I have decided to follow Jesus

I heard an inspiring story during one of my trips to India. But before I share the story, a little background. Northeast India for many decades had been known as the missionaries’ graveyard. Primarily because nearly every missionary who had moved there and attempted to establish a mission station was faced with unbelievable rejection and failure. The region has been a demonic stronghold for centuries. It was rare that any missionary team would last over one year. It is reported that many got sick and some even died. But most left defeated by an unbelievable hardness of the people’s heart toward the gospel.

Even though the region was considered closed to the gospel, somehow there was one family who became a follower of Jesus. The story is told of a man who lived in a small village in this region of India. We are not sure how he heard the gospel but he was a passionate follower of Jesus. His conversion and commitment to Christ plus his zeal for the gospel had so irritated the villagers that a mob formed. They rushed this man’s house and shoved him and his family to the public square.  The village chief questioned him about his faith and gave him and his family a chance to recant. The man didn’t know what to do. So he began to sing a song that some believe he had composed.

” I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.”

With that his children were horrifically killed as he and his wife watched in horror. He was given another chance to recant and save his wife. Again, not knowing what to do, he sang another verse.

“Though none go with me still I will follow, though none go with me still I will follow, though none go with me still I will follow, no turning back, no turning back.”

He watched as they brutally murdered his wife. Then he was given one more chance to recant. He continued to sing.

“The cross before me the world behind me, the cross before me the world behind me, the cross before me the cross behind me, no turning back, no turning back.”

Even though that man and his family were killed that day, something remarkable happened. A seed was planted in the heart of the chief. It was a seed that began to grow over time. Then one day he gathered the villagers in that very same square and renounced his previous faith and he declared his allegiance to Jesus Christ. A celebration began to break out and the gospel spread not only through out that village but through the whole region. It spread because they had seen true faith and had seen the real character of God.

I believe this is one of the events that God used to open up this region of India. In the last couple of decades hundreds of thousands Indians have come to Christ. I have personally witnessed this incredible move of God.

Bottom Line

There are several lessons we can learn from this inspiring story.

1. When you make a decision to follow Jesus you will be called on to “draw a line in the sand”. We may not be called on to give our life in martyrdom like this family but we will be faced with a decision(s) that will set us apart from the world. Will I chose to follow Jesus absolutely or will I compromise just to keep my personal dream alive?

The world is not for us. The scripture tells us that we are ‘strangers and pilgrims’ in this world. In other words, we are not familiar with the territory (way of life), and we are pilgrims, just passing through on the way home (heaven).

2. God can take any tragedy, disappointment and turn it into an incredible victory. The principle of Romans 8:28 (“all things work together for our good”) is that God takes all of the successes, failures, unfairness, sacrifices and tragedies and is able to blend them all together to accomplish His will for your life.

For every tragedy and failure God has already gone ahead of his children to begin a process of turning our greatest hurt and disappointment into an incredible work of God.

3. Make sure you have absolutes in your life. We live in a “relative world” where the culture dictates what is right and wrong. As a committed follower of Jesus our life is dictated by absolutes. The old saying is true, “If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.” Absolutes encourages us to be firmly planted on the absolute faithfulness of God.

Living in the Father’s Love

Love trumps every human emotion. Anger separates and alienates us from those we care about the most. Jealousy becomes possessive behavior that drives our loved ones away. Pride keeps us from being real, and it sets up a wall that prevents us from developing transparent relationships. But our Heavenly Father’s love sets us free and breaks down all those barriers. God’s love helps us establish lasting relationships that binds our hearts with others.

However, administering this love has a divine order. First, we must be able to receive love before we can adequately give it to others. God wired us to be purveyors of His love, but he knew in and of ourselves that we lack the capacity to give continual love. That’s the reason He sent Jesus to provide the ultimate act of love. Jesus died in our place on the cross in order that we can become a child of God and then be a receiver of the Father’s love.

God not only wants us to be continual recipients of the Father’s love, but He wants us to learn to live and walk in His love. How do we do that? We must be a willing receiver of His divine love. It’s more than accepting Jesus as your Savior. It involves an act of the will. We go the next step in our spiritual growth by abandoning our life to Him we are declaring “I am all in, and committed to serving God all the days of my life.” When you do that, there is an exchange that takes place, you exchange your self-centered, self-directed life for His life. It’s an acknowledgement that you can’t live your life in your own strength. You need Christ’s divine life in you for direction, wisdom and guidance.

