What does this Jesus guy have to do with my life? Why should I even be interested in what someone had to say who lived two thousand years ago? How could that possibly even be relevant or have anything to do with me? Have you ever asked yourself these questions? I have. I grew up in the southern United States and back at that time that meant one thing. You went to church! No questions asked, you just went. There was some singing, some long winded praying to sweet Jesus, a sermon from the preacher, something about “so and so begat so and so and begat and begat and someone said some stuff and it came to pass and verily, verily and Jesus came riding on a donkey and amen”. I remember as a small boy being bored out of my head lying on the pew looking up at the ceiling, my stomach growling with hunger waiting for it to be over so we could go home and eat. I did a lot of praying as a small boy, praying it would soon be over, praying that a pipe would burst and we would have to evacuate. Praying the preacher would choke on a breath mint and have to go to the hospital. Anything except having to sit still for another half hour while sister Rosetta gave another of her testimonies.
I’ll try not to bore you with too many details. But, I did survive those years. I grew up got married and had kids. Like everyone I had good days and not so good, triumphs and tragedies. Sometime in all this I “got religion” myself and started going back to church and horror of horrors I became my parents, poor kids. This could be the end of my story, I begat so and so and they begat so and so and I died and was buried with my ancestors, amen that’s a wrap. But, it’s not the end of the story. Even though I tried my best to be a good person, went to church and prayed every day I aways felt like maybe my religion was an empty bag of air. Something just didn’t feel right. It certainly wasn’t from a lack of sincerity or a lack of trying. Still, there it was an emptiness and a yearning for something more. I began to study. I changed churches several times. I read book after book. I enrolled in bible college. I even became a dreaded preacher myself. Even after all that I still hadn’t found what I was looking for really. Something was wrong. i was supposed to be leading others to a place of comfort and peace with their God but, it was a place I had only visited a few times myself briefly. Time moved on and a lot happened.
The beginning of the end
A young man Came into my acquaintance a few years later. He had at one time been addicted to drugs. He had been in some trouble but, decided to get himself clean. He wanted a better life. He wanted a family. He got a job. He met a young lady, got married, settled down and had two beautiful daughters. Life was good. I baptized both daughters. They would come to my church from time to time. All was well with them until one day the young man was diagnosed with cancer. It was terminal and a slow and painful death followed. I was asked to come and visit with him. I went several times and spent a number of hours at his bedside. His wife and parents had a lot of difficult questions for me and all I had were a handful of flimsy answers from the pastors book of flimsy answers. It didn’t seem like there was any good purpose for the tragedy that was taking place before my eyes. I was at a low point in my life. How could My God let this injustice happen? I conducted his funeral. After that evening I never stepped foot in the pulpit again. I gave up on being the guy with the answers. I gave up my ministry and hung God up in my closet with my good suit that night.
The new beginning
I had what I suppose mental health professionals would call a crisis of faith. I called it hell. It lasted several years. All that time I was miserable. I really couldn’t take much pleasure in anything. My relationships suffered and so did I. As my grandmother would say I was a hot mess. Years passed. Finally one afternoon I just started praying. I said ok God you have my undivided attention. What’s up between us? I don’t understand you. I tried to please you but it seems like I’m doing something wrong. What is it? How do I really find you? I’ll listen to anything you have to say and I’ll do whatever you say do, I’ll go wherever you say to go. Suddenly I had the feeling that I had been doing everything my way. I thought I knew what God wanted of me and I went out and did it. Not once in my life did I ask God before I started out on a new endeavor beyond a cursory “help me with this new project Lord”. I just made up my mind what I was going to do and I did it. I never heard a voice from heaven that day telling me what a tool I had been. I just suddenly knew it. I felt something come back alive in me. Slowly I started to pray more regularly again. I started asking God “ok what do I do now, what’s next with you and me”? I started to read and study again. Verses that previously meant almost nothing to me jumped out of the book. I began to see things that I had never noticed before. For a long time I got more questions than answers but, I felt like I was discovering something important. Suddenly I found something. It had been there in plain sight all along. I had missed something important. . I had in reality not been following Jesus at all. I thought I had been following him. But I had not. I had been following someone entirely different from the one I had professed and preached. I was in shock and doubted my sanity for a while. I poured over the texts and looked up the words in the Hebrew or in Greek just to try to disprove to myself that what I was seeing was in fact true. Instead of disproving it I confirmed it to myself. After a while it was undeniable. I resolved to realign my life to conform to this new understanding. After all I had made a promise to God to go wherever he led and do whatever he said do. A deal is a deal. No backing out now just because He didn’t lead where I was expecting. I promise to explain everything as we go along, just hang in there with me.
