Being Obedient To Jesus: Means living the way of the Cross.
Well, Happy Father's Day Once Again. It seems Appropriate that I remind you that it is Father's Day, particularly after such a passage of Scripture as this where Jesus predicts a rather threatening future when families will be torn apart because of their divided ideas about
religious loyalties and the ways in which our belief and practice can separate us from others who don't believe or practice religious worship in the same way. As a beginning to our thoughts on what Jesus is saying here, I would like to tell you a little bit about one of the most famous
preachers of the 18th century-- Mr. George Whitefield. Whitefield became the most famous preacher in England and in the early American colonies -- he was the Billy Grahm of his time, sometimes preaching to great throngs of people numbering as many as 20,000 (according to Benjamin
Franklin who witnessed Whitefield preaching outdoors in Philadelphia). Pastor Whitefield was a contemporary of the Wesley brothers, Charles and John Wesley, with whom he shared some ministry, but also had a falling out for some time over certain understandings of conversion. Whitefield
was also looked upon with disdain by the more learned and prestigious preachers of his day they did not approve of his "extemporaneous" preaching style, nor his passion for preaching to the poorest and most wretched masses of society.
Nevertheless, Whitefield's messages stirred people to radical repentance from their former ways. Conversion took the form of deliverance from sin and many evil spirits (lying, swearing, drinking and the like) were cast out of those who listened to Whitefield's sermons. By his use of
strong words and powerful illustrations Whitefield could cut his audience to the heart. In considering Whitefield's technique, which could convict even the toughest strongest of men, it strikes me that maybe Jesus also used strong language and powerful images, such as we have in
today's text, in order to cause his listeners and disciples to recognize the seriousness, the radicality, of conversion. "If anyone would follow me, he must take up his cross . . . "
In our passage today, Jesus tells us, "Everyone who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven." But what does it mean to "acknowledge" Jesus? The King James Bible uses the word "confess" -- "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him
will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven." Whether we use "acknowledge" or "confess," Jesus means that we should give some sort of evidence, by word or deed, that we accept him as Lord of our lives. We ought to be treating others with love and respect, we ought to be
treating ourselves with decency and good heartedness. For some of us, who have not known love–we don't know how to love and treat others with decency and respect. Conversion can be a matter of relearning the meaning of love . Jesus calls for disciples who want to be "born again" this
means having our selfish heart transplanted with a heart of love. We are reborn, children of God. In the Lutheran church, the heart transplant begins in the waters of Holy Baptism . . . the water and the Word become the instruments of God as we are cleansed from sin and given a new
heart and mind for Christ.
Another interpretation of "acknowledging Jesus" is to consider ourselves as being "AT ONE" with Him. To Acknowledge Jesus is to be in fellowship with his life and his teaching and his Passion. Jesus said that no disciple is above his master, and yet if we do what the master asks . .
. then we will become at one with the master's intentions. It is the same with a son or daughter who follows in their parent's footsteps. This can be intentional or unintentional. More often than not, whether we have intended to or not, we are our father and our mother . . . we can
only pray that we have picked up their best attributes (here is something for Father's day–I hope every one of us can thank Dad for showing us a good example . . . ).
If you are trying to be more like Jesus, here's where the going can get a little Rough and Tough. Make your company with Jesus, and your going to have to separate yourself from other loyalties, situations, and quite frankly – on occasion, separate yourself from some people(!)
possibly your own family members. However, I would also add, that one ought not to write off one's own flesh and blood, but rather, Jesus might be challenging you to pray for them, show a good example to them, or to love them–even as we have been loved sacrificially by Christ.
I think that there is also the issue of morality at stake here. You may have to separate yourself from some people, not because you don't like them, but because their behaviors or their moral standards are going to come into conflict with your own Christian Faith &Values. Not that
morality is the bottom line in Chrstian faith, "for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." More difficult than just walking away from friends or family who don't believe as you do, may be the task of explaining why you don't feel comfortable hanging out with them. Here
is a case where the follower of Jesus stands to be rejected or even cast our by his or her own friends or family. Our conduct and standards as followers of Jesus ought to be beyond reproach, on the other hand, we ought not place ourselves above anyone, as though "our good behavior"
could now become some kind of star in our cap or otherwise make us more worthy in God's eyes . . . for this is another form of hypocrisy.
So the Question comes, Are we Allied With Christ? Or are we going it alone? . . . .Are we going on through Life with Jesus? Or Are we going through life with the World . . . with the Devil??
Jesus calls out to us, "Everyone who acknowledges me before others and confesses me as lord, I will acknowledge before my Father in Heaven." We have no righteousness apart from Christ. Therefore, we ought always to place our trust fully in Jesus. Relying completely on him--we have
security. For our hope is not in ourselves, but in God's faithfulness to us. Jesus has secured our salvation. Thanks be to God.
Let us Pray,
Come Lord Jesus and be the guest of our hearts. Remove from us every impediment and selfish aspect of our being – for we want to love you with our whole hearts and lives.
more writings of Pastor Jon