Leaving Laodicea
445 - What it Means to Follow Jesus

445 - What it Means to Follow Jesus

January 17, 2020

When Jesus began His earthly ministry, His initial message was the same as John the Baptist.  He said, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 4:17).  And throughout the next three years, one underlying theme in His teaching was about life in His Kingdom.  When Jesus sent out His disciples to preach His message, He said, "As you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand' " (Matt. 8:11).  Jesus even told those close to Him why He spoke to the crowds in parables.  And His answer had to do with concealing from some the knowledge of the kingdom of heaven.  He said, "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given" (Matt. 13:11).

Finally, He shared parables specifically pointed to revealing what the kingdom of heaven, His Kingdom, was like.  He said it was like a "man who sowed good seed in his field" (Matt. 13:24).  Or, it was like a "mustard seed" which, being small, grew into a tree "so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches" (Matt. 13:31).  Jesus likened His Kingdom to "leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened" (Matt. 13:33).  And to express how wonderful His Kingdom is for those who possess it, He said it was like a "treasure hidden in a field" (Matt. 13:44) or a "pearl of great price" (Matt. 13:46) that was worth all one had on earth.

Jesus then asked His disciples, "Have you understood all these things?"  They said to Him, "Yes, Lord" (Matt. 13:51).

I wonder what our answer would be today?  Do we understand His Kingdom?  Do we fully know what it means to follow Him?  Can we honestly say we are proficient in following Jesus?

I'm not so sure.  And maybe you aren't either.


What Life is Like in the Kingdom

Let's just take a flyover view of the first few chapters in Matthew and see if we can determine some principles and instructions for what it means to live in the kingdom of heaven.  And then compare them to what we teach in church today, and I think you'll be as shocked as I was.

Blessed… or Not So Blessed - Matthew 5:3-12
Self Identity - Matthew 5:13-16
His Standard of Righteousness - Matthew 5:20
Anger - Matthew 5:21-26
Lust and/or Sexual Sin - Matthew 5:27-30
Marital Relationships - Matthew 5:31-32
Oaths and Dishonesty - Matthew 5:33-37
How to Respond to Evil - Matthew 5:38-42
How to Respond to Haters - Matthew 5:43-47
Be Perfect - Matthew 5:48
Self-Promotion - Matthew 6:1-4
How to Pray - Matthew 6:5-13
How Much Forgiveness? - Matthew 6:14-15
Fasting and Other Disciplines - Matthew 6:16-17
Our Life Focus - Matthew 6:19-21
Everyone Serves Somebody or Something - Matthew 6:24
Worry, Doubt, and Fear - Matthew 6:25-34
I’m Right and You’re Wrong - Matthew 7:1-2
I’m Good and You’re Bad - Matthew 7:3-6
What is a Life of Faith - Matthew 7:7-11
Treat Others Like You Treat Yourself - Matthew 7:12
Turnstile or Interstate - Matthew 7:13-14
Fruit Inspector - Matthew 7:15-20
Doing and Not Just Talking - Matthew 7:21-23
Don’t Be Stupid! - Matthew 7:24-27
Minister Within Your Reach - Matthew 8:1-17
Everything Costs Something - Matthew 8:18-22
And so much more!

Remember, following Christ means to forget everything we think we know about everything but Him, and simply trust in child-like faith.  Our entire reality now changes, as citizens in His Kingdom, to something incredible and supernatural.

Do you want to learn more about what it means to follow Jesus?  If so, then keep listening.

The following is a study on What it Means to Follow Jesus.

443 - It All Comes Down to Desire

443 - It All Comes Down to Desire

January 9, 2020

On any given Sunday, if a pastor asks by a show of hands how many in the congregation consider themselves followers of Christ, most would raise their hands.  But if he followed up that question with: "And how many of you know what it means to be a follower of Jesus today?" - the number of raised hands would drop considerably.  Maybe even to none.  Why?  Because our view today of following Jesus is a far cry from what it meant in the time of Jesus.  Think about it for a moment.  Today, following Jesus means agreeing to a set of doctrinal facts, going to church regularly, tithing, volunteering for some service ministry, adhering to a moral code, and reading and praying as often as we can.  But in the New Testament, following Jesus meant something quite different.

