Whom will you follow?

The last day of this series of study on ‘Authentic Apprenticeship’, the next issue (May/June 2009) covers the subject, ‘The Promised Holy Spirit’. It appears to be a popular subject because my local Christian bookshop has sold out and I have to wait until next Tuesday before I’m able to obtain my copy.

I don’t have much to say about what Selwyn has written today – either, you follow Jesus, or you don’t – if you follow, the one and only true God, then your eternal hopes and dreams will be fulfilled – more than you could ever imagine, being in His presence is the perfection of our existence.

The Scripture, which came to mind, is the following (John 6:53-68, NIV): ‘Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” ‘

Who do you follow? Jesus has the words of eternal life – there is no one else – to follow!

What are your views?

Afterwards …

There are two important points that surfaced for me, after reading today’s study.

One is that Jesus is honest with His followers, for example, He told His disciples (just after He told then the great news, that He was the Christ) that He was going to suffer and die. Likewise, He does not spare us from an honest view of where our lives might be heading to – especially, if we have been following our own desires.

Matthew 16:21-27 (NIV): “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.”

He lets all that information sink in for six days, then He allows them to see part of the bigger picture, in Matthew 17:1-6 (NIV), we read: “After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

 When the disciples heard this, they fell face-down to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Selwyn captures this point well, when he writes: “Those six days were difficult for the disciples, Jesus was heading towards a cross; they, being confused and afraid, followed at a ‘distance’. Suddenly, it seemed that their expectations of the Christ could not be realised. As they hung back, Jesus continued in loneliness towards the cross. Because He loved them, however, He called three of them aside and led them to a high mountain where He was transfigured, (in bright light,) before them. That vision spoke to their fears and flung new light on the mystery.  … There is enough light in God’s ‘afterwards’ to more than compensate for the perplexity of our present confusion. Remember that the next time you find yourself in the dark.”

Jesus will be honest with us, even if His words are not what we want to hear – but He loves us so much that He will reflect His light on the path, which we should follow. His love can never be separated from us. Do you believe that?

Keep on keeping on

Selwyn reminds us today, that the call to follow Jesus is a call that takes ownership of every second of our lives. We follow a Master, who demands our full and continuous obedience. Of course, it’s easy to say that His teachings are wonderful; and, we can be impressed by His miracles while on earth and His continuous provision for our needs, here and now.

Yet,  because He loves us – He wants us to grow in maturity, to develop our faith, and our skills to enable us to undertake a larger role in extending His kingdom – part of that growth can come from suffering  and self-denial. Sometimes, He may even ask for our lives – to be freely given – He constantly says, ‘Keep following Me.’  We must be prepared to follow Him, all the way – to death on a ‘cross’ – if that’s His will.

Are you prepared to pick up your cross?

No better way

I thought this part of Selwyn’s study was good.

“At once they (Peter and his brother Andrew), hung up their nets and followed Jesus, but I wonder if they realised exactly what following Him involved. Would they follow by imitating Him, placing themselves humbly under His tutorship, allowing the Spirit of God to reproduce in their lives the same characteristics that were found in their Master? And would they turn aside from their self-centred, self-directed ways to participate in the Saviour’s higher purposes?”

It’s easy to follow God when he passes out free loaves and fishes, more so, when he heals you when you are sick or frees you from the bondage of an evil spirit. But, it becomes harder to follow Jesus, if He asks you to give up all your wealth or to suffer insults because of the world’s hatred of His name, or to separate yourself from the ways of this world to walk a narrow path.  

Yet, everyone who has a loving and faithful relationship with Jesus – looks forward to the time – when they meet Him, and see His amazing glory and share with Him – an eternity of peace and an unimaginable joy. Then we will know – that there was no better way!

[I became slightly confused about the dates – an aged moment – hence the reason for this ‘late’ posting. 🙂  ]

Beyond a daily appointment

It’s a common experience that when we fall in love with someone – we never stop thinking about the other person. Especially, in the early stages; I guess these days – there are the endless steams of text messages, like: “I’m thinkin of U – Love U.” In the days before computers, we have many examples of beautiful love letters that sometimes took weeks to cross oceans – before their words brought rich emotions to some one’s heart.

Our relationship  with God – is a relationship based on love – it’s the greatest love story every known, it will never be repeated. On earth, during our lives and by own free will (here, I’m not talking about salvation) – we have the wonderful opportunity to demonstrate our love for Jesus. Jesus is freely available to us – always and forever, the only barrier to us enjoying His presence, in our lives – is ourselves

In humility, we place ourselves at Jesus’ feet – because He is God, and first loved us. It’s His nature to love us, and we can be confident that His desire is, to spend every waking moment with us.

Selwyn’s introduction, to today’s study (as follows), touches on a goal that every human seeks – to be loved, and to live in that love.

“The suggestion I am making for practising the presence of God may seem to encourage weakness; some may think that turning constantly to God implies we don’t have enough nerve to face life ourselves. But it is not weakness to ask God for His help and to constantly seek to be in His presence. We are made to live in conjunction with Him, and when we do, we are most ourselves. Bound in Him we walk the earth free. Low at His feet we stand straight before everything else. Fearing Him we are afraid of nothing else.”

Do you agree with what Selwyn wrote?

Before anything else

We can walk with Jesus every moment of our day. Our relationship with God is not restricted to an hour each Sunday – if, all you do is go to Church on a Sunday, and never seek God’s guidance throughout the week, then you are not one of His flock. It’s that simple.

I liked the following bit from today’s study: “Here are my suggestions for learning to live in God’s presence. As soon as you wake each day, and before you do anything else, spend some time, even if only a few minutes, in communion with God (talking to Jesus). C.S. Lewis wrote: ‘The moment you wake each morning all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists in shoving them all back, in listening to that other voice, taking the other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.‘ This is a habit that can transform the rest of the day which follows. Next, order your day on the basis of a divine partnership.”

I totally agree with Selwyn and C.S. Lewis – starting off your day by inviting God into it  – has Him there, at your side, before an issue arises – that’s much better than calling out, in panic – after the event. What’s your view?

‘God intoxicated’

I agree with Selwyn’s conclusion: “What would it mean to you to go through life like that – to be ‘God intoxicated’, to walk and talk with the Lord in unceasing communion, to be in continuous conscious and unbroken fellowship with the Eternal One? I know what ir would mean to me – everything.”

Yet Selwyn makes it sound like a distant goal – whereas it’s not – if we follow what Jesus has told us to do, then we can be in a continuous, loving relationship with Him.  God is overflowing with mercy – and freely gives to those who honestly seek Him.

If we fail to follow His commandments, we have a God who will forgive us, even though our sins have seriously hurt Him. He will restore us, lift us up – if we are sorrowful for our sins and ask for His help to avoid the dirt of this world – He will wash our hands and feet, so that we will be ‘clean’ in His sight. 

Pause, for a moment – and think about this – the hands that made this amazing universe in which we live – the stars and planets (including this earth). The very same hands, will lovingly wash the dirt off your feet, to make you clean. He will take a towel and carefully dry you, He will sit you down and make sure that you are well fed. If you sin and rebel and leave His side – He will search for you – He will look out for you, and when He sees you returning after you have given up your love for this world and humbly seek to be His servant – He will organise a marvelous party and make you His son or daughter – telling everyone – how happy He is, that you have returned – to be at home, with Him.