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June 18, 2017 If Anyone Would Come After Me...

[I. Introduction] There are many, many people who assume they are Christians because they were either raised in a Christian home, were baptized, or may have said some kind of a prayer and then were told by a well-meaning person that they were Christians. However, the New Testament presents a different view of disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. (“disciple” is the more common term of a follower of the Lord Jesus.)

 

The Savior is not looking for men, women, and even children, who will give their spare time to him. He is seeking those who will give him first place in their lives.

 

Modern Christianity has a false gospel. Most of the modern gospel’s elements have some reflection of the true gospel, but it has been so watered down and leaves out two essential elements so that it ends up being a false gospel. It should go without saying that those who do not attend, or seldom attend, the regular meetings of God’s people – the local church, the assembly of the called-out, God’s house, the pillar and buttress of the truth – give evidence that they have not been born again (I John 2:19; Hebrews 10:25-26). But it is also true that those who have rejected the Lord’s calling and live unto themselves, or just for their family, give evidence that they, too, may have become disciples in name only – that there is no reality to their profession of faith.

 

Hear what I am saying. There are people who go to church regularly but may not have been born again.

 

There are also those who have been regenerated but have been seduced by worldly things and worldly ideas. More dangerous than this, they may have been seduced by the primacy of self and primacy of family. Primacy of self is worse than primacy of family. At least when one makes their family their priority their eyes are off of themselves. However, both are misguided because the calling of the disciple is hatred of self and hatred of family. Hear Jesus:

 

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26, ESV)

 

Jesus did not mean that we should literally hate ourselves or our family. What he meant was that our love for ourselves and our family members should seem as if it is hate compared to our love and devotion to him. Here is what we must see: If we do not love the Lord Jesus supremely, so far above ourselves, our mother, our father, our children, that our love for them is like hate, then we cannot be his disciple!

 

This is radical. If we do not give all of ourselves – our minds, our emotions, our will – to him unreservedly and completely in a daily way, then this means either that:

 

  • We have not been born again. Or,
  • We were born again but we have lost our way.

 

I believe that many disciples have lost their way. As far as books that were written by one person, that greatest of all books, Pilgrim’s Progress, chronicles the journey of the main character, Christian, as he travels through the world. His journey is an allegory of the disciple’s life. There are deceptions, pitfalls, and traps along the way. There are other characters who seek to persuade him to abandon his journey. But perhaps most telling is that he gets lost along the way several times.

 

One of the main burdens of the author, John Bunyan, is too warn believers that the life of a disciple is not easy but is fraught with danger. If one stumbles through life merely living by their feelings and their own notions, or even the notions of others, without relying on light from heaven (God’s words) then we become seduced and lost. If we have been truly born again then we will not be eternally lost. But we may be lost during our earthly pilgrimage and the consequences of such will cause much grief in the present and may cause us to lose our inheritance in the next age. Our inheritance is the kingdom of God as it will be manifested in the next age. In other words, losing our way now, even as disciples of the Lord Jesus, may result in great disappointment and a failure to inherit the kingdom. We will have to wait a long time – until the age after the next age – before we enjoy the privileges of communion with the Lord and his people.

 

Let us consider the words of our Lord.

 

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. (Matthew 16:24-27, NIV) (Amplified and CEV are good here, too)

 

First, take note to whom Jesus is speaking. He is not speaking to worldlings. He is not speaking to the lost. He is talking to his disciples – those who have made a decision and a commitment to follow him already. They are just like us, though. They decide things, they commit to things, but do not always understand what is entailed in what they have decided or what their commitment entails. So, Jesus is going to make it plain to them.

 

He says, “whoever.” Whoever! There are no exceptions! No exceptions for being under bad teaching. No exception for hearing a watered down gospel. No exception for feeling as if everything is fine. No exception for “knowing” that God loves you. Whoever!

