Sunday, September 14, 2014
Can We REALLY Follow Jesus?
Jesus teaches: “If you love me, keep my commandments.” And, “I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 14:15; 13:15.)
The words and teachings of Jesus have great weight. They never pass away, and they speak plainly and clearly for us today, nearly 2,000 years after they were spoken.
Jesus is our example in all things, and his life, teachings and even his death taught us the power of repentance, love and forgiveness to bring us into close fellowship with God. And these teachings of his must never be diminished, belittled, or explained away, because they hold the power of our salvation from sin within them.
But Jesus didn't just teach, or give commands, he also gave us an example that he said we could follow. Jesus lived, taught and died as a pure moral example, that we should follow him.
His ministry shows us how to serve and love others the way God wants us to love and serve others. He said we must follow his example and do as he had done, and that is the challenge we accept when we become his followers.
Jesus ate with the outcasts, those the Religious Elites of his day believed should never be touched, spoken to or taught. But Jesus said he wasn't ministering to the healthy and the Righteous, but to those who were ill with sin, and needed a physician.
Jesus said that we must repent - turn from - those things which separate us from God. When we turn back to God, Jesus says it's as if we return to our father after squandering our inheritance. We become prodigal children, coming back to God, our heavenly Father, and God’s infinite mercy forgives those who return to Him without any payment or sacrifice required.
Jesus taught that loving our enemies is more powerful and a higher calling than simply loving those who love us back.
While striking someone who strikes you on the cheek seems reasonable, Jesus says we shouldn't fight back. And for those who compel us to walk one mile, we should offer to walk with them two miles. Is all this contrary to our logical understanding? Perhaps. But to destroy evil with good is the Godly way.
Jesus teaches us that we must deny ourselves, even though self-preservation is an instinct that kicks in naturally. But denying ourselves, and serving others completely, restores and refreshes the soul, and is at the core of who we should be as human beings.
Is all this impossible? Is it beyond our human abilities? No. Not with the help of God's Spirit giving us additional wisdom and feeding our souls with goodness and guiding us towards God's Will, along with the perfect example of Jesus always before our eyes.
To do as he has done, we must simply believe that Jesus left us an example that we can really follow.
If Jesus said we can love as he loved, and serve as he served, either he meant it, or he didn't. If he DID mean it, and we wish to call ourselves his followers and friends, then we must believe we can do as he did.
Otherwise, if we do not believe it, we must believe he either lied or was giving his disciples tasks they could not perform. We would have to believe he gave them false hope and goals higher than they, or any human, could ever meet.
But if that's true, then Jesus can no longer be our Master, our teacher or God's spokesman, and we would have to view him as a false prophet, and a liar, and a fraud.
Yet, our faith and the simple teachings of Jesus put all this speculation and doubt to rest. To doubt we can achieve high goals is perfectly natural. Doubt means we are thinking. But perpetual doubt means we've stopped thinking and are just rejecting.
That Jesus challenged us with incredibly high goals is undeniable. That he believed we could achieve them is proven by his words. And because Jesus, a human being like us, has done this, we are assured that we, too, may accomplish God’s will for our lives.
Going forward, let's stop doubting Jesus and our ability to follow him. Let's instead believe the simple teachings of Jesus - the teachings that, through obedience and faith, save us from sin and bring us into fellowship with God.