Save It, or Lose It?

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.

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Are We Counting the Cost?

Thursday, February 25, 2016, 9:36 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Courageous!” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Luke 14:25-35 (ESV).

A Hyperbole (vv. 25-27)

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

A hyperbole, “derived from a Greek word meaning ‘over-casting,’ is a figure of speech which involves an exaggeration of ideas for the sake of emphasis” (1). Jesus was making use of this figure of speech here in order to stress something of great importance. We are not to take this literally that we are to hate our family members, for Jesus taught us to love people, and he preached strongly against hate, that it was the same as murder. What Jesus was stressing here is that, in order to be his followers, our love for him should be so great that it massively overshadows our love for human beings, including our love of self and that of our own family members. In other words, family and self should never be above Jesus in level of importance or priority in our lives. Our loyalty and devotion to family (and self) should appear as hate (figuratively speaking) compared to our love for our Lord and our loyalty and devotion to him.

So, why do you suppose Jesus used such a drastic illustration to show what our love for him should look like? I believe he wanted us to know that when we believe in him as Lord and as Savior of our lives that he is to be king of our lives, and when he says “Go,” we are to go, and when he says “speak,” we are to speak, even if it means leaving family members to go where he sends us, and even if it means our family members will hate us because of our testimonies for Jesus Christ. We can’t live to please our family members and live to please God at the same time, if pleasing humans means displeasing God. We can’t live for self and live to please God at the same time, either. Some people know that when they believe in Jesus Christ that they will immediately be disowned by their family members. Others know that taking a stand for Christ, and speaking boldly the message of the gospel of our salvation will get them rejected and even hated by family members. Following Jesus means we choose him above all, and there is never a question of who comes first in our lives.

Follow Him / An Original Work / February 21, 2013

Based off Luke 9:22-25

Jesus, Son of God,
Died for us on a cross.

Anyone who would come to Him
Must deny himself and follow.
He must take up his cross daily;
Die to sin and self each day.

Father, God above,
Loved us so: gave His Son.

If you want to save your old life;
Keep on sinning, follow your ways,
You will lose your life forever;
Hope of heaven gone away.

Spirit of our God
Gives us life in God’s Son.

Nonetheless, if you die to self;
Forsake your sin; follow Jesus,
You will live with God in heaven,
And forever praise His name!
(2)

Not Able to Finish (vv. 28-33)

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

The Lord Jesus used these stories of the unfinished tower and of the king going out to war with another king to teach us that following him is not something we should take lightly, or a decision we should make without forethought as to what it will cost us. Yes, salvation is free. It is a gift from God. We don’t have to do anything to earn or to deserve our salvation. We couldn’t even if we tried. Jesus paid the price so we could be free from sin, but in his death on the cross for our sins he redeemed us, meaning he bought us back for God so that we are no longer our own, but we are his and he is our owner/master, and we are his bond-slaves (servants). Coming to faith in Christ is not merely an escape from hell and the promise of heaven when we die. We are crucified with Christ by God’s grace, through faith, in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24).

In other words, faith in Jesus Christ is not just words we repeat after someone. It is not an emotional one-time decision we make at an altar. It is not an intellectual assent to what Jesus did in dying on the cross for our sins. It is a life-time decision to follow Jesus Christ with our lives in surrender to him, in submission to the cross, and in obedience to his commands. When John 3:16 says that whoever believes in him has eternal life, the words are actually “whoever believing in him.” We are not saved on the basis of something we did in the past, in other words. Faith is present and it is continuous, and it endures to the end or it is not true faith. This is what God’s word teaches. The righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh, but who walk according to the Spirit. If we walk according to the flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live. If we say we have fellowship with God, but we continue walking in darkness, we are liars, and the truth is not in us (See: 1 Jn. 1:6; Ro. 8:1-14).

