Paul's Ponderings

Thoughts about following Jesus

Tag: Following Jesus (page 1 of 27)

5 Ways We can Contribute to the Great Commission

Our calling to follow Jesus is not just a calling to salvation, but also a calling to join God in His great redemptive work.

Peter and Andrew heard this call:

Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” (Matthew 4;19; NLT)

To one degree or another each Christian receives a similar call. This calling for all the disciples of Jesus is found in Matthew 28:18-20, the passage of Scripture we often call the Great Commission.

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (NLT)

The question that many of us who follow Jesus ask is: “What is my responsibility in carrying out the Great Commission?”

Here are 5 practical ways we can participate in carrying out the Great Commission:
  1. We love one another. “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:35; NLT) According to Jesus, the way we treat and serve other Christians, shows the world what it means to follow him. Most people are practical, and what they are looking for is whether or not something works. Our love for each other shows people that following Jesus is better than living in the hostility and rejection of the world. 
  2. We pray. And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike. (Ephesians 6:19, NLT) The apostle Paul asked for prayers to speak boldly about the Gospel. We may not have the talents and opportunities to always share the Gospel with people, but we can pray for people who do. This is one of the ways we  join with each other in making disciples of the nations.
  3. We use Scripture. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. (2 Timothy 3:16; NLT) The Bible is one of the ways God has equipped us to carry out the Great Commission. It isn’t up to us to convince people of the truth of the Gospel. The combination of Scripture and the Holy Spirit will convict people of the truth, our responsibility is to share Scripture with people. In our sharing we must do it correctly. Throwing out verses and constantly shoving the Bible into the face of people is not an effective way of sharing Scripture. Learning to share Scripture with grace and gentleness is important.
  4. We live faithfully. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. (1 Peter 3:15; NLT) Peter wrote that by living a faithful life, a life that recognizes Jesus as Lord, we demonstrate hope in all circumstances. This hope will mark our lives as different and will cause people to ask about the source of our hope. When people ask about our hope we are given the opportunity to tell them about Jesus. Do not under estimate the power of a faithful  life.
  5. We use our gifts. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. (1 Peter 4:10; NLT) Another way God has equipped us to participate in the task of making disciples of all nations is to bless us with certain talents and resources. These blessings are unique to us and can be used to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus. Be a good steward of God’s blessings by blessing other people.

The Great Commission is a task that is bigger than any one person, but it is something that each one of us can contribute to doing.

You are an important part of the work God is doing in the world. Find a way you can contribute and do it.

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The Way to Abundant Life

The Way to Abundant Life from Paul Steele on Vimeo.

The Secret to Living Abundant Life

Has your life gone according to plan?

Many of us have a vision of what our lives will look like in the future. Experience tells us that our lives rarely stick according to plan.

My life today hardly resembles that life I thought I would have when I was younger.

You know what? 

I wouldn’t exchange the life I have now for that previous vision for my life. The circumstances of my life tell me that I am exactly where God wants me to be.

When it comes to life one thing that we can count on is life is unpredictable.

On the one hand this is a scary thought because it reminds us that much of life is outside of our control. On the other hand this is how our faith is strengthened. Having a life outside of our control forces us to learn to trust God through the ups and downs of life.

There is a side of us that would like to believe that because we have faith in Jesus then our lives will be easy and good. We may not actually voice it, but there are times when we believe that God should protect us from the bad things that happen in life.

Sadly, that is not one of the promises of the Bible.

The reality is that following Jesus often brings hardships and pain, because the enemy wants to prevent us from living the abundant life that Jesus promised his followers.

On top of that, our dreams, the dreams we created before we knew Jesus or when our faith was young, often get in the way of where Jesus is leading us. These dreams actually become the obstacles that get in our way of experiencing the life that God created us to live

A frustrating aspect of this process is that God doesn’t treat us all the same.

For some God allows great tragedy into their lives in order to prepare them for what lies ahead. Others will have constant obstacles thrown into their paths which will teach them endurance and trust. Still others will seem to have a life of constant success and ease.

