God Is Looking for Men

Few verses of Scripture have more powerfully influenced my personal life than Ezekiel 22:30. After having given my life to Christ in an act of repentance, and receiving His free gift of salvation, a few short years later I accepted the call to preach the word.

However as a young adult I let selfish personal desires and worldly decisions turn me away from the promise I had made to God. Though God kept that promise which I had made to Him ever before me, in rebellion I lived only for myself and like a tornado left a path of destruction which affected the lives of everyone with whom I came in contact. But, even in my immorality and wickedness God still loved me, and desired to draw me back to Himself, and to obedience to His Will.

After many years in disobedience, I had reached a point at which God in His mercy had allowed me to be completely broken. I was broken materially, emotionally, and most of all spiritually. I was jobless, homeless, and had lost all respectability and integrity. Like the prodigal son I had wasted everything God had ever given me and destroyed every relationship with those who mattered to me. However, even at the depths of my depravity, and despite my unrepentant attitude, there were those who never ceased to pray for me. In doing so, they kept the illuminating and purifying light of Christ shining into my life and exposing my sin.

At that low point in my life, as a result of those prayers and through the efforts of my mother and oldest daughter, I began to be exposed to Godly men who, in the love of Christ, began to council and then disciple me. After a few months I cried out to God for forgiveness and gave Him complete control of my life. Believing completely in His power and ability to change my life, I again turned to His Word to show me His Will. I began that process of sanctification, daily endeavoring to be more like Christ, which yet continues even to this day. Late one night while reading, I came to this passage in Ezekiel and God began to show me, to teach me, just what He would require of me.

Ezekiel was a prophet of God to the nation of Israel during the Babylonian captivity. Because of Israel’s wickedness and disobedience God had allowed Nebuchadnezzar to conquer the nation. In the process of the conquest, the destruction of Israel took place over a period of years and included three separate periods of destruction during which the people of Israel were either scattered into other nations or were carried into captivity to Babylon. Ezekiel had been a part of the second captivity and his prophecies were both for those in captivity, and those who yet remained in Jerusalem, to turn from their wickedness and ask for restoration before God. Ezekiel chapter 22 details the depths of wickedness to which the nation of Israel had fallen, and what His judgment on them would involve. Having reached this point, God told Ezekiel;

“And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord GOD.” (Ezekiel 22:30-31 KJV)

God had looked for one man, just one. It would have only taken one man to step into the breach in obedience, one man completely committed to God to make a stand for God before the nation of Israel. One man who was steadfast and loyal to God, to stay God’s judgment on the nation. But, the Scripture says, He found none.

As I read and studied that passage I was struck by two thoughts; first, how tragic it was that God could not find even one man willing to stand for Him in all the nation of Israel; and second, I was overwhelmed and captivated with the realization that God is still looking for a man. That, in fact, throughout history, in every generation, God has looked for a man, Today, God is still looking for men willing to be His steadfast and loyal watchmen, warrior servants, and leader servants, willing to stand for God, for Christ, before this wicked world, calling for repentance and declaring His righteousness.

As the meaning of this passage and its significance became clear to me, especially as it pertained to my own life and to my walk with Christ, I realized that incredibly, God still wanted to use me. I realized that He wanted to use me not because of who I was becoming in Christ, but because of who I was before I turned to Him.

This realization compelled me to begin a study of the men God chose to use, both in the Old Testament and New, to accomplish His goals. And while this study revealed the character and characteristics of the type of man God is looking for, most importantly I began to understand not only why He still wanted to use me, but also what He was going to require of me.

Many years have passed since Christ in His mercy restored me to Himself and allowed His Holy Spirit to indwell me, protect me, teach me, and empower me to be His obedient servant. The process of sanctification continues in my life, and each morning as I rise I hear the call of the Holy Spirit in my heart saying “I sought for a man among them” and I pray to my heavenly Father; “cause me, make me, enable me to be that man.”

God is still looking for men! But God is not looking for perfect men, He is not looking for the wealthiest, or the best looking, or even the most intelligent men.

What kind of man is God looking for?

  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap and love Him more than they love the things of the world.
  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap because their hearts desire is to serve Him in obedience.
  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap because as men they are dependent on Him, humble men who trust him completely to lead them.
  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap and not compromise the Word of God to the popular culture or the ideas of man, who will not tolerate unrepentant sin, yet who will love sinners just as Jesus did.
  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap and love, lead, comfort, and protect their wives just as Christ does the church.
  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap because they are more concerned about their children’s souls than their athletic abilities or popularity.
  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap and lead by the way they live rather than by what they say.
  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap and pray, who current in their prayer life, are intercessors praying for the lives of others.
  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap as watchmen, warning His church of apostasy and infidelity, who will be defenders of the faith.
  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap having put on the whole armor of God, and having done all to stand, will stand therefore!

The most important thing that we must understand is that God is looking for men not only willing to die for the cause of Christ, but more importantly, He is looking for men whose lives are yielded to the power of the Holy Spirit and who are willing to live for Jesus Christ!

