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!

What Really Is the Question?

A few weeks ago the seed of this article was rolling around in my head as I considered the question: Why is it so many people consider the study of Biblical prophecy to be foolishness? Knowing that approximately one-third of the Scripture is prophetic in nature I personally have dedicated my life in service to Christ, to the study and teaching of Biblical eschatology. Anyone who follows what I write is aware that I am continually calling out cultural, institutional, and mainstream “Christianity” and their so-called “churches” for abandoning sound theological doctrine and embracing a liberal theology of compromise, tolerance, and inclusiveness which is no more than dead religiosity.

Now then, since I began ruminating on the question above, the United States and the World have continued their ever accelerating descent into the Last Days, careening from crisis to crisis. From Russia and the Ukraine; to the IS in Syria, Iraq, and now Lebanon and Turkey; to Libya dissolving into anarchy; to Israel’s war against the Hamas terrorists in Gaza, and the resulting rise of anti-Semitism around the world including the US; to the many domestic crisis within the US resulting from the actions of a lawless President and his administration, not the least of which is our open southern border with Mexico. Every time you look at the news (it really doesn’t matter which venue you choose) it seems we’re faced with a new crisis, and almost predictably you will also hear some babbling leftist liberal or deliberately ignorant Islamist supporter, misquoting or taking Scripture out of context in support of the position of the narrative put forth by the “oppressed” terrorists and their liberal supporters, or for the interests of their “progressive” liberal leftist political party. And, follow me here, what boggles the mind is that one part of this group hates Christians (and Jews) and the other part of them call themselves “Christian” while denying the inerrancy of the very Scriptures they are misquoting, and the deity of Jesus Christ.

So, I believe the answer to the question above as well as the larger question as to why Scripture is so often misquoted or taken out of context, can be found within a passage that the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth. ‘“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”‘ 1 Corinthians 2:2-16

In this passage Paul tells the Corinthians that he has come to teach them about Jesus Christ, and not doing so in his own power, but in the power of the Holy Spirit. He tells them that the wisdom of God is available to them, can be revealed to them, if they love God, and this is done through His Holy Spirit. Jesus Himself promised His disciples; “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” John 14:16 & 17. As He had promised them His Holy Spirit to help them He also told them; “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you” John 16:12-15. Jesus knew that they could not understand these things with a natural mind, but after He sent the Holy Spirit, their minds would be opened to the very things of God and He would bring them understanding in a spiritual way.

The Holy Spirit’s job is to teach us all things, the deep and intimate things of God. So as Paul taught the Corinthians “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” 1 Corinthians 2:14, he was telling them that in their natural state (wherein they did not have a belief in Jesus Christ as Messiah and Savior) and without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit they would not “receive (believe) the things of the Spirit of God.” In their state of unbelief they would simply see them as foolishness even though they could understand the written words. He goes on to say that they could not “know them because they are spiritually discerned” which is to say that it requires the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to have a complete grasp of the Word of God. Anyone can read the Word of God, and anyone can have a rudimentary understanding of what it says, but without a believing faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit cannot teach them spiritual truth.

In his gospel the Apostle John tells us; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” John 1:1-5. He is speaking here of Jesus Christ, Jesus is the Word! The implication is that every jot and tittle of the written Word is from God. The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy; “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” 2 Timothy 3:16-17. If we truly believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God breathed into the writers by the Holy Spirit, then we must understand that we need Him to help us comprehend it just as much today as when it was first written. An unbeliever cannot know those things which are spiritually discerned. The god of this age (Satan) has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:4

The truth of the matter is the Bible is simply not open to interpretation or even analysis by the unbeliever. Without knowing Jesus you cannot know the Word. Even the rulers of Israel, during Jesus’ life, did not know Him, even though they had studied the Word of God every day of their lives. The Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees didn’t recognize their long-awaited Messiah even when He stood before them. Jesus told them; “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” John 5:39-40. They did not see the “Word” which “became flesh” because they did not want to see Jesus as the Christ. No one can see and embrace the truth of the Word of God unless they first come face-to-face with the Word of God, who is Jesus Christ. They must believe in Him for who He is and His finished work of grace for them when He paid their sin debt at Calvary. Without faith in Jesus Christ no one can accept or like truth. When you cannot accept truth you end up embracing worldly values which may satisfy your base desires, but will ultimately leave you devoid of an eternal future.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say that unbelievers are intellectually incapable of grasping biblical truth. In fact they do have that capability, but because they reject the truth of the Word of God and who Jesus Christ is, they will be judged for their willful unbelief. The unbeliever or “natural man” may have an intellectual grasp of the entire gospel, but without a embracing it and accepting it as truth in his own life, he rejects God, His Son Jesus Christ, and His indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus told His disciples; “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe” John 6:63 & 64. So, herein lies the answer to the question, the things of God are spiritually discerned, but unfortunately it’s not just “some” who do not believe today, it is actually a vast majority. And, because they have not the Holy Spirit, they willfully choose to not only ignore biblical prophecy, but the very Word Himself, Jesus Christ.

