How Following Jesus is Like Opposite Day pt. 1

Text: Matthew 5:1-5

                  I’m not sure if you did goofy & sometimes dangerous things when you were bored in school growing up but we did. We shot each other with staples launched from our pencils like idiots, made “passing gas” sounds when the teacher was turned around to write on the board & flicked paper footballs all the time. We also played MASH. This was a game that prophetically determined your future; for instance my spouse was to be Cindy Crawford, I was to drive a red sports car, and live in log cabin like Honest Abe. Originally this was played on a regular piece of paper & eventually with a cool origami project in the 2.0 version.

                  I think my favorite goofy thing we did was we would proclaim that a certain day of the week would be “opposite day.” The rules were very vague and loose but the goal was to live in the exact opposite way as you would on any regular day. This would make those who were playing very different from the rest of the student body. We would walk backwards down the halls (which caused many problems). Say good bye instead of hello. Choose the opposite of what we usually got at lunch; i.e. skim milk instead of delicious chocolate milk. We got picked on once by older kids and we responded “I’m sorry. You guys are the coolest.” They -walked off and we laughed forever because.. well.. it was opposite day.

                  Well in today’s text Jesus is about to turn his disciple’s world upside down with His teaching. He sat down on the mountain, which was the customary teaching position of the time, and said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” (5:3) If you have ever heard a really compelling quote and thought wow; that’s what the disciples were probably thinking. This word blessed (makarios) means “blessed or happy.” Happy are the POOR in spirit. This would have been a paradoxical statement for his disciples because most Jews of the day believed being poor in any way was a signal that person was being punished by God. Then He followed with Happy are the those who MOURN & then those who are HUMBLE. Do poor, mourning, humble people seem like the people you want to be if your aim is happiness? They didn’t either. Seemed like the opposite of truth at face value.  

                  Jesus was teaching us that real happiness isn’t determined by our circumstances but by having a right relationship with God. He was teaching us with the first three verses or beatitudes what kind of HEART we need to have  to experience a right relationship with God. We need to be people who are “poor in Spirit” which means people who know that we are spiritually bankrupt without God. We have no righteousness that is sufficient, we have no way of saving ourselves and know we aren’t okay without God. Poor in Spirit is the opposite of self-sufficiency. If you don’t feel like you need a Savior or a King, you are not someone who is poor in Spirit. And Jesus says this is the beginning of true happiness.

                  He also taught that people who are happy or blessed are people who “mourn for they will be comforted.” The mourning He is referring to is people who mourn their sin. Who know they mess up and have messed up. Who know they need forgiveness. Jesus said they would be comforted; and this would be true because the One who spoke it, would pay for our sins just 3 years later. When you know you are forgiven and you needed to be; it is one of the most freeing and joyful experiences ever!

                  Lastly, He taught that we should be people who are “humble for they will inherit the whole earth.” He is saying that these people who are “poor in Spirit”, “mourn” and “humble” will one day be apart of His perfect Kingdom in the New Heaven and Earth (think perfection forever). All three of these verses teach us that true followers of Jesus begin and continue their relationship with Him in humility. “I got this” is violently antithetical to following Christ. But here is the crux of the matter; “I got this” is the mentality of the world. It is celebrated, encouraged, and expected of the worlds best and brightest most of the time. But Jesus offers us a completely different way to live than the norm.

 

“I need You God”; instead of “I got this.”

And Jesus said living this opposite way is the beginning to true happiness and blessing.

 

Chasing Jesus Question:

 

1.     Do you feel joyful when you do things in your own power, for your own glory? When you do things with a “I Got This” mentality? What about when you fully release control to God in your life?

 

Chasing Jesus Challenge

1)     What sin could you confess to God today? Ask God to help you “mourn” it  and not just halfheartedly confess it. He promises He will comfort you if you do!

 

Chasing Jesus Social Media Quote:

 

Following Christ doesn’t look like “I got this”; but instead “I need You.” #chasingJesus

 

Day # 5: Hulk Hogan, Sting, & Jesus.

Text: Read Matthew 4:1-11

                  Did you have interests in Junior High or Middle School that you’ve outgrown? In sixth grade I loved wide leg jeans (think exact opposite of skinny jeans), skateville (local skating rink), openly liked Usher’s music, secretly Hanson’s, and also I was a big fan of professional wrestling. Not the real kind; the fake kind. And in December 1997, the two most popular wrestlers in the world were going to have a match at WCW Starcade. It was a pay per view match, cost $40, and my friend Stephen & I totally cracked our piggy banks to get it at his house with a Little Ceasers pizza. It was one of my favorite moments of the 6th grade; the two fake baddest men on the planet faced off and the good guy (Sting) won! And me and my best friend had front row seats.. in front of his mom’s TV.