When we compare our lives to the lives of those around us will begin to feel like God is being unfair. This feeling will raise its ugly head because God doesn’t treat us the same. There is no blueprint that God follows to direct the lives of each person. Instead, God uses the unique circumstances of our lives to mold us into the people He wants us to be.

Think about Joseph, the son of Jacob, for a minute. (The story of Joseph is found in Genesis 37-50) In the life of Joseph we can see how unfair the circumstances of his life were.

Joseph experienced slavery and false imprisonment in a foreign land while his brothers enjoyed freedom in their homeland.

How can that be fair?

Yet, what we discover on the other side of these experiences, when famine hits and Joseph’s family came to Egypt for help, things had changed. The people were effected by their circumstances.

Part of the reality is that Joseph’s brothers did not have an easy life at home because of their guilt for selling Joseph into slavery.Their guilt softened their hearts.

Even though Joseph went through very difficult circumstances, he was now second-in-command in Egypt. God continued to work in the life of Joseph so he could be in the right position to help people. Being a slave and then a prisoner didn’t make sense to Joseph at the time, but even through those evil circumstances God worked  for good in the life of Joseph.

Things will not always make sense, but we must trust that God will do what is right.

What does that look like?

It looks like doing the next right thing.

When the future is bleak and we don’t know how we will ever come out of the hell hole we find ourselves in, all we can do is the right thing that is right in front of us.

This is the secret to abundant living that we learn from Joseph’s life. Joseph proved himself to be trustworthy and a man of godly character in the bleakest of circumstances.  Why?

He did the next right thing.

This is what God requires of us no matter what the circumstances we have in our lives.

When we remain faithful, in even the toughest of circumstances, God is able to use those circumstances to move us closer to abundant life. What we discover in this process of trusting God is that the life that God has for us is far superior to the life that we thought we wanted.

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Follow Jesus Even When it is Difficult

It is easy to follow Jesus when we agree with what he says.

I feel more inclined to give when I have extra money in the bank, but it is a little harder to be generous when I am worried about paying the bills.

I am okay with loving people people who are like me, but it is more difficult to love someone who thinks and acts differently than I do.

I love to preach about risk taking and stepping out of our comfort zone, but it is next to impossible to get me to do something that I am not comfortable with doing.

A true follower of Jesus doesn’t get to pick and choose what commandments or teachings he is going to obey. A disciple of Jesus spends his life trying to be like Jesus in every way he possibly can.

To be a Christ Follower means that we have submitted our entire lives to the will and teaching of Jesus.

To actually follow Jesus moves us beyond agreeing with the teachings of Jesus to actually changing the way we live based on who Jesus is and what he taught.

Faith is not demonstrated merely when we do those things that we agree with God are right to do, but doing those things God has called us to do that are difficult and uncomfortable.

This is the type of life that teaches us to trust God more than we trust ourselves.

57 As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
58 But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”
59 He said to another person, “Come, follow me.”
The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”
60 But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead!* Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.”
61 Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.”
62 But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:57-62; NLT

Each of these men had an excuse why they couldn’t follow Jesus right a way.

They believed in Jesus, they apparently agreed with his teaching, but what he asked them to do conflicted with what they wanted to do.

Our faith is developed when we put aside those things we want to do and change long held beliefs so we can surrender to the will and teaching of Jesus.

There were many people who wanted to follow Jesus, but Jesus reminded them what was expected of them.

To truly be a disciple of Jesus wasn’t just about following Jesus around the countryside, witnessing miracles, listening to his teachings, and being part of a spiritual group.

To truly follow Jesus meant to give up everything and do God’s will. This is what separates the followers of Jesus from the fans of Jesus. It is the difference between merely believing and having true faith.

To really have faith in Jesus means that we do the things that don’t make sense to us. Things that are difficult.

Perhaps we give up our well paying job and enter the paid ministry.

