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Upside Down

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When Paul and his companions had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.

But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” (Acts 17:1-7 NIV)

There is this thing about following Jesus. He turns everything upside down.

Jesus' teachings turns our moral systems upside down. “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16) “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also." (Matthew 5:38-39) Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25)

Loyalty to Jesus trumps all other loyalties, and turns our citizenship upside down. In Acts 17:7, the accusation of the rioting Jews against Paul and his companions is that: "They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus." The first Christian confession of faith was "Jesus is Lord," which implied, "and Caesar is not."

Trusting Jesus as my Savior and following Him as my Lord has a way of turning my priorities upside down. It is impossible to carry the Spirit of Jesus Christ in my heart and life and to continue to live to please myself. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, and my life will become increasingly about others as I yield myself to Him and live my life for His purposes. Life becomes much less about my happiness and much more about becoming Christlike, with my life guided and directed by His holy love.

Two things occur to me when I consider the kind of radical faith in Jesus that turns the world upside down: 1. I tend avoid rejection, so too often I spend my life trying to blend in with the world and not stick out. I don't want the people around me to think following Jesus makes me weird. And 2. the thing Jesus actually does is to turn my world right-side-up. In my fallen sin nature and normal, everyday life, my moral structure and priorities are upside down without Christ. When I give my life to Him, I begin to live a right-side-up life, and that does stick out as weird to people who are still upside down in their thinking.

It can be a scary thing to abandon myself to Jesus and trust Him for everything in my life. That means I relinquish control. Jesus is not my co-pilot. His Lordship means I got out of the pilot's seat and put Him in control of the airplane of my life. I am convinced this is one of the major things that prevents people from making Jesus Lord of their lives. Many of us have an extremely difficult time giving up control. Perhaps the theme song for calling our own shots is Frank Sinatra's old song, "I Did It My Way."

But here's the thing I've learned in over 55 years of following Jesus: I can trust Him. He is good and wants the best for my life. I would rather sing, "I Did It His Way" and trust completely that Jesus will make my life all about the very purpose for which I was created - to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love others as I love myself.

Will that mean that people will sometimes completely misunderstand how I can live for Jesus all-out? Sure. Will people sometimes react in anger when my right-side-up life exposes the upside-downness of theirs? Perhaps. But the One who taught us to pray, "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," means to use our everyday lives to change the world. And that's a life worth living.


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