It is quite striking that Jesus’ call to those early fishermen; “Follow Me” impacted them so deeply that they left all and followed. Again, we are told that Jesus saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow Me” Jesus said to him and Levi got up and followed Him. They left what they were doing and followed after Jesus because they had been confronted by The Life Changer! The power of Jesus’ words compelled them to follow. This was not a random act but part of God’s plan for their lives. Those who have heard this call to follow after Jesus know that it is a call for life. It changes everything!
History tells A Story
Obedience is not always the case. We note with sadness the outcome of a past generation. Israel’s leader Joshua was laid to rest. The next generation however did not exhibit those vital signs. “They neither knew the Lord nor what He had done for Israel.” Yet God had revealed Himself to them in an incredible way. He had told them very clearly that they were “his treasured possession.” In the same way He shows us today that He is The Way. Interestingly, in Acts the early Christians were called ‘people of The Way.’ Giving our time and attention to The Way, Jesus, would cure the roaming heart!
Shadow or Substance
Our stumbling block in the 21st Century is the access we have to an unparalleled amount of Christian information. Yet, to be mentally informed is not the same as knowing God experientially. The first is a shadow while the experience of knowing God is the substance. It is the daily “Follow Me” call from Jesus that leads us in The Way. When we respond to His daily calling we realise that He wants to be part of every aspect of our lives. In Jesus’ words, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish his work.” Do you not think that this is an important message for each of us? Jesus practiced hidden intimacy with His Father and so must we if there is to be public fruitfulness!
Friends, as God’s people we are called to Follow Daily!
It is our hope that each generation might follow in Jesus’ footsteps and not settle for mediocrity but rather as we used to say, “be sold out to Him.” And, that this longing might give birth to a new freshness within us, both in knowing the Lord and also His ways. That those in their 20’s and 30’s might experience the Lord in the way in which He intended it to be. It was the “following after Jesus ” practised by those early disciples from the cross to Pentecost that birthed the early Church.
He has made a way for us all
The joy of walking with Jesus and experiencing His expansive presence in us and with us each day is deeply satisfying. There is no comparison or option! The reality is that He longs to share fellowship with us. The outcome of that fellowship is transformation and the result will be Christ formed within us. This ‘open door’ of grace-opportunity for the next generation to experience the life-changing power of God is now wide open! Jesus calls us all to Himself so that He might be given first place priority in all things.
We can be completely restored
We are seeing a distressing picture emerging within western society today. We are witnessing an epidemic of dysfunctional relationships. This prevailing condition impacts the lives of many young adults who have grown up not knowing wholeness in their family or church relationships. Yet, we can know the Lord’s genuine restoration and healing and be completely set free from this plague. It was these thoughts that triggered an experience I had some years ago.
I was reminded of an encounter that made a real impact upon my own life. A friend of ours, in full-time ministry asked a couple of us to go away with him to wait upon the Lord. He was suffering from what is commonly called ‘burn out’ as a believer and needed help desperately.
It was not long in to our time of praying together when we were given a picture or vision for him. In the vision he was lying on a hospital bed with tubes and wires connected to his body. He was clearly on a life support machine and not doing well. It became obvious that he needed to get off the bed and remove the artificial life support and walk away trusting in the life which God supplies. We were all concerned by the impact of the vision because we realised together that his vital signs were in poor shape!
Surely we can be confident that the next generation of believers will follow Jesus wholeheartedly without all the baggage of religious obligation and broken relationships! Surely, we can be certain that younger believers can walk free of life support systems! These earlier thoughts and this encounter led me to ask the question.
“What are the vital signs in a fully-alive believer?”
As I began to think about this question I realised that there could be many visible symptoms that describe a Christian who is alive to God. It is not my intention to make this a tick-box exercise which has little value in encouraging the heart Godward.
When a doctor examines an individual for vital signs he or she is checked to test that the body is functioning as it should be. I am mindful of the purpose to which we are called.
Jesus came for broken, needy, desperate, shamed, struggling, sinful and sick people. He came to restore broken relationships and heal the sin-sick hearts. And, He came to RESTORE us to health by the power of His resurrected LIFE and RECONCILE us to God! “I came that they might have LIFE, and have it to the full.” Paul reminds the believers in Corinth about the work of the Spirit within us – “transforming us in to His likeness!”
We have a deposit
We are told of the deposit of God’s Spirit life within us which guarantees what is to come – our hope! Paul speaks about this deposit within us at the new birth. The truth that will set us free every time is found in God alone. When we understand experientially that Jesus came to bring ZOE Life (God’s never-dying, forever life) to us who were dead in sin there is reason to rejoice. Jesus came to deal with the ‘fatal flaw’ of fallen humanity once and for all and to set us free from the dysfunctional relationships that blight our families and churches.
The first sign of Life!
Jesus facing temptation reminds us all that “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
Jesus came aside out of devotion and need for His Father. If this is true of the Son how much more you and I. Out of this continued devotion emanates a fresh intimacy which is quite apparent in the life of a God-lover. Love draws us to be with the One we love. It is this focussed cultivation of intimacy with God that breaks our dependence upon artificial life support and begins to shape our lives in a way that makes us more Christlike. Jesus sums up the vital signs of a true believer by saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength!”
Another sign of Life
Jesus said, “I AM the Life!” We are called to live by ‘faith in God’ and we are reminded that “without faith it is impossible to please God” In other words, the trust-life comes out of a continual intimacy with God. To know God is to hear His voice and follow Him in childlike confidence. Simplicity in action!
This pulsating, life-giving life shines through in how I treat my family and friends, how I drive my car or clean the house, how I relate to my parents or children and everything in between. It impacts my inner life, my thought life, my actions and motivations. It affects my marriage, my job, my friends and my present mind-set. To love God with everything means “I am available Lord” to follow you. The freedom to be truly free comes by allowing God to break every attachment which holds us to ‘artificial life.’ We are called to follow, to listen to His life giving words and obey and we are called to trust Him completely in everything. These are the signs of life in God.
A recipe for a revived heart set free from the confines and limitations of religious obligation and dysfunctionality. They are ours in Christ. It is the sign of a man or woman demonstrating the signs of life that will make a considerable impact upon those around them. Which leads me to my next question, but that will be in our next post!
by John Langford