It’s hard to leave things behind. It’s hard, when you’re called to something new to leave behind something you love and know so well. I am quite familiar with the feeling.
I spent most of my life doing music. In fact, up until about 7 years ago that was pretty much my whole life. I grew up in a musical family, started playing piano in the 2nd grade, played trombone in high school (the spirit of the band!), studied music theory & composition along with church music in college. I spent the first 14 years of my ministry career leading worship, choir and worship arts ministries. I even recorded a Christmas album that sold over 100 copies! That was until about 7 years ago when God called me to be the senior pastor of SixEight Church.
For the first couple of years I still did a lot of music. At first I led worship and preached on Sundays. Then, I just played piano and sang some here and there. Over time, I have stopped playing at all on the worship team. In fact, I had to say no to it.
It’s hard when you know something really well, have invested massive amounts of your life (and are still paying off student loans from) and quite enjoy to then have to say goodbye. Especially the recording side of things. There have been few things in my life that I can do for hours and hours on end, not noticing how much time has gone by. Recording music was one of those things.
In fact, I had a dream of being a composer. I wanted to write musicals. Something I would still love to do to this day. When I go to a musical with my amazing wife who gets us entrance into the countries best musicals, I always have to fight the urge to go home and write one.
You might be asking “Why? Why can’t you do both? Why can’t you be a senior pastor and still write and record music?” It’s simple. I heard Michael Hyatt once say, “I can do anything but I can’t do everything.” Granted, there are a lot of things I can’t do. I can’t be seven feet tall. I can’t be the queen of England. But, just because I can do something, doesn’t mean I should. And, when there is something that has such a strong pull on my heart, I really can’t give into it very often. It’s too easy to get sucked back in.
Does that mean there won’t come a day when I can do music again? Certainly not. The illustration breaks down a little bit there. But, for where God has called me, music cannot be my primary ambition.
In today’s text the author says, “Let us, then, go to him [Jesus] outside the camp…we are looking for the city that is to come.” What is the author getting at with this? Well, since the author is writing to Jews who aren’t in Jerusalem (most scholars believe that anyway), it doesn’t really appear that he’s telling the Jews to leave Jerusalem. I, personally, would not write that out of the realm of possibility. But, if he is in fact writing to Jews in Rome or somewhere under the cultural influence of Rome, he’s probably not telling people who have already left Jerusalem to leave Jerusalem again. He may be saying not to go back there. Or…
Maybe what the author is saying is Jesus suffered outside the camp, outside the city gate. He was crucified outside of the city of Jerusalem. The security of the work of Jesus is not based on Jerusalem as it’s foundation. The security of Jesus’ work is grace. The city of Jerusalem was the place of the temple and the center of Old Testament worship. But now because of grace, Jerusalem is no longer the city we long for. We are longing for the city that is to come, the New Jerusalem.
If we are longing for that New Jerusalem, the city yet to come…if we are joining Jesus outside the city in the place of grace, that inherently means we are going to have to leave behind the safety and security of Jerusalem. The people knew Jerusalem. They knew temple worship. They knew about ceremonial foods and washings. They knew about festivals and calendars and rituals of all kinds. There is security in a ritual you know.
We know this on a small scale with Christmas. There still seems to be quite a bit of nostalgia and tradition when it comes to our celebration of Christmas. We cling to the stories of our youth, the traditions of our families and the same 30 songs rearranged a thousand times. We don’t embrace new Christmas music very easily as a culture. We like the tradition and it’s one of the few traditions we have. We like the security of the tradition, so we watch the same movies and listen to the same music year after year.
But, to experience the joy of Jesus in our lives today, we may have to leave behind the comforts of what we have always known. Especially as we head into the post-Christian world of secularism. The methods we are accustomed to may need to change. The rituals we are comfortable with may become difficult. But, the excuse of “that’s what we know” is not reason enough to cling to old ways.
Because whatever peace we find in clinging to the old way is nothing compared to the peace that we will experience when we are safe in the harbor of God’s eternal peace. The city that is to come far outshines the one we have known so well. Even though it may be incredibly uncomfortable to leave Jerusalem behind, there is a better city awaiting us.
But it’s only for those who leave the city, who go outside the camp, who follow the path of grace Jesus blazed in front of us. It’s not for those who want to get their in their own way. The city isn’t for those who refuse to place their trust in the Father and His leadership and authority. It’s only for those who trust, submit and obey.
So, don’t be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It’s good for our hearts to be strengthen by grace. Not by the rituals of what we once knew, but the everlasting richness of the grace of Jesus. Just follow Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Follow Him even when it leads you into the great unknown. When someone comes along with promises to get you there faster and easier, don’t follow them. There is only one path to life. All other paths lead back to the old Jerusalem.