Leaving Laodicea
458 - “I Am the True Vine”

458 - “I Am the True Vine”

May 20, 2020

For the past two months, our nation has been held in the grips of, as President Trump said, an "invisible enemy."   But this "invisible enemy" is not Covid-19.  Nor is it the loss of jobs and the bankruptcy of thousands of small businesses and the inevitable collateral effect that will have on our economy for years, maybe even decades, to come.  No, the "invisible enemy" we face is fear.  And fear is a result of a lack of faith, and a lack of faith renders even the strongest believer useless as His light-bearer (Matt. 5:14-16).

But we know that.  Yet, for some strange reason, it doesn't seem to have any effect on us.  Why?

Because many of us as believers in the West have surrendered our rights and privileges as children of God (Romans 8:16-17), in order to live comfortable lives in this fallen world.  We have made ourselves, as James tells us, "an enemy of God" because of our "friendship with the world" (James 4:4).  Just spend a few minutes on Facebook and you can see the narcissistic cancer that runs unchecked in our culture today... even in the church.

These are truly desperate times.

But what are we to do?  How can we prepare ourselves for what the Lord is allowing to happen?  And what lesson is there to be learned from watching Him bring our evil and proud society to its knees by events beyond anyone's control?  What do we need to do?

Simply this:  We need to grow in our faith and our relationship with our Lord like never before.  Like there is no tomorrow.  Because there might not be.  We are not guaranteed tomorrow (James 4:13-16).  No one is.

Now is the time for serious soul-searching.  Now is the time to put Him first in all things and to lay up for ourselves "treasures in heaven" and not spend our lives collecting trinkets and toys on earth (Matt. 6:19-20).  And the best way to do this is to truly understand what our life is all about and why God created each of us in the first place.

Welcome to John 15.


The Vine and the Branches

For the next few weeks, we will be taking a detailed look at John 15 and our Lord's teaching about His relationship with His Father and our relationship with Him.  We will see the example of a vine, a vinedresser, and branches.  And most importantly, we will grow to understand the importance of fruit.  More fruit (John 15:2).  Much fruit (John 15:5). 

And fruit that will last and remain when all else fails (John 15:16). Jesus began this incredible teaching by saying He is the true Vine, and His Father is the Vinedresser (John 15:1).  Have you ever thought about the nature of a vine, its branches, and the vinedresser?  After all, this is the example Jesus chose to teach us about this relationship.

    • The vine is planted by the vinedresser wherever the vinedresser desires.  The vine has no say on where it is planted.
    • The vine is cared for by the vinedresser.
    • The vine is dependent totally on the vinedresser.
    • The vine’s only function is to produce fruit.
    • But the fruit is for the benefit of the vinedresser.
    • The glory of the vinedresser is his vine, but only if it produces fruit.
    • And the glory of the vine is its fruit.
    • The only function of the branch is to bear the fruit produced by the vine and for the glory of the vinedresser.  It is good for nothing else.

And this is only the beginning.  Join with us as we endeavor to grow closer to the Lord by becoming a fruitful branch of His vine, for the glory of the Vinedresser.  Because at this time in our history, nothing else really matters.

The following is a study on John 15:1-2 on the Vine and the Branches.

To download the slides to this message, click - HERE

457 - The Prophetic Implications of COVID-19

457 - The Prophetic Implications of COVID-19

May 5, 2020

Right now, we as a nation and as the church are in the midst of an unprecedented worldwide pandemic that has some unfortunate, unforeseen circumstances.  We are currently mandated by our government to stay at home and practice social distancing.  Which, in effect, means no corporate church services.  No normal business activities.  No hugging our grandchildren or shaking hands with a friend.  No picnics at the park, no day trips to the mountains, no shopping at the mall, no having friends over for dinner.  All of that has changed.

