Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Hide me under the shadows of Thy wings.”
“Calm me, my God, and keep me calm,
While these hot breezes blow;
Be like the night-dew’s cooling balm
Upon earth’s fevered brow!
Calm me, my God, and keep me calm.
Let Thine outstretched wing
Be like the shade of Elim’s palm
Beside her desert-spring.
Calm me as the ray of sun or star
Which storms assail in vain,
Moving unruffled through earth’s war,
The eternal calm to gain.”
Today’s Study Text:
“Then said Jesus unto His disciples, ‘If any man (or woman) will come after Me, let him (or her) deny himself (herself), and take up his (her) cross, and follow Me.”
Matthew 16: 24
“We do not walk to God with the feet of our body, nor would wings, if we had them, carry us to Him, but we go to Him, by the affections of our soul.”
Augustine of Hippo
What does the word “follow” mean to me?
If Jesus came and asked me to “follow Him,” what do I think would happen?
What does it mean to be a “follower” of Jesus?
“Having ingrafted us into His body, Christ makes us partakers, not only of all His benefits, but also Himself. Christ is not received merely in the understanding and imagination. For the promises offer Him, not so that we end up with the mere sight and knowledge of Him, but that we enjoy true fellowship with Him.”
“We do not segment our lives, giving some time to God, some to our business or schooling, while keeping parts to ourselves. The idea is to live all of our lives in the presence of God, under the authority of God, and for the honor and glory of God. That is what the Christian life is all about.”
R. C. Sproul
Last night, as I glanced over a listing of the programs on television during the evening, my eye caught a programming note that reflected the fact that a movie about Joseph was being shown. I must say, this really interested me because I just finished, for the third time, reading Pastor Chuck Swindoll’s fantastic biography on the life of Joseph. If you haven’t read this book, or the other biographies in his series of books on Biblical heroes, I encourage you to do so. Believe me, your life will be blessed.
Having just been so consumed with the captivating story of God’s intervention and guidance in Joseph’s life, I found myself, as I watched the movie on TV, being filled with deep gratitude for the Bible because it is not only a written transcription inspired by God, but it is such a practical book, filled with heaven’s advice for living successfully here on earth. From beginning to end, the stories of real people with real problems, which mirror the difficulties you and I face, have given me an immense wealth of instruction, which on more than one occasion, has kept my feet from slipping off the path God has laid out for me.
As we continue our study of Jesus words, recorded in Matthew 16: 24, we find that after the invitation to, “come,” and the request to deny ourselves and to take up our cross, Jesus asks us to, “Follow Me.”
At first, I mistakenly thought, that if and when we would “come” to Jesus, we became automatic “followers.” But as I continued to study, I found I was way off base in my conclusion. And it was another one of the real stories in the Bible, about a real person, that taught me an extremely vital lesson about becoming a “follower” of Jesus
The story I’m referring to is found in Luke 18: 18 – 30. And I’ll tell you right up front that I find this story to rank near the top of my list of one of the saddest, most heart-breaking stories in the Bible.
The setting for this story is important for Jesus had just called precious children to His side saying, “Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Luke 18: 16, K.J.V.). In your mind’s eye, picture for a moment the unbridled joyfulness of little ones frolicking to Jesus, unencumbered with worldly cares or earthly fretting. As we view this blissful scene, a well-dressed young man approaches Jesus. This is how Dr. Luke describes the scene:
“And a certain ruler asked Him, saying, ‘Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said unto Him, ‘Why callest thou Me good? None is good, save One, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother.’ And he said, ‘All these have I kept from my youth up.’ Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, ‘Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow Me.’ And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich” (Luke 18: 18-23).
Before we get to the heart of this story, I want to point out that we often hear this passage referred to as the story of the “Rich Young Ruler.” In many commentaries, this young man is described as a possible member of the Sanhedrin – a young up-and-comer, both socially and religiously. He was heading to the top. Most likely if you had asked this young man how he had succeeded, he would be quick to tell you he had done it with hard work and brains. He had pulled himself up the ladder of success. He didn’t need anybody, for he had himself to rely on. And look where it had gotten him! The Bible makes it clear – he was rich! He was flush with the money he’d made by the work of his own hands.
