Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Jesus’ bold church (part 12)

For those who don’t blog on blogspot.com, the company is switching all blog accounts over to a Google account. I did that on the 24th of January and was able to post that night. Since then, I have not been able to post. When it is ever fixed, I will begin posting again. I have been able to get the program I wanted for posting part 12 of the series on Jesus’ bold church and that will prayerful be posted first.
I have been writing about JESUS’ bold church. The priority has been on the church either as the body of CHRIST in its entirety or as a local congregation of the body of CHRIST. Of course, the body of CHRIST—the church—is composed of individual followers of JESUS the CHRIST. Tonight’s post is taken from a TV program that airs locally on our cable system at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday morning. Transcripts of those programs may be found at www.searchtv.org. To not lose the direction of the material I have done very little editing although not all of the material emphasizes what I want to emphasize. My emphasis is, of course, on the boldness of individuals who have chosen to be followers of JESUS the CHRIST—the Son of GOD. The program as presented on January 7, 2007:
“Greetings of the New Year, my friend. I hope 2007 is the very best year of your life so far. Someone has written the little poem that says, ‘The clock of life is wound but once’—and so it is. It is that way with every life, too. And already we are well into what we have been calling the ‘new year.’"
“I pray you will be blessed by having invited us into your home for Bible study ‘In Search of the Lord's Way.’ It is certainly a blessing to us. Let me remind you that we are here by the love and generosity of friends of yours and ours who are members of churches of Christ in the area of this (TV—my addition) station. And, because of them we won't be asking you to send us money, and we won't be trying to sell you some weight-loss pills or anything like that. We are here for Bible study. I read a little thing awhile back about the sinking of the Titanic. Now that event occurred before most of us, if not all of us, were even born; but it still has a fascination for us. One of the highest rated movies in the year 2001 was about it. But, a half-page piece written by Tom Harguess pointed out something that I had hardly thought about before—well anyway—not quite like he said it. He reminded his readers that the Titanic sank at about 11:40 p.m. on April 14, 1912 and the S.S. Carpathia arrived on the scene to rescue survivors at about 4 a.m. the next day. At the time of the collision with the iceberg there were 2,340 people aboard the ship. Only about 745 of that number were rescued.
The Titanic was supposed to have been an "unsinkable" luxury ship you remember. And it was supposed to have had every luxury known that people would want on such a voyage. But what is it to a man about to die, drown in some icy water—to know that the ship had three electric elevators, squash courts, Turkish baths, a hospital with an operating room, private promenade decks and all, Renaissance cabins, palm garden, darkroom for photography, the tapestry of an English castle, a dinner service of some 10,000 pieces of silver and gold, and even more? And the only thing needed that night was not provided. That one inadequacy was the lack of lifeboats! Well, that pretty well describes life for many of us. We have all of the luxuries that we want, the finest homes our money can buy, luxury automobiles, the very finest clothes that we want, and the finest food and all the toys that we want to amuse us. What we don't have is what we need most in the hour of death—the hope of heaven. Well, it reminds us of the Bible text for today's study. We will read it in a moment.
(If you would like a free printed copy or an audio cassette tape of it, you may address your request to “In Search of the Lord's Way”, P.O. Box 371, Edmond, OK. 73083. Or, our e-mail address is searchtv@searchtv.org. Many people use our toll-free telephone number for this purpose, too. That number is 1-800-321-8633. [The website is www.searchtv.org–my addition.] )”
“We are reading today from Matthew chapter 16, and we are going to begin at verse 24. ‘Then Jesus said to His disciples, if anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.’ And I read through verse 27.”
“Our text is set in the area of Caesarea Philippi in the northeastern extremity of the land of Palestine, in the latter part of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Jesus had asked His disciples who they believed Him to be. And Peter had very quickly and spontaneously and confidently replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Well, the Savior pronounced a blessing on him (perhaps on the others, too), and promised him that He would build His church on that truth. Oh! Those disciples must have been thrilled and excited with that announcement, and that enthusiasm was surely noticeable to Jesus because He commanded them ‘that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.’ Then He explained why. ‘He must [first] go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day,’ before that message would be preached. Just how much of what He was saying at that time, they understood, we are not sure, because, in John 2: 22 the Scripture says that it was only when He was risen from the dead that they remembered what He had said to them about the latter part of that.
