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POPULARITY OR TRUTH?
"'But it's trouble ahead if you think you have made it. What you have is all you'll ever get.
"And it's trouble ahead if you're satisfied with yourself. You self will not satisfy you for long.
"And it's trouble ahead if you think it's all fun and games. There's suffering to be met and you're going to meet it.
"There's trouble ahead when you only live for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests -- look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular."' Luke 6:24-26 (The Message).
One thing's for sure, Jesus. You were practising what you preached!
At that point in His ministry, He was the most popular figure in Israel in all her history. There were no others who had dispensed healing and deliverance as freely as He did; sporadic miracles, yes, but not mass healings wherever He went. Wasn't He out to win this popularity contest? After all, wasn't He the Messiah and didn't He want people to follow Him? Wasn't He offering them a brand new life and free, for all, at that?
No, He was not in the running for the popularity prize. Far from it! At this point His fame was at an all-time high but not for long. The more He taught the truth, the more unpalatable it would become and the crowd would melt away, especially when He spoke about loving their enemies! What! Love the Romans? No way! And sharing their goods with the poor? And on and on.
And what about eating His flesh and drinking His blood? That was it! Jesus, you must really be crazy! When the truth veered away from what they really wanted more than anything else, these pesky Romans off their backs, forever, they were thoroughly disillusioned. Judas too! They had so hoped that He was really their Messiah but when He refused to come to the party, they wavered, even His disciples.
So what was He about? What was His message that they found so unpalatable and difficult to grasp? There were a few basic truths they needed to get hold of, and Jesus plugged away at them in the hopes that they would get it so that they could embrace the true kingdom of which He was so earnestly speaking.
Rome was not their problem; they were. The real enemy was residing deep inside their own hearts; that disposition that was evidence of an alien master, self, that had replaced the Spirit of God way back at the beginning. When Adam chose to change allegiance, he unleashed a trail of hardship and suffering that they were experiencing, but, in God's kingdom, it would all be removed when He restores all things.
But there was something even more sinister embedded in the attitude that ruled them -- an "I'm better than you" disposition that made them look down on other people and think that they had arrived, when, in actual fact, they were as miserably bankrupt as everyone else. He warned that if they thought that having it all, or living a cushy life made them better than others, they were in for a shock. They were all in it together and hard times would come for them as for everyone else.
They were not to live it up, thinking they were immune. The real problem was that they believed that hard times were for "sinners", and that wealth and "stuff" was a sign of God's blessing. Not in God's kingdom!
Worst of all, (and He was probably directing His words to the really religious ones) it was dangerous to give in to "approval addiction". Jesus warned that if they lived to win people's approval, that was all they would get. People's approval is gained through performance, not through obedience to the truth, and people love it when we behave just like they do!
Jesus was offering them something far better -- a life of freedom from selfish self-destruction to live in generous love and service to others like He did.
What is your standard, popularity or truth?
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