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1. Do you love your family more than you love Jesus? (verses 35-37)
2. Do you love your life more than you love Jesus? (verses 38-39)

This morning we will be looking at a very sobering passage of Scripture. It is found in Matthew 10:34-42.

Matthew 10:34-42
"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. 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. He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it. He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you he shall not lose his reward."

The beginning of verse 34 might strike you as sounding strange. Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword" (verse 34). Does that strike you as strange? Wasn't it prophesied of the Messiah that "a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace"? (Is. 9:6). Didn't the angels proclaim to the shepherds at Christ's birth, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased"? (Luke 2:14). Didn't Jesus teach us in the Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God"? (Matt. 5:9). Didn't Jesus tell his apostles, "As you enter the house, give it your greeting. And if the house is worthy, let your greeting of peace come upon it"? (Matt. 10:12,13). But in this passage here, Jesus says what seems to be exactly the opposite: "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth."

Doesn't the apostle Paul teach differently? He said, "that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:1). He also said that "[Jesus Christ] Himself, is our peace, ... making the two [Jew and Gentile] into one new man, thus establishing peace" (Eph. 2:14, 16). Paul said that Jesus "came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near" (Eph. 2:17). He said, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men" (Rom. 12:18). The writer to the Hebrews tells us to "pursue peace with all men" (Heb. 12:14). God is called "the God of peace" (1 Thess. 5:23). The message of life that we bring to the world is called, "the gospel of peace" (Eph. 6:15). I could give you many, many, many other verses that teach this similar thing (Jud. 6:24; Job 25:2; Ps. 29:11; 34:14; 85:8; 120:7; 122:7, 8; 125:5; Is. 52:7; 54:10; Ezk. 34:25; Mark 9:50; Luke 7:50; John 14:27; 16:33; Acts 9:31; 10:36; Rom. 8:6; 14:17; 15:33; 1 Cor. 7:15; 2 Cor. 13:11; Gal. 5:22; Col. 1:20; 3:15; 1 Th. 5:13; 2 Th. 3:16; 1 Pet. 1:2; 3:11). The obvious question this brings to our minds is that with all the emphasis upon peace in the Scriptures, what do the words of Jesus mean?

The way to understand Jesus’ words on this occasion is to understand the two words, "purpose" and "effect." It was not that Jesus set upon His mind to go into the world and create chaos, distress, dis-harmony, trouble, and affliction. Jesus was the "Prince of Peace" who came to make peace. However, in the midst of His ministry of peace, one effect of his ministry would be conflict and trouble and hardship. So, when Jesus says, "I did not come to bring peace, but a sword," he is speaking primarily about the effect of His ministry, not the purpose of His ministry. The effect of Jesus’ ministry is that it will divide. Jesus’ ministry will divide, because this world is made up of conflicting kingdoms -- the kingdom of God and all other dominions in the world. Christians have been "delivered ... from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son" (Col. 1:13). In that transferring process, new friends were gained, (thus establishing peace), but new enemies were made (thus creating conflict).

In recent days this has been illustrated in the life of John Walker, who was born an American, but transferred his allegiance to the Taliban in Afghanistan. When he did that, he became a friend of many in Afghanistan, but became the enemy of many in the United States of America. When he joined the Taliban fighters, he came to peace with them, but lost peace with the United States. When you come to faith in Jesus Christ, a similar thing takes place. Your allegiance changes realms. When you are on the side of the kingdom of Christ, "the world forces of this darkness" become your enemies. They want nothing to do with you. Conflict will come! This is what Jesus said, "I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." The sword is a weapon to be used in times of conflict, such as when Peter drew out his sword to strike the ear of the slave of the high priest (Matt. 26:51). When the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is embraced, there will be conflict. Jesus says that there will be antagonism between those of His kingdom and those of the kingdom of this world.

