Key Observation: “Aim at Heaven, and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth, and you will get neither.” —C. S. Lewis
- Take some time to read Luke 9:1–2.
- What are the key phrases from these two verses? What is the priority?
- How do you hear Jesus’ voice when you imagine him giving these instructions to his followers? Is he enthusiastic? Serious? Passionate? Concerned?
- What word would you use to describe him? What word would you use to describe the Twelve as they listen to Jesus?
The only power worth pursuing is power borrowed from faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Life is too short, your time too limited, and your skills too valuable to be spent on anything less than kingdom work accomplished in kingdom power. I’m thinking about that famous quote from C. S. Lewis: “Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.” Addressing the physical needs and emotional discomforts of people without offering them the good news of Jesus Christ is like aiming for earth instead of heaven. In other words, we have a Person-centered faith, not a people-centered faith. We love people, and we are passionate about the things that break God’s heart. But to have anything of value to offer people, we have to go through the heart of God to the Person of Jesus. Otherwise, we’ll land short of the kingdom.
This is exactly what Jesus warned his followers at the end of Luke 9.
He essentially said, “You will have a thousand excuses for why you can’t do this. You’ll be glad to do good things on your own steam, but you will not want the cost of proclaiming the kingdom. And, friend, while that may provide temporary relief, it will be devastating in the long run. To get to life—real life—you will have to carry the whole gospel.”
Read Luke 9:57–62. Read verse 60 again.
- What do you think Jesus meant by his response?
- Is there more than one possible meaning at work here?
In my Bible, I’ve written the word paralysis in big red letters above these verses. Luke, who gave us example after example of people who got right up to the line of surrender, froze. It’s as if the idea of going with Jesus was more appealing than the reality. It reminds me of the scene where Moses talked to God face-to-face (Ex. 33:12–23). God tested him at just this point, saying, effectively, “I’m not going with you, because you are a stubborn bunch” (my paraphrase of Exodus 33:3). Moses got alone with God, shared intimately in his presence, and then responded with one of the most profound questions in the Old Testament, maybe the whole Bible. He asked, “If your Presence does not go with us . . . how will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people . . . ? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” (vv. 15–16).
It’s a profound question. What exactly makes us—the church—any different from any other well-run nonprofit, or even the nonprofits that aren’t run so well? If God isn’t in it and if we aren’t intimately aware of his presence among us, what makes us any different? Brothers and sisters in Christ, I have late-breaking news for you. You’re not in church to learn how to run a nonprofit. You’ve been called to step into a great move of the Holy Spirit, a move that will often take you way outside your comfort zone. “How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us?” There’s to be no waffling, no shirking back, no getting ahead of God. Either go with Jesus, or don’t go at all.
This is the essence of the charge in Luke 9:1–2. It is Jesus who sent his followers out with his power and authority—the power and authority from his own stash that he laid on them. It is Jesus, who sent them out with his truth.
Proclaim the kingdom, he told them. To proclaim the kingdom is to proclaim Jesus. So it turns out that truth is not a set of facts; truth is a person.
Do you know that truth? Do you have a personal experience of him? If someone showed up at your table in Starbucks and asked you the reason for your hope, what would you tell them? Think it’ll never happen? Did I mention that I’m sitting at Starbucks right now, across the table from my atheist friend? If you don’t already have a simple way to share the gospel with someone, try reading these sermons from some of the first followers of Jesus:
- Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:14–40
- Stephen’s sermon in Acts 7:1–53
- Paul’s sermon in Acts 13:17–39
I’m so grateful for the faith of powerfully courageous men and women who laid down their lives for the sake of this precious, life-giving, miracle-working good news. What a privilege it is to stand on their shoulders and find our place in that great cloud of witnesses!
Listening to the Word
Is your heart full of a desire to do good things for people, or is your heart full of Jesus? Because your mouth will speak what your heart is full of. The beauty of the gospel is that when rightly ordered, one will lead to the other. A heart full of Jesus will lead to a desire to do good things for people! So, are you deeply, passionately, all-out in love with Jesus? If you cannot honestly say right now that you are in love with Jesus, then please stop everything and cry out to God, asking him to restore (or give) you a fresh passion for him. Ask for it. Flat-out ask. Don’t wait. Don’t hedge. Jesus wants your heart, so this is a prayer he is likely to answer.
There’s no substitute for the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit in your life. Maybe you’ve grown dissatisfied with the weak distractions offered both by our culture and, oftentimes, our churches. When it all sinks in, spirituality and ministry without the Holy Spirit is hollow.
Join Carolyn Moore in rediscovering the supernatural! With a biblical basis and practical application, you’ll learn how to work alongside the Spirit, and you’ll become watchful for the powerful in-breakings of God’s kingdom all around you.
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