As Jesus is the cornerstone upon which the Church is built, so are his teachings the unifying cornerstone of Christian doctrine.

The Coolest People on the Planet

Let me have the privilege of introducing you to the coolest people on the planet. These people are so sophisticated that, for the most part advertisers don't even bother trying to target them. They know that they can't often fool them, like they can most people. These people know the secrets of the universe. Most people don't even know what great wisdom and insight these people have and don't even bother to inquire. They will reveal their secrets, but only to those who ask.

Our world is in a real mess because most of us ignore the really cool people and treat them and their wisdom with disdain. Our criteria for listening to ideas are most often that a person be popular and young and beautiful. We think that celebrities are the coolest people, but they often lead us astray. We rush by the really cool people and shove them out of the way. We don't have a clue as to the depth of insight and wisdom that they could teach us, if only we took the time to stop and inquire. We don't have to go to the far corners of the earth to find them. These genuinely wise people are in your neighborhood and mine. How can we find them? They often wear an identifying sign that allows those of us who are smart enough to seek their insight to find them. That secret sign is white hair.

Yes, I'm talking about the elderly -- often spurned as out of touch, yet more in touch than anybody on a fashion runway -- often ridiculed as being slow, yet too quick witted for foolish advertising which so easily cons more naive people -- whose wisdom is often ignored by younger generations who are paying the consequences of doing just that.

Is it any wonder that anciently God required people to rise up and show respect to white haired people (Leviticus 19:32). Is it any wonder that white hair is refered to in the Bible as a crown of glory (Proverbs 16:31), yet our world is in such a stupor that we think that white hair is a sign of some one who is out of touch. Yet, it is our society that is totally out of touch, because it doesn't even recognize the coolest people on the planet.

Consequence of Loyalty

If we listen to a health-wealth preacher, we might be convinced that the consequence of loyalty to Jesus would be material success. In the Old Testament, Psalms and Proverbs do indicate material blessings for an honest and upright life. Tithing under the Old Covenant promised material blessings. However, when we read Job and Ecclesiastes we see that the righteous can also suffer, even if occasionally just due to time and chance. There is a balance. What about the New Testament? Are the health-wealth crowd really spiritual or perhaps overly materialistic? What would Jesus say?

After having predicted his own suffering, Jesus highlighted a different consequence of loyalty to him and nowhere promised material blessings. In Matthew 16:24-28 Jesus predicted that at least some of his disciples would be killed for their faith. If our hope is in the material pursuits of this life, we are of all men most miserable. But, if our hope is in heaven, then we rise above this material world and look for blessings that last forever. True life is not in materialism and self-preservation, but eternity.

What Jesus expects from his disciples is self-denial, taking up the cross and following him. That hardly sounds like a life of materialistic self-indulgence. In fact, the often overlooked but literal intent of Jesus' words was to take up our cross and follow him to our own crucifixion. To follow Jesus is a total life commitment. A physical life lost due to loyalty to Jesus is eternal gain.

Megalomania or Suffering

When I hear us in those overly enthusiastic moments, make statements like, "We're gonna take this city for Christ!" or, "We need to dream big dreams!" I can't help think of those poor souls who wander the halls of our insane assylums. The mental disease is called megalomania. Of course, even quite sane people can be sucked into this sort of delusion.

When I contrast that with Jesus' own statements in Matthew 16:21-23, and a similar reaction from the disciples, I see that our thoughts are not God's thoughts. The disciples were indignant when Jesus predicted his suffering instead of what they would think was a conquest. Our human thoughts are for triumph and big-noting our own gospel efforts. We see huge crowds and large incomes as greater victory than quiet faithfulness and steadfast overcoming in the face of suffering.

Jesus' thoughts were on suffering for this world. Peter's thoughts were on a more worldly, outwardly impressive victory. That's when Jesus uttered that famous statement to Peter, "Get behind me Satan!" Wow!

What would Jesus say to our puny efforts when we sound like loud strutting braggarts and circus side-show hawkers? The more we shout, "Victory!" do we look and sound more like defeat? When we have suffered and been rejected for our faith, and have scars to prove it, and yet been found faithful, are we not then the real victors?

Jesus did not talk and strut about like a megalomaniac. His victory was via the vehicle of rejection and suffering. Our thoughts are not God's thoughts. What often looks like defeat in our lives is often real victory in Christ.