Saturday, February 04, 2012

Believers in Jesus
Followers of Jesus


There are many who claim to believe in Jesus as an historical character. Many claim to believe He is a central figure in one of the world’s great religions. Many claim to believe He was a good teacher and they claim to believe in His teachings. Millions claim to believe in Him as Savior, personally. Many claim that He is the only way to eternal life. Many claim to believe that He was God in the flesh. Many claim to believe he was born of a virgin. Many claim to believe he died for their sins and that He rose again from the dead.
Many claim to believe what the Bible teaches about Jesus. Literally. They claim to believe He is the Redeemer. They claim to believe that Jesus was the Son of God and preexisted as the Word. Many believe he did many miracles through His earthly life. Many believe he was loving and compassionate. Many believe He ascended into heaven. Many believe He will return one day.
Many believe all sorts of things about Jesus. Some true and some false. It is important to believe the truth about Jesus. No one can inherit eternal life without a sincere faith in the true and living Jesus. You could feed billions of starving people every day of your life and still not have one ounce of good works that could find their way into redemption. Jesus paid for our sins and became our scapegoat and Passover Lamb and He endured the punishment that every one of us deserved. Salvation is all of grace through personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus called sinners to believe in Him. But Jesus also called men to follow Him as well. Now what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? That phrase suggests an obedience to His teachings and a determination to retrace the footsteps of His life. And that, my friends, is a major league distinction that goes beyond lip service or an embrace of some systematic theology. Following Jesus is a monumental challenge and without a profound personal sacrifice as well as the power of the Spirit of God it is impossible. And because it is difficult many who say they believe in Jesus do not make much of an attempt to follow Him. In fact, church attendance seems to be their primary claim to being a follower.
But there is an intense spiritual dimension to following Jesus - one that translates so observably in a sinner’s life that others must take notice. A life that follows Jesus is remarkable in the midst of the commonplace exhibition of professing Christians that are unexceptional and insignificant. What is acceptable as a believer in Jesus falls short of what should be acceptable as a follower of that same doctrinal Jesus. That is exactly why I often refer to us as believing followers of the Lord Jesus.
If we just do a cursory study of the life of Christ as revealed in Holy Writ we might just find that we have seriously diluted the power of His life and in so doing we have conveniently lowered the demands of exhibiting that life through the prism of our own. The standard believer must be pro-life and morally conservative as well as profess to believe the Bible. But as it pertains to loving our enemies, or giving two coats when one is requested, or living a life of self sacrifice, or visiting prisoners, well those things take a back seat to the dictates of the western lifestyle. But still we claim to believe in Jesus.
No wonder the world is blind to the Savior. It is no surprise that our faith has been defined by what we say rather than what we do.
Matt.7:24-27 - Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
otice Jesus does not say that the wise man is one who hears and believes His words. No, Jesus teaches that the wise man is one who hears His words and does them. And we have heard many a preacher emphasize those words while being completely ignorant of just what Jesus said to do. But there is a generation of broken and hurting people who are so caught up in the blindness of sin that they desperately need a living manifestation of Jesus. Let us just take a peek of a few of His teachings and commands.
Matt.5:3-12 - Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
hese are a collection of teachings that are treated as some Hallmark Card sayings but are in reality some of the most demanding behavioral admonitions. The church reads them like so much poetry but not vital to a life that follows Him. I mean meek, merciful, pure, peacemakers, and all the rest? Listen as western believers squeal as they are in the slightest bit persecuted. And instead of rejoicing, we document the offenses and set about to legislate the remedy.
Matt.5:31-32 - It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:
32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
eed I even address this?
Matt.5:38-42 - Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

This kind of selfless attitude is almost lost to the church. The modern believer demands his rights and looks out for the slightest intrusion of his personal space. The depth of humility here is way beyond what is even understood much less what is practiced.
Matt.5:43-48 - Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
ur heart’s view toward our fellowman is very telling. And even further, what is in our heart toward our enemies? These words from our Master’s lips say we should not only have an attitude of love, but we should demonstrate such love toward our enemies. Do we say we believe Jesus here or do we demonstrate our belief in Him by living these words?
Matt.6:17-18 - But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
ho fasts anymore?
Matt.6:19-21 - Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Any meaning approaching literal on these verses died when capitalism showed up.
Matt.6:22-34 - The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!
24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
hese verses all deal with the effect of money and material things has on our hearts and lives. We are never supposed to worry about these things, yet listen to believers complain about the economy, or gas prices, or a list of other things. Does that represent a following of the Savior?
Matt.7:1-5 - Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.
retty self explanatory. God help us all.
Matt.10:37-39 - He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.
39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
hese are but a very small sampling of commands and teachings that require more than a verbal belief. They require great sacrifice to our ego, esteem, comfort, and in reality a complete death to the enemy we know as self. I would suggest that even a minor inventory would open up a Scriptural Pandora’s Box of things about which the New Testament teaches that should be a demonstrable part of a disciple’s life but which have long since faded off the scene.
And in the light of such grievous disobedience and ambivalence, should we expect this Sunday morning to hear pronounced pulpit calls for repentance? Should we expect many, many tears and changed hearts in response to the correction of God’s Spirit? Should we expect a deep remorse over how we have treated our Master and His teachings? Should we expect wailing and the beating of our breasts? A commitment to change our attitude toward the material things of this world? A release of all worry about money and the economy?
Or should we expect the same redundant visit to the building we now call church? And should we still expect to see ourselves as the followers of Jesus? Of course, after all we’re not Muslims.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the "rich young ruler". He believed, but he would not follow...and do.
Much to contemplate here in this article.
Thank you for writing it.