Jesus said Come, Follow Me!
Chapter 3 Ė Jesus said, Come Follow Me
God came down to earth as a man and led by example. Matthew 4:18-22, "And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets (left livelihood), and followed him. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father (left family), and followed him." Matthew 9:9, "And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him. John 1:43, "The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me." Their responses in all cases: Yes Lord! These disciples immediately forsook their livelihoods (fishing, tax collecting, etc.), and family and followed Christ (Mk 1:18, 20). This is a very real demonstration of faith. Confession is easy, but actions are convincing. We must be willing to leave all things at Christís calling. You see, when you follow, Christ does not become a part of your life, He becomes your life (Col 3:3-4, Lk 20:38, Heb 2:11). Many desire to incorporate Christian aspects into their already established life (Mt 9:16-17). Usually their priorities tend to be self motivated. To obey a partial gospel is nothing more than doing what is right in your own eyes and this is placing your will above Godís (Pv 16:2). However, we are to die to our old lives (ways) and become a new creature, not a slightly modified and improved old self. 2 Timothy 2:11-13, "It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself." Having died to self we are "born again" to God with His nature to do His will (Eph 4:24). Psalm 40:8, "I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart." If youíre still seeking your will (rebellion), then youíve never died to self. Your telling the Lord that you want to do the leading and for Him to follow you. Your holding on to Adamís nature and are unconverted. Peter, Andrew, James, John, Matthew, and Philip demonstrated death to self by forsaking their old lives and following Christ. This is not a one time action, but a way of life - THE WAY (Jn 14:4-6)! This is faith in God! This is the message: Romans 14:8, "For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lordís."
Are You a Believer or a Follower?
The use of the words "believe" and "follow" in the Bible have essentially the same meaning. This is referring to a living faith in God, which is an unreserved (unconditional) surrender of your will to God in full love and obedience to Him, yielding to His purposes. This is seeing Christ as worthy of your full trust and confidence and following in His example. This is allowing God to rule in your heart (Col 3:15). We develop a very real and personal relationship with Jesus. Questioning God or His purposes simply reveals that you have not totally died to self and there is still some rebellion within you Ė this is your judgment upon Godís purposes. You do not have any authority to judge God. The only one who has presumed to do such is Satan and this is the nature of his followers (he is their father Ė Jn 8:44). To most the word "believe" is applied as a mere mental acknowledgement, agreement and acceptance of Jesus Christ and what He did, but not necessarily full commitment and submission to Him (Lk 6:46). This may be evidenced in a desire for a Savior, but not necessarily a Lord (Jn 13:13). However, anything short of full faith and commitment is hollow, unacceptable and just plain lukewarm. These want to seize His inheritance (Heaven/eternal life Ė Mt 21:38), but not from love. Christ made a distinction between professing with your mouth and living with your heart: Matthew 15:8, "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me." He said such worship was in vain (v. 9). Jesus said we must die to our old lives and be "born again." Until we die to our old way, there can be no conversion (newness of life, new creature, Rm 6:4, 2 Cor 5:17, Gal 6:15, Col 3:10). Most just want to incorporate being a Christian into their existing life. Sort of like a membership with a get out of hell free card benefit. Jesus either becomes your life or you have no life in Him. To mentally acknowledge Jesus is equivalent to what the devils do. James 2:19, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." If you have not totally surrendered to Him then you are in rebellion just as the devils are. The devils believe, because Christís existence is a fact (Mk 1:34). The devils do not follow because they are in rebellion to Him and His purposes. You cannot live for self and just have Christian aspects to your life. You are either a whole-hearted follower or you are deceived. Self seeking (careers, possessions, entertainments, money, etc.) is just that and is the opposite of seeking God. This is a broad, yet temporal outlook that will never be satisfying or fulfilling (2 Cor 4:18). Your either one or the other and you are what you are Ė you decide. When you truly become converted, your desire will be for your Lord and not yourself. If your belief does not fully manifest in your actions, then for what purpose is it? Being a member at a religious institution does not necessarily qualify you to be a follower. When you follow, Christ is your life twenty-four hours a day (Col 3:4, Lk 20:38). He is in your thoughts, prayers, motives, decisions, hopes and actions. Your life is not separable from Christ, for they are one in the same Ė this is a mystery (Eph 5:25-32). Your life revolves around Him and not you. Your actions will be weighed based upon His light. Your life is found in Christ and that relationship and not in religious activities and works. Your heart should always be to please Him and seek His will Ė for this you do voluntarily out of love as you seek to glorify God. A believerís faith will be tested and tried (1 Thess 2:4). This process will draw us closer to God or push us away. The heart will reveal itself under pressure and must be purified. Impurities are identified and burnt away (removed) as the purifying flame (trials and tribulations) is put to oneís life. This is a denial of the flesh and is not necessarily pleasant, but is spiritually necessary. By nature of the act, to "follow" is to submit, yield and obey.
Instead of "seizing the inheritance, God desires that we "bring forth fruits in their seasons (Mt 21:41)." But what does this mean? Luke 8:15, "But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience." First you must have a heart toward God, receive the truth of His Word (as revealed by His Spirit, see Chapter Six), and apply the truth to your life (live it, be doers). As the Spirit leads you and you obey, God performs a work in you to conform you to the image of Christ (with whom God was well pleased, Mt 3:17, 12:18, 17:5, Mk 1:11, Lk 3:22, 2 Pt 1:17). Philippians 2:13, "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." AND Hebrews 13:21, "Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." This means that you die to self and come under His authority. This is the fruit that God desires to be manifested in your life and will be evidenced by Godís nature in you (love, joy, peace, self control, patience, etc.). When you abide in Christ, God purgeth you to bring forth more (much) fruit and thus He is glorified (Jn 15:2, 5, 8). This fruit is the patient work of Godís labors in you. Psalms 1:3, "And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." Those that are in Christ will yield results and fruits will appear. If not, the unfruitful branch is cut away and thrown into the fire (Jn 15:2, 6, Lk 13:6-9, Mt 7:19).
Mark 8:34, "And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." Jesus said, "Whosoever will." What hinders you? The narrow path is not crowded; the invitation is open to all. What is the cost? - Trading your love of self for the love of another (Jesus). John 3:30, "He must increase, but I must decrease." What about those who will not "come after" or "follow?" Mark 8:35-36, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospelís, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Job 27:8, "For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul?" To gain self will and supposed control is to lose the life of Christ and ultimately your soul. After a life of doing what is right in your own eyes, what will you exchange for your soul (v. 37)? You have nothing to offer God nor will you take anything with you beyond the grave (Job 1:21). Will you shame Christ by rejecting Him? What goes around comes around (v. 38).
Seeing the Value
Consider this parable: Matthew 13:44, "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field." The kingdom of heaven is an eternal treasure whose value cannot be comprehended. When a man finds this treasure (has eyes to see) and realizes its worth, he is willing to part with everything (sacrifice) that he has to obtain it (repentance) Ė Ps 119:14, 162. In other words everything of value in his life becomes meaningless in comparison with what he seeks to gain (new life). This man immediately begins to part with all (his old way of life) and makes necessary changes to obtain this treasure (new life). Many come professing Christ, but never really see the importance of denying themselves, taking up the cross and following Him. Hence they simply add one more interest (being a Christian) to their already established lifestyle. They want the treasure, just not the sacrifice. Jesus likened this to putting new cloth on an old garment (Lk 9:16). You are just putting a Jesus patch on your old Adamic life. God may never take priority in their lives and thus competes with other interests (idols). These folks do not sell out (all they have) and do not obtain the treasure. Truly following will require one to forsake sinful entertainments, incorrigible friends, fleshly desires, idols, etc. Matthew 13:45-46, "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it." Those that truly recognize the value of the kingdom of heaven will do anything to obtain it. This usually results in significant changes in oneís life to conform to Godís will Ė totally abandoning sinful lifestyles and forsaking much of what the world thinks is important. Most will look for an easier way. If this does not make sense to you or it seems extreme or fanatical, then you havenít recognized the value. Until you truly recognize the value, nothing will change.
Mark 10:17-23, "And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" This was a very religious man that seemed to have all the bases covered. He did everything that seemed to be required of him. Jesus did not dispute this. Jesus looked deeper, into the manís heart and went right to the source of his problem. This man did not love God with his full heart because he retained self-sufficiency and control. There was a big idol, his self and resources (money). He obviously trusted (loved) in his resources more than God, but didnít see the problem. Riches can exalt and separate one above others. Jesus loved him and provided a solution. Sell everything and give to the less fortunate Ė tear down the idol and be free of its hold (bondage). Deny yourself and make sacrifices for others Ė show love. Submit and be a servant (humbleness and meekness) Ė become least. Then Jesus asked him to follow. Jesus was already setting the example. Christ was saying, put aside your religious endeavors and come to me with a whole heart and have a living relationship. This man was willing to serve God just so far (and zealously), but no further. This man was willing to follow legalistically and keep a list of doís and doníts, but his heart was on his riches and the things of the world. He could not see his need for Christ. Perhaps he viewed his needs as greater than the those of the poor. Jesus was asking him to make God the center of his life and he was unwilling. He didnít see the value. He wanted to follow a formula that allowed him to reserve a huge area of his life for self Ė that which he controlled. We must serve God His way. This is a very sobering message to those of who have eyes on retirement and bank accounts for daily or future provision. What if Jesus said, give away all thou hast and come follow me? Perhaps this man like most just sought out another teacher that would affirm or justify his desires rather than confront his pet idol. His original question was, "what must I do?" Many ask the question, but how many follow the answer? We die to ourselves and serve God with a full heart! Do you ask the question expecting a certain answer? So much of manís religion is built upon the answer SELF wants to hear.
Counting the Cost
Matthew 8:19-20, "And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head." By nature the flesh seeks shelter and comfort, but Jesus was following the Spirit and this is not a path of ease to the flesh. Many are expecting blessings and worldly prosperity, but Christ never sought these things and followers should not expect any different. Jesus did receive much rejection and reproach. Christís kingdom is not of this world. John 14:2, "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." Many have used this verse to suggest that we will each have a big mansion in heaven and be catered to by God in eternal bliss. The word "mansion" is referring to a place of dwelling or room. We become a part of Godís family and dwell with Him (Rev 20:3, 21:2). New Jerusalem (heaven) will be an indescribably beautiful place, but do not suppose there will be the same fleshly lusts or desires there. On earth things like money, gold, houses, lands, possessions, and titles are highly sought after things of the flesh. Jesus never sought these types of things and God views the desire for them as negative and temporal. In the City of God these things many hold so dear on earth are just building materials Ė the streets are paved with gold and the walls are bricked with precious stones (Rev 21). The beauty is for all to behold, but will never be used for selfish gain or control.
Luke 14:26-27, "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple." We cannot have anything or anyone in our life more important than God. Family members tend to influence our decision more than love for God and this cannot be. The reference to our "own life" is not only referring to physical life but our self-centeredness and self-sufficiency. Bearing your cross and coming after Jesus undeniably means to follow in His steps. The cross is the shame and reproach that we will all suffer Ė many are the afflictions of the righteous (Ps 34:19). This will make no sense to those living in the flesh. Taking up the cross means death to self, the point of no return. When one took up the Roman cross that meant they were not coming back. We die to our old life and follow Christ into His kingdom. There is a cost to be considered: Luke 14:28-30, "For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish." We are to consider the cost of following Jesus. We read of Jesusí example in the last chapter. Study Christís example and determine if you willing to follow the path of the cross to completion? Yes, you will need the Lordís help! Yes, you will need the Lordís strength! But are you willing? If not, you will start a work and not complete it. You will become a hypocrite for all to see or be deceived with many of the religious. Many will not consider the foundation they are building upon. Luke 14:31-33, "Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple." Following is not sitting on a church pew one or two days of the week (Mt 25:25-26)! Following is a daily living of your faith. Following involves forsaking and self denial and is truly a narrow path. Christ forsook all for you, and relationships are reciprocal.
Luke 9:59-60, "And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God." There is no life apart from "following" Jesus. When we do not follow Christ we are as the living dead. This may have seemed like a reasonable request, but when Christ calls there is no time or place for delay. God must take precedent in our lives. We cannot have other priorities in our lives no matter how rational or justifiable they may seem. Life is found in Christ, all else leads to death. This man lacked a real zeal toward Christís calling. This man assumed that his priorities would also be Godís and that his ways would be Godís ways. Rather than providing Christ with a submissive answer, he turned the circumstance around such that God was waiting or answerable to him.
Luke 9:61-62, "And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." How many say, Lord I will follow "BUT." One must be focused and committed to continue a work begun (2 Pt 2:20, 22). Once a decision is made there can be no looking back (drawing back) or distractions. Do we rebuild that which we destroyed Ė died to (Gal 2:18)? Have you made a commitment to God and allowed other distractions to interfere or take precedence? When we look back, are we not regretting some aspect of our decision? Perhaps one misses (longs for) selfish or sinful facets of their old life (Pv 14:14, 24:19-20). Maybe we want to hold onto something that was let go or sacrificed? Perhaps Christ is saying to you that youíve made a confession so when are you going to put your hand to the plough? Some answer "I go" but "go not" (Mt 21:30).
