Following not Believing

John 12:26 records Jesus’ response to some who want to see Him with, “If these Greeks want to be My disciples, tell them to come and follow Me, for My servants must be where I am. And if they follow Me, the Father will honor them.” image

Jesus, God as human, never sat down with anyone who wanted to get right with God in order to lead them through a simple prayer of salvation. Most of the time that Jesus identified people as among those who were His it was as those who followed Him.

This is the missing link in our current brand of Christianity. People are praying prayers to go to heaven but they are not following Jesus.

What does it mean to follow Jesus?

One of the by products of true followers is that they become fishers of men. This was the goal of Jesus’ followership when He invited men to follow Him so that He could form them into fishers of men. If we are not seeking and saving the lost as Jesus did we are not following Jesus. Jesus was and is a friend of sinners and those who follow Him, He proclaims, will be where He is. Where is Jesus? Jesus is being a friend to sinners in order to win them back to the Father’s heart.

Following Jesus requires doing what He did, taking up our cross daily in order that we might say as He did, ‘not my will but Your will be done Father.’ Jesus came not to do His own will but the will of His Father Who sent Him. To follow Jesus is to do the will of Jesus regardless of personal cost or consequence. In reality, as doing the Father’s will cost Jesus His life, we should expect to pay with our lives, our selfish and self-centered lives, in order to do the will of Jesus. Jesus identified this cost when He promised unless we lose our lives, denying ourselves, we cannot be His disciples.

A follower lays down His own interests in order to take up the will of God which will focus primarily upon the restoration of humanity to God the Father through Jesus the Son.

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Wisdom for our Work

Isaiah 28:29 proclaims the Lord Almighty is a wonderful teacher and gives the farmer wisdom.image

I’ve often thought that if the world was dependent upon me for many of its inventions we would still be wearing grass skirts while hunting and gathering for food. I’m not much for inventing but I marvel at those who have developed so many ideas for my convenience, health and safety.

The Lord God Almighty takes delight in communicating to His people both about Himself and about how we can better love one another.

The godly business man, scientist and engineer should take heart from this verse. Those who seek God particularly in their areas of expertise whose effect can make a global impact should be encouraged because God delights to help those whose hearts are set upon Him and His ways.

The godly person who makes the knowledge of God first priority can expect God to reciprocate by helping them accomplish their priorities far beyond their hopes and dreams.

The prerequisites for receiving wisdom from the Lord are first to seek Him for Himself. Regardless of what God may do for us, truly loving Him is about loving Him for Who He is and not for what He does. The lover of God loves God and not just the works of God.

Second, the one seeking wisdom must seek it for the benefit of others and not just self. God is to be glorified and not people. When our objective is the furtherance of His kingdom and glory upon the earth then God can and will give us the wisdom we seek for making Him better known in the world.

Christian motivation is to be God centered for the benefit of humanity: this is exactly the way Jesus lived among us.

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An End of Murder

Numbers 35:33 proclaims murder pollutes the land.image Arguably since the 1970’s one can argue the moral wheels have been falling off this country’s wagon. What was started by Christian people seeking a place to worship God freely has become a place led by secular people seeking to keep worship confined to seperate buildings. While more than 80% of America says they believe in God less than 25% make God their first love and priority as defined by daily prayer, Bible reading and priority of obedience to all of God’s commands. Perhaps no greater injustice is occurring in America than the legal murder of the helpless unborn child in or barely out of the Mother’s womb. The truly voiceless and powerless are being slain daily over convenience by the powerful. As a whole, the Church sits silent while it occurs. We ask for God’s blessing upon our land but little comes for we pray with blood from the innocent upon our hands. What should the Church do about abortion? Pray for its end. Work toward its end. Pray that God would move the hearts of people to love and see the evil abortion is so that they would legally stop it because it has become morally reprehensible. Second, the Church must get serious about winning people to God’s point of view about all of life. The Church finds abortion immoral because God calls it evil. The Church needs to obey its Leader, the Lord Jesus Christ, and love people into His kingdom so that they too begin to see things from God’s perspective. If everyone loved God through Jesus the Savior first and most then the issue of abortion would not exist. Until the hearts of people change the doing of evil will continue and the hearts of people cannot change unless they are born again.

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Receiving our Wages

John 4:36 promises the reapers will be paid good wages and will be imagegathering eternal souls into the granaries of heaven! What joys await the sower and the reaper, both together!