Is He looking for You?

 

What About Persecution?

Usually, for our Sunday article, it is my practice to quote a passage from a message or book written within the past 100 years or so, and then to make commentary as to its relevance for today. Today however, it is the constant reminder, by way of the media, of stories dealing with Christian persecution which has caused me to write. Because of much unbiblical teaching, emanating from many pulpits, in “churches” which have compromised on the Word of God and are now preaching “another gospel” I felt it necessary to put forward this brief excursus on persecution.

Words of Grace for Strength

From the very beginning, the true Church of Jesus Christ has faced persecution. Acts chapters 4 and 5 speak of the very beginning of that persecution in the ministry of the apostles Peter and John, and we find at the end of chapter 5 these words:

Acts 5:34-35
Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. And he said to them: “Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men.

Act 5:38-42
And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.” And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

It is estimated that between 100 million and 150 million Christians worldwide face some type of persecution on a yearly basis, and depending upon whose report you believe to be most accurate there are between 55,000 and 100,000 Christians martyred each year. Some have even estimated that more Christians have been martyred in the first 15 years of this century than all of the previous 20 combined.

Christian persecution is found on every continent, and in every country, and is perpetrated by many religions as well as atheistic and intolerant totalitarian governments. In some places the persecution is subtle while in others it is horrifically overt. Christian persecution is found in many forms; such as slander and libel, confiscation of property, false accusations, imprisonment, kidnapping, slavery, beatings, dismemberment, torture, rape, and in varying degrees of severity up to and including murder by means of shooting, stoning, and beheading, burning, and even crucifixion.

Beginning with John and Peter’s first persecution, and with Steven’s death as the church’s first martyr, the church age has been marked by suffering, persecution, and martyrdom of the followers of Jesus Christ. All of the apostles, with the exception of John, were martyred as were most of the New Testament disciples named in the books written by Luke, Peter, John, and Paul.

Throughout the successive centuries the persecution has only grown, and as we live in these last days, awaiting the return of Jesus Christ to Rapture His Church, we can expect its intensity and frequency to grow exponentially. Jesus Christ was Himself our suffering Savior, and He was persecuted even unto death. We who are His followers, should at no time be surprised when we too are persecuted. Jesus promised us; “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” John 15:20a

Looking back to our text in Acts 5, we find that those who are persecuting the apostles are the Sanhedrin. Later in the book of Acts we find the followers of Christ being persecuted by differing groups of Gentiles and most especially the Romans. Throughout the succeeding centuries Christians have faced persecution from many different religions, ideologies, and governments.

Today Christian persecution comes at the hands of Islamists and various other religions; from communists, socialists, progressives, and other political ideologies; from atheists and agnostics; and from the radical LGBT community as well as other social activists such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU. In fact, I’m certain many of you would agree with me when I say, active Christian persecution emanates from our own White House and the administration which now occupies it.

But, I believe we who are followers of Christ, His True Church, have actually forgotten who our enemy really is. In John 14:30 he is called “the ruler of this world,” in Ephesians 2:2 he is called “the prince of the power the air,” and Paul names him as the devil in Ephesians 6:11. In fact, in Ephesians 6:11-12 Paul warns us to; “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Whether it be religions, governments, or ideologies, these and the mere mortals who lead them, are no more than pawns in this great spiritual war.

Today the True Church of Jesus Christ, the Bride of Christ, is involved in this spiritual war for the universe. Satan’s goal is to corrupt, marginalize, render ineffective, and destroy the Church of Jesus Christ. It is also his goal to destroy God’s chosen people, the Jews and their nation of Israel. Ultimately, Christ Himself will win the war. But, until we are relieved of our duty by either death (which the apostle Paul calls “gain.” Philippians1:21) or Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17), we are to equip ourselves with the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) and make a stand for the cause of Christ.

Once again as we look back to Acts 5:41, we note that John and Peter rejoiced that they were found worthy to suffer for Christ. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 3:14 that if we suffer for righteousness sake we are blessed. And James writes in James 1:2 that we should count it all joy when we face trials. Contrary to what is taught in many “churches” today, this is the normal Christian life, to be continually facing persecution for our obedience and fidelity to the cause of Christ. Like so many saints before us, who had also counted the cost, we must be willing not only to suffer, but to lay down our life in the service of the cross.

There is an old gospel song titled “I came here to stay.” I don’t know who the author is, but I believe this song should be on the lips of every Christian as we are involved in this spiritual battle. The chorus of the song says;

Run if you want to, run if you will,
But I came here to stay.
If I fall down I’m gonna get right up.
Because I didn’t start out to play.
It’s a battlefield, brother,
not a recreation room.
It’s a fight, and not a game.
Run if you want to, run if you will,
but I came here to stay.

Know your enemy, know the battlefield, face persecution without fear, rejoice, and having done all to stand, stand therefore!

