March 5, 2023

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  Mt. 16:24

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: Joh 10:27

This message may be hard to hear for some, but the children of God will hear and listen to the voice of the Lord.  This is an important lesson. There are lessons and instructions that the Lord gives to His children that are hard because they cause us to do things that are not worldly and are out of the normal.  People today want to be like everyone else and be accepted by their family and friends.  Jesus on the other hand calls His children out from the world’s practices to do something different and to make a difference to change the world’s behavior.  You have to be prepared to be called names and to be ostracized, even by family and friends, like Job.

For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. Mat 10:35 

We are called to make a difference and stand out in a crowd.  We are called to change the world, not blend into it.  The believer becomes the Jesus many are waying to see!

To accomplish His goal of saving the world, Jesus called people out from their normal environment to help Him in doing His assignment.  Andrew and Peter immediately left their nets and followed Him.  In clearer language, they left their families, houses, and jobs to follow Jesus.  Jesus told them that He would make them fishers of men.  We are not told that they asked questions or took their leave to go home and make their arrangements, but just that they immediately followed.  Would to God that it would be so simple for many of us who are so involved in the affairs of this life. 

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Act 1:8 

Many people go to church once a week for one or two hours and believe it is sufficient.  Jesus asked to be first, but He also asked to be our priority.  We are called to make a sacrifice to serve the Lord, but many people are just not taught how important it is or how much it will cost to be a disciple of Christ.  We are told to count the cost; but, honestly, I think many do not know the cost.  It will cost you everything!  Disciples like Peter, John, and Paul were willing to lay down their very lives for Christ.  That is a long way from committing to giving up two hours every Sunday. Jesus surrendered His life for us; it was serious business, not the beginning of a social club.

Preachers really should be clearer in their teaching the gospel message.  If people really understood the cost and the gain, perhaps they would be more apt to commit or perhaps not.  One cannot count the cost if he does not know that there is a great cost.  In Romans Chapter 12, we are told to present our bodies to Christ and prior to that we knew we had to grant Him access to our mind, spirit and heart.  That is the whole man.  When a young man or woman go to college, they commit all their time and energy to the prospect of getting a degree.  That is normal. However, a life dedicated to Christ is more than normal; it is exceptional.  Where we may be led to think that we can have Christ and all our desires, Christ requires all our desires to be focused on Him and the work of the Lord.  If we were going into the army, navy or marine; we would expect to be fully committed 24/7.  Serving God is service, but it is of a higher calling.  We are called into the army of the Lord; and we fight the enemy to save souls.  All of our earthly professions, learned devotions and work ethics only begin to prepare us for the real job of serving the Lord.

If preachers would really preach going into the army of the Lord as it really is, I believe there would be many people willing to sign up and give their lives for the cause of Christ.  It is a noble calling, and many people want to spend their life on something worthwhile.  Police, firemen and soldiers sign up knowing that their profession may end up taking their life, but they willingly enter into the service of saving people.  Some people are born wanting to do something important and to be somebody noble.  Paul taught this principle: 

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Rom 12:1-2

Paul was saying sign up and be ready to go to work for the Lord.  Some people go to the mission field overseas and some go to work on the local streets, bars, hospitals, or slums.  Jesus said:

Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest. Mt. 9:37-38

After giving those instruction to His disciples, He came again after His resurrection and scolded them for not following through with His command:

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.  And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.  Mk 16:15-18

Jesus had enlisted His soldiers, trained them and given them instructions and power to get the job done.  He had promised to be with them and at the expected time, He would come back to check their progress.  Believers all over the world have the same assignment and expectation as the early disciples.  Where we often miss it is in having a strong leader to train and compel the sheep to go do the work.  We notice that Jesus walked the streets, held meetings on the roadside, went to the synagogue, and visited in homes.  He taught and exercised the power of God to give witness to His assignment.  Peter and Paul did likewise.

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Mt. 28:19-20

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