In verses 16-25, Jesus already spoke about the dividing nature of His ministry. Jesus did not paint a picture of how they would be received gladly in the world. Rather, Jesus painted a picture of how they would be rejected by the world. He said that His apostles should expect to be treated like sheep in the midst of wolves (verse 16). He told his apostles that they will be delivered up to the courts and scourged in the synagogues (verse 17). They would be brought before governors and kings as evil-doers (verse 18). They will be delivered up to death (verse 21). They would be hated by all (verse 22). They would be persecuted (verse 23) and be treated worse than Jesus, who was called, Beelzebul (verse 25). Those who hate them will be united on one side, and you will be on the other side of the issue.

Following Jesus will mean a hard road for you. There are battling kingdoms in this world. Yes, Jesus came to establish peace, but in the process he has created division and conflict with those who hate Him.

In our text this morning, Jesus places before his apostles two forces that will resist them from following Him. These are applicable to us today. The forces are: (1) family and (2) one's own life. Jesus challenges us in verses 35-37 regarding the division that we will face within our own family. Jesus challenges us in verses 38-39 regarding the division that we will face within our own life. My message has two points this morning. I am putting them by way of questions. The first question is...

1. Do you love your family more than you love Jesus? (verses 35-37)

Let's look at verse 35,

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 10:35).

In this verse, Jesus is quoting from Micah, chapter 7 where Micah was describing the extent of strife in the land. The godly had "perished from the land" (Micah 7:2). The leaders and the judges of the people asked for bribes (Micah 7:3). Micah wrote, "The best of them is like a briar, the most upright like a thorn hedge" (Micah 7:4). You could not trust your neighbor or your closest friend (Micah 7:5). There were division among the families (Micah 7:6). Families had turned against each other. The closest of all bonds was being broken. All this was happening because of sin. Jesus takes Micah's words one step further. Not only will the members of the man’s household be at enmity with each other because of sin, but when the Savior has come, He will bring new animosities within the family.

It is often the case that when a family member embraces the Savior and the message of life, the enmity will increase. This will happen precisely because of Jesus. When a person comes to Christ and by faith embraces Him, there is often a price to be paid in the family. Persecution and rejection from family members become realities. I have seen it happen. As Jesus said, "A man’s enemies will be the members of his household" (verse 36). We addressed this a few weeks ago when we looked at verse 21, "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." This conflict in the home that is created by one who follows Christ will often persuade people away from following Him. There are people who love their family so much, that they would never think of offending their family. But, a life following Christ will offend a sinful family. A difficult choice must be made; it is a choice between Christ and your family. Jesus said it like this, "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" (verse 37).

The obvious question for you this morning is, "Do you love your family more than you love Jesus?" In listing the members of the family, Jesus is pretty inclusive. He talks about parents ("father or mother"). He talks about children ("son or daughter").

Perhaps for you, the difficult choice is your father. You love your father. You adore your father. You do not want to hurt your father in any way. Yet, you know that following Christ has caused a tension between you and him. In this church, I know one man whose father thinks that his son's Christianity is no better than a pile of pig manure (or something to that effect). In this church, I know of one man, whose father banned him from his house because of his Biblical understanding of the sovereignty of God over all things. In these instances, I have been so encouraged by the responses of these men, as they have clearly demonstrated their love for Christ is greater than their love for their own flesh and blood.

Perhaps for you, the difficult choice is your mother. You love your mother. You care greatly for your mother. You cannot bear to see your mother in distress. Yet, you know that following Christ has created a distance between you two. It is a struggle now. There used to be this unbreakable mother/daughter bond. But your obedience to Jesus Christ has broken this bond.

In some instances, we have never had to make a choice between Jesus and our parents. Some of us have non-Christian parents who are very content with the way that we have turned out. They are glad that you are not an alcoholic or a drug addict. They do not believe in your Christianity, but they tolerate it reasonably well, and even support you in it. Some of us have Christian parents who are thrilled that you are serious about your faith to follow Christ. In these things we can rejoice that it has not become an either/or choice in these instances. Jesus calls us to make a choice between our parents and Him.

