Monday, April 18, 2011
Do you REALLY want to follow Jesus?
Let's be honest, for many of us, we would love to follow Jesus-if he were to promise us glory & nice things, when we want/need them. We want happy, nice, good, generous, patient Jesus.
I have been gripped by Romans 8:17 lately. It won't leave my mind. It fills my random musings.
"And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering." (NLT Translation)
"and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. " (NASB Translation)
I find that I want to share in God's glory. I like the "together with Christ we are heirs of God's glory."
I never really considered the part, "But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering" or "IF indeed we suffer with Him..." being a predecessor to the glory.
To Graph it:
Physical Pain -> Spiritual Strength
Or to quote Luke 9:62- we have to be "fit for the kingdom". To follow after Jesus is to experience the suffering that He faced, for in suffering comes fruit & maturity.
Another verse that has intrigued me & seems to contradict (at first glance, because of the language barrier is ) Matthew 11:30,
"My yoke is easy and my burden is light." -Jesus
Easy = suffering?
Easy does equal- fit, useful, virtuous, good, benevolent, mild, good for use
Light- easy to bear, makes for good sailing
Look at the previous verse in Matthew 11:28,29, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. "
It is impossible to keep all the rules of the Law. Then, the contemporary Jewish leaders of Jesus added several hundred oral traditions to this Law. If just the Law was impossible to keep, imagine the weight of guilt from the Law + oral traditions! That is one heavy burden! One too hard for any person to carry.
So Jesus, teaches that people should come to the Messiah (savior, Christ). He fulfilled the Law & Prophets, by keeping the requirements of the Law, by fulfilling the Prophecies of the long awaited Messiah. Compared to the Law & Traditions, Jesus' yoke is very easy, very light, very relaxing. See the Law & traditions were understood as, "Do, do, do to have life." When Jesus came He taught, "It is finished. The work of salvation was done by Me. You trust me, follow me, and rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. For my yoke is easy, burden light." Easy, however, does not equal nirvana here on earth. God's people have a long history of facing persecution because of their belief. God's people are allowed to suffer or even destined to suffer, in order to fit them for the kingdom. So, Christian, when you fall upon hard times, count it as an opportunity for joy, knowing that the challenging of your faith produces a wealth of perseverance & proven character. Know that you are being fit for the kingdom. Also know that there are others, in every nation of the world, who are suffering today, just as you do, or worse.
That being said, some of you suffer because you deserve it, because you let sin reign in your body. If you are persecuted because of sin, what benefit is that? But if you are persecuted/ suffer for righteousness sake & the Kingdom's sake, then there is reward in that.
Also, there is teaching today that, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." or, "Your best life can be now". Well, remember Romans 8:17, that a godly person needs to be fit for the kingdom, which means that God's plan for you IS to suffer, in order that you may reign with Christ. There is no way around this. no acceptions.
The only way around this is to reject Jesus, to choose not trust Him, still have suffering in life, but actually have your best life now & on the other side of the comma of death, to live with an eternity of regret. Don't choose this route! You will be missing the wonderful, beautiful, complex, mystery of being an adopted child of God. And you will live all life, here and there, with suffering. Without break, without ever having a relationship with the one you were made for. Don't be stubborn!
I have yet to accept that suffering is a welcome part of the deal. I still struggle with doubt, guilt, and my standing with God when I suffer things. I feel, I guess, a bit deceived (snookered-my fun word) by some evangelists that teach that if you accept Jesus, everything will "ROCK". While this is true on a deeper level, it takes maturity to get there on a practical, emotional, or day to day level. I am up for the challenge, but this is something I am just starting to realize. His yoke has been awesome so far, but I am just starting to learn that His yoke is not shallow or plastic. It is real, and wants, from me, real change.
Non-Christians, consider this. That God WILL really care for you, but that means that you will suffer for trusting Jesus with your salvation. True JESUS is THE provision for salvation, He is the door (or stairway, for all you Led Zeppelin fans) to Heaven, but this yoke of lordship, God's love for you, will not allow you to remain as you are. He also desires for you to become holy.
New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Mt 11:28–29). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Ro 8:17). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
Tyndale House Publishers. (2004). Holy Bible : New Living Translation. (2nd ed.) (Ro 8:17). Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers.