A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

Showing posts with label Disciple of Jesus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Disciple of Jesus. Show all posts

April 11, 2023

Jesus Is My Everything!

During the Holy Week of Passover/Easter, we concentrate on the glory of the Son of God who suffered horrendously on our behalf so that we could receive forgiveness of our sins and eternal life. Our Home Church gathered together and studied the different accounts of Jesus's Resurrection and Ascension in each of the four Gospels. It was amazing to see the subtle distinctions of each version, and we appreciated how much each gospel added to the fullness of Scripture. 

Afte reverent reflection, I find myself contemplating those days that led to my Lord's crucifixion and what His experience was like. Yes, His resurrection revealed that He was truly the Son of the Most High God, just as He said He was. But prior to the moment He declared, "It is Finished", Jesus lived His life as a man; a human being just like you and me, facing all the attendant issues and matters of the flesh. Sure, He knew He was the Son of God, and could call down a legion of angels at any moment to change circumstances in His favor. But He refused to exploit His relationship with the Father for His own advantage.

From the moment He began His ministry, He experienced His assignment for the Kingdom of God as a man, not as God. I cannot even imagine the consternation and dismay that must of caused Him! Knowing that He created the earth and the people to whom He came as a servant, how it must have grieved Him to see the state of both so corrupted from what He intended. And I don't think we 21st Century believers have given much thought to the world that the Christ child would be born into, and what He would have to navigate throughout His life.

First of all, John the Baptist appeared on the scene and began to preach and teach repentance from sin and turning back to God ... Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. In effect, John was preparing the way for the appearance of the Lord. We forget that before Jesus was born, God had not been heard from for 400 years! YHWH had been silent since Malachi had prophesied that He would send Elijah the prophet as a forerunner [to prepare the way for the Messiah,] over 400+ years prior. John the Baptist was that forerunner. 

But by the time Jesus arrived on earth the people of God had suffered greatly through those years of silence. Having come out of exile in Babylon, they would endure under the Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman empires; see their faith outlawed under Antiochus Epiphanes; witness the Maccabean revolt; and see the emergence of rival religious groups [Pharisees, Sadduces, Essenes]. By the time Jesus was born, the Roman Empire had ruled for half a century. There were obvious political tensions between governors (supported by a Roman army) and the Jewish "puppet kings"; religious tensions between the various Jewish sects; and social tensions between the impoverished and the wealthy. Yet He came to save all who would believe in Him, and carry on His work.

So, imagine the frustration of trying to bring the love of God, the Father, and to restore harmony and relationship between God and humanity. It must have seemed hopeless, yet He continued to pursue His goal, the fulfillment of His mission. So, He is intimately familiar with what many of us feel as we look upon our world today. Like us, Jesus [as the man] instinctively knew the world wasn't as it should be. Today we see the massive corruption and greed, the unpredictable and illogical violence, and the shocking number of deaths in the wake of the pandemic ... and we are acutely aware of suffering and evil in the world. Jesus can identify with that.

I recently read an article on Christianity Today, in which the author, Chine McDonald, wrote, "Like many other millennials, I have been gripped by an acute sense that the world is getting worse, with disaster around every corner. From climate catastrophes to polarization and political unrest to economic uncertainty, we have been forced to confront our own helplessness". That sense of helplessness is not limited to one age group. There is a very real sense of unease, despondency, depression, and a sense of things being out of our control across all generations. Yet, like Jesus, we must continue to rely on our Father in Heaven. We must continue to hope in His omnipotence; His unlimited and very great power to rectify all things unto Himself... to make things right and resolve the problems of the world. 

But even as the Son of God, yet fully man, Jesus wept. He personally knows our human emotions and sensibilities. He identifies with our feelings and stands alongside us in the midst of the world's turmoils. Remember, as a man, He spent an anguished moment in the Garden of Gethsemane asking His Father to remove the cup of suffering from Him -- if it was the Father's will. And then He shed tears of blood; evidence of the tremendous spiritual pain and despair He knew He was about to face -- as a man. There is nothing we may face in this world that He is not able to recognize or help us through. 

