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Posts Tagged ‘following Christ’

Steadfastness No Matter What

August 25th, 2016

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it. (2 Timothy 3:14)

Christ commanded us that we should abide in his love continually – not just when the mood strikes us, not just when the circumstances seem right, not just when we find it convenient for our schedules, not just when it is noticed and applauded by others, but continually, in all circumstances, every day, no matter what.

Do you have this kind of steadfastness? Do you continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed even when it is difficult? Sometimes the greater challenges are not the moments when we face opposition – those situations can even motivate us to strive harder! But the situations that are mundane, tedious, even boring, when nothing seems to be happening – those are the more difficult ones to remain steadfast in.

The words of Paul to Timothy, quoted above, reminded him of the lifestyles of those who had discipled him. They revealed the love of God to him through facing hardships and enduring them steadfastly. Paul reminded him of his own conduct, faith, patience, love, and steadfastness that endured “persecutions and sufferings” (3:10-11). He reminded him of his grandmother Lois, and his mother Eunice (1:5) who had taught him and modeled the faith before him from his childhood (3:15). Discipleship is not just teaching principles. It is also living out those principles before others.

We may think that our lives in Christ should be problem free, a smooth and gentle path to eternity. But rarely do lives work out like this. Proverbs 3:5-6 promises that if we commit our way to the Lord, that if we do not lean on our own understanding but instead trust in God’s greater wisdom, that He will make our paths straight. The meaning of this is not that He will remove all of the problems in life, but that He will show us the simple right path to take, even if it means removing some obstacles from the way ourselves.

For those who would like to remove mountains without getting their hands dirty, James speaks a clear word: “Without works faith is dead” (James 2:17). The meaning of that passage is not that works can replace our faith, for faith is primary. Rather he was saying that an un-involved faith is not a true faith. A faith that says, “I believe,” but does not lift a finger to help anyone or live a moment in a public witness for Christ is not faith at all.

Let me be clear on this matter. God alone is able to do God-sized tasks. Faith in Him, and not faith in faith alone, is what He looks for to do these miraculous things we call “moving mountains.” But the people whose faith God honors will have the dirt of some mountain under their fingernails, and they will match their faith with their actions. They will be steadfast in both motives and motions.

The issue is not whether discouragement, fatigue, or distractions have ever darkened our doorway. The issue is not whether we have ever stumbled and fallen, for, as Isaiah said, even young men do that (Isaiah 40:30). The issue is simply whether or not we are continuing to follow Christ in the means that He has given us to do so each day. Are we steadfast for Christ?

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Following Him

May 9th, 2016

Follow me … (Mathew 4:19)

The Christian life is one of following Christ. In order to follow we must have some knowledge of his direction and his leadership.

Conscience is the least of the influences that shape our lives, for our consciences are flawed, “seared with a hot iron” (1 Tim. 4:2). We can improve on our conscience by the study of morality and ethics, especially biblical ethics, but it at best only places impersonal principles before us, and impersonal principles do not move or lead or place a path before us.

A Christian conscience molded by the word of God is an essential part of our spiritual armor. Christian integrity depends on it, and if the Word of God has formed our moral understanding of the world, of our Christian duty, then we will have the wisdom to say no to many things. We will be prepared to react to those circumstances around us. We will be better prepared to understand how Christ will lead, and we will be able to advise others. However, Christ meant something more than only this, for, again, principles do not lead. Persons lead.

The life of Christ in the gospels is another way that people have sought to follow Christ – by studying the basic steps of his life’s story. We often identify with historical characters and reading the stages of their biographies can prepare us for life. What better life to model than Christ’s? There is some genuine value here, and we should not entirely dismiss this notion of following Christ through knowing his life’s story.

For example, the temptations preceded his ministry, and we learn from this that in our lives, also, we must resist temptation before we will be able to serve effectively. Also, his first year of public ministry was a year of popularity, followed by two years of difficulty and rejection. We learn from this not to trust too highly in the praise of mankind. We see him healing, patiently teaching, praying, mentoring his apostles, serving humbly.

Paul enjoins us to have the same mind as Christ, who emptied himself of his deity and took the form of a servant, and became obedient to death, even death on the cross (Phil. 2:5-8). There is much for us to learn of our life as followers of Christ by learning of his life. But, again, Christ meant something more than this only.

The Principles of Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby is another way that people have sought to follow Christ. Taking the text from John 5:19, “The Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does,” Blackaby developed a practical theology of understanding the leadership of Christ by seeing what things he was blessing, how he was moving in the world.

Actually these principles preceded Blackaby and have been espoused by many evangelical voices. Again, like the other means mentioned above, there is some value here. Blackaby’s writings are very practical and helpful, based on the Bible, and balanced. He says that we understand God’s purpose and and his leadership through the Bible, prayer, the voice of other Christians, and circumstances. Yet the emphases of his writings also take into account the observation of how God is moving, what he is doing in the world, the visible results we can see, and the markers in our lives for how God has used us in the past.

It espouses a theory that we can follow Christ by seeing his footprints in the world, and takes a very practical approach to seeing what Christ is doing. One limitation, of course, of this method is that it depends highly on our own powers of observation, which are fundamentally flawed. Can not God speak and can not Christ lead in a very new and unexpected way? Blackaby would, of course, agree with that very point, so there are some build in limitations of this method.

Following Christ by obeying His Spirit: The Christian life comes together for us when we realize that this command to follow him can only be truly fulfilled by listening to his Spirit’s voice. “Those who are led by the Spirit are the children of God” (Rom. 8:14). It is not enough to know only principles, or to know only the historical Jesus – as important and as essential as both of these are. It is not enough to only be able to see his footprints in the world – though there is great wisdom in this. We must follow a living Savior who speaks to our hearts.

His Word is a safeguard to us from being led astray by temptations. We must test the spirits for they have not all come from God (1 John 4:2). Some “spirits” are simply our emotions and our own malfunctioning feelings. Some spirits are demons who seek to draw us off the path. So we need to know his Word, and to know His life. We also need the body of Christ to advise us, especially the wise among Christians, for Christ leads all of his followers. We need to see how he has moved in our past, and what he is doing in the world today.

We must also know his voice! The children of God are guided not by principles only but by a Person – Christ himself. We follow Him because he still moves today, and he calls us in our hearts to follow him. Do not be satisfied with a religion, no matter how biblical or how “Christian” it sounds, that does not include listening to the voice of Christ and following his leadership. Learn to be sensitive to his Spirit’s voice in our hearts today, and let him lead you.

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