In a summer-long series on the parables of Jesus — this one seemed to fit. Amazing how God times things.
Jesus was specific about what it takes to be a good disciple. This isn’t a guessing game.
If we want to mature in our walk with Christ, we should pay close attention.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24
First, we must deny ourselves
Jesus is not saying here that we should not own anything. Or want nice things. He is asking us to line our desires with His desires — even when they conflict with our desires. He is asking us to prioritize our life — with God and others in mind. (The first and greatest command — and the second is like it.) In denying ourselves, we are to look to Jesus and not unto our own abilities. Trusting Him when we can’t find our way without Him. That apart from Him, we can do nothing. Deny our fears. Deny our inabilities. Deny our sinful temptations by the power of the Gospel. Deny me — for Him — knowing I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Second, we must take up our cross
I don’t have a cross. At least not literally. But Jesus is encouraging us to carry forth His cross. His agenda. His mission. We are to be the salt of the Earth. We are to spread the Good News. We are to be Christ’s ambassadors to the world, as others see Jesus in us. The message and wonder of the cross — the Gospel — is to be evident in us. We should love the unlovable. Forgive the ones who don’t deserve forgiveness. Extend grace. Attempt to bring reconciliation through Christ. His cross.
Third, we must follow Him
That may seem like the easiest, but it is perhaps the most difficult. It would be easier to write a bunch of rules of what a good little Christian should look like. But, we’d only mess that up into some sort of legalism. Michael Yaconelli once wrote, “Jesus said follow me’, not ‘Follow my rules.” I remember when I was younger playing “follow the leader”. The guy in front made all the moves. The object was to follow the leader exactly. It was usually easier in looks than in practice. Jesus is our leader and every day we need to mimic the Savior. It won’t always be easy. Culture will work against us. Some in the church will still want to write more rules. But Jesus following will always be best. It’s part of being a disciple. In fact, it IS being a disciple.
Which of these three steps do you most need to apply to your life today?
Recently I was able to share some encouragement with church planters in Chicago. Having been a planter twice, I understand the unique challenges facing planters. They are constantly struggling with leadership issues, finances and simply knowing what to do next.
I get it. Most of what I know now came from experience and the wisdom of others.
Many of the suggestions I shared are suitable for young leaders in any field.
The more specific you are the more we can help. Established churches have systems. Processes. Committees. Structure. Too much you might say and that’s why you’re planting. But we have budgets that have likely been approved long in advance. The more detailed you can be with what you need the easier it is to meet the need. Otherwise, it seems overwhelming. And, don’t be afraid to talk about money. Everyone knows you need it. Just don’t be surprised if help is more readily available in other ways.
Surround yourself with some encouragers. Make sure you have people who speak regularly into your life. People outside the work you’re doing. Some days they’ll keep you going.
Seek your affirmation among the people God sent you to minister to. Great advice someone gave me. You’ll many times feel under-appreciated. You may not feel you’re doing any good. You’ll second-guess yourself and your calling. Get back into helping the hurting people — the work, whatever it is — God called you to. Be recharged.
Everything great starts with a humble beginning. Either in your personal humility or the humble beginnings of your work. Take your pick. We all want the grand and instant success. That’s seldom the reality. Those who launch big often had enormous stories of previously being humbled. “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin.” Zechariah 4:10
Protect your soul — and your marriage. You have to discipline to decompress. Paraphrase of Jesus: “Come to me all who are stretched, burnt-out, weary and heavy-burdened — I will give you refreshment for your soul. Live this truth daily. Put it as a regular practice of your life.
God bless you planter. Leader. Friend.
And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you.
Easter reminds me that I often make the mistake of those who were seeking the crucified — now risen — Christ.
I look at my past mistakes and think I can’t recover.
I look at my failures and think I’m defeated.
I look at those who cast doubt upon me and think they speak truth.
I look at my inadequacies and think I’m limited.
I look at my problems and forget that His mercies are new every morning.
I look at my struggles and think I’m limited to my own abilities.
I look at the circumstances of the world and feel all hope is gone.
Let Easter remind us that we serve a RISEN Savior!
He’s on His throne. He has a plan. He has not forgotten us!
Let’s live that way!
And at three Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lemá sabachtháni?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Mark 15:34
The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8
Two scriptures this Friday before Resurrection Sunday! Two scriptures to remind us!
That’s why Jesus went to the cross!
Nothing can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus!
While Jesus breathed His last breath all of Heaven was on edge. Never before had there been such an occasion. The Son, loved and adored by all the angels, but especially by the Father, was about to give up His life.
