Do You Immediately Follow Jesus?

 

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In a culture full of “me”, “mine”, and “right now” we seem to make priorities of everything but Jesus. Our phones fill every millisecond of our lives (guilty as charged) and we often complain about not “having enough time” for anything meaningful. This is a lie.

Something in Mark 1 struck me. My morning devotion has consisted of a 5x5x5 reading plan through the new testament. It starts in Mark and slowly works its way through the other gospels.

In Mark 1:17-18, Jesus calls the disciples, and the response is humbling:

 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.

Did you catch it? The word I want to zero-in on is “immediately”.

It seems that when we hear a notification, a phone ringing, or our favorite show is on, we are completely riveted. Nothing can shake our focus save for another digital activity that may draw us in deeper. Jesus calls us to drop everything and follow Him. Immediately.

You may say that it was the disciple who “decided” to follow with much haste. Maybe Jesus does not care how soon we follow? Another passage addresses this – Luke 9:59-60:

To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

This time, Jesus is the one who responds. The man wants to first live out his life, career, and inheritance before pursuing Jesus. Our Lord responds in typical blunt fashion, letting Him know that He must follow now. No plan B. No other way.

How many times have I lived like this? Begging God to let me achieve what I want in life before proclaiming His kingdom?

I long for the day when my first reaction is to proclaim God’s kingdom. When I read scripture, after I immediately DO it. What if pursuing God and pursuing the greatest pleasure possible in this life is the SAME journey? And what if our phones and our digital lifestyles can never satisfy the way Jesus can?

Maybe once I realize that Jesus is the greatest joy and pleasure in this life the “things of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of His Glory and Grace.” I pray the Holy Spirit would apply these truths to my heart.

He commands many things in scripture. But do we ever get farther than “love the Lord your God with all your heart…“? Our hearts immediately pursue other things. We must pray and ask Him to change our hearts to love Him alone.

Jesus is the Only Foundation That Cannot Be Shaken

In our obsession with the world and what it has to offer, we lose sight of Christ. How to Start Paying Off DEBT (2).png

The common objection to the claim of scripture:

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:7

This is a bold statement. The peace “of God”. Think about the peace that God has. Eternally content, happy, and joy-filled. The human mind cannot understand it. Not only the simple mind, but the elite thinkers and philosophers cannot and will not understand it. This peace is beyond all understanding.

Then comes promise: “…will guard your hearts…” it is not simply a vague “some of you can have peace”. If we are growing in our love for Jesus, peace is sure to follow.

Peace will also guard our minds. How is this possible?

When we place our hope and peace in something finite, there is always a chance of loss. For instance if our hope is money in the bank, then the moment we have less than our “peace standard” we lose our peace. If our hope is in another human being, we will inevitably lose that hope when they either leave us or die. It’s a morbid thought, but simply put, everything in this world is finite. Everything will end.

Some will claim that they have lived there whole lives in peace, what makes a Christian’s peace different? We lay hold of a foundation that can never be broken. Throughout our whole lives, we never have to worry about losing out on God’s love for us. We will always be His. In five years, ten years, 50 years, He will hold us fast to Him.

You can certainly place a pseudo-peace on money, recognition, you name it. But in the back of your mind, though there’s a chance you won’t lose them, there is certainly chance that you will. That gnawing reminder of your own fallibility and idolatry will never create the lasting peace that comes from the only sure foundation. In Christ alone.

Theology Matters – Remembering R.C. Sproul

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A great man used mightily by God has gone on to experience true fellowship with Jesus. Dr. R.C. Sproul died on December 14th, 2017. His legacy of as a great reformer and deep thinker will not soon be forgotten.

“The Holiness Of God” is one of his books I’ve personally read. It’s a beautiful masterpiece showcasing how God is about making His Holy name great.

In an age of irreverent babble from top

christian “leaders”, a sharp exposition of scripture strikes through the heart of thirsty souls. “Renewing your mind”, the podcast from Ligonier Ministries would daily teach myself and millions of others the holiness of God and the art of critical thinking and exposition.

The Church has lost a great man. But we know that He stands before a greater God, clothed in Christ’s righteousness.

Let us a be a thinking people, a praying people, a bible-studying people. Let us remember His legacy.

For more information: https://www.ligonier.org/

We Must Be a Broken People

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Our Church has been finishing up a five-part series. The last of which was on the “perseverance of the saints”. This biblical idea basically means that though our salvation is secure, we as Christians will persevere in our faith until the end. We won’t throw our love for Christ aside, we won’t give Him up. Ultimately though, we recognize that God is the one at work within us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Contemplating this concept is difficult for me. God clearly calls us to turn from our sins and always be repenting and turning back to Christ. This being the fruit and proof of salvation. And then there’s the other side: it’s ultimately God who’s doing the perseverance in and through us. It’s crazy to think about!

However mind-boggling God’s sovereignty is, He is teaching us much through our Wednesday night home-groups through our church. We talk in a group of 12-18 and discuss the sermon from Sunday. We read through selected scriptures and open the floor for discussion. We eventually got on the topic of “how to recognize those who are persevering and those who are not”. Because, what sets good-works-salvation-bob apart from by-grace-through-faith-alone-Nolan? We externally do the same things, don’t we?

