READ: Luke 4
THINK: Admittedly, I saved a few of my favorite chapters for the very end of this 2-year journey through the Bible. And this is one of them! So are Deuteronomy 33, Psalm 150, & Acts 15 which is coming in a few days. But Luke 4 is amazing, I think, because it gives us an incredible paradigm for being disciples of Jesus Christ and doing his work in this world. If we want to be who God calls us to be and do what God calls us to do then we can learn a lot from the way Jesus did it. Makes sense, right? Let me lay out the paradigm:
STEP 1: Get filled with the Holy Spirit. The very first verse tells us that Jesus is filled with the Holy Spirit and that clues us in to the fact that absolutely everything he is going to do from this point forward – every single step along his journey to the cross – will be taken in concert with the Holy Spirit who is inside of him and guiding his steps. And after Jesus rose again he promised us that everyone who puts their faith in him will be filled with Holy Spirit. That the Spirit literally comes and dwells within us. That’s mind-blowingly awesome! But here’s the thing: we absolutely must remember and acknowledge at every single moment that it is the power of the Holy Spirit in us that equips us to be Christlike and do ministry in the world.
STEP 2: Pray. Pray like crazy. Fast too. That’s the next step for Jesus in Luke 4. He went to the desert and intensely communicated with the Father because he knew that this communication and relationship were absolutely critical for him. This is pretty self-explanatory but I’m gonna say it anyway: If Jesus needed to pray and connect with the Father, we need it infinitely more. I think we struggle to pray because we struggle to be humble enough to admit that we are powerless and hopeless on our own. But if we have any desire to be who God created us to be and be used by him to make a difference in our world then we cannot possibly pray and engage spiritual disciplines that connect us with God’s heart more often.
STEP 3: Get a vision and proclaim it boldly. Jesus knew what his vision was. And he stood up and proclaimed it boldly. And it got him run out of town because he made a very clear and explicit claim to be the Messiah when he read from Isaiah 61 and said that he was the fulfillment. Those words and the powerful effect and meaning they had cannot be underestimated. And they are some of my favorite words in the entire Bible. “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” That is an explicit vision statement. And the content of the gospels bears out that every step Jesus took for the rest of his life was a step in pursuit of this vision. He got a vision and he proclaimed it boldly.
STEP 4: Live in the direction of the vision. That is, make decisions and take action in ways that move you – and move the world – toward the accomplishment of that vision. And don’t waste your life away on things that don’t do that. There are plenty of options and distractions available to us. There were for Jesus too. But he didn’t waste time because he knew what he was put on earth for. Immediately after he proclaimed his vision he started engaging the work of it. By the end of Luke 4 he has already brought good news to the poor and needy, set free many who were spiritually oppressed by demons, and healed multitudes of people. He walked out the door, rolled up his sleeves, and dedicated his life to the work that God laid out for him.
That’s the paradigm. It’s simple. Just an observation of how Jesus went about fulfilling his call and mission in life. And we’d do well to follow his example. Get filled with the Spirit, pray like crazy, get a vision and proclaim it, and then live in the direction of that vision.
My question for all of you today is: what is the vision that God is giving you for your life? Where is he tugging at your heart? If you don’t know – assuming you’ve completed Step 1 – it’s well past time for you to start engaging Step 2 more passionately and fervently until you do know. Luke 4 is a clear and explicit statement that Jesus came to set things and people right. He came to fix all that was broken, to make all things new, and to restore and reconcile a broken world to God. And then he ascended to Heaven and promised not only that his disciples would be filled with the Holy Spirit but also that, because of that indwelling, they would do even greater things than he did. That means it’s your turn. Your turn to humble yourself and allow God to transform you into the person he created you be and leverage you to draw people to himself. Make no mistake: we are here to change the world!
Don’t believe for one second that it can’t be done – that the world can’t change. William Wilberforce was a rising star as a politician in England and a member of Parliament. And then he found Jesus in 1784. He got filled with the Holy Spirit, he prayed, he got a vision for his life, and he set about living it out. On October 28, 1787 he wrote in his diary at the age of 28, “God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the Slave Trade and the Reformation of [Morals].” Battle after battle in Parliament he was defeated because the African slave trade was too much woven into the financial interests of the nation. But he never gave up and never sat down. He was not an adrenaline Christian, but a coronary Christian. On February 24, 1807 at 4:00 am, twenty years after he wrote in his journal, the decisive vote was cast and the Slave Trade became illegal. Still the work was not done after 20 years of perseverance. What about slave-holding itself? On July 26, 1833, 16 years later, and three days before he died, the vote was cast and slavery became illegal in England and her colonies.
What if there were more William Wilberforces? What if you are supposed to be a William Wilberforce? I think you are. I think Wilberforce didn’t consider himself a hero or a great man of faith who belonged in the pantheon of spiritual giants. He was just trying to be like Jesus and do what God tugged at his heart to do. He got filled with the Spirit, prayed, caught a vision, and gave his life to its pursuit. And what I want us to understand today is this: that is normative for the Christian life! Becoming a famous politician isn’t normative. Or writing legislation. Or ending the slave trade. Or being a missionary. Or a pastor. But God is calling you – every single one of you – right where you are at to get a vision of how he wants you to impact your world by helping make things and people right and how he wants you to live in pursuit of that vision. Accomplishing it won’t be easy. Changing the world never is. It always happens one inch at a time. But that’s what it looks like to be a disciple.
So, how is God tugging at your heart to help make things and people right?
PRAY: Pray for the humility to pray more. Pray for God to give you a vision for how to make things and people right. Pray for the humility to pursue that vision if (more like when) it isn’t as sexy, glamorous, simple, or exciting as ending the slave trade…like when it’s “Go hang out with unlovable people” or “Go serve the homeless” or “Give a bunch of your money away to the developing world and live simply.” Pray for the courage and the resolve to live in the direction of God’s calling on your life without getting distracted and wasting your time on meaningless things.