Following Jesus Will Cost You!

Beheading

If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet, because you are not of the world, but I chose you out o the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:18-20)

Is this verse a warning given to those who will become followers of Christ? The answer to that question is a definite–yes! Confirmation that you are a follower of Jesus Christ is that you are despised for His Name.

 The God of the Bible is unique and separate from the plethora of false gods worshiped by the world.

Satan, who dominates the evil world system, is identified in scripture as the “prince of the air” and “god of this age” and it is he who instigates the hatred towards Jesus Christ, and His followers. The One True God, Yahweh or YHVH (tetragram) is the object of Lucifer’s abhorrence and detestation.

JEHOVAH is separate from all other false gods because His Name denotes the eternality, immutability, and uniqueness of His nature. He is also Judge and Lawgiver Who has hatred (Psalm 5:5), Enmity (Nahum 1:2), and Vengeance (Deut 7:9-10; 32:39-42) towards the sinner every day. These same attributes and identification of YHVH was applied by the Lord Jesus Christ to Himself in chapter eight of the gospel of John as confirmation of His deity. Therefore, hatred or rejection of One was in fact denunciation of Both.

“He who hates Me hates My Father also” (John 15:23)

Mere association with Jesus or the God of the Bible sparks anger and hostility towards (by the world) those who represent Him. Why is there such antagonism and resentment towards true believers or followers of Christ? Jesus tells us that because of His coming the world has no excuse for their sins and that He testifies that its deeds are evil. Christ followers who demonstrate intimacy, love, obedience and fruitfulness will invoke a similar response from the world. Men and women who reject Jesus Christ (as Savior) do so by choice, not out of ignorance.

Paul Washer writes in his book titled The Truth About Man, that “Man is not a victim, but a culprit. He cannot, because he will not. His corruption and enmity toward God are so great that he would rather suffer eternal perdition than acknowledge God to be God and submit to His Sovereignty. For this reason, moral inability may also be called willing hostility.” (Washer, pg. 55)

In his book, Washer uses the relationship between Joseph and his brothers (Genesis 37:4) as an illustration of moral inability. He writes, “Joseph’s brothers could not speak to him on friendly terms. It is not because they lacked the physical ability to speak, but because their hatred was so great toward him that they were unwilling to be friendly to him. In the same way, fallen man’s hostility toward God is so great he cannot bring himself to submit to God.” (Washer, pg. 56)

A similar example is revealed in the relationship or interaction between Jesus and Judas as recorded in the gospel of John. Judas having been selected by Christ to be His disciple was specifically chosen because God knew that he (Judas) would be the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy.  “…and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12) Judas loved the present world and would benefit monetarily by betraying or benefits, deliberately offering Jesus to him by the chief priest for thirty pieces of silver. Notwithstanding, Jesus offered to Judas (the same night) the opportunity to confess, plus, repent of his disloyalty and to become a recipient of His forgiveness. His final act of love towards Judas is demonstrated in the passing of ‘sop’ to Judas during the last supper. “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it…”(John 13:26) According to Jewish tradition, the host (Jesus) would designate the first morsel of food to the special guest as a way of symbolizing friendship. Similar to Joseph’s brothers, Judas was unwilling to turn from his (satanically inspired) plot against Jesus which would eventually lead to both his physical and eternal death.

Disdain towards Jesus and Joseph can best be attributed to the depraved nature of the human heart. “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murder…” (Matt 15:18) Men in rebellion against God abhor being confronted about their iniquities or transgressions. Jesus, having completed or accomplished the work the Father called Him to do would soon return to His original position glory. The responsibility of reaching the world with the “Good News” was delegated to His followers in the manner known as the Great Commission. “…I have given them Thy word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world…As Thou didst send Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.”

As servants of Christ, each believer will or should expect to experience similar circumstances to those endured by our Master during His earthly ministry. The ‘world’ (kosmos) refers to the created moral order in active rebellion against God and His followers. The Words of Christ, when spoken against the captives of this world system, bring opposition, hatred, suffering, and in some cases even death. Jesus clearly warns (verse above) all who believe in Him that they too will undergo persecution.

“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for yo to follow in His steps.” (I Pet 2:21)

D.A. Carson summarizes this point well in his book titled The Gospel According To JohnHe warns, “Those who preach Jesus’ gospel and live in progressive conformity to His own life and teaching will attract the same antagonism that He did.” (Carson, pg. 525)

Do the Words of Christ coincide with the mindset or approach to ministry by today’s church leaders? Stay tuned for part two of this message.

