Saturday, March 21, 2020

Really Following Jesus

The whole point of these blog postings is to share my journey of recovery from co-dependence to interdependence on Christ.  What is "interdependence"?

·         the state of being dependent upon one another : mutual dependence
·         a mutually dependent relationship (Merriam-Webster)

What does “dependence” mean? 

·         the quality or state of being dependent; especially the quality or state of being influenced or determined by or subject to another
·         3one that is relied on (Merriam-Webster)

I see Jesus interwoven into these definitions.  I want to be in a “mutually dependent” relationship with Him.  I rely on Him and He uses me to accomplish His Father’s will on this planet.  I want to be “influenced” by Him alone, not always reading off a script from my past.  I want what I do “determined” by Jesus and “subject” to Him—He alone is who I answer to and not to that voice that says I must help everyone with everything. 

Let’s move, sweet CoDeWo’s, from being “grasshoppers” to a “giant.”  We need a quick review here.   The spies scope out the Promised Land, per Moses’ order.  Despite returning with a beautiful bunch of grapes, and telling the people how the land flows with milk and honey, the spies undermine it all by bewailing how enormous the inhabitants are:  

We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants…and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” (Numbers 13:31-33)

As CoDeWo’s, how are we G.R.A.S.S.H.O.P.P.E.R.S.?

·         Geared up: We are always ready to go when someone needs help
·         Ready to drop everything:  Day or night, rain or sun, we aim to fix the problem right now
·         Asking no questions:  We avoid conflict by avoiding what may be really going on
·         Speaking no Biblical truth:  Are you kidding?
·         Solo effort: Others may have left, often wisely, but we soldier on
·         Helping gives us our… 
·         Only purpose: We draw our identity and worth from helping others
·         Perplexed:  Why isn’t this person getting better? This person’s problems seem…
·         Perennial:  No matter what this person does, problems follow problems
·         Endlessly eager: If we hear, “No!” in our heart, we don’t listen and go anyway
·         Residing in The Resentful Land:  The Promised Land is for others; we live here
·         Sidelined from His Service:  Serving?  Yes.  Him?  Don’t know—we gotta go!  

How about being a G.I.A.N.T.? 

·         Grace:  People have a sin nature; only God can transform their hearts
·         Interdependence:  We do only what God calls us to do; Jesus only followed His Father; us, too
·        Acceptance:  I must accept I may not be the one to help this person; God may use many people to    
          reach this person; that person may need to be in the desert a long time
·         Needful:  This means “necessary,” or “requisite”--Mary knew Jesus Himself is the only “necessary”; 
          Martha was lost in doing for Jesus, not listening to Jesus
·         Truth:  As God reveals in His Word, wise counsel and prayer; then act on it

What a difference, huh?  Being a grasshopper is being focus on us:  our efforts, our perspective, our action.  Being a giant recognizes limitations on what we can do for others; it is truly only the Holy Spirit that can go deep into a person’s spirit and make a real difference.  He may take way longer to do His work than we would, but His work is long-lasting.  Our work is a temporary fix in a person's life.  

How can we go from grasshoppers to giants?  Simple:  Follow Jesus.  

Hang on!   What do you think I am doing? I try to serve Him every day by serving others. While the pastor sleeps, I am at a needy person’s house at 3 a.m. when the parole officer shows up and there's a bottle of alcohol on the table. He calls me, and here I go. 

I love to serve, and people always come to me with their problems. Turning them down would be cruel.  

When you talk tough, it seems un-Christian to me. Saying “No” to a needy person seems selfish and mean. 

I hate conflict, and if I speak truth to my mother-in-law whose constant involvement in my marriage is slowly destroying it, I will get slammed by the family. 

How can I cut off ties with my brother? Yes, he lies and continues to abuse drugs, but I am the only family member who sticks by him. 

I turn the other cheek when my father condemns me; I hope to show him Christ’s love. 

“Following Jesus” sounds too much like a Hallmark card, with little touch with reality. You don’t know my life.   

You are right. I don’t. But I know Someone who does. Let’s look carefully at His words regarding how and when He served the Father. Jesus shows us how to move from co-dependence to interdependence on Him by walking each moment in fellowship with Him.  Jesus showed us the way and we can do so as well, His power is in us. 

·         But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” (John 5:17)
·         Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. (John 5:19-20) 
·         I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. (John 5:30) 
·         How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? (John 5:44)

In these verses, Jesus is addressing the Pharisees, who are seeking to kill Him, for He upstages them and is popular with the masses.  But do you see an application for you and me?  If we follow Jesus, look how reliant He is on His Father for everything He says and does.

Wait a minute.  Of course He does that—He’s the Son of God.

Yes, but while He is here on earth, and having wrapped Himself in human flesh, He had limitations:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped [or a thing to be held onto for advantage] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:5-10) (Bible Gateway NIV Footnotes)

Did you catch that?  Jesus’ divinity could have protected Him from our humanity’s slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, but He did not come here to experience a diluted form of our suffering.  He felt our humanity in full force:

Seeing that we have a great High Priest who has entered the inmost Heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to our faith. For we have no superhuman High Priest to whom our weaknesses are unintelligible—he himself has shared fully in all our experience of temptation, except that he never sinned. (Heb. 4:15 Phillips)

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. (Heb. 4:15 NLT)

Wow.  He knows you very deeply, having walked in your humanity’s shoes.  So, how did He navigate this life, with all of its complexities and temptations? 

