Following Jesus Transforms Us

In this last post on our series on following Jesus, we look at the results of following Him.  2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (KJV).  I found the King James Version a little hard for me to understand, so I looked at other versions.  The Living Bible puts it like this, “But we Christians have no veil over our faces; we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him.”  I decided to try another version as well.  The NIV states, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

If we read before the passage, the chapter is comparing living under the law versus living under grace.  The Apostle Paul talks about Moses and how, when he came back from being with God in the mountain, he had to wear a veil to hide the glory of God that shone on his face until the glory completely faded away so that the people wouldn’t see it fade.  The people recognized he had been with God because they could see it in his face.  Moses brought the law (the Ten Commandments) down from the mountain to give to the people to show them God’s requirements for living a holy life.  The covenant of the law shows us our sin and we are condemned because the law is impossible to follow perfectly.  If we break one law, we have broken them all.

However, as Believers, we live under grace, which Paul says is a better or greater covenant.  As we follow Jesus and allow Him to change us from the inside out His glory, or His light, shines through us, and those around us can see Him shining out in our very appearance.  Paul talks about looking into a mirror and seeing God’s reflection.  When we follow Jesus wholeheartedly, He begins to change us from the inside out.  We are transformed when we allow Him to make the changes in us that will result in us looking more and more like Jesus; we are reflections of Jesus’ glory.  Romans 12:2 tells us we are not to be conformed to this world, looking like the world; rather, we are to be transformed by letting God change our thinking, “renewing of your mind”. (NIV)

The closer we follow in Christ’s footsteps, the more we become like Him.  When we are saved, His Spirit comes to live inside us.  The Holy Spirit directs us.  He is that little “nudge” when we need correcting or a prompting to do something out of our comfort zone.  The Holy Spirit speaks to us if we will only listen to His still, small, voice; and He will guide us to live in the light that shines from Jesus so that we reflect that light to others.

Some may say they don’t know if they hear the Holy Spirit speak to them.  We all have times when we aren’t sure we hear His voice.  Lately, I’ve been aware of His nudge to share something in my blog as I write my posts.  It’s like a strong urging from the Holy Spirit to give insight on something He wants my readers to know.  When we keep our hearts open to receive, He will give us what is needed.  The more we are receptive to His prompting, the closer we get to becoming more of a reflection of His glory.  The more we reflect His glory, the more we are transformed and become a mirror image of Him.  Today, let Him transform you by following Jesus closely.

Following Jesus Requires Obedience

As we continue our series on following Jesus, our Scripture today reminds us that we must be obedient to what Jesus is asking us to do, and that means even when it is difficult or what we are not comfortable with.  1 Peter 1:14-16 says, “So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy.’” (NLT)

There are times when God calls us to step out in faith and do something that is so far beyond our comfort zone, that I think some of us tend to say, “Wait a minute Lord, I can’t do that!”  It reminds me of Moses.  God called him to rescue the Children of Israel from Pharaoh and take them out of Egypt,(Exodus 3) and Moses protested, saying that he couldn’t do it because he didn’t talk well when in reality, I believe he was afraid.   When it boils down to it, I think that’s where we are when we say we can’t.  We are walking in fear instead of faith, and we don’t obey the call to a mission He has given to us.

Peter reminds the early church that we must live holy lives and must be obedient to what God calls us to, whether it be a ministry, or asking us to conduct our lives in righteousness.  Obedience is key.  Peter says we are not to live to satisfy our desires, but we are to live to seek God’s desire for us.  What does He ask of us?  “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8 KJV) In following Jesus, we should walk in an upright manner, our actions, speech, and attitudes should be just.  Our lives should show mercy to others with love in our hearts for them and if they are unbelievers, our hearts must break for their lost condition.  Our lives ought to be an example of how God wants us to live, as we show our love for them in everything we do and say.  As examples, we are to follow God with humility, not with an attitude of, “Look at me, I’m a Christian, I’m better than you.”  Nothing will drive an unsaved person away quicker than a “holier than thou” attitude.

When God calls us out to step into a new arena, yes, it can be scary.  Our knees are knocking, and we can feel fear rising.  But we also know that God has promised not to abandon us. (Hebrews 13:5) He will help us take that first step of obedience.  Remember, obedience means we are dying to our selfish desires and accepting the task God is asking us to take up.  One way to remember this is to look at the word, “obedience.”  Obedience.  See the word inside the word?  The word, “die” is tucked inside the word, “obedience.”  We are to die to self and turn to Christ and follow Him, and we are to do this with an attitude of humility, just as Christ was humble. 

