As much as I enjoy 007 movies, no this is not about James Bond or how you like your martinis.
Posts by Terry Braley:
Occasionally, I see an interview with a person who stands out in their field who says, “I always knew I wanted to be a ___” Fill in the blank â writer, doctor, musician, entrepreneur, missionary, or whatever. To be honest, I often come away from those interviews feeling a bit envious of their clarity.
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”
Have you ever had a “friend” or colleague who only wanted your companionship or friendship for as long as you had something to give them like money etc – but as soon as you no longer have the very thing that they want from you, then you hardly hear from them. Some people behave the same way towards God. They seek God for what He can do for them and not for who He is. These people don’t really want God – but they want what God can give them. These people don’t really seek to have a genuine & obedient relationship with God – but they seek a way to get God to “unlock” the “keys” to material wealth. They are really seeking the gift but not the Giver of the gift.
Just like the 5000 followers, it is possible today, that people follow a church or appear to follow Jesus not because they seek to become like Jesus and to serve God – but because, for example, they want various temporary material and monetary possessions that they believe God will give them. Like the 5000 who followed Jesus for food, there some who follow God for presumed money and wealth.
Just like the 5000 followers, the motive of some people is not to learn from God but their primary motivation is to feed their fleshly desires. To them Jesus is a means by which they can attempt to achieve their carnal desires.
In our own life, our motives for being followers of Christ must be CORRECT and GENUINE. We must not be like some of the 5000 who followed Jesus because they were only interested in satisfying their fleshly and temporary desires. God knows our minds and hearts and He is able to clearly see and read the motives or the reasons for why we do the things that we do. (John 2:23-25 – Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.)
Below are some of the WRONG reasons why people follow Jesus or go to church
WRONG REASONS FOR FOLLOWING A CHURCH OR FOLLOWING JESUS
(1) (Luke 12:15 – And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”)
Some people view God as being a type of Santa Claus / Father Christmas. To certain people, the primary motive for following God is because they believe that He will give them what their flesh and carnal minds desire. The motivation to acquire riches and possessions blinds them from genuinely following God for the right reasons because they have been deceived into believing that God MUST grant them whatever they desire. However Jesus teaches that life is more than about what possessions we have or the amount of money we have and that if we seek after material things only then we are short-sighted and do not understand God’s eternal plan. Jesus also taught that our primary focus should be to seek God’s kingdom & righteousness FIRST. (John 6:27 – Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal). It is also important to realize that while God is Jehovah our Provider, it is God’s prerogative to either give us or to withhold giving us the material desires that we want. Therefore God is not obligated to give us what we want because He is not Santa Clause / Father Christmas. He is God.
(2) SEEKING AN EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE – (John 4:23-24 – But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.)
Some people go to church or follow Jesus because they are seeking an emotional experience. They seek an emotional “high” or they seek to be entertained. They judge their spiritual condition by their emotional feelings. Some people believe that if they have an emotional experience at church then it means that God has visited them or that they are growing spiritually. However, is following Jesus really about seeking an emotional experience? And is having an emotional experience no matter how temporary that emotional “high” might be – can such experiences be equivalent to true spiritual growth in a person’s life?
(Matthew 13:20-21 – As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with JOY, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away).
When Jesus spoke about the Parable of the Sower, he spoke of a type of people who hear God’s word and receive God’s word with JOY and with a lot of excitement and energy. However, the fact that they were joyful or excited at receiving God’s word was not enough to sustain their spiritual growth because the problem is that they were not firmly rooted in God’s word through meditation and OBEDIENCE to God’s word. An emotional experience or feelings do not automatically guarantee that one will obey God’s word. Therefore when trials, tests and challenges come, they backslide or become defeated.
The problem with going to church or seeking God because you want an emotional experience is that you will find yourself going through a cycle of unpredictability and inconsistency in regards to obedience to God’s word. Therefore your relationship with the Lord is based on feelings.
(3) FOR POSITION, POWER & RECOGNITION – (Mark 10:43-45 – But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many).
I have often seen, experienced and heard about situations where people may appear to be interested in following God and in doing the work of God, but yet their ulterior motive is to gain various positions of power and influence within the church so that they may fulfill their own personal agenda and not God’s work. The Pharisees sought the adoration and admiration of men. The Pharisees sought power and influence, and therefore when they discovered that the power and influence that they once had over the people was now shifting to Jesus, the Pharisees connived to kill Jesus (read Matthew 23-26:1-3)
Jesus Himself did not come be served, but He came to serve and fulfill the plan of the Father.
