Truly Free #likeJesus

The truth will set you free!

These are powerful, oft repeated words.  We find them in John 8:32.  Jesus was speaking to Jews who had just heard His teaching during the Feast of Tabernacles and believed in Him.

Even as He spoke, many believed in Him.  To the Jews who had believed in Him, Jesus said, “If you hold to My teaching, you really are My disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.  Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys My word will never see death.”
John 8:30-32,51

At first glance, it might appear that Jesus is promoting obedience or commitment as the means of salvation.  One could certainly argue from words like these that Jesus expects us to make Him Lord of our life if we are to truly be saved.  But is that what Jesus meant?

What were these Jews in bondage to?  What did they need to be set free from?

They were in bondage to sin, yes.  Jesus said as much.  “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”  But how would truth set them free from sin?  They lived in a religious system that put them in bondage to the Law.  They were slaves to the Law.  They couldn’t keep it perfectly, so they were condemned by it.

Would it make sense, then, for Jesus to replace a strict keeping of the Law of Moses with a strict adherence to His own teaching as the means of salvation?  In the Apostle Paul’s words, “God forbid!”

These Jews have just “believed in Him.”  What does that mean?  Based on John’s use of the word ‘believe’ we must assume that these Jews had placed their faith in Jesus as their Messiah.   But if that’s the case, why does the conversation go the direction Jesus takes it from here.  He calls them “children of the devil” and tells them “they do not belong to God.”  Is this because the crowd is mixed?  Some have believed, some have not?  And by the end of the conversation, they are picking up rocks to stone Him for blasphemy because He claimed to be God, saying, “Before Abraham was born, I AM!”

Remember, in John 6 many disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.  Did He have them in mind when He spoke to this group?

“If you hold to my teaching, you really are my disciples.”

Can we make a distinction between “believer” and “disciple?”  Did Jesus make a distinction between the two?  He certainly never seemed to be concerned with just getting people saved, making converts.  His chief aim was to make disciples.  That begins with conversion, but it doesn’t end there.

It must be asked, what is the truth Jesus speaks of here, and what is that truth setting us free from?

In John 8:51, Jesus says, “Whoever obeys my word will never see death.”  Because Jesus says “word” and not “words” I believe He is speaking about a singular part of His teaching and not all of His teaching.

In Matthew 7:24, Jesus concludes His Sermon on the Mount by saying, “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house upon the rock…”  “Words.”  Plural.  The totality of His message.

But here in John 8, “word.”  Singular.  A specific message.  Jesus’ specific message here is about His identity and His purpose.

“When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be…”
John 8:28

The phrase “lifted up” refers to how Jesus will die.  It is a phrase Jesus uses with Nicodemus in John 3.  It is a phrase that refers back to Moses lifting up the snake in the desert…  a statue of a snake atop a pole that the Israelites were told to look upon to live after they’d been bitten by venomous snakes.

The singular message, the “word” they are to obey, is the message of the cross.  To Nicodemus, Jesus said, “You must be born again.”  Would he obey by placing his faith in Jesus sacrificial death on the cross?  Would he “look up?”  Will they?

 

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Unfollowed #likeJesus

Troubling words.

“From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.”

Many questions.

How could a true disciple stop following Jesus?  Or does this mean they weren’t true disciples?

Who were these disciples that turned away from Jesus?  How long had they been following Him?

Had these disciples placed their faith in Jesus?  Were they saved?  Does this mean they forfeited that salvation?

What was it about Jesus’ words that were so hard to accept?  What am I missing here?

Jesus told them He was the Bread of Life.

“Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.”

Did they really think Jesus was speaking literally?   Did they think He was advocating some form of cannibalism?  Or was there some cultural context for His words that I don’t yet grasp?  Was this just another way of Jesus saying, “take up your cross, deny yourself and follow me?”

What is clear.

Because this is recorded in John’s gospel, the last of the four to be written, we have to assume that to John’s knowledge this decision on their part was permanent.  His gospel is written 50 or so years after this incident.  Most who had turned away, if not all, were already dead at the time John wrote.  He says, “From that time… they no longer followed…”  The resurrection didn’t change their minds.  Peter’s preaching at Pentecost didn’t change their minds.  Were they like the seed cast on thorny soil from Jesus’ parable of the four soils?