 

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must…”

 

The terms of discipleship that our Lord is about to lay down are not optional. He said “must!” Here is one false gospel going around today (there are many!): You can make Jesus your Savior, but not your Lord. You can believe in him as your Savior and then, later, maybe you can make him your Lord. That is not in the Bible and is a damnable gospel. No subjects of a king receive a pardon when they are still in open rebellion against him.

 

Here is one of the missing elements of a false gospel: repentance is left out. When we repent we transfer our allegiance from ourselves to the Lord Jesus. If he is not our Lord in fact, then neither is he our Savior. The idea of repentance is further highlighted when Jesus says, “follow me.” But first things first.

 

When a person repents they willingly and joyfully submit to the Lord’s directives. They are for our good. Here, Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must” (that is a directive) do certain things.

 

What are these things?

 

[II.] We must deny ourselves to be a disciple of Jesus. Sadly, there are many who take the name of Christ but are still living to satisfy their own desires. Now, the Lord is kind and gentle. That is the way he describes himself (Luke 6:35; Matthew 11:29). Therefore, he will often give us the desires of our hearts. But first we must consider them of no importance and we must subsume them to the Lord’s will. Because we are all a work in progress, we all have desires that do not line up with the Lord’s desires. The goal of sanctification is to be conformed to the image of Christ. The Lord’s desires are becoming our desires. The Lord is working himself into us so that:

 

  • our mind becomes like his,
  • his thoughts become our thoughts,
  • his loves become ours,
  • and his will becomes our will.

 

Until that process is completed we must deny ourselves.

 

The Lord speaks in mysterious ways. One way that he speaks is through dreams. Joseph dreamt and his dreams were from the Lord and came about just as they were dreamt. Not just Joseph. God has spoken through dreams many times in the Bible.

 

  • He warned Abimelech in a dream that he had taken Abraham’s wife as his own. Abimelech, not even a Hebrew, heeded the dream. (Gen 20)
  • Jacob had a dream about a ladder connecting heaven and earth, and it caused him to make a vow to God and begin to follow him. (Gen 28)
  • Jacob would then have another dream where he was warned about his uncle. He heeded the dream. (Gen 31)
  • The baker and cupbearers each had dreams in prison. Their dreams came true. Those dreams were from God. (Gen 37)
  • Pharaoh had a dream that foretold the drought that was about to come upon Egypt. (Gen 41)
  • Nebuchadnezzar had dreams from the Lord. (Dan 2)
  • Daniel did. (Dan 7)
  • The wife of Pontius Pilate, a pagan, was warned by God in a dream. (Mat 27)

 

Peter quotes the prophet Joel in describing the church age:

 

“And it shall come to pass afterward,

that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;

your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

your old men shall dream dreams,

and your young men shall see visions. (Joel 2:28, ESV, see also Acts 2:17)

 

Through dreams and visions God still speaks.

 

I heard about a dream that a man of God had. Before I tell you about this dream, I want to tell you about a board game that my children like to play. It is called “Would You Rather.” There are questions on cards that all start, “Would you rather…” One person pulls a card and reads the question out loud. He is given only two choices, A or B. Then the other players have to guess how he answers. Whoever guesses the most right choices wins the game. It’s fun.

 

The questions make you think. Questions like:

 

Would you rather always be 10 minutes late or always be 20 minutes early?

Would you rather lose all of your money and valuables or all of the pictures you have ever taken?

Would you rather be able to see 10 minutes into your own future or 10 minutes into the future of anyone but yourself?

Would you rather be famous when you are alive and forgotten when you die or unknown when you are alive but famous after you die?

Would you rather your shirts be always two sizes too big or one size too small?

Would you rather live without the internet or live without AC and heating?

 

You get the idea.