When we learn to live “in the Father’s love” several things happen.

1. We give up the idea that our goodness controls the way God treats us. You abandon the idea that if you do your part, then He will do His part. God always does His part because He always has His hand in your life. God promises us that “He will never leave nor forsake us.” (Hebrews 13:5)

2. We would let Him have His way with us so that we can become more like Him. He always knows what is best for us. “ God causes all things to work together…” (Romans 8:28)

3. God will set us free from those things in which we get our security. “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)

4. You will see that suffering is God’s way of setting us free so we can follow Him at a deeper level. ”Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself alone” (John 12:24)

5. You will learn that walking in God’s love is enough. “We are made complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10)

6. God will increase your “love capacity” so you can become a giver of His love to others.

Bottom Line

God loves you more than the world could ever love you. His love is pure, unconditional and abundant. Living and resting in His love is the best place a follower of Jesus can dwell. Abiding in His love is not a formula or a religious ritual. It is not a list of “do’s and don’ts”. But its a gift from God as we yield every aspect of our lives to His control. So give up, surrender and then abide and walk in His sweet love.

Thanksgiving and Attitude

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:13)

One of the instinctive elements of a true believer is a thankful heart. We realize that a normal part of our daily life should include a continual attitude of thankfulness. It’s more than just saying “Thank You” to someone who does something nice for us. It’s displaying an attitude to those around us that whatever happens in life, I am going to respond as someone who sees God in every aspect of life.

There is a difference in “being thankful” and “giving thanks”. Being thankful is a result of a giving thanks. Being thankful is an act of the will regardless of how we feel. It is also an act of trust and obedience. Being thankful is a result of, and prerequisite to, having a thankful heart. Being thankful is an overt act of obedience, and the sweet result is having a thankful heart.

Does that mean we are to be thankful when we receive tragic news like, “You have cancer” or “You have lost your job”, or when we lose a friend or loved one through death? Yes, we are to be thankful – but not how you might think. No one in his right mind would say, “Praise the Lord, I have cancer.” Or would they say, “Hallelujah, my close friend has died.” That would be delusional.

But what it does mean is that we are to be so dependent upon a sovereign God for every event and circumstance in our life that we look for God’s hand and blessings in the midst of the trial. What God really desires is for us to be so “other-worldly” that nothing can shake our confidence and trust in Him. He wants us living at the level where we know that God knows best, even though in the midst of our problem we can’t see the blue sky for the fog.

It’s all about attitude

Whether we realize it or not, all our attitudes spring from some sort of belief system. For example, when our attitude takes a nosedive and we become discouraged or angry, it’s a result of a “belief system breakdown”. Our crisis of belief becomes, “do we trust God with this or are we doubting His ability to “work all things for our good?”

They have a saying in the Air Force, “Your attitude will determine your altitude”. So if you want to have an thankful heart that soars, then you must maintain a great attitude. That’s because having a thankful heart is all about “attitude”. It’s an attitude that gets its confidence from God’s love and care.

Bottom Line
You can gauge the depth of a thankful heart by observing attitude. Does your attitude reflect “God’s got this problem” or does it reflect doubt, fear and anger. Remember that our attitude often notifies our face.

God’s Economy of Things

I am not one to throw around theological jargon, but there is one phrase that I think is important for us to learn. The phrase is “ God’s economy of things”. The general meaning of the phrase has to do with how God works in our lives. Just as each society and culture has its own “economy” that drives its business model, God has an “economy” that drives how he deals and relates to his children.

For example, the Scripture teaches and implies that this world is not our home. (1 Peter 2:11) Therefore, in “God’s economy of things” our way of relating to our problems is “other-worldly”. That means we deal with every challenge, every failure, every out-of-control situation, and every opportunity in light of God’s economy of things.