Let’s turn our attention now to our children. Jesus says, "He who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me" (verse 37b). If I would have to guess where many of us find our struggle, it is precisely here. I love my children. They are a joy to me. As I think about this past week, I think about the things that I have enjoyed about them. I can begin with last Sunday morning. Every Sunday morning after I preach, I gather around the treasure chest and have a great time with the children of this church. Perhaps you parents do not realize this, but the treasure box sits on a chair. Each Sunday morning, I ask the children whether or not anything special happened this week to them that would give a good reason why they should sit in the chair. A child might tell me something like, "I helped my grandmother clean her yard yesterday." "I am caught up in our Bible reading schedule." "I helped set-up church last night." "I got a perfect score on one of my tests this week." "I brought a friend." "I had my first piano lesson this week." "I was in a play at school this week." "I helped in the nursery this morning." You see, they really want to sit in the chair, because the one who sits in the chair gets to pick from the treasure box first. I have to choose one from all of these to sit in the chair. One of the reasons that I have always granted "chair status" is if somebody lost a tooth during the worship service. Two Sundays ago, Carissa had a loose tooth and said, "Dad, I’m probably going to lose my tooth this week during the service." All service long, she worked it back and forth and back and forth, but it did not come out. However, she took special care not to lose it all week long. Last Sunday, I’m up here playing my guitar and singing and I happen to look down at Carissa and she has the biggest smile on her face, with a new gap in her teeth. She did it. She lost her tooth during the service, which guaranteed her a spot on the chair. Lest you think that my children are the only ones who are crazy, Matthew Hilbert also lost a tooth during the same service. I was speaking with him at Men’s Equippers yesterday and he was telling me how all week long he barely touched his tooth, but chewed from the other side of his mouth instead. He said that the Beef Jerky that his dad gave him was difficult to chew without dislodging his tooth. Last week, Matthew had one chair and we pulled up another chair for Carissa.

Children are a joy. And I love my children. Last Monday (on my day off), I took them to the skatepark in Belvidere in the morning and spent much of my afternoon working to build an enclosed house underneath the play-set that we have in our yard. I am building it for my children, because I love them and want to provide something for them that they will really enjoy. We are taking a vacation this summer surrounding many of the things that they have learned in school. Children are a joy. And I love my children.

Those of you who are parents, I know that you love your children as well. I have seen you interact with them. You could tell similar stories of how you have demonstrated your love for them. I have seen you make great sacrifice for your children. There are many of you who have chosen to invest many of the hours of your days into the schooling of your children. There are many of you have made great financial investment in your children. And I know that you have great emotional investment in the lives of your children.

So now, I ask you, "Do you love your family more than you love Jesus?" (verses 35-37) This is an important question here, because Jesus says that if you love your family more than Jesus, you are not worthy of Him. "Not worthy of Him" is another way of saying that "you are not a Christian." The follower of Jesus Christ has abandoned everything in his life and has taken Jesus as his supreme joy and hope and confidence and trust. This is what Jesus said was the greatest commandment: "to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matt. 22:37). Paul said it this way, "I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ" (Phil. 3:7, 8).

The follower of Jesus Christ has made everything take second place to Jesus. This includes your family. Is Jesus your treasure? Is Jesus your delight? Is Jesus your greatest joy? Or, is your family your treasure? Are your children your greatest joy? If they are, you have placed your affections in the wrong place. If they are, when they leave the home, you will be facing some difficult problems in your home. If they are, you will face your condemnation before God. The name of our God is "Jealous" (Ex. 34:14), and He will not tolerate taking second place to any object of our affection, including the family. In this sense, family can be like money. "The love of money is the root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang" (1 Tim. 6:10). So might we say, "The love of children may be a source of evil, and some by loving their children more than Jesus, have demonstrated that Jesus was not to be worthy of their own love." I know that I have said it strongly, because I want you to see how serious an offence it is to have any other love that is higher than your love for Jesus!

