Baseball Chapel

What Are You Building Your Life On?

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Many of us often think about Christianity in terms of those who believe and those who don’t believe. But Jesus often taught about something that is not quite as clear as believers and nonbelievers. It is a condition that people often don’t see in themselves, and therefore a trap that is very deceptive and dangerous.

This trap that Jesus taught about is the trap of unauthentic discipleship. It is being a fan of Jesus but not a faithful follower of Jesus and not being able to see the difference between the two.

As I look back over my own life, there’s a period of eight years or so between my sophomore year of high school and my fourth year of pro-ball where I was stuck in this trap. I believed the Bible, I would pray, I would go to church or chapel, I would talk to other people about what I believed and encourage them to trust Jesus, but I was still doing things and living my life based primarily on what I wanted to do. I would do things that I knew Jesus would not approve of, but I would find ways to justify it or to make it feel like it wasn’t that big of a deal. But then God got my attention in the offseason of 2005 and opened up my eyes to see that I wasn’t what I thought I was this whole time. I wasn’t for real; I wasn’t a faithful follower.

You see, we can believe the stories about Jesus, read the Bible, pray to God and be actively involved in Christian service and yet still be what we are identifying here as an unauthentic disciple. We can be fans of Jesus but not faithful followers of Jesus.

You can know a particular sports team inside and out. You can follow them, be passionate and enthusiastic about them. You can wear a jersey, have season tickets and refer to the team as We, but that does not make you a member of that particular team. That just means that you’re a really good fan of the team. And that doesn’t work when it comes to following Jesus either. Being a really good fan of Jesus doesn’t make you a faithful follower of Jesus.

So how can we know for sure whether or not we are for real when it comes to our allegiance to Jesus? How can we make sure that we are faithful followers and not just good fans?

Well, since unauthentic discipleship is often hard to see in ourselves, we must go beneath the exterior aspects of our faith and examine the underlying foundation.

There’s a helpful illustration that Jesus gives to conclude his Sermon on the Mount. It’s an illustration about two different builders who build two different houses. And Jesus uses this illustration to help us see the underlying difference between being a fan or supporter of Jesus versus being a faithful follower of Jesus.

The Sermon on the Mount

In Matthew 7:12, Jesus sums up the kingdom way of life that he has been teaching about in the Sermon on the Mount with what we call the Golden Rule. Jesus teaches that authentic followers of Jesus are to love everyone around them by treating other people like they want to be treated. And so, all the radical demands of the kingdom way of life that Jesus lays out in Matthew 5-7 are culminated into this one main principle in 7:12.

From there, Jesus concludes his Sermon on the Mount in 7:13-27 with four short teachings that are all doing the same thing. All four are forcing us to make a decision concerning these radical demands. In his commentary on Matthew’s Gospel, R.T. France puts it this way:

“Together [these four short teachings] constitute a striking call for authenticity in the disciple’s response to the demands of Jesus. Each presents a contrast between the authentic and the unauthentic disciple, and this authenticity is found not in the disciple’s profession but in his performance. A professed adherence to Jesus and his teaching may be very impressive so as to deceive others, and even the professed disciple himself, but Jesus here gives warning that it will not deceive God, who looks for practical results. The teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is not meant to be admired but to be obeyed.”

In the first three of these final four teachings, Jesus talks about two different paths, two different trees and two different kinds of servants. Today, I want us to look at the last of these four teachings where Jesus talks about two different foundations.

The Illustration

Jesus concludes the Sermon on the Mount with these words:

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been built on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was that fall.

This illustration is not a difficult one to understand, and we don’t need to over-spiritualize it. Here we have two different houses that look exactly the same on the outside. The exterior aspects of the house are the same. So what is the big thing that sets these two houses apart? What’s the key difference between them?

The key difference is something that cannot be seen from the outside. The key difference is the underlying foundation on which these two houses have been built. One is built on solid rock and the other is built on sand. Only the house that is built on solid rock will be able to withstand the storms that will eventually come its way. And Jesus compares the wise man who builds his house on solid rock to the authentic disciple who hears what Jesus has taught and does what Jesus tells him to do. Wise men obey Jesus.

