There is a saying with some truth to it that if you want to know about a matter – ‘follow the money’. This means if you look at the funding sources of a matter then you get a picture of who is pushing what (aka agenda) and who has financial gain or interest or conflict of interest in the matter. This is not a new concept, but rather, an old one. It is even present in Biblical times. The incident with Demetrius in Acts 19 is the perfect example.
Demetrius is a silversmith idol maker and has a good business going making a lot of money in Ephesus. He is afraid that the message that Paul is sharing that there is only one true God and that Jesus Christ is His son will plummet his sales in idols of Diana. Ephesus was known for its worship of the goddess Diana and the god Zeus. So he incited his fellow idol makers towards anger and malice towards Paul and the disciples in Ephesus. This snowballed into a riot where half the people didn’t even know what the issue was and just joined in rioting just because. (Sound familiar?) The authorities of the city knew that Paul and the disciples had done nothing wrong and had not stirred up this great rioting mob by anything they had done so they refused to bring them to court to try them. Ultimately Paul and the disciples decided to leave town and go somewhere else where they could share the gospel.
All of this is due to Demetrius and his fellow silversmiths being concerned that they would lose their livelihoods making shrines that they made a great profit from selling to the people. They were not interested in hearing or considering the truth – they were only concerned with the almighty dollar as we might say today. It is sad that the truth of the gospel couldn’t be openly shared in Ephesus because of a handful of greedy men. Does this happen today? In our time? You bet. The names and the livelihoods may be different but the situation still rears its ugly head. So …if you want to know about a matter ‘follow the money’ and you will find out a lot. More importantly follow Jesus and gain discernment about situations that arise. One will never go wrong when truly following Jesus.
-Pastor Merry Peterson
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Samuel 19-20 and Acts 19
My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. -John 10:27-28 NRSV
Rejection is something that all of us have, or will, face in this life. And, I can honestly say that it never feels great. You know that feeling where you feel like your stomach hits the floor? For a moment, it’s hard to catch a breath. In that moment you feel like you’ve lost it all. As humans, we want people to believe in us. We want to be trusted in, relied upon. And, we also hate the loneliness that comes from people choosing to walk away from us or not abide in our words.
So, what must it have felt like for our Messiah to constantly face people who were unwilling to believe him? How did he have the strength to continue to persevere? We see in the ministry of the Son of Man, the Perfect Man, an ability to consistently rely upon the Word of his father. We see in Jesus complete confidence in God and his plan for Jesus’s ministry. And, over and over, we see Christ giving all glory to God. Jesus knows with complete clarity where his power is coming from and how important it is.
Can you imagine knowing you are the Son of God, proclaiming the gospel that you know without any doubt is true, and having your Jewish brothers and sisters threaten you with stoning?
Fear, dismay, sadness. I can say if I had been in the shoes of Jesus at the end of John 10, I would be overwhelmed with emotion. The steadiness that we see in the Lord is astonishing, and takes an exuberant amount of courage.
32 Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?”
Wow. Jesus has just laid out his cards. He is saying, “Look this is who I am. I have been sent by my father to do his good works. You have seen many of these works. And you are going to stone me now?” He is making it clear that by stoning Jesus, the Jews are going against the glory of God. WOAH. What an argument. Its clean, simple, and most importantly, transcendent.
Although we see that Jesus escapes being stoned that day in John 10, we all know that he did have to endure the cross for us. The perfect man that did it all right covered our sin with his blood. And then, God raised him from the dead. Because of that, we have been grafted into an eternal kingdom where righteousness will reign!
But in this life, we will continue to face rejection. We will always have people that don’t believe us. And no, we aren’t going to be perfect. But because of the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf, we have the ability to also trust in and rely upon the Word of God. We have the opportunity to serve and be loved by our Creator. How beautiful is that?
When we choose to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, we learn what it takes to be spiritually confident. Trust in God. Trust in his Word. Proclaim his good works. That is where true confidence begins.
As we learn more and more about Jesus and find that we are completely astonished by this man, the Son of God – we are left with more questions – what will be my response to him? What must I do to follow him? How do I sign up to be his disciple? What will my job description be as a follower of Christ?
Matthew 9 and 10 give some great guidance for those seeking to follow Jesus. We have the example of Matthew the tax collector who was working hard at his tax collector booth when Jesus came by and said, “Follow me.” That was all it took. No endless paperwork to fill out. No aptitude test – Jesus already knew Matthew’s strengths and weaknesses, as he knows mine and yours – and still he calls – follow me. In order to accept the job, there will be something we must leave behind. It might not be our occupation, as it was for Matthew. It might be our favorite hobby or mindless pastime or those enticing overtime hours. There is simply not enough hours in the day or room in the heart to do everything the world says you deserve to do and effectively follow Christ. A follower will sacrifice, change, give up, adjust schedules.
I am reminded of my dad who never retired from the ministry, but after his kids all grew up, he fulfilled a life-long dream and bought himself a little fishing boat. He loved that little fishing boat, but he loved more his Savior and the people that he worked tirelessly to bring to Jesus – so the boat didn’t get out much.
