“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“Christian Life and Ministry” is the name of the last class I completed this summer. In addition to reading “Soul Feast,” by Marjorie Thompson, which discusses a spiritual awakening, a hunger and thirst for the spiritual, “Life Together,” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which discusses faith within the community, and “Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life,” by Henri Nouwen, Donald McNeill, and Douglas Morrison, which discusses the power of God’s care and the difference between being kind and being compassionate, I also read “A Guide to Prayer for All God’s People,” by Rueben Job and Norman Shawchuck, which is a daily prayer devotional including an invocation, a Psalm, a reading and reflection, a scripture reading, a reflection (writing in a journal required), a prayer, a hymn, and a benediction. I read and journaled daily from this last book (at least attempted daily), all while reading my One Year Bible for my mitzvot. To say I was a Scripture-reading queen, well… it is as it should be, daily in the Word.
What I am about to share with you will most likely be offensive, though I pray not. I pray that God will raise up within you a passion of hunger and commitment and devotion, a life of service to Him. I pray that what is read will be received in love and challenge you in every aspect of your life, just as it has mine. I pray that the Lord will guide each word I write, that it be truth, His truth only. I pray that His power will fall on each of us, calling us to live a life that is holy and acceptable in His sight.
Bonhoeffer says, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Reading these words troubled me, I’ve always been told that Christ comes to give life and to give it abundantly. Why would He wish me to die? In order to grasp what Bonhoeffer is saying you must first have knowledge of the scripture.
Matthew 9:35-10:42 (New Living Translation)
35 Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”
Jesus called his twelve disciples together and gave them authority to cast out evil spirits and to heal every kind of disease and illness. 2 Here are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (also called Peter), then Andrew (Peter’s brother), James (son of Zebedee), John (James’s brother), 3 Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew (the tax collector), James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus, 4 Simon (the zealot), Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him). 5 Jesus sent out the twelve apostles with these instructions: “Don’t go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, 6 but only to the people of Israel—God’s lost sheep. 7 Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received! 9 “Don’t take any money in your money belts—no gold, silver, or even copper coins. 10 Don’t carry a traveler’s bag with a change of clothes and sandals or even a walking stick. Don’t hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve to be fed. 11 “Whenever you enter a city or village, search for a worthy person and stay in his home until you leave town. 12 When you enter the home, give it your blessing. 13 If it turns out to be a worthy home, let your blessing stand; if it is not, take back the blessing. 14 If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave. 15 I tell you the truth, the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah will be better off than such a town on the judgment day. 16 “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. 17 But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. 18 You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me. 19 When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. 20 For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 “A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed. 22 And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one town, flee to the next. I tell you the truth, the Son of Man will return before you have reached all the towns of Israel. 24 “Students are not greater than their teacher, and slaves are not greater than their master. 25 Students are to be like their teacher, and slaves are to be like their master. And since I, the master of the household, have been called the prince of demons, the members of my household will be called by even worse names! 26 “But don’t be afraid of those who threaten you. For the time is coming when everything that is covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. 27 What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear! 28 “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. 30 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. 32 “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven. 34 “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. 35 ‘I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 Your enemies will be right in your own household!’ 37 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. 38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. 40 “Anyone who receives you receives me, and anyone who receives me receives the Father who sent me. 41 If you receive a prophet as one who speaks for God, you will be given the same reward as a prophet. And if you receive righteous people because of their righteousness, you will be given a reward like theirs. 42 And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.”
Matthew 20:20-28 (New Living Translation)
20 Then the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus with her sons. She knelt respectfully to ask a favor. 21 “What is your request?” he asked. She replied, “In your Kingdom, please let my two sons sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.” 22 But Jesus answered by saying to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?” “Oh yes,” they replied, “we are able!” 23 Jesus told them, “You will indeed drink from my bitter cup. But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. My Father has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.” 24 When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. 25 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Luke 9:57-62 (New Living Translation)
57 As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” 59 He said to another person, “Come, follow me.” The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” 60 But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.” 61 Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.” 62 But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”
Joshua 24:14-28 (New Living Translation)
14 “So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. 15 But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” 16 The people replied, “We would never abandon the Lord and serve other gods. 17 For the Lord our God is the one who rescued us and our ancestors from slavery in the land of Egypt. He performed mighty miracles before our very eyes. As we traveled through the wilderness among our enemies, he preserved us. 18 It was the Lord who drove out the Amorites and the other nations living here in the land. So we, too, will serve the Lord, for he alone is our God.” 19 Then Joshua warned the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy and jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. 20 If you abandon the Lord and serve other gods, he will turn against you and destroy you, even though he has been so good to you.” 21 But the people answered Joshua, “No, we will serve the Lord!” 22 “You are a witness to your own decision,” Joshua said. “You have chosen to serve the Lord.” “Yes,” they replied, “we are witnesses to what we have said.” 23 “All right then,” Joshua said, “destroy the idols among you, and turn your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” 24 The people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God. We will obey him alone.” 25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day at Shechem, committing them to follow the decrees and regulations of the Lord. 26 Joshua recorded these things in the Book of God’s Instructions. As a reminder of their agreement, he took a huge stone and rolled it beneath the terebinth tree beside the Tabernacle of the Lord. 27 Joshua said to all the people, “This stone has heard everything the Lord said to us. It will be a witness to testify against you if you go back on your word to God.” 28 Then Joshua sent all the people away to their own homelands.
