I am a follower of Jesus. The problem with saying this is that some might constitute this as me saying, "I always follow what Jesus says." Which isn't true in any sense. I, like the apostle Peter, fail miserably at following Jesus every day. But, like Peter, I believe that my power doesn't come from myself, but from Jesus and I also believe, like Peter, that God shows me grace when I fail and is merciful and compassionate and forgives me.
What God doesn't like is when one calls themselves a follower of Jesus and then just flat out ignores certain things that are expected from a follower of Jesus. This is the good thing about being a follower of Jesus. The fact that others can hold me to a standard of asking me, "Why don't you follow this teaching more?" or just, "Do you try to follow this teaching, or that teaching?" What I have found as I have been studying the Scriptures is that there are certain ones that we as American followers of Jesus just ignore because we follow culture more than Jesus. We have made the American culture our idol in place of God and have whored ourselves to them because they make us more comfortable in our sin and excuses for not following some of the hardest teachings of Jesus. The reason idolatry is so prevalent is because idolatry says that you are doing okay and you are allowed to live how you want to, instead of how God desires you to live.
I recently asked over twitter and facebook, "What is the hardest teachings of Jesus to follow?" and received numerous answers. What I want followers of Jesus to do is ask yourself if you are aiming in your life to follow these. I want you to pray that God would reinstate these commands in your life and remove the idol of culture from your heart so that God is king in your life. What is interesting is that the reason that most Muslims believe the Bible is corrupted is from teachings that came after the Crusades. The reason? They knew the Jesus in the Qur'an and knew that Isa al-Masih would never give credence to such actions. Because Arabic had no word for "crusade" before this time, it was given the translation as, "the war of the cross." So, knowing who Jesus is, through the Qur'an, and seeing the brutal actions found in the Crusades there was only one conclusion: These peoples' Bibles must be corrupted. I have to say, because of our actions as followers of Jesus, "Can we really blame them?"
As a follower of Jesus, I want to honestly repent to any Muslims who are reading this. I repent, in the name of all followers of Jesus, who have come before me or who will come after me that have not followed the teachings of Jesus, but have used the Bible as a means of trampling our friends of the Muslim faith. I am truly sorry.
I would also ask our fellow friends of other faiths, to please be patient with us. We are mere men and, unlike the one we follow, are not perfect but were born, just as you were born. Even saying this, I would also ask anybody from other faiths to comment or email me to let me know ways that we could follow Jesus more closely in your eyes and teachings you see that go most unfollowed by us.
As far as those teachings that people said were the hardest to follow, they are listed as follows (in no particular order):
1. And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
Taking up our cross as followers of Jesus means that we are willing to die to self everyday for the sake of loving our God and loving our neighbor. Notice that these two come before loving ourselves. We must look to see how we can serve God first, through serving others. We have to die to our self in every way. We must die to our goals, to our self serving idols, to our thoughts, impurities, and temptations and follow Jesus instead. We do this, not because it earns us any favor, but because we love God and desire to follow Jesus.
2. “The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
This was the command that was most often given as the hardest to follow. Notice that Jesus puts forth the understanding that we naturally love ourselves. Not only this, but we should love our neighbors, just as we love ourselves. Think of all the ways you love yourself, give yourself mercy and grace, feed yourself physical things, etc. This is the same as you should be doing for your neighbor. Jesus gives an example of neighbor in the story of the good Samaritan. Jesus shows that all people are our neighbor, including our enemies. Are we following what Jesus said here? Are we seeking out the needs and wants of those around us, as we would seek out the needs and wants of ourselves? Or, do we desire to give ourselves everything we desire and then our neighbor gets our leftovers?
3. Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
We have this idea in America that we will only forgive someone if they deserve it. Jesus never says this. We must forgive no matter and be quick to forgive. We must be ready to forgive neighbors, family and even our enemies. How can we not forgive others? We have been forgiven so much as followers of Jesus.
4. “...for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
America is a very cocky nation. We love our sports players, actors and even politicians to be very arrogant. This is why so many people watch sports, watch award shows and listen to talk radio. It's brutal. We are so arrogant, that we believe that America as a nation should be the culture that the whole world should look like. Dumb. We must be humble as followers of Jesus. Humility is not denying the truths we know, but it does mean understanding how to have friendships, how to be respectful and not desiring to merely win some sort of debate. A lot of Christians love to watch religious debates. Why? Because they want to win. I have seen this done no matter the cost, even belittling an opponent or their religion. We are not to be this way. We are to be confident in truth, but loving in how we live out this understanding. Seek ways to be humble in all aspects of your life and destroy pride.
5. “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
In my mind, this is the most unfollowed teaching of Jesus. We pay back what is given to us. Someone mistreats us, we mistreat them. They steal something from us, we sue them. They gossip about us, we gossip about them. We are a culture that pays back what is owed. We not only don't forgive, we retaliate. Jesus is counter cultural. He tells us, to not only love neighbors, but to love enemies. To not only be at peace with everyone, but to bless and pray for our enemies and to loan them money without expecting them to pay us back. When was the last time you asked God to bless your enemy abundantly? When was the last time you gave your enemy money as a gift? This command is an interesting one. It is one of action. It is one to where we should be the ones who initiate love and blessing, not wait for our enemies to come to us. We should, as the followers of Jesus, be looking for opportunities to love and bless our enemies. Culture says to pay back what they are owed, we should be showing mercy and grace because we have been shown the greatest mercy and grace. Can you say that you love, bless and pray for your enemies? Or, are you like most Christians who have pushed this command aside for the sake of being a whore to your idols?
These are the five teachings that were given to me as the hardest to follow from Jesus. Do I fail at these? Yes, all the time. But, as a follower of Jesus is my desire to follow these closely? Yes. But, I do know that when I fail, grace awaits me from God. Pray that God would show you more clearly how you can be living these teachings. Know that when you make a mistake, it is because of your sin and you should repent. When you are successful, it is because of God, not yourself.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. "
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