What does-it-take-to-follow-christ


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What does-it-take-to-follow-christ

  1. 1. WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO FOLLOW CHRIST? T his is an important question in a day whenCONTENTS most people seem to believe in God on their own terms. How many of us would be countedSolo Or Symphony? . . . . 2 among the small band of formerWhat Does Christ fisherman, public enemies, andWant From Us? . . . . . . . 4 prostitutes who followed Jesus? 1. Dependence . . . . . . . 5 Has our democratic attitude 2. Risk . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 about personal rights, life, and government affected the way we 3. Loyalty. . . . . . . . . . . 18 think about authority, obedience, 4. Imitation . . . . . . . . . 23 submission, and the lordship ofEncore! . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 Christ? Herb Vander Lugt and Kurt De Haan have written this booklet to call us back to an attitude toward Christ that all too often has been forgotten. We pray that this study will renew and deepen your desire to follow our Lord and Leader. Martin R. De Haan IIManaging Editor: David Sper Cover Photo: J. C. Leacock/Adventure Photo & FilmScripture quotations are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by ThomasNelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.© 1992,1997,2002 RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, Michigan Printed in USA © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  2. 2. SOLO OR tried to perform a pieceSYMPHONY? he had written himself. A trombonist broke into a jazz number. Chaos reigned.A s the auditorium lights The audience sat for several dimmed and the minutes in stunned silence, curtain began to then walked out in disbelief.rise, the concertgoers ended Fortunately, the situationtheir conversations and described above is fictitious.turned their attention to the Skilled musicians who agreestage. The conductor strode to play in an orchestrato the podium and bowed simply do not behave thatin response to enthusiastic way. They sign on with theapplause. agreement that they will Then the conductor follow the conductor’sturned to face the orchestra. lead. They are part of aHe raised his baton and symphony, not soloists whobegan the concert with a just happened to be playingdramatic gesture. What at the same time.followed was one of the Unfortunately, we whostrangest concerts have declared ourselves toimaginable. be followers of Christ can After the harmonious behave as the members offirst minutes, only a few that imaginary orchestramusicians continued to did. We may not like tofollow the conductor’s lead. think so, but we all have aThe others seemed to play tendency to want to directonly when they felt like it, our own lives. We tend toor they played a completely focus on self-survival anddifferent tune. A violinist self-promotion, and wesauntered out in front and think we are wise enough2 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  3. 3. and strong enough to take distracted. We may havecare of ourselves. Our goals forgotten that as part of Histake on greater importance “symphony”—subjects ofand urgency than God’s His kingdom and membersgoals for us. And again, in His church—we are tothough we would be submit to His directionreluctant to admit it to of our lives. He is theanyone, we act as if God Conductor, the Head, theis supposed to help us get King whom we serve. Doingwhat we want out of life. what He wants us to do isThis can happen even what our new life is allwhen we know the truths about. He longs to leadexpressed in the Bible. us through a life that will demonstrate to a watching “audience,” the unbelieving “Only he world around us, that we know what it means to be who believes is His people. He wants us to obedient; only he demonstrate the validity of who is obedient our profession of faith. This booklet seeks believes.” to point to the essential Dietrich Bonhoeffer elements of a life that follows our Conductor’s lead. As we do that together Although we are with other believers, we willthankful for what Christ bring beautiful praise todid for us on the cross, and Him. And we will discoverwe gladly accepted His offer the joy of experiencingof forgiveness and eternal God’s approval both nowlife, we may have gotten and forever. 3 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  4. 4. WHAT DOES how we relate to ChristCHRIST WANT affects more than a musical performance or the outcomeFROM US? of a ballgame—it affects• What does a conductor all of our relationships, want from musicians? our eternal well-being,• What does a teacher and our joy here and now. want from students? For many of us the• What does a boss demands may seem too want from employees? hard to achieve. Even• What does a coach though we may admit that want from players? our relationship with Christ• What does a parent is not what it should be, want from children? we are afraid of what• What does a general wholehearted obedience want from soldiers? to Him will cost us. The• What does a ruler stories of great Christians want from citizens? who spent hours in prayer All these relationships every day or patientlyhave elements in common. endured persecution or leftEvery leader desires his everything to serve the Lordfollowers to take directions, may have left us feelingmake use of his help, do hopelessly inadequate. Wewhatever is necessary to wonder what the Lord reallycomplete assignments, expects from ordinaryplace loyalty to him above people like us. And besides,other relationships, and put so many believers aroundhis teachings into practice. us seem to have lost their When we consider what enthusiasm and we don’tChrist wants from us, we want to “stick out like amay feel uneasy. After all, sore thumb.” We feel the4 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  5. 