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The Beginning, Middle, and End of the Christian Life

February 6, 2017

The instruction to follow Jesus, to be near Jesus, to be close to Jesus, not just in geographical proximity, but in nearness of heart, is not only the call that goes out at the beginning of the Christian life, but it is also the middle and the end. And the call is not just to follow Jesus, but in following Jesus to experience ever-increasing fullness of joy.

The Beginning

 Let me reiterate a point that is made by Matthew, Mark, and Luke in the accounts of Jesus calling them. They are short; they are concise to emphasize the immediacy and radical nature of their obedience to the call of Christ. My favorite of the accounts is Luke. Concerning Peter, Andrew, James and John it says that when they had brought their boats (full of fish mind you) to shore, they left everything and followed Jesus. Concerning Levi it says,

 

“And leaving everything, he rose and followed Jesus.”

 

No doubt Levi had heard the message of Jesus, had been convicted of his sin. But what is it that would drive grown men to leave everything and follow Jesus? Was it just curiosity? Was it mere adventure?   I don’t think so. There was something riveting in the authority of Jesus, and these followers knew that there was more joy to be had in following Jesus and being near Him than anything else.

Can’t you just the see the scene when the four fishermen left their boats and nets and fish to follow Jesus. All the other fishermen, once they see these four guys walking away not to return, they all scurry over to their boats and fish and begin putting them into their boats. Can’t you see the people walking along the street that day who stop in their tracks once they see what is going on with Levi? These were men who had found joy and there was nothing that would stop them from following after it!

Look at what Levi does to express His joy—he throws a banquet, a great banquet is what Luke calls it. It was a party. So who comes to this party? Don’t forget that the only friends that Levi has are tax collectors and other society rejects, yet he wants them to know about the joy he has discovered in Jesus.

The Middle

Now this is not just the call that Jesus issues forth at the beginning of discipleship and then moves on to other things. The call to follow him and be near Him continually is the way to continue in ever-increasing joy.

Psalm 16:11 “You have made known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”

Psalm 62:1 “For God alone my soul waits in silence”

Psalm 63:1-8 “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you; as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

Another Psalm says, “As the deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after you.” And we soften the implication of that up and we may have a pretty picture of a deer standing by the brook. But listen to it—picture this. The idea is one of a deer scurrying to find water, his tongue hanging out because he is about to die. And the Psalm writer is saying, “I must have you God, I must be in your presence or my soul will die!”

Psalm 73:25-28 “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever…But for me it is good to be near God.

“The call of Christ to Himself is the beginning of ever-increasing joy and eternal soul-satisfying happiness. If you think you are going to find your heart with a clean conscious before God doing anything other than following Jesus Christ, you have not even begun to know what joy is.” Jordan Thomas

The End

The call to follow Jesus and be close to Him is the beginning, the middle, and the end goal of the Christian life.

John 14:1-3 “Let not your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you unto myself, that where I am you may be also.”

Revelation 21:3 “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God himself will be with them as their God”

God will not send us a delegate or a representative. He Himself will actually live among us. Steven Lawson says, “God’s glory will fill and permeate the entire New Heaven…Thus, wherever we go in Heaven, we will be in the immediate presence of the full glory of God. Wherever we go, we will enjoy the complete manifestation of God’s presence. Throughout all eternity, we will never be separated from direct, unhindered fellowship with God.” Randy Alcorn says, “In the new heaven, we will never be able to travel far enough to leave God’s presence. If we could, we would never want to. However great the wonders of heaven, God himself is Heaven’s greatest prize.” (Heaven, Alcorn, p.184-185)

Understand this today Christian, you have been called to live the Christian life, so that you can have joy that continually springs forth and overflows, ever-increasing gladness, which is obtained and maintained by following Jesus. God wants us to have as much joy as imaginable, and that is precisely the reason Jesus says, “follow me.” His nearness is my good.

I sometimes forget that. When I do I lose my joy because I have moved away from Christ.

 

Your day is busy, your stress is great, and your life is full but it may not be in the sense that Jesus meant it in John 10. Clarity, perhaps, is missing from your life and you seem to be drifting. Maybe there is no real purpose to what you do or how you live. Can I encourage you to find your joy and satisfaction in Christ? The Bible tells us that we have been created for one overarching purpose and that is to glorify God.

Isaiah 43:6 “bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory.”

Romans 11:36 “For from his and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.”

Colossians 1:16 “…all things were created through him and for him.”

Your ultimate purpose in life is to glorify God, and the nearer you are to Christ, the more glory God gets, and the joy in your life increases.

Can I invite you to return to the cross and empty grave? Gaze upon the wonder of redemption which God planned, Christ accomplished, and the Spirit applied to your heart and celebrate afresh the glory of the gospel. We can’t look to ourselves and to our own strength. That will simply discourage us. But we look to Jesus, “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross,” and accomplished redemption and forgiveness for us.

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