God led me back to a verse in Luke 18:10-14.

 

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

This account is always a humbling reminder of what a broken heart before God looks like. It’s not flashy, it’s not proud or arrogant. It’s not perfect, It’s just broken.

We look at the pharisee and think he looks pretty good, by cultural standards. And the tax collector is pretty much the scum of the earth. At face value we could make a judgement call and say the Pharisee is “persevering”, but is he?

Jesus is getting deep here. The pharisee is pompous and arrogant before God, flaunting his spiritual “goodness” (aka filthy rags). He thanks God he’s not like other people. He thanks God He’s not like “those” people. He’s literally placing his good works on a false scale. This made up scale places the Pharisee as creator, the “other people” as the measured standard, and rigs it to go in his favor. He tries to “trick” God into thinking he’s good.

The contrast is this lowly tax collector. By societal standards, a thief, a swindler. The scum of the earth. But his prayer sounds much different. “be merciful to me, a sinner!” He recognized his sinfulness before God. He realized that he deserved nothing other than condemnation. And he physically expressed it by beating his chest is anguish over his separation from God. Naturally from the outside you’d think “this guys screwed up!” and he certainly was. But there’s a difference between these two screw-ups.

One was broken. One was not.

We have this idea in the Church that if we show our brokenness we will be shunned. And this should never be the case. This ‘scum of the earth’ Jesus was referring to was not scum to Him. But rather this man was the one who was saved in the end. Not the one who “looked good”.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” – Psalm 51:17

An arrogant, thinks-they’re-put-together-person is not persevering in Christ. They are persevering by themselves.

A broken, contrite heart recognizes their own flaws. They turn to Christ for forgiveness and reveal themselves to be the truly persevering. And what does the latter example have that the former doesn’t? The Holy Spirit himself.

As a Church we must be a broken people. We must. Without brokenness and vulnerability what do we have? White-washed tombs and people not getting the spiritual nourishment they desperately need. We must be broken before we can be healed.

My Hope Has Been Built on Less

The old hymn echoes in my head:

My Hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness…

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My life has been a whirlwind of work, ministry, starting a business, and keeping my priorities straight. The latter has had its moments.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I started a small lawn and landscape service. It’s actually going quite well, though slowing for the fall and winter. My job at Chick-fil-a has gone successfully and I’m currently (starting next week) working two days at CFA and two days at a local Auto Shop as a Service Technician.

All of these happening within a month of leaving our previous church and beginning anew elsewhere. With this whirlwind of stress and emotion, my heart has grown colder to God’s goodness. I haven’t felt the fervor of yesteryear I want so much. And I’m checking my heart to truly understand why.

Let me explain.

 

When we’re drawn to sin, or even just “stuff” (career, busin

ess ownership, financial security, etc.) our flesh whispers to us that pursuing those things will ultimately make us happy. That a secure job, a cool car, or path in life will ultimately secure satisfaction. And if we buy into this lie, we will do anything to achieve it. Including neglecting our devotion to the God who bought us.

But as God has been teaching me, all things not built on the foundation of God and His word will eventually make the believer as dissatisfied as ever.

I make myself anxious over not “choosing the right path” or whether or not I should be pursuing a business idea or something else entirely. My brain is wired to think deeply, but sometimes i allow it to cause me anxiousness that i don’t need or want. Waking up everyday wondering if I’m doing what I should.

And this kind of thinking is my problem. I’m at the wrong starting point. Me.

Rather than asking, “what should I do?” I should rather be asking “What will make God look great?”.

This perspective sucks the ego out of anything. Because if I’m pursuing business to the Glory of God, it’s not for the affirmation of customers that my fallen heart so desperately wants. It’s not for the success at work or the pat on the back from the boss. The gospel frees me from this modern form of self-slavery.

For if Christ purchased my standing before God, I have no need to seek my security from money, for I have already inherited eternal life. I don’t have to have affirmation from people because in Christ I’m more loved and accepted than I could ever hope for. And if God has a greater plan than I could ever dream of for me, than why should I wake up each morning and question it? What rebellious people we are!

“On Christ the solid rock I stand

All other ground is sinking sand”

When God Becomes our Satisfaction

My heart hasn’t had much of a desire for God and His word for a while now. Many days I would only pray that God would help me to want Him at all.

It’s a strange type of faith when you wake up in the morning, hoping that your spark of joy in Christ will be ignited. It’s almost like the joy is laying dormant, not necessarily gone altogether.

I don’t know if anyone has experienced this in their walk with Jesus, but it can be very discouraging. Wondering if there’s something wrong with you, wondering if God has abandoned you, wondering if your different sin struggles could have caused this.

As I wrestled with drawing near to God, i knew already that I was the one who moved. I’m the sinner, I’m the law-breaker, God didn’t become less amazing in the past few months, my own fallen self just wasn’t appreciating his Glory.

