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.

444 - It All Comes Down to Denial

444 - It All Comes Down to Denial

January 10, 2020

When Jesus instructed His disciples, and the others, about what it meant to follow Him in Matthew 16:24-25, He spoke of "desire to come after me" and then "let him deny himself."  We looked at desire in our last message, and now we will turn our focus to what He meant by "deny himself."  Note the requirement and sequence in the verse below.  First, there must be desire ("if anyone desires to come after Me").  Then, a denial and the corresponding action showing the commitment to deny himself ("take up his cross").  And finally, the invitation to "follow Me."  Jesus shows surrendering to Him must follow in this order.  In essence, first meet the conditions, and then come "follow Me."

Jesus said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" - Matthew 16:24-25.

The word deny (aparnéomai) when followed by the pronoun heautón (oneself, himself) means "to deny oneself, or to disown and renounce self and to subjugate all works, interests, benefits, and enjoyments to another."  The word is also translated "to speak against, contradict, to avoid, reject, nullify, to stand firm against, resist, oppose." When Jesus said we must "deny" ourselves, the impact of our denial affects all areas of our life.


Deny, Denial, and Denied!

In Matthew 10, Jesus speaks of confessing Him before men or risk having Him deny us before His Father.  It is an extremely troubling warning from Christ that left no room for doubt or excuses.  He said,

"Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.  And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" - Matthew 10:27-28.

Who is the One we are to fear?  Exactly, the Lord.  If so, do you have the fear of the Lord in you?  How has that fear changed your life so far?

"Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin?  And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Do not fear therefore (the consequences of speaking what the Lord tells you to say); you are of more value than many sparrows" - Matthew 10:29-31.

But then it gets quite serious for those who do not heed the Lord’s warning.

"Therefore whoever confesses Me (where) before men, him I will also confess (where) before My Father who is in heaven.  But whoever denies (refuse, avoid, reject, resist, oppose) Me (where) before men, him I will also deny (refuse, avoid, reject, resist, oppose) before My Father who is in heaven" - Matthew 10:32-33.

Can you imagine being denied by Christ before the Father?


Fear and Excuses

But if I confess Jesus, my friends will not include me.  Or my spouse will reject me even to the point of separation or divorce.  Or I’ll lose my job and source of income.  Or I’ll be persecuted, even to the point of possible imprisonment.  Or… you choose the excuse.  They are all the same, lame.  But Jesus anticipated these excuses.  He continued:

"Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.  For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter in law against her mother in law ’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.'  He who loves father or mother more than Me is (what) not worthy of Me.  And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is (what) not worthy of Me.  And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is (what) not worthy of Me. (Therefore) He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life (why) for My sake will find it" - Matthew 10:34-39.

Or are you a follower of Jesus according to what works best for you?  Have you truly counted the cost of being one with Him?  Is He the center of your life?  Is He your very life?  Do you want Him to be?  If so, everything begins at the beginning.  And it all begins with desire.

Do you want to follow after Jesus?  No matter what?  Come what may?   If so, then keep listening.

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

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.

434 - Preparing for the Invite

434 - Preparing for the Invite

October 30, 2019

When we come to the Lord's table, often we spend little time in spiritual preparation to meet with our Lord.  But this is His table and He has offered to each of us, regardless of our sins and failures, the blessing to come and dine with Him.  Remember His words to His disciples?

Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer" (Luke 22:15).

With "fervent desire I have desired."  Can you feel the intensity in His words?  This is something Jesus was passionate about, something that He truly wanted to do.  And it involved each of us.


Spiritual Preparation for the Invite

In the Philadelphia church age (Rev. 3:7-13) where the Lord only had good things to say about the church, just a few generations ago, the church took the Lord's Supper much more seriously than we do today.  In fact, they had printed prayers and a devotional study they spent the week going through to make sure they were not taking this in an "unworthy manner" (1 Cor. 11:29).  For example, let me give you the text for just Saturday, the day of Self-Surrender to the Lord.

My Father, You call me to Your table to participate by faith anew in the sacrifice of Your Son: I cry to You, in turn, to make me partaker of the power, the inclination, and the spirit of His self-sacrifice, that I, in fellowship with Him, may in like manner offer myself up to You. “Through the Eternal Spirit, He offered Himself up to God.” My God, let the same Spirit make me also, on my part, a complete offering to You.

