Hidden Treasures

The Bible is much more than a book of religion.

Discipleship: Introduction

Jesus’ entire ministry with His disciples, as it is recorded in the four Gospels, includes lessons in discipleship. For several years I have been preaching through the Gospel of Luke. Currently we are in the 12th chapter and as I progress through this chapter I am beginning to see that it is uniquely devoted to specific lessons in discipleship. For that reason I share them with you under this new category.

September 15, 2006 Posted by | Discipleship | Comments Off on Discipleship: Introduction

Discipleship #1: How a Church Grows

Crowds or Disciples?

Though the crowds following Jesus are huge as they are impressed with His miracles,  Jesus chooses to focus His attention on His disciples, rather than the crowds.  He is constantly teaching His disciples and some of the crowd overhears His teachings.  You’ll find throughout the Gospels that the crowds usually fell away whenever Jesus taught.  They did not like what He had to say.  Jesus never sought for crowds.  Rather the crowds sought after Him for the miracles of healing and being fed.

Why did Jesus focus all His attention on His disciples?

The reason Jesus focused His attention on His disciples, rather than the crowds is because Jesus is in the process of building His church and He knows the best way to do it.   He understands that duplication is better than simply additions.  That’s the lesson of this story in Luke 12.

Addition or Duplication?

Let me illustrate this lesson with some figures. Supposing a church had 100 new visitors every Sunday.  That would be quite exciting! If that continued for a year, that would be 5,200 new visitors.  Supposing that continued for ten years.  That would total 52,000 visitors in ten years. Sounds like success, does it not?  If in ten years, no one was saved or discipled, that would be a net gain of ZERO.

On the other hand, if you or I concentrate all our efforts on teaching others to teach others as Paul taught Timothy in II Timothy 2:2, Christ’s church will grow by leaps and bounds.  Suppose we concentrated on discipling only five people.  At the end of the first year there would be 6 disciples who are on fire and ready to win and disciple others for Christ.  

With each one discipling only 5 people,  at the end of the second year there  would be 30 of us. 

After three years there would be 150 of us.

After four years there would be  750 of us.

After five years there would be 3,750 of us.

After six years there would be 18,750 of us.

After seven years there would be 93,750 of us.

After eight years there would be 468,750 of us.

After nine years there would be 2,343,750 of us.

At the end of ten years we would be over 11 million strong.

One major problem with these figures.

Wherever God is at work, Satan is there also using others to contaminate us and neutralize our efforts to win and disciple others.  In fact each of us are either on Christ’s team or Satan’s team. We are either seeking to work with Christ to build His Church or we are being used by Satan to hinder, discourage and destroy Christ’s Church.

That’s the reason Jesus spent so much time with His disciples, teaching them, warning them and inoculating them against the leaven of hypocrisy, unbelief and worldiness of His Church. There are other  concerns Jesus shares with His disciples, but we will get to them as we continue to explore Luke 12.

September 14, 2006 Posted by | Discipleship | Comments Off on Discipleship #1: How a Church Grows

Discipleship #2: Leaven in the Church

In Luke 12:1-3 we have the account of Jesus approaching Jerusalem and eventually, Calvary. He warns His disciples of dangers of evil, which He likens to leaven or yeast.  As you know, yeast has a permeating affect on dough.  It gradually affects it completely.  As yeast permeates and affects dough, so evil in all ages seeks to permeate and affect God’s people.  

Leaven Always Associated with Evil 

It’s evident that the mention of leaven in the Bible  consistently refers to the permeating and defiling affect of evil.  Would you examine this assumption  with me? In Exodus 12:17-20 Israel is instructed to eat unleavened bread.  There was to be no leaven in the house.  Why were the Israelites to avoid leaven? Because the unleavened bread pictured Christ, our Passover.  Christ, the sinless one, had no trace of the leaven of sin in Him. See I Corinthians 5:7. 

In fact, read the entire 5th chapter of I Corinthians.  It’s all about the leaven of sin in the church. There we are clearly commanded to confront those unrepentant. rebellious  Christians and remove them from the church rolls and from Christian fellowship with the hope that they will repent and turn back to Christ and then be lovingly restored to church fellowship.   Leaven here is clearly a picture of sin. In Luke 12:1  Jesus warns people to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees which is clearly identified as their hypocrisy.  Israel was warned to not be taken in by their superficial, false piety.  In Matthew 16:6,12 Jesus warns Israel to beware of the leaven of the Sadduccees.  That evil leaven was their unbelief.  They were the liberals of Jesus’ day.  Again, would you note that the leaven of  both the Pharisees and the Sadduccees is a type of their sin. In Mark 8:15 once again Jesus warns of the leaven of Herod.  Again the leaven pictures the evil of Herod’s life. His evil led to the  beheading of John the Baptist.  Are you getting the picture?  Leaven consistently speaks of the influence of evil.    

Leaven and the Kingdom of Christ 

Now in Matthew 13, the chapter in which are recorded Jesus’ parables of His Kingdom, we see in verse 33  that leaven is related to Christ’s Kingdom. Let’s read the verse together.  “Another parable spake He unto them. The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.”  Are we to believe that suddenly leaven is a picture of something good;  The Kingdom of Heaven?  Reformed Theology says yes.  It’s quite obvious, is it not?  On the surface, yes.  Leaven seems to refer to the Kingdom of Heaven. But let’s think about this.  Why does God take something that consistently pictures evil and suddenly makes it a picture of something good?  Furthermore, is this the way the Kingdom comes?  Does it gradually infiltrate and permeate the world?  I don’t believe so. 

Does Christ’s Kingdom Come by Permeation?

The Parable of the Sower in the earlier part of Matthew 13 teaches that the Kingdom comes as the Seed of the Gospel is sown.  Some falls on good ground and bears fruit.  Other seed falls in places where it cannot germinate and sprout.  Birds get some of the seed and much of the rest is unfruitful.  The point is that the Kingdom does not come by permeation.  The Church is not gradually permeating and changing society.  Rather this sinful world system is gradually permeating and affecting the church. 

The question is in the words of Jesus in Luke 18:8 “When the Son of Man comes shall He find faith on the earth?”  I doubt it.  If so, very little. 

What is the basic theme of the other parables of Matthew 13?  It’s just the opposite of the Gospel permeating and changing the whole world. 

See the Parable of the Wheat and Tares in Matthew 13:24-33  Note that with the wheat there are tares, that which looks like wheat, but has no grain within.   They are to grow together until the return of Christ who will divide the wheat from the tares.  Note that the wheat is not gradually covering the field. The tares are there also right to the end of time. 

See the Parable of the Mustard Seed in Matthew 13:31-32.  The mustard seed, though small, grows into a tree wherein the birds lodge in the branches.  This speaks of the Tree of Christendom, wherein the birds of false teachers and false prophets cast their evil influence.  See Revelation 18:1-2 

If all the Parables of the Kingdom speak of the presence and the evil influence  of false teachers in Christendom right to the end of time, why should we suddenly take one verse in Matthew 13:33 and make it teach that the Kingdom of Christ is gradually and successfully infiltrating the whole world  and that when that is accomplished, Christ will return?  That is the teaching of Reformed Theology.  For my full treatment of this subject of Christ’s coming Kingdom, please go to my link, PROPHECY SERIES  on this web site.

A respectful disagreement 

Many of those associated with Reformed Theology are genuine, mature Christians who love the Lord and are zealously serving Him.  But, when it comes to their view of Prophecy, I have to respectfully and lovingly disagree with them. The facts are that the true Church, is not gradually influencing and permeating this sinful world system to make it Christ-like.  In the fifty years that I have observed the church, just the opposite has taken place.  Satan is gradually  influencing the church to become more tolerant of false doctrine and a sinful life style.  The church’s business is not to gradually bring about the Christianization of the world.  Rather the church’s business is to evangelize the world  and help the converts become  disciples of Christ .  The church’s business is to “preach the Word, be instant in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the Truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”  II Timothy 4:2-4  

So today God’s Word warns us of the danger of these three subtle, Satanic influences that can take root in our hearts and contaminate our testimonies.  If we  attempt to hide and cover our sins,  Proverbs 28:13 assures  us that we will not prosper.  Luke 12:2-3 warns us that the day will come when we will be publicly exposed. 

Is the world getting better or worse? The question Jesus asks in Luke 18:8  is worth pondering.  “When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?  Just before the Flood in Noah’s day some five thousand years ago,  God looked down on the earth and found only one righteous man,  Noah and his family.  Jesus warns in Matthew 24:37-39  But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be.”  Read the rest of that passage for more details of life on earth just before the return of Christ.  Are you ready for His return?  

September 13, 2006 Posted by | Discipleship | Comments Off on Discipleship #2: Leaven in the Church

Discipleship #3: Fear Not

Because Satan and those who belong to him persecute those who belong to Christ and are doing all they can to hinder Christ’s Church,  Christians are tempted  to fear the enemy.  Jesus in  Luke 12:4 encourages us to fear them not. The worst they can do is kill our bodies and free our souls to be with Christ in Heaven.  

The Apostle Paul who had violently persecuted the Church prior to his conversion to Christ,  experienced the persecution of Christ’s enemies throughout his ministry and was finally executed in
Rome.  His attitude about life and death should be our attitude. 

Why should we not fear man and death? 

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain… For I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for you.”  Philippians 1:21,23 

Listen again to Paul. “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair.   For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction. which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,  while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”  II Corinthians 4:8,16-18   It’s as though Paul is putting all his sufferings in this life on one side of an old fashioned scales and the glories of Heaven on the other side of the scales.  There’s no contest!  The glories of Heaven far outweigh the sufferings of this life. 

In II Corinthians 5:1-8 Paul speaks of the body as being the prison of the soul. Though no one in his right mind wants to die, for the Christian, death is the peaceful release of the soul to Heaven and into the presence of Jesus. 

In Romans 8:22-23  Paul writes of how the entire creation groans under the curse of sin. Not only is the entire creation cursed by the fall of man, but we Christians who have been given the gift of eternal life, including the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit; even we  groan in our sin-cursed bodies, waiting for that glad day when we will be delivered from them, whether by death or by the rapture of the saints to Heaven. (See the series on PROPHECY for more on this event.) 

The Psalmist speaks of death as a dark shadow which we need not fear.  Psalm 23. 

Jesus has conquered death through His bodily resurrection from the grave. That’s the theme of I Corinthians 15.  Note also towards the end of that chapter that our bodily resurrection is linked with His.  

Read as the writer of Hebrews in chapter 2:14-15 explains this link between Jesus’ death and resurrection and our death and resurrection.  Note that our salvation through Christ frees us from a lifetime of religious bondage because we fear death. 

Philippians 3:20-21 describes the Christian’s life on this earth as a heaven-centered life as we long for the return of Christ who will free us from our vile, sin-contaminated bodies to be given glorified Heavenly bodies, just like the glorified body of Jesus that the disciples saw after His resurrection.  Read about that body in John 21.and Luke 24. Note the exciting details of His resurrection body, facts that will be true of our bodies also. 

Need we fear death?  Read of how Stephen, the first martyr for Christ died joyfully as it is described in Acts 7:54-60  Read in II Timothy 4:6-8 of Paul’s joy of seeing Jesus as he faced imminent death 

We ought never swagger and be braggadocios concerning our mortal enemy, Satan,  as those boxers and wrestlers we see on television as they taunt their opponents; and as some television preachers foolishly taunt Satan. Though we need not fear Satan, .we must have a holy, reverential fear of God. Life and death are in His hands; not Satan’s. The Psalmist in Psalm 31:15  encourages  us as we remember that “our times are in His hands.” 

David Livingstone, missionary to
Africa, said, “Our life is immortal until our work is done.” 

How do we conquer the fear of man and learn the fear of God? 

