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“Behold, your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you will not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’ ”  (Luke 13:35)

Have you ever talked to a Jew about the Lord Jesus Christ?  I have found them to be, by far, the easiest group of people to talk to about the Savior.  Of course, most of them do not believe that Jesus is their Messiah.  In fact, many of them are not religious at all.  Nevertheless, if you would like to have an interesting conversation, ask one of these blood-relatives of Abraham what it’s like to be one of “God’s chosen people.”  And then get ready to hear a surprising reply:

“You are Jewish?  That’s fantastic!  Your people have such a rich heritage!  And even better, you have a glorious future ahead of you!  What is it like to be one of God’s chosen people?”  (I have heard the following answer at least twice.)

“We wish He had chosen someone else.”

If you know anything about Jewish history, that answer will not surprise you.  The Satanic spirit behind anti-Semitism did not begin with Hitler’s death camps nor did it stop with his suicide.  It has been around since the days of Israel’s patriarchs:  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob … and it will continue throughout the future Jewish holocaust initiated by the coming antichrist.  Nevertheless, this answer throws the door wide open for the Gospel.

“Your history is filled mostly with suffering, isn’t it?”  Do you know why?”  (Most Jews do not know how to answer this question.)

Luke chapter 13 tells us why:

  • Despite Jesus’ warning to Israel, “Unless you repent, you will all perish” (vss. 1-5) …
  • Despite God’s longsuffering patience, waiting for the nation to bear the expected fruit of righteousness (vss. 6-9) …
  • Despite Jesus’ use of miracles to validate His claim to be Israel’s Messiah (miracles that were discredited by their religious leaders) (vss. 10-17) …
  • Despite His exposure (through parables) of their religious leaders’ evil influence over the nation:  birds nesting in the trees / leaven spreading in the pecks of flour) (vss. 18-21) …
  • Despite Jesus’ warning that “many” in Israel would reject Him as the only way (“the narrow door”) to enter the kingdom of God, an alarming statement since they assumed that, as Abraham’s descendants, they would automatically be admitted (vss. 22-28) …
  • Despite His cutting prediction that many despised Gentiles (“from east and west and from north and south”) would – by faith – enter the Kingdom instead of Israel’s “many” (vss. 29-30) …
  • Despite His stated resolve to die for the nation of Israel and for the nations of the world because of His love for them (vss. 31-33) …

Despite all of this, Israel later demand that Jesus – their long-awaited Messiah – be executed, then placed the responsibility of that rejection squarely upon themselves and all their descendants.

And all the people said, “His blood shall be on us and on our children!”  (Matt. 27:25)

As a result Jesus informed His beloved people that they would remain under God’s severe discipline until the day of His Return (the Second Coming of Christ).

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her!  How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!  Behold, your house is left to you desolate.  And I say to you, you will not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’ ”  (Luke 13:34-35)

This is why the last 2,000 years of Jewish history has been saturated with suffering.  It is not because they are God’s chosen people.  (They were not “made victims” of persecution because they are in a covenant-relationship with Yahweh.)

It is because of their unbelief, an unbelief that is without excuse.

May Gentile believers be warned!  Lest we allow conceit to fill our hearts and an anti-Semitic spirit to invade our church foyers, we ourselves should keep this sobering passage in mind:

But if some of the branches (unbelieving racial Israel) were broken off, and you (believing Gentiles), being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.

You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”  Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.  (Romans 11:17-21)

God is not yet finished with racial Israel (through whose veins flow the blood of their patriarchs).  They still have a glorious future in the plan of God (Romans 11:25-31).  We should, therefore, beware.  It is one thing to disagree with certain political decisions made by the Israeli Knesset (Parliament).  It is quite another thing to yield one’s will to the spirit of anti-Semitism.  To do so is to give one’s mind and heart over to the lordship of Satan.  God forbid that we Gentiles should join this evil angel in his attempts to thwart God’s plan for Israel, still His chosen people.

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“I (Jesus) say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.  But I will warn you whom to fear:  fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell.  Yes, I tell you, fear Him!”  (Luke 12:4-5)

During the summer of 1972, a friend of mine was a cast member with the outdoor drama, “THE LOST COLONY.”   Because his performances were in the evening, his days were free to enjoy one of his favorite sports – surfing.  The area around Nags Head, North Carolina, was known for its good surfing and had become a popular spot.  The rest of this story is recorded in his own words:

“One day, while I was out in the surf with another cast member, something caught my attention just under the water’s surface.  Looking over my left shoulder, I noticed – not two feet from me – the dark form of a huge hammerhead shark.

