Luke 18 records a fascinating conversation between Jesus and someone identified as “a certain ruler”. For the sake of discussion, we’ll call the ruler Fred. Fred asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. This conversation is also recorded in 2 other Gospels: Matthew 19 and Mark 10, and is recorded very similar to this account. Jesus responds with a great Truth that’s only recorded in Matthew 19: “If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” What a revolutionary teaching this is! Jesus clearly points out the link between obedience and blessing, obedience and life, obedience and salvation! The key to the life of Christ in us is simply learning to obey His commands!!! Obedience is the key that unlocks the life of Christ within each of us!
Ok, back to the story…. Fred explains that he has indeed kept all the commands of God. And here comes that dreaded three letter word, “but”….. Jesus says “You still lack on thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, and follow me.” OUCH!
Now why did Jesus say that? Fred has obviously done all that was taught to him, or he probably wouldn’t have come to Jesus publicly and asked the question in the first place! I’ll bet there were lots of Fred’s friends standing around him, nodding their heads in approval when he said he had obeyed all those commands! I’ll bet Fred was feeling pretty good when he heard Jesus’ answer to his question! And then Jesus drops a bomb on Fred. “You still lack one thing….”! Man, that’s gotta hurt!
Oswald Chambers, referring to this passage in his devotional “My Utmost For His Highest” says this about Jesus’ question:
“Have you ever heard the Master say a hard word? If you have not, I question whether you have heard Him say anything. Jesus Christ says a great deal that we listen to, but do not hear; when we do hear, His words are amazingly hard. … Have I ever heard Jesus say a hard word? Has He said something personally to me to which I have deliberately listened? Not something I can expound or say this and that about, but something I have heard Him say to me? This man did understand what Jesus said, he heard it and he sized up what it meant, and it broke his heart. He did not go away defiant; he went away sorrowful, thoroughly discouraged. He had come to Jesus full of the fire of earnest desire, and the word of Jesus simply froze him; instead of producing an enthusiastic devotion, it produced a heart-breaking discouragement.”
Yes, Jesus’ words are ‘amazingly hard‘ at times. But it is in those times when we push on to the point of obedience, that the life of Christ is supernaturally alive in us! Note the following statement by Jesus as a response to the disciple’s question of “Who then can be saved?”: “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”! There it is! Did you see it? In Jesus’ simple reply to the disciple’s burning question, He gave us the key to unlocking the life of Christ within us: it is only possible with God!!
How many of us go through life trying to obey what God has taught? How many of us are finally confident enough to come to Christ because we think we’ve got it all together, only to hear a hard word; a word that so discourages and disparages us that we leave with our tail between our legs, utterly discouraged? Oh my friend, thank God for the hard words of Christ! Thank God for His unending love, compassion, mercy and grace that He bestows on His created!! He cares so very much for you and for me that He’s unwilling to leave us at the doorstep of victory! If it weren’t for the hard word now and then, we’d never know that we still “lack one thing”!!
Do you see the beauty of that hard word? Like an unyielding coach who is intent on extracting every ounce of talent from the young athlete, God is intent on completing His work in our life! We need to hear that we still “lack one thing” so that we’ll give that one thing over to Him and be rid of it forever! We need to let go of that thing onto which Jesus puts His finger and says “you still lack one thing”!
What kind of a God would He be if He left us in our incomplete state? He has promised that He will provide the means by which we can overcome this “one thing” – don’t forget the promise of Jesus in this passage, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”!!! Jesus gives us hope in three little words He said to Fred – Jesus says that after you have sold all your possessions and given to the poor, then “come, follow me“!
“Come follow me“: the key is found in the relationship with Christ! When we obey that one thing that Jesus points out, we can then rely on the relationship with Him to provide what we need! In fact, it goes one step further: it is only in the relationship with Christ that we’ll have the resources we need to obey that one thing!!! Jesus taught what it means to “come follow Him” in Luke 9 and Matthew 16: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Hearing the hard words of Christ and obeying them are part of this denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Him!
My friends, what is it that you’re hanging onto today? Have you heard the hard question of Christ to your soul? What is it that you must do, today, in order to follow Christ? Do that one thing that He asks of you! Don’t delay. Don’t put it off.
I always thought that the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand in John 6 was about Jesus doing a miracle to show the people who He was, as a means to provide a witness to who He was and why He was there. And it is that, but I believe it’s much more than that…. It’s more than creating ‘fast food’ for the multitudes!
