Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’ Commandments’

OFFER OF THE KINGDOM – Radically Surrendered

March 27, 2009

I read recently in Voice of the Martyrs about a pastor in Indonesia who had been in prison for three or four years and was unexpectedly released. He had a family and children but wouldn’t leave the prison and stayed an additional two years because he was discipling a number of inmates. That’s not “looking back.” That is letting the children of the world do what only they can do. That is trusting God.

Can we trust God with our families and children? Can we? I met a Christian family in China that I came to know personally. The husband and wife had been imprisoned for many years but several of the children survived. Their twelve year old was beaten to death in the town square. The ten, eight, and seven year olds were left without a home because it was confiscated.

This was back in the early 60s during the Cultural Revolution. The children lived in a neighbor’s coal shack where the coal was stored in the basement and they lived out of a bowl of rice that miraculously never did go empty. I met those kids when they were some twenty years older.

Can we trust God with our families? Can we trust our children to be satisfied with less for the sake of the Gospel? It is going to require a resolute decision to surrender self-reign, self-will. Repentance of our reign, repentance of our will is not a light thing. It is a surrender, it is not a performance; it requires a decision that knows the cost.

Jesus in two parables concerning counting the cost makes it very clear that the time to count the cost is at the beginning. Most of us had a gospel with the cost hidden shared with us in the beginning. Some, when they finally discover the cost are going to be, and I’ve seen this, become a bit angry because they believed in the beginning that it was costless. This decision is not only resolute and radical but it’s costly.

A Radical Lifestyle –

Let’s continue in Luke chapter 16.

The decision to surrender our reign and our will must be radical. Go to verse 16.

The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John;” it was a Gospel of demand, “since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God,” surrender, “the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.”

That is a difficult sentence to hear. Why is everyone forcing his way into it? We are going to look at a couple of texts to get the feel of this.

Let’s look at Mark chapter 9 beginning with verse 43.

“If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”

Who is speaking, by the way? Jesus! What is He saying?

If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”

“If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. For everyone will be salted with fire.”

Now go to Matthew chapter 10 and verse 34.

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.

He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”

It means something!

There’s something wrong with the picture when it shows that we will spend more on our children’s teeth than we will on their discipleship. What’s wrong with the picture? We will make a greater effort to see that they are educated in a way that the world receives them than to see that they are discipled to the kingdom. We will see that our children have more opportunities at extra curricular activities like dancing, soccer, baseball, football, basketball, archery, drama, piano and the like than to see that they are discipled to the King. I believe the Lord is saying, “If some of these things are getting in the way of their making it into the reign and receiving the life…”

Do you know what the percentage is of the last two generations of Christian children who have stuck with it? Do you know how many make it to thirty, I could say twenty, but by the time they are thirty, how many of our children are in church? It’s fewer than ten percent. But they’ve got beautiful white straight teeth!

I’m not saying we need to neglect their teeth. But Jesus is saying the decision has to be radical. If we have to lose an eye or a foot it’s a cheap price to pay. He’s saying those things that we believe are absolutely essential. If they are keeping us from His reign, they need to go. And His illustration is an eye, and an arm and a foot. How much more personal and necessary can you get? Is this too hard? Every illustration I have used has to do with self-will and self-reign. We have chosen these things for our kids. We have chosen this life style, this vocation, this work to fulfill; not the kingdom but our reign and our will. Too hard? Radical!

And if we think we are going to make it by grace that does not empower us to live the life that He’s presenting, we’re deceived, because it is an offer not a demand. And all it requires is a surrender to receive. But the decision is radical because it is repenting of our self-reign, it is repenting of self-will.

Lord we need grace to hear this.

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OFFER OF THE KINGDOM pt II – Three Who Would Follow

March 23, 2009

There are three who would have followed Jesus but were brought up sharply when Jesus revealed the reality of what they were getting into. How Jesus responds to them was somewhat different than what we might expect to hear from those who are called to follow the Lord.

Holes for Homes –

Luke 9:57 – 58:

As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

What has Jesus touched upon? Well, the man, no doubt, who has seen Him to be King of kings and Lord of lords, has recognized that here is the Son of God; here is One who has life. Like the rich young ruler, this man has seen that Jesus has this quality of life that’s not found in Adam. And so he, to join the corps, says, “I’ll go with You Lord, any where You go.” But his expectation is for something different. Jesus said, “You know, the birds of the air have nests and the foxes have holes, and I have no where to lay My head.”

“Oh, I thought it was going to be different, You being who You are.”

And we have heard a gospel that offers what Jesus did not offer. We’re expecting mansions here and now. Perhaps you’re not but many have grown to expect to be able to get wherever He is going in comfort, and being there, prospering, as the world measures prosperity.

