Monday, July 19, 2010

Comparison vs. Command -- Only One is Commanded

(This is based on a devotion I did for our church business meeting recently. -- Glenn)

Let's fly through the whole story of Scripture. I'd like you to pay attention to the patterns of "one" and "many."

God created the universe, selected one planet, and planted one garden.
He put one man, Adam, into the garden, and gave him one helpmate.
After they sinned God began to unfold His plan of redemption.
People multiplied over the earth, all with one language.
They started to build the Tower of Babel and God caused them to have many languages. God is still the one God over all the ethne (or nations).
God chooses one man (Abram) and creates one nation (Israel) to bless all the nations.
They have one tabernacle, then one temple.
In the fullness of time one man comes, lives one sinless life, and dies one death for atonement of many. His name is Jesus, the one name under heaven by which men can be saved.
Jesus establishes the church through his disciples, His one Bride.
The Church is represented through many local churches in many nations. Jesus is the One Lord of all the local churches, all the denominations.
When the time is right Jesus will come again to complete the plan of redemption. He will gather His Bride from among the many nations.
There will be one city, the New Jerusalem, delivered from heaven.

Now it is fashionable today (and has been for, oh, 2000 years) to bash the Church. It's easy to look around at other churches and either be critical or feel inferior, just as it is with individuals. Jesus doesn't bash His Bride, and neither should we. Jesus doesn't abandon His Bride or somehow decide He doesn't love her anymore. Neither should we.

Pay attention when I say this:

Nowhere in Scripture does God command us to compare ourselves with others. Not as individuals, not as churches. Nowhere.

Satan is delighted when we get into comparison. Either he can encourage us into pride ("Hey, we're better than they are!"), or he can drape up with discouragement and despair ("We'll never be as good for the Kingdom as XYZ church").

What does Jesus command us to do? Very simply, we're commanded to follow him.

Let's look at Jesus' interaction with Peter in John 21. Jesus has just fed the disciples breakfast on the shore, given Peter clear instructions about feeding his sheep (the church), and explained that Peter wasn't going to die comfortably in his sleep. Then we see Peter's all-too human response:

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is going to betray you?") When Peter saw him, he asked, "Lord, what about him?" Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me." (John 21:20-22)

I can picture Peter pointing at John as he says "What about him?" It's fun to think about John's reaction, but Jesus is direct and plain: "You must follow me." In the Glenn's Contemporary Version this would read, "What part of 'Follow me?' don't you understand?"

You might want to write "You must follow me" on a sheet of paper and tape it to your bathroom mirror, or above your desk at work, or in your car.

Let's help each other on this, ok? We don't need to compare ourselves to others, it's not helpful. It's not consistent with Christ in us! The issue -- today and every day, both as individuals and as a church -- is following Jesus. Let's not be surprised if Jesus calls us in different directions, as he did Peter and John. He's in charge of the whole Church, and directs each local church as He will.

"You must follow me." I pray that rings in our hearts!

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