Sunday, February 23, 2014

The First Step of Faith is Following

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?  James 2:14  NKJV

I remember taking a class when I was in college called “World Religions”, which at the time I thought would be helpful to me in trying to better understand the differences between Christianity and other beliefs.  I recall that somewhere during that time one of the things that became obvious to me was how many in that class claimed to believe one thing or another, yet by observing their actions one would never know that they believed what they said they did.  I suppose you could say that it was at that time I learned the difference between something I call “head knowledge” and “foot knowledge”.

If you study the Word of God for any length of time, it quickly becomes apparent that something God expects from His people is that if they claim to believe, that belief should be followed closely with action.  The Christian faith is one of “doing” and not simply “believing”, and this is the “works” part of our faith.  Whenever the Bible talks of a person of faith, it always references their actions as an example of exercising their faith.  As I studied what Jesus taught concerning faith during His ministry, I quickly noticed how often He used the word “follow” to describe the choice to believe in Him.

Following is choice…who will you choose to follow?

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  Luke 9:23  NKJV

My first thought after reading this passage was that Jesus seemed to make it clear that if we make the choice to follow Him, it is more than just believing; it is following.  So often mankind wants a belief that they can take along with themselves on their journey through life, whereas a relationship with Christ is a choice to abandon our life and instead follow wherever Jesus leads.  Believers in Christ have heard His voice and chosen to follow it.

While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!”  Matthew 17:5  NKJV

Following is a journey…you choose to walk the same road.

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”  John 8:12  NKJV

The second thought I had was that when we choose to follow, we go where He leads.  So often believers want to make their own choices about the path their life follows, yet the picture of sheep following a shepherd is pretty clear.  Just as sheep follow their shepherd wherever he goes, so we as believers choose to follow Christ wherever He leads us.  We choose to become sheep, and give our lives to Him to do with as He pleases.

 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.  Romans 12:1-2  NKJV

Following requires listening…only one shepherd.

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. “I and My Father are one.”                      John 10:27-30  NKJV

Just as sheep learn to recognize the voice of their shepherd, so we too must learn to recognize the voice of God, and not to confuse it with our own or someone else’s.  This can only be done by spending time with Him, and by spending time in the Word, so that the sound of His voice becomes so obvious to us that we can never confuse it with another.

But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.”  Luke 8:21  NKJV

Following results in comfort…God cares for His own.

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; “and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. “Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ “For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.  Matthew 6:25-34  NKJV

Faith is our spiritual muscle.  We exercise our faith by believing the promises and choosing to follow God as He guides us through life.  The more we rely on Him, the stronger our faith will grow.  By choosing to follow, we allow God the opportunity to show us how much He cares by protecting us and providing for our every need.

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19  NKJV

Have you made the choice to follow?

Keep watching.