This was a pivotal time in Jesus’ ministry.  We’re about 30 months into His ministry.  Jesus has appointed the Twelve.  He’s sent them out two by two.  John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, has been murdered, brutally beheaded. The disciples have returned from their mission trip.  Word has spread, resulting in Jesus feeding the 5000.  Then Jesus comes to His disciples, walking on the water.  Jesus has just made a strategic shift.  He had been doing all the ministry, but now He equips and empowers His disciples to do the ministry without Him by their side.

Those who deserted Him here weren’t among the Twelve.  Oh, but they must have been there when the Twelve returned from their mission trip.  The Twelve didn’t desert Jesus (at least not yet).  Was it because they had not only seen Jesus perform miracles, but they had now had the first hand experience of God doing miracles through them?  Sent out two by two, they preached, healed the sick and cast out demons.  They held baskets in their hands that had bread and fish multiplying before their eyes like some crazy magic trick.

What role does experiencing God as He works powerfully through us to impact others play in a person owning their faith?  I know how significant it’s been in my own faith journey.  God working in and through me fuels my confidence and fortifies my commitment.

“From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.”

Biggest question.

How do I keep this from happening to me?   How do I keep this from happening to my children?  How do I keep this from happening to my own disciples?

I can’t help but think that these feint-hearted followers were more focused on themselves and on what they could get from Jesus rather that on Jesus Himself.  Maybe it was physical healing they wanted most?  Maybe it was political power they wanted most?  Maybe it was prosperity (abundant food) they wanted most?  They obviously didn’t want Jesus for who He was.  They only wanted the sizzle, not the steak.

The Apostle Paul’s words ring in my ears:

“But whatever was to my profit, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ- the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.  I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

I WANT TO KNOW CHRIST!!!!!!!

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Seeking Solitude #likeJesus

Have you ever noticed how strongly your own context colors the way you see scripture?  Maybe this is one of the reasons why we can read the same passage of scripture a thousand times and still see something new on the thousand and first reading.

Just before Jesus feeds the 5000, we read:

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to Him all they had done and taught.  Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”  So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place… 

And then after feeding the 5000:

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead of Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowd.  After He had dismissed the crowd, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray.  Later that night, He was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.  Shortly before dawn, He went out to them, walking on the lake…

A few things that stand out to me on this “thousand and first” reading.

1.  It had been a very busy season of ministry for Jesus and the disciples (they reported to Him all they had done and taught).

2.  The needs of the people never seem to go away.  There’s always another need (feeding 5000 people).  What an exhausting thought!

3.  Jesus modeled rest and prioritized it for the disciples (“Come with Me by yourselves…”).

4.  Jesus spent a significant amount of time alone.  He went “by Himself” and “was there alone” in a solitary place on the mountainside, arriving in the evening and not leaving until just before dawn.

As I reflect on the priority of rest in Jesus’ life and ministry, a few questions have to be asked.

Do I let the “tyranny of the urgent,” the needs around me, rob me of rest?

Do I prioritize true rest?  Does my version of rest include silence and solitude?

Do I push the pace, crowd the agenda, and overextend those I lead, robbing them of rest?

Rest.

We live in a culture that doesn’t prioritize it. We live in a culture that celebrates and rewards those who do more, better, faster.  We brag about our busyness as if it were a badge of honor.  We load up on coffee, energy drinks and supplements to push through when we’re tired.

Maybe cultures who slow down for an afternoon siesta know something we don’t.  Maybe it’s time to better prioritize…

REST!

We need it.
God ordered it.
Jesus promised it.

I think I’ll take a nap 🙂

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Silence #likeJesus

Reading through the Gospels, especially the Gospel of Mark, you get the sense that Jesus’ life was fast-paced, full of the hustle and bustle demands of being the long awaited Messiah.  But was it?

What did the rhythm of Jesus’ daily routine look like?  How close does the rhythm of my daily routine mirror that of Jesus?

The past several days have been crazy.  Our house has been in chaos.  The AC went out upstairs so all eight of us were sleeping downstairs.  No big deal, except all but one of our bedrooms are upstairs.  No big deal, except our kitchen has been under construction from water damage we had six months ago.  Insurance has finally gotten around to fixing the damage, a true blessing because we get new cabinets and countertops out of the deal.  But with everything from the kitchen in the living room and office, that doesn’t leave much room for eight people to sleep.  The last three days, from morning to night, I’ve been dealing with contractors and helping put the house back in order.

