B231- Forsake all to follow Jesus
Luke 14:25-33; Luke 18:18-29; Matt 10:37-38; Matt 19:21
The cost of true discipleship is heavy. The love for our Lord should be so extreme that it would be likened to hating our own father and mother and wife and children …. (Luke 14:26). In the words of the GNT,
‘unless they love me more than the love (their) father and mother, wife and children ….’
Jesus carried on in Luke 18:29 when he said,
‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God who will not receive many times more in this time and in the age to come eternal life.’
It even sounds unreasonable by Christian standards to be prepared to walk away from the family to do that which God calls. But that is exactly what Jesus said.
To love God 100% is to be prepared to forsake everything else to follow him; in other words, we must be ready even to go against the words of our closest family members if they do not align with that coming from God.
In fact, many of his initial disciples found Jesus’ teaching too challenging and were offended; some even left him.
When Jesus asked Simon Peter, whether he was thinking of leaving him too, Peter replied,
‘Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God’ (John 6:68).
Forsake all others and follow Jesus. It is one of total surrender.
B232 - Hunger for God
Matt 14:13; Mark 7:27-29; Mark 10:51; Luke 8:49; Luke 18:37-43; Luke 24:28-29; Matt 9:27; Matt 15:27; Matt 20:31; Phil 3:9-10
In Matt 14:13, Jesus went to a desolate place to rest. Yet, the crowd, when they heard where he was, followed him on foot. They were hungry.
In Mark 7:24, Jesus was approached by a Syrophoenician woman who wanted Jesus to cast out a demon from her daughter. Jesus’ reply could be interpreted as racist when he said,
‘Let the children be fed first (that is the Jews), for it is not right to take the children’s bread and thrown it to the dogs (that is, to the non-Jews).’
He equated Syrophoenicians to dogs.
It might have been acceptable conversation during those days but those were strong words. Astonishingly, the woman responded,
‘Yes Lord, yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’
She chose to ignore the racist’s remark but focused on her desperate need for her daughter to be freed. She chose faith because she was hungry for release. And for that, Jesus healed her daughter.
Jesus responded well to desperate cries. He heard the cries of blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:47-48) even when others admonished him to keep quiet. Thankfully, Bartimaeus refused to listen.
And he went to Zacchaeus’ house because Zacchaeus was desperate enough to climb a sycamore tree just to get a glimpse of Jesus (Luke 19:5).
Jesus loved people who were hungry for him, who were prepared to forgo racial differences and who desperately cried out to him. With those people, Jesus would respond.
Jesus always gives us the freedom to choose but those who hunger and cry out after him desperately, he will not pass them by.
Our heart’s condition determines the Lord’s responses to us.
B233 - Seek God's glory
John 5:44; John 7:17-18; Luke 9:46-48; 1 Cor 1:31; 1 Cor 3:19-21
‘How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?’
‘The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true and in him there is no falsehood.’
We struggle with is ‘self-glorification’; we seek our own glory. In fact, many of us find a job with a great job title in order to define who we are. Without one, we are lost.
How often do we enjoy praises? People-oriented persons may be more vulnerable to such praises more than others but all of us love to be loved. It is inherent in us to seek recognition from our peers. That is why we have awards being given out in organizations and t even in churches.
Men’s adulation can only be valid for a certain period – on earth; God’s adulation endures forever. In order to seek God’s honor, sometimes we must be prepared to go against the world’s common standards.
Jesus said that ‘he who is least among you all is the one who is great’ (Luke 9:48) and in 1 Cor 1:31, it says, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’
As believers, our goal is not self-glorification. If we should glory, let us glory in the Lord.
‘We’ is not important.
B234 - Seek for the knowledge of God's will (perfection)
Matt 6:33; Matt 7:21-27; Matt 12:50; Matt 19:21; Mark 3:35; Mark 14:36; Luke 8:21; Luke 12:47; Luke 17:10; Luke 22:42; John 4:34; John 5:30; John 6:40; 1 Cor 3:12-14; Eph 5:17; Col 1:9; 1 Peter 4:1-3; 1 John 2:17;
‘But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you’ (Matt 6:33).
In Col 1:9, Paul prayed that the Colossians’ Christians would
‘be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.’
In 1 Peter 4:2, Peter said that it was important not to live ‘for human passions but for the will of God’ while in 1 John 2:17, John said ‘whoever does the will of God abides forever.’
In Matt 7:21, Jesus made it more stringent by saying, ‘Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.’ At another time, Jesus told his disciples, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work’ – (John 4:34).
Jesus clarified that doing the will of the Father is the call for every Christian.
In John 6:40, Jesus himself expanded what the will of the Father was;
‘This is the will of the Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.’
The generic will of the Father is to accept his Son.
