It’s hard to imagine Jesus having “trouble” with anyone, but we know from the gospels that there were plenty of people who tried to make trouble for Him. After all, He was publicly executed for claiming equality with God the Father. But the Scriptures also give us much insight into His strategy for dealing with difficult people on the regular. And don’t forget, Jesus told us to “love our enemies,” which implies that we have enemies in the first place. Here’s how we see Jesus handling His enemies:
- He questioned their questions. In Matthew 21:23-25, Jesus gets asked “By what authority do you do these things?” Getting to pull rank, name superiors, and flaunt authority was big with the Pharisees, but Jesus answered the question with a question: “I will also ask you one thing… the baptism of John, was it from men or from God?” Jesus knew that their question was really a trap. So He turned it on them, as He often did. If they admitted that John the Baptist was from God, Jesus would have asked them why they didn’t listen to him, because John the Baptist pointed everyone to Jesus! If they said he was only from men, the crowd listening in would get angry, because they regarded John as a prophet. So they didn’t answer Jesus. In counseling, this is called “Guided Self Discovery” It’s the tool used to question people’s thinking, and lead them to deeper self discovery. In Jesus’ case, He was revealing their true motives, and their lack of desire to actually understand.
- He ignored them. One of my favorite verses in the gospels is Mark 5:36. In some translations it words Jesus’ response to His critics as, “Ignoring them, Jesus continued…” I have to admit as a pastor I find it ironic. I was told most of my life growing up, don’t care about what others think, just trust what God tells you to do! But as a pastor, people often treat you as if you should listen to what everyone thinks! Good news, no matter what your vocation is – Jesus ignored those who didn’t actually love Him, so you can too. And, yes, we do need to listen to those who sincerely love us and care about us. We have to be willing to have and receive difficult conversations. But when a difficult person is trying to make your life more difficult, and distract you from what you know God has called you to do, be like Jesus, ignore them, and continue doing what God called you to do.
- He addressed them publicly. Notice that Jesus almost always dealt with the difficult people in His life in a very public setting. He was never afraid to answer their questions, but He only seemed willing to do so in a public context. It’s harder for difficult people to deny what they said, or how you responded when you choose to only deal with them where others are present.
- He showed them grace. There is at least one clear exception where Jesus showed incredible grace to one of the difficult people in His life: a Pharisee by the name of Nicodemas. Nicodemas came to Jesus in private, at night, likely to avoid the scrutiny of his fellow Pharisees. It becomes immediately clear by his approach to Jesus in John 3, that he was hungry to actually listen and learn from Jesus, in humility seeking to actually know this miracle worker who claimed to be from God. And as a result of his humility, and Jesus’ grace to allow him, we have some of the most memorable and spiritually significant verses in Scripture. Jesus allowed for anyone, even difficult people, to truly repent and have a change of heart. And humility is the key. It takes humility for someone who has been difficult to us to admit they’ve been hurtful and try to approach us in a repentant spirit. But it also requires humility on our part to extend grace to someone who may have hurt us in the past. I’m grateful God showed us such grace, and we must be willing – when possible and appropriate – to do the same.
- He never compromised Who He was. Over countless occasions in the gospels, we see Jesus, very firmly, calling the Pharisees out, asserting His identity as the Son of God, and demonstrating His power right in front of them… often directly to them protesting Him. Likewise, as followers of Jesus, our identity is in who we are in Christ. We should never compromise the person Jesus is transforming us into in order to placate critics. When we stand before God in Heaven one day, He won’t ask us why we were not like our critics or even our mentors… if anything, He’ll ask us, “why weren’t you more like My Son?” Sometimes, the best response to our enemies is to make room for God to show off in our life, and be who He made us to be.
As you reflect on this, may you and I respond to difficult people the ways that Jesus did. Don’t be distracted or discouraged by the people who are letting Satan use them. Overcome them. And in Christ, and like Christ, we must overcome evil, with good.
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added to them about three thousand souls.” – Acts 2:41
Baptism is one of the greatest, simplest, and most meaningful expressions of our faith in Christ. I’ve had the privilege of being a part of many people’s story of coming to faith in Jesus over the years. It seems as if many people who make the initial step of deciding to follow Jesus, tend to immediately put on the brakes when it comes to the first easy demonstration of that decision: getting baptized.
The reasons I’ve heard for why people do not get baptized have ranged from:
- I got baptized as a baby.
- I’m embarrassed of being in front of people.
- I need to get some things straightened up in my life first.
- I’ll do it later.
- I don’t see why I have to.
The hard part, in my opinion, is deciding that you will give your life, whatever condition it may be in, to Jesus and receiving the life and salvation that He alone offers. The one thing that the Bible asks us to do upon making that internal decision, is to demonstrate it outwardly via getting baptized. Yet this is where many balk.
The irony to me, is that getting baptized is literally as easy as falling in water. If you’ve ever jumped into a pool, you can get baptized – minus the splash.
