Tag Archives: following jesus

Why does following the way of Jesus seem so difficult?

5 May

For those of you that are followers of Jesus, have you ever thought that that following the way of Jesus is difficult?  I think life itself can feel difficult.  But then add following Jesus, and there is another layer of effort, right?

Ever think thoughts like this?

I hear Jesus say “my yoke is easy and my burden is light” and sometimes I think “What?  Jesus, following your way of life is frustrating and complex!”

The process of life transformation that God wants to work in our lives is not always an easy one.  In fact it might be more accurate to say that it is often difficult.

And that can make us frustrated, can’t it?  Whether it is a habit we’re trying to change, a relationship we’re trying to mend, a ministry we are involved in or a sin that we’re trying to repent of, following the way of Jesus can feel heavy.

How many of you think “I just want a break!”?

I often wish following Jesus were easier.  In fact that raises a question in my mind.  Should following Jesus be easier than it seems?  If we think that following Jesus is hard, maybe the way we are following him is wrong?  Is it our fault that following Jesus can be difficult?  If you feel frustrated as a disciple of Jesus, what is going on?

This coming Sunday as our family of Faith Church gathers for worship, we continue our study through 1st Timothy and we’re going to read some comments that Paul gives to Timothy about following Jesus.

You can preview it at 1st Timothy 6:11-16.  Then we hope you’ll join us at 9:00am to hear more!

Two things Jesus did not tell us to do (but we do), and one he did tell us to do (but we don’t)

5 Aug

I’m super excited that the Olympics start today.  Soccer is my favorite sport, so while I’m disappointed the US men’s team didn’t qualify, the women’s team looks to make a gold medal run, and I’ll be cheering them on!  In honor of that quest, I thought I’d show you this picture of a Jesus figurine doing a bicycle kick, one of the most acrobatic and impressive ways to shoot a soccer ball.  In particular, notice the caption, which is meant to be humorous.  As fun as it would be to imagine how good Jesus might be at soccer, this picture raises a question.  Obviously Jesus did not teach someone how to do a bicycle kick.  But he did teach a lot of other things, and there is misinformation about what he taught!  We Christians can do a lot of things thinking that Jesus taught us to do them, when in reality he didn’t.

As the title of the post suggests, what comes to your mind when you think about the possible two things that Jesus did not tell us to do, but that we do…a lot?

A few years ago, I read the book Jim & Casper Go To Church, and in the book the question regularly comes up “Did Jesus really tell you to do that?”  The book is the true story of Jim Henderson, an evangelical Christian, and Matt Casper, an atheist, who travel around the United States, dropping in on worship services at twelve churches of varying stripes, shapes and sizes.  Jim and Matt spend time discussing what they experience, and numerous times, in response to what he has seen at a particular worship service, Matt asks Jim “Did Jesus really tell you to do that?”

Most often Matt asks that question in critique of churches that have placed great emphasis on buildings and highly-produced worship experiences.  Matt’s is a penetrating question.  I ask you to think about it because the answer is very easy to come by.  Just take a few hours and read through the four Gospels and you will find the answer.  I would suggest that there are two things in particular that we Christians do a lot of that Jesus did not teach us to do.

What are those two things?  While Jesus spent a lot of time talking about the Kingdom of God, and teaching and leading his disciples, he did not instruct them to build buildings so that they could hold worship services.

First, let’s take a look a the practice of building buildings.  On one particular occasion while the group of them were walking near the temple grounds, the disciples remarked how amazing the temple building was.  Jesus’ response went in a surprising direction.  No doubt the temple grounds were actually an astounding work of ancient architecture.  Beautiful and majestic.

If you look at some of the models recreating what the temple mount probably looked like, even the small-scale models are impressive.  The temple mount was the pride of the city of Jerusalem, the nation and the people of Israel.  But Jesus had other thoughts.  He said to the disciples “it will all be destroyed.”

Jesus was saying “Hey guys, don’t put all your eggs in that basket.  God’s doing a new thing, and it doesn’t involve a building.”  Those early Christians took Jesus’ words to heart.  For the first few hundred years of the church’s existence there is absolutely no record of Christians building buildings.  They met in homes.  Building places of worship was not the mission of God’s Kingdom.

