Growing In Godliness Blog
Author: Austin Shearer
Take up Your Cross
By Austin Shearer
Jesus foretold his death three times in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke), and every time he did, Jesus taught a lesson about discipleship. Not only did Jesus teach about discipleship, but he also made clear the cost that comes from following Jesus. In Luke 9:21-23 Jesus said, “if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
Those are hard words to hear. If you want to be Jesus’ disciple, if you want to follow him, Jesus offers a grim reality, it will involve the cross. That’s what discipleship is really all about, imitating Jesus. Jesus came to do the will of the Father, no matter the cost to himself, and that is exactly the self-sacrificing journey that he is calling his followers to embark on. And yes, it is often painful.
After all, Jesus says that his disciple will take up a cross. The cross was a horrifying instrument of execution. It’s method, and cruelty was widely known; and death, while sure, was usually long and excruciating.
It would be tough to read Jesus’ words there in Luke 9:21-23, if we couldn’t also read the words that follow in verse 24, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” The final destination on the way of Christ is not the cross – it is an empty tomb and a glorious new life. And so, when we take up that painful cross and follow Jesus, we are also grabbing hold of the resurrection of our Lord, and glorious end to our journey.
The Fields are White
John 4:35 – Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.
Jesus’ statement in John 4:35 comes on the heels of his incredible interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well. This interaction is astonishing not simply because Jesus interacted with a woman in a meaningful way, but also because she was a Samaritan. As far as the Jews were concerned, she and her kind were outcasts and repulsive because of their heritage, and immoral due to their insistence on worshiping on Mount Gerizim instead of Jerusalem. But Jesus shatters social norms and asks her for a drink of water. Not only that, but Jesus also offers her water in return, water that only he could offer to her. This interaction with Jesus had such a profound impact on this woman that she can’t help but run to the city and tell everyone about Jesus.
As she runs off to the city, the disciples come back carrying food for themselves and for Jesus. As they offer food to him, Jesus tells them in 4:32 “I have food that you do not know about.” Per usual the disciples are slow to understand and begin questioning each other about the source of Jesus’ food, but Jesus immediately provides his source of sustenance in 4:33 “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work.” It is at this point that Jesus says that the fields are white for harvest, and not only that but the one who reaps is already collecting wages and gathering fruit. Jesus is actively working in the fields because that is the will of the father.
Jesus’ words are meant to provide his disciples with an understanding, not only of his mission, but their mission as well. They are meant to reach all people, regardless of nationality or gender. It is no surprise, then, that the very next section in John 4, recounts for us that many of the Samaritans in that city, where the Samaritan woman lived, believed in Jesus. Jesus came not only to break down the laws on where God’s people could worship, but also to break down the laws separating Jew from Samaritan from Gentile. God’s message is for all people! Therefore, Jesus says, “…look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.” In other words, the time is here, all people need to hear the saving message of the gospel, so go to work.
This account, I think, needs to prick our minds, and push us to deeper action in the Kingdom of God. The fields are white, and yet too often we remain planted in our pews, and we make no effort out in the fields. All people need the words of life, how can we keep it from them. Let us take the words and the actions of Jesus to heart, and begin working in the fields, for they are, “white for harvest.”
Discipline and Holiness
By Austin Shearer
“Do you understand why I am punishing you?” I can still hear those words ringing in my ears. I heard them often enough growing up. Usually, I had done something wrong at the beginning of the day, and my mom valiantly took on the task of correcting me. I did not appreciate it then, but mom would send me to my room for thirty minutes so that she could prepare to teach me why what I had done was wrong, why I needed to be punished, and how it really was for my own good. I appreciate it now. Now years later, the time spent to help me understand my faults, and the consequences of those faults, has helped me to begin grasping a deep truth; God wants us to share in His holiness.
In (Heb. 12:7-11), the writer makes the point that God, “disciplines us for our good.” When we sin against him, the consequences of those actions are designed to propel us forward into deeper devotion, and deeper service to Him. It is interesting, however, that the writer clarifies what he means by, “for our good.” He goes on to say, “that we may share in His holiness.” There is a purpose to God’s discipline. It isn’t disciple just because God likes to tell us we are wrong and to punish us, rather, it is God creating a people who share His holiness. Perhaps this is a point we are to learn from the old law, and the sacrifices that were to be perfect and without blemish. God wanted His people to display His image of holiness throughout the world.
It is mind boggling, that God wants us to share in His holiness. After all, we are all sinners, we have all failed to attain to the perfect holiness of God. I am confident that most Christians have faced moments of doubt and discouragement, because we are called to a higher standard, and we have not lived up to that standard. I am also confident, however, that we can find joy in knowing that God’s discipline, for our failure, is His love, and deep desire to share His holiness with us.
With that astonishing realization, perhaps, when we face the discipline of God, we will have a different view. Perhaps we will understand the words, “Do you understand why I am punishing you,” a little bit better, and we can answer, “Yes, that I might share in Your holiness.”