The Coming Storm

We have previously noted that in our minds, the late Reverend David Wilkerson was a prophetic voice for America during his lifetime. While some have criticized some of his dire predictions for America, it seems now that while the timing of his predictions may have been a little off, most are coming, or have come to fruition. Our excerpts today are from his message “The Calm Before the Storm” delivered at the Times Square Church on April 4, 1997. We have excerpted a few important paragraphs for their relevance to America today.

Over the years, I have received letters from people saying, “You’ve been prophesying for years about ‘gathering storm clouds’ and a ‘coming crash.’ Yet all you’ve done is scare a lot of Christians who trust your word. The truth is, the opposite has happened. Instead of experiencing a storm, we’ve seen a boom, with record-breaking prosperity. There isn’t one sign on the horizon to suggest a coming crisis.”
The fact is, the apostle Peter warned that many believers would react this way: “…there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:3). In other words: “People will say, ‘Where’s the so-called storm? Everything is continuing today as it always has!”

Beloved, God has judged every past society for lesser sins than America’s. Consider: No other nation has killed more babies than the United States has through abortion. Our soil cries out with the blood of these children! We’d rather save the life of a whale than one of our own babies. America has the world’s highest rate of illegitimate pregnancies.

We have begun to glorify homosexuality and lesbianism. Our media applauds the “bravery” of gays who declare their sexual orientation – but we ought to weep over it! At one time, Christians across the country would have been on their faces crying out to God for mercy over such immorality. Radical homosexuals cry out to society, “In your face!” Yet what they’re really saying is, “In your face, God!”

America has brazenly kicked God out of its schools and courts. Now there’s even a movement to remove His name from the Pledge of Allegiance and from all U.S. coins. People no longer want to hear even the mention of His name! Fifty million Americans now smoke pot, and millions more are hooked on heroin, crack and other hard drugs. Our schools have become bastions of blasphemy and agnosticism. Our children have been robbed of all moral standards, denied all access to God – and they’re reacting by becoming more violent and rebellious. Beloved, God destroyed Noah’s generation, as well as Sodom, all for lesser sins than ours. What arrogance to think that while these societies were judged severely, we might be spared!

Very Soon, America Is Going To Wake Up to a Sudden News Report of Calamity – and the Storm Will Be Upon Us Suddenly!

The psalmist describes how God’s rod of judgment will fall overnight: “In the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture; and he poureth out of the same: but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them…all the horns of the wicked also will I cut off…” (Psalm 75:8, 10).

In Revelation, this cup is called “…the cup of his indignation…” (Revelation 14:10). In other words, it’s full of God’s wrath. Simply put, America’s cup of iniquity is overflowing – and all of our sins are going to turn into his holy wrath!

And, beloved, so it will be suddenly when the storm hits. It will come like a thief in the night, bringing sudden panic and disbelief. Right now you may be thinking, “Let it come! If calamity strikes, I’ll deal with it then. After all, I’m in God’s hands. I’ll be ready – so I’m not going to worry about it. Jesus will see me through.”

Yet, let me ask you: Why does God tell his prophets to shout their warnings from the housetops? He wants to warn his people – to stir us up to seek him! He wants to convict us of all our attempts to cast off Christ’s yoke and cozy up to the world. He wants us to keep our eyes on Jesus – to seek heavenly things – because those are the only things that will stand in the coming storm!

The Only Hope in the Coming Storm!

Just before his death and resurrection, Jesus stared into the face of a horrible coming storm. David gives us a clear picture of Jesus’ attitude in the face of the coming storm. He speaks prophetically of Christ, saying, “…I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved” (Acts 2:25). The literal meaning here is, “I was always in his presence, beholding his face.” David quoted Jesus as saying, “Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope” (verse 26).

Here is the secret: Jesus kept the father always before his face! Jesus continually sought out secret places to be shut in with his father. And it was only after being in God’s presence that Christ came forth to minister, fully persuaded that his father was always with him: “He’s at my right hand – and nothing on this earth can move me!” The Greek word for “moved” here means “agitated or shaken, disturbed.”

Beloved, if we’re going to face the coming storm, then we need to be prepared so nothing disturbs our spirit. And the only way to do that is to spend time in the father’s presence, beholding his face. We have to be shut in with him – on our knees – until we’re thoroughly persuaded he’s at our right hand!

Words of Grace for Strength

Friends, it is past time for True Christians and the True Church in America, to make a stand for Jesus Christ and the one True God (John 14:6). The Storm David Wilkerson warned of is rapidly approaching.

We are almost daily seeing evidence of the growing persecution of Christians in this country. It is happening in our Military, schools, businesses, and government. Radical groups driven by satanic influence and ideologies, religious and cultural, conspire to marginalize Christians and Christian principles at every opportunity. We as followers of Christ need to join our voices with those of outspoken Christians like Benjamin Watson, Todd Starnes, and the Reverend Franklin Graham who are unapologetic in their stand for Christians and Christianity.

Most “churches” in America have become institutionalized, seeker friendly, prosperity driven, or denominationally apostate and marked by tolerance, compromise, and inclusiveness. The “mainstream” churches do not preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, instead their message is filled with Political Correctness, Social Justice and Secular Humanism. Those of us who are a part of the True Church, the Bride of Christ, the Body of Christ, must lift our voices before the Lord in rejection of the false teachers and false religiosity of these “mainstream” churches and their false gospels.