Everyone wants a fair wage. The union man wants his piece. The athlete holds out until he gets paid what he feels he’s worth. The seller waits until the buyer increases his bid. All of us exchange some form of labor for wages in order to buy the things we need and want.

God too is going to pay wages to His workers. Jesus, God Who lived among us, prayed that we would become fellow laborers in His ripe harvest field and promised eternal reward for our effort.

Its not hard to work for a day’s wage then get paid though few businesses or workers operate that way. Most of us get paid once a week or every other week, a few only once a month.

The longer the time between work and payment the more difficult it is to work. Perhaps this is why few take God up on His offer to become fellow workers in the earth.

His wages are worth more than all we can earn here on earth and will pay for our lives to be lived in His eternal kingdom but since we cant see or understand that economy now few of us have faith to work as though it really existed.

Eternity is a long time to live.

The treasure we send now will determine the quality of life we live there. Do we really believe this? We should if we read the Bible and understand the position God has placed Himself and us by making the Church His means for working at winning people into His Kingdom.

Judgment day is coming and with it the payment for our work done that expanded His Kingdom upon the earth.

How much do you think God will pay you?

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God’s Ways are NOT the Most Popular

2 Peter 2:2 Many will follow their evil teaching that there is nothing wrong with sexual sin. And because of them imageChrist and his way will be scoffed at.

The Christian faith is increasingly being maligned in our culture because God is politically incorrect.

Yet God will not conform to our ways neither will He be enlightened by our modern philosophies rather He will judge all people according to His ways after each of us pass from this life to the next.

This only makes sense if there really is a God: that He would determine right and wrong and have the power to hold everyone accountable to that standard.

Homosexuality is the current untouchable good but God calls it an abomination.

He does this because He created a man and a woman to unite in marriage to procreate so that His eternal kingdom would be filled with human beings – the height of His created order.

As those made in His image He has given us the amazing and most pleasurable privilege of co-creating.

Man and woman in a monogamous holy relationship get to make more people and raise them for the glory of God. What an extremely high and noble calling.

This is why the Bible makes clear that the highest good a woman can do is bear children and work as a mother. This idea too is now considered archaic, repressive and backward.

Sex is good and wonderful but it is to be confined to the marriage bed between one man and one woman because it is the standard God has set from the beginning.

It may not be popular today but it will be rewarded by God tomorrow.

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Having More than Faith

2 Peter 1:5 instructs you need more than faith; you must also work hard.image

The great Apostle Peter identifies a number of pursuits the Christian must make in addition to their faith in order to live a life pleasing to God and that demonstrates the presence of God through us on this earth.

He does not teach that our salvation from God, a free gift to us, earned by the work of Jesus the Son of God on the cross, can be obtained by the doing of these things in addition to our faith but rather they are necessary for proving our faith.

If these additional pursuits are not happening among Christians Peter instructs that at best we are not growing and so unfruitful as Christians and at worst are deceived and not really Christians at all.

Living self absorbed lives while believing in God is no different than evil angels living disobedient lives while believing in God.

Those who have truly repented from their evil deeds now seek to no longer live in them.

The born again life that must occur is a life pleasing to God that is growing in ever increasing likeness to God Himself as manifest through Jesus.

Christianity is not an idle ‘beliefism’ but a diligent pursuit to know the Sovereign Creator and Ruler of all and to live a life pleasing to Him forever beginning today.

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Trouble but only for a Moment

1 Peter 1:6 commands be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though the going is rough for a while down here.images

Jesus did not promise health and wealth to His people despite what we may see and hear on Christian television these days. Instead, He promised we would have trouble in this world even calling blessed those who suffer for His Name’s sake.

Everywhere else in the world the commitment to Christ includes a very tangible cross but here in North America we think it means a return of every physical or financial loss we have suffered.

As this is not the experience of so many, many fall away or become disenfranchised by Christianity since God did not meet their expectations.

The Christian doctrine promises heaven to all those who have been reconciled to God through faith demonstrated by obedience to Jesus Christ. Heaven will be replaced by a new earth eventually but in both places God reigns supreme as the recognized King and Ruler of all its inhabitants. God, when He is in direct rule, promises a place where peace, life, joy and abundance will exist forever and ever – a place where there will be no more sorrow or tears.

