Now in Flesh Appearing

 ” He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.” –  John 1:11-13. 

“He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.” That verse has to be one of the most gut wrenching verses in the New Testament.

Jesus, the Messiah, the great I AM, the King of kings, the Alpha and Omega, the Author and Finisher of our faith, Author of life, almighty God in flesh, yet when He came to His very own chosen people, they did not accept Him. Think a minute about what that means for us when we feel alone, deserted, misunderstood, or forgotten. We have a Savior who has experienced being rejected by people He loved. He knows because He has experienced it firsthand. He knows what it’s like to be rejected by those for whom He made major sacrifices. 

God chose the nation of Israel to be His special people – returned to the place that He created and to the people that He chose, but  “…those who should have recognized him, but they did not receive him.rejected Him.” And so “He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.” (Isaiah 53:3 ) God came to earth as Israel’s Messiah but Israel, His own chosen, covenanted people, did not receive Him. 

We probably wonder while Israel rejected Jesus, given all the evidence and testimony we read about in the Bible. Surely, if nothing else they would believe their eyes or eyewitnesses. Raising people from the dead, donkeys talking, feeding the 5,000, healing the blind and the paralytic, etc. But before we question the ancient Israelites, perhaps we should evaluate how well we see Jesus today. Like the Israelites in the first century if you don’t want to see Jesus you won’t. It takes willingness, initiative, and a “want to” to see Him. Over and over again in the Gospel of John, we read these words: “Come and see.” To the two disciples of John who questioned where Jesus was living, Jesus replied: “Come and you will see” (John 1:39 NIV). Nathanael questioned if anything good could come out of Nazareth, referring to Jesus. Philip said, “Come and see” (John 1:46 NIV). That is exactly what Nathaniel did. Rather than reject Jesus, he came and saw and came to this conclusion: ““Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” (John 1:49 NIV)

We need to see Jesus for ourselves. We have heard about Him from others; now we are invited to see for ourselves, to experience Him first hand. Today may be the chance of a lifetime to see Jesus. We have the opportunity to not only see Him but to accept Him as our Lord and Savior.  

Discussion Question:

  1. Is it hard to see Jesus today? Why or why not? 
  2. What can we do this Christmas season to see Jesus more clearly? 

Come Let Us Adore Him

“O come, all ye faithful; Joyful and triumphant. O come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem. Come and behold Him. Born the King of Angels! O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him. Christ the Lord”

We’ve sung the words a thousand times: “O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant…O come let us adore Him.” It is a Christmas tradition like so many others. Every Christmas season comes around, we look forward to putting up a tree, giving and receiving gifts, and participating in other traditions that make this wonderful time of year so special. But sometimes the most significant aspect of the season — remembering and focusing on the coming of Jesus — grows old and familiar. 

We envy the shepherds who actually saw the baby Jesus, and returned with a message of adoration and joy that pierced the midnight air. We can’t join them in Bethlehem, but that doesn’t stop us marveling at God with us, and heeding the invitation to come and adore Him.

Do we adore the risen Savior or do we unintentionally undervalue Him in some way? Have we become so accustomed to His grace and love, His mercy, His forgiveness, that we take the Creator of the universe for granted? It’s like living in a beachfront condo that we stop appreciating the beautiful gulf view after a period of time. Or walking past your brightly-lit Christmas tree because you have been looking at it for over a week. Both were truly amazing initially, but have now become just part of the background. Or you used to stare up to a starry sky and the magnitude of it all took your breath away, but now you don’t look towards the heavens that much anymore.  

Jesus can be that way. He can blend into the background of blessed lives, sparkling holidays, and warm family get-togethers. God can take a back seat. “O come, let us adore Him” should refresh our perspectives and rejuvenate our love and adoration for our Lord and Savior.

We are called to adore Jesus. That’s what Christmas reminds us to do every year. The wise men bowed and worshipped him, brought gifts, and rejoiced when they found Him. We can learn a lot from the three Magi. We need to have a surrendered heart (bowing down) when we come to Him. He is the king of kings. We should approach Him in the same way. We also need to give Him our gift of worship. That is our sacrifice to Him. Finally, we need to have hearts filled with joy. When we surrender our heart and give our worship to Jesus, the result is a heart that is filled with joy. Come let us adore Him on this Christmas day.

This Christmas, tell Jesus how much you adore Him and why. In addition, give yourself time to be alone each day during the season to talk with Jesus directly, giving Him your heart-felt adoration.  If we do really adore Him, we will want to introduce Him to others. Someone invited us to come to Jesus, so let’s invite others to attend our Christmas Eve services. 

