Following Jesus Comes With Risks


THE RISK OF FEAR –

Many people today are refusing to acknowledge Jesus in their lives because of the fear of other people’s opinions.

They are ashamed to be associated with Christ Jesus in public but attempt to confess Him when they find a need for Him when chaos is breaking loose in their lives.  Jesus describes them in Matthew 15:8 – “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” [NIV]

Everyone who comes face to face with Christ (via media, radio, tv, internet, church, Preacher, blogger, etc.) must do one of two things concerning Him.  Either confess Him or deny Him.  There’s no neutral ground.

During the final few months of Jesus’ life, He traveled from Galilee to Jerusalem along with His followers where He was crucified.  On their journey, Jesus gave them some very important teaching regarding DISCIPLESHIP.

That brings me to our Bible study and the risks involved in following Christ.

LUKE 12:8-12 (NIV)

[8] “I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God.  [9] But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God.  [10] And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.  [11] “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say,  [12] for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

WARNING…NO HELMET SYSTEM CAN PREVENT CONCUSSIONS OR ELIMINATE THE RISKS OF SERIOUS HEAD OR NECK INJURIES WHILE PLAYING FOOTBALL…”

Schutt Sports, a major supplier of football helmets for the National Football League (NFL), on their website page has inserted a WARNING LABEL and goes on to give information on the symptoms for concussions and concludes with these words:  TO AVOID THESE RISKS…DO NOT ENGAGE IN THE SPORT OF FOOTBALL.

At least this company is honest about the RISKS involved in playing football.

Similarly, the Bible is honest about the RISKS involved in following Jesus.

Paraphrasing, the Bible says, “To avoid the risks of discipleship, don’t engage in following Jesus!”

DISCIPLESHIP IS GOING TO COST YOU!

Following Jesus means opening yourself up to opposition, ridicule, resentment, harm, injury, and even death!

During Jesus’ ministry, He experienced growing opposition and persecution even from His half-siblings–His own family (Mark 3:21).  He noticed that His disciples were becoming increasingly fearful–even standoffish in some cases as they saw what was happening to their teacher.

So, He used His disciples not to FEAR people, but instead to FEAR and REVERENCE God knowing that God cared for each one of them (Luke 12:47).

Then He urged His DISCIPLES to acknowledge Him before men.

I’ve found it interesting when pastors today give an invitation for accepting Jesus as their Savior at the end of Sunday Services with “every head bowed,” [‘no peaky’] and proceeds to encourage the hand raisers to “acknowledge Jesus as Savior before men”!

How does one do that?  And if they don’t do as suggested, what then?

The analysis of ACKNOWLEDGING Christ Jesus before others have both a positive and negative aspect.

I’ve always voted when asked for the “positive” first before the “negative”.

Jesus said in verse 8,  “whoever publicly acknowledges me before others…” 

Jesus puts our relationship to Him in an eternal perspective.  I like the way the Amplified Bible reads:

“Whoever declares openly [speaking out freely] and confesses that he is My worshiper and acknowledges Me before men, the Son of Man also will declare and confess and acknowledge him before the angels of God.”

“ACKNOWLEDGE, DECLARE, PROCLAIM”…the point lies in doing it “before men”!  And if we acknowledge Him before others here on earth, then that will lead to Him acknowledging us before the tribunal of heaven.  WOW!

The Bible says, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” ~ Romans 10:9 (NIV)

To DECLARE Christ Jesus before others mean that we do ALL THESE THINGS, whatever we do, whether it’s at work or at school or at home or at play, we do it ALL for Jesus.

Jesus’ PROMISE –

When we confess Christ before men, then He will declare us at the Last Day.

What a precious promise that is for every believer!

On the day we die, as we stand before Almighty God, everything about us will be revealed.  All our past sins–even those that are secret–will be exposed.  Each one of us will be condemned by God’s Law, condemned by our sin, condemned by our conscience, condemned by Satan himself.  We will stand before God without HOPE.

BUT…and this is a glorious “but”…if we’ve acknowledged Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior on earth, then Jesus will rise up in our defense!  He will tell the Father and all the angels that we belong to Him by faith.

He will tell the tribunal of heaven because of our FAITH in Him because we’ve received the gospel because we’ve acknowledged Him on earth.

He is acknowledging to all in heaven we belong to Him!

His MERIT covers ALL our faults, our iniquities, our sin and we must be accepted into heaven because of what He has done for us.