Therefore, we must cling to the model Jesus has set before us as we prepare for wherever this world is headed. He never gave up hope. He endured incomprehensible physical harm, never abandoning His relationship with the Father. He didn't give in to the schemes of the devil to enslave Him to the world's kingdom of darkness. Instead, He trained and equipped competent disciples to know the truth of who they were -- ambassadors and representatives of the greater Kingdom of God. He did all this for our benefit; to show us that we can endure and persevere through everything He did, and do everything He accomplished; and as He says in John 14:12, "even greater things". 

I will admit, I am growing tired of seeing the deterioration of the world and humankind. But I know I am only temporarily "in the world", and I will not submit to the powers and spirits "of the world". When I discern that the world is becoming a drain on my connection to Jesus, Father, and Holy Spirit, I remember that He has shown me how to walk this out. He has shown me that I always have a connection to Him in the spiritual realm. I can talk to Him and hear from Him and Father and Holy Spirit, just as He did. He knows what I'm feeling and what I am capable of doing, because He experienced it first. I will be obedient to follow in His footsteps, and I am committed to training up new followers for Him so that there will never be a generation that doesn't know Him. 

It must have felt like the darkness won, on that day of His crucifixion. But He showed us that His Light is eternal, and will always shine into the darkness to reveal the true Kingdom of God, His righteous power, and the splendor of His glory; and the reality of Heaven for all those who choose to follow Him. There is no greater example and He is my everything!

Hebrews 5:7-9    In the days of His flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to Him who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence. Although He was a son, He learned obedience through what He suffered. And being made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him...


April 8, 2023

What Is Your Vision of Jesus Christ, The Messiah, The Son of God?


I pose the question in the title of this blog, because I believe how you perceive Jesus, the Savior of the World, will have profound consequences on how you walk out your faith. What preceded this question and the following thoughts, was an article I recently read on the website, Christianity Today. It was an article written by Stephani McDade, titled "Jesus Christ Is Not A Superstar". The reasoning behind her title was as simple as it was astute ... Popular portrayals of the God-Man can draw admiring crowds, but they can't create imitating disciples.

Think about that for a minute. As Ms. McDade pointed out, our culture has many images [or adaptations] of Jesus to choose from. There is the intense Jesus of Passion of the Christ; the personal and intimate Jesus of The Chosen; the ethereal Jesus of King of Kings; and the rock star Jesus of Jesus Christ Superstar. The aftermath of the popularity of the recent movie, The Jesus Revolution, has raised the very issue that McDade proposed ... what's the difference between admirers of Jesus and imitators? And which one advances His Kingdom more?

We can begin to see the importance of these questions when we consider if there are any effects of being an admirer or an imitator of Jesus. "To effect" something or someone means there has been a change that is a result or consequence of an action or other cause; the state of being or becoming operative [functioning, active]. We all know admirers of Jesus -- people who love Him, esteem Him, praise Him, worship Him, and delight in Him. Admiration can result in an image of Christ as He meets what we need from Him. We can find ourselves seeking that image of Jesus that feeds our image of ourselves. But do we see a change or transformation in our lives that causes us to seek less for ourselves and more for Him and His Kingdom? Or is the demand on our life [to become more than an admirer] cost us too much? Is the price too high to actually become an imitator?

So, what makes a person an imitator of Jesus Christ? First, let us consider that Jesus sought men and women who would become effective disciples; imitators of His ways, seeing and doing what the Father revealed to be His will. He never sought the admiration of crowds [although His radical message drew them]. He never wanted to be "Jesus Christ Superstar". But to be His follower, one had to believe in who He said He was ... the very Son of God, who was willing to sacrifice Himself for the benefit of others. And being a follower means imitating that character of Christ. Imitators not only look like Christ, but they act like Him!

