Tag Archives: church

Following Jesus Is More Than Personal

Jesus said to Peter, “Come, follow me!” This was a very personal decision for the fisherman. Peter had to decide if he was willing to leave his established life and trust Jesus with his future. Peter took ‘the plunge.’ He became a disciple of Jesus. He soon developed a very close personal relationship with the carpenter-turned-preacher from Nazareth.

Jesus still urges us today, “Come, follow me!” He is currently in heaven at the right hand of God, but God’s Holy Spirit, also known in the Bible as the Spirit of Christ, speaks to our hearts now just as clearly and forcefully as Jesus spoke to Peter almost two thousand years ago.

Like Peter, we must decide if we can trust Jesus enough to leave our current way of life behind and trust him with our future and our eternity. When we do, we find an enriching and empowering personal relationship with Christ through the indwelling presence of God’s Spirit in our hearts.

But Peter learned that he was getting more than just a personal relationship with Jesus.

Peter also learned that following Jesus was a group project. He and Jesus did not leave the crowds behind and have a best-friends-forever bond, keeping everyone else at ‘arm’s length.’ Following Jesus meant being close to the others who were following Jesus, like James, John, Andrew, Matthew, and many more.

In one of his most important sayings in the New Testament, Jesus said to Peter, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church” (Matthew 16:18). Students of God’s word dispute the exact meaning of this statement but clearly Peter was being included in Jesus’ Church in some vital way. By following Jesus, Peter became an essential part of Jesus’ Church.

Like Peter, we become an important part of Jesus’ Church when we become followers of Jesus. Jesus is the ‘head,’ and his Church is the ‘body.’ It is impossible to be connected to the ‘head,’ without being part of the ‘body,’ which is composed of other believers. This fact does not cancel our personal relationship with Jesus, it enhances it.

Peter was a Jew, but his decision to follow Jesus required him to rethink his perspective on his Jewish roots in some profound ways. In a vision from heaven, God himself insisted that Peter kill and eat food that was prohibited by the Old Testament dietary laws (see Acts 10). The vision forced Peter to redefine his understanding of being a Jew.

By accepting Jesus’ claim to be the fulfillment of God’s Old Testament promises and prophecies, Peter found himself out-of-step with most of the Jewish community in the first century. Peter and other Jewish Christians were shunned and persecuted for accepting Jesus as the ultimate fruit of the Jewish root and tree.

We, too, may find ourselves shunned (canceled?) by our culture when we decide to follow Jesus. But there is more.

Those of us who are Gentile believers also have a new relationship with the patriarchs, promises, and prophecies of the Old Testament. The Bible tells us that we were once separate and without hope, but through faith in Jesus we have been brought near (Ephesians 2), grafted in (Romans 11), and made a part of God’s people. In Christ, we also trace our spiritual roots back to Abraham (Galatians 3).

As followers of Jesus, we are now citizens of his kingdom, members of his family, and living stones in his temple, the Church. We are essential parts of the body of Christ. Together with all other believers, Jew or Gentile, we are the Bride of Christ.

We enjoy a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus. We have a family relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ’s Church. We share the same ancient roots through our common forefathers in faith, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We have the same promises from God of a place in his victorious eternal kingdom.

As we follow our Lord Jesus, let us always seek to know him better, to fellowship with our brothers and sisters in the Lord often, and to understand and appreciate fully our rich Old Testament heritage.

May our Lord give us eyes to see and a heart to respond to him and his truth in all things,

Brother Richard Foster

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God’s One Mistake

Many American Christians have discovered God’s one mistake. It has to do with the Lord’s Day. God was apparently not thinking ahead when he instructed his people to gather for worship one day out of seven.

How could the Lord, who knows the beginning from the end, miss the long list of difficulties he created? Did he not realize that people have birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, holidays, out-of-town visitors, family time (to name just a few)? 52 Sundays out of every 365 days is a lot to ask.

After seeing how his people Israel struggled to keep the Sabbath in the Old Testament one might expect the Lord to learn his lesson and change his mind in the New Testament. But no. Jesus himself had the notable habit of attending Synagogue regularly (and with people who were trying to kill him!). And the Early Church met more than once a week. What were they thinking?

