“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” MATTHEW 6:33
When Jesus called the disciples to follow Him, the Bible says they got up and immediately followed Him. They were engaged in their everyday, busy lives. But there was something so amazing about Jesus that they followed Him at once. They chose to seek after the kingdom of God over their own previous plans. Surely, everyone Jesus asked would be willing to follow Him since He was the Son of God, right? When the rich young ruler approached Jesus and asked what he must do, Jesus told him to sell everything and follow Him (Matthew 19:16-22). But the Bible says he turned away sad and unwilling to give up what he had for what Jesus promised. We would like to think we would be willing to give up our stuff to follow Christ, but would we? More importantly, do we? Are we seeking to further God’s kingdom first or is it further down the list of things to do? What has God asked you to turn away from in order to pursue His purpose for your life? Write it down. Pray for God to transform your heart and mind so you may discern what His will is for you.
“John replied, “No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven. You yourselves know how plainly I told you, ‘I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for him.’ It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the best man is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” JOHN 3:27-30
Imagine for a second that you are going on a three-day camping trip into the North Carolina mountains with your best friend. You buy a brand-new backpack to carry all the supplies you need for the adventure. However, after you purchase the new backpack, you don’t have enough money to buy all the other new equipment. So you borrow old camping supplies from friends and family that seem to be 50 years old. You pack your bag reluctantly, but you are pleased to have at least all the equipment you need. Your backpacking partner shows up at your house with brand new camping gear. Your partner’s backpack is filled with the latest and greatest camping equipment. The best part is that there is two of everything. Your friend says, “I wanted you to have the best equipment, so this is my gift to you.” Does the fact that you have already packed your bags deter you from pulling all your old, decrepit supplies out and stuffing your new backpack with all your new stuff? Probably not in the slightest.
When we give our lives over to Jesus Christ, He makes us brand new. You could say that Jesus gives us a brand new backpack. All the old stuff that we’ve been carrying around is all traded for the brand new. We have a clean slate. We realize the stuff we had in our life before is old and falling apart, but we feel like we have no choice but to put it into our bag. Greed, gossip, selfishness, along with a whole assortment of vices stay with us. As we grow in our faith, Christ is offering us new life daily with Him, but we have to take the junk out of our old bag before He can fill it again. What is even more amazing, Jesus not only offers us the new, but he removes the old. Still, we cannot keep taking it back and putting it in ourbag. He gives us contentmentin place of greed, words of encouragement to replace our gossip, and a heart to serve others instead of serving only ourselves. Daily look in your bag, identify the old ragged pieces and ask God to take your desire for them away and replace them with life-giving supplies. That is the way to prepare for the journey!
“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” GALATIANS 2:20
“Annie” is a classic movie. “The sun will come out tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun.” Whether you have seen the new Annie that was remade in 2014, or the classic one from 1982, both movies highlight the transformation of Daddy Warbucks. He is both rich and powerful. One of his publicity advisors recommends taking on a foster child to boost public perception of a caring philanthropist. The Warbucks team couldn’t care less about Annie, and they let her know she is a burden, but they smile for the cameras. It is all a façade. However, Annie’s charm melts away their stoic exterior causing them to begin caring for her and in the end, they risk everything to save her. This is similar to how Paul relates to living like Christ. First, he had to put on the facade. He acted like an upstanding Roman citizen so everyone would notice him. But one day Jesus Christ walked into his life and dissolved the façade and the labels he had worked so hard to earn. What about you? Are you keeping up appearances or seeking to have Christ change you from the inside out? How are you putting on a façade in front of others? Do you have those days when you feel like you are trying your hardest to impress everyone else instead of living to glorify God? What would allowing Christ to really live in you and through you look like at home, or work, or with friends? If you want to glorify God, let everyone see His Son through your actions and words.