And that brings me back to the overwhelming popularity of the movie, The Jesus Revolution. Based on the book of the same name, the film follows youth minister Greg Laurie, Christian hippie Lonnie Frisbee, and pastor Chuck Smith as they take part in the Jesus movement in California during the late 1960s. Probably unknown by most of those who are rejoicing over how well the movie has been received, is the backstory of the primary characters of the movie, Laurie, Frisbee, and Smith. Those who were there and witnessed [in person] the supernatural revival that occurred, and knew the individuals personally, speak of how sincere imitators were soon ostracized within the movement when the effects of following Jesus in Truth and Spirit became too uncomfortable for the admiring evangelists. Those who were able to receive the fullness of who Jesus was -- with all the accompanying signs and wonders of the Holy Spirit -- became imitators of the Son of God. Those who could only go as far as the admiring and prevailing conventions of orthodox Christianity would accept began to fall away from the direction the movement was taking. I am not condemning either faction -- just stating that being either an imitator or admirer of Christ can look quite different from each other.

In the end, the world needs both to point them to the Savior. And no matter how you perceive Him, we all need the Holy Spirit to help grow our vision of Him and teach us how to represent Him, be like Him, imitate Him. Jesus came to earth, as the Son of God, to draw and invite followers to carry on His work until He returns. This weekend we celebrate the culmination of His time on earth, when He sacrificed Himself so we could be reconciled to the Father, and He rose from Death with the promise that we, too, can live again eternally in Heaven with Him. And until that heavenly reunion, He calls all true followers to model our lives after His -- healing, casting out demons, raising the dead, and spreading the Gospel of the Kingdom [from Salvation to Resurrection Life]. 

We are to be all He calls us to be, effecting change and transformation in our own lives and showing the way to others. It is incumbent upon us to respect and admire Him; but when we are actually willing to risk the admiration of others for the sake of becoming like Him, then we can truly be called His Disciples. I thank you, Jesus, for showing us how to be obedient followers who declare with abundant faith, "He has Risen"!

#truedisciplesofjesus #imitatorsofjesus #followersofjesus

1 John 2:6   Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.


October 12, 2022

The Call Of A Disciple


If you profess to believe in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, how do you describe yourself to others? Do you identify as a Christian? And what does that name mean within your relationship with the Godhead? For awhile now, I have referred to myself as an obedient follower of Christ; with the confession that being "obedient" can sometimes be a struggle in my flesh. But is that the term Jesus uses to describe those who will ultimately believe and follow Him? It seems to me that, in the Bible, it is the term Disciple that best describes those who will champion His cause. [And a side note of interest, the word Christian is what the enemies of the new faith in Jesus called His followers].

I find it interesting that Jesus defines what makes a Disciple only a handful of times, and He is very specific as to what it entails. But there's no mistaking that if you choose to use that term yourself, you better understand the cost. And here is something that the Lord has recently revealed as I continue on my journey to get closer to Him ... I don't get to voluntarily decide that I am going to be a Disciple. He calls me. It is He that makes the decision, just as He did in the Bible when He approached Peter, John, Andrew, Matthew and each of His Disciples. He calls us individually according to His will, AND it is His choice, not ours. It is only if we are willing to pay the cost, that we can truly be counted as His Disciple. And that cost is steep; more expensive and costly than the majority of Christians can even contemplate. That is why not many qualify to be called His true Disciples. 

That might be an offensive statement to those who identify as Christians. But have you ever sat down and seriously read the description that Jesus gives of what it takes to be His Disciple? He lays it out pretty clearly in Luke 14:26-33: "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, He cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple... So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple." Who among us could easily say, "Yes, Lord, I'm willing to do that! I will despise and separate myself from all those I love, and who love me, and live a life totally dedicated to You! And I declare that I will sacrifice all I have and all I am, including my life, to follow You! I am willing to break ties with everyone and everything in my life to focus solely on serving You!"? Those are difficult promises to make! Yet, He demands exactly that if you are going to call yourself His Disciple. But how many of us loosely apply that term to ourselves?