As committed followers of Christ we now live with an awareness that God is, to some degree or another, involved with everything that happens in our life. No, He is not behind our sinfulness, even though He is there to forgive and restore us when we fail, but He is in the middle of every event. Because the Spirit of the living Christ indwells us, wherever we are, Jesus is also. He is fully aware of our plight including our anxiousness and fear.

In God’s economy of things there is often a perspective that is opposite to the world’s thinking. We could even call it paradoxical. For instance, the phrase in 2 Corinthians 12, “when I am weak I am strong” is opposite to the average human mindset. In our culture the one who is weak is portrayed as a loser. To survive and win in this world you don’t display or admit your weakness. You have to be strong, and overcome your weaknesses in order to succeed in life.

But we know that in God’s economy, weakness is a spiritual virtue. We understand that in the context of weakness we let go of our own life and Christ becomes our strength. It’s no longer “God and me make a majority”, but it’s “Christ in me is my strength”. I like the rendering of this verse in the Message when Paul is speaking of his thorn in the flesh:

“At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size – abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” (2 Corinthians 12, Message)

The above passage is our “other-worldly” perspective on our trouble. Because in God’s economy of things His intention for us is to allow the cares of this life to bring us to weakness. It is in our weakness that we will surrender control of our life and circumstances to Him. And in doing so, we can “cast all our anxiety on Him.” (I Peter 5:7)

Bottom Line

If you are a serious and committed follower of Christ, then seeing your life in light of God’s economy of things will allow you to live fully out of your new identity in Christ.

Just before Jesus went to the cross he prayed for us. He asked the Father to make us one with Him and one with the Father. (John 17:20-21) God desires that we live in our rightful position of oneness with Him. We can only do that if we are willing to change our thinking from a cultural perspective to a Christ-centered perspective that is driven by “God’s economy of things.”

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a Holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.“ (1 Peter 2:9 NAS)

Greeting Card Mentality

Who doesn’t like to receive a well chosen greeting card to help you celebrate a wonderful occasion, like a birthday or anniversary, or one that helps you get through an especially rough time in your life?

Greeting cards are meaningful among Christians when they contain a verse of Scripture that expresses hope and encouragement. We can all agree that these cards are sweet and kind expressions, and we appreciate every kind thought.

However, could it be that we are sometimes guilty of living a “greeting card” mentality while neglecting the most important aspect of the verses we use in our greeting cards?

For example, we often use a familiar verse in Romans 8:28 as a challenge that we can do anything with Christ’s help. But we ignore the over all context of the passage that admonishes us to pray without ceasing, and to pray being led by the Holy Spirit. It’s not about us achieving a personal goal with God’s help, but about developing an attitude of prayer and following God’s will.

I recently read a “Our Daily Bread” devotional that told the story of a man’s wife who had bought a birthday card for a friend. The card had a scripture from Deuteronomy 28:63 that read, ”The lord has found great pleasure in causing you to prosper and multiply”. She was so fascinated with the beauty of that statement that she wanted to look up the scripture and read the rest of the passage. When she read the whole verse it painted a different picture when read in it’s context. The whole verse read, “Just as the lord has found great pleasure in causing you to prosper and multiply, the lord will find pleasure in destroying you. You will be torn from the land you are about to enter and occupy.”

The proper context of the whole passage is not about God’s favor and blessing, but about His judgement because Israel had turned their back on Him. Yes, God takes pleasure in blessing His people, but He also warns us that we are destined for greatness and blessing only when we are serving Him with all of our heart.

Bottom Line

To walk with the Lord means we are intentional and radical about our faith. Being intentional is to have forethought. For me, that means I must have a time each day that I focus on my need for His daily guidance. I acknowledge that “Apart from Christ I can do nothing.” Some would call this daily devotions, I prefer to call it my God focus time. This helps me recognize and acknowledge a daily need for Him.

Being radical is simply being fully surrendered and abandoned to the will of God. It’s a reminder that there is nothing more important than being right with God and walking in daily fellowship with Him.

How would you characterize your walk with God, “Greeting Card mentality” or “Intentional and Radical?”