The US is in decline and standing in a place of judgment before God. Our national government is corrupt and led by the most godless administration in our history. Our nation, which was founded on Christian principles led by godly men, now caters to Islamists and Islam while growing increasingly more hostile to Christians. It is turning a blind eye on the genocide of Christians in the Middle East, Africa and the Far East, while embracing the radical Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood here and abroad.

This administration has vilified and ostracized our greatest ally and the only Democracy in the Middle East, Israel, while embracing and emboldening the very groups (the PA and Hamas) who which to destroy Israel. This administration negotiates with Iran (the greatest sponsor of terrorism internationally) over its nuclear ambitions while ignoring the spread of its influence throughout the world as a result of its terror network.

We as True Christians, True followers of Christ, we who are Americans, though our “citizenship” is in Heaven, have a responsibility to call America (and the World) to repentance.

The Storm is coming, and our only hope is to Trust in Jesus as our Savior, Lord, Master, Light, Life, and King. We must keep God the Father ever before us through Prayer, Bible Study, and our daily Walk “In Christ.” We, like Christ, must learn to “rest in hope.” We must not fear what the world may do to us, but instead rely on the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ to keep us, strengthen us, instruct us, embolden us, and sustain us as we serve Him. And we must serve Him, we must stand for Him.

While Christ has promised us we will be Raptured and not face the wrath of the Tribulation, we still can face a time of storm before that day. We are in a war for the souls of men, we are in a war of eternal significance, and we cannot fail if we do battle In Christ! Put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) and Stand!

Whatever Happened to John 3:16?

Quite literally, every day we learn of another example of man’s inhumanity to man. News organizations, both traditional and Internet-based, daily report on the atrocities and unspeakable evil which permeates, affects, touches, or in some way influences the lives of nearly every person on planet Earth. We are being constantly made aware of new and terrible diseases, or the resurgence or mutations of age-old maladies which are increasingly affecting numbers of peoples all over the world. And, weather events and natural disasters continue to increase in severity and frequency.

However, those of us who consider ourselves to be a part of the True Church, the Body of Christ, point to prophetic Scripture and declare that the Bible says these things are to be so as we approach the end of days. We of course do so by sharing these things from our pulpits, or in our weekly Bible studies, or through books we write, or (more and more frequently) through blogs posted on our own websites and those of others.

News organizations detail the latest atrocities committed by ISIS in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and the rest of the Middle East; Boko Haram in Africa, Russian separatists in Ukraine, the Iranian proxies (Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon), Al Qaeda in Yemen and Libya, the PLO in Israel, the Taliban in Afghanistan, Muslim extremists in Europe, and rising anti-Semitism worldwide. We hear about Chinese belligerence in the Far East, the nuclear aspirations of Iran, North Korea, and India, and increasingly, the failure of the United States to articulate any real understanding of, or implementation of, foreign policy.

In the US domestic news, we also read and see evidence of the growing influence of Islam, the continued proliferation of secular humanism in our institutions of learning, the insidious and intolerant assaults on Christianity and traditional family values by progressives (formerly known as liberals), and the militant minority LGBT community.

Lately, as I follow these news sources and then read the blog articles and comments of those in the Christian community, I have begun to see what I consider to be a disturbing trend. Many, though certainly not all, of these comments, articles, and posts focus on the condemnation of the individuals, groups, or countries committing these egregious acts without commenting on, or attributing, the ultimate reason for these evils to the very fact that we are living in a world which is ruled by the prince of the power of the air, and the rulers of darkness of this world, which is of course, Satan and his demons.

In fact, many in the Christian community have become so intentional in their desire to “expose” the hatred and evil inherent among those who are doing Satan’s bidding in these days, that they have forgotten not only the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40) and Great Commission (Mark 16:15), but in fact, the words of John 3:16. Even while acknowledging that we are living in the Last Days, that the Rapture of the church is imminent, and that a time of great Tribulation is approaching mankind, which will culminate in Christ’s physical return to the earth in power and great glory, we are failing to do the work which we were first called to do; proclaim the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 (NKJV)

Remember this verse? It is one of the best-known verses in the Bible. In fact, for most of us it is the very first verse we ever committed to memory. John 3:16 clearly and simply declares the Good News of the Gospel.

Let’s break this verse down a bit, “For God so loved the world” tells us that the creator of the universe loves His creation. However, the “world” here is not descriptive of the cosmos, or even the earth itself, but of all mankind. So the Scripture is saying that God loves all men, even those who scorn or reject His love. When I read “God so loved the world,” I can individualize that to say that He loves me. Yet, the same can be said by every other individual on the earth. This then means that the whole love of God is available to every single soul who has ever lived. Understanding that, the blessed truth here is this; no matter how far one distances himself from God, no matter how little one thinks of God, or no matter that one never even shows any love for God, it makes absolutely no difference to the very fact that God loves them.

