Tag Archives: follower

Jesus Goes Viral

Jesus’ popularity with the people came and went.  Once he had a group of more than 5,000 that followed him out into a wilderness region. No building, no music, no food, no port-o-potties, but they stayed with Jesus for days.  He was ‘in.’

Suddenly the crowd was gone and Jesus was back to his small group of 12 disciples.  All it took to turn the people away was for Jesus to teach them the truth. He was ‘out.’

On another occasion excited crowds of thousands of people were singing Jesus’ praises.  It was almost time for the great Passover Feast.  The city of Jerusalem was filled to overflowing with worshipers from all over.

Jesus traveled from Galilee to attend the feast.  He walked the entire way, as he always did.  But once he was near Jerusalem he insisted on riding a donkey into the city.

Jesus wanted to make a point.  He was fulfilling a prophecy spoken by God through Zechariah, “Tell the people of Jerusalem, ‘Look! your king comes to you meek and riding on a donkey, on the foal of a beast of burden.’”

One day God’s promised Messiah, the Anointed King of Israel who would rule forever, would come into Jerusalem riding on a donkey.  This was that day and Jesus was the man!

The crowd spread their garments on the road in front of Jesus’ donkey, along with branches cut from nearby trees.  This was their version of the ‘red-carpet treatment.’

They also cried out in praise of Jesus, “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!”  They openly acknowledged him to be God’s chosen ruler, King of Jerusalem, King of Israel.

People in the city were stirred up by the commotion and asked, “Who is this?”  The crowd answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”  So, not only did they recognize him as God’s chosen king, but they also realized that Jesus was God’s chosen spokesman, the prophet.

One thing they missed: Jesus came gently, riding on a beast of burden to show that his mission was one of a servant, the Suffering Servant prophesied by Isaiah.  John the Baptist said it this way, “Behold! the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.”

Jesus was king, prophet, and priest.  And not just any priest.  This priest was also the sacrifice.  Days later when Jesus stood before Pilate, he was ready to die.  The crowds were no longer friendly.  “Crucify him!” they cried out.  What happened?

The crowds wanted a king to defeat their current political enemy: Rome.  Romans occupied and ruled their country and Israel wanted liberation.  But Jesus came to bring spiritual freedom and eternal life, not temporary political relief.

To stay popular, Jesus would have to change his mission and do what the crowd wanted.  But Jesus’ mission was greater.  Praise God, Jesus stayed with his God-given mission and did not succumb to the pressure of popularity!

Popularity still calls out today.  Many will do almost anything to please the adoring crowds, to gain more followers, to get more ‘likes.’  But the crowd’s goals are rarely in step with God’s.  The only ‘like’ we really need is the love of God.  The only followers we need to make are disciples of Jesus.

May God’s Spirit keep the eyes of our hearts on the things above,

Brother Richard

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Defective Discipleship

Jesus was about to cross over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. But two men delayed his departure. Each one came and offered to follow Jesus (See Matthew 8:18-22.).

The first man was a scribe, a group usually hostile to Jesus. He referred to Jesus as “Teacher,” and promised to follow him anywhere. Impressive! Surely Jesus will encourage a man who is taking such a big step of faith, right?

Surprisingly, Jesus questions this man’s devotion. He warns the scribe to count the cost. As a preacher on the move, Jesus has no place to lay his head. Is this man really willing to make the necessary sacrifices in order to be Jesus’ disciple?

This scribe is a teacher of the law, a religious leader, a man invested in the established way of thinking about God. But Jesus challenges many of the ideas of the religious leaders. He knows that this scribe’s religion is actually a barrier to discipleship.

Do we have established ideas about religion and discipleship that are out of step with Jesus?

Next, a man addresses Jesus as “Lord” and asks if he can go and bury his father before following Jesus. Now this man seems to have a better understanding of Jesus’ real identity, calling him “Lord” instead of “Teacher.” And he seems to be taking the commitment seriously, recognizing that discipleship may mean separation from his family, at least for a time.