The Path of the Cross
The path of the cross is the path that Christ followed as detailed in the last chapter. This could also be thought of as the narrow way that leads to eternal life. This is not a path of ease, and following will require sacrifice and denial; trials and tribulations; suffering reproach; unpopularity; death to self; simplicity of life; patience; self control; righteousness; holiness and godliness. This path is narrow and there is no room for your views, just Godís purposes. You may find that once you have decided to truly give your whole heart to God, others may not be willing to go along with you on this path. Some of these may be those that now make a profession of Christ or are very religious. Many will look at this pathís rough terrain and prefer the well-beaten broad path of the world instead. There is no room on this narrow path for selfish or worldly things. Christ will provide the necessities along the way and His Spirit will guide and direct, but only as one yields to Him. Proverbs 4:25-27, "Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil." Our eyes must be focused straight ahead on Christ. This path is narrow and we cannot turn to the left or the right. We must constantly examine where we are going and remove ourselves from evil.
Stephen Follows the Path of the Cross
Stephen followed the path of the cross (Acts, Chapters 6-7): There arose some murmuring in the Early Church because certain widowsí needs were being neglected. The apostles wanted to devote themselves to the study of Godís Word (as we all should be doing). Acts 6:2, "Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables." So the apostles appointed men for the task of "serving tables." Stephen who is described as full of faith and of the Holy Ghost was appointed to this duty. Now this is not a high profile position that most would desire and requires a humbling of oneself. Jesus once said: Matthew 23:11, "But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant." Stephen was faithful in the small things and the Lord blessed him and promoted him (Mt 25:21, 1 Cor 4:2). Acts 6:8, "And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people." There soon arose certain of the synagogue (the religious) that disputed with Stephen. Acts 6:10, "And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake." Jesus had said: Matthew 10:19, "But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak." Such was the case with Stephen: Acts 6:11-13, "Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law." Character assassination (misrepresentation) was the mode of operation for the religious. They had done the same thing to Jesus Ė even the accusations of blasphemy and false witnesses. Christ had said they were of their father the devil and his will they would do (Jn 8:44). How did Stephen respond to all of this? Acts 6:15, "And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel."
Stephen then proceeds to preach through the wisdom of the Holy Ghost and brings great conviction upon his accusers. Acts 7:54, "When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth." Do you see how Stephen is following in the path of Jesus? Humble, faithful, obedient and led of the Spirit. Is the Lord pleased? Acts 7:55-56, "But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." These religious folks did not receive this at all: Acts 7:57, 59, "Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." How did Stephen react? Did he lash out and ask God to avenge this wrongful deed? Acts 7:60, "And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep." Wow! He forgave them just like Jesus did. If we do not forgive others, then we need not expect God to forgive us (Mt 6:15). Scripture says he "fell asleep." One must wonder if he even felt the stones that crushed his body. Did not God receive the glory? He loved not his life even unto death, literally dying to SELF to please God. Well done good and faithful servant! During the stoning of Stephen: Acts 7:58, "Öthe witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul (Paul)." This young man would later follow the path of the crossÖ.
Paul Follows the Path of the Cross
Initially Paul started out as a persecutor of the Church (Acts 8:3, 9:1-2). He was very religious and thought he was serving God. Jesus once said, John 16:2, "They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service." Paul was spiritually blind (Acts 9:8-9) until the Lord opened his eyes that he could see (Acts 9:17-18). Jesus confronted Paul in a mighty way when he was traveling to persecute Christians in Damascus. There was an immediate noticeable change in Paulís nature (Acts 9:20-22, 27, 29). God chose Saul; thus having mercy on whom He will have mercy (Acts 22:14-15, Rm 9:15). Jesus said of Paul: Acts 9:15-16, "Öfor he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake." Paulís future suffering was not Jesusí way of getting revenge on him. No! Suffering and tribulation are a natural part of every discipleís walk (who boldly professes Christ). 2 Timothy 3:12, "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." AND John 15:19, "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." Everyone who truly follows Christ will suffer at the hands of the world. Did Jesus Words come true for Paul (Acts 9:23)? 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, "Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches." Paul taught the gospel of Christ: Acts 20:21, "Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." Paul went back to Jerusalem one last time to plead with the religious. He had a good sense of what awaited him: Acts 20:22, "And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God." From the moment he entered into the temple the crowd grabbed him and thrust him out: Acts 21:31, "And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar."
Paul was allowed audience before the people to present the gospel. Acts 22:22-23, "And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live. And as they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air." From that day forward Paul became imprisoned, yet had the opportunity to testify before governors, kings, and emperors. While in bonds (and suffering), many fellow believers were ashamed of him and he exhorted Timothy not to follow suit (2 Tm 1:8, 15). Paul was sent to Rome where he was martyred for the cause of Christ. Well done good and faithful servant! What did Paul say about all this: 2 Timothy 4:6-8, "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." Paul was offered for Godís glory! He kept the faith with his eyes upon Jesus! Are we not all instructed to do the same?
Paul was raised to be a very religious man. He was a pharisees pharisee and blameless in the requirements of his religion (Acts 26:5, Php 3:5-6). He was taught at the feet of a very respected teacher (doctor of the law, Acts 5:34, 22:3) and was zealous for his religion (Acts 22:3). Paul said: Galatians 1:14, "And profited in the Jewsí religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers." Paul was greatly accepted by his religious peers when he lived a religious life of manís attempts to serve God through the flesh. He was given great authority by the religious leaders (Acts 8:3-4, 9:1-2, 26:10, 12). Paulís life and religion were intrinsically intertwined Ė this was his very life. On the road to Damascus, Paul had an encouter with God Himself Ė Jesus Christ. Acts 9:15-16, "But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake." Jesus stated: Acts 26:16-18, "But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me." Paul didnít choose Christ; Jesus through His mercy chose Paul Ė for His purposes. Now Paul had to "come out" of this religion that was his very life. He had to totally forsake the only life he knew for Christ Jesus. Paul had a tremendous choice to make Ė to continue to be religious and serve man or to serve God in His truth. He later stated: Acts 26:19-20, "Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance." Paul OBEYED God, forsook his religiosity (his old life) and then taught the true gospel of repentance (Gal 1:13-17). Paul brought forth fruits meet for repentance by forsaking this old dead religion and totally losing his old life such that he could gain true life through Christ (Lk 9:24). Paul counted all his religious efforts but dung compared to the life in Christ: Philippians 3:7-11, "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead." His righteousness was found in Christ and not in religion (of which he was well trained) or the efforts and works of man which he had once sought to perform. How many in the religious world today would desire such things or even consider losing anything? Paul conformed to Christís death by both dying to self (loss of position and selfish life) and literally physically dying. The path of the cross is narrow, but it leads home. The path you choose will lead to your eternal home.
When Paul left his religiosity behind, he became a very persecuted man. The religious now turned upon him with a vengance (Acts 9:24, 23:14-15, 26:21, 1 Thess 2:15-16). Even so, Paul said: 2 Corinthians 12:10, "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." Our weakness in SELF is our strength in depending upon God. Paul was falsely accused by the religious just like Jesus had been. The religious now sought Paulís life just as they had done Christís. The Roman governor had said of Jesus: John 18:38, "Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all. Later: John 19:4, "Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him (also Acts 13:28)." Now notice what the authorities said of Paul when the religious accused him: Acts 26:30-32, "And when he had thus spoken, the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them: And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds. Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar (also Acts 23:29)." Paul was imprisoned and ultimately martyred. Jesus and Paul were both innocent, but the religious relentlessly persecuted them until they had their way. We will either accept the light, run from it, or seek to extinguish it. Those in rebellion to God either run from or persecute the truth.
A Bold Statement
Jesus was reaching the end of His path. John 13:36-38, "Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards." Peter knew what he meant, John 13:37, "Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake. Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice." Later, the Lordís Words rang true, when Peter denied the Lord a third time in a rage of cursing (Mt 26:74). Peter had followed Christ from the beginning and loved Him dearly. Peter thought he could follow the path of the cross, but found he was not ready. The reality of persecution and losing oneís life hit a little to close to home when it actually occurred (Mk 4:17). When Peter should have been seeking the Lord and praying for strength, he was sleeping (Lk 22:40-46). Peter did not lose faith because Jesus himself had intervened earlier, Luke 22:31-32, "And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." Peter thought he had strength in himself, but our strength must come from God. Jesus had been praying for strength in the Garden of Gethsemane, but Peter had fallen asleep (Mt 26:40). When Jesus found Peter and the others: Luke 22:46, "And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation." 1 Corinthians 10:12, "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." When we become confident in ourselves then watch out! Our confidence must be in the Lord, not the flesh.
Shortly after Christís resurrection, Jesus and Peter had a conversation. Jesus asked Peter if he loved him (and told him to feed His sheep) once for each time Peter had denied Him prior to the crucifixion. Christ then prophesied: John 21:18-19, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me." This is so significant; Jesus has just told Peter to follow in His foot steps, the path of the cross. He has told Peter that he will physically die (be martyred) for Christ and for Godís glory, but to follow anyway! Peter would have the opportunity to follow through on his earlier claim. We must be prepared to obey Christ unto death if required (Rev 12:11). Peter did follow Jesus and preached the gospel of repentance (Acts 2:38). He performed many miracles including raising the dead (Acts 9:37-41), suffered persecutions and tribulations, and followed the path of the cross to his physical death for Christís namesake. Peter once boldly announced to his religious persecutors, "We ought to obey God rather than men," afterwards, he was beaten. His response was: Acts 5:41, "And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name." We must all be prepared to suffer shame for Jesusí namesake. However, we cannot suffer if we are not professing Christís name boldly before men and following.
The Two Kingdoms
In previous chapters we covered how man chose to follow his own will, disobeyed God, and fell from Godís grace. Man now lives in a fallen world, corrupted with sin. God has interacted with man through various means since the fall for the purpose of redeeming and reconciling fallen man back to Himself (Heb 1:1-4). God does not excuse or overlook sin and rebellion, so man could not be redeemed without an acceptable atonement. God sent Jesus, His only Son to be that acceptable sacrifice to once and for all atone for manís sin. Jesus came and lived a life devoid of self and in total obedience to God, and thus was without sin. Jesus laid His life down as the unblemished sacrificial lamb for all of mankind (1 Pt 1:19-20). This sacrifice was acceptable to God and thus all men may now be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ (2 Cor 5:18-19).
So there now exists two kingdoms, the kingdom of Christ (Light) and the kingdom of darkness (Acts 26:18). These may also be thought of as two paths, one narrow with few travelers that leads to eternal life and one broad and well traveled that leads to eternal damnation (Mt 7:13-14). The kingdom of darkness or the broad path is the fallen world that one is naturally "born" into. The kingdom of Christ or the narrow path is that way which one is "born again" into (Jn 3:3, Col 1:12-13, 1 Pt 1:23, 1 Cor 15:46). We must seek the light such that there is no darkness within us. The narrow path is one of faith. The broad path is one of unbelief. Faith and unbelief are determined through actions (doer of the Word?).
Kingdom of Christ
When Jesus says, "come follow me," His kingdom is where He is leading. Christ rules and reigns in this kingdom and it is one of righteousness, holiness, peace and truth. Jesusí kingdom begins now (Lk 17:21). God dwells with His people in this place and eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the wonderful things that await for them that love Him (Rev 21:3, 1 Cor 2:9). God is light and in Him is no darkness. Christ calls us out of the darkness into His light (1 Pt 2:9). Jesusí desire is: Acts 26:18, "To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me." Jesus paid a heavy price for those who will follow: Colossians 1:13-15, "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature." The path to this kingdom is not well traveled because it denies the flesh (sanctification) and seeks only Godís will. 1 John 1:5,7, "This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." Let us rejoice: Galatians 1:4-5, "Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." We have been instructed to do that which is good and come to Christís light (Jn 3:19-21). 1 Thessalonians 5:5, "Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness." We have found a great treasure through Godís mercy. 2 Corinthians 4:6-7, "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." The power is of God and not of ourselves.
Kingdom of Darkness
The kingdom of darkness represents the fallen world that we all know so well. This is a world where manís will is manifested, is mostly disobedient and rebellious toward God, and is highly influenced by Satan and his principalities and the power of darkness (Lk 22:53, Jn 7:7). These are the children of disobedience (Eph 2:2-3, 5:6, Col 3:6). Ephesians 2:2, "Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience." This is a world that has rejected Christ and thus has not been reconciled with the Father. Because they have not been reconciled, they walk in the course of this world. This is a passing world that will soon come to an end (Heb 1:10-11, 2 Pt 3:7, 12-13). Followers of Christ are sojourners, pilgrims and wayfaring men in this world Ė just passing through (1 Chr 29:15, Heb 11:13, 1 Pt 1:17 & 2:11, Is 35:8). These pilgrims grieve over the sin that abounds and seek a country (Heb 11:14). Hebrews 13:14, "For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come." Jesusí disciples are also ambassadors to represent Him to this world and be His witnesses (2 Cor 5:20, Php 2:15). God is in control and maintains presence for the electís sake and for all those who will repent, turn from their sins and receive Christ Ė for Godís glory fills all the earth (Is 6:3). God maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust (Mt 5:45). For this reason there is some good in this fallen world. Those that proceed on to hell are totally separated from Godís presence and blessings and this is a nightmare that cannot be comprehended by the human mind. God uses this world to try the hearts of men and reap an acceptable harvest (Rev 2:23, 3:10, Lk 10:2, Js 5:7). Christ died for the just and the unjust for the purpose that He might bring us to God (1 Pt 3:18).