“As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.” (Galatians 6:14 NLT)

Silent Witness

“Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.” (Philippians 1:27 NLT)

This challenge from the Apostle Paul is a great reminder of our role as followers of Jesus. We are to live our lives as if we are already citizens of heaven. Matter of fact, positionally speaking, in Christ we are already in heaven, “we are now seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 1:6)

When I read the Philippians passage I am reminded of my responsibility to conduct myself as a yielded servant of Christ in my outward behavior. That produces what I like to call the silent witness. One of the highest compliments that I was ever given was when someone said, “There is something different about you. There is a presence that draws people to you.” I knew what that presence was, and it wasn’t my personality or a religious spirit, it was the presence of Christ.

This is a potential presence that every true follower of Christ possesses. It’s that presence that draws men and women to Christ. It’s a presence that causes unbelievers to want the peace we possess. We can’t manufacture that presence. There isn’t “5 Spiritual Steps to obtaining God’s Presence”, nor is it something that we earn by good works. Christ’s presence is only manifested as we learn to let go of our life and surrender the control of our life to Him. It happens when we practice trusting and resting in Christ as enough.

I desire to have that glow of God’s presence every moment of every day. But in reality, I know that it diminishes when I worry instead of trusting, or become fearful and stop trusting that God is in control. When I lose my temper and feel the need to set somebody straight, surely the glow fades.

God’s intention for us is to be so dependent upon Him that we willingly lay down our need to control and be in charge. Our life motto becomes, “Apart from Him I can do nothing.”(John 15). Our confidence moves from “I can do it on my own” to “with prayer and the leadership of the Spirit, in Christ I can do anything”.

Bottom Line

The Scripture tells us that “we are made complete in Him” (Colossians 2). That means when we commit to resting and trusting in the living Christ within, then we will manifest His presence and others will notice our Heavenly glow.

“For in Him we live and move and exist… (Acts 17:28)

The Answer Is To Trust

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? (Matthew 6:25-27 NLT)

Everyone struggles in one way or the other with life. We may have money worries, concerns about our children, job dissatisfaction, unfulfilled dreams, recurrent physical problems. There may be marriage problems, betrayal by those we love and cherish, and we may even struggle with loneliness. Many have a general sense of discontentment, and that leads to not loving yourself. When you don’t love yourself it becomes difficult to receive love from others and from God.

Your specific struggle may not be in the list above, but if you are warm and breathing, you will eventually experience some type of recurring struggle. That’s just life. So the question is not will we have struggles, but how do we respond in the midst of our struggles?

Jesus knew the impact of the sin nature and how it would produce worry and angst at every level of our life. Each season of our life has a different set of challenges that attack our peace and contentment.

When we became a committed follower of Jesus, we entered into a new realm of thinking, it’s called “kingdom thinking”. It’s based on trusting God for every element of our life. It becomes the basis of how we view life and the world. Kingdom thinking becomes our worldview. We no longer deal with our circumstances as “on our own,” but we see ourselves as a “child of the King dependent on our Heavenly Father”.

The passage above in Matthew 6 is part of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is teaching Kingdom principles to those who will become His followers. He is teaching a new way of living, from a ceremonial law-based mentality, to living by faith. It was radical thinking in that day, and unfortunately, most believers look at this as radical Christianity today. Missionary statesman Watchman Nee called it the “Normal Christian Life”.

When we put our trust in Christ as our Lord and Savior he gave us the promise of eternal life, a home in heaven and He promised to be our “need- meeter” in all areas of our life. He wants us to live with the daily assurance that He is in control of all our circumstances. He desires for us to turn over all our worry and discontent to Him, and then “He will do it all for you”.

Bottom Line

Prayerfully read the following passage and meditate on God’s infinite ability to supply, guide and satisfy our every need.

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. ” (Matthew 6:31-33 NLT)

Based on the above Scripture, ponder each word in the following statement; I Will Do It All For You.

I – God
Will – You can count on Him to honor His word if we trust Him.
Do – God will move whatever mountain that needs to be moved to accomplish His will for you.
It – God has an answer to every problem. Nothing ever takes Him by surprise.
ALL – God has a way of finishing the job “exceeding, abundantly more than we ever thought.”
For – God gets pleasure in meeting the needs of His children. If we as parents get joy out of providing for our children, how much more joy does it bring our Heavenly Father to meet our needs?
You – God is a personal God who knows and cares for His children personally.