Saturday, February 20, 2016, 7:27 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Fully Ready.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Luke 9:18-26 (NASB).
We Must Suffer (vv. 18-22)
And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the people say that I am?” They answered and said, “John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen again.” And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.”
Jesus said that, as his followers, we will suffer like he suffered. We will be hated, rejected, persecuted, mistreated, falsely accused, spoken evil against, mocked, scorned, beaten and put to death for our testimonies for Jesus Christ and for his gospel of salvation. And, this type of mistreatment may even happen at the hands of those who profess to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives, and who may even be leaders within the church.
The church in America has largely gone the way of the world. There is not much distinction between the world and the church anymore. The gospel of Christ has been diluted to make it more palatable, pleasing and acceptable to the world. A large majority of those who profess to know Christ surround themselves with teachers who say what their itching ears want to hear, i.e. they speak words which make them feel good, and which do not confront them with their sin or with their need to live holy lives, pleasing to God. These false shepherds of the people, these wolves in sheep’s clothing, tell them that God does not require repentance or obedience, and that all they have to do in order to escape hell and to go to heaven when they die is to repeat certain words, which does not include repentance. There is no transformation of heart, no birth of the Spirit, just words to make them feel better about their sin, and to assure them that nothing bad will ever happen to them.
The church is the body of Christ, the family of God, the temple of the Holy Spirit. It is not an institution or a business of human making, nor is it a corporation of the federal government. Yet, the gatherings of the church have been turned into just that. The church, thus, is marketed just like any other human-based business. The church leaders spend time figuring out new ways to attract the world (their customer base) to their meetings, utilizing worldly means and methods, trickery, deception (sometimes), and gimmicks in order to draw in large crowds of people. The leaders are being trained in how to go after a certain segment of the population, but in also how to filter out and discard those who they think will be detrimental to their kingdom building, which includes those who are serious about the Lord and those who still hold to the gospel as taught by Jesus and his NT apostles.
Yet, all this has taken a giant leap forward in the “Christian” world. Now we have Barack Obama and Pope Francis giving out regular messages which speak against those whom they call “religious extremists,” which includes those who hold to the tenets of the Christian faith and who preach repentance and obedience as necessary components of believing faith. Yet, their real enemy is Jesus Christ and his gospel, for what they are proposing is in direct contradiction to God’s word and to the teachings of Christ, although they would have you believe otherwise, yet they are preaching a Jesus other than the one taught by the apostles. Their goal is to break down all divisions among various world religions and to bring us all together as one body, serving the same god, but not the God of the Bible.
There are many veiled threats in Obama’s and the Pope’s speeches against those who still hold to God’s moral laws, who believe in right from wrong, and who believe that only through faith in Jesus Christ can one have a relationship with God and the promise of heaven when they die. If we stand on the Word of Truth, we teach that Jesus is the only way to God the Father, and we preach repentance for salvation, then we are now tagged as intolerant, bigoted, and hateful, and so they are making war against us. They want us to be accepting (embracing) of all people no matter their lifestyle choice or their choice of religion. We should love all people as Jesus loved sinners and gave his life up for us, but we should not accept sinful lifestyles, nor should we accept that there are other ways to God other than through genuine repentant faith in Jesus Christ, who is God the Son.
Take Up Cross Daily (vv. 23-26)
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”
Jesus taught that if we want to believe in him, i.e. if we want to be one of his disciples, we must deny self, die daily to sin and self and follow him in obedience. He said that if we hold on to our lives (of sin and living for self), we will lose them (for eternity), but if we lose our lives for His sake, i.e. if we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, then our lives will be saved for eternity. Dying to sin and self also means that Jesus becomes Lord (master) of our lives. We don’t consider our lives as something to hold on to for this world, for we are looking for a better world to come, which is our eternity with God in his heavenly kingdom. And, it means being willing and ready to suffer for the sake of Christ and his gospel. If we are ashamed of Christ and His Words, He will be ashamed of us when he returns.
Paul taught the same message in Romans 6 and 8. He said that when we believed in Jesus Christ, we died to sin. Our old self was crucified with Christ so that “the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin” (Ro. 6:6-7). We are to count ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. He also said that Jesus died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the sinful nature (our flesh), but who live our lives according to (in agreement with) the Spirit. If we live according to the sinful nature, we will die, but if by the Spirit we put to death the deeds of our flesh, we will live. Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God (See: Ro. 8:1-14).
Peter said that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. Paul said that he died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave himself up for us. God’s grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return. We are not saved just so we can escape hell and just so we can go to heaven when we die. God’s grace to us is not a free license to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse. When Jesus died on the cross, he bought us back for God, i.e. he redeemed us. Our lives are no longer our own to be lived however we want to live them. We used to be slaves to sin. Now he has freed us to become servants of his righteousness.
So, we need to not only be ready to suffer and die for Jesus Christ and his gospel, but we need to be ready to live for him and for his gospel, fully surrendered to him and to his will for our lives, submitted to the cross, doing what he says, and going where he sends us.
Fully Ready! / An Original Work / June 19, 2013
Based off Acts 20-22, 26; Mt. 28:18-20; Ac. 1:8
Why are you weeping and breaking my heart?
I’m fully ready to suffer for Christ.
If I must die for the sake of His name,
I am convinced it will not be in vain.
Glory to God and to His Son Jesus,
Who has redeemed us; bought with His blood.
May I speak to you? Jesus came to me;
Asked of me, “Why do you persecute me?”
He said, “Now get up and stand on your feet.
Go, and you’ll be told all I have for you.
I have appointed you as a servant,
And as a witness; you have been sent.”
“Go into the world and preach the gospel.
Open the blind eyes. They will receive sight.
Turn them from darkness to the light of Christ;
From power of the evil one to God,
So they may receive forgiveness of sins,
And a place among those who’re in heav’n.”