July 3, 2022

Following Jesus means . . .

READ Matthew 9-12

Sometimes the idea of following Jesus means having His attitudes, thinking His thoughts. Sometimes it means doing what He did. Matthew seems to be an example.


As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples . . . (Jesus said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:9–13)

Jesus called Matthew and it seems Matthew called his friends to be with Jesus. I can do that too.

There are some things Jesus did that I cannot do (unless by some miracle from the Lord). For instance, He restored to life the daughter of a ruler, healed a woman healed, gave sight to two blind men, set a demon-oppressed mute man free and restored his speech. But I can share Jesus compassion for the “harassed and helpless” crowds.

How I follow Jesus is up to Him. Just as He gave His disciples “authority over unclean spirits” and the ability “to heal every disease and every affliction” He must do the same for me. His directions are always specific:

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. (Matthew 10:5–8)

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. (Matthew 10:16–23)

Just because Jesus tells me what to do does not mean it will be easy. He warned His followers: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.”

He also reminds us of our priorities: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:34–39)

Jesus says I will know who is receptive to Him by how they respond to me: “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.” Yet just as their generation was never satisfied, so is ours:

“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, “ ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ ” (Matthew 11:16–19)

Following Jesus can be easy. He does the hard part: “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” My job is trusting Him and pulling my share of the load. It might seem difficult be He says: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:27–30)

Jesus, grant me wisdom to follow You in whatever way You lead, listening, thinking, talking, and acting in obedience!

 

July 2, 2022

Fickle? Or just Foolish?

 

READ Matthew 5–8

The world values people who are strong, happy, stand up for themselves, give others what they deserve, are not so perfect to be a total threat, and are popular with everyone. God’s value system is somewhat different. He says,

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:3–12)

While this list is often extolled, when it comes down to it, people who fill that description get crucified. No one really likes total goodness. It mocks us without saying a word, shows us up for what we really are — creatures who are sinful and selfish without Christ.

He calls such a condition “salt that has lost its taste” and is “no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” even though those who are salty are often treated with less regard! No wonder Jesus later said:

But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ (Matthew 11:16–19)

We all know people who complain about everything. One woman complained when they went out that they never stayed home, and when they stayed home that they never went out. The problem was not their social calendar or lack of it; the problem was discontent, never being satisfied, plus being self-centered and thinking that someone, even God, should satisfy all desires.

Jesus goes on to explain the will of God concerning common human issues like anger, lust, broken relationships, oaths, retaliation, enemies, and needy people. He tells His disciples how to pray without hypocrisy, another human problem.

He does not stay long on those deadly negatives, following them with instructions about fasting and eternal values, then explains why no one needs to worry about daily needs, “For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:32–33)

How amazing that Jesus promises all the necessities of life, the things most people are anxious about, yet so many would rather say no to that and run their own lives, often complaining about the problems of gaining life’s necessities. Anything but let this man who is God rule over them.

Jesus has much to say about relationships too. We are not to judge others as if we don’t have problems ourselves, often the same problems they have! He says to ask for what we need so we can live like He does and treat others the way He treats us. He also says that living His way puts our lives in a solid place, safe from the erosions of life because of listening to Him and doing life His way.

Jesus proved His power and identity by cleansing lepers, healing the sick, calming stormy weather, and casting demons out of those possessed. And how did people react? Some marveled, some made excuses to walk away, and some “begged him to leave” town — all with the attitude that as amazing as Jesus is, ruling our own lives is better.

Lord, seeing myself in all this makes me feel like an idiot for all the times I ignore You and don’t listen. Knowing You love me and died for my sin, that You forgive all unreliability and forgetfulness and pour out abundant blessings is all the more incredible. I’ve no words large enough to express my gratitude and praise Your name.