Be led by Jesus Christ and follow willingly

I encourage you to be led by Jesus Christ and follow willingly

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19 NIV). Simon and Andrew didn’t see this one coming. The brothers weren’t looking for a new religion or prophet to follow. No, they were quite happy without Jesus; dead in their spiritual blindness, but happy in their darkness.

Be led by Jesus Christ and follow willingly

Through this simple intervention Jesus called two brothers to a radical and permanent transformation.  Should they follow, fish would no longer satisfy. Their entire world would be irreversibly changed. Jesus gave them no options, no consideration for feelings, and no opportunity for negotiation. Either abandon all to follow Jesus, or ignore the God-man and continue fishing. Surprisingly, the only promise given by Jesus was this mysterious business of becoming “fishers of men.”

Should they follow, they would be part of humanity’s bulls-eye events, integrated into a 3 year world changing intervention by God. To follow would mean a change in every priority, every relationship would be recalibrated to fall under Jesus as Lord and God. Popularity would be irrelevant, wealth would seem immaterial, health concerns would be inconsequential, and Heaven would be the indisputable destiny.

A historic choice

What were these brothers to do? “Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (Matthew 4:20). That was it, the choice was made, there would be no turning back. Next, James and John were confronted by a similar life changing demand that left no room for compromise or blending of the old and new life. Likewise, “Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him” (Matthew 4:22). Christ’s call permitted no bargaining, no terms of acceptance were permitted, and no telling Him to come back later when it suited better. No, following in total surrender was the only appropriate response.

Many months later, Jesus told his disciples, including Simon, Andrew, James and John; “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). These men had already walked away from business, family, community and lifestyle. What more could Jesus expect? Turns out, Jesus wanted everything! He was calling for a willingness to accept the possibility that followers may suffer the same crucifixion which He would suffer shortly.

As we know, they willingly followed Jesus into a life of fishing for the souls of people to be saved for eternity through faith in Jesus Christ. Theirs would be a life of making “disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Their single minded focus would be to “proclaim him (Jesus) by instructing and teaching all people with all wisdom so that (they) may present every person mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28 NET). This was no Jesus vacation, no party here; it was mission with a purpose, and they followed!

Christ has the authority

In Jesus own words; He could claim this over their lives because “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me…” (Matthew 28:18). When you hear the call of Jesus on your life, you’re hearing sovereign God, the one who created you, who has preserved your life to this point, who claims your life for His purposes and His glory.

Today, I encourage you to be led by Jesus Christ and follow willingly. No matter if you know Christ already or not; whole-heartedly follow Him as Lord and be His fisher of men. Live Christ, share Christ, and enjoy Christ.

Together for Christ:  Lincoln Forlong

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Love life, love Christ, and resist hedonism

I encourage you to love life, love Christ, and resist hedonism

Deep within human nature is the hedonist; being devoted to the pursuit of pleasure and self-gratification. When hedonism becomes the guiding belief which determines all other beliefs and behaviour, there can only be one outcome – idolatry. Why idolatry you ask? Because; to the hedonist “self” must dominate God. Therefore, everything and everyone is to be manipulated and sacrificed in the pursuit of personal pleasure. When the hedonist attitude gets into the church, conflict with God is certain.

Love life, love Christ, and resist hedonism

Hedonism wrapped in Christian belief is not only a lethal weapon against the Church but a self-destructive disease. A spiritual condition which lures people onto a path in life which is “the highway to hell (which) is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way” (Matthew 7:13 NLT). It’s a popular road walked by the majority. Everything is evaluated by emotion; mocking God as being irrelevant and not fit for the purpose of pleasure.

Now, realise that God is not a kill-joy! “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil  and his lips from speaking deceit” (1 Peter 3:10). A God honouring life desires to love life and to develop that love for life through integrity and not selfishness or sin. If you cannot imagine joy without sin being involved, then you don’t need a new god, you need a Saviour.

Mankind was created in the image of God, therefore God is the ultimate reason and purpose for mankind’s existence (Genesis 1:26). Ultimate pleasure, fulfilment, and security is only found in a surrendered life under the leadership of our loving Heavenly Father. Just as “there is one God, there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). Jesus Christ is the only way to enter into a satisfying relationship with God. For the Christian, God is the greatest reason and meaning for life. When self steps up to the leadership role, God steps back, and you have idolatry.

It remains God’s constant desire for everyone to come to Him through repentance of sin and dependant faith. For mankind this is a problem. Why you may ask? Because sinful people want God to accept them on their terms without any change. They expect God to engage with them without having to deal with the sin that separates them from Him.

However, through Jesus alone “forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you” (Acts 13:38), and “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved…” (Romans 10:9-10).

I encourage you to love life, love Christ, and resist hedonism. Follow Christ’s instruction to; “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself” (Luke 10:27).

Together for Christ:  Lincoln Forlong

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Guard against subtle idolatry

I encourage you to guard against subtle idolatry

Ramah would be remembered for the twist on idolatry that changed the nation. It was a straight forward request that many would have thought to be harmless. Possibly it made good sense to some. However, as Samuel explained to Israel, if he was to appoint “a king to judge us like all the nations (1 Samuel 8:5), this would cost them everything (1Sa 8:11-18).