Did Jesus tell us to build buildings?  No.  He did not.  And yet, we have, haven’t we?  Lots of them, all over the world.  Is it wrong for Christians to build meeting places?  No.  Jesus did not prohibit the building of meeting places.

But here’s where it gets murky, and where we need to be exceedingly cautious when we Christians purchase property and put up buildings.  Jesus’ comments about the destruction of the temple suggested to the disciples that they not become enthralled by buildings.  Though God had made a building, the temple, to be a central element of his interaction with the nation of Israel in the past, God was now doing a new thing.  God was relating to people through a new means, and Jesus himself was paving the way for that new relationship with God.  After Jesus’ death and resurrection defeated sin, death and the devil, making it possible for our sins to be forgiven and for us to have a restored relationship with God, the temple was unnecessary.  It was at the temple where sacrifices for sin were made, atonement for the nation.  But through Jesus’ sacrifice, the old system of sacrifice and the temple that housed it became obsolete.  In fact, one of Jesus’ earliest followers, Paul, would go on to write that we, Jesus’ followers, are the temple of God.  Amazingly, wonderfully, God lives in and with those people who give their lives to become his disciples.  We no longer go to a building to meet God, he is always with us.  So when we endeavor to build a building for gathering, we should be very sober-minded about it.  It is all-too-easy for that building to dominate the life and ministry of our church family.

Very much related to building buildings, there is a second practice that Jesus did not tell us to do.  He did not teach his disciples to have worship services.  Again, read through the four Gospels and you won’t find a shred of teaching about having worship services or what they should include.  For as much energy and money and personnel as we Christians put into our Sunday gatherings, you’d think there would be at least a little bit of teaching from Jesus about it.  There is none.

But once again, I ask, just because Jesus doesn’t mention it, does that mean it is wrong to have worship services?  No.  While Jesus’ disciples and the other writers of the New Testament mention nothing about building buildings, they do mention worship gatherings quite a bit.  In fact, we read in Acts that the early church did gather regularly, and perhaps, in order to commemorate Jesus’ resurrection, carved out time for a worship gathering on Sundays, which in their culture would have been the first day of the work week.  It would be like us worshiping each week on Monday nights.  Early in the second century AD, before the church was even 100 years old, there is also clear evidence, through the writings of Justin Martyr, who was discipled by John the Apostle, that Christian worship gatherings had standardized orders.  None of this is wrong.  In fact, like the building of buildings, a regular day of the week for worship, and orders of worship services, can be used for good.  But to answer Casper’s question, Jesus did not teach us to do this.  And if we are honest, we have placed an enormous emphasis on it.

At one particular church worship gathering that featured a large building, smoke machines, video screens, and a highly produced service of worship, Casper was particularly incredulous.  “Really?,” he asked Jim, “Did Jesus ask you guys to do this?”  But we need not focus on a spectacle like that.  The reality is that even tiny churches that cannot afford an expensive production can still invest a lot of time, energy and money into their worship gathering.  I would guess that tiny churches invest probably a very similar percentage of their resources into the Sunday worship service as a megachurch.  I do not know this for a fact.  I simply suspect it is probable.  Consider the salary the staff makes, and how much of their time is directed to Sunday morning.  Consider the infrastructure of buildings, utilities, equipment, and upkeep.  Consider the volunteers and all the hours they put into meeting, planning, lessons, practice.  Add that all together, and let us humbly remember that Jesus did not tell us to do any of it.

What remains, then, is to ask, “What did Jesus tell us to do?”

Join us Sunday, August 7, 2016, at Faith Church to find out.

What’s holding you back from following Jesus? Luke 18:18-43

7 Mar

Sometimes choices are hard to make.  I talked about that last week, referring to Luke 18:18-43.  In that story, Jesus met a guy and asked him to make a very hard choice.  This guy wanted to follow Jesus.  He had a bunch of money, and Jesus told him “sell everything you have, give it to the poor, and come follow me.”

