Or Choosing to Walk With Him No More
The parent tells the young child to stay with them and the child readily agrees. The parent starts walking and the child begins to follow closely behind. As they continue through the mall, the child's attention is occasionally drawn away from the parent as he looks around at all of the shiny & noisy distractions.
Pretty soon, the child's steps become slower as more of their attention is captured by the things around them. If they are not careful, soon the child may find that the parent is no longer in view; that the gap between them has gotten so large he will be unable to hear even if the parent calls out for him.
What must the child do? Adjust his vision, forget about what is going on around him, return his focus to the parent, and get back in lockstep with the parent again. And if he doesn't? He might very well find himself lost.
While not a perfect analogy, my point is that Jesus is moving...and I don't mean in the soulish way where people might say how the "Holy Spirit was mooooving in Church this morning." I mean that Jesus is always about the Father's business. Even now, the reason He has a Body still on the earth is because there is work yet to do (John 14:12).
There are places Jesus wants to take you...but will you follow?
Jesus said to take up our cross and "follow" Him. That means Jesus must be going somewhere. Now some might say, "Ahhh, you are just being too literal." Yet He could have just said, "Take up your cross." or, "Take up your cross and follow my example." But He didn't. He desires, by the power of His Spirit, to lead us through life in accomplishing the will of the Father.
As a Catholic, I used to perform a ritual every year called the Stations of the Cross. While most RCC services would last no more than an hour, this one was always assured to be longer as the congregation read through depictions of Jesus steps toward crucifixion (often walking around to different paintings/sculptures depicting the same). In true Catholic fashion however, these rituals were filled with religious sentiment but very little truth. Many of these moments of the crucifixion had no basis in Scripture and merely served to embellish that institution's idolatrous traditions.
A number of professing Christians today are walking out the Stations of the Cross, but they are not even Catholic. They are going through the motions of following Jesus, making every outward appearance of doing so, but are really just living for themselves; according to their own ways and their own understanding.
Yet, there is a path we are expected to take as Christians in following Jesus. Not in a superficial or merely symbolic way, but in spirit and in truth.
The Way of the Cross
It can often feel that way as a Christian. You can feel alone as even family members and close acquaintances separate from you because of the Gospel. The loudest voice can seem to be that of the mockers. However, it is important that we not be ashamed of God's words (Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; Romans 1:16, 9:23; II Corinthians 7:14; II Thessalonians 3:14; II Timothy 1:8). We must stand not only for the word of truth, but stand for the truth of the word.
What is the difference? Many people claim to stand for God's word, but do not actually believe what it says; rejecting what they do not like or do not understand in order to suit their own souls. Standing for the truth of God's word means not trying to dismiss it, diminish its power, or deny its divine inspiration. The truth of God's word is a sword and will cause division (Matthew 10:34; Hebrews 4:12). We should expect that.
In going to the cross, Jesus suffered crucifixion by this world. Likewise, we must be crucified and dead to the world (Galatians 6:14), no longer seduced by its lustful allures and defiled attractions. This is why we must take up our cross every day. Each day we must deaden this flesh because the world's job is to stimulate it, and as long as we live in these bodies, we will need to buffet them (I Corinthians 9:27).
So is that it? We just have to follow Jesus to the cross? Yes, and no. Jesus did go to the cross, but his vision was on something else. There was a joy which lay beyond the cross upon which He focused and it even gave Him strength to endure the cross (Hebrews 12:2). What joy? The joy in knowing that He was fulfilling the purposes His Father had set before him (John 19:30). I can do this Father, because it is your will for me and I desire to please you more than I desire to please my own self.
"If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full." John 15:10-11
When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He struggled to prepare Himself for the way of the cross because it would bring a separation between Him and the Father for the first time ever as He took upon Himself the sin of the world (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). Jesus looked forward to the joy of having done the Father's will, having honored His words, and having His fellowship with the Father restored (Luke 23:46; John 4:34, 19:30).
This joy Jesus had is also available to us today. This is the joy of the resurrected life; being in right fellowship with the Father and doing His will. This same joy will even give us the strength to endure the trials of the cross, knowing that in such we can walk in resurrection (Romans 6:4, 8:11-17, 12:2; Colossians 2:12-13, 3:1-3; I Peter 3:21).
While it is the cross which makes resurrection possible, it is the resurrection which manifests the power of God in our lives. We need this power to walk out the Christian life and to be a witness to others in the midst of darkness. As Paul stated, if there had been no resurrection, then our faith would be in vain (I Corinthians 15:13-14).
The Mark of the Beast
"From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him." John 6:66
Anyone who reads the blog will know that numbers are not my thing. However, I do find it very interesting that this book and chapter of John is "666" (Revelation 13:18).
What we see in this text is a dividing line. A distinguishing mark between those who continue on with the Lord and those who do not. What is this line in the sand? Faith in God's words.
In this text, we are told that many of Jesus' disciples departed from Him and walked no more with Him. Why did they turn back from Him? They were offended by His words (John 6:60-61). What did they go "back" to? The vomit and the mire of the world (II Peter 2:22). Why did the other disciples continue on with the Lord? Because they believed in His words (John 6:68).
It is interesting to note that the disciples who continued with Jesus didn't profess any greater understanding of what Jesus had said than those who left. It is entirely possible that the disciples who remained were just as confused by Jesus' words, "Eat my flesh and drink my blood." Yet they stayed because - regardless of their level of understanding - they believed that Jesus' words were the words of eternal life. They believed that His words were the truth. If we use our own understanding as the barometer for which of God's words are truth, then we will find ourselves like the disciples who departed.
Let me say this plainly. When a 'professing' Christian casts dispersions on the validity of God's words, you are looking at someone in the throes of apostasy. When people deny that certain parts of Scripture are God-breathed, they are being prepared by God to fall for a great delusion so that they will be damned (II Thessalonians 2:10-12). God does not take the dismissal of His words lightly. There are those who will quibble over the "name" of Jesus, yet think nothing of trampling on His holy word. I tell you that He holds His words higher than His name (Psalm 138:2). People, you cannot walk away from truth of God's word and still claim to be a member of God's Church (I John 1:6, 2:21).
"For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe." I Thessalonians 2:13
Why is it that many are moving away from the word of God as His standard of truth? They are not going where Jesus is going. The word of God offends them and they are choosing to walk with Him no more.
When Pontious Pilate stood before Jesus, he asked, "What is truth?" (John 18:38). He was staring truth right in the face, but could not receive it. This is what many Christians are doing with God. Instead of receiving all that is truth - His word, His Spirit, His Church, His Son - they pick and choose what is comfortable for their flesh, not understanding that the spirit and the word agree (I Timothy 3:15-16; II Timothy 2:15; II Peter 3:16; II Thessalonians 2:15).
At some point - and indeed each day and every moment - we all have to decide whether we will follow Jesus. Will we go where He is going? Will we "keep" (believe & obey) His words until the end or will we be offended by them and thus turn away from Him?
We may have chosen to do so yesterday, but will we do so today? We may have decided to follow Him an hour ago, but will we do so now?
"Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD:..." Hosea 6:3a
Thy Word IS Truth Series