If Lydia isn't reading in her spare time, you will find her writing. She loves to express herself in words and be creative in writing (where did she get that from?). She does a great job and she was thrilled when her high school English teacher told her that. I was touched this year when she wrote her English paper comparing me to Corrie Ten Boom - totally humbling! Lydia's writing often reflects her faith. She knows and loves the Lord. The other day God spoke to her through the same sermon He spoke to me. I have been wanting so badly to write about it but haven't been able to. So, I thought I would share Lydia's. I also added her Bible writing on the Great Commission. Be blessed!
Credits to Joshua Shaarda, my beloved Dad. Keep on inspiring people to better follow the Lord!
Have you ever been determined to do something? If so, you know that it doesn’t have to be a big “something”. Even small feats become important to us when we are set on completing them. The task becomes a personal quest for something that we desire. Usually, our want- or desire- fuels our energy and pushes us forward.
Does it take pain to accomplish this? Do you have to give a sacrifice?
If you are truly determined, then you certainly will be willing to give a sacrifice. You might even say that toiling through storm, pain and opposition makes the result seem ever better once you accomplish the task.
Are we, as Christians, equally as determined to follow Jesus?
Seriously. If I were to ask, “Will you follow Jesus anywhere He goes?” would you agree? Saying anything is easy, therefore many Christians say, “I’ll follow you, Lord. Anywhere you go, let me go too.” In fact, that’s the promise we make when we accept Jesus into our hearts.
There’s nothing wrong with being wholeheartedly committed to the Lord. We should be completely committed to Him! But, we should also understand what that means at its fullest.
Luke 9:51 begins by telling of Jesus resolutely setting out for Jerusalem. Having the perfect knowledge of God, Jesus knew what He was facing. He knew He was going to die a sinner’s death on the cross. He knew the weight He would bear for all of our sins.
But He still went. He still set out. He was determined to reach the city.
He would have to experience pain. He would toil under the accusations hurled His way. He would give the ultimate sacrifice. He would be treated worse than any human being ever would, or ever should.
The Son of God, slain. The One who was since the beginning, taking our spot. The great I Am, choosing to take the blame. The Most High, becoming lower than the least of these. Why would He ever be determined to do that?
Because He also knew the result. He knew the victory that would come afterwards. It was the rescue plan He and His Father had been working on since the beginning finally unfolding and taking action.
You see, God loved us so much- more than anyone else could. In fact, He loves us more than we can even comprehend! But because He is just and holy, He couldn’t have our sin in His presence. We were stained. We had messed up and we wore the proof. We were supposed to die as a punishment. But the mercy and kindness of God is too great to allow His creation to die. He had to do something, anything.
So, Jesus stepped up and took the job. He became determined even before the beginning of time to rescue you and me. He knew that we needed a Savior, that we were too weak to do it on our own. In a sense, Jesus is our knight in shining armour. He is the hero of the epic novel that takes the stage when everything seems lost. In the darkest moment, Jesus brought life. He gave us free grace that we never can earn. He took care of it.
We did nothing, but we gained everything.
Our response shouldn’t be trying to buy back this gift. No, a gift is given and it is free. It costs the receiver nothing. Instead, we should respond with zealous commitment to the Lord and burning desire to do His will.
However, doing God’s will doesn’t mean life suddenly becomes rainbows and sunshine. We still live in a sinful world dead set against stopping the very the very work of God. Luke 9:52-56 reveals this. When Jesus passed through Samaria on His way to Jerusalem, the people there wouldn’t give Him a room.
We can’t control the situation, but we can control our reaction. When people, troubles, or unexpected bumps come in our way, it’s our choice how we respond. There are two reactions we can have. Choice number one is too get upset, throw a fit, and go home. This is what comes naturally When we choose this, we assume that the problem means God isn’t with us any more. Or even that we’re not doing the right thing. Going down this road leads to frustration, heartbreak, and anger. This isn’t God’s plan for us.
Choice number two is to keep right on going, dealing with the problem as it comes then putting it behind and moving on. When we take this path, we know that even in God’s will we will meet up with bumps. That’s part of life and we can’t let it bring us down.
