Leaving Laodicea
452 - How to Hear God’s Voice

452 - How to Hear God’s Voice

April 3, 2020

As we see the day of His return approaching, we must be more diligent to make sure we don't fall for the great deception Jesus spoke about (Matt. 24:4) and prepare ourselves for the coming apostasy (2 Thes. 2:3). Why?  Because as our Lord warned the deception would be so great even the elect, if possible, would be deceived and fall away (Matt. 24:214). So what are we to do?  How do we become a faith prepper and guard ourselves against such great deception?  The answer is simple to understand, yet difficult to do.  In Cliff Notes style:

You must personally experience God yourself. Second-hand faith won't cut it. Your faith must be first-person, personal. You cannot live on the faith of another. And your encounters with God must be on-going and habitual. Especially as we see the darkness approaching. This is what becoming a faith prepper is all about.

In essence, you must know God.  Intimately.  Personally.   And you do that by learning to hear His voice.

"And this is eternal life, that they may know (ginōskō) You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:3)

The key to not falling for falsehood and deception is an experience with God.  After all, a relationship between two people must include talking and listening from both parties.  And so it is the same with each of us and the Lord.  We talk. We ask. We beg. Sometimes we demand.  But does God ever speak personally to us?  If so, how?  And how often?


How To Hear God's Voice

The key to learning to hear God's voice is desire.  Do you have a desire to thirst after Him and His righteousness more than you do, for example, to keep abreast of current events?  Do you watch FOX News more than you spend time in His Word?  Are you on Facebook more than on your knees in prayer?  If so, why are we surprised we seldom if ever, hear the voice of our Lord? Remember, a key characteristic of being one of the Lord's sheep is being able to hear His voice.

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know (ginōskō) them, and they follow Me." (John 10:27)

Did you get that?  Jesus' sheep hear His voice.  It's the defining characteristic of being His sheep.  But what does that say if we don't hear His voice?  What are the implications? The key to intimacy with anyone is communication. That’s two-way communication.  Between each of us and the Lord.  So one of the most important things we can learn in our life with Christ is how to hear his voice? Do you long to hear His voice?  Do you have a hard time differentiating between His voice and your own voice?  If so, keep on listening. The following is a study on How to Hear God's Voice.

451 - Everything Follows Faith

451 - Everything Follows Faith

April 3, 2020

One of the questions each of us will have to come to grips with as we see the time of our Lord's return approaching is this:  Do you believe what you say you believe?  Or, more pointedly, how does your life reflect what you claim to believe?  In other words, do we really believe everything the Scriptures say about God, this world, heaven and hell, our lives, the future, whatever?  Or are we somehow hedging our bet in His Word to fit what we feel or think?   Consider the following scriptures and ask yourself if you truly believe what they say.

But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him." (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Do you believe this statement to be true of you?  If so, make it personal by putting your name in the place of "those".

But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for (your name) who love Him."

Let's try one more.  Do you believe this statement to be true?

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

If you believe God can do more than you can ask or think, then put your name in this verse.  Make it first-person, personal.

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that (I can) ask or think, according to the power that works in (me), to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.

So why is this important?  Because your relationship with God, your intimacy with the Father, will rise and fall on your belief in Him and in His character. Your beliefs always determine your actions.  Always.  In everything.  For example, if you don't believe God can do "exceedingly abundantly above all that (I can) ask or think," then you will be overcome by your doubts and fears and feel like a helpless kitten abandoned in the dark.  But if you believe God is who He says He is, then you will be invincible in faith before anything that comes your way.

Why?  Because everything follows faith!


Everything Follows Faith

Search your soul and ask yourself the following questions:

Do you really believe what the Scriptures say about God, life, His church, and you?
Do you really think it’s possible to learn how to hear His voice speak to you in a way that is unmistakable?
Do you believe you will ever experience an outpouring of His Spirit like what is revealed in Scripture during your lifetime?

Or let's hit a little closer to home.

Do you believe these statements are true?
Do you believe what God's Word proclaims is true as reality, and not necessarily what we see, feel, or hear?
How are you going to begin to change your life to live in His Kingdom and not in the world that is fallen and passing away?
And are you ready to begin today?

If you answer yes to the last question, you are just beginning the great adventure.  So hang on, it's going to be quite a ride!

The following is a study on Faith and Actions and focuses on Numbers 9 and 2 Kings 8.