At any rate, when He mentioned being killed, dear old Peter, impetuous, impulsive Peter that he was, interrupted Him. Some think he may have even taken Him by the hand and taken Him aside, and begun to rebuke Him. ‘Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!’ It seems as though Peter was saying he, and perhaps all the other disciples, too, would step in and prevent such a happening as that. He spoke as a friend. Peter loved Jesus. No one could ever doubt that. Perhaps he just couldn't bear the thought of Jesus' death, and as we said, he didn't understand this bit about His being raised from the dead the third day.
Anyway, Peter's censure drew a rebuke from Jesus: ‘Get thee behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.’ Now the word ‘satan’ literally means ‘an adversary or one who opposes’ what we are trying to accomplish. It is true, it is used more often than not in the Scriptures with reference to the devil, as the adversary of man and the chief opposer to the purposes of God. But Jesus was probably using it here in its more general application. ‘Get behind Me, you are as one who is opposing Me, Peter, and the whole purpose of my coming in the flesh. If what you are saying were to be, it would stand in the way of My doing the very thing for which the Father sent me. You are looking at it all from, well as a mere man; you don't understand or you are not considering the plan and the purposes of God.’
Then He said to all of them, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.’ To deny himself, doesn't mean a disciple must forego the comforts and luxuries, and some of the sports and pleasures of life. It means total surrender of a person's will to God and to His will with absolutely no reservation whatsoever. I mean that doesn't leave the door open for personal conveniences or comfort or pleasures or opinions or likes or dislikes or feelings or rights or well, any of that sort of thing. To deny one's self is to totally surrender to God and to doing His will. Oh say! That doesn't sound much like a casual relationship with Christ to me; does it you?
And, what did He mean ‘take up your cross, take up his cross and follow me.’ This has been troublesome to a lot of people. Some have thought it meant just becoming reconciled to the idea of some kind of a handicap or physical infirmity, or maybe a bad marriage or the loss of some investments, what is sometimes called ‘bad luck.’ I heard one preacher explain it in a sermon once in a way I have never thought of it myself. He said he had three crosses he had to bear—his wife and two children. Quite frankly, my friend, my wife and my children were never crosses to me. No, no, I'm sure that isn't what Jesus meant.
The cross was an instrument of death. It was also a symbol of disgrace because only the worst of criminals, and I mean those that were guilty of the most heinous crimes the mind of wicked men can conjure up, were crucified. Furthermore, a cross was a symbol of the curse of God. Jewish law in the Old Testament clearly defined that, ‘He who is hanged [on a tree (Galatians 3: 13)] is cursed of God’ (Deuteronomy 21: 23). Furthermore, the person who was to be crucified was required to carry his cross to the place of his own crucifixion. Remember? Jesus carried His cross on the road to Calvary until, because of exhaustion, He fainted, and another man was compelled to assist Him.
For a person to take up his cross and follow Jesus, meant he would willingly suffer any kind of shame or burden or disgrace the world would and could heap on him for the name of the Savior. In view of the teachings I'm hearing on TV and radio, I must repeat, that does not sound much like a casual relationship with Christ to me. Oh yes, Jesus is a friend alright, and what a friend He has proven to be. He said, ‘Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends’ (John 15: 13). But Jesus loved us even more than that essence of human love, because He loved us so much He laid down His life for us when we were living as His enemies in sin. In the next verse (John 15: 14) He said, ‘You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you.’ So, while his friendship is not questionable; well, I question the casualness of it. The spirit of casual Christianity is being preached and practiced so much in modern churches it is simply killing the very spirit of what Jesus taught and required of His disciples.
If a person chooses and professes to follow Christ in life, he must number (1) deny himself, number (2) take up his cross, number (3) follow Jesus. What does it mean to follow Jesus? The apostle Peter helps us with that question. He had first-hand knowledge of it. He wrote two letters to the saints in Christ Jesus who were, like himself, sorely persecuted for the faith. In the first one he said, ‘This is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this end you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow in His steps.’ (1 Peter 2: 19 through 21) Jesus not only taught the right way of God, His life was an example of it.
