The Tough Decision to Follow Jesus

<strong>The Tough Decision to Follow Jesus</strong>

The Scriptures remind us that when we make the decision to follow Jesus, we should “count the cost.”  (Lk 14:27-29)  In other words, Jesus wants us to know what it means to fully follow Him.  This is a serious subject with genuine consequences.

Just as the building of a physical house has a definite cost, so does the decision to follow Jesus have a cost.  We’re told that we must take up a CROSS and deny ourselves, in order to follow Jesus.  Let’s read what the Scriptures have to say:

And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.  (Mt 10:38 KJV, emphasis added)

Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.  (Lk 14:27 NASB)

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  (Mt 16:24 NRSV)

When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  (Mk 8:34 NKJV)

First, we must deny ourselves!  What does that mean?  It means that we put Jesus and the Holy Spirit in charge of our lives.  We give up the throne that is our life, and ask Jesus to sit on the throne and to direct us by His Spirit.  We cannot follow Jesus and the world’s way at the same time.  Neither can we serve God and money at the same time.

Following Jesus may mean that we lose relationships, dreams, material things, and even our lives.  Our relationship with Jesus must take priority over everything else in our lives and must be of the supreme importance to us. 

We must, in essence, declare:  “I’d rather have Jesus than anything.”

If a day comes when someone threatens us with death if we do not renounce our faith in Jesus Christ, then we should happily choose Jesus and eternal life above staying here in our earthly body.  Pray for God’s blessings and grace in order to live boldly for Jesus.

May God’s grace strengthen you and empower you.

Clothe Ourselves with Virtue

<strong>Clothe Ourselves with Virtue</strong>

How can we clothe ourselves with virtue?  For that matter, how can we “put on love” as instructed in Colossians 3:14?  And note that Romans 13:14 tells us that we have “put on Christ,” as does Galatians 3:27.

And what virtues are we encouraged by God’s Word to put on?

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  (Col 3:12 NIV)

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.  (Col 3:14-15 NIV)

Your love must be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to each other with mutual affection. Excel at showing respect for each other.  (Rom 12:9-10 ISV)

. . . with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love . . .  (Eph 4:2 NKJV)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  (Gal 5:22-23 NASB)

Wow!  This is an impressive list of virtues and good traits to pursue and to practice.

In the natural realm, when we want to be clothed, it is a conscious act of the will.  Our clothes don’t fly through the air and attach themselves to us, right?  We have to physically maneuver ourselves into the clothes, and then button or snap or zip them into place.  And we have to choose exactly what items we want to wear each and every day.

As believers and followers of Jesus, we must be just as deliberate about what virtues we choose to use in every circumstance and situation in our lives.  We must decide to be peacemakers, just as we must choose to be kind, humble, gentle, patient, peace-loving, joyful, faithful, and self-controlled. 

As we make the decision each new day to follow Jesus, we must make the decision in every circumstance and life situation about how to react to our current challenges or trials. 

In answer to our prayers to Him, the Lord will give us the grace and power that we need to weave these virtues into our lives.  The Holy Spirit will guide us if we yield to Him in humility and obedience. 

The Holy Spirit is the only One who can teach us and transform us into the image of Christ.  And best of all, He can be trusted to guide us lovingly and faithfully.  Hallelujah!

Why Did Humanity Throng Jesus?

Why Did Humanity Throng Jesus?

A THRONG means a multitude, crowd, mass of people, or swarm of people.  The Bible points out that everywhere that Jesus traveled, people swarmed to Him.  They ran to Jesus in hope, out of need, and due to a yearning to see the hand of God operating among them.

The people not only crowded around the Lord, but they were actually pressing in upon Him—trying to get as close to Him as they possibly could.  Let’s turn to the Bible:

And He went off with him; and a large crowd was following Him and pressing in on Him.  (Mk 5:24 NASB)

And His disciples said to Him, “You see the crowd pressing in on You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’”  (Mk 5:31 NASB, emphasis added)

On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret . . . (Lk 5:1 ESV)

. . . because his twelve-year-old child was dying. She was his only daughter. While Jesus was on his way, people were crowding all around Him.  (Lk 8:42 CEV)

Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” While everyone was denying it, Peter and those who were with him said, “Master, the crowds are surrounding you and pressing in on you.”  (Lk 8:45 ISV)

The people wanted and needed to experience the forgiveness, the love and the mercy of God that Jesus radiated to all who were exposed to Him.  All human beings desire love and acceptance, and no one conveyed that as powerfully and as genuinely as Jesus Christ did.

In the physical presence of Jesus, I believe that every human being on earth would react in just the same way today as people did in Bible times. 

What we would do well to remember is that we already having a loving and personal relationship with Jesus as our Savior, Lord, and Messiah.  We have access to all of His blessings and to His presence in our lives.  All we need to do is to stop, and get alone with Him in a place of prayer and worship.  At once, the Lord’s presence will be magnified as we focus upon Him, alone.  God bless you.