Whew. Do you feel the intense emotion of that situation?   It seems this guy genuinely wants to follow Jesus, or at least is truly interested in the idea. But when faced with the choice, he goes away sad.  His sadness tells me that he hoped he could follow Jesus. Maybe he saw something intriguing in Jesus. But when asked to break free from the hold his wealth had on him, and actually give himself to the better way of Jesus, the man could not or would not break free.

Could you? Would you break free? It is so easy to sit here today and say “Sure! I would give up everything for Jesus.”

So I encourage you to allow Jesus to ask you what he said to the rich man: What is the one thing you lack? What is holding you back from following Jesus? It could be something holding you back from starting to follow Jesus for the first time. It could something holding you back from following him in a more significant way. It might not be riches.

What is holding you back? TV time?  Your cell phone? Really, it can be anything. Ministry. Career. Hobby. Sports team. Something very intangible. Having a clean house.

What are you so preoccupied with that is keeping you from following Jesus?

Social Media. Some of us put a lot of time into social media.

Are children an idol? Over programmed kids can lead to you and your family missing out on participation in your church community.

Or there is Helicopter parenting. Kids used to be allowed to run around town all day, just needing to be home for dinner. But now…not even close.  Now many parents live through their kids.

What about housing? Keeping up with the Joneses. Getting a new car. Are you a slave to appearances? Is this getting in the way of you following Jesus? Do you realize that if Christians in American tithed, gave 10%, we would have more than enough to provide clean water for every person on the planet. But we don’t give 10% because we can’t give 10% because that money is already accounted for in our bills, mortgages, car payments, vacations, and subscriptions and hobbies. And we say that we are just barely making it.

What is standing in the way of you following Jesus more?

Jesus’ disciple, Peter, makes a great statement in verse 28, realizing that the disciples had left all, they allowed nothing to stand in the way of Jesus. And Jesus explains further that we have to remove all blockades to following him. Riches and wealth, but also family!

Would you be willing to pray “Lord, what in my life is getting in the way of following you more?”

Would you be willing to allow God to speak through his people by asking that question of someone who will speak truth “Friend, what in my life is getting in the way of following Jesus?”

There is another person in this story who had to make a choice.  In verses 35-39 we meet a really cool blind man who is persistent in trying to get close to Jesus.

He knew who Jesus was.  He knew he needed mercy. Twice says “have mercy on me”! He had a humble, teachable heart.  Even after being told to be quiet, he gets louder! He knew Jesus was the answer to his dilemma and he got louder! Maybe you and I need to get louder in asking God to come near to us.

Jesus stops. He wants to be with the man. Near him. And then Jesus asks what seems to be a question with an obvious answer: “What do you want me to do for you?”

The blind man’s response is to be expected, “Lord, I want to see.”

Why would Jesus ask this?  He already knew what the man needed. But Jesus asks him to be specific. There is something deeply faithful about praying a very specific request. When we pray too often we can be safe, vague. “Help the missionaries”. But when we pray specifically, we are putting it out there and saying that God and God alone has to come through in a specific way. It is scary to be so specific because what if what we are asking for doesn’t happen?

If Jesus asked you this question “what do you want me to do for you?” what would you say?

Notice in verses 42-43 where Jesus says the man’s faith healed him. Is Jesus saying that faith will heal anything we ask about? If we have enough faith, we can get what we want? No. Jesus is not making a blanket statement. Instead he is just describing what one man’s faith did in that situation.

And so now seeing, he chose to follow Jesus, praising God. He’s getting loud about God again!  Then others praise God.  They catch on.

Did you notice the contrast between the two choosers?:

Rich man calls Jesus “good teacher”.

Blind man calls him “Son of David”.

Rich man was blind to what was holding him back.

Blind man could see what he needed.

Rich man, after being asked to follow, does not follow Jesus.

Blind man, after not being asked, does follow Jesus.

Rich man goes away sad.

Blind man goes away rejoicing.

We all face a choice about following Jesus. Right now he may be asking you to give up something that is holding you back. What is it? What is holding you back?

