If we invite someone in, they are in our world. If someone invites us in, we are in their world.
Quite a hodgepodge of events lately. There have been a number of life changes in recent months for me, including employment uncertainties, losing a loved one, and having a huge rework of my belief system. All this, and more, has been enough to really challenge me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Usually when major events happen to us, it can cause us to stop and reflect, re-evaluate, and adjust or change our direction in life accordingly. Every human being that has ever walked on this planet has been subjected to some type of dramatic, life-altering, event. No one is immune. In some cases the situation might be sad and painful. In some, it might be a joyous and celebrated moment. But in almost all cases, these things can often change the course of our lives forever. I believe this has happened to me.
When we look at the whole of Scripture, we see story after story of events and situations that have also drastically changed a Biblical character’s life. Like dams that are placed in the paths of rivers to alter the course of its direction, so, too, do these events alter the forward direction people may have been going. We can easily see how Abram was doing his thing in life until God spoke to him and told him to uproot everything and everyone he knows and go to a new place. We see Moses living life with his in-laws for 40 years, comfortable in his routines, until God spoke to him and changed the course of his life forever. We see the entire nation of Israel, living in the only world they knew, Egypt, suddenly being led out of that land in a direction and destination they knew nothing about. Essentially, all these people had their everyday lives turned upside down by God’s calling.
When we get to the New Testament, we can easily see a dozen men (the Apostles) who were busy tending to everyday life in their professions. Peter, Andrew, James, John…all fishermen by trade…called suddenly away from all they knew to follow a man they had never met before. Think of Matthew the tax collector. He was busy at work one day sitting in his office (booth), taking care of Roman taxes, when a strange man walked by and said “Follow Me”. His life has now taken a sudden turn and will be transformed forever. In all cases, whether it be my personal changes or the alterations in the lives of the Biblical men and women, the cause of these changes had their roots in Adonai Elohim, the LORD God above. Whether through events around us or within us, Abba Father’s Spirit is the mighty effect to change our course in life…whether we want it or not!
All things, good or bad, happen for a reason and a season, according to the will of the Father. It says in Romans 8:28 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” But what about those who don’t love God, or even believe in Him? Are they doomed to suffer only bad things? Obviously, the answer is no. God can, and does, use all things to draw people to Himself. Someone may wake up and realize that their physical blessings are from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and then subsequently turn their lives over to Yeshua Messiah. Some might go through a tragedy that forces them to see the God of the Bible face to face and come to realize that they need to turn their lives over to Jesus. Or someone might have a superficial understanding or knowledge of Yahweh God, but have never truly surrendered their lives completely until some major change in their life becomes the catalyst for them to commit their lives to God and change their course forever.
Even if you are already a believer, there are many moments that can affect the direction we may have already been walking by faith. Take, for example, Saul of Tarsus. He was a Godly and devout man of Yahweh, dedicated to living the Judaic faith to the fullest. He properly observed the Torah (the Old Testament instructions on how to live) and was very learned in the Scriptures. Yet, despite his zeal for his religion, God’s plans can affect changes in a moment when least expected! Elohim wanted Saul to see the truth that Yeshua Jesus was in fact the awaited Messiah of Israel and the Gentile nations! Saul (also known as Paul in Greek/Roman circles) wasn’t expecting to “convert” and accept Jesus as Lord, but as mentioned before, God can, and does, alter lives!
The most important thing that many of us need to recognize and realize is that when these life changes occur, we should hold fast and embrace them. It can be very easy to dismiss a dramatic moment by thinking that we are just having an emotional response, or that we just had a confusing moment of weakness, or that it is better to stick with what we know and not venture to far away from our comfort zone. But we can clearly see in the pages of Scripture that God’s life-altering events are meant to take us away from our happy place, to send us down roads we may have never walked before, and, most of all, to go all in! God’s calling is almost always very radical and requires us to “take a leap of faith” into the unknown! Something that I have always struggled with.