We conquer the fear of man and learn the fear of God by resting on His Word. Read His words of encouragement as we see our value in God’s sight in Matthew 10:28-31, Matthew 6:25-34 and in Luke 12:6-7  Is anything too small for His concern and is anything too big or too difficult for His omnipotence? 

The Psalmist tells us in Psalm 37 that our steps are ordered by the Lord and that He knows our desires and can satisfy us.  In Psalm 34::4 we have the promise of deliverance from all our fears. What an encouragement that verse has been to me all my life.  In Psalm 55:22  we are invited to cast our burdens on the Lord.  Jesus gives us the same invitation in Matthew 11:28-30 

Christ’s Warning and Promise 

In Luke 12:8-9  and in Luke 9:26  we are encouraged to stand boldly for Christ and for His Word  and we are warned of the serious consequences of denying Christ. In both cases.  I believe Jesus is referring to rewards and lack of rewards as we face His Bema Judgment Seat when He returns.  I have written more on this topic in the PROPHECY series under BEMA JUDGMENT. 

The Unpardonable Sin 

What is it?  In Luke 12:10-12  Jesus promises us that in times of pressure and persecution,  God  in His amazing grace gives us the words we need to stand firmly for Him. Read Fox’s Book of Martyrs to see numerous examples of how God gave courage to those who stood and died for Him.  See II Corinthians 12:9 to learn how Paul found God’s grace in his weakness. 

Though Christians are comforted and strengthened in times of persecution,  those who reject Christ as Saviour must take warning.  It is the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin and draws us to Christ.  To reject the voice of the Holy Spirit is to blaspheme Him and to blaspheme Him is the sin for which there is no pardon.   This unforgiveable sin is not a matter of words we say,  it is a matter of a stubborn, rebellious heart that rejects the Gospel right to the end of life.  For such a person there is no forgiveness. 

How Do We Evidence the Fear of God?  

We evidence a holy fear of God by hating evil and turning from it.  Proverbs 8:13  16:6 Those who fear God are given His wisdom as they read and study His Word. Proverbs 1:7   The more we fear God and turn from sin, the less reason we have to fear man.  

Years ago we had an old Amish couple in our church.  They had put their trust in Christ and were saved.  As a result they had been shunned by their family and friends.  I remember old Amos used to share his testimony in church.  He used to quote Hebrews 13:5-6  Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have: for He (Christ) has said, I will never leave  you nor forsake you. So that we can boldly say,  The Lord is my helper, and I shall not fear what man shall do unto me.” 

Though you are probably not Amish, you may have recently put your trust in Christ and are facing rejection from your family now.  Take comfort from God’s promise.  He will never forsake you. 

The question is  Do you fear God or do you fear man?  

September 12, 2006 Posted by | Discipleship | Comments Off on Discipleship #3: Fear Not

Discipleship #4: Covetousness

Master, make my brother pay up!

As Jesus continues His teaching,  primarily to His disciples; suddenly He is interrupted by two brothers who press toward Him. Luke 12:13-15  One of them is quite perturbed  by the other. He  demands that Jesus settle an  argument over an inheritance. “Master, speak to my brother that he divide the inheritance with me.” 

Jesus refuses to settle the score.

Jesus refused to get involved.  He said,  “Who made me a judge or divider over you?”  Then He used the occasion to teach about covetousness. Before we  get to the theme of covetousness, would you note an interesting sidelight. By not getting involved in settling the dispute, we learn something about Jesus’ agenda and ours.  It was not Jesus’ purpose then nor is it our purpose now to deal with the moral issues of the world and try to set the world straight.  

Yes, we can personally get involved in dealing with social and moral issues as the Lord leads us individually as Christians.  Certainly we as citizens can make our voices heard by voting.  Letters to the editor of a newspaper may be effective in some case; but  keep in mind that we are not attempting to Christianize sinners nor bring in the Kingdom of God now.  That will take place in the Millennium.  Then we will rule with Christ with the force of an iron rod.

Our only responsibility to sinners now 

But in this present Church age,  our responsibility is not to bring in Christ’s Kingdom. Rather, our business is to give people the Gospel. As sinners are converted and surrender to the Lordship of Christ,  Christ’s spiritual Kingdom continues to grow. When we do everything under the sun but give people the Gospel, we are disobeying Christ and not fulfilling His Great Commission of preaching the Gospel to the world and making disciples of those who believe.   That was Paul’s only agenda. Listen to him state this in I Corinthians 2:1-2. And I brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency  of speech or of wisdom, declaring the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”  That is the only agenda of  the Apostles in Acts and throughout the New Testament Epistles. We have no other agenda as a church in this Church Age.   Certainly we are to be salt and light in this present evil world system.  We are in no position to preach to others of a changed life,  if our own life is not changed and reflecting Christ. According to II Corinthians 5, our only agenda is to be Christ’s Ambassadors and take His message of salvation to the lost world around us. 

True, we are to have the reputation of the early Christians of  “turning the world upside down”.  That describes, not political or social revolution on our parts;  but simply  giving people the Gospel and allowing  God’s Spirit to make the revolutionary changes in the lives of those who receive Christ as Saviour and Lord.

The sin of covetousness.

 Rather than get involved in the dispute between the two brothers,  Jesus takes the occasion to warn about the sin of covetousness.  

Covetousness  is a sin.  It is the last of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20.   It is the sin that convinced Paul he was a sinner. Romans 7:7  It is the sin of desiring that which does not belong to me.  In fact, it is the sin of considering all my money and possessions as MINE, when in fact everything I own belongs to God.  I am simply a steward to use “my” money and “my” possessions  and “my”  time  and “my” energy in a way that brings glory to God.   Covetousness is desiring THINGS more than GOD.

Who is guilty of covetousness?

All of us are guilty of covetousness.  

The wealthy are guilty.  Jesus makes that point in the story He tells  in  Luke 12:16-21.    The slothful are covetous. See Proverbs 21:25-26  Able-bodied men and women  sit all day watching television, wishing they could be rich, but they won’t lift a finger to work to try to get ahead.  They would rather sit at home and depend on others to support them. 

False religious teachers are motivated by money. The false prophets of the Old Testament and the false teachers in our own age are motivated by money. Jeremiah 6:13-15  They, as the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, support their lavish life styles by devouring widow’s houses.  Matthew 23:14   II Peter 2:1-3  

Shame on preachers who set a price on their ministries.  They are a disgrace to the cause of Christ and cause His name to be blasphemed by Christ rejecters.  We will learn the way to conquer covetousness and materialism in our next message. 

September 11, 2006 Posted by | Discipleship | Comments Off on Discipleship #4: Covetousness

Discipleship #5: Materialism

We live in a material world.  We have physical bodies that require physical food, clothing, shelter and money. 

Material things are not evil.

To be concerned about material things is not sin. The sin is becoming a materialist.  A materialist is one whose god is material things.  He worries over materialistic concerns and he is consumed by them, whether he has them or covets them.  They are the first thing in his life and in his thinking.  He lives primarily for materialistic goals.  He is enslaved by the world’s values.  God’s Word warns against materialism. 

Proverbs 23:4-5 “Labor not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? Riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.”     

Proverbs 28:22 “He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye and considers not that poverty shall come upon him.” 

I Timothy 6:6-12 “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world and it is certain we can carry nothing out. Having food and raiment let us therewith be content.  But they that insist on being rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish and hurtful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.   For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience and  meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.” 

To all of us Jesus warns  in Luke 12:15  “Take heed and beware of covetousness; for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things he possesseth.”  Jesus is telling us that life is not primarily about possessions and material things.  I dare say that most of the things and the activities we spend our time and money on are totally worthless and a hindrance to our walk with God. What a blessing it would be for us to be stripped of  ¾  of our money and possessions for a year or so to discover how little it really takes to live.  Then if God should restore our finances, perhaps we would have a new perspective towards life and be able to reallocate our assets to give much more of our time, energy and money to  the furtherance of the Gospel.

WILLIAM BORDEN 

Let me share with you the story of William Borden, a young man who was a millionaire and  heir to the Borden Dairy estate.  As a high school graduate, his parents sent him on a trip around the world.  It was while making this tour that he awoke to the desperate need of the world’s people for the Gospel of Christ.  He was inspired to devote his life and his wealth to evangelize the world.   He wrote home,  “I’m going to give my life to prepare for  the mission field,” and at the age of eighteen he wrote in the back of his Bible,  NO RESERVES.   

As a student at Yale, he sought to win other men for Christ and His service. After graduation he wrote two more words in his Bible,  NO RETREATS. He was ordained at the age of 25 on September 9,  1912. 

After finishing Princeton Seminary, in 1913 Borden sailed for China to begin his ministry.  On his way to China, in  Egypt he developed meningitis and died within the month at the age of 26.  Underneath the words,  NO RESERVES  and NO RETREATS  he had written the words, NO REGRETS in his Bible. 

The loss of a rich young ruler who had given up all for Christ galvanized many Christians into action. Biographies were written of him.  His example inspired a multitude of recruits for mission service.  Even his wealth effectively advanced his devoted purposes after he was gone, for in his will he left almost a million dollars to Christian causes. 

Listen to what the Bible says about true riches.  

Proverbs 13:7 “There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches. 

Proverbs 22:4  “By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life.” 

Colossians 1:27 tells us what true riches is all about. ” To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” 

When God is first in our lives, in the words of the song, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, “the things of this world grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” 

Contrary to the “prosperity gospel” so popular today, our desire for God and His will for our lives has absolutely nothing to do with any motivation to be materially wealthy. For the Christian, life should not be about getting rich. Rather it should be to know Christ and make Him known.  If God can trust us with material wealth, so be it.  We will use it wisely for His purposes. 

Our true riches is our personal knowledge and relationship with God. Ephesians 3:14-21 The Church of Smyrna, though poor, knew this wealth.  Revelation 2:8-9  God often calls and uses the poor who are rich in faith. James 2:5 

But God can also use a wealthy man, such as Abraham, who was rich in faith. Hebrews 11:8-10 

The happiest people in the world are those who, whether rich or poor, totally ignore materialism  and give themselves to the cause of Christ, as Paul.   II Corinthians 6:10. “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”. 

September 10, 2006 Posted by | Discipleship | Comments Off on Discipleship #5: Materialism

Discipleship series #6: Life vs Things

I remind you that material thing themselves are not intrinsically evil.  The evil is giving ourselves to materialism and ignoring God.  Let us not only be warned, but also  encouraged by what Jesus teaches His disciples in Luke 12:22-28. 

MATERIAL THINGS ARE GOOD 

The first lesson we must learn concerning materialism is that material things are not bad in themselves.  In fact material things are good and necessary for our material bodies.  We live in a material, physical world and it takes material physical things like money, food, clothing, shelter and transportation to exist. Even earthly interests, such as entertainment, sport and exercise are good and necessary to our physical, mental and emotional well being.  In I Timothy 6:17 Paul makes the point to Timothy even as he warns of the dangers of materialism that material things themselves are not evil, but they are to be enjoyed.  Charge them that are rich in this world that they be not high-minded nor trust in uncertain riches;  but trust in the living God who gives us richly all things to enjoy.” 

Certainly food would be right at the top of the list of material things that are necessary for our existence. God does not just give us Southern grits or okra or Southwestern pinto beans or Pennsylvania Dutch scrapple to eat. Just think of the tremendous variety of delicious food that God has provided for us. Think of the wide variety of fruits, nuts, vegetables, grains and meats God has provided for our sustenance and enjoyment.  Think of the infinite ways these foods can be prepared. Although I have never taken a cruise, I hear that the buffets are fabulous, even at midnight!  Think of the wide variety of international dishes most of us have never experienced.  The variety is mind-boggling. 

It’s one thing to enjoy food. There’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s another thing to be a glutton and gorge ourselves on  ice cream, pizza, lasagna, fudge, or anything else that we crave.  In  Philippians 3:18-19 Paul warns us not to allow our belly to be our god.   

