Kamis, 12 Maret 2009

Following Jesus Because of Being Forced

Simon from Cyrene happened to be coming in from a farm, and they forced him to carry Jesus' cross. Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus - Mark 15:21

The fifth reason why people follow Jesus is because of being forced. They didn't want to follow Him at first, but their environment forced them. Some of them are because of their job. They had to be present in a church or in a prayer meeting because their boss asked them. Some people actually don't like to be in a Christian fellowship but they have to, otherwise they will lose their job.

Some of our children have to be forced to go to church. They didn't know the value of worshipping God. As their parents, we have to train them, to teach them to follow God with their whole heart.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. - Proverbs 22:6

Simon of Cyrene experienced this "enforcement". He was just from a farm, didn't know anything and suddenly was forced to carry Jesus' cross and follow Him. Of course he didn't like it. Maybe he was mad, but had no power to refuse. He just walked behind Jesus and carry His' cross, questioned in his heart "What is going on? Who is this Man? What criminal activity He has done? Why must I carry His' cross?"

Simon continued questioning in his mind, trying to understand the situation. He didn't realize that he was following the Savior. He was near Jesus, walked behind Him, heard and watched all things happening. He was there when Jesus was nailed to the cross. Simon was there when all of the disciples ran away for their life. He was near Jesus when Simon Peter denied that he knew Jesus. He was there hearing the last seven words of Jesus. He also was there when Jesus died. I believe Simon finally received Jesus as his Savior after experiencing those moments. Not only that.

They were excited and amazed, and said: Don't all these who are speaking come from Galilee then why do we hear them speaking our very own languages? Some of us are from Parthia, Media, and Elam. Others are from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, parts of Libya near Cyrene, Rome.... - Acts 2:7 - 10

I believe Simon was also there, watching the apostles filled with the Holy Ghost. He also heard Peter’s sermon and were among the 3000 new believers. They were all baptized. Maybe Simon came home gladly and told his family about his conversion. Maybe he told them about his “task” of bearing His’ cross. Maybe he cried when he finally realized that it’s an honor for him to carry His cross. Among multitudes of people, God chose him to carry His cross. What a privilege!

Not only that! Years after, his sons were known as Jesus’ disciples.

On the way they met a man named Simon, who was coming into the city from the country, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus' cross. (Simon was from Cyrene and was the father of Alexander and Rufus.) - Mark 15:21

The early church knew Alexander and Rufus as Christians, as The Lord’s disciples. How blessed is a man whose children are God’s army.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. - III John 1:4

Years before, Simon was forced to follow Jesus, and the Lord remembers it. The Lord blessed his family and chose them to be His special servants. Even, Paul the apostle who wrote 13 books of the New Testament (and also The Letter to the Hebrews) acknowledged it. He said that Rufus was a special servant of the Lord. He also said that Simon’s wife was also a mother to this great apostle. What a blessing!

Greet Rufus, that special servant of the Lord, and greet his mother, who has been like a mother to me. - Romans 16:13

My brothers and sisters, have you ever been forced to follow Him? Have you ever been in a situation that no one left to serve Him and you’re the only one and you felt that the situation forced you to serve Him? You argued, you complained, you murmured because you were forced to do that. Maybe the pianist didn’t come and you had to be there to play the music in the church. You didn’t like it because it’s actually not your task. You did play the piano, but deep in your heart you complained.

I can say one thing that the Lord is always faithful. You don’t see it now, but you will. God is always faithful. I can say this not just because of my experiences (I’ve been there many times), but more than this…..because I believe His words. He is faithful…. Let us also be faithful, like our wonderful Lord who is always faithful.