God has and will judge wickedness on the face of the earth. There are many examples of Godís judgments in the bible that are given for us to take note. God judged the wickedness of the early world with a global flood (Gen 6:5-7). God judged the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 13:13 & 19:13). 2 Peter 2:6, "And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly." God judged seven nations in the Promised Land because of their wickedness, namely the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites (Deut 7:1-2 & 9:4-5). These nations had done lewd things with family members, homosexuality, bestiality, child sacrifice, sorcery (familiar spirits, sorcery, wizards), enchantments, astrology, skin markings, prostitution, idolatry, and all manner of evil (Lv Chapters 18-19, 20:23). Israel was warned not to do these same things, Leviticus 18:28, "That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you." God has also judged many individuals on the face of the earth due to their wickedness (1 Kg 14:10-11 & 21:21-24, Acts 12:21-23). Israel represented those who follow God in the Spirit, by faith (led by the cloudy pillar looked to God for manna and water, etc.). The evil wicked nations that possessed/occupied the promised land represented those who live in/follow the flesh (lusts, desires, etc.). Israel was to go in and utterly destroy those nations. The flesh and the things of the flesh must die Ė these oppose God. Those who live by faith in God will prevail Ė these submit and obey God. We live in a country that does these very same things and such is becoming much more prevalent and flaunted in society. The Lord said not to make covenant or marriages with them, because they will turn your children from following God (Deut 7:2-4). Do people even consider this in our day? Many barriers have been removed and access to evil is more available through the television, internet, movie rental, magazines and general acceptance in the culture. Inhibitions are lowered and acceptance is gained, what was once unheard of and done only in secret starts to become open and more common. We are not to participate in any of these evils (Deut 7:5). When one takes pleasure in unrighteousness and loves darkness, their journey down the broad path only gets darker and more deviant. These things are a snare and an abomination to God (Deut 7:25). Judgment Day looms on the horizon as the world is again as the days of Noah and of Sodom (wicked) and the sins have reached to heaven (Lk 17:26-29, Rev 18:5). Luke 17:30, "Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed."
When one follows Jesus and has received His Spirit, the Holy Ghost works to conform the individual to Christís image (Col 3:10). This process leads one in paths of righteousness and holiness for Jesusí namesake (Ps 23:3, Pv 8:20). Jesus is the image of God (Col 1:15). When one rejects Christ and continues to follow his own natural path (will) and desires (lusts), the devil and his principalities work on that one to conform him to the devilís image. Proverb 4:19, "The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble." This process leads to bondages, addictions, lewdness and ever increasing darkness. Either individual will be recognizable as to whom they serve through the fruit in their life. One may show love, joy, peace, and self control, whereas the other may use foul language, course jesting, bawdy behavior (course, vulgar, rude, lewd) and have affection for the things of the world (Eph 4:29, Col 3:8). The sad thing is that many who are lost do not see themselves as such because their own darkness has blinded their eyes and minds such that they do not understand or recognize their sin (2 Cor 4:4, Jn 12:40, 1 Jn 2:11). The lukewarm are the religious who are living in darkness yet think they are in the light by reason of a mere confession Ė deception. You cannot reason with those who love the darkness. They will defend and justify their love and relationship. Only those who seek the light will listen. This is the challenge of this book, to reach those who will listen.
The Truth in Light
In the beginning God put a division between the light and the darkness (Gen 1:4). The light is representative of Godís glory, righteousness, holiness and purity. The darkness is representative of disobedience to God and the resultant evil (sin, transgressions and iniquities). Due to the disobedience of man, the whole world lies in darkness (1 Jn 5:19). In the midst of this darkness, God has provided His witnesses (lights). These lights are represented in the creation account as stars which provide light upon the earth (Gen 1:14-18). Jesus said: Matthew 5:14, "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid." We are to release all darkness and come to the light and be Godís witnesses upon this earth. Daniel 12:3, "And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever." Jesus was the ultimate light come down to a rebellious mankind. Consider Christís righteous light:
John 1:4-5, "In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." Isaiah 9:2, "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." John 8:12, "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." John 3:19-21, "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God." John 12:46, "I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness." Luke 11:35-36, "Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness. If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light." Romans 13:12, "The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light." Matthew 5:16, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Philippians 2:15, "That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world." John 12:36, "While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light..." Psalm 27:1, "The LORD is my light and my salvationÖ" Ephesians 5:8, "For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light." Amen. Jesus is the light that leads us through the darkness as we "follow." Those whose eyes are not upon the light will stumble and fall. In eternity there will be no sun nor moon, but the Lord will literally be our light (in more ways than one, Is 60:19-20, Rev 21:23, 22:5).
When we live in darkness, choosing our will over Godís, choosing to seek the things of the flesh rather than the things above, we become blinded to the light (Col 3:1, 2 Cor 4:4). Bit by bit, day by day, thought by thought the light diminishes by our own choice of darkness Ė you grope in the darkness (Job 12:25). The darkness increases in power and rules your thoughts, actions and decisions, for you walk therein (Pv 2:13). Ephesians 4:18-19, "Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness." Consider those who reject Godís Word: Romans 2:5-6, 8-9 "But after thy hardness and impenitent (unrepentant) heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds. But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth (reject), but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile." We must "follow" Christ in righteousness (and thereby be saved from wrath Ė Rm 5:9): Light is sown for the righteous (Ps 97:11). God gives light in the way we should go (Neh 9:33). Romans 1:17, "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." AND Romans 2:7, "To them who by patient continuance (steadfast, day by day) in well doing (righteousness) seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life." We must walk by our faith (Spirit) and not by our sight (flesh) - 2 Cor 5:7. Man is justified by faith (Rm 3:28)! Satan will try and imitate Godís light to draw men unto himself (2 Cor 11:14). We must let Jesus shine in our hearts by choosing the light instead of the darkness. We are called out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Pt 2:9). Ephesians 5:14, "Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." Consider this: 1 John 1:5, "This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." Psalm 104:2, "Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain." Christ is our example to follow in His steps and in Him is no darkness. This means that in this life we should be striving, through Christ (abiding), to eliminate the darkness out of our life as being obedient and led of His Spirit. 1 John 1:7, "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." Notice the "if" we walk in the light. Some will "profess Christ," yet stay in the darkness and thereby not be cleansed from all sin. 2 Corinthians 4:6, "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." Guard your heart from darkness and seek Christís light (Ps 36:9). Proverbs 4:18-20, "But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. Psalm 119:105, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Proverb 4:19, "The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble." Proverb 6:23, "For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life." The light shines more and more in our lives as we conform to Christís image day by day, until the perfect day when we see Him as He is (1 Jn 3:2). 2 Samuel 22:29, "For thou art my lamp, O LORD: and the LORD will lighten my darkness." Job 29:3, "When his candle shined upon my head, and when by his light I walked through darkness." Followers walk through this dark world on a narrow path led by the Spirit.
Those that love darkness want to hear all about Godís love in terms of acceptance. They want a God of unconditional love Ė to sin and not die. They want a God who will allow the love of darkness. Job 24:13, "They are of those that rebel against the light; they know not the ways thereof, nor abide in the paths thereof." They donít necessarily want to come to the light, they just want to be forgiven and have grace to remain in the darkness. Often religious institutions will talk all about Godís love as they choose to define it, yet rarely talk about the evil of sin or Godís righteous judgment and a necessary life of righteousness and holiness. These are known as smooth messages that will appease the flesh. Those who bring these messages will be popular and praised. These are those that rebel against the truth of the light and will not come to it. They reject God for one of their own making. The truth is that God loves you so much that He desires the best for you. He wants to remove you from the filth and shame and bring you out of the darkness into the light. God gave His only Son to accomplish this and this was a precious sacrifice. If you choose to remain in the dark, you have rejected Godís true love Ėyou condemn yourself. The light of the wicked will be put out (Job 18:6-7).
What shall be said of those who love the darkness and will not come to the light? Isaiah 59:6-7, "Ötheir works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands. Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths." They behold obscurity (shadows, muriness); for brightness, but we walk in darkness (Is 59:9). They depart from God speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood (Is 59:13).
Until we understand our condition, there can be no remedy. John 8:31-34, "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin." Notice that Jesus is talking to those who believe in Him Ė they "profess Christ." Jesus was telling them that His truth would set them free, but they didnít see that they had a problem to be set free of. When you realize your sin, then and only then can you see your need of deliverance from it. If you do not acknowledge your bondages, then you certainly canít be freed from them. If you cannot acknowledge truth and seek repentance then you cannot be recovered from self and the snare of the devil, who takes captive at will (2 Tm 2:25-26). Unregenerate man is helplessly under the dominion of Satan and sin because he has his nature. Jesus came to set you free, but you first must see the need and then desire the freedom (1 Jn 3:5, 8-9). Just because we know something is sin doesnít mean we have power over the sin. We need to understand that we are not going to be able to deliver ourselves. When you realize your sin (the filthiness), then and only then can you see your need of deliverance from it. Many in the religious world acknowledge the sin, but donít see the need for deliverance Ė theyíve accepted it! They see a profession of Christ as a means whereby God now overlooks or excuses continuance in sin. This is not continuing in the truth (Word) Ė its rejection of the truth! The love of sin must be dealt with. You must be converted (take on Godís nature) and have the desire of sin removed. The kingdom of God is not about just following rules for rules sake. The kingdom of God is about righteousness and holiness Ė having correct attitudes, motives and love in your heart. The greatest joy you can know is to serve God because you love Him and WANT TO Ė you serve with joyfulness and gladness of heart (Deut 28:47)! Ė you delight yourself in the Lord (Is 58:14, Ps 40:8)! In God we boast all the day long (Ps 44:8)! You do not serve out of fear of hell, fear of men, or guilty conscious. No. You serve Him because He is the joy of your heart and you love Him. John 8:36, "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." Luke 1:74-75, "That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life." We obey God out of correct desire (not compulsion), because we understand the merit and hate the darkness and love the light. There are multitudes of people who profess a certain fear of God (fear of hell, obligation, guilt, abstract agreement with His truth, etc.) who nevertheless serve their own gods to which their hearts are devoted and in which they put their trust. Although they find agreement with Godís truth (unconnected from their person), they are not able to apply it to their lives due to their stronger commitment to SELF.
When Israel entered the Promised Land, they were to destroy the wickedness out of the land. They were not to learn of the wickedness of the people of the land or unite with them in any way. Deuteronomy 12:30-31, "Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods." They were not to seek after their own heart or their own eyes which are used to go awhoring (away from God to the things of the world, Num 15:39). Israel disobeyed God: Psalm 106:35, "But were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works." They walked after the imaginations (willfulness Ė their way) of their own hearts and God said they would be cursed and He would blot their names from under heaven (Deut 29:18-20). We live in a time when those who profess Christ have mingled with the people and certainly learned their evil ways. It is very important to note that even though we are to be a light in this world, we have no justification to partake of the flesh or things of the world. We do not become like the world to win the world because doing so would only prove that the world has won us rather than vice versa. We are to overcome and be separate (2 Cor 6:17, 1 Jn 5:4). The next thing Israel did was: Psalm 106:36, "And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them." They became like the world around them and this polluted them. Many who profess Christ today have done the same and seem to think that grace allows them to do this. The next thing Israel did was: Psalms 106:37-38, "Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils, And shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood." Some who profess Christ have sacrificed their children to devils through abortion. Many others have sacrificed their children to the world by allowing the world through its knowledge and entertainment to teach their children to live in a manner that opposes God. I dare say that with most this message is one sided (worldly) and not even balanced with parental teaching of Christ. Lastly: Psalm 106:39, "Thus were they defiled with their own works, and went a whoring with their own inventions (ideas)." When we seek our own ways (flesh) and our ideas (opinions) apart from God, we are in great error. Many will do this in a religious context and this becomes the nature of the apostasy. So, how did God see this: Psalm 106:40, "Therefore was the wrath of the LORD kindled against his people, insomuch that he abhorred his own inheritance." There is a message here for all of us who say we are called by His name.
We are about to cover some material that the flesh will surely rebel against. I say in advance, if you cannot acknowledge the sin, bondages and the evil nature of your heart, then you cannot be free of them. You then love the darkness and will not come to the light (Jn 3:19-20). Many want to be saved from the consequences of sin and have no desire to be saved from the wretched, evil nature of their heart. This is so predominant in todayís form of Christianity. Please pray now that the Lord will open your eyes.
Who is the Great I AM?
God referred to himself as "I AM" when inquired of by Moses. God IS everything that we could image. He is our life, provision, health, deliverance, wisdom, salvation, etc. Jesus further stated this when He said: John 8:58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I AM." Jesus is the manna that man must live by. John 6:48, 51, "I AM that bread of life. I AM the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." This was further emphasized: John 14:6, "Jesus saith unto him, I AM the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
The problem is that man likes to place himself in the position of "I AM." Man mostly seeks his will over Godís purposes in keeping with the original sin of disobedience in the Garden of Eden. Man says, I am self sufficient, have self-knowledge and will seek self-gratification. I will determine my own way and walk therein. The religious qualify this by saying God will understand because we "profess" Christ and grace allows it. Isaiah 47:8, 10, "Therefore hear now this, thou that art given to pleasures, that dwellest carelessly, that sayest in thine heart, I AM, and none else beside me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children. For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness: thou hast said, None seeth me. Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee; and thou hast said in thine heart, I AM, and none else beside me." God is not mocked and man continues to rebel and seat himself in the throne of God. Jesus said: John 8:24, "I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I AM he, ye shall die in your sins." To believe is to live daily in demonstrated faith. There is only one way to God: John 8:12, "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I AM the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." We are either following self or Christ and our actions reveal our choice. The condition is: "He that followeth." Would you believe that after Jesus revealed Himself as the great "I AM" to a religious audience that they looked for stones to kill Him (Jn 8:59)? Do not allow your religiosity to cause you to be blind to the very light of God.