Let’s continue, “that He gave His only begotten Son” is describing the fact that Jesus Christ became the sacrifice required by a Holy God to pay the sin debt of the entire world (read mankind). We must understand here that it was not Jesus’s death that turned God’s wrath and anger away from man, but rather it was God’s love for man which appointed Jesus Christ’s death. This then demonstrates that God loved men before He sent Christ to pay their sin debt. (2 Corinthians 5:14-21; Hebrews 2:9; 1 John 2:2)

This brings us to the last part of the verse, “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Now then, “whoever” means whoever. There is nothing complicated here, there is no mystery here, any and every man who believes that Jesus Christ paid his sin debt can have eternal life.

Believing in Christ means that we acknowledge that He alone could be the perfect sacrifice which a Holy God required. It is acknowledging Him as our Savior, and surrendering to Him authority in our lives as our Lord. It is the act of acknowledging His will as our own as we become His disciples.

God hates sin, and God certainly does not like the wicked state of the world in which we live. But God loves men, and Peter tells us that He is not willing that any should perish. (2 Peter 3:9)

So, the purpose of my article is this:

We who are disciples of Jesus Christ, who make up the Body of the True Church, which is the Bride of Christ, need to examine our attitudes as they relate to men and sin. When we stand in our pulpits, or sit before our computers we need to remember that Jesus Christ came to save sinners, and that but for the grace of God, we ourselves could still be in need of redemption. We need to humble ourselves as did the Apostle Paul when he wrote; “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).

Jesus Christ came to save sinners, mankind; no matter what their nationality, no matter what their race, no matter what their religion, no matter what their sexual orientation, no matter what political office they may hold, no matter whether they are rich or poor, no matter what the circumstances of their life are, Jesus Christ paid their sin debt and we have the responsibility to share that Good News with them. No matter what the cost may be.

Reread the Book of Acts, up until his conversion on the road to Damascus in chapter 9, the church considered Paul (Saul of Tarsus) a terrorist. Yet, look at what Christ did with his life. Take a hard look at your life and examine what you might have become had it not been for Christ’s intervention and your salvation. Think about what Christ could do with the life of a world leader or even a would-be terrorist who found redemption in Him today.

Please understand this, I am not asking that we cease our efforts as “watchmen on the wall” or that we quit proclaiming the imminence of Christ’s return for His Church. I am not even suggesting we quit commenting on current events and their relationship to the end times.

What I am asking is that we refocus on that which is the most important task we have been given, to share the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Share it in every message you preach, every study you lead, and every article you write. Is it not truly what we have all been called to do? Is it not really the reason we have become watchmen?

Yes, Jesus is coming soon, and we need to share the Good News so that many more will be ready for His coming.

Discipleship: Fully Committed to Christ

In Luke 14:25-33 we find a passage that describes what is required to truly be a disciple of Christ.

“Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, ‘”If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.”’

Many would consider this passage as some of the “hard sayings” of Jesus. At the point in His ministry at which He made these statements, He had been attracting great crowds which followed Him everywhere to hear His teaching. Yet many of them were following Him expecting temporal reward or at the very least, reflected glory for themselves. And so, Jesus delivers to them this message in order for them to understand what truly would be required of anyone who desired to be His disciple. Additionally, He shared with them examples of counting the cost of being His disciple.

When Jesus spoke to them in verse 26; “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” the implication was not that they would truly hate their own family or themselves, but in fact, that as much as they loved their families, they must love Jesus infinitely more. And in verse 27; “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple,” He is saying, in order to be His disciple, not only should one be willing to face unspeakable persecution and suffering, but one willingly commits to following Christ even if it means his death. In verse 33 Jesus said; “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” Again, the inference is that if we are to be disciples of Jesus Christ, we must be willing to put our love and service to Him above all of our material possessions. My friends this is a total commitment that He is requiring. You must follow Him completely or not at all. It is all or nothing. Jesus Christ is either Lord over everything in your life, including your life itself, or He is not Lord at all.

To be a true disciple of Jesus Christ one must count the cost. One must realize that sacrifice is required, suffering and persecution is to be expected, and we very well may be required to forfeit our very lives. In teaching on discipleship I often say it is not for the weak at heart. Again, remember Jesus told us in John 15:20; “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you,” and they crucified Him.

So, we have looked at what Christ says is required to be a disciple, but how does that relate to being a Christian? Let’s look at Acts 11:28; “And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” In this passage, which is telling about Barnabas taking Paul to Antioch, disciple is synonymous with Christian. I’m wondering if that puts a whole new light on your understanding of your relationship to Christ. Let’s look again at the words of Christ, this time in Mark 8:34; ‘“When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”’ There are three imperatives here:

  • First, is self-denial. This again is putting Christ before anything, anyone, and everything in your life;
  • Second, is self-sacrifice. Again, being willing to suffer and lay down your very life for Jesus Christ if so required;
  • Third, Jesus said “follow me” and there have been volumes written about the meaning of those two words, but the short version is this, having embraced self-denial and self-sacrifice,
    • commit to the life of a disciple by studying the Word of God,
    • grow more Christ-like by living by the Word of God,
    • share the Word of God with others,
    • and defend the Word of God without fail.

