Leaving Laodicea
443 - It All Comes Down to Desire

443 - It All Comes Down to Desire

January 9, 2020

On any given Sunday, if a pastor asks by a show of hands how many in the congregation consider themselves followers of Christ, most would raise their hands.  But if he followed up that question with: "And how many of you know what it means to be a follower of Jesus today?" - the number of raised hands would drop considerably.  Maybe even to none.  Why?  Because our view today of following Jesus is a far cry from what it meant in the time of Jesus.  Think about it for a moment.  Today, following Jesus means agreeing to a set of doctrinal facts, going to church regularly, tithing, volunteering for some service ministry, adhering to a moral code, and reading and praying as often as we can.  But in the New Testament, following Jesus meant something quite different.

Jesus said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Matt. 16:24).  Note the components of His invitation.  First, it begins with a conditional clause, if, like a classic if / then statement.  "If you desire to come after Me, then these are the conditions."  Next, we have self-denial or self-subjugation to God.  "If you desire to come after Me, the first condition is to deny yourself."  And finally, we are now privy to the degree to which self-denial must take place.  "If you desire to come after Me, the first condition is to deny yourself even to the point of death, and a horrific death at that."  And only then does Jesus say, "and follow Me."  First, meet the conditions, and then "follow Me."


But What About Desire

Exactly.  The entire invitation of Jesus hinges on the word, desire.  If you desire, then do the following.  If you don't desire, then this message must not be for you.  Which begs the questions, what is your desire regarding following Jesus?  And is your desire great enough to pay the price necessary to meet His conditions?  Ouch.  This is where it often gets personal.

In order to fully understand all of what Jesus said when He revealed His conditions of following Him, let's look at this invitation from all three Gospel accounts.  Only then can we fully understand all the implications and the Cost of Discipleship (to quote Bonhoeffer).  The following is from Matthew 16:24-25, Mark 8:34-35, and Luke 9:23-24:

Then Jesus (MK) called the people to Himself (LK) and said to them all, (MK) with His disciples also, (MT) "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross (LK) daily, (MT) and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake (MK) and the gospel’s (MT) will find it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul (LK) and is himself destroyed or lost? (MT) Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (MK)  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes (LK) in His own glory, and (MT) in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works."

Today, we will primarily focus on the issue of desire.

What is your desire regarding Christ?
Have you counted the costs of a deeper relationship with Him?
Are you ready to pay the price?  No matter what that price might be?
Are you paying any price right now for your commitment to the Lord?
Do you know if it will be much different in the future?

Are you tired of taking two steps forward and then losing ground once again because you desire something less than all of His fullness manifested in your life?  If so, then keep listening.

The following is a study on our Desire to Follow Christ.

397 - The Same Day at Evening

397 - The Same Day at Evening

April 13, 2017

In John 20 we find some events that took place on that momentous Sunday, the first day of the week, when Jesus was raised from the dead.  Some of those events took place early that Sunday morning and other events happened later that day, at evening.  It was at this time, in the evening of the same day, that Jesus appeared to His disciples and others who were hiding for fear of the Jews (John 20:19).  And then, to this frightened and confused group of friends and disciples, Jesus spoke these words:

John 20:21 - "Peace to you!  As the Father has sent Me, I also send you."

His words to them were comforting and also challenging.  Just like they are to us today. And then Jesus uttered some of the most misunderstood words in all of the gospel accounts.  He said:

John 20:23 - "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

Do you see how a lazy interpretation of this verse could lead you to believe that God has granted fallen, mortal men the ability to forgive sins?  And those sins are forgiven, not because they are confessed by the one who has sinned, but by the forgiveness of an uninterested third party.  How can that be? Want to know more?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on John 20:19-23.

394 - What Does it Mean to Live by Faith? - Part 1

394 - What Does it Mean to Live by Faith? - Part 1

April 2, 2017

In Acts 2, after the promised Holy Spirit came mightily upon the faithful praying in the upper room, and after Peter preached his Spirit-empowered sermon, the infant church grew from 120 to over 3,000 literally overnight.   And now the apostles had a logistics problem.  How were they to manage a crowd of over 3,000 newbies without the benefit of Christian literature or Lifeway, CCM, K-LOVE, God's Not Dead 1 and 2, WinterJam, or local mega-churches with multiple, cross-town campuses?  What were they to do?

The answer was simple.  They were to teach their new Christian brothers exactly what Jesus spent three years teaching them— how to live by faith.  That's right, faith.  Remember?

Hebrews 11:1 - Now faith (pístis) is the substance (to place under, the basis, foundation, that which underlies the apparent) of things hoped for (confident expectation, to abide still, to expect fully), the evidence (proof, conviction, assurance, supreme confidence) of things not seen.

As we dig deeper into the life of the early church, we'll discover that faith was pretty much all they had.  And it was enough for them to turn their world upside down (Acts 17:6).

Do you want to know more about what it means to live by faith?  Good.  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on Acts 2:36-41.

392 - The 240 Hour Prayer (and Fasting) Meeting

392 - The 240 Hour Prayer (and Fasting) Meeting

March 23, 2017

When the 120 met together after the ascension of Jesus, there were some logistics we often overlook when considering their 240 hour prayer meeting (Acts 1:14).  For example:

What about food?
Did they go home to eat several times a day?
Did someone have food catered in to them?
Did they go to Wal-Mart or McDonald’s daily?
Did their family drop off lunch bags each day?
Or did they go on an extended fast?
And if so, what was that like?

I believe it was a time of prayer and fasting— and not just prayer alone.  After all, that's what Jesus expected them to do (Matt. 6:16-18).   Which raises one last question: What can fasting do for me today?  Or, why should I fast since fasting seems to be passe in the church today?  Consider the following:

Fasting was an expected discipline in both the Old and New Testament eras.
Fasting and prayer can restore the loss of the “first love” for your Lord and result in a more intimate relationship with Christ.
Fasting is a biblical way to truly humble yourself in the sight of God.
Fasting enables the Holy Spirit to reveal your true spiritual condition, resulting in brokenness, repentance, and a transformed life.
Fasting will encourage the Holy Spirit to quicken the Word of God in your heart and His truth will become more meaningful to you.
Fasting can transform your prayer life into a richer and more personal experience.
Fasting can result in a dynamic personal revival in your own life and make you a channel of revival to others.
In summary, fasting opens up your spirit in ways that are hard to explain unless you’ve experienced it.

Have you ever considered adding fasting to your prayer life?  You should.  You really should.

The following is a study on Acts 1:12-14.

374 - In Everything Give Thanks… Why?

374 - In Everything Give Thanks… Why?

November 21, 2016

In the final few words in his first letter to the church at Thessalonica, the apostle Paul leaves them with some heartfelt, bullet-point warnings and admonitions that speak to living in the Kingdom. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 he said,

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  Do not quench the Spirit.

If you look closer, you will see this is another classic, life-changing if / then passage.  If we do the first three, then we won't experience the last.  Or, if we don't do the first three, then the last, quenching the Spirit, is ours as a consequence of the first three.  And who in their right mind wants to willingly quench the Spirit of God in our life.  But there is so much more to be found here.  Interested?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19.