Better to Be with Jesus
People seemed to follow Jesus wherever He went – to towns and villages, hills and mountainsides, streets and synagogues. Perhaps most went after Him to see the miracles and healings. Many might have been curious about his teachings. Some may have even been amused by His wisdom of the Torah and prophecy.
Despite the multitudes that pursued him daily, very few followers made the commitment to go with Jesus. Only a handful of disciples decided to walk away from the past, to leave family and friends, to give up homes and occupations, to sacrifice their own lives for the lives of others. In the end, just a small band of ordinary men were willing to surrender all they possessed for the hope of what was to come in eternity.
You and I have a choice to make today. We can follow Jesus or we can go with Him. We may watch and observe from a distance or we can be right next to Him, close enough to feel His touch, hear Him breathing and see the compassion in His eyes. We can be there when He prays to the Father and when He is tempted by the world. We can know Him intimately, as a friend, as a brother and as a Savior.
When we decide to go along with Jesus we do more than watch passively from afar. We become a part of His life and He becomes part of ours. What He does affects us and what we do affects Him. In essence, we are yoked with Him. There is no longer any space or separation between us because we are living together. We are both one in the Father.
There is a price for following Christ. But there also are blessings. Too often, we look so long at what we have to pay, to give up, because we are Christians that we forget about the benefits. We concentrate on the difficulties, the problems, the personal struggles or the intense suffering. Instead, we should be focused on what we have been given.
First, we have eternal life. God has promised us an everlasting future after this brief time on earth. Second, His mercy and forgiveness are assured no matter what happens each day. Third, God has planned our lives in a good and perfect way. Fourth, He is always with us through each attack and trial. Fifth, nothing will happen to us without His control and knowledge. Sixth, He gives us His strength, His power and His authority. Seventh, He protects us from the enemy so that we will not fall or fail.
How much more do we need in order to realize that we gain much more than we ever lose by serving God? Even those things that we sacrifice are turned into good through God. Everything that happens, whether we label it good or bad, points toward where we are headed, not where we have been.
Our sights must be firmly fixed on what we already possess and all that awaits us. Like Paul in his letter to the Philippians, we must consider everything worthless and unimportant “compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus.” All we forfeit now we will get back a thousand-fold in paradise. God’s scale of justice is always weighted in our favor because of his unconditional love. We can never lose, nor will we ever be sold short.
We tend to think of following Jesus as leaving behind the familiar for the unfamiliar. But sometimes, like for the man in Luke 8:26-39, the more difficult call is to go back home.
For the first time in a long time he was in full control of his mind. He could think! No rage. No fear. No torment. Peace like the quiet sea. He actually wanted to keep his clothes on.
But the most strangely wonderful thing of all was his sense of cleanness. His soul was clean.
The tomb-man from Gadara looked up at Jesus again. His lucid mind mulled over the words, “Son of the Most High God.”
Who would have thought that the Son of God looked so much like other Jewish men? He wasn’t very big. The tomb-man had beaten off much larger men in his demonic rages.
It was, in fact, his demons that had recognized Jesus. Son of God was their term. What was it that they saw? In all his tormented years, he had never felt anything like the terror that coursed through him when he saw Jesus get out of the boat. It was the terror of the damned. He had thought he’d been living in hell already. Now he knew better.
And now, with the demons gone, nothing he had ever experienced came close to the safety and peace he felt simply being near Jesus. He had only known Jesus for a few hours, but had already determined to be Jesus’ disciple for life. Life with him would be heaven on earth.
The man looked out on the Tiberius. Pig carcasses were washing ashore and drifting out to sea. He shivered at the disturbing memory. He felt Jesus’ reassuring hand on his shoulder.
A noise made them all turn back toward the hill. A small crowd of people was approaching, with the pig herdsmen leading the way. You could hear alarm in their voices.
A few men went on to survey the dead floating herd. But the rest stopped some twenty feet away. Everyone strained for a look at the tomb-man. He recognized most of them.
He was used to seeing fear in their eyes. But it was different this time. As a herdsman recounted what happened, they kept looking at him and then to Jesus. It was Jesus they were afraid of.