Jesus said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Matt. 16:24).  Note the components of His invitation.  First, it begins with a conditional clause, if, like a classic if / then statement.  "If you desire to come after Me, then these are the conditions."  Next, we have self-denial or self-subjugation to God.  "If you desire to come after Me, the first condition is to deny yourself."  And finally, we are now privy to the degree to which self-denial must take place.  "If you desire to come after Me, the first condition is to deny yourself even to the point of death, and a horrific death at that."  And only then does Jesus say, "and follow Me."  First, meet the conditions, and then "follow Me."


But What About Desire

Exactly.  The entire invitation of Jesus hinges on the word, desire.  If you desire, then do the following.  If you don't desire, then this message must not be for you.  Which begs the questions, what is your desire regarding following Jesus?  And is your desire great enough to pay the price necessary to meet His conditions?  Ouch.  This is where it often gets personal.

In order to fully understand all of what Jesus said when He revealed His conditions of following Him, let's look at this invitation from all three Gospel accounts.  Only then can we fully understand all the implications and the Cost of Discipleship (to quote Bonhoeffer).  The following is from Matthew 16:24-25, Mark 8:34-35, and Luke 9:23-24:

Then Jesus (MK) called the people to Himself (LK) and said to them all, (MK) with His disciples also, (MT) "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross (LK) daily, (MT) and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake (MK) and the gospel’s (MT) will find it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul (LK) and is himself destroyed or lost? (MT) Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (MK)  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes (LK) in His own glory, and (MT) in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works."

Today, we will primarily focus on the issue of desire.

What is your desire regarding Christ?
Have you counted the costs of a deeper relationship with Him?
Are you ready to pay the price?  No matter what that price might be?
Are you paying any price right now for your commitment to the Lord?
Do you know if it will be much different in the future?

Are you tired of taking two steps forward and then losing ground once again because you desire something less than all of His fullness manifested in your life?  If so, then keep listening.

The following is a study on our Desire to Follow Christ.

442 - How to Surrender Your Life to Him

442 - How to Surrender Your Life to Him

December 16, 2019

We have looked at what it takes to become a Faith Prepper over the last few weeks.  We did this by learning to pray at all times by letting the Holy Spirit, through God’s Word, direct your prayers.   And we also spent some time learning how to trust at all times by allowing your faith to grow by having it exercised in often unpleasant situations.  But even with all of this, we still are plagued with a few questions.

How do we go from talking about faith to living by faith?
How do we learn to trust the Lord in all things?
How do we know and understand His will?
What are the practical steps we need to take to surrender our all to Him?
And how can we go about doing just that?

The answer, according to Scripture, is found in the single word, surrender.  It means "to yield, give up or over, submit, abandon, relinquish, cede, waive, or capitulate.  From the Christian perspective, it means to relinquish ownership of what we consider ours: our property, rights, time, decisions, future, independence, basically our life.

Surrender, like most things, is a choice.

The classic passage on total surrender is found in Galatians 2:20.  It reads: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." But there is so much more.


Everybody Serves Somebody

In order to surrender our life to the Lord, we must first recognize we are created as a triune being.  We consist of three parts: mind, body, and will.  Total surrender comes when we purposely and with intention surrender all parts of ourselves to Him.

First, we must surrender our mind.

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every (what)  thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ - 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.

Next, we must surrender our body to the Lord. 

And then finally, we must surrender our will to the Lord.

Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it" - Luke 9:23-24.  Note both "desire" and "deny himself, and take up his cross daily".  This speaks of both the surrender of the will and the body or flesh.

Remember, you are not filled with the Holy Spirit because you desire to be filled nor because you confess your sins or present your body a living sacrifice— you are filled by faith.  So it is with a surrender to the Lord.  If we are willing but find your flesh weak, God is strong and will complete what you are unable to do.  What God is initially looking for is your willingness to be all His.  It all begins with desire.

One final note, if you believe God is good and He is sovereign, can you give me one reason not to fully submit and surrender yourself to Him?

Me neither.  Other than pride.  And that's not a good thing.

