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

Showing posts with label Follower of Christ. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Follower of Christ. Show all posts

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.


September 13, 2022

Being a Disciple of Christ In Difficult Times


I am attempting to write this post in transparency and humility, in the hopes that some of you can identify with my struggles. I truly want to be an honest follower of Christ, and for me that means no deceit or deception -- with Jesus; my fellow Christians; or with myself. This is about trying to be genuinely righteous and humble. So, let me get right to the point...

I know that being a true Christian in these times is difficult. The culture and the world are not on our side, and the Enemy appears to be winning on so many fronts. Having lived in relative comfort and ease for so long, we have taken the blessings of our faith for granted. We have been able to declare ourselves Christians without any real challenge to live the Christian life. We have been able to wear the title of Christian, and it has cost us nothing in this land of freedom and prosperity, and [in Church terms} "easy, cheap grace". But, as times are getting harder, and the future isn't as guaranteed as we've become accustomed to, we find our "faith muscles" weak and we react in ways and words that don't support what we tell the world and each other -- that we are obedient followers of Christ.

Believe me, I am not excluding myself from this scrutiny because I believe it is so important that we all take a good hard look in the spiritual mirror. Am I genuine in my faith? Or am I a hypocrite, or a "poser"? Do I wear a "Christian mask" when in the company of my fellow Church members, and then would be unrecognizable as such in my own home or at work? Of late, I have been humbling myself before the Lord because I am saddened at the number of Christians whom I see [and truly love] who are so desperate to appear dedicated to God, yet behind the scenes of their everyday lives, there is bitterness, loneliness, self-criticism and secrets that hinder their identity in Christ. And I come before the Lord in humbleness because I do not want to hold myself above any other. Repentance is a constant in my life as I battle against my sinful nature like any other Christian. I want to walk in this world as a genuine disciple of my Lord. The time is coming when true disciples will be needed to show the way to unbelievers and believers, alike.

It is obvious to me that there is a tension building in the nation and among the faithful. For those who cling to the world and not to Christ [and sadly, that includes some self-professed Christians], a spirit of fear is beginning to take hold. All the foundations of the world [which we have come to rely on] are unsteady and no one knows whether they will withstand the pressure. But when we call ourselves Christians, do we not rely on our faith in Jesus and His promises to be the foundation of our lives? Is He not to be our strength and our deliverance when the world turns upside down? That is when we will know if we have what it takes to be called a disciple of Christ. 

Jesus and the Bible make it clear that there is a cost to becoming a disciple. He clearly tells us that we must be willing to take up our cross and give up everything to follow Him. It isn't an option. It's a requirement. We must be willing to give up all our worldly goods, our homes, our families and relationships, and even our lives. "Salvation is free, but discipleship will cost you your life". Those are the wise words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pastor of the Confessing Church during Hitler's demonic reign in Germany, and he should know. He was hung for daring to come in opposition to the diabolical Third Reich. He also said, "Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ." This backs up Jesus's statement to a large crowd who had come to hear Him teach, "So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple".

As the world hurtles toward the return of our Righteous King, I pray that I will have the strength and heart to bear my cross, whatever it may look like. I pray that I can be a source of encouragement for my fellow Christians as we stand together as true disciples of Christ -- not to appear more holy than others, but in pure motivation to glorify the Name of Jesus. I understand that I can do nothing to accomplish this on my own, but I put my trust in the Holy Spirit to guide me and counsel me in all my ways and for all my days. Lord, whether you come back tomorrow, next year, or a thousand years from now, I need your help to walk in righteousness and humility. Help all of us to turn away from the world and follow the examples of the 12 disciples who willingly left their lives behind and simply obeyed when you said, "Follow Me". Help us all to drop our masks, and live authentic lives as Your true disciples --- repenting when we sin, picking up our cross each day, pursuing God's righteous character, and pointing the way to eternal life and the Kingdom through our words and deeds, boasting only of the Glory of God in our lives.

#Discipleship #Costofdiscipleship #DiscipleofChrist

Philippians 3:12   Not that I have already obtained it [this goal of being Christlike] or have already been made perfect, but I actively press on so that I may take hold of that [perfection] for which Christ Jesus took hold of me and made me His own. 

