Posted By Nan

Luke 18:35-43
There is a lot in this passage. There is the faith of the blind man that led to him having the confidence to call on Jesus and the trust to believe Jesus would restore his sight. There is also his gratitude and the fact that, having received his sight, he immediately followed Jesus singing praises to Him. This is all beautiful.
What I am focusing on from this passage is not beautiful. It is sad. It is about how people in the crowd, those who presumably shared a belief in Jesus, were keen to shut the man down as he called on Jesus. It led me to wonder about the difficulties Christians place in the path of those who are seeking Jesus.
I have observed people wanting to be the experts in front of those questioning. With the result that the questioner was made to feel small and totally inadequate, not worthy of Jesus’ love.
I have observed people holding those new in faith back from speaking out in prayer because they “don’t know the correct words to pray”. Huh? What correct words are there? God is not interested in fancy phrases. He wants what comes directly out of your heart. The simplest prayer is the most beautiful music to God because it is from the heart.
I have observed people instructing those enthusiastic in their new faith to be quiet and not speak out their joy, or ask their questions. Talk about smothering faith before it has been born!
I have observed people cringing at the embarrassment of an outward show of faith and rushing to remove the person from embarrassing public view. Where is the witness in hiding that person’s light under a bushel? Never forget if you are embarrassed to show your faith in Jesus, He will be embarrassed of you on Judgement Day.
Instead of shushing the happy new believer, we need to join them in praising God for His wonderful gifts. We need to praise Him for what He has given us. We need to be like the blind beggar, full of wonder, joy and praise at God’s greatness. We need to dance for joy, shout aloud our overwhelming happiness at God’s great gifts. We need to follow with no thought of self, or of how it may look. Because all that matters is how God sees our actions. And how He sees them is as the most beautiful picture ever taken.
 

 
Posted By Nan

Luke 9:18-27
In this passage the disciples discuss with Jesus who He is. Peter says Jesus is the Christ and Jesus warns the disciples to tell no-one about this. He then tells them about the death He must suffer. He follows this with teaching on what following Him involves.
Those who choose to follow Jesus must take up their cross. Not just once. They must take it up daily. There is to be no dramatic picking up of the cross with a falling away as time and complacency set in. The cross is to be taken up daily. A decision to follow every day.
What does taking up your cross mean?
The Amplified Bible tells us we must disown ourselves, forget about self, lose sight of self and of our own interests. We must refuse and give up our selves. We must do this in order to hold fast to Jesus and conform completely to His example of living, even to the point of being prepared to die also.
These words are lovely and poetic but what do these words look like in our daily lives?
The Message interprets the words as letting Jesus lead. Embracing suffering. Looking to Jesus for help rather than helping ourselves. We need to practice self-sacrifice. In this modern age of ME and putting ME first, while desperately seeking spiritual connections in life, it is good to note that Jesus tells us that self-sacrifice is the way to find your true self. Forget all the pilgrimages and travels to exotic places in search of true self. You will find true self bowing at the foot of the throne in self sacrifice. We all want things in life, and the modern world tells us we can have what we want. But this is not the way to follow Jesus and it is not the way to find the real you. The real you only exists following Jesus.
This does not mean you are to be a door mat to all other people. Jesus was certainly no door mat and He does not expect you to be one. It does not mean you should allow others to invade your boundaries and treat you badly. It means you need to defer to Jesus. If He tells you to step back from an activity, you are to do that. If He tells you to step out in faith then you are to do that. You are not to worry about the cost. He will deal with that. You are not to be hesitant to profess your faith if He calls you do that.
You will not get it right all the time and Jesus knows that. He will wait for you and welcome you back when you return, humbled by your sin, begging forgiveness. Following Jesus will give you such freedom and peace. Never let anyone tell you the life following Jesus is boring and restricted. Those people, living in the shadow of death, with their narrow, restricted lives, have eyes that are blind to true freedom.
Do your best to put Jesus first and self last. Endeavour to do as He instructs you to do. If you find it hard to obey because that is daunting, ask Him for help to do as He asks. Step out in the true freedom of following Jesus.
 

 
Posted By Nan

Matthew 26:57-68
I have included this reference because it shows a different type of following. This is the start of Peter’s famous three denials of Jesus. This is more of a how not to follow Jesus, but how you may well find yourself following Him. We need to be honest. Most of us would not have the courage to always stand up for Jesus. Perhaps it may be when your life is in danger. Or it may be when your friends are mocking those who believe and you don’t feel courageous enough to speak up. The reality is we will all fail Jesus at some stage in our walk following Him.
I know I sometimes don’t have the courage to speak up with people I don’t know well but I have often wondered whether I would be prepared to speak up if I risked being killed for my faith. Years ago, friends of mine were missionaries in Indonesia, at a time when there was a lot of anti Christian sentiment in the community in which they lived. There was an incident where a bus was stopped and those who professed to be Christian were pulled off the bus and killed. Would I have the courage to stand up and profess my faith under such circumstances?
Corrie ten Boom wrote about an argument she once had with her sister about telling the truth. The sister said you must always speak the truth and Corrie insisted that sometimes a lie was needed to protect people. At the time they were hiding Jewish people in their homes during the Nazi occupation of their homeland and the debate was whether to admit they housed Jewish people if asked by the Nazis. Some time after, German soldiers came to the sister’s house. They asked her if the woman living in the house with them was a Jew. The sister said yes. Although the young woman was arrested, she was later miraculously freed. Corrie’s sister had stuck to her faith in God that He would look after the woman and she was freed.
I remember reading about a hijacking many years ago when the Moslem hijackers insisted the people on the plane reject Jesus and profess faith in Allah. Some of the people did. I am not sure if I could have done that. To reject Jesus would be like rejecting my life, because He is my life. Without Jesus there is no life. Could I have the faith of Corrie ten Boom’s sister and answer honestly? If I did, would God preserve my life, or would He instead give me the strength to face death?
Jesus’ response to the Jewish council is in direct contrast with Peter’s denials. Jesus answered honestly that he was the Christ, the Son of God. The price He paid for his honesty was to be accused of blasphemy. Imagine accusing God of blasphemy! I would like to have seen these men when they reached the end of their lives and stood before God and saw Jesus there. They punished Jesus for honestly professing who He was. If Jesus could be honest, then we can ask Him for the strength to be honest too.
 

