A little bit more like Jesus

Today we were speaking to the local high school principal. Now let me just say that I have the greatest admiration for this man. He took an ailing school and he’s in the process of turning it around and it is going to be a success story of note. He was speaking of new initiatives he is going to implement and how he has been motivating the pupils by inspiring them rather than lecturing them on their faults. I was inspired and wished that I had had a principal like that. Speaking to someone who is positive is so much more appealing than speaking to someone who is negative.

Just look at the Ten Commandments for instance. The only command with no negatives in it is Exodus 20:12 which says, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” That is also the only command which comes with a promise. Look at Matthew 22:35 -40 “Then one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, testing Him, and saying. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’  Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

I know that all of them are very relevant for moral living, but I also know that it is much easier for us humans to follow positive instructions than negative ones. If I keep telling you that you are doing something wrong, and that you shouldn’t be doing it you are going to get really irritated with me and eventually I am not going to have a good relationship with you and I won’t have any influence on your life.  Anyway you probably already know that it’s something you shouldn’t do.

A Christian shouldn’t have to run back to the Ten Commandments every time he has to make a decision to know whether he is doing the right thing or not. The Commandments were given to people who had no relationship with God. They had decided that they did not want to speak to Him directly and that they would rather let Moses speak to God and then relay the messages to them. Exodus 20:19, “Then they said to Moses, ‘You speak with us , and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.’ And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear; for god has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.’ So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.”

The law of the Old Testament which went along with the Commandments was impossible to keep. Romans 8:3 – “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” The law did not have the ability to put the Holy Spirit into people’s hearts. Only the blood that Jesus spilled on the cross could do that. The law could not change hearts, only Jesus could do that. The law could not implement salvation, only the death of Jesus could do that.

Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.“ The law could not forgive sins. Only when Jesus died on the cross did He take all our sins, iniquities, sickness and poverty on Him when He died so that we can be free. We aren’t free to do as we please and live immoral lives. The Ten Commandments are moral commands, but we don’t need them to know whether we are sinning or not. We have the Holy Spirit living in us, not as some say, to act as our conscience, but to allow us to grow. What do we grow? We grow fruit. Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” If we have the fruit of the Spirit you aren’t going to need the law! You are definitely not going to be transgressing any of the Ten Commandments.

Jesus taught that we have to love God with everything in us, and love others as we love ourselves, and then the Holy Spirit came to live in us and allow us to  have the fruit of the Spirit. Why would we want or need to follow any “Thou shalt nots?” Philippians 4:8, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” If this is the way we are encouraged to think wouldn’t it make much more sense that we are going to be able to influence people by giving them positive examples to follow, rather than negative rules?

I know that the principal is onto a good thing because, just like Jesus, he is leading by example and he is being positive. We should all try every day to be a little bit more like Jesus.

Pray for the leaders

I have had a very difficult week. Emotionally taxing. On Thursday residents of a certain area were protesting about housing. Apparently the money that was supposed to be used to build hoses had been misappropriated. These people were blocking the main road through out town. Trash, large stones and old car tyres we deposited across the road at various strategic points to prevent traffic from entering and leaving. Soon the tyres had been set alight and the police came along to disperse them. Nobody was injured, some damage was done to the potted palms in the middle of town, and there was a lot of debris to be removed from the street. There were a lot of irate motorists and the businesses in town who are dependent on passing traffic lost business. Then the next day the president fired half of his cabinet and replaced them. This obviously had nothing to do with the protests in a small insignificant town. Speculation as to what the repercussions will be for the country are all over the newspapers and internet. And then one of the opposition parties is saying that farms belonging to white farmers must be redistributed to black people.

These things are causing a lot of negativity. Every time you log into Facebook or other social media there are negative comments. There’s a petition that people can sign which is demanding that the president must be taken out of office. Then I saw another Facebook post where a friend of mine said that we have to pray for our leaders instead of demand that they be removed from their jobs. It was not what I expected to see given all the negative and aggressive talk. I thought about it and I realized that this was exactly the reminder I needed. I have had such negative thoughts racing around my head that I was in a bad mood. I was walking around with a frown and finding it very hard to be joyful. I asked God how I am supposed to handle the situation we find ourselves in.

Phillipians 4:4 says “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” and further in the same chapter, verse 8 says, “Finally bretheren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.” So, if we want to be joyful and always rejoice we have to think about good things, great and beautiful things, not negative or ugly things. We have to fill our minds with purity and beauty and things that are praiseworthy. How on earth do we do that when the world is in the mess it currently is?

The Bible clearly instructs us to pray for our leaders. 1 Timothy 2:1-3, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our saviour.” I don’t think that Paul said this because he and the ruler had a good relationship. The emperors and kings of that time actively persecuted Christians and Nero gave the order to have Paul beheaded. If we think we’re having a hard time with our ruler I think we ought to update our historical knowledge.

This is how I practically see these verses.

If I want to be joyful I need to think about positive things, but how do I do this when everything I hear and see is negative? I have to start praying for the leaders of my country. I don’t have to like people to pray for them but if I’m praying for them I cannot be negative about them. That means my mind can’t be filled with negative thoughts. If I’m not praying for them I will be thinking about all the negative things I hear and see. Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” I don’t want to be like the rest of the world who are angry and negative and depressed. I want my mind to be renewed so that I can be in God’s will.

I have to pray for them to receive salvation, to be able to make Godly decisions even if they aren’t godly people (yet) and for them to be guided by the Holy Spirit. I am sure that there will be many more things I’m going to discover that I can pray for as I go along. But for now I have to just start praying.