May 9, 2022

What Should Be Our Response To "The Finished Work of Christ"?


I so often hear Christians say things like, "I thank God for the finished works of Christ! Because of His death on the Cross I am saved, and it is my faith in Him that pleases God". Or they will also say, "When Jesus bowed His head at the Cross, declared 'It is finished', and gave up His Spirit, this declaration means that my healing, deliverance, prosperity, victory, joy, peace, and everything else I need in life has been finished and is ready for me to claim". Then, this is my favorite: "I don't need to worry about spiritual warfare; I am covered by the Blood of Jesus, which means I walk in victory -- I am an Over-comer! I am a Conqueror by the Blood of Jesus!"

Now, I do not dispute the efficacy or veracity of any of these statements. I just want to explore our understanding of the "Finished Works", and what, if anything, should be our response. Is it enough to just declare it? Is that all that's expected of us in exchange for Christ's costly sacrifice? Or does God desire something more?

First, let me say that I could find nowhere in the Bible where the terminology "Finished Works of Christ" was used. It is my opinion that the Church has created such a doctrine, based on Jesus's powerful last words, It is finished. Rightly so, we recognize that the sin in the Garden separated man from his spiritual and physical relationship with God. But God did not destroy man, even though He could have, and started over. He always intended to "fix" the relationship; to provide a way for restoration and reconciliation. But there was a price to be paid -- a cup of wrath now existed and someone had to partake of it to regain possession of the original plan of man's dominion on the earth. We know that because of the hundreds of Old Testament prophecies that attested to God coming to earth to rescue us.

So, let's consider what the "Finished Works" consisted of, and then determine what our response should be. While the Bible doesn't seem to use those exact words, there are words used to describe what Jesus accomplished in His work on the Cross: propitiation, redemption, and reconciliation. All three are words that are commonly shared across Christian denominational doctrines, but may not be clearly understood. Here are my understandings of each of these important elements of Jesus's finished works...

Propitiation - The satisfaction of God's Holy wrath against sin. Rebellion against God's commandments (in the Garden) results in the Wrath of God, and must be met with judgment. By dying in our place, and accepting our punishment, Jesus satisfies God's anger against all who believe in Him. Atonement and Substitution are double facets of Propitiation. 

Redemption -  The act of freeing someone by paying a purchase price; Deliverance by a ransom being paid; redeemed. All are bought; only believers are redeemed (delivered). Christ paid the penalty of death (required by God for our sins) by giving His own life on the Cross. When we profess our faith in Him, Jesus frees us from the guilt of sin and the punishment of sin, as well as the presence and power of sin. He introduces us to a "newness of life" (Born Again), never to be sold into slavery again. We are given an opportunity [through our free will choices] to grow and mature into His image.

Reconciliation - This term completes what Jesus has afforded us by His Work on the Cross. This is an act by God [alone] that brings mankind into a changed relationship with God; from wrath and separation to a relationship characterized by harmony, friendship, and partnership. But make no mistake, there is no give-and-take in this relationship -- this is an act of powerful Grace by the Father, offered to us, the guilty party! 

These doctrines of our Christian faith clearly show us all that Jesus's death on the Cross accomplished for us. It is unmistakable that they are sufficient to pay for [and erase] all the sins of the world. But the work of Christ didn't end at the Cross! And this is what I mean by asking the question, "What should be our response to the "Finished Works" doctrine"? If we believe, by faith, then we should be aware that His work continues in the Present through the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit. When we say, "I abide in Christ, and He abides in me", the life of Christ is to be operative in our lives. In other words, we are to be functioning as Christ did; having an effect in the world, as Christ did; being relevant and significant in the world, as Christ was. 

Furthermore, Christ's work continues through His intercession for us. He acts as our High Priest in Heaven, who mediates on our behalf when the Accuser of the Brethren [Satan] brings a case against us in the Court of Heaven. Because we are to be "imitators of God" (Ephesians 5:1), our response to Christ's present work on our behalf should be to imitate Him and model our lives after Him; interceding on behalf of our fellow Believers, as members of His royal priesthood on earth (1 Peter 2:9). 