Which brings us to the second lesson learned from Matthew. As soon as he left behind his tax collector job, he invited Jesus to his house to be his guest – along with all his friends of questionable beliefs, backgrounds, and motives – yes, the “sinners”. You might know a few yourself. Matthew knew his friends and coworkers needed Jesus as much as he did and he took it upon himself to introduce them to one another. When we take on the job of follower of Christ we invite Jesus into our lives, our homes, our family, our circle of friends, neighbors and associates. As Warren Wiersbe says, “God has no secret service” (NT Wiersbe Bible Commentary, p.32). A follower doesn’t cover-up who his boss is. How can you invite your neighbors and coworkers and family to meet Jesus? Take some time to seriously create a list of people you know who would benefit from some time with Jesus (before Jesus returns to judge the earth) and then prayerfully consider how God would have you make the introductions.
When we start really looking at the needs around us – the eternal needs – it is easy to get overwhelmed. Jesus,too, has seen the crowds – like sheep without a shepherd. He instructed his disciples to pray for more workers in the harvest field. We would do well to pray this prayer as well.
A follower isn’t a one man show – rather they have the responsibility (and often joy) of working with others to share the good news. Just as Jesus sent out his disciples to work together (Mark records they went out in pairs), we will find our effectiveness greater when we take the team approach to following Christ. Who are you already working with and who would be a great addition to your current team of Christ followers?
Jesus warns his followers that it won’t be easy – not what you always want to hear at a job interview. But, who wants an easy job? He warns of the opposition his followers will face – from the religious leaders, from the government and even from family. Likewise, we must be prepared to not be swayed or stopped from the task by opposition we face from many fronts. Just as Jesus was persecuted, so will his followers. Expect it and keep working. Jesus says it best, “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22 NIV). There may be times you will be tempted to take the easy road, give in, hide Jesus. Don’t do it. Remember Jesus’ promise and warning: “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33).
Finally, a follower will love Jesus first and most.
How will you pick up your cross today and be his follower?
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 9 & 10.
Tomorrow we will read Matthew 14, Mark 6, and Luke 9:1-17 as we continue learning about Jesus and how to be a follower.
During Jesus’ ministry, he caused a lot of controversy and caused many to question who exactly he was. In Matthew 16:13-20, this is exactly the issue that Jesus raised with his disciples. However, he not only asks what everyone else thinks of him, but asks the disciples specifically who they think he is. This is important for us to pay attention to, since Jesus says that Peter’s answer was revealed to him by the Father.
Jesus’ first question for his disciples is, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Apparently, there had been many ideas floating around during Jesus’ time; some said that he was John the Baptist, others said he was Elijah, and still more said that he was one of the prophets. We may think this is strange to hear, but the same thing is going on in our time today. If you were to ask people at your school or work, “Who is Jesus?”, you are likely to get many different answers. Atheists who accept that he existed would say that he was a good teacher. Muslims would say that he was a faithful prophet. Some Christians today say that he was an angel, that he was God Almighty, or that he was a spirit; many Christians today just simply don’t know what to make of Jesus.
Luckily for us, Jesus asks his disciples a second question that will answer all of the confusion for us. He asks them, “But who do you say I am?” Peter replies by stating, “You are the Messiah (Christ), the son of the living God.” Jesus praises Peter for his answer, stating that this was revealed to him by the Father! This is the correct answer! Later on, Jesus says that this statement, or profession of faith, is going to be the rock that he will build his Church upon. If someone wants to be a part of Jesus’ Church, they need to accept that he is the Messiah and, according to Paul, that he was risen from the dead (Romans 10:9-10).
What is wonderful about this section of Scripture is that this question is still being asked of us today: “Who do you say that I am?” As Christians, we oftentimes worry too much about what everybody else’s answer to that question is. We desperately want people to accept Jesus so much that we forget that we need to answer that question as well. So, who is Jesus to you? If he is the Messiah, or king, of your life, are you fully devoted to him, or is there something else that has your allegiance divided? Do you dedicate your life to him, or is he simply someone you only see on the weekends?
The challenge for you today is to take time to examine your own life and walk with Christ, and stop worrying about everybody else. After Jesus’ resurrection in the Gospel of John, Peter is deeply concerned about what is going to happen to John. Jesus replies in verse 22, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” Jesus will be willing to work with the people you are so concerned about, but you need to make sure you are following him fully. You cannot possibly help someone if you aren’t giving it your all as well.
The day Jesus called, John was likely living a day just like any other day. John, his father and his brother went to work just like any other day. They started completing their job just like any other day. And they threw their fishing nets into the sea just like any other day.
Then Jesus called.
In a moment’s notice, John left everything he had and followed Jesus simply because Jesus called John and his brother on just another day.