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What does it really mean to bear fruit (in Evangelism)

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain…” (John 15:16)

This is not an article on predestination or election, even though I could use the words of Christ to support each, but rather a note about suffering. Those of us chosen of God were specifically selected by Jesus Christ our Lord to bear fruit that would last throughout eternity. A good tree will demonstrate spiritual fruit such as godly attitudes (Gal 5:22-23), righteous behavior (Phil 1:11), praise (Heb 13:15), and leading others to faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 1:13).

Since I am an evangelist and was ordained by God to share the gospel with lost people I would like to discuss a view of witnessing rarely mentioned in Christendom. We hear much about tens, hundreds, and even thousands of people professing faith in Jesus Christ every year as a result of outreach or evangelism events (Crusades, Blitzes, Church Services, etc). Baptism figures totaled at the end of the year by Church and Para-Church organizations are used to provide evidence that their outreach efforts were productive or successful.

Nevertheless, it is important that believers consider suffering punishment, imprisonment, rejection, hardships; etc for the gospel as a form of fruit bearing. As example that strongly supports this statement is revealed in the life of the Apostle Paul. Consider his calling as revealed in chapter nine of the book of Acts. This great evangelist was told (by Jesus) that he was not only a “chosen” instrument but would “suffer for My names sake.” Our Lord foreknew that Paul would experience beatings, stoning, shipwrecks, imprisonments, hardships, hunger, thirst, sleepless nights and the like for preaching the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles. Nevertheless, Paul and other messengers of God throughout both the Old/New Testaments as well as church history experienced similar circumstances.

Cover of "Ashamed of the Gospel: When the...

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John MacArthur in his book titled, Ashamed of the Gospel” writes, “…Jeremiah, for example, preached forty years without seeing any significant positive response. On the contrary, his countrymen threatened to kill him if he did not stop prophesying (Jer 11:19-23); his own family and friends plotted against him (12;6); he was not permitted to marry and so had to suffer agonizing loneliness (16:2); plots were devised to fill him secretly (18:20-23); he was beaten and put in stocks (20:1-2); he was spied on by friends who sought revenge (v.10); he was consumed with sorrow and shame eve cursing the day he was born (vv. 14-18); and finally, falsely accused of being a traitor to the nation (37:13-14), Jeremiah was beaten, thrown into a dungeon, and starved many days (vv.15-21).” (MacArthur, 88)

John Fox records in his book Fox’s Book of Martyrs the testimonies of hundreds of men and women who throughout church history suffered to the point of death for evangelizing the world. This would include Stephen, the Apostles, Christians under Nero, Domitian, Trajan, Christians in living Persia, France, Calabria, Bohemia, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, China, Japan, Spanish America, Great Britain, Ireland, Scotland, United States, India, West Indies, Inquisitions under the Papacy, etc. Men like John Wickliffe, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Charles Surgeon and the like all suffered some form of persecution for their faith and for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Would emulating the sufferings of Christ be considered bearing fruit in the eyes of God?

Scripture records that before the Bema Judgment seat of Christ, believes are rewarded for their fruitfulness. The Bible mentions at least five rewards and two of them pertain to leading people to Christ known as the ‘Crown of Rejoicing’ mentioned in Proverbs 11:30; Dan 12; and I Thessalonians 2:19-20. The ‘Crown of Life’ is given to those who successfully endure trials, persecution, or suffering (for His name) is mention in James 1:2-3 and Rev 2:10.

Even though the current climate in our culture or world opposes the teachings of Christ, believers must (like their predecessors) be bold, plus steadfast in the proclamation of the gospel. Even if it means consequences that would cause Christians to suffer some form of ridicule, rejection, or negative repercussions for His name sake.  Not only is there a reward in eternity for this sort of fruit bearing, but also an opportunity to produce fruit in this present life. Remember, God called you out of the darkness and into His marvelous light in order to produce fruit that will remain!

Through Much Tribulation

e4l5Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in chapter twenty-one of Luke’s gospel presents many warnings regarding the state of the world prior to His return to the earth. Not only are wars, plagues, famines, terrors, and false prophets spoken of, but He informs us that the religious persecution of Christians will be common. He states, “But before all these things they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you delivering you to the synagogues and prisons bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake.” (Luke 21:12) Notice that He refers to believers being delivered to “synagogues” or taken captive by the devout or pious leaders in order to stand trial for their faith in Christ.