I could clearly see the features of this grotesque shark … its hideous, protruding eyes staring right at me.  An indescribable feeling of panic and fear gripped me.  I realized that I was totally at the mercy of this aggressive type of shark and could be dead in seconds.

As my friend and I frantically paddled toward shore, I wondered with each stroke if the next one would be my last.  When I reached the beach, I was physically shaking all over.  I remember looking down and seeing my knee caps quivering.

After settling down a bit, I noticed two other surfers about a hundred yards down the beach, sitting with their boards by their sides.  Walking toward them, I wanted to warn them of what I had just seen.

‘Hey!  There’s a huge hammerhead shark out there!’

I was absolutely shocked at their response:

‘You mean he’s still out there?’

They knew the shark had been out there!  They had watched me paddle out into the surf; and yet, they had not bothered to warn me of the danger!

I could have been killed!”

Yet, they had not bothered to warn me of the danger!


Tell me.  What kind of person would do that … one who knows that you are in danger of losing your life but does not care enough to warn you?  What would you think of an individual who couldn’t care less if you live or die?

To remain silent when someone is in danger is the ultimate in hate language.  That fact carries over into our presentation of the Gospel.  We need to warn the lost that God is more than a God of grace.  He is also a God of justice.  When we address those whose eternal souls are in danger of eternal death, we need to tell them both sides of their situation, the good news of God’s pardon and the bad news of God’s condemnation:

  • “This is what you can expect to receive from God if you repent of your sins and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation (His pardon) …
  • … and this is what you can expect if you don’t (His execution of the death sentence you are under).”

“Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth and give them warning from Me.

“When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand.”

“But if you, on your part, warn a wicked man to turn from his way and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your life.”

“As I live,” declares the Lord GOD, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live!  Turn back, turn back from your evil ways!  Why then will you die, O house of Israel?”  (Ezekiel 33:7-9, 11)

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The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness … If therefore your whole body is full of light, with no dark part in it, it will be wholly illumined, as when the lamp illumines you with its rays.  (Luke 11:34, 36)

I was living in Cocoa, Florida when I trusted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior.  When I returned home to Tennessee that summer, the first thing my father did was hand me a paint brush and a bucket of red paint; and then he pointed me in the direction of our barn.

I had been saved for only a few days; so my appearance at that time did not resemble anything clean-cut and wholesome.  In fact, I looked pretty much like all the other wandering transients down in Florida during the early 1970’s, wearing an old pair of overalls, a beat-up pair of tennis shoes, with my hair tied back in a pony tail, hanging down my back.

Anyway, there I was, standing on a ladder leaning against our barn, coating its rough boards with barn paint … and singing every single hymn I could remember from my boyhood.  I would dip my paint brush in the bucket and paint a stroke or two while the lyrics flowed from my mouth:

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.”

But then – being stunned – I stopped singing (and painting) and thought out loud, “So that’s what that means!”  And then, I continued:

“I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind, but now I see.”

But again – being amazed – I stopped singing (and painting) and thought out loud, “So that’s what that means!”

It was the very first “worship service” I ever attended as a re-born follower of Jesus Christ; and it took place while standing on a ladder painting a barn.  It took a long time to paint that barn.  The Spirit of God kept interrupting me, awakening my mind from its spiritual stupor.  As He began to instruct me using these Truth-saturated hymns, I was hearing for the first time songs I already knew from memory.

It would be a year or so before I understood what had happened to me that summer in my little apartment in Florida … and what had taken place while standing on a ladder painting my father’s barn:

  • that it had been none other than the third Person of the Trinity Who rushed into my soul that night.
  • that by His magnanimous grace, He had made my spiritual senses responsive to the Word of God … sensitivesharpened.  He had made my “eye clear.”
  • and with that ability to receive God’s Truth came the capacity to finally understand His cleansing, life-changing counsel.  Now, my “whole body (was) full of light” (understanding).