So where are you in your journey to surrender your life to the Lord?  Have you surrendered yourself and left your life in His hands?  Or have you, like many today, surrendered one moment and then snatched it out of His hands the next?  Are you tired of the endless struggle and sense of failure?  If so, then keep listening.

The following is a study on How to Surrender Your Life to the Lord.

439 - Kingdom Praying

439 - Kingdom Praying

December 7, 2019

When we look at the content of the prayers of the early church we are amazed they didn't pray like much of the church does today— for the little answerable "fix".  Instead, they prayed for Kingdom matters, what we call Kingdom Prayers.  Let me explain.

A “little answerable” is a prayer for a little “fix” that is often related to our sense of entitlement from God.  These can be called horizontal prayers.  We lose our job so we pray for a new one.  A loved one is sick, so we pray for their healing.  We don't have enough money to make it through the end of the month, so we pray to win the lottery.  And on the surface, these seem like proper, loving, spiritual prayers.  But that's not how the early church prayed.

A Kingdom prayer, on the other hand, is praying for something that has lasting value and importance in the Kingdom of God.  For example, look at the following prayers and note what they are asking for (and what they are not):  Ephesians 1:15-23; 3:14-19, Romans 15:5-6, 13, Philippians 1:9-11, Philemon 1:4-6.


Kingdom Praying

Do you see the difference?  Instead of praying for the current situation to be remedied, the early church prayed for a lasting effect in the believer no matter how the situation turned out.  Their prayers were long-term, character-focused, and not merely looking for an immediate "fix" to make life better.

So what can we learn from this?  Assuming you looked up the verses listed above, the following are a few truths we can glean from the content of the Kingdom prayers.

One, don’t immediately just jump to the obvious when you pray for a need.  Instead, begin by asking God what He wants to do in that situation?  Or, what is His will regarding what you pray?  Or finally, what would give Him the most glory in this situation?  Then, begin to pray accordingly.

Two, don’t be so quick to pray for the results or the “fix”.  Instead, pray for spiritual growth, insight, and development in the life of the one in need.  Again, ask God what He wants to do to bring glory to Himself in this situation or how He wants to transform the person into the image of His Son in this?

Three, when you don’t know what to pray, then pray Scripture.  The Holy Spirit will guide you in your prayer and even pray for you when you don’t know how to pray. Remember the promise in Romans 8:26-27.

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God - Romans 8:26-27.

Having the content of your prayers changed to focus more on the eternal rather than the temporal is one major step to becoming a faith prepper.  To find out more about how this is done and how to become a faith prepper, keep listening.

The following is a study on the prayer life of the early church or Kingdom Praying.

431 - How to be Filled with the Holy Spirit

431 - How to be Filled with the Holy Spirit

August 20, 2019

As we begin to see the darkness come over our land and persecution confront the church in ways unimaginable just a generation ago, it is well past time for each of us to understand and embrace the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit like never before.  As Appollo Creed said to Rocky to shake him from his fear, "There is no tomorrow!"

And Appollo was right.  There is no tomorrow.  The time for spiritual preparation is today.  Actually, it should have been yesterday, or last week.  The time for fervency towards our Lord cannot be put off any longer.  The well-worn excuses about family responsibilities, career advancement, and the general business of life seem trite at best, and will mean nothing when persecution comes.  And it will come.  Most assuredly it will come.  The Scriptures promise persecution.

Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution - 2 Timothy 3:12

That is, of course, unless you aren't particularly interested in living godly in Christ.  Then you may be pretty safe, right up until the time you take the mark on your hand or forehead.  But that's another issue for another time.


How to be Filled with the Holy Spirit

The key to living a life of assurance and confidence in Him is learning how to remain filled with the Holy Spirit.  And before you can remain filled, you have to be filled in the first place.  This is what this message talks about. We talk about some steps you can take to prepare yourself for His filling.  They are as follows:

First, you must desire to live a life that will please the Lord.

Second, be willing to surrender your life totally and irrevocably to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Third, confess every known sin that the Holy Spirit calls to your remembrance and experience the cleansing and forgiveness that God promises in 1 John 1:9.

