Thursday, March 24, 2016

Opportunity Knocks

Over the last several weeks, I have been focused on helping the church I serve understand five important words of Jesus - "I will build my church" in Matthew 16.18. A large portion of that teaching is to prepare us to be ready to respond to whatever opportunities might come our way. The phrase we often use today is "opportunity knocks."

As I prepared to sit down to write this post with that phrase in mind, I was reminded of a movie that I haven't seen in probably 25 years, and may not have thought of for 10-15 years. The movie was named Opportunity Knocks and starred Dana Carvey. I really don't remember much about it other than it was funny (duh, Dana Carvey!), and the plot was about Carvey, playing a con-artist, pretending to be a house-sitter for a resident who was out of town. Essentially, Carvey begins to live the life of the person who was supposed to house-sit, but went out of the country instead. Of course, Carvey is deceiving others by pretending to be someone he is not, and that is what makes the movie funny. But he heard an opportunity knocking, so to speak, and seized the opportunity.


As I thought about opportunity, I realized the movie (I have typed about all I remember) is actually quite the opposite of what many Christians do. While Carvey seized an opportunity by deceiving others, many Christians deceive themselves by not responding to the opportunities around them. Now you may think this is my opinion, but the Bible says this plainly in James 1.22. James wrote, "Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves."

In context, James is writing about people who do not trust God, speak evil of others, do nothing to confirm their faith, show partiality, stir up dissension, boast of the their plans, etc. Most of that list would be considered wrong (i.e. sin), and it is often hard to do the right thing when others around you are doing the wrong things. But James words do not provide an excuse for doing nothing, whatever the circumstance. Instead, James essentially writes, "If you do nothing, don't call yourself a Christian. If you do, you are only deceiving yourself."

Many may quibble over what SHOULD be done, but the reality is that we can boil it down to three simple (yet difficult) aspects: Love God....Love Others....Love One Another (cf. Mark 12.30-31; John 13.35). Then the quibbling becomes over how love should be expressed toward others. Well, again, the simple answer is "as you love yourself." And the reality is that each of us love ourselves differently. But while that part of the argument is important, it is tangential for this post. The problem is that the term Christian has come to mean something that Christ never intended.

Follow Me

I have written elsewhere (as have others) that Jesus never said, "Go to church" or even "Be the church;" He said "Follow Me." But we have claimed the term Christian and developed a meaning for the word based on mental belief. But the early "Christians" did not coin the term for themselves. No, it was coined for them because of their actions and attitudes. The term was first used in Antioch (Acts 11.26) because the people observing this new group of people following Jesus (Followers of the Way was the original designation they gave themselves) could not call the group Gentile, nor did they fit the idea of a Jew. So a new term was coined for these "little Christs (which is essentially what "Christian" literally means)." The point is that this new group was so intent on "observing all that I have commanded" (Matthew 28.19-20) that people placed this moniker on them - and it stuck.

But the point is that it stuck because the people were actively following Jesus. Were they perfect at it? No, and truly we can be thankful for that fact. Otherwise we wouldn't have all of the letters in the New Testament to help correct our issues as well! But their faith wasn't just a matter of the mind. No, in order to love the Lord their God it also took heart, soul, and strength. In other words, action. And to follow, as in "Follow Me" we must move, and be active. Or again, in the words of James, be doers of the word, and not just hearers only.

Opportunity is Knocking

As doers, we have the opportunity to prove our faith and bring glory to God. Jesus said, in Matthew 5.16 that our good works cause others to glorify the Father. That is astounding. But it requires doing good works - not for salvation, but because of it. This week, Holy Week, we celebrate what Jesus did for us. He saw an opportunity. He seized that opportunity, and because of that we are offered, through faith, more than we can possible ask, think, or imagine. But while we can not earn God's favor with our works, we can express our thanks by them. Opportunities exist every day for us to be doers of God's Word. Like the early "Christians" we will not be perfect in what we do nor in how we do it. But that should not prevent us from being active anyway. For, if we ignore the opportunities around us, and the needs before us, then as James writes just a few verses later, "this person's religion is worthless" (James 1.26).

We must take steps (a part of following) to be like Jesus and seize the opportunities that God brings our way. Maybe it is just one a day. If so, that's a start. But doing so will open the door wider for God to not only bless you, but more importantly to allow you to bless others.

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