The Cost of Following Jesus

GC-Devo-7.31Matthew 16:24-25

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”


By nature, we tend to think first of ourselves. Selfishness is not a learned behavior; we are born this way (thank you, Adam and Eve!). Dying to self and thinking of others first is a learned behavior. For example, your parents had to teach you to share. The worldly view teaches us to watch out for “number one”. Jesus came to serve, not to be served.

Jesus’ command to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him is difficult but the rewards during this lifetime and for all of eternity cannot be measured. Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” The decision to give ourselves to others is a daily choice, like picking up our cross.

Have you noticed it is easy to follow Jesus when life is going smoothly? Following Jesus is not always easy. Jesus promised His followers that they would face trials and that following Him would require sacrifices. True discipleship requires a commitment to fully surrender your whole life (die to self) on a daily basis to do His will. This is only possible when you are controlled and filled by the power of the Holy Spirit, which is available 24/7 to all who trust Jesus. In John 16:33 Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

James, Jesus’ half-brother, also taught about facing trials. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James continued his teaching in verse 12 stating, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” This scripture is a source of encouragement to all followers of Jesus. Although there are costs to following Jesus, the benefits are far greater.

Thought for the Day: Are you taking up your cross daily? Is your decision to follow Jesus costing you anything? Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing some of your closest friends or being alienated by your family? Are you willing to lose your job or your reputation as the price for being a Jesus follower? Jesus said, “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). If following Jesus is not costing you anything, are you really following Jesus or are you just a “fan” of Jesus?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, by the power of your Holy Spirit that lives in me, help me to live each day by faith and in obedience to you knowing that You are with me at all times. Use the trials in my life to grow me spiritually and to trust You more. Father, help me to live out the truth of Your word with grace and love regardless of the cost, knowing that ultimately You will be glorified by my thoughts, words, and actions. Amen.

Courage to Believe

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Matthew 16:13-16

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”


“You remind me of someone,” people say to me all the time. There is something about me that reminds them of someone they know.

It is a human tendency to find a way to compartmentalize people. And in this story, Jesus knows that. When he asks, “Who do people say I am?” the disciples reveal that people are compartmentalizing Him with the legends of their faith.

This was the highest compliment from Jewish people who did not truly know Jesus. They knew He was special; He reminded them of the stories of prophets they’d heard.

But when Jesus turns to ask the disciples, “Who do you say I am?” The answer had to be different because they knew him well enough to have a better understanding than a compartmentalized answer.

Simon Peter was brave enough to respond: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Saying that out loud was a brave epiphany. Perhaps even reckless. Every single one of the disciples probably dropped their jaw when Peter said out loud the same thought that they were each just formulating in their minds.

Why was Peter’s remark so courageous? In his statement, Peter took Jesus out of the “prophet” compartment. Instead, he put him in a brand-new one: the “Messiah/Son of God” compartment. In Judaism, this wasn’t just risky business that could result in a slap on the wrist. It was blasphemy and was punishable by stoning to death.

Jesus’ death and resurrection prove he is different from the prophets. He gave us access to the Father because we could not work our way to Him on our own. He is our Messiah, our Savior, our Lord.

Thought for the day: So now it’s your turn. Who do you say Jesus is? Is He your Messiah? Is He the Son of the living God in your life and world?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, today we take a moment to profess Jesus is the Messiah! He is Your son—the Son of the living God. For some of us, this is the very first time. For others, it is a renewal of our faith. Let us be brave like Peter to articulate the thoughts you give us as we see the truth before our eyes. And let us live with the courage of knowing we have access to You, the God of the universe because Jesus was and is the Messiah who came to give us life! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Why Do We Doubt?

Matthew 14:25-31

And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear.  But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”


If you’ve ever raced in a sport like running, swimming, or sailing, you know the importance of keeping your eye on the finish line. If you look around you, even if only for a moment, it’s easy to get distracted by surroundings, competitors, or obstacles. Inevitably, if your eyes veer from the goal, you’re going to get off course.

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It took a lot of faith for Peter to step out of the boat. The disciples had been frightened at the sight of Jesus walking toward them over the sea, but Peter recognized Jesus and set out to follow Him. For some of us, the hardest part is getting out of the boat; making the initial decision to follow Jesus and obey Him. For others, we can identify more with the stumbling that comes next. Peter started out determined to obey and follow Jesus, rejecting the risk and impossibility of the task. Soon after, in a moment of doubt, he took his eyes off of Jesus. As his eyes slipped from the goal, he wavered and he began to sink.

Thought for the day: Is doubt preventing you from getting out of the boat? From following Jesus’ invitation to ‘come’? Is doubt causing you to begin to sink in the midst of trying to obey God? Just as soon as Peter asked for help, Jesus reached out and saved him. We serve a God who is sovereign, gracious, and good. When He asks us to follow Him, He is faithful to save us too.