Sounds as if the second man is making a perfectly reasonable offer. Surely Jesus will encourage him!

Jesus tells this man to come and follow now and let the dead bury their own dead. Wow! Isn’t that harsh? Does Jesus not care about the man’s family? It’s not that Jesus lacks compassion for the man’s family. But nothing is more important than God’s call.

The second man is using his family obligation as an excuse to delay following Jesus. By using his family as an excuse not to follow Jesus now, the man is making his family an idol.

Do we use good things in our lives, like family, as excuses to avoid following Jesus passionately?

So Jesus sees something lacking in both of these men. The scribe is a religious man but ironically his religion may be keeping him from understanding that Jesus deserves complete devotion. The second man loves his family, but he is trying to use something good (family) to avoid doing what is best (discipleship).

Jesus finally gets into the boat and crosses the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 8:23-34). His disciples follow. Little do they know what awaits them! On the water they witness Jesus rebuking a terrifying storm and bringing a great calm. As a result, they ask themselves what sort of man this is, that even the winds and the sea obey him.

Once on the eastern shore, they encounter a couple of frightening demon-possessed men, so dangerous that nobody risked passing by that way. Jesus, however, boldly commands the demons to leave. They do, in a rather dramatic fashion that strikes fear in the hearts of the local folks, prompting them to beg Jesus to leave their region.

And Jesus moves on. But those two men who stay behind miss the greatest opportunity of their lives. They remain on the shore where it is ‘safe.’ The ones who are willing to follow Jesus out onto the waters have some unsettling moments. But they also see the power of God firsthand.

May the Lord give us hearts that will follow Jesus without hesitation,

Brother Richard

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Tell Your Story!

You have story to tell! As a follower of the Lord Jesus, you have become a permanent part of Jesus’ story. And Jesus’ story will always be a vital part of your life story.

Your story includes the great change that Jesus has made in your life when you were saved. More than that, your story includes the changes that God’s Spirit is making in your life now as he grows you toward spiritual maturity.

In a sense, your story and mine each begins when Jesus willingly gave his life as a sacrifice so that we can be forgiven. Jesus’ sacrifice almost 2,000 years ago opened a door to God’s blessing that we walked through when we confessed Christ as Lord.

Jesus’ story did not end with his death. God raised him up from the grave, alive again and alive forever. More than that, Jesus ascended to heaven and poured out his Spirit on his followers, on us.

God’s Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, dwells in the hearts of all believers, empowering us to worship and serve the Maker of heaven and earth. God’s Spirit is changing us from glory to glory into the image of Christ.

So, Jesus died for your sin, rose up to be your Savior and Lord, and he is working in your life now to do wonderful things that will continue into eternity.

All believers have much in common. We have the same Savior and we were all saved by our faith in the risen Lord Jesus Christ. But we are still unique.

The circumstances of each person’s salvation experience vary and so each of us has a unique experience. In addition, the details of what God is doing on a daily basis in each believer’s life are unique.

So your story affirms the great truths of Christianity, truth about Jesus Christ and his work of salvation. But your story also reveals a very personal account of how Christ’s salvation is unfolding in history.

Somebody needs to hear your story. They need to hear the ancient and unchanging truth about Jesus and his offer of salvation. They also need to see and hear a living example of how Jesus saves now.

When we open our spiritual eyes, we begin to see the opportunities that God places in our path to testify about his goodness. Someone nearby is reaching a point in life where he is ready to listen.

We need to be ready to speak, to testify about Jesus and his work in our lives. Sharing Christ with others is a sign that God’s Spirit is active in our lives. It is one way that we grow stronger in our faith.

Telling others about Jesus is an important part of discipleship. Remember, discipleship is not merely learning God’s word. True discipleship is doing what God’s word says.

Jesus said, “You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). We bear witness to the world of what the Lord has done and is doing in our lives. As we do this, others are saved. What a great honor!

May the Spirit of God inspire us to proclaim his goodness among the nations,

Brother Richard Foster

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