Why Are You Still Here?

In the span of just a few days I heard expressed the thought that the reason we, as believers, are still here in this world now is because God is not finished with us (each of us as an individual), and that He still has some work for us to do here for His purpose, to His Glory. It was stated by two different people in two different contexts, and not within the hearing of each other. Looked at with slightly different perspectives, but the same essential thought, that if there wasn’t something that God had for us to do here in this life, He would have taken us home to Him already.

For the believer in Jesus Christ, having this attitude is a faithful and obedient way to live. As the Apostle Paul describes himself in the opening of his epistles, we, like him, are bondservants of Jesus Christ. The Greek word used here, doulos, has the meaning of slave or servant, on either an involuntary or voluntary basis.  But in the context of Paul’s self-description (or those of Peter in 2 Peter or Jude in his epistle), one need use it in the context of voluntary servitude; for these are men who came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ and sought to serve Him, even unto death. And as privileged, by the grace of God, as we are through our faith in Christ to be in a place to serve Him, I believe any disciple of Jesus should view it in the voluntary sense of service to the Lord.

And now to the heart of the matter; I chose the word disciple instead of believer because I feel that if you are a true bondservant to Christ, you are a disciple. As a disciple you are a faithful follower of the Risen Lord, and not just simply a believer who has trusted and believed in Him as the only way to one’s salvation. As disciples, we should live our lives as if the Lord has work for us to do, living as if there is something He would have us do today for the Glory of His Name and the Growth of His Kingdom. If not, there truly is no earthly purpose to our lives. If His plans and purposes for us are complete, (or if we no longer actively serve the Lord; for we must remember we still have a sinful nature which rebels against Him at times), we might as well be called home to be with Jesus. He is a loving God, He wants us with Him for eternity, so why not start that life today?

But He has not called us yet, and we are still here. So let us serve the Lord. We may wish to be with Him (nothing wrong with that), but we should want to do His bidding first. As Paul noted in Philippians:

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again. – Philippians 1:21-26

Paul even goes on in Philippians 1 to talk about letting one’s conduct be worthy of the Gospel of Christ; so Paul is looking for service to the Lord in a way that is honoring to the Lord. Good words to follow for the true disciple of Jesus.

Scripture has more guidance for us:

…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6

The Lord is doing a work in each of us, and is doing a work through each of us. If you are still here among us there’s something God has for you to do, and it may be something that someone, somewhere needs to experience in their life.

In our work for Christ we each have a race to run.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2

Running with endurance while looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher (italics mine) of our faith. We are to run until He decides our race has finished and His Will has been done. This is why we are still here, Jesus hasn’t decided our particular race is over. It is a race which involves obedience to Him, bringing glory to the Father, and growing the Kingdom by reaching others with the love of Christ and the good news of His Gospel.

You are still here and I am still here. Our Lord has not yet stepped out on the clouds to call His Bride up to meet Him, so for now we all remain here. There is something for each of us to do for the Lord today. We need do it with the love of Christ; not hating others (He didn’t hate anyone although He took false teachers and religious leaders to task), not complaining about life (He didn’t do that either, instead He encouraged others to live godly and obedient lives), and with a lot of prayer, even for those who are doing evil (He did a lot of that type of praying).

We remain, to proclaim Christ and speak His Gospel into a world that desperately needs it.

Let’s get to it and be about our Father’s business.

True Grace for True Disciples

David Wilkerson was truly a modern-day prophet, calling people to repentance, and especially calling out the “church” for its apostasy. He was unapologetic in his criticism of the false teachers and preachers of the “Prosperity Gospel” and “Word of Faith” movement and of those who expect favor from God without submitting to His will. Our excerpt today is from his message “True Grace” from 1993.

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” Titus 2:11-14

According to Paul, we are not walking in grace until we have broken from worldly corruptions. Unless we are endeavoring through the power of the Holy Spirit to lead godly and righteous lives, looking for the Lord’s coming in our every waking moment, we do not know God’s grace.

Many Christians want forgiveness, but that is all. They do not want to be delivered from this present world, because they love it. They are attached to their sins, not wanting to give up the pleasures of this earth. So they cling to a doctrine that says, “I can live as I please — as long as I say that I believe.”

They do not want to hear about obedience, repentance, self-denial, picking up their cross, taking on the yoke or burden of Christ. They simply want to be excused on Judgment Day — to have all their iniquities overlooked. They expect Jesus to open up the pearly gates, put His arms around them, and lead them down a golden street to their reserved mansion, even though they have never broken from the spirit of this world!

