Follow Me As I Follow Christ

1 Corinthians 11:1 AMP  Pattern yourselves after me [follow my example], as I imitate and follow Christ (the Messiah).

Paul spoke this sentence to the believers in Corinth.  Paul – the one who has been portrayed by many teachers and preachers through the years as proud and arrogant.  Paul – the one who has been made out to be a chauvinist.  Paul – who went after Christians in every way he could, even going so far as having them killed, attempting to stop the spread of the gospel prior to his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus.  This same Paul has the audacity to say to believers to pattern themselves after him as he imitates and follows Christ.  How dare he say that?!  Would a humble Christian say that?!

Paul’s confidence appears to many to be self-confidence.  His boldness to declare in Acts 20:26, “I am innocent of the blood of all men,” looks like an outright lie to those who know his past.  That’s what stops most of us from telling others that we are innocent, or to follow us and imitate our example as we follow Christ.  We know the wrongs of our past, and we know others know them, too.  We would never consider ourselves good enough, pure enough, or righteous enough, so the last thing we’d want is for others to imitate us.  But is that what we are to consider?

Paul was not deceived, in denial, or suffering amnesia.  He practiced what he taught, and he taught what the Lord taught him – that we are to leave the past behind (even the positive) and press on toward the mark (Phil. 3:13-14).  He understood that when Jesus forgave His sins, they were no longer to be his focus, as they were truly washed away by His blood.  He needed but to go forward in the Lord, seeking to know Him more and to make Him known (Phil. 3:10) – not continually re-examining past sins, or receiving the judgments of others who wanted to do so.

When Paul called others to imitate him, there was no pride or self-confidence at all.  There was complete confidence in Who Jesus Christ is, knowing the power of the Holy Spirit alive in him, enabling him to follow Christ and lead others in the same way.  He knew the authority and the righteousness of Christ in him, and that God called him righteous because of Christ.  His focus was not on his sin, but on the completeness of Christ in him, Who is so much greater than all sin.  Jesus called Paul to follow Him and become His disciple, so he chose to do likewise.

As believers, we can have this same confidence in Christ – this same boldness to call others to follow our example.  It comes from focusing on our risen Savior, not on our old, fallen nature.  It also comes from believing the Word.  We have a new nature.  We are God’s righteousness, risen with Christ, seated with Him in heavenly realms.  It is not based on our feelings, but on His Word and what He has done.  He did it for Paul.  He’s done it for us.  Making disciples means giving them an example to follow.  So, like Paul, we can choose to say, “Follow me, as I follow Christ.”

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Of Caterpillars, Moths, and Butterflies

As I listened to the sermon during a Sunday service, Holy Spirit did what He does with me from time to time.  He took me down a slightly different path than the one the preacher was traveling, though it still concerned the same subject.  He was talking about metamorphosis, the root word for transformed, and likened it to a caterpillar caterpillarbeing transformed into a butterfly.  That’s all it took for my mind to “flit” away for a few minutes!

Romans 12:2, the main verse in his message, refers to being conformed to the world and its ways, or being transformed to reflect Christ to the world by showing a completely different way of living.  “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

I started thinking about caterpillars and how they become either moths or butterflies through metamorphosis.  One comes through the process so pretty that people enjoy watching it both in flight and resting, while the other is not so pleasing to look at and is considered a pest no matter what it does.  For those of you who are science enthusiasts, or at least have more than a passing interest in butterflies, moths, and the whole cocoon / chrysalis thing, I did research before writing this.  I understand moths and butterflies don’t go through exactly the same process in their transformation, and that some moths are not pests.  For the sake of this post, however, I will lump all moths into the dull-looking pest category, while lumping all butterflies into the pretty and harmless group.  One difference between the two I found particularly interesting is that moths are basically night creatures – creatures of the dark – while butterflies are awake and active in the light of day.moth

Neither moths nor butterflies are born to remain caterpillars.  Their destiny is discovered through the process of metamorphosis, in the hidden place, after which their true nature is revealed to the world.  Likewise, we are not born to remain the same.  From the verse in Romans, we see that our mind is the hidden place where our metamorphosis occurs.  What we become is a direct result of what we put in our minds.  If we pour the world’s thoughts, attitudes, and images into our minds, we’ll keep fluttering around in the darkness.  We’ll be just like the world, blending right in.  If, instead, we pour the Word of God into our minds, complete with its attitudes and images, we are actually transformed.  We won’t look, act, or sound like the world, but there will be those in the world who will be drawn to the Light of Christ now visible in us, the transformed ones.  We can remain in His Light, even in the midst of the darkness of the world, when we continue to renew our minds in Christ.

Caterpillars don’t have a choice about whether they will become moths or butterflies.  Therein lies the key difference between human and caterpillar metamorphosis.  We butterflycan choose whether we will be conformed or transformed, and it is done simply by what we put into our minds.  One thing is certain, however.  We will not remain as we were.  So, do we choose the world or the Word?  Do we become a moth or a butterfly?

James 4:4 “. . . Do you not know that being the world’s friend is being God’s enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world takes his stand as an enemy of God.”  (AMP)

Freely

Even though there’s always more to understand in the Bible, sometimes I just need the simplicity of it to wake me up; for example, when I read the story of Jesus sending out the twelve disciples in Matthew 10:5+.  Before He told them not to take any money or extra clothes with them, He said in verse 8, “Freely (without pay) you have received, freely (without charge) give.”  I was arrested by that simple statement.  You see, I needed to be reminded that I have not paid for the unconditional love that the Lord has lavished on me.  I have not paid for His mercy that is new every morning.  I have not paid for the complete forgiveness of all my sins – past, present, and future.  No, I have not paid for any of these things, and do not deserve them in the least, but I have freely received them as He has freely given them to me.

