Yesterday, I turned 36 years old. I thought about this for a moment and realized, it has now been 25 years since I was in junior high. I want to tell you a story about an experience I had when I was in Middle School. I was in sixth grade, and I played on the basketball team. That particular year, we had what we thought was a great 6th grade team. I remember that everybody in the starting line-up had a last name that began with the letter, "B". There was Steve Brandon, Greg Bradley, Mike Bilardello, Dan Butts, and Chuck Bragg. We were so good that we called ourselves The Killer B's. We knew we were good, and we were winning every game that we played. We had something like eight wins and zero losses. At one point in the season, we were scheduled to play Steward Middle School. Steward is a little farm community. I looked it up on the Internet yesterday. In the 2000 census, they had a population of 271 people. Back 25 years ago, I'm sure there were even fewer people than that. We were very confident of victory. We were sure that whatever basketball team this town of 271 people produced, it could not be very good. We were so confident that we brought our entire basketball team down to play the game. The plan was that the "A" team (which consisted of The Killer B’s) was going to demolish them in the first quarter and then let everybody else play the rest of the game. When we got there to warm up, our confidence increased even greater. Their gymnasium was very old. They did not even have a digital clock on the scoreboard. It was one of those with a dial, like they had in the movie "Hoosiers." Well, you probably can guess what happened. We underestimated our opponent. The "A" played the entire game and was beaten by the little town of Steward.
The thing that I learned from that is that wrong expectations can produce VERY BAD results. I believe it probably would have been different if our coach had told us, "Guys, I know that Steward may seem pretty small to you, but they have a very good basketball team. We need to work very hard this week if we stand a chance in beating them." Had we approached the game with this in mind, we might have had a chance to win. After all, we were The Killer B's.
We are in a section of Scripture where we are listening to Jesus instruct His apostles as they prepare to go out on their first missionary journey. From verses 5 to 15, Jesus instructed them on the logistics of their journey. He told them what they should do, where they should go, and how they should respond. Beginning in verse 16, Jesus instructs them on what they should expect to happen along the way. Jesus was placing before the apostles some very realistic expectations. They were not expectations of ease and comfort. Rather, they were expectations of hardship and difficulty. Such expectations would help them when they faced the difficulties that they were about to encounter.
The expectations that Jesus gave to His apostles are the same as every Christian in the world ought to expect in this world. Scripture affirms this again and again. I want to ask you this morning about your expectations as a Christian. Do you have an expectation that the Christian life is easy and that you will be victorious with great ease? Or do you realize that the cost of following Jesus Christ is very high? Let's turn our focus not to Jesus' words. Jesus said, ...
"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household! Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven."
Last week we found that Jesus has told His disciples several things. He told them to be wise and innocent (verse 16), to know the danger (verses 17-18), and to not be anxious (verses 19-20). This week we look at what Jesus says beginning in verse 21.
Jesus tells His apostles to know the danger (verses 21-22a). In verse 21, we read,
"And brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents, and cause them to be put to death." (Matt. 10:21)
With this instruction, Jesus returns to a familiar theme. In verses 17 and 18, Jesus had warned these apostles of the danger that would be coming upon them. Those verses referred to danger that was to come from the religious authorities and from the governmental authorities. In verse 21, the danger comes from the family. Last week I took a survey. I asked if there were any among us who had ever been delivered up to religious or governmental courts on account of your testimony for Jesus Christ. There were none of us who claim to have suffered that. Let’s take another survey this week. How many of you have experienced persecution from your own family members? I trust that there are several of you who have experienced this. This is not unusual. It often happens that new believers in Jesus Christ face persecution from their family. Particularly, this takes place when a member of a religious family comes to faith in Jesus. As they proclaim their new-found faith in the home, they pronounce a judgment upon the religion of the home, whether they mean to or not. If you are in a Roman Catholic home, and come to faith in Jesus from a Roman Catholic home, you are declaring that you believe that Roman Catholicism is wrong! If you come to faith in Jesus from a Jewish home, you are saying that the Jews are wrong in their beliefs. I can think of several homes in which this has been the case.
a. Persecution can come from within your family!
