Tag Archives: God-centeredness

Jesus Is Worth It

It was a dinner party not soon to be forgotten. Jesus had returned to the home of the three siblings, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. The setting was familiar – Martha did the serving, and Mary tended to Jesus, the same way it had been when Jesus had visited earlier (Luke 10:38 – 42). But the way Mary tended to Jesus this time was…extremely devoted. She took expensive perfume and cleaned his feet with it, and then wiped it off with her hair.

And John helps us to imagine actually being there, because he tells us that the house was filled with the smell of the perfume.

Of course, Judas was upset the money from the perfume could have been used for better purposes, that of serving the poor, but our narrator John told us that poor people were of no real concern to the betrayer…

He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. John 12:6 (ESV)

So Judas’ motives were clear, but Jesus had something else to say at this point to the dark one…

Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” John 12:7-8 (ESV)

It’s not a statement many modern people would make: the poor you will always have with you. It almost sounds downright uncaring, doesn’t it?  In other words, you can serve poor people anytime. They will always be around. And yet there is something more going on here, a contrast: of course, the poor are precious to God, but in a contrast between people and God Himself, there is no comparison. So Jesus is saying that what Mary did was good and right. To pour out this expensive perfume on Him was good…because He is worth it.

Jesus is worth it.

I’m reminded of the story of a single man who determined that he would sell his house and give away the proceeds to missions, but when he shared his plans with his small group…they talked him out of it. Now, I don’t know the details, so maybe that was right or wrong, but I think there is a sense that we should just be a little devoted to Christ. Don’t go all crazy in this Christianity business, people say. Don’t get all carried away. But I don’t think that is biblical. I think Jesus is fine with it when we get carried away for Him.

  • I know a man who really did sell it all and give it away. Praise God! Jesus is worth it.
  • There are single adults who have committed themselves to this lifestyle because they can more wholeheartedly serve Christ. Praise God! Jesus is worth it.
  • And of course there are multitudes of people who have said goodbye to this comfortable American culture to spend their lives overseas reaching the lost. Praise God! Jesus is worth it.

And whatever you can give Him will be too little, for He is worth it. He is worth everything.

For Wednesday, October 21st: John 13



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Posted by on October 20, 2015 in Uncategorized


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The Most Important Worship Service Attendee

Shortly after I became a Christian in 1982, my friend Lore told me she knew of a church that I just had to visit. The name of the church was Willow Creek Community Church, a new “mega-church” which had started in the mid-70’s and was a “new way of doing church.” Though it was almost an hour’s drive from our hometown of Antioch – in the town of South Barrington, Illinois – before too long I did visit the church and was definitely impressed – I remember giving a whopping (for me, at least) $50 to their building program when they passed the hat. I would eventually end up attending Willow in the late 80’s after graduating from college.

And it was during that latter time when I met John Cox, a recent grad of Fuller Seminary and a Willow intern who told me that he wanted to start a Willow Creek-style church either on the West coast or the East Coast. Didn’t matter that much to me – I was young and carefree (and single). John settled on Washington, D.C., and I followed him to start Cedar Run Community Church in Chantilly, Virginia.

Behind the scenes, “Willow Creek-style” meant “seeker-targeted church”, “seeker” being the new, cooler, and I guess less-judgmental name for non-believers. Other churches might have been seeker-sensitive, but Willow was targeted toward the lost. The seeker-targeted liturgy (for all churches have some form of liturgy) meant that we didn’t sing more than one congregational song in the weekend service, we always had a drama, the preaching was generally topical around a felt-need, and when someone read Scripture, they also gave a little story/illustration to accompany their reading (It was in doing these sermonettes that I really first began cutting my teeth on preaching). A regular mid-week worship service with much more singing and somewhat expositional preaching and communion (never served on the weekend) was also part of the plan. Willow had perfected the seeker-targeted format, and in fairness, it seemed to “work” for them. Through the years, while attending Willow or another seeker-targeted church similar to it, many people would come to Christ (one of whom would be my father who was attending Lakehurst Community Church in Waukegan when he became a believer).

But I eventually began to question the whole idea of the seeker-targeted church. Willow was seeker-targeted because that was the goal of the worship service and of the church in general – to bring seekers in. But I began to wonder if that really should have been the goal. Of course, we were to reach out to lost people, but was that to be the main goal? Doubts had begun to form in my mind. I read John Piper’s classic Desiring God, and more than that, I was cutting my teeth on Reformed theology. The end result was a Copernican shift in my world view. The seeker-targeted church was ultimately people-centered and seemed logical. But did I want logical…or biblical? I began to see that the Bible (and therefore God Himself) was not people-centered, but radically God-centered. Of course, God loved people, or as Willow put it again and again, “Lost people matter to God,” but the glory of God was becoming my highest value, and that was right, because it was also God’s highest value. (See Jonathan Edwards, The End for Which God Created the World)

As Piper put it so beautifully in his book, Let the Nations Be Glad

Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more…”

So in reading the 14th chapter of 1 Corinthians, I see this…

But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 (ESV)

The seeker-targeted church sought to have seekers come to church, not a bad idea, just not the highest idea. I’ve come to see that the highest goal is that God should come to church, because when He visits a worship service, incredible things happen. Along the way, I’ve toyed – never seriously – with the idea of a book called The God-Targeted Church, but I don’t think I’ll be writing that anytime soon, so maybe someone else should.

Book or no book, I do know that this is what I want our church to be – we want to so pray and preach the Word and worship and proclaim the gospel and love one another that God the Holy Spirit visits every weekend.

And the end result of this will be that when a lost person does visit Edgewood (and by God’s grace they do every weekend) he or she will declare quite truthfully…that God is really among us.

For Monday, May 25th: 1 Corinthians 15


Posted by on May 22, 2015 in Uncategorized


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