Posted by on Aug 28, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Becoming Followers

Dear Lord…as we consider your words to your disciples about following your example, please let us realize that genuine love, honesty, loyalty and forgiveness are some of the keys to us as we continue growing as your followers and your disciples.

Our gospel for this Sunday is from Matthew 16:21-28. We will also be considering the words Paul wrote to the Romans in Romans 12:9-21 as we consider how we can continue growing as followers of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I would ask that you take the opportunity to put yourself in the story of Jesus beginning to tell the disciples about his coming journey to Jerusalem and what He must suffer there. As you do this, you will remember that you, as a disciple, have witnessed many incidents of Jesus healing people who needed his touch.

You will remember that you were with the large groups of people who were ministered to by Jesus and who were fed by Jesus and the disciples with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes. You would have witnessed Peter walking on the water, losing sight of Jesus and Jesus saving Peter from drowning.

You would have witnessed the calming of the Sea of Galilee as well as the conversation with the Canaanite woman and finally, Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God. What a wonderful group of miracles to have experienced. Since you would also be a part of the Jewish community, you would expect that, as everyone else of this community, you would expect that the Messiah would defeat those who were persecuting you and your families. Not only that, but they expected the Messiah to provide political, economic and spiritual relief for them by restoring the temple. They expected this would happen within their lifetime. Yes…the disciples, themselves, did not really realize what Jesus would be saying to them.

So, when the disciples heard that Jesus would be taken prisoner by the scribes and Pharisees and would suffer greatly at their hands and would be killed, I’m sure it was difficult for them to hear and to accept as truth. Wouldn’t you feel the same way? I also think we would have also let the words “on the third day he would be raised”, slide by our thoughts as unbelievable.

So…when Peter spoke up for the disciples saying this shouldn’t happen we would all have been agreeing with him. We would also have been shocked when Jesus said, “Get behind me Satan.” What would we have felt? In reality, we would have agreed with Peter that our “human senses and interests” would have been primary in our minds and we would have been “clouded” to what Jesus was actually saying. Jesus said to him, “Stop opposing what I’m saying and start following me with genuine love.”

Jesus then asks those who want to be His followers to take up their cross and follow him. In other words, put their own lives in the background and think of the others who need to hear the good news. Take up our life…our choices for our own benefit and think of others.

This challenge is also stated in the Romans text when Paul challenges us to let our love be genuine, hate what is evil, love one another, outdo one another in showing honor…” (v 1-2) Is our love and concern out of self-interest, or can we put others interests and well-being ahead of our own wishes?

We have seen many fine examples of people helping others out these last two weeks after the storm that raged through Iowa. How grateful the home and business owners must have been to have such help with the trees as well as supplying some of their needs.

So…we are followers of Jesus….just as he challenges us to be. We cannot give up our lives as Jesus did, but we can surrender ourselves to the needs of others, attempt to bring justice to a broken world as well as help bring peace to our world that is attempting to tear itself apart by divisions and hatred.

I know we are all tired of the bullying ads on television, the half truths being thrown around about other people and conditions, not hearing ALL of the information…only hearing what one group wants us to hear. How can we take up this cross and get a resolution? Can we write to a person or entity that could help us make a difference toward truth and honesty? Can we listen to other people’s ideas, not agree with them, not totally disagree, but offer a calmer idea or solution to their statements?

What if a person reacts adversely to what we say? How should we respond/react, according to both Jesus and Paul? We are to ask God to give the person kindness, the opposite of cursing them. We are to listen to each other even though we do not agree. We can respect what is good and right. We can seek peace with all men…allow God to deal with the guilt and the negative reactions.

Let us all look toward the unifying element of genuine love, honesty and integrity. Let us all remember the three things John Wesley, himself, stated needed to be part of a life following Christ. Those things are: Do no harm, avoid evil and do good whenever possible.

We are all followers of Jesus….we have been for a long time. However, we are also being asked right now to renew our promise to be His follower so that all people know God is in control and to forget self and show God’s love to everyone.

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