…In Following Jesus 1
by Sade Akanni
There are multitudes today that go to church, ignorant of what they are doing. They simply assume that they are followers of Jesus Christ without knowing the implications thereof and neither willing to pay the price of following. They attend church services, participate in church activities, give willingly and bountifully for God’s work and may even be bold in talking about their involvement in church work, but actually they have never touched nor encountered Jesus. Many are like Nicodemus in John 3, so committed to the work of the Lord yet without the experience of the salvation that Jesus gives. Nicodemus was a religious leader, a Pharisee in his time. He prayed at least three times daily, fasted twice a week, gave alms regularly, and he knew the Holy Scriptures at least from Genesis to Malachi. Who could ever think or say that such a person did not know God? Worse still, even Nicodemus himself never knew that he was not yet part of God’s kingdom. This happens in the church even today. Are you there, very religious and zealous to serve God, but without the knowledge of the Lord whom you think you are serving? You need to pay close attention to what God has to say here, so that your labour will not be in vain.
There are yet others who neither go to church nor care about the things of God. Just like the other group above, you are also outside the kingdom of God; you are an alien to the inheritance of God’s people. You need God’s intervention in your life so that you will not be lost eternally because following Jesus is a must for as many as desire to inherit the kingdom of God. But you cannot follow a man whom you have not known. Even though you may be familiar with information about Jesus, you must meet Him, if following Him will be meaningful and rewarding to you. Zacchaeus was a man in the Bible who desired to see and encounter Jesus (Lk 19: 1-10). He was very rich and might have been generous in giving even in the synagogue. But he knew that there was an emptiness within, because he had never met Jesus. He was not satisfied with his life.
When an opportunity came for him to see Jesus, just as it is coming to you today, he did not hesitate. Jesus was passing through Jericho where Zacchaeus lived, so he did something. He sought to see Jesus. He asked questions, he looked for the venue, the road where Jesus would pass and the time he would pass. That was a man like you, not an ordinary man but a rich man. But you, probably without your seeking to know Jesus, people have come to you with the message, the gospel of salvation to show you Jesus. Some have invited you to crusades and Christian programs where you could encounter Jesus. But what was your attitude? Did you not give excuses or even drive them away? You carelessly threw away divine and gracious opportunities to encounter Him who will change your life and make it right!
God is giving you another opportunity today, as you go through this article. Having fulfilment and satisfaction in life only comes when you personally meet Jesus as it happened to Zacchaeus.
The man Zacchaeus sought to see Jesus, but he could not because of the crowd; for he was little of stature. And usually there are two reasons why a man who desires to meet Jesus and be saved, may not be able to do so. These are the crowd and the person’s stature. As soon as you start taking steps to draw close to God to encounter Jesus, may you understand that there are people all around you, in fact a crowd, the seeming majority who will hinder you. They would discourage you by words or even by actions. Despite this, you must be willing to push them aside and press forward to meet Jesus. The other hindrance is your stature – and you know that a man’s stature is an in-built characteristic. Zacchaeus was short. That is actually the situation of every person born into the world. That is what sin brought to mankind.
“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God’~ (Rom. 3:23)
Sin makes a man to be short in stature. It cuts him short of God’s glory. Are you living in sin? You are short … you are not up to standard…. You are not up to the level of people who experience God’s glory. That is why you need God’s intervention. What did Zaccheus do? “He ran ahead…”And you need to do the same. Run ahead of the crowd towards Jesus. Push away the crowd, and Jesus will not pass you by. “…and he climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him”. Zacchaeus saw a platform on which to stand in order to see Jesus, and he made use of it. The blood of Jesus has been shed for the remission of your sins, and it is by the blood that we have access into His presence (Heb. 10:19).
As Zacchaeus proceeded this way in eagerness to see Jesus, Jesus did not pass him by. When Jesus reached the place where he was, He called unto him and saved him. That encounter turned Zaccheaus’ life aright. He immediately opened up his life and confessed his sins to Jesus with all readiness to restore what he had stolen. That is what happens when a man meets the Lord. He will remove sin from your life and make you clean; you become a new born child of the Living God. Sin is the thing that separates man from God (Isa 59: 1-2) and God deals directly with this, when a man meets Jesus. Salvation that does not deliver you from sin is no salvation at all. The whole purpose of Christ coming into the world is to deliver and save us from our sins.
If you are willing, Jesus is there where you are. Bow down your heart to Him in prayer right now, confessing your sins and asking him to forgive you. Open your heart, your life and your house to Jesus and ask him to come in. He will change your life and make you a child of God. It is only then you can start following Him.