Dear reader, don’t feel guilty about enjoying food.  Food is meant to be enjoyed.  You are not unspiritual because you enjoy a steak or a dish of Moose Tracks ice cream  Ladies, you are not unspiritual because you buy a beautiful, expensive dress, especially when you are able to get it on a great sale!  You are not unspiritual because you bought a new car, whether it’s a Toyota, Ford, Cadillac or whatever you like and can afford.  You are not unspiritual because you buy a new home or some beautiful furniture.

 LIFE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN MATERIAL THINGS 

But the thing Jesus wants us to  understand in this passage of Scripture is that life is more important than material things. Be encouraged by this.  If God can give and sustain life, He certainly can provide us with material things.  After all, life is more important and more precious than material things.  If God can give and sustain life, surely He is powerful enough and loving enough to provide everything else we need.  That’s not difficult for Almighty God.  He’s done that for me all my life. As a poor missionary’s son, I have never been hungry.  I’ve never lacked food or clothing.  I’ve never lacked a loving, caring home.  I’ve been privileged to be educated in  private Christian schools  all the way from fourth grade through college.  God provided for every need through jobs  and unexpected gifts. 

IF GOD CAN GIVE LIFE HE IS WELL ABLE TO GIVE US ALL WE NEED TO MAKE US HAPPY AND FULFILLED. 

Over the past fifty plus years as a pastor,  God has supplied every need for my family. I praise Him continually for His loving provision.  I am absolutely convinced that if God can  give and sustain life, He is well able to take care of every physical and emotional need. Note in this passage in Luke 12 that Jesus uses the example of birds to encourage us. If God, the Creator,  cares for little birds; don’t you think that He cares much more for us.  He is our Heavenly Father, through our faith in Jesus.    He also uses the illustration of hair to show  His care for us.   If God cares enough for us to number the hairs on our heads,  don’t you think He cares enough to provide for every need?  I don’t know why God would be so interested as to keep count of the hairs on my head, which count changes almost hourly.  But if He cares for us that much, surely He cares for our needs and desires. 

GOD  DESIRES  TO BLESS US. 

We are aware that God desires our love, trust, worship and obedience. Matthew 22:35-40.  We are aware that Christ desires to be preeminent in our lives and that He desires to be our  Lord as well as our Saviour. Colossians 1:18   Why does God insist on His preeminence in our lives?  Of course, He has that right as God; but there is much more to it than His right to rule in our lives.  He wants to be first in our lives so that He can bless us.  That has always been God’s desire for His people.  

When God created Adam and Eve and put them in the Garden of Eden,  it was to bless them.  Genesis 1:27-31 

When God called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees, separating him from his old life style, to  go to a new land where God would lead him,  it was to bless him and make him a blessing to the whole world. Genesis 12:1-3 

When God called  Israel out of bondage in  Egypt to lead them to the Land God had promised them. It was to bless them.  When God gave them His ten commandments to live by, it was to bless them; not to stifle and repress them.  Exodus 20:1-2,  22-25 

When God brought Job through some of the worst disasters any one can face,  it was to bless him.  Job 42:5-6, 12. God wants to bless all those who belong to Him through faith in Christ Jesus.

Listen to the Psalmist in Psalm 5:11-12  But let all those who put their trust in Thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because Thou defendest them: Let them also who love Thy name be joyful in Thee. For Thou, Lord,  will bless the righteous, with favour wilt Thou compass him as with a shield.”   God wants our full trust and confidence in Him. He desires our worship.  Why?  Not only because He deserves it, but because He wants to bless us. 

SATAN WANTS TO DISTRACT US FROM GOD

Because the devil is God’s enemy and our enemy, he wants to distract us from God. He wants us to take our eyes off God and trust in our own strength and resources. He accomplishes this by causing us to focus all our attention on material things: money, food, cars, houses, things, anything but God.   Satan distracts us by  causing us to replace our love for God with an  infatuation  with this sinful world system. 

You see, Satan understands that if our focus is on things, then it is impossible to love and serve Him with all our heart.  Jesus drew the line in Matthew 6:24  No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the others; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” 

Satan distracts us by causing us to worry about things. Certainly one who is worrying about anything is not trusting or worshipping God.  His worries crowd his mind so that he cannot hear God’s Word.  The cares of this world choke out the  Seed of the Word of God.  Matthew 13:22

SO HOW DO WE LIVE OUT THIS PRINCIPLE OF TRUSTING GOD INSTEAD OF WORRYING?

Certainly is  not by refusing to go to work and make money, using the pious excuse that  ” Money and things are only material and because I am spiritual I am not going to give a thought to working or taking care of myself.”  I don’t live out this principle of trusting God by ignoring and shirking my responsibility to go to work and take care of the needs of my family. To ignore my family responsibilities makes me worse than an infidel. I Timothy 5:8   Rather I work hard and earn money to pay my bills and meet my family’s needs. At the same time, I lay my burdens on Christ who has promised to meet all my needs.  I Peter 5:7 

Why worry about things when God has given me life?  How much greater is life than things.  Thank God for life  and rest in His promises for the things you need. 

September 9, 2006 Posted by | Discipleship | Comments Off on Discipleship series #6: Life vs Things

Discipleship #7: Does Jesus Care?

In  Luke 12:22-28 Jesus continues to warn His disciples and us of materialism and at the same time, encourages us with some wonderful promises if we will heed His warnings.

ENJOY GOD’S MATERIAL WORLD AND ALL THAT IS IN IT

According to II Corinthians 4:4 Satan is the god of this wicked world system.  Christians are warned In I John 2:15-17  to avoid loving it. This world system, (the cosmos)  is passing away and is an evil influence upon us.  However, there is nothing sinful about the material world, nor our appreciation and wise use of it.  Eating and enjoying food is not sinful.  The purchase and use of food, clothing, cars, houses and other things is not of itself sinful.  The interest and appreciation of sports, music, hobbies is not sinful. Our fascination with science, math or anything else that is associated with our physical material world is not sinful,  as long as we do not cross God’s boundary into sin by breaking His Laws in thought or action.  Those laws are found in the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20.  They are also found in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, as well as in moral principles scattered  throughout the Old and New Testament.   

In fact, there is nothing sinful in being so absorbed in our work,  or in our driving, or in being involved in a game,  or riding a roller coaster at an amusement park, or experiencing some other emotional thrill,  that we go for several hours without a thought of God or the Bible.  God gave us a physical, material body and He does not hold that against us.  Use it wisely and righteously, but don’t abuse it by crossing God’s moral boundaries. That’s sin. Sin is the transgression of God’s Laws. 

BEWARE OF THE SIN OF MATERIALISM

 For us to go for hours and hours, or perhaps a whole day without giving God one thought is a danger signal that our relationship with God is not what it should be. The Psalmist talked to God, morning, noon and night. Psalm 5:3,   55:17  Surely a Christian who is indwelt by God’s Holy Spirit ought to have an almost constant sense of God’s presence.  Like iron is attracted to a magnet, so our souls should be attracted to God continually.  If we can go through Sunday, The Lord’s Day, without a thought of God or a desire to be in His presence and in the fellowship of His family or without a hunger to hear His Word and worship Him;  is evidence  that there is a serious spiritual lack in  our soul.
America is a materialistic nation. Look at the crowded parking lots around the shopping malls.  Sunday is a major shopping day of the week.  My heart aches for our beloved nation that has forgotten God.  Materialism is desiring  anything before God. That includes putting ones own body with its appetites, desires and passions or putting anyone or any earthly interest before God. One can have a covetous heart, whether the thing we covet belongs to us or  whether it belongs to our neighbor.  If we constantly desire things or give them  a higher priority  than God Himself, that is sin.   

Sin is being so enamored with our own wisdom, strength and abilities, that we ignore and despise God.  Israel was warned about this and we should take that warning of Deuteronomy 8 to heart.  

ARE YOU AWARE OF GOD?

If you are a man, you are aware that you are male.  If  you are a  woman, you are aware that you are female.  It’s not that these thoughts are on your mind continually, but you are constantly aware of your gender. If you are an American citizen or a citizen of some other nation,  you are subconsciously aware of that constantly, although you may not consciously think about it for days at a time. 

So every Christian should constantly be aware that he is a Christian. It’s not that we think of  Jesus and the Bible 24 hours a day, but we are always aware in our subconscious that we are Christians and that we belong to God.

  THE PURPOSE OF PAIN

Our problem is that we tend to  forget God and fail to glorify Him as our God. For that reason God has to remind us of our mortality by  allowing pain, sorrow, weakness, crises, or lack of strength and ability to do what we’ve always had strength to do. He desires us to look to Him for His strength and wisdom.  He often reminds us of our weakness and our need to trust Him who is our immortal, loving,  all-wise, almighty Heavenly Father.  The Psalmist reminds us that afflictions are good for us.  Psalm 119:67,71. “Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now have I kept Thy Word.  It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn Thy statutes.”  Think about that!  In Isaiah 40 we read of God’s almighty power. Then in verse 28-31 we are encouraged by the promise of His limitless strength in our weakness.   In I Peter 5:7-11 we are invited to cast all our cares upon Christ for He cares for us. 

God wants us to be aware of our own weaknesses so we can cast ourselves on His almighty strength. Read all of Isaiah 40 and discover for yourself God’s omnipotence in your weakness.  What a wonderful discovery!    Read and meditate on these great passages of Scripture to discover the power of His strength in your weakness. I Peter 5:7-11,   II Corinthians 12:8-10,  II Chronicles 20:14-22.

  

DOES JESUS REALLY CARE ABOUT OUR PHYSICAL AND MATERIAL NEEDS?  

 We know He cares about our spiritual need.  We know He met that need through the gift of His Son, the Lord Jesus;  but we often doubt that He really cares about our physical or emotional needs. That’s the question Jesus is answering in Luke 12:22-28.  Jesus compares us to the birds who do  nothing to sow, reap or store grain for winter, and yet God meets their needs.   Jesus reminds us that we are more important than the birds.  God is their creator, but He is more than that to us.  He is our Heavenly Father through faith in Christ.  He reminds us in verse 25 that He cares about our stature.  The Greek word translated stature also refers to our length of days.  We can’t add a foot to our stature nor a day to our life.  Our times are in His hands.  Psalm 31:15 Jesus also contrasts our material needs to the lilies of the field with all their glory and beauty.  As God cares for those wild flowers that are here one day and dried up the next,  so He much more cares about our needs for clothing.  How do the flowers grow and how do we grow?  God does it all.  “By Christ,  all things consist.”  Colossians 2:13-19 God devotes Himself to meet all my needs. I need not worry.  That’s God’s business.  My concern should be to live for Him; serving Him with all my  strength and desiring only to glorify Him.  If you are His child through faith in Christ, His promise in Luke 12:22-28 is for you.

September 8, 2006 Posted by | Discipleship | Comments Off on Discipleship #7: Does Jesus Care?

Discipleship #8: What is Faith?

What is faith? 

Is faith a feeling or  wishful thinking?  Is it a weak “I hope so?”  No,  faith is not a feeling nor is it based on feelings. Paul wrote in Romans 10:17 that  faith comes by  hearing the Word of God.  Faith produces a growing confidence and trust in God’s  Word which enables us to act in obedience to God.    See the definition of faith and examples of faith in Hebrews 11.  There you read of the examples of faith in the lives of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Barak and others who accomplished great feats of courage, and endured trials, such as most of us have never been called to endure. 

In the definition of faith in Hebrews 1:1  we learn that faith is substance and evidence.  The word for substance can also be translated confidence. Confident in what?  Faith is confidence in God and in His Word, the Bible.  The word evidence could also be translated proof.  Faith itself is proof. Faith needs no other evidence than what the Bible says.  Faith comes as we simply read and study the Bible with a hungry heart to know God.  I challenge you to read and study it. The Bible has within it the internal proof that it is the inspired, infallible Word of God.  The more  you study it, the stronger your faith grows.   In fact, one may be saved and become a child of God simply by reading the Bible.  Psalm 19:7-8  Romans 1:16 both declare this fact. 

