Thursday, August 19, 2010

Coming After Christ (Part 3)

Following Jesus means to follow in His steps, image courtesy of ucgmikebennett.wordpress.com
Following Jesus means to follow in His steps

What does it mean to follow Christ?

The Greek New Testament word used in Luke 9:23, akoloutheo (ak-ol-oo-theh’o) means, To be in the same way with, to accompany specifically as a disciple: --- to follow.

This infers to me that there is agreement by me to accept the discipleship of Christ; to be guided and mentored by Jesus Christ.

Sharon (Sharon Sharing God) recently wrote about hiking with her husband:

Sometimes when we’ve been hiking for a long time I get really hot and tired, and sometimes I don’t think I can take another step. What do I do? I keep my husband in my sights ahead of me, and I just plod on after him.1

Following was never a strength I exhibited. Taking instruction was for me always difficult because I had my own opinions about what to do and how to do it. If you’ve read the previous two posts you’ll recognize a pattern of thought and behavior inconsistent with someone coming after Christ.

Topics on submission and discipleship were not that important to me as fundamental concepts to grasp. As a result, I continued to be mired in thoughts and behaviors which severely limited my appreciation for the goodness and grace of God. It also restricted my ability (and willingness) to face adversity, temptation and sin.

As I look back on my life, the Holy Spirit has helped me recognize that although my biological father deserted our family, I still managed to pick up an attitude and behavior he demonstrated although he never personally mentored me.

When my father left, he abdicated his responsibilities as a husband and father. It was as if he went to the moon because he had vanished. He never called, wrote or attempted to contact me or any of my brothers; were invisibly non-existent to him. What the Holy Spirit helped me realize is that when I didn’t agree with someone, or they gave me frustration, they became non-existent to me. I wasn’t even cognizant of this thinking and pattern of behavior but I can see how I often emotionally shutdown on people.

As I said, my relationship with Christ was no different than my relationship with anyone else; it was a conditional relationship. I’m thankful that I no longer have that kind of relationship but I’m saddened that I have damaged some really valuable relationships which I thought in my mind were perfectly OK.

Following Christ takes commitment, discipline, wisdom and sacrifice. I can say without reservation that I’ve had days where I’ve cried out to the Lord, “I have nowhere else to go, who is there like You that will listen to me?” I’ve also had days where words just couldn’t be uttered from my mouth and I found the only word in my vocabulary was, Jesus.

We all begin this journey the same way, we hear the message of the gospel and we make an expression of our faith by accepting Jesus Christ as our savior but at some point, the journey starts to get rough.

Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the rod, and the birds came and ate them up. And others fell upon rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil, and yielded a crop2

Being rooted is a term used in martial arts that indicates your base cannot be moved. Have you ever seen a plant grow in the most inauspicious place? Through a crack in a concrete sidewalk, in a junkyard; places one can’t imagine a plant surviving. And yet, there it grows! Despite all the obstacles, it remains rooted. To follow Christ, I must remain rooted.

To be rooted in Christ, I must be committed to Christ.

If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up3

Most of us understand the concept of discipline and the phrase lack of discipline or undisciplined. I had to learn that I couldn’t follow Christ and lead an undisciplined life. I like to think of discipline as order that escapes chaos. My life before Christ was chaotic, undisciplined, and lacking focus. Accepting Christ didn’t suddenly cause these flaws to change. I discovered that it takes discipline. For me, it is the kind of discipline that flees a chaotic life much like a runaway slave. I needed order in my life and as a software engineer, I learned about order and structure. Without me even realizing it, God was giving me a pattern to follow Christ; the order and structure He could impart in my life.

To be disciplined in Christ, I must have order and structure.

Unlike knowledge, wisdom was difficult to acquire. I was intelligent, so acquiring knowledge was never a difficult task for me. But wisdom was far more elusive. For me, I have come to realize that wisdom isn’t the years of experience I’ve gain in an area; wisdom is the correct application of the knowledge I’ve acquired. It’s one thing to know the right thing to do, wisdom enables me to do the right thing correctly.