Here then is the bottom line. Jesus, the very Son of God, was born into this world to become the Christ. At Calvary He took on the sin debt owed by all humanity, paid it with His own life, was buried, and resurrected Himself into life. By His victory over sin and death, He has offered to all mankind the free gift of salvation and eternal life for all who will believe in His finished work at the cross and recognize Him as their Savior, and Lord of their life. In understanding this, we comprehend that discipleship as a Christian is voluntary. In accepting Christ’s gift we willingly are giving over our will to His Will. In that respect, becoming a Christian and a disciple is intentional.

Unfortunately, there are many who call themselves Christian, yet have not counted the cost. They never really surrendered their will to His Will. If you take an honest look at your life, can you truly say that you have surrendered your will to Christ? If not, you must seriously question your commitment. Are you truly following Christ? Are you His disciple? Again, if not, there is no better time than now, no better day than today to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior and surrender your life and your will to Him.

True discipleship begins at the cross of Christ. It requires sacrificial devotion to Christ without compromise, it requires putting the needs of others ahead of one’s self for the sake of the gospel, it is an absolute commitment to God’s Will in the disciple’s life.

Are you a disciple of Jesus?

Following Hard… or finding it Hard to Follow?

So you say you are a Christian, and in fact you can point to a day in your life in which you acknowledged your sinfulness, repented of your sinful nature, and asked Jesus to be your Savior and the Lord of your life. Undoubtedly, every day since has been filled with ease and pleasure, right? What? No?

Is it possible that your faith has brought suffering rather than the happiness you expected? Have you been rejected by family members or friends? Has your relationship with Jesus Christ caused you to have to sacrifice something or someone important to you? Have you been reviled or persecuted because of your faith in Jesus Christ?

Did you know that Jesus Himself told us this would happen? In John 15:18-21 we read;

“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.”

Remember, Jesus was mocked, lied about, beaten, spat upon, scourged, stripped naked, and in fact, Jesus Himself was abandoned by all of His disciples except John when He was nailed to the cross.

So, there is something here that we all need to understand as followers of Christ; we need to be prepared to face the fact that in all likelihood, sometime during our life, we can expect to suffer for our faith in Christ. Many of our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ in various parts of the world today are in fact doing that very thing; suffering rejection, persecution, vile depredation, and even death. We may not all be required to face death for Christ, but the Apostle Paul warned Timothy;

“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12)

After Christ’s resurrection and ascension, when the Holy Spirit was given to indwell the disciples, they began to recall all that they had been taught by Jesus when they walked with Him, and so began to speak boldly all the things that they had learned and witnessed. In Acts 5 we have recorded the story of John and Peter’s persecution for having refused to obey the edict of the Sanhedrin not to speak about Jesus. And Acts 5:40 records the fact that they were beaten and once again instructed not to speak about Jesus. However, in Acts 5:41 we read;

“So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”

How does one possibly develop an attitude of thanksgiving for having suffered persecution? Quite simply, it happens when one goes beyond merely accepting Jesus Christ as Savior, and commits to doing the work that is required to become a disciple. In his letter to the church at Colossae, the Apostle Paul instructed the believers there;

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6-7)

This is the act of Spiritual growth! Walking in Christ involves daily living by His Word; being rooted in Him requires the study of the Word; being built up in Him involves constructive growth in understanding doctrine as defined in the root of the Word; all this will establish you in your faith in Christ, enabling you to rejoice in every circumstance with thanksgiving.

Wow! You say. That sounds an awful lot like work. Well, yes it is. Becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ requires hard work, and because of the ever-present possibility of suffering and persecution, it isn’t for the faint of heart. But, the work is rewarding and the results are eternal.

So, as a believer in Jesus Christ, where do you begin to become a follower of Jesus Christ, one of His disciples? Actually it begins with your faith in Jesus Christ. The realization that you could not redeem yourself, and that by accepting God’s free gift of salvation through Christ’s finished work on the cross, you have acknowledged Christ as your Savior, and as the Lord of your life. This means you have yielded your will to His Will. When you have yielded your will to His Will you have actively begun the process of becoming a disciple. The Apostle Paul described this transformation as the “renewing of your mind.” In writing to the church at Rome the Apostle Paul encouraged the believers there;

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)

So, Paul says after we give ourselves to God, the first work we must do is to renew our mind and by doing so, we may prove or know God’s Will. We do that by not being conformed to the world, but rather by being conformed to the Word of God. In other words everything that you learned or thought you knew before you became a Christian, must now be examined and filtered through the Word of God. This may involve unlearning some things and getting rid of old thoughts, replacing them with thoughts that are centered on Christ.

Renewing your mind, and becoming a disciple is a process not an event. When you accepted Christ as your personal Savior, your Salvation resulted in Justification in the sight of God. Discipleship is the process of Sanctification, which is daily endeavoring to grow more Christ like. Discipleship is a lifelong process, one never completes the process this side of heaven.