So allow me a minute to explain what water baptism is, and why you should get baptized.
- First of all, baptism is easy. It takes approximately 20 seconds to be baptized. At LifeCity, we don’t make you give an awkward speech. We simply ask you “Have you put your faith and confidence in Jesus Christ?” To which you only need to say yes, if you have. If you haven’t, or don’t understand what that even means, let’s talk about that first. The word in the Bible for “baptize” is the Greek word “baptizo” which literally means “to dip” or “immerse.” This is why at LifeCity we do not spray people for baptism or pour water over them. There is a Greek word for that, but it has nothing to do with Biblical water baptism. It’s important that we baptize this way, because…
- Secondly, baptism is a symbol. It does not “save” a person, wash away their sins, or send them to Heaven one day. It is a picture of a relationship that you already have. When a person stands in the water, gets dipped under the water, and then brought back up it is a symbol of Jesus living, dying and being buried (under the ground…), and then rising again from the grave. But it’s also a symbol of ourselves. Baptism says, “I once lived a life outside of Christ. That life is dead and has now been buried. And now I have a new life – a life in Christ!”
- Baptism is also a choice. Like the decision to ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, no one can “make” you get Biblically baptized. At LifeCity, we do not baptize children under the age of 6, and many times not even then if the child doesn’t understand, is scared, or just not ready. If you were baptized as a young child or infant, and placed your faith in Jesus later, we encourage you to get baptized again on your choice. While we celebrate the fact that your family cared enough about your spirituality to baptize you early in life, it’s time that this expression of faith was taken on your terms, not simply your parent’s. We look at getting re-baptized as a fulfillment of what your parents wanted for you in the first place, not as a disrespect toward them. Besides… if you’ve genuinely made the decision to follow Jesus, this is a simple and easy thing that God is asking of you. Why put it off? We find that most people in this situation who are afraid of what their parents will think, are usually surprised to find that their family is mostly supportive of their decision.
- And finally, baptism is a celebration! This isn’t a somber, boring, religious exercise! It’s a symbol that we’ve been made right with God through Jesus!!! It’s a picture of a new life – an abundant life in Christ. We shout, clap, cheer, hoot, whistle, and generally celebrate what baptism means. People take pictures, video, give hugs, and invite friends and family to come out for the occasion.
We are having our first baptism service at LifeCity Church on Sunday, July 27th, at our 10:30am service! If you have questions about baptism, or want to get baptized on that day, please email us at [email protected]. If you want a picture of what people getting baptized looks like, here’s a video that might bring it all together for you.
I wrote this earlier to all of the parents and families who came to our Easter egg hunt Saturday, the 19th. 56 families (150+ people!) came out for our egg hunt! We look forward to being a church that continues to engage families and bring community together…
Wow… wasn’t that fun?! We had an amazing time with our first ever Community Easter Egg Hunt! This wouldn’t have happened without the hard work of several volunteers, and we’re so grateful to all of those who committed time to making this event so successful.
This event is the first of many efforts our new church is organizing to bless our community and show the love of God. We know that you may have different preconceived ideas of “church” depending on your personal experiences. So I want you to understand something about LifeCity Church – we love this community! No matter where you are today with faith, God, or church, LifeCity is a place where you can feel at home.
Our church officially launches in September, but right now we are meeting every Sunday, 10:30am at Montague Elementary School, right here next to where we had the egg hunt. This means you can visit us any Sunday morning and see if LifeCity Church could be a place for you and your family to get connected. The same care and organization we put into our children for the egg hunt is exactly the way we treat children on Sunday mornings. We call it KidsTown, and we know your kids will have a great time there!
Let me give you four more reasons why you should consider checking out our church:
- Relevant. We know what life in the South Bay is like! We get the pressures and demands of trying to balance work, family, and finances. That’s why we teach in a way that makes a difference in your weekday, not just a guilt trip on Sunday.
- Casual. There’s no dress code. We trust that you know how to dress in public. So relax and come to church in sandals and board shorts for all we care! We’re more interested in what’s happening in your life than in your wardrobe. And if you feel compelled to “suit up” anyway, we’ll still let you in.
- Upbeat. One of the things we say all the time about our church is “We speak life!” So we try to keep our church exciting, positive, and encouraging even when dealing with tough life issues. You should leave our church more encouraged than when you came.
- Engaging. We don’t believe in pressuring people to do something they’re unsure about. So when you decide to take your next step, we’re ready for you! We have small groups, volunteer opportunities, and a vision to impact the entire Bay Area. Get involved however you would like.
Whether or not you ever visit LifeCity Church, you and your family matter to us just the way you are. From my family to yours, if we can ever do anything to be a blessing or encouragement to you, I hope you’ll know that you can turn to us. We’ll keep you in the loop about future events that we’re hosting, and perhaps I’ll see you and your family on a Sunday sometime soon.