Everything in the life of a Christian is begun by God. It is he who takes the initiative, it is he who enables a person to respond. Faith is a gift from God and God hands this gift to everyone, including you, all you have to do is accept it. God has chosen you, you have perhaps not chosen him yet. As in every love encounter love must be reciprocated before you can feel its transforming power in your life.
We have seen a few verses in which Christ calls people to come to him and follow him, verses such as: "Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11: 28) At other times he reproaches those who do not follow him: "and yet you refuse to come to me to receive life! " (John 5: 40).
The same invitation is also for you who are reading these words. God has chosen you, he is waiting for your response, your acceptance of his call. He does not call without giving you the ability to respond but he does require that you want to respond. He can never go against your freewill. Between God's plan for you and you fulfilling that plan stands your will. He is calling you, will you respond? Your will can either be an obstacle to life, love and freedom or it can be a channel of God's power and love in you. The decision is yours.
The answer to the question "how can I come to the risen Lord, how can I meet the Lord?" is not difficult. Essentially you can meet him as people did over 2,000 years ago. You can meet him in the same way you can meet anyone. Do not forget the fundamental truth of the resurrection highlighted in the last session: Jesus died and has risen and now very much alive guiding those who come to him, accept him and follow him. Let him guide you.
Jesus has risen not only in some vague, spiritual sense. He is not simply present as a much loved deceased person is present in the heart or mind of an individual. He is alive body, soul and spirit and is very much present:
For where two or three meet in my name, I am there among them. (Matthew 18:20)
If you had lived in the time of Jesus you would have heard people speak of him, you would have received information about his life and about what he had done. Perhaps some would have known his friends who would have told them how much he had influenced their lives. These contacts and this information would have made you to want to know more. You would have gone to look for him to see him with your own eyes, you would have heard his teaching and you would have been in the company of other like minded people. You would have experienced the friendship of a group of people who have had a close relationship with him and that show the joy of being in his company.
Today you can do the same. You have already received some vital information about Christ, you have probably already met people who have been influenced by him. You have been encouraged to learn more because you are continuing on this journey together with us. You can come into contact with his teaching by dedicating a few minutes a day reading the Word of God that speaks of him. You can also join others who are also making this journey and already walking with him side by side. You may want to enter into his world, the kingdom of God right now, a kingdom in which there is life, love and freedom, joy and peace:
for it is not eating and drinking that make the kingdom of God, but the saving justice, the peace and the joy brought by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14: 17).
You can accept the salvation and mercy that the Father offers through Jesus Christ. You too can become radiant with the joy of Christ:
I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete. (John 15: 11).
Now you can begin to walk with him along with other people just as it was possible over 2000 years ago. You have only to respond to his invitation, "come, follow me." (Luke 18: 22)
We meet Christ in the church, we meet Christ in the Word of God, we meet Christ in Baptism, we meet Christ in the Eucharist, we meet Christ every time we gather with other Christians in his name. There is an infinite number of ways in which we can meet Christ. You can meet him right now. Just get on your knees and say "Lord here I am, ready to walk with you, ready to let you guide me towards true life, love and freedom". Simply do this and you will live, you will love, you will be free, you will gradually be transformed. Say this every time it springs to mind. You may want to make this your short prayer to give you the strength and encouragement necessary to continue on this journey.
To meet Christ and follow him means calculating the cost
As your decision is to be a serious one and not the result of a superficial feeling or emotion, Jesus advises you to calculate the cost. Read what he said in the Gospel of Luke:
which of you here, intending to build a tower, would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it? Otherwise, if he laid the foundation and then found himself unable to finish the work, anyone who saw it would start making fun of him and saying, "Here is someone who started to build and was unable to finish." (Luke 14: 25-33).
Everything of value comes at a price. First of all, knowing and following Christ is not just a Sunday pastime. Walking in his presence is not just a Sunday stroll in the park.