But so has our culture.  Our economy is in a free-fall.  Unemployment claims are greater, much greater, than in the time of the great depression.  Small businesses are closing at a rate unseen in our lifetime and the future looks dim, at best.  Liquor stores and abortion clinics are deemed essential, but churches are not.  And since lawlessness has increased greatly, "the love of many," as Jesus foretold, "has grown cold" (Matt. 24:12).

These are truly desperate times.

But could God be trying to tell us something by all that is happening around us?  Is He trying to get a message to us, a warning?  And, if so, what is that message and why are we as a people so obstinate and hard of hearing?

We know, from Scripture, that God warns His people primarily in two ways.  One, by sending them a prophet, a prophetic voice in their generation to proclaim the words of the Lord.  God often sent a Jeremiah, Ezekiel, or John the Baptist to bring His people back to repentance before He chastised them for their sins.  Unfortunately, because of our collective pride, we in the West are not particularly open to a modern-day Isaiah or a proclamation of "Thus says the Lord!" from anyone.

So often God warns His people the second way, by a remedial judgment.  He allows storms, plagues, war, famine, or pestilence to bring us to our knees and allows us to realize that God is God and we are not.  God often humbles us by showing us how much we are not in control.

Could that be what is happening right now?  And, if so, what warning are we failing to heed?  And what changes do we need to make in our lives right now?

Remember, God is sovereign.  That doesn't mean He is the cause of suffering and death.  No, our sin brought that upon us.  That blood is on our own hands.  But what it does mean is that nothing happens in our lives, good or bad, without His permission.  Why?  Because He is sovereign.  He is good and gracious and holy, but foremost, He is sovereign.


The Blessings and the Curses

In Deuteronomy, we find a list of promises God gave to Israel that also applies to each of us today, as individuals and as a nation (and church).  They are found in Deuteronomy 28.  In this chapter, God gives His people one grand if/then promise.  If they will "diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, (how) to observe carefully all His commandments" (Deut. 28:1), then an incredible, breathtaking list of blessings will follow.  In fact, the Lord says "all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake (overwhelm) you, (why) because you obey the voice of the Lord your God" (Deut. 28:2).  Did you catch that?  His blessings will literally overtake them (you can't outrun the blessings of God), and literally overwhelm them.

Would you like to be blessed like that?  Then read the rest of the if conditions in Deuteronomy 28:3-14.

But there is a dark side.  It is the consequence of not meeting God's if/then standard.  He says:

"But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you" (Deut. 28:15).

And as wonderful as the blessings are, the curses are much worse.  Much!  And we are seeing many of them manifest right before our eyes.

If you are wondering what you and your church can do to prepare your hearts for God's possible remedial judgments, keep listening.  For our days ahead may be dark indeed.

The following is a study on the Prophetic Implications of the Covid 19 virus and Deuteronomy 28.

456 - Embracing the Kingdom

456 - Embracing the Kingdom

April 20, 2020

I love this quote, "The definition of a fanatic is someone who loves Jesus more than you do."  So true.  But as a culture, we have always had a love/hate relationship with total commitment and self-abandonment.  We admire those whose commitment leads them to do great things, like win an Olympic Medal or lose a tremendous amount of weight.  And we applaud their commitment because we value the object of their goals.  But on the other hand, we detest the commitment of terrorists, idealogues, and others like that.  We brand them as activists, fanatics, or extremists.

But in Jesus' day, this is exactly how the world saw His followers.  They were activists who wanted nothing more than to see the entire world come to the same understanding they had regarding Christ.  They were extremists who sacrificed everything for a cause greater than themselves.  And they were fanatics, no longer interested in the things of this world because they had their life focused on something unseen, mystical, and illogical.

And of these, the Lord said the "world was not worthy" of them (Heb. 11:18).  My, how we have changed today.