Everything is permissible for me—allowable and lawful; but not all things are helpful—good for me to do, expedient and profitable when considered with other things. Everything is lawful for me, but I will not become the slave of anything or be brought under its power.4

True wisdom comes from God and I had to learn that if I was ever going to be successful in following Christ, I needed something I sorely lacked; wisdom. Reading the bible enables me to acquire knowledge but no matter how many times I read scripture, I am conscious of my need for God to impart wisdom and understanding so that I will correctly apply the word of God in my life.

To apply spiritual wisdom in my life, I must seek wisdom and understanding from God.

How many times have you heard someone say, “Why does God require me to give something up?” Many people think that following Christ is painful. I guess if you’re being stoned as Stephen was, then yes that was painful. But when I considered my thoughts on things I have to give up for Christ, I realize that this was my own concept of the relationship; not God’s. I spoke earlier about how in the Old Testament, the sin offering was brought to the priest and the offerer would lay his hand on the head of the animal symbolizing a transfer taking place. All claims of ownership rights, vested interests were abdicated because the offerer acknowledged that the sacrifice belonged to God. I’ve learned in my life that things I’ve given up required a willingness on my part to transfer rights to God. So if I had a problem in my life, like shutting down emotionally with others, I came to realize that it was something which I was incapable of handling on my own. I reached a point where I offered it up to God, transferring ownership rights to Him.

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.5

Sacrificing the things I selfishly crave in order to maintain a relationship with Jesus Christ and others is a choice I freely make.

To sacrifice, I must freely give to God that which I value.

Christ says:
If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.6

Father God,

Following Christ has not always been easy for me to do, but the fault was with me. I humbly declare my desire to follow Jesus all the days of my life. I'm committed to discipleship. I seek Your wisdom and understanding in things pertaining to my life. I ask the Holy Spirit to help me apply Your word in my life each day. The things I once treasured and valued are now an offering to You. I ask You to help me see what else needs to be offered up that I may follow Your Son without being choked by the cares of this life. Amen.


Footnotes:
  1. In His Footsteps, by Sharon Kirby, on the Blog Faith’s Firm Foundation, August 16, 2010
  2. Matthew 13:3-8, NASB
  3. John 15:6, NASB
  4. 1 Corinthians 6:12, Amplified Bible
  5. John 15:13, NASB
  6. Luke 9:23, NASB
References:
  1. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
  2. The Layman's Parallel New Testament, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  3. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  4. Matthew Henry's Commentary, McDonald Publishing Company, McLean, Virginia 22101, ISBN 0-917006-21-6
  5. Sharon Sharing God, blog by Sharon Kirby

9 comments:

Sharon Kirby said...

Dear MTJ,
How I value your words. It is currently 4:30 AM in California - I'm having insomnia right now - my thoughts and worries are running rampant. So, I decided to go see if any of my new friends were "up." And there you are - with the thoughts and words you so faithfully offer. Thank you.
Your whole post gave me quite a bit to think about. Especially this line:
"To sacrifice, I must freely give to God that which I value."
You know what I'm having the MOST difficult time with? My sons. They are in their 20's - and they're great guys. But there are so many things that I worry about, especially now that they are adults and make their own decisions. Are they giving up the things they need to in order to follow Jesus fully? Honestly, for that matter, AM I?
I close by joining you in saying this prayer:
"I ask that You help me see what else needs to be offered up that I may follow Your Son without being choked by the cares of this life."
For me right now, it's those boys - I guess I wouldn't make a very good Abraham!

p.s. THANK YOU so much for giving me a "shout-out" in your post. Obviously, following is still a struggle - but I plod on. AND the picture of the footprints was beyond words...I loved it!

BLESS YOU TODAY, my friend...

Merana Leigh said...

Hey MTJ - PHENOMENAL series, my friend!!!! It has moved me and inspired me in an incredible # of ways. Yes, I printed it off at work & have notes written all over the place that I want to send you.

When you said, "It also restricted my ability (and willingness) to face adversity, temptation and sin"....well, ain't that just the truth?! I tell ya, tho', I went thru my real struggle back in February that brought me to my knees in my faith, to the point that you no longer know what to say, but just like it says in Romans 8, the Holy Spirit groans for us when we cannot utter words. That's when I finally found complete surrender..."God, I JUST CAN'T DO THIS ANYMORE! It's up to You, b/c I'm DONE!" And just like Sharon said about that line, "To sacrifice, I must freely give to God that which I value" -- it's hard, but I swear, when you give up/you're done, like I was, it just seems so natural. It's hard in that, like her with her sons, you want to still hold on to the DELUSION that you have some sort of control over that which you value. It's all His anyway, on loan to us as a gift, really!