And of course, we know that Jesus's work is not complete and finished until He returns and reigns on earth! So we have all this evidence of the work of Christ -- past, present, and future -- and we are to respond to it by continuing His work. In John 14:12, Jesus clearly states, I assure you and most solemnly say to you, anyone who believes in Me [as Savior] will also do the things that I do; and he will do even greater things than these [in extent and outreach], because I am going to the Father. His works are to continue through us! That means healing the sick; casting out demons; cleansing the lepers [those who are discarded by society]; raising the dead; spreading the Good News that Salvation from eternal death is available, and that the Kingdom of God is on earth; interceding for others; preparing for His rule and reign on earth; and doing the work that God, the Father, shows us to do.

I simply do not believe, as some would say, that it is enough to understand what the "Finished Work" on the Cross was, or to only declare and claim it as part of our Christian heritage. Nor do I think that God means for us to rest in the finished work of Christ, as I have heard others say. We can be certain of the propitiation, redemption and reconciliation of the Finished Work, and depend on it for our eternal salvation. But, in the here and now, we cannot relax or take a rest from the work we have been charged with [again, read John 14:12]. There is work to be done in His Name; work to be continued, and we must DO it! Satan isn't resting, and neither should we. All we have to do is take a look at the world and see what failure to continue the work of Jesus looks like.

I will close by writing that we have an inheritance awaiting us in Heaven, and it's in addition to the incredible gift of eternal life. We will stand before Jesus and be overwhelmed in His presence, and then hear Him tell us how pleased He is with how we continued His work and served His Kingdom. Thank you, Lord, for the incredible price you paid for us! We thank you for being faithful to go to the Cross for us. We praise You for all You accomplished in the Father's redemptive plan of reconciliation. And we repent for not following Your command to do the things that You did, and for being inactive in all the ways You modeled for us. The state of the world is evidence of our negligence, and we are aware that we abandoned our responsibilities. Forgive us, Lord! Do not turn Your face from us, but help us to re-ignite Your Spirit across this land so that we might inspire, encourage, motivate, equip and train a new generation of followers to walk in Your ways! It's never too late with You, Jesus! We surrender to You, and declare our willingness to be obedient to Your commands. Lead us to renewal and revival! Amen!

Proverbs 24:11-12     Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not He who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not He who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will He not repay man according to his work?

January 14, 2022

What Does Your Faith Look Like?


I have never walked [nor appeared] conventional in the eyes of the world. I know that from a very early age, I saw life through a different lens. It was like I could see things, events, and people in their "real light", rather than the false image that were projected. In fact, when I was eight-years-old, my Third Grade teacher asked us to write about how we saw our personality. I made it very clear that I did not like "fake" people. Now, that doesn't sound very friendly, kind, or pleasant, does it? It wasn't that I called anyone out; it just meant that I chose to be very discriminating as to whom I wanted to associate with. And I use that word "discriminating", not in the sense of today's cancel culture, but meaning that I could perceive the difference between genuineness and superficiality.

As I grew into my teens and early adulthood, I continued to look at things differently than my peers. At the time, I could not have explained my inner thoughts, but I now see that I had a gift of discernment that allowed me to interact with people of all natures, regardless of what social labels they were attached to. I usually felt like I was outside looking in, but also found myself accepting [and being accepted] by those who society elevated to the "popular" crowd, while also identifying and connecting with those who out on the margins. But I always felt "separate". Not in a bad way. I wasn't interested in judging people; I simply knew I was different. Our society likes to put us in a category, and I think my peers found it difficult to figure out exactly where I fit. I had no idea how that would play into my walk with Jesus.

From the beginning of my faith journey, it didn't look like the mainstream or customary "salvation experience". Unlike many, I did not grow up in a "church-going" family, nor did I make a decision to give my life to Christ as a child. I was in college, [when through my own free will, and some would say, bad choices,] I found myself voluntarily leaving college, on my own, with no job and no source of income. My father was extremely disappointed in my choices, and being unwilling to admit I had failed by making those choices, I declared that I intended to go back to school and finish my degree [which I did, a year later]. But that situation found me crying out to Jesus. I knew about Him from my believing mother and grandmother, but I did not know Him. Yet, through His grace and mercy, and His unceasing pursuit of me, He rescued me from that lonely and scary time. So, I was now acquainted with Jesus, but not yet inclined to surrender my life to Him.

