Reflections 2: When We Follow Him

“24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24 – 25, NKJV, Pp.952).

Our Lord Jesus Christ is so direct, so cunning with His words I think sometimes we hear them, read them, and can even feel the emotion behind each and every phrase that he spoke, but somehow we fail to allow his message to sink in and really touch our souls. I feel we erect a barrier, a shield of shorts around our hearts that allows nothing good in, which prevents His healing touch to really work the miracles in our lives in the way they were intended too.  As I reflect upon Our Lord Jesus, His message, His longing for us all to put down our troubles and worries and pick up our cross, I have to also suggest that the faith Jesus exhibited in God is what gives meaning to His words, to His message, to His command to Follow Him.

I am also led to the conclusion that Jesus’s message was delivered in such a way that for those men and women who heard his voice, touched his skin, and who had the privilege to hug and interact with Him, they understood exactly His intent, for the message was crystal clear. Some of them, as some of us today just refuse to submit to Jesus. In fighting this unwinnable battle of wills we are also fighting against God our father in heaven. In propagating this strength test of sorts somewhere down the line we make a conscious choice. Some of us rebuke God because it is an easier road to follow, leaving our cross to rot where it is. Still others are so horrified that it is our very life we are required to willingly sacrifice that we simply panic and do everything imaginable to save it, condemning ourselves in the process.  But the majority of us are like Apostle Peter, we have no problem with the sacrifice of our own life, if it would mean Jesus didn’t have to die, and as innocent as that may sound it was against the very purpose of Jesus Christ being here in the first place, because through our death, we die a sinner, a rebel, and are ultimately separated from God Our Father. So to Peter, Jesus replied the only way he could and in doing so he also was talking to every man, women, and child that would ever live on this planet.

“22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!’ 23 But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:22 – 23, NKJV, Pp.952).

To follow Jesus we must commit our souls to Him completely, lay down our own wants and desires and follow Him with absolute faith, without question of where He is leading us. It is this requirement that separates the people of God from every other people in the world. It is this one prerequisite that keeps the people of God focused on the end game, thwarting any distractions.   Yet, some of us can hear His calming voice, but with our eyes we see the enemy coming closer and like Peter, we become fearful which leads us to become irrational and then we sin before God.  I find this response to be ironic, because Peter knew as did the other disciples, as we all know today, why Jesus was headed down the road that he freely chose. Yet, even armed with this knowledge Peter still allowed fear to momentarily blind him making him unable to accept the truth of Jesus’s mission. In retrospect Peter was coming from a place of earthly concern, fooled into believing this concern for Jesus was coming from a place of love. In allowing this Peter momentarily allowed Satan in, and Jesus saw it, heard it, and was responding to it. In that moment, Our Lord was also responding to each and every one of us each time we allow Satan in, speaking directly to our immortal soul as he cast Satan out.

“26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26, NKJV, Pp.952).

As I have stated before and will state again, it is righteous to have a healthy fear of God and a massive amount of respect for Him. For it is with His grace we continue to multiply, to live, and be so blessed. It is because God loves each and every one of us that we exist at all. It is so mind-boggling to me that some of us are so lost, so hungry for God’s love and yet run so fast in the opposite direction. Grant-it for many it is out of ignorance, but for those unlucky people who continue to practice willful disobedience in living an immoral, offensive life that which is chalked with sin, so much so it physically destroys them and hurts everyone around them, while ignoring God’s many pleas, for them we must pray for Gods mercy. For in all they do, in all their efforts they have accomplished nothing, for we are nothing when compared to God, as all things are accomplished through Him and by Him alone. I know God must really shake his head in wonder every time He looks down from heaven, hearing our many complaints, requests, and cries for help, only to turn the other cheek when He presents us the answer. Truth is Jesus asked this very question over two thousand years ago when He frustratingly announced;

“26 But why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46, NKJV, Pp.998).

Jesus went on to explain the many differences in a person’s heart that does what he says, from one who does not in the following two verses, and as straight forward as His commandments are, none of them was as direct and as skillfully aimed at our human hearts as when he said over and over to the multitude, “Follow Me.” He said it because we are lost, and within Him, through Him we are found.

I am constantly inspired by those of us Christians who confess their faith and live a day-to-day life filled with God’s commandments, but I morn for those who live their lives as they see fit, absent of remorse while skillfully executing their own set of faulty morality. I can tell the unmistakable difference in a person who is filled with love from God, from one who is filled with love of self. The person filled with the love of God is peaceful, and holds a heart that strives to do good not for themselves, but for those who are around them. In their presence you feel safe, secure, and at peace, because they are humble before our God. But the person filled with selfish ambition and blind, reckless greed, well for them they betray their own self-serving intentions by the words that come from their diseased hearts.

Challenge question: Now that you know what is required what will you do in your own life today to honor God our most deserving Father?