Everyone is off to bed now, the house is quiet, and finally I’ve plopped down on the couch for a moment of rest.  The fog of chaos has lifted.  I feel like I can breathe.  I wonder if Jesus ever felt this way?

In reading the Gospels this morning, one phrase lept off the page at me.  See if you can guess which one…

That day when evening came, He said to His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”  Leaving the crowd behind, they took Him, just as He was, in the boat.

What’s your guess?

“Leaving the crowd behind!”

Right now, that sounds amazing.  For me, I’d reword it “leaving the chaos behind!”

A significant part of the rhythm of Jesus’ life was “leaving the crowd behind.”  Jesus regularly slipped away to a solitary place to pray.  Jesus had His garden hideaway in Gethsemane.  Jesus would get in the boat with the disciples to leave the crowd behind.  Jesus would climb a mountain to an isolated location to meet with the Father.

Silence is good.
Slow is good.
Solitary is good.
Still is good.
Simple is good.
Sleep is good.

Rest.
We need it.
God ordered it.
Jesus promised it.

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11:28

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

With Authority #likeJesus

With Jesus’ words and actions, there seemed to be a direct correlation between Amazement and Authority.  People were frequently amazed by Jesus, and more often than not, it was His authority that amazed them.

Jesus exercised this authority when He taught, when He cast out demons, when He forgave sin, when He laid down His life and took it up again.

Jesus exercises this authority when He judges, when He condemns to Hell, when He overcomes the enemy, when He grants eternal life.

Consider the times it was recorded that Jesus exercised His authority:

“…because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”  Matthew 7:29

But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”  So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.”  Matthew 9:6

“When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.”  Matthew 9:8

“Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.”  Matthew 10:1

Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”  Matthew 21:23

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”  Matthew 28:18

“The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.”  Mark 1:22

The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.”  Mark 1:27

“But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man…  Mark 2:10

“…and to have authority to drive out demons.”  Mark 3:15

“Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.”  Mark 6:7

“By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?”  Mark 11:28

And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.”   Luke 4:6

“They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority.”  Luke 4:32

All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!”  Luke 4:36

“But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”  So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”  Luke 5:24

“When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases…”  Luke 9:1

“I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.”  Luke 10:19

“But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.”  Luke 12:5

“Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?”  Luke 20:2

The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”  John 2:18

“And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.”  John 5:27

Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own authority, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him…”  John 7:28

“No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”  John 10:18

“Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.”  John 14:10

“For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.”  John 17:2

The people were amazed by Jesus’ authority.  The Pharisees condemned Jesus for claiming authority they believed belonged to God alone.

When Jesus humbled Himself and took on the very nature of a servant (Philippians 2), He yielded the right to exercise His own authority.  Any authority Jesus now exercised would be delegated from the Father.  “I do nothing on my own.  I only do what I see the Father doing.”  Jesus operated in the Spirit’s power under the Father’s authority.

The Father delegated authority to the Son.  The Son has delegated authority to His disciples.  “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore, go and make disciples!”

As a disciple, what spiritual authority do I have?  Jesus gave His disciples the authority to drive out demons, cure sickness, trample on snakes and scorpions, overcome the enemy, make disciples, baptize, teach.

As a disciple, how do I operate with the authority that’s been delegated to me?  I operate in faith.  “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed…”  I operate in obedience.

As a disciple, am I accessing the full authority that’s been given to me?  

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in Me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”  John 14:12

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Amazed by Jesus!

Amazement.  It can be fueled by awe, surprise or even doubt.

What does it take for me to be amazed?  When was the last time Jesus amazed me?

Jesus made a habit of amazing people.

They were amazed by His teaching.  He taught in a way they had never heard before, and He said things no one else was saying.

They were amazed by His miracles.  He exercised authority over demons.  He healed the sick.  He raised the dead.  He treated people in a way no one else was treating them, whether they were a leper or a Pharisee, and He did things no one else was doing.