Soul Liberty is defined in a book written by Henry C. Fish titled “The Price of Soul-Liberty and Who Paid It” as the liberty to think and act in religious matters without human dictation or control. God has given men freedoms and liberties to choose and live according to his/her dictates. Scripture is the guideline given to believers to assist in discerning good and evil in relation to decision making pertaining to the will of God.  True believers will not or at least are hesitant to violate not only their conscience, but more importantly the Word of God while making assessments. Biblical convictions will most certainly cause conflicts in the world, but surprisingly, Jesus warns us struggles will also occur within the church. This is clearly demonstrated by the skirmish in the fourth century over Sacramental Efficacy. The Baptist opposed the idea of “clinic or sick-room baptism” as well as baptizing unconscious children in order that they might be saved. In response to this (unbiblical) soteriological view, the Baptist protested and were denounced by the Roman Empire.

According to Fish, they were persecuted by religious leaders as a result of holding their views. “In the following year, the council of Carthage, of which Augustine was the President, thus decreed: “We will that whosoever denies that little children, by baptism, are freed from perdition and eternally saved, that they be accursed…Thus early did Baptists begin to pay the price of Soul Liberty…And ever suffering for their faith, is it strange that they should have been first and foremost in denouncing religious tyranny, and proclaiming the sanctity of conscience?” True believers can expect similar responses from world governments and religious leaders comprising the twenty-first century false church. Especially, in relation to topics pertaining to marriage; false religions; homosexuality; the deity of Christ; the inerrancy of Scripture; biblical roles; government policies;  and soteriology.

A quick assessment of viewpoints, laws, and regulations recently implemented regarding those who oppose such hot topics as same sex ‘marriage’, public schools, abortion, homosexuality, Islam, and governmental policies  proves the truth of Jesus’ aforementioned predictions.  As a result of this increasingly more hostile environment, Believers have and will spend more time before judges and courts answering for our faith and convictions.  One example of secular opposition is the recent discovery of the illegal activities within the Internal Revenue Service.  Reports have been uncovered that expose the practice of opposing or denying certain non-profit organization’s request for 501c 4 status in order to block political influence.   Nevertheless, we see similar antagonism developing amongst religious leaders towards the concept of the God of the Bible being exclusive. Jesus states, “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teachings of Christ does not have God…” (2 John 9)  Many multi-faith or ecumenical leaders are attempting to unify world religious by laying aside doctrine in order to come together for the sake of a humanitarian effort.

In an article titled, Is Pope Francis Laying The Ground Work For A One World Religion the author writes, “Does Pope Francis intend to help the global elite achieve their goal of uniting all of the religions of the world under a single banner? Will he be instrumental in establishing a single global religion for the glorious “new age” that the global elite believe is coming? After he was elected, the cover of Time Magazine declared Pope Francis to be the “New World Pope“, and since his election Pope Francis has made it abundantly clear that he is going to make ecumenical outreach a top priority. He has spoken of his “determination to continue on the path of ecumenical dialogue“, and he has already held a number of very high profile ecumenical meetings. Not only has he worked hard to reach out to leaders from various Christian traditions, he has also made it a point to try to acknowledge the mutual bonds that he feels with all other religions. For example, in one recent address he made it a point to say that he believes that Muslims worship and pray to the “one God” that he also worships.

This “all roads lead to the same God” philosophy is a hallmark of the one world religion that the global elite have been slowly building toward for decades. The global elite know that even with a one world economy and a one world government, humanity will never be truly united until there is a single global religion. Unfortunately, this one world religion that they are seeking to establish is diametrically opposed to the Christianity that we find in the Bible. By throwing out Biblical truth for the sake of “friendship between men and women of different religious traditions“, is Pope Francis fundamentally betraying the faith that he claims to represent?

Christian persecutions

The biggest similarity between Islam and Catholicism is that both religions have a long history of persecuting and murdering Christians. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs written by John Foxe records not only the labeling of Christians as apostates but numerous murders occurring because of believer’s opposition to idols and satanic rituals practices by the papacy. Again, we are warned by Christ about the practices of religious leaders, “They will make you outcast from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God…” (John 15:2) So, how should believers respond? “It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony…for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute.” (Luke 21:13, 15)

Jesus’ solution to this problem is to witness, testify, or preach the gospel to our persecutors!

