Come, follow Jesus!
(the real Jesus)

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The Gospel
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Jesus said, "Come, follow me."
How can you follow Jesus?
"But I'm a sinful person, not fit to be a follower of Jesus!"
Your new life as a follower of Jesus
Find fellowship with other followers of Jesus
Your prayer life
Know your Bible
Your service to God
"Jezebel" in the churches
"If we deliberately keep on sinning . . ."
Why believe the Bible?
Who is Jesus?
What did Jesus teach?
What is life really all about
Angels and demons
Gray areas, mysteries and religious authorities
What Jesus revealed about life after death
'But my relatives won't like it if I follow Jesus!'
Watching for Christ's return
How I came to follow Jesus: the testimony of David A. Reed
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Dedication, copyright, ISBN & Scripture references
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Come, follow Jesus! (the real Jesus)
online edition of the book by David A. Reed
The Gospel in simple terms for nonbelievers and new believers.
How to become a follower of Jesus Christ, and live as Jesus commanded

Home  |   Jesus said, "Come, follow me."  |   How can you follow Jesus?  |   "But I'm a sinful person, not fit to be a follower of Jesus!"  |   Your new life as a follower of Jesus  |   Find fellowship with other followers of Jesus  |   Your prayer life  |   Know your Bible  |   Your service to God  |   "Jezebel" in the churches  |   "If we deliberately keep on sinning . . ."  |   Why believe the Bible?  |   Who is Jesus?  |   What did Jesus teach?  |   What is life really all about  |   Angels and demons  |   Gray areas, mysteries and religious authorities  |   What Jesus revealed about life after death  |   'But my relatives won't like it if I follow Jesus!'  |   Watching for Christ's return  |   How I came to follow Jesus: the testimony of David A. Reed  |   Why this book?  |   Dedication, copyright, ISBN & Scripture references

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Gray areas, mysteries and religious authorities

 


When you first accept the invitation to come follow Jesus, it is a joyful time and it is a simple matter of trusting him to save you from your sins, obeying him as your new Lord, and looking for his promised return while fellowshipping with his people.  But as you continue to interact with others in the churches, you will begin to encounter some of the issues and questions that have divided professed Christians over the centuries.


To what extent do we humans exercise free will, and to what extent are our actions and final destiny foreknown or even pre-determined by God?  You will encounter pastors, teachers and theologians who say that it is all up to us—our free choice when we exercise our free will—and they will list numerous Bible verses to prove their point.  But you will encounter other pastors, teachers and theologians who say it is all up to God—that all of these matters have been predetermined for us by God’s sovereign will—and they will list numerous other Bible verses to prove their point.  Who is correct?  Or could both sides be missing the point?


Exactly how will events unfold in fulfillment of the prophecies about Christ’s return?  There are many schools of thought—dispensationalists, futurists, historicists, full preterists, partial preterists, and so on—each with an array of arguments to present supported by selected Bible verses with their own preferred interpretations.  Which of them are right?  Or, will the actual unfolding of events surprise them all?


What does the Bible say about birth control, motion pictures, masturbation, blood transfusions, drinking coffee or tea, and driving automobiles?  It says nothing at all—not one word for or against any of these.  Yet you will find religious authorities who issue rules on all of these matters as if they were speaking for God, and who will point to passages in the Bible as justification for their strongly worded proclamations or prohibitions.


As a result, these questions concerning prophecy, free will and human behavior help form the dividing lines between some of the various Christian churches and denominations.


What is the problem?  Is it that the Bible is ambiguous, confusing and open to every sort of interpretation on all sorts of matters?  No, not at all.  The Bible is very clear and unambiguous on most of the matters that it discusses.  But there are certain matters that it does not discuss at all.  And there are certain other areas where God intentionally inspired the writers of the Bible to leave the answers unclear.


