Monday, April 13, 2009

Taking It Seriously

But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins."
(1 Peter 4:7-8 NKJV)

Serious and morbid are not the same thing. Serious is not going around in gothic black all the time or failing to possess the ability to share in wholesome humor. However, when you examine closely the life of Christ – and the entire Bible focuses on Christ, the Old Testament looking forward, the epistles looking back – you fail to discover much, if any, humor. Some try to find a little humor in the mote and beam passage, or the swallow a camel one, or perhaps the camel and needle’s eye. But I think they’re straining. Perhaps the Greek scholars among us can tease something out of the original, but I don’t see it. I see them as simple and vivid hyperbole. Jesus would often exaggerate the literal to make a point. His hyperbole reminds me of His seemingly paradoxical statements, cut off your arm, pluck out your eye - being serious and not a jokester. I suggest we all attempt to be like Him.

Here are some suggestions to help us “Take it seriously.”

Act your age. In our Facebook culture, cool is often equated with funny. Now there’s nothing wrong with Facebook per se. I know a lot of preachers who are on it. I am myself. I’m even on Twitter, though no one ever cares if I post or not. Our friends at church may like us more if we’re funny, but is that really what they need – is our ministry about their needs, or our own? Jesus’ ministry was about the needs of others, not His own. At the very least, those we are attempting to serve and lead – be we preachers, parents, elders, Bible class teachers, or whatever – need to see a serious side in us, they need to see some maturity. As I study the life of Christ, that’s all I ever see in Jesus.

Visit the Garden. In Gethsemane, even though Jesus was hurting emotionally, he demonstrated commitment to His mission and concern for those He was leading. He prayed that the Father’s will be done rather than His emotional needs be assuaged. He repeatedly encouraged His disciples to watch and pray in order to triumph over temptation. We are reminded of Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 9.27 that he disciplined his body. Only the serious can successfully practice discipline.

Focus on the Cross. Note our Lord’s seven statements from the cross. In them He continues to show His concern for the needs of others. He acknowledges His own personal suffering. And then the two triumphal exclamations at the end: “It is finished” (John 19.30), and “Father, into your hands I commit My spirit (Luke 23.46). If we would mediate on these words, surely it would cause us to take our Christian life to new depths of seriousness.

Bang your Head. Prostate yourself before God in prayer. You may wish to assume the position we see from the Middle East, on your knees, with your head bowed to the floor in front of you. Or, perhaps not, but have the frame of mind that you are on your face in reverence and humility before your Maker. Search out the depth of your soul and position yourself there. Then begin with confession. Tell God how depraved you are. Tell Him how you yearn to do better. Ask for His forgiveness and His help – He’ll hear you – if you humble yourself. Then praise Him and thank Him. A good knowledge of the book of Psalms will help you here. List the ways God has been good to you, “name them one by one.” If you want assurance that God cares for you, just start trying to thank Him for all His blessings by name. When you complete your prayer, see if you are physically tired (a good sign) and if you have a greater appreciation of your life’s purpose, that it is serious business. I think you will, if you have the courage to be humble before God.

The list is longer, but these four things help me. They should help anyone.

Christianity is a matter of life and death.

For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3 NKJV)

…who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness--by whose stripes you were healed. (1 Peter 2:24 NKJV)

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, (Romans 6:8 NKJV)

Death is serious. How serious are you?

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