Saturday, August 31, 2019

A Christ-Centred Life

"Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." Luke 9:23.

This is what Jesus said to his Disciples after they had already set out in faith to follow Him, leaving their homes, their friends, their jobs, their families and their comforts behind. "At once they left their nets and followed him" Matthew 4:20. "And immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him." Matthew 4:22.

By faith they had already surrendered completely to Jesus, but Jesus' message to them, and to us, was more than letting go of material things, but letting go of internal things too.

Jesus is telling us to deny ourselves; to renounce all selfish wants and needs of our old lives before we knew Him. We are transformed by Jesus when we invite Him into our lives, transformed into new people with new values and new morals. Jesus teaches us to let go of our self centredness and self interests and centre our lives on Him.

The key to centering our lives on Him is motivation and priority.
There is a motivation behind every choice that we make; whether that is money, our happiness, family, our careers or pleasure. Whichever motivation is behind our choices is the thing that we centre our lives around. Centering our lives on something like money can cause us to become spiritually "misaligned", making us unhappy and unfulfilled, making decisions to benefit ourselves.

Jesus gave us two main commandments: to love God above all else, and love others. Making all of our decisions based on these two commandments keeps us aligned with His will. Are we making our decisions based on our love for ourselves, or our love for others? Are our lives centred on us or on other people?

Our main aim should always be to glorify God, and the only way to do that is to follow Jesus, keeping Him firmly in our sights and striving to be love-centred, as we are taught to be.

When making decisions, we should put Him at the forefront of our minds. "How can this decision glorify God?". "If Jesus were stood in front of me right now, would I still make the same decision?" "Would I still give in to this temptation?". Being aware of Jesus in our day to day lives makes it easier over time to make better decisions.

This is what it means to deny ourselves, we give up our old ways of doing things, our old motivations, and we re-align our lives. We put Jesus first, making it easier to live a life centred around Him.

It isn't enough to go to Church every single Sunday, writing sermon notes and studying the bible every day. These things are great, but having the knowledge of what God is asking us to do, and yet not putting it into practice is meaningless. When learning to drive, what would be the point of passing your theory test if you don't want to take the practical? We must use what we learn from sermons and from our own studies and put it into practice!

We must 'take up our cross daily', which  means that we must put to death our old lives and any negative thoughts or temptations. We must check in with ourselves regularly to make sure we keep our lives firmly fixed on Jesus. Being Christ-centred leads to being Christ-like, and that, as Christian's, is our goal and our purpose. "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20.

Challenge yourself to give up some of your time each week to do something for somebody else. It could be taking time to have coffee with someone who is lonely, volunteering in the community or your Church, knitting hats for the local maternity unit, or offering to mow the neighbour's lawn. Small acts of kindness can be massive in terms of shining Jesus' light into other people's lives, and giving up your time to help others is a perfect way of putting Jesus first, above things that you would normally do when you have a spare hour or two.

I will leave you with something that I came across last week. In our church (and others around my town!), people have been volunteering to put together "Fun and Food" sessions during the summer holidays to provide a bit of help to families who usually rely on free school meals during term time. These sessions also had a Christian theme, such as decorating a big cardboard boat one week during a "Jonah" themed session.
These sessions were such a wonderful example of putting Jesus first during a time when everyone is off on holiday, spending time on the beach or at home in the garden, enjoying the rare Cornish sunshine...but these volunteers decided to spend their time cooking, making sandwiches, prepping food, serving, washing dishes, cleaning, setting up and running the activities and spending time talking to the families who made use of this much needed service.

At the last session, the volunteers gave out little notes with the below "letter from Jesus" to the parents and carers.
It's such a lovely piece, and makes you realise that somehow, despite everything, Jesus is YOU-centred! He puts YOU first without question and without hesitation. He thinks of YOU in everything He does, and so we should do the same for Him.
I pray that some of those families who were given this letter felt Jesus' love shine through these words and through the actions of those volunteers.

Letter From A Friend

I just had to write to tell you how much I love you and care for you.

Yesterday, I saw you walking and laughing with your friends; I hoped that soon you'd want Me to walk along with you, too. So, I painted you a sunset to close your day and whispered a cool breeze to refresh you. I waited - you never called - I just kept on loving you.
As I watched you fall asleep last night, I wanted so much to touch you. I spilled moonlight onto your face - trickling down your cheeks as so many tears have. You didn't even think of Me; I wanted so much to comfort you.
The next day I exploded a brilliant sunrise into glorious morning for you. But you woke up late and rushed off to work - you didn't even notice. My sky became cloudy and My tears were the rain.

I love you. Oh, if you'd only listen. I really love you. I try to say it in the quiet of the green meadow and in the blue sky. The wind whispers My love throughout the treetops and spills it into the vibrant colors of all the flowers. I shout it to you in the thunder of the great waterfalls and compose love songs for birds to sing for you. I warm you with the clothing of My sunshine and perfume the air with nature's sweet scent. My love for you is deeper than any ocean and greater than any need in your heart. If you'd only realize how I care.

My Dad sends His love. I want you to meet Him - He cares, too. Fathers are just that way. So, please call on Me soon. No matter how long it takes, I'll wait - because I love you.

Your Friend,