It can come from your flesh and blood. It ought not to take us by surprise. Jesus said in verses 34-36, ...
"Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN'S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD." (Matt. 10:34-36)
This ought not to surprise us. The first two children ever born were at odds with each other. We read in Gen. 4:8 that "Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him." The issue in this case was not simply sibling rivalry. It was an issue of righteousness and wickedness that clashed in the home. Abel offered up a sacrifice that God accepted. Cain offered up a sacrifice also, but we know that God had no regard for it. The writer to the Hebrews said that Abel’s offering was accepted because it was offered "through faith" (Heb. 11:4), which testified "that he was righteous" (Heb. 11:4). The first murderer killed his brother out of religious interests. The first martyr came from within the family because of Abel’s faith in God.
If you take a look at the accounts of Abraham and his descendants, you will find members of his family in constant conflict with each other: Isaac and Ishmael; Jacob and Esau. In each of these cases, the issue of contention between them was a religious issue: who would be blessed by God?
The Bible gives examples of conflict among families because of the faith of family members. Jesus tells us of conflict among families. These conflicts happens. We ought to acknowledge that this will take place. The gospel is offensive. The gospel does divide! When you come to the knowledge of the truth and find your hope in Jesus Christ alone, you come into direct opposition to all of the humanistic thinking in this world. There is only one way to God, and it is in God saving you. He saves by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. There is no working your way to heaven. There is no being good enough to get to heaven. "Christ died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust to bring us to God" (1 Peter. 3:18). God hates and disapproves of sin. Repentance from your sins is required to enter the kingdom of heaven. When Jesus calls us to faith, he calls us to forsake our former manner of life, and to embrace a life of faith toward God and love towards man. Our good deeds "adorn the doctrine of God" (Titus 2:10) and "are fitting for sound doctrine" (Titus 2:1).
When you begin to proclaim this message to your family, there will be hostility. There will be hostility among your family when you say to your father, "Dad, I know you go to church and profess to know God, but the things that you are watching on television are detestable in the sight of God. By your deeds, you are denying the master that you claim." I guarantee you that dad will not like that. There will be hostility among your family when you tell your mother, "Mom, your only hope of getting to heaven will be through faith in Jesus Christ. Your yoga and new age philosophy books will not get you there. If you do not believe in Jesus, you will spend an eternity in hell!" I guarantee you that mom will not be enjoying that conversation. There will be hostility in your family when you are straightforward with the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I have known of families that have disowned their children after they have converted to Christianity. I have heard of families having funerals for their children after they convert to Christianity, because they consider them to be dead. They are ostracized and alienated. This week, I read the testimony of a man, whose name is Bassam, who converted to Christianity from Islam and faced tremendous persecution from his father. He wrote,
"My father delivered me to the Security Forces and they arrested me and put me in prison for converting out of Islam. I had a very bad time there, as they tortured me to force me to return to Islam. They used electric shocks, beatings, and hanging me from my wrists all night. After a few weeks of this I was put in solitary confinement for almost a year. But I could not deny the one that gave me life. Now I am out of jail and I have left my home country as I am still wanted there for apostasy from Islam. I am still walking with Jesus, and I love Him because He loved me first and put Himself on the cross for me. I knew from the very beginning that I was going to have some trouble; didn't He say about Paul 'for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.' (Acts 9:16)." (source: World Religion Index, http://wri.leaderu.com/pages/bassam.html)
This type of thing is terrible, but it is to be expected. Yet, what Jesus speaks about here is even more than disowning or ostracizing or considering their child as dead. Yes, even more than having your child tortured. It speaks of hostility to the death. "And brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child (to death is assumed); and children will rise up against parents, and cause them to be put to death" (Matt.10:21). May I remind you that it is a capital crime to speak against Mohammed in many Muslim nations today. Many parents and children betray their own flesh and blood. Bassam lived to tell his testimony. There are many that do not.
b. Persecution also comes from society.
