Three chords and fire!

A few months ago I heard on the radio that Mick Jagger (frontman of the Rolling Stones, just in case you hadn’t heard of him!) was once asked what it took to be a rock-and-roll star. Apparently he replied as follows: “Three chords and fire!

So simple that it got me thinking.

What if that’s also an important part of what it takes to be a good disciple of Jesus? Three chords standing for a simple message, and fire for the passion with which it is communicated.

Now any musician will tell you that those three chords are most likely to be C, F and G. They’re the ones you learn first and are amongst the easiest to play.

(OK – A, D and E are also candidates but let’s agree on C, F and G for the moment.)

For the disciple looking for a message what could those three chords mean?

There are many answers but let me suggest the following:

  • Come
  • Follow
  • Go

Come!

Jesus said “Come” many times; often he invited people to come and follow him. In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection we read this:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

(Matthew 11:28-30—The Message)

Is life too much for you? Come to Jesus!

I love the way his invitation is paraphrased in The Message. It’s simple and very attractive. Who doesn’t at times feel they have lost their life and want to recover or even discover it? Maybe we’ve tried religion and been burned or got burned out trying to make it work.

Jesus offers the only alternative: walking with him and learning the “unforced rhythms of grace.” And who wouldn’t like to live “freely and lightly”?

The first chord: C. The first simple message: Come to Jesus.

But what then? Once we’ve come, what comes next? The second chord, F, and the second simple message.

Follow!

Jesus’ call is not simply to come but to also to follow—to follow Him.

One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him.

Matthew 4:18-20

Many people followed Jesus in his lifetime on earth—and many stopped following him when it got difficult.

But he had warned people that it would be difficult.

“What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man.”

Luke 6:22

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.

Luke 9:23

It’s a simple message: to follow Jesus, listening daily to his Holy Spirit, walking with him as the early disciples did, and learning from him. It’s simple, though we have often made it complicated, but it’s not easy.

And it’s costly.

It costs control of our lives. It costs the right to use our resources—money, property, time—as we want. It costs the right to live where we choose, to go where we want to go. It costs everything. But for those who know his love, the cost is a small price to pay. Didn’t he himself give up all those things when he came to earth to die for us? Giving our lives back to him is our loving response to his loving sacrifice for us. And it’s also a good deal! As Jim Elliot, wrote in his diary,

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

And the lives we get back are not empty, stripped of all pleasure and fun. Far from it! He gives us better lives than we could have imagined if we had tried to plan them ourselves and keep them for ourselves.

And, at the end of life, no regrets!

But Jesus did not call his disciples only to come and follow him, he also trained them to go for him. This brings us to the last chord, G, and the last message: go!

Go!

Having earlier sent them out to preach and heal the sick…

One day Jesus called together his twelve disciples and gave them power and authority to cast out all demons and to heal all diseases. Then he sent them out to tell everyone about the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

Luke 9:1-2

… at the end of Matthew’s gospel we read that Jesus told his disciples to go and make more disciples:

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

Following him has a purpose: to become more and more like him, and thus to do what he did: preach the good news of reconciliation and forgiveness, and bring more followers into the Kingdom of God.

Some of us will go to our next-door neighbours and some to the ends of the earth; and many to somewhere in between. We may go to our colleagues at work, or friends at school or university. Or to friends in sports clubs or on social media. The going is limitless. It’s not about how far you go or how you go—really or virtually—it’s simply a matter of going and taking his love to those who have not yet encountered it. And there are plenty of those.

Now the chords have been played and the simple messages are complete.

  • Jesus says Come, Follow, Go!

But Jesus also warns his disciples not to go yet. Something else, or rather Someone else, is necessary. We need fire!

Once when he was eating with them, [Jesus] commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit … You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Acts 1:4-5, 8

Fire!

We could work up some fire, but our own zeal is not going to get us far. That fire is more likely to burn us out.

But there is a fire that burns without consuming and this is the fire that will turn three simple messages like those above into a life-changing moment for those listening.

John the Baptist said this:

“I baptize you with water; but someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

Luke 3:16

He was speaking about Jesus. And in Acts 2 we read about the fire arriving and settling on the early disciples in such power that when Peter went outside and preached 3000 people believed in Jesus.

“On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.”

Acts 2:1-4

When the Holy Spirit is present, there is the fire.

Three chords and fire: a simple message and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Resolution

Finally, the chord progression must resolve and return to where it began. Back to C. Once again the message is “Come!”

Now it’s the end of the story, as revealed to John, but the message is the same.

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.

Revelation 22:17

The invitation is always there. Come! Follow! Go!

Let’s spread the simple, three-chord, Good News with the fire of the Holy Spirit.

 

Related post: Come home, all is forgiven!

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Lay all your love on Me

A few days ago I was having problems with my music system. I thought I’d fixed it and wanted some music to test it so I looked through the index of music by artist and the first in the list was ABBA.

We first started listening to ABBA when we lived in Germany in 1979 and travelled a lot to Denmark and even ABBA’s own native country, Sweden. We didn’t buy many albums, contenting ourselves with a “Best of …” album and a couple of others. However one we did buy and really enjoy was Super Trouper and this was the one I selected for my test. But I didn’t start at the beginning; for some reason I started with the penultimate track, “Lay All Your Love On Me”.

I love this music and especially the way this song becomes a kind of chorale at the end, repeating these words:

Don’t go wasting your emotion
Lay all your love on me
Don’t go sharing your devotion
Lay all your love on me

As I listened to them repeating over and over, they seemed to me to be an appeal from God Himself.

Of course, my brain intervened and I wanted to understand if this could be right!

Yes, we are told to love God with all our heart etc. but what about loving our neighbours too? Then I remembered something I’d posted almost one year ago: A barrel of love. In that post I recalled a speaker saying that God wanted to fill him to overflowing with His love so that it spilled out from the top of the barrel – over everyone in reach! We are not supposed to try and love our neighbours out of our own love, but out of the overflow of God’s love pouring into us! Now it made sense. If we “lay all our love” on Him, He’ll give us even more back and we will overflow with love for our neighbours in the messiest, best way possible!

This chorale speaks of two aspects of love: emotion and devotion. No doubt ABBA chose these because they needed a rhyme, but of course they also make sense. And for our relationship with God they make sense too.

On the one hand there is emotion – our praise and worship so well illustrated for me by many of the songs of Brooke Fraser-Ligertwood, Amanda Cooke and Steffany Gretzinger, to name but a few. They speak there being “no one else for me, none but Jesus” and of being lost in wonder. Older hymns capture this too and I’ve written about both in the past. (See Lost in Wonder.) This is the way we give our emotional hearts to Him.

And devotion is the way we give our lives to Him. Paul writes in Romans that we are to give our bodies as living sacrifices, which is true (acceptable) worship. This is devotion.

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.
Romans 12:1

So this simple chorale seems to me to capture two of the most important elements of our faith.

One last thing. The song was written by ABBA, and I’ve just realised that this is the respectful, yet familiar, name we can use to address God the Father.

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”
Romans 8:15

How like Him and, may I say, His sense of humour to use a Swedish pop group to write these words in His name!

So I leave you with the chorale.

Please hear it as an appeal not from ABBA but from your Abba, to lay all your love on Him.