Many Christians are content with believing in God and Jesus Christ, but they do not want to become followers of Jesus who would change their lives. They ignore Jesus’s call to follow Him (Matthew 16:24, John 12:26) and all the ways the Bible tries to engage us in living the Word. They live in the narrative, the story that helps keep them where they are and want to be, the least committed way of worshipping God. It’s not that they are not loyal or active members of the church, but they are content to live their lives as they choose and still be part of the church, instead of following Jesus.
Are the churches just trying to attract membership and money from faithful attenders, or are they pointing their congregants into a deep relationship with Jesus Christ? It makes a huge difference when the church keeps the congregation from the knowledge of how we can follow Jesus and doesn’t lead them into His arms. It’s not easy to step into that relationship with Jesus on your own. It’s far easier to just believe in Him. But I think that a church really lets their membership down and Jesus, too, by not preparing them to enter into a close relationship with Him.
The churches are, if they choose to be, in a particularly good place to promote following Jesus. Their membership is in a community where there is some trust developed in the congregation as they gather weekly to worship. If the church forms small groups dedicated to the deeper relationship with the Lord, the people can more easily move into the most necessary step to following Jesus: to quiet their minds, to become an observer of their thoughts, so that they can step aside from power the thoughts have on them and hear the “gentle whisper,” “the still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12 NIV, KJV ) of God in our minds. When we become an observer of our thoughts which are loud and clear in our minds, we no longer are upset by them, no longer driven or distracted from the Lord by them. After all, our thoughts so often are the product of our attachment to the world, of our culture, of our family values.
The important thing for followers of Christ is that we can actually hear God’s voice within us, as quiet as it is, recognize His suggestions that are voiced by others around us, feel His nudges as to how to proceed, what to do next, and how to do it. Our recognition of these ways He has of speaking to us, and probably more, and our obedience to them takes us on a journey to the fulfillment of our lives, to the purpose for our lives. There is one other way that I am aware of hearing God speaking to us in the Bible: lectio divina, a way of reading a few verses of the Bible three times and listening for the word or phrase that really resonates with us. Then, after each reading the passage each time, we stop to ponder what meaning that word or phrase has for us. Each time we listen to God and do what He is suggesting, we are no longer beholden to any of our thoughts or to anyone else. We are evermore faithful to Him. And we live in the dawning gift of the fruit of the Spirit–peace, joy, love, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and humility (Galatians 5:22-3).
Questions to ponder over the week: Does my church encourage me to become a follower of Jesus? Have I taken up this challenge on my own? Do I feel called by Jesus to follow Him?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who are following Jesus day by day in our lives. May we let Him lead us to our purpose, to the fulfilment of our lives here on Earth.
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- I am giving away a 10-week journaling guide to Jesus’s Two Great Commandments. If you are interested, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send it to you, free of charge.
- My latest books, “Called to Help the Poor and Needy” and “A Study Guide to the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount” are now in bookstores and on line. The first is about the more than 2,000 verses in the Bible which detail God’s instructions for caring for those in need. The second is a journaling/pondering guide to Jesus’s most complete sermon.