It means first of all putting him before everything else, before one's family, before success, before financial gain, even before one's own life. If you are not willing to do this you cannot follow him. Certainly at the beginning he only asks you to calculate the cost and decide to put him before everything else in your life. Over time, as this new life will mature and as you continue walking in his presence and become empowered this initial desire will become a reality.
Your decision need not necessarily be accompanied by some pious sentiment. Feelings or emotions may be absent - this does not matter. Deciding to believe in Christ and putting God first should not be based on feelings as these are often unstable and change frequently. That would not be a firm foundation for what amounts to a completely new life. Feelings can be, and often are present when you make your decision but the decision cannot be based on them. The intensity of our emotions is not necessarily an indication of the seriousness of our intent. The love of God involves the whole being: body, soul and spirit, intellect, emotions and will. We must make sure the decision is built upon the rock and not on the sand :
'Therefore, everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and hurled themselves against that house, and it did not fall: it was founded on rock. But everyone who listens to these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a stupid man who built his house on sand. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and struck that house, and it fell; and what a fall it had!' (see Matthew 7:24-27).
Meeting and following Jesus means being baptized
Baptism (some use the word "christening") marks the beginning of this new life, the Christian life. This is necessary for salvation (John 3: 5 and 1 Peter 3: 21). It is an outward sign of a new reality brought about by Christ in the believer. This baptism will take place when you decide to join a Christian community as you cannot baptise yourself. It is through baptism that we are placed in or "incorporated" into Christ:
every one of you that has been baptised has been clothed in Christ. (Galatians 3: 27).
From the moment of your baptism the words of the apostle Paul in Colossians 3, 3 become reality:
because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God. (Col 3:3)
It is this new relationship and union you will possess that will empower you to follow Christ towards the ultimate goal which is the attainment of the full realisation of life in its fullest sense. This life is unending, it is a life that cannot be lost because it is nothing less than the life of the resurrected Christ himself, a life of freedom, love, peace and joy. This new life will replace your old existence as you gradually allow it to guide you through daily living with all its ups and downs. In baptism we meet Christ and we are clothed with Christ. This is one of the most important vital or life-giving meetings with Christ. It is from this that everything else derives. It is not only a "meeting" with Christ but above all it is a real and powerful "union" with him. We become united to him we become "clothed" with him and in him:
In him, in bodily form, lives divinity in all its fullness (Col 2:9).
We become partakers of that divine life and it is this that will gradually transform us as we walk in his presence.
Yes, when you believe and are baptised you become a brother or sister of Christ, sons and daughters of God, placed in Christ, partakers of the divine life of God and empowered by the Holy Spirit who will dwell in you. This power, none less than the power of God, will transform your life radically. Are you prepared for this? Do you want this?
Meeting and following Christ involves being part of his family
Meeting Christ also means following him and being part of a new family, his own family in which he is constantly present. God is a family. This family includes God the Father, his son Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit (the love that flows freely between Father and Son) and all those who believe and have been baptised (the brothers and sisters of Christ).
This new family is also called the "body" of Christ. All those who believe in Christ and follow him are part of his family and, just as when baptised we are placed in Christ, so are all others "placed" in Christ. We are all together his body "because we are parts of his Body." (Ephesians 5:30) and "Now Christ's body is yourselves, each of you with a part to play in the whole. (1 Corinthians 12:27).
This is the depth of the meeting and union with Christ through baptism, throughout life and for all eternity. The new Christian is not alone but an integral part of a universal family. The family of God is also known as the "people of God", the "church" of Christ. This is what Jesus said:
But to the man who told him this Jesus replied, 'Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?' And stretching out his hand towards his disciples he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.' (Matthew 12: 48-50).
If you want to meet Christ you will also want to meet his family.
In the Gospel of John it is said that anyone who accepts Christ becomes a son or daughter of God and all those who believe in him become brothers of Christ. It is a new Life, a new birth:
But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believed in his name who were born not from human stock or human desire or human will but from God himself. (John 1:12, 13).
