443: It All Comes Down to Desire

443: It All Comes Down to Desire

On any given Sunday, if a pastor asks by a show of hands how many in the congregation consider themselves followers of Christ, most would raise their hands.  But if he followed up that question with: “And how many of you know what it means to be a follower of Jesus today?” – the number of raised hands would drop considerably.  Maybe even to none.  Why?  Because our view today of following Jesus is a far cry from what it meant in the time of Jesus.  Think about it for a moment.  Today, following Jesus means agreeing to a set of doctrinal facts, going to church regularly, tithing, volunteering for some service ministry, adhering to a moral code, and reading and praying as often as we can.  But in the New Testament, following Jesus meant something quite different.

Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24).  Note the components of His invitation.  First, it begins with a conditional clause, if, like a classic if / then statement.  “If you desire to come after Me, then these are the conditions.”  Next, we have self-denial or self-subjugation to God.  “If you desire to come after Me, the first condition is to deny yourself.”  And finally, we are now privy to the degree to which self-denial must take place.  “If you desire to come after Me, the first condition is to deny yourself even to the point of death, and a horrific death at that.”  And only then does Jesus say, “and follow Me.”  First, meet the conditions, and then “follow Me.”


But What About Desire

Exactly.  The entire invitation of Jesus hinges on the word, desire.  If you desire, then do the following.  If you don’t desire, then this message must not be for you.  Which begs the questions, what is your desire regarding following Jesus?  And is your desire great enough to pay the price necessary to meet His conditions?  Ouch.  This is where it often gets personal.

In order to fully understand all of what Jesus said when He revealed His conditions of following Him, let’s look at this invitation from all three Gospel accounts.  Only then can we fully understand all the implications and the Cost of Discipleship (to quote Bonhoeffer).  The following is from Matthew 16:24-25, Mark 8:34-35, and Luke 9:23-24:

Then Jesus (MK) called the people to Himself (LK) and said to them all, (MK) with His disciples also, (MT) “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross (LK) daily, (MT) and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake (MK) and the gospel’s (MT) will find it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul (LK) and is himself destroyed or lost? (MT) Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (MK)  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes (LK) in His own glory, and (MT) in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.”

Today, we will primarily focus on the issue of desire.

What is your desire regarding Christ?
Have you counted the costs of a deeper relationship with Him?
Are you ready to pay the price?  No matter what that price might be?
Are you paying any price right now for your commitment to the Lord?
Do you know if it will be much different in the future?

Are you tired of taking two steps forward and then losing ground once again because you desire something less than all of His fullness manifested in your life?  If so, then keep listening.

The following is a study on our Desire to Follow Christ.

To download the slides to this message, click – HERE

Download this episode (right click and save)

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

Prayer:  Ephesians 3:1 – The Smallest of Words

Prayer: Ephesians 3:1 – The Smallest of Words

Sometimes, in the smallest of words, the Lord can show a picture of His love in ways we may have overlooked or taken for granted in the past. I see one of these in the verse we are using to focus our prayers today. It is Ephesians 3:1 which reads:

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles – Ephesians 3:1.

As we discovered yesterday, Paul considered himself a prisoner of the Lord and not of Rome or the Jews or even Caesar himself.  He was totally committed to his Lord and gladly accepted his imprisonment.  Why?  Because Paul’s God is absolutely supreme and sovereign.  Therefore, it follows that God could change Paul’s situation at any time, if He so desired.  But since He hasn’t, then this imprisonment must be His will for Paul at this point in his life.  And for us, who have the advantage of hindsight 20/20 wisdom, it was the perfect will of God to take Paul off the streets and put him in a cell where he could write many of his epistles for the glory of God.


Not For Me, But For You…

But today, we want to look at a picture of what true Christianity is all about.  It is found in three small words, “for you Gentiles.”  Paul is saying he is a prisoner of Christ Jesus and freely accepts that fate.  But he continues to state the reason for his suffering and imprisonment.  And that is “for you Gentiles”, for someone else, for the sake of the Gospel.  Paul is saying he is suffering, not for what he did or to pay for his alleged crimes, but for the sake or benefit of people he has never met— “for you” Gentiles.  Or, “for you” church in America. Or, “for you”… and put your name there.

