Discipleship: the call to surrender

When at first we identify as Christians, most of us have an incomplete or incorrect understanding of what it means to be a Christian. We may at first think it is a call to be good people, or an invitation to permanent happiness. We may be overwhelmed by the power of God, and expect that it will be used in our favour, or be conscious of our shortcomings, and hope that being Christians can help us improve and be our very best, possible even living perfect lives. But as the scales fall off, and we see the light of God, we begin to recognize that the call to be a Christian is not at all about our selfish desires: it is all about Christ.

Let us step back a minute, to the very beginning of time, where God made man in his own image, with the intent to have them rule over creation and be God’s representative on the earth. That was a moment of perfection – a chance for us to be the very best God wanted. But we ruined it. All of us – through Adam and Eve – ruined that moment of perfection and chose to go after what we felt we didn’t have (knowledge of good and evil), ignoring the very thing we had access to (the tree of life). Humanity became debased and the pursuit of selfish interests was born. We lost focus on pleasing God and became self-pleasers.

Fast forward several centuries and Jesus steps into the picture. He is the image of the living God: a 2.0 version of the man God had made, except this version did not fall short again. He succeeded where Adam failed. He resisted where Adam succumbed. He was the archetype of the new humanity God wanted to bring forward: the overcoming species that would fulfill man’s original purpose of ruling creation while remaining in submission to God. Where Adam tried to acquire his own wisdom by eating the fruit, Jesus rejected all advances and stayed true only to the words of His heavenly Father. Finally, the Son is here!

It was this Jesus that God set forward as an example of the new humanity. When he called men to follow Him, they often started out thinking like Adamic beings. They imagined He was another Adam – a conquering victor who subdues his enemies by instilling fear and imposing violence, who outshines his foes and obliterates his contradictors. But in a shocking act of divine irony – this Jesus surrendered himself to be killed by His enemies. The very one who had been promised as a Messiah, having manifested divine powers, allowed Himself to be crucified on a cross – the most demeaning form of capital punishment.

Hung on a cross for no sin of His, this Jesus began the path to “Saviourhood” by becoming like the worst of sinners. He laid down his life by faith, and the Father proved him to be the One by raising Him from the dead. Having risen, he again calls people to follow him and be like Him. But here lies the contradiction: we all love a powerful Saviour capable of healing the sick and raising the dead, feeding the hungry and giving hope to the hopeless. But who wants to follow, talk less of become like, a Saviour who debases Himself and serves like a slave, who takes punishment for sins he did not commit and blesses those who hurt Him?

Yet walking that path is the very essence of the new humanity. Deliverance from the debased nature within us begins from rejecting the very thing that makes us who are, so that we can embrace and begin to become like who He is. Neither our good works nor our evil actions are acceptable before God, because they all come from a fallen nature. Only the works that are done by the Son, through the Son and for the Son, are acceptable. We are not called to be better versions of ourselves. We are called to surrender our lives, take up His life and be like Him, to live by and take instructions from His Spirit. Not just once, but every day.

This is the call to discipleship: a call to surrender our lives and be like our Master Jesus. This is what it means to be a Christian – one whose life is modeled after the faith, love and service of Christ, who rejects every thought that originates outside of God, and depends on the written word of God as his daily bread. Being a Christian is not a cute thing to do or a faith to adopt in order to improve the world or our personal wellbeing. It is a call to an overhaul, a call to die daily and embrace new life continuously, a call to sacrifice, submission and service that translates to joy and hope not only for this life, but eternally.

Does God Understand?

Does Jesus really understand my struggles? Can he actually relate when I am torn between choices or struggling to obey God’s will? Does it make sense to Him or does He shake his head in disdain as I start to lean towards wrong choices? How do I receive His grace?

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Trusting Him in the Dark

Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God.
Isaiah 50:10 NIV

Sometimes, the righteous walk in the dark. They deal with uncertainty, feeling their way around and wondering if God has abandoned them. People who revere God and obey His word do find themselves in such places, not because of sin or disobedience, but because we live in a fallen world. But God uses those times for our good.

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Come to Me

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11:28 NIV

Jesus invitation in Matt. 11 rings loud today as it did on the first day it was spoken. It is an invitation to come away from a life of endless pursuits and burden bearing to a life of rest – of focus on the things that matter more on an eternal scale. It is an invitation to experience catharsis and learn a new way to approach life.

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Finding Rest

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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. (Matt. 11:28-29, NIV)

Life gets busy, super busy. Sometimes, it’s just one area of our life that causes a lot of stress. Other times, it is a combination of the many things we are involved in. Sooner or later, we all find ourselves in that place where it feels like we have more to do than we could ever handle in a lifetime. We just want to switch off and get away from it all – the demands of life and the expectations of people. Then there may be the guilt of having strayed from our relationship with God: we all struggle sometimes to keep it all together.