When I was brought to that place of remembrance and the resulting flood of thankfulness, I was moved out of the place of withholding unconditional love, mercy, and forgiveness from people who “didn’t deserve it,” right into the place of freely giving those things without expecting anything in return.  It took me out of the position of trying to judge in God’s place and put me into the position of beloved child of God who leaves the judging to Him.  In other words, it put me back into freedom! 

Boy, do I need to be reminded of this lesson repeatedly.  The only things Jesus wanted the disciples to take with them was what they had freely received, without pay.  It’s His desire for us, as well.  So, when you find yourself in my place, not wanting to forgive, walk in love, or give mercy, maybe you just need to remember one simple word . . . freely!  Let it set you free once again, so you can help set others free.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free . . .  Galatians 5:1

Will You Rest?

I just love the Bible!  And I just love how Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see so much more in familiar passages, proving all over again that the Word truly is living and active (Hebrews 4:12).  Take for example, Matthew 11:28-30, which I include in both the NIV and the Amplified versions.

NIV  “28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Amplified  “28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.]  29 Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.  30 For My yoke is wholesome (useful, good – not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne.”

This passage is one to which I am frequently led by the Holy Spirit.  When I allow it to work in me, releasing the burdens I have been carrying on my own, I do, indeed, find His rest once again.  Recently, though, the Lord helped me see in a different way, which makes it even more alive for me. As I am preparing to lead a team to China at the end of March, the details – even for a detail-oriented person – have become somewhat overwhelming to me.  In a time of prayer concerning the trip and the people going, not even focusing on personal details at that moment, the Lord asked me the simple question, “Will you rest?”

I responded as honestly as I could with the following, as recorded in my journal:  “I will only rest if You help me, because I don’t know how, Lord.  I’m unable on my own.  Yes, Lord.  I’ll take Your yoke upon me and learn of You.  You said, ‘Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’  Lord, I’m coming to You.  I choose not to do this my way, but Yours.  I lay my yoke down, for it’s much too heavy for me (or anyone), and is designed to oppress and wear me out.  I choose Your yoke and Your burden – for me – and I walk in Your peace and rest, even in the busy days and times.”

His response came into my heart, giving additional revelation of this part of His Word:  “Wear it as a mantle, Kay.  Yes, it’s a cloak, not a hard piece of wood that rubs blisters and leaves splinters, cuts, scars.  My yoke and My burden actually cover and protect you as you walk with Me – even in times of hard work and effort.  That’s how you stay in My peace and rest.”

I’ve always pictured myself taking off the heavy yoke and letting Jesus put His easy yoke over my shoulders with Him carrying the weight of it.  The yoke I pictured, though, was still the same kind – a big beam of heavy and rough wood.  How wrong I’ve had it!  His yoke for me is actually a mantle, the cloak of His anointing – His grace – perfectly fitted to me and enabling me to do what He has called me to do!  Staying within the covering of His yoke helps me learn of Him, which keeps me protected in His peace, no matter what goes on around me.  This is resting in Him!  This is living in His peace!

A Simple Picture of Faith

During the summer of 2006, my husband and I took on the task of re-sealing our deck, along with the many posts and all the stairs that lead up to it on the second floor.  We chose to use clear sealer, so we had to pay close attention to where we started and stopped painting, in order to know what was yet to be done.  Tom commented more than once that he hoped this sealer was doing something, because he sure couldn’t see any difference where he had painted.  At one point, he implied that it might not be working because he didn’t understand how it could.  My reply was, “You don’t have to understand how it works.  Just apply it.”

The Holy Spirit immediately began to open my eyes to the spiritual meaning of what I had just spoken.  How many things in our Christian walk work this way?  We don’t understand how a Bible principle could possibly work, so we don’t even try it.  We turn away from the possibility that, at the right time, what was only working in the spirit realm, the invisible, as we simply obeyed the Word, would be made visible to us, and our lives would be forever changed for His glory.  We choose to walk by sight, not faith.

Hebrews 11:1  “Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].”  AMP

Ours is not to understand it all with our natural minds, but to live a life of faith.  We are simply to apply the “sealer,” the Word of God, according to the instructions, and leave the results to Him.  When we applied the deck sealer, we couldn’t see that it had done anything; that is, until it rained.  Then, our faith became sight as the water beaded up, unable to penetrate the wood any longer.

As I wrote this in my journal, the Lord gave me a practical example from the Bible – forgiving.  How is it that I am set free inside when I make the choice to forgive someone who has hurt me and made no attempt to make things right?  This doesn’t make sense to my natural mind, yet it still works this way.  If I will simply receive God’s Word (Christ,) allowing Him into every part of my life, I will see, in time, His righteousness revealed through me.

Fast forward to the present . . .  One of the things my husband and I have on our to-do list this year is to have the deck pressure washed and sealed again.  We did it three years ago, so why do we have to do it again?  You see, the sun, rain, leaves, ice, and snow keep beating on the deck, wearing the sealant down over time – not to mention people and animals walking on it.  The sealer can only withstand so much “abuse” without breaking down, leading to eventual decay of the wood, if not regularly re-applied.  Regular application of Christ is also required to keep us sealed and protected from the harmful elements that are always ready to penetrate and cause destruction.  It may not feel or look like anything happens for a while, but keep applying (receiving) the sealer.  The storms will come, and that’s when you see.  What would have worn you down in the past just beads up and rolls off, not leaving any lasting damage.  The Word Christ – I don’t have to understand how He works.  I just need to believe and receive Him!