Monday, November 25, 2013

Discipleship and Revival 1 of 4

A four-part study on the cost of discipleship and revival: Part One

Don't let anyone rob you of this blessed truth. 

Ephesians 2:8, 9 states, For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. 

Romans 6:23 says, For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Our Saviour shed His precious blood upon the cross over 2,000 years ago to redeem sinners. To be saved, one must receive this precious gift, the Lord Jesus Christ, for the remission of sin. When the transaction occurs God immediately gives eternal life to the receiver of His gift.

Friend, it is free. Because of it one can exuberantly say with Paul, Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15).

The Price Paid by Christ

God's gift cost the Saviour everything. This included the relinquishing of His heavenly home for a period of 33 years. Philippians 2:5-8 beautifully pictures the sacrifice: Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Yes, He loved you and left the beauty of the "Holy City" to die an agonizing death upon Calvary. He said, I came down from heaven (John 6:38). Again, I am the living bread which came down from heaven (John 6:51). He loved you and gave himself for you (see Galatians 2:20).

God's gift also cost the Lord Jesus Christ His reputation. Philippians 2:7: [He] made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. His enemies tried to drag His holy name into the depths of degradation. Listen to them: He casteth out devils through the prince of devils (Matthew 9:34). He hath an unclean spirit (Mark 3:30). He hath a devil and is mad (John 10:20). "He is an illegitimate child." They said even that? Absolutely. His sermon so convicted the sinners of His day that they, in retaliation, shouted, We be not born of fornication (John 8:41). Christ bore all of this abusive language because of His great love for the lost including you.

God's gift also cost Christ great sorrow. He could say in Matthew 26:28, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death. He beheld the city, and wept over it (Luke 19:41). Again in Luke 22:44: And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Medical men state that blood is held in one's body by capillaries. When they burst, blood seeps through the skin. Jesus prayed so agonizingly over the souls of men that His capillaries shattered, His blood seeped through His skin, and beads of blood and water ran from His brow to the ground. Oh, how Jesus loved the lost.

Hebrews 12:2 looks ahead to the joy anticipated because of the sorrow endured: Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him [seeing the redeemed in His presence] endured the cross.

God's gift also cost Christ His life. Psalm 22 prophetically depicts the event. Listen to the Saviour as He hangs, fastened by spikes, to the cross: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? Verse 6: But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. Verses 13-16: They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. Do you hear the agonizing groans of the Lord as he pays the price of salvation for you?

Isaiah, the prophet, also portrays the ignominious scene in chapter 53:1-5: Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Paul says, Christ died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3). John adds, He loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood (Revelation).

Multitudes more of the "saved by grace without cost" crowd never win lost souls to Christ. Million slip into hell forever and forever and forever while believers fill their daily schedules with temporal earthly pursuits. They fail to witness because their exalted image could become tarnished by the taunts of those Christ-haters who belittle them. They might be called fanatics, fools, idiots, imbeciles, or Jesus freaks. Are we better than Christ who was called demented and mad in John 10:20? Are we better than Paul who said in 1 Corinthians 4:10, We are fools for Christ? God forgive us for not paying the cost of discipleship.

Let's investigate the price some of God's people paid as they followed Jesus.

Stephen, the first deacon, paid all he had by giving his life. In Acts 7:51 we find him preaching a strong, bombastic message naming sin. This kind of preaching is never popular. And [they] ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him (Acts 7:57,58).

The New Testament writers, with the exception of John, laid down their lives for the Saviour. Matthew died from the wounds of a halberd. Mark was dragged through the streets by a team of wild horses until death ensued. Luke was hanged. John was thrown into boiling oil. Though he lived, he was disfigured for life. Peter and Jude were crucified, and James was smashed to death by a club. Paul, last but not least, suffered more than the others combined.

He could say in 1 Corinthians 4:10-13, We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted [beaten], and have no certain dwelling place; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the off- of all things unto this day. In 1 Corinthians 15:31, he says, I die daily.

In 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 he continues, We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed: Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus.

Again, 2 Corinthians 11:23-28: In labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, and fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.

Think of it. 

  • Five times they scourged Paul with the forerunner of the Roman cat-o-nine-tails. 
  • Three times they used clubs on his body.
  • Once they crushed his head with rocks. Thinking he was dead, they discarded his body at the garbage dump of Lystra (see Acts 14:19).

Salvation is free, but it is not cheap. Discipleship that brings crowns and rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ is costly. Those who do not sacrifice here will have nothing in that day. They shall stand in Christ's presence ashamed (see 1 John 2:28). They shall suffer loss of all rewards (see 1 Corinthians 3:15).

One who is a disciple, a follower of Christ throughout this earthly, pilgrimage, has no regrets as eternity approaches. Listen to Paul again in 2 Timothy 4:6-8. He is about to have his life ended by decapitation beheading. His head will soon roll from his body as the sword severs it. 

Is he remorseful, regretful, and sorry? 

Would he like to relive life without all of the sorrow experienced as Christ's follower? 

You be the judge. He says, For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course. I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. There are no regrets-he is going home to be with Jesus forever.

Christian, get a copy of Fox's Book of Martyrs.

It will revolutionize your life as you see the price Christians have paid throughout history. They were grateful for free salvation and gave their all out of gratitude. Let me share two illustrations from this volume:

In the year 258 AD, three hundred Christians jumped into fires at Utica rather than renounce the Lord Jesus Christ.

In 304 AD, Timothy and Mara heard a knock at the door. A voice said, "Give us your Scripture portions that we may burn them." They replied, "Never. We would rather have you burn us." They took Timothy, removed his eyes, threw him in front of his wife, and said, "Now let him read his Bible." Six weeks later, the agents returned saying, "Will you renounce Jesus today?" "Never!" They then took this godly couple, and hanged them in trees in view of their little children. All this because they loved Jesus.

Salvation is free, but it is not cheap
Some of you have been treating it cheaply. Why not dedicate your life anew today. Get rid of habits, coldness, lukewarmness, and the spirit of unconcern that has hindered your growth in the Lord.