Is God asking us to witness to others and tell them what Jesus has done for us?  He will help us. He will give us the courage to open our mouths and share with them the love of Jesus.  Is He asking us to take a new job?  Is He asking us to move clear across the country?  I’ve been in all those situations (I had to move across the country twice!) …and yes, I was scared to death. But He helped me put one foot in front of another and I now know why I had to walk those paths.  As I was obedient in each of those cases, my faith became stronger, I learned something new.  I learned about myself and I learned about the faithfulness of God.  Being obedient to the call of God brings peace and a life that is full because we have obeyed the voice of the Lord.

God’s Grace Abounds

In today’s Bible Journaling we look at Romans 5:20-21, “The law came along to multiply the trespass. But where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness, resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (CSB) The Living Bible, which is a paraphrase and not a translation, puts it this way, “The Ten Commandments were given so that all could see the extent of their failure to obey God’s laws. But the more we see our sinfulness, the more we see God’s abounding grace forgiving us. Before, sin ruled over all men and brought them to death, but now God’s kindness rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

I must admit, I have had a hard time with this passage.  Not in understanding, but in trying to put down what it was that God wanted me to share.  I began my Bible Journaling page yesterday and then when it came time to write, I hit a roadblock.  But I think God is beginning to show me what I need to share.

When we look at following Jesus, one of the things I see is that part of following Jesus involves sharing what He has done for us with others.  When we talk to unbelievers, a lot of times we’ll hear the phrase, “I’m no worse than anyone else,” and that may be true.  But we must remember that all of us were born in sin because of Adam’s original sin of rebellion and disobedience against God. (Romans 5:12) Because of this, we are all sinners, not that we are sinners because of inheritance, but because Adam passed the sin nature to humanity by his actions and attitude (his defiance, if you will).  So, Salvation also is not inherited from God, even though we are considered children of God when we accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, but because we receive the righteous nature of God when we ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins and live in us.

Our Scripture talks about the law, the Ten Commandments. Even before the Ten Commandments were given there were unrighteous and righteous people on earth.  Those who remained in the unrighteous nature of Adam faced death.  They faced physical death, yes, but they also faced spiritual death, just as we do today. Those who were righteous people, who followed God, were given grace from God, even though people didn’t know it as grace at that time.  The law was given to show us our failings, our sin.  God knew that man would never be able to keep the entire law, for if even one commandment was broken, the whole law was broken.  But Jesus’ sacrifice brought grace to those who believed in Him and His death, burial, and resurrection, and His mercifulness became greater than the sin we were in and His blood covered our sin nature.

This is what we are to share with others, that God’s grace is granted when we become Believers.  We are to tell them that because of Jesus’ sacrifice we can have eternal life.  Now, that may seem like a frightening prospect to some.  But I believe that God does not call us to remain in our comfort zone but to step out and deliver the message of His love and forgiveness to those around us.  It is when we delve into areas that we are not comfortable in, that we see growth in our own lives and our relationship with Jesus becomes stronger.  His grace also extends to us as we step out in faith to do what He calls us to do.  Not only do we see His grace being greater than our sin, but it also grants us His favor when we, in obedience, do what He calls us into, whether it is the ministry, or just befriending someone and leading them to Jesus.  His grace abounds! It is greater than our sin, greater than our insecurities, greater than anything!

His Word is a Light

As we follow Jesus, we need to know what He says. God’s Word is written down for us to read and absorb. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (NASB) God’s Word lightens the pathway that is set before us.

As we travel this road God has given us to walk, we need to be immersed into His Word so that His precepts are buried deep into our hearts, so much so, that they become part of us. As we follow Jesus’ words and memorize Scripture, the Word lights our pathway.

2 Peter 1:19 says, “We also have the word of the prophets as confirmed beyond doubt. And you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” (Berean Study Bible) God’s Word gives instruction and discipline, “For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life…” (Proverbs 6:23 NIV)

The Bible is our road map through life. It tells us how to deal with everyday situations, it tells us of God’s love for us and His plan for us. It opens our eyes to ourselves and then gives instructions on how to deal with those things that need to be removed from our lives.