Now let’s return to Luke 12 as we continue our study of Discipleship. Verses 22 through 28 are addressed to Christ’s disciples, as is the rest of this chapter.  If you are a Christian, Jesus is addressing this to you as well. He refers to them and to us  as “O ye of little faith”.  Peter had “little faith”.  Read Matthew 14:31   and Luke 22:32,54-60.   I’m quite sure that it was not just Peter who had little faith. I believe all the  disciples were men of little faith. In the story recorded in Matthew 14:22-33 of Peter walking on the water to Jesus, it was not just Peter who had little faith.  He at least attempted to walk on the water.  The rest of the disciples remained in the boat.  Where was their faith?

  

A Canaanite woman’s great faith.

  We read in Romans 4:20 that strong faith glorifies God.  In Matthew 15:21-28 we read a heart-stirring story of a Canaanite  woman who came to Jesus and begged Him to heal her demon-possessed daughter.  Note the details of this wonderful story and keep in mind that everything Jesus said was primarily for the benefit of His disciples who looked on Gentiles as dogs, as did all the Jews of that day.     Verse 23 tells us that Jesus did not answer the woman.  He seemingly ignored her. The disciples in disgust told Jesus to send this bothersome woman away.  Jesus played along with His disciples and seemingly agreed with them.  He replied to them,  “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of Israel.” 

I think that Canaanite woman knew that slam against her was said to show the disciples their hard hearts.  She ignored the seeming slam and bowed down and worshipped Jesus and begged Him to help her.  Jesus, continuing His lesson to the disciples, said to the woman. “It is not right for me to take the children (Israel‘s) bread and give it to (Gentile)  dogs such as you.  Listen to what this woman replied in verse 27.  as I paraphrase it.  “True, Lord,  I admit I am a Gentile dog; but Lord, don’t the dogs get to eat the crumbs that fall from the table?”  In verse 28 Jesus answered the woman and taught His disciples a huge lesson that I am sure they never forgot.  He said to the woman,  “O woman, great is thy faith; be it unto thee even as thou wilt.”  Immediately her daughter was delivered from the demon.  Now the disciples were beginning to see their responsibility of taking the Gospel of Christ to the whole world.

 But getting back to the subject of faith, we learn that regardless of how small or how great our faith,  the issue is nor really the size of our faith, but the size of our God.  If our faith is in our omnipotent God, that’s all that really matters.  In the next article I want to show you what little faith can accomplish and how little faith can become great faith. 

September 7, 2006 Posted by | Discipleship | Comments Off on Discipleship #8: What is Faith?

Discipleship #9: Little Faith and How it Grows

Jesus continues His warnings and encouragements as he mentors His disciples  in Luke 12.  In verse 28 He addresses them as, “O ye of little faith”  and in verse 29 He refers to their doubtful minds. 

What is little faith?

How much faith does it take to board a plane?  The first time I boarded a jet airliner over thirty years ago,  my faith was very weak.  I was flying from Baltimore to Dallas. I knew in my head that it would probably be a safe, uneventful flight, but I was still nervous and pulled the seat belt tighter than I needed to and gripped the arm rests tightly as we took off.  I cannot say I enjoyed the flight. As we approached
Dallas we flew into a bad storm and the plane was battered some by heavy winds.  The flashing lightening did not add to my comfort.  But before long, we touched down safely in Dallas.   The flight was over and we had arrived safely.  

My faith was weak due to lack of personal experience  flying.  But in spite of my weak faith I arrived as safely as those around me who had total confidence in flying. That’s a picture of our salvation.  If you trust Christ for salvation, regardless of how weak your faith is, you will one day arrive in Heaven just as surely as  an old saint of God who has been a Christian for many years. 

You see, the thing that matters is not how much faith you have, but in whom your faith is resting.  If your faith is in Christ,  regardless of how weak your faith  is, you are saved.   The woman of Samaria, whose story we find in John 4,  had very little knowledge of Christ, but in spite of her little faith and her lack of knowledge,  she was saved and went throughout her town talking up Jesus and inviting others to come and meet Him. The bottom line is it takes very little faith in Christ to be saved.  What matters is that our faith is in CHRIST.  Thank God that those with little faith can be saved. However,  there are many people who have faith in Christ for salvation; but when it comes to trusting Christ for our present needs on earth, we find that our faith is indeed weak.   

Israel‘s faith

The Israelites had faith to follow Moses and be delivered from the bondage of  Egypt. They had faith to cross the  Red Sea on dry ground.  They were saved from Egyptian bondage as surely as we are saved when we trust Christ for salvation. The problem was that no sooner did they cross the Red Sea on their way to the Promised Land,  than they evidenced lack of faith. Exodus 14 tells of how when they saw Pharaoh’s armies advancing, their faith grew weak and they crumbled with fear chiding Moses that he should never have led them out of Egypt; that it would have been better to have died there.   They doubted God’s purpose in delivering them from Egypt. You remember the story of how Moses stretched his rod over the Red Sea and the dry path disappeared as  the waters returned to normal, drowning Pharaoh’s armies.  

No sooner did they get over that hurdle when in the very next chapter,  Exodus 15:23-24, we read of how they became thirsty. When they came to Marah, they found water, but it was bitter tasting.  So in their lack of faith, they complained again  to Moses as they doubted God’s provision. God showed Moses what to do and in no time at all the water was fresh and satisfying.  

Awhile later in Exodus 17:7  they came on further testings and doubted God’s presence. 

As Israel,  we so often tend to live under our circumstances.   We tend to moan and complain under our circumstances.  We fail to believe Romans 8:28 “that all things are working together for good”  for us.   We tend to doubt His promises and we fail to rejoice.  We fail to take the Bible seriously because we fail to spend much time in it.  We have enough faith to receive Christ as our Saviour, but that’s where our faith ends. Many Christians do not have the faith to trust Him as their Lord, or as their Good Shepherd See Psalm 23  or as their life. See Colossians 3:1-4   Because of lack of faith to live the Christian life, they remain immature babes in Christ and fail to move on to maturity.  In I Corinthians 3:1-3  we read about Christians who never move on to maturity. Why is it that we can trust Jesus for eternal life, but we lack the faith to trust Him to lead us and provide for us in this life? 

How can little faith be strengthened? 

  Stop looking at your weak faith and start looking to Jesus  who is faithful.  Hebrews 10:23   12:1-2 

 Spend more time reading and meditating on God’s Word.  Rom. 10:17  I Peter 2:1-3 Psalm 1  

Dwell on His love for you.  Romans 5:8-11  I John 4:19    Constantly be aware of His concern for you. I Peter 5:7  Understand that God has been and continues to be for you Romans 8:28-39 

Rest in His omnipotence.  Ephesians 1:15-23   II Corinthians 12:9-10  Isaiah 40:31 

As one who has been born again through faith in Christ, commit your life to Him. Psalm 37   II Timothy 1:12    Once you commit your life to Christ, you prove to yourself that God’s will is best.  Romans 12:1-2  Until you’ve made that commitment, you will never know that joy and assurance. Entrust your finances to God.  Obey Him and see how He blesses you.  Malachi 3:8-10,  Proverbs 3:9-10,  28:27  Luke 6:38  II Corinthians 9:7-8 

Welcome testings from our Heavenly Father. I Peter 1:3-8  Job 23:10 James 1:2-4

 You trusted Christ for Heaven.  Will you trust Him now for your earthly material needs?

September 6, 2006 Posted by | Discipleship | Comments Off on Discipleship #9: Little Faith and How it Grows

Discipleship # 10: God’s Concerns for Us

We tend to get ourselves in trouble when we concern ourselves with things that don’t concern us or when we fail to concern ourselves with things that should concern us.

In Luke 12:22-31 Jesus is reminding His disciples and us  of God’s concern for us and of the response that we should have.  It is our responsibility to stop worrying about ourselves and start  concerning ourselves with God’s glory as we in obedience to Him fulfill His  Great Commission  Let’s settle in our minds and hearts

1. What God’s concern is for us.

2. What our concerns should be for Him. 

Consider God’s Concerns for Us 

1. He cares about our spiritual needs. 

When God saved us He began a work in us which Paul in Philippians 1:6 assures us He is certain to complete.  That involves our sanctification and eventually our glorification.  See my series on SALVATION for more on this. Sanctification is the will of God for each believer. That is plainly declared in I Thessalonians 4:3.  That’s why He saved us; to be like Jesus. 

How does God sanctify us? 

Jesus prayed in John 17:17 “Sanctify them through Thy Truth. Thy Word is Truth.”    Paul writing in II Thessalonians 2:13 takes it a little further. We are sanctified by the Truth and through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.   

Peter in I Peter 5:10 adds that often it takes suffering to help us focus on our need for Christ and  bring us to the place of spiritual maturity.   

For that reason Paul in II Corinthians 12:10 teaches us that  infirmities, reproaches, necessities, persecutions and distresses that appear to weaken us are actually strengthening us spiritually.  Paul summarizes in Ephesians 1:12 God’s purpose in saving us.  “That we should be to the praise of Christ’s glory.” That’s why Jesus invested His life in His disciples as we see it in Luke 12 and throughout the Gospels.  He was working in the hearts of His Disciples to make them Apostles through whom He could launch His Church as they passed on  the doctrine (the teachings)  they had learned personally from Him.  The summation of all Christ’s work in His Apostles and in His saints today is called SANCTIFICATION.   The New American Standard Version sums is up well in Luke 6:40 ” A pupil is not above His teacher, but everyone after he has been fully trained, will be like His teacher.” 

2. God cares about our emotional and material needs.  

God not only cares about our spiritual needs, which includes our sanctification; but He also cares about our daily physical and emotional needs. As a loving husband cares about meeting the physical and emotional needs of his wife and as loving parents care about meeting the needs of their children,  so God cares about meeting  the needs of His family.  Food, clothing, shelter, health and all other needs of His own become His concern.   The Bible is full of hundreds of His promises to us about this.  Listen to just a few of them. 

God’s Promises to you. 

After referring to our physical needs earlier in Matthew 6,  Jesus says in verse 33  “But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” 

In Phil. 4:19 Paul, thanking the Philippian Church for their generosity to him writes, “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” 

I paraphrase James 1:5  “If any of  you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally and He will not scold you nor make you feel stupid for asking,  but will give you the wisdom you need.” 

 After Isaiah speaks of God greatness and power in Isaiah 40, he concludes with a promise in verse 29-31 for each of us who will claim it by faith, “He gives power to the faint, and to them who have no might He increases strength.  Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they who wait upon the Lord shall renew or exchange their puny strength for His powerful strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”   Wow!  What a promise to claim.  The older I get the more this means to me.  

In Hebrews 4:14-16 is a wonderful promise for every Christian. “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest, who has returned to Heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession as Christians.  For we have not a high priest who cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities. He was in all points tempted just like we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly unto His Throne of Grace , that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Are you troubled and worried about anything today?  Read the entire 37th Psalm and rejoice.  In fact, get acquainted with all the Psalms. 

Don’t Worry! 

That’s what heathen do.  They have to worry.  God is not their Father.  He only becomes our Father as we receive His Son Jesus as our Saviour.  John 1:12   They are still children of Satan.  John 8:44.  Satan could care less about them.  They have no one to care for them. They are strangers from God and hopeless, Ephesians 2:11-12 tells us. Don’t blame them for worrying.  But if you have put your trust in Christ, God is your Father and you have no reason to worry.  Instead, we can focus our attention on the things that ought to concern us as Christians.  We’ll look at those concerns in the next article. 

September 5, 2006 Posted by | Discipleship | Comments Off on Discipleship # 10: God’s Concerns for Us

Discipleship #11: Our Concerns

Since God’s responsibility is to take care of all our needs, as I explained in the previous article in this Discipleship series,  then what should be our concerns as Christians?  Let’s consider them now. 