That would take another 13 years of living in the world, seeking to feel comfortable in my unconventional skin, while knowing there was more to this life than I was experiencing -- still feeling I was on the outside looking in; like I was waiting for that "something" that would ultimately define me. It would come in the form of a serious auto accident, with me once again crying out for God as my car flipped 5 times. I emerged from the car, needing only 6 stitches in my head, and a moment of clarity that it was time to ask Jesus into my heart. There was no physical reaction; no instantaneous altering of my mind or spirit -- or at least none that I was aware of. All I know is that my faith journey began that day in 1986 and has continued to change me as I have allowed Jesus to grow me into who He designed me to be, and into a closer image of Him. And in doing so, I have often not resembled other Christians.

But, as I contemplate my faith journey through the experiences of my life, I see that I have always looked through different eyes, and have always been a risk-taker. That does not fit the mold of a conventional Christian. Often times, in modern Christianity, we are convinced that there is "a model" to follow in our faith, and that stepping outside those lines can lead to a radical faith that does not serve the Body of Christ. So, is there room within that structure for those of us who were made to walk the unconventional path?

I love the series called The Chosen, which follows the journey of the disciples of Christ as He called them from their diverse lives into an unprecedented manifestation of faith. Some seemed like ordinary fishermen; others were from all strata of society -- tax collector to "woman of the night". They all had different personalities and traits, but all were chosen for those specific attributes which would be needed to withstand the world's ridicule and objections. All were capable of walking out a radical faith. Are you? Because that is what it is going to take to traverse what is coming upon the earth.

Those Disciples were willing to walk with Jesus into an uncertain future. Are we not faced with the same challenge? But they trusted Him. We must do the same. He is the Creator of the Universe, who personally created each of us to do His will on earth. He never promised the journey would be smooth or safe. Yet those Disciples were men and women who were willing to take a risk in following Him and believing Him; right up to that moment of His last breath on the Cross. But they showed us that their faith did not dissolve in their confusion or fears at finding themselves without His physical presence. Like us, they soon had His Holy Spirit to guide them and counsel them as they continued to risk everything to carry His message of Salvation and the Kingdom to the rest of the dying world.

We have that same opportunity to take those same risks; to be radical in our exhaustive and extensive efforts to reach those who do not know the Lord we serve. It is time to be bold in our testimonies and to let go of our fear of man. It does not matter what people think of us; only what Jesus thinks! I do not want to stand before Him and have Him show me that my unwillingness to embarrass myself before strangers, or to step out in an unfamiliar crowd -- or Heaven forbid, speak His truth that the traditional Church scoffs at -- meant that one of His stray sheep lost the opportunity to receive encouragement to turn towards His steadfast voice and outstretched arms.

It is not easy to step out in faith. I get it! No one wants to be singled out as "different" or "radical". But Jesus is our model. Those Disciples are our model. Jesus showed us that a human being can have faith in God to lead us through our darkest times. There will be nights of sleeplessness; struggles with forces in this world and the spiritual realms; ostracism from the world and religious authorities; separation from family; and even times of uncertainty and questioning -- all experienced by Jesus and His followers. But our God never changes! What He did for Jesus and that dissimilar band of followers, He can and will do for us! 

I want to leave you with this final thought ... I do not dismiss that God can stir a spirit of revival in the hearts of men, and that we could see a reversal of Satan's plans for the world. God would love nothing better than to see a renewal and regeneration of the earth and its systems. We would all love to see that victory! But should we continue on the current path, I will still count it victory, because our faith will grow stronger and more effective! We will walk in the footsteps of those who have gone before us in declaring the power of God and Yeshua! Just let me finish my race as Jesus and each of those radical believers did ... worshiping my Father in Heaven; declaring His glorious Kingdom; and praising Him for His power in my life to help me accomplish His will. That's how I want my faith to look ... right up to my final breath.  

Matthew 21:21     Jesus replied, “Listen to the truth. If you do not doubt God’s power and speak out of faith’s fullness, you can also speak to a tree and it will wither away. Even more than that, you could say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and be thrown into the sea’ and it will be done.