Lord, to whom shall we go? – John 6:66-69

66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

If you have walked with Jesus long enough, you are familiar with this problem.  People hear things, experience things, do things, or maybe someone does something to them.  The end result is just as in John 6:66.  

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 

Whatever the reason, this is a sad outcome.  At its root it is an expression of unbelief, of a lack of trust.  There is a way in which it belittles Jesus, his identity as God and his work on the cross for us.  It is saying that you, Jesus, are not big enough, nor is your cross effective enough to resolve this issue.  It is saying that my inability to understand why you work the way you do gets the final say.  There is nothing you, Jesus, can say or do to persuade me otherwise.

If we could see the big, eternal picture, we would know that this response would border on insanity.  However big our problem is, however difficult to understand, however wicked the forces that have raged against us, however cruel the attack, Jesus is bigger still and his cross provides the ultimate victory. 

Through faith in him we will eventually rise above the battle just as he rose from the grave and conquered death.  In eternity we will hear remarkable stories of incredible evil experienced by weak but trusting saints.  And the end of each and every one of them will be along the lines of, “But that is over now, and we have found everlasting joy in the presence of our Savior.  The cruelty of the battle that almost ended in utter defeat only makes the victory sweeter.  He rose, and he reigns forever and I am one of his.”

May our response to Christ when we don’t understand what he is saying or doing ever be,

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

A Prayer Prompted by Luke 16

Dearest heavenly Father,

You have so constructed this world that it has become, for us, a place to prepare for eternity.  Help us to get our hearts in the right place and keep them there – focused on you and not on ourselves, our possessions or our worldly pleasures.  Help us to use what material goods we have to serve you and prepare ourselves treasure in heaven.

Help us to see our trials as a gift from you, especially designed to train us and lead us to Jesus.  Your servant James once wrote (James 1:2-4) that we should, “Count it all joy, my brothers,when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

That’s what we want to be – “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  To the extent that we must endure trials, experience pain and undergo suffering, let it be for your glory and the honor of the name of Jesus Christ.

Amen

Our treasure will lead our hearts – Luke 12:32-34

32 Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Jesus begins by reassuring us that it is the Father’s “good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  It is not something we have to compete for, haggle over or bid on like participants in an auction.  He wants to give the kingdom to us as members of his royal family.  But do we want what the Father wants to give?

Maybe.  Or yes, probably so, deep down, when we are quietly thinking about the subject.  But how often do we think so quietly?  In the systematic blur of day-to-day endeavors and obstacles, we may never quietly think about we want deep down and long-term.  By “long-term” I mean in eternity.  Really long-term.  

Jesus knows this about us.  So he immediately teaches us how to get our hearts in the right place.  The next two verses tell us how to get our hearts in proper alignment with God’s, and it all starts with our treasure.

It may involve giving up some of our treasure here on earth, such as selling things and giving to the needy.  There is be more to it, of course, but it is not Jesus’s goal to give us a lengthy how-to lesson.  That might only bog us down in the details and distract us from his ultimate priority.  He wants us to store up treasure in heaven.  In part, that is so we will have treasure in heaven, plain and simple, which is, in itself, is a good thing.  There is, however, something else.

Storing up treasure in heaven taps into an overriding and stable principle, which is where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  Jesus wants us to invest in heaven, because the treasure we have there will ultimately lead our hearts into alignment with God’s while we still inhabit the earth. 

We need some skin in the game.  If we don’t invest in our heavenly future, we will remain stupidly focused on the here and now.  Yet both experience and observation indicate that the here and now becomes the there and then all too soon.  Heaven is eternal. There we find moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.”  

Heaven is where our Father eternally resides.  Heaven is where Jesus is now and that is where he wants our hearts.  Our hearts invariably follow our treasure; our treasure will lead our hearts.

Looking toward the end result – Matthew 5:3-12

Christ’s beatitudes, those memorable opening words from his Sermon on the Mount, are among the most loved and best known verses in the Bible.  People who never bother to read the Bible quote them.  They appear in all kinds of contexts and sometimes entirely out of context.  Here they are once more.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

What strikes me about them today is their long-term outlook.  Each one points to some activity or condition in the present and what we might call its long-term reward or payoff.  That is, it gives us the “why” that makes each activity or condition worthwhile right now.  Christ’s perspective is nothing short of eternal.

Some of them seem completely improbable.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” “Blessed are those who mourn,” “Blessed are you when others revile you…”  And yet we have on the authority of Jesus that in any of these situations we should count ourselves blessed.

These are the words of the one who brought blessing out of his cross.  Jesus endured that, knowing that it was necessary to accomplish his objectives.  I want to be able to look toward Jesus and look toward the end result of what he might be doing in my life in the same way.  It’s a lot like Hebrews 12:1-2.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.