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.

Genuine Love

Sunday, December 18, 2016, 2:48 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “When in the Stillness.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Romans 12:3-21 (ESV).

Practice Humility (vv. 3-8)

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

So, what does it mean to think with sober judgment about oneself? It means to be clearheaded, serious, and thoughtful in the assessment of oneself. It is the opposite of prideful, puffed up, and telling oneself lies, and believing those lies. It is honest, as opposed to dishonest. It is open and transparent, as opposed to covering up sin and wearing a mask or faking genuineness. So, to think more highly than we ought to think about ourselves would be to think unrealistically, and to give ourselves more credit than we deserve, or to fabricate our own persona in order to fool others into thinking we are better than we really are. Also, it can be to take credit for things God has done in our lives, as though we have accomplished those in our own merit.

It, too, can be to raise ourselves up above others based on intellect, race, looks, social status, income, education, talent and even spiritual gifts. Yet, it is God who created us. We had nothing to do with that. He gave us our looks, our skin color, our intellect and our natural abilities, even the ability to make money or to live in more humble circumstances. And, he provides opportunities for us and places us in the families in which we were raised. And, for those of us who are Christians, we are only saved because of God’s grace to us. As well, he gives us the faith to believe in him. Yes, we have to appropriate that faith to our lives, and we have to take the steps he tells us we must take, but it all comes from him, and it is all accomplished in his power and strength. So, we can’t even take credit for our spiritual walks or the spiritual gifts he gives each one of us. It is all because of God’s grace!

Love One Another (vv. 9-13)

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

So, what is genuine love? To be genuine means to be honest, sincere, unpretentious and not hypocritical. And, what is love? In the original Greek language, the word was agape, which means: “properly, love which centers in moral preference… In the NT, 26 (agápē) typically refers to divine love (= what God prefers)” – http://biblehub.com/greek/26.htm. So, genuine love is honest and not hypocritical, and it is moral, as opposed to immoral, and it prefers what God prefers. As well, it abhors (hates, detests) evil, and it clings (or holds fast) to what is good (moral, righteous, and decent).

The problem with this kind of love today is that if you love others like this, then you are likely to be accused of bigotry, hatred, division, and judgmentalism. What the world, including many who call themselves Christians, often refer to as “love” is really utter selfishness. They won’t love others like Christ loves us, because it will mean that people won’t like them, and will reject them. So, they lie to people, and give false compliments, and they refuse to tell people the truth about sin and what God prefers, because it isn’t what sinful humans prefer, and it will offend people. And, they don’t want to offend anyone, because, again, they want people to like them more than they want people to love Jesus and to truly love their fellow humans.

As well, many people will not love like this, well, because they don’t know the ONE who IS LOVE. So, it is not in their nature to love like this. But, the sad reality is that there are so many people who claim to be Christians, and followers of Christ, who do not love others with this kind of love, but they “love” as the world does, which is the opposite of agape love. And, they do so because they are selfish, and they are thinking of themselves and what they want rather than about what is in the best interest of others. Genuine love does no harm to its neighbor, but fleshly “love” is not so concerned about whether or not someone gets hurt, but it is rather focused on self: self-pleasure, self-protection and self-gratification, even at the cost of all other relationships, including spouses, children, and church family, etc.

So, if you love others with genuine (agape) love, and you get mistreated and falsely accused in return, take courage. Keep serving the Lord Jesus with all spiritual fervor, and never, ever give up! Be patient in affliction, and keep praying and believing God for changed hearts and lives. And, keep loving!

Love Your Enemies (vv. 14-21)

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

When we love others like Christ Jesus loved (loves) us, we will be hated and persecuted just like he was. Why did they hate him? They hated him because he told them the truth about their sin, and because he didn’t join in with them in following their man-made religion, and because people’s hearts and lives were being transformed of the Spirit of God, through his ministry, and they (the religious leaders) saw this as a threat to their own positions of power and rule over the people. Yet, they also hated him because he claimed to be who he was – God, their Savior, their Lord, and their Messiah, whom God the Father had promised them. And, so they killed him.

Yet, we are to love those who hate us, and who mistreat us, and we are to hope the best for them, which is faith in Jesus Christ and freedom from sin. And, we are to speak the truth in love to them, and not tell them lies to make them feel good about themselves in their sin. As well, we should work to show them the love of Christ by helping to meet their legitimate needs. And, we should hurt with them when they hurt, and we should rejoice with them in their joys, as long as those things don’t conflict with God and with his Word (his teachings). Also, we should not make them our closest associations, lest we should be dragged down with them into the dirt. Instead, we are to be overcomers of evil, by faith in Jesus Christ.

Yet, we are not to try to get even or to make them pay for their sin, but our goal should be to bring them to a place where they are turned from darkness (sin) to light (righteousness) and from the power of Satan (he has had over their lives) to God, to live and to walk in his holiness, according to his Spirit, so they can be forgiven their sins, and be sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ (See: Ac. 26:16-18). And, we should work towards peace and harmony, as long as those don’t mean compromise of our Christian faith.

When in The Stillness / An Original Work / September 26, 2011

When in the stillness of this moment,
Speak to me, Lord, I humbly pray.
Be my desire, set me on fire,
Teach me to love always.
Help me to walk in fellowship with You,
Listening to You; sit at Your feet.
Whisper Your words to me,
Oh, how gently, guiding me in Your truth.

While we are waiting for Your blessing,
Lord, in our hearts be King today.
Help us to live for you ev’ry moment,
List’ning to what You say.
May we not stray from your word within us,
Help us obey You, Lord, in all things,
Walking each moment, Lord, in Your presence,
Our offerings to You bring.

Help us to love You, Lord, our master;
Be an example of Your love,
Helping the hurting, lift up the fallen,
Showing them Your great love.
Teach them to love You, follow You always,
Bearing their cross and turning from sin;
Walking in daily fellowship with You,
Making You Lord and King.

Gift of God

The Bible teaches us that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16). Jesus Christ is God’s gift to us. He is the Gift of God. All else flows from Him. God the Father sent him to die on a cross for our sins so that, through faith in Him, we might be delivered from slavery to sin, and we might have eternal life with God. When we come to faith in Jesus Christ, we are crucified with Christ 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).

Then, we begin our walk of faith with Christ, which involves reading his Word, listening to what he says, talking with Him in prayer, and doing what he tells us to do. Because we are so grateful for what he has done for us, and because we want others to know him, too, we tell others about Jesus and his plan of salvation for our lives. And, one day he is coming back for us, to take us to be with him forever. When he comes, he will wipe away every tear from our eyes. We will no longer be in pain, for we will then be raised to glorified bodies, which will no longer see death or decay. Oh, how I look forward to seeing my Lord face to face, to be with him forever. Oh, what a wonderful day that will be!

Gift of God / An Original Work / October 25, 2016
Based off Various Scriptures

Jesus Christ, Son of God,
Died for us on a cross;
Conquered death, sin, and hell,
So, with Him, we would dwell.

For, by His grace, we are saved.
He set us free from all sin.
Thanks be to God for His Gift.
Through faith in Him, we’re forgiven.

Holy Spirit of God,
Given to us who believe,
Gives us new life in Christ;
Made to be just like Him.

We died with Christ to our sin.
New lives in Him we begin,
Walking with Christ day by day.
We read His Word, and we pray.

Jesus, He is our Lord.
Follow Him where He leads.
Tell the world of His grace.
We’ll see Christ face to face.

Soon He is coming again.
We’ll be forever with Him.
He’ll wipe our tears all away.
Oh, what a wonderful day!