Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Living Outside the Box, Pt. 2


I posted something on Facebook the other day that the Lord put on my heart. We live in a culture where many things come easy. As it relates to closeness with God, this is not necessarily the requires desire, humility and diligence. He wants us to be close to Him...and we certainly need it. (James 4:8a) I believe many people assume, and even expect, that faith should come easy, but that is just not the case. And when they find themselves struggling to believe, they do not understand it. As the old saying goes, when there is distance between you and God, He hasn’t gone anywhere. It is you and I who create the gap through our lack of faith, or even worse, living worldly. So, as we come back to consider what is taking place in the life of a fascinating individual…who by all rights and understandings, should not have faith in God…we are inspired to live more faithfully for the Lord

The Roman centurion is a person of great faith who is not afraid to cross racial and social barriers (Luke 7:1-10). He displays a deep love and affection for a servant who is ill to the point of death, and He seeks out a Jewish religious leader for answers. He also desires to immerse himself in the work of God, even making a significant contribution to the building of a Jewish synagogue. Here is a gentile soldier that is concerned about Jewish worship, which is remarkable. As we continue to examine the characteristics that reveal this centurion to be a person of amazing faith, we see that this man approaches Christ with great humility (vv. 6-7a). These verses reveal two essential components of the Christian faith – an understanding of whom Christ is (Savior) and an understanding of who we are (helpless sinners).

In verse six we find this, “Then Jesus went with them. And when He was already not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. (7) Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to you.” Before Jesus could reach his house, the Centurion sends a second representative to Jesus, telling him that it is not necessary for Him to come to his house. Because he was familiar with Jewish religious customs, the centurion did not wish to put Jesus in a position of having to enter the house of a Gentile. This Roman soldier, a man of considerable influence and power, is uniquely humble, regarding himself as undeserving of having Jesus come under his roof. He even felt unworthy of meeting Jesus in the street. This soldier, unlike the Pharisees, does not ask Jesus for a sign that he is who he says he is. This man doesn’t even ask to meet him.

Finally, we see this Roman trust, as the song says, “in Christ alone.” (vv. 7a-8) “… But say the word, and my servant will be healed. (8) For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” The centurion apparently realizes that Jesus has the power of life and death…that He could heal with a word, and therefore, must be God. And if Christ is divine, then he…a Gentile sinner…is unworthy even to meet him. Respectfully, he kneels before his divine authority. All Jesus has to do is say the word, and the centurion believes that it is as good as done. There is no evidence that this man has ever personally heard Jesus preach and yet he believes! He makes his request based on what he has heard concerning Jesus. And Jesus promises a special blessing on people like this centurion. When Jesus appears to Thomas and removes all of his doubts, proving that he has risen from the dead, he says to Thomas, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:29). This blessing extends to the centurion and to every believer today. In the word “also” in verse eight, the centurion sees a parallel between the way he commands his soldiers and the way Jesus commands diseases. If this man, with very little spiritual instruction, has this kind of faith in God’s Word, how much greater should our faith be?
In verse nine we see Jesus’ reaction, “He marvels at him, and turns around and says to the crowd that follows Him, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, even in Israel!” This man’s remarks amaze Jesus…that they have come from a Gentile. He marvels at a Roman centurion, whose background and circumstances ought to have made it difficult for him to have faith. Here is a man whose occupation is one where he has to be “the tough guy”…a man who should be steeped in the paganism of the day…a man hated by the Jews because he is a Roman. Yet in spite of all the circumstances that go against him, he is a striking example of faith. And almost as an afterthought, Luke adds verse 10…and oh by the way, “When those who were sent, returning to the house, found the servant well who had been sick.” Faith that is genuine is fulfilled in and by Christ Jesus.

Pat Summerall has to be my favorite broadcaster of all time. He passed away this past spring at the age of 82. Pat spent 50 years with the National Football League. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1952 and played with the Chicago Cardinals and New York Giants until 1961. After his retirement from the game, he joined CBS as a broadcaster and in 1993 switched to Fox. During his CBS years he and a fellow broadcaster partied hard off the field. "We raised Cain” he says, “I was the first guy at the bar and the last to leave." His love of alcohol was well-documented. Summerall was told that if he kept on drinking he was going to die. After checking himself into the Betty Ford Clinic, his counselor urged him to seek a better life through faith. At age 66, Pat Summerall was baptized. In USA Today he told a reporter that when the minister "leaned me back in the water, I never felt so helpless." Summerall testified, "I knew I just became a Christian. I can’t tell you how great life has been since then." Summerall spent much of the past sixteen years of his life living outside of what had been his box. He spent his time telling people about his story, and how he left the world behind to become a Christian -- what a testimony!

Pat Summerall recognized that his life was not going to make sense and he was going to be enslaved to addiction unless he received some help. When we come back to the story of the centurion, he realizes that he needs help. What startles and impresses Jesus are the positive characteristics that are displayed in the life of the centurion. These characteristics can be displayed in the life of anyone who is willing to trust in Him. We do not have to settle for a mediocre faith. We do not have to hang out on the fringes of Christian society and the body of Christ. We can and should be “all in.” Jesus really does not expect anything less than this for us. He must be Lord of our lives, and not just some part time Christ. We need to prioritize and continue to prioritize our lives in a way that we are living as citizens of heaven on earth, first! This is our continual challenge.

Blessings, Don

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