Not Acknowledging Christ Before Men Comes With Recompense.

This is the negative aspect of not declaring Christ before man.  Jesus said in verse 9,  “…he who disowns and denies and rejects and refuses to acknowledge Me before men will be disowned and denied and rejected and refused acknowledgment in the presence of the angels of God.”  [AMP]

What does it mean to “deny” Him before men?

It means that we don’t stand with or for Jesus.  It means that we don’t acknowledge that we’re Christians.  It means that when people speak against Christ and Christianity in our every-day-world, we remain silent, making excuses for all the reasons why we shouldn’t acknowledge Him.

“I don’t want them to think I’m a religious nut!”

You can add to this list, I’m sure.

Jesus says that if we don’t acknowledge Him we DENY Him!

And if we “deny” Him, He will “deny” us!

The Principles Laid Down In Acknowledging Christ Before Men –  (Luke 12:10)

VERSE 10 is a difficult verse to understand at first.  That said, I find TWO PRINCIPLES that come into play here.

There’s SIN that’s FORGIVEABLE (Luke 12:10 (a)).

I think Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College and author explains it best when he said, “To speak against the Son of Man is to speak against Jesus Christ without fully understanding who He is or what He has done.”  This isn’t the full and final denial as illustrated by Judas in verse 9.  Nevertheless, to speak a word against the Son of Man is SIN.  But…and here’s the good news…it is a SIN God can and will forgive.

Almost all Christians spoke a word against Jesus before coming to saving faith in Him.  But as soon as we fully understood who He was and what He did, we repented of what we said and received forgiveness from Him.

There’s SIN that’s UNFORGIVABLE (Luke 12:10 (b) ).

Here comes the “BUT”–“…but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”  This is where there’s been some misunderstanding.

What does it mean to “blaspheme” against the Holy Spirit?  What does this one particular sin, this one blasphemy, make it impossible to repent and be forgiven?  What about blasphemy against the Son of God, or God the Father, or angels, or Scripture, or the church?

Why only blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

I think it’s because of the unique and decisive role the Holy Spirit plays in our salvation.  If we look to God the Father and then turn from His glory and embrace sin, that’s bad!  If we look to His Son, Jesus, who He sent into the world and then have turned away from His glory and embrace sin, that’s doubly bad!!

But in either case, there’s hope–the Father has planned redemption and the Son has accomplished redemption.  This redemption is outside of ourselves and available to us as long as we repent of our sin and turn back to Christ in faith.

But it’s a unique and special role of the Holy Spirit plays in our lives to apply the Father’s plan and Son’s accomplishment of it to our hearts.

It’s the Holy Spirit’s work to open our eyes, to grant repentance, to make us beneficiaries for all the Father and Son have done for us.

John Piper gives this definition for the Unforgivable Sin:

The unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is an act of resistance which belittles the Holy Spirit so grievously that He withdraws forever with His convicting power so that we are never able to repent and be forgiven.

Sometimes people worry they have blasphemed against the Holy Spirit and have committed a sin that’s unforgivable.  The fact that a person is worrying that he or she might have blasphemed is an indication that he or she hasn’t done so.

A person who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit is so vehemently opposed to Christ that he believes Jesus is from Satan.  And that sin will not be forgiven!  [See Mark 3:20-35]

The Risk of Hostility in Persecution – (12:11a).

“And when they bring you before the synagogues and the magistrates and the authorities…”

Jesus was preparing His disciples for persecution.  It was going to be inevitable that persecution was going to come.  In fact. this happened shortly after Jesus. death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven when Peter and John were arrested and hauled before the Jewish Sanhedrin (Acts 4:1).  The apostles were often arrested for their faith in Christ Jesus.

But Help Is On Its Way! – (12:11b-12:12)

[11b]  “…do not be anxious [beforehand] how you shall reply in defense or what you are to say.  [12] For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour and moment what [you] ought to say”  (AMP).

Although Jesus’ promise was particularly directed to the apostles, it also applies in principle to ALL disciples (followers) of Jesus Christ.

We can trust the Holy Spirit to help us whenever we speak for Jesus. 

You may feel inadequate or ill-prepared or not very knowledgeable of God’s Word.  That’s not the point! It’s the matter of telling what you know about Jesus in a personal way and pray that the Holy Spirit will take what you say–however inadequate it may be–to do His saving work in other peoples lives.

Finally, Taking A Stand for Jesus Christ.

