Sunday, September 27, 2020

There is Nothing Mysterious In the Gospel of Jesus. #JesusFollowers


Our Master, Jesus, left us a legacy of hope with his words, his life, his teachings and his death. All remain an example to us of a life lived perfectly for God. In this, Jesus was clear that he was not hiding anything from his disciples. Nor is anything hidden from us, today.

Jesus said: "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for EVERYTHING that I learned from my Father I have MADE KNOWN to you." (Matt. 15:15)

And Jesus said: "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven HAS BEEN GIVEN TO YOU." (Matt. 13:11) "Because whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open." (Mark 4:22)

This was not true for some religions of the ancient Roman world in which Jesus lived. For some, faith was built around a "mystery." Priests of these "mystery religions" were charged with revealing the secrets of the gods to those who had been initiated. Only then were these "mysteries" unfolded to the one who had committed to worship the deities that were the focus of those faiths.

But Jesus and HIS Gospel were different.

Jesus revealed ALL THINGS to the world during his lifetime, and did so openly, and to all.

There was nothing the remained hidden, nothing left out. There were no "mysteries" left to unfold or reveal after the ministry of Jesus ended.

Just as he spoke to his disciples, Jesus speaks to us today - through the simple, clear teachings in the Gospels. We follow Jesus and obey God with our eyes wide open, with our full understanding, as well as our hearts and minds.

Jesus calls us to repent of our sins, to seek to live righteously and in a Godly way, to forgive others, to love and pray for our enemies, to do Good Works (in humility) and to love God and serve others in God's name. He says we will be rewarded according to our deeds alone, judged by God alone: we are not to judge ourselves or each other. That, and nothing more, is the Gospel.

The Gospel Jesus gave us wasn't lacking in anything when his ministry finished with his death on the cross. We need no further explanations, no further revelations, and no interpretations, in order to determine what we must do to please God.

The clarity of Jesus' message is obvious to all who read it. The life, teachings and example of Jesus are a clear window onto the Will of God.

Jesus challenges us to do all that God asks of us, and has given us an example we can follow.

He points us to God, calling us to repent of our sinful acts, seek forgiveness, and live the way God wants us to live.

God continues to grant us all the strength, love and support we need to continue growing into Spiritual Completeness and maturity.

We are told by Jesus to "do as I have done" and to "follow my example." We are not to hide our good works under a bushel basket, but to Do Good, and do so in humility, not simply to be seen by others.

Accepting this knowledge of God's path which Jesus reveals to us, we are challenged to actively live out this Faith as friends and followers of Jesus.

Let us do so with faith, humility and joyful obedience to God, who sent us Jesus to reveal His will to us!

Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Costly Faith #Jesus Calls Us To Follow! #JesusFollowers


"Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:27-31)


What does Jesus mean when he says, "Counting the costs?"

Too many people are willing to believe in a God that requires nothing – no work, to time, no money, no effort, and no works of love; a religion that’s made easy, that requires less effort than is required to put a meal in a microwave.

They're more than ready to go to Heaven, as long as God carries them there without any requirement that they move their feet a single step.

But the inconvenient problem for those who believe this, and wish to continue to call themselves "Christian" or followers of Christ Jesus, is that this is not the religion Jesus preached. That’s not the path he calls us to walk. It's not the life he wishes us to lead in this life. And it doesn't even lead to eternal salvation with God, our Father.

If people really put a faith in our God at the center of their lives, and believed that Jesus himself lays out this religion in his words, then they would find no work for God too hard, no self-denial too severe, and no offering of service in the name of God’s chosen Son, Jesus to be enough.

Jesus spoke about costly, righteous obedience that would cause people to hate us, and a Godly kingdom here on earth that requires us to act righteously, loving even our enemies. God would then reward us with Heaven based only on our deeds.

That’s a salvation that is not easy, lazy or cheaply obtained with our vain words and lengthy prayers (Matt. 6:7; 7:21.)

That which we obtain cheaply, we esteem lightly. A gift freely given, a gift unwrapped and unused, is a worthless gift, regardless of the cost. Teachings unused, and unapplied, are exactly the same - useless.

Jesus never said that salvation would come without cost. He never said it would require no effort, or that it cannot or must not be earned. In fact, he said just the opposite.