God wants to be the great "I AM" in your life. He is your creator, who loves you and wants the best for you. God wants to be your Lord, Savior, Father, provider, healer, knowledge base, guide, friend, special interest, etc. The question is: Is He? Perhaps you are the great "I AM" in your life. Full of self-confidence and assurance, seeking after those things you desire? Perhaps a loved one is the great "I AM" in your life such as a parent, spouse, special romance, or best friend (Lk 14:26)? Perhaps the great "I AM" in your life is a respected leader such as the President, a pastor/theologian, doctor or professor? Perhaps your faith is in a celebrity such as a movie star or sports hero? Perhaps the great "I AM" in your life is a thing such as a religious denomination/church, university, job/career, sports team, prized possession, television/music or hobby/special interest? The fact is that there can only be one great "I AM" in your life Ė and this is where your heart will be. If there were two, you would love the one and hate the other (Mt 6:24, Lk 16:13).
The Path of Least Resistance
Consider a stream of water meandering through a valley. Water always takes the path of least resistance and thus flows downstream. The course of the stream is defined by the surrounding topography. If an object such as a rock is in the path, water will either go around it or over it but not through it. Water never flows upstream or against the current. Most people live their lives in a similar fashion. They take the path of least resistance. Most chart their lives by the course of the world to fit in and get along. To differ from the norm (majority, popular culture) will bring about separation, confrontation, self-denial and reproach. The flesh (physical self) seeks acceptance and comfort. This is why man would never in and of himself choose to follow God. Following the Lord requires that we go against the flow/current of this world Ė a very narrow path. This is discomforting to the flesh because it must now be denied worldly acceptance, pleasures, cares and the comfort it seeks. The will of the flesh must submit to the will of God. Had God not drawn us to Himself and provided His Spirit, this would be an impossible task for man to fulfill. The danger and deception occurs when we identify ourselves with God, but then compromise and justify our actions such that we are flowing along the broad stream of the world and are actually traveling opposite of Godís will. We are no longer noticeable, because we are no longer going against the current Ė we then become a part of the current (Ps 119:2-3). We must understand Christís statement: John 10:27, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." The true sheep hear and they will follow. Jesus Christ always went against the current (see Chapter Two or read the Gospels) and so will His sheep. This is not a leisure journey and will require a denial of the will of the flesh Ė a taking up of the cross (Mt 16:24, Mk 8:34, 10:21, Lk 9:23). The flesh will never seek the path of the cross. There will be suffering, trials, testing, and reproach, which will require trust and obedience (faith). Fortunately those who follow are not alone Ė His rod and staff comfort through this valley of the shadow of death (Ps 23:4). Notice in the verse, Jesus "knows" us Ė we will not be forsaken (Heb 13:5).
Because the world is fallen and manís will is mostly manifested, manís works or desires (things of the world) are tainted with sin and rebellion (1 Jn 5:17, Is 40:17). Ephesians 2:2-3, "Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation (life) in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others." Fallen man lives to fulfill the lusts and desires of the flesh and the carnal mind. This is displeasing and sinful to God and challenges His will. To walk in the course of this world is to be opposed to Christ. Many seek worldly temporal things. They want to establish their place in this world and partake of all its offerings. This is the emphasis of their life and in doing so the motivation is self. Beware: that which may seem important now in the days to come will be forgotten and then you will face the judgment (Eccl 2:16, 5:15-16). Then there are those who have set their affections on heavenly things, which are not visibly manifested in this world, but are eternal (Col 3:1-11). To obtain the heavenly one must sacrifice the earthly. We are not to walk in the spirit of the world (1 Cor 2:12). The former are referred to as cold (broad path, darkness) regarding Christ and the latter as hot (narrow way, light). Finally there is a group that seeks to be a combination of the two. They seek the flesh and things of the world, but also identify themselves with Christ Ė they are religious in seeking God their way rather than His way. These are the lukewarm (double minded, deceived). Christ actually preferred that we be cold or hot. The lukewarm bring dishonor to God in that they claim to represent Him, but live in a manner that opposes Him (Ez 20:39). They wrongfully represent Him to the world. They want to be as the heathen (Ez 20:32). They are adulterers with the world (Js 4:4). When we are endeared to Christ, then we will not desire to do those things, which oppose Him. The things of the world appeal to our flesh nature Ė those things that oppose Christ. The world wants us to be as it is. This is why the narrow path is narrow and less traveled. To be on this path, one must overcome the world or those things that oppose Christ (1 Jn 5:4). Are you willing to suffer reproach for Christís namesake?
Through his free-will man has established nations, cultures, governments, education, religions, currencies, measures, entertainments, etc. in order to fulfill the lusts and desires of his will. God does influence many things and His glory fills the earth (and is in control), but much is also allowed to be freely developed out of manís rebellious knowledge and will (Is 6:3). The whole world lies in wickedness (1 Jn 5:19). Godís children are not to live for the flesh or manís will, but for Godís will (1 Jn 5:19-20). We abstain from fleshly lusts (1 Pt 2:11). 1 John 2:15-17, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." These scriptures are clear; to love worldly things is to oppose God and not even know Him. Since we are pilgrims sojourning in this world, we do not seek the things of the world. We have been reconciled to the Father through Christ and now live for His will exclusively. In other words we have left the broad path and are now on the narrow. We do not live in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God Ė for we shall one day give account (1 Pt 4:2, 5). We must escape the corruption that is in the world through lust and not live by the principles (rudiments) of the world (2 Pt 1:3-8, Col 2:20). This will not be accomplished through a list of thousands of doís and doníts, but through a changed heart and loving faith in God as led by His Spirit. The Spirit will specifically lead (virtue, godliness, self control, love), and in all cases it will be toward righteousness and holiness. Romans 13:14, "But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." The will of the Father is that we be delivered from this present evil world through Jesus Christ (Gal 1:4). Christ will do nothing for you as long as you love the world and itís pollutions and entanglements.
So believers must not love or take enjoyment in the things the world seeks after. This is equated to following the ways of Balaam (mixing the things of God with the world, 2 Pt 2:15) and is grievous (2 Pt 2:15-16). Balaam advised that Godís people could not be conquered unless they could be corrupted with evil such that God would turn against them (2 Pt 2:18). Examples are numerous such as money, jewelry, possessions, entertainments, power, control, etc. This is being allured through the lusts of the flesh Ė through much wantonness (depravity, debauchery, immorality, unrestraint, shamelessness, 2 Pt 2:18). Proverb 27:20, "Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied. We may require some things in the world to live, but these are not to be our desire, nor are we to put hope, trust, and undue attention in them. Our hearts are to be on God and He is to rule and reign over every area of our lives. We are told to keep ourselves unspotted from the world (Js 1:27). We are in this world, but not of this world, so we must walk in a way that pleases God and is an example to the ungodly (Jn 15:19, 17:16). Because we are in this world, we have certain needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. We also work to provide for these things. However much of what the world has to offer, a follower should not be joined to. God knows what we have need of and we are to live simply, in moderation, and be content with those things that we have (Mt 6:8, Heb 13:5, Php 4:5). 1 Timothy 6:6-8, "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content." Much of what the world desires and man has developed such as television, movies, popular music (rock, country, rap, etc.), magazines, newspapers, video games, books, manís knowledge, internet sites, alcohol, drugs, pornography, etc. are in great contradiction to the Word of God. Romans 8:8, "So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God." These things are what the scriptures refer to as the "pollutions of the world" and followers are not to become entangled in them (2 Pt 2:20, Pv 22:3). These things will become bondages and men will be overcome by them (2 Pt 2:19). These things are stumblingblocks. Iím sure the flesh is now becoming offended at many of the things written here. When the flesh is threatened or denied it lashes out. 1 John 5:4, "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." The flesh (manís will) does not want to be overcome, but if its not then there will be no reconciliation with God. To live in oneís own will is rebellion against God and subject to due penalties (Job 21:30). We live in a time when many are concerned (overcome) with the enjoyments of this world and itís cares and are overtaken in the evil thereof as caught suddenly in a snare (Lk 21:34-35).
We live in a fast pace society where most feel they must be constantly entertained. The world caters to this desire with all sorts of activities such as television, music, books, newspapers, magazines, computers/internet, video games, movie theaters, theme parks, events, careers, sports and hobbies. These things are designed to draw your attention away from God, impart a message and stay in your thoughts and conversation throughout the day. In almost all cases the messages are worldly, man-centered and contradictory to Godís Word. Consequently these are the things people will think about and meditate on through the day. These are the things that go into oneís heart and form the basis of who they are. Since these things are contrary to God and His purposes, those who do them will be also. We must zealously guard what goes into our hearts (Mt 15:18, 2 Pt 2:8) Ė we keep ourselves (1 Jn 5:18)! An example might be a newspaper or television news story designed to get everybodyís attention. These stories are always worldly with a humanistic message and will be a topic of conversation for most throughout the day. When one story gets old, it will quickly be replaced with another in a never ending fashion. These are the things man thinks are important. Man is by and large self seeking and rebellious toward God. When one truly becomes converted in heart and purpose, one will see all these things of man for what they are (unnecessary) and redeem the time for God since the days are evil (Eph 5:16, Col 4:5). We do not have time to dally (waste time): 2 Timothy 2:4, "No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier."
Rarely will one find quiet places in society with no distractions. A good example would be what one encounters in a discount store these days. There will be loud rock and roll music playing that is only interrupted by hanging television sets all over the store. The atmosphere is busy with all sorts of things to draw your thoughts and attention. Everything is orchestrated to grab our attention and influence our minds. The point is that for most, God will not be in their thoughts, just a desire to fulfill the flesh (Ps 10:4). Perhaps there are some who like to enjoy a meal in a restaurant without having loud rebellious rock and roll music playing or a television suspended in the corner. We must guard what goes into our hearts Ė do we even consider such? Does the sin which abounds grieve us? For most, there is no time and maybe no desire, to sit down and read Godís Word or pray quietly or without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17). These things should grieve our heart Ė do they? If this sounds extreme to you, it may just show where your heart is.
Those who seek the things of the world should heed the advice and conclusions of the wisest man who had the resources to seek all his fleshly desires. Ecclesiastes 1:2, 13-14, 16-17, 2:10-11, "Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge. And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun." Solomon did it all; he built works, had bodily pleasures, planted vineyards, gardens and orchards, and had servants, entertainment and great wealth. None of this satisfied. Our only peace will be found in God when we submit to Him in love and are restored to His purposes. Your joy will never be found in fleshly pleasures or pursuits; this will only lead to dissatisfaction, unfulfillment and continual never ending pursuit of fleeting contentment, eventually resulting in physical and eternal death.
In Jesusí parable of the seeds, one of the groups of lost individuals were those overtaken by the world. This particular group was described as: Luke 8:14, "And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection." Seeking pleasures and riches is serving self and not God. Many will say, "You have to live in this world." Those who put undue emphasis on the "cares" (needful things) also brought no fruit to perfection (Lk 21:34). Unfruitful branches are taken away from the vine (Christ), wither and are gathered and thrown into the fire (Jn 15:1-10). Luke 13:6-9, "He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down." The Lord is patient, but does eventually expect results. What did Jesus say about those who seek the riches of this life? Mark 10:23-24, "And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!" Notice that they "trust" in riches Ė this is what the rich do. Twice repeated is emphasis and should be heeded. Those that seek pleasure, seek self and not God (Mt 10:39, Jn 12:25). Your fruit or lack thereof will betray your heart. Let us be careful that we do not become enemies of the cross of Christ and mind earthly things (Php 3:18-19).
A Friend of the World
Adulterers and adulteresses are those who make a commitment and marry one (Christ), but lust and have eyes for others (old man, world, flesh, self). James 4:4, "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." This is why self must die! The flesh wants to do that which is contrary to the will of God. These are spiritual paramours (one in an adulterous relationship). It wants to do what is right in your own eyes Ė do what makes you feel good (Pv 12:15, Deut 12:8). After an adulterer partakes of worldy pleasures, they feel they have done no evil Ė they justify their actions. Proverbs 30:20, "Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness." This is the condemnation were their can be no mercy: they do not acknowledge their evil or turn from it. Proverbs 28:13, "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." Jesus said it plainly: Luke 16:13, "No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways (Js 1:8). You cannot live for this world and serve God also; you become an enemy of God aligned with a rebellious fallen world. James 4:8, "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double-minded." You will either yield to the world/self or Jesus, but not both. Romans 6:16, "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?"