God is calling His disciples–that’s you and me–to take a stand for His Son Jesus!

Acknowledge Him, declare His name with your lips that He is Lord and Savior of your life.

He is calling you to live for Jesus and speak for Jesus in your home, in your office, in your playground, in your neighborhood, and in your school.

And remember, when you do so, you have the glorious PROMISE that Jesus will take a stand for you on the day you appear before God in heaven.

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CREDITS ~

Commentary:  The Power to Risk in the Cause of Christ/John Piper quote – Desiring God.com

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); or where noted in the text or images.

Photos/Images:  Google Image Search – copyrights may apply.

 

The Process of Living Within Our Means


I’ve learned over the years that there are certain things that just don’t go well together.  Some of these lessons I learned growing up with a mother who always stressed this point.  And at other times, just by my observation like being a teenage boy and having a girlfriend at Christmas.  Having a wife at Christmas is entirely different.  A donut shop next door to a Planet Fitness.  An aquarium next to a favorite sushi restaurant.  A  believer and hopelessness. And at least in the modern version, the Church talking about “money”.

Although money issues are the number one reason couples get divorced and to be truthful here, it’s the number one reason most people are struggling, afraid, and stresses out in their lives right now.

We seem to get very nervous and even angry at times when the CHURCH addresses money on any topic!  eg. VBS, church expansion, sound system, etc.

I understand that many churches have brought some of this on itself due to past financial misfortunes and failures.  However, I think we’ve also used these past experiences as an excuse to keep the body of Christ from addressing this area of finances because most of us struggle mightily to allow God to speak in this area of our life.

So, since I know that this topic makes the hair on arms stand up and I also know that Jesus addresses FINANCES more than any other topic (twice as much as heaven and hell combined), I’ve titled this Blog “Living Within Our Means”.

Before digging into the Word of God, Luke chapter 14, let me say I’m not taking this passage of scripture out of context.  It’s clear that Jesus makes these statements and is directly talking about Discipleship, and I’ll address this later in the study.

At the same time, I would say you really can’t be a DISCIPLE without dealing with money correctly and that Jesus’ statements do in fact have implications financially as well!

Luke 14:25-32 (NIV Bible)

The Cost of Being a Disciple

[25] Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said:  

26] “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. 

[27] And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

[28] “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower.  Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?  [29] For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him,  [30] saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 

[31] “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king.  Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?”  [32] If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.”

Jesus asks this question…is there anyone here who plans to build a house (or additions to the house) and doesn’t sit down and count the costs?  Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding yes!

What He is really asking is there anyone here who doesn’t live on a budget?

Jesus is saying to live like that is a crazy way to live and that we become the butt of the joke if we do.

It seems to me that most of our neighbors don’t live on a budget.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average American in 2017 made $59K and accidentally or randomly gave away 6% of their gross income (2.6% to charity).  And, they don’t even realize they do it.  Also, the average American home in 2017 spent over $3008 on eating out!  The result is that when our neighbor lives without a budget we continue to run out of money before we run out of the month.

So Jesus is trying to get us to LEARN TO LIVE two ways:

LIVE ON A BUDGET

The bottom line is that our neighbors don’t like to budget because living on a BUDGET requires discipline!

Jesus is trying to teach us that in order to SUCCEED in our planning, we must count the cost and live within our means.

“Counting the Cost!”  

Where does your money go?  If the answer is “I don’t know, exactly.” then that’s a pretty good indication that your neighbor is using their dollars with no sense.

Without a BUDGET we live by impulse and today’s society makes a practice of living on and capitalizing on impulse.  That’s why one survey shows that the average American spends almost $200 a month on impulse purchases.

I would like to throw out this thought to you.  That one of the biggest issues your neighbor has today isn’t that they lack dollars.  The biggest problem is a simple lack of sense!

Some of your neighbors are in a constant state of fear and worry because they didn’t count the cost until AFTER they built or bought.  Buyers remorse is a result of no pre-planning.

Jesus is trying to teach us to take the time BEFORE we build, add-on, shop, browse, and count the cost!

When my wife and I were newlyweds, my mother, grabbed my brides hand, sat her down at the kitchen table and showed her how to set up a monthly budget.  Neither of us had a clue.  The beauty of a budget forced us to ask two questions long before we were influenced by impulse.

  1. Do I want or need this?
  2. Can I really afford this?

And after 54 years, the questions are still foremost in our budget requirements.

Developing a budget forces us to be honest with ourselves and with each other.