Live for God’s glory

  First, we should live our lives to the praise of God’s glory. Ephesians 1:12 “That we should be to the praise of His glory who first trusted in Christ.”   That is, when people observe our attitude, speech and conduct, they should think well of Christ whom we represent.   As the conduct of children reflects on their parents,  so our conduct as Christians reflects for good or for evil on God who saved us. 

Seek Christ’s Kingdom

A second major concern for us as Christians is to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. When our concern is for Christ’s Kingdom in our lives,  then God takes the responsibility for all our personal concerns.  That’s the promise of Matthew 6:33  We enter Christ’s Kingdom by recognizing we are sinners and slaves in Satan’s kingdom and trusting in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.  Through the new birth we are delivered from the slavery of Satan’s kingdom and we enter the Kingdom of Christ.  Study John 3:3-5  and  Colossians 1:13.  We pray for His Kingdom to be fulfilled in our lives and in this world as we pray from our hearts The Lord’s Prayer.   See my series on PROPHECY for more on this topic.  Being in Christ’s Kingdom involves bowing to the rule of Christ as we surrender to Him as our Lord.  Matthew  6:24 makes it clear that none of us live our own independent lives, as we think we do; but all of us are under the rule of either Christ or Satan.  Mammon represents all the things of this present evil world system which are under the rule of Satan. 

Accept God’s standard of righteousness

A third major concern  is to reject our self-righteousness that falls short of God’s standards  and  seek to live by His standards as revealed in His Word.  Romans 8:1-4  shows us that God’s standard of righteousness can only be achieved as we live surrendered to God’s indwelling Holy Spirit.   Philippians 3:10-15  shows us the mind-set that we must have if we are to grow in spiritual maturity.  It takes an attitude of genuine humility as we understand that we can never attain perfection in this life; nevertheless, perfection is our goal which will one day be achieved when we stand in God’s presence in Heaven. 

Be Christ’s faithful ambassador

A fourth major concern for us as Christians is to be Christ’s ambassadors, faithfully representing Him to the world  and faithfully sharing the Gospel with the lost.  This is the challenge of II Corinthians 5:14-21.  Our message to the lost is found in  5:19-21. There we read that God’s plan of reconciliation includes the crucial truth that  God saves us by imputing our sins to Christ who bore the full penalty for them on the cross.

This message also includes the truth that Jesus perfect righteousness is imputed to those sinners who confess they are sinners and  who accept by faith Christ’s righteousness as being put to their account.  Through faith in Christ whose blood was shed as an atonement for our sins, we are justified and declared perfectly righteous.  Christ’s righteousness is our only plea.   There is more to the truth of our salvation, including the wonderful doctrines of sanctification and glorification,  but the basis of our salvation is justification,   Study my series of messages on SALVATION  on this web site for more on these wonderful truths.  

Before we leave this topic, let’s focus on two words in Matthew 6:33.

  

Seek

 If we are to fulfill our concerns we must seek first the Kingdom of Christ and His righteousness.   Note that word SEEK.  When we search for something of value, we don’t just look for it.  We seek it.   We seek it diligently. We don’t stop searching until we find it.  

The theme of Hebrews 11 is genuine faith.  There we learn that we must diligently seek God. Saving faith is not simply intellectual assent.  It is not simply a passing emotional experience.  Saving faith comes only to those who diligently seek to know God. It is coming to God with our whole heart.   In Philippians 3 we have a clear contrast of the religious life of Paul before he was saved and the supernatural change that took place after he was saved.  In verses 1-6  Paul talks about his life before he met Christ  and then verse 7-15  We read of his total transformation as He sought to know Christ as a Christian. 

Before he was saved,  religion was just his vain self effort to attain righteousness.  After he met Christ,  his life was radically changed.  Now his life was a life-long search to know the fullness of Christ in his life.  Though he never attained perfection in his lifetime, it was his constant goal to know Christ intimately.  That’s what it means to seek for Christ with all our heart.

  

First

The other word we need to emphasize is the word FIRST.  We are to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.  In the Ten Commandments recorded in Exodus 20 God declares He is a jealous God and has a right, as our Creator and Redeemer to our exclusive worship and service.    In Matthew 22:37-38  Jesus takes it a step further by  commanding that we love God with all our heart, soul and mind.    In Luke 14:25-27  Jesus makes it clear that not even our families can come before our loyalty and devotion to Christ.  As someone has said,  “He must be Lord of ALL or He is not Lord AT ALL.” In Luke 9:57-62 Jesus asks for total allegiance.  If our attitude is “ME FIRST!”  then we know nothing of total surrender to Christ. Are Christ’s concerns your concerns?  Or are you so concerned with your own desires and needs that  you have no room in your heart for Him?  Do you want to see  God at work in your life?  Put Him to the test.   Seek Him first with all your heart and watch Him begin to meet every need of your life: material, physical, emotional and spiritual. He has been faithful to me for over seventy-three years, fifty of those years in the ministry. Trust Him.  Put Him first in your life. He will be faithful to you. 

August 31, 2006 Posted by | Discipleship | Comments Off on Discipleship #11: Our Concerns

Discipleship #12 Investing in Heaven

As Jesus taught His disciples, not only in Luke 12, but throughout the Gospel accounts; He challenged them with the wise stewardship of money as a test of whether they were prepared for greater responsibilities. His teachings, of course, apply to all Christians.

BIBLICAL MONEY FACTS

Before we proceed with this lessons from Luke 12, let me share some foundational Biblical facts concerning money.

1. God, the Creator of the earth owns everything. Psalm 24:1

2. Wealth, as well as life, comes from God. Deuteronomy 8:18

3. We are stewards of our resources: time, talents and finances. Matthew 25:14-39

4. Don’t be lazy. Work and save for a rainy day. Proverbs 6:6-11, 10:5, 12:11,

5. Parents are to provide for their children. II Corinthians 12:14 By preparing for our own old age, we avoid putting an unnecessary financial burden on our grown children.

6. Nevertheless, sons and daughters are responsible for the care of their aged, infirmed parents. I Timothy 5:8 To ignore this responsibility is to be “worse than an infidel”.

7. Money, property, and material possessions are uncertain. They can vanish overnight. Psalm 62:10

8. Learn to be content with what you have. Philippians 4:10-19

9. Don’t love money for the love of money is the root of all evil. I Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19. The best antidote for the sin of loving money is to love God.

BIBLICAL STEWARDSHIP PRINCIPLES

Jesus continues training His disciples by giving them these stewardship principles In this 12th chapter of Luke

1. Take responsibility for providing for your own needs, but at the same time, learn to trust God for all your financial and material needs.

2. Worrying over our finances is futile, sinful and dishonoring to our Heavenly Father.

3. God expects Christians, those in His Kingdom, to devote their time, talent and resources to the furtherance of His Kingdom; not legalistically nor by compulsion, but in response to God’s grace poured out on us.

4. By all means avoid credit card debt. Proverbs 22:7 says the borrower is servant (slave) to the lender.  If you use a credit card to pay some bills, make sure you pay it off on time each month so you NEVER carry over a balance and  pay interest.  In fact, our credit card pays us each month for using it, hoping of course, that we may not fully pay it off and have to pay interest.  This also saves us the cost of postage stamps for paying our bills and we even pay that monthly bill by automatic withdrawal from our bank.

GAINING VICTORY OVER MATERIALISM

In Luke 12:22-30 Jesus devotes His teaching to the futility of worrying and to our need to trust God.

There is no sin in saving and investing some of our income for the future. God does not require that we spend every cent we earn. At the same time, we are encouraged not to worry. God knows our needs. Luke 12:30 Matthew 6:7-8, 32 and He promises to supply all our needs. Philippians 4:19

Be prudent and prepare for your future, but leave the future to God who provides for birds and cares for the wild flowers of the field. In previous articles in this series, we reminded you that our needs are His concern. So don’t be concerned to the point of worry. Leave those concerns with God and devote yourself to His concern, seeking His Kingdom and His righteousness.

Though we live in a material world and have need for money and the things money can give us, we Christians are not to be so wrapped up in material things that they become everything to us. Beware of being snared by advertisements and the “I’ve just got to have it” mentality.

The word seek in Luke 12:30 could better be translated crave. Jesus tells us that the
Gentiles or the heathen crave money and the things money can buy. So much of what we buy is physically and spiritually unprofitable. Much of it tends to be a liability to us rather than an asset.

How can we gain victory over a materialistic heart? We can gain victory over craving things by craving God. In Psalm 42:1-2 the Psalmist tells us how he craves after God. He likens it to a running, tired, thirsty deer panting for a brook where his thirst can be quenched. In Psalm 27 he speaks of his one great desire to know God and enjoy fellowship with Him. When we thirst to know God intimately, the things of this world grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

DON’T WORRY!

In this same 12th chapter of Luke Jesus warns us to beware of the sin of worry. When we worry, we evidence little faith in God. Three reasons why we need not worry are:
1. God knows our needs Luke 12:30
2. He cares for us. I Peter 5:7
3. He has promised to provide for every need. Philippians 4:19

Instead of being consumed by the sins of worry and materialism, let us focus our attention, our strength and our assets on building the Kingdom of God. That is, we should focus our attention of winning the lost to Christ and building up believers in The Faith.

FEAR NOT, LITTLE FLOCK

Note that He encouraged them and He encourages us with the words, “Fear not little flock.” 12:32 Why did Jesus refer to His disciples then and to His Church now as a “little flock”? He refers to us as a little flock because Satan’s Kingdom, so glamorous and attractive, is in the majority today. We, Christ’s Church, are the despised, hated and seemingly insignificant minority in the world today. To us Jesus promises that it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom. That Kingdom promised to us is the prophesied Kingdom of the future. Study our series on PROPHECY to learn more about this.

HEAVEN-BOUND PILGRIMS

As Moses, mentioned in Hebrews 11:24-27, we live and serve God by faith in anticipation of the coming glory in the Millennial Kingdom of Christ.

By faith we see our sacrificial offerings and service to the Lord in this age as a safe, profitable investment. Note how Paul viewed this investment in II Timothy 1:12

Read Matthew 19:27-30 and Luke 12:33 to learn of the high rate of return on these investments.

One more reason for investing in Christ’s cause is that our investments affect our hearts. Both God and Satan demand our all. We can’t split our heart’s devotion. Winner takes all. As Jesus taught in Matthew 6:24, You and I belong 100% to either God or Satan.

As Noah, Abraham, David and the other saints listed in Hebrews 11, let us see ourselves as Heaven-bound pilgrims.

Let us see ourselves as stewards of all God has given us. Let us recognize our responsibility to be wise stewards of our time, energy and resources.

As Paul, let us see ourselves as a bond-slaves of Jesus Christ. I Corinthians 6:19-20.

As Moses, recorded in Hebrews 11:24-27, saw Christ by faith, so let us recognize Christ as our Lord and as our whole purpose for living.

HAVE YOU BOUGHT SALVATION?

If you are not a Christian, none of this applies to you. You need make only one investment. Isaiah 55:1-2 invites you to make the greatest purchase of your life without money. Buy Jesus as your Saviour. His is a totally free gift offered to sinners who see their need of salvation. Trust Him freely right now, then return to this message and read it again and determine to invest your life in Christ and His Kingdom.

August 29, 2006 Posted by | Discipleship | Comments Off on Discipleship #12 Investing in Heaven

Discipleship #13: Crowns or Stripes?

A SOBERING TRUTH 

In Luke 12:35-48 and again in Matthew 24:45-51 Jesus teaches one of the most sobering truths in all the Bible dealing with rewards and loss of rewards when He returns for His own.  The parable Jesus relates here is certainly about the return of Christ.   It is also about rewards for faithful servants and punishment for unfaithful servants.  I doubt there is any argument there. 