The blind man found that following Jesus was the best possible way to live. He had nothing to his name but the shirt on his back, and yet he was happy as could be following Jesus! Jesus changed his life.

Will you choose to set aside what is holding you back? Will you choose to step out and follow him?

I would love to hear what is holding you back! Will you talk about it?

The blind beggar chose well! When we let go of the things that hold us back, we’ll realize that the way of Jesus, the life of Jesus, is so much better than anything this world has to offer!

Choice matters

3 Mar

Have you had to make any major choices lately in your life?

It could be a major purchase like a car or a house. It could relate to moving. Could be a job change. It could be about how to handle a relationship, about getting closer to someone or maybe about putting some distance between you and them.

You may be faced with a choice related to finances. How will you report taxes? How will you use your income tax rebate? How will you spend, give, or save?

How will you use your free time? Will you do a project at home, take a vacation, go on a mission trip, serve in a ministry, volunteer somewhere?

There are so many difficult choices in life: How to respond to someone who has wronged you. How to respond to feeling marginalized at work. How to respond to death. How to respond to your own failures and mess-ups. Will you get defensive? Will you argue? Will you scrape and fight to preserve your point of view? Or will you be teachable, humble and try to see things from the other person’s point of view.  This could be with a co-worker, a boss, with your spouse, with your siblings, with your parents, with your teachers, with your friends.

Choices abound. Some people have said that life is just a series of choices.

Choices can make life hard in a way. Have you ever felt that you’d like a break from all the choices? It’s not like we’re always dealing with whether we choose the Porsche or the Ferrari, the 2 million dollar mansion or the 3 million one, or even much less costly ones such as between an ice cream cone with 2 scoops or 3 scoops, or between the iPhone 7 or 7+. Those choices are all easy. Well, actually, if we were in a position to make those kinds of choices they would be easy because they have very little ramifications on life. That is, if you have the money to afford them!

Choices can make life feel stressful, however, because we so often don’t know what is right in a given situation.  Or we face a situation where both choices are tough, and we’d rather not have to choose at all.

But choice in life is also a beautiful thing. It reminds of that we have free will. Free will is a God-given system of choice. Obviously we cannot choose to jump up in the air and start flying. There are limits to choice, such as gravity. And before you start responding with “Well, if we had a jet-pack, we could do that too!” I hear you. So get out your jet-pack and go for a quick flight!  (You can get yours in 2017 for only $150,000.)

I know my argument has exceptions. Yes, if you are smart enough or rich enough, you could make or purchase a jet pack. But the larger point still holds, we have limitations, we are not free to choose to do or be whatever we want. Only God is that free.

Though we have limitations, we are still free in a significant ways.

Perhaps the most significant thing we can choose is that we can choose to follow the way of Jesus, or we can choose not to follow his way. We can choose to follow it a lot or a little, and there are ramifications to the choice we make.

Many of us have a desire to choose to follow Jesus, but we wonder if we are following him less than what we should be or could be. Less than what he wants us too. But we admit that there are things in life that are holding us back. There are barriers in our lives to following Jesus. Is there something holding you back?

This Sunday at Faith Church we will meet two people that Jesus encountered as he was walking along the road. Each of these two people are faced with a choice. Each of them will have the opportunity to follow the way of Jesus. It is amazing how differently they choose. Through them, we’ll see what barriers might be holding us back.

Check it out at Luke 18:18-43, and be our guest at Faith Church on Sunday!

What if we’re totally wrong about what it means to follow Jesus – Part 2

4 Nov

My son walked up to our pantry closet in our kitchen, looking for a snack.  He quickly put his hand over his nose, uttering a muffled “Ugh! What is that smell?”

I looked over at him standing there, and said “What do you mean? Is it the trashcan?”  Our kitchen trash bin is right next to the pantry, which is maybe not the best location.  Because it can get stinky, I thought it must be the source of the smell.

But no, he said, “It smells like poop! And it’s coming from in the pantry!”