It helps us identifying waste,  It helps us see danger before we are actually in danger.

BUDGETING CAN SEEM SCARY AT FIRST.

It’s scary at first because it forces us to actually think about our money and we tend to fight boundaries.

But boundaries keep us safe!

A BUDGET is a boundary that frees us on the back-end.

It forces us to live on what we make and plan for tomorrow rather than living on tomorrow today.

So here’s an assignment for your neighbor.  Write out an honest and complete budget.  [My wife and I do this at the beginning of every month–place in an envelope–placing incoming bills in the envelope and proceed from there!]  

Live on that BUDGET for one month and see if you don’t have more than you think you have.

LIVE WITH A MARGIN!

Dr. Dave Ramsey, an American businessman and financial guru would call this an “emergency fund”.  Life doesn’t always go as planned.  Most of us don’t count the cost.  We count the leftovers and so we end up disappointed at best and in an emergency at worst.

Jesus said the GOAL is to finish!

To finish you must have extra or resources put back in case it takes more to finish than you thought.  A CUSHION, so to speak.  Without a BUDGET and without MARGIN built-in, we eat our seed!  We put nothing back to ensure that we can have a harvest later.

And since nothing always goes right, we want to get mad at God.  He doesn’t come through when an EMERGENCY we’re facing that could have and should have been avoided simply lived with a margin.

Jesus’ Purpose in these Parables.

Verses 28-30:  Suppose a man decides to build a Tower.  If this man (or men and women) are smart, they’ll sit down and do the math.

Can he afford to build the Tower?  Does he have enough money to finish the project?  Otherwise, he’s going to get it half-finished and leave a monument to his foolishness.

Verses 31-32:  Suppose a king decides to go to war but he’s outnumbered 2 to 1.  Can he afford to go to war?  Or, should he sue for peace?  He’s got to sit down and count the cost.

Why is Jesus telling His disciples these parables?

ILLUS:  Let’s say I suddenly inherited $50 million dollars.  AND…I really like everyone Y’all!  So I’ve decided that from the goodness of my heart that I want to buy each one a brand new car.

“You ALL are getting a brand new car for FREE!”

But once you have that brand new FREE vehicle, you have to pay taxes, buy insurance, pay for maintenance, buy gas and oil to run it and so on.

IT WAS FREE…but there’s a COST involved in keeping it running.

Your SALVATION is free but DISCIPLESHIP is going to cost you something.

You’ve got to take up your cross daily if you’re going to follow Jesus:

Luke 14:27 (AMP)

[27] “Whoever does not persevere and carry his cross and come after (follow) Me cannot be My disciple.”

I’ve heard this message preached for years and as I thought about Jesus’ words in this study, it occurred to me what He was really trying to get across to His disciples [That’s us!].

It’s HIS tower.

It’s HIS war.

A person who’s thinking of following Jesus can be likened to someone who considers building a tower and that disciple not building the tower for himself–he’s building it FOR Jesus.

A person who’s thinking of following Jesus is like a king who considers going to war.  That disciples not going to war for himself–he’s going to war FOR Jesus.

How we look at Jesus depends upon how we answer TWO questions:  “Does Jesus belong to me?  Or do I belong to Him?”

Which is it?

If Jesus belongs to me then He does MY desires.  

  • He’s at my beck and call.
  • He serves me and fulfills my wishes and wants.

But if I belong to Jesus, I do what He wants when He wants us.

MONEY is often uncomfortable to talk about with our neighbors.  And discipleship is often thrown at us in church like a wet rag!  Uncomfortable or not, they are both a reality in the Christian life and hopefully, this study will have shown a bright light on both.  Share your experiences, your thoughts, as the Lord leads you to do so in the comments section of this page.

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CREDITS

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search – Settings: advanced search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); or as specified in the text.

The U.S. Census Bureau, 2017 statistics.

 

 

“True Worshipers” Are Paying the Price

If we are true “genuine” worshipers, according to John 4:23, we must bow down our lives so God’s will can be expressed through us.  Are you willing to pay the price of a true worshipper?

Luke 9:22 in saying,  “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be [deliberately] disapproved and repudiated and rejected on the part of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be put to death and on the third day be raised [again].”

Luke 9:23 continues in saying,  “…If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself]”

STOP right there!  Jesus has presented us a decision to make; coming to Him in worship.  Remember Hebrews 13:15 says, we are to constantly and at all times be offering up a sacrifice of worship and praise. Luke gives us points of preparation in paying the price of “true worshipers”. 