When we were saved, our generic salvation prayer echoed the sentiments of inviting Jesus into our lives. But it should really be one where we surrender our lives totally to him. The true gospel simply says Jesus died so that he could give it all back to us and now we must die (to ourselves and our will) so that we can give it all for him. It is, in essence, the call of Jesus to die to self as seen in Matt 16:24 –
‘Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him DENY HIMSELF, and TAKE UP THE CROSS, and FOLLOW ME.”‘
John 12:24 says,
‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’
On a daily and ongoing basis, ‘he (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease’ (John 3:30).
In 1 Cor 3:10-15, the Apostle Paul explained what happens on judgment day:
‘If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved but only as through fire.’
Our works on earth will be subject to fire.
John the Baptist knew his calling as seen in John 1:23. But, even so, toward the end of his life, he was probably still struggling to come to grip as to whether he had completed his designated task, that of preparing the way for the arrival of Jesus. That was the reason why he sent his disciples to search out Jesus (Luke 7:22).
Let us summarize:
- The generic will of God begins when we believe in Jesus (John 6:40; 1 Cor 3:15),Following that, we are to stop our sinful ways (John 8:11) and ‘produce fruit worthy of our repentance’ (Matt 12:33, John 15:16); of course, if we do sin, we can return to God again (Matt 18:22).
- Each of us has our place in God’s plan (Col 1:9; Eph 5:15-17),
- Believers who want to be perfect, will search out God’s plans for them even as we live out our lives (Matt 7:21; Matt 12:50; 1 Peter 4:2).
- Our talents have been given to us to fulfill his plans (Matt 25:14-30); discovering our talents is an important part of our journey,
- In order to follow the ‘perfect’ will of God, we must be prepared to surrender our lives for the kingdom. It is about dying to self and being alive to him (John 12:24),
- Our ‘rewards’ at the end of life is based on how we have used our talents to fulfil the plans he has for us (1 Cor 3:11-15),
The perfect will of the Father is to seek out God’s plan for each of us through forsaking one’s own agenda and following after his direction on a daily basis.
B235 - Stay focus on our calling (do not be distracted)
Matt 6:19; Matt 8:22; Mark 8:35-36; Mark 10:28; Luke 5:27-32; Luke 9:57-62, 39-40; Luke 12:37; John 21:21;
In Matt 8:22, Jesus said,
‘Follow me and leave the dead to bury their own dead’.
In Mark 8:34, Jesus spelled out the cost of following him,
‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me …’
and in Mark 10:29, Jesus praised his disciples who
‘left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses, brothers, and sisters, and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.’
In Luke 9:52, Jesus said,
‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God.’
Jesus’ disciples left everything. Peter was lauded above but so was Levi in Luke 5:28.
Later, after the resurrection, when Jesus was with John and Peter, Peter got curious and asked Jesus what was John going to do to which Jesus replied, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me’ (John 2:22).
Effectively, Jesus was saying to Peter, ‘Don’t be a busybody and worry about others. You just stay focus on that which I have called you to do.’
Following Jesus can be demanding. It may require an intense focus and perseverance on our part.
‘Life is the most difficult exam. Many people fail because they try to copy others, not realizing that everyone has a different question paper.’
How true is that statement.
The discipline is to stay focused (and not be distracted) on that which we are called to do; we have to be as determined as Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor, who spent fifteen years until his death, curving out the faces of four US Presidents on Mt Rushmore.
It was the same discipline that allowed Nehemiah to complete building the wall of Jerusalem in fifty-two days (Neh 6:15) despite the taunting and challenges directed at him by his enemies.
We must stay focus on our calling.
B236 - Labor for that which endures forever
Luke 12:31; John 6:27; Heb 10:36; Matt 13:43-46
The words of Jesus in Luke 12:31 says,
‘Seek his kingdom and these things will be added to you’
while John 6:27 reads,
‘Do not work for the food that perishes but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.’
The writer of Hebrews encourages us to ‘endure’ even as we go about fulfilling the will of God (Heb 10:36).
Fervent disciples ‘labor for that which endures forever’, the most important word being ‘forever’.
Be inspired by The Rope Illustration.
B237 - Exercise towards godliness/ holiness
In 1 Tim 4:7, Paul explained, ‘Train yourself for godliness’ and in Titus 2:12, it says we ought to live ‘godly lives in the present age.’
The Greek word, ‘godliness’ is eusebeia or piety towards God or a life devoted to God.
Yes, indeed it is ‘a life devoted to God’. It is the same as found in the word ‘holy’ as in 1 Peter 1:15 and Heb 12:14. 1 Peter 1:15 says, ‘You also be holy in all your conduct.’
The Greek word is hagios or ‘set apart for God’. It can also be translated as ‘consecrated.’
It is true that most of us are far from perfect but Jesus never dropped his standard. He said in Matt 5:48 (NLT) that we ‘are to be perfect even as (our) Father in heaven is perfect.’
B238 - Reach perfection by following the clear voice of God
‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven and come, follow me.’
That was a rhema word to the rich, young ruler. That was perfection.
The disciples were ‘perfect’ because, as Peter said,
‘We have left everything and followed you’ (Matt 19:27).