Families are often hostile to Christianity because our society is hostile to the gospel. Look at verse 22, "And you will be hated by all on account of My name." Followers of Jesus Christ face a hostile world. Let us rid ourselves of the notion that being a Christian will give oneself a good reputation in the community. There are plenty of business people in this world who would like to have a reputation of being a good, family-oriented, church-going man. They go to church on Sundays so that they would be known as being religious and righteous and trustworthy. Does this type of attitude match what Jesus said in verse 22, "And you will be hated by all on account of My name"?
I remember when I was in high-school, reflecting upon my life. My grades were good. I was good at athletics. I was a good Christian. I was pretty complete, I thought. With my mind (grades), my body (athletics), and soul (Christianity). I remember looking upon my Christianity as a "good thing" which others would look at and respect me for. It was sort of like my community involvement. Yet, this does not take into account what Jesus said in verse 22, "And you will be hated by all on account of My name." This is hardly a small theme in the Bible. We are repeatedly told these things. Jesus said, "If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:19). Paul said, "And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Tim. 3:12). David wrote, "The wicked plots against the righteous, and gnashes at him with his teeth" (Ps. 37:12). "The wicked spies upon the righteous, and seek to kill him" (Ps. 37:32).
The world in which we live is hostile to God. The world in which we live is in rebellion to God. Romans, chapter 1, speaks about how God has made Himself known in the world through His creation, yet the world has chosen to reject God. Instead, they have embraced their own sins. This was nowhere better exhibited than it was when Jesus walked the earth. There was no reason for anybody to hate Jesus. When Peter summarized His life, he said, "God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and He went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed by the devil; for God was with Him" (Acts 10:38). The clear testimony of Scripture is that Jesus never sinned against anybody (see 1 John 3:5; 1 Peter 1:18-19; 2:22; Heb. 4:15; 7:26-27). And yet, the world hated Jesus. John writes, "He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him" (John 1:10-11). Jesus said, "And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil" (John 3:19). Jesus said, "You know the world hated Me. ... They hated Me without a cause" (John 15:18, 25). The reason why people hated Jesus (and put Him to death), is because they hate God. And Jesus is every bit God.
The Jesus that the world today finds so attractive (i.e. His gentleness and care and nice-sounding teachings), my friends, is not the real Jesus. Certainly, Jesus is attractive. He is attractive to repentant sinners who see their need for a Savior. He is lovely, sweet, approachable, kind and loving. And we do, "love Him, and ... believe in Him ... [and] greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8). But, He is only attractive to those who have acknowledged, confessed, and repented of their sins. To those in the world who love their sin, Jesus is anything but gentle, caring, and loving. Psalm 2:12 gives us a great view of these things.
Do homage to the Son, lest He become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him. (Ps. 2:12)
When you worship the Son and take refuge in Him, you will be blessed. You will find Jesus to be gentle and kind and loving and accepting and receiving. But, when you refuse to worship Jesus, you will find Him to be a Holy terror. His wrath will be kindled. He will become angry. You will perish in the way. This is the Biblical Jesus. Many people hate this Jesus, who imposes into their life and demands that they forsake their sin and follow Him. Because these people hate Jesus, they will hate you. Notice the connection in verse 22, "You will be hated by all on account of My name." Followers of Jesus will be hated by the world. They will be hated, because of Whom they represent.
There will be difficulties from family. There will be difficulties from society. You can count on these things coming upon you. Jesus said that they would happen. Believe Him!
In verse 22, Jesus said, "It is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved." To these disciples, these words would have come to them as a great encouragement in their ministry. Jesus had just finished telling them that they would be facing great danger. Their dangers would come from the established religious system (verse 17), the governments (verse 18), their own family members (verse 21), and from all of society (verse 22). And now Jesus says, "the one enduring to the end will be saved." These apostles were going to experience intense difficulty, hardship, and trial in their days. They could give up, or they could endure. To encourage them on in their endurance, Jesus gives a promise of future reward for present sufferings. Jesus was telling them that their suffering now will be rewarded by their salvation later, so they need to continue to press on. They should not quit. Glories await them!
