Following Jesus in Everyday Life
Though a great teacher, Jesus did not establish a school of theology or philosophy. His purpose was “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He came to reveal the character of God, a revelation that culminated in the Cross, where He not only showed humanity and unfallen worlds what God was really like, but He also paid the penalty for sin so that human beings, despite their fallen nature, could be redeemed.
In doing this, He also created a redeemed community, a community of those who, having been saved by His death, have chosen to model His life and teachings.
The call to be part of this redeemed community is a call, not to a preferred status in life but to an absolute allegiance to the One who calls, to Christ Himself. What He says becomes the disciple’s law of life. What He desires becomes the disciple’s sole purpose in life. No amount of outward goodness or doctrinal perfection can take the place of total allegiance to Christ and His will.
Discipleship, which we owe exclusively to the indwelling Christ, makes certain imperative requirements. No competition and no substitute are permitted.
* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, June 6.
Of the more than 80 references to Pharisees in the Gospels, approximately 25 percent of them are found in Luke. Pharisees were noted for their doctrinal conservatism, as opposed to Sadducees, who were known for their liberal ideas. Pharisees were often legalists who, while professing to believe in grace, taught salvation by the keeping of the law.
A review of the woes (Luke 11:42–54) pronounced on the Pharisees and the scribes shows how much the call to true religion crosses every generation, including our own.
For example, while tithing is a joyful acknowledgment of God’s provision, it can never be a substitute for the basic demands of love and justice in human relations (vs. 42).
These same ones who “ ‘neglect justice and the love of God’ ” love, instead, the “ ‘most important seats in the synagogues’ ” (vss. 42, 43, NIV). Talk about missing the point of true faith!
Jesus warned, too, that those who equate true religion with outward rituals alone are really unclean, somewhat like those who come in contact with the dead (Luke 11:44; see also Num. 19:16). How easy to confuse what’s trivial with what’s sacred in the eyes of God.
Also, Jesus pronounced a woe on the experts in the law who used their education and experience to place intolerable religious burdens on others while they themselves “ ‘do not touch the burdens with one of [their] fingers’ ” (Luke 11:46, NKJV).
Meanwhile, the Pharisees honored the prophets no longer alive but worked against the living ones. Even as Jesus spoke, some were plotting to kill the Son of God. What is important is not the honoring of prophets but the heeding of their prophetic message of love, mercy, and judgment.
The last woe is a terrible one. Some who had been entrusted with the key to God’s kingdom had failed in their trusteeship. Instead of using the key wisely and letting God’s people come into the kingdom, they had locked them out and thrown away the key.
“ ‘Fear God and give glory to Him’ ” (Rev. 14:7, NKJV) is the first of the three angels’ messages, so central to Seventh-day Adventists’ life and faith. Fearing God is not being afraid, as it is often thought to be. It is realizing just who God is and what His claims on us are. It is an act of faith that involves total allegiance to Him. God becomes the sole definer and arbiter of our life—our thoughts, actions, relationships, and destiny. Discipleship based on that kind of “fear” stands on unshakable ground.
The passage shows us whom to fear and whom not to fear. We need not fear forces that can affect only our body in the present world. Instead, we must fear and obey God because in His hands is our eternal destiny. But our God—whose eyes are on the sparrow (Luke 12:6) and who has numbered the hairs on our heads (vs. 7)—is loving and caring; hence, each one of us is infinitely precious in His sight. If we truly believed that, how many earthly fears would vanish?
While Jesus refuses to intervene between two brothers quarreling over the division of property, He does emphasize the relevance of the tenth commandment (Exod. 20:17) against the evil of covetousness and points out a significant truth for all time: life is not made up of things (Luke 12:15). The rich foolish man lived in a little world restricted to himself. Nothing else mattered to him. How careful we need to be not to fall into this same trap; this is especially crucial for those who have been blessed with an abundance of material goods.
“Vigilance and fidelity have been required of Christ’s followers in every age; but now that we are standing upon the very verge of the eternal world, holding the truths we do, having so great light, so important a work, we must double our diligence.”—Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 460, 461.
Christians cannot afford to be lax or lethargic. The context of His sure return, and the unknown hour thereof, should drive us to have our robes girded and our lamps trimmed and burning. The eschatological hope must be the driving force of our life and work, our readiness and faithfulness. It is this faithfulness to do His will on earth and readiness to meet Him in peace that distinguish between good and evil servants.
Any neglect of faithfulness on the pretext that “ ‘My master is delaying his coming’ ” (Luke 12:45, NKJV) is placing oneself under the severest form of God’s judgment (vss. 45–48). The more the privilege, the greater the responsibility, and hence, from those who are given much, much will be expected (vs. 48).
The ancient prophet’s judgment “Woe to you who are at ease in Zion” (Amos 6:1, NKJV) seems reflected in Christ’s warning that Christian discipleship is not a state of ease. Paul explains the Christian life as one of spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:12). The focal point is that every Christian is involved in the cosmic conflict between Christ and Satan, and the Cross draws a clear line between the two. Only by continual faith in the Christ of the cross can one win the final victory.
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in their eternal council “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4), laid the plan of salvation. That is, even before the first human was created and, of course, before the first humans sinned, God had a plan in place to rescue the world. The plan is rooted in the cross, and the good news of the cross must be told to everyone in the world. The responsibility of that witness is placed on every Christian.
“ ‘You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth’ ” (Acts 1:8, NKJV). The final charge of Jesus underscores the importance the Lord placed on the witnessing role of His followers.
In each of these texts, and others, the dangers, the responsibilities, and the rewards of witnessing and faith are revealed. We have been charged with a solemn responsibility; but considering what we have been given, how little is really asked of us?
Jesus’ answer is unique in the history of leadership. Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, and Genghis Khan all saw leadership in terms of power and authority over others. That’s pretty much how the world has always worked in regard to power.
“ ‘But not so among you; on the contrary,’ ” said Jesus, “ ‘he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves’ ” (Luke 22:26, NKJV). In so saying, the Lord of the universe reversed the definition of leadership: “ ‘Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ ” (Matt. 20:26–28, NIV).
In so defining servanthood and self-denial as the core principles of His way and His leadership, Jesus introduced a new dynamic to human relations: fulfillment comes not from power but from service; leadership derives its authority not from position but from servanthood; transformation begins not with the throne but with the cross. To live is to die (John 12:24).
In Luke 9:46–48 something similar arose among Jesus’ disciples about who would be the greatest. The principles of the world were still firmly entrenched in His disciples’ minds.
The Master’s answer gets to the heart of the problem and poses one of the most difficult challenges in life in general and in the Christian life in particular. Jesus’ words, especially the part about being the “ ‘least among you’ ” (vs. 48, NKJV), show how completely backward the world’s priorities are.
Further Study: “Who has the heart? With whom are our thoughts? Of whom do we love to converse? Who has our warmest affections and our best energies? If we are Christ’s, our thoughts are with Him, and our sweetest thoughts are of Him. All we have and are is consecrated to Him. We long to bear His image, breathe His spirit, do His will, and please Him in all things.”—Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 58.
“In our life here, earthly, sin-restricted though it is, the greatest joy and the highest education are in service. And in the future state, untrammeled by the limitations of sinful humanity, it is in service that our greatest joy and our highest education will be found—witnessing, and ever as we witness learning anew ‘the riches of the glory of this mystery;’ ‘which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.’ Colossians 1:27.”—Ellen G. White, Education, p. 309.