450 - How to Prepare for the Coming Apostasy

450 - How to Prepare for the Coming Apostasy

February 19, 2020

When we have the discernment that Jesus spoke about to know the "signs of the times" (Matt. 16:3), it becomes clear we are living in the last days.  In fact, there are several key signs that bring us to this conclusion.

  1. The regathering of Israel into their own land
  2. The surging apostasy
  3. The coming Middle East peace
  4. The reuniting of the Roman Empire (East, West, both?)
  5. Globalism

For the church today, the most important of these prophetic signs is the rising tide of apostasy or defection from God and the Christian faith.  We see this happening almost daily within the ranks of the church.  As we have already discussed, apostasy means to "depart, revolt, or forsake.  It is a deliberate defection from a formerly held religious position."  Apostasy doesn't necessarily mean a total rejection of God or the authority of His Scripture.  Apostasy can come in stages.  It usually begins with a defection from a section of Scripture or a specific teaching that is incompatible with the current cultural church mood.  Some examples are the issue of homosexuality, divorce, women pastors, abortion, or a myriad of other issues that divide the Body today.  And once a small defection takes place, full-blown apostasy is not far behind.

But this shouldn't surprise us.  After all, Jesus said in Matthew 24 the greatest sign of His return was deception.  And He warned His disciples about that deception four times (Matt. 24:4, 5,11, 24).  He even went so far as to say the deception at the end would be so great that, if it was possible, even the elect would be deceived (Matt. 24:24).  And the elect includes Peter, Paul, James and John, Martin Luther, D.L. Moody, Spurgeon, Billy Graham, and you and me.  That's a sobering thought that should not be taken lightly.

So what can we do to prepare for the coming apostasy?


The Apostasy is Coming

Or, how do we prevent falling prey to the deception that will only get greater as the Day approaches?  Great question.  You must know what you believe, and why.  You must personally experience God for who He is.  You cannot ride on the coattails of another’s faith.  Your faith must be your own.  And you must understand how overwhelmingly powerful the deception will be in the end times and be prepared.

Ask yourself the following questions: Has God ever revealed Himself to you in an unmistakable fashion that left no doubt?  Has He ever revealed Himself to you through His Word?  If so, what was that experience like?  How did it change your view of Scripture?  Do you hunger for more of Him?  Has that hunger led you to read more of His Word?  And if not, why?

Once you begin to understand the power of His Word and the wisdom He gives you through His Word, what the world offers is nothing more than pocket change.  You, through Him, have more wisdom than the talking heads on CNN.  You have more understanding than those who make acceptance speeches at the Academy Awards and spend that time telling you how to live.  You are the dwelling place of God Himself, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, which makes you a living sanctuary of the Presence of God.

Tell me what the world has that you don't.  Exactly.  Nuthin'!

The following is a study on How to Prepare for the Coming Apostasy and 1 Corinthians 2.

449 - The Limitations of Apologetics

449 - The Limitations of Apologetics

February 18, 2020

As the Scriptures claim, one of the greatest signs of the end is the mass defection or apostasy from the Christian faith by those who once claimed to be believers.  Paul, in his letter to Timothy, warns that the "Spirit expressly says that (when) in latter times (who) some (what) will depart from the faith, (how) giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons" (1 Timothy 4:1).  This great apostasy is characterized by a rebellion or revolt against God and His Word.  And it is promoted by those who once claimed Jesus as Lord but are now "giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons."  Peter says "scoffers will come in the last days" (2 Peter 3:3-4).  Jude calls them "mockers" (Jude 17-19).

So what are we to do in the face of this great apostasy?  How do we answer skeptics when they demand we "prove our God exists?"  How do we defend our faith in the unseen God?  What are we to do?  Historically, the answer has been to study up on apologetics and be prepared to go toe to toe with those who demand answers from us void of faith.  But is that the real purpose of apologetics?  I'm not so sure.

For the message (or, preaching) of the cross is foolishness (mōría - folly, absurdity, moronic, stupid, senseless, foolhardy, insane) to (who) those who are perishing (or, being destroyed completely, to render void), but to (who) us who are being saved (to deliver, make whole, preserve safe from danger, loss, or destruction) it (the message of the cross) is the power (dúnamis) of God - 1 Corinthians 1:18.