My Father, grant unto me to see that self-offering constitutes the essence and the worth of His sacrifice. Let the surrender of my feeling and will to the will of God be the mark of my piety. Yes, Lord, let me live as one who offers himself wholly to the desire of God and man to further Your honor and their salvation.

My Father, at the Supper I desire truly to present myself as a living, a holy sacrifice, well-pleasing, to God—an offering that shall be wholly consumed.

For this end, I entreat You for grace to prepare myself for this sacrifice, as Your Son prepared Himself for the sacrifice on Golgotha by saying in Gethsemane: “Not My will, but Yours be done." So would I offer myself as a sacrifice to You with the complete surrender of my will: may Your will be all in all to me, O my God. Lord enable me to say in truth: “I live only to do the will of God.” In the strength of Jesus Christ, who lives in me and in whom I offer myself to You, I venture to make His language my own: “I come to do Your will, O God!”

Lord, prepare me also to say: I desire here before You to renounce every known and unknown sin. All self-seeking and self-will I desire to abandon before You. I take Jesus Christ as my holiness, my strength, my victory; and in virtue of the new nature which He has prepared for me, I say: Father, no more sin, but Your will only— Your will wholly, Your will always and in all.

Lord Jesus, who did give Himself for me, I give myself to You.  Yes, Lord, in this very moment, where I in solitude am this morning preparing myself for the Supper, I say before heaven and earth: Jesus, Son of God, I will give myself wholly to You, to live now and henceforth only for You. Lord Jesus, I do this now. And as one who is offered to the Father and to You, I will go to the Supper table, there to be confirmed in the faith and confession; I am no longer my own: I have been bought with a high price: I will glorify God in my body and my spirit, which are God’s.

Are you humbled?  Convicted?  Maybe you should be.  I know I am when I read this and the rest of what they prayed during their week of preparation for the invite.

Take some time and read through the days of prep the church of a time gone by spent preparing themselves to meet with the Lord.  And see, like me, if it doesn't give you a deeper view of what this Lord's Supper is all about.

The following is a study on preparing to dine with the Lord.

415 - The Curse of God’s Abandonment

415 - The Curse of God’s Abandonment

August 24, 2017

There's a time when the Lord gives us what we want: freedom, autonomy, independence, and to have no authority over our lives but ourselves.  That's right.  God gives us over to our selfish, carnal attitudes and allows us to experience the consequences of our sins.  It's like He says, "Ok, you want to go your own way?  Have at it.  I'll be here when you come to your senses."  It's the story of the prodigal son played out in our lives in real time.

This is called the curse of God's abandonment.  It's when He removes His protecting grace from our lives and our nation and let's us see how we like life without Him.  And the results are catastrophic.

Samson, after having his hair cut by Delilah, woke up to confront his enemies still believing he had the same strength as before because his God was with him.  But that was not the case.  He said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!”  But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him (Judges 16:20).  Samson was experiencing the abandonment of God.


God Gave Them Up

In Romans 1 we see three examples of this very act of God's abandonment:

Therefore God also gave them up – Romans 1:24.

For this reason God gave them up – Romans 1:26.

God gave them over – Romans 1:28.

But who are the "them" in these verses?  The lost?  The unregenerate?  Those nations that reject truth and justice?  Yes.  But if you will study these verses closely you will find the object of God's curse of abandonment is also the church.  It includes His wayward believers.  It includes you and me.

Does this seem strange to you?  Maybe hard to believe?  Then I suggest you keep listening and find out the truth for yourself.  And remember, "judgment begins at the house of God" (1 Peter 4:17).  Are you ready?

The following is a study on the Curse of the Abandonment of God.

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.

382 - How the Holy Spirit Expresses Himself

382 - How the Holy Spirit Expresses Himself

January 9, 2017

When we have the desire to know more about the gifts given each of us by the Holy Spirit, and our responsibility in exercising those gifts, we are faced with a couple of questions.  Especially when we see that the purpose of those gifts is to give the Holy Spirit the opportunity to manifest or express Himself to others.  Consider the following:

1 Corinthians 12:7 - But the manifestation (expression) of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.

How does the Holy Spirit manifest or express Himself in the world today?
Does the Holy Spirit give His gifts to everyone that belongs to Christ?
Does that include you?
What gift or gifts has He given you?
And why did He give you His gifts?
So He could express Himself to others through each of us.