But not only was he rich, he was also a moral person – just ask him. Check off the list regarding all his good behavior. One-by-one he could report to you that his was a morally spotless life. In fact, this may have been one of the reasons he called Jesus, “good.” Yes, he may have wanted to flatter Jesus a little, but he also was making another point to Jesus. “You are a ‘good’ man, well guess what, so am I, and I’m rich, too!” A good rich man – he thought this was really something to brag about. It was these facts, that he was young, good, rich, and a ruler, that made him feel as though he had all that was necessary to make him worthy of Jesus’ company.
However, before I come down too hard on this young man, I think of all the times in my own life when I’ve looked myself over only to come away with my “nose in the air” thinking that I’ve finally cleaned-up enough for Jesus to be impressed with me to want me as a companion. And oh, how wrong I have been. For the next thing we find in Jesus’ exchange with this “perfected” young ruler was this request: “Give up your earthy focus and your things and come, follow Me.” This calling absolutely mirrors our study text over the past few days, “Come, deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow Me.” Jesus’ calling to the rich, young ruler was no different than His calling to you, me or anyone else. For each of us is given a personal invitation, “come.” But along with this invitation is the request that we deny or abstain from indulging in what we want and take up our cross and follow Jesus – wherever He takes us or sends us or calls us.
While we found out earlier this week that the Greek word for “come” means to be a companion of someone, the word “follow,” in the Greek, means that I will go with, walk along beside, and follow in the same direction. For the rich young ruler as well as for you and me, the call to come also included following – and to follow Jesus, side-by-side, walking with Him, no matter where the path leads, is sometimes just too much. What a tragedy for this young man – but what a tragedy for you and me when we are given the invitation to “come” but the request to follow is one we refuse to accept.Jesus’ call to come and to follow is so beautifully encapsulated in the words of Thomas á Kempis who wrote:
“What can the world offer you without Jesus? To be without Jesus is hell most grievous, to be with Jesus is to know the sweetness of heaven. If Jesus is with you, no enemy can harm you. Whoever finds Jesus, finds a rich treasure, and a good above every good. He who loses Jesus loses much indeed, and more than the whole world. Poorest of all is he who lives without Jesus, and richest of all is he, who stands in favor of Jesus.”
“Then Jesus said, ‘If anyone desires to be My disciple, let (her) deny (herself), lose sight of, and forget (herself) and (her) own interests and take up (her) cross and follow Me, cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying, also.”
Matthew 16: 24
“Oh, for a closer walk with God,
A calm and heavenly frame;
A light to shine upon the road
That leads me to the Lamb!
The dearest idol I have known,
Whatever that idol be;
Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
And worship only Thee.
So shall my walk be close with God,
Calm and serene my frame;
So purer light shall mark the road
That leads me to the Lamb.”
What Think Ye of Christ?
“Pharisees, with what ye reproach Jesus?”
“He eateth with publicans and sinners.”
“And you, Caiaphus, what have you to say to Him?”
“He is a blasphemer, because He said, ‘Hereafter ye shall soe the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven.’”
“Pilate, what is your opinion?”
“I find no fault in this Man.”
“And you, Judas, who have sold your Master for silver—have you some fearful charge to hurl against Him?”
“I have sinned, in that I have betrayed innocent Blood.”
“And you, centurion and soldiers, who led Him to the Cross, what have you to say against Him?”
“Truly this was the Son of God.”
“And you, demons?”
“He is the Son of God.”
“John the Baptist, what think you of Christ?”
“Behold the Lamb of God.”
“And you, John the Apostle?”
“He is the bright and morning Star.”
“Peter, what say you of your Master?”
“Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
“And you, Thomas?”
“My Lord and my God.”
“Paul, you have persecuted Him; what testify you against Him?”
“I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.”
“Angels of Heaven, what think ye of Jesus?”
“Unto you is born a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
“And Thou, Father in Heaven, who knowest all things?”
“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’
Dear reader, what think you of Christ?”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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