Thursday, August 09, 2007

THE PHILOSOPHY OF ENTITLEMENT


Yesterday was one of those days that every pastor in ministry occasionally experiences. Matters that I hadn’t planned on dashed my hopes for a really productive one. In late afternoon, the phone rang. I must confess that I was somewhat hesitant to answer it, but I did. A familiar voice was on the other end; it was a good brother in Christ who asked me if a had a "few minutes" to talk. It turned out that he was just a few miles away, running an errand, and he wanted to stop by to see me before heading home. I wasn’t sure what was on his mind, but I wanted to be available to reluctantly minister to him in some way if need be. As it turned out, the purpose of his visit was to minister to me. He just wanted to tell me how much the previous Lord’s Day had blessed him and his family. Part of that blessing was the morning sermon I preached, “Guarding Your Heart,” which he evidently took to heart. The message focused mainly on Proverbs 4:23: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” God had used His Word to bring conviction and a desire to make sure the Lord was really first in his life. I appreciated his honesty and the gratitude he expressed. I also realized that God often preaches my sermon back to me through someone else. This was one of those times. What does it really matter if my plans for a productive day are set aside by a Sovereign God for purposes He desires to fulfill? If I am really seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33), I should never complain when things don’t go “my way”, or when I am inconvenienced. This is a sign of the self-centeredness I preached about on Sunday, a sin that so easily besets us (Hebrews 12:1). “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5a).

Perhaps you're thinking I’m just too hard on myself. I beg to differ with you. We all need our times of rest, which God graciously provides, but “the disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord" (Mark 10:24). The Christian life is not about what is best for me; it’s about what Jesus desires to do through me and in me. This necessitates a life of self-denial, not self-service: “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:24-25). One of the problems I see in the church today is the philosophy of entitlement which has crept in unawares. We have come to believe that we deserve the best God has to offer in the here and now, not the hereafter. While we may not embrace it outright, the heresy of the “Health and Prosperity Gospel" is crouching near the door of our hearts. Yes, God has given us an “abundant life” (John 10:10), however, it is the abundance of His spiritual blessings that make us truly rich toward God.

So brethren, please forgive me if I appear inconvenienced by the little time you seek from me. I can only think of the crowds pressing in on Jesus, the busy days, the long nights of prayer, and the multitude of things people were seeking from Him; but most of all, I think of these words He spoke: “And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem...” (Luke 9:51). He chose to go to Jerusalem, knowing that a cross-awaited Him there. Praise God that He did not take another direction. Praise God that He was not thinking of Himself, His desires, and His needs. He went to Jerusalem for you and me. Even more remarkable is the fact that He did not go reluctantly. We read in Hebrews 12:2, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” The joy set before Him was the joy of doing His Father’s will. Shouldn’t our joy be doing His will, whatever the cost?

Jesus, keep me near the cross,
There a precious fountain
Free to all, a healing stream
Flows from Calvary’s mountain.
Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day,
With its shadows o’er me.


May He be always near to your heart,

Pastor Tom

1 comment:

Holly Boston said...

Amen brother! The LORD has been speaking similar things to my heart. Despite circumstances being hard in my life right now, I've found this immense trail to be even more joyful and fulfilling than when I used to live in pain-avoidance. By choosing to suffer with Christ by doing all He asks, I have come to know Him and His love in ways that I never knew possible. Yes, I don't have the "best" this world has to offer, but I have the best that God has to offer: HIMSELF.