Monday, September 21, 2015

Followers of God

If you read our tech post on Saturday (here:, you know I've been aiming toward downsizing.  But there's more than just getting rid of excess and overload. 

Many of you know I have my sights set on the Costa Rican mission field. Certainly a move there would require losing some excess.  But there's also a contrast between what many there have for possessions and what we have, here. That brought some interesting thoughts to mind.  Our illustration fits those thoughts.  It;s a famous painting called "The Sleeping Gypsy", painted by Henri Rousseau in 1897.  Follow my train of thought on this one.

Ephesians 5:1  Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;

Luke 9:58  And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. 

Most Christians are at least familiar with the book Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, whether they've read it or not.  I've been thinking about the verse in Ephesians for awhile.  As much as I love how close the King James is to the original, it seems to be about the only translation that says we are to be "followers".  The Greek word is mimetes, from which we get words like mime and mimic.  Or, more to the point, we are to imitate Christ, be like Him.

What Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:1 is that we're supposed to live in imitation of Christ.  If we think of all those self help books we read and the psychology courses we took, they all suggested that mimicking attitudes and behavior changes us from faking them to absorbing them into who we are. In other words, imitating Christ will change us into being like Christ.  And the Bible was ahead of modern day science in telling us that.  As if that's not enough, Paul has more for us in that verse.

Paul tells us, at the end of the verse, that we're to do that "as dear children".  "Children" is teknon, which can mean children, sons or daughters.  But it includes the idea that the children are spiritual offspring of God and he thinks of them with affection.  The term "dear" emphasizes that affection even more.  As imitators, we end up in a great position.  But there's Luke 9:58.

We all know that passage.  Jesus is telling the questioner that following Him doesn't necessarily get them earthly comfort.  That kind of kills all the "name it and claim it" ministries, the ones with the prosperity Gospel.  In contrast, notice that Jesus didn't say having comfort was wrong.  However, if we're going to be like Him, we need to be prepared for a lack of earthly well being.  And it gets more interesting, if we look at the whole passage.

The next verse has Jesus telling another man to follow Him.  The man says he must first bury his father.  At which point, we read:

Luke 9:60   Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.

We know that God didn't have a problem with Jesus getting a proper burial, so the contrast seems confusing.  Or is it?  In the next verse, Jesus asks another man to follow Him.  And that man wants to go home to say farewell to his family.  Jesus responds in the following verse.

Luke 9:62  And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

When we put those three parts of the passage together, we see Jesus cutting through excuses and saying life with Him isn't necessarily a life of ease.  But, even more, there's something that really grabbed my attention.  Jesus was single eyed about following the Father.  He didn't hesitate to stick to the plan.  The creature comforts were never His focus.  Like our illustration, sleeping under the stars wasn't taken by Jesus as a hardship.

That's His real message, here.  Don't flinch.  Our relationship with God has to be our top priority. And, if our focus deviates from that, we deprive ourselves of fully experiencing that relationship. When we're truly imitators of Christ, we can have that same single mindedness that brings us ever so close to the Father.  Are you ready for that?

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