One major problem in understanding this parable is in the mistranslation of the Greek word analuo  in Luke 12:36 which means depart  by using the preposition  from.   The Greek word for from is apo, a preposition which is widely used throughout the New Testament.   This Greek word analuo is only used twice in the New Testament; here in Luke 12:36 and also in Philippians 1:23  where is speaks of our death as our departure to be with Christ.  

So what I believe Jesus is saying here in Luke 12:35-36 is  “Let your loins be girded about (with Truth)  and your lights burning and you  yourselves like those who wait for their Lord when He departs from Heaven to meet His Bride for the wedding feast. When He comes and knocks, be ready to meet Him and  open to Him immediately.”  That can be summarized in the simple warning,  “Be ready for His return!” 

WHO IS CAUGHT UP WITH CHRIST IN THE RAPTURE? 

1. I Thessalonians 4:16 declares that the dead in Christ will rise first, then we Christians  who are alive when He comes  will join them to meet the Lord in the air.  

2. Hebrews 9:28 assures us that those who look for Him will be caught up. The Greek word for look is apehdektomai.  This word translated look is stronger than the Greek  word optomai  which is the common word for look, such as look at the book.  The word used here is the look of waiting with anticipation.  This is the look you see in an airport as family members scrutinize the crowd for their loved one.  It’s the look of a bridegroom as he stands at the front of the church eagerly watching for his bride to appear.  

3. In II Timothy 4:8  we read that He is coming back for those who  love His appearing 

4. In our text in Luke 12:43 we also learn He is coming for His faithful servants. In this passage it is obvious that this parable is about the secret, imminent return of Christ for His own, commonly known as The Rapture. It is also about the rewarding of faithful servants and the chastising of unfaithful servants. These servants are certainly Christians and not unsaved people.  

Let’s consider these three themes: 

1 The Rapture 

2. The rewarding of faithful servants  

 

3.  The chastisement of unfaithful servants. 

THE RAPTURE 

Luke 12:35-40  is about the rapture: the secret bodily resurrection and catching away to Heaven  of both deceased and living saints in their glorified bodies, bodies that are just like the resurrected body of Jesus described in Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20-21, Acts 1 and I Corinthians 15:1-8.  The two major passages on this topic are found in I Corinthians 15:50-58   and I Thessalonians 4:13-18   In these and other passages note the following truths concerning the Rapture. 

1. It is secret and imminent.  Luke 12:40  Matthew 24:36-44, 50 Acts 1:7  Repeatedly we are told that no man knows the day nor the hour of this event.  For 2000 years Christians have expected His return at any moment.  Even Paul expected Jesus to return in his lifetime as is seen in Thessalonians 4:17 

2. It is a comforting truth.  I Thessalonians 4:18 

3.  it is a purifying hope. I John 3:1-3 

4. Jesus comes unexpectedly as a thief in the night. Luke 12:39,46  I Thessalonians 5:2  Revelation 3:3  16:15 

5. At the rapture, we, the Bride of Christ, meet our Heavenly Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ, and delight in the Marriage Feast of the Lamb.  We are forever with our Lord. 

6. The Day of the Lord, spoken of in II Peter 3:10 is 1007 years long. Note the description in that verse.  It begins with the rapture and it ends at the conclusion of the Millennial reign of Christ when He destroys this earth as we know it now and remakes it into a new earth and new heavens totally free of all contamination of sin.  Satan and all those who rejected Christ are banished to the eternal  Lake of Fire. 

FAITHFUL SERVANTS REWARDED 

Whereas the Great White Throne Judgment described in Revelation 20:11-15 has to do with  Christ rejectors being condemned  to the Lake of Fire,  the Bema Judgment is only for Christians and it has to do with rewards for faithful service and the loss of rewards for unfaithfulness.  This Bema Judgment is spoken of in I Corinthians 3:9-15  II Corinthians 5:9-10  Revelations 22:12 and in Luke 12:42-44.  It is also referred to in  I John 2:28 and in II John 8.  

 

At the Bema Judgment Christians will be reward for faithful service  and  the fire of His judgment will burn up wasted, useless activity that failed to glorify God.  Our motives for serving Christ will also be judged by the eyes of the One who sees our hearts.  Psalm 7:9  Proverbs 17:3  Jeremiah 11:20  I Thessalonians 2:4.  

 

In Romans 14:4, 10-13 we are warned not to try playing God by attempting to judge the measure and value of another’s ministry; though in Romans 16:17-18 we are commanded  to recognize, expose and separate from false doctrine.

UNFAITHFUL SERVANTS CHASTENED 

As a loving father chastens his disobedient children,  so our loving Heavenly Father chastens His stubborn, rebellious, disobedient children.  See Hebrews 12:5-13 for a full treatment of this subject.  

I encourage you to stop at this point and read for yourself Luke 12:45-48 and try to determine what Jesus means by this.  Here are my thoughts  on the passage. First this passage describes the fate of unfaithful believers; not unbelievers.  These people are divided from faithful Christians and are given their portion with unbelievers. See verse 46.  This passage also  speaks of degrees of pain inflicted by severe punishment.  Read the following passages that teach a loss of rewards for some Christians. Revelation 3:11  II John 8  I Corinthians 9:24-27 

Though Christians cannot lose their salvation; yet this and other passages of Scripture teach that unfaithful Christians will be chastened, not only in this life, but at the time of the Rapture.  It is evident to me that unfaithful Christians will miss the rapture and will be chastised for their unfaithfulness by finding themselves plunged into the  Tribulation. Let me give you Scriptural reasons for my position. 

THE MULTITUDE DESCRIBED IN  REVELATION 7:9-17 

There are two groups spoken of in Revelation 7  The first group are the 144,000 Jews, including 12,000  from each of the Tribes of Israel.  This group is found in Revelation 7:1-8 and also chapter 14.  These faithful Jews are a firstfruits of many others who will come to Christ during the Tribulation. 

The second group referred to in  7:9-17 is a vast multitude from the whole world.  They are seen in verse 9-10 worshipping Christ, the Lamb of God. Angels join the worship as they observe these saints of God.   In verse 13 the question is asked, “Who are these purified saints and where did they come from?” 

The answer is that they have come out of great tribulation and are cleansed and purified in the blood of Christ, the Lamb.  Their suffering is over and their tears are wiped away. I believe these are the wicked servants of Luke 12:45-48 who had their portion with unbelievers in the Tribulation and who experienced the pain of God’s chastening.

These are those who were martyred for Christ during the Tribulation.  These are the Christians whose service was burned up and they were saved by faith in the blood of the Lamb but were saved, so as by fire as it taught in I Corinthians 3:15.  They went through the fire of martyrdom.  

Note Revelation 6:9-11. Here you see souls in Heaven under the altar crying out to God for vengeance.   These are souls martyred for their stand and service for God.  I  believe these could be the unfaithful Christians of Luke 12:46 who are separated from the Christians who were caught away in the rapture.  The Tribulation suffering were the stripes spoken of in that Luke 12 passage. 

Because these unfaithful Christian had truly been born again through faith in Christ, their salvation was guaranteed by the promises of God and even tribulation itself could not separate them from the love of Christ.  See Romans 8:28-30  with special attention to verse 35. 

TEARS IN HEAVEN? 

Rev. 7:17 assures us that these martyred saints of the Tribulation will have their tears wiped away when they arrive in Heaven.  It seem obvious then that those who were raptured also had their tears wiped away at the moment of the rapture. Revelation 21:1-2 assures us that at the end of the Millennium when we enter the new heaven and new earth,  all tears will be wiped away. 

ARGUMENTS  

 Some may argue that the Bema Judgment has to do with our service for Christ and not with our spiritual condition.  However, we must understand that the value of our service is determined by our spiritual condition before God.  A carnal, selfish Christian’s service is of no value to God. It is likened to wood, hay and stubble which will be burned up when  we stand before God at the Bema Judgment.  A spiritually-minded Christian is going to faithfully serve God. 

Some may argue that because I Thessalonians 4:16 declares that all the dead in Christ will be raptured, that will be the case, regardless of their spirituality or service.  That passage is true, as is all the Word of God.  Those who are truly “in Christ” will be caught up in the rapture.  The question is, who is truly in Christ? 

The answer is found in II Corinthians 5:17 “If anyone be in Christ, he is a new creation.  Old things are passed away. Behold, all things are becoming new.”  If that does not describe you, why would you think you will be among the raptured saints? God knows those who are truly His.  If you are truly born again and miss the rapture, I assure you, based on the promises of Romans 8:28-39 that you will make it to Heaven and that even The Great Tribulation and martyrdom cannot separate you from Christ. 

Someone may ask, what about the carnal, selfish Christians of the past, will they be raptured?  That’s none of our business.  We can leave the answer with God.  Deuteronomy 29:29 teaches us “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”   Too many Christians are trying to pry into God’s secrets instead of doing what they know the Bible clearly tells them to do. 

CONCLUSION 

Since faithful Christians will be caught up to Heaven in the rapture and since unfaithful Christians may face martyrdom during the Tribulation, we are all challenged in Luke 12:35-40 to be constantly clothed in the armour of God described in Ephesians 6:10-17.  We are also challenged to let the light of our testimony shine brightly in this sin-darkened world. Finally, we are challenged to watch and wait for the imminent return of Christ for His own. 

Please turn to II John 8 and read as I paraphrase it for you. “Watch out how you live your life as a Christian. We can’t lose our salvation, but we can lose rewards.  Don’t lose the gains you have made. Live for Him to the very end so that you receive a full reward!”

August 27, 2006 Posted by | Discipleship | Comments Off on Discipleship #13: Crowns or Stripes?

Discipleship series # 14: Our Humble Saviour

The previous article in this series was “Crowns or Stripes”.  You will need the background of that article to understand this one.  The truths we shared in that article dealing with faithful and unfaithful Christians sheds light on what follows in this article. In a sense, this is a sequel to that article. 

Sometime following the rapture of the saints, we will experience the joy of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.  The parable of the Ten Virgins, found in Matthew 25:1-13,  is  associated  with this event.

The Bride of Christ

Ephesians 5 is the primary New Testament passage on the topic of Marriage. In that chapter the spiritual union of Christ and His Church, described as His bride. is likened to  marriage between a husband and wife.  All of us who have been redeemed by Christ’s blood are His bride.  This is not a sexual union as is the marriage of a man and woman; rather, it is an intimate union far surpassing the intimacy of a husband and wife.  Virginity speaks of purity.  We, His redeemed bride, are likened to pure virgins.  I believe the Parable of the Ten Virgins is a parable about the complete  Bride of Christ.  All ten of these virgins are pure through the righteousness of Christ imputed to them.  See my article on Justification in the SALVATION series for more on this.  

All ten of these  virgins are looking for the return of Christ. All ten of these virgins have lighted  lamps which speak of their testimonies for Christ.  Oil throughout Scripture is a type of the Holy Spirit.   The problem is that five of these virgins who do not have their vessels filled with oil.  Their oil runs out and the lamps of their testimonies are extinguished and as a result their service for Christ is worthless.  It is described in I Corinthians 3:11-15 as wood, hay and stubble to be burned up when Christ returns.

Is Your Vessel Filled With Oil?

In Ephesians 5:18 every Christian is commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  That simply involves being surrendered to Christ as Lord and allowing His Spirit to fill and control our lives.  The results are seen in Ephesians 5:19-21  and Galatians 5:22-25. This filling has nothing to do with seeking an emotional experience or attempting to speak in tongues.  The modern day “speaking in tongues” by the Charismatics has nothing to do with the experience of the early Christians at Pentecost, described in Acts 2. The early Christians were given the supernatural ability to speak in foreign languages they had never learned so that the foreigners present could understand the wonderful works of God that were taking place.  

