This evening marks the beginning of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement on the biblical calendar of the Jewish people. For the last ten days since Rosh Hashanah (celebrated as the Jewish New Year’s Day), many Jewish people have been reflecting on their lives and considering areas where their behavior needs to change in the year ahead and asking for forgiveness from those they have wronged. From Friday to Saturday evening, synagogues around the world will be filled with Jewish people who will not enter their gates for the next 365 days. Like the rest of mankind, they show up as little as possible, yet wonder why God seems to be so far away and so unconcerned. How sad it is that the prayers of Jewish people who have rejected Yeshua as their Messiah remain unanswered.
This Jewish holiday is also a good time for gentile believers to consider their relationship with the Messiah of the whole world, Yeshua Ha’Mashiach. In the last week several conversations with people I am in discipling relationships with have provoked thoughts related to new beginnings, new birth. Ask yourself the following question. “When was the last time I went away with God to simply be in His presence, to enjoy and learn from Him without an agenda of my own?”
Discipleship begins with an intimate unbroken fellowship with our Savior. The first days and weeks of my new life in Messiah were completely consumed with wonder and discovery as I got to know Him through countless hours in His presence. Amazed, I heard Him speak to me on every page of the Bible. I couldn’t get enough. He talked to me intimately through His Word. In prayer, I talked to Him about EVERYTHING! There was nothing hidden. For the first time in my life I was fully known. There was no embarrassment or fear.
The Lord asked for nothing from me. All He wanted was for me to come into His presence and see what He is all about. Responsibility for all the things that once were concerns of mine fell on His shoulders. He didn’t want me to do anything except just show up.
“Come unto me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble-hearted and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).”
It wasn’t long, however, before something changed. There isn’t a specific time or event that I can point to when it happened. All I know is this. The newness and the vitality of my earliest days with Him became a memory, not a continuing reality. I began to question the simplicity of it all. I settled into a new routine of “doing” what I was told good Christians did. For a while, there was some contentment and fulfillment in that activity. People began to take notice of me. It was gratifying to have people see the mark of God in my life and tell me that I had potential. Not wanting to disappoint and lose all that positive affirmation I knuckled down and studied hard so that I would grow strong.
Looking back, I see now that the more I did on my own, the less I experienced His power and provision in my life. As my coming away with Him decreased, the patterns and behaviors of my past increased. While I was now dressed up in a sharp new Christian suit and looking good on the outside, something ugly was taking root on the inside.
“Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly (Proverbs 26:11).”
Could the life of a disciple of Jesus really be as simple as just showing up regularly to be in His presence, as simple as saying “yes” to His invitation to “come and see”? Is the secret to God’s ability to reproduce Himself in others around us connected to our own refusal to leave His side, even for a moment? Listen to Jesus’ message to the believers at Ephesus who had walked away from His presence.
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place – unless you repent (Revelation 2:1-5).’”
Let me make a practical suggestion if you are worn out, discouraged, and can’t seem to find joy in the new life you once experienced. Go to your calendar and find a time in the next two weeks that you can go away with God for half a day, just the two of you. Mark that time off and hold it sacred. Begin praying for God to speak to you like He once did. Tell your family that during that time you will be off their radar. Turn off your cell phone. Leave the Internet behind. Go to a quiet secluded place with your Bible and something to write on and just be alone with the Lord.
I know this to be a fact. It is impossible to be alone with God and not be changed. All I have to do is just show up and He takes care of the rest.
These blogs are intended as a starting point for discussion and dialog. Feel free to make comments and suggestions of your own. Let’s build one another up and bear one another’s burdens.