Discussion Question:

  1. What have you learned about God’s presence through your setbacks and in the hard places? 
  2. How does the fact that God is always with us impact how you live your life? 

O Come All Ye Faithful

“for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.  Everything was created through him and for him.” – Colossians 1:16. 

Christmas is such a complicated time of year, but one of the more amazing features of this time of the year is the music you will hear proclaiming the birth of Christ. There are so many wonderful Christmas songs but “O Come All ye Faithful” is on most people’s favorite list and no wonder, we have been singing this song for as long as we can remember.  But have you ever stopped to consider the words of the first two lines of this iconic song: 

“O come all ye faithful, joyful, & triumphant.”

We try to be faithful, but in spite of our best efforts, there are still times where I wrestle with doubt. I have not always been faithful to God. I haven’t shown that steadfast love and allegiance to Him. There are times when I am not faithful to God’s word. God tells me to forgive someone and I resist forgiving them. That isn’t faithfulness.

Have we always been joyful? Maybe this invitation isn’t designed for 2020. There are days where we experience sadness. Pandemics tend to cause despair and anxiety, not joy. Some of us experienced loss this year so when we hear these carols instead of joy, we are reminded of loss. O come all ye joyful? Am I still invited to come?

O come all ye triumphant. 2020 has not produced a lot of wins. In fact, losing seems more popular than winning this year. Maybe this invitation isn’t for us. We had goals but failed to achieve them; not only did I not get the promotion I was seeking but I lost my job. This was the year I was going to be a better parent. I set my sights on being the epitome of love and patience. But I find myself freaking out over the littlest things. There is no triumph here. 

But then I look at the opening two lines of the song in a slightly different way. Jesus helps us become faithful. Hebrews 12:2 says, “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith…” Faith starts with Jesus and faith is perfected with Jesus. Jesus helps us become joyful. He brings joy even though we have never seen Him. 1 Peter 1:8 says, “You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.” Luke 2:10 says, “but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.” Joy depends on Jesus. O come all ye joyful!  And Jesus helps us become Triumphant. 2 Corinthians 2:14 (KJV) “…thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ,..” Jesus causes us to triumph.

We become faithful because we came to Jesus. We become joyful because we came to Jesus. We triumph because we came to Jesus.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What can we do this week to demonstrate more faith? 
  2. What can we do this week to demonstrate more joy?  

What Does Propitiation Mean?

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” – 1 John 2:1-2

“If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the father.” The term “advocate” conjures up images of a courtroom. There we are trembling at the defendant’s table, our sins laid bare before the court. Things would look pretty grim if not for our advocate. There is Jesus arguing as my defense attorney before God, the Heavenly Judge. Jesus defends me from every accusation made against me by the persecutor Satan. Through Satan is formidable, every accusation he hurls at me is repelled by the effective intercession of my Savior. 

In verse 2, John explains how Jesus is such an effective advocate. “He is the propitiation for our sins”  Propitiation is not a word we use every day. Or every week. Or month. Or year for that matter. Maybe you’ve never seen it before. Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “the act of appeasing wrath and conciliating the favor of an offended person.” Propitiation is the biblical doctrine embodying the concept that the death of Christ fully satisfied the demands of a righteous God with respect to judgment upon the sinner. The doctrine is not found with great frequency in the New Testament, the word propitiation appearing only three times in the ESV version (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10 ).   

Scripture makes it clear that God’s holy response to sin is wrath: “But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” (Romans 1:18), and the price of sin is death. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) The sacrifice of Christ effectively cleanses God’s people from their sins. 

When Jesus suffered and died on the cross, He was substituting His holy, righteous, and sinless Self in our unholy, unrighteous, and sinful place. The spotless Lamb of God was the perfect propitiatory sacrifice to atone for our sins and the sins of everyone who would believe in Him. The good news is that Christ’s advocacy and propitiation is free. The grace of salvation is freely given by our Lord Jesus Christ. “But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. 17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:15-17)   

Jesus isn’t claiming that I am innocent, and therefore deserving of salvation. He acknowledges that I’m a sinner, but He has taken my place, paid my debts and satisfied the legal demands of God’s law on my behalf.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Propitiation is a theological term that describes how Jesus absorbed the wrath of our sin through His payment on the cross. For those who are in Christ Jesus, God sees us as righteous and justified (right standing before God). Is the idea that God sees you as righteous and justified through Jesus a spiritual concept that is easier for you to accept or is it more difficult for you to process? Explain why.

God With Us In Technological Terms

For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.” – Romans 10:10. 

You can’t escape technology.