His parables, including this one about the costs involved in building a tower, all point to a costly faith – a faith that requires us to give all we have to serving God by loving and serving both Him and our fellow human beings.

If faith costs nothing, and salvation can be achieved without effort, what "costs" must we count?

If effort and self-sacrifice is not required of us by God, then of what "costs" does Jesus speak regarding the tower in this parable?

If the wide and easy path is the path condemned by Jesus, why do so many seek it?

Those who don't plan, or don't count the costs, or don’t believe there ARE costs in achieving eternal salvation deserve to be mocked, just as those who would build a tower without considering the costs would deserve to be mocked, says Jesus.

And those who don’t consider ALL they have to be on the line when following Jesus should reconsider calling themselves by his name. We must be willing to share all, give all, and do all in order to follow the Paths of Righteousness and, ultimately, eternal Salvation Jesus calls us to follow.

"Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more." (Luke 12:48.) Does this sound like the words of someone advocating and approving an easy, lazy faith, to be rewarded by God with a cheaply obtained eternal life?

God said at Jesus' baptism, when He adopted Jesus as his anointed Son and appointed him as our Example and Savior, "This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him." (Matt. 17:15.) We should, then, listen to and believe Jesus’s words, both here and elsewhere, when he says we must obey God's commands and follow his own example, doing all things he has done in obedience to our Creator.

God chose this perfectly obedient human being to be our example in all things. We therefore must make every effort to humbly and honorably seek to follow Jesus in obedience to his life's pattern, which pleased God so much.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

In Praise of Reason #JesusFollowers

Some view Reason as opposed to God, and its use as somehow usurping, insulting or opposing Him, as if Reason was by its nature opposed to God.

But Human Reason must be seen as a gift of God, which He implanted within us for us to discover, using the other gifts which He entrusted to us.

We should never base our opinion of a thing based on a false judgement of it, or by the worst belief someone holds of it.

Human Reason can, if not truly reasonable, lead us astray. It can lead us to believe we are greater than the creator, that Reason is itself greater than that which created us, and it.

Once it’s considered to be such a thing, it is condemned, but falsely, since that’s not human Reason IS.

Reason and Faith are not opposed to one another, but are instead both necessary for us to understand God and God's will for us.

Rationality walks hand-in-hand with Spirituality. When irrational elements of religion are stripped away, we may focus clearly on the mission God's Anointed One, Jesus sends us to do.

God gave us Reason and the ability to obey Him, and Reason is a God-given gift we must use to discern His Will.

Just as we ought to not condemn someone based on others’ opinions of them – or mere rumors ABOUT them, which often are not true or are based on false assumptions, biases or slanders – we ought to assess Reason in its truest and purest form, rather than the worst assumptions about it.

Many do the same for te Religion Jesus left us. They consider all the horrific things done it its name, the abuses done to people, the wars, the complicated and contradictory doctrines – and assume them to be the highest version of that religion. Then they say, “See, these examples ARE the religion of Jesus, therefore, we must reject it.”

Such things SHOULD be rejected, but to assume that this is the True Religion of Jesus is to start with a false assumption

It would be as if we judge a tree in autumn, with its leaves fallen out or yellow with age to be “dead,” not knowing about, or deliberately not remembering, the vibrant greens of spring.

Those who have rejected God, also often base that rejection on only the worst aspects of the Christian religion: the toxic additions of men, not the purity of its founder, Jesus. 

So too, rejecting the Godly faculty of Reason, it’s been said, prepares one for worse and worse delusions. [Channing, Discourse, 1826]

The teachings of Jesus are reasonable. Jesus calls us to love God with all understanding (Matt. 15:10.) Jesus reminds us that God wishes us to “love the Lord your God with ALL YOUR MIND” (Mark 12:30.) We cannot fully love God, therefore, unless we use ALL of the understanding and knowledge God Himself gave us, and continues to give us.

Reason in fact plays a huge and important role in God’s religion, as expressed throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. And just as Reason finds a place, so also is Wisdom, knowledge and understanding greatly praised by scripture, though often, as in Jesus’ time, they are degraded by men who are assumed to be “wise” in religious knowledge.

We must fully embrace the Reasonableness of the Gospel that Jesus has taught, just as the former Prophets of God testified to God’s wisdom and knowledge, which He shares with all of us when we seek it.

