Saturday, March 20, 2021

Follow Me

Bobservations Column

By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

The second half of Matthew 8 takes us to the Lord’s complete power over all things. During this time, the Lord’s charisma is evident by the numbers of people that followed Him during His ministry.  Even as chapter 7 ended, Matthew notes that 1) Jesus’ doctrines astonished the people, and 2) He taught with authority, not as the scribes taught. (Matthew 7:28, 29)

The Word of God in the Old Testament has drawing power as we read it.  The simplicity of the Ten Commandments is beautiful in and of itself.  But the knowledge of good and evil is not sufficient to keep the Israelites from sinning. (And we are as the Jews!) The moral code we are all imbued with at birth (Genesis 3:22, 5:3 ) is in conflict with the desires and lusts within us. It is everyone’s internal struggle. Paul says, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: these are contrary the one to the other: so that you cannot do the things that you would.” –Galatians 5:17.

The knowledge of good and evil actually fuels the battle for our souls! Yet God gives us grace, and motivates us to do better. Then He also empowers us to take the next step towards righteousness. As we saw contrasts between good and evil in the Sermon on the Mount in chapters 5 to 7, we see the same contrasts worked out in daily living, in the attitudes of men’s hearts vs. God’s desire. King Solomon taught us that there is nothing new under the sun: with nearly 8 billion people on the Earth today, we all still struggle with the same 10 Commandments. We are our own peer group!

In this second half of the chapter, we can see evidence of who is behind evil even as Jesus teaches of good. Hindering the Lord’s work to perfect us and to mature us into the children He would like us to be, Satan is right at the door often plaguing our every step. We find here today a test of discipleship, a test of earthly circumstances, and a direct confrontation with demons. Yet Jesus wins out every time, just as He did when the devil tempted Him from the pinnacle of the Temple. Now we see why Jesus diligently encourages us to follow Him!
“If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour."  John 12:26 

Today's Audio Message

Matthew 8:18-34 - "Follow Me"

Chapter Summary:

As we finish up chapter 8 of Matthew's gospel, we continue to see Jesus' power over all things. Throughout this chapter, snapshot after snapshot we see Jesus meeting people who are going through various storms in their lives. They are desperate. They are weary. They can find no peace or comfort or help - until they hear of this man who is like no other, and they seek Him out.  “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:13

Jesus speaks like no other. They marvel at His teachings and are blown away by the power of His word. Who is this man who can heal the sick, cast our demons, restore the mind, calm the storm?

Over and over Jesus calls ordinary people to follow Him. We read of multitudes following Him for a while, but interestingly enough, the closer Jesus comes to the cross, many forsake Him. Excited by what they hear and what the see, many are willing to follow but have not considered the cost. They haven’t considered where He was going, nor understood what He was calling them to do. What does it mean to follow Jesus? There is a cost to discipleship, are we willing to fully surrender our lives in His hands no matter the cost?

Jesus does not just have power over the storms of nature, He has power over storms of a troubled heart. Jesus has the power to rescue and save the weary soul not only in this life, but for eternity. His power is greater than whatever trials or hardships you are going through. He can cleanse our hearts from sin, renew our minds, clothe us in robes of righteousness. He teaches us, loves us and gives us peace!

Even in spite of witnessing the power of Jesus, there are many who will reject Him, as we see in the last few verses of this chapter. After hearing all that He had done, casting out demons and into the swine and delivering those who were possessed by the devil, the entire city came out to meet Him and told Him to leave their coasts. They preferred the swine above the Savior. They preferred their rebellion, and their pagan lifestyles. They love darkness and hate the light. They reject His Word, and are angry at His good works because they are unwilling to abandon their depraved lusts. Jesus will not stay where He is not wanted. As they forsake Him, He will forsake them in the end.

Who is this man who alone has the power over all things? He is full of compassion and righteous works. He calls us to follow Him. He has come with a purpose, to lead us to the cross where He has purchased our redemption, paying the penalty for and releasing us from our sin and its punishment. The benefits are everlasting and cannot be obtained any other way - a new life, a new heart, forgiveness, righteousness, eternal life, adoption into His family fully reconciled with God and fellowship with Him.

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