5. pressure to conform to the DEPENDENCEstatus quo of the Christiancommunity in which weworship and serve. But weknow that there should bemore to following Christ. D EFINING O UR T ERMSDisciple: A follower, a student.The term is applied to those whochoose to give devotion andobedience to Jesus. In this study, we willrediscover what it means Jesus said, “Abide in Me,to be a disciple of Christ. and I in you. As the branchWe will see that devotion cannot bear fruit of itself,to Him is not for only a few unless it abides in the vine,special people. He doesn’t neither can you, unless youdemand the impossible abide in Me. I am the vine,from us. He knows what you are the branches. Hewe are made of, and He who abides in Me, and I inwill patiently guide us as him, bears much fruit; forwe learn more and more of without Me you can dowhat it means to obey Him. nothing. . . . These thingsHe also offers His strength I have spoken to you, thatto help us carry out His My joy may remain in you,commands. and that your joy may be The type of life that full” (Jn. 15:4-5,11).Christ wants from us can What have yoube summarized by four key heard through thewords: dependence, risk, grapevine? Jesus usedloyalty, and imitation. the analogy of a grapevine 5 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  6. 6. to communicate the most resignation to a life ofimportant element of misery as we carry outobedience to Him. Our our duties for God, butobedience must grow a life that will give us theout of a close relationship greatest sense of personalwith our Lord. Just as a fulfillment. That sensebranch of a grapevine of satisfaction and ourproduces fruit only as it is fruitfulness come as weconnected to and drawing “abide” in Christ.nourishment from the vine, How are we toso too we can produce the “abide” in Christ? Tofruits of obedience only live in close relationshipas we are continually with Christ, we mustconnected to and drawing depend on Him for wisdom,nourishment and strength strength, and direction infrom our Lord. life. To have an intimate relationship with Him, we D EFINING O UR T ERMSDependence: Reliance, trust, must not be deliberatelyor faith. In this booklet, the term holding on to someis used to refer to the intimate rebellious attitude or actionrelationship we are to have with that we know we shouldJesus, expressing our love and confess and forsake. Thedrawing on His wisdom andstrength. barrier to our relationship will be removed and we will That kind of life, a life be forgiven if we confessof ongoing dependence our sins (1 Jn. 1:5-10).on Christ, not only pleases Abiding also means thatHim but also produces we listen attentively to whatthe greatest joy in us (Jn. God has to say to us in the15:11). So what we are Bible—not merely gettingconsidering is not a morbid our daily quota of Bible6 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  7. 7. reading for the day but have begun to cultivate thisthinking and praying about deeper communion withwhat we are reading. Just as Christ, you have no desireyou show respect and love to return to the shallow lifefor a person who is talking of the careless Christian”to you by carefully listening (Be Transformed, p.42).and responding, so too we This matter of abidingneed to make our time of in Christ is essential if weBible reading an occasion want to please God. Weto get to know God. cannot live the Christian life in our own strength by the power of our own We cannot live will. We must live with athe Christian life in continual reliance on Christ. Jesus said, “Without our own strength Me you can do nothing” by the power of (Jn. 15:5). He didn’t say we our own will. could do some things or a few things—He said we could do nothing to please To abide also means God without His workingthat we spend time in and through us.expressing to the Lord our Just as we were saved bydeepest thoughts, hurts, God’s grace through faith indesires, and details of our Christ (Eph. 2:8-9), we arelives. He wants us to talk to now to live for God byHim about our successes trusting Christ. The apostleand our sources of shame. Paul made this point inHe cares about us. his letter to the Galatian Bible teacher Warren believers. He said, “AfterWiersbe writes, “Once you beginning with the Spirit, 7 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  8. 8. are you now trying to attain or more of the followingyour goal by human effort?” conditions. We will be:(3:3 NIV). And to the • defeated by sinfulRomans, Paul wrote, “In habitsthe gospel a righteousness • preoccupied with afrom God is revealed, a list of do’s and don’tsrighteousness that is by • self-deluded andfaith from first to last, hypocriticaljust as it is written: ‘The • plagued by innerrighteous will live by faith’” emptiness(1:17 NIV). • depressed by D EFINING O UR T ERMS joylessness Faith: Trust, belief, an expression • exhausted by busy of confidence and dependence. self-effort We receive the gift of salvation by • frustrated by a sense faith, putting our soul in Christ’s care because He showed Himself of distance from God trustworthy by His life, death, and • trapped by worldliness resurrection. We are to live by What kind of fruit is faith, continually relying on Christ produced in the lives to help us. of those who abide in Faith requires Christ? Galatians 5 listsdependence on Christ, several characteristics ofrelying completely on someone who is living inHim—first for our salvation dependence on Christ andand then for the ability to the indwelling Holy Spirit.live the Christian life. The “fruit of the Spirit” What happens includes love, joy, peace,when we try to live longsuffering, kindness,without depending on goodness, faithfulness,Him? If we are not relying gentleness, and self-controlon Christ, we end up in one (vv.22-23).8 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  9. 