Sunday, July 19, 2009

Can You Hear?

Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. Matthew 13:43

Following the group and following Jesus are definitely not the same thing. In our Father’s economy there has always been a desire for us to make a personal decision to seek him with our whole heart. Jesus made the invitation that anyone and everyone could follow him. It was not some exclusive club that only allowed those with the right money, family, or heritage to join. But the other side of that coin says it has to be a very personal choice, separate from family and heritage.

Jesus scolded the crowds for following him because he fed their bellies but did not necessarily want anything to do with him personally.

Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. John 6:26

Carrying on with the story after the feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000 it should be noted that “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” John 6:66

2,000 years later nothing much has changed. Most people are not really following Jesus but are relying on belonging to a group, either friends, family or church and calling that following Jesus. 85% of Christians were saved before the age of 18. And of those that do come to Christ after that age only 6 out of 100 had no prior knowledge of Jesus. These percentages are staggering in that so much is made about evangelism and personal choice and yet the reality is that most people come to Jesus because of childhood influences.

This doesn’t mean that their experience with Him is not real, it simply means that the systems in place to reach the lost are woefully inadequate. Some would even say that’s why we need to spend even more on children’s programs. Missing the point that it wasn’t children’s programs that influenced a decision for Christ but family ties.

What is rather hypocritical is that Christians are notorious for praying for the “lost” from other major religions asking for the veil to be taken from their eyes, forgetting the reality that the main reason they follow Christ is the same reason that others don’t, childhood influences.

One simply has to take a demographic of any church group to discover that the vast majority of people within the group come from the same socio-economic background. They are comfortable with each other, with the corollary being that “outsiders” aren’t comfortable with them nor are they willing to change to allow outsiders to join them.

Jesus, on the other hand, was notorious for accepting people from every strata of society, which often made people more than a little uncomfortable. We tend to minimize/ignore His words about family influences and selfish motivations when it comes to following him.

"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Matthew 10:37,38

All groups look for conformity. There really is no need for the Holy Spirit for members in the group. Unless, of course, the Holy Spirit lines up perfectly with the values of the group. When Jesus said it was for the disciples good that He goes away so that the comforter would come, He was really talking about people having the empowerment to follow Him without being dependent on a group or a leader. You don’t need the Holy Spirit in order to go with the flow and belong to a particular group.

But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. John 16:7

What is always fascinating about groups that say they rely on the Holy Spirit’s leading is that they actually believe that every individual involved in the group is there because they have been “called” to that group. And yet, everyone knows the unwritten rule that they cannot deviate from the prescribed teachings or practices of the group without feeling shunned or minimized in some way. And belonging to the group is very important to most people.

Leaders often make the false assumption that it is their role to protect the group rather than guide people into being free to hear the Spirit’s voice in their life. When this is done, leaders unwittingly or even worse, purposefully, often find themselves making disciples of themselves but usually not followers of Christ. If Jesus needed to leave in order to free his disciples to hear the Holy Spirit, why do leaders today not do what Jesus did?

Failure to understand the influence of groups, family and selfish motivations will inevitably lead to a dulling of our ears to hear the Holy Spirit’s gentle call.

For those that have ears to hear let them hear.

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