A miracle had taken place.  A blind teenager had been given his sight.  I was able to comprehend the Word of God.  All the spiritual darkness that had confused my mind began to give way to a Holy Spirit-generated understanding, “as when the lamp illumines you with its rays.”  Until then, I had never really heard the lyrics to those hymns I could sing from memory; but now, they began to come alive to me.  And over the years, the meaning of God’s Word has become clearer … and Its significance to my life more and more wondrous.

“Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature’s night.

Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray.

I woke; the dungeon flamed with light.

My chains fell off; my heart was free.

I rose, went forth and followed Thee.

Amazing love!

How can it be that Thou, my God, should die for me!”

(“And Can It Be that I Should Gain,” Charles Wesley)

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Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come … (and) the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.”  And He said to them, “… do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”  (Luke 10:1, 17, 20)

I have been a follower of Christ, now, for many years.  But I have never commanded a demon to leave a person’s body.  Most surely, I have been in the oppressive presence of unbelievers who had submitted their souls to the tyranny of these evil spirit-beings.  And my wife and I have been keenly aware, on many occasions, of their attacks upon our lives, our home and our ministries.  We have come to know firsthand the reality of spiritual battle and our need to “put on the full armor of God.”  But I have never participated in an actual exorcism.  So, I cannot relate to the joy of delivering others from demonic possession.

But I can relate to the joy of another kind of ministry:  explaining God’s Word to God’s people.  This is the calling Christ has placed upon my life.  Indeed, every believer has been called by God to perform his own unique ministry, one that makes him – in some special way – a joyful participant in the Great Commission.  It is the privilege and pleasure of every born again Christ-follower to prepare others for eternity.

But did you notice that Jesus spoke of an even greater joy than the joy of ministry?

Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.  (Luke 10:20)

Both the Old and New Testaments have some things to say about this heavenly record.  It is called “the book” (Daniel 12:1) … “the book of life” (Psalms 69:28; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5, 17:8, 20:12, 20:15) … and “the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27).  But its full name is

“the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.”  (Revelation 13:8)

It is a record of the redeemed; and its Recorder is God Himself (Exodus 32:32).  In this book is a list of those whose deliverance has been secured by the blood of Jesus.  That is, it is a book of the righteous, and it includes those who lived both before and after the Cross of Christ (that is, both Old and New Testament believers).  (Exodus 32:32; Psalm 69:28; Hebrews 12:22-23; Daniel 12:1).

Interestingly, the names listed were not recorded on the day of each one’s salvation.  Instead, they were written down “from the foundation of the world.”  That is, in eternity past, before His first act of creation, God wrote in this book the names of those to be redeemed.  (Revelation 13:8, 17:8)

And they are there to stay.  Backed by the promise of God, not one name will ever be removed from this divine journal.  Every one of them was written with permanent, indelible, impossible-to-be-erased “ink.”

Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  (1st John 5:5) … (and) He who overcomes … I will not erase his name from the book of life; and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.  (Revelation 3:5)

So, why should the presence of one’s name in this book be cause for such great rejoicing?

  • For those who live during the Great Tribulation, only those whose names are written in the Book of Life will reject the antichrist’s miracles and his mark of ownership.  As a result, they will escape God’s everlasting punishment.  (Revelation 13:8)
  • During this same time of global distress, national Israel will face yet another holocaust (known as “Jacob’s trouble”).  Those Jews whose names are written in the Book of Life will be rescued from this attempted genocide.  (Daniel 12:1)
  • At the final judgment only those whose names are written in the Book of Life will be delivered from the Lake of Fire.  (Revelation 20:12, 15).
  • And after the creation of the new heaven and new earth, only those whose names are written in the Book of Life will be able to enter into “the holy city, (the new) Jerusalem.” (Revelation 21:10-27)

For one to be delivered from the kingdom of eternal darkness unto the Kingdom of eternal light is cause for exceedingly great joy.  What’s more, he is not the only one who rejoices over his salvation:

If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying?  If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray.  So, it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.  (Matthew 18:12-14)

In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.  (Luke 15:10)

So yes, let us rejoice in our service for Christ.  But let us be filled with great wonder and delight and joy and pleasure … and let us be “thrilled to pieces” … and turn cartwheels … and whoop and holler … and sing … and dance … and let us shout with exceedingly great joy in our salvation through Christ.  Because nothing, nothing holds a candle to one’s name being written in “the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.”