9. The apostle Peter offered characteristics that Paul andthe following characteristics Peter said should be part ofas evidence of the kind the lives of those who areof life that is growing in walking with Christ,Christlikeness (2 Pet. 1:5-7). depending on the Holy • faith Spirit who lives within. • perseverance Are we bearing spiritual • virtue fruit? If not, why not? • godliness How does prayer • knowledge show our dependence • brotherly kindness on Christ? David Brainerd • self-control (1718–1747) served as a • love missionary to the Seneca and Delaware Indians of “As far as God North America and died at age 29. He left a diary thatis concerned, there reveals he normally spent at is no reason for least 2 hours in prayer every you to live, except day and that he often fasted and prayed for a period of to bear fruit.” 48 hours. Martin Luther said Erwin Lutzer that when he expected an especially busy and trying Peter said, “If these day he would prepare for itthings are yours and by spending 3 hours inabound, you will be neither prayer.barren nor unfruitful in the Does this mean that Godknowledge of our Lord Jesus expects us to pray at least 3Christ” (v.8). hours every day? Does God We need to evaluate our want us to set aside 12-hourlives on the basis of the periods for prayer and 9 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  10. 10. fasting? Maybe, but not When Paul wrote, “Praynecessarily. Although He without ceasing” (1 Th.wants us to pray, He has 5:17), he obviously was notnot given us a minimum telling us to pray 24 hourstime-frame. While all of the a day. He was aware thatbelievers who made a great time is needed for working,impact for God prayed, eating, and sleeping. But wenot all of them spent hours should be so God-consciousevery day in prayer. Some all the time that we aretalked with God calmly, continually in an attitudesimply, briefly, and of prayer about what isexpectantly. And God going on in our lives.answered them too! In John 15, Jesus indicated the importance P RAYER S UGGESTION of abiding in Him if we areYou may find it helpful to to receive answers to prayerremember four key words: adore,appreciate, admit, ask. Adore the (v.7). When we are close toLord by praising Him and Him, our requests will beexpressing your desire to honor in line with His will.Him with your life. Let Him know What can we do tohow much you appreciate all He remove any barriers inhas done. Admit your sins andaccept His forgiveness. And ask our relationship? FirstHim to fulfill your requests. John 1:9 tells us, “If we Your prayer-time may be brief confess our sins, He isat first. But as you develop a faithful and just to forgive ussense of God’s continual our sins and to cleanse uspresence, you will lift silent praiseor requests to Him through the from all unrighteousness.”day. Your prayer-life will gradually This verse is not a formulabecome richer and more for salvation. When wesatisfying. accepted Jesus as our Savior, we were forgiven, received10 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  11. 11. into God’s family, and made committed without ourcitizens of heaven (Rom. realizing it. We need not5:1-2; Eph. 2:1-10). If we work ourselves into deephave been forgiven, why feelings of guilt. We needdo we need to confess our only to acknowledge thesins? And what will happen sins of which we are awareif we refuse to confess and ask the Lord to helpcertain sins because we us overcome them.don’t want to quit doing D EFINING O UR T ERMSthem? How detailed must Salvation: Forgiveness of sin,this confession be? secured by the life, death, and Even though we are resurrection of Jesus. We arecompletely forgiven the rescued from sin’s penalty andmoment we put our faith power when we receive the free gift of forgiveness by trustingin Christ as our Savior, sins Christ alone.committed after that pointin time can create a barrier The demand is simple.to a close relationship with But the consequences ofHim. Therefore, we must taking sin lightly can betalk to God about our sins, very serious. If we decideacknowledging them, that we don’t want toaccepting His forgiveness, confess our sins becauseand asking Him to help us we don’t desire to givegain the victory over them. them up, we can expect When we confess our discipline. In Hebrews 12:6-sins, we express to God our 7 we read, “For whom therealization that we sinned Lord loves He chastensagainst Him. We need not [child-trains], and scourgesplead. We need not ransack every son whom Heour minds to dredge up receives. If you enduretransgressions that were chastening, God deals with 11 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  12. 12. you as sons; for what son is Christ? Are you growingthere whom a father does closer to Him, learningnot chasten?” When we are more what it means towillfully disobedient, this depend on Him throughoutchastening may come in the your day for strength,form of sickness and even wisdom, guidance, and thedeath (1 Cor. 11:29-30). ability to serve God throughA joyful Christian life is your words and actions?impossible for those who Are you taking time to readthink lightly of their sins. the Bible prayerfully, asking God to show you what you D EFINING O UR T ERMS need to know and do? AreObedience: Submitting our will you setting aside time into the desire of someone else.We are to do what our Lord asks your schedule for prayer?us to do. Identify the obstacles that keep hindering a close The most fundamental relationship with Christissue, therefore, that we and ask Him to helpmust understand to live you to overcome them.an obedient life is thismatter of dependence. Thekind of obedience God is A joyful Christianlooking for comes out of a life is impossiblerelationship of trust andlove for Jesus Christ. When for those whowe are reliant on Him, think lightly ofobedience will be our their sins.heart’s desire. Thinking It Over.How would you describeyour relationship with12 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  13. 