“I do nothing on my own but say only what the Father taught me.” (John 8:28 b)

 “I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it.”  (John 12:49)

“For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will.” (John 6:38)

“Then Jesus explained: ‘My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work.’” (John 4:34)

Let’s look at each of these verses and how we CoDeWo’s can follow Jesus. How was Jesus taught?  From a young boy on, He listened to the word of God, taught at home and at synagogue.   The Word of God was sufficient for Jesus to the point of when He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, He responded to each temptation with a verse.  He not only knew the Word, He could apply it when He needed to—right then and there. He didn’t look to Himself for wisdom; He looked to His Father. He learned it all throughout His life.  It was such a part of Him that when He was dying on the cross, He quoted a verse from Psalm 22. 

I am saying that His Word needs to be our daily bread—as important as eating a good breakfast.  For the Word nourishes us and gives us strength to face the day with confidence.  When you hear the Word once a week from the pulpit, do not consider that enough nourishment.  You don’t eat once a week, nor should you be in the Word once a week.  Reading books about the Bible are not the same as reading it.  Watching someone eat is not the same as taking a bite yourself. 

So, if we follow Jesus—I mean, really follow Jesus, then we must listen to His Father for guidance, direction and any course of action we should take when someone calls us in a flurry and wants us to jump in and act.  Our CoDeMo is going from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds.  But may I suggest a way to put a foot on the brake?

I find these words effective:  “I will get back to you.”  Or, "How can I pray for you?" Or, both. 

Now you have a chance to breathe.  Now you have a chance to speak to your heavenly Father.
Go to the back of your Bible, to the concordance, and look up Scriptures that pertain to the situation:  “fear,” “anger,” “anxious” or whatever word captures the moment.  Read. Think. Breathe. Pray. Repeat.  Even if it’s an emergency, you still need the Lord’s guidance and wisdom.  The whole time I was driving down to the hospital to see my husband I was praying to the Lord for guidance and strength not to panic.  He answered me on all counts.

Rebuke Satan as he chirps in your ear about how mean/selfish/un-Christian you are.  You are following Jesus.  He took the time to breathe, pray and seek His Father.  You should do no less.
He chirped at Jesus.  Satan will chirp at you. Pray for strength to stand.  Armor up:

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.  In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. (Ephesians 6:10-18)

Remember who you are in Christ: 

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Eph. 1:18-23)

Even Paul, whose relationship with Christ, turned the world upside down, knew where his power to preach came:

And we have such trust through Christ toward God.  Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Cor. 3:4-6)

So, are you seeing a pattern here?  Interdependency on Christ is the key to your recovery. 
You may be saying in your heart, You don’t know what I face.  Many, many people depend on me to help them.  Without me, their lives would crumble.  They always tell me how much I help them, but at times, I wonder.  All my friendships and relationships with family are based on what I can do for them.  If I were to speak the truth, they would punish me in one way or another.  I don’t want that.  I am lost in their lives; I don’t know what I would do if all of them were not around me.

Fair enough.  One day at a time, sweet sister.  Give the “crisis” a little time, so you can pray and not just react. Ultimately our goal, as followers of Jesus, is to do His Father’s will for our lives.  At the greatest moment of testing Jesus faced—a horrible death on a cross--look what He said,

He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Matthew 26:39 NLT)

Jesus knew that once He took on the sin of the world, He would be out of fellowship with His beloved Father.  He would, like us all without Jesus, be alone.  Until the price was paid, sin alienates us from the Father—we, too, are alone, until we are washed clean in the blood Jesus shed on the cross. The Word puts it like this:

Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. (Hebrews 5:8 NLT)

Philippians expands on this:

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
     he humbled himself in obedience to God

    and died a criminal’s death on a cross. (Phil. 2:7-8)

He suffered to set us free.  He suffered to know our pain.  He suffered to show that suffering is a teacher.  He suffered to show that to obey and pray is how we stay on His Father’s path.  Psalm 143:10 is how Jesus walked and we are to as well:

Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God.
May your gracious Spirit lead me forward
    on a firm footing.

So, if we are to be giants, and no longer grasshoppers, let us rely on Jesus, baby step by baby step, to set us free of the need to rescue everyone.  Our suffering has taught us that He is the better way to help people.  We help by praying for people, by offering some words from the Word, and then trusting the Holy Spirit to guide them.

Will people get angry at us for focusing just on Him and not talking for hours about the problem and how it victimizes them?  Yes.  At their core, they want the focus to be on them, not on God and His provisions.  They are like the children of Israel in that desert.  We can be like Joshua and Caleb, and focus on our God, His strength and His power to get us through or we can focus on our fears and need for approval.  Once again, even Paul, that mighty man of God, knew what his attitude and goal in life should be: 

Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant. (Gal. 1:10 NLT)

He will empower you.  Call on His name, trust that He will come and give you what you really long for:  a sense of worth.  You are His child.  He does have things for you to do; He wants them to be done in His power and wisdom alone.  Be a giant/G.I.A.N.T. in His name.  


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