Paul writes, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2). We are to break from this world completely and be conformed to Christ alone!

Words of Grace for Strength

Unfortunately, the “church” today is filled with “Christians” who reflect the very attitudes that David Wilkerson spoke of 20 plus years ago. More than ever before the church has adopted the ideas and appearance of the world. Rather than being separated to Christ, the church has embraced materialism, and humanism in a culture of tolerance and compromise. In today’s culture, man’s will rules supreme.

Those who call themselves “Christian” in many cases are no different from those who claim to be atheist, or agnostic. Not only have they not broken from worldly corruption and desires, they have no intention to. They speak of a god of love who will not condemn anyone to a literal Hell because of his love for man. Unfortunately, they are half right. God is a loving God, but it is they who condemn themselves to Hell because of their unrepentant disobedience to His will.

So, the problem with many who identify themselves as “Christian” today, is that they believe Jesus is the Son of God (but even the Demons believe this), and that He loves them (which He does), and that He died on a cross and rose from the grave (which He did), but they have never truly repented and turned from their sinfulness, they are still living worldly lives. Because this is the state of their belief, they believe Jesus is God, just not their God. Their gods are all of the worldly pleasures and things they will not turn away from. Ultimately then, they are their own god, which means they have completely bought into Satan’s lie. They have not placed their faith and trust in Jesus  as their Savior, faith and trust in Him alone as the means of their salvation. Their faith and trust resides elsewhere, as a result it resides nowhere of significance and eternal import.

True Christianity requires one to have experienced God’s forgiveness. Forgiveness is conditional on man accepting the gift of Grace which Jesus Christ provided and paid for by His finished work at Calvary. By accepting the free gift of Grace, man acknowledges his sinful state, the debt he owes, the need for repentance, the price which was paid, and the need to surrender his life and his will to the sovereign will of God. When one accepts the gift of Grace, he is acknowledging Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of his life, he is forgiven and becomes a follower or disciple of Christ. It is at this point that obedience, repentance, self-denial, picking up his cross, and taking on the yoke or burden of Christ becomes important in his life. This is what it means to experience True Grace, he has become a disciple of Jesus Christ. One can only do so because he has faith and trust in Christ to carry him through.

Disciples of Jesus Christ expose and reject ungodliness, they have broken away from worldliness and worthless pursuits, they do not tolerate or compromise with unrighteousness, they Study the Word of God so that they may live in obedience to God while pursuing God’s will for their lives. Disciples of Jesus Christ are indwelt by His Holy Spirit who opens the Word to them as their teacher and comforter. The Disciple of Jesus Christ desires a closer relationship with Him as he longs for and looks for His return. True Disciples of Jesus Christ have experienced forgiveness and deliverance because of True Grace. And, that is the reason for the transformation which takes place in their lives. True Disciples do not just believe in Jesus, they know Him as their Lord and Savior. True Disciples have counted the cost of walking away from the ways and values of the world, and have counted it as nothing when compared to the incomparable riches of a life with Christ, a life in Christ.

Do you know Him? Are you His disciple?

The Result of Abiding in Christ, An Examination of John 15:1-8

John 15:1-8

1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 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. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

Our Excerpt today is from F.B. Hole’s “Commentary on John” published in 1947.

The surest proof that we are in Christ is that we abide in Christ; and the surest proof that we abide in Christ is that we produce fruit in life and service, the very character and ways of Christ coming out in us. Without Him we can do nothing. Abiding in Him there is much fruit; we are brought into communion with His mind so that we ask with liberty and have our desires granted, the Father is glorified, and our discipleship is proved genuine beyond all question.

It is a great privilege, as well as a great responsibility, to be left on earth to bear fruit; it is even a greater privilege to know ourselves to be the objects of Divine Love. The love of Jesus rested upon these disciples—and upon us also—just as the Father’s love rested upon Himself. In the knowledge, the consciousness, the enjoyment of His love we are to abide. This abiding is maintained by obedience to His commandments.

Words of Grace for Strength

The idea of “abiding in Christ” that we find in this passage is explained by the understanding that it is the Word of God (Jesus is the Word, See John 1:1-5), that is being spoken of. Abiding in the Word means living by the truths and doctrines of the Word. This takes place when the Word has taken deep root in the life of the disciple of Jesus Christ. He has a true affection for the Word, the Word is truly food for his soul. When the disciple of Jesus abides in the Word, he is able to know it, understand it, teach it, and stand fast in it.