In v. 5 Jesus asks Philip the following question in order to test him: “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”. Hmmmm. Did you see it? Do you get it? Jesus asks Philip an ‘impossible question’ in order to test him! I used to think, “what a crazy question!” How else could Philip have answered?!?!? But now I see that Jesus orchestrates almost everything in our lives to test us! He designs opportunities for us to practice trusting in Him! The question to Philip is designed to help Philip learn an invaluable lesson: a lesson of trust.
The core premise of the disciple journey is that we are not our own: we’ve been created by God and bought back by Him (through the price of His Son, Jesus)! Because of this, I no longer can (or need to) rely on my own self for any provisions, I need to fully and wholly trust in Him to provide as He is the source of our life. And so, in order for us to practice this truth, God orchestrates events in our lives to help us trust Him!
Ok, back to the food thing…. How did Philip respond to Jesus’ test? v. 7 tells us that Philip fails the test. He couldn’t see Jesus as the all-sufficient provider that He truly was. Philip was still seeing with natural eyes, not spiritual eyes. Philip was still thinking in the natural instead of the supernatural. Apparently, Philip had a faith problem – a problem of belief (see “Got Faith?“). He was still trusting in himself, in the natural, the normal: the ‘pattern of this world (Rom. 12:2).
Philip was counting on natural resources – note how his answer is based on having enough money to buy food! Instead, he should have been counting on the supernatural resources of the God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills! Had Philip not been with Jesus at the wedding in Cana? Had he not seen Jesus heal and deliver? Had he not witnessed the supernatural in action in the life of Christ? Philip is learning to trust Christ in all things…. So are we!
What about you? Are you ready to pass the test Jesus has for you? In what area of our life is He testing you? Do you see His questions as testing/preparing us, or as mistrust or some other reason? Do you have a faith problem?
The question for us today is this: HOW do we see the supernatural? How do we count on supernatural resources instead of our own? By keeping our focus on our relationship with God! By “not conforming to the patterns of this world, but being transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Rom. 12:2a)! By denying ourselves, taking up our cross daily and following Jesus (Luke 9:23). By making each and every choice by first asking God what He wants in this thing – not what we want. Remember that ownership thing I mentioned earlier?
Only then will we learn to see things as God sees them, to understand His heart and Will (Rom.12:2b), to see that if God needs something to be provided to make ‘it’ happen, He will be the provider! God is our Jehovah-Jireh, our Provider! We can trust Him in all things. He is a trustworthy God!
I believe there’s a Godly principle at work here: If a physical need arises in the midst of doing God’s service, then He will see to it that it’s taken care of! (I’ll have a future blog post here about this topic from John 11)
So, the feeding of the multitude in John 6 isn’t only about Jesus showing what He can do. It’s about His great love for us – love that wants us to be all that He died for us to be! It’s about us learning to trust God. It’s about us learning to see with ‘spiritual eyes’ instead of physical. It’s about us learning to rely solely on our Jehovah-Jireh, our Provider. It’s about us practicing to trust God in all situations and circumstances. It’s about faith and belief and our relationship with God. The next time you hear a question from God, be very careful how you answer….
Technorati Tags: Christ, discipleship, Jesus, fast food, Jesus feeds the five thousand, trust
Faith is an incredible thing. It’s been attributed to heroes of the past. Heralded in men and women who’ve accomplished Herculean feats. Touted as the one thing to solve the world’s problems. Faith is incredible. On a recent trip through Hebrews 11, I noticed some things about faith that I had previously missed.
One of those things is that faith is belief in the absence of proof! I spent a good deal of time in the early 90s studying and learning about ‘evidence’ in order to defend my faith. The idea seemed to be that if we had proof of God and answers to ‘questions’, then we could lead people to God and defend what we believed. Now, after reading Hebrews 11 again, it seems that God is saying that we don’t need proof to come to Him and believe in Him. It’s our faith that leads to Him, not evidence and hard facts!
Note in verse 1:
“faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
So, isn’t God telling us that if we have faith, we don’t need facts and evidence in order to believe? He tells us that faith is being sure: sure of what? Sure of ‘what we hope for’. What does that mean? It means that we can count on things that we can’t see. We can be sure of the possibility that God does indeed exist. Sure of the fact that God loves each of us and wants us to have a relationship with Him. That’s why He sent His son to solve our sin problem, because that sin kept us from having a relationship with Him! We can be sure that God is who He says He is and that He does what He says He will do (Numbers 23:19)!
