Tuesday, July 13, 2010

IN YOUR OWN HOMETOWN

A. Brother
(c)2010 Narrowgate Publishing

            “Jesus said to them, ‘Surely you will quote this proverb to Me:  Physician, Heal yourself!  Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum. I tell you the truth’, He continued, ‘no prophet is accepted in his hometown.  I assure you there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time…Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them…And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.’” 
            “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this.”--Luke 4:23,27

          Let’s remember that Jesus was unable to do among His family, among the people He grew up with and spent time around, what He was able to do among those He’d never known.  He made His point to them clearly.  And they hated Him for it. 
          We are called to follow Jesus, and that means we will suffer many of the same rejections He suffered.  By family, friends, and acquaintances, many of whom we grew up with.          
          We are not going to be welcomed as saviors by the people of our hometown, or our circle of friends we had before we knew Jesus.  Often God will take us to other places where we can freely give what we’ve been given, without the judgment and condemnation of those who can’t see us in any other frame of reference than however they’ve always looked at us. 
          God doesn’t expect them to change in order for us to do His work.  We are not to strive and work to gain their approval or acceptance.  We are to get on with the work of the Kingdom of God, which is our calling.

          “But He walked right through the crowd and went on His way.”  --Luke 4:30

            What a clear instruction is given us here.
          When your own family, or those you’ve grown up with, or those you were taught by in the church, or those around you who knew you before you knew Jesus, doubt your new life in Christ, or question your ability to do what He’s called you to do, or make it plain they expect you to “earn their respect” by fitting in with their plans for you—then you must do what Jesus did.
          Walk through that crowd and go on your way.
          Walk out, and walk on with Christ.
          We walk with Jesus, and do the things He did, and live in Him, and get our acceptance and our love from Him.  We do not serve at the whim of men.  We are called by God Himself to bear His cross, and to do His work.  How can we let worldly people decide our Father’s will for us?
          Later, much later, some of Jesus family, His own brothers, came to believe in Him and served Him as Lord.  But that was after He had ignored their opposition, and gone on to complete the work His Father had anointed Him to do.

          Many of Jesus’ followers have faced ugly opposition or deceitful and desperate attempts by family and friends to undermine their faith.  They usually come disguised as people who cast doubt on you, not on Jesus.  People who don’t believe in Jesus and His power to heal us--His power to change weak and lowly men and women into faithful workers in His Kingdom--will throw water on the fire God has placed in your heart, trying to cool you down and make you give up these notions that you are called by God into His Kingdom to do good things. 
          They all have their reasons, some of which will be couched as spiritual reasons, especially if you grew up around church people.  Religion is an enemy to the power of the Spirit.  That’s what Jesus knew, and He knew going into Nazareth that there would be confrontation over His ministry.
          Jesus didn’t hate His hometown or His family.  He just knew He couldn’t waste time waiting for their acceptance before He obeyed His Father and went out to save the world.  His work was important, and so is yours.  Doing His work in His Way will require the sacrifice of this acceptance on the altar of His love. 
          Do you love Jesus?
          Then you must be willing to leave behind some of those who would oppose you and undermine you in your new life in Christ.  Especially those whom you have always tried so hard to please in your old life.  You know who I’m talking about.  You may have people who have controlled you by their approval or disapproval your entire life before Christ.  This may be your mother, or your father, or it may be an older sibling.  This may be a circle of friends who influence you greatly in everything you do, and all your decisions.  It may be church people, a pastor, or the people you work with.  It may be business partners, or fellow members of a club.  It may be your wife or husband, or even your grown children.
          Does “leaving behind” mean you run out on them and never speak to them?
          No.  Jesus always loved.  He maintained His relationships with His family.  But He went ahead and lived for His Father, doing all His Father asked Him to do, and without the stamp of approval of His earthly family.  He didn’t condemn or talk badly about his old friends, but He lived a new life, one that would result in the salvation of many.
          So should you.
          Don’t be hindered by other’s expectations.
          The only One we must please is our Lord Jesus.  It is His glory we live for now.  It is His love we long for.  His acceptance and approval, which we have already.
          Walk out on your need for the approval of others.  You will face much opposition, ridicule, and even hatred for following Jesus and becoming like Him.  He warns us of that many times in Scripture.  The apostles warn us of that in their letters to the believers.

          “For you, brothers, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus.  You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out.”  --1 Thess. 2:14,15

            Jesus was driven out of the synagogue where He had grown up attending.  Why?  Because He told them the truth about who He was.  And they could not accept that.  They wanted Him to stay the same.  If you’ve grown up in any kind of close-knit community, you know what I’m talking about.  People expect you to stay in your place, and be who they want you to be.  To fit in, and not rock the boat, or muddy the waters by changing into somebody else.  They would not accept His salvation, because they couldn’t get past their own expectations for Him.
          What about His followers?  What about those of us who want to be His disciples?

          “They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.  They will do such things because they have not know the Father or Me.  I have told you this so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you.”  --John 16:1-4

            We must be ready for this.  When we come to Jesus, if we truly become His People, and are set apart to live in His Kingdom, we will suffer many of these things, according to Jesus.
          If you have “become a Christian” and now attend church, perhaps nothing has changed enough in your life to give anyone in your old circles cause for concern.  Perhaps they don’t mind your new hobby.  If that’s the case, then you must examine if you’ve really become Christ’s at all.  Scripture is clear.  When we follow Jesus on the narrow road we will suffer much abandonment and opposition, especially from those who “attend synagogue” (in other words, the religious people who go to church around you).
          We are called to radical, complete discipleship to Jesus, and following Him will mean huge changes in your life.  So you will attract unwanted attention.  Because you will be living so differently that it will be impossible to hide it.
          Remember these things, as Jesus counseled us.  Let the Holy Spirit teach you from Scripture what it means to truly follow Jesus, and then you will need this teaching.  

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