If we are not faithful, he remains faithful, because he cannot be false to himself." - II Tim 2:13 - Today English Version

If we are not faithful, he will still be faithful. Christ cannot deny who he is." - II Tim 2:13 - Contemporary English Version

Rabu, 25 Februari 2009

The Fourth Reason Why People Follow Jesus – Because of an Unworthy Feeling

And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, if thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. - Luke 23:39 – 43 - KJV

One of the criminals hanging there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" The other one, however, rebuked him, saying, "Don't you fear God? You received the same sentence he did. Ours, however, is only right, because we are getting what we deserve for what we did; but he has done no wrong." And he said to Jesus, "Remember me, Jesus, when you come as King!" Jesus said to him, "I promise you that today you will be in Paradise with me." - Luke 23:39 – 43 – Today English Version

One of the criminals believed and received Jesus as his Savior. He did it at his last minutes of his death. He has not done anything yet for Jesus. He has not given his tithe yet to the church. Even, he has not been baptized in water. But, Jesus said that he would be with Him in Paradise. What a blessing! This does not mean that we can do anything we want in life and then when the time for us to die arrives we can suddenly repent and ask for His grace to forgive us and cleanse us from our sins. We never know if we have that chance. If we have known Him, let us serve Him with our whole heart because it is a privilege to serve the King of kings.

This man, the criminal one, had decided to receive Jesus and follow Him – even thou there was no time left to do something for Him. Why did he do this? He revealed his reason with his words, “…we are getting what we deserve for what we did”. He knew that he deserved to be there because of he had done. He realized that he was a sinner. He knew he was unworthy to receive forgiveness but he also knew that he needed God’s grace. This man knew that deep inside his heart, he needed a Savior. He knew that he was nothing. No one would receive him, maybe even his family. And, amazingly enough…. he decided to receive Jesus and asked Him to remember him. He followed Jesus because of his unworthy feeling.

How many of us have that feeling? How many of us know that we are nothing without Him? How many of us know that our voice, our talents, our ability to sing His songs and to lead people in worship, is actually from Him? How many of us can truly understand that all things we have in life are His possession? I believe that each of us should have this attitude that without Him we are nothing.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. – John 15:4,5

Selasa, 17 Februari 2009

Following God Because of Miracles

The third reason why people follow God is because of miracles. They saw miracles. They received miracles. They experienced miracles in their life.

One day Jesus was standing on the shore of Lake Gennesaret while the people pushed their way up to him to listen to the word of God. He saw two boats pulled up on the beach; the fishermen had left them and were washing the nets. Jesus got into one of the boats--it belonged to Simon--and asked him to push off a little from the shore. Jesus sat in the boat and taught the crowd. When he finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Push the boat out further to the deep water, and you and your partners let down your nets for a catch." "Master," Simon answered, "we worked hard all night long and caught nothing. But if you say so, I will let down the nets." They let them down and caught such a large number of fish that the nets were about to break. So they motioned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They came and filled both boats so full of fish that the boats were about to sink. When Simon Peter saw what had happened, he fell on his knees before Jesus and said, "Go away from me, Lord! I am a sinful man!" He and the others with him were all amazed at the large number of fish they had caught. The same was true of Simon's partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee. Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will be catching men." They pulled the boats up on the beach, left everything, and followed Jesus. – Luke 5:1-11

What a miracle! After a long night they had worked hard and caught nothing, suddenly they caught a large number of fish and their nets were about to break. Can you imagine, after working hard for hours with no result, suddenly they received what they’re looking for? And that’s only because they had heard the Word of Jesus, they heard the command and they obeyed. Only that! Nothing more, nothing less! Miracles happen WHEN WE HEAR His Word, when we receive Rhema, when we hear He’s speaking directly to our heart AND WE OBEY!

It is useless to work so hard for a living, getting up early and going to bed late. For the LORD provides for those he loves, while they are asleep. - Psalms 127:2

If we always maintain our relationship with Him everyday, if we know His heart, if we know when He speaks, if we listen and obey, THEN miracles happen! It’s so simple! Let Him teach you everyday. Let Him speak to your heart. Let Him lead you everyday and see the results in your life.

