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Follow Me

“Follow me.” Those two words, although short, have the power to transform lives and change the course of history. Look no further than Matthew, the tax collector, for proof.

When Jesus spoke the words “follow me” (Matthew 9:9) to Matthew, his life came to an abrupt crossroads, a turning point, a once in a lifetime junction. On the spot, Matthew had to make a decisive decision about his future. Would he remain in his safe and comfortable bubble, collecting taxes and living for himself? Or would he willingly walk away from everything he knew and held dear to embrace the great unknown with Jesus?

Matthew chose Jesus. He chose to give up everything for the sake of following the most incredible, miracle working man he had ever seen or met. And even though he had no idea what lie ahead or what challenges he would face along the way, Matthew trusted that Jesus was who He said He was – the Son of God who had come to take away the sins of the world.

I believe that we all, at one time or another, will have a moment like Matthew where we will be presented with the ultimate choice: go with Jesus or go our own way; crucify the old self or cling to it with a death grip.

This is the crossroads of our redemption where we must decide if we will walk away from our comfortable station in life to follow after Jesus or willfully choose to remain separated from God and a slave to our sin. Matthew moments are of the utmost importance for they determine the eternal fate of the human soul. Saying “yes” to Jesus by grace through faith in His perfect sacrifice makes the way for our redemption and reconciliation to God. But to choose Jesus in our Matthew moment is only the first step in what will become a lifelong adventure full of crossroads, junctions and decisive moments. Our first “yes” will open the door to a series of opportunities to either stay the course or backslide into sin and waywardness.

These repeat moments of decision oftentimes present themselves in the midst of life’s troubles and challenges. When following Jesus isn’t necessarily easy, when the struggle is real, when the walk is taxing, this is when the echo of Jesus’ invitation is heard most clearly – “follow me?” Matthew had at least one of these moments, as John recorded in his gospel. It occurred on the heels of a hard teaching from Jesus about His body being the bread of life. In response to these truths, many followers began to waver in their devotion and some even turned their back on Him entirely, choosing to no longer follow God’s perfect Son.

It was at this moment, while disenchanted disciples were walking away from the way, truth and life, that Jesus turned to His core group of twelve and asked, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” (John 6:67) Right then, every one of those men came to another crossroads. This was their moment of truth, their test, where the sincerity of their devotion would be exposed for what it really was. The question was, would they go all the way with Jesus? Or would they stop short?

Once again, Matthew chose to stay with Jesus. He chose to remain devoted while others chose to give into their doubts. Matthew believed in He who held the words of eternal life rather than trusting the minds of mere mortals who could not grasp the great truths of Almighty God. Even when the going got tough, Matthew didn’t run for the hills. He dwelt with Jesus, rooted in confident faith that his Lord was trustworthy and true.

As I’ve peered into these two crossroad moments in Matthew’s life I’ve been struck with two timeless truths about faith and following Jesus.

The first is that in order to hear the call of God we must be listening. This might seem like a given, yet how often do we find ourselves listening to every voice but the voice of God? In this noisy world where we are constantly being bombarded by media, music, other authors and self-help gurus it is all too easy for the still small whisper of God to become drowned out. Therefore, we must be intentional about who we are listening to and what we allow to fill our ears and minds. This will require silencing competing voices and asking for God’s help as we strive to listen more intently to His Spirit.

The second principle is that of immediate obedience. Notice that Matthew didn’t hesitate when Jesus extended His “follow me” invitation. Nor did Matthew ask to phone a friend or request a night to sleep on it before making a final decision. No, Matthew responded right away. He obeyed immediately. He did not linger or second guess the call of God on his life. He submitted without delay.

Immediate obedience is key to being a true and faithful follower of Jesus. At these crossroad moments in our lives when the way is clearly set out before us, to delay is to disobey the Lord our God. And to disobey the Lord our God is to separate ourselves from the safety of His perfect providence and protection. Furthermore, our disobedience alienates us from Him and His glorious purpose for our lives.

Beloved, each one of will encounter Matthew moments on this journey called life and how we respond to them has the potential to transform not only our lives but the lives of those around us. My prayer is that we will respond with Matthew like faith, throwing off everything that hinders so we can seek after Christ with steadfast love and devotion. May we listen intently and obey immediately. And may we submit our lives, stay the course and go all the way to eternity’s shore with our Savior and King, the Lord Jesus Christ, the righteous Son of God.

 “As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.” – Matthew 9:9

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New Life Resolutions

“I hate new year’s resolutions,” the man said to his wife with a gravelly, sneering tone that conveyed absolute contempt for the annual tradition. In five forceful words he made his feelings known. Convincing him to change his mind would have been a waste of time – a fact his wife must have known because she didn’t even try. Silence followed the man’s statement and the conversation abruptly ended.