Therefore when we go to church or when we decide to follow Jesus, we must be prepared to give ALL the glory to God. We cannot claim to follow God but yet seek our own glory in the process because God does not share His glory with anybody. (Isaiah 42:8 – I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols).
Even if you do not have a position or recognition in church, you are still a vessel of God whose function is to glorify God all the time (Colossians 3:17 – And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.)
Our duty as Christians is not to seek self-glory or the admiration of others, but whatever we do must give glory and praise to God whom we serve and live for.
(4) FOR BUSINESS, MONEY & PROFIT – (Matthew 21:12-13 – And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.)
For some people, going to church is an opportunity to make business contacts; make money and to make a profitable business out of the church setting & environment. For some people, church has become a business market – and for these people, they may appear to follow Jesus – but they are actually following and serving mammon (money).
When Jesus entered the temple, He realized that people had lost the true meaning & purpose of the existence of the temple. The temple had not been built so that people could run their businesses and make money. The temple had not been built so that it could be a marketplace for people to sell and buy. The temple was supposed to be “a house of prayer”. The temple was supposed to be a place for man to communicate with God. The temple was supposed to be for the service and glorification of God and not for the advancement of people’s monetary or material wealth. (Matthew 6:24 – “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.)
(5) FOR SIGNS & WONDERS – (Matthew 12:38-39 – Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah)
If God does not perform a miracle or a healing in one’s life – it does not mean that He is not God. God is still God even if He does not heal. God is still God even if He does not perform any physical sign or wonder. God is still God even if He does not give us the things that we want and desire in life.
There is no doubt that Jesus performed miracles that nobody had ever witnessed. After all, Jesus is God and through Him all things were created. Jesus would heal the sick, open the eyes of the blind and even bring back to life those who were dead. However, not even miracles could sway the hearts of many including the Pharisees to believe and genuinely follow Jesus. The Pharisees, the Sadducees and many other people who would follow Jesus would witness the miracles He did but in the end some of them would still not genuinely seek Christ’s salvation or devote themselves to become His disciples. This example of the hardening of the heart by the Pharisees even after seeing miracles by Jesus clearly shows that signs and wonders alone do not guarantee one’s salvation nor can they be a primary reason for following a church.
(Matthew 24:24 – For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect). In Matthew 24:24 Jesus warns that false christs & false prophets will perform false miracles or signs & wonders in order to deceive people and lure people to follow after them.
Therefore if people go to church or attempt to seek Jesus because they seek miracles only, they must be careful that they don’t fall into the trap of false prophets and false christs because according to Jesus, it is by false signs & wonders that many people would be led astray.
God is not a magician. He is not an entertainer. God can choose to perform miracles or not to. Jesus did not perform a sign when the scribes & Pharisees asked Him to. Jesus did not have to prove Himself to them even though they sought Jesus for a sign.
God wants us to seek Him genuinely. He wants us to worship Him truthfully. Below are GOOD Reasons or GOOD Motives of Why We Should Follow Jesus.
It is truly sad that modern churches use cheap gimmicks to get people to attend. The church service has been changed from heart-felt worship to Hollywood style entertainment complete with special effects. Churches that once focused on good Bible study classes, now compete against one-another like businesses for new members. In an attempt to increase numbers, they advertise bingo, camping trips, softball teams, exercise classes and some see it as a place to just be able to socialize with there friends… things which have nothing to do with religion or the Bible. If it brings in the numbers, they will do it. Yes, these churches are full every Sunday, but most members would quit if the “cake and ice cream” that initially attracted them were no longer offered. There are many people today who attend church because they are “bread seekers” rather than genuine Christ seekers.
We are pulled in many directions: work, family, ministry, fitness and many other activities tug at our schedules. The more we are tugged, the more we have to work to guard the time we give to personal study of our Bibles. When we are at last able to sit down to read, we want every precious minute to count. Whether we have 15 minutes or two hours, we want our efforts to yield the most benefit possible. But how can we make the most of the time we have to read and study?
It can be tempting to want our personal study time to fill our emotional tank for the day. We may rush to find an application point we can act on in whatever time we have. This may mean we limit our time in the Word to devotional reading—meditating on a passage and looking for a way to put it to immediate use. Devotional reading is beneficial, but it is not foundational, and its benefit actually increases exponentially as we grow in our foundational understanding of the Bible. So we must be sure to study the Bible with our minds, as well as with our hearts. As you read the Bible devotionally, seek to complement this with time in which you also build a basic knowledge of Scripture. Here are some suggestions to help you make the most of that time.