Conversely, those who live in this world ignoring and disobeying God will suffer eternal torment in hell where they will reap forever the desire of their heart: a place absent from the presence of God.

Since these places and realities are as true as God is True, why do Christians think this place should be as good as the next place?

For Christians, this earth is our hell, the place of torment, suffering and difficulty but fortunately for only a moment and in no way to the degree others will live in hell.

Likewise, these are the best of times regardless of the circumstances for those who hate God for no amount of pain and suffering now can compare to the eternal torment coming in their future.

God does not promise the Christian the absence of trouble now but rather His presence to bring us through trouble as He brings us home to His Kingdom where life of greatest pleasure and joy awaits with all those who have gone before us and have loved God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.

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Becoming God’s Friend

James 4:4 Don’t you realize that making friends with God’s enemies—the evil pleasures of this world—makes you an enemy of God? How many of us are enemies of God though we sat in Church this past Sunday?image

Do we think often about what pleases God or conversely, what displeases God?

If there really is a God shouldn’t our lives orient around His pleasures? By definition of God, it would seem all of our allegiance should be focused on knowing and doing the will of God. Yet this appears to be more the exception of the religious radical than the normal Christian life.

The half-brother of Jesus, the Apostle James, writes worldly minded people or people not focused upon His Kingdom coming to earth as it is in heaven are enemies of God. Do the enemies of God make it to heaven? We might argue we believe, we do good, we are good but none of these things address the issue of obedience to God’s will and purposes.

As Jesus prayed in the garden so we must echo, not my will but Your will be done.

If I am to do what is pleasing to God and thus demonstrate my loyalty to Him I must become a student of the manual He left me for knowing such things: the Bible.

God has not made knowing Him obscure but rather has revealed Himself and His will plainly both through His appearance in Jesus and His recorded history as written in the Bible.

To not be worldly oriented we must become heavenly oriented and this means knowing and doing the will of God recorded in the Bible.

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Living under God’s Protection

Isaiah 7:9 If you want Me to protect you, you must learn to believe what I say.image

For all of the things that go wrong, there is God. For everything that goes right, there is me! That’s how we live it seems.

The sovereignty of God is supposed to make my life go well after all He is all-powerful, all knowing, and abounding in love and I of course am a good and decent fellow deserving of God’s best.

We want God’s divine intervention in our lives to keep us cancer free, employed, out of debt and relationally happy.

We don’t want him telling us how to spend our money, where to spend our time or how to manage our lives.

It doesn’t work this way, either for us or for God. Israel tried living this duplicitous life and it didn’t work for them Israel.

If there really is a God, doesn’t it make sense He would require our absolute loyalty?

He does by commanding we love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. God is holy so takes our holiness seriously.

Holiness is the requirement for hanging out with God.

The blood of Jesus appropriated to the seeker of God’s pardon makes them holy but obedience to God maintains our holiness.

God is love so He patiently waits for people to repent before He meets out His consequences for humanity’s disregard for Him and His ways.

If we would know God and thus know His presence which is our protection, we must seek a holy life, a life of absolute obedience to the ways and will of God.

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What is God wanting to Do?

Hebrews 13:21 desires God to produce in you through the power of Christ all that is pleasing to Him.image

What does God want to accomplish in us and through us?

Interestingly the writer doesn’t pray that God will give us what we desire but that God would accomplish what He desires in us.

Perhaps this loss of focus explains why the impact of the Church seems so insignificant. We are too busy asking, seeking and achieving what we want rather than pursuing God and what He wants in us and through us.

What are some things God wants of us?

First, that we might become increasingly more like His First Born Son the Lord Jesus Christ. The Father’s desire is for His children to have a similar character, nature and goal, modeled, taught and achieved by Jesus. What did Jesus ask for? How did He live? What commands has He left for us to do until we meet Him face to face and are transformed from this body into the new eternal body?

Second, God is not desirous of anyone going to hell so has commissioned His people to live as His ambassadors reconciling people to Himself through Jesus the Savior. It is God’s will that His kingdom come to earth and exist in the same manner as it does in heaven. Those already in relationship with God through Jesus are His means for building His Kingdom on earth. This work can only be accomplished as we actively invest our time, talent and treasure in the work of winning people to God’s point of view.

While there most certainly is more God desires to accomplish in us no doubt those things will fall under these two larger categories of becoming more like Jesus and helping more people come to know Jesus.

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