It’s not what you know…

… it’s who you know.  All the knowledge in the world won’t help when it comes to the most important question you’ll ever answer.

Sometimes, I can be a bit of a geek.  No, really.  I like facts, and knowing things.  I like learning new stuff, the more obscure the better, and I used to have a bit of a reputation as someone to have on your team playing Trivial Pursuit.  Those of you who are at school, college or uni will be finding that there are always new things to learn, stuff you need to know.  If you leave home, start a new job, take up a new sport, you need to acquire the right knowledge.  From where to find the toilets to how to do your job, from who likes the same things you do to how to do calculus or fix a car engine.  In church, Sunday school or Bible class, you’re learning too.  We learn about God and about Jesus.  Knowing about stuff is important, and you never really stop learning things.  No matter how much you know, there is always more.

But, there is more to it than that, and just knowing about stuff is not enough.  Perhaps you have a favourite actor or musician.  Maybe you know a lot about them.  You read about them on the internet or in magazines.  You know what kind of food they like, their birthday and their favourite colour.  You know how many pets they have, the names of all their children and the first record they ever bought.  You may know loads of things about them, but does that mean you can just roll up to their house and expect to pop in and stay with them?  No.  You may know all about them, but that doesn’t mean you know them.

Getting in to heaven is going to be just like that.  Entry isn’t based on an exam, or a test or a quiz.  When God asks you why you should get to spend eternity with him it won’t help if you can recite the whole of the Westminster Confession or list all the Bible facts you know, or even demonstrate that you’ve learned lots of complicated theology.  When it comes to getting into heaven it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know.

A lot of world religions – including Islam – teach that God is essentially unknowable.  Their only hope for eternal life is to do as much good stuff as they can and hope that when they die, it will have been enough.  We know that this isn’t going to work.  No amount of ‘good work’ can outweigh our sin, just the same as no amount of knowing stuff will get us in to God’s house.  Thankfully, we can know God, and the way to eternal life is through a relationship with Jesus Christ, who is God the Son.  And it has to be a proper one on one relationship between him and us.  If our parents or our friends are Christians, we can’t get in to heaven just by relying on them to get us in, we need to know him ourselves.  If we do, we’ll be made welcome in his house when this life is over.

So, how do we get to have this relationship with Jesus?  Well, suppose that you meet someone who you want to be friends with.  You might talk about getting to know them better.  So, do you just Google them?  Follow them home to see where they live?  Stake out their house and get to know their routine?  I hope not!  While it is good to get to know about your friends, if you want to get to know someone, you have to talk to them and spend time with them.  Jesus is no different.  If we want a relationship with him, we need to talk to him and ask him to be our friend.  We need to pray to him and invite him into our hearts, and if we do that, he’ll invite us to live in his house forever.

So remember, when it comes down to it the important thing is not how much we know about Jesus, but whether we know him.

The idol test

I came across this article on the resurgence website (www.theresurgence.com) and I think it’s an excellent resource.  It’s absolutely true to say that our hearts are idol factories – even as Christians we very often make idols of things.  And it’s worth pointing out (again) that 99% of the time the things we make into idols are good things in and of themselves.

How do we fare as we look through the list?  Hopefully better than me :-(

Friends, lets root out our idols and strive to serve noone and nothing other than our Lord Jesus Christ.  He is our Lord and may that really be the case in our lives.

Answer the questions honestly (as I must).  Not just to give the answers we know we should give, but what the reality is.

The full article can be visited here: http://theresurgence.com/2011/04/10/11-ways-to-find-your-idols

And as a side-note I would recommend visiting the resurgence website (if you don’t already).  It is a wonderful resource and there are also podcasts and vodcasts available through itunes for free.

This is not about making anyone feel “bad” – this is for the same reason as the resurgence published it.  To build a culture of asking the deep heart level questions, to encourage repentance and actually apply the Gospel to our own hearts and seek Jesus together as a community.  Let’s get idol smashing!