There are what appear to be many paradoxes in scripture that are really fine lines between Godís will and manís interpretation or understanding this truth. Often these paradoxes are twisted inaccurately. God has placed followers to be lights/salt in this world to represent Him and be a witness (Mt 5:13-16). Christ walked openly in the world and we are to follow His example. Even though Christ walked publicly, He remained pure. We live in a fallen world and are now in a particularly sinful time at the end of the age (as in the days of Noah). We are to live righteously in the midst, but not become hermits in some wilderness cave. This can become a difficult task (not to become tainted) and we must have discernment to know good and evil (Heb 5:14). We must stay close to God through His Spirit and Word. As we live righteously and do not seek or participate in the things of the flesh, we actually isolate ourselves from most. When we do not participate in worldly things many will interpret this as an affront against themselves. We will at times be persecuted and men will separate from our company due to our witness. Followers of Christ must be careful not to become self righteous (Lk 18:11-12, Rm 12:3). Often you will be asked why you do not do certain things. If you respond that it is because you follow Christ, many of those asking the question will say, "I do to." Our actions will tell the real story. We will always seem this way (holier than thou) to those who are convicted by our lives. We must constantly examine our hearts before God and make sure that we have love (charity) for others, placing them above ourselves, desiring only the best and never looking down upon them (Php 2:3). You must not desire evil (witchcraft) for any man. Christ came to deliver and save and we are to follow His example.
Kiss the Calf - Everybodyís doing it!
Most will follow the world and all that is popular with the justification that, "Everybody is doing it." 2 Corinthians 10:12, "For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise." Our only rule of measure should be the Word of God. Godís Word is truth, its eternal and we will be judged by it (Ps 96:13, Jn 12:48, Is 40:8). The world does not seek the things of God, nor does it know or even understand them (Job 21:14-15). He who plots his course by majority actions will be sorely disappointed. Beware of peer pressure. "Everybodyís doing it" is merely a justification to compromise and a sure way to become distaseful and lukewarm. Those who compromise will "kiss the calves" in sacrifice to the world rather than standing for Christ (1 Kg 19:18, Hos 13:2). They bow down the knee to the image just like everybody else (Dan 3:7). Many will walk after their own devices (maybe secretly), and do the imaginations of their evil hearts (Jer 18:12, 2 Kgs 17:9-18). The Lord says: Jeremiah 13:23, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil." We must seek the Lord for new life in Him (1 Kgs 19:18). Majorities have always sought to subjugate (conquer, overcome, subdue, defeat) minorities. Pressure will always be brought to bear to conform minorities to the majority norm. Truly following Jesus will make you a minority in this world. Many religious people seek a compromise with the majority to maintain place without suffering reproach or tribulation. Many of these were tested and are now found to be lacking. When you follow Christ, you conform to His image by dying to yourself through self-denial and sacrifice - Psalm 4:5, "Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD." Israel constantly rejected God for their idolatry, yet never departed from the sins of Jeroboam (he instituted the worship of the golden calves), they always had a kiss for the golden calf (2 Kgs 17:22, 34-41). Who should we kiss? Psalm 2:12, "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him." Israel rejected God and God removed them from His sight (2 Kgs 17:23). So it will be with all who reject God. Who will stand as a light (witness, example) in this "everybodyís doing it world?" These are the very ones that God is seeking to be with Him eternally.
WellÖ.Iím not a bad person! God is totally righteous and Holy and you cannot even comprehend such (Ps 145:17). You may not think yourself bad compared to those around you in this "relative" world that man has devised, but rest assured you are filthy, soiled and detestable when compared with the heavenly (Job 15:15-16). God says that one lie will send you to hell for an eternity (Pv 6:16-17, Rev 21:8). We must fall upon Godís mercy. However, until you see your sinfulness and wickedness and repent, there can be no mercy Ė only judgment. Psalm 147:11, "The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him (want to know and perform His will), in those that hope in his mercy." Living (applying, doing) our faith in God through Christ as led by the Spirit secures mercy. This is the basic question: Jeremiah 23:18, "For who hath stood in the counsel of the LORD, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it?" Ė Live the Word! Mercy leads to grace, which is the God given ability to walk in His direction.
When considering the evil/wicked things people do/follow/conform-to that seem so innocent - many will say: well I donít really think of - the thing in question - like that; or thatís not what I intend for it to mean; this is so innocent, its fun, fun, fun and we all know its not real. Everybody has one: opinions, sentiment, speculation, persuasion, belief, perspective, and conjecture Ė just what is truth (Jn Jn 12:48, 18:38)? Perhaps sentiment best describes the reasoning of many folks. Sentiment is your belief of what seems true, valid or probable mixed with feelings and emotion. Which is the greater reality (quality or state of being actual or true, substantial and substanative): 1) What you say? or 2) what you think? or 3) what you do? Often these are not in agreement in a personís life. They are all important and form who you are. What takes precedence (in rank)? God says the greater reality is oneís actions Ė what they do (Is 29:13, Mt 15:8, Mk 7:6). Many will say one thing and do another! God will judge all according to their works (ways/doings, see Chapter Seven, "Conclusion," for a list of scriptures). However, wicked thoughts and words will not escape notice either (Heb 4:12). Speech and thought (one or both) are an ultimate part of actions. Actions are superior to words and thoughts. Speech could be an action, but when in conflict with a deed, the deed will outweigh (say and not do, Mt 21:28-31). Are your words confirmed/justified by your actions (i.e. living your profession daily, live by example)? So! Everybodys doing it Ė best make sure of what you are doing. One should carefully examine oneís heart to determine if their sentiment overules the truth Ė sentiment exalted above the throne of God.
The children of Israel had done evil and God had forsaken them to their enemies the Midianites (Judges 6:1). God sent a prophet with a message for Israel to forsake their idolatry and turn back to God, but the prophet was ignored (Judges 6:7-10, Neh 9:30, 35). God sent an angel to speak with Gideon. Gideon could not understand why God had forsaken Israel, yet he was blind to his own idolatry (Judges 6:13, Neh 9:28). Gideonís father had an altar to Baal and a grove beside it. The men of the town worshipped there. Gideon was ignorant of Godís Word or he would have surely known how displeasing this idolatry was to God. Israel was living under Godís curses (Deuteronomy chapters 28 & 30) due to their own idolatry, yet they refused to accept they were doing anything wrong. God could not use Gideon until he forsook his idolatry and became obedient to the Lord. Gideon was required to throw down his fatherís alter and cut down his grove (Judges 6:25). Obeying Godís direction immediately made Gideon very unpopular with the men of the town and they wanted to kill him (Judges 6:28-30). Through Gideonís humble obedience and forsaking of his idolatry, God exalted him to deliver Israel from their enemies. Most people today are blind to their own idolatry and much of this comes from ignorance of Godís Word. These may attend religious services often, but how many read, understand and apply Godís Word to their lives daily? Until we truly seek God we will also be dumb and blind to our own idolatry. Once you become aware of your idolatry, you must then decide to willingly forsake it rather than justify it. Before you think that you have no idolatry in your life, you may want to consider some of the examples in this book. Consider now the tremendous idol of the modern generationÖ
A Tremendous Idol
When one examines the scripture, there is no doubt that God wants our attention focused upon Him. It is also evident that the things of this world are designed to take our attention off of God and place it upon the things of man or self, as greatly influenced by the devil. This was the tactic used by Satan in Eden. The things of the world are designed to appeal to lusts and to constantly tempt. Most "professed Christians" will at least concede that in scriptural theory, that we are not to live as the world depending on how "world" is defined. The problem arises when one takes Godís command and actually applies it to oneís life. The flesh will immediately rise up and justify itself and its actions. This is the nature that is in rebellion against Godís purposes. This is the fallen nature that must be put to death. A true believer will be guided by the Holy Spirit and Godís Word and the two will be in agreement. With this in mind, let us examine a worldly example that is commonly and frequently indulged in by most. Those who love not the truth are the same ones that justify the darkness and are oblivious to their actions (or complacent) and will probably be offended by the light having exposed this darkness.
There is a much cherished and revered item in almost every home in this country. Many will spend hours a day bowing down and worshipping it. Some begin and end their day paying homage. This item has such a hold on people that it may be one of the worst addictions possible. This idol will captivate (enthrall, hypnotize, mesmerize, fascinate, and enchant), entertain, pacify, and teach. Its message is always one-sided and no dialog is permitted. Parents will allow it to teach and instruct their children in ideas that are contrary to their own deep held beliefs. Many will experience the whole range of human emotions while serving it. No one has to have this item, yet most cannot (I dare say, will not), imagine life without it. Some will build special temples (rooms) for it or purchase one that is big enough to encompass the whole room. Most will defensively say, "Everybody does it." What is this idol you might inquire? It is the television set.
Many will now rise up in protest and say that they are most certainly not addicted to it (1 Jn 1:6). Well I challenge you. Unplug the television, remove it from your home and stop paying for cable service and we shall see. Words are easy, but actions are convincing. These will respond, I could, but I just donít want to, I enjoy watching it and see nothing wrong with it (we have to live in this world). Oh really, read on.
There is no dispute that television programming is full of graphic violence, sex (and now homosexuality), adult situations, bad language, glorified drug and alcohol abuse, course jesting, witchcraft/occult, etc. Every sin that one can imagine is portrayed in an entertaining way Ė AS SEEN ON TV! Every temptation one could conceive of is paraded before your eyes and you willingly subject yourself to this. Romans 13:14, "But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." Recall from Chapter One that Satan places objects of lusts before our eyes. The devilís desire is that we think upon and chase after such things. This is how he overcomes man. For every abomination to the Lord, which He hateth, has been brought before your eyes for your pleasure (Deut 12:31). So how do you suppose the television programming fits into this? Be honest with yourself. Should we have a television in our home? Deuteronomy 7:26, "Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thine house, lest thou be a cursed thing like it: but thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing." Itís hard to believe, but most "professed Christians" (so-called) view as a source of entertainment (enjoyment), the very sins that nailed Jesus Christ to the cross. These same ones claim to know Him! No wonder Jesus said that many would call him "Lord" and yet not enter into heaven (Matthew 7:21-23). None of these will be able to tell God they "struggle" with lust and they try not to lust but cannot help it Ė Not when they sit in front of the TV. How foolish to watch lustful things and then think you struggle with sin in your life. Hebrews 12:4, "Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin." The TV will fill your heart full of all manner of evil and wickedness to the extent that victory over sin in your life will be impossible. Worse it will be an indicator that you have no desire for victory over sin in your life Ė your passions give your heart away. Is this not a continual mocking of God and a denial of all that is sacred? We will justify what we choose not to overcome! We must understand: 2 Corinthians 6:16, "And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." Is the temple being filled with filth and evil? Do you find agreement with the television idol? When God looks at your heart, what will He find therein (1 Kg 8:39)? How will this manifest in your outward actions? God takes no pleasure in wickedness and neither should we - Psalm 5:4, "For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee." We must be separate and come out from such wickedness and not touch unclean things (v. 17). We must cleanse our temples of filthiness of flesh and spirit (2 Cor 7:1).
The television is a destroyer of souls. King David (Beloved of God) once said, "I will set no wicked thing before my eyes" (Ps 101:3). What about those who do? Those who change the truth of God into a lie (as constantly taught on TV), and worshipped and served the creature (things of man) more than the Creator are given over to all manner of sins leading to death (Rm 1:25-31) and love not the truth (2 Thess 2:10, Rm 1:18). Romans 1:32, "Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them." Followers of Christ do not partake of other menís sins nor take pleasure in them, but rather keep ourselves pure (1 Tm 5:22). Those who believe Godís truth are purifying themselves and being led of His Spirit in paths of righteousness and holiness (Ti 2:14, 1 Pt 1:22, Js 4:8, Rm 8:14, 1 Jn 3:3). Followers set the Lord before them always (Ps 16:8). They are living their faith every day and this faith purifies the heart. Acts 15:9, "Öpurifying their hearts by faith." What about those who are seeking the flesh? 2 Thessalonians 2:12, "That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." There is no doubt that enjoying (being entertained by) acts of sin AS SEEN ON TV (or anywhere else) is having "pleasure in unrighteousness." Those who absorb the constant stream of ungodly programming are lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God (2 Tm 3:4). If we think about (desire) doing certain sinful things then we are equally as guilty as if we had actually done them (Mt 5:27-30). God is looking at our hearts and He will try them (Ps 7:9, Jer 17:10, 20:12, 1 Thess 2:4). We are to put aside all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness and seek Godís Word to the extent that we are doers and not hearers only (Js 1:21-22). Thoughts become actions, hearts are darkened, imaginations become vain (Rm 1:21)! The carnal mind serves the flesh (Rm 8:5-8). When viewing television, your mind and your thoughts are constantly put upon secular worldly (sinful) things of the flesh and not God. In addition to taking pleasure in unrighteousness, many temptations will be implanted in your mind and grow to produce additional sin, all of which leads to death.
Ezekiel 8:9-10, "And he said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here. So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, pourtrayed upon the wall round about." The similar message for today is: behold the wicked abominations that they do here. So I turned on the television and saw every form of wickedness, violence and idolatry portrayed upon the screen from the imagination (acting, special effects, etc.) of rebellious man. I focused my attention and became one with it.
