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!

Crunch Time

Near the end of a ballgame when the score is close, the announcer or coach often says it is “Crunch time,” signaling that the end of the game is near and it is time for the players to play harder if they want to win.

Just before taking a final exam it is not unusual to hear a student say it is “Crunch time,” meaning the end of the course is near and the pressure to make a good grade is great. Concerning Bible prophecy, crunch time has arrived in several areas:

A war with the Islamic State could be shaping up. About two months ago it was reported that the U.S. is stockpiling weapons, supplies, and mine resistant vehicles in Kuwait in preparation for a war with the Islamic State to liberate the city of Mosul in Iraq. About two weeks, ago it was reported that about 4,000 U.S. soldiers have been sent to Kuwait to participate in the attack.

A few days later, many were stunned when someone in Washington said there will be an attack in April or May before the weather gets hot. Then, following a meeting with senior military officers and diplomats from several nations, newly appointed U.S. Sec. of Defense, Ashton Carter, promised a lasting defeat of the Islamic State.

More recently, Pres. Obama, who has vowed many times that he won’t put boots on the ground in Iraq, said he is open to changes in his request for the authority to use military force against the Islamic State. The U.S. is in an evolving situation that could soon reach a boiling point.

Concerning Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons, for twelve years the West has been trying to get Iran to give up her desire to build these weapons. In Nov. 2013, the P5 + 1 (U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany) signed an agreement with Iran to settle the issue before July 20, 2014, but it didn’t happen.

They extended the negotiations until Nov. 24, 2014, but they still failed. They extended the negotiations until Mar. 31, 2015 to settle the main issues and until June 30, 2015 to settle the little details. But with about five weeks to go on the main issues, the two sides aren’t even close to producing an agreement (unless the U.S. allows Iran to become a nuclear threshold state and many are saying that is going to happen). Iran is threatening to quit the talks and Israel is saying Iran could have nuclear weapons as soon as this coming June and no later than March of next year.

Israel can probably solve this issue in about one week and some think 12 years of fruitless work on the part of the West is causing her to run out of patience.

A war between Israel and Syria with Damascus being destroyed in one night could be looming. In Dec. 2014, there were two different reports that Russia asked Hezbollah and Syria to draw up plans for an attack on Israel. Russia didn’t ask them to attack Israel, but Russia asked them to draw up plans: 1) In case the west attacks Syria, and 2) In case the west keeps imposing sanctions on Russia for her invasion of Crimea.

In Jan. 2015, Hezbollah said their organization is ready. In the past, Russia has threatened to get involved, if Syria and Israel get into a war. A war with Russia, Iran and others attacking Israel could be nearing zero hour.

About Feb. 8, 2015, a Division of Syria’s Main Battle Tanks, armored weapons, thousands of Hezbollah foot soldiers and members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards commanded by an Iranian General left Damascus and headed toward Israel’s border with Syria.

Syria said these troops are clearing our rebels that are fighting against Pres. Assad in Syria’s civil war. Israel believes they are taking up positions inside Syria close to Israel’s border in preparation for a regional war with the Jewish state.

On Feb. 22, 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu told his cabinet: Iran has opened a first front against Israel by arming Hamas in the south (Gaza); a second front against Israel by arming Hezbollah in the north (Lebanon); and a third front against Israel by assembling a force inside Syria on Israel’s northern border.

Some say Syria, Hezbollah and Iran will lay low for a while to build bunkers, dig tunnels, lay mines, bring in more troops, weapons, fuel, etc. Others say Israel may attack before she is attacked. But either way, it is crunch time and several very important prophecies may soon be fulfilled.

Prophecy Plus Ministries
Daymond & Rachel Duck
daymond.duck@yahoo.com

 

Editors Note:

Daymond refers to a war between Syria and Israel in which Damascus will be destroyed. This Prophecy is found in Isaiah 17, and we believe it to be a part of a Great Middle East War which is also prophesied in Ezekiel 28, 35-37; Amos 2; Joel 1; Jeremiah 49; Zechariah 9-11; Zephaniah 2; and includes those enemies of Israel named in the Psalm 83 prayer. We believe this war precedes or is the impetus for the Gog of Magog war prophesied in Ezekiel 38 & 39. While these wars may, or may not, precede the Rapture of the Church, it is important for the Believer to have knowledge of, and an understanding of, these prophetic wars. The reality of these conflicts should cause the follower of Christ to more earnestly seek to reach out to others with the good news of the Gospel in these Last Days.

Dr. Tuck Whitaker

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?

Transformed and Sanctified by the Word, Jesus Christ

The following excerpt is from “The Hour Has Come” by G. Ray Jordan. Published in 1948, this work of Jordan’s is an examination and commentary on Jesus Christ’s high priestly prayer in John 17. Again, it is as relevant for the believer today as when it was first written. As followers of Christ in these Last Days, we are living in a time of ever-expanding immorality, compromise, tolerance, and wickedness. It is increasingly more perilous for the Christian to live a separated life, however it is the Word of God which transformed us that will sanctify us.

