Christmas Devotional

Understanding and Following Jesus

Understanding and Following Jesus

Monday Jan. 6

Scripture: Luke 2:41-52

Today is Epiphany signifying the revelation and realization of Jesus’ true identity as Lord and Savior, the Messiah, the co-eternal Son of God.

Jesus gives us a glimpse into his identity as a 12 year-old when he teaches the teachers about God while on pilgrimage to the Temple with his family. Of course, Mary and Joseph had seen glimpses and heard angelic proclamations about their son from the very beginning and it is their response to Jesus’ identity which has begun to fascinate me.

Since Jesus was the Son of God and they had already made many sacrifices to protect him, Mary and Joseph could have easily cut corners religiously and assumed they did not need to do the things regular people needed to do to remain close to God.

I’ve known many people who have had epiphany experience of coming to understand Jesus’ true identity and responded by assuming that their experience excused them from the need to be serious about their spiritual disciplines.

I’ve met:

  • Seminary students who did not go to worship on Sundays because they claimed their studies were their acts of worship.
  • Pastors who did not pray every day.
  • Church leaders who did not tithe. Some of whom barely gave at all to the church.
  • Church members who thought the church was there just to feed their spirits and never offered to sign up to serve and help someone else.

In a world where it is as popular and viewed as somewhat sophisticated to claim to be “spiritual, but not religious”, it is easy to find excuses to neglect spiritual disciplines. However, if you a looking for a way out of religious observances you won’t find any help from Jesus and his family.

Mary and Joseph continued to follow Jewish observances even as they make extraordinary sacrifices to raise Jesus. They had Jesus circumcised on the 8thday of his life. They took him to the temple to have him dedicated and made an appropriate offering on that occasion. And now we see them taking their family on a long pilgrimage to the temple to worship during Jesus’ adolescence. Later, we learn that it was Jesus’ habit to go to the synagogue every Sabbath day prior to the beginning of his public ministry.

While some people claim Jesus came to do away with religion (and Jesus certainly had some critical things to say about religious hypocrisy), a closer study of Jesus’ own life and the life of his family shows he came to do away with bad religion and teach us true religion.

As we enter this new year and new decade, if you want to grow closer to God I suggest you follow the example of Mary and Joseph and their son, Jesus. Go to worship every Sunday except when you are sick. Read scripture and pray every day. Give financially to your church, tithe if you can. And volunteer to serve and bless others.

You would never expect to get in better shape without changing your diet or exercise habits. Jesus’ family teaches us we should not expect to grow closer to God just because we understand who Jesus is.

James 4:8 instructs us: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”

May 2020 be a year of drawing near to God for you and your family!

Prayer: Gracious Lord, forgive me for the times I thought it was enough to merely understand you and neglected to follow you. Teach me to fix my eyes on you, direct my steps in your ways, and align my desires with your own. As I seek to draw near to you, draw near to me, I pray. Amen.

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