If we want to be perfect, then we have to follow the clear voice of God.
See also B234, Seek for the knowledge of God’s will and to do it.
B239 - Set boundaries
Matt 5:29-30 says,
‘If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.’
What Jesus proposed are extreme measures but the principle of boundaries applies. If we drink alcohol excessively, then we have to avoid opportunities when we may be tempted, like binge parties or even the nearby liquor stores. We might even have to ditch some friends.
If we are tempted by pornography, then we should put in place a web protector to act as our first line of defense. There are other internet options to consider in order to protect both ourselves and our family against the dangers of easily accessed pornographic materials. We can place our computers in the family room so that everyone in the family can see what we are accessing on the computers.
Whatever it is, we have to understand that at times, we might need to take extreme initiatives and we are living in dangerous times when the devil is playing with our minds when information and images are freely accessible.
To follow Jesus as a disciple, we have to be strict with ourselves and set boundaries.
NB: There will be times when we fall. That is when we need to repent and return to the Lord. Look under the section, ‘Forgiveness‘, found in B179 to B182.
B240 - Meditate on good things
Phil 4:8 says,
‘Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.’
Most versions use the word, ‘think about’.
Before we take any action, we have to spend time ‘thinking about’ things. That ‘thinking about’ phase is a critical step if we want to contain our actions.
Hence, meditate on good things. Input right thoughts into our minds.
B241 - Disciple others
In John 21:15-19, Jesus reminded Peter to feed his lambs, tend his sheep, and finally, feed his sheep. The Greek word, ‘tend’ is poimaino or ‘tend’, ‘herd’, ‘govern’ while the word, ‘feed’ is booke or ‘feed’, ‘pasture’.
Jesus wanted Peter to firstly feed his lambs or the little ones; those new to the faith, and then to ‘tend’ and ‘feed’ his sheep.
Discipleship requires us to get involved in strengthening the flock of Jesus through either teaching those new to the faith or herding them in the right direction. It is a very important role.
Believers are not called to be just leaders. Rather, believers are called to be disciple-makers. Christians do not recruit members. Christians go about making disciples of Jesus Christ.
Everywhere that Paul went, he was mindful of discipling. In Acts 14:22, when Paul recovered from being stoned by a crowd in Lystra, he went back to the various cities to ‘strengthen the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith.’
Discipling was the matter chosen by Jesus to deliver his message to the world. See B228, Evangelism – Develop others and pass on the role of discipling, for more information.
We must shepherd and strengthen the flock of Jesus Christ through discipling.
B242 - Do not engage in actions that might stumble a new or non-believer
1 Cor 10:31-33; Rom 14:14-15, 21-23; 1 Cor 8:8-13; Acts 16:3
Rom 14:14-15 says,
‘I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean is unclean in itself but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died’
and Paul concluded in v21 that
‘it is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.’
The guideline from early disciples is not to engage in behavioral actions that might stumble a new believer or a non-believer. Paul related in the Book of Romans regarding food and how he would rather not eat it if another brother was not comfortable about it.
In 1 Cor 8, Paul explained why he did not eat certain food when it was suspected to have been offered to idols so as not to stumble another believer. To him, it was a non-issue but he did not want that to be a hindrance in ministering Christ to these people.
In another incident, Paul chose to circumcise Timothy, who was part Jews because of his mother, in order not to cause controversies among the Jewish congregation (Acts 16:3).
Paul’s choice provided believers with a model of behavior on how to handle cultural and religious sensitive issues relating to Christians who might have slightly unusual non-critical practices.
B243 - Do not argue over non-essential doctrines (what to eat/ when to worship)
Rom 14; Acts 15; Col 2:16-23; Titus 3:9
Throughout the early church years, there had been contentious issues that needed resolution. Some of these non-essentials include the following:
- Food – what is acceptable (Rom 14:2, Col 2:16),
- Day of the week – which day is more important than another (Rom 14:5-6) – Is the Sabbath more important than other days?,
- Circumcision (Acts 15:5),
- Celebration of certain festivals like new moon or Sabbaths (Col 2:16-17),
- Discussion about Moses’ Law (Titus 3:9).
The counsel from Paul is not to argue over these which he considered as ‘non-essentials’ or ‘minor issues’ although they may have the ‘appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion’ (Col 2:23).
Jesus, for example, challenged the notion of the Sabbath as defined by men of those days as a ‘no-no’ day. Instead, on the Sabbath, he would heal and teach openly (Mark 6:2, Luke 4:16, Luke 13:10).
The Pharisees and Sadducees chose to allow a person to suffer rather than violate their traditions of no work on the Sabbath. They were more interested in meeting the law than in showing compassion on their fellow-men. They would show compassion to an animal and leave a man to suffer (Matt 12:10-12).
Christians must major in the majors, for example, the foundation truths as found in Heb 6:1-2.
In Phil 3:10, Paul reiterated the essentials as that of
- know Christ,
- experience the resurrection power of Christ, and
- suffer with him, and share in his death.