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.

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.

441 - Faith is Justified by Action

441 - Faith is Justified by Action

December 9, 2019

We have previously looked at how to pray at all times and in all circumstances by letting the Holy Spirit, through God's Word, direct our prayers.  But next on the Faith Prepper list of required spiritual skills is learning how to trust Him at all times by allowing our faith to grow by having it exercised in often unpleasant circumstances.  After all, faith grows when it is tested.  And testing is usually unpleasant during the process but wonderful at the end.

The Greek word translated “faith” in the New Testament is pístis and means: “to win over, to persuade. Subjectively it means firm persuasion, conviction, belief in the truth”  This definition is used over 250 times in the New Testament alone.  Everything in the Spirit is based on faith and everything of faith is designed by God to bypass the senses.  Everything.

In addition to this, all faith is not justified by merely having it.  But all faith is justified by the action it produces.  In other words, faith by itself is worth little.  But faith, accompanied by actions or works based on that faith is alive and real.  This is exactly what James was trying to tell us in James 2:14-26.  Read it for yourself.


They Did Something

If you look at the people included in Hebrews 11, what we affectionately call the roll-call of faith, they are all listed there not because of their faith, but what they did based on their faith.  Or what actions they took empowered by their faith.  To believe God told you to do something but then not have the faith to actually do it, will not land you on this list.  Faith is justified by the actions empowered by our faith.  Let's look at Hebrews 11.

By faith, Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain (Heb. 11:4).  Or, "by faith Able did something..."

By faith, Noah prepared an ark (Heb. 11:7).  Noah did something by faith.  He built a boat in a desert when it had never rained.

By faith, Abraham obeyed when he was told to leave his home and travel to a land promised to him by God (Heb. 11:8-10).  His faith was justified, not by the fact he believed God had a land for him, but by the fact he actually left his home to travel to a foreign country.  He did something.

By faith, Abraham was told to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering (Heb. 11:17-19).  And he did just that.  If God hadn't intervened, Abraham would have obeyed God explicitly and his son would have died.  Why?  Because faith is justified by actions.  And Abraham's actions proved his faith.

By faith, Isaac and Jacob and Joseph did something on their death bed (Heb. 11:20-22).  They did something.  And what they did, by faith, is what qualified them to be listed with the others in this chapter.

Next, we have Moses (Heb. 11:23-29).  Then the story of the fall of Jericho (Heb. 11:30).  We are presented with the faith and actions of Rahab (Heb. 11:31) and so many more, Gideon, Barak,  Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets (Heb. 11:32-34).  And they are all listed in the chapter because of the actions they took based on their faith.  Not the other way around.

So where are you in your journey of faith?  Do you have the faith needed to be a faith prepper?  Can your faith survive the coming darkness?  What are you doing today to place yourself in situations where you must rely on your faith and not on your own wit or resources?  Where do you want to go from here?

To find out more about becoming a Faith Prepper, keep listening.

The following is a study on Trusting God by Faith and becoming a Faith Prepper.

440 - Taking God at His Word

440 - Taking God at His Word

December 8, 2019

One of the attributes of becoming a Faith Prepper is learning how to trust God as His Word.  I know many of us will say that we do.  When pressed, almost all believers will state the mantra, "I believe everything God says, start to finish, from Genesis to Revelation."  After all, that's the expected answer.  To say anything less would make us seem like a lukewarm believer.

But the truth is, most believers, maybe ever you, don't truly take God's Word as the final authority in your life.  How can I say that?  Because God's Word speaks to just about every issue we face today yet the church seems to be divided up into various opinions that differ greatly from one another.  If God's Word doesn't change and is always true, how can that be?  If God's Word says something is wrong, for example, how can any believer who claims God's Word as the final authority in their life, have a different opinion than what the Word says?  It seems inconsistent, doesn't it?  Hypocritical.

As the adage goes, the Scriptures are true about everything it teaches.  And it teaches about everything.

To test whether God's Word molds your opinions or whether your opinions are determined independent of God's Word, I have listed a number of controversial issues below.  What is your opinion on these?  And whatever your opinion is, does it line up with the Word of God?  If it doesn't, who is wrong, and what are you prepared to do about it?


