At the beginning of lock downed quarantine as the pandemic expanded, the most used word and battle cry among leaders in all walks of life was “pivot”. We must be “light on our feet and pivot” from where we have been to what lies ahead in order to survive. We have been forced to change our traditional way of doing anything in this life. Some revolted against all change, which is not surprising about human nature. Some of us cannot be moved. We like what we know. It’s more comfortable. Some of us fought for our right to succumb to covid despite all warning and evidence that it may kill you and those around you. All the while, leaders who must decide what’s next, are realizing that it is necessary to pivot or perish.
Jesus is a leader who has the wisdom of God Himself because Jesus is God in flesh walking among those stuck in religious tradition without a relationship to God. John opens his gospel with this testimony about who Jesus is;
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:1-5, NIV
“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” John 1:14, Msg
Jesus, Son of God, is pivotal in the lives of those He touches and teaches. Jesus comes with “pivotal” life-altering teaching that is revolutionary. He brings new understanding to the commandment to Love God and love others. Did some people revolt against His teaching? I think you know the answer to that one! The ones who revolted were the ones who had established a life of their own without God. They liked it that way. They loved their independence from God. They loved to show off their religiosity to all those they lorded over with self-made power. They were not in the mood to pivot. But the common people began to see and understand Jesus’ ways of understanding God and his ways. They knew they must pivot or perish.
The Pharisees and Teachers of The Law had made God’s Law burdensome and impossible for God’s people to fully obey. When you dig deeper, it wasn’t about obedience to God for them but about the common man being obedient to the men in current power who were very political in nature and practice. Relationship with God was all but lost to these leaders. When they prayed, the religious leaders made prayer a performance. Jesus called them “hypocrites”. This Greek word comes from those who are masked and play act on a stage. I am reminded of the quote from William Shakespeare, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.” Life is so much more!
Today the meaning of hypocrisy is describe as the practice of engaging in the same behavior or activity for which one criticizes another or the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform. In moral psychology, it is the failure to follow one’s own expressed moral rules and principles. American political journalist Michael Gerson says that political hypocrisy is “the conscious use of a mask to fool the public and gain political benefit”. Yikes!
Jesus teaches us how to avoid hypocrisy with a pivotal prayer life that seeks God and his will. This is prayer that is private, spoken with no pretense, with the desire to have a heart to heart with God. It is our asking for help in knowing God’s will and His guidance in fulfilling His purpose in us and through us. There are no memorized babblings of prayers written by others that sound nice. Pivotal prayer is a heart-wrenching, yielded mind asking for God to fill our souls with all of Him in us. It is also pivotal to our growing relationship with God. It is asking what HE wants then doing what He says.
Jesus teaches us how to pray to God while he walked the earth. He teaches that we must lay down our will and embrace the will of God. Jesus tells both leaders and common people often, I only say and do what the Father tells me. This is pivotal to our own lifestyle as we grow in relationship with God. We need to be ready to move when God says to move, be still and know Him when He says to pause and wait for teaching.
Yes, this relationship between Father and Son is the relationship we can now have, too! It is a relationship God wants with us! He died and rose again to talk with us because He loves us! We can have all the God has for us all because of Jesus! For us, pivotal prayer, asking for what God wants deepens our relationship with God and changes our behavior. If it doesn’t, we are merely “actors” on the stage of life.
Because of this pivotal teaching, the Jews tried all the harder to kill Him. Not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. How did Jesus respond? “Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” John 5:19, NLT
Who are we to do life without God? Pivot or perish. We have a choice.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16, NIV
Prayer is a private, intimate conversation with the One who loves us most! Listening to God in prayer (conversation, remember?) is pivotal to our daily lives of loving God and loving others. “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” James 5:16b, NLT
Matthew—The Law Fulfilled
Matthew 6:5-18, NLT
Teaching about Prayer and Fasting
5 “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. 6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
7 “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. 8 Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! 9 Pray like this:
Our Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.
10 May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today the food we need,
12 and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
13 And don’t let us yield to temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.
14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.
16 “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. 17 But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. 18 Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
ONE LAST “PIVOTAL” THOUGHT…
Place Your Life Before God
12 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. –Romans 12:1-2,The Message
Abba, Father in Heaven,
Hallowed is Your Name. May Your Kingdom come and reign in me and all around me so I see you at work and praise you first and only! May Your Will be done in every detail of my life today on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day all you know we will need. And forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptations to fight back or get even, but to run from what evil wants as opposed to what YOU want. Deliver us from evil and evil’s schemes to bring us down. Lift us up to where you are in your thinking. Show us your will and your ways of accomplishing your will and purpose in us and through us. For you have all power, to you be all glory, honor and praise forevermore.
In Jesus Name, Amen! I believe.