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And He was saying to them all, “… Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.”  (Luke 9:23-24)

Others May, But You Cannot

If the Spirit of God has brought you to the resolve to be really like Jesus, He will draw you to a life of crucifixion and humility, and put upon you such demands of obedience, that you will not be able to follow other people or measure yourself by other Christians.  And in many ways He will seem to let other good people do things which He will not let you do.

Other Christians and ministers who seem very religious and useful may push themselves, pull wires, and work schemes to carry out their plans; but you cannot do it.  And if you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.

Others may boast of themselves, of their work, of their success, of their writings; but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing.  And if you begin it, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.

Others may be allowed to succeed in making money or may have a legacy left to them.  But (it) is likely God will keep you poor because He wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence on Him, that He may have the satisfaction of supplying your needs day by day out of an unseen treasury.

The Lord may let others be honored and put forward and keep you hidden in obscurity because He wants you to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory which can only be produced in the shadows.  He may let others be great but keep you small.  He may let others do a work for Him and get the credit for it; but He will make you work and toil on without knowing how much you are doing.  And then to make your work still more precious, He may let others get the credit for the work which you have done and, thus, make your reward ten times greater when Jesus comes.

The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch over you with a jealous love and will rebuke you for little words and feelings, or for wasting your time which other Christians never seem distressed over.  So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign and has a right to do as He pleases with His own.

He may not explain to you a thousand things which puzzle your reason in His dealings with you.  But if you absolutely sell yourself to be His … slave, He will wrap you up in a jealous love, and bestow upon you many blessings which come only to those who are in the inner circle.

Settle it forever, then, that you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit, and that He is to have the right of tying your tongue, or chaining your hand, or closing your eyes in ways that He does not seem to use with others.  Now, when you are so possessed with the living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over the Holy Spirit’s peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management over your life, you will have found the vestibule of Heaven.

Written by G. D. Watson (1845-1924), a Wesleyan Methodist minister, evangelist and missionary.

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And they [a large crowd that had just witnessed Jesus cast out a demon] were all amazed at the greatness of God.  But while everyone was marveling at all that He was doing, He said to His disciples, “… the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.”  (Luke 9:43-44)

Have you ever noticed that it is just as easy to jump off a “bandwagon” as it is to jump on one?  No matter how exciting the movement or how large the crowd, enthusiasm often gives way to desertion as the novelty of the latest trend wears off and the reality of its cost sinks in.

This was true about the crowds that followed Jesus.  As long as He provided them with a free meal plan and health care program, they flocked around Him with enthusiasm.  But when He began to speak to them about the demands of discipleship, those same people stopped “marveling at all He was doing,” and their numbers began to thin … considerably.

Simply put, to follow Jesus is to obey Jesus.  That is what a disciple is:  one who does what his Master commands him.  He is resolved to abandon his own self-interests to fulfill the will of God.  And though the life of a Christ-follower is a blessed journey, it is not downhill.

If anyone wishes to come after Me (Jesus), he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.  (Luke 9:23-24)

In Luke 9 we find Jesus walking toward the Cross that awaited Him in Jerusalem.  Along the way, He was approached by three individuals who said they wanted to follow Him.  Jesus gave it to them straight:  “Before you decide to follow Me, you need to know what you’re getting into.  You need to ‘count the cost.’  Because what I am calling you to do is to come and die with Me.”

You and I would do well to carefully consider what He meant.

The Realities of Discipleship – Part I

(1) “Hardships are to be expected.”

As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.”  And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Luke 9:57-58)

We should let that sink in for a minute.  “Even animals have homes.  But I don’t.  And if you follow Me, do not expect a lifestyle of ease.”

There is something very radical within the soul of a disciple.  While others are grabbing for all the goods and comforts of life, an entirely different craving has grabbed hold of the Christ-follower.  His all-consuming passion is to obey the will of his Master … a pull that has so captured his heart that his former desire to have all this world has to offer has faded, even down to its bare necessities.  This is more than a mere willingness to sacrifice.  It is a heart-guided resolve to de-clutter one’s life in order to be fully given to the cause of Christ Jesus.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  (Matthew 6:19-21)

This is the reality of discipleship:

One cannot follow Jesus and pursue a life of self-centered ease at the same time.