It’s a part of your everyday life. Not in a scary sense like being watched by Big Brother from George Orwell’s classic book 1984. But in the sense that technology plays an essential role in your daily life. The microprocessor would change all our lives — bring computers into our homes and then eventually bring smartphones into our pockets. From the time you wake up to the moment you hit the bed at night, you will live beneath the umbrella of technology. From the lights in your house, the smartphone in your pocket, to the computer on your desk, you benefit from technology. The bottom line is computers bring tremendous blessings to our lives,

The Christian can easily look at God as a kind of supercomputer that exists and inhabits a certain place with the necessary software. As a result, the individual needs to go to a certain place to access Him. The same as we tend to use maybe 10 percent of the capabilities of software packages like Microsoft Word, we don’t expend too much energy getting to know God on a very personal level and as a result, God inhabits a portion of day-to-day lives. God is with us and wants to communicate with us directly. He desires to speak into our hearts; encouraging us, shaping us, convicting us, inspiring us. God is not a simple tool like a computer to be occasionally used.

Imagine your heart is the computer of your life. When you accepted Jesus as your Savior, you automatically downloaded the most powerful, most sophisticated, and most advanced operating system in the universe. You now have access to everything you need to live a joy-filled and abundant life. You now have access to unlimited knowledge and mysteries, to information and resources far beyond what you knew before the new operating system was installed. Using this operating system allows you to find counsel, be encouraged and comforted and the best part, find real solutions to every problem you face.    

But then 2020 came along. The pandemic as well as other things are like a computer virus, attacking your operating system. As hard as you tried not to let it happen, some malware can be downloaded into your system.  The malware or virus wreaks havoc with the internal operating system: suddenly, your ability to connect to God, to search, to hear, to explore spiritual matters is infected and not working as it once did. You have to shut down the parts infected with the virus, operating at a much lower level. Your heart capacity is diminished and gets full very quickly.  You can’t download new things.  

The good news is God is with us. No virus can overtake the heart if you don’t want it to.  And even though you haven’t been able to access certain parts of your heart, nothing has been lost.  It’s all still there.  And all of it can be restored. God always has a plan to heal and restore. You can always go to God for support because He is always with us.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you keep “viruses and malware” out of the heart? 
  2. What can we do this week to be better connected to God? 

I Am With You Always

“…And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:20. 

In Matthew 28, Jesus is commissioning His disciples to go out into the world and spread the good news.  At this point, Jesus’ disciples had been with Him for 3 years. They had been learning from Him, watching, and doing as He did. They never did ministry without Jesus or without being able to go back to Him after being sent out. For the first time, they were commissioned to go to new nations to spread the Good News by themselves. Or were they? Jesus is quick to tell them that He will always be with them, even to the end of time.

Think about this for a second, specifically the impact that confidence must have had on the humble men that Jesus had dispatched to reach the world. These were not influential or powerful men. They had no financial or business or strategy acumen to use as a foundation for their task. But they had seen Christ die on a cross and rise from the dead three days later. They had seen Jesus perform miracles pre- and post-resurrection, but in spite of all that the task the Lord had given them must have seemed impossible for a small group of people. But here’s the bottom line: no sooner was this command to go into all the world and preach the Gospel given to them, than the assurance followed it that “I am with you always.” In other words, you are not going alone. Yes, I am sending you on an intimidating task, but never forget that the greatest presence in the world, is going with you, the presence of God.  

When Moses was about to undertake the job of convincing Pharaoh to release the Israelites, God said “I will be with you’. (Exodus 3:12) When Joshua was afraid to carry on the work of Moses, and cross the Jordan into the promised land, we read in Joshua 1:5: “…For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you.”  Fast forward to the New Testament: An angel makes an announcement to Mary: ‘Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”  (Matthew 1:23) 

We need the presence of Jesus. We grow stronger in faith and in our actions when we are in the presence of Jesus.  In times of loneliness, His always presence will give us company and confidence. In times of weakness, His always presence will give you that strength to get through. In times of suffering, His always presence will give you peace of mind.  

That’s why the Psalmist could say in Psalm 46:7, “…The LORD of hosts is with us.” Isaiah 43:2 adds, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” 

There is nothing better than the presence of Jesus. Nothing. The question is how much do we experience it? How much of a difference it would make in our lives if, with confident faith we believe that God will be with us always, even to the end of the age?   

Discussion Question:

  1. What have you learned about God’s presence through your setbacks and in the hard places? 
  2. How does the fact that God is always with us impact how you live your life? 

God Is Always With Us

 “If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.” –  Psalm 139:8-10. 