The Biblical writers are always directing our focus to the things after this life. We are constantly told to take eternity into account (especially when things are difficult upon the earth). Paul said, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Romans 8:18). Paul encouraged the saints, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). Moses chose "to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin; considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward" (Heb. 11:25-26). James said, "Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him" (James 1:12). Peter wrote, "To the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation" (1 Peter 4:13). John said, "everyone who has this hope [of seeing Jesus and being like Him] purifies himself, just as He is pure" (1 John 3:2).
This vision of eternity is what helps us to press on. In Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian always had an eye toward his future. His eye was upon the glories that would await him in the celestial city. His trouble came when he looked upon his circumstances, rather than upon his reward.
Church family, you need to cultivate an attitude in your heart and in your mind that looks to the reward that awaits you. Salvation awaits you! We are promised eternal life in the presence of God! (John 3:16) We are promised an "imperishable, undefiled, and unfading" inheritance (1 Peter 1:4). We are promised "the right to the tree of life" (Rev. 22:14). We will be drinking from "the water of life without cost" (Rev. 22:17). There will be no more tears (Rev. 21:4), no more death (Rev. 21:4), no more mourning, or crying, or pain (Rev. 21:4). There will be pleasures forever (Psalm 16:11). We will know what it means to be like Jesus (1 John 3:2). We will see Jesus just as He is (1 John 3:2). And we will receive "the unfading crown of glory" (1 Peter 5:4). Such a reward should encourage you to endure until the end when your salvation will be complete.
We need to be forward looking people. We need to look forward to the salvation that we will obtain in the future. This will encourage you to endure until the end. What is it that drives an athlete to endure hours and hours and hours of training? Why does an athlete endure pain in the lungs because of wind sprints, and muscle pain because of weight lifting? It is the hope of the prize that is set before him if he wins. What is it that keeps a student diligent in the study? What keeps a student negligent of outdoor relaxation and enjoyment? Why does a student often study into the difficult hours of the night? It is the hope of a good grade, that will land a good job, that will provide economically. What is it that pushes a musician to practice and practice and practice? What keeps a musician pressing on, even when tired? It is the hope of playing in the orchestra or performing well. Why is it that a Christian will persevere under trial? Why will a Christian endure the hatred of the society and face death willingly? Why will a Christian tolerate family members who persecute them? It is faith in the promises of God. "He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Heb. 11:6). "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1). We need to look forward to the things that await us.
For the past five months, some of the men have been reading a book by J. C. Ryle called, Practical Religion. Some of those involved have been reading a chapter of the book each week and responding to the group with an email commenting upon what was read. Our reading assignments finished yesterday. The last chapter that we read was entitled, "Eternity." Let me read from the email that I sent out this week,
"Yvonne and I always have discussions about the seasons. I like the spring-time best of all, because we have 6 months of warm summer to look forward to. Yvonne likes the middle of summer, when the warmth is being experienced. I like the anticipation of it. For instance, June 21st is a sad occasion for me. Yes, it is the longest day of the year. And yes, we always have a party on that day. Yes, we celebrate the day (and enjoy it). However, when I realize that the days will be getting shorter and shorter and shorter for the next six months, I am discouraged. On the other hand, December 21st is a great day for me. Yes, things are bad. Yes, things are cold. Yes, things are dark. Yes, we have several months of cold to look forward to. But, the days will begin getting longer! Things are looking up! I can rejoice at such things. I smile at the prospect of a better future. (Yvonne doesn't quite understand this Illinois weather thing)."
This is the point of Jesus. He is encouraging His disciples in the midst of their difficulty. How easy would it be for them to say, "If following You, Jesus, means that I would be in trouble with the religious community and in trouble with the government and betrayed by my family and hated by all men, I’m not so sure that this is for me." But Jesus gives them this encouragement to endure. Yet, He said, "the one who endures to the end will be saved." This is a glorious thing! It's a glorious promise.