Jesus says that only a foolish man would build his house on sand. Only a foolish man would hear about the life and teaching of Jesus but then not do the things that Jesus has told us to do. Only a foolish man would think that he can do whatever he wants to do in life and not eventually suffer the consequences of those decisions. Only a foolish man would live his life as a good fan of Jesus when he is called to be a faithful follower.

So what is the thing that you are building your life on? What is the underlying foundation of your life? What determines how you live and the decisions that you make? Is it your own desires, feelings, intelligence and the influence of other’s lives or the is it the desires of God and the life and teaching of Jesus?

What is the thing that you are trusting will enable you to stand confidently before Jesus when you finally see him face to face? What are you placing your hope of forgiveness and eternal life on? Is it in your beliefs and your pretty good behavior compared to other people or is it on the work of Jesus and your total allegiance to him as your Redeemer and King?

Conclusion

Jesus is warning us: Since unauthentic discipleship is often hard to see in ourselves, we must go beneath the exterior aspects of our faith and examine the underlying foundation.

Trusting Jesus as your Redeemer, swearing your allegiance to Jesus as your King and obeying everything that Jesus has taught us is like building your house on solid rock.

This mixture of trust, allegiance and obedience is the underlying foundation of a faithful follower of Jesus. And this is the only foundation that will withstand the pressures of this life and that final day of judgement where we will see Jesus face to face.

Let’s build our lives on obedience to Jesus. The teaching of Jesus is not meant to be heard and admired; it is meant to be heard and obeyed. Don’t just be a really good fan; be a faithful follower.

A Disciple's Prayer

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What if Jesus was serious when he said, “I want you to pray like this”?

Sometimes we struggle with prayer because we are unsure of what to say or we feel like we’ve run out of things to say. But Jesus taught his disciples exactly what to say, and he wanted them to say it regularly.

Over the past few weeks, I have been studying the Lord’s Prayer which I actually think should be called a Disciple’s Prayer instead. I don’t say that in order to criticize tradition or to be cute with words; I say that because it is a prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, and one that he expected them to memorize and pray regularly. As I’ve studied this prayer over the last few weeks, I feel like I am rediscovering something that has been hidden in plain sight, and it all started by me finally asking a basic question:

Why did Jesus actually teach his disciples a very specific prayer, and why did he choose the particular words and phrases that he chose?

I am learning that this prayer that Jesus taught his disciples is so much more profound than we often realize, and that it was given for a specific purpose that we often miss. Part of the problem is that we have to really understand what Jesus saw himself accomplishing in order to understand his motives for giving his disciples this specific prayer.

Jesus saw himself as the one who had come to inaugurate the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is not simply the way to go to heaven when you die but rather the way to participate in God’s mission of reconciling heaven and earth. And it’s in the context of this mission that Jesus saw himself accomplishing that we are to understand this specific prayer that he teaches his disciples. This is a prayer that is meant to keep us focused on participating in the kingdom-movement that Jesus inaugurated.

As N.T. Wright puts it:

“The prayer says: I want to be part of his kingdom-movement. I find myself drawn into his heaven-on-earth way of living.”

This prayer sums up Jesus’ own life and ministry, and it keeps us focused on the new way of life and the new way of seeing the world that ought to define every disciple of Jesus. We can better understand this prayer by looking at its five big areas focus: The Father, The Kingdom, Daily Bread, Forgiveness, and Deliverance.

The Father

“Our Father in heaven, may your name be holy and treated with honor”

Jesus wants us to remember who it is that we are praying to. We are not praying to a general God who is distant and difficult to know on a meaningful level. We are praying to the God who has made himself known through the life and work of Jesus. Jesus even went as far to say that if you have seen him then you have seen the Father.

