Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Full, Part Four

I drive a 1996 green Geo Prism.

There, I said it.

I feel no shame about owning this car. It is the only "brand new" car my wife and I have ever purchased. It had 28 miles on the odometer when we drove it off the car lot (and we put 21 miles on it in test drives- which, admittedly, is excessive and may say more about my personality than I want to delve into in this post). As I write this entry, it has been driven close to 130,000 miles, still gets close to 38 miles to the gallon, and has been virtually problem free the entire time. Outside of normal maintenance, I have only done one repair: a new starter.


A couple of months ago, I started the little green car up like normal, and it made a funny noise. Not funny "ha ha," but more like funny "hmmm, that's not normal." The noise was a quick, chirp-like sound. And, the car was running a little rough. Over time, the chirp turned into a squeal. After a few weeks, I faced the truth: my alternator belt was going bad. Sure enough, upon inspection, the belt was so worn it was actually tearing down the middle into two skinny belts. Unfortunately, phrases like "the more, the merrier" don't really apply in a situation like this. The belt needed to be replaced. Once the repair was made, the car quieted down and the engine ran smoothly again.

Maybe at this point you're thinking, "hey Jeff, I know it's been awhile since your last post. Do you remember that you were doing a series called 'Full'?" Or maybe you're thinking, "hey Jeff, do you remember that you usually talk about God? If I want 'Car Talk,' I'll listen to NPR."

Here's the point of my little green car story: If the car had always run a little rough, and made a little chirping sound, I wouldn't have been concerned. I knew something was wrong with my car because I'm familiar with how it runs when things are right.

If a big part of living a life that is "full," is knowing what it takes to be filled, then we have a problem. We chase after all kinds of things that we think will fill us up, only to find that they don't live up to their hype. If we've never really been "full," how can we know what it's like? And if we don't know what it's like to be truly "full," how can we know what it takes to get there?

Enter Jesus. He actually makes the outrageous statement that He has come to bring us life. Not only that- He literally says it is "life to the full." Is this just more hype?

I don't think so. Mostly, because Jesus is a decidedly "low-hype" guy. Even when He did something miraculous, there wasn't a bunch of razzle-dazzle attached. Reading about Jesus in the gospels tells us that He lived authentically, and He kept His promises. And, His teaching has a way of stripping all the non-essential stuff away to reveal what is most important.

Just look at Matthew 22:36-40. The religious leaders had come up with a law system that was bulging at the seams with 613 commands. They were constantly debating with each other over which were the most important. Jesus takes this complicated system, and He clears it up. Essentially He says, “Love God; love people.” This is good news, right? Because it simplifies things. The last two "Full" entries talked about those things.

But what exactly does it mean to love someone? How do you know that someone loves you? How does someone know that you love them?

One way is to say it- you can declare love to someone.

But the other way to identify love is to show it. Love gets substance when it’s demonstrated, and that demonstration will often speak louder than the words.

If we are going to learn by Jesus’ example, we need to look not only to what He says, but also to what He shows. So now that Jesus has declared that we should love God and love people, how does He demonstrate it?

Philippians 2:3-18 makes it clear that Paul thought that Jesus gave us the example of serving, and that we should be like Him:

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."


While Jesus was here on earth His nature was to serve-even when it cost Him deeply. If we want to be like Christ, we will serve.

Remember also that the definition of “Lord” is “Master.” If Jesus is our master, doesn’t it make sense that we would be the servants?

To put it bluntly, you won’t find fullness in Christ unless your love for God and for people is demonstrated through sacrificial serving.

Anyone who sets himself up as "religious" by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.” -James 1:26-27, The Message Translation.


In Matthew 20:25b-28, Jesus told His followers, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus modeled this behavior before eating His final meal with his disciples. In a gesture that shocked them, He humbled himself and washed their feet—including the feet of the one who would betray Him later that evening. With this image vividly etched into their minds, he then suffered the ultimate humiliation, and “became obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Chirst's example shows us that we will never be full until we are living out our love in service.

For over a decade, my little green car has really served its purpose; it's been a useful tool. But to get there, someone had to make it. Then I had to buy it. Finally, to fulfill its purpose, someone has to use it.

God made you. He bought you. And, He wants to use you.

The first statement you just have to acknowledge- He made you, whether you like it or not. The second you must accept. He bought you at the price of His Son’s life. If we are obedient and accept this gift, we can have eternity with Him. That requires us to surrender, but it’s only the beginning. After surrendering, God wants to use us. God can certainly use whomever He pleases (He used Pharaoh, and even Balaam’s donkey), but what He desires, is for us to yield to Him; to freely place our lives in His hands, to empty ourselves out, so He can fill us up.

Full.

In Him We Live,

Jeff

4 comments:

Fred said...

Jeff,

I'd like to point out that I read this entiiiirrrrreee post in one sitting.

I really like this series that you did on here. I've been told that I'm full of 'it'.

These posts remind me of the recent Taco Bell ads proudly declaring, "I'M FULL!" after only ordering off the $1 menu. To be filled is to be empty. God has a way of empty-ing me through tough circumstances or through emotional drain and stress. It is in these times that I literally have no way to fill myself up and am left with only one place (in my opinion) to turn.

...thankfully God doesn't cost $4 per gallon.

(my word verification was: fofus)

katdish said...

Okay. Wow. This is the third time I've read this entry. And each time, I read through the entiiiiirrreeee post in one sitting. So, I just want to point out, that I'm 2 up on Fred. Thank you.

Moving on. Not that I'm comparing your writing to Paul or anything, but reading this blog is often like reading the bible in that I can get something more out of it each time I read it. The first time I read it, I was tired and I'm glad I didn't make a comment, because, as you know, I can get pretty loopy when I'm tired and I probably would have said something stupid (funny, but stupid).

There were so many great analogies in this particular posts. I'm a huge fan of your analogies. You take these big, sometimes intimidating biblical concepts and fit them into a framework that we can understand. All the while, never losing the enormity of the concept. (Does that make sense? because in my head, it totally does.)

Like Fred said, to be filled is to be empty so that God can come in and fill us up. Thanks for this entry. It was kinda like Christmas - took forever to get here, but worth the wait.

P.S. - I'm glad you've gotten over your blogstipation. I'm still strugging with my own bout of bloggerheaa.

P.P.S. - You might think that because you used your little green car in such a great analogy, that I would not make fun of it anymore.

And you would be wrong.

Jeff said...

Kathy,

Thanks for the comment- I still feel no shame. I love my little green car.

Jamie - RoseCottage said...

Loved this post! Thank you!
And I think it takes quite a man to drive the little green car you have described. ;-)