To follow Jesus simply means to come after Him, Jesus going in front while you come after Him. It means placing your feet where He put His own. Having thrown aside your will and your desires, you willingly embrace His own. It means becoming His disciple (His apprentice) having handed over your life to Him. It means going towards the same destination as Jesus, and therefore becoming like Him. It involves your spirit, your will, your mind, emotions, as well as your body. It involves your all.
It is not in vain that God points Jesus unto us to follow. His thoughts towards us are thoughts of peace, not of evil, to give us an expected end (Jer. 29: 11). Severally you hear God saying in the scriptures
“… This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matt 17:5)
“… follow in his steps” (1Pet 2:21)
There is a reason for this. God’s overall purpose for every soul saved is seen clearly in the scripture.
“For whom he did fore know, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first born among many brethren”. (Rom 8:29)
“For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one, for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb. 2: 11)
No man has ever seen God. In the days of old, God sent prophets to show man God’s way and to point God to man. He spoke in diverse manners and at sundry times in time past unto the fathers by the prophets. But in these last days, He has spoken unto us by his Son (Jesus Christ) whom He has appointed heir of all things. This Jesus is the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person (Heb. 1:1-3). His lifestyle, behaviour, power, etc. shows exactly who God is. He came physically into the world in order to show us the Father. And he did the will of God from the beginning of his life to the end. Anything you do not understand about God, just look at the life of Jesus and it will be clearly shown to you. That is why he said,
“He that has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn. 14:9)
Therefore God purposed that as many as He has predestined and called must be conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. Have you been called by God? Have you been saved? Are you born again? If you are, there is one important reason for your salvation: that you should be conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that Jesus will not be the only son of God but that He will be the first born among many brethren. Furthermore God desires to work on our lives and mould us so much that when Jesus looks at us, He will not be ashamed to call us brethren. That is the grand purpose of God for as many as are born again, and that is why He commanded us to follow in His steps.
O child of God, you need to understand this because if you do, your attitude towards the way you handle your soul will change. You will not just be following the inclinations of your heart in your Christian life, but you will live to fulfil God’s purpose for your life. If you do otherwise, it may lead you into eternal shame. May that not happen to you in Jesus’ name. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. You were born again to be like Jesus, to follow His life style and His footsteps so that your life will be moulded to become like His.
There are many today who answer altar call to surrender their lives unto Jesus after hearing God’s word. But soon after that experience, they give a sigh of relief and go back to their old way of life. The new birth is nothing but the beginning of a completely new life, just as the birth of a new baby is just the beginning of his life in the world. As soon as a child is born, he faces the challenge to grow and go on in life.
As soon as a person is born again, he must be ready to face the challenge of spiritual growth, a process by which his life is moulded to be like Jesus. He must be willing to follow Jesus every step of the way; otherwise he may fall by the wayside. Becoming like Jesus involves following Him. It cannot take place in a day; neither does it happen by laying on of hands in prayer. It takes place by consistently looking at and unto Jesus, studying His lifestyle and following In His footsteps all the way till the end of your life. It involves maintaining a constant intimate relationship with Him. Once you lose touch with Jesus and are unable to see Him in your life again, the shaping of your life to become like Him also stops at that point. So it becomes necessary for us to wage war against whatever brings separation between Jesus and us.
To make the matter of becoming like Jesus possible, God decided to put His nature within us – the same nature that Jesus has. “For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one …” of one stock, of one gene, of one Father. “…for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.” Whosoever is born of God has the seed of God, the nature of God remaining, dwelling in him (1 Jn. 3:9). That is what basically makes the difference between an unbeliever who is struggling to please God, and a man who has experienced the new birth. The one who is born of God has the basic ability to grow and become like Jesus, because he already has the gene, the seed, the nature of God, whereas a man who is not born again cannot see nor experience the life of Christ, neither can he become like Jesus no matter how much he struggles. Every child has the nature of his parents in him. He is born with it. That is why he grows to become like them. In the same way, every child of God has the nature of God in him, being born again not of corruptible seed, but by the incorruptible seed of the word of God. For this reason, he has the in-built ability to become like His heavenly Father if he grows. And so you must not only be born again, you must also grow. You must arise to follow Jesus in every step and situation of your life.