Today, the church falls into two main camps.  One, the camp where our relationship with Christ is defined by rule-keeping and our ability to follow the law.  And two, those who view their relationship with Jesus as something profitable to add to their already busy lives, much like sprinkles on a cupcake or sweetener to our coffee.  But there is another option.  And these are the ones whose relationship with Christ is not based on guilt, religious duty, the hope of heaven and eternal reward, or the fear of hell and eternal punishment.  No, this select group is drawn to Christ because of His overwhelming beauty and glory and the irresistible power of His Kingdom.  The very kingdom we are commanded to proclaim today.  Remember?  We are to proclaim, like Jesus, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 4:17).  And we are to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom.

And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. (Matt. 4:23)

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. (Matt. 9:35)

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matt. 24:14)

But what is the "Gospel of the Kingdom"?


The Gospel of the Kingdom

In the first century, the words "gospel" and "evangelize" referred to heralding the good news that a new emperor had been installed in the Roman Empire.  Heralds would go out to proclaim the good news, informing people that a new era of peace, salvation, and blessing had begun.  They then exhorted people to get down on their knees to worship the new emperor, their rightful king. The apostles used the same term to describe the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom of God.  The gospel that the apostles preached was the announcement, the heralding, that Jesus of Nazareth had become this world’s true Emperor (Lord), launching a new era of peace, salvation, and blessing, and because of it, everything has changed.

And it was this message that turned the world upside-down during the first century.  But it is a message seldom preached today.  Did you ever wonder why?

Once we begin to see the glory of Christ and the wonder of His Kingdom, everything changes.  He is no longer a historical figure, but Someone we literally adore and long to be with.  He is Someone we will gladly abandon all to follow.  Are you interested in knowing more about this glorious Christ and His wondrous Kingdom?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on What it Means to Embrace the Kingdom of God.

To download the slides to this message, click - HERE

453 - Increase our Faith!

453 - Increase our Faith!

April 11, 2020

As I have been sharing with you since late last year, the times we are facing as believers, and as a church and a nation, demand faith.  But not faith as usual or faith that is comfortable.  We need mature faith, secure faith, maybe even radical faith to believe what our Lord says about everything, and then act on that belief like we truly believe what we claim to believe.

In fact, one of the signs of maturity in our walk with Christ is our ability to drown out the voices of our culture, and even our own voice of fear, doubt, and insecurity, and live in the joy of sheer trust in His character, His Word, and His promises (and warnings).  Our desire is to learn how to trust as a little child does his loving father, without question, and with great joy.  And for logical, pragmatic, even somewhat cynical people, that leap in trust can be quite difficult.

"But where does faith come from?" many often ask.  The disciples recognized their need for more genuine, mature, seasoned faith when it came to continually having to forgive someone who sinned against them over and over again with no true sign of repentance.  When faced with that impossible task, they cried out to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" (Luke 17:5).

Our need for more faith is apparent.  But where do we go to increase our faith?


Faith and the Word of God

In Romans 10, after speaking about Israel's need to hear the gospel, Paul then makes this most revealing statement:

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Rom. 10:17)

Or, to put it another way, "faith comes by hearing the word of God."  And it's really just that simple.  The object of what we are to hear to increase our faith is the Word of God.

If you have been in church for any amount of time, you know that on Easter you will hear a sermon about the resurrection, just like you will hear about the birth of Jesus during December.  It's just what we in the church do.  It's almost a sacred tradition.

This means that many of us have heard dozens of sermons about the empty tomb every late March or early April.  And if we're not careful, the wonder of the resurrection may get dull by rote habit or tradition.  Remember, familiarity often breeds contempt.

But this Sunday, I want God's Word to bring the sermon and not me.  I want each of us to have our faith increased by hearing His Word, and not by hearing a pastor (like me) expound on His Word.  In essence, let's go directly to the source for the pure milk of His Word and not settle for the homogenized, skim stuff.

Therefore, I have taken the liberty of reading a combined account of the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord taken from the four gospel accounts.  In other words, what you will hear is everything Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote so we can get a perfect picture of everything that transpired with our Lord and His disciples from His death until His ascension.  And to be quite honest, I have preached these passages for decades and yet found myself mesmerized as I marveled at the picture they present when combined and synthesized together.

