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.

Subduing My Little Piece of Ground

This past Monday (my day off) was spent by myself for the first half of the day. My wife was at work so I decided to finally mow my front yard and clean up some of the landscaping.

As someone who tries to see the spiritual aspects of all of life (something that Adventures in Odyssey taught me!) working to make my yard and flower beds look nice kind of reminded me of God’s command to subdue the earth in Genesis.

I think this is where many people (both men and women) get their drive to build, create, restore and rebuild. We have it wired into our very beings. Ultimately we will never restore our little piece of dirt to it’s former pre-sin glory, but we desire to try to subdue it as best we can.

And that was what I did last Monday.

Pictured, I have some before and after photos.

There was something immensely gratifying about getting my hands dirty while listening to great music. It really is such a beautiful metaphor of God’s work in us.Daily Re-dedication.jpg

The Holy Spirit’s work in us isn’t a one time thing. We can’t just mow the lawn of our souls once. It’s a constant trimming back, revitalizing, and convicting of our hearts. And it takes work.

Grass starts looking like weeds when it sits stagnant for a time. Flower beds get overrun, leaves pile up. The sin in our lives is the same way. When you’re not fighting it, it’s growing back.

Fighting sin is messy. Your hands will get dirty and your soul will grow tired, but we must go back to God’s word and to prayer to reconnect with our Lord to regain our strength again every morning.

And it’s not an easy task. God calls us to die to ourselves. Take up our crosses. Go make disciples of all nations. The only way we can do this is by the simple daily act of committing ourselves to God’s will as shown in the Bible. And though cutting grass and putting down brown bedding may be trivial in of itself, God can still use something simple to show us a small glimpse into one way He works in our lives.

Because, just like up-keeping a home, cutting grass, and washing dishes, keeping our souls requires daily re-dedication. Daily reviving. Daily dying.

 

A Radical Response To the Gospel

As I was studying to teach the 7th and 8th grade lesson on Acts 19, I was struck with the Ephesian people’s response to a horrifying discovery: Their pagan magicians could not contend with the power of Jesus.

The sons of Sceva (the pagan magicians) were meddling in places they shouldn’t have been meddling. They saw all the wonders that Paul was saying and doing in Ephesus, and thought that all they needed to do was invoke the name of Jesus, and maybe they too would be able to command demons and heal the sick.

In verse 13 they try to command a demon, but what happened to them would horrify anyone who found their hope in pagan worship. The demon literally said “Jesus I know, Paul I recognize, but who are you?” and proceeded to beat them and strip them and send them running.

So now the high and mighty sons of sceva were brought low by the power of satan. And all the people finally understood – these men do NOT have the answers.

Though i’m taking some liberty, i can imagine the people were comparing the two people – Paul and the disciples vs. the sons of Sceva. The two don’t even compare! One can command demons and heal the sick in Jesus’ name, and the other? Well, they get beat to a pulp for even trying. Based on the response of the Ephesians, I can imagine they listened to what Paul was preaching and many of them believed.

The power of the gospel is greater than we realize. The transformative power in the hearts of people as a result of the gospel is apparent in this passage. They ended up burning 50,000 pieces of silver’s worth of pagan books! That’s right around $5,000,000 worth of idolatry.

That’s the equivalent to:

  • 185 Ford 2018 F-150 Trucks
  • 12,500 GoPro Hero 5 Blacks
  • or, 6,501 iPhone 7 Plus’s

As Christ said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. I think the Ephesian people who believed the Gospel were beginning an act of repentance in burning this paganism out of their lives.

This echoed in the ears of the silversmiths, who crafted the idols. They would lose their livelihood, so what did they do? Well, they were going to lose their pride and money, so they rioted and chanted godless things. Sound familiar?

All this to say, a radical gospel changes people radically. You can’t have one foot in the world and one foot in holiness. You’re either being swept away in sin’s current, or your swimming against it in the Spirit’s power.

Do I have that ‘crazy’, ‘foolish’, ‘radicalized’ faith that the world looks down upon? Am i friends with the world? Or have i renounced my pagan practices (or maybe, addiction to money, entertainment, etc.) and allowed God to burn them out of my life?

The Bible makes clear that true disciples of Jesus make disciples, and look radically different from the world. Is this true of us?

