Posted by: John Gilmore | September 10, 2006

What it means to follow Jesus Part 2

In the previous post we discussed what Jesus requires of us. We have seen that Jesus has made it clear that if we want to enter the kingdom of heaven, He must be our Savior and our Lord. We must believe in Him and do the will of God. In this post we’re going to discuss what Jesus tells us will result when we walk with Him in this world. Once again, most of what we hear today about the gospel of Jesus is all positive – believe and be saved. We rarely hear what Jesus Himself told us would result from following Him. The hard lessons that Jesus teaches us are being forgotten. The hard truths are what we are going to discuss here.

Jesus sets the tone in Luke 14 by telling us to weigh the cost of following Him carefully:

“Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “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. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
“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? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’
“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? 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. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25:33)

Jesus makes it clear in these verses (and others) that if you follow Him, it is very possible that there will be animosity within your own family. Your mother, father, spouse, brothers, sisters and even your children could oppose you. Your life could even be asked of you. So, prepare yourself for these things and don’t be surprised if they happen.

To me, the next verses are some of the most powerful. We are told to weigh this decision carefully. Don’t take following Him lightly. Don’t start and then decide you’d rather go back to your old self when things get tough – and they will get tough. If you start and then are unable to finish, you will be ridiculed by unbelievers. There is something else here that we should notice. If we simply say we believe and yet do not do what the Lord asks us to do, is there really a cost? Millions of us today say we are Christian, but are we truly experiencing hardship as a result? Are we experiencing spiritual warfare? Is there really any cost to how we’re living our lives? If you answer no to all of these questions, you must ask yourself – am I truly following Jesus? Am I entering through the narrow gate that leads to life? Am I Godly or worldly?

The last verses here give us another clear message. Can you stand with our Lord when faced with overwhelming odds? Throughout human history God has always had a remnant that remained faithful to Him. In the days before the flood, there was only Noah and His family – but they were enough. After Jesus was crucified, there were His Apostles and those who learned from them – and they were enough. During the middle ages, there were a few Godly men who stood against unbiblical doctrine, kings and popes – and they were enough. The Bible tells us that at the end of this age, evil worldwide political and religious entities will persecute and kill the Lord’s saints and once again, a remnant will stand and God’s Word will be carried to the end of this age. The Lord’s saints have never been the most intelligent, the strongest, the wealthiest or the most powerful people on earth. The have all humbled themselves before God, believed the Lord’s Word and asked for His will for them. They then carried out what was asked of them. I’ve heard the phrase – ‘that was during biblical times’ to describe the incredible faith and power wielded by ordinary people in the Bible. The truth is that the Bible covers everything from the creation of the earth to the end of this age. It has recorded our history from God’s viewpoint and it tells us of our future. Everything is during Biblical times – which means the spiritual weapons wielded throughout history are available to us. Verse 33 sums everything up for us – you must be willing to give up everything to follow Christ. Another hard question you must ask yourself.

Let’s continue with a statement by Jesus that again sets the tone for those who follow Him. Listening to the world today, it’s not what you would expect.

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ” ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother in law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” (Mathew 10:34-36)

Most of what you hear today in Christian Churches throughout the world would lead you to believe that Jesus will bring peace to every aspect of your life. While you will experience inner peace and joy because you know the Lord, Jesus tells us that you will face adversity from the world. He tells us that if you follow Him, don’t expect a peaceful existence – you are involved in a war. Once again we see a reference to the spiritual war that exists throughout the world. Why should we expect animosity from the world once we are spiritually regenerated by God? Because until then, you have fought on the wrong side of the war. You were once part of the world and your focus was on the world. You allowed Satan to either place you on the sidelines of the battle or you have actively carried out his plans. The world welcomed you because you were one of its own. Once you are born again, you find that the world rejects those who are of God. The world wants to hear the world’s viewpoint – not God’s. Jesus doesn’t bring peace, but God’s Word – and His Word will cause division. Families and friends will be divided. A battle rages and those who don’t know Him, will in all likelihood, oppose you if you do what He asks – regardless of whether they know you.

This is another way for us to test ourselves spiritually. Do we live nice, comfortable lives with little or no adversity? If so, we need to honestly evaluate our spiritual lives. Am I truly a follower of the Lord or has the enemy deceived me into believing a false Christianity? A Christianity with no relationship to God and no power. A Christianity where church is a nice, comfortable social club. A Christianity where I am not required to deny myself and place Jesus and His will #1 in my life. A Christianity where I’m not required to pickup my cross and carry it. A Christianity where we go along with the flow of the world. A Christianity that tells you only one small piece of the Gospel – while ignoring those things that are difficult. A Christianity that tells you that prosperity is A-OK and never tells you what God requires for us to be blessed. A Christianity that never tells you we must obey God above all else. A Christianity that accepts doctrine contrary to God’s Word. A Christianity that is all about us, not about Him. He stands at the door of many Churches today and knocks – few let Him in.