(To Be Continued…)
…In Following Jesus 2
BORN AGAIN TO LIVE FOR JESUS
“For the love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge that, if one died for all, then were all dead; And that he died for all, that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them and rose again. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things are passed away; behold all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5: 14, 15, 17)
Since the wages of sin is death (Rom6: 23) Jesus came and suffered death on your behalf so that you will not need to pay the penalty for your sins by yourself. Having died on your behalf, it means you were the one that died, “…if one died for all, then were all dead …” For you as a child of God, you were already dead, says the scriptures. As soon as you encountered Christ in salvation, it brought a termination to the life you have lived so far, whether good or bad, just as death naturally terminates a man’s life no matter what he has experienced before. You were dead … not that you are going to die. You need God to open your eyes to see the implication of this so that your struggles with God over your Christian life will end and following Jesus will not be difficult. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new. Old things about your life, whether good or bad, have passed away. .. Not just the bad things but even the seemingly good things have passed away, not that they are passing away little by little. His death on the cross of Calvary has ended your old life. The day you surrendered your life to Christ marks the beginning of a new life. The life inside you now is a new creation entirely with a completely different and new nature – the nature of God. Do you understand? Your old habits, old way, old nature, sicknesses etc. have passed away. Behold… Look, see … all things have become new. To walk in your old way of life- the way you used to do things, to experience your old experiences (good or bad) only indicates lack of understanding of what happened to you at the new birth. God’s purpose for saving you is
“…that as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in the newness of life” (Rom 6:4)
There is a new way of life already set before you; a new path for your feet to tread upon, a new set of experiences prepared for you, new friends, new fathers, new mothers, new norms and values. It is a new life entirely. It is a life of following Jesus. No wonder then that God said in 2Cor 5: 15
“And that he died for all, that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves but unto him who died for them and rose again”
The new life in you was created for a purpose; it was created to be lived for Jesus who died for. you. You were not born anew to live for yourself or to fulfil your old ambition but to serve the purpose of Christ who died for you and rose again. Whatever your reason for living, whatever plans and programs you have made for your life before you met Christ has passed away. Yours is to learn this new life and seek to understand and fulfil God’s purpose for saving you. Many make a mistake when they insist on their old way of life. Your decisions, your career, your future, your all must be surrendered to Jesus. Not that He will spoil your life; No! In fact, He will make the best out of it for your good. He will choose the best career for you and direct you as you travel on your life journey, when you choose to follow Him.
Again you must understand that God is not just asking in vain that you should quit living for yourself and live for Jesus. He is not trying to cheat you. He does not take anything from where He has not deposited something. He is not asking you to live for Jesus when He has not paid any price. Looking closely at that Scripture, you will discover that a price has been paid over your life. “And that he died for all, mat they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves but unto him who died for them and rose again” He died for you … and rose again. That was the price. He paid your debt. It was His legitimate right to demand your loyalty He delivered you from the dominion, the territory, the local government of darkness, and translated you into the kingdom of His dear Son for this same purpose. And you know that when you leave one local government to live in another one, the rules of the former local government is no longer binding on you. Demons stop troubling you, your business is doing fine, your family is peaceful, sickness is far away from you, you have much rest from sin, etc. all for this same purpose – for you to be able to live for Jesus who died and rose again for you. It is for you to live never at any point to satisfy “self” or fulfil your self-desires and purposes, but for the purpose of God to be achieved in your life. To do otherwise is to turn away from God’s purpose, to do what is outside His will and to break God’s hedge around your life. And you know that whosoever breaks an hedge, serpent shall bite him (Eccl. 10:8) No wonder serpent, (the devil) is biting many Christians today. Beware and fear God!
“For ye are bought with a price; therefore, glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1Cor 6:20)
NO EXTRA LUGGAGE
Following Jesus is a faith venture. It cannot be successfully done by sight or by the energy and wisdom of the flesh. For
“… small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matt. 7:14)
When something is big enough for the eyes to see, many people will see it without any need for it to be introduced to them. But we are told that the gate unto life, the entrance unto the things that will lead you into abundant and eternal life is so small and the road so narrow that only a few find it! Even the road, the way unto abundant life, the way unto life eternal is so narrow that it takes the grace of God to find it. You can imagine how much load you can carry to travel on such a road so narrow.
To follow Jesus is to follow a narrow, unfamiliar, unpopular road. Those who find it must be willing to travel light and lonely. There is the story of a man in the Bible (Mk.10: 17-27) who desired to enter into life. He was not only a rich man but also a ruler. He ran to Jesus and asked “Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”. From there, a discussion started. The only thing in his life that looked like an extra luggage which will hinder him from entering into life was pointed out. It was not just that he was rich, but that he was clinging to his riches; he trusted in his riches (Mk 10:23- 24). He would have preferred to be allowed to follow Jesus and still cling to and trust in his riches. He did not want to do without Jesus, neither was he prepared to part way with his riches. He did not know that the way is so narrow that no extra luggage can pass through. You cannot hold Jesus with one hand and something else with the other hand on that road. You either drop your luggage and go alone with Jesus, trusting Him to care for you, or you drop Jesus and be dropped from the kingdom of God. The way of Jesus is so narrow that it is compared with the eye of a needle. And it is so rigid like the eye of a needle that it cannot be manipulated and adjusted. Jesus says that it is easier for a camel, despite the ruggedness of its shape, to pass through the eye of a needle than for a man who clings to what he possesses to enter into the kingdom of God.