This passage establishes this truth, abiding in Christ ensures fruitfulness. There is a general truth stated here when Christ says; “I am the vine.” But, it becomes personal to the disciple when Christ says; “you are the branches” because it brings each individual disciple into a connection with Christ. So now, the truth is made definite and becomes a personal application when we continue to examine His statement in verse 5; “He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit.”

Jesus is not merely setting forth a law here, but instead is giving a promise that will be completed in the disciple by the action of Jesus Christ Himself. Notice when Christ is speaking of bearing fruit here, He says “much fruit.” The inference here is that as disciples we are not to be satisfied with a little fruit or immature fruit or shriveled up fruit. Instead, by abiding in Christ, the fruit we bear is plentiful, lush, sweet, and mature. In other words, abiding in Christ will produce in the disciple, a character rich in the manifold graces of God which bears fruit. Indeed, those branches that are fruitless are taken away by the Father as the vinedresser in order to preserve the health of the fruitful vine, those that bear fruit are pruned, tended with loving care, so as to allow even more fruit bearing as one grows more fruitful in Christ in one’s walking in faith with Him as a growing disciple.

So this union of the disciple with Christ as he abides in Christ produces fruitfulness which in the end glorifies God and increases growth in the disciple. Christ’s life is all about glorifying God, our lives also should be all about glorifying God. For our lives are not our own if we have truly given them to God when we accepted His gift of Salvation. A mature, fruitful branch within the vine is now part of the vine, no distinction can be made of it as separate and apart from the vine itself, they grow as one.

Abiding in Christ means we are “In Christ” becoming every day more like Christ as His disciples. This discipleship will only be completed at the point in time we are ushered into the physical presence of Jesus Christ. As we live here in our earthly bodies we are in the continual process of becoming, His true disciples and servants.

If we bear much fruit because we are abiding in Him, the bearing of fruit will cause us to grow closer to him and be more of a disciple, which in turn will cause us to bear more fruit. Discipleship in Christ produces character, and character produces conduct which rests not on the character of the disciple, but in the character of Jesus Christ. When Christ’s Word abides in us it is more than intellectual understanding or acceptance of His Word, it means the whole consciousness of our very being is saturated with His desires, His affections, His understanding, in other words we have surrendered our will to His Will.

This brings us then to verse 7. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” This must be understood not of temporal things, such as riches or honors, profit, pleasure, or anything that the natural man might desire, but of things spiritual which are limited by the restriction that what is promised, is as according to the Will of God. Christ in His earthly ministry cared little for physical comforts as long as physical needs were met. The true focus was on the spiritual needs and growth of those who had chosen to follow Him, for God is spirit, and will be with us in spirit and in love.

When we look back to verse 3, we find the phrase “because of the word” which tells us how the working of the word is what has made us clean. Verse 4 then says “abide in Me, and I in you” and warns that we cannot bear fruit unless the disciple will “abide in Me.” Now in verse 7, again we read; “if you abide in Me, My words abide in you” which is significant in that it illustrates a position of obedience in the life of the disciple. “I in you” demonstrates that we are possessed of Christ, while “my words abide in you” demonstrates action on the part of the disciple to be a disciple.

In other words, the disciple has completely given his will to the Will of God. In doing so, the disciple’s will is no longer his own, but instead is God’s Will, what the disciple desires, or asks for is what God desires for the disciple to receive. In Verse 8 we are given the key to understanding this whole passage; “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” It is all about the fruit! Our prayers should always reflect God’s Will for us. What we should desire, what we should ask for, is to bear “much fruit” and in doings so we are accomplishing the Will of God in our lives, and are becoming His disciples. A fruitful branch grows deeper into the vine (the Son), is tended carefully by the vinedresser (the Father) and lives to produce fruit by the indwelling of God within us (the Spirit).

Become His disciple and bear fruit!

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!

Redeeming The Time In 2015

Our excerpt today in our Words of Grace for Strength series is from the message “Do You Know What Time It Is?” by Dr. Ray Pritchard

Dr. Pritchard writes:
Paul challenges his readers, “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” (Romans 13:11 NKJV). Do you know what time it is? It’s time to wake up! Why? “Because our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” That’s a reference to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus is coming, and each day brings us closer to that great world-shattering event.

