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Posted By Nan

John 15:1-17
This is the last blog in the Following the Narrow Way series.
When I started this journey several months ago, I had no idea where it would lead me. I have loved the opportunity to revisit the basics of our faith. It is important to do this as we humans so easily forget. It is so important to review our faith every so often and we are never too mature to hear those beautiful truths again. I have really enjoyed this journey, even revisiting the Sermon on the Mount has taught me so much, and reminded me of much more.
I have been praying over what I should use to bring this series to a close. As always, God provides. When I started this blog I read a lovely excerpt from “Embrace the Cross” by Chip Brogden. I put the excerpt at the end of this document. Today when I opened the document to write the blog I was directed to the end and this excerpt. It is such a powerful summary of our walk with Jesus.
Chip speaks of our journey with God involving a gate and a path. We enter the gate, and that is instant. It is the moment we come to faith in Jesus. But we have to walk the path and that takes up the rest of our lives. Salvation happens in an instant but we do not know Jesus at that time. That is what we learn as we follow the path. When we come to faith in Jesus, we are born again, just like a baby. We have a new beginning, our life in Jesus. But just as a baby must grow into adulthood so must we in Jesus. Jesus tells us we must be born again to enter the Kingdom.
In Chip’s words “It is clear that the Kingdom is what we are trying to gain entrance into, and while being born again is the gate, the ultimate destination of the Kingdom of God is at the end of the path.”
In the past I have written about an elderly man I met many years ago. He was a lovely man of great faith. He once told me about an incident that had occurred when he was a young man. He was in Sydney, looking into the window of the CMS bookshop, when a well known evangelist passed by and stopped to talk to him. He ask this man whether he was saved. He replied that he was. The evangelist asked him how he knew. He said he went to church. The evangelist replied that this was not enough to be saved. The man replied that his parents and grandparents had attended church faithfully. The evangelist replied that would not save him. He had to make that decision to accept Jesus. He was quite surprised by what the evangelist said but realised he was right and accepted Jesus as his saviour. He had entered the gate and through his life he continued on the path towards the Kingdom of God. In that same church there was an elderly woman who played the organ. Her faith had never matured. She clung to the belief that Jesus was there but never knew anything about him. It was as if she was a small child who had never had to make that personal choice. I have met so many people like that elderly woman. They attend churches and have no knowledge of God, no idea where to turn or what to believe, when things get bad. Knowing that we need to enter the gate and travel along the path is so important. Never think you know all there is to about entering faith. Revisit the basics of faith often and openly, expecting to learn something new, because you will.
If you ever have time, Embrace the Cross is a wonderful read.
I have been prayerfully considering for some time what I should study next. I have found God never gives an answer until the right time and I now know I am to do a study on Job. Challenging. This is a book I struggle to understand so I am looking forward to what God has to teach me from this study.
I will be away for the next two weeks having a much needed rest. My blog will resume on Wednesday 14 October.
 

 
Posted By Nan

Matthew 11:28-30
Today I finish this section of Matthew with the last accent: The accent of compassion.
I love the way the Message has translated it:
“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.” The Message
What more can I say? The life of the Jew was one of heavy burdens imposed by the law. Before Jesus, those who wished to follow God found themselves having to carry these impossible burdens. But Jesus came to change that. He came to give people love, and a way of life that promoted living joyously in love, not staggering under an impossible burden. Yes we have our cross to carry, but it is light because it is the cross of love. Sadly, Christian doctrine has sometimes become one of legalism and heavy burdens. But this is not what following Jesus is about. If your Christian faith is wearing you down. If you feel burned out with trying to do all you have been told you must do as a Christian. If you are struggling to find Jesus in “religion”, then turn to Jesus. Your walk with Him is not about exhaustion and burning out on impossible burdens. It is about life, abundant life.
“I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)” John 10:10b Amplified.
I leave you to contemplate the words of The Message above and finish on a word by Joyce Meyer
“The broad path is heavily traveled, but if you choose the narrow path there may be times when you won’t see anyone but Jesus.” (Matt 7:13-14)
And that is a wonderful place to be.
 