Do you realize the reason the Holy Spirit gives us His gifts is to manifest Himself to others through us?  Let that sink in for a moment.

According to 1 Corinthians 12:7, all the gifts that follow (word of wisdom and knowledge, faith, healings, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, and tongues) are all given so He can use these gifts to express Himself through us to others.  

Do you know what that means?  Can you see the implications of that verse and what it means for you and me and the church today?  If not, then keep listening.

The following is a study on 1 Corinthians 12:9.

381 - The Year of Sanctification

381 - The Year of Sanctification

January 4, 2017

Many of us make resolutions this time of year.  It just seems natural.  Maybe we want to lose weight, get out of debt, or finish a long neglected project around the house.  But as a Christian, we want to somehow make our resolutions more spiritual.  That also seems natural.  So we often resolve something like this:

"I want to read my Bible more."
"I want to pray more."
"I want to share my faith more."
"I want to love more, forgive more, worship more."
"I want to live more like a Christian."
"I want to know more of God and have myself conformed to the image of His Son."

But the key to discovering the "abundant life" (John 10:10) Jesus spoke about is not in keeping resolutions, no matter how good they may be.  It's living a life of holiness.  It's practicing sanctification.  It's being set apart or consecrated unto God.  After all, we belong to Him.

But sanctification never takes place unless we first understand the way God's if / then promises work.  The promise comes after the condition.  The then follows the if.  Consider the following:

Proverbs 3:5-6 - Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

(condition one) Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
(condition two) and lean not on your own understanding;
(condition three) in all your ways acknowledge Him,
(promise) and He shall direct your paths.

Want to know more.  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on Proverbs 3:5-6.

380 - Fear is Not Your Friend

380 - Fear is Not Your Friend

January 2, 2017

When we read the reason God gave each of us spiritual gifts, we find they are an expression or representation of the Holy Spirit to a lost world in dire need of Him.  Think about it, the Holy Spirit lives in each of us as a deposit or guarantee of our future inheritance in Him (Eph. 1:14).  In essence, no Holy Spirit, no salvation.  And because the Holy Spirit now lives in each of us, He also graciously gives us certain gifts that come from Him.  Some of these gifts we readily embrace.  Others we feel less than excited about.  But  regardless of our personal feelings about what the Holy Spirit has blessed us with, we are given these gifts for the benefit of others.  They are to be used for others as a clear expression of Him who now lives in us.

Consider the following:

1 Corinthians 12:7 – But the manifestation (expression, to make visible or observable) of the Spirit (Holy Spirit) is given (to bestow, to give freely of one’s own accord and with goodwill) to each one (to each and every one separately and individually) for the profit (benefit, advantage, usefulness, help, to bring together for the benefit of another) of all.

Does this also apply to the "gifts of healings" and the "working of miracles" in the verses that follow?  What about tongues and the interpretation of tongues?  How about the gift of discerning of spirits?   Now it gets a little squirrely, doesn’t it?   Do you have questions about these gifts?  Are you wondering how your experience lines up with the Scriptural teaching about spiritual gifts?  Do you feel confused and somewhat in the dark when it comes to these controversial gifts?  Don’t worry, you’re not alone.  Most of the church feels the same way.  Want some answers?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on 1 Corinthians 12:9-10.

374 - In Everything Give Thanks… Why?

374 - In Everything Give Thanks… Why?

November 21, 2016

In the final few words in his first letter to the church at Thessalonica, the apostle Paul leaves them with some heartfelt, bullet-point warnings and admonitions that speak to living in the Kingdom. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 he said,

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  Do not quench the Spirit.

If you look closer, you will see this is another classic, life-changing if / then passage.  If we do the first three, then we won't experience the last.  Or, if we don't do the first three, then the last, quenching the Spirit, is ours as a consequence of the first three.  And who in their right mind wants to willingly quench the Spirit of God in our life.  But there is so much more to be found here.  Interested?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19.