Fourth, ask Him, by faith, to fill you with the Holy Spirit. You can pray something like this:

Dear Father, I need You. I hunger and thirst for a more vital relationship with You. I admit that I have been in control of my life. And, as a result, I have sinned against You. Thank You for forgiving my sins through Christ’s death on the cross for me. I now confess and turn from my sins and surrender the control of my life to the Lord Jesus. By faith, I invite You to fill me with the Holy Spirit as You commanded me to be filled. You promised to fill me if I ask according to Your will. I pray this in the authority of the name of Jesus Christ.

To demonstrate my faith, I now thank You for filling me with Your Holy Spirit and for taking control of my life. Amen.

But that's not the end of it.


There is so much more to learn.

You will need to understand the basis of God's filling, and it has nothing to do with the amount of time you spend praying or the people who lay hands on you.  The basis is on the command (Eph. 5:18) and promise (1 John 5:14-15) of God.  And the filling of the Holy Spirit is given to you the same way you received salvation, by faith.

But there is so much more about all this that we cannot do it justice in this simple summary. 

To find out more, you will need to keep listening. The following is a study on How to Be Filled by the Holy Spirit.

426 - What Does Personal Revival Look Like?

426 - What Does Personal Revival Look Like?

June 10, 2019

When it comes to revival, personal revival, we are somewhat hamstrung by the reality that many in the church today have no idea what that even looks like.  Think about it.  It's not like you can pick up the phone and call a mature Christian saint who is at the top of their game spiritually, and has been for years, and ask them to mentor us in personal revival.  It seems, at least in the West, that those people are few and far between if they exist at all. And this is to the shame of the church... and to each of us as individuals. So we're back to the main question.


What Does Personal Revival Look Like?

In this message, we'll look at a few Scriptures that describe to us what true, Spirit-led, personal revival looks like.  Some of the passages we'll examine are Psalm 119:25, 37, and 40, along with a few of the kingdom parables (Matthew 13:44-46).  We then look at Philippians 3:7-8, and a few other passages, and conclude by asking just a few questions.

What is worth selling all you have to acquire?
What is worth everything you are?
What is the thing you value the most?
Have you asked the Lord to show you things in your life that are worthless and deceitful and are causing you to sin and grieve the Holy Spirit?
Or are you too afraid of what He might say?
What will you do if He shows you what must go? Is the promise of living your life more alive and more abundantly than you are now worth more than holding on to what we are convinced brings lasting joy?
Will you ask Him right now to reveal it to you? But as we shared last week...


The Time is Now

Remember, our first step in seeking true revival is to ask HIm what we are doing, or not doing, that grieves His Spirit. Until then, be vigilant and strong and live out the life He intended for you to live.  Empowered by HIm, seeking Him, being dependent on Him alone, and faithfully serving Him wherever He commands. Adveho quis may. Come what may.

The following is a study on the reality of personal revival.

423 - The Breathtaking View of Christ

423 - The Breathtaking View of Christ

January 22, 2019

One of the major failures of the church today is to downplay the place of Christ when we come together to worship.  Yes, you heard right.  We, hopefully unknowingly, often relegate Christ to the back pew or the second chair.  And who do we elevate in His place?  Usually the pastor or, often, the worship leader.

And when we come together as a church we have a tendency to preach on the "what's" and "why's" of the Scripture and seldom the "how's".  Think about it.  We know we are commanded to "present our bodies as a living sacrifice" (Rom. 12:1-2), but are never told exactly how to do that.  Did you ever wonder why?

We are commanded to "walk according to the Spirit" (Gal. 5:16), yet are never instructed on how to do that.  We know what it means and why it's important.  But for some reason, our pastors fail to take our hands and show us exactly how to accomplish this command.  Why?

Is it because practical Christianity is not in vogue today?  Or could it be we have become a church made up of those who can tell us what to do but have never experienced it themselves?  Are we more like cowboys driving cattle from the rear than a shepherd leading from the front?

What are we to do?


Seven Things the Church Failed to Teach Me

Recently I was reading a blog that shared these seven things the author said the church never taught him.  And I couldn't agree more.  Consider the following:

  1.  How to practically live by the Christ who dwells inside me.
  2.  How to practically learn how to hear the Lord’s voice beyond “pray and read your Bible.”
  3.  That church-as-we-know-it is drastically different from church-as-God-would-have-it.
  4.  What the gospel of the kingdom is and how radically it can alter a human life.
  5.  How deep the tentacles of the world system go and how to break free from them.
  6.  That God’s presence is extremely subtle most of the time.
  7.  How to find Christ in the Scriptures, including the entire Old Testament.