Faith also is certain of what we do not see! I don’t need evidence to convince me that what I can’t see is really there! I just need faith!! What is there to be certain about that we don’t see? We need to be certain that Jesus is who He said He was, that God is orchestrating all things in our lives. We need to be certain that God’s Holy Spirit is indeed dwelling in us and is Lord of our lives, living out the Life of Christ through our each and every choice and decision. We need to be certain that God is always at work. We need to be certain of many things….
Verse 3 begins with “by faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command.”! How many resources are expended on searching for ‘proof’ that God created the universe? The writer of Hebrews is telling us that we just need to believe it, by faith! None of us were there, none of us can fully prove exactly how God created the world. God is telling us through this passage, that we don’t need to worry about it! We need to just accept it, by faith!
The question for us today is this: do we need evidence to believe? Isn’t God saying that true faith, the faith we need to come to God (v.6) is based on our ‘being sure’ of what we can’t see or fully know! And this ‘being sure’ then leads us to action – to believe and accept that it just is. Period. End of argument. Faith settles the matter!
The reason Jesus said that we can’t see, enter & understand the Kingdom of God unless we become like a little child is because of FAITH! Who has greater faith than a little child? They just simply believe that things are the way they think they are, and (most importantly), they act on their belief!
What is God telling you today about your faith? Is it lacking? Is it ‘true faith’? Or is it based on what you know: the evidences you’ve learned, the things you can see, touch, feel, measure, quantify. As in the Santa Claus movies, “seeing isn’t believing, believing is seeing”! What an affront to an immortal, invisible and all-knowing God for His creation to “dis” Him in our quest for more proof! He desires for us to simply belief, by faith, that He is there. He asks us to live ‘being certain of what we do not see’ and ‘being sure of what we hope for’… Does that describe how you live your life?
I’ve always been fascinated by the passage in Matthew 26:6-16, which is also recorded in Mark 14 and John 12. It tells of Mary’s extravagant act of worship, without abandon, without any appearance of seeming ‘sensibilities': she anoints Jesus with an expensive jar of perfume (‘pure nard’)!
What fascinates me, besides the obvious act of worship, is the reaction of Judas Iscariot to the event. John is the only Gospel to record that it is Judas who raises the objection to this act of worship, “But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. ” (4-6) Judas finally reveals his true nature and character: he is a wolf among lambs! Both Matthew and Mark describe how Judas, after this event, went to the chief priests and made the deal to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver!
There’s no coincidence in the sequence of events here: Judas has been staying (I won’t call him a ‘follower’) with Jesus and the disciples, handling the money as treasurer. However, his heart has never been in it – he hasn’t given his heart to follow Christ. He saw this as an opportunity to get out of this ‘new kingdom’ what he wanted: money. He’s been tagging along, helping himself to the group’s funds as he saw fit, waiting for Christ to finally setup His Kingdom so Judas can really rake in the big bucks! A wolf among sheep – waiting for the right time to pounce on the helpless lambs! And now this – Jesus completely destroys Judas’ hopes of any earthly, wealthy kingdom! How is Jesus going to establish a wealthy treasury if He continues to allow people to waste their money? And especially waste their money by doing such foolish acts, like dumping perfume on His head!!?!!
Judas has had enough: this guy (Jesus) isn’t likely to get Judas rich any time soon, so there must be another way! Aha! Judas recognises an opportunity when he sees it, and goes after the sure thing: he’ll make a deal with the chief priests for some money so at least he gets something out of the last 3 years of waiting!! Reading this passage, I can almost hear Judas’ thinking, “Man, this guy just doesn’t get it. He’s never gonna build up a wealthy kingdom this way. I need to find another way to get my money, cut my losses and get out….”
Judas’ motives and his true heart condition are exposed in John’s recording of this incident. Judas was a wolf among the sheep. Does this mean there will always be wolves among sheep? Well, the parables of the wheat and tares, among others, suggest that this could be true. The question this brings to my heart is this: what about me? Am I a wolf or a sheep? Am I looking to Jesus to get something, or am I following Him because I want to? I believe there are many today who are part of Christian circles solely to further their own agendas – to expert power and control, to gain prestige and accolades, to make money, and a myriad other selfish reasons. Are you one of them?
Oswald Chambers talks about the parable of the talents in this way:
Jesus told the parable of the talents recorded in Matthew 25 as a warning that it is possible for us to misjudge our capacity. This parable has not to do with natural gifts, but with the Pentecostal gift of the Holy Ghost. We must not measure our spiritual capacity by education or by intellect; our capacity in spiritual things is measured by the promises of God. If we get less than God wants us to have, before long we will slander Him as the servant slandered his master: “You expect more than You give me power to do; You demand too much of me, I cannot stand true to You where I am placed.” When it is a question of God’s Almighty Spirit, never say “I can’t.” Never let the limitation of natural ability come in. If we have received the Holy Spirit, God expects the work of the Holy Spirit to be manifested in us.