So, if someone tells you that if you repeat a certain prayer after them that you are to be congratulated because you now have heaven guaranteed to you, don’t believe them. That is not the gospel Jesus taught. He taught death to sin and living to righteousness. He said if we are to come after him we must deny self, die daily to sin and self and follow him in obedience. He told his followers that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood if they want to have eternal life. To eat something means to partake or to participate in something. Jesus’ flesh and blood were given for us on the cross for our sins. When we believe in him as Lord and as Savior of our lives it means we participate with him in death to sin and in living to righteousness. It means that we love him so much that we give our whole lives to him, which includes our time, talents, possessions, family members, etc. We do not hold on to this world for it is not our home, but we willingly go wherever he leads us.

Tasteless Salt (vv. 34-35)

“Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Salt is used both as a preservative and as seasoning for the food that we eat, to give the food flavor and/or to enhance it, or to bring out the flavor that is already there. It is also used metaphorically to signify purification. In a figurative sense, it can be translated to mean wisdom or prudence (forethought, carefulness, discretion, and good sense). If we preserve something, we maintain, uphold, keep (obey), continue in, protect (safeguard) and defend it. In scripture, the Word of God is often symbolized by food or most specifically bread. Along that line of thinking, we are taught in scripture to preserve, maintain, uphold, continue in, sustain, and to safeguard our walks with the Lord, our testimonies for him, and his word, as well as we are to keep (obey) and defend the Word of Truth. In this way, we are being the salt of the earth in attitude, thought, word and deed.

So, there is a warning here against us, as the salt, losing its saltiness to the point where we become tasteless (a very appropriate word) and no longer of use to God and to his heavenly kingdom. How does this happen? It happens by us undoing what God has done in our lives in saving us out of slavery to sin, i.e. by us no longer submitting to the Savior, but us deciding to be ruler of our own lives again and by us going our own way instead of God’s way. It usually happens slowly, over time. We begin to get busy with other things and then we neglect the Word and prayer, and we then stop listening to the Spirit’s gentle voice speaking to our hearts. Instead we begin to fill our lives and minds with the things of this sinful world again, and we begin to take into our minds and lifestyles the things the Lord had freed us out of. Soon we begin thinking, talking and acting just like the world once again, we forget we were cleansed from sin, and we stop sharing our faith so that no one will dislike us or reject us.

The point of all of this is to show us that faith in Jesus Christ is not something to be taken lightly or to go into without first counting the cost to see if this is really what we want to commit our lives to. So many people are given a “quick fix” gospel presentation absent of true repentance and such teaching as this with regard to walks of obedience and surrender to Christ and to his will for our lives, following him wherever he leads us, and doing what he says, leaving all that this world has to offer us behind. They are telling people to pray certain words, and then they congratulate them on being saved and on having now the promise of eternal life with God, but they don’t tell them what Jesus requires of his followers, and so when persecution comes, they quickly fall away, because they had no root, but only a shallow profession of faith in Jesus Christ (See Parable of Sower).

So, we need to tell people the truth, because there are many who think they are saved, but who are not, and many who are not ready for the time when their faith will be severely tested. It takes courage to walk with Christ, which can only come through the Spirit within us giving us all we need to walk daily in Christ’s righteousness and holiness, to persevere in times of trial, and to stay strong in the face of great opposition.

Courageous! / An Original Work / December 24, 2013
Based off Various Scriptures

The Word of God throughout taught.
Some people heard, but did doubt.
Still others had faith in Christ.
By grace He purified them.

They turned from sin
And they obeyed Christ.
He opened up their blinded eyesight;
Turned them from darkness
To the true Light;
Forgave their sin by His might.

He strengthened them in their faith.
He said, “Remain my faithful.”
He called them to obedience.
By faith, they were so grateful.

By faith, they were to follow Jesus;
To daily sit and listen to Him;
To have such faith
That mountains could move;
To love those whom He gave them.

Be on your guard; courageous.
Stand firm in faith. Be thankful.
Take up the shield of your faith;
Protect against all evil.

Do not move from
The hope that you have.
Your faith in Jesus let it endure.
Hold to the truth;
Your conscience be clear.
Endure with perseverance.

References:

(1) http://literarydevices.net/hyperbole/

(2) https://vimeo.com/117316842