A few years ago Todd Agnew wrote a son in which he asked the question, "Which Jesus do you follow?" It's a good question.
In the first century, some folks followed Jesus because they thought he was the one who was going to overthrow the Romans and restore the glory of Israel. Today, some follow a Jesus who is either going to bring America back to God (with their help, of course), or one who will bring social justice and equality to America. In the first century, some followed Jesus because they saw in him a good teacher. Today, there are many who follow a Jesus who said good things, and who left us a good moral example to follow.
When Jesus was here on earth, there were some who followed him because he rattled the cages of the religious elite. Today, there are those who follow a Jesus who is anti-anything except a free-lance expression of faith. When Jesus walked in physical form, there were many (perhaps the largest number) who followed him because he fed them, he healed them, he took care of them. It seems like the many folks who follow Jesus today follow a Jesus who will give them whatever they want, as long as they have enough faith to say it and then claim it. Some of those blatantly tell others that God wants them to be wealthy, healthy, good looking, successful, etc., and all they have to do is speak it into existence. Others will start out with the teaching that Jesus has accomplished it all and we live by God's grace and not our own efforts. That is a good teaching, by the way. We are saved, and we do live by God's grace and Jesus' finished work. But then these teacher go on to say that because of Jesus finished work, we can now claim anything we want. It may be a successful business, a nice car or house, younger looking features, good health, lots of money, or just a life without any problems. They teach that we can speak these things into existence, and that if there is anything that goes goofy in life, it has to be the work of satan along with a lack of faith.
Now, I will be the first to say that God does bless people with wealth, health, etc. There have certainly been many wealthy and successful followers of Christ through the centuries. If you take a careful look at Jesus' call to follow him though, you'll find that he deliberately makes it difficult for those who are with him for what they can get. In fact, many of them leave him when they realize he's not what they thought. Some of them turned against him and called for his death. Jesus call to follow him is an invitation to lose our life, to die. As C.S. Lewis said, God doesn't want to simply move in and renovate the house. He wants to tear the house down and rebuild it. Jesus said that those who would find their life must lose it. He also said that the greatest love was to lay down our lives for our friends, as he did for us.
Following Jesus means dying. Dying to our old way of thinking and living. Dying to the things of this world. Dying to our own desires and wishes. The Psalmist says that if we delight in the Lord, he will give us the desires of our heart. I believe that means if we delight in God, he will give us more of what we delight in - himself. When you think about it, God is all we need. Anything else is just dessert.
From my opportunity to teach in our gathering this morning:
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