“I am a prisoner for your sake,” he is saying.  And he learned to live like this from Jesus.

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.  As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep” (John 10:14-15).  Did you catch that?  Jesus lays down His own life for the sheep.  His sheep.  The church, the elect, the called-out ones, for you and me.  He could also say it this way, “I lay down My life for you Gentiles.”  Or for you Jews, you males, females, sinners, Democrats and Republicans, and Independents, for you who are rich or poor, young or old, blue-collar, white-collar, or no collar, it doesn’t matter.  Jesus lays His life down for everyone who is called by His name.

Again, Jesus said, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).  Jesus came to die, the just for the unjust, in order to reconcile sinful, fallen man with a Holy, Righteous, Perfect God (1 Pet. 3:18).  He gave His life as a ransom… for you.

Finally, Jesus described the kind of love He has for us when He said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13) and then has the audacity to call each of us His friends (John 15:14).  He was one who loved so great He would gladly lay down His life… for you.  And that is exactly what Paul is saying in Ephesians 3:1.


Time to Pray

Who do you love that much?  Who would you be willing to suffer like Jesus for?  Or, who would you be willing to be imprisoned unjustly for?  Your family?  Maybe.  Your friends?  Probably not.  Somebody you have never met?  Never.

But Jesus did.  And so did Paul and countless other saints over the centuries who have counted all things, even this life, as “rubbish, that they may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8).

When you pray today, thank our Lord for what He has done in order to bring you to Himself.  And then, if you dare, surrender all to Him by placing yourself on His altar as a “living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1).  And watch what He is willing to do with the life you have placed in His hands.

Until tomorrow.

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

Current Events:  Deal with the Devil – Canada and Israel

Current Events: Deal with the Devil – Canada and Israel

The following is an article by Hal Lindsey.  It is just another sign that its time you became a Faith Prepper.  Why?  Because times for believers, especially in the United States, are going to get real bad, real fast.  It is time to take the words of Jesus seriously and prepare your faith to have it severely tested.  Soon.

So get prepared now!


Deal with the Devil

Nikki Haley, former US Ambassador to the United Nations, recently characterized a Canadian vote at the UN as “a deal with the devil.”

That’s strong language coming from a well-regarded diplomat.  I assume she meant it figuratively.  But something literal is at work.  Canada’s recent about-face on Israel is a capitulation to the growing forces of darkness in our world.  In recent years, the nations of the UN have been making a lot of deals with the devil – the actual devil.

Haley was referring to a vote on an anti-Israel resolution sponsored by North Korea. That’s right, those paragons of respect for human rights – North Korea’s government leaders – sponsored a resolution condemning Israel for “occupying” East Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria.  The resolution also says that the wall Israel built “severely impedes the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.”

That wall was built to stop terrorist activity in Israel.  It has been highly effective.  It was necessary because Palestinian leadership continues to act as a major sponsor of terrorism.  Israel tries to make peace while Palestinian leaders encourage their constituents to randomly stab people and blow things up.  When Israel responds to these terrorist acts, the Palestinians decry Israel’s actions.  Israel continues to try to make peace.  But while they work for peace, they must keep their people secure.  Thus, the wall.


UN Resolutions Against Israel

A few years ago, the seat of world antisemitism could be found in the Islamic nations.  But more and more it is moving back into the lands where it manifested its greatest evil – Europe.  According to UN Watch, “In the current 74th session of the UN General Assembly (2019-2020), all EU member states voted for one resolution each to criticize (1) Iran, (2) Syria, (3) North Korea, (4) Crimea, (5) Myanmar, and (6) the U.S., for its embargo on Cuba.