Amen

If you have been moved by this blog I humbly invite you to leave a message telling me your thoughts and how this reflection has touched you. May peace and love be with you all the days of your life.  May God keep you and bless you.

Reflection 9: For When Your Soul Is Depleted?

First Sunday after Easter

As I write this reflection this week, I wanted to express that though life is not easy, and there are doors which shut for no reason there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Though there might be pitch black in every direction and the feelings of helplessness, and loneliness might be creeping in there is hope in Jesus. So I write this first to set the stage so to speak, so the raw emotions that most certainly was present upon that first Sunday after the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, there might be clarity amongst all the religious noise of this Easter season.

“44 It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 for the sun stopped shinning. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last” (Luke 23:44-46, Zondervan NIV 2002, p.1618).

Jesus often reminds us that the struggles we endure here on Earth, as flawed mortals, has less to do with our petty squabbles with each other, but has more to do with the war which is raging between our heavenly soul and our sinful flesh. It is not a physical war that we can use our five senses to protect ourselves against our aggressors, but rather it is a spiritual one which drains our energies making us change our minds and to give into temptation. Our bodies cannot win this war, because we were not created to win it as flesh and blood creatures within sin. Rather through our spiritual weapons made known to us as having absolute faith in God will the victory be realized. The death of Jesus was caused by physical torture, his fight however was not focused on the physical pain he endured rather the war of the soul. Our Lord and Savior died on the cross not to illustrate his so called dishonor of the Jewish faith but rather the willingness to sacrifice his life as a spiritual payment that would build faith in his true mission. Thus through Jesus Christ, and by emulating his example of perfect faith in our Father in heaven, within that very moment that he committed his spirit to God, did he then claim victory over Satan, reclaiming the world for all mankind.

“33We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of man will be betrayed to the chief priest and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles; 34who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise” (Mark 10:33-34, Zondervan NIV 2002, p.1547).

This was the second warning of Jesus to his disciples describing in detail what was going to happen, in an attempt to prepare them. It proves that he knew what was to befall him, but he went to Jerusalem anyway. Jesus had so many other avenues he could have taken which would have spared him this horror, but his fight was not of the flesh, but of the spirit. His perfect faith in God, gave his mortal body the strength to face the final showdown between God and Satan.

“8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” (Matthew 4:8-10, Zondervan NIV 2002, p.1473).

Spiritually speaking, even though Jesus’s disciples had witnessed his many miracles, and professed with their lips their belief that he was the Messiah, their hearts where still empty and starving. Their souls were depleted and almost ready for the final miracle. Ironically none of them got it; none of them realized that Jesus was at war, he was fighting a battle to which none of them could see with their own eyes. None of them realized the severity of his actions and teachings until the very moment he appeared to them after Easter. I find myself thinking how hard it is to accept the fact Jesus knew of the absolute pain and indignity he was going to suffer and yet he still chose to carry on with it. So we can’t really fault his disciples who loved him as a brother and did not want to see him die. But we then must ask; if not Jesus then who would have faced Satan, faced the cross? The real question is who else could have?

“3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  4Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:3-5, Zondervan NIV 2002, p.1473).

During his trial and flogging he remained amazingly silent. He was neither defiant, nor was he smug about his actions, his mission, but amazingly humble, accomplishing this feat with precision and grace, with unearthly mercy. Yet within his final words before he closed his eyes on the cross, Jesus’s disciples where in hiding, crushed by the world, their faith dashed their souls depleted. There defeat was so absolute that even Mary Magdalene could not believe her own eyes when she saw the tome empty even though Jesus told them of this miracle.  It took Jesus himself to appear before they all believed. As the word spread through the city of the miracle, still those who heard but had not yet seen Jesus could not believe. I am quite sure his disciples where recounting every word Jesus had ever spoken to them. I am sure they all felt guilty that they could not have faith in him enough to not doubt it. The words which must have rang in their minds the most before Jesus appeared to them was;

“Fortunate are the eyes that see what you are seeing. Many prophets and kings wished to see what you now see and never saw it, longed to hear what you now hear and never heard it” (Lost Gospel Q, Q33, p.67).

We celebrate Easter because that is when our sin debt was paid in full. I write about this first Sunday after Easter so that we will remember how empty our souls where as the hunt for our risen Lord began. The miracle that is Jesus, that was his resurrection, his absolute faith in our father that was revealed and proven. Even unto the very moment of his death his soul was not depleted, but from time to time ours is, so this is but one reason why we need him. I write about this first Sunday after Easter to also illustrate how God planned this event, how Jesus obeyed our Father, how we came to believe.

“A week later his disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ 27 Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!’ Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen me and yet have believed” (John 21:26-29, Zondervan NIV 2002, p.1671).

Amen,

If you have been moved by this blog I humbly invite you to leave a message telling me your thoughts and how this reflection has touched you. May peace and love be with you all the days of your life.  May God keep you and bless you. Amen.



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