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.

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.

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”?

Follow Me – Deny Self – Take Up Your Cross

Today we’re looking at Matthew 16:24, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.” (NLT) Following Jesus requires some sacrifice on our part. Once we have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, He asks something that, for us as humans, is hard. We are to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him.

When we became Believers, we turned from sin and accepted Jesus’ forgiveness and sacrifice on the Cross as payment for the death penalty that hung over our heads for our sin. At that point, we were initially sanctified because of the blood of Jesus. However, sanctification is also a daily process. Jesus asks us to deny ourselves, in other words, deny our fleshly desires and turn toward righteousness. J. Vernon McGee explains it this way in his commentary on Matthew, “Many people interpret this verse, ‘Let him deny himself ice cream’ or ‘Let him deny himself some luxury down here.’ What this verse says is ‘Let him deny himself!’ You already know that the hardest person in the world to deny is yourself. To deny myself dessert is hard enough, but to deny myself is difficult indeed. To deny myself is to put self out of the picture and to put Christ in the place of self.”

Does that mean that in denying ourselves we are to not treat ourselves with respect or have anything good? Of course not! We are not to see ourselves as the world’s doormat or appear to be a poor, pitiful creature, all the while saying that God is taking care of us and seem as if He abandoned us. Denying self is an internal working out of our salvation so that the Light of Jesus shines through.

Jesus also says we are to take up our cross. This is a concept some may find hard to understand. The cross we are to bear isn’t Jesus’ cross of sacrifice for sins. It is our own cross…the cross of fleshly desires, desires that would lead us back into sin. Daily we are faced with decisions that must be made. Will we turn to an area that will lead us into sin or do we deny ourselves the temporary pleasure of that sin and walk in the path of righteousness?

Galatians 5:19-20 gives a list of “works of the flesh”, those things that we are to walk away from. Daily we need to nail those things to the cross and kill them so that we can turn our hearts to righteousness. Some of those things are easy for us to reject while others can be a source of constant struggle, thus we battle daily with overcoming our fleshly desires. We may deal with something our whole lifetime. It is only through daily nailing our sin nature to the cross that we can find victory.

The Apostle Paul put it this way in the book of Romans. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:1-2 NKJV) We are to deny our sin nature and daily endeavor to walk in righteousness. Righteous living is exhibited in the fruit of the spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23. Those things are what we are to strive to turn our attention to, to place in our lives as we walk daily with Jesus and follow Him.

Walking with Jesus is a life-long journey. The more we crucify those things in our lives that would turn us away from Him, the closer to Him we will walk. Deny self and take up your cross.

In Following Jesus – Stand Fast!

In our last post, we learned that following Jesus begins with a personal relationship with Him. Once we have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, we begin a life-long journey that will bring us many ups and downs throughout our relationship with him. The Apostle Paul encourages us in our verse today in Philippians 4:1, “Therefore my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.” (KJV)

Paul has encouraged the Philippian church in how to live the Christian life, and now he builds upon this by saying, “Therefore,” (which means, because of this) and he gives a final instruction to be built upon all that he has told them… “stand fast in the Lord…” In our quest to follow Jesus we must stand firm, in belief, in action, in faith, in every aspect of our life with Him. There will be times when life throws us into obstacles, and we need to be firmly planted in Christ or we will be thrown off course, off the pathway, He has laid out for us, and we will falter in our faith. The Bible tells us that those who keep their faith and trust in Jesus will “be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:3 KJV)

If you look at trees, their root system digs deep until it can find a water source. This helps the tree to stand firm and not be blown over by every wind that comes along. So then, when we are firmly standing on God’s Word and our faith in Him is deep, we will not be blown about by every difficultly that comes our way.

In the middle of this pandemic, I’m hearing so many who are fearful. The news media isn’t helping, and I believe that many are so hooked into the newscasts that they are becoming fearful because of what they hear. They haven’t looked at the One who can protect them, they haven’t placed their faith deep into Him, realizing that He will not let them go, but will hold tightly to them.

Another means of standing firm in Jesus in to put on the full armor of God, that we find in Ephesians 6. Paul tells us that we are to stand! As soldiers in God’s army, we are to stand, not cower, against the forces of evil or in fear of the things that come against us.

We notice that each piece of the armor protects us. The belt of truth is the knowledge of God’s Word. It is the piece upon which the other parts of the armor are anchored. Without the study of God’s Word, we find it easy to falter in our faith.

The breastplate of righteousness represents a holy character and moral conduct. In his commentary on Ephesians, J. Vernon McGee says, “Only the righteousness of Christ can enable the believer to stand before men and before God, but the heart that is to be protected should be a heart that is not condemning the believer;” McGee says that our hearts should have a heart and conscience that is right with God.

Our feet should be “fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” (NIV) Good shoes are necessary for standing. Our shoes need to provide a good foundation upon which to stand. A soldier must have good footing that is anchored. For a Christian, that anchor is in Christ Jesus, who is our peace.

Next is the shield of faith. A shield protects from the attacks of the enemy. Paul tells the Ephesians that the shield will help them “quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” (Ephesians 6:16 KJV) When we are in a battle of the enemy of our souls, we need that shield. My study Bible says that “The shield of faith means taking God at His word by believing His promises.”

Then we have the helmet of salvation. J. Vernon Mc Gee states that “The helmet protects the head, and God does appeal to the mind of man. I recognize that He appeals to the heart, but God also appeals to the intellect. Throughout the Scriptures God uses reason with man.” However, Satan also appeals to our minds, and then we are fixed in a battle between God’s voice and Satan’s. Joyce Meyer states that the battlefield is our mind. If we don’t put a guard around our mind, Satan can and does come against us with thoughts that will cause us to doubt our faith, will cause us to think on unholy things, and will downright lie to us. So, as we trust in our hearts what God’s Word tells us, we must also think on His Word, tucking Scripture into our memory so that when the enemy comes, we can do battle by speaking truth from God’s Word to defeat our enemy, which leads us to our last piece of armor, the sword of the Spirit.

This is the only weapon in the Believer’s arsenal that is an offensive weapon. All the others are defensive. The Bible has been called a sword. Its contents are sharp. It reveals truth from lies. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (NASB) This is where speaking Scripture becomes a weapon to be used against the enemy. The advantage of hiding God’s Word in our hearts helps us to defeat Satan.

When Jesus was tempted by Satan, it was Jesus speaking the Word of God that defeated the enemy. We must remember though, that Satan also knows Scripture, so we must be able to use it appropriately, knowing the meaning and the context of the Scripture. We can win any battle by showing the enemy that we are standing firm upon the foundation of God’s Word and nothing can move us.

Verse 18 of Ephesians 6 tells us that what makes the armor powerful is prayer. We are to pray in every situation, seeking God’s wisdom and help. My study Bible says, “Without prayer God’s armor is inadequate to achieve victory.”

All of this helps us to stand fast in the Lord! So, put on your armor, pray, and put your roots deep into God’s Word. You will be like those trees whose roots run deep!