“By contrast, EU states are expected to vote for 15 out of 20 resolutions singling out Israel.  Yet these same EU states failed to introduce a single UNGA resolution on the human rights situation in China, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Belarus, Cuba, Turkey, Pakistan, Vietnam, Algeria, or on 175 other countries.”

Think about the numbers – 20 resolutions against Israel.  All EU nations are expected to vote for 15 of them.  All (or almost all) of the 20 resolutions either have passed or are expected to pass in the General Assembly.  Contrast that with 6 resolutions against the rest of the world combined!

There were 20 against Israel while there was one against the number one state sponsor of terror in the world, Iran.  There was one against Syria – the nation whose leader uses chemical weapons against his own people.  There was one against North Korea – which starves, tortures, imprisons, or murders all who oppose its “Supreme Leader.”

There were no resolutions against Venezuela, where the leader kills his enemies and systematically starves his people.  There were none against China where the war on religious freedom results in government-approved rape and pillage.  There were none against Russia where opposing the Putin regime often equals death.

Yet there were 20 against Israel.  This level of hatred and vitriol is not natural.

Jesus called Satan “the prince of this world.”  He is a being at war with God.  He believes that if he can destroy Israel, he will win the war by making God a liar.  And so, he fights Israel with all the venom he can muster. (And that’s a lot of venom.)   Eventually, he will try to destroy Israel by enacting a peace treaty between his man, the Antichrist, and the nation of Israel.  But even then, God will keep His promises.

These are troubled times.  But don’t despair.  Instead, look up.  Your redemption draws near.

big_lines

You can find out more about Hal Lindsey at Hal Lindsey Ministries.

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

441:  Faith is Justified by Action

441: Faith is Justified by Action

We have previously looked at how to pray at all times and in all circumstances by letting the Holy Spirit, through God’s Word, direct our prayers.  But next on the Faith Prepper list of required spiritual skills is learning how to trust Him at all times by allowing our faith to grow by having it exercised in often unpleasant circumstances.  After all, faith grows when it is tested.  And testing is usually unpleasant during the process but wonderful at the end.

The Greek word translated “faith” in the New Testament is pístis and means: “to win over, to persuade. Subjectively it means firm persuasion, conviction, belief in the truth”  This definition is used over 250 times in the New Testament alone.  Everything in the Spirit is based on faith and everything of faith is designed by God to bypass the senses.  Everything.

In addition to this, all faith is not justified by merely having it.  But all faith is justified by the action it produces.  In other words, faith by itself is worth little.  But faith, accompanied by actions or works based on that faith is alive and real.  This is exactly what James was trying to tell us in James 2:14-26.  Read it for yourself.


They Did Something

If you look at the people included in Hebrews 11, what we affectionately call the roll-call of faith, they are all listed there not because of their faith, but what they did based on their faith.  Or what actions they took empowered by their faith.  To believe God told you to do something but then not have the faith to actually do it, will not land you on this list.  Faith is justified by the actions empowered by our faith.  Let’s look at Hebrews 11.

By faith, Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain (Heb. 11:4).  Or, “by faith Able did something…”

By faith Noah prepared an ark (Heb. 11:7).  Noah did something by faith.  He built a boat in a desert when it had never rained.

By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was told to leave his home and travel to a land promised to him by God (Heb. 11:8-10).  His faith was justified, not by the fact he believed God had a land for him, but by the fact he actually left his home to travel to a foreign country.  He did something.

By faith, Abraham was told to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering (Heb. 11:17-19).  And he did just that.  If God hadn’t intervened, Abraham would have obeyed God explicitly and his son would have died.  Why?  Because faith is justified by actions.  And Abraham’s actions proved his faith.

By faith, Isaac and Jacob and Joseph did something on their death bed (Heb. 11:20-22).  They did something.  And what they did, by faith, is what qualified them to be listed with the others in this chapter.