Only through hearing the “Good News” can men be saved. Therefore, Christians must not only be ready to preach the gospel but be ready to suffer for their faith. We are reminded in the book of Acts that through much tribulation, suffering, persecution, distress, rejection, we are to enter the kingdom of God. “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22b)

Foundational Characteristics Of Missional Leaders

By Gary Rohrmayer

One of my favorite leadership books is “Be, Know, Do: Leadership the Army Way” by Frances Hesselbein and General Eric K. Shinski (USA Ret.) This book takes a close look at the official Army Leadership Manual and applies its principles to the corporate and civic leadership realms. Here is the Army’s definition of leadership, “Leadership is influencing people, by providing purpose, direction, and motivation while operating to accomplish the mission and improving the organization”. (pg 5) This definition has three words that stand out to me: influencing, operating and improving. Influencing: motivating and loving others in the mission for the mission. Operating: creating plans, developing systems and managing their execution so that the mission is achieved. Improving: adding value to those around you and to the organization for the betterment of the mission.

So what does a missional leader look like in a local church? Here are eight qualities of those leaders who are seeking to align themselves and their churches with God‘s mission.

1. They are passionate followers of Christ.

Their leadership flows out of their relationship with Jesus and his missional call on their lives. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing”. (John 15:5 NIV) Cultivating spiritual intimacy is essential for leaders to live a vibrant missional lifestyle. For the leader to hear and obey God they must first love God.

As a new believer I read a lengthy biography of George Mueller written by A.T. Peirson. George Mueller lived during the 19th century. He was a rebellious young man who came to faith in Christ at the age of 20 and shook up the world with his humble faith and his passionate devotion for God. Four things that motivated me out of that biography were:  Read more of this post

Evangelism Encounters

The Great Commission was given by God to the church in order that unbelievers might be given the opportunity to hear the gospel and be saved. In order for the lost to hear then, believers must go into the world and preach. Scripture states, “How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? Evangelize4Life missions corp. stresses street witnessing and one-on-one engagements as one of our core principles of ministry. We believe this is important due to the fact that most lost people do not attend church. Therefore, I have established the habit of setting aside one day a week to share the gospel in the market place. It was during one such evangelismencounter that I had the opportunity to witness to a young man walking down the street on his way home from work.  The Lord had already been working in his heart because he was willing and ready to discuss eternity having had a friend murdered earlier in the week.

 

The Father Draws (John 6:44) and the evangelist shares the gospel

“Deliver those who are being taken away to death. And those who are staggering to the slaughter, Oh hold them back.” Proverbs 24:11

Marvin (not his real name) has lived a similar life of immorality, drug abuse and drug dealing as had his friend.  He realizes that he too will die one day.  This was a divine encounter as the Lord had spoken to him about his own eternity on that very day as he walked toward home.

I presented the gospel of Jesus Christ to Marvin, using the Bible as well as gospel tracts, and upon the hearing of God’s Word, this young man soon realized that he was destined for hell. His immoral life confirmed that he was a candidate for the lake of fire if judged by God that day. He was encouraged to cry out to God and ask for His forgiveness from the Father God, through His Son Jesus Christ.

Within a couple of days of our meeting, Marvin separated from his live in girlfriend and moved back home until he could rent his own apartment. Over the past couple of months, he has continued to read scripture and to pursue righteousness. Sadly, his walk with Christ has been negatively influenced by both his older and younger brothers with whom he is now living. It was during a follow up visit that I encouraged this young man to shun evil by turning away from marijuana use and be filled with the Spirit. Neil T. Anderson in his book titled The Bondage Breaker writes:

“Christ has set you free through His victory over sin and death on the cross. But if you have failed to stand firm in the faith or you have willfully sinned, it is your responsibility to do whatever is necessary to maintain a right relationship with Him. Your eternal destiny is not at stake, but your daily victory is.” (Anderson, 199)

Jesus has the power to set men free from the bondage of sin.  Scripture reveals men, women, and children being delivered from demons, sickness, physical afflictions, etc. through faith in Him. The apostle John writes, “If therefore the Son shall make you free you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36) This young man must learn that sanctification (to make holy) is necessary in order to become like Christ. Elwell writes, “Persons and things devoted to his use must be ritually clean, not merely set apart by taboo, decree, or tribal caste…the meaning of holiness is then worked out in philanthropy, love for God, clean living, compassion, commercial honesty, and love. (Elwell, 1051) Submission to God then gives believers the ability to resist the devil, causing him to flee.

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