This week I was reminded of the trials in the life of John Bunyan, writer of Pilgrim’s Progress. He faced incredible difficulties in His life. One particular difficulty that he faced was that he spent 12 years in a Bedford Jail for preaching the gospel. He could have walked free if he had promised not to preach. He did not have to deny the faith. He simply needed to agree that he would not preach it any longer. So, his imprisonment was entirely his choice to make. He could have closed his mouth and he would have stayed away from the jail. But, he remained faithful to his calling as a Christian preacher, and for that he faced imprisonment for 12 years. One of the strongest pulls he faced in prison was his love for his family. Bunyan’s first wife had died after 10 years of marriage. She left him four children under 10 years old, one of whom was blind. His second wife, Elizabeth was pregnant when he was jailed for the first time. Listen to Bunyan’s heart-wrenching battle:

"...the parting with my wife and poor children hath oft been to me in this place as the pulling the flesh from my bones, and that not only because I am somewhat too fond of those great mercies, but also because I should have often brought to my mind the many hardships, miseries and wants that my poor family was like to meet with, should I be taken from them, especially my poor blind child, who lay nearer my heart than all I had besides; O the thoughts of the hardship I thought my blind one might go under, would break my heart to pieces. ... Poor child, thought I, what sorrow art thou like to have for thy portion in this world? Thou must be beaten, must beg, suffer hunger, cold, nakedness, and a thousand calamities, though I cannot now endure the wind should blow upon thee. But yet recalling myself, thought I, I must venture you all with God, though it goeth to the quick to leave you. O, I saw in this condition I was as a man who was pulling down his house upon the head of his wife and children; yet thought I, I must do it, I must do it (Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, paragraphs 327, 328).

Bunyan saw how his trials would bring destruction upon his family, which tore him up! Yet, he stayed true to his supreme love to Jesus. "I must do it! I must do it!" he said. His wife, Elizabeth was of the same stock. She went to stand before a few judges to plead for her husband’s release. Listen to what happened:

Judge Twisdon: "Will your husband leave preaching? If he will do so, then send for him."
Elizabeth Bunyan: "My Lord, he dares not leave preaching, as long as he can speak."
Judge Twisdon: "See here, what should we talk any more about such a fellow? Must he do what he lists? He is a breaker of the peace."
Elizabeth Bunyan: "My Lord, I have four small children that cannot help themselves, of which one is blind, and have nothing to live upon, but the charity of good people." ...
Judge Hale: "What is his calling?"
Elizabeth Bunyan: "He is a tinker, and a poor man, therefore he is despised, and cannot have justice. ... "
Justice Chester: "He will preach and do what he lists."
Elizabeth Bunyan: "He preacheth nothing but the Word of God."
Judge Twisdon: "He preach the Word of God! ... he runneth up and down, and doth harm."
Elizabeth Bunyan: "No, my Lord, it is not so; God hath owned him, and done much good by him."
Judge Twisdon: "God! His doctrine is the doctrine of the devil."
Elizabeth Bunyan: "My Lord, when the righteous Judge shall appear, it will be known that his doctrine is not the doctrine of the devil."
Judge Twisdon: "Do not mind her, but send her away."

Upon reflecting upon this exchange, Elizabeth Bunyan said,

"I was somewhat timorous at my first entrance into the chamber, yet before I went out, I could not but break forth into tears, not so much because they were so hard-hearted against me and my husband, but to think what a sad account such poor creatures will have to give at the coming of the Lord, when they shall there answer for all things whatsoever they have done in the body, whether it be good or whether it be bad." (Found in "A Relation of the Imprisonment of Mr. John Bunyan.")

Is your love for your family (your parents, your wife, or your children) greater than your love for Jesus Christ? If so, you may be guilty of idolatry of your family. Are you willing to give up all for Jesus and His glory? Are you willing to allow your children to go to a far-off mission field, or see your children martyred for their faith? The key to loving Jesus more than your family is found in verses 38-39.

2. Do you love your life more than you love Jesus? (verses 38-39)

In verses 38-39, Jesus says, "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 again" (Matt 10:38-39).

With these verses, Jesus probes deep into our affections. Rather than asking if you love your family more than you love Jesus, He now probes deeper and asks: Do you love your life more than you love Jesus? Your cross is the instrument which ultimately would kill you. In the times of Jesus, those who were condemned to die were forced to carry their cross beam to the place where they would be executed. Jesus was forced to carry His cross to the place of execution (John 19:17) until Simon of Cyrene was forced to carry it for Him (luke 23:26), He was unable to carry it any longer, due to His weakness (Luke 23:26).