Next, we have Moses (Heb. 11:23-29).  Then the story of the fall of Jericho (Heb. 11:30).  We are presented with the faith and actions of Rahab (Heb. 11:31) and so many more, Gideon, Barak,  Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets (Heb. 11:32-34).  And they are all listed in the chapter because of the actions they took based on their faith.  Not the other way around.

So where are you in your journey of faith?  Do you have the faith needed to be a faith prepper?  Can your faith survive the coming darkness?  What are you doing today to place yourself in situations where you must rely on your faith and not on your own wit or resources?  Where do you want to go from here?

To find out more about becoming a Faith Prepper, keep listening.

The following is a study on Trusting God by Faith and becoming a Faith Prepper.

To download the slides to this message, click – HERE

Download this episode (right click and save)

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

440:  Taking God at His Word

440: Taking God at His Word

One of the attributes of becoming a Faith Prepper is learning how to trust God as His Word.  I know many of us will say that we do.  When pressed, almost all believers will state the mantra, “I believe everything God says, start to finish, from Genesis to Revelation.”  After all, that’s the expected answer.  To say anything less would make us seem like a lukewarm believer.

But the truth is, most believers, maybe ever you, don’t truly take God’s Word as the final authority in your life.  How can I say that?  Because God’s Word speaks to just about every issue we face today yet the church seems to be divided up into various opinions that differ greatly from one another.  If God’s Word doesn’t change and is always true, how can that be?  If God’s Word says something is wrong, for example, how can any believer who claims God’s Word as the final authority in their life, have a different opinion than what the Word says?  It seems inconsistent, doesn’t it?  Hypocritical.

As the adage goes, the Scriptures are true about everything it teaches.  And it teaches about everything.

To test whether God’s Word molds your opinions or whether your opinions are determined independent of God’s Word, I have listed a number of controversial issues below.  What is your opinion on these?  And whatever your opinion is, does it line up with the Word of God?  If it doesn’t, who is wrong, and what are you prepared to do about it?


My Opinions

Let’s see how you would answer the following:

  • Abortion – Does a woman have the right to end the life of her unborn child under any circumstances?
  • Homosexuality – Is it a sin? Or did God create people both heterosexual and homosexual?
  • Sex – Is premarital sex always a sin?  Always?
  • Divorce – Is it proper to divorce a spouse?
  • Education – Whose responsibility is it to educate our children? Or, is it proper to send our children to government (public) schools?
  • Tolerance – Is it true that Jesus never judged any one and neither should we as His followers?
  • Children – How many children should a family have?  Is birth control or family planning ever in God’s will?
  • Church – Should women be pastors?  Should women have leadership roles that involve men?
  • Friends – Should a believer have friends that are non-believers?  How close should they be?
  • Home – Should a man be a stay at home dad?  Or should a woman go to work outside the home and put the kids in daycare or public school?
  • Spiritual Leadership – Whose responsibility is the spiritual leadership in a family?  Father?  Mother? Church?  Someone else?
  • Environment – How concerned should a Christian be about the environment?  And what should they do about it?
  • Politics – Should a believer ever vote for a Democrat?  Should a believer ever vote for a Republican?  Should a believer vote at all?
  • Dating and Marriage – Should a believer ever marry an unbeliever?  Should they date an unbeliever?
  • Dating vs Courtship – Should a believer date at all?
  • Islam – How is a believer to view the god of Islam?
  • Drinking – Should a believer drink alcohol?
  • Entertainment – Should a believer watch or listen to media that includes profanity, nudity, or sex?  Should a believer watch or listen to media that promotes anything contrary to sound Biblical teaching?
  • Money – How much money should a believer accumulate?  And how much of their income should they give away?

How many of your opinions were just that, opinions?  How many of your views or convictions were based on Scripture?  And those that weren’t based on Scripture, does that bother you at all?  Are you willing to change?  Right now?  Today?  No matter the costs?

To find out more about becoming a Faith Prepper, keep listening.

The following is a study on Trusting God’s Word and becoming a Faith Prepper.

To download the slides to this message, click – HERE

big_lines

            podcast-25-25