Friday, June 16, 2017, 5:55 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “My Jesus, I Love Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Luke 9 (Select vv. NASB).
Take Up Your Cross (vv. 22-25)
Jesus said, “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.” 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?”
Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God (and God) was rejected by the elders, the chief priests, the scribes and the Pharisees. They hated him, and they were jealous of him, and they were threatened by his popularity among the people, for they feared losing their own positions of power and control.
So, they harassed him at every turn, continuously questioned his authority and his actions, and made numerous attempts to try to discredit him. They didn’t like it that he didn’t follow all their ceremonial laws and customs, which were handed down to them by the elders. They despised the fact that he healed people on the Sabbath. They resented his accusations against some of them, that they were hypocrites who tried to look good on the outside while inside they were full of wickedness. And, they definitely hated him when he intimated that he was equal with God. So, eventually they killed him by having him crucified on a cross, as though he was a criminal.
Yet, it was God’s will that Jesus should die, because in his death he put our sins to death, and in his resurrection, he conquered sin and the grave, that we might live. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. And, Jesus told his followers that they, too, would be hated, rejected, persecuted and even killed for their faith in him, and for their testimonies of God’s saving grace, and for the sake of the gospel of our salvation. In fact, coming to faith in Jesus Christ means that we are crucified with him in death to sin, and that we are resurrected with him to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Ro. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24).
“Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin” (Ro. 6:6-7).
So, if we want to believe in Jesus to be Lord and Savior of our lives, so that we might have eternal life with him, and so that he might save us from our sins, then we must die with him to our old lives of living for sin and self (daily). Paul said that if we walk (conduct our lives) according to our flesh, we will die in our sins, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live with Christ for eternity (See: Ro. 8:1-14). And, Jesus said that if we want to save our lives, i.e. if we want to hold on to our old lives, we will lose them for eternity. But, if we lose our lives for His sake, i.e. if we die with Christ to sin, we will save our lives, i.e. we will have eternal life with God.
So many people today are telling people that faith in Jesus Christ requires nothing of them – no repentance, no obedience and no submission to Christ and to his cross, but they are lying to you, and their lies will send you straight to hell if you believe them. Believing in Jesus is not just some intellectual assent to who Jesus is (or was) or some emotional decision we make because we don’t want to end up in hell, or because we want to have heaven guaranteed to us when we leave this earth. Faith in Jesus is not just some mere acceptance of his forgiveness of our sins, either, while we continue living for sin and self. John said that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk (in lifestyle) in darkness (sin), we are liars. He also said that if we say we know God, but we don’t obey him, we are liars.
Basically, if we think salvation and eternal life means we do nothing, then we have it all wrong. Yes, we are saved by God’s grace, through faith – and not of ourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. But, we are saved TO good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (See: Eph. 2:8-10). Jesus gave his life up for us that we might become the righteousness of God. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. He died, too, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk, not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (2 Co. 5:15, 21; Ro. 8:1-14; 1 Pet. 2:24).
God’s grace is not a free license to continue in willful sin against God. His 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 soon return (Tit. 2:11-14). If we continue in sinful lifestyles, in practicing what our flesh desires, we will die in our sins. Count on it!
Don’t Be Ashamed (v. 26)
“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.”
Part of our death to sin and self, and living to Christ and to his righteousness, means we consider the will of God for our lives above and in place of our own selfish will and desires. Instead of living our lives so that others will like us and think we are wonderful, we live our lives for God and for his purposes, and for his glory. We realize that “Lord” is not just a title given to Jesus, but it means he is now owner-master of our lives, and that we are his bond-servants, here to do his will. We also realize that the earth is not our home, but heaven is, and so we are not here to build earthly kingdoms, but we are here to advance God’s heavenly kingdom. Jesus did not put us on this earth, in other words, for us to live selfish lives for our own pleasure. We are not here to entertain or to be entertained continuously. We are here on this earth to serve God, and to live holy lives pleasing to him, and to tell others about him.
Too many people these days are describing “the gospel” as though it means nothing more than being “good deed doers,” which gets us liked by people, not hated. But, anyone can be a good deed doer. Now, good deeds are certainly a part of what we do, as followers of Christ, but they are what God has called us to do, and they are the deeds he prepared in advance for us to do, which includes sharing his gospel message of death to sin and living to righteousness. And, yes, that means we will be rejected and hated by some when we tell others about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. But, if we are ashamed of Jesus and his gospel in this life, he will be ashamed of us when he comes again one day.
Don’t Look Back (vv. 57-62)
As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Yes, our salvation is a free gift, and we do nothing to earn or to deserve it, but that gift, if understood correctly, is NOT just an escape from hell and the promise of heaven when we die. Jesus didn’t die that horrible death on a cross, and take upon himself the sins of the entire world, just so we could be forgiven our sins and have the hope of heaven when we die. Salvation is not mere forgiveness of sins, but it is DELIVERANCE from BONDAGE to sin. It is death to sin and living to righteousness. It is death to self, and it is living to God and doing what pleases him. We are born again of the Spirit of God, created to be like God IN TRUE RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HOLINESS. And, holiness means to be separate (set apart, unlike, different) from the world, because we are becoming LIKE CHRIST.
Jesus made it clear that following him is no picnic. It isn’t about us and our comfort and enjoyment (pleasure). It isn’t about what we want to do, or what we think will please God, but it is total surrender to God and to his will and to his purposes for our lives. It is going where he sends us, saying what he wants us to say, doing what he says, and being who he has called us to be. It means leaving homes, families, friends, and worldly comforts in order to go with God to the regions beyond with the gospel of our salvation. If we want to be Jesus’ followers, it means total abandonment to God, i.e. we must forsake all to follow him, and we must yield ourselves fully to his will and to his ways. We can’t hold on to our old lives and follow Jesus, too. We have to let go, and let God have his sway in our lives. And, then we will be fit for the kingdom of God (See also: John 6:35-66; 10:27-30).
My Jesus, I Love Thee
William R. Featherstone / Adoniram J. Gordon
My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine;
For thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art thou;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
I love thee because thou hast first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree;
I love thee for wearing the thorns on thy brow;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say, when the death-dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.