In light of that, Paul tells us to wake up, put off the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. The long night is fading away, the sun is peeking over the eastern horizon, and Jesus is coming soon!
Christian, do you know what time it is? It’s time to wake up and get dressed!

This is something we must know!

“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:11-12).

What “time” is Paul talking about in verse 11 and what “hour” does he mean? He means that this present age is sinful and dark and ultimately passing away (Galatians 1:4). It won’t last forever (1 John 2:17). Colossians 1:12-13 uses the image of darkness and light in many places to explain what happens when someone becomes a Christian. They are transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. Do you know what being saved is like? It’s like living in the darkness for twenty or thirty or forty years and suddenly the lights come on.

What time is it right now? Check your watch and see. Now read verse 11 again and answer the question.
What time is it? It’s time to wake up. You sleep at night. You don’t sleep during the day. All of us understand what that means. It’s hard to sleep during the day. It doesn’t feel right. It’s not natural. Day is for waking and working; night is for sleeping and dreaming.

Why does Paul say that the long night is over and the day has come? Because the coming of the Lord is at hand. How near is it? Very near indeed. When Billy Graham preaches on the Second Coming, he often tells the story of a grandfather clock whose chimes rang every hour, once for one o’clock, twice for two o’clock, and so on. One night the clock malfunctioned, causing the chimes to ring thirteen times. A little boy heard it and raced through the house yelling “Get up, everyone get up! It’s later than it’s ever been.” How true that is. It’s later than it’s ever been, and we’re closer to the coming of Christ than ever before.

Words of Grace for Strength

In a few days we will enter into a new year. 2015 is nearly upon us and we will begin anew the process of counting down the 365 days of the year. What will this New Year hold for you? What will transpire in the world which will affect your life? As each year passes we grow closer to the time in which Jesus Christ will return for His Church, when the time of Tribulation will envelop the earth, and ultimately when Christ will return in power and great glory to defeat Satan and establish His Kingdom reign.

Knowing this, we are aware that the day in which we live is still very dark. Satan, as the ruler of this present world is still doing everything he can to exercise control over world events. It is his plan to subvert the cause of Christ, to marginalize the church by watering down its message and commitment, and to cause derision and persecution to fall on the True Church.

Yet even in this dark day we still have the light of the Gospel. When the Gospel light meets the darkness it destroys its hold and power over those who have experienced it. Ephesians 5:15&16 and Colossians 4:5 encourages us to redeem the time. As we enter into 2015 we should take this admonition of the Apostle Paul to heart. God has given us a mandate to serve Him in these Last Days and until His return, we should make every day in 2015 count for the cause of Christ.

I am not one who “makes” New Year’s “resolutions” but I do believe that as a member of the Body of Christ there are some things every believer should do to redeem the time. What are they? Let’s make a list:

1. Set aside daily a time to meet with the Lord in Bible Study and Prayer. Make it a personal habit to talk to the Lord and listen to the Lord.

2. Determine to live daily by biblical principles and sound doctrine.

3. Be involved in your local Church. Don’t just attend, commit to an active role and participate in all of the ministries and Bible Studies of your church. Don’t let “life” interfere with your commitment to your local church family.

4. Commit yourself to being a good steward of your time, resources and finances by giving to the Lord your tithe in every area. As Christians we should understand that absolutely everything we have is from Him and we owe Him everything.

5. Become a disciple. Find a more mature believer to disciple you and become an accountability partner to you. Then commit to becoming a disciple to a less mature believer. (Men to Men, and Women to Women)

6. Learn to trust the Lord in everything. He has promised to take care of you and provide everything you need. When it seems everyone or everything is against you, when your burdens seem to be too big for you to carry, trust in Him!

7. Set personal goals for ministry and service in your church family. Be ready to challenge yourself to stretch beyond your “comfort zone” as you follow His will for your life and the life of your church family. Make a plan to accomplish your goals!

8. Never fear your past whatever it held, let past failures be put under the blood of Christ and allow God to use your future. Determine every day to serve God and let Him establish your future.

9. Support your pastors and follow the leadership of the shepherds God has placed before your church family. These men have uniquely been chosen by God, and understand the gravity of the responsibility they have before God as leader servants in the local church. In his shepherd role your pastor will be held to a higher standard of accountability for the way he follows God and the way the members of the local church family follow his leadership as pastor – teacher.

10. Be excited that you are living in these times. As Christians we live in the most exciting time that this earth has experienced. The Signs of the Times are very clear and we can say with certainty that “our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” The Rapture is imminent and Jesus is coming soon! Live every day believing that this could be the day.