To live in Godís truth (Word) is to abhor (avoid at all cost) any evil and wickedness (Eph 5:11, Pv 3:7, 8:13, 16:17, 22:3). Psalm 119:101, "I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word." One cannot possibly expect to keep Godís Word if one intentionally exposes oneself to evil. Perhaps keeping Godís Word is not a foremost conscious action with many who "profess," but do not follow Christ. Those that seek the Spirit apply the Word and those that seek the flesh donít. Psalm 141:4, "Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practise wicked works with men that work iniquity: and let me not eat of their dainties." The world says "come," partake of my pleasures Ė be entertained and filled with laughter. Eat, drink and fill your heart with merriment Ė let your flesh be at ease and cast the hours away. God says: "Come out" from among them and be ye separate, touch not the evil thing (2 Cor 6:17). One day you will wish you had the hours back! A choice must be made Ė whom will you serve? Who will lead, guide and teach you? Who will hold your thoughts and devotion? We must not be filled with the worldís wickedness as continually spewed forth from the television. Warning: all televised programming is not suitable for any age, any time. The wicked do not abhor that which is evil (Ps 36:1-4) Ė this is an indicator.
The television must surely be the devilís inspired invention. This one device constantly takes manís focus off of God and places it upon the things of the world and man. Manís attention is shifted to self and all manner of things that exalt themselves to oppose God. Consider this: a popular movie that reflects sinful and rebellious behavior/ideas could literally be viewed by millions of people at one time. Millions of hearts could be dwelling on the same sinful and fleshly thoughts at the same time. Many will later discuss their enjoyment of such things with others. Oh how this must grieve God! Oh how this must be accomplishing the devilís purposes! The fact is that the television is being used for values clarification (redefines). The whole world is becoming one in thought and deed. Consider the tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9): man intended to reach God his way, man intended to exalt himself, and man was making a statement to God concerning the recent flood judgment (he would rise above). God said: "Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do." The television (programming) is making this nation (and the world) one in thought and purpose. Six is the biblical number of man because he was created on the sixth day. Thrice six (666) is the ultimate in man exalting himself. We are on the verge of this and the devil will send his son, the antichrist, to lead.
Take heed what was told an audience of "believers" in scripture (Similar list in Rm 1:24-32): 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." This is our warning! We are further told in the same chapter that: 1 Corinthians 6:15-17, "Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit." The harlot is worldliness and all manner of idolatry and sinfulness. When you take pleasure in unrighteousness you join yourself with the harlot and become one with it in opposing all that is of Christ. This is the spirit of the antichrist. So, we are one in Spirit with Christ or one in spirit with the Harlot. Choose whom you will serve. A harlot speaking words of love is shallow because her actions reveal the opposite. Many will have a form of godliness (maybe a profession of Christ), but are lovers of their own selves (2 Tm 3:1-5). Romans 1:18, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness." When you have eyes full of adultery (eyes for other than Christ), you cannot cease from sin; and follow doctrines of Balaam desiring the lusts of the flesh (2 Pt 2:14-16, 18). What a perfect example of spiritual adultery (idolatry) the television is (Habak 2:19). The idols of old were wood, stone and metal. They couldnít speak. The idol of today speaks all manner of abomination to an attentive and eager audience Ė what a hold it has! Do not presume this to be innocent before God!
Now many will say at this point that they do not watch the bad stuff, only the wholesome entertainment. The problem is that there is no wholesome secular entertainment on television. The whole premise of acting is to present yourself to an audience as something you are not - to pretend and convince of an untruth (deception). The audience is made voyers into lives or situations of others to be taught a humanistic message. Some will say, "I only watch the discovery channel." This channel teaches evolution and vast geological ages in contradiction to Godís Word. It teaches the worship of the creation rather than the creator. This will be discussed in a later chapter. How about the man-centered History channel? This is what man deems important as edited by man and popular opinion. Even the commercials on TV are evil. They are advertising which is nothing more than witchcraft. Advertisers spend millions of dollars to manipulate you into buying a product that you wouldnít necessarily buy. They also want to bury the thought of their product in your mind (hypnotism) and to entice you into lusts and covetousness (Heb 13:5, Ps 119:36). Covetousness is idolatry (Col 3:5). Advertisers must fixate your attention on their product in a short moment of time by appealing to your inner lusts such that the enticement will remain long after the appeal and result in a later action. This is serious manipulation! Recall from Chapter One, Satanís process of enticement: temptation, lust or desire, capitulation, and action. Due to the amount of money that is spent on advertising, you can be sure they are getting a return. They create factitious (needs created by advertising) lusts! When you willfully watch such things you are exposing yourself to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons (1 Tm 4:1). These commercials are the sorceries of the merchant men of the earth (Rev 18:23). Some will contend and say there are some good things on TV such as the preachers. One only has to listen to their message in light of Godís Word to realize that they are presenting damnable heresies, making merchandise of you (2 Pt 2:1-3), and are loverís of money (2 Tm 6:10, 1 Pt 5:2). Their messages must be popular (sugar coated) to maintain audience and receive the much coveted donations and offerings (Ti 1:11). False prophets are always popular with the people and likeable. Their messages appeal to your flesh and do not deny it.
Most people fit in with "Popular Culture." This is defined as having values that come from advertising, the media, and icons of style as targeted to ordinary people in society. Where do your values come from? Those who develop television programming, newsprint and movies want to shape you (conform you) to their image. In many cases, they have succeeded. Who will prevail in this battle Ė the flesh or the Spirit? Many who "profess Christ" may find in an honest self-examination that their daily lives reflect popular culture more than the Jesus described in the Bible (must read to know). To live "popular culture" is to conform to the world. Popular culture is defined on the television in a mass appeal to the lusts of an impatient audience. In the American pop-culture driven society, you may find that those who profess Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, Judaism, etc. have much more in common as far as how they live their daily lives (thoughts, desires, entertainments, American dream Ė the ideal, etc.) than you may realize (a melted pot of compromise and wrong ideals Ė see Chapter Four, What Does Man Teach Us?). Much of this is defined, portrayed and propagated by television. You may say that your core beliefs are different than these religions, but how are these lived out or outwardly expressed in your life? What is your witness? The author asks you, "professed" Christian Ė How is your hope and faith made manifest in your daily actions? No doubt most could talk for hours about television shows, movies, characters and actors. Could these same ones discuss with any depth and detail eternal things of Godís Word?
Even if television programming was completely neutral or you just sat in front of an empty box it would at a minimum be a tremendous waster of time and as such an idol put before God. We are to redeem the time because the days are evil (Eph 5:16). Would the Bible be read? Would the prayers be offered? Can you imagine standing before God and realizing all the time you sat in front of a little box Ė not to mention willingly filling your mind with all that opposes Christ? This exposes your true heart! How does your television time compare to your Bible reading time? Which one is of eternal value? How much do you pray verses watch television? Which truly receives more honor Ė God or TV?
Consider the following scriptures before you next view the television: 2 Corinthians 10:5, "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." The television programming is designed to keep our thoughts on things of man (take captive) and off of Christ. Everything shown on TV exalts itself against the knowledge of God. True knowledge of God seeks and performs His will (Ps 128:1). Some have no knowledge because their hearts are elsewhere (Hos 4:6). Your thoughts are captive to the obedience of the world, not Christ (Ps 119:97). Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things, are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." Very few (most likely none) programs would meet the qualifications of this verse. 1 John 5:21, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen."
Many have noted how evil television programming has become and have made comments to suggest that if it gets any worse they will have to stop watching it. Well it continually gets worse, inhibitions are lowered, evil becomes more acceptable and the day to remove it never seems to come for most. Has the programming ever become more moral or godly? If it were, would God desire you to sit in front of a box all day? A religious man once told me about how awful television programming had become. I told him that he should turn the television off and take it out of his home. He became quiet and quickly dropped the subject. He was willing to acknowledge the darkness (evil), but that was the extent. This is why some do not approach the light (Jn 3:20) and thatís the condemnation (Jn 3:19). Christ once told the Pharisees: John 9:41, "Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth." In other words if you are ignorant about a sin, perhaps you could plead innocence. If you have knowledge of Godís truth, yet ignor it or if you see your sin (have knowledge of it) and ignore it (or justify), then you are definitely guilty. You no longer have a cloak for your sin (Jn 15:22). James 4:17, "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin."
Many fill their lives with all sorts of distractions. These preoccupations take away from the really eternally important things such as prayer, bible study and family altars. The sad thing and an indictment is that many families feel uncomfortable studying and discussing Godís Word together or they just donít know how. Perhaps itís to convicting of their desired actions. Many may also feel awkward praying for any length of time. However, these same individuals could possibly talk for hours about a sports event, news item or popular movie. Many need to relearn and develop new ways of doing things. People naturally do not like change and the flesh will fight this. Developing a new life is awkward at first, and maybe uncomfortable, but then soon replaces the old life as the norm. We must all rebuild on a sure foundation (1 Cor 3:11). In any case this will not happen until your heart changes toward God. You must cry out in repentance and allow God to convert you as only He can do.
Parents and grandparents who "profess Christ," how can you allow your precious little ones to be subjected to and taught by such evil? Even the Disney tapes have been occultic since the early days with sorcerers, fairies, witches, etc. Disney goes by the term, "Magic Kingdom." Scriptures have always revealed magicians and their enchantments as opposing God and associated them with sorcerers, soothsayers, Chaldeans and astrologers (Dan 2:2, 27, 4:7, 9, 5:11). Pharaohís Magicians withstood Moses with their enchantments in the book of Exodus, chapters seven and eight. Examples of occult in Disney would be Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Sorcererís Apprentice, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and Fantasia. No matter how you glamorize witchcraft, it is still an abomination to God and challengers His purposes (Ex 22:18, Lev 19:31, 20:6, Deut 18:10-13). The symbol of Disney Ė Mickey Mouse, is often depicted in a sorcerers outfit with a magic wand. Scriptures reveal that sorcerers are a great abomination with God Ė a serious evil. So why do most view this as so innocent? Ė where does your heart align, with God or the world? God has some grave things to say concerning sorcerers in the book of Revelation (21:8, 22:15). The movies absolutely have messages that are rebellious to Godís truth and seek to teach worldly values. You can take your children to religious services and send them to religious schools all you want, but the television and your actions will probably become the real teachers.
So, is television really a serious issue? Jesus said, Mark 9:47-48, "And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched (fire that shall never be quenched, Mk 9:43-46, the worm Ė Is 66:24)." What do you suppose Jesus was talking about? Jesus was saying that this issue of sin and worldliness is so serious that you should go to whatever extreme you have to in order to stop it. Hell is unimaginably bad! Christ was not kidding, but was strongly emphasizing the effects of exposing your heart to evil. Jesus repeats this statement, concerning the eye offending, twice in the book of Matthew (Mt 5:29 and 18:9) Ė this means "pay attention" - he that hath ears to hear. Do you always set the Lord before you (Ps 16:8)? When considering your relationship with Christ and the love of the things of the world, you should ponder the question Jesus asked: Luke 6: 46, "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" Having read how Jesus walked when He was on the earth, surely one cannot imagine Christ in a recliner in front of the television (WWJD?). Jesus would never have taken pleasure in sin, loved the things of the world, or entertained Himself. Why do you suppose that He would have you do such? Those who would say Christ did what He did so we would not have to, have basically turned the grace of God into lasciviousness and made Christ the minister of sin (Jude 1:4, Gal 2:17). You are saying that rather than deliver you from sin; Jesus came to allow you to do sin. This is evil and blasphemous. This is saying that God, who would not overlook or excuse sin, sent His only Son to justify sin. Where is the reconciliation in that? This presumption would have God conceding to the will of man and ultimately to that of Satan. The fact is that Jesus is the firstborn of many brethren (Rm 8:29). Brethren are those who resemble each other. You could never overcome on your own, but you sure can through Jesus Christ. Jesus says that you must be an overcomer (Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26, 3:5, 12, 21, 21:7, 1 Jn 5:4). Why would Christ have us overcome if He had overcome for us?
Our eyes must be on Jesus. Luke 11:34-36, "The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness. Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness. If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light." Having a single eye means that you are focused on Christ and not Christ and the world. To look upon and enjoy darkness is to be filled with such. You cannot claim to love Christ and then enjoy those things that oppose Him. Your actions always become your choices Ė conscious or not.
Joshua 24:15, "And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." The question is whom will you serve? The gods of this land as paraded across the television screen every night. These are gods of money, sensual pleasure, lusts, covetousness, violence, entertainment, self, and all manner of evil. One day you will stand before the one true God. The countless hours of wasted time taking pleasure in evil will surely be noted. How will you respond? Did you love God enough to seek Him everyday? Was He the passion of your heart? Did you ever take the time to read through His Word? Jesus said: Matthew 12:37, "For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." How much more by the thoughts and intents of the heart? 1 Corinthians 10:14, "Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry."
Many a conservative (patriotic?) religious man has taken issue with the liberal news media. These constantly talk about how the media is liberal or anti-Christian. They tell of their secret agendas or political leanings. The odd thing is that these same ones depend upon the liberal news media for all their information. The entire worldís news media is talking about the same things Ė worldly things. Conservative or liberal, makes no difference, there is only one needful thing and that is the Word of God. The wise will understand and remove themselves from the things of the world. Your mind will either be on the things of the world or the things of God. There will always be worldly stories and issues designed to captivate you and put your mind upon them Ė a little for the conservative and a little for the liberal. If you really want to know the truth, both conservative and liberal are headed in the same direction (the wrong one) - not in rhetoric, but in actions. The news programs and talk shows usually pit one group against another (political, ideological or special interest). This produces bitterness and hatred Ė even from the conservative religious folk.