Well, do you suppose anyone really got interested in following Jesus under those severe conditions? You would think if He had made discipleship, if He had just made it a little less confining or restrictive or burdensome, more appealing, more people might have come and listened to what He had to say. Oh, no, no, my friend, it was because it was such a "strait and narrow" way, that people were attracted to what He said. They followed Him by the thousands. There was one time that there were as many as 5,000 men besides the women and the youth, and they stayed and listened to Him so long that day that they grew hungry. And since they had brought no food, Jesus fed them with the five loaves and the two fish that a lad had brought along for his own lunch. Well, there was another time He fed 4,000 beside the women and children. That is Matthew 15: 38. The Scripture says that ‘They were astonished at his teaching for He taught them as one having authority, not as the scribes.’ (Matthew 7: 28). I don't get from Jesus' teaching that following Him is to be taken casually. Casual Christianity is not what Jesus, the Founder, the Author and Finisher of our faith taught. We must shake ourselves out of that kind of thinking to be authentic followers of Christ. It was its absolute distinctiveness that made His teaching priceless—worth giving one's self to so completely and so totally as He demands it. Elton Trueblood once said, ‘There can be no cutting edge that is not narrow.’ Yeah, that is true.
Then in verse 25 of our text Jesus says, ‘For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.’ Jesus is talking here about two lives. Let me try to paraphrase: Whoever is anxious to save his temporal life, his comforts and happiness and security here shall lose eternal life—or heaven. But whoever will dedicate himself wholly to Me and to My cause, even to the point of dying for it if necessary will surely gain the next life—in heaven. Yes, that is what He is saying!
Now we have come to verse 26 which is the crux and the essence and the heart of this message: ‘For what is it if a man gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?’ We can spend our time talking about the meaning of the word ‘soul’ in this verse, and not get what Jesus actually was talking about. And, doubtlessly there will be some who will write me this week to do that. That's ok if you will maintain a good spirit and sign your letter. You may be able to enhance my understanding if you will do that, and I'll welcome your hope and your help. But if you are ugly and you don't sign your name, you won't be able to help me, because I don't read unsigned letters.
Oh say! What a piercing question: ‘What will a man give in exchange for his soul?’ Back to Dan Harguess' analogy in the story of the Titanic. What did matter on that night is that there were not enough lifeboats, and nowhere, no time to get any.
But, it will matter; it will be important to you whenever you have lived all your life for self, or for Christ and His great cause. It was the will of God that Jesus Christ came into the world, to die on the cross to take away the sins of the world (John 1: 29), then to be buried and raised the third day. The writer of Hebrews said, ‘Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him’ (Hebrews 5, verses 8 and 9). Would you be willing to be baptized into His death, buried with Him in the act of baptism, and raised with Him in the new life? He died, was buried and rose again for you, and He asks you do that for Him in the act of baptism. Some people would like to follow Him, but they won't do that with Him. They didn’t think it is necessary. I pray you will today. Don't wait. Do it now. And if we may assist you in some way, please give us the opportunity. Call us.
Our program is presented here by your neighbors and friends who are members of churches of Christ in the area of this station. We would love to have you pay us a visit in one of the congregations near you here. If you need help in locating it or learning of the times of our Bible classes or worship assemblies, let us help. If you would like a free printed copy or an audio cassette tape of today's message titled, ‘What Will A Man Give?’, please mail your request to “In Search of the Lord's Way”, P.O. Box 371, Edmond, OK. 73083. By e-mail it is searchtv@searchtv.org. You may read it or hear it or view it again on our website at www.searchtv.org. Churches of Christ are trying as near as we possibly can to learn from the study of Christianity in the New Testament to duplicate that in the life of the congregations today. If New Testament Christianity in this generation is important to you, come see us. God bless and keep you now. We love you.”
I like to say that JESUS did not promise HIS followers a “rose garden” while on this earth. He did not promise wealth, health, and/or happiness. He did promise us persecution if we are obedient to HIS will. As this program pointed out, followers of CHRIST must deny self and must be obedient (or surrender) to JESUS’S HOLY WILL. He must take up HIS cross—be “willingly (to) suffer any kind of shame or burden or disgrace the world would and could heap on him for the name of the Savior.” He must follow JESUS in obedience regardless of the consequences—in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, in good times and bad times unto a man caused death if necessary.
In short, just as JESUS does not tolerate lukewarm churches; HE does not tolerate lukewarm Christians (what the program identifies as casual Christians) because there is no such thing ultimately as a lukewarm, fence sitting, casual Christian. You are either a Christian doing HIS WILL or you have rejected HIM as your SAVIOR. You can not serve both GOD and money. You can not serve both GOD and humanists. You can not serve both GOD and evil. You can not serve both GOD and the devil. It is impossible!!!


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