 
Posted By Nan

Matthew 16:21-28
These verses are the start of Jesus’ preparing His disciples for His crucifixion and resurrection. Here Jesus is quite explicit about what is involved in following Him.
He told His disciples that coming with Him involved following. He was to lead, to control the direction. As the Message puts it. Jesus is in the driver’s seat. He told His disciples to embrace suffering instead of running from it. He didn’t leave them to wonder how to do that. He told them to follow Him and He would show them how to embrace suffering. He warned them to not do things for themselves, but instead to ask Him for help. I love the way the Message puts it: “Self help is no help at all”.
Jesus told the disciples that self sacrifice is the way Jesus leads to finding your true self. That is the danger of trying to do things on our terms. Of trying to get the things we want that are not what God has in mind for us. If we do that we lose ourselves.
Society today has a deep focus on finding yourself. Books are written, courses are run, even movies celebrate the pursuit of self. But unless you follow Jesus, you will not find yourself. When I say follow Jesus I mean that deep personal relationship with God that is directly between you and God. Not one mediated by others, by institutions, by books. The relationship you seek is to surrender yourself to following Jesus, to accepting whatever life gives you and turning to Jesus for direction in how to move forward. When you have that relationship then you have a relationship with God.
I have found in life that as my relationship with God has deepened, then my ability to discern His direction for my life has become easier. I have learned the art of being. Of sitting with what is and waiting patiently for God. I have discovered who I truly am and that is a wonderful feeling. I feel lighter, less burdened, each step of the journey to discovering my true self.
To rest in relationship with God. To move forward through life knowing He is with me. That is a wonderful way to be. This is the path of the follower.
 

 
Posted By Nan

Matthew 9:9-13
As Jesus travelled through Judah he called people to call him. He even called a tax collector. It is interesting to note that even the tax collector followed Jesus when called. Fishermen could be seen as decent ‘salt of the earth’ people, but tax collectors were not seen as decent people. Tax collectors were known to demand extra tax from people. This extra money would be kept from the Roman government and pocketed by the tax collectors so they were often rich. On this occasion Matthew not only obediently answered Jesus’ call to follow, he also left his lucrative money making job to follow Jesus.
Such was Jesus’ attraction to people that Matthew hosted a dinner at his house and invited fellow tax collectors and others considered sinful by the Pharisees. In those days the Pharisees decreed that those who were sinners were to be avoided as though their sinfulness was contagious. Yet here was Jesus eating a meal with tax collectors and other sinners. This was too much for the Pharisees.
Jesus said I desire mercy (that is, a readiness to help, spare and forgive those in trouble), not sacrifice and sacrificial victims. This takes us back to Cain and Abel offering their first fruits sacrifices to God (Genesis 4). No amount of sacrifice could cover Cain’s lack of mercy. In Jesus day, no amount of sacrifice could cover the lack of mercy of the Pharisees. As far as Jesus was concerned, the Pharisees condemned the guiltless.
Jesus came to call the sinners, not the righteous. The genuinely righteous would be following Jesus anyway. The sinners were willing to answer His call. The ones who believed they were righteous were too busy believing in that righteousness to hear Jesus’ call, let alone follow Him.
There are three places in the Bible where you will find the words I desire mercy not sacrifice. There is Matthew 9:13 and 12:7 and Hosea 6:6. In Hosea 6:6 God states He desires and delights in dutiful and steadfast love and goodness, not sacrifice, and the knowledge of and acquaintance with God more than burnt offerings. So Jesus was telling the Pharisees that He wanted to see love and goodness from those who took the time to know God. His charges against the Pharisees were that they did not take the time to know God. It is easy to get caught up in the doctrine of a Christian church and forget that believing in Jesus is not about legalism and strict adherence to doctrine. It is about loving God, Jesus and your fellow humans. And it is about knowing God. It is so easy, especially in this fast paced world, to forget to take the time to surrender yourself to God. To surrender your time and your desires and just be with God. To allow God’s love for all to govern your behaviour, rather than your own desires. Rather than focusing on rules and harsh adherence to them, focus on God and loving Him and those He loves.
 

 

 

 
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Nan
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