When a person was surrounded by a few Roman soldiers who had strapped a large, wooden beam to his back and was forcing him to carry it out of the city to the place of execution, he knew that he had a one-way ticket to his death. There was no escaping it. He was going to die. When he got to his destination, he would be nailed to the cross and lifted high for all to watch him die as a criminal. This is your cross. Your cross is not some difficult situation in your life. Your cross is not some trial in your life. Your cross is not your in-laws. Your cross is not your knee that hurts when you play basketball. Your cross is what will eventually take your life! By the grace of God, you will overcome difficulties and trials. By the grace of God, you will be given patience to deal with your in-laws. By the grace of God, you will see that your bum knee is part of your fallen body. But none of these things will kill you. Your cross is what has been laid upon your back in your one-way destination to your death. So, then, what is your cross? Your cross is your death to yourself. Your cross is your forsaking of your life. Your cross is your losing your life. This is what Jesus implied in verse 39, "He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it."

This is not some strange, esoteric, only-occurs-once kind of teaching that Jesus is presenting here. I counted five times in the gospels in which Jesus said the exact same thing, with the exact same words! (Matthew 10:38; 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23; 14:27). "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23). "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:27). Jesus requires a complete abandonment of your life and a readiness to follow Him. Jesus repeated this message on many, many other occasions, only with different words. Let's look briefly at a few of them:

  • To the rich, young ruler, Jesus said, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me" (Matt. 19:21).
  • Jesus said, "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:26).
  • Jesus said, "No one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions" (Luke 14:33).
  • Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John 12:24).
  • Jesus said, "If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell" (Matt. 5:29).
  • Jesus said, "If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell" (Matt. 5:30; see also Mark 9:43-48).
  • Jesus said, "Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave" (Matt. 20:26-27).
  • Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field" (Matt. 13:44).
  • Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it" (Matt. 13:45-46).

This is a message of entire abandonment to self. It is a message of dying to self. How contrary to much of modern Christianity in America does this sound? The current flow of the day is "Come to Jesus, because He will give you everything you need." The current flow of Christianity is that it is an easy and wonderful life. This has fostered a "me-centered" Christian experience. It creates an attitude that says, "I go to the church where my needs are met! I go to the church where I am satisfied." In America, we are consumers. This spills over into the church in the form of an attitude of "I use Jesus to satisfy my needs!" But Jesus says, "Die to yourself. Consider yourself dead! Follow me!" Those who have died to themselves are not consumers. Rather, they are servants. Think of a house that has household servants. Who are the consumers? The owners are. Who are those who have died to themselves? It is the servants.

Jesus said we are to follow Him. This is not too difficult to understand. Even a child can understand what it means to "follow." One of the first games you play in school is "follow the leader" where you simply do whatever the leader does. When Jesus says, "Follow me," we are to go where He goes and do what He says. For these apostles, they were to physically walk with Him around Galilee and Judea and Samaria. For these apostles, they were to do whatever He told them to do. For us, we need to read His words and obey them. The great thing about Jesus and His leadership is that He demonstrated how we are to walk. Jesus not only told us to deny ourselves, but He also did it Himself. Mark 10:45 says, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." Phil. 2:5-8 says, "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." We are to follow Jesus by obeying what He taught us and doing what He showed us. This will mean a complete denial of yourself. You are to submit your entire life at the feet of Jesus and say, "Christ, my life is vain and empty and meaningless. I regard myself as done. I am your servant. Do with me as you please." This is the essence of Christianity; we place no confidence in the flesh, but give everything to Jesus (Phil. 3:3). Is this you?

There is a famous quote of George Müller. I have read it in numerous places. He wrote, "There was a day when I died, utterly died, died to George Müller and his opinions, preferences, tastes and will; died to the world, its approval or censure; died to the approval or blame of even my brethren and friends; and since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God" (as quoted by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Vol. 1, pp. 291-2). this isn't some "higher-level" Christian commitment. This is what Jesus has called all of us to do (verse 38). And so I ask you, Have you died to yourself? Have you reached a point where you have died to the world? Have you come to the realization, that the ‘flesh profits nothing’ (John 6:63)? If you haven't, you are not a Christian. To use Jesus’ terminology, you are "not worthy" of Him (verse 38).