Redeem the time in 2015! Let this be the year in your life that you walk closer to the Lord than ever before; let this be the year when you serve the Lord with all of your heart, mind, and soul; let this be the year when others can say without reservation that they see Christ in you.

Redeem the Time!

Stewards of Grace

I tell you, with a grieving heart, that there are right now in this nation laymen, ministers and ministries that have been given up by God. These are those who have been deceived by lying spirits, having been warned time and again by the Holy Spirit and by prophets of God to repent and humble themselves. They became engrossed with self: they started to fornicate with wood and stones, becoming builders of temples and memorials to self-achievement; and they rejected a life of brokenness and humility. They forsook the prayer closet for their interests and the works of their own hands! They recklessly squandered God’s money, God’s faith, God’s time and God’s power.

From across this nation I hear from praying, sanctified people the same thing I hear from my heavenly Father. Those who are walking with God, living in the Spirit, instinctively sense that God has discovered and that He deplores all the abominations in the church, in the pulpit, in preachers and in some popular ministries.

Not all are corrupt, thank God! There is a growing remnant of repentant saints and ministries who have returned to righteousness and prayer. But the true body of Christ must pray for divine wisdom to discern those who have been stripped of spiritual authority and unction. Growing numbers of praying Christians now share the very grief of God against all the compromise and mixture with the world, and their hearts cry out that God will deal with it soon. I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt He is about to do just that! If God can bring Babylon down in one hour, He can certainly clean up the mess in His temple in a moment.

Most of the modern stewards who have been stripped by God of all spiritual usefulness are not as wise as the unjust steward – they don’t know it’s all over. They are not aware they have been stripped of their stewardship. But you can tell it is all over by the man-centered plans and schemes they introduce. The Lord’s interests are no longer paramount; the only thing important to them now is their next project. They finish one man-centered project, only to launch another, more spectacular than the other.

My heart cries out, “Oh, my blessed Savior, when will God’s people wake up and begin to discern that all this mad spending, building and worldly mindedness represents a squandering spree by Christians and ministries that have been stripped by the Holy Ghost and who are about to be called into account? When will God’s people quit supporting such foolishness? When will the true body of Christ wake up and cry out against it and say, ‘Enough!’?”

Are there no prophets of God left in the land? Are there no pastors left with enough Holy Ghost discernment and spiritual authority to wake up this people to the dangerous waste of our Lord’s resources? Sad, but true, some of the best-known national ministries today are beyond hearing God’s true Word. I am not their judge, but by their actions it is apparent some are beyond reproof, blinded by their own counselors, blinded by ambition, blinded by the gods of success and power.

Excerpted from David Wilkerson’s message on Stewardship from Luke 16; “A Cheap Cut-rate Gospel”

Words of Grace for Strength

Worldly pleasures and worldly attitudes have become pervasive in the “church” and too many “Christians” are more concerned with personal wealth and riches than growing in grace, and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. This false word of faith prosperity gospel is led by self-centered men and women who seek personal wealth and personal glory, and through their false teaching the “church” has become enamored with programs, performances and prosperity and not discipleship, spiritual discipline and dedication to the Word.

We are living in the times prophesied by the Apostles Paul and Peter (2 Timothy 3:1-7, 2 Peter 2:1-3) wherein man’s base desires will cause him to turn in sin away from what is godly and good. When man worships self and wealth and not God. The scripture is clear on the end of these who turn their back on a Holy God.

Why is it that these false teachers or fallen teachers cannot see the error in the path they have chosen to walk? They have allowed the enemy, the  present power of this world to blind them by either their greed for power and riches or by their self-absorption. It is not exceedingly hard to stay on the right path when one is focused on Christ as the center of life. It is impossible to do so when He is not that central core focus of life. We can be blinded by the powers of this present world or we can eagerly pursue personal gratification. Either way, the fall astray into the false word is the same. And the solution, a refocus with a Christ-centered life, is the same as well. Trying anything else just leads to a deeper and farther fall.

The rapture of the True Church is imminent and we need to be sharing the love of Christ and His saving Grace with anyone and everyone who will listen. Friends, it is not too late to turn away from these false teachers and prosperity preachers and embrace the true doctrine of grace. We have a God-given responsibility as Ministers of the Gospel to speak the truth in love as good stewards of the message of Jesus Christ.

But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “LOVE WILL COVER A MULTITUDE OF SINS.” Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:7-11)