The church is not only an earthly institution with all its limitations and defects that belong to the human condition. It is above all a living body of people that have all been incorporated into Christ through baptism and forming one single divine family. There is only one universal family, one universal church that Christ founded. Do you want to become part of that family, that earthly and divine "body of Christ"? Do you want to participate in the divine nature of Christ, live in him, with him, for him in order for your life to become transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit into something that you had never imagined, that eyes have not seen
but it is as scripture says: What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualise; all that God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor. 2:9) ?
The time has come to consider this seriously.
The new Christian will find joy and support in coming together with others who have also made the same decision. These will help you to grow in your new life and you will help them do the same. This new community, of which you will be part, will show you the mercy of God, will show you what a life with God means and the love, the life and the freedom that comes with it. This community will put at your disposal various means by which your new divine Life can grow.
Your new family will place at your disposal everything they have to enable you to grow. First and foremost you can take the "bread of life", which is Christ himself, so you can accept Christ's invitation:
Then he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.' He did the same with the cup after supper, and said, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood poured out for you. (Luke 22: 19-20)
I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate manna in the desert and they are dead; but this is the bread which comes down from heaven, so that a person may eat it and not die. I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.' John 6: 48-51
Your new community can give you assurance of God's mercy and his forgiveness, even when you might get the impression that what you have done is unforgivable. This new community can instruct you in the faith and help you mature.
What happens to a person who believes in Christ and is baptised is like what happens to a rusty iron bar when placed in a fire. When a rusty bar of iron (the person who believes in Christ and is baptised) is inserted into the fire (Christ). The bar gradually loses its old rusty appearance and takes on the heat and radiance of the fire itself, it assumes the very characteristics of the fire. The iron bar and fire are distinct but the bar is so transformed into the likeness of the fire that it is difficult to tell the difference. So with the Christian who is inserted into Christ in baptism and who remains in him and walks with him. He becomes like Christ, from his person the spirit of Christ becomes manifest. This, too, is another way of meeting Christ - the Christ in others however imperfect that may be.
Following Jesus means to leave your old life behind and want to imitate him
If you decide to accept Christ and his family you will decide to abandon the life you led before and you will gradually be led by the power of the Spirit of God. It means wanting to turn away from all those things that you know are incompatible with the journey you now want to make. You must make that decision to want to change. Then the Lord will give you the power and guidance necessary to achieve this.
By expressing the desire to become a Christian you express your desire to walk with Christ and imitate him in your life. This will be achieved by God himself in you if you let him and if you walk with him and remain in his presence. The relationship of love that will begin and that will deepen gradually, will encourage you and enable you to act as he acts, think as he thinks, want what he wants. This desire to become like him must be present when you make your decision. After all it is his life, his love, his freedom, his peace and his joy that you will enjoy. You can come to him just as you are, remember that he said,
When Jesus heard this he said to them, 'It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. I came to call not the upright, but sinners.' (Mark 2:17).
Come to Christ as you would go to a doctor. The person who comes to Christ realises that he is in need of healing. Anything that takes away your happiness, your joy, your freedom, your life, your true self fulfillment is called "sin". Not always are we aware of that which deprives us of real life, freedom and love; not always do we realise what is in our own interests. We are all influenced by this downward tendency towards self destruction that characterises the world in which we live. In a word we are all "sinners".
As scripture says: Not one of them is upright, not a single one (Romans 3:10).