Jesus also wants us to remember that it is our responsibility as his disciples to represent the Father to the rest of the world and to honor him in the presence of others. The tragic story of humanity is that we have misrepresented God and dishonored his name. But Jesus came on a mission declaring that it’s time for the Father to receive the honor that he deserves. Therefore, praying this prayer keeps us aware of the fact that we are representing the name of God everywhere that we go and in everything that we say. This prayer helps us stay concerned about the Father’s reputation and committed to honoring him in the presence of others.

The Kingdom

“May your kingdom come and your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven.”

Jesus wants us to remember the very thing that his life and work was all about — the inauguration of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is God’s plan for reconciling heaven and earth, and we have been called to repent and to participate in that mission.

The kingdom comes as more and more people swear their allegiance to the Father as King, and his will is done as his people obey him and do the kinds of things that he desires for us to do. Therefore, praying this prayer keeps us focused on doing what God wants us to do in everyday life, and it sets our sights back on actively participating in God’s kingdom-movement that is reconciling heaven and earth.

Daily Bread

“Please give us today our daily bread”

Jesus intentionally uses the phrase “daily bread” to remind his people of God’s provision for his people in the wilderness in-between their former life in Egypt and their future life in the Promised Land. God’s people had to learn how to depend on God for everything that they needed.

Jesus wants us to see that we too are in a “wilderness period” where we have been set free from our former life, but we are still on the way to life in the eternal Promised Land. And so, Jesus wants us to learn how to depend on God for everything that we need. This prayer helps us cultivate a mindset that views each day’s basic provisions as a gift that shouldn’t be taken for granted. It’s a regular reminder of our neediness and helps us remain aware of the neediness of others.

Forgiveness

“Forgive us of our sin as we also have forgiven those who wrong us.”

Jesus wants us to remember the radical forgiveness that God has granted us and the radical forgiveness that we must grant to others. Forgiveness is an essential element of a disciple of Jesus and the kingdom of God. The natural way of life in this world is to get even with those who wrong us, but Jesus wants us to embrace a new way of life where we give up our right to retaliate and choose to extend unconditional and unmerited forgiveness instead.

This is so important to Jesus that he actually adds an additional footnote after the prayer in Matthew 6:14-15 where he strongly but straightforwardly declares that if you outright refuse to forgive someone then you are showing that you have not truly internalized and understood the grace of God and the heart of the gospel. This prayer reminds us of the radical forgiveness that God has granted us, and it is a regular reminder that we must forgive everyone who betrays us or hurts us no matter how hard that might be.

Deliverance

“Please don’t lead us into a time of testing but deliver us from evil”

Lastly, Jesus ends with this sober reminder that if we embrace this new way of life, then we can expect opposition, temptation and times of testing. Each time we pray, Jesus wants us to remember that being his disciple means that we are willing to be led by the Father and that sometimes we may be led towards situations that we do not like or that we do not want.

We can ask God to not lead us into places that we don’t want to go, but then we must let it go and trust him. It’s essentially like saying, “Please don’t lead me into a time of testing and struggle, but if you do then please strengthen me and deliver me from being overcome by it or subjected to any powers of evil.”

Praying this prayer helps us remember that the Father is the great Savior and Deliverer of his people. He always has been, and he always will be. This prayer helps us to remember the presence, the power and the goodness of God no matter what situation or circumstance might be heading our way.

Conclusion

And so, that is a disciple’s prayer as taught by Jesus himself. This is a prayer that is meant to keep us focused on participating in the kingdom-movement that Jesus inaugurated. Jesus was serious when he told his disciples, “I want you to pray like this.”

We should never be at a lost for words when it comes to prayer. Jesus has told us what to say, and he wants us to say it often. Jesus expected his disciples to memorize this prayer and to pray it regularly. And so, let’s rediscover this treasure that’s been hidden in plain sight and let’s start each day with the prayer of a disciple.

Obey the Old Testament?

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One of the biggest questions that Christians have been confronted with since the beginning of the Jesus movement is what is our responsibility to all the commands given to ancient Israel in the Old Testament?