I got up from the sofa and went over to check it out.  I caught a whiff of something, which smelled a bit like poop, but not quite either.  It wasn’t strong, so I started to dismiss it in my mind.  I reached down and halfheartedly shifted some boxes on the floor of the pantry, and I didn’t see much beyond some dust.  Admittedly, I was pretty sure the smell wasn’t coming from the trashcan.  And I didn’t really want to deal with whatever was causing the smell.  So I said, “I don’t know.  Let’s not worry about it.”

And with that I put it out of mind, and a few days went by.

A couple days later, I saw my son standing in front of the pantry again with his hand over his nose.  In the ensuing days, I had stuck my nose in there a couple times when I, too, was snacking, and there was definitely an odor.  But it still seemed faint, and I didn’t want to deal with it, so I didn’t.

This past Monday morning, though, the odor had become strong.  Michelle pulled out all the boxes and containers on the floor and found a dead mouse caught in a glue trap.  I will confess that I suspected that all along, and did nothing about it.  We had seen mice sneaking around lately, and eventually caught three.  It took hardly any time or effort to vacuum up the remains of a snack bag a mouse had hidden in the back corner to feast on, as well as the accumulated mouse droppings (I guess my son was right about the poop!), and then wash the floor, and put the boxes back.

Why did I wait to deal with the foul smell in my pantry, when it was relatively easy and effortless to resolve?  Have you ever experienced that feeling of not wanting to deal with the junk of life?  Have you ever let it linger?

Last week I introduced Luke 11:14-36 by suggesting that we might be all wrong about how we follow Jesus.  In that section, Jesus casts a demon out of a man, and people in the crowd confront him with two questions: 1. Did he exorcise the demon by Satan’s power?  and 2. Would he show them a sign from heaven?  To give you a little preview of the answers, they are “No” and “No”.  But these answers gave Jesus the opportunity to talk about what it means to follow him.

I find it fascinating what he does not say.  He does not say “Believe in him.”  Clearly, believing in Jesus, trusting in him, is a good thing, but why would he not mention that?  Christians, and especially Evangelicals, have put a lot of emphasis on believing.  Instead, he says that if we are to be his followers, we should have no neutrality about him.  We are either with him, or we are against him.  And when a person in the crowd shouted out “Blessed is your mother!”, Jesus responded with “On the contrary! Blessed are those who hear God’s Word and obey it.”  Jesus is saying that following him will affect our choices, our behavior.  Following him is not just about belief.  Instead his followers will show what they believe by hearing his word and doing what it says.

There are two primary applications of this, the inward and the outward.  Or as Jesus said “Love God and Love your neighbor”.  Inwardly, God wants to enter the smelly closets of our lives and clean them out.  He wants access to our secret thoughts and actions, our perversions, our addictions, to transform them into something far better than we could ever imagine.  As someone has said, we too often hear Jesus knocking at the door, let him in, and just hope we can hang out with him in the living room of our lives.  We know the place is messy, and we’re embarrassed about showing him around.  But he says “I think I smell poop coming from the pantry in your kitchen.”  And we respond “Nah…it’s no big deal.”

That sinful habit, that addiction, that undisciplined mind, that attitude, that complaining spirit…we know they’re in our lives, and we have a halfhearted desire to allow Jesus to clean us up, but we put it off.  Maybe we have become accustomed to the stink, and we don’t smell it anymore.  Maybe we think that it’s not so bad.  Maybe we’re afraid we won’t be able to change, and this is just who we are.  But Jesus says “hear my word and obey.  Either you’re with me, or you’re against me.”

There are also the outward ways we show that we’re with him.  Particularly, he said “Make disciples.”  The primary way we show that we are his disciples is to make more disciples.  But so many of us are not making disciples.  We say that we believe in him, but we do not do the major task he called us to do in his word: “Make disciples”.

So do you need to allow Jesus to clean up that stinky closet in your life?  Do you need to make disciples?  Are you hearing his Word?  Are you obeying what he says? 

How to move from Christian “Fail” to Christian “Faith”

9 Oct

The words on the by-line were “Christian FAIL”.

