September 1st 2014
Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Jesus, in these few words, tells us what it means to be one of His disciples. Three things: self-denial, enduring hardship and being faithful.
“Deny himself” or self-denial. It means saying no. One cannot follow Christ without the willingness to say “no” to other things or people. It is akin to repentance; turning away from things that have nothing to do with exalting Christ. Self-denial is a willingness to say no to self in order to live for another. It is what Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20, “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me…” Saying “no” to self means we will have to say “no” to things that we might consider to be morally neutral. Like saying “no” to a car that I can afford for a less expensive car because I desire to give more to God. It could mean saying “no” to a job that is “good” but requires me to miss the Lord’s Day. It could mean saying “no” to sports because they are scheduled during a time God wants me to be with my family.
“Take up your cross” means enduring the hardships that come with following Christ. Saying “no” to the very things the world says “yes” to will not always be easy or convenient. However, the issue remains, how much do I really want to be Jesus’ disciple? To what degree am I willing to follow Him? Or, is He my first and foremost love, and do I love Him above all else?
“Daily” means consistency and faithfulness one day at a time. It is what Romans 12:1 says, “to present yourselves as a living sacrifice”. Being a “living sacrifice” means you never cease being an offering to God.
Putting it all together, Jesus is telling His disciples if you want to follow Me then you will need to be dedicated wholeheartedly and without any reserve to My glory.
Our Father in Heaven, today, give me the love and courage to say “no” when You want me to, even to those things that are not inherently bad but are of no value to Christ, and the grace to endure the hardships that come from a world that does not understand. And Father, knowing it’s for your Son, make this my joy for all the world to see. Amen.
I just began preaching through the book of Galatians this past Sunday Morning. Paul’s primary concern was how some were distorting the gospel via the law. As I often do, in order to gain a richer understanding on a given subject, I look at contrasts. In this case I contrasted legalism (which Paul deals with in Galatians) with lawlessness (which he deals with in other letters). Through study, meditation and prayer I am learning that I have a disposition to both. Legalism and lawlessness are something we all struggle with. For example, there are times I know God wants me to forgive someone yet my heart is not really “into” it. Say for instance, someone makes me mad, I mean really angry. What they did was wrong, it hurt and I can’t believe they don’t see the damage done to me. Well, should I go ahead and forgive them, even though my heart is not “into” it? Or should I hold onto my anger? I realize to forgive, when my heart is not “into” it, turns out to be nothing but a mere act of outward obedience (a formalized tone, a legalistic gesture). On the other hand, if I don’t follow through, it’s living in disobedience (a lawless life). Either way, living a life of legalism or a life of lawlessness, God is not pleased. So, what path do I walk down?
Neither! God tells us to walk by faith in Christ! This means, our motives are different. We are no longer driven by law nor are we driven by lawlessness, but by faith in God’s love for us, namely Jesus Christ! Look, we all know the Law demands that I forgive. Jesus Himself says, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” But, because He says “If you love me” we know God requires more than just the words, “I forgive you.” He wants me to be genuine and sincere from the heart. So how do I walk? By faith! In other words, by faith I pray a prayer of confession, (being transparent before God that even though my heart is not “into” it I am not condemned because of Christ) and then by faith I go and forgive (trusting and desiring for God to change my heart in the process). In this way, neither legalism nor lawlessness has their way, only living by faith in Christ.
So, instead of approaching God through the Law, approach Him through His Son. In this way you will neither live a life of legalism nor a life of lawlessness, but a life in love with God.
January 14th 2013
In John Piper’s book “God is the Gospel: Meditation on God’s love as the gift of Himself” he pierces the heart with the following question…
“The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—
is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the
friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and
all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties
you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no
human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with
heaven, if Christ were not there?”
How appropriate is this question for our day? Enveloped in a consumer driven culture where total depravity is downplayed and the call to repentance all but lost being satisfied without God is a real danger.
For instance, if all we think about when we think about Heaven are the streets of gold, the mansions and having no more sickness and no more tears then does it not reason that we have not preached the true gospel of Jesus Christ? Moreover, is not receiving Jesus as Savior and not Lord equivalent to wanting the benefits of heaven without its King?
As wonderful as the gifts of salvation are, may they never rise up within our hearts and take the place of God Himself.