Jesus makes it very clear where He is going. And those who would follow Him need to know at the beginning, that where He is going, in terms of this world, the birds and the foxes have it better in terms of a place to lay their head, a nest that they can roost in or a hole that they can crawl in every night. It takes a resolute decision to say, “Okay, I’ll go.”

Leave It To The World –

Now, let’s look at this next man. Jesus speaks to another whom He would like to invite.

And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.”

Now, that seems a bit harsh, doesn’t it? I have a suspicion, because of how Jesus answered him that his father didn’t just die. He was probably near death; he was probably going to die. Jesus said, “Follow Me.” And the man said, “I’ll follow You but first let me go and bury my father.”

Now he may have been dead. I don’t know that he was or wasn’t. I suspect that he was not. I suspect that had he died while his son was following Jesus, the Lord would have gone with him to the funeral. It was the nature of Jesus. But Jesus saw something in this man. What did he see in this man?

You, know, there are some things the world can do as well as we can. There are some things that the world can do better than we can. It’s true. There are some things the children of God shouldn’t even put their hand to. There are some things that any dead person can do. Be careful listening to this, there are some things that the world can do as well as we can do. How many of the things that we are doing that any child of the domain of darkness could do just as well? How much of our life is wrapped up in those things that any child of the world could do, perhaps as well or better? How much of our life is entangled in those things? Let the dead deal with the dead. Let those who have not found the reign or the will or the life do those things that any child of the world can do.

“But those things,” Jesus said, “that I’m about are all of those things that they cannot do.”

Isn’t it time that we made a decision to pour our lives into doing those things that the world cannot do and are really waiting on us to do? The surrender of self-reign and self-will brings us into the life of doing those things that the world cannot do. Jesus’ response was, “Let the dead bury their own dead. But as for you…”

The decision that is required to yield up, to surrender our reign and our will, must be a resolute decision to follow Him in the doing of those things the world can’t do and to leave to the world those things that any child of the world can do. I say to you with boldness, not at all with apology, God is calling you and me to surrender all that we are and all that we’ve been entrusted with to the reign and the will of the Father.

God is calling us to follow Him where the world cannot go. God is calling us to a life of following Him that will require of us leaving much. We’ve got to eat; we’ve got to drink; we’ve got to raise our children; we’ve got to sleep somewhere. But let’s not major on those things and leave unattended those things for which we have been called.

What can be more necessary than burying our own father? But even if that act keeps us from doing that for which we’ve been called, it is a distraction that can be cared for by the children of the world. It may not mean what I am implying it means. Jesus said it, “Follow Me; let the dead bury the dead. As for you, go and proclaim the good news of the reign.”

Looking Behind Us –

The third man’s story begins in verse 61.

Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom (reign) of God.”

We could have picked some easier to swallow illustrations, couldn’t we?

“No one after putting his hand to the plow and looking back…”

How many times have you looked back? I have spent most of my Christian life “back.” Not just looking, but “back,” carrying out the semblance of the Christian life, doing just enough of those things that made me feel like I’m still “in,” but according to this text, “back” is keeping me not “fit” for the reign.

We need to make a resolute decision to turn our backs on our self-reign and to surrender to His. We who by faith believe on Him must allow our self-will to be surrendered to His will. And what is His will? His will is that you be children of the kingdom; that you and I be ambassadors of the kingdom; that you and I be bearers of the light; that you and I be the salt that preserves; that you and I are so surrendered that His life will come forth so much that prisoners would stay in jail just to be with us.

THE OFFER OF THE KINGDOM – A Provision for Self-Rule

March 17, 2009

Now, what do you suppose is the provision for self-will? Back to Mark chapter 1, verses 14 and 15. It says, “repent” and “believe.” Placing our faith in the one to whom we are turning is the provision for self-will. When Jesus was responding to the request to explain how to pray in Matthew 6:9, He said, “Pray, then in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your Name. Your “reign” come. Your will be done…”

These are the two provisions for surrender: Your reign come; Your will be done. It begins with us, our surrendering self-reign, our surrendering self-will. And God’s provision for that is repentance and faith.

Let’s go to Mark chapter 16, verse 15.

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved…”

And belief is like repentance. Show me your faith without your works, and I’ll show you my faith by my works (see James 2:18). This is hands and feet faith. We live out of what we believe in our heart. That’s what faith is, by the way. Faith is the noun form of the Greek word pisteuō which means to believe. To believe is to have faith. To have faith is to believe. You cannot have faith without believing. You cannot have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you cannot believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and not believe in what He said. You cannot believe in what He said and not do what He asks. In Matthew 28 He said, “Go and make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you.” And that Greek word translated “commanded” literally means “commanded.”

