There are two groups. There are keepers and challengers. There are those who want to know exactly where the boundaries are so that they can not only remain safely in them but also protect them against the renegade, do-it-your-own-way, people who cannot spell boundary. The rule warriors that stand up for the law and the rule explorers that push the edge and circumvent at every vulnerable spot.
Would it surprise you to know that I had one of each, Joshua was loved by every teacher. He put his nose to the task and got things done. He was polite, respectful, a quiet leader in his youth group and with his peers. Today he practices medicine. Regimented, careful, always seeking the best possible outcome with the given parameters of accepted medical practice.
Jacob, not so much. Jacob was entertaining for every teacher. He was always looking for the alternative method. He was 12 before teachers knew that Why? was not his middle name. Today he plays in a rockin’ country band and flies airplanes for a living. Jacob never met a rule that he couldn’t question.
Here’s the cool thing. We need them both. We need the strong, courageous men and women that will stand for what is right no matter the cost, that are like lighthouses in stormy seas, they can be counted on to keep us on course and away from the rocks.
We also need the challengers, the testers, who, with the wind whipping through their hair always seem to migrate to the edge of the line and stay there. They are sure there is a better way and constantly push the envelope and challenge the status quo. They make us better.
And so, you might ask, in our little study, which one is Jesus? To which I reply a resounding, “YES!”
The next words of Jesus that we find in the New Testament are in Matthew 4, specifically verses 1-11. It is the story of Jesus being tempted by satan after a 40 day fast in the wilderness. He has just been baptized, made that powerful statement, “I am here to please God.” And then he throws a backpack over his shoulder, laces up his hiking boots and sets out for a 40 day camping trip. Bear Grylls style. No food. No tent. No Swiss Army Knife. Just 40 days alone with his thoughts and, as it turns out, His tempter. And oh, by the way, the Holy Spirit led Him there.
End of 40 days, Jesus is hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. If you are a recovering addict you know the danger of the HALT moment. Satan comes and goes on the attack. “Hey, Say the word and a MacDonald’s will appear right beside the sand dune and the camel watering trough.” Jesus says no and quotes scripture.
If the most base temptation won’t work what about this. “It was God that got you into this mess. Blame Him and force Him to get you out.” Same response, “No” and scripture.
Finally, the allure of fame and fortune. Every young man wants to be surround by friends, females and fast cars, all the things that money can buy. But Jesus says no again, quotes scripture and tells satan to vamoose.
Simple story. You’ve heard it before. But let me put it into context for you. In a few weeks He will be healing people on the Sabbath. His disciples will be harvesting grain on Sunday. Jesus will be disrupting the Sunday morning worship service by accusing the ushers of cheating. All these things are signs that Jesus was no black and white rule follower. His whole ministry will end because He will refuse to kowtow to the religious rule regulators and just be a company man. He is both a keeper and a challenger, a Rule Warrior and a Rule Explorer. And come to think of it, there is a little of both in most of us. So, do we learn from the Red Letter words of Jesus.
On Day One we learned that our primary purpose is to please God. On Day Two we see that it all starts with Scripture. If I am going to live a life that pleases God I am going to find out how to do that by learning, living in, and living by His Word. We may not always see eye-to-eye on what it says. We may differ in interpretation and application. You may dunk and I may sprinkle. You might be a pew hopping, piano pounding, tongue talking, worshiper. I may be a soft music, meditative, contemplative (yeah right) mystic. But wherever we are in this thing we must be centered in and ground on “This is what the Word of God says.”
Jesus doesn’t quote chapter and verse. He doesn’t appear to be some legalistic robot that just spouts out verse with no room for commentary or character. He will say things like, “God didn’t make man for the Sabbath but the Sabbath for man.”(Mark 2:27) One of his favorite introductory phrase is, “You have heard it said but I say to you…” (Mathew 5:27 eg) Jesus was never afraid to challenge the current preconception about what the Word of God said. But He ALWAYS went back to and was faithful to that Word.
I am reading people that challenge my thinking. I always have. It used to be Len Sweet and Chuck Colson. Today it is Richard Rohr and Brian Mclaren. They make me think. Cause me to challenge. Arise the inner Rules Explorer in me. But they also drive me back to the Word of God, to see what the Bible really says. For now, to see what Jesus really says. So far He is saying this to me”
Don’t do bad.
And read your Bible.
That seems to be pretty good stuff for right now. I think I’ll try that today. And maybe I’ll shake up a few rules along the way.
Tomorrow let’s look at Matthew 4:19, “Come follow Me.”