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The Realities of Discipleship – Part II

(2) “Most of the affairs of life must be given to others.”

And He said to another, “Follow Me.”  But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.”  But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:59-60)

We should consider the nature of this man’s request.  He was not asking to be excused from following Christ until he returned from a family vacation.  He was asking for permission to make arrangements for his father’s funeral.  Afterwards, he would follow Jesus.  This was no small responsibility this man believed was his to fulfill!  And no doubt, others did too.  But notice Jesus’ response:

“Let those who are spiritually dead bury those who are physically dead.”

That is, “As much as possible, let those who are of the world oversee the affairs of the world.  But as for you, devote your attention to the Great Commission.”

When one follows Jesus, he is going to find himself removed from what everyone else is busy doing.  Rather than giving himself to the many temporal affairs of a dead world, he is to offer all that he is and all that he has to advance the eternal affairs of Christ.

We are not told what this man chose to do.  But we can imagine what would have happened if he gave the oversight of his father’s burial to his “spiritually dead” relatives and followed Jesus.  No doubt, he would have been marked for life as the one who “abandoned his father.”  Nevertheless, this is the reality of discipleship:

One cannot follow Jesus and busy himself with this world’s affairs at the same time.

(3) “Allegiance to Christ takes priority over family relationships.”

Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.”  But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:61-62)

Jesus demands total devotion of His followers, even over one’s oldest, most cherished relationships, his family.  Even these bonds should not distract the disciple away from the will of his Master.  Yet tragically, it is not uncommon for a believer to allow the will of a family member to turn him away from the will of Christ:

  • “We were not able to worship with the church last Sunday because our family from out-of-town was visiting with us … and they did not want to worship our Redeemer.”
  • “We did not go to the mission field because our parents / in-laws did not want us to take their grandchildren away from them.”

Jesus, however, demands preeminence, over children … over grandchildren … even over Mom and Dad.

He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.  And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.  (Matthew 10:37-38)

This is the reality of discipleship:

One cannot follow Jesus and view his family as his supreme priority at the same time.

Let there be no deception among those who claim to be Christ’s disciples:  No man has two hearts … only one.  Therefore, no man can have two all-consuming passions … only one.

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.  (Matthew 6:24)

This is the reality of discipleship.  It is a lifestyle that demands nothing less than one’s death to self interests.  It requires one to let go of what everyone else is grabbing for in order to cling to the will of the Father.  It is the daily life of an undivided allegiance.

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Bible study is risky business.  It demands a response.  Bible knowledge will produce either a joyous reward or a grievous loss depending on whether we are doers of God’s Word or mere hearers.  That is why we should

“Take care how (we) listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him.”  (Luke 8:18)

  • That is, “whoever has” a living faith …
  • that motivates him to obey the Truth he knows,
  • the Spirit of God will increase his capacity…
  • to understand and apply even more of His Word.

Because he is a faithful steward of the Truth he knows, the divine Author of that Truth can trust him with more.

  • But “whoever does not have” this living faith …
  • that motivates obedience,
  • God will gradually remove his capacity …
  • to understand the Scriptures.

He will become “dull of hearing.” (Hebrews 5:11)  Because he is an unfaithful steward of the Truth he knows, he cannot be trusted with more.

Bible study is risky business because it makes the reader liable.  What he learns, he is responsible for.

So yes, it is highly important that you and I are in God’s Word.  But the bottom-line question is this:

Is God’s Word in me?  What am I doing with the Truth I already know?

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Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.  And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.

Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner” … And turning toward the woman, (Jesus) said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?  I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume.  For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Then He said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven … Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”  (Luke 7:36-39, 44-48, 50)

There are two kinds of sinners present around Simon’s dining room table this afternoon.  But only one of them had taken a good, long look in the mirror that morning.  Only one of them had seen the awful truth staring back.  The other had not.  In his mirror he had seen only what he wanted to see.

The awful truth confronting this prostitute and this preacher was that both of them were moral failures who deserved to die.  Both were terminally ill, sick with a spiritual cancer that plagues all of Adam’s sons and daughters.  Both needed to be healed by the Physician reclining at the table.  But only the street-walker accepted that reality. The Pharisee would not allow himself to believe it.

