A New Series: What Does It Mean To Follow Jesus Christ?
Jesus did not come to the this earth as a counselor. He did not come to earth as a meek and mild man, an effeminate homebody who simply wanted to revolutionize the world with love. He was nothing less than God Almighty in the flesh with all the rights and prerogatives to command humanity to bow the knee to His authority. The deity of Jesus Christ does not diminish His authority-it establishes it. The Lordship of Jesus Christ is such because He has been given a kingdom by the Father over which He rules, and will rule. This kingdom is the entire cosmos and everything in it. He has the right to give life and withhold it. He has the right to judge and to condemn. He has power over Hell, and Heaven. He is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6).
Given that truth, the absolute authority and command of all existence, why do we think that He will wink at half-hearted submission? Does any king, or commander, appreciate and applaud rebellion? Can a war be won unless the entire army follows orders? Why, then, do we think that Christ’s kingdom is any different? Why do we think that He will wink at insubordination? Absolute allegiance and submission to Him is the requirement. Anything less, or else, is not worthy of Him.
I have recently been forcefully reminded of the condition of the church in these days. First, I understand what the Bible says the church is, and is to be. I understand its precious beginning and how it will conclude its days on earth. I understand what ministry looks like, how it should be done, and what its priorities are. All of this is easily surmised by a proper reading of the Word of God.
But I also understand this: the inclusion of tares among the wheat has devastated the church. The pure and pristine faith of true believers has been assaulted by doubt and controversy of men who themselves refuse to bow the knee to Jesus Christ. Oftentimes, this reality is couched in an amiable and gentle spirit, like a sheep, and yet the heart rages within. These men have infiltrated Christ’s bride and have wreaked havoc among the flock. The devastation is strewn about the horizon. Lives devastated; hearts cold; service rendered ineffective. All because of the one tool that Satan has in his arsenal more than anything else-fear, fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15). Satan drives people by fear. Since Satan is a liar, murderer, and imitator, he speaks what is false, seeks to destroy, and wants the glory that is rightly due Jesus Christ (John 8:44). Thus, he is tireless in his endeavors to subject people to his wicked schemes by polluting their faith. People who hear the Word of God, and should know better, are rendered powerless by the inclusion of doubt into what they hear. And doubt is a pollutant that robs faith of its power. And sadly, pastors, wanting to keep their jobs and more eager for the applause of men than the glory of Christ, will not do their tasks. We are afraid to contend for the truth, at every level, so that God’s dear people can feed on Christ’s doctrine without worry. We take the hits. We bear the weight. We embrace the bruises so the sheep don’t have to.
In this series, I will be systematically attacking what I believe to be erroneous teaching in the church at large which introduces doubt, leading to impotent faith, slavery, and destroyed lives. Shame upon those who co-labor with Satan in this things.
The first place I must begin is the cost of following Jesus Christ. Jesus said,
23 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.
24 “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.
25 “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?
26 “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
Jesus came into this world to rescue. He is a Savior. He is a deliverer from the wrath to come. And, contrary to the common gospel presentation of today, it is not enough to “trust Jesus as Savior,” or, “invite Him into your heart.” Those formulas are the result of rebellious doctrine which confirms men in their sins, it does not free them. If Jesus wanted the world to be saved by such mutterings, He would have used them on everyone. He didn’t. There is no record of Jesus telling people to invite Him into the their hearts. What did He say?
If anyone desires to follow Christ, here is what Jesus Himself says is the requirement:
- Deny yourself.
- Take up your cross daily.
- Follow Him.
First of all, to be saved, you must deny yourself. This verb, “deny (reject ongoing relationship with-arneomai),” is a verb that indicates: 1) command (imperative), 2) at once action (Aorist), 3) third person (he/she). Thus, it can be read like this: “If anyone wants to follow behind Me, He must, at once, reject himself.” To refuse to allow your own will, purposes, and desires to control you is the idea. You are to subsume yourself under the will and purposes of Jesus Christ as discovered in the Word of God-this is faith. Some follow Christ because they want Him to do something for them (fix a marriage, restore a friendship, make new friends, etc…). Jesus says that if you want to come to Me, I want you to do something. I want you to see yourself as dead to yourself. Refuse to submit to your own will any longer. Deny yourself.
Second, consequently, Jesus further emphasizes this need when He commands (imperative) immediate crucifixion. This immediate command for a person to put himself on a cross, an implement of torture and death, indicates that you cannot keep yourself any longer. Again, this is an immediate command of the Lord Jesus Christ. Can you name any apostle who did not do this? Can you name any faithful martyr who did not understand this? Can you name any person who died for the sake of the gospel who did not understand this? Then, tell me, why do you believe you are any different? Notice that no one else carries your cross. You are commanded to pick it up, nail your own hands and feet to it, and hang there until you die…day by day by day.
Third, Christ is the example. Follow Him. Did He not deny Himself for the sake of the Father (Luke 22:41-42)? Are you greater than Christ? Did He not give His life for sinners? Are you greater than that? Are you too good for that? Or, is the fact of the matter that you simply don’t want to do it? To follow Him (akolouthew, to follow after/behind; imitate and pattern oneself after by obedience) is also a command. You must do it now! Subject yourself to His will and Word and refuse to any longer do your own! Where has it gotten you anyway?
Finally, to deny yourself, hang yourself on a cross, and obey Jesus leads to life-eternal life. You cannot have two masters-your will and His. Even if you gain the entire world by hanging onto yourself, and yet reject eternal life, what have you gained?
Those who will not submit to Jesus Christ’s commands is ashamed of Jesus Christ. Bottom line. If a person continues to value himself, express himself, set himself up as the pattern, he is ashamed of Jesus Christ. Fine. Jesus will be ashamed of you. When the millions of saints who abandoned themselves in obedience to the gospel join Jesus at His glorious coming, you will be judged by them. You will see their faces. They will see yours, and your conscience will scream for mercy. God’s glory is nothing to play with. Please don’t name the name of Jesus Christ if you are so ashamed of Him that you cannot obey His command to absolute allegiance.
In the next few posts, we will be exposing common teachings in the church which are enslaving people. These doctrines of men are not of Christ. And thus, they do not lead to true godliness but a false one. Christ’s teachings are our instructions and lead to life. However, many teachings in the church are said to be of Christ, but they are not. Thus, many are not actually following Christ.
Some of these teachings are:
- Refusal to leave father and mother for Christ.
- Refusal to believe the Word of God is clear.
- Refusal to believe in church unity.
- Refusal to believe in spiritual authority.
- Refusal to let go of the Law for righteousness.
- Refusal to be either hot or cold.
- Refusal to be please God over men.