So in 2019, I have committed to teach the church I pastor the "how's" of the Christian faith and to answer these, and other, practical questions about living for Him.  Will you join with me as we explore the breathtaking view of our Lord together?

The following is a study on the Breathtaking View of Christ found in Colossians 1:15-19 and 2 Colossians 2:9-10.

411 - We Will Not Be Equal in the Kingdom of God

411 - We Will Not Be Equal in the Kingdom of God

July 10, 2017

We will not all be equal in heaven.  Now we're not talking about salvation, but of rewards.  All of us are equal in regards to salvation because it is a gift given freely to those who believe.  In this, there is no question.  But what we do with our salvation is another matter.  And we will be rewarded for our faithfulness to Him in this life.  Consider the following:

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 - For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if anyone builds on this foundation with (1) gold, silver, precious stones, (2) wood, hay, straw, each one’s (personal) work will become clear; (how) for the Day will declare it, (how) because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s (personal) work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures (gold, silver, precious stones), he will receive a reward.  If anyone’s work is burned (wood, hay, straw), he will suffer loss (of reward); but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

Charles Stanley also spoke of this in his book, Eternal Security.  He said, “Some believers will be entrusted with certain privileges; others will not. Some will reign with Christ; others will not (2 Timothy 2:12). Some will be rich in the kingdom of God; others will be poor (Luke 12:21, 33).  Some will be given true riches; others will not.  Some will be given heavenly treasures of their own; others will not.  Some will rule and reign with Christ; others will not.  Privilege in the kingdom of God is determined by one’s faithfulness in this life.  It is true that there will be equality in terms of our inclusion in the kingdom of God, but not in our rank and privilege.”

Does this sound troubling to you?  Maybe confusing?  If so, keep listening to learn more.

The following is a study on the Judgment Seat of Christ and the Marriage Ceremony of the Lamb.

399 - Signs (or Not) of the Kingdom of God

399 - Signs (or Not) of the Kingdom of God

April 30, 2017

If you'll take the time, you'll find the core message of Jesus was about the kingdom of God.  Over and over again we find summary verses like this one:

Matthew 4:23 - And Jesus went about all Galilee, (1) teaching in their synagogues, (2) preaching the gospel of (what) the kingdom, and (3) healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.

In fact, Jesus said the object of the gospel He preached, and commanded us to preach, is the kingdom of God.  Consider what Jesus said in His olivet discourse:

Matthew 24:14 - "And this gospel of (what) the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come."

There are also certain kingdom characteristics in the lives of believers that the Scriptures point out to us as signs of His kingdom.  In essence, when believers manifest certain characteristics of the kingdom in their lives, we can know the kingdom of God is present.  And, conversely, when a believer doesn't manifest these kingdom characteristics, we can also safely assume the kingdom of God is far from them.

This is a sobering thought.  Character, holiness, and sanctification matter.  Do you want to discover more about the signs of life in the kingdom?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study of Acts 4:32-5:16.

389 - Life in the Kingdom

389 - Life in the Kingdom

March 9, 2017

If we were honest, we'd have to admit that the picture of life in the church as revealed in Scripture and our own personal church experience are not always the same.  In fact, they often seem like polar opposites, like night and day.  Consider what Paul said about life in the church:

Ephesians 3:20-21 - Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works (where) in us, to Him be glory (where) in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.

And yet, knowing this, we still struggle with trying to find the answer to the questions that trouble us the most.

Why can’t we keep our children involved in church?
Why can’t our children hold to Biblical morals?
Why can’t our children make Godly decisions?
Why can’t the church make a noticeable difference in our nation, culture and family?
Why can’t we get victory over our own sins?
Why can’t we see Jesus move in our lives like He did in the past?

Is there an answer to these questions?  Is what we're experiencing in church, Sunday after Sunday, all there is?  Or is there something missing?  And if so, what is it?  How do I find it?  What can I do?

If you want to know the answer to these important questions, then keep listening.

The following is a study on life in the kingdom of God.