Discipleship is doing the work of learning to follow Christ. What does that work involve?

  • Jesus Christ discipled the 12, and hundreds more, in fact at Pentecost there were no less than 120 of His disciples present. Paul discipled Timothy, Titus, Tychicus, Luke, Phoebe, and countless others; Peter discipled John Mark among others; John discipled Ignatius, Polycarp, and others, Priscilla and Aquila discipled Apollos as did Paul, Polycarp discipled Justin Martyr and Onesimus (who was also discipled by Paul). And so down through the centuries this process has continued. I have been discipled by Dr. Jimmy Moody, Dr. Charlie Dodd, Dr. Mal Couch, Dr. Eliseo Solorio, Doug Pabody and others. What is the point here? If you truly desire to become a disciple of Jesus Christ find a more mature disciple of Christ’s and be discipled by them.
  • Discipleship is disciplining yourself to learn the Word of God and making yourself accountable to a discipler who loves you and Jesus enough to encourage you to do the hard work.
  • Daily read and study the Word of God and in so doing ask the Holy Spirit to guide and teach you. As you learn the Word of God be obedient to what you learn. Obedience is part of the hard work.
  • Memorize passages of Scripture. Committing them to your mind will not only allow you to share them with others, but more importantly they will become the foundation on which you stand and the compass by which you navigate through life.
  • Pray. Pray for understanding, knowledge, wisdom, and others. The Scripture tells us to pray without ceasing. In other words we should always be in an attitude of prayer, ready to talk to God about anything and everything. Remember in your prayers to give thanks for all that Christ has done for you and is doing in you.
  • Develop a Scriptural understanding of stewardship, realizing that all you have and all you are belongs to God. This will allow you to properly allocate your time, talent, and resources as God leads.
  • Involve yourself in a local Bible believing, gospel preaching church (here’s a hint, the more intimate and family like the congregation and staff are, the more likely it is that you will find true disciples and disciplers there). Get involved in every Bible study available to you in the church, and look for ways to serve the body of Christ in and through your church.
  • Oh, and one more thing! As you grow as a disciple, become a discipler. Make yourself available to a believer who is less mature in his or her walk with Christ than you are and begin to teach them the things you have learned from the Word of God as a disciple.

Discipleship is more than just learning how to follow Christ, it actually involves following Christ no matter what the cost. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said; “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Bonhoeffer was martyred for Christ. I think I mentioned before that discipleship is not for the faint of heart. In fact, are you aware that all of Christ’s disciples who became His Apostles were martyred with the exception of John? I have often wondered if John was spared martyrdom because of his appearance at the cross during Christ’s crucifixion. Among the other disciples I named above in this article; Timothy, Titus, Tychicus, Luke, John Mark, Ignatius, Polycarp, Apollos, Onesimus, Justin Martyr, and Dr. Eliseo Solorio were all martyred for the cause of Christ.

Remember, Christ promised we would suffer, but He also said;

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20)

I like that promise, “I am with you always.”

Let us be busy as Disciples following hard after Jesus Christ, let us not fear those things which may befall us because we, like Paul, can say;

“For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” (2 Timothy 1:12)

Even when the following gets hard… Especially when the following gets hard… Follow Hard after Jesus!

Apostasy and Responsibility

Our excerpt today is from David Wilkerson’s Sermon “The Great Apostasy” from May 7th, 1986.

Our churches no longer have the power of God to attract the people. They go down to Egypt, borrow its music, its dancing, its entertainment, hoping for a crowd! No passion for souls – just crowds! Church growth at any cost! Look at the average church bulletin; it looks like a theater calendar. The church wants to ride the swift horses of Egypt! It is a stench in God’s nostrils.

Even the para-church ministries are falling away, apostatizing! Workers are parked in front of the TV idol. Many are reading psychology books. While some still have a passion for souls, even that often becomes worldly hype and human energy”!

“Who say to the seers, You must not see visions! And to the prophets, You must not prophesy to us what is right. Speak to us pleasant words, prophesying illusions” (Isaiah 30:10).

An apostate church wants nothing to do with the visions or prophecies of men of righteousness. They want no message that disturbs, no upsetting of their successful world. They refuse any kind of correction.

Everything is excused under the banner of love. They clamor for entertainment! They flock by the thousands to concerts, plays, social gatherings, they ridicule prophets. They mock what they call the Doomsday Preachers! They live with Illusions. They don’t want a Preacher or Evangelist to tell them the hard truth – to bring forth the Sword of the Lord. They say, “Preach to us smooth things! Bless us! Make us happy! Make us feel good!”

They especially reject the message of holiness and separation. They say, “Get out of the way, turn aside from the paths …. Let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 30:11).

I never thought I’d live to see the day that Assembly of God pastors would write me reproachful letters, telling me I am bringing confusion and gloom to the body of Christ. For what? Preaching holiness, judgment and repentance?