13. RISK climber, for example, may wonder if the risk is worth the thrill of reaching the top. When his muscles feel as if they will give out, when winds whip at him, when doubts about his safety rope enter his mind, or when his breathing becomes difficult because of the lack of oxygen, he will be tempted to quit.Jesus said, “If anyonedesires to come after Me, D EFINING O UR T ERMSlet him deny himself, and Risk: Danger of losing something. We are to obey Christ no mattertake up his cross daily, and what the possible cost, but Hefollow Me. For whoever more than compensates us fordesires to save his life will what we may lose.lose it, but whoever loseshis life for My sake will The same panic cansave it. For what profit is strike a soldier. Duringit to a man if he gains World War II, a patrioticthe whole world, and is young man envisionedhimself destroyed or lost?” himself as a brave fighting(Lk. 9:23-25). man capturing South What have we Pacific islands from thegotten ourselves into? Japanese. So he enlisted inMany people have asked the Marine Corps. He wasthat question when they deeply disappointed whenwere faced with great his first assignment was apersonal risk. A mountain clerical job. He expressed 13 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  14. 14. his feelings to his feel that they have signed upsupervisors and was for a suicide mission ratherthrilled when he was than what they hoped wouldassigned to a combat be more like a pleasureunit. A few months later cruise. They may havehe landed in Guadalcanal. initially been told that if theyOne of the first sights that receive Jesus as Savior Hegreeted his eyes was a will bring peace and joy totruckload of corpses—the their lives, and they didn’tbodies of dead Marines anticipate the hardships.stacked like cord wood. At What does it meanthat moment he thought, to deny ourselves?What did I get myself into? It is not the denial of food, fellowship, and other good things just to make “He who has My ourselves feel miserable. commandments It does not mean developing a weak, nonassertive and keeps them, personality. It means it is he who putting Christ’s claims and loves Me.” commands above our own Jesus (Jn. 14:21) desires. If what we know Christ wants from us clashes with what we Many followers of Christ want to do, we say no toalso may wonder what they ourselves and yes to Him.have gotten themselves into. That’s a big order! But it’sWhen they read the words neither outlandish norof Christ about taking up a unreasonable. With God’scross and losing their lives help we can obey it. And wefor Him, suddenly they may will be happier when we do.14 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  15. 15. What does it mean (Lk. 9:24), He did notto take up our cross mean that we should seekdaily and follow a martyr’s death. His pointChrist? Jesus is asking has to do with how wethat we be willing to commit invest our lives.our lives to Him, to follow If a person invests hisin His steps, and even to life in the pursuit of selfishdie for Him. It doesn’t pleasures and earthly fame,mean that we must make he will “lose it.” After all, thisourselves suffer or do things earthly system is temporary.just to invite persecution. On the other hand, the person who invests his life D EFINING O UR T ERMS for God will reap greatCross-carrying: To be willing tosuffer whatever persecution may reward. Like the kernel ofcome our way because of our wheat that is buried andidentification with Christ. dies, only to spring up and reproduce itself, the believer To take up the cross may who “loses his life” will findinvolve much persecution, it in a glorious eternity (Jn.as has been the case in 12:24-25).many countries of the Should we reallyworld, or it may involve take these wordslittle. It is the attitude, not seriously? It is quitethe amount of suffering and obvious that missionariesshame we endure, that like David Livingstone,counts in God’s sight. Hudson Taylor, and William What does it mean Carey took these wordsto lose our lives for seriously. They left all theHis sake? When Jesus comforts of life at homesaid, “Whoever loses his and endured unbelievablelife for My sake will save it” hardships to take the gospel 15 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  16. 16. to foreign countries. because of their witnessThe same goes for many for Christ.today—and not just foreign Church history tells usmissionaries. Whether they that all the apostles exceptare translating the Bible, John were executed, and atworking on an assembly line, times during the first fewprogramming computers, centuries Christians wereor caring for children,they can be courageousrepresentatives of the Lord. “Loving God— How have believers really loving Him—been persecuted? The means living outwriter of Hebrews, referringto godly people of the Old His commandsTestament era, said they no matter whatendured “mockings and the cost.”scourgings,” “chains and Charles Colsonimprisonments.” “Theywere stoned, . . . sawn intwo, . . . slain with the hunted like wild animals,sword. They wandered put to death by being thrownabout in sheepskins and before hungry lions and bygoatskins, being destitute, being burned like torches. Inafflicted, tormented” (Heb. the centuries that followed,11:36-37). During the early millions have suffered andyears of the church, Stephen died as martyrs for Christ.was persecuted and stoned Many people in recent(Acts 6–7), the apostle James history have suffered forwas killed with the sword their faith in prison camps(Acts 12), and the apostles or psychiatric institutions.were continually harassed Even in democracies, devout16 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  17. 