The Courageous Christian (5)
And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” John 2.14-16
But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. And now I urge you to take heart…” Acts 27.21, 22
No standing still
In the Christian life, there is no place for merely standing still. We’re on a journey, running a race, pressing on toward a prize; and that means going forward and making progress. The Holy Spirit within us is working to transform us into the likeness of Jesus Christ, and in this life, we’ll always have a long way to go toward that goal (2 Cor. 3.12-18). Babes in Christ should not be content to remain babes, sipping on the infant’s milk of the Word. They must learn to desire and digest the solid food of Scripture and theology (1 Cor. 3.1, 2; 2 Pet. 3.18). Those of us – and that’s all of us – who “ought to be teachers” should be pressing on to improve in our ability to teach and encourage others in the things of the Lord (Heb. 5.12-6.3). We have been sent into the world as Jesus was sent (Jn. 20.21) – to seek and advance the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14.17, 18); thus, we cannot afford not to be working out our salvation in fear and trembling (Phil 2.12). We’ve been chosen by the Lord to bear fruit – Holy Spirit fruit (Gal. 5.22, 23) – and we must not be content if we are not (Jn. 15.1-8).
Yes, it takes courage to grow beyond your present stage of Christian experience. It’s easy, nonthreatening, and convenient just to coast along in faith, going to church, enjoying our Christian friends, even participating in some group discussion. But these activities, as important as they may be, can easily become matters of convenience, not courage.
It takes courage to envision new possibilities and challenges, and then to pursue these each day, pressing on to realize more of the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God. God has sent His Spirit – the Encourager – to dwell within us, to teach and convict and empower us to be continuously disposed toward new challenges, higher objectives, and further progress toward the upward calling of God in Christ.
To have courage.
The Spirit of God can give you the courage to grow, to help you see new horizons of faith, and to strengthen you to pursue those new heights and possibilities day by day. Find some Christian friends who understand this, and let them encourage you – and you encourage them – in all these ways.
And as you change increasingly from your old self into the new self that is increasingly like Jesus, you’ll begin to want to change your world as well.
Like Jesus and Paul
The action Jesus took in John 2 – clearing the temple with a whip, turning over tables, and scattering money and offerings all over the ground – was a largely symbolic action. But He meant it, as is clear from His repeating the same effort during the last week of His life (Matt. 21.12, 13). He insisted that what those people were doing was wrong. This was not what God intended for His temple, and things had to change. He meant it at that time, but He meant it as a symbol and portent of what the Romans would do in 70 AD when they destroyed the temple and the city for the blatant disobedience of God’s people.
Did it take courage for Jesus to cleanse the temple? Yes, it did. Was His effort wasted? Perhaps mostly in His day, but the symbolism was powerful, and it remains powerful for us today as we think about our churches as temples of the Lord (Eph. 2.19-22) and our bodies as well (1 Cor. 6.19, 20). Wherever change is needed, in our bodies or churches or culture, we should work to envision and pursue changes that will be more in line with what God intends. Will it take courage for you to say – about something in your life, your church, your community, or even in your nation – that this is not what God intends; this is not what honors God; and I’m not going to stand by and do nothing? Yes, it will.
Paul understood that as well. He could see that the owner and pilot of the ship on which he was traveling to Rome had misjudged the winds (Acts 27.9-11). He tried to persuade them not to sail, but they did anyway. And their unwise decision almost cost everyone’s life. After Paul had watched this debacle unfold for a long time, he’d finally had enough. God met him in a dream, and filled him with courage (v. 23). He rebuked the crew for their foolish decision, but he didn’t leave it there. He called on them to “take heart” (vv. 22, 25) – another way of calling them to have courage – and directed them in how to redeem their disastrous choice, if not for the integrity of the ship, at least for the safety of all hands.
Did that take courage? You bet. And what if Paul hadn’t acted? Well, he and everyone else would undoubtedly have drowned. Yeah, a little courage can go a long way.
Change your world?
Maybe you can’t change the world. But maybe you can change your world, that place of relationships, roles, and responsibilities you daily inhabit, and to where the Lord Jesus has sent you to seek and advance His Kingdom and glory.
Is your world all that it could be to glorify God? Your marriage? Family? Home and yard? How about your work? Your relationship with your neighbors? How you use your time – redeeming it all or squandering large segments of it? What about your church? Your community? Is everything the way God intends it to be in all these places? And if not, is God calling you to “take heart” and have the courage to speak up, step out, take up some new challenge, and do something to bring more of the goodness of the Lord to light in the land of the living?
Jesus taught us to think of ourselves as agents of change – salt, light, leaven. As we are growing in the Lord and seeking an ever-larger vision of what it means to follow Him, He will show areas where we can step up, step in, and step out in faith for change that glorifies God. You can’t do everything, of course. But wherever you can reach with the truth, grace, and goodness of Lord, you must.
Take heart. Seek the courage of the Lord. Then say like Isaiah, “Here am I, Lord; send me.”
1. How did Jesus teach His followers to think of themselves as agents of change?
2. Why is it so hard to work for change? Where can we find the courage to work for change?
3. Meditate on 1 Corinthians 10.31. If even our table manners and diet can glorify God, what else in your world could honor Him more?
Next steps – Preparation: Pray that God will give you a vision for change in your world. Then begin asking Him each day for courage and specific steps to accomplish change.
T. M. Moore
Resources for the Journey
If you missed our ReVision series, “We Would See Jesus,” you can download all four installments by clicking here. Our newest book, What in Heaven Is Jesus Doing on Earth?, can help you to “see Jesus” as He continues His work at the right hand of God. Order your copy by clicking here. For a sweeping study of the unseen realm and the world to come, order our workbook, The Landscape of Unseen Things, by clicking here. And you can learn how our Celtic Christian forebears saw Jesus through the 28 days of meditations in Be Thou My Vision (click here).
Thanks to our Lord!
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.