Here are the questions:

  1. What do I worry about most?
  2. What, if I failed or lost it, would cause me to feel that I did not even want to live?
  3. What do I use to comfort myself when things go bad or get difficult?
  4. What do I do to cope? What are my release valves? What do I do to feel better?
  5. What preoccupies me? What do I daydream about?
  6. What makes me feel the most self-worth? Of what am I the proudest? For what do I want to be known?
  7. What do I lead with in conversations?
  8. Early on what do I want to make sure that people know about me?
  9. What prayer, unanswered, would make me seriously think about turning away from God?
  10. What do I really want and expect out of life? What would really make me happy?
  11. What is my hope for the future?

Honda

What’s the difference?

Different doesn’t have to mean wrong.  Take a fresh look at the diversity of God’s creation.

A few months back, I was wandering up the road to church, enjoying the late summer weather, when something made me stop and go back a few steps.  I wasn’t sure what exactly, all I knew was that I’d spotted something – not consciously – which my brain evidently thought was worth the effort of braking and reversing for a closer look.  I had my suspicions what it might be, and sure enough, a couple of feet back in the middle of a sizeable patch of clover, there was one (just one) which instead of having three leaves, had four.  I don’t know how much you know about clover, but the fact that it’s posh name is trifolium, which means three-leafed, should give some clue to the fact that this is quite rare.  When I was young, it was common to consider four leafed clovers – and the finding of them – to be lucky.  Of course, I now recognise this to be superstition.  A hard nosed rationalist might tell you that finding such a thing is just chance, they might further go on to tell you that it signifies nothing more than a freak mutation, that this particular stem is simply deformed.  While I no longer think of four leaf clover as lucky, neither do I buy into the hard nosed rationalists take on things.  As I looked at this clover I saw something special.  Sure, in strictly biological terms it might be a mutation, but it was none the less a thing of simple beauty, and it got me thinking.

Why are four leafed clover considered lucky, or special?  Well, because out of thousands of examples, this one was different. It stands out from the crowd. And we know that nothing happens just by chance, God has chosen to make this a world where things which are ‘different’ happen rather than one where everything is the same.  He could have given us a world where every clover clump was a perfect clone, all identical, but he didn’t.  Not only did he give us the odd four (or even five, six or seven) leafed clover, but more importantly even the ones that look pretty much identical to us are unique, and he sees it. God loves diversity, and he loves variety. We are told that in the beginning God created plants and animals, birds and fish of every kind and variety.  Jesus told his disciples that although there are more sparrows than we can count, and they may all look pretty much the same to us, God knows them all apart, and not a one falls from the sky without him knowing about it.

And if this is true of plants, animals and birds, how much more is it true of us In human beings as in all else, God loves variety. Look around yourself, we may all have a few things in common, but we are more than just clones, poured out of a single mould. We are each of us unique, and if God loves that, shouldn’t we? In this day and age, society likes to talk a lot about the value of the individual, whilst actually encouraging us all to think and act the same. The Bible, on the other hand recognises the importance of communities, made up of individuals, and calls us to personal relationships with each other, and a personal relationship with God. We are taught to be suspicious of anything that is different, of people who look a bit funny, dress strangely or don’t fit in. We’ve all seen it, the new kid, the freak, the weirdo. How quickly they get singled out for insults, beating up or just being ignored or laughed at. Maybe you’ve been on the receiving end of this yourself? Maybe you have been singled out for being different? Some people might be particularly frightened this will happen to them if people find out they go to church. Maybe you’ve been on the other side. Maybe you’ve joined in picking on someone else, or ignored them, just because they don’t fit in, because the ‘cool’ crowd say so. I hope not, but I know myself that it is all to easy to fall into this sort of behaviour, especially if you think that it makes it less likely you will be picked out – and picked on – next.

So, the next time you find yourself in a situation like that, the next time you are getting a hard time for being different, or you are tempted to join in picking on the class victim, or you see someone who is having trouble fitting in, stop and think. Remember the four leafed clover. To some people it is just a freak of nature, but we know better. The four leaf clover is beautiful, a picture of God’s goodness and abundance, and so is every single one of us