God has a plan and a purpose for each one of our lives…
God leaves it up to us to choose, according to our own free will and volition, whether we are going to spend our lives on Him (following Him) or on ourselves, following after our own personal desires and ambitions, with no regard for His plan and purpose for our life?
Yet it is that very nature and attitude (which all of us have, which we have inherited from Adam) that is the very nature of what sin is, that we choose to do our will with no regard to God’s plan and purpose for our life.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all.
7 Visualize this: His blood freely flowing down the cross, setting us free!
We are forgiven for our sinful ways by the richness of His grace, 8 which He has poured all over us.
With all wisdom and insight, 9 He has enlightened us to the great mystery at the center of His will.
With immense pleasure, He laid out His intentions through Jesus, 10 a plan that will climax when the time is right as He returns to create order and unity—both in heaven and on earth—when all things are brought together under the Anointed’s royal rule.
In Him 11 we stand to inherit even more.
As His heirs, we are PREDESTINED to play a key role in His unfolding purpose that is energizing everything to conform to His will.
Take Up the Cross and Follow Him
24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
27 For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.
1 John 2:1-6
[The word “sin” has virtually disappeared from modern conversation. Afraid of sounding judgmental, we call sin something else—a mistake, an addiction, a tendency, a bad decision—and ignore it as normal and natural behavior. But John is calling the church to a radical holiness where those in the church will regularly remember their sins and seek God’s forgiveness. Each sin, small and large, injures us or someone else; it imprints on our soul, makes us imperfect, and separates us from the perfect God. If we confess our sins to God each day, then He will purify our hearts and draw us closer to Him.]
1 You are my little children, so I am writing these things to help you avoid sin.
If, however, any believer does sin, we have a high-powered defense lawyer—Jesus the Anointed, the righteous—arguing on our behalf before the Father.
2 It was through His sacrificial death that our sins were atoned. But He did not stop there—He died for the sins of the whole world.
[John is affectionately addressing this letter to his “little children,” and he is writing to help them avoid sin and the pain and guilt that come with it.
The glamour of decadent lifestyles devoid of God is often advertised as the epitome of joy and freedom.
But what are often conveniently left out of these portrayals are the agonizing consequences of such destructive lifestyles.
Meaningful pleasure comes not when we are enslaved by the empty promises of the world, but when we are living in loving obedience to God.]
3 We know we have joined Him in an intimate relationship because we live out His commands.
4 If someone claims, “I am in an intimate relationship with Him,” but this big talker doesn’t live out His commands, then this individual is a liar and a stranger to the truth.
5 But if someone responds to and obeys His word, then God’s love has truly taken root and filled him.
This is how we know we are in an intimate relationship with Him:
6 anyone who says, “I live in intimacy with Him,” should walk the path Jesus walked.
LEAVING EVERYTHING TO FOLLOW JESUS
by Greg Burdine
The story has it that Mark Twain loved to go fishing, but he hated to catch fish.
The problem was he went fishing to relax, and catching fish ruined his relaxation, since he had to take the fish off the hook and do something with it.
When he wanted to relax by doing nothing, people thought he was lazy, but if he went fishing he could relax all he wanted.
People would see him sitting by the river bank and they would say, “Look, he’s fishing, don’t bother him.”
So Mark Twain had the perfect solution: he would take a fishing pole, line, and a bobber, but he wouldn’t put a hook on the end.
He would cast the bobber in the water and lay back on the bank. That way he could relax all he wanted and he would be bothered neither by man nor fish.
Mark Twain is like a lot of Christians I know. They have their pole in the water, but there is no hook on the end. They are not fishing; they are relaxing.
Jesus called men who were great fishermen to follow Him.
He said, “Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17).
From this invitation, we uncover a simple truth that I will expand on.
Jesus calls people to Himself so they can influence others.
THIS IS A COMMAND
Jesus is not asking for volunteers. He has made a command. This is not a question.
It is in the imperative tense. And notice that this is not a command to a work but to a Person.
He calls them to a continuous walk with Him rather than to a single act toward Him.
THIS IS A SACRIFICE
To follow Jesus means you leave everything else.
