If we are to be disciples of Christ, we must trust Him and place Him at the very center of our beings. Jesus never comes “next.” He is always first. The paradox, of course, is that only by sacrificing ourselves to Him do we gain salvation for ourselves.
19th century writer Hannah Whitall Smith observed,
The crucial question for each of us is this: what do you think of Jesus, and do you yet have a personal acquaintance with Him?
Indeed, the answer to that question will determine the quality, the course, and the direction of your life today and for all eternity.
Fellowship with Jesus will inevitably lead to 3 things:
- Bearing fruit (John 15:2, 4, 6, 8)
- Loving people (John 15:9-17)
- Persecution (John 15:18-25)
We like the idea of bearing fruit. We put up with the responsibility of loving others. But we generally loathe the prospect of persecution. If you follow Jesus, you will be persecuted.
If this is true, then why is the Church in America not persecuted?
- It’s not just physical (Matthew 5:11-12). Slander, ridicule, rejection.
- We’ve escaped by concealing our salt and light to “fit into” the world’s patterns.
You are not only the first man in your daughter’s life, you are the first authority figure in her life, and your character is invisibly overlaid into your daughter’s image of God. If you are trustworthy, loving, and kind, your daughter will approach God much more easily. He will not be frightening to her. She can understand that He is good, because she knows what goodness in a man looks like.
Research on the influence of a father’s personality on his daughter’s perception of God confirms this. In one study, researchers found a correlation between children’s images of God and those of their father. And girls tend to see more similarities between God and their parents than do boys. A study headed by Hope College professor Jane Dickie found that fathers strongly influenced their daughter’s perception of God as nurturing.
Dear Pastor Marcus,
We think you’re asking way too much from us. In an average WEEK you think we should attend worship, a class or group, serve at least one hour, AND give of our finances. And then you say at home we should take time each DAY to read the Bible and pray for a few minutes. That doesn’t even include your idea that we should be investing and inviting unchurched people so they might have a relationship with God and a church family. We think you are expecting way too much from us. We’ve got things to do, places to be, mouths to feed, golf to play.
When we prayed that prayer to have Jesus in our hearts, we thought we were done. We got a “get out of hell free” card and we’re grateful for that and the future hope of Heaven, but we can’t imagine that God would expect MORE from us. We know Jesus came to earth and died for us. Yes, we’ve heard all about how we have to take up our cross daily, imitate Christ, surrender our lives to him. But we think that’s unrealistic. We just don’t have time, money, or energy for Jesus or His bride, the Church.
We’ve gone to church for years and even went to Sunday school as kids. So we know all we need to know about God, Jesus, and the church. We’re not bad people. We’ve got a few hang-ups but we don’t really need much more work on our souls. Mark needs help (he’s not bad either but he still hasn’t gotten into the habit of putting the toilet seat down!). But we’ve pretty much grown as much as we can spiritually. What we really need is a new car!
You can keep telling us what the Bible teaches (we really like your humor!) but we thought we might save you some time. We’re not changing. We’ll keep doing the same things the same ways so keep any of those thoughts to yourself. We will come to church (when we don’t have a late Saturday night), go to an occasional all-church event (we love the cooking in this church!), give when we have extra money (and not saving for that car!), but you can stop the call to commitment. Jesus gave up everything for us, but we think He’s quite content with what we have to offer.
Mark and Mary Member
Do you wish to become wise? Then you must walk with people who, by their words and their presence make you wiser. And to the best of your ability you must avoid those people who don’t. That means you must choose wise friends and mentors.
The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are. C.S. Lewis
A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel. Proverbs 1:5
The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm. Proverbs 13:20
Even the most devout believers become discouraged. After all, we live in a high expectation, high demand world.
Remember John the Baptist? Even he faced discouragement.
When we fail to meet the expectations of others (or those we have set for ourselves), we may be tempted to abandon hope. But God has other plans. He knows exactly how to use us. Our task is to remain faithful until He does.
There are costs to leadership. One is criticism. You can’t have a thin skin and hope to move people through thick plans. No leader is exempt from criticism, and their humility will no where be seen more clearly than in the manner in which they accept and react to it. Opposition is inevitable.
From Nehemiah 4:
- Realize it is impossible to lead without facing opposition.
- It’s essential that the first response be prayer.
- If opposition intensifies you may have to take additional action. But don’t let it stop God’s plans!