Some people say that the Old Testament commands still apply to us today. Some people say that they don’t apply to us anymore. Some people outside of the church point to some of the Old Testament commands as reasons for labeling Christianity as irrelevant or out of touch with modern society. And then some people inside the church are so confused about these Old Testament commands that they prefer to just get rid of the Old Testament altogether.

The problem with all these views is that they simply misunderstand or seek to oversimplify the purpose of the Old Testament commands, and they do not honor Jesus’ own attitude and teaching concerning them.

Matthew records a famous story that we know as the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus goes up on the side of a mountain to teach his followers specific guidelines for how to live as a new community of God’s people that would show the rest of the world what God is like. And it’s near the beginning of this teaching that Jesus addresses our responsibility towards the commands given in the Old Testament when he says:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)

What does Jesus mean when he says that he has come to fulfill the Torah and the Prophets?

Jesus Has Come to Fulfill

When Jesus says that he has come to fulfill the Torah and the Prophets, he is saying that he has come to pick up the story of God’s plan that the Old Testament (Torah and the Prophets) left unfulfilled, and that he is now going to take that story forward through something new that he is doing. The focus will now be on him and his teaching instead of ancient Israel and their Torah. That doesn’t mean that God’s people can now ignore or set aside the Torah, but it does mean that they must now view all of its commands through the lens of what Jesus teaches.

We as Christians need to possess the same attitude towards the Old Testament that Jesus and his first followers had. Jesus said that he did not come to set aside or to replace the Old Testament but rather to fulfill it. He constantly taught from the Old Testament, and his followers did the same. Any brand of Christian teaching that attempts to undermine the authority of the Old Testament is a brand of teaching that Jesus and his first followers would have rebuked.

So does that mean that we are supposed to obey all the rules and laws in the Old Testament today?

We Are Called to Obey

Well, the laws of Moses given in the Old Testament were given to ancient Israel in the context of the covenant that God was making with them at Mt. Sinai. Jesus has fulfilled that covenant with the new covenant. And so this means that we are no longer bound by the rules and laws of God’s covenant with ancient Israel. However, we are still called to uphold their importance in the overall plan of God, and we are commanded to learn from them and to even teach them to others.

Christians need to honor, respect and teach the Torah like Christ, and we must learn how to filter the laws of Moses through the teaching of Jesus.

What do we mean by that?

It means that we have to learn how to read a command from the Old Testament and then discern if it should still be obeyed at face value or if there is a principal underneath the command that should still be obeyed or if the command seems to be a custom specific to ancient Israel’s covenant with God that we can learn from but that we don’t need to put into practice today.

To give a couple examples, the commands to have no other gods and to not steal should clearly still be obeyed at face value because they provide us with practical ways that we can make sure that we are fulfilling Jesus’ command to love God and to love others. However, the command to not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain is not as clear for us today. While it does seem cruel to muzzle an ox that’s working for you so it can’t eat any of the grain that falls, many of us don’t own an ox or a field.

But this is a particular command where we can still find a principal underneath the command that we should still obey today. And this is exactly what Paul does when he uses this command about muzzling an ox in two of his letters to point out that Christians should not withhold financial support from those who have worked hard to help them grow in their faithfulness to Jesus. And so, Christians should still obey the principal that this Old Testament command about muzzling an ox teaches us.

And so, as Christians, we must have the same attitude towards the Old Testament that Jesus had. We must learn how to filter the laws of Moses through the teaching of Jesus so that we can obey all that God has commanded. And we must be what God intends for his people to be and live as a new community of God’s people that shows the rest of the world what God is truly like.

3 Regular Activities on Jesus' Calendar

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How would you describe the life and work of Jesus during his three-years of ministry here on earth? What were some of the things that he was doing on a regular basis?

What were some of the regular activities on Jesus’ calendar?

In his Gospel, Matthew often gives short descriptive summaries of what Jesus taught or what he was doing in order to help his readers maintain a big picture view of Jesus’ identity and mission. In one of those summaries, Matthew gives us a description of Jesus’ ministry in the region of Galilee, and he lists three things that were regular activities on Jesus’ calendar.