                  Well in today’s text we see a real showdown of the greatest tempter in the world (Satan) & the greatest temptation defeater in the world (Jesus). And the good Guy wins as we should expect from Jesus.  But how He won I find really interesting.

                  Jesus was tempted three different times by Satan after fasting for 40 days. He overcame each temptation demonstrating that He was able to do something none of us can; perfectly follow the Law. The strategy that He used all three times was the same; He countered Satan’s temptation by quoting scripture. He quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, 6:16, & 6:13. This tells me Jesus apparently liked Deuteronomy, spent time memorizing the Word when He was on Earth, and when tempted used the truth of the scriptures to counteract the lies of temptation. Today, it won’t be hard for us to figure out how to live like Jesus from our passage. We need to study, memorize and know the Word like Jesus.

                  If Jesus used the Word of God to help Him overcome temptation and He was the greatest temptation resister of all time.. it stands to reason that we should do whatever it takes to be prepared like Him. If knowing the Word helped Jesus, how much more important is it for us who are good at sinning to study, memorize, and know the Word of God? Today, when you are tempted to sin.. use the Word of God to help you overcome like Jesus!

 

Chasing Jesus Challenge:

What is a good verse to use when you are tempted to be prideful? Write it out.

Tempted to doubt your salvation? Write it out.

Tempted to lust? Write it out.

Tempted to be greedy? Write it out.

Tempted not to share the gospel with people in your life who don’t know Jesus? Write it out.

 

Memorize these verses this Fall & be like Jesus!

 

 (If you need help finding verses to memorize, I used James 4:10, Ephesians 2:8-9, Colossians 3:5, Matt 6:24, & Matt 28:19-20) 

Day 4: "A Dirty Job"

Read Matthew 3:1-12

Did you ever have a “dirty job?” You know like a fast food job? Construction? My first job was working at our local ballpark as a “ballpark engineer.” That was a fancy title that I gave myself that meant do any of the menial tasks that needed to be done at our local ballpark. For six summers I picked up trash, cleaned the bathrooms & concession stands, took the trash out to the dumpsters, cut the grass, etc. I made a little summer cash, got a great tan, and it was a very dirty job.

Oddly enough, nobody wrote an article about our staff or about the importance of being a ballpark engineer as our job was simply to make sure the ballpark was clean & that the fields were prepared for the teams to play on each day. John the Baptist (or Baptizer) had a similar job. He had the dirty job of calling the people of Israel to repentance & to prepare the way for Jesus. There hadn’t been a prophet for 400 years and suddenly God anointed John the Baptist to speak on His behalf to His people.

John the Baptist wasn’t flashy. He preached in the Judean wilderness (aka out in the woods), wore tattered clothes, and apparently was paleo before anyone else as he lived off wild honey & locusts. His message was simple and strong; “repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” God gave John the dirty job to prepare the way for the Messiah. He prepared the field for Jesus to harvest.

His message was timely but is also very relevant to us today. If we truly want to chase Jesus, it’s essential for us embrace repentance. Repentance means to turn from our sins and turn to God. The Greek word usually used for repentance in the New Testament is “metanoa”; which means a “change of mindset.” The Old Testament concept of repentance meant “a change of action.” A combination of those two definitions gives us the most complete understanding of what repentance is; a change of mind & action.

It’s essential for us to change our mind about our sin if we are to become more like Jesus. This is very important because every time we sin we believe a lie. We choose to believe that lust is better than purity or pride is better than humility or greed is better than generosity. We don’t phrase it that way when we communicate it to others but that is what we do. We say things like “it’s not that big of a deal if I ________” or I don’t have to do _______ to be a Christian” even though the Bible tells us to. True repentance begins with us saying I am wrong & God you are right. It is a big deal and I did it and I’m sorry. I know I should have been doing these things and I said I was too busy.. but really I wasn’t and I’m sorry.

It is also essential for us to change our actions to truly repent as well. We must not only stop doing the things we need to stop doing but we also need to start doing things we need to be doing. It’s not enough just to stop thinking impure thoughts; Jesus would have us fill our minds with truth! It’s not enough to just admit we need to start praying; we must start spending concentrated time communing with Him! And for us to begin a real relationship with the Living God of the Universe it begins with us heeding the words of John from the Wilderness..

Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.

And the Kingdom of Heaven is more near to us that it was to those hearing John’s message because they had heard of the Messiah that was to come but we know His Name! And His name is Jesus. And if we call on His name for salvation He will save us from our sins. And if we give our lives to follow Him, He will do more with our little lives than we would have ever believed possible!