Matthew 13:53-58 (New Living Translation)
53 When Jesus had finished telling these stories and illustrations, he left that part of the country. 54 He returned to Nazareth, his hometown. When he taught there in the synagogue, everyone was amazed and said, “Where does he get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” 55 Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. 56 All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things?” 57 And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him. Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his own family.” 58 And so he did only a few miracles there because of their unbelief.
I realize there is a lot of scripture thrown at you but you must, MUST, comprehend what it is that He is saying to you. Daily you are to pick up your cross and follow Him.
When you stand in church and sing those glorious hymns and worship songs, are they your heart’s prayers? “Where You lead me I will follow…” or “I want to walk with You, talk with You, see Your power in my life. I want to know Your ways, sing Your praise, each and every day of my life” or “mold me, shape me, transform me…” How easy it is to stand in a Sunday morning service, where all others appear to be with you, saying the same thing as a community? But what you are on Sunday morning, is that how you are on Monday morning? How about Tuesday morning? Is that how you are on Thursday night? When you lift your hands in worship, chill bumps flowing over you like a mighty rushing wind as you cry out “let it overflow” can you say you do that daily, while in your car, in your home, in your place of employment? Can you forsake all others, daily, and follow Him? Can you set aside what your family is telling you in order to go where He is leading you? Are you willing to sign a contract, make a convenant, vowing to serve Him all the days of your life? If a gun were being held to your child’s head while you were being told to deny Him or your child would be killed, would you still keep standing for Him? Are you willing to take a bullet? Be stoned? Lose your family?
If you said no to any of these than you cannot claim to be who you say you are in Christ. You cannot call yourself a follower of Christ. You cannot call yourself a Christian. You are not fit for the Kingdom. You are no more than a Sadducee or Pharisee, willing to teach and speak of rules and guidelines, forcing your beliefs on others, which is nothing more than garbage spewing from your mouth. Your words are meaningless, null and void, for you have no gumption, no courage, no relationship with your god at all. You are nothing more than a ‘fan club member’ sitting on the side lines cheering Him on when things are good and quickly grumbling and complaining when things are not. He said, “Choose you this day whom you will serve”… “drink from the bitter cup and carry your cross daily”… Yes, if you are not willing to put Him first, above all things, then you are not living a life of holiness. Do not say that this is not possible, look at Abraham and Isaac… look at Job… consider God, the one you call ‘Father’, and His son. Yes, there have been those that are willing to sacrifice all in order to serve Him.
Will you be one of those?
These are the words I heard at the age of 16:
“Many are called but few are chosen and I have chosen you. The same power that Elisha had you will have and greater.”
In the past year this “word” has been confirmed to me three times by three different people. I allowed a man to tell me that there is no way that I can posess all the the spiritual gifts that are reflected in a test I took. I beg to differ. This is the year of trusting in Him, in walking in obedience to that which He has called me to do. I will pick up my cross daily, forsaking all, going where He leads me to go. No scheme of man can pluck me from His hand. Nothing can separate me from His love. No matter the cost, He paid it all, and He alone commands my destiny!
Last year my friends and I had a mutual friend tell us that we were the ‘man-hater row’ at church. Just a month ago he recanted what he said and said this instead, “This is the sold out for Jesus, don’t care what people think or say, row.” I say that to say this; I make a vow today and for all eternity, I am sold out for Jesus, going to follow Him all my days, don’t care what people think or say, if I lose my family, my children, my friends… if I lose it all, I will count it all joy finding contentment in having done all to stand, keep on standing. Where He leads me, I will follow!
This is the consequence of serving Christ, are you willing to endure the consequences? Are you willing to call yourself Christian? There is freedom when you die to self and pick up your cross. He has called you to die so that you may live. Choose life!
I am yours, O Lord. I have heard Your voice! And having heard, I will go wherever you send me and to whatever task. I only ask that You go with me, my Lord, I cannot make the journey alone. Amen.
(Dietrich Bonhoeffer chose life. To understand his story visit http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/Bonhoeffer.html or click on his name.)
“Who stands firm? Only the one for whom the final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all these, when in faith and sole allegiance to God he is called to obedient and responsible action: the responsible person, whose life will be nothing but an answer to God’s question and call.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
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