Monday, October 26, 2020

The Cost of Following Jesus

In pursuing spiritual growth as a Christian believer, it involves navigating various challenges along the way. Here’s how Jesus simply put it: And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me (Luke 9:23). There’s a cost in following Jesus and we must learn to count the cost in doing so. Somebody described what is and what is not about the cost of following Jesus:

Counting the cost means recognizing and agreeing to some terms first. In following Christ, we cannot simply follow our inclinations. We cannot follow Him and the world's way at the same time (Matthew 7:13-14). Following Him may mean we lose relationships, dreams, material things, or even our lives.

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Allow me to expound on what Jesus meant and the prerequisites involved in following Him. When Jesus spoke then (“And he said to all…”), He still speaks today with the same challenging message of choosing Him above anyone and anything in this world. When an individual hears and heeds the calling of Jesus, it is a wholehearted decision with an unwavering determination of choosing Jesus above oneself (“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself…”). The apostle Paul illustrated it similar to an athlete: 

Everyone who competes in the games trains with strict discipline. They do it for a crown that is perishable, but we do it for a crown that is imperishable. Therefore I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight like I am beating the air. No, I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. ~1 Corinthians 9:26-27

Next, it is a resolution made daily (“…take up his cross daily and…”) with a clear view of what’s ahead and a willingness of forsaking distractions in following Christ. The apostle Paul shared his heart on this matter: I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20). Finally, there’s a focused destination ahead with Jesus (“…follow me”). The apostle John shared a wonderful picture of this decision: “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming” (1 John 2:28).

Even if more than two thousand years since Jesus came, the prerequisites of discipleship never change today. In attaining victory, we need to look to Jesus! Jonathan Parnell[1] shared, “Looking to Jesus means relying on him. The word translated “looking” has the idea of zeroing our gaze on something with confidence. Looking to Jesus means looking to him alone. Looking to Jesus means he is our reward.” In knowing what’s ahead, we need to listen to Jesus! J. G. Machen, an American Presbyterian New Testament scholar and educator in the early 20th century (Wikipedia) shared, “The more we know of God, the more unreservedly we will trust him; the greater our progress in theology, the simpler and more childlike will be our faith.” 

Lastly, in discovering the lessons of spiritual growth. We need to learn about Jesus! Jesus Himself encouraged us, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me” (Matthew 11:29a). I found this enlightening insight from Bits & Pieces (April 2, 1992): “Learning usually passes through three stages. In the beginning you learn the right answers. In the second state you learn the right questions. In the third and final stage, you learn which questions are worth asking.”

In summary, while salvation is free, Dietrich Bonhoeffer gave this stark reminder “but discipleship will cost you your life.” When all is said and done, the prize of following Jesus outweighs the price of following Jesus because He is worth following. He gave His life and died for us and that’s more than enough reason for giving our life to Him. After knowing this truth, what’s holding you back in following Him?

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Saturday, October 3, 2020

The Significance of the Names of God Today

The absolute truth of the matter is this: God provided His people with the means to call on Him using His various Names that fully represents His attribute and His power. Somebody shared this  wonderful story: The early church leader Augustine was once accosted by a heathen who showed him his idol and said, "Here is my god; where is thine?" Augustine replied, "I cannot show you my God; not because there is no God to show but because you have no eyes to see Him."

There are three Names of God revealed and associated with significant events. When God redeemed Israel from Egyptian bondage, Moses heard God’s name as the “Great I AM.” Then Moses said to God, "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM" (Exodus 3:13-14).

During the New Testament, God sent Jesus as the Saviour of fallen humanity: She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). Then, when Jesus returned sometime in the future, He will come back as the “Word of God” and the “King of kings.“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelations 19:11-16).

Thus, in understanding the significance of God’s Name today, there are three things for our learning perspective. First, God’s Name connects us to His power. Next, God’s Name conforms us to His character. Lastly, God’s Name communicates His faithfulness. Accessing them becomes a key to discover God’s reality in our lives today, tomorrow and until he comes. Furthermore, when we understand the value of God’s Name in our lives, we can avoid how the world deals with God’s Name as E.A. Robinson shared, “The world is a kind of spiritual kindergarten where bewildered infants are trying to spell God with the wrong blocks.” Let me challenge you to study further the Names of God because each Name of God reveals one aspect of His revelation to His people who believe in Him. When we do, God becomes personal in His dealing to each of us.

As a final note on this topic, allow me to share a fascinating revelation of God’s Name explained using the Chinese character for “GOD” from God is represented in the Chinese language by the word Shén. This word may be written in two different forms (see to the right and below). The etymology of this image reveals details about God's work in creation. On the left side of the character, we see an image meaning to REVEAL or DECLARE. Over and over in the Biblical creation account, we are told that "...God said..." (Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26, NKJV). On the right side of the character, two images are intertwined. There, we find a MAN and a GARDEN. Man, the crowning jewel of God's creation (Genesis 1:26), was placed in the garden of Eden.

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