A life in a fishbowl!

I’ve heard a pastor’s life being described as “a life in a fishbowl.” But really, that’s true of all of us. Whether we realize it or not, people are watching us. Everyone is watching to see how we will react in any given situation. They watch how we dress. They watch how we take care of our homes. They watch us at work. They watch how we treat other people. People are watching us to see if we are being a good example of the God we claim to serve.
Are we being a good representative for the Lord? Are we striving for excellence in the everyday events of our life? Are we making quality decisions? Are we speaking words of encouragement and hope? Are we setting the example at work or school that others want to follow?

We are not called to a life of mediocrity; we are set apart to be exceptional! Become an ambassador of excellence for Jesus Christ. When we do, He will pour out His favor upon us and we will experience the life of victory and abundance He has in store for us.
God called us to be a good example in the world. Our decisions, our words, and our actions should reflect our commitment to living a life of excellence. We are His ambassadors!

Israelites were called to be His Ambassadors to the world. But what happened? They acted as if they were of the world and got attached to the worldly things. They blended in with the people while in captivity. They got so comfortable with where they were at that when they were given permission by King Cyrus to return to their land, they did not want to because they had become so comfortable. As a result, they missed God’s blessings in their lives.

How about you? Have you become comfortable in this world? Are you comfortable with where you are at? Or are you ready to move if God calls you to move? Life is all about choices. It’s our choices that makes or breaks our life and our future. So what’s your choice?

The Cost of Discipleship

The Cost Of Discipleship—Matt 16:24-25
What is a Disciple?
The word disciple literally translated from the Greek means
a. A learner
b. A person who studies the teachings of someone else
A true disciple of Christ is one that follows Him in this life, and will follow Him to glory. A disciple of Christ comes after Him, as a sheep after the shepherd, a servant after his master, a soldier after his captain. We are to walk in the same way that Jesus walked, to be led by His Spirit, keep in His steps, submit to His authority, and follow Him, wherever He goes.