The Apostle Paul said that the Scriptures are “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4 NASB) When we read God’s Word, we gain insight as to who He is. We learn about His character so that we can imitate His character and become more like Him. My husband says, “When we walk BEFORE Jesus, we are walking in our own shadow. But when we walk, FOLLOWING Jesus, we walk in His shadow!” Jesus says, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” (John 8:12 NASB)

As we walk in Jesus’ light, His light shines through us. Jesus also instructs us to let our light shine. Matthew 5:15-16 says, “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” When we allow the light of God’s Word to penetrate our hearts, Jesus’ light shines within us so that others can see.

The Bible is our guidebook for life, a marriage manual, a guide for raising children, a self-help book on how to deal with others, a book of poetry and songs for praising and worshipping Him and is our very life’s blood. God’s Word is precious to us! It is the light that shines, not only to light our pathway but to light the world with God’s love as we show the world Jesus in our daily walk with Him.

Be Like Jesus

In following Jesus, the Bible tells us in Jesus’ own words, that we are to be imitators of Him. Luke 6:40 says, “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.” (NASB) This is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and He is giving instructions to those who are listening. He gives what we know as The Beatitudes, or as one Sunday School teacher put it, “Bee- Attitudes”, where each little bee on the board was one of the beatitudes. This is how our actions and attitudes should be toward others.

In this setting, Jesus is the teacher. He is instructing them on how they should love one another, how they should not judge each other and treat others. In fact, he reprimands them for being judgmental in verses 41-42, reminding them not to be critical of some minor thing in someone else’s life, while all the while they have some big, glaring thing in their lives that they need to deal with. What Jesus is saying is that we are to imitate Him! Our actions and attitudes should be just like His. This is part of following Him.

Now, God knows that we are not perfect and that this is going to be a life-long process for us. In following Jesus, we must do the hard work of changing our attitudes so that we reflect the attitude of Christ. If we fail to have the attitude of Christ then we must remember to stomp down the fleshly nature and keep it under our feet, that way Christ can be elevated. That’s following Jesus where the rubber meets the road. It’s getting down to the nitty-gritty.

We are to be imitators of Christ. The Apostle Paul encouraged the Corinthians of this very fact. I Corinthians 11:1 says, “Be imitators of me, as I also am of Christ.” (NASB) Paul’s life was such that he could honestly say that he was imitating Jesus and was confident enough to tell the Corinthians that they should follow his example. When we exhibit Jesus’ likeness, others see Him in us. When we allow Jesus to be on the throne of our hearts, He has full control over every area of our lives.

Are we always successful in exhibiting Christlikeness? No! That’s why this is an ongoing struggle for each of us. Situations come up where the old man wants to stick up his ugly head and take control. That my friends can be a fight! Why? Because our enemy, Satan, doesn’t want us to be like Jesus because when we are showing Jesus’ love and attitudes to the world around us, His presence is inviting to others, and unbelievers will begin to desire what we have… a life controlled by Jesus.

We are to be that light and salt to the world. (Matthew 5:13-16) Showing Jesus to the world is done in how we follow Him daily in our walk with Him. It comes through in our thoughts, our speech, in our works, in our attitudes, and in every area of our lives. Following Jesus is hard sometimes, but when we surrender ourselves to His authority, we find that we are living lives of Spiritual peace, contentment, and joy. That’s what others are looking for, and they will want what we have.

Following Jesus Even When it’s Hard

Sometimes, following Jesus isn’t the easiest thing to do. Life seems to get in the way, plans that we’ve worked so hard to bring to fruition change, sometimes, it seems we’re slogging through knee-deep mud, and life just isn’t fun anymore.

Some of Jesus’ disciples found this out. They had seen Jesus feed 5,000 people with two fish and five loaves of bread, and they’d seen Him walk on water! They must have thought that life was going to be cushy walking with Jesus. They were more concerned with what He could give them.

Then He began to tell them that walking with Him wasn’t always going to be easy. He tells them that instead of being concerned about their physical food, they should be more concerned with their Spiritual food. He begins talking about how He is the bread of life and that no one can come to God, the Father, except through Him. They’re still thinking of the food they got when He fed the 5,000, and they ask for a sign. They want Him to do something for them and then they would believe in Him. Then Jesus begins to tell them about how He must become our sacrifice with His death on the Cross and they must partake in His suffering. Then in John 6:66, the Bible says, “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” When things got hard, they walked away.