I think Jesus was referring to most self-described Disciples in the middle of that passage [in verses 28-32] when He says ... "For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace." If we're honest, there aren't many of us who would answer Jesus's call to be His Disciple without hesitation, not taking the time to first measure what it's going to cost us. We would have to make sure we had all we needed to pull it off, because we sure wouldn't want to be embarrassed if we said, yes, and then realized we hadn't measured all it would cost and what we would need. And like the king in Jesus's example, we wouldn't want to agree to be His Disciple and then realize that the forces coming against us are going to be greater in power than we have the ability to defend ourselves; we only want to commit if we are assured of winning our battle. And like the rich young ruler in Mark 10, we might decide to wait until the lifestyle of a Disciple is more convenient for us.

You see, the call of Jesus to be His Disciple is costly, indeed. And I don't think there are many who understand that it is, first and foremost, a life lived in separation and isolation from the world and all that we hold dear in it ... our families; our status in society [and yes, in the Church]; our jobs and careers; our very lives. And here is an astounding realization that is new to my understanding of true Discipleship ... IF it is Jesus's will to call us, and IF we accept His will, it is because He determined that it would be so! There was no way that Peter, John, Andrew, Bartholomew, James [son of Zebedee], Jude, Matthew, James [son of Alpheus], Philip, Simon the Zealot, Thomas, or even Judas were going to be able to say No! Jesus had now come into the midst of their lives, and their relationships with their immediate world had been infringed upon; He now stood in opposition to all they clung to. And once we accept His call, all those relationships are forever and profoundly changed.

Our relationships are no longer the result of our direct contact with our loved ones or people in the world. Christ stands between us and them, and what we perceived before Him was just an illusion. Everything and everyone is now a redefined reality through Him. He separates us from the world and we must come to Him as an individual and alone, allowing Him to reconstitute and restore those relationships through His preeminence in our lives. And the good news is that while Jesus separates us from the world and it's natural relationships, He also establishes new fellowship between us and others. He makes a way for us to connect through Him; a way that began in solitude and separation, but now unites in shared love and purpose to glorify the One who called us. 

I wish I could truly imagine all the thoughts and emotions those first Disciples experienced as they answered Jesus's call. We know for certain that Peter was married, because Jesus healed his mother-in-law. And according to Clement, Bishop of Rome in the late 1st Century, "Peter and Philip begat children, and Philip gave his daughters in marriage". So the first Disciples sacrificed families and gave up their material things to live a life of solitude as they followed Christ to the Cross, and then took His message to the world. And lest we forget, Jesus made it clear that to be His Disciple meant that the persecution He suffered would come to them as well. Nothing has changed in this 21st Century. We don't get to escape the cost!  

Everything that has made our lives easier and more prosperous doesn't eliminate the price we will pay to be His Disciple. Are we willing to make the ultimate sacrifice? If we are called to be Disciples, it is a very real possibility. The persecution He endured came to every one of His faithful Twelve, accept for John. It will be a part of our walk with Him. too. But we can celebrate that He also told them that by their love for each other and the fruit they bore, they would be proven to be His Disciples. Oh, what a glorious calling! And I believe that it is Jesus's will that each one of us be His true Disciple! 

Be separate from the world, but united in Him! Cast off all the world has to offer and cling to what we have in our relationship with our Master! The road He has called us to is fraught with extraordinary change, and that frightens some people. But we are assured that everything we have surrendered will be returned to us a hundredfold! There is no greater honor than to be called as a true Disciple of Jesus... are you ready to answer Him without hesitation? The world needs you!

#discipleofjesus #discipleship #jesusdisciple #calledtobeadisciple

Luke 14:26-27   If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.