 
Posted By Nan

Matthew 11:25-27
In these verses Jesus pauses to thank God for hiding the truth about Heaven from the wise and revealing it to the innocent and uneducated. Here he speaks with the accent of authority. He notes that the leaders, the Rabbis, Pharisees and Sadducees who claimed to have a direct line with God, rejected the messages from God. Instead the ordinary people accepted Him willingly. Jesus did not criticise education or intellectualism, rather he rejected the pride that some have they all knowledge rests in them and there is nothing anyone else can teach them. In order to allow God into our lives we must be humble, not proud and we must trust.
He ends this section with the claim that He alone can reveal God to us. If we have seen Jesus, then we have seen God. To know God, we must know Jesus, because He reveals God to us. We only need to be humble and trustful enough to receive from Jesus and we will know God.
This is an important message for us in our lives. Not that long ago a friend came to me for help. She had attended churches but did not know God. She had Bibles and knew all the stories, but she had no idea about God. She grew sick of the hypocrisy of churches and left but didn’t pursue a relationship with God because she did not know how to. When things went bad in her life she did not know how to turn to God. Last Sunday Chip Brogden (School of Christ) emailed a beautiful piece about us needing to be alone, away from religion, so that we can get to know God directly. The danger for my friend, and others like her, is that they spend their lives relating to other people who purportedly act as intermediaries to God. They end up not knowing God at all. For me, these verses speak very clearly of this problem. We can only know God through Jesus, not a pastor, or priest, or worship team. We have to have a personal relationship with God and often we need to walk away from “church” to achieve that.
It is ironic that of all our Christian friends, it was me, the “fallen” one who has not attended church for over 5 years that she turned to because she realised I knew God and could answer her questions. God has blessed me so much more these churchless years and my walk with Him has deepened. How is your walk with God?
 

 
Posted By Nan

Matthew 11:20-24
In these verses, Jesus reproaches the cities where He performed His greatest miracles. These cities were witness to great evidence of God and of who Jesus is, yet these cities resisted the call to repentance. Jesus condemns them, saying that if the people of Sodom had witnessed the “deeds of power” performed by Jesus they would not have been destroyed. This is the accent of heartbroken condemnation.
The Greek word used to describe what is often translated as “woe” means sorrowful pity as well as angry. Jesus was sad and angry. His anger did not come from feeling insulted at being disregarded, it came from the sorrow of having offered people something precious and seeing them not respond. This is the holy anger that drew God to act on several occasions in the Old Testament and continues to draw God to act today.
These cities had been privileged to be visited by Jesus and be witness to His mighty acts. They saw God and were given an opportunity to accept Him, yet they resisted. Anyone who has seen God and rejected Him is condemned. These cities had been blessed with the opportunity to see the living God and were not prepared to accept the responsibilities and obligations that living in God involves.
The people were also indifferent. They happily accepted Jesus’ miracles and did not drive Him away. But they also were happy just to not notice or remark on what He did. This is echoed in the attitude of many to Christianity today. The multitudes live with no desire to destroy Christianity. After all, without Christianity there would be no excuse for Easter Eggs or Christmas celebrations. There is also no desire to follow Jesus. There is just total indifference and a belief that “everything will be alright, I have been a good person”. In this atmosphere it is virtually impossible for the number of those who follow Jesus to grow. And do not think that your church membership means you are not one of the indifferent. Many people attending churches do not burn to reach out to those who do not know Jesus. Nor do they bother to open their Bible’s and read them daily. There is no delight in God’s word. Likewise they do not bother to pray. They go to church on Sunday and live every other moment with the same indifference that their non-believing neighbours have.
In these verses, Jesus is identifying another sin. It is the same sin referred to in Revelation 3:1-6 when Jesus accuses the assembly in Sardis of being “lukewarm” or indifferent. I saw a lovely quotation once that said that doing nothing was not “refusing to take sides”. The mouse being trodden on by the elephant does not consider you sitting nearby doing nothing to mean you refuse to support the elephant, because in fact that is what your indifference is doing. When you fail to make a choice, by default you support that which benefits from your refusal to do anything. If you fail to act on the call to follow Jesus then you are rejecting Jesus. If you choose not to have a relationship with Jesus, to no spend time every day reading the Bible, praying, listening to His voice, seeking more of Jesus in your life and obeying His directions regarding your actions, then you are indifferent and you are condemned.
 

 
Posted By Nan

Matthew 11:16-19
These verses contain the accent of sorrowful rebuke.
In these verses Jesus speaks of the generation to whom he speaks as being like children in a market place who call out to one another to play but the other one says I don’t feel like it so they suggest doing something to match the other’s sadness and the other one says I don’t feel like being sad. Whatever is suggested, the other one objects to. It is what Jesus referred to as the perversity of that generation, and in fact all generations.
For evidence of this, Jesus talks of how John lived simply in the desert and fasted and wore minimal clothing and he was called mad. Jesus has come and lived among men, eating what He needs and wearing a normal amount of clothing and he is called a glutton and friend of tax-collectors and sinners.
Jesus found that these people did not want to listen, so found excuses not to do so, even when they contradicted the excuses not to listen to another messenger of God. These adults behaved like spoiled children who will not accept anything because they are sulking.
Jesus final sentence that wisdom is justified by her deeds points to the fact that John did move those who were willing to listen and people were finding a new life in Jesus when they were willing to listen. It is perhaps a warning to celebrate other followers of Jesus, even when they live out their genuine faith in a different way, and not condemn them or look down on them. It is a warning to see Jesus’ work in different people, doing completely different things. Our perversity in never being satisfied in what others are doing is something that causes Jesus sorrow but will also earn us a rebuke.
 

 


 
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Nan
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