Perhaps you see yourself at this table in Simon’s dining room.  If so, there is something you should know.  Immorality will never satisfy an empty soul; and religion will never deliver one from eternal death.  Not in a million years.  But the One reclining at this table, the One Who bore our sins on the Cross, can.  His rescue from sin’s grip of misery and its curse of death is offered to all … no exceptions:  to the reprobate who live in a street’s filth … to the religious who sit in a church’s pew … and everyone in between.  The mercy of God is greater than all our sins combined … past, present and future.  All of them.  Not one of your sins is too great to exclude you from this invitation:

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden … and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29)

On that day both the preacher and the prostitute needed to be forgiven.  But apparently only the uninvited guest – poor in spirit – was repentant.  The host – rich only in the outward righteousness of the Mosaic Law – remained in his state of denial, rejecting his own need to be pardoned by his Judge reclining right in front of him.  The forgiveness Jesus offered meant nothing to Simon for his soul was satisfied by the self-righteousness of his religion.

Not so with this “woman who was a sinner.”  Unlike Simon, this woman of the street knew quite well what a worn out soul felt like.  She had experienced firsthand the tyranny of sin’s lordship.  She was acquainted with its misery … and its emptiness … and its shame.  But she also had some level of understanding as to Who Jesus was and what He was offering her.  And when she left that afternoon, her soul was filled with the relief of His forgiveness and the refreshment of His peace.

Do you know anyone like that, one who knew he deserved to die because of his sins but has, instead, accepted Christ’s death in place of his own?  One whose empty soul has been flooded with the forgiveness and peace of Christ?  If you know someone like this, the next time you are with him in a worship service, stand as close to him as you can.  And then watch him as he sings to his Redeemer.

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It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.  And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles ….  (Luke 6:12-13)

If you are a member of a local church, what did you have to do to become one? Some churches do not even have a membership.  But most do; and those that do usually expect the person to know the answers to some questions … then (perhaps) to be baptized or participate in a certain ceremony … and then, to be officially recognized by the leadership as a member of the church.

I have found that having my name added to a church roll has never been all that difficult.  Of course, to be an active member requires a certain investment of time and effort and money.  But not once has church leadership ever placed upon me their expectation to

“know the power of (Christ’s) resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings …”

In fact, I don’t think I have ever been challenged by a youth leader or an elder or a deacon to

“… (be) conformed to (Jesus’) death in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”  (Philippians 3:10-11)

But Christ has.  He has issued that challenge.  When the Master says “Follow Me,“ He is not merely inviting us to sing in the choir or serve on the Finance Committee or place 10% of our income in an offering plate.  There is more to this summons than “Be active in your local church.”  He is calling us to crucify, to kill, to put to death – daily – our own self-centered ambitions that we might submit our lives to the will of the Father.  To be a Christ-follower means a lot more than being willing to die for Him.  It means dying to self, allowing ourselves to be pierced through … every day … with the nails of His will for our life.

Luke chapter 6 gives us a snapshot of this powerful, painful, joyful, costly relationship with Christ Jesus.  Here, the Master describes the character of His disciple as one

  • who is aware of his own spiritual impoverishment. Knowing that he is “poor” in righteousness, he clings to the mercy of God (vs. 20, see Luke 18:13)
  • who craves the righteousness of God, available only through faith in Christ (vs. 21, see Philippians 3:7-9)
  • who grieves over his sins [seeking to turn his back on them] (vs. 21)
  • who is persecuted by the worldly because of his holy relationship with Christ (vs. 22-23)

We are also told that the Master expects the service of His disciple to be sacrificial, treating others as he would want them to treat him (vs. 31)

  • providing what is in the best interest of others, even his enemies (vss. 27-28, 30, 32, 35)
  • forgiving those who have wronged him [leaving justice in the hands of God] (vs. 29-30, 37, see Romans 12:19)
  • meeting the needs of others [who cannot meet their own needs and, therefore, will not be able to repay him] (vss. 30, 33-35, 38)
  • showing kindness and mercy to those who are ungrateful and wicked (vss. 35-36)

Being a dedicated church member is one thing.  (And it is a good thing.)  But being a dead-serious disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ is something more.  There is a price to pay; and the price is high.  To follow Jesus, one must execute his own self-centered interests and submit his will to the will of his Master.  When Jesus calls someone to be His disciple, the weight of that summons is nothing less than this:

“Come and die with Me.”

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