Our faith in the cross of Christ is moronic to those who are perishing.  Period.  And apologetics won't change that fact.  Think about it, our God doesn't need defending.  He can take care of Himself.  And you cannot lead someone to Christ by logically answering all their questions about faith and the Scriptures to their satisfaction.  Why?  Because faith in Him is a gift from God and, before God imparts faith to the individual, the lost are incapable of believing the Gospel.  To them, our faith in the cross of Christ is moronic.

So, is apologetics important?  Absolutely.  But not necessarily in the way you think.


Apologetics

The purpose of apologetics is for you to have all your questions answered about God and salvation and to allow your faith to grow strong.  It is not for the direct benefit of the lost.  This is what 1 Corinthians 1 and 2 shows in graphic detail.  It has always been God's plan to thwart man's wisdom by revealing Himself through something man considers foolish.  He does this to bring to nothing the wisdom of this world and, in turn, exalt faith in Him as the key that opens the door of salvation.  Consider the following from 1 Corinthians 1:21-22:

Question:  Where is the wise (or, respected, learned philosophers and experts)?
Question:  Where is the scribe (or, writers, scholars)?
Question:  Where is the disputer (or, debater, reasoner, influencer) of this age?
Question:  Has not (who) God made (what) foolish the wisdom of this world (kósmos)
Answer:  Absolutely!

But why?

For since, in the (what) wisdom of God, the world through (its) wisdom did not know (ginōskō - or choose to know) God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached (foolishness to those who are perishing) to save those who believe (faith).

The reason for apologetics is for you to be secure in your faith and not necessarily to convince someone by the power of your arguments to receive Christ.  That is a sovereign act of God alone.  And prior to the impartation of faith in the elect, our most important argument is foolishness (stupid, ridiculous, moronic, insane) to those who are perishing.  Jesus never gave signs for others to believe in Him. So let me ask you just a few questions about your belief vs. God's wisdom.

  • Do you believe in the creation account in Genesis?
  • Do you believe in the virgin birth?
  • Do you believe in the floating ax head?
  • Do you believe in the lion’s den or the fiery furnace?
  • Do you believe in the fall of Jericho?
  • Do you believe a good God sometimes does things that don’t seem so good to us today?
  • Do you believe God rewards faith and punishes unbelief?

Are there parts of His Word that you don’t believe?  If so, you are on very dangerous ground.  Why?  Because Jesus said the deception in the last days would be so great that, if it was possible, even the elect would be deceived (Matt. 24:24).  And that includes you and me.

As we see the day of His return approaching, it is vital to know what we believe to be true.  For help in securing your belief against apostasy, keep listening.

The following is a study on the Limitations of Apologetics as found in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.

448 - Narcissism:  The Ultimate End Time Personality Disorder

448 - Narcissism: The Ultimate End Time Personality Disorder

February 15, 2020

Jesus chastised the religious elite of His day for their confidence in predicting things like the weather, but not being able to discern the signs of the times.  In fact, He called them hypocrites.  Remember?  "When it is evening you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red'; and in the morning, 'It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.'  Hypocrites!  You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times" - Matthew 16:2-3.  I wonder if He would say the same about His church today?  After all, it appears we all seem to know everything about everything.  Just ask us.

It seems we resemble those that Isaiah was called to address.

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!  Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight - Isaiah 5:20-21.

But there is one prophetic statement of Jesus regarding the times before us that is hard for many, including me, to understand.  That is until today.  Jesus said "because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold" (Matt. 24:12).  Got that.  He also promised that "a man's enemies will be those of his own household" (Matt. 10:36).  How is that possible?  How can our love for our spouse or children grow so cold we will treat them as enemies to the extent of hatred and betrayal? (Matt. 24:10).  How can that be true?  What sort of perverted human would turn on his own family for the sake of himself?  What kind of depraved mind or personality disorder would produce sociopaths with a love this cold?

In a word, it's called narcissism.  And it is the ultimate end-time personality disorder.


Narcissism

In general, narcissism or narcissistic traits can be described as follows:

  • They have an exaggerated sense of self-importance.
  • They have a sense of entitlement and require constant, excessive admiration.
  • They expect and demand to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it.
  • They exaggerate their achievements and talents.
  • They are preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate.
  • They believe they are superior and can only associate with equally special people.'
  • They monopolize conversations and belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior (which is just about everyone).
  • They expect and demand special favors and unquestioning compliance with their expectations.
  • They habitually take advantage of others to get what they want.
  • They have an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others.
  • They are envious of others and believe others envy them.
  • They behave in an arrogant or haughty manner, coming across as conceited, boastful and pretentious.
  • They Insist on having the best of everything because they are entitled.