Something has changed in the last few weeks though. As I wrestled with some personal struggles, God used a combination of a music artist, a preacher, and His Word to grab hold of my heart.

He read from Jeremiah 2:13:

 

“for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
    the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
    broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

We expect Jeremiah to give a laundry list of all the things they didn’t do right, all the things they need to work on, but instead we see something different. God says they have only committed two evils, they forsook God, and made cisterns of water that couldn’t hold any water.

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God’s using this powerful imagery to show them who the ultimate satisfaction is. The cisterns of false gods, food, money, power, sex, recognition, etc. were all cisterns that didn’t hold any water. In essence, even in the Old Testament we see God’s leading us to the heart of the issue: God and God alone can satisfy the deepest longings in our hearts. We can try to make relationships, money, and anything into a pseudo “cistern” but when we pour our satisfaction into it, it goes right through the bottom onto the floor. Left emptier than before.

And this has been my problem. As I’ve started my business, Iv’e felt a deep longing for financial stability, for recognition as a “business owner”, to have more freedom in my life. Though these can be good things, they’d slowly evolved into things I’d become obsessed with.

As my insecurity grew, and my idolatry turned to other things, I found myself medicating my idolatry with more idolatry, a broken cistern smashed into another. Many of us understand this vicious cycle, whether struggles with lust medicated with more lust, or desire for money medicated with visions of future financial success, or even personal insecurity turning to athletic races to gain self-worth.

All these things are worthless. They don’t satisfy. There are many more sins that I struggle with, but they’re all born of these two sins found in Jeremiah 2.

We forsake God. Whenever I want something more than Jesus, it’s an idol. Whenever I place my whole life into something other than Jesus, I become an idolater.

And God designed us this way, we were created for Him, we were created to enjoy Him above all things, and when we realize that nothing else satisfies our souls like pursuing and loving Jesus, we then find balance in the rest of our lives.

I’m slowly learning this on an upward climb to joy. I’m beginning to grasp it in little ways: being freed from worrying about clients because Jesus has purchased my eternal security on the cross, being freed of lust because God is far more beautiful than anything else in this created world, being freed of self-doubt, because God has my steps in His hands and has created me in His perfect purpose to accomplish His ultimate will.

These are only a few examples, and i haven’t lived them out perfectly, but God is working on my heart!

 

Peace With God

I don’t fully grasp the idea of having peace with God. Romans five tells me that being justified, I then have peace with God. I certainly don’t live like I believe this!

I’ve been reading a fantastic book called “A Gospel Primer” by Milton Vincent wherein he goes very in-depth in gospel truth and gospel implication. The Holy Spirit has been moving in my heart through the biblical truths presented. The Gospel is starting to appear more and more beautiful to me as I dwell on it daily.

In verse two of Romans five Paul tells us that we have “obtained access…into this grace” how amazing is that? We literally have access to the creator of the universes glorious grace! But what does that mean? sunset-1207326.jpgIt means that though we are deeply sinful and our hearts are desperately wicked, God through Christs saving work on the cross has peace with us despite us! This means we can have access to God because Jesus has purchased access for us!

I’ve noticed very practical ways this fleshes out (though very imperfectly). For instance the thought that God would have peace with someone as wretched as I used to be (and still am many times!) means that I should pursue peace if at all possible with all men and women around me. I can’t hold grudges and hate in my heart because I am so much
worse than people think I am, and yet Jesus still decided to save me out of my desperation!

How can we be angry with our spouses when we know we are deserving of God’s Holy wrath, and yet Jesus stands in our places? We cannot live the same as the world knowing this glorious truth.

And we don’t only know this truth, we have access into it through Christ.

Access, not just knowledge. Access means we don’t just recite words “i have peace with God” our whole souls are made alive and transformed and amazed at the grace of God.

Access to peace with God, Paul continues, means that we can know that suffering is not because of God’s impending wrath upon us, but rather it is producing a weight of Glory that we cannot comprehend. Romans 8:28 tells us that all things work together for good, including suffering. We may not know what His purpose is, but we can know it is not purposeless.

It’s basic logic to follow this line of thinking. If God’s wrath has been substituted into Christ on the cross, this means that God’s wrath cannot be upon those whom He has saved. Following this logic, then all suffering isn’t God punishing you for your sins, but rather it is God shaping and molding you to look more like Jesus. And if Romans 8:28 is true, then you can know that it will never be in vain. You can suffer with purpose because you have peace with God.

For me, dwelling on peace with God has helped me battle my sin. I always lived like God was ready to reprimand and look down with disgust at me every time i overtly gave into sin. But He already poured that all out on Jesus. So He can’t look upon me in judgement.

So how did this help me fight sin? If i know that God isn’t a begrudging frustrated father, but rather a kind and loving father, then i can know that His commands against sin is not because of some masochistic reason, but rather, He loves me too much to let one of his sons (or daughters) continue in their sinful habits and destroy themselves.

His reprimands don’t come from a place of wrath, but rather a place of love and fatherly correction. And when I know that God is for me and my ultimate good, that is a God I am happy to obey and serve, even when it may not feel good.