Until the summer of 2005, I lived a very nice, comfortable life. I attended a Christian church on most Sundays. I was considered a good person, a good business leader and occasionally volunteered my time to help with ministries. But that summer I took a very honest look at my life and realized that my life was not built on the Rock that is Jesus Christ – my life was built on sand of this world. My life was focused on the world and my place in it. I did not experience any of the hardships Jesus tells us will happen when we follow Him. Once I truly repented and was regenerated, all of this changed. Not only did I receive ridicule from people I knew, people I had never met verbally attacked me. It was tough, but not unexpected. At one point after my letters appeared in the Knoxville newspaper, I started to wonder if all of this was worth it. Our enemy was beating me up somewhat and I started to listen. It was about this time that I received a call from a Pastor in a small town in Tennessee. He told me that he had a son who had basically left the church and was getting into more and more trouble and he wasn’t sure what else he could do to get his son back in church. After reading my letters, he sat his son down and started reading my first letter to him. About half way through the letter, his son got up and went to his room. He got his Bible, dusted it off and told his father that he needed to get back into the Word. He went to church that weekend for the first time in months. He needed a spiritual wakeup call and God gave him one. I needed a spiritual lift and God picked me up.

I have realized, as any true Christian realizes, that if the Lord is able to bring just one person to repentance through you, all of the hardship is worth it. If I give up everything I have in this world and endure ridicule and persecution and through all of this the Lord is able to save one soul, it’s worth it. It’s not about our place in this world, it’s about our place in eternity – and as Jesus tells us – we must walk through a very narrow gate to get to our place there. A narrow gate that most people never find and even fewer walk through.

Let’s get back to God’s Word. The next verses offer us a warning. If your family rises against you, they will obviously try to convince you that your faith is misplaced. They will call you away from Him. What does Jesus say about this?

“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mathew 10:37-39)

Crystal clear. The Lord must be your first priority in this life. We’re talking about a battle for the hearts and minds of humanity, so the stakes cannot be any higher. By persevering, you could very well draw your family to Christ. Do not give up – regardless who stands against you. Verse 38 also gives us another clear reference that we must make Jesus our Lord and do what He asks us to do. In this verse, Jesus uses the cross as the analogy. Why? Because doing what the Lord asks you to do is not going to be easy in this world – but it is the only way if you want to enter heaven. Look where it led Jesus. He was humiliated, tortured and crucified in this world. Where is he now? Glorified in heaven with all power and authority. We must never forget this. Our reward is in heaven, not here.

“Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Mathew 10:17-20)

Once again, we see clear warnings. You could be arrested and persecuted as a result of following Christ. We’re also given comfort – the Holy Spirit will always be with us. When I read these verses I think of those who stood against kings and popes during the dark ages. Many would not agree to unbiblical doctrine and spoke boldly against evil – and gave up their lives to do so.

“All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.” (Mathew 10:22-23)

Unbelievers will hate you for following the Lord. You can see that Jesus is being straightforward – no need to guess His message in these verses. It’s clear.

“A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household! “So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Mathew 10:24-30)

When Jesus speaks of ‘them’, He is referring to those following Satan. Do not fear them, they can only hurt your body they can’t touch your soul. Your focus must remain on your life in eternity, not this world. You see this message time and again. Jesus tells us this so that we are prepared to do what He asks us to do, regardless of the cost to us in this world. If He asks you to deliver an unpopular message, the message must be delivered – regardless of what you think it may cost you.

Will Satan try to stop your spiritual growth? Will he try to stop you from doing what Jesus asks? Absolutely.

“While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.” When he said this, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,
” ‘though seeing, they may not see;
though hearing, they may not understand.’
“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” (Luke 8:4-15)

There are many obstacles on the narrow path – the devil will try to take you away from God’s plan for you, riches and pleasures of the world will prevent you from maturing. Those that retain the word, and persevere, produce a crop. These are God’s children that produce good fruit throughout the world.

“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” (Mathew 10:32-33)

Again, this message is straightforward and clear. We must stand with the Lord – always.

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Mathew 10:16)

Those following God have wisdom and knowledge that will always puzzle unbelievers. God’s wisdom will always convict the unsaved and bewilder evil people. It will also expose evil people and their plans. Nothing is hidden from God. As a result, we should expect all of the things Jesus tells us will result from following Him. Verse 16 tells us that even though unbelievers may come against us, we should always remain ‘innocent’ – always following God’s moral will. We will never trade evil for evil.

“He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” (Mathew 10:40-42)

We are told in these verses that whoever receives Jesus Christ, receives God, the Father. Whoever believes the message of Jesus Christ – whether it be proclaimed by a teacher, a prophet, a righteous man – receives the same reward. The reward is eternal life – and those that truly believe the message will share the reward.

There are many more verses we could examine, but we’ll end this post with these verses from John chapter 15. Contrary to what many Christians believe today, we have shown with the verses on this post why entering through the ‘narrow gate’ is not easy. The truth of Jesus’ gospel is that your life in this world will be difficult if you follow Him. There may be periods of prosperity for you, you may be blessed to do wonderful things for God, but sooner or later you are going to face adversity. In the near future, after the beasts have gained worldwide control, many of Christ’s followers will not survive to the end. This is made clear in Scripture that we have previously reviewed. My hope is that each of us examines our lives in the light of God’s Word, not the world. If you truly humble yourself and seek God, the Truth will be revealed to you. God will enable you to stand, regardless of your circumstances. If you remain apart from God, going your own way, you will not be able to stand against the evil we will face. Your future in eternity depends on your choice – nothing is more important. Nothing in this world is worth losing your soul.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’

“When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning. (Luke 15)

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