In 1921 Dr. C. I. Scofield wrote his “Addresses on Prophecy” and within the pages of this book I found this quote. “There is a great deal of the study of prophetic truth, and a great deal of the hearing of the exposition of prophetic truth which has no effect upon conduct or character, simply because it is heard or studied without faith. We bring to it a sort of vulgar curiosity. We desire to know what all these images, and beasts, and horns signify, believing in a way, that there is in them some unfolding of that which is to come to pass, if one can but hit upon the correct interpretation: We may come to the study of prophetic truth with that in mind and derive no profit whatever. It is therefore a believing understanding of prophetic truth which has an influence on either character or conduct.”

As we continue to study biblical eschatology it is my hope and prayer that all of those who blatantly abuse the Word of God will have a face-to-face encounter with Jesus Christ, which transforms them from their liberal ignorance into an active faith. It is also my prayer that in faith they will begin to study and understand God’s prophetic Word. When anyone receives Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior their life begins to change. The natural man that he was, begins to be replaced through the process of sanctification, by the new man who is in Christ Jesus. As he grows in this relationship, the Holy Spirit becomes more and more a reality in his life as he studies the Word of God. The presence of the Holy Spirit in his life enables his mind to know and believe the truth of the Word.

Do you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior? Does His Holy Spirit indwell you? Those of us who study the prophetic Word will tell you that the time to make a decision for Jesus Christ is growing very short. We are living in the Last Days, Jesus Christ will Rapture His Church, and a time of Great Tribulation will then enveloped the earth, followed by the physical return of Jesus Christ to the earth to set up His Kingdom.

Jesus is coming soon!

EvenSoCome

The Rapture and the Glorious Appearing

For reasons I must admit I do not completely understand, there continues to be much misunderstanding concerning the differences between the Rapture of the Church, and the Glorious Appearing or Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The only conclusion I can come to for this misunderstanding is that quite simply people are not following Paul’s admonishment to Timothy. In 2 Timothy 2:15 Paul wrote; “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” “Be diligent,” the King James Version says “study,” but unfortunately too many who call themselves Christians today never bother to open the Word of God, let alone study it. Today we will begin to do so.

First of all the Rapture is imminent, it can and may happen at any moment, there is no prophecy that yet has to be fulfilled before the Rapture of the Church takes place. Paul taught in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

Paul’s teaching here is for the Church, the Bride of Christ. Paul makes it very clear that he believed in the imminent return of Christ. In verse 15 of this chapter he says, “We which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord.” Paul believed that the Lord Jesus Christ could come in his lifetime. He did not say or believe that He would come in his lifetime, but he said that He could come. Christians should have an expectant attitude toward the Rapture. Because it is imminent and could happen at any time believers should be continually looking forward to and waiting for that event.

There are three things that we can be sure of because we do not know the exact day or time of the Rapture of the Church.

• Because we don’t know what amount of time might transpire before the Rapture, we need to continually be prepared.
• We cannot say the Rapture will be soon, though it may happen soon it does not have to be soon in order to be imminent.
• Because it is imminent we cannot set a date for Christ to Rapture His Church.

Secondly we need to know that the Glorious Appearing or Second Coming of Christ happens after the Tribulation. This is described in Matthew 24:29&30 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

The description of Christ’s return is given in Revelation 19:11-16 “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”  Here in this passage, spelled out in language that is easy to understand, is a description of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ with His Church in judgment on the world.

In the Rapture, Christ comes for His Church and at His Glorious Appearing or Second Coming, He comes with His Church. Notice verse 14: “and the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen white and clean, followed him on white horses.” By rightly dividing the Word we can know that these armies are those described in Revelation 19:7&8 as the Bride of Christ, His Church.

We will continue discerning the differences between the Rapture and the Second Coming as we continue this study. Until then, remember to be listening for the shout for Jesus to Rapture His Church because it is imminent, and the Tribulation will follow, because;

Jesus is Coming Soon!

EvenSoCome