April 4, 2018
“And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” Matthew 10:38
Jesus isn’t mincing any words here is He?
If we are going to be Followers of Christ, HE must come first in our lives. When we read verse 37, He says “more than father and mother”. Do you love Jesus more than father and mother? Do you love Jesus more than anyone or anything?
He isn’t saying that we are not to love parents or others. No, not at all. What Jesus is saying is that we are to love Him first and foremost. It is not a matter of convenience, it is a matter of the heart and that of a true Christian.
We read on in the Book of Matthew where Jesus is speaking to His disciples and explaining to them that He must go on to Jerusalem and be killed. That is some tough news to hear and digest. What was Peter’s response to God the Son? Peter takes Jesus aside and rebukes Him. Peter wants to take Jesus away and prevent this coming event.
I don’t think God is super upset when we don’t understand or grasp what He says. Rather, I believe that He does expect us to hear and obey, even if we don’t understand and even if we don’t agree with Him. Certainly, God isn’t going to stand for being rebuked or counselled by anyone. His immediate, no holds barred response to Peter makes that very plain.
“But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.’
Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”’ Matthew 16:23-25
Jesus says to FOLLOW HIM, no matter what. Follow Jesus in the good times and in the bad; when it is fun and exciting; when it is harsh and painful and even unto death. Will we ever attain that kind of obedience?
At the Combat Infantry Training School at Fort Benning Georgia, the motto for the unit is FOLLOW ME. Soldiers are trained to follow leaders and follow orders. In combat, following orders may mean laying one’s life on the line. In combat, soldiers don’t have many options when it comes down to the wire. Failure to follow orders equals failure to accomplish a mission.
That’s what Jesus is teaching. In failure to follow Jesus and obey His word means that though we may escape some uncomfortable situations, scores of others may succumb to misery, death and without the gospel the eternal life in heaven.
Far fetched? Not at all. Look at the big picture! Look at the misery around the world! It is bleak in many third world countries and in pockets of poverty even in well developed countries. However, in many wealthy areas of the world people live under tyrants, dictators and despots.
I often have a vision of a giant claw grasping and squeezing the life out of areas of the world. Every time I read of international aid and outreach to peoples in distress my heart and soul rejoices. Human compassion is an act of FOLLOWING JESUS.
Yet invariably, in the midst of that compassionate response that giant claw is fed by abuse, avarice and greed. Massive fraud and actual theft occurs. Many years ago, in the Dominican Republic, funds were made available to purchase a large electrical generating plant that would alleviate the need for scheduled brown outs around the country due to insufficient ability to serve the entire country. So, what do you think happened? I’ll tell you. The delegation whose task was to find and purchase the generating plant decided to buy a lesser plant and pocket the difference in dollars (pesos). As a result, the country continues to have brown outs, meaning that electricity is only available for a few hours a day in various parts of the country.
In North Africa, a few years ago, relief to starving peoples was flown in from all over the world. Planes were unloaded, and foodstuffs were warehoused and prepared for distribution. That is until the giant claw reached in and took hold by way of warlords who confiscated all that relief.
I have personally witnessed an international relief organization that claimed to assist sponsors “adopt” a child and funnel contributions to that child and his family. The child would in turn send the donor a photograph and little notes now and then to show how your donation is being used. I discovered that this organization used school teachers to gather photographs of students for that purpose and then the teachers themselves would write the little notes. I visited the school and saw this in action. I went to the local headquarters to discuss this finding with that organization’s administration. The explanation was that they could do more for more children by comingling the donations and distributing them among more children. What I saw was pencils, paper and backpacks being handed out. The organization was housed in a multi-story, air-conditioned building while serving a slum village with no running water or electricity.
If we are to Follow Jesus, it is incumbent upon us to do more than just throw dollars at charities, relief fundraising and even Christian evangelical events. We must get beyond just taking outreach at face value. There are good organizations that are transparent and do great things for humanity and for the building of the Kingdom of God. Franklin Graham’s Samaritan Purse is one of the best but there are others. We have to do some homework and research. Locally, we must have transparency in the church; that is knowing exactly where the dollars go.
Following Jesus means accountability. We are all accountable to God for everything we do, say or think. We are also accountable to each other. In last night’s bible study, we discussed the matter of accountability. We read a passage in Leviticus that really got us thinking about that accountability.
“..that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean”
Sometimes, we need the perspectives of others to see ourselves as we really are. We decided that in our group we would try and hold each other accountable. Ground rules are that any admonishment would be administered with love, patience and offers of support without judgement. As a pastor, I will be just as vulnerable as anyone else. That point was well made when I said I would participate. A member of the study group said that’s what Jesus would do, He actually got down and washed the dirty feet of those in His study group. Wow! Point well made!
Are you ready to Follow Jesus? I mean follow Him, even to the cross and the grave? Are you ready to place God above family; above hobbies, sports and leisure activities; above riches, power, assumed entitlements; comfort; pride and ego? Are you? Are you ready to be accountable?
Let us pray -