As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
- Matthew 4:18-20
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
- Mark 8:34-38
“Where our individual desire dies and sanctified surrender lives. One of the greatest hindrances in coming to Jesus is the excuse of our own individual temperament . We make our temperament and our natural desires barriers to coming to Jesus. Yet the first thing we realize when we do come to Jesus is that He pays no attention whatsoever to our natural desires. We have the idea that we can dedicate our gifts to God. However, you cannot dedicate what is not yours. There is actually only one thing you can dedicate to God, and that is your right to yourself (see Romans 12:1). If you will give God your right to yourself, He will make a holy experiment out of you— and His experiments always succeed. The one true mark of a saint of God is the inner creativity that flows from being totally surrendered to Jesus Christ. In the life of a saint there is this amazing Well, which is a continual Source of original life. The Spirit of God is a Well of water springing up perpetually fresh. A saint realizes that it is God who engineers his circumstances; consequently there are no complaints, only unrestrained surrender to Jesus. Never try to make your experience a principle for others, but allow God to be as creative and original with others as He is with you.
“If you abandon everything to Jesus, and come when He says, “Come,” then He will continue to say, “Come,” through you. You will go out into the world reproducing the echo of Christ’s “Come.” That is the result in every soul who has abandoned all and come to Jesus.
“Have I come to Him? Will I come now?”
- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
Rev. Chambers mentions that our temperament, indeed our own desires, are a hindrance in coming to faith. That made me think about conversations that my wife and I have had. On the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Temperament Index), we are both NFJ temperaments. My wife is extroverted, ENFJ, while I am introverted, INFJ. But the “N” means intuitive, basing our value system upon the possibilities of what could happen rather than on what our senses say is happening. That makes it easy for us to seek God as a desire. The “F” means that we tend to use our feelings to make decisions, instead of logical thinking. And the “J” means that we can make our decisions quickly and bull-headedly stick with that decision. What better temperament to come to Jesus? Right? Oh, not every Christian has that temperament?
No, they don’t, and could it be that we could easily miss the mark and as long as we felt okay, we might not ever realize that we were not on the right trail, seeking a false god, even a false god that some false prophet named “Jesus” just to throw us off?
I wrote a Bible study years ago on temperament, and a few in the class got carried away by being obnoxiously extreme once they knew what their temperaments were. Not that any temperament is obnoxious, but you could take any of the sixteen variations and go to the extreme and you could be very obnoxious. One of them, sadly, was the pastor at the time. I told myself that I would not do that again, but…
Our temperament is a set preference that we have for processing new information, dealing with others, making decisions, etc. Basically, how our brain does those things and how it ties in with everything else.
And yes, our temperament could point us in the direction of Jesus, but it is only by the Holy Spirit convicting of our sins and our unconditional surrender that we truly become Christians.
What Rev. Chambers is focusing on here is the only thing that we have control over. When Jesus says to take up our cross and follow Him, leaving our desires behind, we must do that.
I have had a frustrated, at times angry, life. I became a Christian and dedicated myself to His service, then I got a low draft lottery number (joking with my wife that it was the only lottery I ever won, and she said I did not win that one.) … Then they did away with college deferments, a quick ticket to Vietnam. But I got an Army ROTC scholarship. From that point until my military service was over (after the Vietnam War was over), everything was a blur. It was if I woke up one day and I suddenly had a wife, two boys, and the thought of mission work seemed a far distant concept, something the family would not buy into.
And I entered the frustrated phase of my life, volunteering here and there, serving on church boards and committees, even directing the children’s choir one year, doing a lot of good. I taught Sunday school, writing my own materials at times. But nothing fulfilled what God had in store for me until I started writing fulltime.
God never left me, but He allowed me to wander in the wilderness for, yes, pretty close to 40 years. And then I heard His call, and I dropped a pursuit to regain employment after being laid off and retired to write, to glorify God in the process.
Jesus did not mean for us to physically make a cross and carry it, although some have done that. He did not ask all of us to become martyrs, dying for Him. But in a way He is asking us to die in the flesh and follow Him, giving up our worldly desires. That does not mean that He will not reward us richly here on earth. It just means that earthly reward is not guaranteed. After all, we are to deny all that.
But do I get frustrated, even now? Maybe it is a habit now. I tried very hard not to raise my voice today as I drove my wife to the department store, but I calmly told the other drivers on the highway how poorly their driving skills were, just not loud enough for anyone to hear, other than my wife. And she muttered, “I give up!”
Yes, when I venture away from my quiet place, it is hard dealing with this world. I do not belong here. I just do what I can do until my Lord and Savior says that it is time to go. When He says “Come” on that occasion, I will follow.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.