by Matthew Morgan
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. — John 1:9-12
Children of God: Receiving Our Rightful Inheritance – In our final week leading up to Christmas, we are celebrating what it means to have “the right to be called children of God.”
Read John 10:7-10
One of my favorite verses in all of Scripture is found in John 10. Jesus says, I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10). Another version uses the term “life abundant.” Jesus didn’t just come to save me from hell but he also came to show and offer me the best way of living on earth. But it would be a mistake to equate the abundant life with ease, comfort, and security. These are commodities that can be purchased with money, not the blessings of following Jesus. In fact, the Christmas story should make it clear to us, when Jesus enters, he brings with him disruption. His birth disrupted Joseph and Mary’s plans and reputation. His birth brought with it the murder of Bethlehem children. His birth challenged the power structure of the Jewish leaders, and subsequently all systems of power thereafter. T.S. Eliot’s Journey of the Magi imagines the Magi going home after they meet Jesus, knowing they will never be the same.
Writer and preacher Erwin McManus advises that after we ask someone, “When did you give your life to Jesus?” we should ask, “When did Jesus disrupt your life? When did he mess it up?” That is exactly what happened to Shane Claiborne. He grew up in the church, in a nice middle-class family. In his early 20s he describes re-encountering Jesus and wrote that “Jesus wrecked my life,” before moving to the inner-city of Philadelphia to share life with the poor. Jesus wrecked my life – that’s not normally the way we talk of the work of God, but maybe it should be. If we take a step back from the language we always use and the acceptable lives we live, surely we will see that truly encountering God should change our lives in profound ways – should disrupt us, wreck us, mess us up.
This is the way it works throughout Scripture. The call of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Esther and Elijah all led them into dangerous and risky territory. In Genesis 32, we have a story of Jacob struggling with God and he walks away with a limp and a new name. Seemingly everyone in the Old Testament who encounters God comes away with a new outlook, a new mission, a new direction for their life.
It’s no different with Jesus. Before he could talk, Simeon warns Mary of the conflict her baby will bring, both to Israel and Mary herself. His life and teachings bear witness to the truth of Simeon’s claim. Jesus is constantly at odds with the Jewish leaders. He teaches that anyone that follows him will have to take up their cross every day! He says that if you are first, now you will be last. That’s disruption. Paul, too, embodies this truth. He meets Jesus and has to change his name. His new way of life gets him beaten and imprisoned. Most of Jesus’ closest followers were murdered because they had met him and followed him and allowed him to change their life. The Bible has a resounding message: Once you meet God, life will never be the same.
This is not always what we expect from our encounter with the Savior. We often come to the cross with all kinds of assumptions about Jesus that do not align with what we read in the Bible.
We want a tame Jesus for our tame lives. He doesn’t exist.
We want a Jesus that will make slight improvements to our character. He doesn’t exist.
We want a Jesus that will endorse our political candidate. He doesn’t exist.
We want a Jesus that will bless and affirm our retirement accounts. He doesn’t exist.
We want a Jesus that gets us to Heaven but leaves us alone on earth. He doesn’t exist.
Instead, we get a risky Jesus. We get a Jesus that will make us into new creations. We get a Jesus that leads us into rough waters, into messy ministry, into relationships with the outcasts and oppressed. We get a Jesus that will let us walk away if we are holding our money too tightly. A Jesus that might get us killed. As C.S. Lewis put it, “He isn’t safe, but he is good.” Because as Jesus wrecks our life, he also promises to never leave or forsake us, especially when we have followed Him to the cross. We get a Jesus that forgives and loves us, even in our sin, even when we resist His call. And even when we stay at a safe distance from this divine wrecking ball, He never gives up on us. He keeps pursuing us, keeps giving us grace, and keeps inviting us to experience the abundant life.
So deny yourself, take up your cross, and let Jesus wreck your life. Trust that as Jesus disrupts your life, it’s to give you “life to the full.”