1. A thorn-cursed creation. When Adam and Eve sinned, God said, “Cursed is the ground for your sakes…thorns…it shall bring forth for you…In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground (Genesis 3:17-19).” Everything changed in that moment to frustration, brokenness…thorns.
2. A thorn-crowned savior. “When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on his head (Matthew 27:29).” The curse that fell in a garden was lifted in a garden! At the cross, Christ became our Savior and Substitute, securing our salvation. Adam lost fellowship with God, immortality, sinless perfection. At the cross, Christ reclaimed and restored all those to us. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” Notice the words “in Christ.” Thirty-one times in the New Testament we read these words of affirmation that God loves and accepts us “in Christ.”
Heaven’s answer to a thorn-cursed creation/fall was a thorn-crowned savior. But notice something important. God didn’t remove the thorns. He uses them for redemptive purposes.
That’s why we get 3. A custom-designed thorn. Paul describes his thorn in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.
If Paul’s experience is anything to go by, the Christian life is a series of blessings and buffetings. And the God who promises the first, permits the second. Why? To make sure we live our lives dependent on Him. Look what God used to make sure Paul relied totally on Him!
A hot temper…
1. Drives a wedge between you and your loved ones. Angry people intimidate others and rob them of their sense of security. Psychologists say it’s a leading cause of divorce, child abuse, and addiction.
2. Undermines a life that pleases God. James 1:19-20 says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” Your anger isn’t just “your own business,” it’s God’s business too because it hinders your ability to live the life He intended.
3. Blinds you to reality. Looking through the lens of misguided anger, you see only what you choose to see. It causes you to focus on options like revenge and retribution.
Sometimes I hear a Christian say, “I left that church because I wasn’t being fed.” That’s always sad, assuming it’s true. It’s sad that their pastor wasn’t preaching winsome, Bible-centered messages (assuming he wasn’t). But it’s also sad because why did that person think it was only the preacher’s job to feed them?
Mark Batterson put it this way in his book Primal,
“My kids learned to feed themselves when they were toddlers. If you’re not being fed, that’s your fault. I’m afraid we’ve unintentionally fostered a subtle form of spiritual codependency in our churches. It is easy to let others take responsibility for what should be our responsibility. So we let our pastors study the Bible for us. Here’s a news flash: the Bible was unchained from the pulpit nearly 500 years ago during an era of history called the Middle Ages (75).
If you are relying on a pastor to be fed, I feel bad for you. Listening to a message is secondhand information. It’s not replacement for firsthand knowledge. I’d rather have people hear one word from God than a 1000 from my sermons. And that happens when you read, study and meditate the Bible.
What do I ACTUALLY value? Well, what’s the first thing I think about in the morning? What do I find myself talking about the most? What’s the last thing I think about when my head hits the pillow at night?
When you boil it down, questions about priority are questions about faith. If I have faith that God will care for me, it frees me to live with a certain set of priorities (that don’t have a lot to do with money, possessions, or leaving a good impression).
God does not demand of me that I accomplish great things. He does demand of me that I strive for excellence in my relationships.
As Jesus traveled and ministered, he didn’t set up a bunch of individuals with lessons on how to improve their spiritual lives. No, he assembled them around himself and called them into a community of followers. This is why the New Testament also speaks repeatedly of salvation as our becoming children of God, and speaks of Christians as being brothers and sisters.
Friends, here is where we are most tempted to deny the gospel of real salvation: when we effectively believe “it’s just me and Jesus.” That’s not the way Jesus set up reconciliation to work. And when we say, “I don’t need the church; I don’t need those people,” we’re saying, contrary to Christ’s work and Paul’s instruction (1 Corinthians 12:21), that we’re too good for those “other people,” that we’re better than they are. Thus we deny the very gospel we claim to believe. Do you hear that? When you say you don’t need community, or when you remove yourself from serving others and being a part of the body of Christ in community, you are denying the gospel. You are denying the reconciliation for which Christ died.
When we enter into community and serve with others, serve others, worship together, and proclaim the gospel together, we actually live the gospel, actually experience it and, therefore, we actually experience new life. When we embody reconciliation with each other, we live resurrection lives. In other words, we confess with our lives that Jesus is, indeed, mighty to save.
Most of us know that Jesus was humble.
Humility in the “Jesus sense” does not necessarily mean, as it does typically for us, modesty or lack of self-interest. Certainly, Jesus said some pretty provocative things about himself:
- “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
- “If I give you water, you won’t ever thirst again.”
- “Come to me everyone who is weary, and I will give you rest.”
- “Knock me down, I dare you, and I will rebuild again in three days.”
In any other mouth, these would not be modest words.
Jesus wasn’t humble in the sense that he never put himself at the center of the world. No. Jesus’ teaching, in fact, demanded that everyone arrange their orbits around him. He constantly reinterpreted Israel’s dearly held beliefs and rigorously followed traditions in light of himself. So Jesus’ humility wasn’t about removing himself from the salvation equation. It was about emptying. About giving.
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very natureof a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
For Jesus, humility meant not exploiting his God-ness. He relinquished the rights and honors of his deity to experience and redeem what it means to be human. He rides a donkey. He washes his disciples’ feet. He suffers the betrayal of friends and submits to the religious and political authorities.
Jesus was a humble man in the sense that humility meant giving up fleshly controls. He was an endless giver of himself.