Leave It!

20181110_115916.jpgMy dog, bless her little heart, is afraid of everything. It’s not her fault, it’s the nature of her breed! She’s grown braver in many areas, but still runs and hides at loud noises (like when we put wood in the wood stove), or barks at unknown objects (like branches that fall in the back yard).

She’s very smart, and learns new tricks quickly, wanting just to make me happy! One command she learned relatively easily was “Leave It.”

One way to train a dog to follow this command is using yummy treats. You first give them a high-value treat that they really like. Then you tell them to “leave it” while offering them a new, way-over-the-top, exciting, super-high value treat in exchange for what you’re asking them to drop. For a dog, it’s really a no-brainer. Obviously they’ll take a piece of real chicken over a dry biscuit!! (My dog’s very favorite treat in the world is dehydrated chicken. No packaged treats even come close. It’s a good thing we’ve got a dehydrator, and chicken is always on sale!!)

Today is December 5, so today’s reading is Luke 5.

Leave It!

There are two examples in the same chapter of people who left everything they knew in order to follow Jesus.

  • Simon, James and John left their two boatloads full of fish and their fishing nets–their very livelihood, and followed Jesus after He said, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” (verse 10 NLT).
  • Levi the tax collector left his booth, everything in it, and his career when Jesus told him, “Follow me and be my disciple” (verse 27).

Why did they leave everything behind? They knew they had found a more valuable investment for their time and their very lives. They were perfect examples of Jesus’s parables found in Matthew:

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.

Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!” (Matthew 13:44-46).

Jesus calls us today, asking us to leave things behind in order to follow him wholeheartedly. It may not be a career, but it most likely involves abandoning selfishness, greed, malicious behavior and things of the like that are tied to our race to get ahead in this world. That’s not the race we’re called to.

No matter what our chosen profession, in or out of the church, we are all called to be ministers of the gospel. We are all called to be servants of our Master, Jesus Christ, shining his light in the darkness around us.

What is Christ asking you to leave behind today in order to follow him more closely? Leave it! It’s a small trade-off for the treasure you’ll find in him. 

Old Timers

Once we’ve been followers of Christ for a while, it’s easy to become comfortable with our walk. We like things the way they are, and don’t really want anything to change. We’re not all that interested in spiritual growth anymore, because it’s uncomfortable! We feel like we’ve already left everything, so we’ve reached what we think is an acceptable point of relaxing. There’s no more running the race; we’re content to sit on the sidelines and watch others run. But the writer of Hebrews encourages us,

“. . . let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith . . .” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

My friends, there is always more of ourselves to leave behind and more of Christ to pick up! We never reach full maturity, but we keep on toward that aim. Paul wrote,

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:12-14).

If Paul hadn’t reached perfection, I’m pretty sure none of us has, either!

Luke 5 closes with a discussion on fasting (verses 33-39) that ties in with leaving the old behind. Jesus says that when He’s gone, his followers will fast (verse 35). For anyone who counts themselves as a follower of Christ now, how’s your fasting game? Are you in shape?

I have to say that I need a great deal more discipline in this area of my walk. Why? What’s the payoff? Growth. Clearer vision. Greater strength. Deeper insight.

Fasting helps us to see ourselves more clearly as we hear more clearly from our heavenly Father. We can see the grime that’s slowly been building up in our hearts that we need his help cleaning out and leaving behind.

Fasting helps us to see the difference in value between the temporal and the eternal, helping us to let go of the one in favor of the other.

If you’re satisfied with what you’ve achieved spiritually, then by all means take a seat. Cheer the rest of us on. But this passage spoke loud and clear to me this morning.

New wine must be stored in new wineskins. But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is just fine,’ they say” (Luke 5:38-39).

I’m not satisfied with the old wine of yesterday. I want to be filled with new wine for a new season!

New Wine by Hillsong (click to listen)

“‘Cause where there is new wine
There is new power
There is new freedom
And the kingdom is here
I lay down my old flames
To carry Your new fire today”

How is your race going, my friend? Is it time to add more discipline into your spiritual life in order to trade the old for the new? The payoff is so worth it!