What you will hear is pure Scripture (although I do make a comment or two.  Sorry, can't help it.  It's in my nature).  And I will let you know the source from where I am reading before I read.

So join with me today as we let the Holy Spirit, using Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, present our Easter sermon for us.  I will simply try to act as the host or facilitator, bring a few comments of clarification or questions, as we listen to this wondrous story.

The following is a study on the Resurrection of Christ as told from all four gospel accounts.

450 - How to Prepare for the Coming Apostasy

450 - How to Prepare for the Coming Apostasy

February 19, 2020

When we have the discernment that Jesus spoke about to know the "signs of the times" (Matt. 16:3), it becomes clear we are living in the last days.  In fact, there are several key signs that bring us to this conclusion.

  1. The regathering of Israel into their own land
  2. The surging apostasy
  3. The coming Middle East peace
  4. The reuniting of the Roman Empire (East, West, both?)
  5. Globalism

For the church today, the most important of these prophetic signs is the rising tide of apostasy or defection from God and the Christian faith.  We see this happening almost daily within the ranks of the church.  As we have already discussed, apostasy means to "depart, revolt, or forsake.  It is a deliberate defection from a formerly held religious position."  Apostasy doesn't necessarily mean a total rejection of God or the authority of His Scripture.  Apostasy can come in stages.  It usually begins with a defection from a section of Scripture or a specific teaching that is incompatible with the current cultural church mood.  Some examples are the issue of homosexuality, divorce, women pastors, abortion, or a myriad of other issues that divide the Body today.  And once a small defection takes place, full-blown apostasy is not far behind.

But this shouldn't surprise us.  After all, Jesus said in Matthew 24 the greatest sign of His return was deception.  And He warned His disciples about that deception four times (Matt. 24:4, 5,11, 24).  He even went so far as to say the deception at the end would be so great that, if it was possible, even the elect would be deceived (Matt. 24:24).  And the elect includes Peter, Paul, James and John, Martin Luther, D.L. Moody, Spurgeon, Billy Graham, and you and me.  That's a sobering thought that should not be taken lightly.

So what can we do to prepare for the coming apostasy?


The Apostasy is Coming

Or, how do we prevent falling prey to the deception that will only get greater as the Day approaches?  Great question.  You must know what you believe, and why.  You must personally experience God for who He is.  You cannot ride on the coattails of another’s faith.  Your faith must be your own.  And you must understand how overwhelmingly powerful the deception will be in the end times and be prepared.

Ask yourself the following questions: Has God ever revealed Himself to you in an unmistakable fashion that left no doubt?  Has He ever revealed Himself to you through His Word?  If so, what was that experience like?  How did it change your view of Scripture?  Do you hunger for more of Him?  Has that hunger led you to read more of His Word?  And if not, why?

Once you begin to understand the power of His Word and the wisdom He gives you through His Word, what the world offers is nothing more than pocket change.  You, through Him, have more wisdom than the talking heads on CNN.  You have more understanding than those who make acceptance speeches at the Academy Awards and spend that time telling you how to live.  You are the dwelling place of God Himself, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, which makes you a living sanctuary of the Presence of God.

Tell me what the world has that you don't.  Exactly.  Nuthin'!

The following is a study on How to Prepare for the Coming Apostasy and 1 Corinthians 2.

448 - Narcissism:  The Ultimate End Time Personality Disorder

448 - Narcissism: The Ultimate End Time Personality Disorder

February 15, 2020

Jesus chastised the religious elite of His day for their confidence in predicting things like the weather, but not being able to discern the signs of the times.  In fact, He called them hypocrites.  Remember?  "When it is evening you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red'; and in the morning, 'It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.'  Hypocrites!  You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times" - Matthew 16:2-3.  I wonder if He would say the same about His church today?  After all, it appears we all seem to know everything about everything.  Just ask us.

It seems we resemble those that Isaiah was called to address.

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!  Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight - Isaiah 5:20-21.