The crowd’s murmuring crescendoed into anxious pleas: “Please leave! We don’t want any more trouble here!” Some were already hurrying back toward the city. For years the tomb-man, this one-man barracks of a thousand devils, had terrorized them. And now here was someone even more powerful. Whatever witchcraft Jesus possessed, they wanted it far away from them.
The tomb-man felt confusion and grief. They didn’t understand! Jesus wasn’t anything like the demons. Jesus’ power was clean, holy. Jesus was potently kind. They were jumping to the wrong conclusions. If they would just listen to what he had to say…
But Jesus motioned to Peter to ready the boat. He was leaving!
The man jumped up and said to him, “Sir, please, may I go with you? I’ll follow you anywhere!”
Jesus looked hard at him without speaking. Then he put his reassuring hand on the man’s shoulder again and said, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.”
The words “return to your home” must have made this man’s heart sink. Home for him was not a warm place of sentimental memories. Home was a place of memories so dark and pain-filled that he likely just wanted to escape them and never go back.
But sometimes following Jesus means being sent back to a place where we once knew desolation and indescribable pain. The thought of returning there conjures up fears of our old demons and the people who knew us as we were back then. But it is there that the grace of God in our lives will shine the brightest.
What Jesus wants us to know is that his salvation and his protection extend to those old, horrible haunts. If he can break the death-grip Satan once had on us and set us free, then he can redeem the places of our former slavery and make them showcases of God’s omnipotent grace.
Do not be afraid. The Good Shepherd will walk with you and protect you on the darkest road (Psalm 23:4). Declare how much God has done for you. You are being sent because there are other tomb-people to free.
We often refer to ourselves as followers of Christ, but what does that really mean? When Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to follow Him, they physically left what they were doing to be with Him. The disciples had tangible evidence: They could see His direction with their eyes and hear His words with their ears. But how do we follow Jesus today? As we examine today’s passage, we’ll see four essential elements that show us how to be followers of Christ.
1. The disciples heard Jesus’ voice. Today Christ speaks to us through His Word, giving instruction and guidance through direct commands and prohibitions, spiritual principles, and biblical examples. And within us, we have the Holy Spirit, who directs our path and corrects us when we go astray.
2. They obeyed without delay. Once the disciples heard the Lord’s command, they immediately complied. Following Jesus requires that we not only do what He says, but also when and how He says to do it.
3. They left something behind. To follow Jesus, the disciples abandoned the comforts of home and the security of a regular salary. Other believers might be called to give up something completely different.
4. They pursued the higher purpose Christ offered them. Instead of simply making a living, Christ promised them a life with eternal purpose—becoming fishers of men for the kingdom of God.
Being a Christ follower is not merely an identification with Him; it’s a commitment of obedience that demands leaving behind anything that gets in the way of living fully for Him.
Giving Thanks – Streams in the Desert – July 23
Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t
Giving thanks always for all things unto God (Ephesians 5:20).
No matter what the source of the evil, if you are in God and surrounded by Him as by an atmosphere, all evil has to pass through Him before it comes to you. Therefore you can thank God for everything that comes, not for the sin of it, but for what God will bring out of it and through it. May God make our lives thanksgiving and perpetual praise, then He will make everything a blessing.
We once saw a man draw some black dots. We looked and could make nothing of them but an irregular assemblage of black dots. Then he drew a few lines, put in a few rests, then a clef at the beginning, and we saw these black dots were musical notes. On sounding them we were singing,
“Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below.”
There are many black dots and black spots in our lives, and we cannot understand why they are there or why God permitted them to come. But if we let God come into our lives, and adjust the dots in the proper way, and draw the lines He wants, and separate this from that, and put in the rests at the proper places; out of the black dots and spots in our lives He will make a glorious harmony.
Let us not hinder Him in this glorious work!
–C. H. P.
Would we know that the major chords were sweet,
If there were no minor key?
Would the painter’s work be fair to our eyes,
Without shade on land or sea?
Would we know the meaning of happiness,
Would we feel that the day was bright,
If we’d never known what it was to grieve,
Nor gazed on the dark of night?
Many men owe the grandeur of their lives to their tremendous difficulties.
–C. H. Spurgeon
When the musician presses the black keys on the great organ, the music is as sweet as when he touches the white ones, but to get the capacity of the instrument he must touch them all.