And you know how difficult and even impossible that is. Do you still want to follow Jesus? What are your possessions? Do you have physical riches? The condition is that you must release it from your heart and hands. You may not be rich in physical materials but in academic knowledge. Yours may be that you are rich in natural talents. Or could it be that you are rich in the traditions of your fathers? You know and possess these traditions so much that you defend it and prefer to follow them and not the narrow way of the cross. Or are you rich in men? – having influential people around you with great connections? What are your riches? Or are you rich in achievements, rich in children so much that you cling unto them? If you desire to follow Jesus, you must not only be willing to let these things go but you must actually release your hands from (clinging unto) them and put your trust in the Lord. The Lord is not wicked. He said whosoever saves his life shall lose it, but whosoever loses his life for His sake shall find it.
“Verily I say unto you, there is no man that hath left house, brethren, or sisters or father, or mother, or wife, or children or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundred fold now in this time houses … with persecutions and in the world to come, eternal life” (Mk. 10:29)
NO LOOKING BACK
“And it came to pass that, as they went on the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee wherever thou goest: And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, permit me first to go and bury my lather. Jesus said unto him, let the dead bury their dead; but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, who are at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking hack, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Lk.9:57-62
Jesus and his disciples were going on the way one day and a man met them, expressing his desire to follow Jesus wherever he goes. Unfortunately, that man just met them on the way, not knowing where they were coming from nor where they were going. Yet he made a rash uninformed decision not knowing that Jesus did not have a permanent place of abode here on earth. Jesus was willing to sleep wherever God led him to and God provided for him, houses in which to stay. He lived as a pilgrim here on earth and so did his disciples.
You that want to follow Jesus but then attach so much importance unto where to stay, are you willing? Are you really ready for Jesus’ kind of lifestyle? Is lack of comfort and social amenities not driving you away from the place of God’s posting for your life? Remember! “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head.”
Another matter that makes people stumble in following Jesus is tradition; societal norms; cares and affairs of this life. In that same scripture Jesus told another man to follow him. In Matt. 4:19, the same thing was said to Peter and Andrew and they left their nets and boats immediately and followed Jesus. But this particular man ·had a problem. He had too much attachment to the tradition of his fathers and the standards of this world. He was entangled therein so much that it became more important to him that time than to follow Jesus. He was not willing to let Jesus go but he was also not willing to let go of that tradition either. As soon as you rate anything more important in your heart as to override your loyalty to Jesus, you will be disqualified. Some desire to follow Jesus but they seek for permission to get married first. They seriously desire to serve God but they would like to work and build a house or buy a car first; some seek for permission to reach the top of the educational ladder first, or to work until they reach a pensionable level first. Whatever you seek to do first as a priority before you can consider following Jesus anywhere He leads is the thing that will disqualify you. No one can serve two masters. Our God is a jealous God. He does not tolerate rivals. He prefers to drop you for that your other ‘master’. If you desire to follow Jesus and to serve Him, then it must be Him alone, and it must be with immediate uncompromising obedience. God’s verdict is “Let the dead bury their dead; but go thou and preach the kingdom of God”
Yet another man willingly said “Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, who are at home at my house.” Anything that you feel like doing first before answering the call to follow Jesus is a stumbling block; and the attitude to put the things of the kingdom as secondary is the same attitude which may eventually disqualify you. It amounts to looking back. Remember Lot’s wife! Jesus said to that man “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” May God help us in Jesus’ Name.
In conclusion, God commands that every one that desires to partake of the kingdom of God should follow Jesus. He is the one whom God has lifted up as an example for us to follow in His steps. This is because God insists that each of His children must be conformed to the image of His Son Jesus Christ so that He will not be the only Son of God but the first born among many brethren. He desires that our lives should be such that Jesus will not be ashamed to call us brethren.
Following Jesus has a starting point just as every journey does. The new birth marks the beginning of an eternal walk with the Lord. It involves a consistent looking at and unto Jesus, studying his lifestyle and following in His footsteps all through the journey, having allowed old things to pass away. There is no room for carry over. It is a faith venture and no extra luggage is allowed because the gate is small and the way is narrow. No man is allowed to look back on this journey or else you will be declared unfit.
O traveller on the heavenly way, how do you fare? Are you fit? Are you faithful? Are you fulfilling God’s purpose for asking you to follow Jesus? Behold: The end of all things is near!