In 4:23, Matthew writes:

And Jesus went throughout all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.

These are three things that Jesus did on a regular basis, and they are three things that the first followers of Jesus continued to do after he left. This means that it is important for us that we understand each of these activities and see how they are regular activities that should also be on our calendars today.

Teaching in Synagogues

The first regular activity on Jesus’ calendar was teaching in synagogues. This was formal times of teaching and explaining the Scriptures to a congregation or a small gathering. Synagogues were the places where Jewish people met to worship God, and these places were scattered all over Israel. And so Jesus would regularly attend these worship gatherings to teach from the Old Testament and to explain how his life and ministry was fulfilling the Scriptures. (There is a fantastic example of him doing this in Luke 4:16-20.)

Formal times of gathering with other people to learn and to teach the Scriptures should be a regular activity on our calendars today. This can take place in the context of a church service, Baseball Chapel or a small group, but it is a type of teaching and learning that is meant to be done in the context of a gathering. Reading on our own and listening to podcasts are great supplements to our study of the Bible, but Jesus intends for us to regularly read, learn, study and teach the Scriptures in the context of being with other people.

This is something that the first followers of Jesus embraced from the very beginning (Acts 2:42), and something that needs to be a regular part of our weekly routine as well.

Proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom

The second regular activity on Jesus’ calendar was proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom. This was more informal times of interacting and talking to others about the kingdom of God. Jesus looked for opportunities to talk about what God was doing with those who were unfamiliar with his message. This was something that Jesus did in the context and rhythm of his everyday life, but he did so through pursuing intentional conversations with those that he encountered.

Informal times of intentional conversations about the kingdom of God should be a regular activity on our calendars today. Many people are unfamiliar with or confused about the life, work and teachings of Jesus. Therefore, as ambassadors of King Jesus, we should be actively seeking opportunities throughout our week to spark conversations with others about who God is, what he’s doing, how it’s changed our lives and how he can change theirs. Being a Christian is not something that we can privatize or compartmentalize; Jesus expects us to tell our families, friends, neighbors and teammates about the kingdom of God.

This is something that the first followers of Jesus embraced from the very beginning (Acts 28:31), and something that needs to be a regular part of our weekly routine as well.

Healing Every Disease and Affliction

The third regular activity on Jesus’ calendar was healing diseases and afflictions. This included healing people physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Jesus took time to care for people that were hurting and helpless. This was another thing that Jesus did in the context and rhythm of his everyday life, but it was also something that he did to teach others about the true nature and plan of God. He didn’t heal everyone who needed help, but every time he did, he used it as a way to demonstrate the love of God and that he was the promised King who was restoring God’s order and goodness back to the world.

Caring for those in need and taking the time to help put people’s lives back in order should be a regular activity on our calendars as well. We are surrounded by people who are hurting and in need of some physical, mental, emotional or spiritual help. Therefore, as image-bearers of our Creator, we should be actively seeking opportunities throughout our week to bring order out of chaos. We should listen to people and speak words that bring healing. We should keep our eyes open for needs that we can meet. And we should care for those who are hurting and pray to God with them on their behalf. We can’t help everyone who needs help, but we can take time to care for someone. Let’s care for others and use those moments to show them the true nature and plan of God.

This is something that the first followers of Jesus embraced from the very beginning (James 5:14-16), and something that needs to be a regular part of our weekly routine as well.

  1. Do you have formal times of gathering with other people to learn and to teach the Scriptures?

  2. Do you have informal times of intentional conversations with others about the kingdom of God?

  3. Do you have times of caring for those in need and praying with them on their behalf?

These are three things that Jesus and his first followers did intentionally and often, and they are three activities that should be a regular part of our weekly rhythms and routines today.

Which of these three is the most consistent in your own life? Which of these three is lacking? And what changes can you make in your life and your regular routine to begin living each week like Jesus lived his?