My Opinions

Let's see how you would answer the following:

  • Abortion - Does a woman have the right to end the life of her unborn child under any circumstances?
  • Homosexuality - Is it a sin? Or did God create people both heterosexual and homosexual?
  • Sex - Is premarital sex always a sin?  Always?
  • Divorce - Is it proper to divorce a spouse?
  • Education - Whose responsibility is it to educate our children? Or, is it proper to send our children to government (public) schools?
  • Tolerance - Is it true that Jesus never judged any one and neither should we as His followers?
  • Children - How many children should a family have?  Is birth control or family planning ever in God’s will?
  • Church - Should women be pastors?  Should women have leadership roles that involve men?
  • Friends - Should a believer have friends that are non-believers?  How close should they be?
  • Home - Should a man be a stay at home dad?  Or should a woman go to work outside the home and put the kids in daycare or public school?
  • Spiritual Leadership - Whose responsibility is the spiritual leadership in a family?  Father?  Mother? Church?  Someone else?
  • Environment - How concerned should a Christian be about the environment?  And what should they do about it?
  • Politics - Should a believer ever vote for a Democrat?  Should a believer ever vote for a Republican?  Should a believer vote at all?
  • Dating and Marriage - Should a believer ever marry an unbeliever?  Should they date an unbeliever?
  • Dating vs Courtship - Should a believer date at all?
  • Islam - How is a believer to view the god of Islam?
  • Drinking - Should a believer drink alcohol?
  • Entertainment - Should a believer watch or listen to media that includes profanity, nudity, or sex?  Should a believer watch or listen to media that promotes anything contrary to sound Biblical teaching?
  • Money - How much money should a believer accumulate?  And how much of their income should they give away?

How many of your opinions were just that, opinions?  How many of your views or convictions were based on Scripture?  And those that weren’t based on Scripture, does that bother you at all?  Are you willing to change?  Right now?  Today?  No matter the costs?

To find out more about becoming a Faith Prepper, keep listening.

The following is a study on Trusting God's Word and becoming a Faith Prepper.

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.

438 - How to Pray God’s Word

438 - How to Pray God’s Word

November 27, 2019

For the last couple of weeks, we have been talking about praying through Scripture to help focus our prayers and have specifically been using the book of Ephesians.  If you remember, before we began we looked at three great truths regarding using God's Word to focus our prayers.  They are:

One, there is a direct connection between the degree that our minds are shaped by Scripture and the degree to which our prayers are answered.

"If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you" - John 15:7.

Two, God only answers the prayers and petitions that His Son had some part in asking.

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him - 1 John 5:14-15.

And three, the early church prayed Scripture.  And so should we.

But today we want to focus on some of the doctrines we found in just the first chapter of Ephesians.  It is on these doctrines we have been focusing our prayers.


Praying Through Doctrines

Some of the truths we have been praying through are:

  1.  God’s Calling
  2.  Faithfulness
  3.  Grace and Peace
  4.  Blessed is our God
  5.  Complete in Him
  6.  Being “in Christ” and all that means
  7.  Election
  8.  Sanctification
  9.  Identification
  10.  Predestination
  11.  Adoption
  12.  Sovereignty of God
  13.  Grace
  14.  Our Acceptance
  15.  Redemption
  16.  Substitutionary Atonement of Christ
  17.  Forgiveness of Sins
  18.  Grace in Abundance / Riches of His Grace
  19.  Wisdom and Prudence of God
  20.  Reconciliation
  21.  The Church
  22.  Eternal Security / Sealed
  23.  Holy Spirit
  24.  How to Pray / What to Pray For
  25.  Revelation
  26.  The Knowledge of God
  27.  Effectual Calling
  28.  Eternal Life / Our Final State
  29.  Resurrection
  30.  Ascension
  31.  Power
  32.  Dominion

I hope you can see the importance of using Scripture to focus your prayers, especially as we see dark times approaching.  To find out more about how this is done and how to become a faith prepper, keep listening.

The following is a study on Praying God's Word and Ephesians 1.

437 - Our Union with Christ

437 - Our Union with Christ

November 27, 2019

As we begin to look more into the idea of being a faith prepper, one of the key elements to understanding our position in Christ is to try to get a firm grasp on our union with Him.  After all, it seems the most common phrase in Scripture regarding our position is "in Christ" or "in Him".  But what does that mean?  And what kind of union with Christ does that phrase imply?

Let's put on our theology hats for just a moment and look at the two types of unions spoken of in Scripture about Christ.


Two Types of Union

First, our union with Christ can be seen as a federal (head) or covenantal union (called Federalism).  Romans 5:12-21 shows each of us as being in Adam before salvation and in Christ after salvation.  And God established Adam as a representative or federal head of the human race.  If Adam continued in righteousness, we would also have been considered to have continued in righteousness, being in Adam.  But if Adam sinned, we too would be considered as also having sinned, being in Adam.  This is where we begin to understand original sin.