They pulled the boats up on the beach, left everything, and followed Jesus. – Luke 5:1-11

It’s a good story. They left all things and then they followed Jesus. Why? Because they had seen the miracle happened right in front of their eyes. They experienced miracle. So, “Why don’t we follow Him? We have worked hard and nothing happened. And then He came and spoke a word and then miracle happened. Let’s follow Him! We don’t have to strive for a living anymore. Just follow Him! Everything will be provided miraculously.”

They followed Jesus because of miracles. Is it wrong? Of course not! But if we follow Him just because of this reason, someday when miracles don’t happen, maybe we will leave Him.

Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee. – Luke 18:28 - KJV
Peter said, "Remember, we left everything to be your followers!"– Contemporary English Version
Then Peter said, "Look! We have left our homes to follow you." - Today English Version

This happens when we follow Him just because of miracles. When Jesus was crucified, all of His disciples ran away. They left Him because they didn’t see miracles. They left Him because He couldn’t do anything miraculously.

God has promise to provide everything for our whole life, but do not let this promise become the only reason for us to follow Him. Let us follow Him because we love Him so much, because there’s none like Him. Let us follow Him with our whole heart and sing this song from our deep heart….

There is none like You …
No one else can touch my heart like You do
I could search for all eternity long and find
There is none You…

Your mercy flows like a river wide
Healing comes from Your hand
Suffering children are safe in Your arms
There is none like You…

(by Lenny LeBlanc – Hosanna! Integrity)

Senin, 09 Februari 2009

Following Jesus Because of Being Healed

The second reason why people follow Jesus is because they had been healed before. They arrived at the end of hope of their terminal illness. Doctors and medicine could not heal them. There were no way out. Some of them had been waiting for years without any progression.

One example of this is found in Mark 5:1-20 where Jesus healed a man of Gerasa with an evil spirit.

Jesus and his disciples crossed Lake Galilee and came to shore near the town of Gerasa. When he was getting out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit quickly ran to him from the graveyard where he had been living. No one was able to tie the man up anymore, not even with a chain. He had often been put in chains and leg irons, but he broke the chains and smashed the leg irons. No one could control him. Night and day he was in the graveyard or on the hills, yelling and cutting himself with stones. When the man saw Jesus in the distance, he ran up to him and knelt down. He shouted, "Jesus, Son of God in heaven, what do you want with me? Promise me in God's name that you won't torture me!" The man said this because Jesus had already told the evil spirit to come out of him. Jesus asked, "What is your name?" The man answered, "My name is Lots, because I have "lots' of evil spirits." – Mark 5:1-9

After all the evil spirits had gone out, the man was healed and sat there with his clothes on and in his right mind.

When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had once been full of demons. He was sitting there with his clothes on and in his right mind, and they were terrified. - Mark 5:15

And then the man asked Jesus if he could go with Him, but Jesus told him to stay and tell everything He had done for his healing.

When Jesus was getting into the boat, the man begged to go with him. But Jesus would not let him. Instead, he said, "Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how good he has been to you." - Mark 5:18,19

This is the second reason why people follow Jesus; because they had been healed. Well, it’s a good reason, but actually we don’t have to be sick and wait for His touch of healing before we decide to follow Him wholeheartedly. Let’s love Him, serve Him diligently with our whole heart and healthy body.

Kamis, 05 Februari 2009

Following Him Because of Material Things

The first reason why people follow Christ is because material things they need. We all need food, clothes, houses, cars, money and other things. The Lord Himself promises us that He will provide our needs. That’s why one of His Names is Jehovah Jireh which means The God Who Provides. He is also Jehovah Rohi which means The Lord is our Shepherd. David wrote this in Psalms 23:1 “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want”. So, we may come to our Lord and ask Him for something we need. He promises to answer such prayers.

Don't worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart – Philippians 4:6

The problem occurs when we follow Him just because of this reason. One example of this matter is found in John 6. Jesus had just given bread and fish for more than 5000 men plus women and children. They all ate and were satisfied. They still had 12 baskets with bread.

When they were all full, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces left over; let us not waste a bit." So they gathered them all and filled twelve baskets with the pieces left over from the five barley loaves which the people had eaten. - John 6:12, 13

After this, we can see that all the people seek the Lord.

