Becoming a world changer. World changing is the preaching theme at our church this month. Big idea for sure. To be honest, this week has been too hectic to think about changing the world. Basically, I’m having more than enough trouble managing my own life, calendar, and other people’s expectations to spend time worrying about anything else. So, even though ‘ending world hunger’ is still on my to do list – I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.
But even though I haven’t been doing I’ve been thinking about this whole world changing thing. Here’s what I’ve discovered. A quick look through scripture shows us that world changers had their personal worlds rocked. And I wonder. Do I want my personal world changed? Do you?
I’m all over being a missionary tourist. I’ll sign up just about anytime for a week with the poor in some impoverished country. I’m good for slapping paint on a wall and sleeping without air conditioning. I’m all about doing some good thing, even informing my world view but I’m not sure I want my world changed and then put back together piece by piece. After all, I’ve spent a lot of time carefully constructing this world of mine. So have you. We have familiar patterns and habits. Some women I know have spent years finding just the right hair dresser. Anita and I happen to be very fond of our car mechanic. Friends of mine actually have permanent tee times. We love our club sports team. We’ve got life in a groove. It’s planned out.
Oh, we might make some small tweaks. For instance Tuesday night is going to free up as soon as Lost is over but right now my life feels pretty good. So does yours more than likely. We like what we’ve constructed. It’s familiar. Sure we might want to lose a few pounds, or have a more compliant teenager or a wee bit more money. But if we’re honest we’re pretty locked in We like the way we live, what we do, and our friends. We might trade where we live for Arube but for the most part …it’s all good. Having our life changed isn’t a high priority even if its what God needs to do as part of his plan to change the world.
And if that describes us. And it just might. Then we’ve got problems. Because our vision of a self-satisfied, entitled life is on a collision course with God’s best for us.
Deceased South American bishop Oscar Romero used to always say that we read the gospel through the lens of our own comfort instead of digging deeper to see how radical the gospel message really is. He once said. "A church that doesn't provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn't unsettle, a word of God that doesn't get under anyone's skin, a word of God that doesn't touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed -- what gospel is that?"
The unchangeable God is in the ‘change’ business. He allows us to understand crisis and experience unsettledness. He allows us to come face to face with sin. And through that He wants us to emerge more like Jesus so that we can be that prophetic voice in our culture helping to challenge those things that are destructive and break the heart of God. God asks us to change. He expects it. And it’s for a purpose. Bishop Romero was right. A gospel proclaimed that doesn’t have an edge to it is a gospel lacking insight and purpose. And that Gospel needs word and deed proclaimers who have allowed their life to be disrupted and unsettled enough so God could use them to help transform the world.
And that seems to be God’s pattern. Comedian Curt Cloninger does a bit where he talks about that anyone who takes God seriously ends up being a ‘used to be’
Paul used to be a murderer now he’s a missionary.
Moses used to be a murderer on the run and God turns him into a spokesman for the kingdom who goes toe to toe with Pharaoh.
Mary used to be a teenage peasant girl. God turned her into mom.
Esther. She used to be part of the harem. Now she’s being asked to step up and speak for her people.
Peter and Andrew. Used to be fishing for fish. Now they’ll be fishing for men and women.
Lazarus. He kind of wins the ‘used to be’ sweepstakes. He used to be dead. Go figure.
Life changing experiences. Even the no names in the scripture ha d their world rocked. In Hebrews 10 we read:
Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever.
These early Jewish believers used to be normal people, fitting in to all the religious and cultural expectations but now they’re being exposed as being different. And they’re reward is suffering, ridicule, beatings, jail and losing their possession. Why didn’t they quit following? Because they knew there were better things waiting for them that would last forever. Their faith wasn’t in their position or their stuff. Their faith was in a God they trusted beyond hard circumstance.
I’m not sure we want to be a used to be. But that’s God’s pattern. His idea of what it means to follow Him is different than our intent.
In the gospels we meet a guy who had an opportunity to become a ‘used to be’. It was the rich young ruler. He wanted to know how he could obtain the kingdom of God. At the end of his conversation with Jesus he walked away. He chose not to have his world changed and the Scripture tells us ‘he walked away sad’. Why? I think it’s because he knew he was turning his back on God’s world changing agenda for his life. But he couldn’t say ‘yes’ to that call because his commitment to his own personal agenda for his life was too great.
Here’s our big issue I think. In the New Testament Jesus speaks of two roads …one narrow and one wide. What we want is a road in between. It’s not a narrow road and it’s not a wide road. We want a middle road. And on this middle road we can just keep doing our own thing with occasional excursions into the heart of the gospel. And we want God to change His mind about two roads and we want to convince Him that there’s a third way. Our way. But He’s not buying it. He’s saying it’s the narrow road or no road. It’s as if He’s saying, “I’ve saved you for something …not just from something. You’ll discover it on the narrow road.”
I really believe that God is calling us to change the world. Us. Wherever we are. Because this world has to change. It’s filled with injustice, with poverty, with illness, and hunger. And God can use us to change that. But it’s impossible, I think, to step into God’s plan without allowing him to change our personal world. Are you up to that? Is that the desire of your heart?