Friday, May 24, 2019

Becoming Superheros for Jesus

Suggested Reading: Matthew 17:1-13

Over the ten years of Smallville's run on television, a particular plot idea popped up several times: what kind of person would Clark Kent be without all of Superman's powers? A couple of times his powers were transferred to someone else and Clark had to save the day without his powers and while fighting someone who did have his powers. Once, his consciousness traded bodies with Lex Luthor's father and he had to save the day, powerless and from behind bars. Another time, he disobeyed the spirit of his father living in the Fortress of Solitude and was stripped of his powers as a punishment but he still stepped in front of a bullet to save someone. Repeatedly, the show tried to demonstrate that the powers didn't make a superhero. Clark's character made him a superhero.

In Matthew 17, Jesus was having a conversation with his disciples in the wake of the Transfiguration, when Elijah and Moses appeared on the mountaintop with Jesus. According to Jewish tradition, Elijah was supposed to come before the Messiah came. But, clearly, the Messiah was here in the person of Jesus and they hadn't spotted Elijah yet. So the disciples asked Jesus why the scribes taught that Elijah would come first. Jesus answered, "But I tell you, Elijah has already come, but he wasn’t recognized, and they chose to abuse him. And in the same way they will also make the Son of Man suffer." Then the disciples realized he was talking about John the Baptist. (Matthew 17:12-13, NLT). See, when the Jews watched for Elijah they were watching for a man of powerful miracles instead of a truth-telling prophet who confronted kings with their sin. They were looking for the powers of Elijah when they should have been looking for the character of Elijah.

We often make this same mistake ourselves, desiring the flashy, spectacular "power" of a godly disciple rather than the character of a godly disciple. Sometimes, we yearn to heal the sick or raise the dead or speak in an unknown tongue like the apostles when we should be imitating their character: a willingness to change course when realizing they were in the wrong, an attentiveness to the Spirit, an unyielding integrity, and a boldness to share the Gospel with anyone able to receive it.

The ability to perform miracles was incidental to who the apostles were, not their defining characteristic. God may or may not use us to perform miracles someday. But right now God is trying to refine our character, conforming us to the image of His Son. Our character is what counts. It's what sets us apart and identifies us as powerful disciples of Jesus.

Don't judge yourself based on your miracles or incredible accomplishments. Judge yourself based on your character. If your character improves, the chances of accomplishing something amazing for Christ increase dramatically. 

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