When the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they got into those boats and went to Capernaum, looking for him. – John 6:24

Can you imagine that all of those people were looking for Jesus? Well, it’s really a great revival! Isn’t that what we are looking for? Aren’t we happy if many people are looking for Jesus? But look what is Jesus’ response!

When the people found Jesus on the other side of the lake, they said to him, "Teacher, when did you get here?" Jesus answered, "I am telling you the truth: you are looking for me because you ate the bread and had all you wanted, not because you understood my miracles. Do not work for food that spoils; instead, work for the food that lasts for eternal life. This is the food which the Son of Man will give you, because God, the Father, has put his mark of approval on him." - John 6:25 - 27.

Jesus knew what’s in their heart. He knew their motives to follow Him. He also knows that if we follow Him just because of this reason, someday we will leave Him. It happened to these people. They could not grow spiritually anymore. They could not receive solid food.

I had to feed you milk, not solid food, because you were not ready for it. And even now you are not ready for it – I Corinthians 3:2

We can learn from this passage, that if we continue following Him just because of material things, three things will happen.

First, like those people, we will start grumbling.

The people started grumbling because Jesus had said he was the bread that had come down from heaven. - John 6:41

Second, if we’re still on this condition, worse thing will happen. We will strive among us. This really happens even until today. It is no secret that servants of God strive among them because of money.

This started an angry argument among them. "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" they asked. - John 6:52

The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? – KJV translation

And finally, the third one will happen if we’re still on this condition, and it’s really a sad thing; I pray that it will never happen on each of us. The people, who once followed Jesus, heard the sermons He preached, saw the miracles He made, ate the bread He gave, looked for Him diligently, finally they left Him and didn’t follow Him anymore. And those people were part of His disciples. They were disciples, not just followers.

Because of this, many of Jesus' followers turned back and would not go with him any more. - John 6:66

From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. - KJV translation

It’s a sad thing, if we once followed Him and were His disciples but then we left Him. I pray that none of us will ever do this. Let us follow Him wholeheartedly, not just because of material blessings. He promises us to provide us, to give us our food, our clothes, our houses, cars, money and every earthly blessings as the Bibles says in Matthew 6:33, but let us continue to love Him and follow Him even if we never receive those promises. If we can maintain our heart in this condition, I believe He will provide us with the best things, more than we can imagine.

He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? – Romans 8:32

What Are You Looking for?

There are many reasons for people to follow Jesus. Each of us has a reason or some reasons to follow Him. Those reasons, either we realize it or not, make us to come to church every Sunday, lead us to come to prayer meetings, pray every morning, give offerings and alms, even give our whole life to minister Him.

What are your reasons? What is your main reason that makes you follow Him? One day Jesus was walking and two disciples of John followed Him.

Jesus turned, saw them following him, and asked, "What are you looking for?”- John 1:38.

Can you imagine, you were walking, following Him, and then suddenly He turned and asked you, “What are you looking for? Why do you follow Me? What do you want from Me?”

I believe it’s a serious question. Just stop for a moment and think! Why do you still serve Him? Why do you get up early in the morning, take your guitar and play it, raise your voice and worship Him? What makes you go to Sunday service, spend two hours there, sing couples of songs, hear the preacher and then give your offerings?

For some people, it’s a crucial question. Lies behind it are their whole life. They give everything to follow Him, even their family. I meet some of them, earnestly and diligently serve Him, trust their whole life in His hands.

How about you? Have you ever thought what your main reason to follow Jesus is? Or, you just follow your family traditions from generation to generation and several of them are going to church every Sunday, praying together every morning and giving some of your money to your pastor.

There are many…. really many reasons to follow Jesus. Some of them are really wrong motives, some of them are right, but they all together stay in our hearts for sometimes according to our spiritual growth.

May each increase of our spiritual life make us wiser and mature so we can eliminate every wrong motive in our heart to follow Him wholeheartedly.