Chasing Jesus Questions:

  1. What is an area of your life where you need repentance? It may be something you need to stop doing or start doing.
  2. What did John mean when He said He will baptize you with fire & the Holy Spirit?
  3. Social Media Quote: To truly follow Jesus, we must embrace repentance. #chasingJesus

 

Chasing Jesus Challenge: Encourage at least two followers of Jesus today (in person, text, social, etc). Encourage them specifically in areas where you see God producing “good fruit” in their life!

Day 3: "Star Wars, Christmas, and Jesus."

Read: Matthew 2:1-23

I want to begin this devotion by saying something very controversial; I love the new Star Wars movies. I know some of you agree, some don’t care, and some are tempted to burn this devotion now (if you are angry, please email me at JoeA@progressionbr.com). I believe most people’s reactions to the films have a lot do with their preconceived notions of the series. If you watched the originals in the theatre, you probably didn’t love the new movies. If you caught the originals later in life, you might like the new ones. If you don’t know the difference between Star Wars and Star Trek, you don’t care. Our perceptions of events are usually informed by our preconceived notions and for more serious things.. our hearts.

We see a spectrum of opinion and response to Jesus’ birth in our text today. The first response we see is JEALOUSY by King Herod. He was troubled by the news of the Messiah’s birth (v.3), furious (v.16) and killed all the male children under 2 years old trying to snuff out the threat. I think it’s safe to assume that Herod (known as the King of the Jews at the time) didn’t take the best news the world has ever heard well. The problem was his JEALOUS heart.

We also see that the scribes seem to be INDIFFERENT to the news brought to them by the Wise Men. They answered the Wise Men’s question accurately by quoting Micah 5:2. They got the head knowledge portion correct but we have NO record of any one of them going down to Bethlehem to check it out! It seems that they were given a tip that “Immanuel” & the “Christ” might have been born about 7 miles down the road and we don’t have any record of someone from the “home office” going and checking it out! This is probably because these people were religious; but didn’t really have a heart for God.

Lastly, we see the response of the Wise Men. They traveled a long distance; in fact some scholars think they came from Persia which is about 1000 miles away. That would be like walking or riding a camel from Baton Rouge to Washington DC. That’s commitment! They also brought presents suitable for a King. But most importantly when they arrived at the house they “fell down and worshipped Him.” (v.11) Their response was WORSHIP & WONDER.

As followers of Christ, we still probably respond all of these ways to Jesus and the gospel sometimes. Anytime we walk in pride and don’t want to give God all the credit for blessings in our life, we act like Herod. Anytime we know God wants us to do something or stop doing something and we continue to live however we want, we act like the religious leaders.

But life is best lived and our joy is complete when we live like the Wise Men and worship Him with wonder! The reason why our best life lived is a life of worship and wonder towards Jesus is because of this simple fact:

You and I were created to WORSHIP JESUS WITH WONDER. That is our life’s purpose. And when we walk in that, life makes more sense & we feel more fulfilled.

 

Chasing Jesus Questions:

  1. What is your favorite way to worship Jesus? (singing, reading His Words, praying, serving Him, etc)
  2. What are 7 things about Jesus that are WONDERFUL? Write them down somewhere.
  3. Social Media Quote: You and I were created to “worship Jesus with wonder.” That is our life’s purpose. And when we walk in that, life makes more sense & we feel more fulfilled. #chasingJesus

 

Day 2: "What's in a Name?"

Read: Matthew 1:18-25

Naming a child was harder than I thought it would be. My first round pick was “Kirby” oddly enough which was swatted down vehemently. We had our first child in September 2016 and I thought it would be relatively easy to decide on a name; like it would take a day or two. I was wrong. There were never any blowout fights at the Crain house over his name selection but we were well into the third trimester before we nailed it down.

James was the eventual winner because it was a “strong” name (we thought a strong name for a boy or a southern-y cute name for a girl), we like James from the Bible (Jesus’ brother; aka old camel knees according to church history due to his prayer life) and one of our college students named James remarked about how much he loved Jesus and his momma and that resounded with both of us. It took awhile; and not just because we were indecisive but because we loved our unborn son and we knew regardless of if we like it or not our names sometimes influence how people view us. I mean there probably aren’t that many CEO’s that still go by their given first name if they were named “Petey.” Am I right?

Well Jesus’ name is important as well as these other descriptive terms that are given to Him in this short passage. Jesus literally means “Yahweh is Salvation.” It is the Greek Equivalent of Joshua in Hebrew and was a semi-popular name back in the day. So we see God gives the new parents this name for their child born in such a miraculous nature as a way to proclaim His mission. Jesus is to be Savior; and not some metaphorical kind found on your favorite sports team. A real Savior. THE Savior in fact. The angel tells Joseph that Jesus “will save His people from their sins.” Jesus came to save people from their sins. Jesus came to save YOU from your sins.