Back when I was a teenager, there was a popular song playing on the radio, “Rose Garden” by Lynn Anderson. The song isn’t a Christian song, but one phrase in that song has stuck with me when I think of what God has promised when we walk with Him. The phrase says, “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden.” God never said that walking with Him would always bring us sunshine, roses, and no problems. Sometimes things just don’t work out the way we have planned, or situations hit us so hard that we lose our balance and get knocked off our feet.

It is during those times when our commitment to Jesus really shows up. What do we do when all we’ve worked so hard for falls completely apart? What about when we’ve asked God for something and prayed so hard for and He says “no”? What about when we’ve been persecuted by unbelievers? How do we react? Following Jesus means staying with Him even in the hard times. It means sticking to our commitment to follow Him.

It is during those times that we need to hold on to His hand all the tighter. It is then that we need to draw closer to Him. God promises that when plans change or life gets hard, He will be with us. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10 NIV) Don’t get disillusioned or be so easy to give up.

Ok, so things aren’t going the way we want, are we going to just throw our hands up and say, “Forget it!”? The hard times not only help us in that they strengthen our faith, but they also build our character and teach us to rely on God.

There have been times in my life when I have wanted to just chuck it all and say, “Forget it!”, but when I really thought about it, there was nowhere else to go. My only hope in those difficult days was at Jesus’ side. When I look back at those days, I see how walking with Him has made me stronger in my faith, and when the next difficulty came along, I was better able to withstand that trial than the struggle before. It is when we are in the valley that we grow, not on the mountain top. It is also then that we learn how faithful He is, and we learn how much He loves us.

As for Me and My House

As we continue on our series on Following Jesus, today’s Bible Journaling verse takes us to Joshua 24:15, “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (NASB)

Joshua is nearing the end of his life and he has gathered the children of Israel together and he begins to remind them of how God has walked with them, cared for them, and gives them a basic review of their history. He begins with how God called Abraham to go to a land he had never been to…a land that God promised Abraham and his descendants, the Promised Land!

He recounts how after Moses led them out of Egypt and God delivered them from the hand of Pharaoh, how they wandered in the desert for 40 years, and how God brought them to the Promised Land and they defeated their enemies and took the land. Now, they have become disobedient and are serving other gods, the gods of their enemies. The Lord is admonishing them to put away those gods and to serve Him only. He tells them there is a choice that must be made, chose God or false idols. Joshua makes a declaration, “…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” He tells them, “choose for yourselves today whom you will serve.” He gives them no options, no time to think about it, choose today!

That choice is one we must make daily. Are we going to follow after our fleshly desires, after the current fad of belief of the day, making other things or people our idols, or are we going to set our hearts on Jesus, following Him and where He leads us? Following Jesus requires a commitment on our part. We must sincerely consecrate ourselves to living a life of righteousness and obedience.

Sometimes, it seems difficult to make those choices. Things may come up before us that can be stumbling blocks, leaving us with hard decisions. Do I follow a pathway that I know without a shadow of doubt goes against God and His ways, or do I turn my back on that temptation and go after God’s desire for me?

When I was two years old my father came to know Jesus as his Savior. It’s a day I remember as clearly as if it happened yesterday. We lived next door to the pastor of the Wesleyan Methodist church in our small town. My Dad and the pastor had become friends and I’m sure the pastor shared Jesus with my father. My grandparents became Believers when my Dad and uncle were teenagers, and both my Dad and my uncle rebelled against the change in my grandparents and their commitment to going to church and following Jesus. I don’t know what was going on in my Dad’s life at the time, but something about the pastor got hold of my Dad.

Daddy had gone next door to talk to the pastor and when he got home the first thing he did was open the cupboard and take out a full, never opened, bottle of wine, opened it up, and poured the whole thing down the kitchen sink. He never touched alcohol again. It took some time, but Dad quit smoking too. Another change…we began going to church, and my parents eventually became the youth leaders of the church. My Dad remained committed to serving Jesus for the rest of his life. From that time forward our home was built on God’s Word and serving Him. My Dad made sure us kids knew from where the source of his strength came. He instilled into me, from little on, the importance of living for Jesus. Both the pastor’s family and ours moved from that small town to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to work at a new church. When I was 11, I gave my heart to Jesus in front of this same pastor. I had a choice to make…ask Jesus into my heart or go my own way? I couldn’t ride into Heaven on my Dad’s coattails or claim salvation because my Dad had, that decision had to be my own.

Jesus wants us to follow Him in every area of our lives. He wants a relationship with us and for us to live for Him. Are you willing to say, like Joshua, “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord”?