Jesus said come, so they went. That’s it. No flashing lights, no miraculous signs, nothing out of the ordinary. With just one simple sentence, they dropped their nets to follow Jesus. I don’t know about you but just by reading that, I’d say his testimony in Matthew 4:21-22 seems pretty boring.
John’s testimony seemed boring until I realized John’s life changed completely. He was offered immortality in paradise. Who could pass that up? All John had to do was believe to gain immortality.
This brings us to 1 John 1. The first three verses are simply saying that John was there with Jesus. He heard Jesus speak. He saw Jesus perform miracles. He experienced the power of Jesus Christ. John was there. That is no ordinary testimony.
Sometimes in life, I convince myself that my testimony is pretty boring. If you’re like me, you sometimes think that your testimony is typical. Whether that is because you grew up in the church or were engulfed in the easily entangling sin, our individual testimonies don’t seem exciting enough or even Christian enough in our own minds.
The thing is our testimonies showcase the reason we believe: the reason why Jesus is real to us. Our testimonies provide proof that our lives were changed. Our testimonies are never ordinary testimonies. Our unique experiences, stories, and lives show how great of an impact Jesus still has today on this beautifully ordinary day.
When someone asks you how you can believe in someone who died over 2,000 years ago, recount your testimony, tell that Jesus is alive and continuing to work in miraculous ways. Because Jesus is there with you, changing your individual life every step of the way. Yours is no ordinary testimony. – Madison Cisler
(Thank you to Madison Cisler for writing this week. Madison is a student at Atlanta Bible College. She will be writing on the books of 1st, 2nd & 3rd John. Look for great devotions this week!)
Luke Chapter 5 introduces us to the first disciples of Jesus. By this point, Jesus’s ministry caught on fire! Multitudes of people were coming to listen to him speak. After he is finished speaking to the crowds, we are introduced to Simon, more commonly known to us as the apostle Peter.
What I love about this section of scripture is how real it is. All of us would like to say that if the Lord Jesus told us to do something as he told Peter in verse 4 of Luke 5, we would listen and obey. We wouldn’t ask questions and doubt. But, Peter does. He replies by saying, “We’ve worked all night long and caught nothing!”. Now, this does not stop Peter from being obedient; however, it is clear that he was slightly confused as to why the Lord would ask him to lift their nets. Because of this, imagine Peter’s reaction when loads of fish came out of the nets! In just a few minutes, Peter went from a plain, most likely poor, fisherman to one of Jesus’s close friends and disciples. It even says in Luke 5 verse 11 that “then they brought the boats to land, left everything, and followed him.”
This account brings to light many things the first being this: In order to make us trust in the Lord, sometimes he has to give us crazy signs. Peter needed to see their empty nets become full in order to completely believe and trust in the Lord. He needed that proof.
I say this because it is important for us to realize that it is okay for us to need that kind of proof. It is okay to pray that he will show us that he is there! Sometimes, we need that in order to know that he is still tangible in our lives.
This account also brings up this point: Peter was nothing more than a fisherman. When we read the work of these mighty apostles it is easy for us to start to believe that there is no way that we could ever emulate them. We make them heroes in our minds to the point where we forget that they we just simply people. They didn’t hold special jobs. They didn’t have any special talents. What made them special is that they were chosen by the Lord to share the word of God!
So, no matter how sinful, how small, and even how worthless you feel, get ready. Because, the Lord has the ability to call whoever he wants. In our weakness, he is our strength.
Thanks to Rachel Cain’s devotion on Lamentations recently, we know that to lament means to mourn. Here, God tells Ezekiel to mourn Tyre. To me, this looks like a shift in what we saw yesterday. In our reading yesterday, God told the rebellious people not to mourn. Here, God is calling for a season of mourning.
At the beginning, we see that Tyre was a great nation. Some of the vivid imagery is displayed in the visual above. Tyre is compared to great ship. The ship is made of the finest wood and cloth; Tyre was a wealthy city who traded with many.
However, in 27:26, we see another tonal shift. The east winds will come and break this beautiful, seemingly perfect ship into pieces. Although I am by no means a Bible scholar, it seems like a fair assumption to say the east winds represent Babylon. Tyre will be destroyed by Babylon, just like the nations foretold in Chapter 25.
We see this theme continuing in Chapter 28. God tells Ezekiel in reference to Tyre, “Because you think you are wise, as wise as a god, I am going to bring foreigners against you, the most ruthless of nations” (28:6). Here, it is evident that pride is once again an obstacle for Tyre. Their pride blocks their vision of the True God; whether explicitly stated or not, through the actions of Tyre.
Application to our lives: Although we may not explicitly state we are a god, do we sometimes un-purposefully act as though we are? Do we act as if we are entitled to a life of abundance? Do we let our pride obstruct the divine glory of God? I know that I can act this way sometimes. When I feel these emotions creeping up on me, I remind myself of my identify I have in Christ, not my identity I have built up in treasures on earth such as pride and wealth. I think of the disciples and how they left everything to follow Jesus. This seems to be a theme I keep coming back to in Ezekiel.