What does God have to say for himself? Well, the New Testament likens the church to a body. In the same way that a person’s body has hands, feet, eyes, ears, etc., the church is a collection of people with diverse spiritual gifts, each one needed by all the others. When someone is absent the body is incomplete and the other parts suffer. Imagine your hands and feet showing up on different days.

We also read that the church is like a temple. Each person is a living stone in the walls of this spiritual place where God meets with his people. When bricks are missing the building is incomplete and weakened, vulnerable to the hostile forces that come against it.

But wait. Must God justify his commands to us? Do we worship on the Lord’s Day because we have approved it as useful and acceptable to ourselves? Do we have the final word on what is right? “Okay, Lord, I’ll obey if you can convince me that I should . . . if not, then I am taking control!” If this is true, then we should dispense with calling him Lord.

Our cultural ancestors in Europe discovered God’s mistake about once-a-week worship before we did in the U.S.A. They have ‘evolved’ morally and spiritually more rapidly than we have (or is it de-volved?). We are apparently now in a competition to take the lead in this race for the cultural bottom, and doing rather well as of late.

But someone will rebuke me: How can a lack of worship on the Lord’s Day be blamed for the spiritual and moral demise of an entire culture? The point is taken. Perhaps a haphazard attitude about the Lord’s Day is a symptom and not the disease. But if so, should we not make an appointment with the Great Physician? Should we not labor to restore this sign of spiritual vitality: regular worship?

What message is sent to the world when God’s people openly defy him? Why should they consider honoring God when his own people fail to observe one of the most visible expressions of faith? Maybe there is a connection between the church’s observance of the Lord’s Day and the rise or decline of a culture.

At the bottom of it all we must answer this question: Did God make a mistake when he instructed his people to worship one day out of seven, or are we making a mistake when we ignore him?

May the Spirit of God always inspire us to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord,

Brother Richard Foster

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Following Jesus Leads Where?

Jesus said, “Follow me!” When we do, where will he lead us?

Jesus’ custom was to attend worship on the Sabbath (Luke 4:16). When we follow Jesus, we will have the same custom. We will gather with fellow believers on the Lord’s Day for worship: to sing God’s praises, to hear God’s Word, to give God offerings, and to fellowship with God’s people.

Once, when Jesus attended worship in his hometown, they asked him to read the Scripture and give a sermon. His message upset them. They were so enraged that they dragged him out of town and tried to throw him off a cliff (Luke 4:17-30).

Some folks complain about how poorly they are treated at church. Jesus attended with people who wanted to kill him! When we follow Jesus, we will have the habit of worshiping with others on a regular basis, despite the shortcomings of some who attend.

Jesus also had a habit of withdrawing to lonely places in order to pray (Luke 5:16). When we follow Jesus, we will be a people of frequent intentional prayer.

When Jesus slipped away for prayer, large crowds came looking for him. They wanted to hear him speak and to be healed by him (Luke 5:15). They were interested in what he could do for them.

Things are no different today. We are tempted to see prayer as wasted time, or at least as a low priority. After all, we have so much to do! It’s easy to push prayer into the background.

Jesus was busy, too, but he put prayer at the top of his list. When we follow Jesus, we will take prayer seriously.

Jesus appointed his followers and sent them out (Luke 10:1). Their task was to prepare others to meet Jesus. When we follow Jesus, he will send us out to tell others about him, too.

Jesus told his followers that he was sending them out like lambs among wolves (Luke 10:3). He knows how difficult this task can be. But Jesus also said that there is an abundant harvest waiting for those who go before him (Luke 10:2).

Harvest is a time of great joy and celebration. In fact, harvest is used in the Bible to picture the end of this age. For those who have worked in the Lord’s field, the Day of Judgment will be one of rejoicing and enjoying the fruit of their labor.

This reminds us of the greatest place that we will go when we follow Jesus. After his resurrection, Jesus led his followers to the vicinity of Bethany. While blessing them, he was taken up to heaven (Luke 24:50-51).

Jesus promised his followers that he was going ahead of them to prepare a place. He promised to come back and take them, and us, to be with him (John 14:2-3). When we follow Jesus, we have a marvelous destination: heaven.

As followers of Jesus, we attend church regularly, we intentionally and frequently spend time in prayer, we tell others about Jesus, and we look forward to the day when our Lord will return to take us home.

May we be faithful to follow our Lord Jesus in all things,

Brother Richard

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