When Yahweh says, “Come, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18) He expresses his desire to engage and converse with us, His creation, and make reasonable terms by which we may be His children.

In the Proverbs, we read, "By wisdom Yahweh founded the earth. By understanding, he established the heavens. By his knowledge, the depths were broken up, and the skies drop down the dew. My son, let them not depart from your eyes. Keep sound wisdom and discretion: so they will be life to your soul, and grace for your neck. Then you shall walk in your way securely. Your foot won't stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid. Yes, you will lie down, and your sleep will be sweet." (Proverbs 3:19-24)

We are to use our gift of Reason, just as our gifts of wisdom and knowledge, to walk in the way of Jesus, who walked perfectly in the way of God. Our feet stumble less when we adhere to the correct path, guided by these gifts.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

The #Jesus We Need To Hear Again [#JesusFollowers]

Should we be actively building a better and a more Godly world, or should we simply do nothing and wait for God to make it better?

Should we seek our own advantage, or put other's needs ahead of our own?

Should we do Good things, or just call ourselves "good?"

If we read the words of Jesus, the answers to these and other questions are clear. But if we listen to today's church, their answers are unclear.

The teachings of Jesus are clear, consistent and powerful.

Jesus said his words would last forever - would not pass away. And his teachings about how we should act in this world were clear.

But modern Christianity is bogged down with man-made words and man-made doctrines that muddle Jesus' message.

They speak words Jesus never uttered: "Justification," "Sanctification," "Total Depravity," "works-salvation." But these words give birth to doctrines that make Jesus' religion a toxic one - one that is easy, lazy, and pointless.

Jesus never said that children are born "unable not to sin." Instead, Jesus tells the disciples to allow children to come to him, since they represent the purity of God's Kingdom.

Jesus never even hinted that human beings couldn't perform Good Works from birth. Instead, he says we MUST seek to do Good Works - deeds of the heart that help our neighbors and show them love.

Jesus said we are to begin acting NOW to build up God's Kingdom, "on earth as it is in Heaven." We aren't to wait for any special signs from God, or to wait at all.

We are justified, says Jesus, not by our vain words, or our intentions alone, or even by faith alone, but rather by our acts, which are judged only by God.

Jesus says we become holy by DOING what is holy, good and righteous. Holiness and Righteousness are ACTS we do, not a mere THING we can get by simply claiming Jesus' holiness as our own, as some teach.

Jesus calls us to turn the other cheek, to not seek our own advantage, to follow the narrow and difficult path of his religion, and that those who seek to be first will be last. Modern preachers, however, often say we must only seek to get our SELVES into Heaven, and that it can be done easily, without effort.

Our goal isn't even  to simply to "save" ourselves, says Jesus. Those who seek to save themselves, in fact lose themselves. But if we deny ourselves, and lose ourselves in serving others, we gain victory, both eternally and in this life.

Far from condemning Good Works, Jesus calls us to do them, without pride, because Godliness is our natural state.

Jesus assures us that we will be judged by God according to our Works - the deeds of our hands - and even then, we'll be judged by a merciful and holy God. Our Works will light the world, and reflect our spiritual journey towards Righteousness as we repent for falling short of the Ideal Jesus sets for us with the example of his life.

That is a path Jesus calls us to seek and follow, in his footsteps. And it's a path that is easily understood even by a child.

By twisting and adding to Jesus' simple words and teachings, modern theologians and ministers make Jesus confusing and strange. He becomes someone who cannot be understood without the help of a Priestly class.

Jesus never meant to be seen, "through a glass, darkly." Jesus is a window we can look through to see how God wishes us to live.

Jesus calls us to take up our cross and follow him, to do JUST AS he did, and do even greater things than he did.

This isn't the call of someone who condemns Good Works, who says "wait for God to act, don't act yourselves," or someone who wishes us to simply admire his righteousness, but not emulate it.

When we begin to see Jesus as an example we can follow, he becomes a Master we can also love as a brother.

Let us go out and work Righteousness in this world, doing all we can to be an example of the light of God that was born within us, kindled by the example of Jesus, our teacher.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Being a Disciple of Jesus #JesusFollowers

Being a Disciple of Jesus [#JesusFollowers Weekly Message]: “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master." (Matt. 10:24-25)

The most casual reader must be struck with the uniqueness of the opinions held and expressed by Jesus. They run directly counter to the opinions held by men of all nations, and of all creeds.