While reading Matthew 13 the other morning, I came across the following in Jesus’ explanation of the parable of the sower (v.11-12):
He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.
There’s a concept in discipleship which suggests that God entrusts His promises, blessings and ‘talents’ to those that He can trust. I picture it this way: imagine you’re an artisan and are crafting a fine vase. You place a slab of clay on the wheel and begin to form and mold it. As the vase inside of your head begins to take form in front of your eyes, you carefully mold and shape it. You’re careful to ensure that the vase will be able to hold its intended contents. If you detect the potential for a crack, or a hole, or some other defect which will render the piece useless, you make the necessary corrections including starting over if necessary.
In the same way, God shapes us as we submit to Him on ‘the pottery wheel of life‘ – we allow Him to form and mold us as He sees fit, so we will be useful for our intended purpose! As we’re being formed, He begins to fill us with the appropriate contents with which we are to accomplish His purpose for our life. If He sees that we can’t hold those contents, then He takes the necessary corrective actions!
Now back to the talents… I believe that in the parable of the talents that’s recorded in Matthew 25, the servants are given talents according to their capacity! The first servant has proven to the master that he’s trustworthy, and thusly receives 5 talents. It’s recorded in verse 15 that they were given talents “each according to his ability”. The last servant was given only 1 talent. Why? Was he a new servant? Did he not have a proven track record? Or did the master know something about this servant? We don’t know the answer, but it doesn’t matter much because the principle is still at work: the master gave talents according to the servant’s ability!
What about your ability? Have you proven trustworthy to God? Have you carefully doled out the contents that God has placed in “your clay vase”? Or have you, like that last servant, misunderstood and mis-characterized your Lord and God?
“Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. ” ‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. (Matt. 25:24-29)
Our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, is not an impossible task-master! He has given us all we need to accomplish His purposes in our lives (2 Peter 1:3). He is simply asking us to make choices in our step-by-step walk with Him that put Him first and deny ourselves. The talents that He’s given to us are for His purposes (Proverbs 19:21), not to be used on our own selfish desires.
Back to Matthew 13: note that Christ’s words in verse 12 echo the same words He used when telling the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:29, “For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”!! Christ is telling us that we will be given ‘talents’ according to our own ability!
How much can God trust us with His resources? That’s the question for us today! If it’s been a while since God’s given us any ‘talents’, then we need to examine our recent history to see how we used the last ones He gave us! We will only receive more when we’ve correctly ‘spent’ the ones He has already given us! Examine your attitude toward your Master. How do you see Him today? As an impossible task-master? Or as a loving Father who desires the best for His creation? Immediately obey when you receive the next ‘talent’ from God and see if He doesn’t give more later….
Life changes aren’t always easy. Hearing news from the Doctor, or having an impromptu meeting with Human Resources, or getting that phone call… Whenever we’re asked to make an immediate turn left from the GPS of our life, it’s never easy! However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not the right thing to do!! How can this be? I’m glad you asked…
Proverbs 19:21 reminds us that “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” (underline added by me)
As I think of the “left turns of life“, I’m reminded of Joseph, the one with the multi-colored coat. Genesis 37-45 tells the story of how Joseph was treated badly for years and finally God revealed His purpose in Joseph’s life. Genesis 45:8 tells us “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.” This statement is made by Joseph to his brothers, at the time that he revealed his true identity to his siblings – the same ones that had thrown him into a well and sold him into slavery!
Throughout Joseph’s ordeals, God was preparing him to accomplish HIS purpose. We see that God had a purpose for Joseph that far exceeded the plans of his brothers, his master and even the ruler of Egypt, even though all of these were “left turns” in his life!
I’m also reminded of Daniel and his friends – Rack, Shack & Benny! Same kind of story, same result: God’s purposes prevailed.
These are inspiring stories, for sure. But the question must be asked: how did Joseph, Daniel and his friends stay true to God so that HIS purpose could be accomplished?
