Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Way pt. 2

Jesus not only invites us to come to Him, but He also tells us to “take His yoke upon us so that we may learn of Him.” (Matthew 11:29)
Our first act of becoming a complete disciple of Jesus Christ is to “deny ourselves and take up His cross.” (Mark 8:34) This means to so surrender our will to the Lord Jesus that we obey Him and follow Him in everything. It means to say no to ourselves. Saying no to our own desires, ambitions, and pleasures. It isn’t easy is it? To say no to self is never easy. It is contrary to our very nature. We all want our own way.
A former president of Indonesia once said, “I love my country, I love women, but most of all I love myself.” You might insert something else in the place of his first two loves, but if you are honest you probably would have to say along with him, “most of all I love myself.” Seriously, we can choose to deny ourselves or we can choose to defy ourselves. We can become our own gods. We can govern our own lives. Or we can abdicate the thrones of our lives and let Jesus be Lord. If we are going to be disciples of Jesus, we must begin by denying ourselves.
HIS YOKE - What does it mean to take Christ’s yoke upon us? The picture of a yoke is that of a harness used over the necks of two animals to train them how to pull together to be successful. The yoke illustrates submission. Submission to Christ’s yoke is never easy because it costs the yielding up of your will to Christ’s will. It is only as we submit to Christ, and learn of Christ that we receive from Christ the rest that He promises in Matthew 11:29. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Verse 30 “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Jesus did not say that His yoke is heavy. It only becomes heavy when we resist it. It is when we, like Saul of Tarsus, kick against the goads and resist submitting to God’s way that our walk with God becomes a toil and labor.
How does the yoke of Christ work? The more fully committed we are to follow Christ, the more we will have rest and peace. Peace and rest are by-products of unreserved surrender to Jesus Christ. When we are pulling with Christ by submitting ourselves in obedience, our burdens will be lightened and our joys and victories will be complete. We are designed for obedience. We were created to do His will. When we follow Him in obedience it brings refreshing renewal to our minds. (Romans 12:1, 2)
Submission to Christ’s yoke is never easy. It means death to self and that is always hard. Submission is contrary to our nature, and our nature is rooted in rebellion. But it is only as we come to Christ, submit to Christ, and learn of Christ that we receive from Christ the rest from the wearisome toils of life. He invites you to come!        

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Way

Our theme for the next few weeks is to discover, or rediscover what a complete disciple of Jesus Christ looks like. Jesus used two great symbols for Christian commitment. In Mark 8:34 He said, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” The first symbol is a cross. The second symbol is a yoke. He spoke of the yoke when He said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me.” (Matthew 11:29)
The cross and the yoke symbolize for us the two different aspects of commitment. The cross is an instrument of death; the yoke an instrument of toil. The cross is an instrument of sacrifice; the yoke is the symbol of service. The cross suggests blood; the yoke suggests sweat. A complete disciple of Christ is one who is ready for either the cross or the yoke.
When we follow Jesus it should be with such absolute surrender that we are ready to die for Him, or we are ready to work for Him. We are ready to suffer, or we are ready to serve – whichever He may require.
I think if we were to draw a symbol for commitment to Christ, it would be a picture of a cross on one hand, a yoke on the other, and a Christian on his knees between them saying, “Ready for either.”
When Christ called for His followers to become His disciples, He was making a call for full commitment to follow Him. The first step to commitment is to recognize Jesus Christ as the Son of God and make the decision to follow Him. The kind of decision that Christ calls for to be His disciple is to “deny ourselves, and take up His cross, and follow Him.”
What is self-denial? For Jesus, the cross stood for death in the most agonizing way. He uses the word cross to help us to understand what it really means to be committed to Him.
Our commitment to become a disciple of Jesus begins with a funeral. It is when we die to ourselves and begin to live for Jesus. Christ’s own great conflict between His own will and the will of His Father was settled in the Garden of Gethsemane. There on His knees Jesus said no to Himself and said yes to God. He prayed, “Not my will but thine be done.”
Self-denial means to say no to ourselves and to our own desires, appetites, ambitions, and pleasures. Well, that’s never easy is it? It is so contrary to our own nature. We all want our own way. We want to do our own things.
Self-denial is a practical expression of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It is so surrendering our will to the Lord Jesus that we obey Him and follow Him in everything.
This is the first step to complete discipleship. It’s the step of self-denial! The second act of commitment to becoming a complete disciple is to take His yoke. Continued next week!                    

-Pastor Amundson

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

God Blesses Families

God made a covenant promise to Abraham that foretold the coming and purpose of Jesus Christ. Since God made this statement in Genesis 12:1-3, He has been in the business of blessing families. God’s purpose in Jesus coming was to bless all the families of the earth.

“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’”

The primary unit through which God has committed Himself to work is the family. God is the “blesser.” The devil is the “curser.” Through Jesus Christ, God is intent on blessing all the families of the earth.

The meaning of the word “blessing” is “to receive, accept, ascribe high value to, and consider a person as a success.” The Hebrew verb used for the word to bless is “Baruch.” A primary meaning of this word is “to empower to prosper!”

What does it mean to prosper? In our culture we primarily think of prosperity in terms of money. But that is not all this word entails. A better definition of this verb “to prosper” is to thrive, to succeed, to do well. It’s a word that primarily means “to have a pleasant journey.”

To enjoy a pleasant journey in life one must be empowered to prosper through praise, affirmation, and value. Blessing is meant to impart God’s image of identity and destiny into each member of our family.
The Role of Parents
Parents hold a powerful key to the future lives of their children in blessing and cursing. Parents can literally empower their children to prosper and thrive as adults in their marriages, family relationships, businesses, ministries, health, and finances. Parents can also mar, cripple, and literally prevent their children from thriving and prospering in all these same areas of adult life. Parents are God’s ordained agents through whom identity and destiny is imparted.

Once again, the key that parents have in empowering their children to have a pleasant journey in life is to impart God’s image of identity into them by valuing them and affirming them. Speak to their destiny by blessing them with forgiveness and assurance that through even mistakes and failures, they are accepted, loved, and forgiven. This is a God’s protection for preserving our inheritance and heritage for our children.