Now that Christmas and New Year holidays are over, we once again turn our attention to what is happening in our nation and world. I am writing this to fellow believers in Christ, from we who are eagerly awaiting the shout from the Lord to, “Come up here!” all the way to those who are playing church every Sunday. You need to listen up.
I think it’s appropriate to review what it means to follow Jesus; to be a real disciple, especially in this day and age. In Revelation 3: 15-19, Jesus speaks to what perfectly describes the church of today. “I know thy works, that thou are neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
“Because thou sayest, ‘I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing’; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”
What exactly was Jesus saying to the Laodiceans? According to the New Testament Greek, He said they were “wretched” and “miserable” meaning ‘enduring toils and troubles; afflicted’ and ‘to be pitied.’ How can this be when the mainstream churches of America are rolling in money, palaces and success? Perhaps He was referring to the divorce rate, the rampant use of drugs, sexual immorality or the idolatrous materialism within the church, among other gross sins that are winked at.
He called them “poor” and “blind.” This means ‘destitute of Christian virtues, mentally blind and powerless to accomplish an end.’ Wow. Most modern churches are more concerned about adding as many new members as possible rather than obeying the Great Commission of taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Most of the time, they aren’t accomplishing a dang thing for the Kingdom of God.
He stated they were “naked” or ‘ill clad.’ In the light of what we’re facing in these last days, I see very little evidence that the average professing Christian is suited up in the whole armor of God, “that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil,” as Ephesians 6: 11 instructs. This leaves weak Christians vulnerable to attack and being deceived.
Christ’s overall impression of the last days church is that they are “lukewarm,” referring metaphorically to the condition of a soul, wretchedly fluctuating between a sluggish apathy and passionate love for Jesus. He was saying, ‘Make up your mind already! Choose this day whom you will serve.’ Serve? But I might have to suffer a little. I don’t know about that…
We all know, or should know with certainty that the salvation Jesus purchased for us by His death on the cross, is offered to us for free. No charge. Can’t work for it. Can’t dance for it. Can’t even raise money for it. It’s free. All we have to do is receive it. Cool! But then what? What do we have to do to follow Jesus for the rest of our lives? Volunteer our time? Give a certain amount of money? Go stand outside a sports stadium, handing out tracts? What price is required for discipleship?
Well, let me break it down for you. Salvation is free, thank you Lord! However, being a true disciple of Jesus is going to cost you everything. EVERYTHING. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. I hope I’m making myself clear. And let me tell you something right now, it’s rarely a barrel of laughs. Unfortunately, from here on out, until we are called home (please hurry up Jesus!) the cost is going to rise, just like the cost of food and gas and taxes.
What do I mean by ‘everything?’ Well, quite frankly, God is a greedy Deity. He wants ALL of you. Your plans, dreams, aspirations, desires, hurts, disappointments, money, relationships, material goods, health, family, likes, dislikes, personality, opinions, appetites…I’m talking all of it! He gave absolutely everything to buy us back from death and the grave, so He figures we owe Him everything in return. If you think about it, He’s right.
We are in the last days now, and Jesus warned these would be perilous times. Like I said, the price of following Jesus is about to skyrocket. Christians have always suffered some measure of persecution through the centuries, and I imagine you’ve noticed a stark increase in the level of vitriol and criticism aimed our way in the last 10 years or so. Unfortunately, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet!
So. What’s it gonna be? You in or out? Hang on, before you answer that, let’s see what Jesus had to say about being His follower. After all, every relationship is conditional. In Luke 14: 26-27 & 33, Jesus told a ‘great multitude’ who were following Him this: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”
Whoa Nelly, let’s stop right there. That’s pretty harsh, isn’t it? It sounds cruel, but Jesus meant if we choose to accept His salvation and follow Him, we must understand that ANYTHING that removes Him from first place in our hearts is considered by God to be an idol, and we all know how God feels about idols.
After all, the first commandment the Lord gave Moses is, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” That includes putting your own family second. He’s even asking that you be willing to die for His sake, if need be. Easy to agree to; not so easy to live when the rubber meets the road, or a gun is pointed at your head.