Moving on with the plan was Jesus response. He wasn’t deterred the least bit by the Samaritans hostility. May it be so with us! Our hearts should be set on walking in the will of God until we reach our goals, our Jerusalem.
God has much to say about following Him in His word. Luke 9 gives three basic guidelines for the blueprint of walking towards our Jerusalem.
#1: Know what you signed up for (verses 57-58).
The man passing Jesus told him that He had his full commitment. He’d go wherever Jesus went. He’d made up his mind that he would follow Jesus.
But where was Jesus going?
To Jerusalem. To His death. To gain the freedom of the whole world, but giving the biggest sacrifice the world could ever imagine.
When you commit yourself to following Jesus, you need to be prepared to give a sacrifice. In fact, you need to be prepared to give your very life. Before He died, Jesus told His disciples that if anyone wanted to follow Him, they needed to pick up their cross. Symbolically, that means we are willing to die- if that be God’s will for us.
But it doesn’t end on a sorrowful note! Jesus promises us in John 14:1-3 that He’s going to come back for us. Jesus’ story didn’t end in death. Rather, it ended in victory over death! He conquered it for good! We no longer have to fear death, because we know that our Lord is greater!
Because we are hidden in Christ (Col. 3:1-4) our story doesn’t end with death either. Christ is the Life. As a result of being in Him, we have this life (1 John 5:11). In celebration of this, turn and follow Christ. No matter what it costs.
#2: Jesus first, ourselves later (verses 59-60).
This time, it was Jesus calling someone to follow Him. Plain and simple. This man was more hesitant than the last one. He told Jesus that he needed to bury his father first. Jesus’ response of “let the dead bury their own dead” seems a little harsh at first. But like with any Bible passage, the more we study it, the more sense it makes.
Let me start unraveling this verse by asking, where would the man be if his father had just died? At the funeral. He wouldn’t be walking around where Jesus and His followers were. So why did the man tell Jesus he needed to bury his father?
The man used it as an excuse. It was his way of saying, “Maybe later, Lord. Today I have better things to do. Yes, I’m interested in You, but full commitment...Ummmm, let’s try that later.”
Sadly, many people today are like that man. Jesus is calling them clearly. They hear His calling and know what He wants them to do. But they aren’t sure that they want to follow. They know Jesus is good, and that He offers salvation, but they want other things first. Maybe it’s pleasures of this world that they know God won’t approve of, or it might simply be that they want to hold back in fear of what they’ll lose.
However, Jesus shouldn’t be the One waiting on us. We should be following Him immediately. Why? Well, Jesus isn’t going to come back until the whole world has heard the gospel preached in a way that they can understand. It’s our job to take the good news to them. The sooner everyone hears, the quicker Jesus comes back and takes away all the junk sin has brought into the world.
So let’s not give Christ a 20% yes, but total commitment that puts aside our own fears and longings. Christ needs to be our center and focus. He isn’t looking for people who say, “I’ll follow You, but first…” He will only use those completely committed to Him.
#3: Don’t look back (verses 61-62). Remain with your eyes fixed on your goal: being home with Jesus.
A third man comes along and tells Jesus that he will follow. The catch is that he needs to first go say goodbye to his family. Jesus replies to him by saying, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God”.
Many of us have put our hands to the plow. We have accepted to follow Jesus and even do His will. But, too often we look back at the things left behind. When you look back while plowing, no matter how good you are, you always end up with a big mess when you get across the field.
Similarly, Jesus says those who look back aren’t fit for service. They would make a mess of things and create a stumbling block for people trying to accept the gospel or new Christians trying to get a handle on their faith.
Sometimes, plowing for Jesus means we need to leave behind our comforts and desires. Our dreams and plans. Our prized possessions. Even our success in life and things that bring us self confidence.
Plowing also requires tuning out distractions to our left and right. You’re guaranteed to have the world screaming on either side, trying desperately to get your attention. The world doesn’t like you being committed to the will of God. The world wants to drag you right out of the Jesus path. The world will try to lure you away by promising pleasures and good times. But we need to realize that the pleasures- whether in the form of money, popularity, material possessions, etc- are short lived and don’t give you lasting satisfaction.