The Total Bride of Christ is Ready

In Revelation 19 we see the total Bride of Christ, composed of raptured saints and the martyred saints of the Tribulation joined together in Heaven. ( See, I told you that you would need to read the previous article, before this one would make sense.)  The wife has made herself ready.  She is clothed in fine, beautiful spotless white linen.  This purity is an outworking of the righteousness of Christ that had been imputed to us at the moment of our salvation.

The Humility of Christ

There’s  an amazing truth about Jesus and His Bride hidden away in Luke 12:37. At the wedding Feast in Heaven, Jesus is going to seat us, His holy, beloved Bride, at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb and HE IS GOING TO SERVE US!!! Does this surprise us?  It shouldn’t.  Humility is as much an attribute of Christ as His holiness, or His grace or His love.   Jesus’ character never changes.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever, as Hebrews 13:8 tells us.  He was the humble servant of God prophesied in Isaiah 42:1-4.  He is the humble, suffering servant of Isaiah 53. He is the babe of
Bethlehem, born in humble circumstances.   He is the humble teacher who welcomed sinners and who paid special attention to little children and to needy people. He is the humble servant who at the Last Supper, just hours before His crucifixion, took a basin of water and a towel and washed the feet of His disciples.  

Our humble Saviour teaches us, His followers, to have a servant heart.  Do you want to be great in Christ’s Kingdom?  Be a servant now to those around you. 

There Are No Big Shots in the Church

This includes preachers, elders, deacons or women who have leadership positions in the church. There are only those who think they are big shots when in reality they are nothing!  The true leaders in a church do not lord it over others, but serve humbly with no expectation of thanks or appreciation.  These are the ones who are going to shine in the Kingdom.

Are You Ready for Christ’s Return?

In Luke 12:35-40 we are warned to be ready for Christ’s return.  Are you ready? Are you a Christian?  Have you put your faith in Christ’s sacrifice for your sins?  Christian, are you ready for Christ’s imminent return. Are your loins girt about with truth?  That is, are you wrapping you mind and heart in God’s Word?  Are you guarding your testimony, making sure the light of Christ shines brightly?  Do others see Christ living in you?  Are others drawn to Christ because of your testimony?  Are you waiting and watching and longing for His imminent return?  If so, one day you and I will sit down together at Christ’s Marriage Supper and have the awesome experience of being served by Christ Himself.

August 26, 2006 Posted by | Discipleship | Comments Off on Discipleship series # 14: Our Humble Saviour

Discipleship #15: Settle Out of Court

Up to this time, everything Jesus said in this twelfth chapter of Luke has been addressed to His Disciples.  Though the unbelieving crowd listened somewhat, Jesus’ attention was focused on His disciples.  But now as we come to the last six verses of chapter twelve, Jesus turns His attention to the crowds and addresses them as hypocrites.  

“Too many hypocrites in the church!” 

One of the chief arguments people make for rejecting Christ is that there are too many hypocrites in the church. I’m not saying that there are no hypocrites in the church; for if we are trying to appear more spiritual in church than we are at home, we are hypocritical. But in the full sense of the word,  a Christian is not a hypocrite.  He may be weak and carnal, but he’s not a hypocrite.  A genuine Christian has confessed he is a sinner, lost and unable to save himself.  He has put his trust in Christ alone for salvation.  He may be a pathetic Christian who brings shame to the cause of Christ and be chastened in this life by His loving Heavenly Father;  but by the grace of God he will one day be in Heaven, sanctified, glorified and sinless. 

A hypocrite, on the other hand, is not a Christian.  His “Christianity” is simply an act.  He has learned the language of a Christian, but underneath his disguise is a proud, self-righteous, wicked heart.  Saul of Tarsus was such a man.  Though he did not claim to be a Christian; he claimed to be a good Jew, despising Christ and  hating and persecuting Christians.  In  Philippians 3 Paul shares his testimony. In verses 4-6  he tells us of his proud, self-righteous, hypocritical life before he met Christ.  Then in verses 7-14 he glories in Christ and in the wonderful salvation Christ has given to him.   Prior to Saul’s conversion,  he was a Jewish Pharisee and Jesus had labeled them all as hypocrites in Matthew 23. 

 Unbeliever, you are the hypocrite! 

If you will compare Matthew 24:51 with Luke 12:46 you will find that in God’s eyes, unbelievers are hypocrites.   If you are an unbeliever, quit looking at the weak, stumbling Christians within the church and look at your own wicked, unbelieving heart.  Your whole life is a sham.  You are the hypocrite.   Jesus’ message of Luke 12:54-59 is addressed to you.

This is basically what He is saying to you in this passage. You are able to look at weather conditions,  predict a storm and take precautions before the storm, but you do nothing to prepare to face the coming storm of God’s wrath when He judges you for your sins.    When you have done damage to someone or to their property, you are wise enough to see you are going to face a law suit and an expensive trial. So you take steps in advance by attempting to settle out of court.    So you should be wise enough and honest enough to admit you are a guilty sinner who will one day face God and be condemned to hell.  That’s the condition of all of us  for all have sinned and come short of God’s glory and His holy standards.  Romans 3:23. 

 Judgment Day is coming! 

If you continue through life rejecting the salvation God offers you through the shed blood of His Son, Jesus,  you will ultimately face His fury and be condemned to eternal hell.  Read the terrifying account of God’s Judgment that awaits every unbeliever. Revelation 20:11-15.  Warnings of God’s Judgment abound throughout the New Testament. 

The Bible is clear that we are all sinners and that sinners are going to face God’s judgment.   John the Baptist warned of it in Matthew 3:7-12   Peter warned of it whenever he preached.  Acts 2:22-41  3:13-21  II Peter 2:4-6  3:3-12 Stephen warned of it in Acts 7:51-52.  For such preaching he was stoned to death. 

James warned of judgment.  James 5:7-9 The writer of Hebrews warned of it in Hebrews 9:27 Jude wrote about the Old Testament prophet Enoch and his message in Jude 14-15 The Apostle John gives us the most solemn warning in Revelation 20:11-15 

Jesus, who took our judgment and condemnation  on  the cross, warned us to trust Him and thus escape that Great White Throne Judgment, over which He will one day preside. See John 3:16-18, 36  5:24 The Apostle Paul had the most to say about the judgment. In Acts 17:30-31 Paul preached to the Athenians about the certainty of a coming judgment in which The Lord Jesus Christ would be the Judge.  In Romans Paul writes much about the coming judgment. In Romans 2 he teaches that this judgment will be according to four principles. 

1. It will be according to TRUTH. Romans 2:2  Today human courts often fail to discover the truth because of the lack of full knowledge of the case, or because of prejudice.  Jesus’ judgment will be according to truth because He knows each heart and he knows the secret things that men  fail to grasp. 

2. Jesus’ judgment will be according to the deeds of the body.  Romans 2:6 and 3:23  We’re all guilty.  Our deeds are recorded in God’s Books.  See Revelation 20:11-15 again. 

3. Jesus  judges the secret things, including our motives and our thoughts. See Romans 2:16   According to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7  one who has  lustful thoughts is an adulterer. One who hates his brother is a murderer. 

4. Finally, Jesus’ judgment will be absolutely impartial. Romans 2:11  He is not impressed with those who are rich and famous and powerful.  All men, great and small, will one day stand before Him to give an account of their lives;  Jews as well as Gentiles. Romans 2:9,12. In the light of that judgment, the sinner stands inexcusable and inescapable.

First, you will stand inexcusable.  According to Romans 1:20  2:1 and  3:19 you will be silenced.  On that Judgment Day, your mouth will be silenced. You will be  guilty as charged before God. 

Secondly, you cannot escape this judgment.  Romans 2:3   In this world today, guilty criminals  often escape conviction and sentencing through lies, crooked lawyers and money.  Today people plead the 5th Amendment, they post bail, they have connections.Law abiding citizens as well as the victims of their crimes are sickened and disillusioned by mis-trials and crooked juries and judges who allow criminals to go free.  Judgment Day is circled on God’s calendar. See Acts 17:31.  No one will escape that day when they stand before Christ whom they despised and rejected. 

Years ago when I pastored  among the ranchers in the Sand Hills of Nebraska, I sometimes visited with the ranchers when they were corralling cattle to walk up the chute into trucks to go to market. Often the cattle would run back and forth trying to escape being herded into the truck, but the sovereign rancher who directed the whole thing was persistent until every last steer he had chosen for market was forced into the truck.  So it will be for sinners on Judgment Day. No one will escape.   

 Why not settle out of court now? 

If you are a wise person, you will humble yourself before God NOW and admit you are a guilty sinner.  You will cast yourself on His mercy, receiving His gracious salvation through Jesus.  In so doing, you have settled out of court.  You will never face that White Throne Judgment.  Read God’s repeated promises concerning this.  John 3:16-18, 36 John 5:24  Romans 8:1  If you continue to reject Christ,  your heart will only grow harder and your judgment will only grow more severe.  Romans 2:5 Don’t wait to face Christ at The Great White Throne Judgment described in Revelation 20:11-15.  In this age of grace,  trust Christ now who died to pay the full penalty for your sins. Read II Corinthians 5:20-21 and ask Christ to save you right now and discover the peace and joy of sins forgiven and the assurance of eternal life.  Read John 5:24   and Romans 8:1. 

As Jesus pleaded with the hypocrites in Luke 12:58-59, settle out of court right now by admitting your guilt before a holy God and trusting the provision of His beloved Son, Jesus.   If you do not trust Him now, you WILL face Him one day and be condemned to eternity in Hell.  You cannot be neutral about Jesus.  You must  either receive Him now as your Saviour and begin learning how to be His disciple (follower); or else  you have rejected Him and will one day face Him as your Judge. 

August 25, 2006 Posted by | Discipleship | Comments Off on Discipleship #15: Settle Out of Court

Discipleship #16: Christ’s Terms of Discipleship

From the beginning of Jesus public ministry, Luke 4:22  and John 7:46 record  that  the crowds were continually drawn to Him because of His gracious words, kind deeds and miracles.  Most of the previous  messages in this series on discipleship came from our study of Jesus’ teachings about discipleship in Luke 12.

Now in Luke 14:25-35 we learn of Jesus’ terms of discipleship. In this passage before us, the crowds are continuing to follow Jesus.  Will He capitalize on His success and show them more miracles to capture their attention?  Will He flatter the people by giving them what they want to hear? 

No, Jesus throughout His ministry on earth always offered severe conditions for those who wished to follow Him as disciples.  His teachings then were as unpopular as they are for those who are confronted by them today.  We learn in Luke 9:57-62 that the crowds faded away then as they do today wherever His terms of discipleship are presented.

Before we get into the terms of discipleship, let’s differentiate among the terms of Salvation, Apostleship and Discipleship.  

Salvation  

First, understand that the door of salvation is open wide by God’s grace to all who will come by faith to Christ  and receive Him as Saviour.  See John 1:12  Romans 10:13  

Apostleship

Understand that the Apostles were 12 men Jesus chose to invest His time teaching them and training them to lay the doctrinal foundation for His Church after He was gone. Read  Ephesians 2:19-22, Acts 2:41-42.   In Jude 3 we learn that the doctrine of Christ was delivered to the saints (the Church) once for all.  It is the Body of doctrine given by Christ through His twelve Apostles, that we are to contend for its purity throughout the Church Age.

According to II Corinthians 12:12 these twelve  Apostles were given special gifts and signs, such as performing miracles, healing the sick and raising the dead, as evidence of their calling.  With the passing of the Apostles, those special gifts and signs disappeared during the first century.  We no longer need these signs as evidence of the Truth.  We have the completed Bible which we accept as God’s Word.  It’s true that God still works miracles today, including healing the sick; but those miracles come in answer to the prayers of the Church.

Discipleship

Becoming a Disciple of Christ remains open to anyone in any age who qualifies.  A Disciple of  Christ and a Christian ought to be synonymous, but in reality it is not. 