Things which the world holds blessed, Jesus curses, and things which the world denounces, Jesus welcomes. Let the Sermon on the Mount furnish illustrations.

Jesus exalts poverty of spirit, puts a premium upon meekness, highly esteems reproach and persecution for righteousness' sake. We seem here to breathe another air, to live in another world from the ordinary life of both ancient and modern times.

Here are no prejudices of nation,
or of age, or of sect. Here is no trace of sentiments which seem innate in human nature.

And yet the disciples of Jesus will share His opinions. They will esteem lovely the graces which won His regard and admiration. They will esteem unworthy the qualities which He branded with disapproval, however men may honour them, or seek under fine names to hide their real nature.

Contemplating their Master with ever-increasing admiration, they will see all things with His eyes. His tastes, His sentiments will be theirs. They will know no law but His, and own no other authority as competent to guide their opinions or to fashion their lives. They will catch His spirit, they will be moulded by His influence, they will become conformed to His likeness. “Everyone that is perfect shall be as his Master."

Actions speak louder than words, and men always look to the lives of great teachers. Are they consistent with their discourses? Do they do the things which they teach others to do?

Often have men enunciated sublime thoughts and lofty precepts, but have miserably failed to put them into practice. It is comparatively easy to discern Heavenly goodness, especially since we have the perfect example in Jesus.

The world itself, unconsciously influenced by the very Jesus whom it rejects, has caught up the benedictions which He pronounced, and parrot-like, repeats them.

Blessed now even in the judgment of the world are humility, piety, liberality. But as for the practice of these, alas, what can be said?

Admiration, applause, patronage, the world can give, for these are cheap, and the very giving of them may gain a good name, but to bear Christ Jesus' yoke? Far from it! To take up his Cross as a personal burden, from that many shrink who are quite willing to lavish upon the Cross in the abstract all homage and praise.

For the Cross as a symbol worn upon the person, built into architecture, glorified by art is one thing. The Cross as a burden, an obligation of today, is quite another! The one is common to all Christendom, the other is confined to the few who are ready to follow the Master wherever he goes.

But Jesus lived as he taught. He was all that He said that we ought to be. These graces of which he spoke so sweetly found their completest expression in his own life.

His words were the utterances of a heart enriched with the indwelling of this blessedness. He spoke that which he knew, and he knew not afar off, but by his own experience.

And so it is in their measure with His disciples. For this they will strive with all the energy of the new life working in them, and they will be content with nothing short of this.

Admiring thoughts and wistful looks vill not satisfy them. True disciples will aim to translate opinion into practice, and though the translation may be often blurred and mistaken, it is yet surely, if slowly, becoming more and more accurate.

Day by day, some old habit is being overcome, some new grace is being acquired. Painfully, perhaps, but most thoroughly, the work is being done, and will continue to be done until Jesus shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied. "Everyone that is perfect shall be as his Master.”

(Adapted from a sermon, "The Disciple of Jesus," given by Rev. W.F. Clarkson on March 10, 1872 in Lincoln, England)

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Why "I'm Only Human" Can't Be An Excuse For Sinning #JesusFollowerrs

How many times have we heard, after someone makes a mistake, or acts sinfully, “Well, he (or she) was ONLY HUMAN, after all”? Perhaps many times. It's a common saying. But do we ever wonder why this is used as an excuse for the sinful action? Is there something IN US that MAKES us sin against our will?

There are a lot of clever excuses we can use to avoid doing what's right – or even actively do what is wrong. We can say others around us “forced” us to do these things – and peer pressure can indeed be a strong factor.

We can say we couldn't avoid doing them – and if we put ourselves in situations in which sin is happening a lot, that can certainly influence us to go along with others.

And we can also say that we were born so flawed that we CANNOT do anything BUT sin and rebel against God – that we are “only human.” This last excuse is perhaps the greatest lie to ever infect Christendom - and the vast majority of Christians today believe it totally.

If it’s true, just BEING among those pressuring us means that we will cave in to sin every time. And if we are around evil and sinful behavior, that would mean we'd do evil EVERY time.

But that’s not true. We CAN resist, and can work to keep ourselves away from temptation. We know this because Jesus and the Bible teaches us that we can, and must, do so, to please God.