#1.  “Deny oneself; forget your outside interests”, quit giving attention to others around you in church services.

Jesus continues preparing us to worship in verse 23:  “…take up his [our] cross daily and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, dying also.”

#2.  Follow Jesus’ example in living, by dying, if needed to “self”.

Romans 12:2  “take up our cross daily and deny self”.  “Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the (entire) renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude]…”

#3.  Get a new attitude about being a “True Worshiper” in Christ Jesus.  How? By the “daily” renewal of your mind.

Leaving ALL your STUFF outside before worshipping!

Luke 5:11,  “And after they had run their boats on shore, they left everything and joined Him as His disciples…”

If you are a believer in Jesus and a “True Worshiper“; not a pretending worshiper, you are a follower of Christ; a disciple. You are going to have ‘leave everything that is in your boat on shore and join Him in worship’.  The leaving it all behind continues in Luke 5:27-28.  The tax collector named Levi, leaves his lifestyle behind, to follow Jesus as His disciple.

The Cost of discipleship in Luke 14:26:

If anyone comes to Me and does not hate hid [own] father and mother [in the sense of indifference to or relative disregard for them in comparison with his attitude toward God]…”   Amplified Version.

“If people come to me and are not ready to abandon their fathers, mothers, wives, children, brothers, and sisters, as well as their own lives, they cannot be my disciples.”  God’s WORD translation.

God is telling all of us that if we want to truly be His disciples and be true worshipers of Him, you are going to have to pay the price of separation; not in a corporeal, but in a spiritual way.

Going after it!

Luke 14:27 goes on to say to us that  “Whoever does not persevere and carry his own cross and come after (follow) Me cannot be My disciple.”

If you are reading this blog, desiring to be a “True Worshiper” of Jesus and you are willing to pay the price of discipleship this next Sunday, you’re going to have too have, an attitude change; not give up, cave in and quit.  If you still don’t feel acceptable to God after your formal worship time, don’t give up.   Jesus says you are to “persevere” which means you’re to be “resolute, persist in doing, be stubborn” in “Going after it”; to be a true worshiper in Christ Jesus.  Verse 28 tells you to “calculate the costs” to see if your willingness is sufficient to finish what you started.

Spiritual Maturity

I was part of a men’s bible study a few years back in my neighborhood.  One morning, a study participant asked this question to discuss.  “What does it mean to be spiritually mature?”  There were several different answers given but I like the answer that was given that brought the discussion back to the Word of God.

Matthew 19:20-21,  “The young man said,  I have observed all these things [read verses 18-19] from my youth; what do I still lack?   Jesus answered him,  If you would be perfect [that is, have that spiritual maturity which accompanies self-sacrificing character], go and sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; and come, be my disciple [side with My party and follow me],”

I like how Kenneth Wuest, Word Studies and the Amplified Version of the Bible defines “being perfect”:  “have that spiritual maturity which accompanies self-sacrificing character”.  Jesus is saying that your good works, your church title, your college degree in ‘church stuff’ won’t make you perfect for following Christ and in worshipping Him. 

What is CHARACTER?

Character is:  Doing what is right, not because of what society says is right; what’s right is what God’s Word says is right!  It’s not what I feel is right about worship and praise and serving God based on others definitions.  Also, when you do right because of what’s right, God’s word says you will prosper;  “have riches in heaven”.  “You will never rise above your limitations of your character”.  If your character doesn’t want to give up anything, then there isn’t a sacrifice in worship; no price is paid.

Releasing your Benjamins

In Genesis 43-45, we see the principle of releasing your Benjamins in discipleship and spiritual maturity.  It becomes “sacks full v.s. wagons full“.  In todays vernacular it would be “trailers full“.  The rich man in Matthew 19, wouldn’t give up his “Benjamin” (verses 23-26).

Who are the “everyone’s” in Matthew 19?

Matthew 19:29  “And  everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My sake, shall receive many times as much…”  NAS version.

The “everyone’s” are you and me.  If you are “persevering”,  if you are self-sacrificing in character and your desire to worship and serve the risen Saviouris in your spirit, you have planted a seed.  Christians today live in “hope deferred”.  You will have to plant your best seed to reap the fruit harvest of worship.  Now is the time, not next time you enter the sanctuary of your church.

Hebrews 13:15  “Through Him, therefore, let us constantly and at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify His Name.”