The exchange that unfolded between the man and his wife is a common new year’s scene. People tend to either love or hate new year’s resolutions. The pro-resolution crowd believes it is good to at least make an effort to better one’s self. The anti-resolution crowd says it’s a silly tradition especially since 80% of resolutions fail.

Resolution haters have a point. Every year like clockwork the resolution resolve that was so strong on New Year’s Day wanes by Martin Luther King’s holiday and is ancient history by Valentine’s. After a few slip ups (and who doesn’t slip up?) the resolution feels more burdensome than beneficial. The promises made get trapped in the ruts of life and rarely do they make it out before December 31st.

New Year’s resolutions have earned their bad rap. They have a horrible track record for producing lasting change which is why this year I’m promoting a whole new kind of resolution: A New Life Resolution. A promise to make a spiritual change with eternal significance.

My new life resolution for 2019 and beyond is to pursue Christ…and nothing else.

For my entire life (up until now) I have pursued Christ AND something else. Christ and education…health….a miracle healing modality…a career…a killer business idea…a calling…a livelihood….a passion….a purpose. I believed it was acceptable to seek what this world has to offer while still honoring God.

Turns out I was wrong.

Seeking the world’s offerings made me more like a frenetic squirrel than a faithful follower of Christ. Like a wild, bushy tailed animal that scurries up every tree in search of a tantalizing nutty treat, I frantically searched for purpose and usefulness in this world. I thought if I could just find the right tree bearing the treat I’d be happier, more content and fulfilled.

What I’ve discovered is that I can’t pursue the world in addition to Christ. The result is a life of dissatisfaction, confusion and distraction. Balancing two lives, one lived for God and one lived for the world, doesn’t work. God requires my full, undivided attention be given to knowing Christ and making Him known.

In order to fully obey and glorify God I must put an end to my frantic search for a place in this world. I must surrender my former life of dual quests so I can live exclusively in pursuit of Jesus – His way, His truth and His life.

As I embark on my new life resolution it is important to acknowledge that the key to success does not rest in my own power. If I bank on my own resolve I am doomed to fail as miserably as most new year’s resolutions. The only hope I have of realizing my resolution is to rest in the truth and assurance of Christ’s resurrection. All the strength I need is available at the foot of His cross and to receive it I must stay put, resisting the temptation to be the squirrel that goes scampering off after every distraction. I must continue in the way of obedience, constantly surrendering myself to Jesus and God’s will for my life.

Jesus said in Luke 9:24 that “whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” With the Savior of the world as my sole pursuit in this world I have no idea what the year ahead will bring but I know who will bring it. And knowing Him is enough for me.

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Crashing into the Cross

Her foot was on the brake with the pedal engaged but the car wouldn’t stop. It just kept moving forward. Mom tried not to panic as she pumped the brakes but her frantic footing was futile. The brakes were completely shot and within seconds the car was face-to-face with the garage.

Thankfully Mom wasn’t hurt. The car traveled the length of the garage and would have crashed through the back wall had it not been for what the accumulation of stored stuff that stopped the out-of-control vehicle and wouldn’t let it go an inch further. Piled high along the far end of the garage was an assortment of garden equipment, kid’s riding toys, garbage cans and bicycles. The stuff saved Mom’s life by stopping the car from breaking through the back of the garage and careening down the hill behind it.

 

Mom’s brake-less car story is a picture of life without Christ, my own life without Christ.

 

Before I surrendered my life to Christ I was like Mom’s out-of-control car. I was driving through life without brakes. I didn’t do what I wanted to do or stop and obey the rules like I knew I should. I was lost in rebellion, completely out-of-control and headed straight for a crash.

Driving without brakes in a car always ends with impact and so it was with my life. After months of picking up speed I came face-to-face with the garage of my life. I didn’t even think to brace for impact, I was too ignorant and blind to foresee the consequences of my disobedience. Before I knew it I was crashing into the reality my sin, guilt and shame. I ran full-force into the disaster I was making of my life.

But thankfully I wasn’t hurt because my life ran into Christ’s cross. Behind all of my transgressions and wrongdoings Jesus was standing in the way of my ultimate destruction ready and willing to save me. When I crashed into His cross my life couldn’t go any further. Christ brought me to my knees and my out-of-control life to a full stop.

 

Apart from Christ we are all doomed for a deadly disaster, speeding down a hell-bound road without brakes and without hope in this world. But, praise be to God, Jesus is standing in victory, waiting to save and redeem us with His Cross. Only by the power of His resurrection and the grace of His salvation can our out-of-control lives be stopped and saved.

The moment you hit the door of rebellion, look to the cross because Christ is there, ready and willing to rescue you.

Surrendered before His throne, redeemed by His resurrection, your life will be saved upon impact so you can travel the rest of life’s road with the brakes of righteousness and the assurance of eternal salvation.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—

and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—

not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Ephesians 2:8-9

 

* Mom’s brake-less car story is circa 1995.