Most will take issue with what has been said in these paragraphs because the Lordís conviction will now force a decision Ė for the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk (have lost their inhibitions, senses have dulled) with such fornication (Rev 17:2). Most will choose to continue in the darkness, but justification will now need to be sought by those who "profess Christ," but love the darkness (Pv 1:7, 23-33). Can you honestly stand before God and tell Him you are justified to do these things? If so, what biblical text can you possibly base your opinion upon given the Lordís desire that we have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness or pleasure in unrighteousness? Ultimately you will answer for such things. Please consider this very carefully: Galatians 5:24, "And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." The author came to this point in realizing that although "religious," I had loved the darkness and not the light. A man once told me that he believed much of the defeat in his life was due to the television. This shined light upon my darkness. At first I considered the fact that the television had always been there and was such a huge part of my life Ė how could it be forsaken? It taught, comforted, pacified, informed, held my attention, provided, and passed the hours away. In short, the television was seated in the place of Christ; it was an idol, a god. Is it any different with you? I may have been a bit reluctant at first, but the conviction remained (Ps 119:59). When I look back, those were dark times in my life. The decision was difficult because the darkness around me was great and the stronghold was well established. Praise God for the freedom today Ė all things are possible through Jesus Christ. My duty as a member of the church (Ekklesia Ė body of Christ) is to exhort and admonish those who profess Christ to walk therein. I therefore urge you to come to the light Ė I plead with you. Please abstain (withdraw, go without, give up) from fleshly lusts which war against your soul (1 Pt 2:11). Some will say that they could not live without the television. What you are really saying is that your life is found in television. Our lives are suppose to be found in Christ (Col 3:4), not that which opposes Him. Woe! For those who will profess love for Christ, but continue to have eyes for another (world) courting/wooing it with their time, resources and devotion (idolatry) while disregarding the evil and seeking its dainties (covet): Ephesians 5:5-7, "For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them." Psalm 97:7, "Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols: worship him, all ye gods." There will be an accounting (Rm 14:12). Proverb 1:5, "A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels (also Job 5:17, Pv 12:1, 17:10)." Proverb 9:9, "Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning." Removing oneself from evil is very wise Ė he that has an ear! Proverbs 15:10, "Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die."
It is worthwhile to note that this idol Ė known as television (that most cannot do without) only came into being very recently in the history of man. Television was not readily available to the public until the 1950ís. On the timeline of man this is just a small blip at the end of the age, characterized as in the time of Noah Ė when wickedness abounds. Those who live in this last generation will be unique compared to those who came before. When God looks at your life, how will this idol have influenced it. Will you have been wise? The children of Israel had a very difficult time parting with their idolatry (ex. worship of Baal and Ashtaroth Ė the groves, Jdg 2:13, 3:7, 10:6, 1 Sam 12:10) and likewise the men of today have a tremendously hard time parting with their idolatry (ex. television). An honest question: The television and Bible disappear from your home one day. Which will be first noticed as missing? Which one will be missed (grieved or yearned for) the most? - be honest, consider normal use.
A New Doctrine?
The television topic was covered thoroughly because it is a perfect modern day example of worldliness, idolatry and all manner of sinfulness that most participate in with little thought that it may be wrong. Many will attend religious services to worship God on one day and spend the rest of the week in front of the television worshipping the world and never even see the hypocrisy. 1 Corinthians 10:21, "Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils." So, am I trying to establish some new doctrine that you must stop watching the television in order to be saved? Absolutely not! This is just applying Godís Word to a modern day example. Taking pleasure in unrighteousness is a huge indicator of an unconverted heart. However, serving God out of fear or compulsion is no better and does not correct the root problem. I will not establish a list of doís and doníts because to change the outside, without having changed the inside would be pointless and legalistic. Luke 11:39, "And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness." Matthew 23:26, "Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also." We must first be converted and receive Godís nature whereby God writes His laws in our hearts and minds (Heb 8:10-11 & 10:16). This is cleaning our inside. Our attitude toward God must change. Then we serve and obey God due to correct motives (attitudes), out of love and devotion. Having done this, our outside will reflect our inside. Only God can truly change our hearts and we must seek Him. Look at how the Holy Spirit changes us: Romans 12:2, "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." The Spirit works on us to renew our very nature (thoughts) to freely want to do whatís good and acceptable in Godís will. We obey His laws (by the Spirit) because it is our desire to do His will, but keeping the law is not our salvation Ė Jesus Christ is. We obey out of love for Christ and due to our new nature in faith (Jn. 14:15). Our obedience is demonstrated through our actions as convicted in our hearts.
If we just obey rules and laws with no change on the inside then we are trusting in the rules and laws to save us and God will hold us accountable to the letter. James 2:10, "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." We will also fail because it would be in our own strength. The Word of God does not profit unless it is mixed with faith in them that hear it (Heb 4:2). Galatians 3:11, "But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith" (Also Heb 10:38). Abstaining from filth (whatís on TV) will not save us (only faith in God), but our faith will lead us to abstain from the filth - there is a difference (1 Pt 3:21-22). You cannot have a heart for God and then desire to do what opposes Him. Amos 3:3, "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" Abstaining from TV or anything else is to no avail if you do not understand the merit of why you should and if you do not understand the wrongfulness and the bondage of sin you are under (1 Pt 3:21). Let us hold fast and not waiver in our faith realizing that our faith will manifest itself in our deeds (Heb 10:23, Js 2:14, 17-26). This is one of the seeming paradoxes in scripture. So, if we are truly converted in our hearts with a love for God, we will not desire nor enjoy seeing all manner of sinfulness as depicted on television because it opposes Him and we wish to bring glory and honor to our King.
When your heart (affections) is truly changed, you will serve God freely and live righteously Ė you will delight in Him! There is peace and freedom from all the imposed requirements and obligations of man (Mt 11:29-30). You do not serve out of fear (hell), obligation, tradition, habit, peer pressure, emotion or gain. When you have truly experienced God in your life you do not seek to justify the minimum acceptable level of effort on your part needed to receive or maintain salvation. You do not test the envelope to see how far you can venture from the light into darkness and yet still remain within the bounds of salvation. In other words you do not use Godís provision of mercy and forgiveness (1 Jn 1:9) as a means of compromise for living in the flesh. Many are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge (Jer 4:22). The difference is that some will look for loopholes while the true followers will live by the intent from the heart. Things you once took no heed of now become unacceptable. As you yield to the Holy Spirit, you become changed into Christís image. If you do not yield you become stagnate or fall back. God allows us freewill; otherwise love will not be the motivation or fruit. God operates within that freewill. When we get out of line, God chastens us as a loving Father so we will not be condemned with the world (1 Cor 11:32) and will be partakers of His holiness and thus yielding the fruit of righteousness (Heb 12:5-11). Ultimately we will stand before God for acceptance or condemnation (Mt 3:12, 12:36, 13:47-48 & 25:32-34, 41; Lk 3:17, Jude 1:15) Ė all judgment is given into the hand of the Son (Jn 5:22, Acts 10:42) who will judge righteously (Jn 5:30, 7:24 & 8:16, Rm 2:5, 2 Thess 1:5, Rv 16:7). Romans 14:12, "So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God." Jesus will make manifest the counsels of hearts (1 Cor 4:5). Beware: Luke 3:9, "And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire."
Becoming a Hermit?
Having read thus far, many will assume that the author is proposing that we all move into individual caves somewhere and live like monks. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The author is proposing something more difficult. We must consider what brings God glory. God placed each of us in a world that is in rebellion to His will. God knows that we are in the midst of such sin and revolt. Where is the glory in this? God receives glory when we freely, lovingly and openly choose to serve Him in the midst of those who do not. We become lights and witnesses (Mt 5:14-16). Consider how Job brought glory to God (Job, chapters 1 & 2). Also consider Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Daniel, John the Baptist and Jesus. There is no doubt that we will suffer reproach in standing up for God and this reproach brings God glory. To suffer in the flesh, we must deny the flesh (itís glory and honor) and truly exercise our faith toward God. We obey and live the truth of Godís Word for all to see. When we choose God to our own demise, He receives glory. We are choosing Him over the world and the things therein (including manís opinions). You will not fit in with the world because to do so you will have been overcome by it. In other Words, your witness will cease as you become as that which you should differ. Putting away the television idol will get you lots of attention from those around you. This will be a bold and shocking conviction to most and a testimony of your devotion to God and intention to walk in His truth. Good or bad, this is a tremendous witness Ė your lifeís example. You will suffer reproach and hatred from a rebellious world due to your stand for righteousness (Lk 6:22-23, 1 Jn 4:5). There are other shocking (to most) examples to come in this book Ė itís a narrow path too rugged for the flesh.
Grieving Over Sinfulness
The world is full of evil, but many seem to have no discernment or worse, have just become indifferent, participant or accepting of it? Ezekiel 9:2-6, "And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brasen altar. And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer's inkhorn by his side; And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house." When you cease to grieve and sigh over the evil that is done around you it is sure sign of tacit approval and indifference Ė or participation (Jer 8:6, 12)! Are you ashamed? Do you blush (Jer 8:12)? This is a heart that is far from God. Romans 3:18, "There is no fear of God before their eyes." Those that love the darkness (or are indifferent to it Ė desensitized) will face an eternal death without pity (Ez 7:4). The Lord hearkens to those who fear Him and think upon Him (Mal 3:16). Notice that God said to begin with His sanctuary. How many grieve over the sin that abounds (Ps 119:158)? Isaiah 5:18, "Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope."
Let us consider Lot: 2 Peter 2:6-9, "And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation (living) of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished." Lot was greatly disturbed by the evil around him. The others in the city were not disturbed by the evil Ė and participated. Lot was delivered, the others were not Ė even though they were given opportunity to repent. Much evil goes on everyday all around us. Much of this is so common place that it is just accepted. Have you become desensitized to all of it? Perhaps many are apart of it when they should be grieving. The author has been referred to as fanatical and extreme by "professed Christians" for pointing out much of the subtil evil done all around. We must abstain, abhor, eschew, refrain, depart, hate, cease, reprove and cleanse ourselves from all evil (eph 5:11, 1 Pt 3:11, 1 Thess 5:22, Rm 12:9, Ps 37:27, 97:10, 119:101, Pv 3:7, 8:13, 14:16, 16:17, Is 1:16, Amos 5:15, 2 Cor 7:1).
When you grieve and sigh over the sin, rebellion and self-seeking that are manifested all around you, then you can begin to see the merit of Christ. You run to Him because you realize how pure and undefiled He is Ė blameless, totally righteous, holy and without fault Ė well pleasing (Rev 4:8-11, 5:12). You realize that Jesus is the ultimate fruition of the nature that you now have. Jesus as a man was the perfect image of God and now He is raised in absolute Majesty and power. He is just and marvelous and totally worthy of all glory, power, authority and rule (1 Pt 5:11). Jesus has a dominion that is totally encompassing and will never end (Eph 1:21, Col 1:16). Christís name is above all and deservedly so (Php 2:9). You run to Him because you desire to be as He is and you seek deliverance from the sin and evil around you Ė that which vexes you everyday. This world is rebellious to Godís purposes and does not receive those who seek Him. Jesus is where the peace and comfort are for those who will follow. For those who take no pleasure in the darkness around them, Jesus is a bright and shining light with an irresistible draw. For those who have been given Godís nature (new creature, 2 Cor 5:17), Christ is the virtuous fellowship we seek (1 Pt 1:15-16). Those that come to that light must leave the darkness (Jn 3:20-21). To appreciate the light, one must first learn the wrongfulness and despair (misery, desolation, hopelessness, anguish, gloom, and despondency) of the darkness and repent of their unrighteous participation (Ez 33:11).
So What is Following?
Following Christ is not a once made decision. Choosing to follow Jesus is made through a myriad of decisions you encounter everyday. You are confronted with these choices daily and you must choose Christ every time. The topics may be endless, but you must choose Jesus over self and situation. Who will rule over your life, self or Christ? Whose purposes will be fulfilled, yours or Christís? Most will not even give thought to the majority of lifeís situations or their choices because God is not in their thoughts (Ps 10:4, Mal 3:16). Many just do not grieve, sigh and cry over the sin around them. Some situations may be much more revealing regarding right and wrong and a compromise may be sought to soothe the flesh. When we truly follow Christ, His Spirit will work in our hearts to conform us to Christís image daily. This is done by seeking Godís will and purpose over our own. Day by day, thought by thought, decision by decision, situation by situation, you are conformed to Christís image if you are being led by His Spirit (Rm 8:14, 2 Cor 4:16). Cumulatively, you are transformed into His likeness. Your decisions for Christ may not always make you popular with those around you. Remember the narrow path is not well traveled (few). That majority traveling the broad path will never understand those on the narrow (Gal 4:29). A heart that grieves over sin is a pliable one that can be shaped for Godís purposes.
The condemnation that man will face before God is that man refuses to admit his fault Ė to see his wrong Ė the transgressions and rebellion against God. Man will mostly justify his wickedness or blame others for his faults/wickedness. This is a situation that cannot be forgiven because no fault is acknowledged. Forgiveness can only be sought by one who recognizes and grieves over his wrong. Forgiveness can only be granted to one who turns from the wrongs he has committed. Why forgive if there is no intent to reconcile? God is more than merciful, the condemnation will be that Godís mercy was not sought.