Consider, for example, how Jesus answered his Apostles when they met with him after his resurrection from the dead.  They wanted to know when the remaining prophecies about the Messiah would be fulfilled, but notice the answer Jesus gave them:

“Therefore when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, are you now restoring the kingdom to Israel?’  He said to them, ‘It isn’t for you to know times or seasons which the Father has set within his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. You will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.’”       —Acts 1:6-7


Jesus told them “it isn’t for you to know” the answer to that question, but he did tell them what they were to do in the meantime.  Essentially, he told them to ‘mind their own business’ and made clear what their business was—the witnessing work he assigned them to do.


Something similar was said centuries earlier to the Israelites when they were about to enter the Promised Land after being freed from captivity in Egypt.  Through Moses, God had given them hundreds of laws to guide them in their worship and in their daily activities.  But there were other matters that God did not reveal to them.  So, Moses told them

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” —Deuteronomy 29:29 NIV


So, there were some things that God had revealed—written in the Law of Moses—and Moses told the nation of Israel that it was their responsibility to follow and obey those things.  But there were other things that God kept secret, and those things belonged to God.  As far as the people of Israel were concerned, those things were none of their business.  Moses told them, essentially to mind their own business—leave the secret things to God, and be concerned with obeying the laws he gave them.


We today are not under the Law of Moses—we are under the Law of Christ—but the same principle applies.  There are things God has told us, and it is our responsibility to obey.  But there are other questions that we might want to ask, and to some of those questions God’s answer is, essentially, ‘Mind your own business!’  As Moses told the Israelites, the secret things belong to God, but our job is to obey the Law of Christ that is stated clearly in the Bible.


We are reminded of this in one of my favorite Christian hymns titled “Trust and Obey.”  The chorus says, “Trust and obey, For there's no other way, To be happy in Jesus, But to trust and obey.”


The Apostle Paul pointed out that there are things we won’t understand or see clearly until we join Jesus in heaven

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” —1 Corinthians 13:12 KJV


Or, as the New International Version puts the same verse,

“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”  —1 Corinthians 13:12 NIV


An ancient metal mirror or looking-glass might have offered a fuzzy or blurred reflection of the things viewed through it, rather than a sharp and clear image.  And that is how it is with our understanding of God and his secret things.  We won’t see clearly until we reach his presence in heaven.


This principle is important to keep in mind when we worry about our loved ones, or people who never heard about Christ.  Is God going to punish them unfairly?  Sometimes people get their theology from Dante's Inferno or from popular Christian books, and they think God will be unfair.  These writers, of course, can't possibly know anything more than what you and I know when we read the Bible, but they often expound in detail on matters that the Bible leaves ambiguous or unclear.  Ordinary believers read their writings, and then they worry about whether God will be fair when he judges certain people.


This is where trust comes in. The things that are secret belong to God, and we need to trust him in these areas.  Abraham worried when he heard that God was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for their sins  After all, he had relatives living there:  his nephew Lot, and Lot's family: 


Abraham approached God and asked,

“‘Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it?  Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?’” —Genesis 18:23-25 NIV


Of course God will do the right thing.  He discussed the matter back and forth with Abraham, and assured him he would not destroy the place even if only ten righteous people were found there.  As it turned out, God removed to safety Abraham’s nephew Lot, along with Lot’s wife and two daughters, before raining destruction from the sky.


Usually we don’t have the opportunity to engage in a back and forth conversation with God the way Abraham did in this case, receiving very clear answers to our questions.  Then it becomes a matter of trust.  Isn’t Jesus our model of love and fairness and goodness?  Doesn’t he care about people even more than we do—enough to suffer and die on the cross for others?  Won’t he do what is right?  Yes, we have every reason to trust him to do the good thing, the right and loving thing, when it comes to caring for others.  If some writer or teacher has told you that Jesus will do something that does not seem right or fair, why believe such an authority?  Instead, believe Jesus himself.  Believe what you read in the Bible itself, rather than someone else’s interpretation of the Bible.


Unfortunately, there are many teachers and preachers and religious ‘authorities’ who are all too happy to fill in the Bible’s ambiguities and gray areas with their own dogmatic statements.  Really, though, they have no sound basis for assertions beyond what any ordinary person could learn from reading the Bible itself.  They would do well to listen to the Apostle Paul’s counsel

not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.”       —1 Corinthians 4:6 RSV


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