The next book that the men will be reading (beginning today) is The Life and Diary of David Brainerd. For those of you who have listened to the autobiographical tape that John Piper has done, you know a bit of the tremendous struggles that he faced in his heavenly journey. He was expelled from school, struggled with melancholy, had physical weaknesses, and died a painful death from tuberculosis. On that tape, John Piper said,
"I think the reason David Brainerd’s life has such powerful effects on people is that in spite of all his struggles he never gave up his faith or his ministry. He was consumed with a passion to finish his race and honor his Master and spread the kingdom and advance in personal holiness. It was this unswerving allegiance to the cause of Christ that makes the bleakness of his life glow with glory."
God is able to keep you from stumbling. It is not your strength that will keep you enduring; it is God's working in you. In fact, if you have come to know your own sin, you will realize pretty quickly that there is not a chance in the world that you will endure until the end, apart from God "who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Phil 2:13).
The apostles needed to finish the job. In verse 23, Jesus tells His apostles,
"But whenever they persecute you in this city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you shall not finish going through the cities of Israel, until the Son of Man comes." (Matt. 10:23)
In verse 22, Jesus was encouraging these apostles in their faith for life. In verse 23, Jesus was instructing these apostles to finish the task that is given to them. As the apostles went out, they were not supposed to be distracted in their journeys. They were not supposed to go into Chorazin and say, "Hey, this is a pretty nice city, I think that I’ll just stay here for a few weeks, and then return." No. Their job was to go throughout all of the cities, preparing the way for Jesus to come into them.
How easy is it for us to start things, but not finish them. How easy is it for us to begin something, but get tired half-way through the project, and never find it completed. Jesus said that such a one is ridiculed. He said,
"Which one of you when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’" (Luke 14:28-30).
How many books have you begun to read, but not finished? How many projects have you begun, but not finished, because of other projects? How many times have you told someone, "I’m going to do this," but have failed to do so? Jesus calls us to finish the job. Finish what you start. Every other month, we put out a newsletter that I have entitled, "Food for the Flock." Before I produced the first one, I was talking with Yvonne about doing it. I was very apprehensive about it. I told her that I was fearful of the kind of commitment that it was going to take in the months and years to come. I told her that I did not want to start something that I could not finish. This was my biggest obstacle to starting this.
Christianity is about finishing the job. If you started something that you just cannot finish, I would encourage you to resolve it. Perhaps it means talking to the one to whom you said that you would do it and tell them why you cannot finish. Perhaps it means handing off responsibility to another, because of your circumstances that make it impossible to finish. Perhaps it means talking to your boss and telling him that you cannot finish the project that was assigned to you. Perhaps it means talking to those involved and coming to the decision that it does not make sense for you to continue along this path.
Jesus once told a parable of a man who went on a journey and entrusted his possessions to his slaves. In the parable, Jesus says, "to one he gave five talents (i.e. money), to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey" (Matt. 25:15). The one who received the five talents went and gained five more talents. The one who received two, gained two more talents. The one who received one, buried it in the ground. When the man returned from his journey, he called his slaves to settle accounts with them (verse 19). To the slave who earned five talents with his five talents, the master said, "Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master" (verse 21). To the slave who earned two talents with his two talents, the master said the same thing (verse 23). To the slave who buried his one talent in the ground, the master called him a "wicked, lazy slave" (verse 26).
We are called to be faithful to the things given to us. We are called to be faithful to the things we pledge to do. May Rock Valley Bible Church be found as those who "finish the job." We are to finish in our salvation. We are to endure until the end. But we are also to be known as finishers in the duties to which we are called.
Jesus said, "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become as his teacher, and the slave as his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!" (Matt.10:24-25). The goal of discipleship is imitation. I do not think that this is too difficult to understand. When you go to school, you want to learn what your teacher has to teach you. When you are an apprentice, you want to be able to do the skill that is being taught you. When a disciple subjects himself to his teacher, he wants to be like his teacher. When a slave learns from his master, his goal is to be able to do what his master teaches him to do. So also is the goal of a disciple of Jesus Christ, to be like Jesus. This includes being treated like Jesus.