If Adam sinned and fell by the transgression of God’s command, then we would also be considered to have sinned in him and Adam’s sin judgment and subsequent death would pass on to each of us.  And, as we know, Adam did sin and death was passed on to each of us.  This is the proof of our identification with Adam.

But Jesus did not sin and, by living a perfect, sinless life, not only demonstrated for each of us a practical and perfect righteousness in His own life, but He also died for us who would be united to Him in faith. See 1 Peter 3:18 ––“the just for the unjust".

Thus, those judged sinners because of Adam’s sin are now declared righteous because of Christ’s righteousness.  Our sin was imputed to Him and His righteousness was imputed to us.

Therefore, because He is justified, we are justified.  Because He is raised, we are raised.  Because He is exalted to heaven, so are we.  And because He now sits at the right hand of the Father in glory, so also are we seated.

Second, our union with Christ can be described as an experiential union with Him.  This refers to the actual effects in us of our relationship and union with Christ.  It’s how our union with Him relates to us in real-time.  It is like positional vs practical sanctification.  And it can be seen most clearly in Jesus’ teaching about the vine and branches in John 15.

Let me suggest you turn to John 15 in your Bible and read along as you listen to this teaching.  Why?  Because knowing who you are "in Christ" is a fundamental first step in becoming a faith prepper.  And becoming a faith prepper is a necessary first step to becoming the kind of believer you will need to be to navigate the times that are coming.

The following is a study on Our Union with Christ and focuses on John 15.

436 - Exercising Faith: No Pain, No Gain

436 - Exercising Faith: No Pain, No Gain

November 25, 2019

As we begin to grow in our life with Christ and actually, without reservation, take His Word and His promises at face value, we will inevitably come face to face with the limits of our faith.  After all, there is only so much we can believe today and, if we are growing in our faith, there will hopefully be more we can believe tomorrow.  But right now we live in today and today we must begin to prepare for tomorrow.  That is why His disciples cried out to Him and pleaded, "Lord, increase our faith!" (Luke 17:5).

That's the essence of being a faith prepper.

So let me ask just a few questions.  What is the shortest way to get from where you are in your life of faith right now and where you want to be?  Or, what can you do to increase your faith?  Just like everything else in life, increase comes from repeated use and exercise.  So you must exercise your faith and, unfortunately, that is done by having your faith tested.

No pain, no gain.


No Pain, No Gain

If you will look at James 1:2-4, you will see this is the classic No Pain, No Gain passage regarding faith.  Especially when you take the time to define the words James uses to convey this truth.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

After looking up the various Greek words in the verse, it would read something like this:

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall (surrounded, engulfed, in the midst of) into various trials (temptations, testing, adversity, afflictions), knowing (ginṓskō) that the testing (to try or prove by afflictions) of your faith (firm persuasion, conviction, assurance, belief in the truth) produces (to work, to bring about, to accomplish, to carry out a task until it is finished) patience (to persevere, to remain under, to bear up under, to endure).  But let patience (to persevere, to remain under, to bear up under, to endure) have its perfect (reaching a goal or purpose, finished, that which has reached its end, complete, full, wanting for nothing) work (performance, the result or object of employment), (why) that you may be perfect (reaching a goal or purpose, finished, that which has reached its end, complete, full, wanting for nothing) and complete (all, the whole, sound, perfect, with all its needed parts), lacking nothing - James 1:2-4.

And it that wasn't enough, read Matthew 10:1-15 where Jesus intentionally puts His disciples in situations that will require them to exercise their faith.  After all, He sends them out two by two and tells them to bring nothing with them to rely on.  Then He commands them to do the same things by faith they had seen their Lord do.  It was time to exercise their faith, time to move from milk to meat.  It was time to grow up.  No pain, no gain.

Next, we have the account of the early church in the first few chapters of Acts.  Different day, but same story.  Every time a new trial comes their way they are forced to rely only on Jesus and to exercise their faith in Him.  Read it for yourself.

To grow in the kind of faith we are going to need, as our world dissolves into more chaos, requires us to become proficient with the faith we already possess.  From there, growth comes from testing.  And testing is often painful.  But that shouldn't be a surprise to any of us.  Why?  Because of the universal truth, "No Pain, No Gain".

The following is a study on Exercising our Faith and Matthew 10:1-15.