The “Closer” Challenge (Week Two – Monday)

CLOSER Challenge

Week Two – Monday

“Follow The Leader”

When I was in elementary school, we played a game called “follow the leader.” Chances are you have played this game at some point during your childhood as well. It a simple game that involves one person being selected leader and everyone else following that persons every move. Then you take off following every move of the person in front of you. There is no point, no strategy, you can’t even win the game. At some point the leader changes and it started all over again. Looking back, I realize how ridiculous of a game it it really is, however, I still see it occupy kids on a playground today.

Much like follow the leader, Jesus has called us to follow HIm. I know, not exactly what you call revelational, but hang with me for a moment. This past week we talked about hearing from God, but its not enough to simply hear from God. Sure, we certainly should desire conversation or better yet, relationship; but its what we do with those conversations that really matter. Hearing and not doing is purposeless. Its like having given you child explicit instructions for them to then turn around and not follow any of them.

One day, after Peter reveals Jesus as the son of God, Jesus tells the disciples of how He would be killed by the rulers of the temple. Peter, with great passion, declares to Jesus that His disciples would never let that happen. In that moment Jesus rebukes Peter, saying “Satan, get behind me.” How could Jesus be so hard on someone who was simply coming to His defense? Moreover, why would He speak you satan? I cannot prove it, but in my mind, I can imagine that even Jesus had to fight against prideful attitudes. The desire to follow the Father’s will, more than that of what felt good to the flesh. It’s in His next statement we hear why Jesus was so stern.

Jesus says, “You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” There it is, plain as day. Peter had only thought about what felt good to the flesh and had not considered the will of God. If we are not careful, we will find ourselves in the same place. Only concerned with whats happening in the flesh. We can get caught up trying to take care of ourselves rather than fulfilling the call God has placed on our lives, fully trusting Him to care for our needs.

Finally, Jesus make this powerful statement, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. No doubt the disciples had hear and witnessed the powerful life changing ministry of Jesus. Yet, Jesus tells them its not enough to only hear, but that if anyone wants to be His disciple they must do these three things: Deny themselves, Take up their cross, follow Him. It sounds simple enough, but execution is not nearly as simple. Denying ourselves tends to be a bigger challenge in itself, and bearing a cross doesn’t sound like my kind of exercise.

The promise that Jesus gives for those who manage to get ourselves out of the way is incredible. Whoever loses their life for me, will find it. When we stop seeking to find ourselves and figure out who we are and we work instead to find Him, we will find what it is we have been searching for in ourselves.

Today’s Reading

Matthew 16:1-28

Today’s Prayer

Father, help me not to worry about me and instead, trust you and your word that you will take care of all I need. Help me not to be self centered but to be Christ Centered, in not only thoughts but also actions. Help me to follow the life you modeled in love so that others will know the same love I have found in you. In Jesus Name, Amen.

This Weeks Challenge

A few weeks back, I preached a sermon on fasting and how believers should make it apart of our lifestyle. I never anticipated the overwhelming, positive, response I would receive afterwards. All I could think was, “I preached on fasting, maybe they misunderstood.” If you haven’t made fasting a regular part of your spiritual lifestyle, now is your chance.

Fasting is about denying our physical self. Bring our flesh under subjection to the Holy Spirit. I’m right there with you, fasting is my least favorite thing to do, but I believe its so instrumental in our walk with Jesus. So here a few key ideas to keep in mind as you fast this week.

1. How you fast is up to you. A whole day, a meal, a particular food group or item, you get to pick.

2. It should be a sacrifice. Lets face it the whole point is for it to challenge our flesh.

3. It’s between you and God. Don’t let everyone know what your doing. Do it in private with just Him.

4. Don’t just miss a meal. It’s as much about the spiritual as it is the physical. Spend the time you would be eating, reading and praying instead.

It’s one week. Embrace this as an opportunity to grow closer. I’ve never left a fast not feeling closer to Him and you won’t either if you commit completely to Him.

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