Who Can Follow?

“Follow me” (Matthew 9:9) 

“But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Yes, that means anyone, no matter their past. We all have a past, a past that in some cases we might rather keep to ourselves. Jesus’ disciples had a past as well, perhaps none of them more checkered than Matthew’s. Matthew was a tax collector. In Jesus’ day, tax collectors were despised, seen as traitors because they conspired with the Roman government to collect taxes from their fellow Jews while enriching themselves at the same time. Modern day extortionists they were. So, why would Jesus choose Matthew as one of his disciples? Wasn’t his past somehow a disqualifier of his usefulness to serve?                         

                   To understand Matthew’s past, before Jesus’ calling on his life has present value for each of us. It tells of the wonderful grace of God and the power of the cross to wash away sin. It’s easy to look at our past and believe it renders us unfit for service. Matthews’ story helps us to know that need not be the case. Matthew’s past was no match for God’s grace and neither is ours. That’s the power of the cross. Let us never move beyond the cross because it is where we were fitted to serve.

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Who Do You Say He Is?

“But who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:16)  

It doesn’t matter the time in which we live; it just seems we often want to make Jesus out to be someone other than who He claimed to be. When Jesus asked His disciples who the people thought He was the answers varied; John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, one of the prophets. Though incorrect, these answers were not necessarily unpredictable given the Old Testament predictions of a great prophet to come. But think about it, these people lived in His time; many personally heard His claims and some even witnessed His miracles firsthand. Yet they still failed to believe and take Jesus at His word.  

            “But who do you say that I am?” Peter, representing the Twelve answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. Recognition of who Jesus is always comes from God (Matthew 16:17). The Greek word for Christ means “Messiah”. In the first chapter alone, Matthew used this title for Jesus four times, an indication that He was the “Anointed One” for whom the Jewish people had waited. Jesus was the fulfillment of what the Old Testament promised. He was the king who would come and righteously rule His people. Peter’s reference to Jesus as the “Son of the living God” reflects the unique relationship Jesus has with the Father.

            We live in a time where it’s commonplace to want to make up a Jesus of our own choosing. The Jewish people were guilty of the same thing. Their idea of a Messiah was mostly that of a political leader who would liberate them from Roman rule. That their king would also be a suffering servant, bearing the sins of His people wasn’t exactly what they envisioned.

            In our day of political correctness, many would have us put Christ in a similar category as Moses, Muhammad, perhaps even some of the great philosophers or spiritual leaders. But Jesus was quite clear about who He was, why He came and how one could spend eternity with God. And in the more than two thousand years since, nothing has changed, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Luke writes of Peter’s testimony about Jesus in the book of Acts, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). And Paul tells us that because Jesus took our sin, we receive His righteousness  (2 Corinthians 5:21). So, Jesus doesn’t belong in a category with anyone else. Jesus belongs in a category all His own. He alone saves. All can come, but we come only one way. So, who do you say He is? 

Prayer

Lord, Peter’s confession didn’t mean he had nothing else to learn. We know after his confession he denied You three times, but graciously, You restored him. You restore us when we stumble as well. The great truth of Scripture is that as deep as we go in Your Word, You are still beyond us. But let us go deep, and by Your grace and through Your Spirit help us to grow in our day to day trust in You. Help us to proclaim You for who You are and not who we sometimes want You to be. And Lord, even when opposition comes, help us to be gentle as we tell others about Your grace. After all, our salvation is only because of it.

Suffering: The Reality, Purpose and Promise

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19) 

Oswald Chambers wrote that “when God allows suffering and trials in our lives, sometimes it’s for us to unlearn something and simplify our beliefs until our relationship with Him is like that of a child.” It’s not that we should desire to suffer or go through trials, but we do need to accept this truth because Scripture teaches it. As God’s people, we must be prepared to suffer, because suffering is certain.

            Consider several verses: Luke records the words of the apostle Paul who said; “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). He wrote to the Thessalonians saying “and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s co-worker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this” (1 Thessalonians 3:2-3). Peter wrote in his letter, “For to this (suffering) you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you…” (1 Peter 2:21) and “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).

            The truth of the reality of suffering however comes with a promise. King David knew of that promise writing “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all” Equally certain to suffering, is not only God’s sustaining grace through it, but also His divine purpose in it. One of those purposes according to Chambers is that we simplify our beliefs. As children of God, we should never think we can outgrow our dependence on God, and often, trials are to ensure that we don’t.

            As Christians, one of the biggest mistakes we make when encountering an unbelieving world is not being prepared to answer the question as to why a loving God would allow His people to suffer. Let us seek God’s Word in that effort and rely on the Holy Spirit to do in the lives of people what only He can. Sometimes, the best answer comes when they see you, His child; display God’s grace in your deepest time of need. When afflictions arise, trust that God’s grace is always sufficient, His purposes always right, that He will be with you each step of the way, and that He will ultimately deliver you from it. You can, because God keeps all His promises.   

Prayer

Lord, thank You that we have Your Word. It tells us that Your grace is sufficient and Your power is made perfect in our weakness. You also tell us of what flows from our suffering, that it produces endurance, character and hope. And of great comfort, You have let us know that You will never leave us nor forsake us. Help me each day trust in Your promises. Thank You for always keeping them.