17. Christians are often made their antagonism bythe objects of ridicule and misrepresenting whatunfair treatment. Christians believe, ridiculing Should we expect them, or going out of theirpersecution today? way to offend them.On the night before His How can we avoidcrucifixion, Jesus warned His needless persecution?disciples, “If they persecuted While the Bible tells us toMe, they will also persecute expect persecution andyou” (Jn. 15:20). To Timothy, teaches us that such trialsPaul wrote, “All who desire can be a means of buildingto live godly in Christ Jesus character (Rom. 5:1-5; Jas.will suffer persecution” 1:1-8), it never encourages(2 Tim. 3:12). us to seek trouble. On the We who believe on Jesus contrary, it urges us to beChrist and want to please good citizens and to go outHim will experience some of our way to please ouropposition from people who employers (Rom. 13:1-7;don’t want to follow God’s 1 Pet. 2:11-25). Paul saidways. Whether it be at the we should pray “for kingsworkplace, at school, in the and all who are in authority,neighborhood, or even at that we may lead a quiet andhome, when we choose to peaceable life in all godlinessdo and say what would and reverence” (1 Tim. 2:2).please Christ, we will find We are to live at peace withsome resistance. People others—to the extent thatwho live only for their own we can do so withoutpleasures feel rebuked by compromise (Rom. 12:18).the lifestyle and teaching of Peaceful conditions,those who are trying to live however, present us with aout their faith. They express different kind of challenge. 17 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  18. 18. We can easily succumb to LOYALTYthe temptation to be earthlyminded, to live for thethings of this world. If wedo, then we are the losers.But if we focus on theeternal while enjoying thepresent, we will enrichourselves and others. Inmany ways this is a greaterchallenge than enduringopposition. And throughHis Spirit we can be When speaking to a largeheavenly minded while crowd, Jesus said, “If anyoneenjoying life on earth. comes to Me and does not Thinking It Over. hate his father and mother,Has your devotion to wife and children, brothersChrist caused you to seem and sisters, yes, and his own“strange” to your friends, life also, he cannot be Myco-workers, neighbors, disciple” (Lk. 14:26). Jesusfamily? Have nonbelievers told the Twelve, “He whoalways responded positively loves father or mother morewhen you talked to them than Me is not worthy ofabout your faith? Are you Me. And he who loves sonwilling to let people know or daughter more thanthat you are a follower Me is not worthy of Me”of Christ? What happens (Mt. 10:37).when you refuse to What kind of loyaltyparticipate with your friends does Christ require?in an activity that you know A person who enlists in thewould displease the Lord? U.S. Marine Corps lives by18 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  19. 19. the Corps motto Semper self-serving personal goals.Fidelis, which means That sounds radical,“Always Faithful.” He is to doesn’t it? Christ even D EFINING O UR T ERMS used the strong word hateLoyalty: Faithful allegiance to a to describe the attitude weperson or cause. Followers of should have toward allChrist are to pledge absolute others, even family. He putallegiance to the Lord and His the matter in such strongpurposes. terms because He takesremain absolutely loyal loyalty and disloyalty soto his commanders, seriously.and ultimately, to theCommander-in-Chief,the President of the United “Resolved:States. A U.S. Marine To follow Godpledges his allegiance—even with all my heart.unto death—for the cause ofhis country. He is not to Resolved also:take orders from enemy Whether othersleadership, nor is he to quit do or not, I will.”partway through a military Jonathan Edwardsmission. He is committed tobe “always faithful.” Semper Fidelis would How can family andalso be an appropriate friends challenge ourmotto for followers of loyalty? To answer that,Christ. He asks us to put let’s consider the life ofour allegiance to Him above William Carey (1761–1834).any other relationship. This When 31-year-old Careyapplies to any people, any told his wife that he felt Godmaterial goods, and any wanted him to go to India 19 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  20. 20. as a missionary, at first she 14:26). He showed adidn’t want to go. That was tender love for his wife,understandable since they his children, his parents.had three small children He didn’t hate them. This isand a fourth on the way. true if we define hatred asHer tears deeply moved her a feeling of malice, whichsensitive husband. After desires harm or hurt fortalking about it, they agreed someone. But in the Biblethat they would go, but not it is used to denote takingall at once. Their 8-year-old action that prefers oneson would go with him and person over another. So, wea year or two later she and can say of William Careythe younger children would that he loved the Lord sojoin him. much that in his actions he When Carey’s father appeared to hate his family.learned of the plan, he Perhaps you or someoneexclaimed, “Is William you know has had to facemad?” Then he did all he rejection from familycould to discourage him members because of afrom going. Carey, however, decision to accept Christbelieved that God wanted as Savior. Sometimes ahim to go to India. He was profession of faith in Christdetermined to please God leads to being shunned byeven though it meant the rest of the family.strained relationships with Maybe those you lovethe people closest to his don’t like a decision youheart. made to do what is right, How was Carey obedient to be honest, or to beto the words of Jesus to committed to purity. Maybe“hate his father and mother, they were pressuring you towife and children”? (Lk. tell a lie, break a law, or20 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  21. 