I’ve come to understand that this God of the Bible wants nothing less than an all-or-nothing commitment. If you think about the 10 Commandments, most will agree that they are to be adhered to in our daily lives. Love God, love our neighbors, don’t kill, don’t covet, don’t lie, and go to church on the Sabbath. Simple. But most who claim themselves followers, or Christians, or religious, actually live their day-to-day lives keeping only some of the Commandments of God. And, yet, nowhere in the Bible does God give us permission to live life by only observing 7 out of 10 of the laws, or even 9 out of 10. Adonai was quite clear that we are to conduct our lives following all of the Commandments and laws! There has never been a gray area or exclusions under certain circumstances! Nowhere, not even in the New Testament, does God change His rules for life! And sadly, for many of us, guilty as charged!
So, this brings me to how so many people struggle with being a disciple of Yeshua Jesus, myself included. We seem to be ok complying with the soft, gentle, easily accepted rules of life, but cannot seem to go all in and give up our past ways to completely devote ourselves to follow the Messiah every day, in every way! The true radical transformation we are Biblically called too often times gets slowed or halted because we are either afraid to give up what we know (our comfort zones), are afraid of what others might think of us (our pride and ego), or we have settled for the watered-down church life that only focuses on happy-love-joy things that require no sacrifices or repentance of sin in our lives (being complacent and selective).
The disciples in the Bible gave up everything they knew to follow what the Spirit of Yahweh opened their eyes to…Yeshua Jesus as Messiah. Thousands upon thousands turned over the entirety of their lives to the radical change of being a follower of the Way. They faced the ridicule, scorn, contempt, loss, and rejection by family and friends. They completely turned away from anything and everything that God had instructed as bad or wrong. They walked down the new roads, knowing that they would be letting go of their pasts and embracing the gracious gift of God through Messiah Jesus of eternal life in glory. The knew from the start that this path was an all-or-nothing decision. Hebrews chapter 11 displays some of the examples of true faith, of those who gave up all they knew for all that God was giving them. Verses 1-2 says “Now faith is the assurance of what we hope for and the certainty of what we do not see. This is why the ancients were commended.”
Not just the believers within the pages of the New Testament, but all the countless disciples (followers of Yeshua) showed their true faith by walking in the path that was offered them through the Messiah. Essentially, a disciple is one who emulates his/her master in every way. They walk, talk, and live their lives as close as possible to the one whom they are committed to follow. As more and more disciples were brought in to the fold, they were pointed to Jesus as the one and only way of how they were to live. Yeshua Jesus was the perfect example of Yahweh God: “So Jesus replied, “Truly, truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing by Himself, unless He sees the Father doing it. For whatever the Father does, the Son also does. The Father loves the Son and shows Him all He does. And to your amazement, He will show Him even greater works than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom He wishes.” (John 5:19-21). As Jesus emulates the Father, so, too, we are called to emulate Jesus!
So, here we are. Perhaps we are walking in our faith weak, complacent, watered-down, selective, and hot/cold daily. Are we true disciples or are we on again/off again Christians who change our spots depending on the environment we are in? Do we live our lives in such a fashion that the unbelieving pagans don’t see us as any different from themselves? Do we puff up our religious displays on the Sabbath, yet live the other days as everyone else? Are we hesitant to speak out for Yeshua Jesus when others blaspheme His name because we fear the retribution or ridicule? I, for one, am guilty as charged in so many circumstances. Not just for being wishy-washy day to day around others, but also for being selective on what is and what isn’t important to follow within the pages of Scripture. You see, so many dismiss the Old Testament because Jesus came. But the problem with that is most are missing the part that Yeshua and all His disciples didn’t have a nice, neat New Testament to use. Their Bible to follow and study was the Tanakh…the Old Testament. They followed the laws, studied the Patriarchs, and memorized the Words. If we are truly followers, we would be doing the same!
Read Hebrews chapter 11. No, actually, study it. Meditate on it. See what true faith is supposed to look like in light of the dramatic changes in one’s life. Changes that affected so many to give up all things, including self, to follow the God of the Bible, now through His Son Yeshua Messiah, Jesus Christ. They gave up everything to be true disciples. Have we? They repented (turned away) of their old ways to live lives according to God’s ways. Have we? What have we given up…if anything? We should not have any excuses if we truly want to be His disciples. Yeshua Jesus tells us that He does NOT accept a lukewarm faith. In Revelation 3:15-16 He says “I know your deeds; you are neither cold nor hot. How I wish you were one or the other! So because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of My mouth!” So, where do you stand now and where do you want to be standing at the coming Judgment Day before the Messiah Himself?