I Don’t Have The Right to Say Who I Am

The scariest question sometimes is “Who are you?”.

The reason this scares me is that my mind immediately leaps to what I do. I like ministry, I like fixing cars, i like being a husband (not necessarily in that order!).

But that doesn’t answer the question. It only shines light on what i like doing in my life, not who I am as a person.

The world seems to further this way of thinking. cadiz-189297_1920.jpgColleges tell us that we need to pick a career and then we inadvertently align our life’s meaning with that work. This creates a connection between who we are and what we do that doesn’t seem to get challenged much by the culture, even in the Church.

It becomes, “Nolan the Mechanic” rather than “Nolan, who does automotive side work”. One defines me as my vocation, the other separates the two.

This has been a challenging new way of thinking because I’ve always subconsciously aligned my identity with my day-to-day activities. If work goes rough, I feel down, if speaking at youth group went rough, I beat myself up.

But this isn’t how God wants us to live. He wants us to find our identity only in Him!

The only way to break the mold is to recognize that the only person or thing that has the jurisdiction to tell me what meaning i have is God Himself. A job can’t ascribe meaning, it didn’t create us! A family can’t ascribe meaning, they’re fallen sinners! Only the one who created us can tell us who we are.

And if we’re in Christ, we are “New creations” , “transferred into the kingdom of his
beloved son”
, “children of God”, “chosen, royal, holy”.

And as much as my heart argues and tries to find my identity in my job or my life circumstances, God reminds me that only He has the right to tell me who I am. I don’t have that right.

Just a little something God reminded me of today.

Theology Thursday #8 – Liberalism and Sola Scriptura

So yesterday I opened my local paper to the Worship Schedule dates and times for local Church’s in the area. The invitations ranged from charismatic to catholic to “christian” science (The latter still makes no sense. It’s neither Christian, nor science).

But something struck me, if i were an atheist, agnostic, or whoever, I would throw all of these in the same drawer. I’d call them all “Christians” without knowing what they use as a plumb line to discern truth!
I’m not saying you have to put the Gospel in your church schedule (that’s not what it’s for, after all), but all the differences i noticed were from people who claim to be going back to the same authority. (which probably makes some people wonder..)
Doesn’t exactly make sense to me.
If some disagree on some core doctrines, that doesn’t seem to indicate the same authority.
It’s just that liberalism really bothers me.
And, as a disclaimer, i know we can disagree on some things and still “live peacefully with all men if you can” (Rom.12:18-21),
But if the separation between some is so great, we should really be making clear what our authority is.

So that brings us back to an authority, or, in this case, the authority.

As the title says, we’ll be talking Theology again. One of my passions.
The title “Sola Scriptura” is a Latin term, meaning:

“Scripture Alone.”

So today we’ll be studying the Doctrine of Scripture.
It’s complete inerrancy, and sufficiency.

First, the definition of “Inerrancy” according to Google is,

“Incapable of being wrong.”

That has some serious implications. The Bible supports this claim due to God being truthful, the very essence of truth, which means that His Word must also be true for the two to work in harmony. (John 14:6, Psalm 119:160, Numbers 23:19)
An analogy that is often used is that if you are being truthful, then what you say is true. So if God is incapable of evil (including lying) then every word must be true. (Rom 3:4, 2nd Tim 3:16)

Another huge implication is that if God is truth, than every prophecy must come to pass the way He said. So, if one prophecy got it wrong, then we’d scrap the whole Bible. Because God is truth, and if He lies to us, then He isn’t who He says He is.
The big shocker to many is that God has kept His word, and for the unfulfilled prophesies telling of things farther down the road, we know he will be faithful to His word because He has been faithful in the past. (Psalm 33:4, 1st Cor 1:9)

So i guess i’ll stop there and let you ponder these things. Though this is a Doctrine many know and cherish, It’s always good to take a recap and reaffirm our foundation which is based on The Truth in Christ, which is The Bible.

Thanks for reading! And thanks for about a dozen followers! It really means a lot knowing anyone would care to read what I have to say, I hope at least one person would be encouraged! Make sure to follow, and let me know if you liked it!

For more info on the Bible, click here: AIG – How Do We Know The Bible Is True? AIG is an awesome resource i highly suggest, check it out!