Then there’s that whole ‘bear his own cross’ thing. Excuse me? Oh, I get it…you’re playing with us, right? You really don’t mean that, do you? Well, yeeesss, He does. Look, basically, He is telling us that unless we are willing to forsake, (renounce, separate, bid farewell to) everything we are, we have and hope to become, and completely trust and obey HIS will for our lives, we cannot (won’t be capable of or strong or powerful enough) to be His disciple (learner, pupil). We are to be willing to take up and bear (carry, sustain what is burdensome) our cross to follow Him.
So, what is a cross? Bible teacher, Jack Kelley explains it this way. “The phrase, ‘taking up his cross’ means putting earthly desires to death to follow the plan God has for our lives, just as Jesus put any personal desires of His aside to follow God’s plan for His life.” This is the same thing as ‘crucifying the flesh,’ that we read about in the Bible.
This is the hard part, and I want you to listen carefully. Even though it is HIGHLY unlikely we will ever find ourselves facing literal, physical crucifixion, thank you God, putting our earthly, fleshly desires to death, and surrendering them to the Lord still hurts like hell! I mean that sincerely.
For instance, is there a career you’ve always wanted to pursue? One that you’ve dreamed of since you were a kid, down to making plans for which college you’ll attend to get the exact degree you’ll need? Well, what if that isn’t the plan Jesus has for your life? Are you willing to put that dream on the proverbial altar, sacrifice it to Him and accept whatever HIS plan is for you? Hmm. Doesn’t sound like much fun, huh?
What happens when you feel you’ve met your soul mate? What if one or both of you aren’t free to pursue a proper relationship before God? Will you be willing to abide by the commandments the Lord laid out forbidding adultery, or will you give in to your desires like the vast majority of people, even professing Christians, and ignore the cost of destroying one or two families? Is following the Lord worth setting aside that relationship and denying what your heart might ache for? Peachy, huh? OUCH!
Are you and your husband longing for a baby but are having trouble conceiving? Are you enduring expensive, painful tests month after month, only to be disappointed? Is bitterness and black resentment building in your heart because everywhere you look, some stupid lady is pushing a stroller or carrying an infant? What IF a child is not in God’s plan for you? What IF that’s the case for some unfathomable reason? What if God, in His perfect knowledge and love for you, knows a child would bring unspeakable ruin to your future? Are you willing to lay your dream of snuggling a precious baby, down at the foot of the cross and surrender it to Him? Now, THAT is agony!
SEE? Now do you understand why I contend that God is NOT a cheap date?? He demands we surrender it ALL. There will be times we have to close our eyes tight against hot tears of frustration and loss, and bow our hearts before God, despite the pain we feel at not getting our way. It costs us everything to follow Him, and as I said before, it’s only gonna get harder in the days ahead.
In Luke 14: 28-32, Jesus illustrates the principle of sitting down BEFORE you make an important decision, to count the cost. Will you have enough to complete the project, or will you get part way through and decide it’s just too expensive to continue? In God’s economy, it’s better not to make a vow to do something if there is a chance you’ll back out when the going gets tough. Figure out up front if you have what it takes to stick with it to the end.
So, I’ll ask you again. As far as following Jesus, no matter WHAT the cost…are you in or out? These are NOT the days for wimps and wusses, because I am convinced in my spirit that the hounds of hell will be released when Obama is sworn in again as President. I feel a spiritual apprehension over the evil and demonic influences that are about to be unleashed on this wicked country, and it will happen when that false, godless, usurper of all that is good and free, lies as he takes the Oath of Office to “uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
We, who have been washed in the blood of Jesus and belong to His kingdom, must be ready to don all of our spiritual armor and boldly stand in the face of persecution, the likes of which most of us have never imagined. I am quite used to being mocked and ostracized for my witness. That doesn’t even faze me anymore, but there are some who will buckle under that kind of peer pressure from friends, family or employers, so be prepared.
I have followed Christ since I was 7 years old, and have come too far and endured too much to shrink back in fear now. There is a righteous rage in my belly that boils up over the wickedness I see growing like some filthy cancer in my government, and around the world. That pathetic dragon, satan, is about to have his heyday, and he is going to enjoy every second while he can, so get ready.
We, who belong to Almighty God, have no reason to fear what is coming because, “greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world.” We are on the threshold of heaven folks, and I want to take as many with me as I can in the time I have left. I’m ready for a fight if need be.
Count the cost and tell me…are you in or out? If so, let’s go get ‘em!
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