When I awaken in the morning, God is with me. When I kneel to worship Him, He is with me. When I am driving on I-10 He is with me en route and when I reach my destination. He is with me as I turn out the lights at night no matter where I am. The bottom line is we cannot go anywhere that God is not with us.

NASA’s Apollo 13 experienced an explosion that not only threatened the mission but the lives of the three astronauts on board. NASA scientists were unsure whether the space capsule would have enough engine power and cabin oxygen to return the three astronauts to Earth alive. The most anxious time of the mission was when their space capsule orbited behind the moon and out of radio contact with Mission Control in Houston. All over our country, Americans prayed for the safety of the astronauts. The three astronauts returned to earth safely. The reality is that God is no less present behind the shadow of the moon than right beside you right now. He hears the prayers of the Apollo 13 astronauts just as clearly as He hears your prayers in Panama City. 

How comforting it is to know that Jesus is always with us.  He is with us on the mountain top and in the valley. He is with us when we are in crisis and when everything is good.  He is with us when we have doubt and fear. The good news is that we can live with confidence knowing that Jesus is always with us. There is no time limit, no bad deed, and no obstacle that could turn Jesus away from us. Whether we’re facing unemployment, or a sour relationship, health issues, God is still with us. He is there to give us the strength, wisdom, and peace we need to keep moving forward. We will never be alone, Jesus is always here, helping us, guiding us, pouring His love, and mercy into us. Even time wouldn’t get in the way of God being with me. If time itself couldn’t get in the way, nothing can.

God is always with us whether we are taking giant steps of faith or we are taking the first baby steps of faith. He lives inside of every person who puts their trust in God through faith in Jesus Christ. 

Discussion Question:

  1. What have you learned about God’s presence through your setbacks and in the hard places? 
  2. How does the fact that God is always with us impact how you live your life? 

The Wonder Of Emmanuel, God With Us

“for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.  Everything was created through him and for him.” – Colossians 1:16. 

Wondering about the wonder of God is always worthwhile. But the wonder of wonders is God with us. Jesus is the one who is God with us.

The story of God with us begins with the birth of Jesus Christ. God becomes human to walk among us, and teach us, and love us in radical and liberating ways. The beauty of God with us is that God didn’t come to us in the form of a Hercules type Demi-God, almost human, but stronger, faster, richer, and better in every way. No Emmanuel came to dwell among us, as one of us. God with us came to be in the midst of two ordinary people. God with us came to be in human form through Mary and Joseph. There wasn’t anything special that Mary and Joseph had done, just as there’s nothing we can do, to make ourselves more worthy of God with us. God is with us in spite of our imperfections and our struggles and our sin. Still, God with us remains with us and dwells in us.

Though He was born thousands of years ago, He is still Emmanuel, God with us, through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. In his book, Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer writes that “we need never shout across the spaces to an absent God. He is nearer than our own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts.”

That time thousands of years ago in Bethlehem is still happening now right here in our midst. We still celebrate with awe the wonder of God with us both as it manifests within us now and in all the ways it has shown up throughout history. This is certainly “good news that will bring great joy to all people,” as the angels proclaimed among the shepherds on that night in Bethlehem and still resonates today. 

God is constantly offering us wonderful glimpses of His presence with us in our world. Yet, too often, we don’t notice because we’re so preoccupied with the details of our lives that we don’t look beyond them to what God is showing us. If your focus has shrunk down to just trying to get through each day, it’s time to enlarge your perspective so you can enjoy an abundant life. 

There is much we cannot understand about our world. We cannot fathom why the innocent suffer, why evil has such opportunity, why God does not make things better right now. But, we do know something that keeps us going, something that strengthens us in the midst of sorrow and confusion. We know that Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. In our pain and puzzlement, God is with us. In our sadness and yearning, God is with us. In our doubt and fear, God is with us. Through Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit, God is with us. And not just with us, but for us, beside us, before us, behind us, within us, and among us. So we are comforted, even as we pray, “O Come, O come, Emmanuel.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. What do you personally appreciate the most about the fact that God came to earth to be in relationship with us? 
  2. How does the reality of Emmanuel – God with us, impact your daily walk of faith? In the good times? In the bad times? 

The Wrath of God

The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty…Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him. The Lord is good… But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness.” – Nahum 1:2-8.     