“I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me. “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” – John 17:6-19

Christ is thinking of a much nobler purpose and a far greater challenge when he insists those who are his devoted disciples cannot follow “the way of the world.” Here is something so spiritually superior it has to do with the divine difference. Jesus makes it quite plain when he declares that “the glory which thou gavest me I have given them.” These friends are to be one with him in spirit and purpose. They are not to be controlled by the social, moral, or ethical standards of society or of any merely human group. The spirit of heaven has touched them. These men are not perfect. But they have seen the stars, and never again can they be satisfied with things of the earth.

When the intimate friends of Jesus began to understand him, to love him and eagerly give themselves to him, something magnificent happened to them. Their faces were turned in a different direction; their hearts thrilled to a higher devotion. Their wills were given to a new objective; their desires were set toward a divine purpose. The customs of society never crushed them after that. They refuse to be slaves to the codes of any earthly kingdom. Their lives were literally transformed. Spiritually they were born again. Any description less vivid fails to tell the full story of what happened to them.

Saul of Tarsus was captivated by the strange Man who went to a cross rather than abandon his hopes and surrender his ideals for life. Saul could do nothing less than give him his heart. His mind, his will, and his emotions were all affected by the spirit of this man who had been crucified because he would not compromise. He saw the devotion Christ manifested as the hope of humanity. A new power came to him. He urged his comrades not to conform to the standards of those about them. They should never succumb to the sordid moral conditions of the cities in which they lived, nor conform to the low ethical ideas of the Mediterranean world.

But mere lack of conformity to popular customs is not sufficient. Christians are to be transformed. There to be changed by the spirit and power of God. This is a radical experience. Only God can bring it to pass. As we yield ourselves to him, we find a power greater than our own which works in and through us. Obviously this is a far cry from simply refusing to abide by certain social customs. Those who decide to become divinely different by offering their wills to the heavenly Father on the highway to real greatness, even to God-likeness.

Here’s a sweeping experience which affects all of life because it has to do with every possible personal and social adjustment. A Christian treats himself differently because he is transformed. He thinks of Christ’s way rather than the world’s for dealing with any situation which arises.

Words of Grace for Strength:

Transformation is change, an event, which for the Christian was accomplished by Christ’s finished work at Calvary. Transforming his life from one of sin and death, to one which has been redeemed and justified into holiness and life. A part of Transformation is the process of Sanctification. Sanctification is also change, initiated by Christ at Calvary, which is then followed through by the faith and actions of the believer in his desire for a growing, continual, obedient relationship with God. This is accomplished through the study and application of His Word to the believer’s life. Transformation is being placed in Christ, while Sanctification is the ongoing process of being separated or set apart in holiness to God so that the believer might become more Christ-like.

True disciples of Jesus Christ today can be identified by their desire for Transformation and Sanctification in much the same way as those who walked and talked with Jesus during His earthly ministry. It is all a function of will. Those who are true disciples of Jesus Christ have heeded the instruction of the Holy Spirit through the Word given to the Apostle Paul, as written in the book of Romans:

“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

The true disciple of Jesus Christ no longer operates under his own will, but has placed his will subservient to the Will of God. Because of this the disciple is no longer operating under his own power, but is dependent upon, and operating through, the power of God (Philippians 3:10, Ephesians 6:10 & 11). The power is there for any disciple to tap into by turning to God in wholehearted faith and obedience. If we do not choose to seek out and use that power, it is our fault alone if our lives are more difficult than need be.

We are living in troublesome times, terrible times. This world is full of corruption, deceit, hate, avarice, and lawlessness. Because of compromise, tolerance, and inclusiveness, society in every country is breaking down due to a lack of principles, morals, and rule of law. Wickedness prevails in most of the world as it spirals out of control under the influence of the prince of the power of this world, Satan himself.

The true disciple of Jesus Christ recognizes this, and in obedience to the Will of God, takes up the “whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:13) to be able to make a stand for Jesus Christ in these Last Days. The promise of victory for the true disciple of Jesus Christ is found in the passage above (John 17:6-19), and that our Savior not only has given us into the hand of His Father, but has asked His Father to protect us from the evil one (Satan) and to sanctify us through His Truth. Jesus identifies the Word as Truth. John 1:1-3 identifies Jesus as the Word. It follows then, that as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are sanctified by God through Jesus Christ. Make sure to note that in the prayer of John 17 Jesus asks that we be kept from the evil one, not necessarily taken out of the world when faced with evil. We are meant to fight for the cause of Christ, and our Lord made sure we are equipped to do battle, if we just take up the armor and tap into the power. As always the provision of the Lord is abundant beyond comprehension.

We are living in the Last Days, and as it is the Lord who appoints the times and seasons,we as disciples should be acutely aware of both the time and season. So, as we live in these Last Days, we must do so in the Will of God, by the power of God, and we should do so remembering the words of the Apostle Paul to Titus.

Titus 2:11-14 “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.”

EvenSoCome

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!