Perhaps we pick up our family and move to a different country to be missionaries.

Perhaps we decide to give a little more money even though it will stretch the budget.

Perhaps we choose to quit just sitting in the pew and find a way to volunteer in order to use the talents God has given us.

Following Jesus isn’t about our safety and dreams, but rather it is about doing God’s will.

When we learn to trust Jesus, even when we don’t understand the reasons why or don’t agree with the direction God is asking us to go, that is when our faith is able to mature and deepen.

Following Jesus is about learning to trust God more than we trust ourselves.

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The Way of Jesus

the-way-of-jesus

We are told that we are living in a divided nation.

All the various media outlets are telling us about protests and vandalism and how the United States is no longer a safe place for minorities.

One group of Americans is telling another group that they are racist and sexist because of the way they voted. The other group of Americans responds by saying they rejected a candidate who was corrupt and would further destroy the foundations of the country.

The deep divisions that make up the very soul of American political life are on full display. There is no getting around the reality that there are two vastly different visions for the United States.

On the one hand you have people on the left who declare that equality is the value that must guide us into the future.

On the other hand you have people on the right who declare that we must remain true to the principles and traditions that the United States was founded on.

Each side views the other with skepticism, derision, and intolerance.

If you have spent any time on social media you know the names and the accusations that are being flung back and forth: “You are ignorant!” one side screams and the other side fires back, “You are a bigot!”

It it is a fruitless exchange as nothing gets resolved and blood pressures rise. All you want is unity, but you are told that unity is impossible because those people on the other side are terrible people.

What are followers of Jesus Christ to do?

As simplistic as it might sound we are to follow Jesus.

It may sound simple, but it is not simple to do. There are going to be people on both sides of the aisle declaring that this or that is the most important thing and that is what deserves our attention. Many of these people will invoke the name of Jesus to try to convince us that their side is the one we must choose.

When we pick a side in this political war we simple give into the hate and the division that continues to tear apart relationships, families, churches, communities, and countries.

There is a better way, and that way is the way of Jesus.

26 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.29 And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you. (Galatians 3:26-29; NLT)

Unity is possible. It is the product of people who are rallied around a common idea, purpose, or person. Unity is achieved in football stadiums and concerts. People brought together because of their shared love for a team or a band.

This type of unity is flimsy and cannot survive the constant threat of division. This threat comes from the powers that constantly looks to divide people into different groups.

There is only one power that is great enough to overcome these wall building powers, and that is the power of Jesus. According to the Apostle Paul, Jesus is to be the rallying point that brings true unity.

Jesus came to tear down walls. That can only be accomplished when we have our faith in him.

Within his small group of 12 disciples Jesus had at least two men who were on the opposite ends of the political spectrum. There was Simon the Zealot who wanted nothing more than to fight against the Romans and restore Israel’s independence. There was Matthew the Tax Collector who believed that compromise with the Romans was the best policy.

Jesus united these men with a common purpose.

How did he do that?

Jesus rejected the politics of the world.

Satan offered Jesus the keys to all the kingdoms of the world, but Jesus held fast to God’s way to bring redemption to creation (Luke 4:5-8). After his miracles of healing and feeding the crowd wanted to make Jesus king, but Jesus withdrew to the wilderness (John 6:15). The crowd shouted hosanna and proclaimed Jesus king as he rode into Jerusalem, but Jesus stopped and wept over the city because they missed his true identity (Luke 19:41-44).

Jesus came to  establish God’s Kingdom, but he rejected politics as the way to accomplish this task. He called his followers to make disciples of the nations, not by the power of the sword (the true power behind politics), but the power of sacrificial love.

The way for the Church to be the starting point for unity is for Christians to follow the way of the Lion, who became a lamb, who was slain (Revelation 5:5-6). The politics of this world is about grabbing power and dividing people, but the way of Jesus is to serve one another in love.

We are saddened by the deep divide that exists in our country. Healing can only happen if we reject politics and follow Jesus. Will you join me?

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