They left everything they’ve known – all the security, family, and business- to follow Jesus.
It is interesting to note when they obeyed, one pair left their occupation, the others left their father.
THIS IS RADICAL DISCIPLESHIP
A person must leave all behind to follow Jesus.
A radical message with a radical call resulted in radical obedience.
This seems negative, but it actually is a positive teaching, that the power of Jesus’ Word overcomes the power of even family ties and financial stability.
God may not ask us to leave our jobs or families, but we must be willing to abandon everything to follow Him.
THIS IS A TRUST
They left what they were doing and embraced what God was doing wholeheartedly.
THIS IS ‘REPENT & BELIEVE’ IN ACTION
When they heard what Jesus wanted them to do they immediately obeyed and acted with faith.
They put their futures and the livelihood of their families in His hands.
To follow Jesus shows you trust Him with your future.
Jesus said He would make them ‘fishers of men.’
He promised a lifelong learning and growth process.
Jesus chooses teachable people. It is no accident that He chose unsophisticated, unlearned fishermen. What an unlikely start for world conquest.
THIS IS A CHOICE
Men or Fish?
We were created with a desire to influence others.
We want to make a mark. We sometimes worry about the ambition that burns within us.
We want to be somebody and do things, but it is not always easy to sort out how much of this is selfish and how much is Christian.
Jesus addresses each of us and our ambition:
‘Do you want to make something of your life, to have a life that is useful? Follow me!’
In light of this, think about the following questions:
What does Christ expect me to leave behind to follow Him?
What sacrifice of personal achievement, wealth, or position does Christ ask me to make?
What prevents me from following Jesus immediately and wholeheartedly?
What must I do to eliminate these hindrances in my life?
This episode in the life of Jesus is a shortened version of what happened.
It is actually the conclusion of a day-long experience.
Luke 5 tells the miracle leading up to this moment.
Four Fishermen Called as Disciples
5 So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, 2 and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. 3 Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.
4 When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
5 But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” 6 And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking.
7 So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”
9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.
And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.”
11 So when they had brought their boats to land, THEY FORSOOK ALL AND FOLLOWED HIM.
THE FOLLOWING STORY COMES FROM THE ABOVE PASSAGE:
Clarence Darrow was a very successful U.S. lawyer. He was not a Christian, but had among his friends a young minister.
One day Darrow asked his minister friend, ‘Would you like to know my favorite Bible verse?’
His friend said, ‘Indeed I would.’ Mr. Darrow said, ‘You will find it in Luke 5:5.
‘We’ve toiled all the night and have taken nothing.’
He added, ‘In spite of my success that verse seems to sum up the way I feel about life.’
No matter what one does in life, no matter what position he may obtain, no matter what he might come to own, if he leaves God out, the time will come when life itself will rise up and mock him with the word nothing… nothing!
Sun, December 26
by Inspiration Ministries
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem.”
– Matthew 2:1 NIV
Imagine deciding to follow the star. It was one thing to study that star, to search ancient records and speculate about its path and purpose.
But to these Magi, that was not enough.
They felt compelled to leave their home in “the east” and travel hundreds of miles westward to follow the star and prove their theories were correct.
It was a massive commitment.
Following their studies after months of travel, they arrived in Jerusalem.
Then, insights provided by Herod’s scholars pointed them toward Bethlehem where they saw Jesus along with his parents.
Overwhelmed, “they bowed down and worshiped,” and presented Him with treasures they had brought (v. 11).
It had been the journey of a lifetime, but they were rewarded with a life-changing encounter.
These Magi joined men and women throughout the ages who had left everything behind to follow Jesus (Matthew 4:21-22).
Others would leave everything in other ways.
The shepherds would need to leave their flocks to see the baby Jesus.
For some, following Jesus would involve a life of surrender and sacrifice.
For many, it means leaving personal comforts to go to faraway places and laying aside their plans and personal desires.
Following Jesus means leaving everything else behind – your past and future.
Make Him your highest priority. Trust Him to provide meaning to your life and meet your needs and guide you. Follow Jesus.
Dear Lord Jesus, I am Your disciple. You are my Lord. I will leave all to follow You. In Your name, amen.
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