To believe in Christ means that you are confident that he can direct you along the path of self fulfillment. You must have faith that Jesus can heal you just as you trust the doctor to give you the right medicine to get well. You must must accept God's mercy as you would accept the doctor's medicine. You must faithfully follow the instructions of the Lord in the Word of God just as we follow carefully the instructions written on the medicine and the advice of the doctor, we must nurture the new life constantly just as we constantly take the medicines to get well. As the patient does not depend on his own strength and knowledge to heal himself, but is dependent on the doctor and the medicine, so also the Christian should not depend on his own strength to grow in his new life but on the power of the Holy Spirit who will live in him and in the Christian community he has chosen to join:
Jesus replied: Anyone who loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make a home in him. (John 14:23)
Yes you can experience the Holy Spirit of God himself coming and taking up residence within you. This is your new life, your new love and your new freedom and it is limitless and does not depend on others or on your circumstances. Even though you are poor you will be rich, even though you are a slave you will be free. You will be living by the power of God himself, and if God is with you who can be against you? "If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
Following Jesus involves talking about your new life, love and freedom
The newly born Christian willingly tells others of his new life. It could not be otherwise.
Good people draw what is good from the store of goodness in their hearts; bad people draw what is bad from the store of badness. For the words of the mouth flow out of what fills the heart. (Luke 6:45)
If you are overcome by something, if you love something, if something has a tremendous effect on your life you can't help talking about it to whoever you meet. Far from being ashamed, you will speak freely of what the Lord is doing in your life, even if you meet with opposition. Christ said:
'So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of human beings, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven. (Matthew 10:32)
As your experience of Christ will be personal, you must not think that the your little education or ability is a hindrance. In Acts 4:13 we read:
They were astonished at the fearlessness shown by Peter and John, considering that they were uneducated laymen; and they recognised them as associates of Jesus.
You will also be with Jesus and become like him, you will also talk of your experience to others and others will recognize that you have been with him and will also want to participate in the new life that will radiate from you. By living the life of Christ you will radiate the life of Christ, by radiating the life of Christ you will be communicating the life of Christ to others. This is what each Christian is called to do.
Following Jesus involves living for him and no longer for ourselves
Christ accepted the cross because he wanted to do not his own will but the will of the Father (see Hebrews 10:5-10, and Matthew 26:42). When Jesus said,
If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Mark 8:34)
he meant that anyone who wants to wants to follow him will also want to do the will of the Father as Jesus had done and, if necessary, to sacrifice his life as Jesus did. This means giving up our own will to do the will of God. (Don't forget that God wants your happiness, he wants you to achieve true self fulfillment, attain your maximum potential). Do not be afraid for everything that happens to you will be for your good although this might not be evident at the time.
We are well aware that God works with those who love him, those who have been called in accordance with his purpose, and turns everything to their good. (Romans 8:28)
It means no longer living as you have done until now for yourself or for ideas or things but living according to the will of the Father that you can discover in the pages of the Bible and participating in the life-giving community of Christians. It means letting Christ dwell in you and take possession of all that is yours. It means complete surrender to him. Just as though you were in a river and not able to swim you surrender to your rescuer and not struggle and make it difficult for him to save you, to pull you to safety. You will be aware of the spiritual reality that you will begin to live and which was expressed in the words of St Paul: "and yet I am alive; yet it is no longer I, but Christ living in me. (Galatians 2:20). The will of God is that we should be saved, joyful, free, living, loving:
God our saviour ... wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.
In other words you will want to change the general direction of your life, the way you act, the way you think. Like every other true Christian you will have the mind of Christ for
For who has ever known the mind of the Lord? Who has ever been his adviser? But we are those who have the mind of Christ. (see 1 Corinthians 2:16).
The Holy Spirit that will dwell in you will achieve this in you, with you and for you, just surrender yourself to his guidance.
There is nothing I cannot do in the One who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13).
Everyone whom the Father gives me will come to me; I will certainly not reject anyone who comes to me, because I have come from heaven, not to do my own will, but to do the will of him who sent me. Now the will of him who sent me is that I should lose nothing of all that he has given to me, but that I should raise it up on the last day. It is my Father's will that whoever sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life (John 6: 37-40)
If you are undertaking this journey with us please let us know and we can be with you spiritually and sustain you with our thoughts and prayers. Our email: email@example.com.
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