21. reject biblical principles. In attitudes and actions is tosuch cases, the choices are unwittingly give allegiancepainful and heartwrenching. to Satan (3:8; 5:19).We long for closeness withfamily members. But if wehave to make a choice, our “Choose forallegiance must go to Christ. yourselves this What else day whom you willcompetes for ourloyalty? In addition serve . . . . But asto the tension that can be for me and myproduced in a family by house, we willconflict over allegiance toChrist, many other people serve the Lord.”and activities assume the Joshua (Josh. 24:15)place in our lives that onlyChrist deserves. Just before the Old The apostle Paul warned Testament leader Joshuathe believers in Rome, “Do died, he challenged thenot be conformed to this people of the new nation ofworld, but be transformed Israel to affirm their loyaltyby the renewing of your to the Lord. He said,mind, that you may prove “Choose for yourselves thiswhat is that good and day whom you will serve,acceptable and perfect will whether the gods whichof God” (Rom. 12:2). John your fathers served thatalso told us to beware the were on the other side oflure of the world (1 Jn. the River, or the gods of the2:15-16). To allow an Amorites, in whose landungodly culture—instead you dwell. But as for meof Christ—to shape our and my house, we will 21 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  22. 22. serve the Lord” (Josh. putting loyalty to Christ24:15). ahead of loyalty to our self- Jesus spoke about centered ways of thinkingsomething that can pull our and living.loyalty away from Christ— Self-centered devotionmoney. That’s something we to our own selfish interestsall have to deal with. He is really the heart of sin.said, “No one can serve two Adam and Eve were the firstmasters; for either he will traitors to God’s cause, andhate the one and love the ever since then all peopleother, or else he will be loyal have tended to put loyaltyto the one and despise the to self above loyalty toother. You cannot serve God. Romans 3 remindsGod and mammon [money]” us, “There is none who(Mt. 6:24). And Paul warned understands; there is nonethat “the love of money is a who seeks after God. . . .root of all kinds of evil, for There is no fear of Godwhich some have strayed before their eyes” (vv.11,18).from the faith in their Decisions of loyaltygreediness” (1 Tim. 6:10). involve the factor of risk How is self- also. Noah, for example,centeredness a type chose to live for God insteadof loyalty? In the of following the ways of theprevious section, we saw people around him (Gen.how the command to deny 7–8; Heb. 11:7). Mosesself (Lk. 9:23) applies to our chose to be loyal to Godboldness in risking our lives and His people rather thanand reputations for the sake to enjoy the benefits of livingof Christ. In this section, we as part of Pharaoh’s royalcan apply the command to family (Heb. 11:24-27).deny self to the matter of Daniel and his three friends22 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  23. 23. chose to be considered your level of devotion totraitors to the king rather the Lord? What pressures tothan compromise their compromise have you feltdevotion to the Lord (Dan. at home or at work? Where1:8; 3:1-28; 6:1-23). Rahab is your treasure? (Mt. 6:21).shifted her loyalty to the Do your standards ofGod of Israel when the Jews behavior reflect God’swere about to attack Jericho purity, or are you being(Josh. 2:1-21; Heb. 11:31). shaped by the world? Yes, God wants you tolove your spouse, your IMITATIONchildren, your parents (Eph.5:25,28; Ti. 2:4). He wantsyou to show respect foryour government. Hewants you to love yourselfbecause self-love is thestandard by which youmust measure your love foryour neighbor (Mt. 22:39;Lk. 10:27). But your love forGod is to be so strong thatyou put obedience to Him Jesus said to His disciples,above your own desires and “You call me Teacher andthe desires of your family, Lord, and you say well, foryour friends, your employer, so I am. If I then, your Lordand your community. and Teacher, have washed Thinking It Over. your feet, you also oughtHow does your use of time to wash one another’s feet.reveal your loyalties? How For I have given you ando your thoughts reflect example, that you should 23 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  24. 24. do as I have done to you” walking, and relating to(Jn. 13:13-15). On another people. Through what theoccasion, Jesus urged parents do and say, theHis disciples, “Follow Me” children learn how to(Lk. 9:23). respond to the many The apostle John wrote, circumstances of life. If“He who says he abides in Dad comes home and kicksHim ought himself also to the dog, his child may thinkwalk just as He walked” that’s acceptable behavior(1 Jn. 2:6). In a letter to and do the same. And ifthe Corinthians, Paul wrote, Dad is careful to be“Imitate me, just as I also absolutely honest in allimitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). his conversations and D EFINING O UR T ERMS dealings, then the childImitation: A copy, model, or often will pick that up too.replica. As believers, we are to As children of Godfollow the example of Christ, through faith in Christ, webecoming more and more like are to imitate Christ. WeHim in attitude and action. are to learn what it means What does it mean to obey God by living asto imitate Christ? To Jesus lived. If we are livingimitate someone is to copy in dependence on Him,his or her actions as spending time with Him inclosely as possible. It prayer and learning aboutis to model our lives Him in the Bible, we willafter the characteristics want to imitate His wayof someone we look up to. of life. Children imitate their Much of what we haveparents. Consciously or not, said up to this point in thethey pick up from Mom and booklet could be applied toDad a way of speaking, this matter of imitating24 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  25. 