Prayer: Jesus, thank You for not letting us sink! Thank You that we can count on You when we follow You. Give me the courage to obey what You ask me to do, even if it seems scary or impossible. Amen.

 

Offering What We Have

Matthew 14:13-21

When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”

Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.

“Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.  They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.


Have you ever had to make a meal for a large group of people? Getting the quantities right can be a challenge. Imagine making a meal for thousands of people. That’s what Jesus asked His disciples to do one evening.

The scene begins when Jesus looks upon the crowds of people and had compassion on them. What is compassion? People often think compassion is an emotion—a feeling of concern for people.

That’s not compassion. That’s empathy. Compassion is different. Compassion is always connected to action. A compassionate person is someone who sees a need and does something about it. Jesus wanted his disciples to understand this concept.

Jesus said, “You give them something to eat.” The disciples scratched their heads…“um, Jesus, we don’t have enough food for thousands of people.” Jesus said, “bring what you have to me.”

Have you ever wanted to be compassionate to someone, but you didn’t feel like you had enough to offer? Bring what you have and trust God to use it.

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Jesus multiplied the small meal and fed the entire group of people. When we bring what we have to show compassion, God will multiply it to fulfill his plan.

Thought for the day: There is no compassion without action. Who can you show compassion to today? What can you bring to help someone in need? Is there a serving team at Sun Valley that God is calling you to join?

Prayer: Jesus, thank you for showing us how to love all people. Help me to show compassion to those around me today.

The Hidden Treasure

Matthew 13:44

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.


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The smallest moments contain the greatest treasures:

–    A simple act of kindness
–    A willingness to listen
–    A decision to serve
–    A smile
–    A handshake
–    A prayer
–    A word of encouragement

Jesus teaches us that the kingdom of God is like a hidden treasure so valuable that someone would devote their entire life to owning it. In God’s kingdom, life looks different. It is focused on using our smallest moments to love God, love people, and choose to make giving and serving the focus of everyday life.

Have you ever noticed that when someone returns from an international mission trip they can’t stop smiling? Their joy is tangible and their smile is contagious. Why is that? It’s because they devoted a week to spending their moments intentionally focused on God and others instead of themselves. That brings joy, contentment, and peace. God made us to thrive when we give and serve. Here’s the thing: it doesn’t have to be only on a mission trip; it can be a reality of everyday life.

When someone discovers the kingdom and experiences it, Jesus says they would give everything up for it because nothing could compare to its value.

Thought for the day: How does God want you to experience the riches of his kingdom today? How can you take advantage of the everyday moments at work, school, and home to live for God’s kingdom? Use your smallest moments today to love God and other people.

Prayer: God, may I see you at work in the ordinary moments of my day.

Nurturing Growth

Matthew 13:31-32

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”


In this parable, Jesus continues to relate that the kingdom of heaven is like a seed. He teaches that even the smallest of seeds grow into something much bigger—a mustard tree. In the same way the smallest sharing of the gospel, the Word of God, has grown into something much bigger—the church. It is amazing to look back and see that Jesus sowing the seeds of the kingdom into His 12 disciples has, over 2,000 years, grown into the church today.

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This same pattern happens in those that receive the gospel. Perhaps it starts with a friend telling them of their personal story of meeting, knowing, and following Jesus. That small seed of the good news sown in the heart (soil) grows until they then choose to follow Jesus. As they take steps in following Jesus, this small seed grows into a life lived for the kingdom of God.

We can nurture spiritual growth in our life in a number of ways. Going to church, spending time reading the Bible, being in a group with others, giving, and serving all spur on growth in our life of following Jesus. Through our receiving this small seed, we become a part of the large mustard tree that is His church, and we get to help build it by planting that seed in others.

Thought for the day: How is the seed growing in your life? What can you do this week to take a next step in following Jesus? “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please help me to receive this good news. Help me to identify opportunities to take next steps in following you. Amen.

Good Soil

Matthew 13:3-8

Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.


Jesus was a brilliant storyteller who often used parables—stories that draw in the listener and drive home a key truth—in his teachings.

This well-known passage, called The Parable of the Sower, is a story about a farmer walking through his field and checking on the status of his soil. It was common sense, and necessary, in farming to know how different types of soils produced different levels of yield. The hard-packed soil didn’t bear much fruit, nor did the ground with lots of rocks. The shallow soil looked good on top, but down below was hard clay. It was only the tilled, deep, rich, and rock-free soil that would keep the farmer in business.

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Here is Jesus’ big point in this passage: What kind of soil are you? Is your soul receptive to God’s word and will you apply it in your everyday life? If your soul is closed to God, or you’re distracted by your surroundings, you can grow by simply acknowledging one small step you can take today to put his Word to work.

Thought for the day: What’s your next step? Maybe it’s joining a volunteer team. You can do that by going to serve.sv.cc.

Prayer: God, help me to be open to your Word this day and give me the courage to do what you say.