And they are everywhere!  They multiply like kudzu.

Narcissism may very well be the ultimate personality disorder of the end-times.  And it certainly fits the Laodicean church model.  In fact, psychologists believe that in the last 15 years over 30% of our population now registers on the narcissism spectrum.  And that number grows daily.

So what are we to do?  Great question.  Keep listening to find out more.

The following is a study on Narcissism and the End Times.

447 - The Two Invitations

447 - The Two Invitations

January 23, 2020

One of the vital truths regarding our desire to follow Christ is to fully understand our union with Him.  After all, we are invited to become one with Him and are described in Scripture as being "in Christ."  In Romans 8 we are called “children of God” that are "adopted" into His family and are now "joint heirs with Christ."  Romans 6 tells us our old man has died and Christ now lives in us in the Presence of the Holy Spirit.  But do we really understand the implication of what this means?

Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology, states "Union with Christ is a phrase that summarizes several different relationships between believers and Christ, through which Christians receive every benefit of salvation. These relationships include the fact that (1) we are in Christ, (2) Christ is in us, (3) we are like Christ, and (4) we are with Christ."   Ok, I've got that.  But is there more to this union with Christ than dry theology?  Can I really experience union with Him?  And, if so, how is that done?  What do I have to do to experience the fullness of my union, my relationship, with Christ?

Great questions.   And the simple answer is, "Yes, you can know the wonder of our union with Him."  And the wonder of it comes with the invitation of Christ to be joined with Him.

Consider the following invitation found in Matthew 11:28.  It is a familiar passage:

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

Now, let's see what it means by defining a few terms.

"Come to Me, all you who labor (to be worn out, fatigued, faint, weary) and are heavy laden (to overload, heavily burdened, like with the freight of a ship), and I will give you rest (to cease from labor, to refresh, relax, loosen, to be at peace or rest)."

Do you see the trust relationship implied in this invitation?  Do you see Christ's invitation to let Him carry your troubles and you rest in Him?  To be united in Him?

Many of us struggle with this and ask how is that accomplished?  How can I truly experience rest in Him?  Is it just a mental thing?  Or is it some sort of resolution I make and then fail at when things get uncertain or tough?  Is it a mantra I go over and over again in my mind, like "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can"?  Or is it something else?

Oh, it is definitely something else.  Let's look at the second invitation.


To Abide in Him

The second invitation reveals to us the "how" of our union and complete trust in Him.  This invitation is found in John 15:4, and elsewhere in that chapter.

"Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me."

Note the two-fold relationship.  One, I abide in Christ.  And two, He abides in me.  This is vital.  And "abide" means, "to remain, dwell, live, to make one's home, to be united with one heart, mind, and will."  So I "remain" and "make my home" in Christ, "to be united with one heart, mind, and will" with Him.  And He will "remain" and "make His home" in me, "to be united with one heart, mind, and will" with Me.  This is what it means to abide.

As you listen to this podcast in order to understand more of this marvelous relationship we have with the Lord, remember the following:

The branch (you and I) does not produce the fruit.  That comes from the Vine (Christ). The branch does not secure the nutrients necessary to produce the fruit.  That again comes from the Vine (Christ). The branch does not position the buds to get the most sunlight.  The Vinedresser (Father) does that. The branch does not prune dead wood.  Again, that is the Father's job. The branch does not provide water nor sunlight. The branch does not participate in harvesting. The branch (you and I) only bears the work of the Vine (Jesus) for the glory of the Vinedresser (the Father).

The key to all Christ has provided for us is found in a dependent, branch to vine, relationship with Him.  He would not require from us what He has not equipped us to give.  This kind of life is possible and provided for you and is the default position as a believer in Christ.  But to experience the fullness of this relationship, we must surrender our petty desires to Him.

So, once again, the choice is ours.  We can continue to live in lukewarm Laodicea satisfied with less than the abundant life Christ promised.  Or we can jump into the deep end of the pool and surrender all to Him.  It's not complicated.  It's just hard.  What do you want to do?  The ball is in your court.

The following is a study on being Fully Surrendered to God from John 15.

446 - Experiencing the Fullness of the Holy Spirit

446 - Experiencing the Fullness of the Holy Spirit

January 20, 2020

How does one receive the Holy Spirit?   Simple.  As Peter said in Acts 2:38-39, you "repent" and "believe."  Which just happens to be the same requirements for salvation.  After all, the guarantee of our inheritance in Him is the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14).  This is a truth most Christians know and understand.  No Holy Spirit, no salvation.  It's as simple as that.