25. Christ. So let’s first note time to talk with His Fatherhow we are to be like Him and receive direction forin the three areas we have His ministry.already discussed, then we The author of Hebrewswill suggest additional ways told us that Jesus learnedthat we are to model our obedience through sufferinglives after His. (5:8). He responded to How did Jesus show temptation and persecutiondependence on the in the right way because HeFather? Even though was relying on the Father.Jesus is God the Son,during His time on earthHe voluntarily gave up the “Christlikeness—independent use of Hisdivine abilities in order to spiritual maturity—identify with us (Phil. 2:5- is obedience.”11). He lived in dependence Jerry Whiteon the Father and the HolySpirit. Jesus said, “The Soncan do nothing of Himself, How did Jesus putbut what He sees the Father Himself at risk? Thedo . . . . I can of Myself do most obvious answer isnothing. As I hear, I judge; that He was willing toand My judgment is suffer the ultimate agony ofrighteous, because I do enduring the penalty for ournot seek My own will but sin on the cross. He gavethe will of the Father who His very life to do what thesent Me” (Jn. 5:19,30). Father wanted Him to do. Christ lived in constant Peter wrote, “Christ alsofellowship with the Father. suffered for us, leavingHe prayed often, taking us an example, that you 25 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  26. 26. should follow His steps” gathered around Jesus.(1 Pet. 2:21). Enemies were accusing Him In many other ways of being a partner of Satanthroughout His earthly because He was casting outlife, Jesus took the abuse demons (Mk. 3:20-30).of people who did not Jesus’ family said, “He is outappreciate what He had of His mind” (v.21). Whento say. He confronted the the message reached Jesushypocritical religious leaders, that His family wanted tocondemned the unbelieving, talk with Him, He looked atspent time with the outcasts the people around Him andof society in order to bring said, “Here are My motherthem salvation, and did what and My brothers! Forwas right no matter what whoever does the will ofanyone else said. God is My brother and My How did Jesus sister and mother” (vv.34-show His loyalty to 35). His loyalty to the Fatherthe Father? During and His followers tookChrist’s temptation in the priority over even His family.wilderness, Satan said he In addition to imitatingwould give all the nations Jesus’ example ofto Jesus if He would dependence, risk, andworship him (Mt. 4:8-9). loyalty, we can find otherJesus, however, expressed ways that we can followHis loyal devotion to the Him. These ways includeFather by saying, “It is how He served others,written, ‘You shall worship how He responded tothe Lord your God, and Him needy people, how Heonly you shall serve’” (v.10). forgave, how He resisted On another occasion, a temptation, and how Hehuge crowd of people had handled possessions.26 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  27. 27. How did Christ Himself and becameserve others? Jesus obedient to the point ofdescribed His life this way: death” (v.8).“The Son of Man did not In Paul’s correspondencecome to be served, but to with the Corinthians, heserve, and to give His life wrote, “Imitate me, just asa ransom for many” I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor.(Mt. 20:28). 11:1). Paul wanted them to imitate the self-sacrificing attitude of Christ, especially “He who says he because it will help people abides in [Christ] find salvation (10:33). Jesus demonstrated ought himself also humble service in a to walk just as dramatic way when He He walked.” washed His disciples’ feet 1 John 2:6 (Jn. 13). He said, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, The apostle Paul pointed you also ought to wash oneto the life of Christ as our another’s feet. For I haveexample when he was given you an example, thaturging the Philippians to you should do as I haveserve one another in love. done to you” (vv.14-15).He told them not to be self- We are to imitate Hiscentered but to look out for humility and be willingthe interests of others (2:3- to put aside our “rights”4). He encouraged them to in order to help others.adopt the same attitude as This loving service forChrist, who took the role of people is directly tied to oura servant and “humbled love for God. Jesus said, “By 27 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  28. 28. this all will know that you compassion when He saware My disciples, if you the many people who werehave love for one another” so spiritually needy, and He(Jn. 13:35). John wrote, longed for more workers“This is His commandment: who would spread thethat we should believe news that could bring themon the name of His Son salvation (9:36-38). He fedJesus Christ and love one thousands of people whoanother, as He gave us were hungry (15:32-39). Hecommandment” (1 Jn. 3:23). graciously gave salvation to In fact, Christlike a repentant thief who waslove summarizes all the dying on a cross next tocommands that God wants Him (Lk. 23:39-43). Evenus to obey. When talking while Jesus was on theto a religious teacher, cross, He arranged for HisJesus said that all the mother’s care (Jn. 19:25-commandments could be 27). He was patient withreduced to two: Love God doubting Thomas (20:24-with all your heart, soul, 29). He gently reassuredand mind, and love Peter of His love andpeople as yourselves encouraged him to remain(Mt. 22:34-40). faithful, even after he had How did Christ denied the Lord (21:15-23).respond to needy How did Christpeople? Jesus treated forgive? In a letter to thethem with love and Ephesians, Paul told us,compassion. He helped the “Be kind to one another,sick and welcomed social tenderhearted, forgivingoutcasts like “tax collectors one another, even asand sinners” (Mt. 9:10). He God in Christ forgave you.was moved with great Therefore be imitators of28 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  29. 