I know I am covering some very simple elementary things, but somehow the church has yet to grasp this. We’re saying we believe in the Lord Jesus, but we’re ignoring those things that He has asked us to do. He has asked us to do some things. He has actually given us some commandments. Did you know that? You cannot say that you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you cannot say that you have faith in your heart to make Him Lord of your heart and not do what He has asked. That’s not faith. Well, what does He ask? We will look at that in the next book A Radical Discipleship but He has asked us to do some things that on the whole the church has ignored. And you cannot believe on Him and not believe on what He has said.

A Night in Jail –

Let’s go to Acts chapter 16. Here we have a great example illustrating that what we believe in the heart is manifested in our experience. In Acts chapter 16 we have a story of Paul and Silas being dragged into prison and then being dragged into the inner dungeons of the prison. You all know the story. They have been beaten, lashed, probably 39 stripes, which is the maximum of 40 minus one. They’ve been beaten so badly that their backs have been laid bare and they are bleeding. We see this because the jailer eventually attends to their wounds.

So they are chained up in the dungeon of this Roman jail in Philippi, and it is midnight. You need to know that this is a Roman jail not an American jail. The Romans had no system of rehabilitation. You were in jail either waiting on trial, to determine if you were innocent or guilty, or you’ve been determined to be guilty and are waiting for your punishment. And, the nearest thing to rehabilitation would be to be put on a ship as an oarsman for the rest of your life, because the sentence for guilt was death or to be an oarsman for the rest of your life. You might be held in prison because you owed your landlord some money and you were held there until your relatives paid off the debt by selling your property. If they couldn’t come up with the money you would have a life sentence in the jail. And, often times, the jailer was one who had such an offence. He had a life sentence because he couldn’t pay his bills. And he kept his life by keeping the prison. And this jailer was one such. I don’t know what his crime was but he was no more than a prisoner. He had his life on the basis of keeping the prisoners.

It’s midnight and here’s Paul and Silas singing. And we’d like to think that Paul had his beautiful second tenor voice and Silas was a mellow baritone and they just made music like none that anyone had heard before. But that’s just not the case. I don’t care how good you sing, you don’t sing in a Roman prison or an American Federal prison or a high security prison at midnight. You just don’t do it. I’ve been in prison at midnight. You don’t make a big commotion at midnight. You will be dealt with. I don’t care how good you sing, at midnight nobody is interested in hearing you.

And it wasn’t until I put this together in my mind, until the Holy Spirit opened this up to me, that I got a vision into this realm into which you and I are called, to the other side of the bow of the boat, to where eagles soar, to where it’s beyond Adam’s capabilities.

Because here are two men in a Roman prison, singing at midnight and the Holy Spirit moves and there is an earthquake and an angel comes and they are set free. Not only are they set free but every door in the prison is opened and all the prisoners are set free.

Now what would you do if you were in a Roman prison, already sentenced or waiting on sentence, and the doors are opened at midnight and the jailer is somewhere else? What would you do?

Is that too difficult? Why didn’t they escape? Why didn’t they just run away? Was it because they saw something and believed it? At the risk of their life they saw something. I’m here to tell you that that jailer knew what they would do. He didn’t even need to check inside to see if they were still there because he knew what his prisoners would do and he was about to commit suicide because he knew what his punishment would be for letting them go. He was about to commit suicide without even looking. So, it’s pretty safe to assume that the other prisoners would not have stayed there unless they believed something.

And it hit me. Somehow they saw two men living in this other realm. They saw two men who were not of the earth. They heard something heavenly. I do not know the songs that they were singing, no doubt they were witnessing in their songs.

It reminds me of this woman in China that was in prison three different times and her witness began by singing in prison. She has won them from every tribe and ethnic group from all over China beginning by singing.

So, Paul and Silas may have been singing a nice gospel hymn. But I mean, think about it, if you were facing death and had a chance to escape, would you stay around just to hear more of what a preacher that you’ve heard has to say?

Somehow, the Holy Spirit opened these prisoner’s eyes to see two men who were living apart from their wounds and their condition and their situation. And they believed what they saw. And, the jailer, as for him, he did not need a message. Just seeing these prisoners still there with these two men convinced him that something is going on here that’s beyond him. And his response is, “What must I do to be saved, me and my house? How can we get in on what we see here?”

That’s faith. That’s to believe.

It isn’t just turning from self-rule and to His rule. It’s believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, a belief that will risk everything to enter into His will and reign. It is the surrender of our will. Those prisoners, in Acts 16, who were free and who could have run, they surrendered their will right there. Believing in something they did not understand brought them to full surrender of their will.