At the hands of an angry mob, but under the will and direction of the Father, Jesus had been mocked, beaten, bruised, and hung on a cross to die.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
He had placed upon Him the sin of all the world. The Bible said the wages of sin is death — and Jesus’ death was unlike any other. (I have often thought, He was more dead than any man had ever been — since His death was the result of all sins, past and present, which are ever committed.)
Perhaps worst of all, God the Father — perfectly Holy, as was the Son — had to forsake His Son.
Since God can allow no sin into His presence, and since Jesus had become sin, the Father had to forsake the Son. God turned His back on Jesus to avoid looking at His sin. Wow!
As a dad, I can’t imagine.
Through the shed blood of Jesus, and through His bodily resurrection, you and I, by faith, by believing in Him, receive the eternal, permanent commitment.
He will never forsake us, because Jesus paid the price at the cross!
No matter what you are going through — no matter how tough life seems right now — no matter what your circumstances — no matter what you have done — if you are a follower of Christ — God will never forsake you!
That’s good news today! And, that’s truly a Good Friday!
Here’s a truth you can count on: God is on a mission to reconcile people to Himself, and this mission sweeps both history and the globe. More importantly, it includes regular, ordinary people like you and me.
But, if we’re honest, we might say we don’t feel much like we’re a part of God’s grand mission.
Right now you may be navigating a busy airport wondering if you’ll make your next flight because of a late connection.
Or perhaps you’re focused on getting the kids ready for school and just realized you forgot to make their lunches last night. Now you’re trying to hastily make peanut butter sandwiches and figure out what you’re going to tell your boss because you’re going to be late for your meeting!
By the time you get settled in your hotel room or have the kids in bed, you’re ready to kick back and watch some television. Your role as a missionary bearing the hope of the world is not exactly what you’re thinking about or how you’d describe yourself. Maybe in theory, but in practice, your mind is far from it.
WHY DON’T WE EMBRACE GOD’S MISSION?
Frankly, it’s because we have our own mission. We have our own way of calling the shots. We decide what’s meaningful or worthwhile and order our lives accordingly. Some people’s life mission is to pursue entertainment and comfort. For others it might be security and wealth. Still, for others, it is rising up the corporate ladder or being the most respected mom in the neighborhood.
We like to be the boss of our own lives.
In 21st century North America, we don’t exactly use the kingdom language we find throughout the Bible. Nor do we like to think of ourselves as living in someone’s kingdom and being subject to his rule. This is because we know the history of injustices at the hands of human kings.
In fact, when you think about earthly kings and queens, odds are you may think about some faraway, inaccessible royalty who is not even able to relate to the everyday needs and feelings of his subjects.
But what if we lived under a perfectly good and wise king whose every decision was for our benefit and eternal good?
Jesus is an altogether different kind of king. He took on the very plight of His subjects to provide a way out of the mess they had made for themselves. He is far from aloof, uncaring or inaccessible. Jesus is a king who got down into the mess of humanity and went to ultimate lengths to seek and save the lost and restore people back into His kingdom.
Jesus is the best king imaginable, because He is that perfectly wise and good king who always works everything for the best for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
TRUE FREEDOM IS FOUND ON GOD’S MISSION
As believers, this is our reality. We live not only as the subjects of the King, but also as His adopted children. Every decision He makes—from our salvation to our call to His mission—is for our own good and for the good of the world.
There is nothing more freeing than abandoning your own mission and joining the everyday mission of God.
EVERY LIFE ON MISSION REALLY DOES MATTER
Recently I was reading Urban Apologetics by Christopher W. Brooks and came across this paragraph:
“The gospel should meet people at the point of their deepest confusion
and at the height of their loftiest ideals. What matters most is that we
bring Christ into every moment of human history and every point of
It stood out to me as describing the Great Commission at its most essential. As believers we are called into the unreached places of the world and into the deepest struggles and needs of people’s lives. Each and every one of us is called to this most noble of ambitions of making Christ and His gospel known.
Unfortunately there is a tendency for most Christians to see this as a job for church professionals and to see their 9-to-5 job, their circle of friends or their work as a stay-at-home parent as somehow outside the realm of where God seeks to make disciples of all nations.
Christians seeing themselves and their daily lives as integral to God’s mission is really the only way the Church in this generation can faithfully proclaim the gospel at the point of people’s “deepest confusion” and within “every point of human concern.”
When we choose to to join God on His mission through His church, we dare to be the everyday missionaries we are called to be. Your life has a mission. Your life on mission matters!