Guard against subtle idolatry

But why, when on the surface it seemed to be a good idea? Because, beneath lay motives compelled by selfishness and idolatry. Although the Lord had foretold through Moses that Israel could “set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose” (Deuteronomy 17:14-15), they got it all wrong. Israel didn’t want the Lord to appoint a King at all. No, they wanted Samuel to appoint a King to replace Yahweh. One who would “go out before us and fight our battles” (1 Samuel 8:20), doing away with the need for the Lord to win the victory for them.

The Mission Exposed

Make no mistake; idolatry has only one goal; total dominance over your life in place of Jesus Christ. Our arch enemy is not fussy as to which method of take-over he uses, just as long as the primary mission gets accomplished. Obviously, there may be some discomfort during the early days of migration from Jehovah to whatever. But as idolatry gradually pervades your thinking unnoticed, you become increasingly comfortable with it.

No wonder the apostle Paul bluntly tells us to “flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14). You see; anything that takes your preeminent position, other than the Lord, is idolatry. Ezekiel explained the offense of idolatry as anyone “who takes his idols into his heart and sets the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face…” (Ezekiel 14:4).

It looked like this; people chose to make idols the center of their heart’s affections. They would acquire physical items which they would focus their affections on. Their attention would be directed at those idol things and in so doing they became guilty of worshipping them. Imagining their wrong affections to be OK, they would “come to the prophet” of the Lord (Eze 14:4), associating and blending their idolatrous affections with worship of Yahweh as if it was all good. How very wrong they were!

The nature of it

The stealth nature and seductive methods used by idolatry are often subtle to begin with, but remember its goal is to dethrone Christ as Lord. Don’t be fooled, it’s sneaky and devious in the ways that it messes with your thinking so that you increasingly accept it’s beliefs as genuine and OK.

Most of the time idolatry’s victims don’t recognise what’s changing. Behaviour, language, relationships, isolation from the Church, selfishness through the all-consuming “I, me, and myself” are some of the ways you can be seduced. These will take you through a spiritual metamorphosis allowing a non-Christ centred life-style to become the new and acceptable norm.

The familiar words offered by the apostle Paul are possibly the most concise remedy for us. “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Every form of thinking that challenges or dilutes the absolute truth of God being our only sovereign is to be fenced in by the Lordship of Christ.

Today, guard against subtle idolatry, not only in your life but also in the lives of those you care about. It’s believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who “glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3).

Together for Christ:  Lincoln Forlong         

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Continually direct your hearts toward the Lord

I encourage you to continually direct your hearts toward the Lord

It was at Kiriath-jearim that Israel’s last Judge called the nation to “direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only” (1 Samuel 7:3). Samuel was not known for mincing his words; He spoke to the centre most issue, calling the entire nation to return “to the Lord with all your heart” (1Sa 7:3). God’s people, from the leaders to the labourers, had been deliberately chasing after foreign gods and it had to stop.

Continually direct your hearts toward the Lord

If Israel’s return to the Lord was to be genuine, it meant they would “put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among” them (1Sa 7:3). This was no small request. The Lord required a deliberate change in the nation’s heart affections. For decades they had been chasing after religion which pleased their fleshly desires, where “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). Combining worship of Yahweh with the sexually perverted and barbaric rituals of Baal and Ashtaroth could not continue.

The cost of idolatry was high, with thousands of Israelites having just lost their lives under divine judgement; Israel was feeling the pain of her unfaithfulness (1Sa 4-6). But it did not need to be this way! Israel could have responded favourably to the Lord’s gracious patience at any point. But no; they wanted what they wanted, and since judgement was slow coming they assumed there were no consequences for their sin – WRONG CONCLUSION.

The solution was straight forward and required a radical change in the nation’s thinking. Beginning with the leadership, which was now Samuel, undivided loyalty in belief, thought, and behaviour belonged to the one true God alone. There could be no compromise, no negotiation, and no shared loyalties. No longer would mixed affections and amalgamated beliefs with other gods be tolerated by the Lord. “So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only” (1 Samuel 7:4).

Today, we face the same challenge. Those who call themselves Christian are to “worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve” (Luke 4:8). Joshua’s challenge to “fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness” (Joshua 24:14) is as valid today as it ever was. Believers in Jesus Christ are those with conviction and courage, who unashamedly declare as Joshua did; “as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).

Surrendered belief, behaviour, and speech remain the only true expression of a heart that directs itself to the Lord. Make no mistake; this is the work of the Holy Spirit within you. “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ,” (2 Thessalonians 3:5) because He alone is your source for spiritual life and vitality. With the Lord Jesus steering your life, you are to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16) because the Bible fuels your ability to “be filled [Controlled] with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

With the many distractions of life before you today, I encourage you to continually direct your hearts toward the Lord. Make it your “aim to please him” (2 Corinthians 5:9); to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:11).

Together for Christ:  Lincoln Forlong         

  Continually direct your hearts toward the Lord   Listen to The Pastor's Pen