Friday, April 9, 2021

Following Jesus – Not An Easy Path

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?” – Matthew 5:43-46

So – You think that you are a Christian – that you have “arrived” spiritual speaking. Then you meet someone who is unkind – treats you disrespectfully – harshly. Perhaps responds to your “good deeds” with disdain or as if they were of no value.  Hmm -  sounds a little bit like the world treated Jesus – the Son of God who came to offer himself as a sacrifice for others. The condition for our service cannot be how that service is received. If it is, then the objective of our service is not glorify God but to glorify ourselves. To use the response of those we are serving or even those we are serving with as a barometer for our own worth is a big mistake. We will eventually be disappointed and discouraged.  Many people do good for the purpose of feeling good about themselves – validating their worth. That happens when they have lost sight of Who has called them – if they had been called to the service by God at all.

When we were serving in Haiti we participated in a get-together on Sunday nights for a few months.  People, mainly U.S. citizens serving in some way in Haiti, would gather. After a couple of meetings, I noticed that many of them were struggling – it was by their words and repeated complaints about how difficult being in Haiti was. Being in Haiti is difficult by definition – and how much more difficult for the Haitians who do not have the option to return to the United States.  One night, I was asked to lead a devotion. I told the group that if God had not called them to be in Haiti – if they were there because they wanted to do a good thing in their own strength then they should go home. Not one person asked for an elaboration. They didn’t want to go home, they just wanted to complain.  I was not asked to share a devotion about, by the way. Relating that story, I was just reminded of a verse in Philippians.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” –Philippians 2:5-8

In a small way, leaving the “Promised Land” and all of its conveniences was like Jesus leaving Heaven to go to the cross.  As you can see, the issue is one of Agape love and humility.  Serving others requires sacrifice and inconvenience. It is humbling. If feeling good is a requirement for continued service, you won’t serve for long. In fact you will most likely become discouraged and resentful instead.  What exactly did you think Paul meant when he wrote that we should “offer ourselves as living sacrifices” or when Jesus said “to follow Me you must pick up your cross” What exactly did you think that you would be sacrificing?

A sacrifice is not a sacrifice if it doesn’t cost you something. What it gets down to is the question, “Are you willing to pay the price – to suffer the cost?” Are you willing to walk in Jesus footsteps? The life we have been called to is not an easy one – it is humbling and humanly impossible. 

When the young man asked Jesus what it took to have eternal life, Jesus gave him a list of actions, to which the young man said he did all of those. Perhaps he was a little smug as he impressed the people who had gathered with his goodness. Then Jesus, knowing the man’s heart said “Sell everything you own and give it to the poor.” The man went away sad because his sense of worth was found in himself and not God. (Matthew 19:16-24)

What does the Lord require of you? But to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8

Believe it – walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

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