But how does one experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit?  How do we find our joy in Him?  Or, how do we experience the "unsearchable riches of Christ" (Eph. 3:8) as a daily, living reality?  How is that possible? Consider the following:

Every believer has received the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is only received by repentance and faith in Jesus at salvation.
There is a fullness of the Holy Spirit that is usually greater than what is experienced at conversion.  Your own experience confirms this truth.
As there are certain conditions for receiving the Holy Spirit, there are also certain conditions for experiencing the fullness of the Spirit.
They are primarily found in Romans 6 and 12.

Let's dig a bit deeper, shall we?


Two Words:  Deny and Surrender

The fullness of the Holy Spirit is found in the same way, and under the same conditions, as following Jesus.  Do you remember the requirements Jesus placed on those who desired to follow Him?  They are self-denial and surrender and are found in Matthew 16:24-25, among other places.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."

Denial and surrender.  Or, by letting the Lord be Lord over our lives.  The same principle is required to experience the fullness of the Spirit.  To experience the fullness of the Spirit requires the absolute, unqualified surrender of your life to God, to do His will and not your own.  But this shouldn't surprise you.  You had to do this to receive salvation by declaring someone other than yourself as Lord.

Remember, when we surrender our sins and believe, we receive the Holy Spirit with salvation.  And when we surrender our lives and believe, we are filled with the Holy Spirit.  Why?   Because the receiving of the Spirit is God's answer to repentance and faith and the guarantee of our salvation.  And, in a like manner, experiencing the fullness of the Spirit is God's answer to a life surrendered to Him.  When we are saved the Spirit enters into our life.  But at surrender, the Spirit takes full possession of our lives and brings us the blessings that come from a life that is fully surrendered to God.

So the choice is ours.  We can continue to live in lukewarm Laodicea satisfied with less than the abundant life Christ promised.  Or we can jump into the deep end of the pool and surrender all to Him.  It's not complicated.  It's just hard.  What do you want to do?  The ball is in your court.

The following is a study on being Fully Surrendered to God from Romans 6.

445 - What it Means to Follow Jesus

445 - What it Means to Follow Jesus

January 17, 2020

When Jesus began His earthly ministry, His initial message was the same as John the Baptist.  He said, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 4:17).  And throughout the next three years, one underlying theme in His teaching was about life in His Kingdom.  When Jesus sent out His disciples to preach His message, He said, "As you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand' " (Matt. 8:11).  Jesus even told those close to Him why He spoke to the crowds in parables.  And His answer had to do with concealing from some the knowledge of the kingdom of heaven.  He said, "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given" (Matt. 13:11).

Finally, He shared parables specifically pointed to revealing what the kingdom of heaven, His Kingdom, was like.  He said it was like a "man who sowed good seed in his field" (Matt. 13:24).  Or, it was like a "mustard seed" which, being small, grew into a tree "so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches" (Matt. 13:31).  Jesus likened His Kingdom to "leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened" (Matt. 13:33).  And to express how wonderful His Kingdom is for those who possess it, He said it was like a "treasure hidden in a field" (Matt. 13:44) or a "pearl of great price" (Matt. 13:46) that was worth all one had on earth.

Jesus then asked His disciples, "Have you understood all these things?"  They said to Him, "Yes, Lord" (Matt. 13:51).

I wonder what our answer would be today?  Do we understand His Kingdom?  Do we fully know what it means to follow Him?  Can we honestly say we are proficient in following Jesus?

I'm not so sure.  And maybe you aren't either.


What Life is Like in the Kingdom

Let's just take a flyover view of the first few chapters in Matthew and see if we can determine some principles and instructions for what it means to live in the kingdom of heaven.  And then compare them to what we teach in church today, and I think you'll be as shocked as I was.