What We KNOW as Believers

What We KNOW as Believers

We, as Christians, don’t have to wonder or hope or try to get faith.  We need to stop and consider what we know.  Our key verse for this study is in 2 Timothy:

. . . for I KNOW whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that day.  (2 Tim 1:12b KJV)

For we KNOW JESUS, our Savior and Lord, with whom we have a living, vital relationship—Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God!  (Mt 16:16; 26:63; Joh 6:69) To KNOW someone means to have a relationship with, to comprehend, and to have experienced who they truly are as a person.

As a matter of fact, because we have received Jesus Christ as our Savior, Redeemer and Lord, we are now known as SONS OF THE LIVING GOD!  (Rom 9:26)  Hallelujah!

These are some of the vital things that we KNOW as believers:

  • That the Lord has set us apart for Himself; the Lord will hear us when we call upon Him!  (Ps 4:3) 
  • That because we are set apart for God (His anointed), He will answer us with the saving strength of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ps 20:6)
  • That the Lord is great, and He is above all gods.  (Ps 135:5)
  • That God’s works are marvelous.  (Ps 139:14)
  • That Jesus is the Holy One of God. (Mk 1:24c; Lk 4:34c)
  • We know the mysteries of the kingdom of God.  (Lk 8:10)
  • We know Jesus, our Good Shepherd.  (Joh 10:14)
  • We know the Lord, because He dwells with us, and He lives in us.  (Joh 14:17)
  • We know that Jesus dwells in the Father; we dwell in Jesus; and Jesus dwells in us.  (Joh 14:20)
  • That wherever we go, we carry the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.  (Rom 15:29)
  • That we have received the Spirit who is from God through whom we know the things that have been freely given to us by God.  (1 Cor 2:12; 1 Joh 4:12-14)
  • We are the temple of God and the Holy Spirit dwells within each believer.  (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19)
  • That we are in Christ because we keep His Word, and the love of God is perfected in us.  (1 Joh 2:5)
  • That Jesus was manifested to take away our sins and in Him there is no sin.  (1 Joh 3:5)
  • That we have passed from death to life because we love the brethren.  (1 Joh 3:14)
  • We know the Spirit of God because we confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, and He is from God.  (1 Joh 4:2)
  • That we are born of God and know God because we love one another, and love is of God.  (1 Joh 4:7)
  • We know that we have eternal life because we believe in the name of the Son of God and will continue to do so.  (1 Joh 5:13)

Why Forgiveness is Important

Why Forgiveness is Important

Jesus is our perfect example in all things, and He demonstrated forgiveness to us.  (See John 8:7 & 11)  Let’s see what else the Scriptures teach us on this topic.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.  (Mt 6:14-15 ESV)

Whenever you stand up to pray, you must forgive what others have done to you. Then your Father in heaven will forgive your sins.  (Mk 11:25 CEV)

Both preceding verses remind us that as we forgive other people for ways in which they hurt us, our Father God also forgives us for our sins.  And they warn that if we don’t forgive others their transgressions, then the Lord won’t be able to forgive us.  Why?  Because our unforgiving attitude separates us from God, and from His loving plan for all people.  Unforgiveness can become a bitter root within us corrupting our faith in God.

But love your enemies and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil people. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  (Lk 6:35-36 NASB)

In Luke 6, we’re taught by the Lord to love our enemies and even to do good to them.  We’re told to lend, without expecting repayment—but then the Lord will give us a great reward.  The reason for that is that the Lord is kind to ungrateful and evil people, and when we act the same way, He is mightily pleased with us.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  (Col 3:13 NIV)

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  (Eph 4:32 NIV)

The two verses above in Colossians and Ephesians emphasize that we should be patient with each other and kind to one another.  And again, we are urged most definitely to forgive others in honor and remembrance of the fact that the Lord has forgiven us repeatedly.  As we humbly recall the many occasions that our Savior has forgiven every one of us, we can begin to recognize that the Lord is not asking us to do anything that He has not already done!

After forgiving someone, it may be necessary for us to forgive them again for the same issue.  Not because they have offended us again, but because the enemy of our souls tries to tempt us by reminding us of the offense to break our fellowship with Jesus. 

That gives us the opportunity to submit to the Lord and pray, telling ourselves and the entire spiritual realm that we forgive the one who hurt us, and we do so freely in obedience to the Lord.  The Lord will give us the grace that we need to be able to arrive at the peace that He so fully provides as the Prince of Peace.  God bless you!

The Light Shines in Darkness

The Light Shines in Darkness

We all know that in a dark place, even the tiniest light—say from a lit match—introduces light that is quite CONSPICUOUS.  In John 8:12, Jesus declared that He is the light of the world.  In the dark world that contains death, sin, and evil intentions, Jesus brought light and life and the precious gift of eternal salvation to mankind.  Glory to God!

Let’s see what the Bible says on this topic:

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  (Joh 1:5 NIV)  Light will always win over darkness, thanks to our Creator God.

And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.  (Joh 3:19-20 RSV)  Notice that a lot of evil deeds are done in the darkness and in the nighttime hours.  Criminals will often break lights on a street or in a hallway in order to hide their cruel activities.

The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.”  (Mt 4:16 NKJV)  Light dawned upon the earth in the form of baby Jesus, born in a manger in a stable.  Jesus brought us the gift of salvation.