29. God as dear children. And How did Christwalk in love, as Christ also resist temptation?has loved us and given During His time in theHimself for us” (4:32–5:2). wilderness before He began His public ministry, Jesus faced intense temptation “Imitate me, (Mt. 4:1-11). Satan tried to just as I also get Jesus to satisfy His imitate Christ.” hunger by making stones turn into bread. The devil Paul (1 Cor. 11:1) attempted to get Jesus to test the Father’s care for We may not always find Him by jumping off a tallit easy to imitate Jesus by building. And Satanforgiving others who have promised a shortcut to rulehurt us deeply. But we will over the kingdoms of earthexperience the joy of if Jesus would worship him.forgiveness and the In each case, however,sweetness of fellowship Jesus responded with thewith God to the extent that truth and power of God’swe forgive those who have Word. The writer of Psalmwronged us (Mt. 6:14-15). 119 said, “Your Word I Just think of all God have hidden in my heart,has forgiven you. Then, that I might not sin againstrealizing that no one has You” (v.11). The apostlewronged you nearly as Paul referred to the Wordmuch as you have sinned of God as the “sword of theagainst Him, start praying Spirit,” which we are to usefor those who have wronged in our warfare with Satan’syou and be willing to forces (Eph. 6:17). That isforgive them. part of God’s provision to 29 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  30. 30. help us escape even the save all you can, give allmost powerful temptation you can.” By standards of(1 Cor. 10:13). his day he earned a great How did Christ deal of money, but whenview possessions? To he died a few months shorta rich young ruler who of his 88th birthday he leftasked what he had to do to almost nothing. He hadreceive everlasting life, and practiced what he preached.who claimed that he hadbeen a good, law-keepingperson, Jesus said, “One “Earn all you can,thing you lack: Go yourway, sell whatever you have save all you can,and give to the poor, and give all you can.”you will have treasure in John Wesleyheaven” (Mk. 10:21). ToHis disciples Jesus declared,“Sell what you have and Does the Lord demandgive alms; provide from all His followers,yourselves money bags as He did with the richwhich do not grow old, a young ruler, that theytreasure in the heavens that sell everything they havedoes not fail” (Lk. 12:33). and give it to the poor? John Wesley, the founder Apparently not. His friends,of Methodism (1703–1791), Lazarus, Mary, and Martha,took these Scripture continued to live in theirpassages so seriously that Bethany home. As we readhe lived frugally and gave the book of Acts and theaway his income as fast as Epistles, we do not findhe received it. His slogan the apostles making thiswas, “Earn all you can, demand.30 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  31. 31. The Lord wants us to that will not be completeenjoy the good things He until we see Him.gives us, but He remindsus that we are to sharewhat we have with others, “Our relationshipwith an eye toward reapingin eternity. We are to realize to our heavenlythat money and possessions Father, thoughare temporary, and that secure, is notwe should be much moreconcerned about investing static. He wantsin heavenly treasures His children to(Mt. 6:19-21). grow up to know These are just a fewways we can imitate Christ. Him more andAs we spend time reading more intimately.”the Gospels, we will John R. W. Stottdiscover many other waysthat we can become likeHim in our responses to If that truly is yourvarious people and to goal, how do you needdifferent kinds of situations. to rearrange the priorities Thinking It Over. of your daily life? In whatOur goal as followers ways are you followingof Jesus Christ is to know Christ’s example? In whatHim better and become as areas of life have you beenmuch like Him in this life going your own way?as is humanly possible.That won’t happenovernight. It is a processof growing and maturing 31 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  32. 32. ENCORE! our dependence on Him, our willingness to take risksA t the close of a for His sake, our loyalty to stirring musical Him, and by our desire to be performance, an like Him? Would He like anaudience may cry, “Encore! encore?Encore!” That’s the crowd’s At the end of our life’sway of telling musicians day, when we stand beforethat they like what they’ve Christ, the greatest wordsheard, and they want to we could ever hear will behear more. these: “Well done, good and At the end of the day, faithful servant” (Mt. 25:23).after we have finished ourwork, eaten our meals,responded to all sorts of “Well done, goodsituations, and related to and faithfulall types of people, can we servant.”imagine Jesus saying, Matthew 25:23“Encore! Encore!” to us?Would He want a repeatperformance tomorrow? His highest praise will go to This is not to suggest that those who by faith acceptedHe expects us to be perfect His gift of salvation andtoday and every other day. who continued to dependHe understands that we on Him.sometimes fail, that we need Jesus is the Conductorto work continually on our of our lives. If we followlives, that we are involved in His lead, the “music” wea process of growth. But produce will receive Hiswould He be pleased by the “Encore!” now and aprogress we are making in “Well done!” later.32 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  33. 33. Get your free BibleResources catalog! Discovery Series booklets can be valuable guides to help you learn what the Bible says about a broad range of topics. Each 32-page booklet can be used in your personal Bible study or in a small-group setting. Your free Bible Resources catalog includes a briefdescription of each Discovery Series booklet.To get your copy, write to us at the address belowand ask for a catalog. Or follow the link below torequest your copy today.www.discoveryseries.org/catalogUSA: PO Box 2222, Grand Rapids, MI 49501-2222Canada: Box 1622, Windsor, ON N9A 6Z7