Blessed… or Not So Blessed - Matthew 5:3-12
Self Identity - Matthew 5:13-16
His Standard of Righteousness - Matthew 5:20
Anger - Matthew 5:21-26
Lust and/or Sexual Sin - Matthew 5:27-30
Marital Relationships - Matthew 5:31-32
Oaths and Dishonesty - Matthew 5:33-37
How to Respond to Evil - Matthew 5:38-42
How to Respond to Haters - Matthew 5:43-47
Be Perfect - Matthew 5:48
Self-Promotion - Matthew 6:1-4
How to Pray - Matthew 6:5-13
How Much Forgiveness? - Matthew 6:14-15
Fasting and Other Disciplines - Matthew 6:16-17
Our Life Focus - Matthew 6:19-21
Everyone Serves Somebody or Something - Matthew 6:24
Worry, Doubt, and Fear - Matthew 6:25-34
I’m Right and You’re Wrong - Matthew 7:1-2
I’m Good and You’re Bad - Matthew 7:3-6
What is a Life of Faith - Matthew 7:7-11
Treat Others Like You Treat Yourself - Matthew 7:12
Turnstile or Interstate - Matthew 7:13-14
Fruit Inspector - Matthew 7:15-20
Doing and Not Just Talking - Matthew 7:21-23
Don’t Be Stupid! - Matthew 7:24-27
Minister Within Your Reach - Matthew 8:1-17
Everything Costs Something - Matthew 8:18-22
And so much more!

Remember, following Christ means to forget everything we think we know about everything but Him, and simply trust in child-like faith.  Our entire reality now changes, as citizens in His Kingdom, to something incredible and supernatural.

Do you want to learn more about what it means to follow Jesus?  If so, then keep listening.

The following is a study on What it Means to Follow Jesus.

444 - It All Comes Down to Denial

444 - It All Comes Down to Denial

January 10, 2020

When Jesus instructed His disciples, and the others, about what it meant to follow Him in Matthew 16:24-25, He spoke of "desire to come after me" and then "let him deny himself."  We looked at desire in our last message, and now we will turn our focus to what He meant by "deny himself."  Note the requirement and sequence in the verse below.  First, there must be desire ("if anyone desires to come after Me").  Then, a denial and the corresponding action showing the commitment to deny himself ("take up his cross").  And finally, the invitation to "follow Me."  Jesus shows surrendering to Him must follow in this order.  In essence, first meet the conditions, and then come "follow Me."

Jesus said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" - Matthew 16:24-25.

The word deny (aparnéomai) when followed by the pronoun heautón (oneself, himself) means "to deny oneself, or to disown and renounce self and to subjugate all works, interests, benefits, and enjoyments to another."  The word is also translated "to speak against, contradict, to avoid, reject, nullify, to stand firm against, resist, oppose." When Jesus said we must "deny" ourselves, the impact of our denial affects all areas of our life.


Deny, Denial, and Denied!

In Matthew 10, Jesus speaks of confessing Him before men or risk having Him deny us before His Father.  It is an extremely troubling warning from Christ that left no room for doubt or excuses.  He said,

"Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.  And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" - Matthew 10:27-28.

Who is the One we are to fear?  Exactly, the Lord.  If so, do you have the fear of the Lord in you?  How has that fear changed your life so far?

"Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin?  And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Do not fear therefore (the consequences of speaking what the Lord tells you to say); you are of more value than many sparrows" - Matthew 10:29-31.

But then it gets quite serious for those who do not heed the Lord’s warning.

"Therefore whoever confesses Me (where) before men, him I will also confess (where) before My Father who is in heaven.  But whoever denies (refuse, avoid, reject, resist, oppose) Me (where) before men, him I will also deny (refuse, avoid, reject, resist, oppose) before My Father who is in heaven" - Matthew 10:32-33.

Can you imagine being denied by Christ before the Father?


Fear and Excuses

But if I confess Jesus, my friends will not include me.  Or my spouse will reject me even to the point of separation or divorce.  Or I’ll lose my job and source of income.  Or I’ll be persecuted, even to the point of possible imprisonment.  Or… you choose the excuse.  They are all the same, lame.  But Jesus anticipated these excuses.  He continued:

"Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.  For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter in law against her mother in law ’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.'  He who loves father or mother more than Me is (what) not worthy of Me.  And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is (what) not worthy of Me.  And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is (what) not worthy of Me. (Therefore) He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life (why) for My sake will find it" - Matthew 10:34-39.

Or are you a follower of Jesus according to what works best for you?  Have you truly counted the cost of being one with Him?  Is He the center of your life?  Is He your very life?  Do you want Him to be?  If so, everything begins at the beginning.  And it all begins with desire.

Do you want to follow after Jesus?  No matter what?  Come what may?   If so, then keep listening.

The following is a study on What it Means to Follow Jesus.

443 - It All Comes Down to Desire

443 - It All Comes Down to Desire

January 9, 2020

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.