Take a Long-term View
Think of Bible study as a savings account rather than a debit card. Rather than viewing it as a declining balance you draw on to fill an immediate need, allow it to have a cumulative effect over weeks, months and years. You may not reach understanding of a passage or be able to apply it well after one day’s exposure to it. That’s OK. Keep making deposits into your account, trusting that in God’s perfect timing, He will illuminate the meaning and usefulness of what you’ve studied, compounding its worth. What if the passage you study today is preparing you for a trial 10 years from now? Study faithfully now, trusting that nothing is wasted, whether your study time resolves neatly in 30 minutes or not.
Rather than reading passages pulled from different parts of the Bible each day, choose a book and stay there. Topical study guides and devotional guides can leave us with a piecemeal knowledge of Scripture. We may grow very familiar with certain passages, but we might never learn their context. Reading a book of the Bible from start to finish helps us connect the dots in our Bible knowledge and generate a cohesive understanding of the text.
Honor the Context
Before you begin studying a particular book, research its historical and cultural context to prime yourself for proper understanding. Reading a book in light of its original audience and setting is a basic principle of interpretation. Who wrote the book? To whom was it written? When was it written? What historical and cultural factors prompted and informed its writing? Researching these questions guards us from interpreting in light of our own cultural or historical bias. A key resource to help you here is the ESV Study Bible.
The Bible is comprised of many different literary genres. It contains historical narrative, poetry, prophecy, wisdom literature and more. Each of these genres abides by certain rules. Each uses language and imagery in a certain way. We cannot read the Psalms the same way we read the Gospels, nor can we read prophecy the way we read wisdom literature. When you begin a particular text, learn about its genre and read it according to how that genre “works.”
Use Proven Tools
If your goal is to build foundational knowledge of Scripture, you’ll need good tools to do so. Choose tools that have stood the test of time: read the text repetitively, paraphrase verses in your own words to help you focus on their meaning, look up word meanings, annotate a copy of the text, check cross-references, read accessible commentaries. Each of these tools will help you build comprehension and move you toward sound interpretation and application.
Dwell in the “I Don’t Know”
We don’t like to feel lost in general, and we especially don’t like to feel lost when we read the Bible. But that feeling is actually a friend, an important step in the learning process. Until we feel the extent of what we do not know, we won’t push ourselves to pursue knowledge. We tend to minimize our feeling of being lost by rushing to various study helps. We read a passage, we feel the dissonance of not understanding it, and we immediately consult study notes to relieve the dissonance.
But that dissonance is actually what helps us retain understanding when we finally achieve it. Commentary, including sermons or the notes in a study Bible, is best used after you have spent time trying to understand a passage on your own. Push yourself to read for understanding, using tools such as those mentioned above, before you consult study helps. In doing so, you honor the command to love God with your mind, not someone else’s.
Study All of It
If “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable” (2 Tim. 3:16), hadn’t we better work to spend time in all of it? Determine to use your study time so that, over time, you gain exposure to all parts of Scripture, not just those that feel the most accessible or familiar. We need the Old Testament to fully understand the New Testament. We need Leviticus as much as we need James. Be careful not to avoid or hurry past sections of the Bible that seem boring or unhelpful. Even genealogies, strange prophetic visions and inventories of building supplies are profitable for our instruction, though it may take some work to discern how.
Remember That the Bible is a Book About God and His Grace
It is tempting to read the Bible as a road map for our lives or as a guide for “abundant living.” But the Bible, strictly speaking, is not a book about us. From Genesis to Revelation, it reveals and celebrates the character and work of God. We do gain self-knowledge, but only as we gain God-knowledge, learning to see our own character in relation to His. Read asking, “What does this passage teach me about God and His redemptive work?” Then see yourself in relation to Him: “Knowing that God is longsuffering causes me to reflect on how impatient I am. How then should I live?” Allow application of a passage to flow from seeing God in a particular light. A key tool to consider here is the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible, which shows, passage by passage, how the Bible is a unified message of grace for sinners.
We lack wisdom. Never are we more aware of this than when we embark on becoming students of the Bible. Pray before, during and after your study time. Ask God to give you ears to hear. Like the psalmist, pray, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Ps. 119:18). Acknowledge your limitations, and humbly ask God to grant you wisdom and insight as you study. He will not refuse your request.