Jeremiah was sent to prophesy against the apostate Jews, the Lord’s own people. God warned him, “They will fight you… the dread of the Lord is no longer in them… they prefer to drink from cisterns now, rather than living water” (Jeremiah 1,2,3).

Why do people embrace the prosperity message and reject correction and calls to repentance and holiness? It is because of their lifestyles. Prosperity preaching fits beautifully into their successful lifestyles. They flock to those teachers, because they want to feel comfortable in their world of materialism. They are in no mood to give up anything, or to sacrifice, or to hear of crosses and losses. They are into buying, acquiring, enjoying, climbing. They refuse to heed the prophetic warnings that the party will soon be over.

Words of Grace for Strength

The New Testament book of Jude gives a clear warning of the dangers of Apostasy in the Church… both in the life of the early Church and just as importantly, it is relevant for the Church today.

Jude encourages the believer to earnestly “contend for the faith” because of the danger of Apostasy. “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3) Jude’s warning to the Body of Christ is that there will be a constant barrage of false teaching and false teachers who will attempt to corrupt the message and mission of the Church, and his exhortation is clear that it is the responsibility of every believer to be proactive in the fight against the false teaching. Every believer should be endeavoring to be a “Berean” like disciple who is so grounded in the Word that they are able to discern the difference between Truth and the threat of growing Apostasy as a result of the teaching of false prophets.

These false prophets have sought to corrupt the message of the Gospel from the very beginning of the church age. “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:4) Look at what Jude is saying about these false prophets and their Apostasy.

• They have “crept in unnoticed.” In other words, they have used deceit, craftiness and elusive means to gain access into the Church. Paul says of them in 2 Corinthians 11:13-14; “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.” These false prophets and teachers never appear to be divisive or distrustful, their mantra is inclusiveness, tolerance, love and prosperity. In fact, they may sound good, look good, and even have great charismatic personalities, but they use their position to subvert and corrupt the Truth.

• Jude also describes them as “ungodly” and immoral because they turn Grace into an excuse to commit unrighteousness. Verses 4-19 give a list of their ungodly attributes.

• Also in verse 4 Jude says they “deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul tells us how they do this in Titus 1:15-16; “To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.” Through their corrupt and unrighteous lives they expose their true nature. Peter says they also show their true nature through their false teaching. 2 Peter 2:1; “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.”

Eventually the false prophet or teacher will be exposed by his own works and he is revealed to have never had any true relationship with God, His Son Jesus Christ or His Holy Spirit and never understood the truth of God’s Word and His righteousness. John wrote of this in 1 John 2:19; “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”

Jude also describes three groups of people who have been influenced by or are a part of these Apostates. In verses 22-23 he writes; “And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.”

These verses speak of three separate groups of people.

• To some he says we are to “have compassion.” These are they who have been influenced by the false teachers and moral reprobates but have not yet completely bought in to their ungodliness. They are redeemable and we need to reach out to them in Love and kindness in order to draw them back to the Truth.

• The second group have become enamored with the teachings of the false prophets, they are in real and present danger of losing their souls because of ungodliness. Drastic action is called for as we are told to react and “save with fear, pulling them out of the fire.” This is not a moderate or tender approach, this is confrontational and demonstrative action needed to expose to them the danger they face which has eternal consequences.

• The third group is those described as ones we should fear, “hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.” They are the false prophets and teachers, the Apostates themselves. They have given themselves over to their sinful ungodliness and immorality. Are they beyond redemption? Only God knows. However, we are warned as believers not to associate with these workers of iniquity lest we become contaminated by their false teaching and sin. We as members of the Body of Christ, the True Church, are never to lower our guard or our standards in order to do the work of evangelism. We are to be in the world but not of the world.

Friends and fellow servants, we are living in the most exciting days in the history of the earth as we listen for the sound of the trump of God and the imminent return of Christ for His Bride, the Church. In these Last Days we have the opportunity to speak out and share the good news of the True Gospel of Jesus Christ.

There are more people on the earth today who need to know Christ than ever before, and it is not time for us to grow complacent, but rather it is past time for us to be proactive in the work we have been called to by our Lord and Savior.

We must stand against the growing Apostasy in the church, we must reveal the workers of iniquity who corrupt and distort the Word of God, and we must be willing to lay our very lives at the feet of Jesus.

People need to know the Truth, and the only source of Truth is the Word of God, and we know and must share that Jesus IS the Word!

We as Soldiers of the Cross need to put on the Whole Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) and prepare to do spiritual battle daily for our Lord. No fear, No weakness, let no one be discouraged, having done all we need to do to stand for Christ let us Stand Therefor! We must contend for the faith, speak those things which become sound doctrine, speak the truth in love, and pray without ceasing!

The little, yet powerful, book of Jude ends with this benediction in verses 24-25; “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen.”

Incredible, what a fantastic picture! He will keep us, He will present us with exceeding joy, He does this for us! Our God and Savior! Let us know, let us speak, let us share with the world our Savior, and His glory, His majesty, His Dominion and power now and forever!

Therefore Stand!