The emphasis with Jesus’ words here is not so much that we need to attain this "worthy" status. Rather, we need to empty ourselves (as Jesus did) and claim His utter worthiness, and our willingness to be counted as nothing. Thus we will demonstrate our "worthiness." Oh, that we might catch the heart of David Brainerd who said, "I never felt it so sweet to be nothing, and less than nothing, and to be accounted nothing" (Life and Diary of David Brainerd, entry on June 8, 1742).

We obtain our worthiness in Jesus’ eyes, by demonstrating our complete unworthiness. Jesus calls you to forsake the world, deny yourself, follow after Him, and love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Paul said it this way, "I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24). As an apostle, he considered himself "as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things" (1 Cor. 4:13). At the end of his life, he said, "I am already being poured out as a drink offering" (2 Tim. 4:6).

This week I read the following, which attempts to flush this out in a very practical way:

"Suppose you have been neglected or unforgiven. You sting with the hurt of the insult from such an oversight, but your heart is happy because you have been counted worthy to suffer for Christ. That is what dying to self is all about. When your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, and your opinions ridiculed, and yet you refuse to let anger rise in your heart or try to defend yourself, you are practicing dying to self. When you lovingly and patiently stand face to face with folly and spiritual insensitivity, and endure it as Jesus did, you have died to self. When you are content with any food, money, clothing, climate, society, solitude, or interruption by the will of God, you have died to self. When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, record your own good works, or desire commendation from others, you are dying to self. When you can honestly rejoice with a brother who has prospered and had his needs met, and never feel any envy though your needs are greater and still unmet, you have practiced dying to self. When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself, and humbly admit he's right with no resentment or rebellion in your heart, you have died to self. Are you dead yet?"

Death is the way to life! To live, you must die! To enjoy life, you must hate your life. Jesus said, "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and monther and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:26). "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remians by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John 12:24). This is what Jesus was getting at in verse 39, where Jesus gives to us the path to life. He said, "He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it." Jesus is contrasting "life" with "LIFE." The lives we are living today are "life." The lives we may live in the future is "LIFE".

Let me read this and interpret verse 39 for you: "He who has found his life [with pleasures and things and entertainment and relationships here on earth in this life] shall lose it for eternity, ... and he who has lost his life [here on earth, with all of its attractions and allurements and pleasures] for My sake shall find it." In other words, if you are living for the here and now, you may like it, but you will die! If you have renounced this life and are seeking eternal life, you will LIVE! Jesus said, "He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to eternal life" (John 12:25).

Jesus once told the woman at the well, "Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life" (John 4:13-14). When you seek pleasure in this world, you will never be satisfied! You will always hunger again. You will always want more. You will always want bigger. The world will lose its attraction. Yet, in the world to come, you will be satisfied! Do you like the feeling of a nice, tasty dinner that has recently arrived in your stomach? Do you like the feeling of drinking a cool drink on a hot day as you sit in the shade by the swimming pool? These will be forever when we enjoy the "water springing up to eternal life". Psalm 16:11 says, "In Thy presence is fulness of joy; In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever."

To obtain them, you need to lose your life. You need to be on your death march. Your flesh will not like this.

Do you love your family more than you love Jesus? Do you love your life more than you love Jesus? I said earlier that the key to loving Jesus more than your family is found in verses 38 and 39. There is a priority here. You need first to deal with your self-love, before you deal with your family-love. Before Bunyan ever entered prison, he was resolved in his heart that he was prepared to die. There were several scriptures (Col. 1:11; 2 Cor. 1:9; 2 Cor. 4:18) that greatly impacted him to be able to write,

"Before I came to prison I saw what was coming, and had especially two considerations warm upon my heart. The first was, how to be able to encounter death, should that be here my portion. ... As to the second consideration, ... I was made to seek that if ever I would suffer rightly, I must first pass a sentence of death upon everything that can be property called a thing of this life, even to reckon myself, my wife, my children, my health, my enjoyment, and all, as dead to me, and myself as dead to them. To live upon God that is invisible" (Grace Abounding to the Chief of sinners, paragraphs, 324-326).

May we do the same!

 

This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on May 4, 2003 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.