We also see that Jesus is given a descriptive term with his given name; Christ. Growing up, I assumed that Christ was Jesus’ last name; a way to distinguish Him from the Jesus Horowitz’s or something. But Christ isn’t Joseph’s last name; it is a title. Christ meant to the Jews of the day “the promised King.” The One promised since Abraham, whom Moses said would be a prophet like him but greater, the One David wrote about in the Psalms, the one that Micah said would come from Bethlehem. Matthew is saying that THE ONE whom a large nation of people had been anticipating for ages.. is here! The Promised King is here and those who knew about the coming Christ expected that once the King arrived everything would change. And it would.

Jesus is also described as “Immanuel” which means “God with us.” Matthew quotes Isaiah 7:14 (written 700 years before Jesus’ birth) here letting us know that the Christ would be born miraculously by a virgin (check) and would be known as “God with us.”

God with us. We don’t have to wonder “what if God was one of us” like the old song. He was! Jesus came from heaven to earth and became man for our sake. The Gospel of Jesus is not the story of a man who over time became God but in fact the story of God who for our sake became a man.

So Jesus, who is God (Immanuel), came to Earth. Jesus came as the Promised King. Jesus came to save people from their sins. He didn’t come to be just a healer. Or just a teacher. Or just a good man.

He came to save people & to rule people. That is His heart for you. He wants to save you from your sins because He loves you. He also wants to rule your life because He loves you & knows that’s best for you. But we must decide with all of our heart who we believe Jesus to be because the scriptures are clear; He came to be your God, Savior and King. Anything less than that is right for anyone else but Jesus; the name above all names.

 Chasing Jesus Challenge: Write out how Jesus being your Savior, God, and King changes everything for you below. Then thank Him for being a wonderful Savior, a worthy God, and a Perfect King.

  1. Savior: Spend a few minutes thanking Jesus for dying for you and for paying the price for your sins.
  2. God: Spend a few minutes worshipping Jesus. Continue praying, journal about Him or sing a song of worship to Him.
  3. King: Confess any sin to Him today and re-commit to submit to His leadership in that area of your life. It could be something you need to start doing or stop doing. 
  4. Social Media Quote: "Jesus came to be your God, Savior and King. Anything less than that is right for anyone else but Jesus; the name above all name. #chasingJesus"

Day 1: "Don't Fast Forward Through This Part."

Read:  Matthew 1:1-17

Is there a part of your favorite movie that you always skip? Or you go get snacks during that part? It’s the scene in the cinematic masterpiece “The Sandlot” for me when the main kid’s stepdad is kind of mean to him in the beginning that I can take or leave. I know it’s important for the plot; it just doesn’t resonate as much for me as say—the scene where they all get sick after chewing tobacco for the first time or Squintz kissing Wendy Peffercorn at the pool. You know the deep stuff.

Well in the book of Matthew, this is the passage that I’ve skipped more times than I’d like to admit. But please don’t skip this passage as we begin this journey together. There are some rich lessons from this little genealogy portion of Matthew’s gospel.

One thing we can learn from this passage is a very important lesson about God’s character; that God is a Promise Keeper. God promised that He would bless the whole world through this man Abraham’s family (Genesis 12:1-3). Before Jesus was born, God had blessed many people through the nation of Israel but the world had yet to really see the exponential blessing that He seemed to hint at to Abraham 3500 years ago or so. But Matthew is letting his readers know, God had kept His promise and He was doing it through Jesus whom He called “a son of Abraham.”

God is a Promise Keeper. That means the promises He has made to you are rock solid. He doesn’t make promises with His fingers crossed. John brings out a promise of God in 1 John 1:9 that if we confess our sin to God He will forgive us of all unrighteousness. God really means that. It doesn’t matter if you thought something that you shouldn’t have right before you read this or if you committed whatever the most heinous sin you could imagine. If you confess your sin to God with a humble heart, He will forgive you. Every. Single. Time.

We can trust this for many reasons; but one of the reasons is that He proved Himself trustworthy by sending us the Savior of the world as He promised He would many times in the Old Testament. And He sent Him for the world… and for you. Let that sink in. Don’t skip over that thought; God sent Jesus for you. And if you are a follower of Jesus already, that truth has blessed you more than any word you’ve ever heard. And if you are already a follower of Jesus, God’s goal for your life is for you to become more like Jesus and to be a blessing to the world like Jesus was. And if you aren’t currently a follower of Jesus, God promises that if you call on Jesus’ name for salvation He will forgive you of all your sin, adopt you into His family and give you eternal life.

Chasing Jesus Challenge:

  1. Are there promises in your life that you’ve made recently and haven’t kept?
  2. Apologize to whomever you’ve broken promises to & and re-commit yourself to keeping your promises no matter how big or small they are.
  3. Social Media Quote: We reflect the character of God to others by keeping our promises like He does. #chasingJesus