“You must not have any other god but me.” EXODUS 20:3
Have you ever seen kids who have a special comfort item that they could never part with? A stuffed animal. A pacifier. An old tattered pillow case. Maybe they have a blanket like Linus in the Charlie Brown Peanuts comic. It goes where they go. The child may choose to temporarily leave it to play with another toy, but most of the time it’s never out of their sight. What happens when the item is left at Grandma’s house? If the parent realizes it first, plans go into action immediately to retrieve it quickly. If the child realizes it first, pandemonium ensues. It’s extremely difficult to console a child whose item of comfort is missing! Before we begin to think these reactions are limited to the toddler years, think back to the last time you left your phone, wallet, or purse at home. Sure, we will not wail and drop to the ground and cry, but there are things in our lives that bring our day to a halt if we do not have them in our possession. The Bible would call these idols. Idols aren’t just golden calves or bronze statues of the past. Idols still exist and could take a very real place in our life. Anything or anyone who receives our devotion can sneak into the place of God in our lives. When we depend on someone or something to provide what only God can in our lives, we are setting up idols. What, or who, do we praise in front of others more than we do our God who has provided us salvation? Sports teams? Politicians? Our children? A car? A bank account? If we forget to spend time in God’s word and prayer one morning, do we have the same sense of panic as if we had left our phone at home? We can ask God to show us what or whom we have put in His place of honor and for the ability to restore Him to His rightful place in our lives! Ask and be ready to listen and obey. Make God your number one obsession and see how He becomes the most important thing in your life.
“One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” LUKE 10:25-28
“All” is a very important word. If a friend told you that they had 1 million dollars in their bank account and they were going to give you “some” of it, you’d be excited and curious. You’d be excited because you knew that you’d be getting an amount of money, but curious because you wouldn’t really know the amount. But if that same friend told you that they had 1 million dollars in their bank account and they were going to give you “all” of it, then you’d be ecstatic. You’d be overjoyed because you would know exactly how much you’d be getting. The word “all” means, “whole quantity.” “All” means “every last drop.” How fitting that Jesus says that He wants “ALL” our hearts, souls, strength and mind. Just like the friend who says, “I’ll give you ALL of my bank account,” Jesus is the friend who said, “I’ll give you ALL of my life.” What is standing in the way today of Jesus having ALL your heart, soul, mind and strength? Surrender your ALL over to Jesus today, and His ALL will be ALL you need.
“If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.” MARK 8:35
Because of recent events in Oregon and in the Middle East where believers have been persecuted by gunpoint for their faith, many Christians may begin to wonder what their answer would be to a gunman’s question, “Are you a Christian?” The movements #ImAChristian and #IWouldSayYes are good movements in theory, but if you were to be completely honest with yourself, how would you actually answer if you were put on the spot and your life was on the line? And on a lesser scale, how would you handle a controversial conversation with a friend who thinks differently about issues the Bible is sure about? Would you stand up for the truth in love? And what about the pressure you might feel to conform to the way others live or behave that is contrary to the guidelines of God’s Word. Would you be able to stand up under that pressure to do the right thing? In every situation we have the opportunity to embrace God’s ways or deny them. One of Jesus’ closest friends, Peter, denied Jesus not once, but three times. Peter was fearful of what might happen if he acknowledged his relationship with Jesus. But, there is forgiveness even in this as we can see in Peter’s life after he denied Christ three times. After Jesus restored and forgave Peter, Peter received many other chances to deny Christ to escape punishment or ridicule, but he never again chose to deny his Savior and ended up dying for the sake of Christ. Peter realized that following Jesus was worth losing everything in this life because of all that he gained in the next. God may not call you to die for your faith, but He is definitely asking you to live for it. If we say, “Yes, I am a Christian” we risk losing our lives or our reputations or some of our relationships here on earth, but Christ promises those who risk that will gain life with Him eternally. Are we willing to trade something so temporary for the promises of life and hope and love we find in God?
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.” MATTHEW 13:44
HGTV has a television series called Million Dollar Rooms. During the show the host walks through rooms which by themselves totaled over a million dollars to construct. These rooms might be bathrooms, kitchens, or game rooms. One line heard throughout the series from owners is that these extravagant rooms are worth every penny. To the average American, who would spend a million dollars on a bathroom? And for that matter, who would spend a million dollars on any one room? It seems a bit excessive, doesn’t it? Obviously the values attributed to things vary among people. Some people in various parts of the world consider indoor plumbing a luxury they can live without while others find the thought of drinking clean water through the tap to be revolting. Jesus’ words found in Matthew, however, apply to every person, rich or poor. The kingdom of heaven is worth more than anything we can own on this earth. When we say, “Yes!” to Christ we are giving Him control of what we have on this earth. We are declaring that what He promises is better than what we already have or what we could obtain in our own power.
What is God asking you to relinquish control of right now? If we are holding onto it, unwilling to give it up, it is because we do not think it is worth it. We do not recognize the value of the treasure available to us after we let the other go. The man could not purchase the field until he had sold everything else. And we cannot receive from God what He has promised us until we let go of what He asked us to put away.