Preaching on the wrath of God is not very common these days. It is not too often you hear a sermon, or read an article, or listen to a podcast on the wrath of God. It’s too disconcerting and too dark. And it can seem cruel. The reason many Christians struggle with understanding the wrath of God is that it seems like it’s opposed to God’s love.  If you understand wrathful as vengeful, then it might be hard to reconcile these two attributes of God. But if the wrath of God is simply His righteous judgment against sinful humanity, then there is really no conflict between the two. All of humanity is deserving of punishment. And a righteous God would correctly give us what we have earned. But God is also love. And He has provided a way of redemption; faith in the atoning blood of His Son.

The concept of God’s wrath can be challenging for us to understand. And that, in large part, is probably due to confusing it with human wrath. Merriam-Webster defines wrath as “strong vengeful anger.” The idea is that someone has wronged me, and I am making every effort to hurt them as much as I can. Human wrath is generally not considered a commendable attribute. But is that what God’s wrath is? Getting revenge on humans who have offended him? God’s wrath is not angry retribution against those who have offended God. Rather it is His righteous judgment against those who do evil. God is righteous. And he will judge us according to His righteous standard. God’s wrath against sinners is nothing more than giving them what they deserve. J.I. Packer summarizes: “God’s wrath in the Bible is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, morally ignoble thing that human anger so often is. It is, instead, a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil” (Knowing God. 151).

To understand the wrath of God is to understand how much God hates sin. We may occasionally view sin lightly, to gloss over its effects on our life, and even make excuses for the sins in our life. But reading the Bible gives a clear picture that God abhors sin. We need to fear God and to fear His wrath because our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28-29 says, “Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. For our God is a devouring fire.”  

For those who respond to God’s offer of salvation, His righteous judgment is satisfied by Jesus’ sacrifice. God’s desire is that all be saved: “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. (2 Peter 3:9) So God’s wrath would be truly terrifying if it was not satisfied in Christ. In saving us from His own wrath, God has done what we could not do, and He has done what we didn’t deserve. It is the ultimate good news. 1 Timothy 1:15 says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” Romans 3:26 says “for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.”   

The hope for sinners is that between us and the wrath of God stands the cross of Jesus. Sin was laid on Jesus and when it was done, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “It is finished!” Then Christ rose from the dead, and He stands before you today, a living Savior. He offers to you the priceless gift of peace with God. He is ready to forgive your sins and fill you with His Spirit. He is able to save you from the wrath and reconcile you to the Father. He has opened the door of heaven, and He is able to bring you in.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Does the concept of God’s wrath concern you? Why?
  2. Should we fear and tremble before God? Why or why not?

Following Jesus

“Following Jesus is more than nodding a head, raising a hand, or repeating a prayer – though someone coming to Christ can do any of those. Following Jesus is not returning to life as usual, the only difference being that we’re now going to Heaven. Following Jesus is abandoning trust in ourselves, surrendering all we are and have to Him. This, and nothing less, is discipleship.” – Randy Alcorn

What does following Jesus mean? Following Jesus sounds so simple, but is it that simple? Once we accept Jesus as our Savior, we are agreeing to submitting or surrendering ourselves to Him, to pattern our lives after Him, and to place our relationship with Him above our own will and desires. Following Jesus is a life-changing commitment to be taken seriously.

Matthew 4:21-22 says, “A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind.”  They immediately followed Him. Today, we tend to resist a new direction if it means leaving the comfortable to embrace the great unknown. We weigh the potential sacrifice before we agree to serve. But James and John didn’t hesitate.

Jesus called them, and smack in the middle of relationships, responsibilities, and very real life, they left all that they had and followed Him. No deliberation, no dramatic persuasion, no obsession with personal agendas, and no holding onto the past.  They went immediately.  

This one thing that was true in Biblical times as it is in 2020 is this: the rate at which we are willing to follow Jesus is directly proportional to the proximity of our relationship with Him at that moment. James and John were instantly convinced to follow Jesus because they believed He was who He said He was. Yes, they had a lot to learn and sometimes learned slowly, but through it all, they trusted that following Jesus was greater than anything this world had to offer. Because they trusted they were transformed. They changed because they left everything that had the potential to come between them and an intimate life-altering relationship with Jesus.

Following Jesus is making a very personal, individual decision. It is a choice everybody is offered and must choose through faith. Following Jesus is not about religion. Following Jesus is to learn to live your real, present life with all its responsibilities, relationships, and roles as Jesus would live it if it were His. Then start to use every means available to learn more about Jesus and to understand His teaching. Reading the four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—is a good starting point to come to know Jesus and His ways more fully.

The final step is making a decision. We decide to follow Jesus. We commit to listening to Him, to obeying Him, and to allowing Him to shape our lives. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does following Jesus mean to you? 
  2. Why is it useful to know more about Him to effectively follow Him?  What can we do this week to increase our knowledge of Him?