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Oh Jesus I Have Promised

O Jesus, I have promised, To serve Thee to the end;

Be Thou forever near me, My Master and my Friend;

I shall not fear the battle, If Thou art by my side,

Nor wander from the pathway, If Thou wilt be my Guide.

 

Oh, let me feel Thee near me; The world is ever near;

I see the sights that dazzle, The tempting sounds I hear;

My foes are ever near me, Around me and within;

But, Jesus, draw Thou nearer, And shield my soul from sin.

 

Oh, let me hear Thee speaking, In accents clear and still,

Above the storms of passion, The murmurs of self-will;

Oh, speak to reassure me, To hasten, or control;

Oh, speak, and make me listen, Thou Guardian of my soul.

 

O Jesus, Thou hast promised, To all who follow Thee

That where Thou art in glory, There shall Thy servant be;

And Jesus, I have promised, To serve Thee to the end;

Oh, give me grace to follow, My Master and my Friend.

 

Oh, let me see Thy footmarks, And in them plant mine own;

My hope to follow duly, Is in Thy strength alone.

Oh, guide me, call me, draw me, Uphold me to the end;

And then to rest receive me, My Savior and my Friend.

The Coming Wrath

The wrath of God is soon to be revealed. God, in an act of justice and righteousness, will unleash his wrath upon the nations of the earth for the evil and wickedness that has filled the surface of the earth. Just as in the days of Noah when God destroyed all the earth with water, God will once again destroy not only the earth, but the visible heavens (the skies and the clouds) as well. This time however, he will use fire. He will punish all those who have opposed or rejected him, as well as those who have promoted injustice and wickedness on the earth, either by doing them, or by rewarding those who do them. He will exact revenge on every cheat, punish every liar and condemn every immoral and perverse person to the punishment of eternal fire. No form of sin, no matter how little, will escape the watchful eyes of the Just Judge of the earth. He will prove himself to be righteous by doing this.

Every wicked action, ungodly speech or impure thought (or motive) will be punished by the Father of lights, in whose sight nothing is hidden. The blood of every righteous man slain will be demanded, and due punishment will given to everyone who has done one form of evil or the other. In the day of His wrath, God will not spare or have mercy. It will be a day of great trouble and grave judgment as the wicked will roll in the fires of God’s wrath, pleading mercy and finding none. He will abase the proud and expose their shame, having removed their source of pride and afflicted them with pain. Even the formerly righteous who compromised and went into sin will not be left out. They too will share in the suffering of those who were wicked all through their lives.

All extreme, moderate and minimal forms of unrighteousness and evil among men will be punished accordingly. Every vile person will receive his due reward from God for all his works. Flatterers, gossips and malicious speakers will have their tongue suffer the punishment of eternal pain. Every form of pleasure gained by sin will be rewarded with a much greater degree of pain by God himself, who will judge the nations of the earth. And every one who rejected the Son of God will be punished for rejecting the Ultimate Sacrifice for their sins, and will pay for all those sins by themselves. The indulgent, the homosexuals, the adulterers and fornicators as well as murderers will all have their place in the flaming fire that never ceases and never consumes, so that their pain will be eternal.

Knowing well that all have sinned and no man is worthy to escape the judgment, God in his mercy has provided Jesus, his Son, to die as a punishment for the sins of all men, so that whoever trusts and puts their hope in him will not perish but will have eternal life. Jesus took that punishment for your sins if you will believe in him. But if you do not, you will take the punishment for your own sins and explain to God why you came short of His standard. Remember that God will not overlook little sins. Little and great sins alike will be punished in His presence. The slightest stain will deter anyone from entering the kingdom of heaven. The blood of Jesus however, is sufficient to cover even the greatest sins, if only you will believe. That blood will keep us from the destruction that comes in the day of God’s judgment.

Today, God’s call to us all in this wicked and errant generation is to repent of all our sins and to return to his tender mercies and loving kindness. If we will trust in the blood of His Son and live by the words he commanded, if we will accept Him as our Saviour and allow Him to be our Lord, if we will obey Him and keep walking in His love, then we will escape the wrath of God on the last day and live with Him forever in the new heavens and the new earth which he will create. God’s love for us is so great, and it is a shield to us from His judgment. So let us embrace His love and avoid His terrible judgment, which is coming soon.

I have not written on this theme because it is my favourite in the Bible, or because I fancy these ideas. I have written because the judgment of God is emphasised all through the Scriptures, and this generation is neglecting the fear of God and embracing the pleasures of sin and unrighteousness unreservedly, thereby inviting the wrath of God, which will soon be poured out heavily. I have written this, not only because of those who have embraced one form of sin or another and who need to repent, but also because of those whose love and passion for God are waxing cold because of the abundance of sin, which makes it appear as if the judgment of God is merely a thematic discourse, and not a scary reality. I pray our hearts will clearly apprehend the reality of God’s coming wrath, and of his present love revealed in Jesus Christ, who rescues us from the coming wrath. Amen.