There is only one true way to follow Christ and that is with a whole heart. When our hearts are right we will choose to freely obey God in all situations because we love God Ė He is our desire. No one will make us or tell us we have to. When we come to this place, we have true Christian liberty. Many may attempt to follow through fear. Perhaps fear of hell or fear of what family members (man) will say. Sheep will follow, but goats must be driven. If serving God seems compulsory, restrictive or like a burden, then you are being driven. Those who are driven will be quick to compromise or find a less restrictive path. Those who are driven will only want to do the minimum that seems to be required. Those who are driven will always wonder, "whatís in it for me (Job 21:15, 35:3)." Those who are driven may do things in secret. Those who are driven find comfort in numbers. Those who are driven will at best grudgingly follow God. Those who are driven will seek a multitude of counsels until they hear what they are looking for (Ps 5:10). Hosea 14:9, "Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the LORD are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein."
Oftentimes Jesus uses blindness as an illustration of the lack of spiritual understanding. Those who are spiritually blind have not a love for the truth (2 Thess 2:10). Those who seek the truth with an intent to live within it, have their eyes opened. Jesus healed many of physical blindness, but His purpose was to bring light to spiritual blindness. Matthew 20:30, 32-34, "30 And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David. And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you? They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened. So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him." These men cried to Jesus in faith recognizing their great need for him. There is a dual message here. These menís need may have seemed physical, but it was also very much spiritual. After receiving sight they "followed Jesus." When we receive spiritual insight, we must be faithful and follow Christ. When our eyes are spiritually opened, following Christ will be the evidence.
We must seek and follow Christ regardless of what others may say. Mark 10:46-52, "And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee. And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus. And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way." This man understood his great need for Christ and cried out to God in faith. We must come to this same place in our lives. Man tells us that we must hold our peace and seek God manís way Ė perhaps a little less dramatic. Men (crowd) were between Bartimaeus and Christ and he realized that his hope was not in following man (or heeding manís way) so he cried out even more intently. Had Bartimaeus listened to man, he would still be blind and his faith would have been crushed. Man can be a great stumblingstone in the path to God. When we truly see our need for God and cry out to Him, He responds. We must recognize that our hope is in Him and not man. Bartimaeus came to Christ and cast away his garment (old life). We must be willing to forsake the old sinful fallen way for the life that is only found in Christ. This manís faith in Jesus saved him and then he "followed" Christ in "the way." Notice that after one receives spiritual sight, they follow. This is the fruit! We must look to God, disregard man, forsake the old, and have great faith and follow daily.
Hereís a secret: Psalm 25:14, "The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant." When we desire to know and perform Godís will, He will lift the blindness from our eyes and we will understand. Matthew 11:25, "At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." We must become humble and dependant to see the kingdom of God. The wise and prudent are proud and self sufficient. These do not and cannot see their need for repentance and a new heart (Is 6:9-10). Those who are babes before Christ understand what the most learned cannot (Lk 10:21, 1 Cor 1:19, 27-28). Jesus once took a blind man out of the city of Bethsaida to heal him (Mk 8:22-23). Why? Because that city was full of unbelief. Luke 10:13, "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes (also Mt 11:21)." Once the man was healed Jesus told him not to go into the town or tell anyone in the town (Mk 8:26). Woe to Bethsaida!
Jesus had been teaching in the temple. The religious men did not receive the things Christ was saying. John 8:59 Ė 9:1, "Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by. And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth." Jesus came as a light into this world that we would not walk in darkness (Jn 8:12). Jesus said regarding the blind man: John 9:4-5, "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." The religious had rejected Godís light, but here was a man who would receive it (Is 42:16). Notice that Christ is not concerned about the many who were busy seeking stones, but only the one. The modern religious tell us we (as if we can do anything) must mass convince/convert the multitudes, but Christ is still concerned about the one. The man being born blind is representative to the spiritual blindness we are all born into (nature). John 9:6-7, "When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing." Jesus required faith (obedience) of the blind man. The religious had questioned everything Jesus had done, this man just obeyed in faith and was made whole and came seeing. This great miracle was performed as a result of his willingness to obey. This was far more than a physical healing, but a conversion of the heart. When the religious heard of the blind manís healing, they were not so impressed. Seems Jesus had healed this man on the sabbath and this was a big religious no, no (they didnít understand the intent of the sabbath). A big inquisition was held concerning the matter and when the blind man acknowledged Jesus, he was excommunicated out of the synagogue (Jn 8:34). The religious told the blind man that he was a sinner (Jn 9:34) and it turns out they were sinners also. He saw his great need for Christ, the religious men did not Ė this was the big difference. The religious thought they were serving God, but were blind and far from Him. The blind man ended up seeing and serving God. John 9:35-39, "Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him. And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind." The blind man received the light, humbled himself and worshipped the source. Recall from Chapter Two (Jesus didnít Exalt Self) that Jesus did not exalt Himself by revealing who He was. Jesus did reveal Himself to this blind man. Why? He was willing to suffer reproach for Christís sake, was obedient to Christís commands (Jn 9:7) and had a heart to receive (his parents were not Ė Jn 9:20-22). Christ has said: John 14:21, "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. (Also Rev 3:20)" The self righteous religious men rejected the light and compounded their darkness. The humble are exalted and the proud are abased (Mt 23:12).
Itís a Heart Thing!
God is looking at our hearts (searcheth) and He desires (reaches out to) those that truly want to serve Him (2 Chr 16:9, 1 Cor 4:5, 1 Kg 8:39, 2 Chr 6:30) Ė He understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts (1 Chr 28:9). Psalm 119:2, "Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart." That which is in our heart will manifest in our outward actions. David was a man that truly loved God with his whole heart. David had sinned and done some grievous things. He committed adultery and then premeditated a murder to cover it up. However, David truly recognized his sin, grieved, and repented before God and followed Him with his whole heart. The key is that David grieved over his transgression and changed direction. David was a King, yet still greatly humbled himself before the King of Kings. Acts 13:22, "Öhe raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will." Notice that God was delighted because his heart was to do Godís will. To fulfill Godís will is to accomplish it. This is what itís all about! This was not the end result with Davidís son Solomon (Deut 17:17). Solomon had followed the Lord, but: 1 Kings 11:4, "For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father." Solomon built the high places that became a snare for the people and kings of Judah (1 Kgs 11:5-9, 2 Kgs 23:13). Solomonís son, Rehoboam did not prepare his heart to seek the Lord and this was evil (2 Chr 12:14). Letís consider King Amaziah: 2 Chronicles 25:2, "And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, but not with a perfect heart." Notice that God acknowledged his deeds, but was looking at his motives. Amaziah served God in a legalistic sense (Pharisaical) and his service, however right it may have been, was of no value. Now consider King Asa: 1 Kings 15:14, "But the high places were not removed: nevertheless Asaís heart was perfect with the LORD all his days." He didnít walk perfectly (the high places had been built by Soloman Ė 2 Kgs 23:13), but his heart was right before God and this was what was ultimately important. However, we must not be fooled into supposing that we can think one thing and do another. Our actions will reveal our true nature. So following a list of doís and doníts does not profit at all if done for any reason other than love and devotion to God. If one has such love and devotion to God, one will not intentionally walk in a manner contrary to God either. You could never plot to do things you know are wrong, yet still maintain love and devotion to God Ė itís not possible. King David said: 1 Chronicles 29:17, "I know also, my God, that thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of mine heart I have willingly offered all these things: and now have I seen with joy thy people, which are present here, to offer willingly unto thee." God will test your heart (1 Thess 2:4, Jer 11:20, 17:10)! God knows the secrets of the heart (Ps 44:21). Consider what was said of King Hezekiah: 2 Chronicles 31:20-21, "And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the LORD his God. And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered." He did that which was in Godís will with all his heart and therefore, he did well.
The Lord is looking for the sincere and honest desire in our hearts to serve Him (Lk 16:15). This will be manifested in our daily lives. If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive. We must never use Godís mercy and grace, as a means to live out our own will and selfish desire, our actions will betray us. God sent His prophet: 1 Kings 14:7-8, "Go, tell Jeroboam, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Forasmuch as I exalted thee from among the people, and made thee prince over my people Israel, And rent the kingdom away from the house of David, and gave it thee: and yet thou hast not been as my servant David, who kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in mine eyes." King Jehu of Israel also took no heed to follow God with all his heart (2 Kg 10:31). We must follow with a whole heart to please God. King Hezekiah pleaded with God on his deathbed, Isaiah 38:3, "And said, Remember now, O LORD, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore." God agreed and added fifteen years to his life (v. 5). We must continually examine our own hearts and motives and ask God to do the same and we must repent if necessary (2 Cor 13:5, Ps 139:23). We must serve in love and faith. Psalm 32:11, "Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart." One day, God will make manifest the counsels of the heart of each individual (1 Cor 4:5). If you seek God with all your heart, you will find Him (Jer 29:13).
Jesus said: Matthew 15:18-19, "But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies." These are the things that defile a man. God is looking at our hearts and they will most assuredly reveal where our devotion is. For with the heart a man believeth on Christ unto righteousness (Rm 10:9-10). We must live unto righteousness! Simeon prophesied of Jesus coming in saying that He would be spoken against because the thoughts of many hearts would be revealed (Lk 2:34-35). Oh man, rest assured that what you put into your heart will certainly proceed out again. Jude 1:21, "Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." Some have impenitent (unrepentant) hearts and are storing wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God who will render to every man according to his deeds (Rm 2:5-6). We must remember: Proverb 15:11, "Hell and destruction are before the LORD: how much more then the hearts of the children of men?" Hebrews 3:12, "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God."
This is beautiful: 1 Corinthians 8:3, "But if any man love God, the same is known of him." When we truly love God, He knows who we are (Nahum 1:7). The Creator of all will know who you are if your heart is toward Him! Will there be anything more precious on Judgment Day than to be in Godís good favor? 1 John 4:17, "Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world." To love is to obey. 1 John 2:5, "But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him." 1 John 5:3, "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous."
Are you a Pilgrim just passing through, following the path of Jesus? Thereís good news for you my friend, the path of Christ did not end at the cross, but continued to life everlastingÖ Weary pilgrims will find rest and purpose: John 14:2, "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." When we follow Christ, we will be where He is (Jn 12:26). The Spirit is leading, who will follow? The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. (Ps 23)" The Lord is still leading (for He is true to His Word), are you following (Is 49:10)? Or worse, are you trying to do the leading?
Luke 9:23, "And he (Jesus) said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." You will follow someone or something, but who/what? 1 Peter 2:21, "For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:" The path is narrow, but the guide is sure. Suppose you were in a deep dark forest. There were many obstacles such as thorns/briars, wild animals, quick sand, thick brush, jagged rocks, and high mountains with narrow ledges. Suppose it was pitch black and you had no light. You were hopelessly lost and without provisions. If an expert guide suddenly showed up with knowledge of how to traverse the forest and mountain and had all the necessary provisions you would need (without any cost to you). Would you not be thrilled? Would you not explicitly obey the guideís directions? Wouldnít all your faith and trust be in the guide as your Savior? You can attempt to go through this life on your own. Perhaps you will become hopelessly entangled in the cares of this world, or be devoured by your adversary (devil) and his schemes or sink in your own desires. You walk blindly not knowing what the future holds or the outcomes of your many decisions. God knows everything! He wants the best for you. Wonít you put your faith and trust in Him alone? Your efforts will fail Ė Itís a given. His way will never fail.
Jesus said over and over, "come follow me." The invitation is still open, but time is drawing to a close. John 20:21, "Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you." Itís time to get busy following! What hinders you?
The author does not want to imply in any way that if you are not walking a perfect life that you are totally lost and on your way to hell. You must examine the nature of your heart to determine if your affections are own things heavenly or things earthly Ė your eternal condition is determined/known by God alone. There is dissimilarity between living for self and living for God and we must understand the difference. The clearest indicator is in the affections of the heart. Who is seated as the authority in your life Ė Christ or self? To live for Christ is to be self-sacrificing in a way that places Jesus first in all aspects of your life and denies the flesh to achieve this. You gladly yield your will to accomplish His. Decisions are made based upon the Spirit and the Word. Spiritual life is a daily consciousness (awareness) of the corruption of your own heart and a grieving over any personal sin or sin around you Ė you recognize your need for Christ. Your mind is stayed upon Jesus and your desire is to become Christ like. Your relationship is ongoing through a daily walk of faith and seeking of the Lord through study and application of His Word and prayer (communication). Are you being led by the Spirit? Do you obey when convicted? Living for self tends to manifest itself in seeking (dwelling on) the good things in life (or needful) and a need for constant entertainment as driven by personal desire. One who lives for self is oblivious (unmindful) or complacent to most of the little sins (thoughts, deeds, actions) in daily life. Proverbs 14:9, "Fools make a mock at sin: but among the righteous there is favour." Decisions are based upon what you want to do or your goals in life. Sacrifice and denial are things to be avoided and upsetting to your needs. Morality and lifestyle may be judged by the majority actions of those around you rather than the truth and intent of Godís Word. 2 Peter 3:14, "Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless." Peace is the reconciliation between God (the Father) and man that Christ offers (through His great and accepted sacrifice) Ė Rev 5:9. To be without spot and blameless is to hunger and thirst after righteousness and conform to Christís image as led by the Spirit (1 Jn 1:6, 2:4). Those in the flesh tend to put undue importance on the here and now rather than having an eternal outlook that prepares for the Lordís return (2 Cor 4:18). Colossians 3:1-2, "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth." A believerís life is in heaven (not in this world); so we look for our blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to be with Him (Php 3:20).
Jesusí message to the followers: John 12:24-26, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour."
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