“When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching,”  Matthew 7:28

The disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked. “Even the winds and waves obey him!”  Matthew 8:27

So Jesus cast out the demon, and then the man began to speak. The crowds were amazed. “Nothing like this has ever happened in Israel!” they exclaimed.  Matthew 9:33

The crowd was amazed and asked, “Could it be that Jesus is the Son of David, the Messiah?”  Matthew 12:23

He returned to Nazareth, his hometown. When he taught there in the synagogue, everyone was amazed and said, “Where does he get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?”  Matthew 13:54

The crowd was amazed! Those who hadn’t been able to speak were talking, the crippled were made well, the lame were walking, and the blind could see again! And they praised the God of Israel.  Matthew 15:31

The disciples were amazed when they saw this and asked, “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?”  Matthew 21:20

His reply amazed them, and they went away.”  Matthew 22:22

“The people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike the teachers of religious law.”  Mark 1:22

And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!”  Mark 2:12

“And the girl, who was twelve years old, immediately stood up and walked around! They were overwhelmed and totally amazed.”  Mark 5:42

The next Sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. They asked, “Where did he get all this wisdom and the power to perform such miracles?”  Mark 6:2

“Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped. They were totally amazed,”  Mark 6:51

They were completely amazed and said again and again, “Everything he does is wonderful. He even makes the deaf to hear and gives speech to those who cannot speak.”  Mark 7:37

This amazed them. But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God.  Mark 10:24

“When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill him. But they were afraid of him because the people were so amazed at his teaching.”  Mark 11:18

“Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” His reply completely amazed them.  Mark 12:17

“Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him.”  Luke 2:33

“All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.”  Luke 2:47

Everyone spoke well of him and was amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips. “How can this be?” they asked. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”  Luke 4:22

“There, too, the people were amazed at his teaching, for he spoke with authority.”  Luke 4:32

Amazed, the people exclaimed, “What authority and power this man’s words possess! Even evil spirits obey him, and they flee at his command!”  Luke 4:36

His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed. Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!”  Luke 5:10

Then he asked them, “Where is your faith?” The disciples were terrified and amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “When he gives a command, even the wind and waves obey him!”  Luke 8:25

“One day Jesus cast out a demon from a man who couldn’t speak, and when the demon was gone, the man began to speak. The crowds were amazed,”  Luke 11:14

“So they failed to trap him by what he said in front of the people. Instead, they were amazed by his answer, and they became silent.”  Luke 20:26

Jesus replied, “I did one miracle on the Sabbath, and you were amazed.  John 7:21

A few things I notice in these moments when people are amazed by Jesus.  Amazement is often directly connected to Authority.  When Jesus spoke with authority, exercised authority over demons, exercised authority over the wind and the waves, or exercised authority over sickness, people were amazed.  Who else spoke with or acted with this kind of authority?  And then I also noticed the one thing that amazed Jesus.  It was Faith, or the lack thereof.  Jesus was amazed by the faith of the Centurion to trust Jesus for a long-distance healing of his son, and Jesus was equally amazed by His’ disciples lack of faith on the boat in the midst of the storm.

Where do I see Jesus’ authority being exercised around me?  When I see it, I will be amazed!

And what will I do that will amaze Jesus?  Will it be how I exercise mountain-moving faith, or will it be my utter lack of faith?

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

A True Worshiper #likeJesus

What kind of a worshiper am I?

The Father is seeking true worshipers.  Has He found one in me?

Jesus said to the Samaritan woman:

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”  John 4:23-24

Those who confine worship to a time and place miss the heart of worship.  They miss the heart of the Father.  They are not yet true worshipers.

There is nothing special about a church building, chapel or cathedral.  These are not “sacred spaces” where God uniquely dwells.

There is nothing special about 11am on Sunday morning.  This is not a “sacred time” when God shows up.

Worship isn’t about time and place.  Jesus makes it clear.  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”  We worship God with our whole being.  This is what Jesus meant when He said that true worshipers will worship God in spirit and in truth.

The Apostle Paul expounds on this thought.

“Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship.”  Romans 12:1

What is a true worshiper, and when am I truly worshipping?

True worship…

…can happen anywhere.

…can happen anytime.

…results in joyful songs of praise, but is not limited to them.

…is expressed through my words, thoughts, emotions and actions.

…is balanced by spirit and truth.

…turns my thoughts and affections toward the Father.

…calibrates my heart with the Father’s heart, so that I want what He wants.

…produces humility and unity.

…exposes sin to the light of God’s presence.

…overflows with gratitude.

…is a verb.

I worship when I sing.

I worship when I laugh.

I worship when I weep.

I worship when I pray.

I worship when I speak.

I worship when I serve.

I worship when I give.

I worship when I love.

I worship when I work.

I worship when I play.

“So whatever you do…  do it all for the glory of God!”  1 Corinthians 10:31

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM