Thursday, May 26, 2011
Challenging Like Jesus
Jesus said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat.
Jesus called disciples. When they heard his call, they already knew that they were being called to be prophets, to be an alternative to the teachers who were in Israel already. They were honored to be called, but they also recognized that it was also a sacrifice. Just as Elisha had to give up his occupation and home to follow Elijah, so did the disciples have to give everything they knew up in order to follow Jesus. In the simple word, “Follow me” Jesus told them this. And they accepted the call of Jesus readily.
He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." But He said to him, "Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God." Another also said, "I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home." But Jesus said to him, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."
Jesus had many disciples beyond the twelve apostles. Many wanted to prove that they were dedicated enough to follow Jesus. But with many of them, Jesus had to challenge them to a greater commitment. Many disciples thought that Jesus could be just a part of their lives, or something they do for a time and then return to their old lives. Jesus clearly taught that once a person begins to follow him, the sacrifices they make are total and can’t be surrendered later. He told one that to follow Jesus, he needs to expect homelessness. He told another that he cannot turn back to his family once he has begun to follow Jesus. To another, he said that he cannot fulfill his social commitment to bury his family. Because the commitment to the kingdom is total—no turning back, no compromise.
Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, "One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.
Another one wasn’t seeking to follow Jesus. He was seeking the kingdom of God, salvation, eternal life. But he wasn’t sure how he would gain it. Jesus gave the standard answer, follow the commandments. But the man wasn’t satisfied with that answer—he expected something more from Jesus. And so Jesus said, “If you want your devotion to be complete, then sell your possessions, give to the poor and follow me.” Jesus told him to irreversibly surrender all he had and surrender his whole self to God’s kingdom. This man did not make this choice, but Jesus didn’t compromise it in any way. To be devoted requires complete surrender.
I Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.
We are to speak to one another, building each other up in Jesus. To "encourage" doesn't mean to say nice things necessarily, but to literally "en-courage", to put boldness in another to live a life of faith.
Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
We are to regularly meet together—not to just sit in a worship service, nor just to sing, nor just to listen to someone else teach the Bible. We are to gather together so that we can teach each other to do good and to love each other more. We aren’t to meet together to tell each other off or to argue about insigificant doctrinal points. Rather, we need to focus on God’s commands to us, to teacher us to be more obedient and loving.
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.
We need to speak to one another in whatever way we can. Through songs we have memorized, through the Scripture we know, through the wisdom God gives us directly—but in all these ways, we are to reflect the teaching of Jesus. We are not to remain silent—hoping that the Lord will teach others what they need to know. We need to take responsibility and teach each other and quote to each other the word of Jesus.
II Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
We are to use Scripture in many ways—to correct people from false teaching; to gently rebuke those who are in sin; to teach the truth of the kingdom of God; or to teach the righteousness of Jesus. But if we focus only on one aspect of the Scripture, then we have an unbalanced perception of the wholeness of life in accordance with the Scripture.
After Paul and Barnabas began many churches, they determined that they needed to return to those churches in various cities to encourage them (Acts 14:21-22). They set up leadership in each church and also encouraged each other to endure through opposition and trials.
Billy Graham is well known to be an evangelist of unbelievers, calling them to a commitment to Jesus. But he also spends much time exhorting believers, challenging them to a more consistent faith and to bold outreach. He has encouraged evangelists, missionaries and organized the whole evangelical church to work together in outreach.
Mother Teresa is well known for her work among the poor and dying in Calcutta. But her even greater work was in training and encouraging thousands of Catholics and Protestants to devote themselves to Jesus to prepare them for similar work among the poor.
Living It Out
Challenge yourself to a complete devotion to God
Look for your devotion to God and your love to others to be deeper and deeper. Don’t accept where you are at, but look at how your love for the Lord can be greater than it is right now.
Live a holistic faith
It is not enough to have a faith that says what one believes. Faith is our obedience, our complete devotion to God, our commitment to God’s promises and our boldness for Jesus’ word. Our faith isn’t just what is in our head, but how we respond to others, especially the most difficult people. Our faith is our whole life, even our opinions and seemingly insignificant speech.
Preach the whole gospel—both the grace and the obedience
When we evangelize, it is not enough to speak of God’s grace. Nor is it enough to speak of repentance. We need to do both. Realize and tell others that God demands our obedience and love—and that he recognizes that we cannot do it ourselves and that we need his help. Challenge people to live like Jesus and then help them realize that they need to depend on him to live it out.
Teach both unbelievers and disciples
The gospel is not just for unbelievers. As disciples, we constantly need to be challenged and recommitted to the Lord. We need to be refilled with the Spirit and constantly praying for renewal. Thus, the gospel of commitment to the Lord Jesus is something not only unbelievers need to hear, but also believers and disciples.
Follow the word of Jesus, not fruitless challenges
Many of us have made foolish vows before the Lord, or obeyed a teacher that was telling us to do more than Jesus asks us to. To overcommit is no blessing to us, and it is possibly also distracts us from what the Lord wants us to focus on. To follow Jesus is enough and it is difficult enough. Let us not increase the burden to be unbearable—it is hard enough just to love.