“Following Jesus is a Trust Issue”

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Text: John 13:36-38 —  Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”  Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”  Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times![NIV84]

The Big Idea: Following Jesus has a lot to do with how much I trust Him.

My Thoughts: 

I have learned that following Jesus has a lot to do with how much I trust Him. And because I have had trust issues in my life, I have found it rather difficult  the longer I have walked with Him. Yes, this is hard for me to admit, but it is nonetheless true.

As a young Christian, my faith was fresh and innocent,and I followed Jesus closely. When I read in the Word about a particular action or task (e.g. from the Sermon on the Mount, see Matthew 5-7), I’d do it virtually without hesitation—from giving the coat on my back to some transient in need to a place to stay or walking that “second” mile. (Or driving as the case may be!)

Yes, at one time my faith was like Peter’s who courageously got out of the boat to walk to Jesus on the water. He so desperately wanted to follow Him, that Peter impulsively, but nonetheless, faith-filled, ‘followed’ his Master. If we freeze frame this moment, Peter had the innocent faith of a child who falls into his father’s loving arms. But the frame cannot be frozen, and Peter moved on and began to doubt. His childlike faith had become an adult faith, “What am I doing? Where am I going? The waves!? The water!? … Lord, save me! I’m sinking!”

(As an aside, any time I have tried to walk on water, I didn’t start sinking. Nope, I plummeted! I down right sunk. Immediately, with no hesitation. But from the account (see Mt. 14:30) it appears that as Peter’s faith evaporated, his feet followed suit and ‘began to sink’!. Fascinating, no?)

So is it possible that my trust issues are not with Jesus, but with me? In some small way, it appears I doubt my own ability to trust Him. Perhaps, this is what Jesus meant when He gently chided Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt” (Mt. 14:31, NASB95)? But as I pursue this thought, I wonder if it is a Both/And, a combination of my doubting His goodness & faithfulness coupled with my own brokenness, weakness and shortsightedness.

This brings me to the next trust issue: Do I trust Jesus when I cannot see where He is leading me? As I pondered this, a powerful thought came to me as I was searching for following passages. During the Last Supper, Peter pleads with the Lord to follow Him, but Jesus says, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later” (John 13:36 NIV84). Apparently, Jesus is saying that when we are following Him, there are some places we are not quite ready to go. Oh, one day we will get there, but not now! Hence, this comment.

And though Peter reiterates his desire to follow Jesus, the Lord gives him a cold shower: “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times” (John 13:38 NIV84). The Lord is basically telling Peter, “You will follow me ‘there’, but not now. You are just not ready.” This is made even clearer when Jesus reinstates Peter on the beach (see John 21:15-23). As Jesus presents Peter with three chances for reaffirmation (vis a vis ‘denial’), He accepts where Peter is at, even though he is ‘still not ready’ to go ‘there’ (i.e., to the cross), but his philëō Love for Jesus is more than enough to follow Jesus for now.

I have seen this in my own life. I think I am ready to follow Jesus to a particular destination or level in my walk with Him, and He gently notes, “you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” And sometimes with Peter, I say, “Lord, why can’t I follow now’!” (Can you hear the almost whiney voice? I can.) But I have to trust Him even when I do not see or understand where He is leading me.

The Lord has comforted me with a rather fascinating image. I picture Him weaving in and out of a crowd of people, like at a crowded outdoor festival. He has a tight grip on my hand and says, “Follow me.” I burp, “But where, Lord?” Not answering my question, He continues on, glancing back with a huge, endearing smile that shines His Love. Squeezing my hand to reaffirm that He is there, we continue weaving through the crowd. After some time, He scoops me up in His arms, and places me on His shoulders. Now, I can clearly see where He was leading me all along….

Yes, following Jesus is a trust issue. I am learning not to trust what I can see or cannot see. I am still learning to trust Him with that fresh, innocent childlike faith that follows no matter what. And as long as I can see His back through this crowd of doubts and fears, I’m okay. Ah, but then there are those times He glances back, and I see His warm smiling face; I am okay. I can trust His tight grip of my hand (and my Life), and I can trust He is leading me to a very wonderful place that will most definitely honor Him and bless me.

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

— Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV84)

 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”  — John 14:1-4 (NIV84)

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” — Jeremiah 22:3 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, empower me to keep my eyes focused on You whether I know where I am going or not. As You enlarge my trust in You, let the Joy of the Spirit light my way on my journey with You.. In Your Holy Name. Amen.

Pastor Mike

“True Religion”

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Text: James 1:26-27 — 26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keeps a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  [NIV84]

The Big Idea: If our walk does not line up with our talk, then our ‘religion’ is merely mutter words.

My Thoughts: 

Many Christians often border on boasting when they say, “I don’t believe in a religion; I have a personal relationship with God.” And for the most part, I would agree that  indeed having a personal relationship with the Living God through the Lord Jesus Christ if vitally important. And, yes, this is vastly differently from the typical religions offered by this world. Religions are man’s attempts to make himself right with the powers that be, but Christianity is rather unique here: It offers God’s way, and His way is making us right with Him in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. For it is in Him and through Him we have peace with God and access to the Throne of Grace in time of need….

All this being said, the passage noted above from James 1:26-27 is rather fascinating to me in light of this religion vs. relationship conundrum. But what clears it up for me is the word that James uses for religion. It is a rare word, with potentially two meanings. One meaning focuses on external religious behavior. The other potentially refers to ‘the muttering of prayers.’ With this word, James appears to be challenging those who say they are doers of the word: “Okay, you say you are a doer of the word (see vv. 22-25). Very well, then. If (and you most definitely do) consider yourself religious, have you reined in your tongue? Oh, and do you really take care of orphans and widows in their distress? Just asking….” If their walk does not line up with their talk, then their ‘religion’ is merely mutter words.

Lifestyle worshipers, I know you can see that it is very important that our walk lines up with our talk. In short, true integrity: we do what we say and we say what we do. And both must spring forth from a sincere faith (see 2:14-26). Otherwise, our ‘relationship’ with the Lord Jesus is merely religion in the human sense—‘muttered words’.

Ah, but when the Lord Jesus Christ is truly our Life, this vital relationship naturally produces the religion that James identifies as pure and faultless: Taking care of orphans and widows. As we lift up our eyes from the din and dust of our self-absorbed ‘religion,’ we will soon see that orphans and widows abound all around, literally and functionally. We know the literal orphans and widows. But the functional orphans? These are they who have absent or disconnected parents, either through  divorce or neglect. Likewise, functional widows are they who are neglected or abandoned through neglect or divorce.

How do you see the Life of the Lord Jesus Christ living out this religion that is both pure and undefiled? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.  — 1 Timothy 5:3-4 (NIV84)

 And when the Lord saw [the widow who had lost her only son], He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then He came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. — Luke 7:13-16 (ESV)

This is what the LORD says: “Do what is fair and right. Save the one who has been robbed from the power of his attacker. Don’t mistreat or hurt the foreigners, orphans, or widows. Don’t kill innocent people here.” — Jeremiah 22:3 (NCV)

Lord Jesus Christ, clear my vision to see the orphans and widows around me. Burn within me a passion to meet their needs as You have gifted me both spiritually and physically as well as emotionally.  Empower me to be truly religious in this manner so that my relationship with You will deepen. In Your Holy Name. Amen.

Pastor Mike