 

This man of God had a dream wherein he was able to speak to the Lord Jesus. He came up to the Lord, in close proximity, and he sensed the tenderness and love of the Lord. He had great reverence but no fear. He could not put his head up to look at the Lord, but looked down towards the ground and heard his voice. The Lord Jesus simply said to him, “Would you rather be cold or kiss?” He knew immediately that the Lord was not asking about good kisses – those to our children or our wives and husbands – but he was asking about kisses that are amorous or passionate. According to the world, those are just fine. Are they? As we try to train our children in the ways of the Lord they find some of our teaching incredulous. Why? Because they are so influenced by their peers and the ways of the world.

 

We already know what the world thinks is good. Kissing is OK. Just turn on the TV or go to a movie. But, what does God say?

 

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. ( Colossians 3:5, ESV)

 

“Put to death” – don’t allow these things any life within you. They should not be in your heart.

 

“Sexual immorality” – “fornication” in KJV, NKJV, RSV, and Recovery Version. This is sex outside of marriage. “Of course, pastor, every Christian knows that’s a sin.” You are probably right.

 

“Impurity” – this gets beyond just physical acts and includes what we view with our eyes and our thought life. We must keep our eyes and our thoughts pure as well as our actions. Pornography would come under this rubric. “Of course, pastor,  every Christian knows that pornography is a sin.” You are probably right.

 

“Evil desire” – “Of course, evil desire is bad. Duh!”

 

“Covetousness” – “greed” in the NIV. Everyone knows that covetousness is s sin. That’s in the tenth commandment.

 

But, we skipped over one, didn’t we?

 

“Passion” Passion is just a strong affection. It is not even lust. The apostle Paul is listing this as “earthly.” It doesn’t belong in heavenly people. This is what the Lord meant when he asked the dreamer, “Would you rather be cold or kiss?”

 

In certain parts of Alaska there is still neither electricity nor piped natural gas, so the residents of those more isolated areas must heat their dwellings with wood, kerosene, or propane in tanks. The more isolated the area the more difficult it is to get heating fuel. When the fuel gets low then it must be used more sparingly and the temperature of the house or cabin will be low. If you lived in such a place you would be cold. When a man visits a woman, or visa versa, embracing or kissing is one way to warm yourself up. The question, “would you rather be cold or kiss?” is the question that couple must answer.

 

In this man’s dream, the Lord was not merely referring to body temperature. His question alluded to the man’s heart – the seat of his emotions.

 

This question illustrates the first requirement of being a disciple. We must deny ourselves.

 

  • Sometimes we deny our appetite.
  • Sometimes we deny our desire.
  • Sometimes we deny our preference.
  • Sometimes we deny our emotion.
  • We deny ourself!

 

Lough Fook, a Chinese Christian, was working in South Africa earning a comfortable living. He was moved with compassion for the coolies in the South African mines. He knew that very few, if any, of them knew the Lord. The hours were long, the labor very hard, and the mines were dark, dismal, cold, and dirty. Because of his compassion for them, he quit the secure job that he had and sold himself for a term of five years as a coolie slave, and was transported to Demerara, to carry the Gospel to his countrymen working there. He toiled in the mines with them and preached Jesus while he toiled, till he had scores of whom he could speak as Paul of Onesimus, “whom I have begotten in my bonds.”

Lough Fook died; but not until he had won to the Saviour nearly 200 disciples who joined the Christian church. That is the denying of self!

 

God seldom asks a person to literally sell themselves into slavery. But he does ask everyone who will follow His Son to deny themselves. If brother Fook was willing to labor in a mine for five years, are you willing to do what the Lord is asking you?

 

Is there something that you have been holding on to that the Lord is asking you to deny? But you keep holding on to it? For some, it is clear to you what it is. For others, maybe you have been preoccupied with the mundane things of life so that you are not even sure if there is something that you have been holding on to.

 

Let us take the time now to, each one, pray silently. Ask the Lord to bring to your mind if there is anything that you need to leave behind.

 

There is more to this man’s dream and there are more terms to discipleship. If the Lord wills we will see more of these matters next time.