So, if Jesus was called "Beelzebul" (or as some texts say, "Beelzebub"), what do you think His disciples will be called? If they are like Jesus, they will be called, "Beelzebul" as well! This is not exactly a compliment. "Beelzebul" is identified in Matthew 12:24 as "the ruler of the demons."
It goes far beyond name calling. If they sought to stone Jesus (John 8:59), will they not seek to stone His disciples? If they falsely accused Jesus (Mark 14:56), will they not falsely accuse His disciples? If they accused Jesus of blasphemy (Mark 14:64), will they not accuse His disciples of blasphemy? If they spit on Jesus (Matt. 26:67), will they not spit on His disciples? If they mocked Jesus (Matt. 27:31), will they not mock His disciples? If they pressed a crown of thorns upon the head of Jesus (Matt. 27:29), will they not press a crown of thorns upon His disciples. If they beat Jesus with their fists (Matt. 26:67), will they not beat His disciples? If they beat Jesus with a staff (Matt. 27:30) on His head (Mark 15:19), will they not beat His disciples with a staff? If they crucified Jesus on a cross (Mark 15:24), will they not crucify His disciples? Down through the ages, all of these things have come upon the followers of Jesus Christ. They may happen to you.
I am concerned with the message that is preached across our land today in the name of Christianity. In our passage today, Jesus describes the life of a Christian in three ways...
a) Danger awaits those who follow Christ
You may be persecuted by the religious leaders. You may be persecuted by the government. You may be persecuted by your own family members. You will be hated by all. In fact, if you choose to follow Jesus, you might pay the price with your own life! Does this square with what is often preached in our land today? It is commonly said today that "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." Is martyrdom a "wonderful plan for your life"? The prosperity gospel teaches that "you will have great success if you follow Jesus." The prosperity gospel claims that it will actually be better in this life for you and your family. But if you look at Jesus' message, you will find phrases like "Hated by all", and "Persecuted", and "Delivered up to death"? Is this better or worse?
b). Following Christ is a life-time commitment.
Jesus says that the ones who will be saved are the ones who endure to the end. There is so much focus today upon "making a decision" for Christ. There is much effort today centered around people "praying a prayer" and "accepting Jesus into your heart." I have heard so many people today base the assurance of their salvation upon an event in the past. To those who preach this type of message, it appears that the importance is not in finishing the job, but rather it is upon "starting the race," regardless of their expectations of how hard (or difficult) the race may be. Our modern-day evangelism says, "He who starts the race will be saved." But Jesus says that "The one enduring to the end will be saved." The Christian is not the one who starts running the race. The Christian is the one who finishes the course.
c) People will treat you with cruelty.
They persecuted Jesus. As His disciple, they will persecute you. Now, how many gospel messages have you heard that say "come follow me and you will be in for troubles and distresses and persecutions and difficulties." We hear the Christian life described as a life of bliss and ease. But nothing could be further from the truth. The Christian life is a difficult life. The Christian life is a life of suffering. "We are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him" (Rom. 8:16b-17).
Oh, there is help in the times of difficulties. Next time, we will see the help that is there in verses 26-31. It is hardly like we are doing it on our own. Paul gives his perspective when he said, "By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me." (1 Cor. 15:10)
The good news of the gospel is that we do this by constantly relying upon Him and seeking His help and His strength. The moment that you think that you will run the race by yourself apart from the strength of God, you will find yourself running in mud and will soon be exhausted. And then you will quit. We have this promise: "He who started the work, will be faithful to complete it in you" (Phil. 1:6).
Ought not we present a gospel to people that is consistent with the words
of Jesus? We should tell those interested in following Jesus Christ to...
1. Know that danger awaits.
2. Be sure to finish the job.
3. Expect the worst from people.
Remember the testimony of Bassam that I read earlier. He said, "I knew from the very beginning that I was going to have some trouble." Are these your expectations as a Christian? Paul encouraged the saints, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). This is the message that Jesus gave to the apostles. This is the message that we are to receive today! I want to close this morning with verses 38 and 39, "And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it."
This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on
April 6, 2003 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.