child, that open access in the busiest day, is another sweet and subtle indication of the value of the children in His eyes.

Jesus Loved to Help Children When They Suffered

This impression once again is deepened by the appeal which the sufferings of children made to Him. He not only loved to watch them when they played; but He also loved to help them when they suffered. There were some appeals which Jesus disregarded, as that of the man who wanted a judgment on his property. There were some prayers that Jesus would not listen to, as when the healed demoniac prayed that he might follow Him. But the one prayer that carried Him by storm, the one appeal He never could finally resist, was when a father or a mother came and used the words “My son”–“my little daughter.” Everything else must stand aside if it be a child that cries for healing. He cares not what all the mourners think of Him when He asks them unceremoniously to leave the room. With an intensity that we shall never fathom, because our hearts at their warmest are but cold, Christ felt the sufferings of little children. The first healing miracle He wrought was wrought not on a man but on a child. The only cure He gave outside of Israel was given to a little Gentile girl. Of His three rescues from the grip of death, it was only Lazarus who was an adult. The other two who were brought back again were young. You recall the scene on the Mount of Transfiguration, and how Peter would have had Him stay there forever. But Jesus could not stay and would not stay simply because the world was calling Him. And so He descended from the Mount of Glory to take up His cross again and be obedient, and the first to meet Him was an epileptic boy. It is as if, transfigured on the hill, He had heard the calling of the child. It is as if the writhings of that lad had pierced the radiance that en-wrapped Him there. And so may we learn, brethren, if we will, from that irresistible appeal of childish suffering, how near and dear the children were to Christ.

Jesus Delighted in the Services of Children

That impression received further vividness when we recall how Christ delighted in their services. He sometimes refused the service of a man; He never refused the service of a child. There is an excellent sermon by Mr. Spurgeon on Christ refusing first offers of service. Strange though it may seem, He sometimes did that, and sometimes He is doing it today. But the one service that He welcomed eagerly, and never checked, and never thought unworthy, was the sweet service of the little people. “There is a lad here,” said Andrew to Him. I think that one word “lad” was all Christ wanted. There is a lad here with five small loaves, and he wants us to take them and make the best of them. I take it that Andrew was intensely tickled at a lad’s luncheon for five thousand people; but it was just the thing that Jesus loved. He would not add a scrap to that small store. He wanted to use the offering of the boy. He wanted to show them that in Messiah’s kingdom a little child shall lead them. And if that were so out on the hills of Galilee, how much more truly so in the last days, when the children flocked to the triumphal entry, and cried “Hosanna to the Son of David.” Men had wanted to cry that before, and on every such occasion Christ had checked them. They had wanted to hail Him as Messiah, and Jesus had refused to be so hailed. But now the children break into that service–for praise is service just as much as alms, and Christ with a glad heart accepts of it. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings He felt that God was perfecting His praise. There was hope for the future, though the Cross was coming, when He had won the hearts of little children. We all long to be loved by those we love. We are proud and happy when they praise us. And it was just because Jesus loved the children that their shouting was like music in His ear.

Christ’s Estimate of the Child Spirit

The same impression is confirmed again by the estimate which Christ made of the child spirit. It was in the child that Jesus found the type of the true citizen of the heavenly kingdom. “Suffer the little children to come to Me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Except ye become as little children, ye cannot even see the kingdom. To enter the kingdom it is by no means necessary that a child should grow into a man. But to enter the kingdom it is always necessary that a man should grow into a child. Christ did not speak of the innocence of childhood. That innocence is gone and gone forever. He came to call the sinners to repentance. His kingdom is a kingdom for the lost. He was thinking of the receptiveness of childhood, of its glorious freedom from the worldly spirit, of the love that fills it, of the hope that stirs it, of its simplicity and sublimity of faith. To you and me, my brother, that is commonplace; but remember it is Christ who made it so. As dearly as the Jew had loved his children, he had never seen that glory in his children. It was Christ who was the first to see it. It was Christ who drew it into the light of day. And now we see it, and we reverence childhood because we are looking at it with His eyes. When a man is far from home, in a strange country, he loves whatever reminds him of his home. Some glimpse of hill, some blossom like the heather, will bring a tenderness into his heart. And that, I think, was why Christ loved the children, and was always so exquisitely tender with them. He was a stranger in a distant land here, and the children reminded Him of home. Of such is the kingdom of heaven–the kingdom here, the kingdom in the glory. I say unto you that in heaven, yonder, their angels are looking on the Father’s face. Brethren, with such deep words from Jesus’ heart is it any wonder the child is precious now? Is it any wonder that the Church which is His body gives of her best and noblest to their service?