We can be saved from sin by admitting we are sinners and putting our trust in Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection for our sins. We are justified by faith alone; but we bring shame to Christ’s name, when we as believer refuse to submit to Christ’s Lordship and become His disciples.

A disciple is a believer who has come to Christ for salvation and who follows Jesus, patterning His life after Jesus and living that life in Christ’s strength.  He is a born again believer who has been justified by faith and is surrendered to the indwelling Holy Spirit, and is progressing in sanctification and spiritual maturity. He  is a learner; not one who simply learns facts about Jesus;  but one who is learning to know Jesus personally.

We are aware that salvation is received on Christ’s terms; not ours.  But are you aware that becoming a disciple of Christ is also on His terms?  What are Christ’s terms of discipleship?  What does He require?

I. UNRIVALED AFFECTION  Luke 14:26  Matthew 10:34-37

In these verses  Jesus is not telling us that we should have an angry, hostile attitude towards our family or others. Rather, He is speaking of contrasting preferences for God over our families and loved ones.  God must be first.   After Jesus’ resurrection, He pushed the issue with Peter at a breakfast on the shores of Galilee. See  John 21:15-17

In Luke 14:26 Jesus presses the issue further.  We must not only prefer Christ to our families, but we must also prefer Him to ourselves.  Again Jesus is not teaching that we must have a self-destructive, morbid, suicidal attitude towards ourselves.  Rather, we consider our wills, our desires, our ambitions in life to be unimportant in contrast to doing the will of God.  Paul summed it up well in Philippians 1:21  “For to me to live is Christ; to die is gain.”

Years ago someone shared a short anonymous poem with me that has blessed me.

“Lord Jesus, make Thyself to me

A living, bright reality,

More present to faith’s vision keen

Than any outward object seen;

More dear,  more intimately nigh

Than e’en the sweetest earthly tie.”    

II. UNAVOIDABLE CROSS Lk. 14:27  

Our cross is not a physical infirmity, a temperamental weakness, or some misfortune. These are the common lot of all humanity.  Rather, bearing our cross is voluntarily accepting  the suffering and shame that comes with identifying ourselves with Christ as His disciple and witness.   Bearing His cross is a matter of our choice.  Beware when you refuse to stand for Christ in order to avoid suffering for Him. Luke 6:26  As Christians we are to expect unpopularity and reproach and rejoice in it. Matthew 5:11-12, and Hebrews 13:13

Vance Havner, a preacher of a past generation said, “As long as the church wore scars, they made headway. When they began to wear medals, the cause languished. It was a greater day for the church when Christians were fed to the lions, than when they bought season tickets and sat in the grandstand.”

With Paul we should long to experience and share in Christ’s sufferings. Philippians 3:10. In fact, it is impossible to follow Christ as His disciple and avoid the cross. We are crucified with Him. Galatians 2:20   Matthew 16:24 teaches that discipleship involves self denial.  It is not a once time emotional experience. It is a daily taking up of our cross. It is putting ourselves in a position where we experience the pain and suffering  of being identified with Him in a holy walk. Luke 9:23   It is losing our rights for Him. Matthew 10:38-39

Paul does not ask us to be irresponsible and fool-hardy, but he challenges us to follow him as he follows Christ.  In so doing the world sees the true follower of Christ as a fool, as weak and as despised.  I Corinthians 4:9-16   This is what it ultimately means to be a true disciple of Christ.  There  is quite a difference between us soft  American Christians  who crave for ease, popularity and a successful self image in contrast with the terms of discipleship Jesus taught.

III  UNSELFISH DEVOTION TO CHRIST  Luke 14:33

The true Christian disciple belongs exclusively to Christ, as do our possessions,  our homes, our cars,  our bank accounts, investments, our time, talents and abilities.

For Abraham, Moses, Paul and all the other faithful men and women of the Bible, it meant forsaking all to follow Him.

Do you remember the rich man in Matthew 19:16-22  who came to Christ desiring  to follow Him, but went away sorrowful. It cost him more than he was willing to pay. To learn more about the cost of discipleship  read Jesus’ conversation with Peter  in the same chapter, verses 27-30.

Discipleship also includes taking joyfully the wearing out and the spoiling of our material things  in our service for Christ.  Hebrews 10:34

Though we have other relationships, such as husband, wife, children, parents, and job, etc. yet our relationship and loyalty to Christ must be our first priority.

Though we own property, a home, a car and other material possessions necessary for life in this age, our attitude towards it all is that Christ is our Lord.  We hold our possessions loosely, knowing that the God who gives can also take them away. We seek to use our possessions only for His glory.  When Christ is first, then everyone and everything else falls into its proper priority. We do not become irresponsible  towards our lesser responsibilities.   We recognize that all we are and all we possess is subject to His sovereignty.

This kind of total surrender results in a life of powerful influence for God.  Inversely,  the Christian who lives primarily for himself has an insipid, tasteless testimony that attracts no one to Christ. You have trusted in Christ as Saviour. Have you gone any further?  Will you pray with me, “Lord, all I am, all I have and all I ever hope to be, I sacrifice to  You.  Direct me. Use me as  You will.  I’m Yours unconditionally now and forever.” 

August 24, 2006 Posted by | Discipleship | Comments Off on Discipleship #16: Christ’s Terms of Discipleship

Discipleship series # 17: Building and Battling

In almost every church there are two kinds of Christians: spiritual and carnal. The spiritual are concerned with building lives for Christ and battling Satan who seeks to destroy God’s work.  The carnal are more concerned with their own feelings and selfish desires and ambitions.  They have little or no devotion to Christ nor to the ministry of building up others; but they are devoted to having their own way.  Life centers around them. Rather than battling Satan, they are being used of Satan to attempt to actively or even passively hinder and destroy God’s work.  

The question each of us should ask ourselves is, “Am I being used by the Holy Spirit to encourage and build up others in Christ, or am I being used by Satan to discourage and destroy others?”  Salvation is free and available to any sinner who will call on Christ to save him.  Discipleship is restricted to the few who will pay the price. We dealt with that high cost  in the previous message in this series. 

The cost of discipleship is severe. Luke14:25-33  It involves:

1. An unrivaled love for Christ 

2. An unavoidable cross as we identify with Christ in His sufferings.

 3. And unselfish devotion to Christ for the good of others. 

Why are the requirement and cost so severe?  For the same reason that standards are high in special branches of the military, such a Navy Seals, or fighter pilots or Special Forces.  The cost of discipleship is high because it involves building and battling for Christ. Charles H. Spurgeon, British pastor of the nineteenth century, understood this and published his paper, The Sword and the Trowel in which he showed the Christian ministry is involved in building lives for Christ and battling Satan in the process. 

Not only are the requirements of discipleship severe, but they are humanly impossible. The standards are beyond our natural ability. They are supernatural.  That’s why we have to count the cost.  It takes God’s power and resources to do His work.  That’s what Jesus taught in His stories in Luke 14:28-33.  Without God’s resources and power, we will crack up and burn out.  In fact, we may even compromise God’s message to make it more palatable to the natural man so we can attract crowds and have what is popularly called “success”.  

Discipleship involves building.  Luke 14:28-30 


In Luke 14:28-30 we have an example of a man attempting to build a tower; perhaps a look-out tower or a silo for grain.  Whatever it is, he must first ask himself whether he has the resources to build it.  How embarrassing it would be to lay the foundation and then leave it incomplete because he lacks the funds to  complete it!    So we are challenged to count the cost before we attempt to serve the Lord as His disciples.  

Building lives for the Lord involves both a negative and positive aspect.  These are pointed out in Jeremiah 1:10. They involve both the tearing down of that which is worthless and harmful in our lives and the building up of that which is useful and of eternal value. Nehemiah  was called of God to lead the rebuilding of the broken walls of Jerusalem after the Babylonian invasion and seventy year captivity of Israel.   In Nehemiah 4:17-18 we learn that his work was constantly beset by enemies seeking to discourage and destroy and so each worker  carried a sword on his side as he built. The Bible constantly warns throughout of the dangers of false doctrine and those enemies of the Gospel who would seek to nullify the Gospel of God’s grace. Christians are constantly warned to reject their teachings and have no fellowship with them.  For a fuller treatment of this topic see our series on SEPARATION on this website. 

Many Christians in this last half century despise and reject this unpopular doctrine.  They don’t practice it nor preach it because of the fear of being labeled narrow, unloving or legalistic.   Jesus warned in Matthew 7  that His way was narrow and unpopular and that most would prefer the broad way.  A Christian who obeys Christ in this matter does not have to be unloving, rude or obnoxious. 

The Biblical doctrine of SEPARATION needs to be practiced and preached in churches. This doctrine is as important a Fundamental of the Faith as the deity of Christ or the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible.  Jude 3 & 4 teaches that contending for the faith is as important as declaring the faith. Throughout  Paul’s epistles he devotes himself to building lives to maturity and battling those Satanic forces that would attempt to destroy Christians.  

If you’ve read much of this web site, you can’t avoid being aware that we also are devoted to building and battling for Christ. What are we building? We are building up lives in the most holy faith. Jude 20.  We are seeking to build Christian homes on Christ. We are building Christ’s Church for a habitation of God. We are His temple.  Ephesians 2:19-22. We are building walls of separation from the wicked world system and from false doctrine.  

At the same time we are seeking to tear down walls of separation from Christians who differ in lesser matters and we are encouraging Christians to develop loving relationships with the lost around them.  Both emphases are necessary.  We must love sinners but reject their sin and false, unbiblical teachings. We must love and accept our brothers and sisters in Christ even though we cannot always agree with them in every detail of doctrine.

  

Discipleship also involves battling. Luke 14:31-32

Here is another story of the cost of discipleship.  A king with an army of 10,000 must consider how he is going to protect his people from an advancing army of 20,000. Will the battle be worth the certain bloodshed and possible defeat?  Is there a way to negotiate peace and avoid the bloody conflict? These two examples illustrate that there are issues in life that are important enough to carefully evaluate our reasons for engaging in battle or avoiding conflict,  as well as calculating our resources for battle.  

Our resources are the Bible, (the Sword of the Spirit)  and the omnipotent power of the Holy Spirit to do what we cannot do in ourselves.  Using these two supernatural resources, the Church must be involved in evangelism and discipleship.  That’s our reason  for remaining on this earth.  Otherwise, Christ would whisk us off to Heaven the moment we were saved.  Satan is very much alive in churches as he seeks to distract us and  focus our attention on everything else but evangelism and discipleship.  

Discipleship is influence.  Luke 14:34-35

In the NASB version of the Bible verse 34 begins with the word therefore showing us there is a connection between discipleship and salt.  It is a well known fact that a little salt not only enhances the taste of food, but it also is used to preserve food.  We learn in the Old Testament that salt was used in sacrifices and in covenants to illustrate their permanence.  Jesus in Matthew 5:13-16 used light and salt to illustrate the purifying influence of Christians on society. 

If our testimony as Christians is not real and fresh and lasting, then we are useless and worthless disciples. We are good for nothing. Christ is looking for long term, permanent disciples who are willing to devote their lives to Him.  He is looking for disciples with Christian character who will stand for Him and attract other to Christ by our lives.  

Are you ready and willing to be His disciple?  It will cost  you everything, perhaps your life.  The question, “Who is sufficient?” in II Corinthians 2:16 in answered in the next chapter, 3:5  “Christ is our sufficiency.” Are you listening to His call as you read His Word?  Note the final call in our text in Luke 14:35. “He that has ears to hear, let him hear.”   You’ll find that same challenge given repeatedly to the seven churches of Asia Minor in Revelations 2 and 3.   Jesus calls you to trust Him for salvation and He calls you to be His faithful disciple.  Will you say yes now?  Or will you reject Him now and take the risk of perhaps never hearing His voice again? 

August 23, 2006 Posted by | Discipleship | Comments Off on Discipleship series # 17: Building and Battling