What is Discipleship?
Discipleship is the process of
• Becoming like another person by learning his teachings
• Internalizing the teachings
• Acting upon the teachings
What Makes Christian Discipleship Different from other forms of discipleship?
Christian Disciples are students of the teachings of Jesus. A student is not someone who just learns theories but he is a follower who learns and then does. To be a disciple of Jesus we have to learn what Jesus taught, what He did and how He lived. But more importantly we have to do what He taught. We begin taking seriously Jesus’s commands and actually doing them. And we have to pass them on to others. We have to become disciplers.
Christ’s Teaching On Discipleship->Matthew 16:24-25
In these verses we see the cost to be paid to follow God’s will. It is not a one-time cost. It is a daily cost which will continue until we see Him face to face. Christ told his disciples that He must suffer, and that He was ready and willing to suffer in Matthew 16:21. In Matthew 16:24-25 Jesus shows His disciples that they must suffer too, and must be ready and willing. The requirements are for anyone who desires to “come after” Christ. “Come after” implies discipleship. It clearly describes a process. It is not one-time event. It is a continued committing of one’s life to follow Jesus.
What are the requirements of discipleship in Mat 16:24-25?
a. “Denying Oneself” (Matt 16:24)- “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself…”If any man wishes/purposes/intends to come. It shows a deliberate choice. The choice depends on us.
Jesus was about to submit Himself and His own desires to the Father’s desire for Him, which was suffering and death. To deny oneself means ( in practical ways):
 Not to spare oneself but to spend one’s life for Christ’s sake
 To cease making self the object of one’s life and actions
 To cease seeking one’s own end
 To be mindful of God’s interests, not human concerns
I would like to share my own story of denying self, my desires, wishes, dreams, plans and my ways in order to follow Christ. Jesus exampled to us what it truly means to submit oneself and one’s desires, wishes, dreams and plans to the Father’s desire for us. I always dreamed of marrying and having my own family. I always dreamed of becoming a college professor.
b. “Take Up One’s Cross” (Matt 16:24) “If any man will come after Me, let him take up his cross…” The cross was the instrument of death but here it means death to self-daily. To follow Jesus requires self-denial, complete dedication and willing obedience. Our cross means one’s suffering, affliction, and persecution for righteousness’ sake. Taking up one’s cross means (in practical ways):
• To absolutely commit one’s life to Christ, even to the point of death
• To suffer hardship in doing God’s will
• To rejoice in one’s affliction
• To die to self daily(our rights, dreams, ways)
Our life is not our own anymore. It belongs to Jesus. He paid for it with His own blood by dying on the cross (Acts 20:28). I have a story of a couple who truly exampled to me this verse in real life. Mr. and Mrs. Knott’s story.
c. “Following Jesus.” (Matt 16:24) “If any man will come after Me, let him follow me.” If we are to follow Jesus, we are:
• To be like Him. Example 1John 2:4, 6.
• To follow Jesus with complete dedication and willing obedience by self-denial
Following Jesus is a process, and it requires time and a continuous committed lifestyle.
I would like to share my story of leaving family to follow Christ. Once I committed my life to following Christ, I learned little by little what it really means to follow Him with complete dedication and willing obedience. Jesus left His Father in Heaven and came to this earth and became like one us. He requires that we walk as Jesus walked.
I’m one of eleven. I grew up in a Muslim a large family. They are not walking with God yet. I’m the only Christian. We were so close to each growing up. But once I became a Christian the relationship changed with some of my siblings. I was seen as a stranger. But Jesus continued to guide me as a new Christian reminding me of what it means to follow Him. I’m to seek to please Him and not my family anymore. Christ requires complete devotion.
I have not seen my family for 14 years now. Four years ago my mother passed away and I had not seen her for ten years at that point. This was the hardest time in my life. I prepared everything I needed to do in order to see her one last time on this earth. I planned to meet up at the border in Uzbekistan since I am black listed in my country because of my faith and my involvement in the Bible translation and I cannot go back. I paid a lot of money to expedite my papers. Just as my papers were ready to go, I got the news that my mom was gone. It was my brother on the other end of the phone. I dropped the phone and fell on the floor. At that very moment of tragic news, in His rich mercy and grace, He brought this verse to my mind (Job 1:21): “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” I was alone with God for two days and cried my heart out to Him and on the third day, I got on the plane and left for Turkey for my Wycliffe conference. He gave me the strength to do what I needed to do, to grieve and to continue to follow Him sharing in the fellowship of His suffering becoming more like Christ in His death. He left His Father in heaven and we leave our families behind to follow Christ. Once we commit our lives to follow Christ, He becomes our priority. Jesus said: “My bread is to do the will of the Father who sent me” John.
d. “Losing one’s life.” (Matt 16:25) “Whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it.”
When we die to self, we find life, eternal life with Christ. “Physical life may be saved by denying Jesus, but eternal will be lost. Conversely, discipleship may result in the loss physical life, but that loss is insignificant when compared with gaining eternal life” (NIV study comment). Mr. Knott’s life is a great example. He lost his life in the process of discipling others and I found life through his life. He would not have lost his life if he had just stayed in the US. Instead he came to a place where there was no proper medical care or hygiene, risking his physical life for Christ’s sake.
Persecution: KGB trying to get me deny Jesus after six month I became a believer. Ex. Paul’s life: Phil 3:8-10.
e. Hating One’s Family (Matt 10:37)
Jesus says the one who “loves” family more than Him is “not worthy” of Him. We must love Jesus more than our families. Loyalty to the Master comes first even before the closest family. Jesus must be the object of our supreme love and devotion if we are to be His disciple.
My love and devotion for Jesus cost my family. As I mentioned I had not seen them for 14 years now. I am constantly reminded of my loyalty to my heavenly Father first. Then comes my family.
We experience rejection from our family because of Jesus. My brother rejected me because of my faith. He said that I brought such a shame upon my family. It took ten years for that relationship to be restored but God restored it. It took my mother’s death. At the funeral, my brother wanted to talk to me for the first time after ten years. My faith was the same. Nothing has changed but God changed his heart towards. He softened his heart. That is what God does when we love Him with all our hearts and place Him first even before our closest family. “He turns all things for our good.” (Phil 1:6)
It cost me relationships at work. The closest friends rejected me. I had to leave work because God was not honored there. But God’s grace carries us through.
My country rejected me because of my faith and called ‘the enemy of the state”.
f. Forsake All (Luke 14:33)
Another condition that Jesus gives is that “Whoever does not forsake all… cannot be My disciple.” This discipleship condition demands that we commit or surrender all we have and all we are in order for us to follow God’s will. “To forsake” means,
• To put things in its proper place
• To not allow them to take God’s place or dominate us Christ is to be preeminent (surpassing all others) in our lives.
What does forsaking all really mean in our daily lives practically? MacArthur answers the question: “Do we literally have to give away everything we own to become Christians? No, but we do have to be willing to forsake all, meaning we cling to nothing that takes precedence over Christ.” Karen eje’s story of leaving the US, selling her house for Bishkek and forsook all in order to follow Christ.
g. Abide in His Word (John 8:31)
In Greek it means:
• To continue, to remain
• To stand firm
• To be patient, to wait for
If we don’t hold onto His teachings, His Word, we won’t be His disciples. This is how we abide:
 Becoming like another person by learning his teachings
 Internalizing them
 Acting upon them
All discipleship requirements we looked at in Matthew 16:24-25 show the demand for submission to Christ as Lord. MacArthur says, “Faith is not an experiment, but a lifelong commitment. It means taking up the cross daily, giving all for Christ each day with no reservations, no uncertainty, and no hesitation. It means nothing is held back, nothing purposely shielded from His lordship, and nothing stubbornly kept from His control.”
Plainly, the requirements of discipleship are all or nothing. Jesus explained these requirements through His own commitment to God that led to His death.
Discipleship is costly and challenging. We are to live lives of obedience, surrender, sacrifice, and self-denial. As we understand the sacrifice of God for our redemption, we want to respond to the grace given with a reciprocal commitment. As we learn to sacrifice, obey, and deny ourselves, we will become more like the Savior who exampled these things.
The main requirement for discipleship is that we enter the narrow gate as it is shown in Matt 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Going through the narrow gate is denying oneself, taking up one’s cross daily, following Jesus, losing one’s life, hating one’s family, forsaking all, and abiding in His Word. A true disciple of Christ is the one who has entered through the narrow gate. It is not easy to enter because it is so small that only our bodies get in but it leads to life. Satan is calling everyone to enter through the wide gate. It leads to destruction (losing eternity with Christ).
My Questions for you today are:
1. Have you entered through the narrow gate?
2. Are you willing to deny yourself for Christ’s sake?
3. Are you willing to take up your cross and follow Him?
4. Are you willing to die to your desires, dreams, and plans and accept His plan for your life whatever it maybe (trusting His best intentions at heart for you)?
5. Are you abiding in His Word and trusting His promises even when God’s ways and promises do not answer to your logic?>
6. Do you love Christ more than your family?
7. Are you willing to forsake all for Christ’s sake?
Our answers to these questions will determine where our hearts are. In closing I’d like to share this quote: “In order to follow Christ, we have to deny ourselves, to crucify ourselves, to lose ourselves. He does not call us to half-heartedness, but to an absolute commitment.” Stott.
Thank you and God bless you and keep you and make His face shine on you and be gracious to you in your journey with Him!