Dec. 2 to 16: Book Tour at Graphite Bible Chapel (Maynooth, ON.).
Dec. 15: The Banquet Launch and signing: Lakeside Baptist Church (Haliburton, ON.) 10am to 2pm in the Fellowship Room.
Jan 16: Live Facebook Interview with The Word Guild of Canada at 8:30pm. (Can be viewed on the Word Guild’s Facebook page.)
January: Book Tour locations: Toronto; Midland, ON. DTBA
March: Wyevale and Victoria Harbour, ON.
The book is presently being printed and will be available for purchase within a few weeks. This title can be used for small group purposes as well as for personal devotion. Each chapter contains several, stimulating discussion questions. Co-ordinating videos will be available via YouTube for each chapter featuring the author, as he provides an introduction for each chapter topic.
Ambition. Some people have a lot of it; some not so much; while others are just content (or not) to do what they’ve always been doing: enjoy life, work, family, and all the other stuff. Ambition is defined as: a strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work. Some people may be hard workers and have various interests (different types of hobbies, etc.), yet not necessarily be ambitious at the same time. Then we come to the two disciples known as the Zebedee brothers (or the sons of Zebedee) James and John, that we read of in Matthew 20. It would appear that the two brothers may have been secretly yearning to make it big in heaven and had quite the dream they wanted to follow down! Whatever the case, their mother let the proverbial “cat” out of the bag! Perhaps it was solely her cat??
The two sons of Zebedee must have been daringly ambitious fellows or the type that didn’t shy away from living dangerously; in contemporary terms: persons such as daredevils, storm chasers, matadors or something along those lines! Or, James and John flat-out didn’t quite grasp what the Lord had just told them: specifically, that what awaited Him in Jerusalem wasn’t pretty: betrayal, false accusations and conviction, abuse, and then crucifixion at the hands of the religious authorities. At that point we would think that maybe James and John–and indeed all of the disciples–would’ve collectively said: “Okay Jesus, you go this way and we’ll go that way. It was good knowing you. Wouldn’t want to be you and we don’t want to be seen with you!” But no. Interestingly, the mother of James and John comes to Jesus to make a request on behalf of her sons… Read Matthew 20:20-28 …
Whenever I read this passage it always has the feel of a hockey parent sitting behind the coach and they’re just begging them to let their kid play centre, or on a line with a goal scorer or to give little James or Johnny more ice time. Here in our passage, mother Zebedee is asking Jesus to basically let her sons be a part of the Trinity. I can only imagine what was running through Jesus’ mind when the mother asked that her boys be allowed to sit at His right and left sides in His Kingdom. Is that ambition or what? Personally, I’m not that ambitious.
But note Jesus’ response:
First, He informs the mother of James and John that she fails to grasp the enormity of what she’s asking. We read of someone else like that in the gospels. Remember Peter at the scene of Jesus’ Transfiguration? Peter (who happened to be accompanied by the same brothers James and John at the time) wanted to stay on the mountain top with who was thought to be at the time–the spiritual cream of God’s crop: the Lord, Moses, and Elijah. That wasn’t ambition–that was a no brainer! Yet remember what the gospel writer Luke made sure we understand: “Peter didn’t know what he was saying”!!
Secondly, Jesus challenges the mother’s request on the basis of His ministry as the Lamb of God and Saviour of a sin-ridden humanity. Jesus, in affect, asks James and John, “Are you two capable of drinking the cup I have to drink? In other words, are you guys up for dying for the sin of the world when you yourselves are sinful? And what makes you guys exempt from all other sinners?” Then the Lord adds that they will in fact have to embrace suffering on His behalf and that their lives would be called upon to testify to their faith in Him.
So in one sense, they will identify with Jesus’ authority in His Kingdom. Their ambition of being awarded special honour in His Kingdom, such as sitting at His right and left hands, however, could not be granted by the Lord, but only by His Father in heaven.
Lastly, Jesus responds to the mother’s request that her boys James and John be granted great and honourable positions in heaven by reiterating the inconvenient fact that in His Kingdom, earthly values and the aims of its ambitions are largely reversed. Meaning that the follower of Christ will be awarded by God and granted great status in the Kingdom of God by virtue of their willingness to seek and embrace servanthood, even lowly servanthood, in this life. Maybe James and John’s hearts were in the right place, but their collective perspective on what greatness in Jesus’ Kingdom looked like, was spiritually misaligned.