You know what He was faithful to help me see (that might help you having been abandoned by your father [of which I'm sorry that you had to experience that])? He helped me realize that since in almost every relationship I've ever had with men, it's been bad/harmful/hurtful & therefore, in my mind men = pain...thus, they can't be trusted...ever. And THAT was what was holding up my surrendering completely ... b/c He's a "he" ... how can I trust that? But then He spoke right into my very spirit..."I'M not like men of this earth. I am there for you. I will never leave you or forsake you. I will never hurt you. But you have to trust me in order for me to be able tp give you that assurance. I'm already going to do it for you anyway...but until you ACCEPT it, you'll never be able to EXPERIENCE the peace that comes with that." Huge revelation that helped bridge that last gap to surrender. And now, I can submit to my new mantra (which I used to HATE this expression), "It is what it is!" EVERYthing in this life simply is what it is. It's what I choose to do with it that matters...give it to Him & TRUST that He will see me thru whatever "it" is.

I'll e-mail you the rest of my comments. Sorry to write this novel here, but I sense someone else needs to see it in comments & that's why I'm leaving it here.

Thanks for this series...it's touched me deeply! ~ Merana

MTJ said...

Sharon: As a parent with adult children, I identify with what you've shared; I appreciate your honesty and candor. I left a comment on your post this morning that comes from my heart. Please know you are in my prayers and I consider you a blessing in Christ our Lord.

Merana: It appears that you have a few things to say my sister with your War and Peace novel comments. :) I'm glad the Holy Spirit and perhaps this post brought about the things you now hope to share with others. What I've tried to convey is that each day of my life is an affirmation of my willingness to be changed by our Savior to be the man God wants me to be.

Faith Imagined said...

I love your insights on the necessity of being disciplined in order to be a Christ disciple! Changing old behavior patters is so difficult especially generational ones! This line really spoke to me, "Accepting Christ didn’t suddenly cause these flaws to change. I discovered that it takes discipline." We must give up a lot of our selfish ways to follow Christ but He gives us so much more in return!

MTJ said...

Alisa: You are so right...He gives us so much more!

Teresa said...

Very insightful, not just information but transforming insight. Thank You Holy Spirit for flowing through 'MTJ'. I just noticed something as you stated, "Accepting Christ didn’t suddenly cause these flaws to change. I discovered that it takes discipline." To be a disciple of Christ, it takes discipline...notice how the words are very similar. Along with that, it is a transforming heart change to abide in the grace of God that allows us to walk humbly in that discipline that the Holy Spirit abundantly equips us with.
Love this post!
Teresa

MTJ said...

Teresa: I praise God for allowing me to walk along the path of humility and discipleship. I'm realizing that this is new territory for me but I am embracing it and thanking Him for every step He empowers me to take.

Dean Spencer said...

MTJ -

This has been a terrific series. I'm a little behind in reading, perhaps due to summer activities and what not. But I do enjoy reading your posts.

As I was reading this, I remembered how I came to Christ. Initially, I falsely believed as a teenager by praying to God to be my Savior was all I needed to be a Christian. Many years went by with this belief and I lived my life however I chose. I encountered heartache after heartache and my life was spiraling.

It wasn't until I was in my 30's that I realized I never "gave" my life over to Christ. I never committed to Christ being my Lord. Reading your post, I see the same thing. To follow Jesus to give Him my "everything." If I don't, He really isn't Lord of all my life then, is He?

But I like where you say, "I like to think of discipline as order that escapes chaos. My life before Christ was chaotic, undisciplined, and lacking focus. Accepting Christ didn’t suddenly cause these flaws to change. I discovered that it takes discipline." I certainly identify with that.

My life has been dramatically changed because I've chosen to deny myself, take up my cross daily, and follow Jesus.

Great post. Looking forward to more. God bless!

MTJ said...

Dean: No explanations are necessary brother. I value your thoughts but I don't expect you (or anyone) to read every post.

I've come to admire your faith and I look forward to reading what the Lord shares with you. I've mentioned previously my love for Romans so it has been with keen interest that I've followed your examination of the gospel of grace.