But there is one prophetic statement of Jesus regarding the times before us that is hard for many, including me, to understand.  That is until today.  Jesus said "because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold" (Matt. 24:12).  Got that.  He also promised that "a man's enemies will be those of his own household" (Matt. 10:36).  How is that possible?  How can our love for our spouse or children grow so cold we will treat them as enemies to the extent of hatred and betrayal? (Matt. 24:10).  How can that be true?  What sort of perverted human would turn on his own family for the sake of himself?  What kind of depraved mind or personality disorder would produce sociopaths with a love this cold?

In a word, it's called narcissism.  And it is the ultimate end-time personality disorder.


Narcissism

In general, narcissism or narcissistic traits can be described as follows:

  • They have an exaggerated sense of self-importance.
  • They have a sense of entitlement and require constant, excessive admiration.
  • They expect and demand to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it.
  • They exaggerate their achievements and talents.
  • They are preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate.
  • They believe they are superior and can only associate with equally special people.'
  • They monopolize conversations and belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior (which is just about everyone).
  • They expect and demand special favors and unquestioning compliance with their expectations.
  • They habitually take advantage of others to get what they want.
  • They have an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others.
  • They are envious of others and believe others envy them.
  • They behave in an arrogant or haughty manner, coming across as conceited, boastful and pretentious.
  • They Insist on having the best of everything because they are entitled.

And they are everywhere!  They multiply like kudzu.

Narcissism may very well be the ultimate personality disorder of the end-times.  And it certainly fits the Laodicean church model.  In fact, psychologists believe that in the last 15 years over 30% of our population now registers on the narcissism spectrum.  And that number grows daily.

So what are we to do?  Great question.  Keep listening to find out more.

The following is a study on Narcissism and the End Times.

447 - The Two Invitations

447 - The Two Invitations

January 23, 2020

One of the vital truths regarding our desire to follow Christ is to fully understand our union with Him.  After all, we are invited to become one with Him and are described in Scripture as being "in Christ."  In Romans 8 we are called “children of God” that are "adopted" into His family and are now "joint heirs with Christ."  Romans 6 tells us our old man has died and Christ now lives in us in the Presence of the Holy Spirit.  But do we really understand the implication of what this means?

Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology, states "Union with Christ is a phrase that summarizes several different relationships between believers and Christ, through which Christians receive every benefit of salvation. These relationships include the fact that (1) we are in Christ, (2) Christ is in us, (3) we are like Christ, and (4) we are with Christ."   Ok, I've got that.  But is there more to this union with Christ than dry theology?  Can I really experience union with Him?  And, if so, how is that done?  What do I have to do to experience the fullness of my union, my relationship, with Christ?

Great questions.   And the simple answer is, "Yes, you can know the wonder of our union with Him."  And the wonder of it comes with the invitation of Christ to be joined with Him.

Consider the following invitation found in Matthew 11:28.  It is a familiar passage:

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

Now, let's see what it means by defining a few terms.

"Come to Me, all you who labor (to be worn out, fatigued, faint, weary) and are heavy laden (to overload, heavily burdened, like with the freight of a ship), and I will give you rest (to cease from labor, to refresh, relax, loosen, to be at peace or rest)."

Do you see the trust relationship implied in this invitation?  Do you see Christ's invitation to let Him carry your troubles and you rest in Him?  To be united in Him?

Many of us struggle with this and ask how is that accomplished?  How can I truly experience rest in Him?  Is it just a mental thing?  Or is it some sort of resolution I make and then fail at when things get uncertain or tough?  Is it a mantra I go over and over again in my mind, like "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can"?  Or is it something else?

Oh, it is definitely something else.  Let's look at the second invitation.


To Abide in Him

The second invitation reveals to us the "how" of our union and complete trust in Him.  This invitation is found in John 15:4, and elsewhere in that chapter.

"Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me."