For it is you who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness.  (Ps 18:28 ESV)  The Lord “lights” the lamp of our soul within us.  When we accept Jesus as our Savior and Redeemer, the Holy Spirit makes His home within each one of us.  Hallelujah!

Once again Jesus spoke to the people. This time he said, “I am the light for the world! Follow me, and you won’t be walking in the dark. You will have the light that gives life.”   (Joh 8:12 CEV)

Here is the same verse as above, but in a different translation:

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”  (John 8:12 NKJV)

As we continue in our relationship with Jesus Christ, our light shines into the world.  Our interactions with every person that we meet, whether loved ones or strangers, makes an impact upon each one. 

When we follow the example of our Lord Jesus, then our interactions will reflect His love, forgiveness, and mercy.  We will extend a loving and helping hand to all who need it, and encouragement to others.  In this way, we shine the light of God’s eternal love into the earth.  Shine brightly, dear brothers and sisters!

We Know Love, Thanks to Jesus

We Know Love, Thanks to Jesus

The Scriptures teach us that humanity knows love and is acquainted with love because Jesus gave up His own life to reconcile us back to our Father God.

By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.  (1 Joh 3:16 NKJV)

 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  (Rom 5:8 NIV)

 Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it . . . (Eph 5:25 NCV)

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  (Eph 5:2 ESV)

All of these Bible passages refer to the fact that Jesus’ redeeming sacrifice was an ACT OF LOVE.  The Lord tells us through the Word that we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Husbands are admonished to love their wives even as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed Himself on behalf of the Church. Husbands should want to protect their wives and children even as the Lord did.

And we’re encouraged to follow the example of Christ, and to become (as He did) a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  This gives us a reason to examine ourselves and to ask ourselves if we are demonstrating our love in ways that are spiritually and relationally significant to our nearest and dearest.  God bless you as you allow the Holy Spirit to lead you and guide you in showing love to everyone in your life!

Reject Anger

Reject Anger

As followers of the Lord Jesus, we have to make a decision to reject anger as an option in our dealings with one another and with the Lord.

Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret—it only causes harm.  For evildoers shall be cut off; but those who wait on the Lord, they shall inherit the earth.  (Ps 37:8-9 NKJV)

Anger and wrath only cause harm and heartaches.  But all who wait upon the salvation of the Lord will inherit the earth. 

He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, but he who is impulsive exalts folly.  (Pro 14:29 NKJV)

A person who hardly ever gets angry is called understanding by the Word of God.

You know this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Now everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger; 20 for a man’s anger does not bring about the righteousness of God.  (Jas 1:19-20 NASB)

Our human anger doesn’t bring about the righteousness of God, so it is a weapon that we need to abandon.  A person’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is to his credit that he ignores an offence.  (Pro 19:11 ISV)

In every way, it is best to seek the Lord and to rely upon Him to lead us and guide us in our responses and our reactions. Glory to God.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd

Jesus, the Good Shepherd

Jesus spoke about Himself as the Good Shepherd in John 10:11-18.

The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing. He causes me to lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside quiet waters.
  (Ps 23:1-2 EHV)

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.  (Joh 10:11 NKJV)

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  (Mt 6:33 NIV)

 And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  (Phil 4:19 NASB)

And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.  (1 Pet 5:4 ESV)

A shepherd is an overseer of his flock.  By identifying Himself as the Good Shepherd, Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah foretold in the Scriptures.

In Ezekiel 34:1-10, the Lord outlines what constitutes a bad shepherd.  Through Ezekiel 34:11-31, Jesus establishes Himself as the Savior and Messiah, and the new leader of the Israelites.  He is the Good Shepherd who protects, provides for and cares for His sheep. We are the sheep of His pasture!

Jesus calls out to all people to (obey) His voice.  Glory to God!

To Attain Greatness, Serve!

To Attain Greatness, Serve!

Would you like to be called great someday?  The Bible tells us how to reach that goal!  But it would surprise most of us to know that the pathway to greatness is by serving others!

That’s not the way it should be among you. Instead, whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave.  (Mt 20:26-27 ISV)

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.  (Mk 10:45 NKJV)  Even our Savior, Jesus Christ, came to earth to serve mankind—not to sit on His throne as King!

But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.  (Lk 22:26 ESV)

Those who humble themselves like this little child will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  (Mt 18:4 CEB)

The Bible has this to say about one of God’s servants:  Moses was faithful in all God’s house, as a servant. (Heb 3:5)

The more that we serve and help other people, the higher that we rise in God’s estimation.  In Matthew 20:28, Jesus said that He, Himself, came to serve and to be a ransom for many.  What a beautiful example to all of us who follow Him and serve Him! 

Here’s a short list of some great people who became famous because of their service to others:  Mother Teresa (Missionaries of Charity); Clara Barton (American Red Cross); William Booth (Salvation Army); Bill Wilson (Alcoholics Anonymous); and Cecil Jackson-Cole (Oxfam).  There are many, many others that I don’t have space to name.

Those who strive to be servants gain respect, success, and acclaim.  They also are noticed and rewarded by our God and Savior, whose opinion of us is the most important of all.  God bless you!