“Feed the Lambs” Comes before “Feed the Sheep.”

And then this ever-deepening impression is crowned when Christ risen from the dead. “Simon, Son of Jonas, lovest thou “Yea, Lord”; then, “Feed my lambs.” Then twice over Simon was bidden feed the sheep. That repetition has the note of urgency. But it is not the sheep that are first mentioned, mark you. First of all is “Feed my lambs. “Still in the forefront of the love of Jesus, unchanged by Calvary and by the grave, still deep within His heart, there are the children. My brother and sister, there are many voices that say to us today, “Amuse the children.” But this is the glory of the love of Christ that its command is “Feed the children.” And this is the wonder of the Christian Gospel that, with great depths in it that none can fathom, it is so simple in its central message that you can tell it to the little child. Tell it, you mothers, to your children, then. Tell it, you Sabbath teachers, to your classes. Let your class witness when you meet in heaven that you were not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. So let us prosecute our work with patience, remembering how Jesus loved the children. So let us welcome the glad song of Christmas, “Unto us a child is born.”

Heedfulness or Hypocrisy in Ourselves?

If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death —1 John 5:16

If we are not heedful and pay no attention to the way the Spirit of God works in us, we will become spiritual hypocrites. We see where other people are failing, and then we take our discernment and turn it into comments of ridicule and criticism, instead of turning it into intercession on their behalf. God reveals this truth about others to us not through the sharpness of our minds but through the direct penetration of His Spirit. If we are not attentive, we will be completely unaware of the source of the discernment God has given us, becoming critical of others and forgetting that God says, “. . . he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death.” Be careful that you don’t become a hypocrite by spending all your time trying to get others right with God before you worship Him yourself.

One of the most subtle and illusive burdens God ever places on us as saints is this burden of discernment concerning others. He gives us discernment so that we may accept the responsibility for those souls before Him and form the mind of Christ about them (see Philippians 2:5). We should intercede in accordance with what God says He will give us, namely, “life for those who commit sin not leading to death.” It is not that we are able to bring God into contact with our minds, but that we awaken ourselves to the point where God is able to convey His mind to us regarding the people for whom we intercede.

Can Jesus Christ see the agony of His soul in us? He can’t unless we are so closely identified with Him that we have His view concerning the people for whom we pray. May we learn to intercede so wholeheartedly that Jesus Christ will be completely and overwhelmingly satisfied with us as intercessors.

Isn’t There Some Misunderstanding?

’Let us go to Judea again.’ The disciples said to Him, ’. . . are You going there again?’ —John 11:7-8

Just because I don’t understand what Jesus Christ says, I have no right to determine that He must be mistaken in what He says. That is a dangerous view, and it is never right to think that my obedience to God’s directive will bring dishonor to Jesus. The only thing that will bring dishonor is not obeying Him. To put my view of His honor ahead of what He is plainly guiding me to do is never right, even though it may come from a real desire to prevent Him from being put to an open shame. I know when the instructions have come from God because of their quiet persistence. But when I begin to weigh the pros and cons, and doubt and debate enter into my mind, I am bringing in an element that is not of God. This will only result in my concluding that His instructions to me were not right. Many of us are faithful to our ideas about Jesus Christ, but how many of us are faithful to Jesus Himself? Faithfulness to Jesus means that I must step out even when and where I can’t see anything (see Matthew 14:29). But faithfulness to my own ideas means that I first clear the way mentally. Faith, however, is not intellectual understanding; faith is a deliberate commitment to the Person of Jesus Christ, even when I can’t see the way ahead.

Are you debating whether you should take a step of faith in Jesus, or whether you should wait until you can clearly see how to do what He has asked? Simply obey Him with unrestrained joy. When He tells you something and you begin to debate, it is because you have a misunderstanding of what honors Him and what doesn’t. Are you faithful to Jesus, or faithful to your ideas about Him? Are you faithful to what He says, or are you trying to compromise His words with thoughts that never came from Him? “Whatever He says to you, do it ” (John 2:5).