Genesis 39:2 tells us that “The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered,”. I believe it was Joseph’s desire to obey God that gave him his favorable position with the Lord. John 14:21 reminds us that “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” Many other passages in John and 1, 2 and 3 John instruct us that God’s measure of how much we love Him, is by how much we obey Him! Many of the promises of God are directly linked to obedience of God’s commands! I believe Joseph was a man who obeyed God and because of that obedience, God had favor on him. But more importantly, God knew that Joseph was a person HE could use because of Joseph’s obedience!! We see the same thing in Daniel…
Daniel 1:8 tells us “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, “. Daniel had made a conscious decision, an act of his will: a choice. His choice was to obey God, no matter what! Daniel had resolve. Resolve to be obedient to God. Resolve to show God how much he loved him. Resolve to be a useful vessel to God. God’s purposes prevailed in Daniel’s life because Daniel was found to be trustworthy by God! If not, we’d know the story with someone else’s name in it (Fred? George? Sam?)…
Now how about you and me? As I face yet another “left turn” in my life, it is with complete and utter reliance upon and trust in God! I’m not worried. I’m not stressed. I’m not fearful. Why? Because I know that God has a purpose for me that’s bigger than the assignment that just ended here. For the past handful of years, I’ve been working on my obedience to God. I’ve committed to follow the person of Jesus Christ and nurture our relationship to the point where He is pre-eminent in every area of my life, not just on Sunday. I have reckoned myself dead to myself, and am alive IN CHRIST. I have daily committed myself to Christ – I place myself willingly on the pottery wheel of God and tell Him, “make me into what you want today, let me be useful to you and usable by you today – fill me with Your Spirit and pour me out wherever you see fit.”
How about you? Does your life look anything like Joseph’s or Daniel’s? What kind of clay pot are you? Are there holes of disobedience and selfishness? Is it ‘sincere’ (without wax)? Are you being filled daily with the Holy Spirit? Do you trust God entirely with your life? “But we’re only human”, you say. “God understands that we’re not perfect.” “I could never be like Joseph or Daniel”… Really? Are you sure? That’s not what my Bible tells me! 2 Peter 1:3-4 reminds us that “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” In John 14:12, Jesus tells us “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” Hmmm, that doesn’t sound like a God that allows us to make excuses “because we’re human”. Jesus Himself said in John that He only did what the Father wanted Him to do – and He was human too! No my friends, we have no excuses in our humanity or otherwise. We have been given a new nature, a new Spirit – the Spirit of God! And it is only our obedience to Christ and our dying to self, on a minute-by-minute, day-by-day basis, that we can live a life that is pleasing to God.
Jesus teaches us in Matthew 7 that there will be many who will come to Him with a list of activities – things we ‘did for Him’, and His response in verse 23 will be: “I never knew you, away from me you evildoers!” The key to success, Jesus says, is found in verse 24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”
So, how can we be like Joseph, Daniel and many others who followed God unwaveringly? By hearing the words of Jesus and putting them into practice! How can I face this time with such bold confidence? How come many of you tell me that I’m “exceptional”? It’s simply because I strive to know what Jesus commands and then obey it. Minute by minute, day by day, choice by choice. Every choice set before me is an opportunity for me to trust and obey. Or, it’s an opportunity for me to have my own way. The choice is up to me. The blessing and promises of God, however, will only come with one choice: the one that involves trust and obey.
So, when the GPS of your life says “turn left now!“, examine your relationship with Christ. Is it alive? Vibrant? Healthy? If not, ask the Holy Spirit to show you what is wrong and then immediately obey what He shows you to do! Spend time with your Lord, each and every day, reading His Word (to know His commands). Spend time regularly talking with Him in prayer. Spend more time with Him listening to His Spirit. Do this every day, throughout the day – before each conversation with others, before each meeting, before each phone call, before you get home. Make a conscious decision to say “NO” to yourself and “YES” to Christ at each choice you make through the day. Constantly seek God and ask Him what He wants you to do – not what you’d like to do. You’re dead, remember? Last time I checked, dead people don’t make any decisions. Dead people don’t have any wants or wishes or desires, they’re just dead. Make decisions based on what matters to God – measure things by His economy and metrics, not yours, not by man-based standards, not by the world and not by the church. Remember that list of things in Matthew 7? What really mattered to God? Jesus said in verse 24 what mattered to Him: hearing His words and putting them into practice! Does that describe your life?
As Oswald Chambers has said: “”Believe also in Me,” said Jesus, not – “Believe certain things about Me.” Leave the whole thing to Him, it is gloriously uncertain how He will come in, but He will come. Remain loyal to Him.”
Welcome to “A Disciple’s Blog”! I’m glad you stopped by. I’ll be sharing my thoughts about learning to follow Jesus Christ. I’ve been on a journey for a while now, and I’ve learned a thing or two. I’d like to share those things with you and hear what you’ve learned.