Friday, September 18, 2009

Redeemed & Transformed by a Personal God

Just as the twelve disciples were called over two thousand years ago to follow, we are also called to do the same. We are not called to follow at a distance but to an up close and personal walk with Christ. Just as the twelve walked with Jesus in a very intimate and personal way, we too are called to the same.

When the twelve disciples were called, Jesus was here on earth in the flesh. Today, Jesus calls us with the Spirit He left behind. The Spirit I am speaking of is the person of the Holy Spirit. The third part of the trinity, fully God. The Holy Spirit is continually wooing us, or rather, calling us to “follow.” Calling us to leave everything the world has to offer behind and walk in the foot steps of Jesus. Will we join him?

When making any big decision, we should probably take a look at a few things first. We should evaluate the risks, requirements, consequences and the benefits of following Jesus. What better way to do that then to look at those that served Jesus as His first followers?

Matthew 4:18-20- And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brother, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him.

Follow me, Jesus said to Andrew and Simon Peter. They left their nets and followed Him.

Matthew 4:21-22 – Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

James and John were called by Jesus. They left their boat and father and followed Him.

Matthew 9:9 – As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.

Follow Me, Jesus said to Matthew. So he arose and followed Him.

John 1:43 - The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee and He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me”

Follow Me, Jesus said to Philip. So he followed.

Repeatedly we are shown in scripture that when Jesus calls someone, the request is simple. Follow Me, He says. He speaks two very simple words that carry a huge impact. What exactly did He did mean?

Looking back at the Greek meaning of follow, there were two different words for it. The first being, akoloutheo meaning “as a particle of union.” The second word being, keleuthos, meaning “to be in the same way with or to accompany.

So the word follow itself is used literally and metaphorically. Literally, as if walking together with Jesus day by day and metaphorically as in being united, part of a union spiritually.

How fabulous is that? We are called to be in union with Jesus. Called to a personal relationship with the Almighty God. Not to a list of rules and regulations but a personal friendship, companionship with Jesus Christ. Now who wouldn’t want that?

Jesus wants us to know Him, to be with Him, to spend our days walking with Him as the first twelve did. Imagine a day with Jesus where He is walking with you, talking to you and teaching you as you go about your daily business. You are asking questions and He is telling you more than you had anticipated. What a journey that would be.

I think the one on one face time the twelve disciples got was priceless. What I wouldn’t give to see Jesus in the flesh. To be able to ask Him all the silly little things that I think about all day long. Sometimes I like to day dream and imagine about the day I will meet Him face to face. I dream about what it will be like and what I will say to Him. But wait, I don’t have to wait to have personal time with him. I can do that right now. And that is exactly what He wants from me, to be with Him.

Behind my house is about three hundred acres of manicured lawn. I live on a golf course, so I don’t have to manicure all that grass. Praise God for the small things! Thank you Jesus for not making me mow! If it were my responsibility we would be in big trouble. That first sentence above would read more like this, behind my house is about three hundred acres of wild grass and thistles….

Anyway, the view behind my house is a beautiful sight. It’s full of rolling hills, a pond and walking paths. Oh yeah, and golfers but I try to ignore them. In the morning when the sun comes up, the sunrise is breathtaking. Sometimes I like to take advantage of the sunrise and walk along the paths as God is in the process of waking up everything around me. In those times as I walk and talk with Jesus I almost feel as if He is there with me in flesh and bone. It is so personal that I am grateful the golfers have not started to appear yet. It is a time for just me and Jesus to walk alone. I cherish our time as I am sure He does also. But I am sure if I were to ask Him, He would want to walk with me even when were not alone. He would want to be with me in all that I do.

Just as the disciples walked with Jesus all the time, we too need to walk with Him all the time. What will happen as we do is a transformation will begin to occur.

Just as the transformation occurred in each of the disciples, we too will have the changing power of Jesus take the old nature from us and fill us with a new one.

Simon Peter began his walk with Jesus as the unpredictable one. The one that swore allegiance to Jesus, never to deny Him in Mark 14:29. Only to deny Him three times and curse His name later the same day.

Jesus named Simon Peter the “rock” and built His church through him. Through no strength or ability of his own, Simon Peter became the leader of the twelve disciples and also the early church. His first sermon recorded in Acts 2:14-40 shows a new, transformed man full of the Spirit. He went on to preach with power and conviction until he was eventually put to death for his faith.

The brothers James and John were named “sons of thunder” by Jesus. These two young men, full of thunder were a force of nature. They were bold, ambitious and sometimes overconfident. Mark 10:35-41 records their attempt to be seated on both sides of Jesus in His glory. Here they are, vying for position with God Almighty. I would say they were some what self-serving and self-motivated. They were looking for what they could get from Jesus.

That soon changed though. James, the first to suffer a martyr’s death, converts his accuser to Jesus Christ as he stands to die. His accuser goes to his own death along with him. In the end, we see a man no longer self consumed, but a man full of God. We see a new James, transformed by the Spirit into a strong and powerful witness for Jesus Christ.

John became known to all as the apostle of love. No longer was He the ambitious young man he once was. Penning one of the gospel records of Jesus’ life, the three letters of John and the book of Revelation, John left us much knowledge with his contributions. Living longer than all the other disciples, John was able to leave behind, in his writings, a treasure of wisdom to guide us.

So how does transformation of this magnitude come about for us? How do we get from the old self to the new?

It is only by belief, surrender and repentance that we begin a transformation like this. First, we must believe in Jesus Christ, accepting the good news that He died on the cross and rose again to pay for our sins. Surrender comes in the form of giving over our lives to Jesus and letting Him be the one that guides our life. The final piece comes when we repent. Turning from our old ways and living in the new life we have received.

We are drawn by the Father and no one will come to Jesus without the Father granting it. It is in the privilege of receiving the love God has to offer that we are truly filled with what we are looking for.

John 6:44 – No one can come to the Me unless the Father who sent Me draws Him.

Drawn to Jesus by the Father. Jesus then says “Follow Me” to each of us. The decision of if we will or won’t “follow” is left up to us. What ever the case, the question must be answered. Will we leave our old life behind and follow or will we refuse?

Some would say that by avoiding the question we are not answering. The truth is, not answering is really just another way of saying no. When we ignore, avoid and side step, we are telling Jesus “No, I will not follow you.”

On the other hand, when we make the decision to say yes, we are filled with the Spirit and the transformation begins. The power of God then surges through us, giving us the ability to do things that would otherwise be impossible. We are given the power to stand boldly at the cross while our savior is crucified. We are given the power to preach the gospel in the midst of those that hate Jesus. We are given the power to live a life full of grace, love and mercy for others. We are even given the power to die for our belief.

Everyone is looking for a reason for why we are here on this earth. We each need to know that our life is not in vain. All of us are searching for a supernatural connection. We are looking for something that is bigger than ourselves. Something with power behind it that can overcome what we feel inadequate to control ourselves.

That supernatural power resides in heaven with the Father, by His side in His Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit left behind to fill His believers. God in three parts is the only thing that can give us that power. He’s the only thing that can fill the empty holes inside our heart. He’s the only thing that can bring meaning to what we see in the world around us.

That supernatural connection, that transformation is available to all, but we must first begin to “follow.” What will we decide?

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