That was Jesus’ will for James and John. It’s His will for us. Undoubtedly, it would have been foreign for the disciples to hear such teaching. In their culture, rulers and authorities were not really considered servants in the same sense that Jesus used the word. The Lord’s clarifying response was the pin that surely burst their balloon of (selfish) ambition!
In life some of our ambitions are simply out of our reach to attain. It’s just reality. We don’t have the gifts, the right opportunity, the right timing, the discipline, the amount of money we need perhaps, whatever… The Bible, however, does invite us to pray about all sorts of petitions and to inquire of God’s specific place and will for our lives in different seasons. Yet Jesus is saying that when we are ambitious to humbly serve His Kingdom that that already makes us great in His eyes—while we’re still here; and I’m sure that some awards and rewards will come our way in the here and now, even as we await the best ones in eternity!
Can you disciple this?
Like many youngsters growing up in the 70’s, I too watched the children’s television show Sesame Street. The show included a segment called “Which one of these just doesn’t belong?” And being a kid’s program, it was usually quite easy to spot what colour, shape or number didn’t belong and stood out among the others…
Well- what does Sesame Street have to do with what Jesus was teaching His disciples in John 15?
I think in a round-about way, our Lord was saying that on account of their (the disciples) —and that includes every follower of Christ today—belonging to Him, that they are going to feel like a square peg that just cannot fit into the world’s round hole. Jesus used a word that when translated into English means “hate” or “strongly detest” to describe the feelings that the world often holds towards God’s people. (And by the world I’m referring to the character or realm of the world that is under the influence of and empowered by the devil himself.)
Jesus was saying that because He calls His follower, His disciple, to live by God’s terms and standards–and not the worlds, that the world will inevitably (or ultimately) end-up treating those who follow the Lord with contempt–like they don’t belong! That wasn’t a spiritual stretch on Jesus’ part by any means, and neither was He advocating a doom and gloom outlook on the Christian life. He was simply telling the truth! (See here the terms “strangers,” “aliens,” and “exiles” Peter used to describe the Christian believer’s status as a non resident and even foreigner in the world.) 1 Peter 2:11
Our Lord saw/sees into the future. Passages in Matthew 24 as well as in the book of Revelation reveal just how acutely God’s people will be persecuted by the worldly powers that be before Christ returns. The persecution of the church and Christians—indeed of many religious people of different faiths–has been going on for a very long time. (Even Noah experienced some hedonistic raspberries on account of his faith!) The intense persecution of believers in Christ of course continues today in various parts of the world. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are hated and being put to death simply because they’re known to love and follow Jesus. People are killed for merely worshipping their Saviour. And while we rightfully shake our heads at such a reality, acts of religious intolerance and oppression remind us of our Lord’s portent: “Heads up! If the world hated me, they will hate you (my disciple).” So then, hatred of God’s people is par for the discipleship course in this world. We were forewarned!
Ignatius of Loyola, the 15th century Catholic priest and theologian, said: “If one fears men, much he will never do, anything great for God. But all that one does for God in obedience to Him, arouses persecution.” Charles Spurgeon (the often called prince of preachers) remarked, “If you give a good ring about your witness for Christ, the world will give you up pretty quick.” Peter wrote that we’re not to be surprised if we suffer for doing good but that we can rejoice in the fact we’re sharing in the sufferings of Christ.
And so whether secular society and an increasingly humanistic culture gives God’s people up for hatred and persecution and even martyrdom, we can take spiritual solace in that there is One who walked those hard and lonely roads before us—the same One (Jesus) who walks them with us today. If the world hated and persecuted God in the flesh, who came to us full of love, grace and mercy, those of us who follow Him by faith and live for Him as our Lord can expect a little hardship here and there–maybe even intense persecution along our earthly path to glory…
So let’s keep our eyes fixed upon the author and perfecter of our faith—who endured much hatred and suffering, even the cross of crucifixion for the sake of our salvation. Though we presently reside in a realm that’s often opposed and hostile to people of faith, one day we’ll reign victoriously with Christ in His eternal Kingdom. We read about that throughout the New Testament!
Heaven has an antidote, an answer for the world’s vitriol towards God’s people, and it’s all wrapped up in the resurrected life of Jesus Christ!
Can you disciple this!?
Source: Disciple This! – HopeStreamRadio