It's important to know exactly what "sin" is in the Bible. John said he wrote a letter so that people "will not sin" (1 John 2:1.) That's not to say that we are going to immediately stop all sinning once we are exposed to the teachings of Jesus, but early Christians clearly expected new converts to make all effort to put behind them the sins they previously did routinely. This was true of stealing, lusting, cheating others, lying, and more.

But if what's being called "sin" is something inherited from our birth, we have a problem believing this, because in the Bible, sin is an act, not a thing.

If it is a compulsion from birth, that cannot be avoided, we have an excuse. We cannot be guilty for being compelled unavoidably in that way.

It's only if we proplrly view sin as a CHOICE which we can avoid, that we begin to view it as the Biblical writers, and Jesus, viewed it. And then, we can confront and defeat it.

We've been taught some theological falsehoods from the pulpit. The Biblical frist man's"original sin" doesn't attach to us.

Turns out, God told Adam's son that sin is a choice, which he can and must avoid (Gen. 4:7-8.) That he chose falsely means he earned punishment, just as God warned.

But only an individual’s ACTS of sin are punishable, and we are not liable for the sins of anyone else (Ezek. 18:19-24.) If we are sinful by nature, and yet we sin, we are NOT guilty, according to God. Only by our wrong choice are we liable.

We must trust God when He told Cain - and by extension, us - that we NEED NOT SIN, and instead, must work to not sin any longer, instead asking God's forgiveness, which is granted freely upon repenting of our past behavior.

We are assured that God has given all people the ability to stop sinning (Deut. 30:11-14; 19) and that we have Jesus as our example that a human being need not sin, and in fact CAN obey and please God.

Jesus’ example is a model upon which we can shape our actions. We must trust Jesus when he said we must seek Godliness and that we could become Godly and complete – not by ourselves, without God or without God’s chosen example guiding us, but with God's ongoing help and with the example of Jesus always before us, leading the way.

We are called to commit our lives to obedience to God's chosen Spokesman, Jesus, the Anointed Prophet of God, and submit to humbly walk with him, relying, as he taught, on God's forgiveness, and growing into the Righteous Perfection that God knows we are capable of achieving.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Good Works Are The Light Of The World! #JesusFollowers


"You are the light of the world. Let your light shine before men, that they may see your
good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matt. 5:14, 16)

A light is always meant for the use of those who are in darkness, that by it they may see.
The sun lights up the darkness of this world. A lamp is hung in a room to give it light. The
Church of Jesus is the light of humanity. The disciples are to shine into the darkness and give them light.

As the rays of light stream forth from the sun and scatter that light all around, so the good works of believers are the light that streams out from them to conquer the surrounding darkness, with its ignorance of God and estrangement from Him.

What a high and holy place is thus given to our good works. What power is attributed to them! How much depends upon them!

They are not only the light and health and joy of our own life, but in every deed, the means of bringing lost souls out of darkness into God’s marvellous light. They are even more than that. They not only bless others, but they glorify God, in leading people to know Him as the Author of the grace seen in His children.

Let us listen to what the words of the Master have to teach us.

The aim of good works is that God may be glorified. You remember how our Master
said to the Father: "I have glorified You on the earth, I have finished the work which You
gave Me to do."

It is when our good works are something more than the ordinary virtues of refined people, and bear the imprint of God upon them, that people will glorify God. 

They must be the good works of which the Sermon on the Mount is the embodiment - a life of God’s children, doing more than others, seeking to be perfect as their Father in heaven is perfect.

The works are an evidence to the reality of the Divine truth that is taught, while without them the world is powerless.

The whole world was made for the glory of God. Jesus came to bring us back to serve and glorify Him. Believers are placed in the world with this one purpose, that they may let their light shine in good works, so as to win people to God.

As truly as the light of the sun is meant to lighten the world, the good works of God’s children are meant to be the light of those who know and love not God. 

Good works bear the mark of something heavenly and divine, and have a power to compel the admission that God is in them.

Let us undertake the study of what working for God is, and know that good works are a part of this, with the desire to follow Jesus fully, so we will have the light of life shining into our  hearts and lives, and from us, all around us.

"You ARE the light of the world!"

(Adapted from the works of Rev. Andrew Murray, 1828-1917)