Note the two-fold relationship.  One, I abide in Christ.  And two, He abides in me.  This is vital.  And "abide" means, "to remain, dwell, live, to make one's home, to be united with one heart, mind, and will."  So I "remain" and "make my home" in Christ, "to be united with one heart, mind, and will" with Him.  And He will "remain" and "make His home" in me, "to be united with one heart, mind, and will" with Me.  This is what it means to abide.

As you listen to this podcast in order to understand more of this marvelous relationship we have with the Lord, remember the following:

The branch (you and I) does not produce the fruit.  That comes from the Vine (Christ). The branch does not secure the nutrients necessary to produce the fruit.  That again comes from the Vine (Christ). The branch does not position the buds to get the most sunlight.  The Vinedresser (Father) does that. The branch does not prune dead wood.  Again, that is the Father's job. The branch does not provide water nor sunlight. The branch does not participate in harvesting. The branch (you and I) only bears the work of the Vine (Jesus) for the glory of the Vinedresser (the Father).

The key to all Christ has provided for us is found in a dependent, branch to vine, relationship with Him.  He would not require from us what He has not equipped us to give.  This kind of life is possible and provided for you and is the default position as a believer in Christ.  But to experience the fullness of this relationship, we must surrender our petty desires to Him.

So, once again, the choice is ours.  We can continue to live in lukewarm Laodicea satisfied with less than the abundant life Christ promised.  Or we can jump into the deep end of the pool and surrender all to Him.  It's not complicated.  It's just hard.  What do you want to do?  The ball is in your court.

The following is a study on being Fully Surrendered to God from John 15.

446 - Experiencing the Fullness of the Holy Spirit

446 - Experiencing the Fullness of the Holy Spirit

January 20, 2020

How does one receive the Holy Spirit?   Simple.  As Peter said in Acts 2:38-39, you "repent" and "believe."  Which just happens to be the same requirements for salvation.  After all, the guarantee of our inheritance in Him is the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14).  This is a truth most Christians know and understand.  No Holy Spirit, no salvation.  It's as simple as that.

But how does one experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit?  How do we find our joy in Him?  Or, how do we experience the "unsearchable riches of Christ" (Eph. 3:8) as a daily, living reality?  How is that possible? Consider the following:

Every believer has received the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is only received by repentance and faith in Jesus at salvation.
There is a fullness of the Holy Spirit that is usually greater than what is experienced at conversion.  Your own experience confirms this truth.
As there are certain conditions for receiving the Holy Spirit, there are also certain conditions for experiencing the fullness of the Spirit.
They are primarily found in Romans 6 and 12.

Let's dig a bit deeper, shall we?


Two Words:  Deny and Surrender

The fullness of the Holy Spirit is found in the same way, and under the same conditions, as following Jesus.  Do you remember the requirements Jesus placed on those who desired to follow Him?  They are self-denial and surrender and are found in Matthew 16:24-25, among other places.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."

Denial and surrender.  Or, by letting the Lord be Lord over our lives.  The same principle is required to experience the fullness of the Spirit.  To experience the fullness of the Spirit requires the absolute, unqualified surrender of your life to God, to do His will and not your own.  But this shouldn't surprise you.  You had to do this to receive salvation by declaring someone other than yourself as Lord.

Remember, when we surrender our sins and believe, we receive the Holy Spirit with salvation.  And when we surrender our lives and believe, we are filled with the Holy Spirit.  Why?   Because the receiving of the Spirit is God's answer to repentance and faith and the guarantee of our salvation.  And, in a like manner, experiencing the fullness of the Spirit is God's answer to a life surrendered to Him.  When we are saved the Spirit enters into our life.  But at surrender, the Spirit takes full possession of our lives and brings us the blessings that come from a life that is fully surrendered to God.

So the choice is ours.  We can continue to live in lukewarm Laodicea satisfied with less than the abundant life Christ promised.  Or we can jump into the deep end of the pool and surrender all to Him.  It's not complicated.  It's just hard.  What do you want to do?  The ball is in your court.

The following is a study on being Fully Surrendered to God from Romans 6.

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.

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.