This is a guest post by my friend Aaron B. Coe. Aaron is a strategy and mobilization consultant and co-author of Life on Mission: Joining the Everyday Mission of God (Moody Publishers, 2014), available at Amazon.com. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronbcoe.
Easter. It’s a time of year when churches have an opportunity second only to Christmas in attracting visitors. Hopefully all of God’s churches will be packed Easter Sunday. That’s my prayer.
We’ve had months of praying, planning and preparing. We’ve done all we can do, but God is ultimately in charge of all that happens in our church — and yours.
I’m often asked, however, what I hope to accomplish on Easter Sunday — such an important day in the life of any church. It could seem overwhelming if we try to accomplish too much in one day, so what do I, as a pastor, have at the top of my list of goals for Easter Sunday.
I shared a guest post with Lifeway’s pastor blog about 7 ways a church can prepare for Easter. In this post, I want to share what I actually hope we accomplish on Easter Sunday. Only 7 things. If we accomplish nothing else, and there are probably many other things we will accomplish Easter Sunday, I hope Immanuel Baptist does these 7 well.
Gospel is shared – Duh! But, after we’ve made all the preparations, it would be like inviting people to a turkey dinner with no turkey if we don’t share the Gospel. Once we’ve worked hard to gather people into a room, we must not neglect to share the simple truth that Jesus lived, died, and rose again and by Him and through Him alone we can be saved. We must give people an opportunity to hear the Gospel — if for the first time or one of many other times. The Gospel is Good News for all people. All times. After all, that’s what we are celebrating Easter Sunday.
People feel welcome – I hope everyone who enters the doors of our church feels welcome. Regardless of what they are wearing, what side of town they came from, what they do for a living, their education status, whichever “side of the tracks” from which they arrived — let them feel the genuine love and kindness of God’s people. There will be those who don’t feel “worthy” to be in a church Easter Sunday (because they don’t yet understand than none of us are apart from grace). What better day to “love one another” than Easter Sunday!
Next is highlighted – I want people to leave knowing where the church is going next. For example, we will be studying some of the Psalms in our next series. People need to know that — in hopes that they’ll want to return.
The church is presented well – This is the Sunday, even more than others perhaps, where I hope our people are willing to sacrifice for visitors. I told our deacons Sunday night I hope they are the ones willing to move to the center of an aisle first, to make room on the ends of a row for visitors. I hope Immanuel people help visitors in the parking lot, even if they’ve never before worked in the parking lot. I hope people who seem to be looking for the bathrooms don’t have to look long before someone helps them. I hope the building is cleaner than ever. (That’s why we have a cleanup day scheduled Saturday.) Just as when visitors come to your home for the first time, this is the time to be ready to receive guests warmly. I also want to answer as many questions as people may have about the church, so we are printing a special bulletin designed to give insight to visitors about who we are, what programs we offer, and easy places where they could quickly become a part of Immanuel.
Our people are encouraged – I hope people who call Immanuel their home church — even if they’ve been there over 70 years (and some have been) or just arrived in the last few weeks (and there are lots of those), will leave encouraged by what they experience Easter Sunday. I hope there will be a God-honoring pride that we did all God would expect us to do to present an atmosphere conducive for people to ultimately hear the Gospel. I hope they’ll be challenged for the days ahead and willing to sacrifice and serve even more, directly as a result of what God allows to happen Easter Sunday.
Children are safe and have fun – If parents entrust their children to our care they should be assured their children are safe and well-protected. In addition, I hope children leave telling their parents how much they enjoyed being at Immanuel this Sunday. Children have a raw honesty about them. They don’t always know the words to say, but parents know whether or not this is a place their kids will be welcomed. Children are often a huge door to the families eventual active involvement in a church. And, this shouldn’t mean children don’t learn. Obviously, they need the Gospel as much as adults, but I believe truth can be shared in an inviting setting.
People leave with hope – Second only from hearing the Gospel, I hope people leave our Easter services with a sense of hope. Actually, that’s my goal every Sunday. The world can be a scary place. There will be lots of brokenness among us Easter Sunday. As followers of Christ, we believe we hold the answer to hope for the world. It’s in the Resurrected Savior — whom we are celebrating — the King of kings and Lord of lords. I hope people don’t leave more confused or feeling guilty about their life, but rather they live knowing their is A Way, there is an answer — there is HOPE — in Jesus Christ!
Easter Sunday is coming. I’m praying for my pastor friends, for the church of Christ, and for those who will enter our gathering places this Sunday, joining the Church in Easter worship.