I use two phone apps to read the news: Google Newstand and Flipboard, which are free newspaper, magazine and website article readers.  Earlier this week a Flipboard article with that by-line caught my eye. “Christian FAIL.” I knew what it was going to be about. Something about how Christians were being hypocritical or ridiculous.

Sure enough.  The brief description said this: “A Missouri pastor is accused of stealing more than $21,000 from his church to pay off his 20-year-old mistress.”

Then there was this by a blogger: “A friend she spent years of her childhood in a cancer ward, and recalled her friends dying on a regular basis. She said ‘Christians would come in and read us books about Jesus, and say he was going to heal us. You learned real quick that they were just there to make themselves feel good. Kids still got rolled out of the room in the middle of the night, and you knew they’d never come back’.”

For situations like this and others, there is an impression some in our society have of Christians, and Evangelicals in particular, that we are not loving and have not followed the teaching of Jesus.

Christians are doing a lot of good, and there are many who strive hard to follow Jesus.  But as we read about the Christian Fails, a healthy response is to ask ourselves if we are perpetuating the impression that Christians are not loving, not following the teaching of Jesus.  No one is perfect, and we Christians need to humbly admit when we fail.  Because we do fail.  And when we confess, we need to renew our commitment to the way of Jesus, and actually do what he teaches.

This Sunday at Faith Church we come to what is arguably the most famous teaching of Jesus: Luke 10:25-37, the parable commonly known as the Good Samaritan.

How many of you could tell me how the story goes without clicking on the passage and reading it? I suspect lots of you know at least the basics.  We hear about Good Samaritans in the news regularly.  That’s a good thing, because Good Samaritans are people who help others.

The danger with something familiar, though, is that we will check out and not listen. And in this case, if we do not listen, we could be in danger of many more Christian Fails.  And yet, if we do listen as we should to Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, we’re going to hear him challenge our thinking.  So I ask you to do some hard work and read this story as if for the first time.

There is a reason we Christians have gained a reputation for not being loving or not following the teaching of Jesus. And maybe part of the problem is that we have checked this parable off the list, because we know it so well, we just assume we’re doing fine. But maybe we’re not doing fine. Maybe we can be encouraged to think about The Good Samaritan in a new, different or deeper way.  We’ll see how the Good Samaritan encourages us to move from Christian “fail” to Christian “faith”.

So we would love to have you join us at Faith Church this Sunday to hear more!

Are you infected with MTD? – Luke 9:18-27

9 Sep

Many are infected and don’t know it.  The virus is MTD.  What is MTD?  Read on to find out, and how Jesus responds to MTD. 

After allowing Peter to answer the question “Who do you say that I am?” with the words “You are the Christ/Messiah of God”, Jesus goes on to say two very shocking things.  First, he says that that he himself would die soon.  The disciples likely couldn’t fathom that the Messiah would die.  If that wasn’t astounding enough, second, he now says that if those disciples want to follow him they are going to have to enter the life of extraordinary commitment that he was living.  Take a look at what he said:

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.  What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

Being a disciple costs something, Jesus says. Remember that disciples are followers. They do what the master does. Are you disciples of Jesus?  You can evaluate yourself: do you do what he does. In this passage he tells them that his way will involve total self-sacrifice. Because that was his way. That is what he would do. And that is what he did.

Those disciples hearing him talk about this high commitment might have been wondering what he meant. All they had known up to this point, with a few rare exceptions, was a growing ministry and adoring crowds and miracles and popularity. If I were them, I’d be thinking, up to this point that it was awesome following him. Who wouldn’t want to, when things were so amazingly good?

So what is this business about him dying, and him wanting them to deny themselves, carry their cross daily and losing your life and Jesus being ashamed of them? He got pretty depressing fast, didn’t he?

If you are one of the disciples standing there hearing that, you could very easily be scratching your head thinking “Woah, Jesus, hold on. What are you talking about? Why so much doom and gloom? You have the crowds by the thousands following you.  You’ve got them literally eating out of your hand, buddy! Why don’t we focus on that? There’s good stuff happening, and you have lots of good ministry years yet in you. You’re the Messiah, so let’s just go with that!”