Keep your eyes on Christ as you plow. Hold tight to the hope that Jesus has a reward waiting for you in Heaven. Run your race! You’ll hit the finish line soon enough and it will be all worth it.
Whatever happened to those three men that the Lord met on the road to Jerusalem, we may never know. Whether they paid attention to Christ’s word and obeyed remains a mystery. However, how they responded isn’t what’s important. What you need to worry about is your response. Are you going to listen Christ’s instructions? Then will you put them into practice?
It may be hard at times, and it may provide us with a daunting task, but Christ promised that He is always with us. That’s not all! You’re not alone. There are many other Christians around the world committed to the will of God. We must pray for each other and encourage each other when we’re tempted to turn away from our goal.
Keep the faith. Be sure of what you hope for (Christ’s return) and certain of what you do not see (He will reward our hard work) - Hebrews 11:1.
One of Jesus’ well known commands is the Great Commission. Most people in the church know it; pastors teach on it multiples times a year; and people love to discuss it. However, do Christians really carry out this calling as they were told so many years ago? This commissioning to teach the nations is not only for the first apostles, but Christians today as well.
Real obedience of a command begins with a full understanding of it. Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:19-20 are quoted many times today, but people fail to do everything they are told. The command begins with the action word “go”. As long a Christians don’t go, they cannot complete the work of Christ’s commissioning. “Go” doesn’t always mean travel to the ends of the earth, though that is the calling for many. This action can also take one down the street, across the room, or to a person in one’s life. Actions like this require getting off of spiritual couches and stepping out of comfort bubbles. As the next words of Matthew 28:19 reveal, when Christians go, they are told to make disciples as well. Making includes creating something that isn’t already there. So, Christians need to invest in places and people that don’t already have the freedom found in salvation through Jesus. Making disciples includes nurturing these new followers, as is revealed in use of the word “disciples” rather than “converts”. The starting point of this discipleship is marked by baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Being baptized in name of the Trinity shows that the new believer has salvation only through Christ. This is a reminder that no one is saved by works, but through faith alone. In verse 20, Jesus tells Christians to teach these new found disciples. Teaching is a long process, whereby the teacher tells the learner how to do something. The teacher must set an example for the learner to follow. Teachers also need to use mistakes and questions to expand the learner’s knowledge. Christians need not worry about how to teach, because Jesus has promised His constant presence. In fact, that is His promise concerning the whole commission!
The apostles wonderfully carried out the Great Commission, as recorded in Acts. One example comes from Acts 3, which tells the story of Jesus healing the crippled beggar through Peter and John. Verse one begins with the words, “One day Peter and John were going up to the temple…”. These apostles’ actions showed understanding of the commission. They needed to go somewhere first so that they might share the gospel with those who did not know it. Using the attention that came through healing a crippled man, Peter explained to the crowd how Jesus had died for the sins of all. After presenting the gospel, Peter also instructed the crowd how to do what God desired, therefore obeying the command of Jesus’ to teach the disciples.
A second example is given in Acts 8:1, 4-5. This passage also describes the movement of Christians. In this instance, persecution pushed the Church beyond Jerusalem. The believers continued to share the gospel wherever they went. Therefore, ministry began among many other nations. Acts 8:12-14 tells of the new disciples being baptized and some apostles coming to teach them.
Jesus gave the Great Commission to all believers, not just those who lived long ago. Therefore, each Christian today needs to follow this command in their own life. I, too, have been careful to follow these words Christ spoke so many years ago. My daily life is one example of my obedience, as I live in a foreign country in order to tell people of God’s love and teach disciples. Every time I share the gospel with someone on a crusade shows my obedience as well.
Christ promised to return after every nation has heard of His love (Matthew 24:14, 2 Peter 3:9). This means He won’t come back until Christians fulfill their calling to make disciples of all nations. Each Christian should pray, asking God where He desires them to go and how He wants them to teach the new disciples. In this way, the obedience of the Great Commission won’t be a topic discussed in Acts alone, but an action that takes place even today.