Friday, September 07, 2007

Mathew 8:24-27 Faith, Church, Life, etc, etc - or attempting to follow Jesus

This is a study I'm planning on doing in a few days, I was going to leave putting this up until I had done the study, but its in my heart to put this up on my blog now at this point in time. I may come back and edit it later. I want to apologise if any of this blog comes across harsh or condemning. That is not my intention. I'm struggling with the material in this blog myself, because I'm human. I just want to share this because its something close to my heart. I will will be the first person to say that putting Gods will first and following Jesus' call is hard (especially when you are struggling with what that means for your life). It is challenging and costly and indeed the most frightening thing you can do with your life. But it is the most rewarding, most meaningful and most exciting experience that anyone can have.

Mathew 8:24-27
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose,, and the winds blew and beat against the house, and it fell with a great crash.”

The first thing that came to my mind as I read this passage with fresh eyes was the radical nature of this parable. Jesus’ claims here seem to me to be very radical. Most rabbis yoked only there disciples to their teachings, but he is saying that his teaching is the truth, that the people should follow him, follow his teachings – essentially put his trust in him. These claims are huge, he is claiming that if you build your life on him, his teachings, when life gets tough, God will be there strengthening you and bringing you through the hard times.

This comes down to the heart of faith, the heart of having a faith in Jesus, his teachings and the saving act, that he is there, guiding us through, that he is there listening to our cries, that we are to follow his will with our life.

I have been reading a book recently called the Forgotten Ways, its forcing me to wrestle with these issues once again. Early on it sets the scene for the rest of the book, it asks the question, how did the church grow from 25,000 Christians in AD 100 to 20 million in AD 310. These churches were against the wall at this time, Christianity at this time was an illegal religion, the church went through numerous persecutions during this period, so if you became a Christian, the likelihood was you would not live a normal human lifespan at that time. It also had other things going against it, it was ill resourced, having only a roughly formed canon at the time, they did not have professional leadership, church buildings or the range of books on church planting, leadership, Christian growth, etc, etc. But they had a profound faith in the LORD Jesus Christ, they confessed with their mouths and proclaimed with their lives that Jesus was their LORD and saviour.

So what do I think that these verses are talking about, I think the fundamental thing that Jesus is trying to get to is the heart of discipleship and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. When we read the gospels we see the response of the disciples to Jesus. He called them personally by name and told him to follow him. The amazing response of these men was that they dropped their nets and followed. What did this mean for them, it meant that they were dropping their jobs. Like our culture, occupation carried certain social meanings to it, dropping their Jobs meant that they were dropping their security, their identity as people, the place in society and became disciples, a group of men and women who followed, learning and practising what their rabbi, our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ taught them. Jesus exorcised Demons, they jumped in and exorcised Demons, Jesus healed the sick, they practiced at this, Jesus cared for the needy, they did this, Jesus called for them to live holy, changed lives, they attempted to model their lives around this. It went to the point that when Jesus walked on the water, Peter wanted to do the same thing, because he wanted to model his teacher. We too are called to follow the ways of Jesus, who is our Rabbi, but also our LORD and saviour.

I’m going to be honest and questioning in this next section, about myself and the way I see things, a couple of years ago I went through quite a challenging period in my faith journey. It was a really difficult time, as it made me essentially question who I was as a Christian, as a follower of God and following Christ. The essential questions that came up for me was “am I really a follower of Jesus?”, “where do I find my identity as a person?” These questions were hard, particularly for a person who believed they were following Christ fully with his life, but began to realise there were major shortcomings in how I saw people, how I saw Jesus, how I looked at the bible, how I saw myself. It was a deeply humbling experience, an experience that in many ways has not ended completely. I had to find where I found my Identity, was it in my Status, my theology, the church I attended, my university education, the people I hung out with or was it in my faith in my LORD and saviour, Jesus Christ. When all these things seemed to fall to the wayside in importance, the thing that stood through all of this is my faith in my LORD and saviour. I have realised more and more that it is this that has gotten me through hard times in my life, the relationship I have with my LORD and saviour.

So what is it that you put your trust in, where do you find your meaning. What does God think of it? Is your meaning, your personal worth found in Christ or is it found in your career, your family, your theology, your church, your denomination, if all that was stripped back what would be left, stripping that all back, where would you gain your identity?

Again I want to say that I am wrestling with these issues right at the moment, what does it mean to be a disciple of Christ, what does faith mean, what does it mean to those who interact with me on day to day basis, and I’m continuously coming back to the feet of God and repenting. I know there are areas in my life I have not sorted out – sins and personality traits that I do not think are all that Christ like at all. There are areas in my life that need to be sorted out that I probably do not even know about and I need people in my life that can show those to me and even give me a good prod in the right direction, if you know what I mean.

I believe that this is the question we need to ask ourselves both individually and as a church, the people of God. Where do we find our identity? In a sense I have just answered it, we are the people of God, saved by Christ; set apart and called to change Karori, Wellington and the World. I can say these words, but are we living this out, accepting this. Do we live as disciples of our LORD Jesus Christ, modelling our lives around him– or do we live similarly to the world? When we take away the building, the lights, the songs, the church activities, its there something distinct, something deep, something so beautiful that people are attracted to it, are we reflecting Christ to the world, or are we just another social club?

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