It’s pretty clear that the disciples, in this general timeframe didn’t fully understand. If you jump ahead to in the story, after another amazing miracle in front of another large crowd, he tells his disciples that he is going to be betrayed. Luke tells us that the disciples did not understand.

So back to his teaching above, I think it important that we see that this was not a teaching that went deep into the disciples’ hearts and minds. It wasn’t like they heard the teaching and instantly decided to give their all for him. In fact, we know exactly what would happen. Fast forward a year or two to the end. In the final days, he is arrested because one disciple betrays him. In a few hours after that another disciple, one of the inner circle of three, Peter, the same guy who here has just said boldly that Jesus is the Christ of God, will end up denying Jesus three times, saying I never knew him. And all the disciples will flee. Only John and some of the women will have the guts to show up to say goodbye to him as he dies on the cross. The lesson of unbelievable commitment didn’t seem to sink in very far.

So why would Jesus even teach it? Was it a waste?  Is it too hard? Too radical to expect that of your followers?   Too difficult to deny yourself?

Maybe Jesus shouldn’t set the bar so high. Maybe he was wrong on this one.

Let’s look at how this played out in the disciples’ lives. When those men and women realized that he rose again, things changed. Not to mention the fact that they hadn’t completely given up. This teaching did get inside them.  When he died on the cross, they could have all returned to their regular lives as fishermen and such. Many in the large crowds had turned away over the years. But those 11 remaining disciples, and the 109 others stayed true.  They stayed in Jerusalem, waiting, scared, but they did not give up.

When they saw the risen Jesus, when they touched the nail holes, they were changed. The seed of the message that he planted here in 9:23-27 that year or two earlier now grew roots and started to blossom.

They were not ashamed. They weren’t perfect. Jesus had to pay special attention to Peter, to restore him. But after meeting with the risen Jesus, Peter was a changed man, and never again was there any doubt that Peter was denying himself, taking up his cross daily, losing his life for the cause of Christ. No doubt.

In fact, after the resurrection, after being restored, after the Ascension, after the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Peter could answer the question “Who is this?” with a much deeper, truer understanding.

And when he preached the very first sermon on that day when the Holy Spirit filled them, in Acts 2:36, he makes this bold statement: Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

What Peter now knew was the truth about Jesus. He was totally correct years earlier in Luke 9:20 when he said Jesus was the Christ of God. But in Acts 2, that truth had sunk down deep in and there was no turning away. What Peter shows us is that when we know the truth about Jesus’ identity, we freely want to follow him with full commitment.

There is a link, then, between the information of Luke 9:20 and the commands of Luke 9:23-27. When we realize the depth of what it means that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior, the Chosen One, we will naturally want to give our lives to follow him.

And so we need to ask ourselves, Self, do you really, fully get who he is?

About ten years ago, a Christian researcher wrote a book discusses the main spiritual beliefs of American Christians. Just remember the letters MTD. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. Most Christians he said believe that.

Moralistic – God just wants me to have good morals. God wants me to be good.

Therapeutic – God just wants to be my therapy buddy. God wants me to be happy.

Deism – God is out there, but generally not involved.

That’s MTD, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. God wants me to be good, to be happy, and other than that, he’s not really involved. That’s how many people understand what it means to follow Jesus.

But scroll back up there and read Jesus’ words one more time.

We don’t serve an MTD God, and we don’t preach an MTD faith. Instead we say what Jesus said.  

Being a disciple of Jesus means full-blown commitment.

The tricky part is how to deny yourself, how to take up your cross daily, how to follow Jesus through the many facets of our lives.  What does a self-denier, cross carrier, Jesus-follower look like at the office, at school, at home, on the sports field, on the job, with your neighbors?

I urge you to practice this self-denying, cross-carrying, Jesus following with love, with humility, with abundant grace. Preach the Gospel, the good news of love, by doing deeds of love before you utter the words of the message of love. Do your neighbors know you love them? Do your co-workers know you love them? Showing that kind of love might require loads of self-sacrifice. Showing that kind of love might require the pain of carrying your cross.

Let us be a people that show we know Jesus is the Messiah, by doing what he did.