Who is this guy?
First, before we can follow Jesus we first need to know who it is we are following. For a long time I had what might be called a kids “Sunday school” understanding of who and what Jesus is. I knew the Bible said he was the son of God, that he preached and healed people and that he was crucified and rose from the dead. I’m just hitting the high points here but, I bet if you stopped most people on the street they couldn’t tell you much more than that. Did you know that Jesus was a prophet? A prophet that was predicted way back at the time God Gave Moses the commandments about the 15th century BC. He had long been anticipated. Here it is predicted in Deuteronomy 18:15
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me (Moses) from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen”.
Then at verse 18. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.
Did you get that? God is sending a prophet that we must listen to. That word translated listen also means obey. So now we know who the bible identifies as that prophet so that we can hear his teachings and obey them. Let’s look at Acts. This is Peter speaking.
Acts 3:7 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 tRepent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which zGod spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you aa prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’
Even at Jesus’ Transfiguration God says Audibly “listen to him” (Matthew !7:5)
God said the reason you had to listen to him was because He (God) would put his words in Jesus mouth. No other prophet can make that claim. Jesus Words come directly from God. What I learned was that there is no other person and I do mean no other person living or dead that can speak with total authority like Jesus. Any prophet or even an apostle that says something that doesn’t align perfectly with Jesus’ teachings is not to be listened too. What did Jesus say about Salvation? From our point of view his most important teaching.
Matthew 19:16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”Jesus made us a promise. Obey the commandments and follow me and you will have eternal life.
That’s right, Jesus expects us to keep the commandments, all ten of them. I had all during my christian life believed that the law had been done away with. I broke many of those commandments yet, I thought my relationship with God was secure. It never occured to me that I needed to repent from breaking a commandment. Somehow even though Jesus continually says obey the commandments over and over throughout the gospels and the Bible says in multiple places that anyone that abrogates the law is a false teacher, I still didn’t get it. I was not following Jesus. I was following a different gospel! Do your own research. I suggest you start by reading the gospel of Matthew. Read Jesus’ words carefully and prayerfully. Apply those words against what you have always been taught. After all, you can’t be harmed by just obeying Jesus, right? Then begin to obey the commandments including keeping the seventh day sabbath. That is the fourth commandment. It can’t hurt you to try it for a while. You don’t need to go farther than Jesus, others may lead you astray. There is no scriptural guarantee that any other person is absolutely accurate at all times except Jesus. If someone teaches anything that is counter to what Jesus taught then they are not speaking under inspiration of the Holy Spirit Even if it is in the Bible. God will not speak one thing directly from Jesus’ mouth and then speak something contrary from someone else, Compare what anyone says with what Jesus says and always accept Jesus’ version. It sounds simple but will change your understanding of God and your life. It filled a hole that had been in my heart for a long time. It really isn’t that confusing. Jesus is our sole teacher. This is Jesus Speaking in Matthew.
Matthew 23:8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ.
That’s the secret hiding in plain sight. Don’t follow anyone’s teachings except Jesus’.
I still am not the guy with all the answers. There is a lot I don’t know I’m sure. But I do know this, Jesus will not lead you astray. Others may. Jesus said.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”