LOVE NOT THE WORLD (part 1)

Love Not The World When I was a girl, I had an old, stone-faced English teacher who made me fall in love with words.  In her mouth they marched, danced and sang as they became Beowulf, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton or Frost.  I saw multitudes of Technicolor scenes unfold before me while she addressed the class in a barely audible voice.  There were others like the home economics teacher who encouraged me to love homemaking and to create beautiful apparel from fabric and thread and the science teacher who helped me to see the wonders of the nature all around me.  College music teachers bragged up my ability as a singer while lofty Epicurean types inspired me to become more and more aware of my five senses.  In the first three years of college, I took 21 hours each semester.  My appetite for learning was insatiable.  As I sought to embrace life and live it to the full, all these and more appealed to my intellect and to my foolish pride.

Years later I met someone who helped me to love God and His word, and my mind and heart began a metamorphosis.  The transition has not been easy, since the lure of life in the world still calls from every direction.  Yet the true “life” (John 17:3) had so much greater call that it has made all the difference.  Because of God’s word, choices are already made.  Like the Philippians, we are bought and redeemed, but we are still working out our own salvation from day to day (Phil. 2:12).

Having known brethren who grew up in the church, who would not humble themselves to serve the one who created them, I have wondered if they too found the things of the world more appealing than the things of eternity.  Their reasoning could be quite simple.  Maybe not with words, but with their lives they were saying, “To me, the world is in Technicolor, while religion is in black and white.”

Having actually heard such a statement from one I love still sends chills down my spine and breaks my heart.  So why is the world in Technicolor?  Obviously comparing Technicolor to black and white provides the contrast some need to express their feelings about how flat and valueless religion is to them.  They mean that the world and the things of the world appeal to them like glittering jewels calling on every hand.  Do they understand they cannot serve two masters?  Apparently they do, and we also should understand that principle (Matt. 6:24; Luke 16:13) but make the better choice.  Either we live to satisfy our fleshly desires that bring pleasure on earth, or we live to sow to and bear the fruit of the spirit while building treasure in heaven.  Some know enough not to try to serve two masters, but they often choose the wrong one.

  • Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever (1 John 2:15-17).

Why is this commandment unacceptable to most people?  Almost everyone I know changes the words in this passage to say: do not love the evil in the world.  Is that what it says?  Is this talking about the people?  Who is in the world?  We have neighbors, friends, enemies and brethren.  We are commanded to love our neighbor.  We also are commanded to love our brethren, enemies and friends.  Who else is there in the world?  Is this a contradiction in the Bible?  Is He talking about souls or things?

(to be continued)

ARE YOU A DISCIPLE OF JESUS?

“Go therefore and teach (make disciples of) all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).

The above statement was made by Jesus to His apostles shortly before He ascended to heaven. Commonly called “The Great Commission,” notice the main thought of Jesus’ command: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” To “make disciples,” therefore, is the GOAL of evangelizing the world for Christ.

Are you a disciple of Jesus? More than likely you believe in Jesus. You might even be one to attend church services regularly. But is that what it means to be His disciple?

The purpose in this study is to make clear what is involved in being a true disciple of Jesus Christ. To begin, let’s define the word “disciple.”  The word “disciple” literally means A LEARNER, according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. It denotes “one who follows another’s teaching.” But a disciple was not only a learner, he was also AN ADHERENT. For this reason disciples were spoken of as IMITATORS of their teachers.

So what is the goal in being a disciple?  As stated by Jesus himself: discipleship is to be like the teacher (Luke 6:40). “The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.”  To be Christ’s disciple, then, is to strive to be like Him!

According to the apostle Paul, this coincides with God’s goal in the redemption of mankind, that they be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

Do you have a strong desire to follow Jesus and become like Him? Unless you have that goal, it cannot be said that you are truly His disciple! There are also some “identifying marks” of discipleship given by Jesus which can help us to further identify a true disciple of Jesus.

What are the marks of a disciple? A disciple is “one who abides in Jesus’ words” (John 8:31).  This would imply being a diligent student of the teachings of Christ. It also requires one to be a “doer” of the Word (Matt. 7:21-27; James 1:21-25). In view of this, a true disciple would not fail to study the Bible diligently or willingly refrain from opportunities to study with others (e.g. Bible classes, church services, gospel meetings).

A disciple is also “one who loves the brethren” (John 13:34-35) with a love patterned after the love of Jesus (“as I have loved you”). A disciple would love the brethren with a love that is visible to the world (“by this all will know”). Therefore, a true disciple would make every effort to get to know his brethren, take advantage of occasions to encourage and grow closer to them (e.g., attending services on Sunday and Wednesday nights). Remember, a disciple is one who wants to become like his teacher. Was Jesus willing to sacrifice time and effort for His brethren? Of course, and so will we… IF we are truly HIS disciples!

A true disciple is also “one who bears much fruit” (John 15:8). Notice the word “much” (also found in verse 5). Jesus is not talking about an occasional good deed, but a lifestyle which prompts people to glorify God! (Matt. 5:16). This is so important, that failure to bear much fruit will result in being severed from Christ (John 15:1-2). How can one be a disciple if he or she is cut off from Christ? The point should be clear: to be a disciple of Jesus Christ means more than just a casual church member. It requires COMMITMENT, especially in regards to: the teachings of Christ, the love of brethren and bearing fruit to the glory of God.

The kind of commitment involved is seen further when we consider the “high cost” of discipleship demanded by Jesus in (Luke 14:25-33). Jesus must come first (Luke 14:26). Jesus must come before anyone or anything else, including members of our own family (Matt. 10:34-37). Jesus must come first—before one’s own self. (Luke 9:23-25).

We must be willing to suffer for Christ. (Luke 14:27). Trying to live godly lives in an ungodly world, we may find that following Christ sometimes involves enduring ridicule and persecution (2 Tim. 3:12). Even if we are blessed to escape such things, we must still be willing to expend time and effort in promoting the cause of Christ in positive ways.  Putting it simply, we must forsake all to follow Christ. (Luke 14:33). In other words, Jesus must be KING and LORD of our lives. Nothing can take precedent over Christ and His Will for us. This kind of “high cost” of discipleship demanded by Jesus caused many people to turn away from following Him. But Jesus wasn’t trying to attract large crowds, He wanted disciples!

Is the COST worth it? I believe so, for consider some of the REWARDS of discipleship. There is the promise of “future blessings.” We shall be saved from the wrath of God which is yet to come upon the world for its sins (Rom. 5:9). We can look forward with joyful anticipation of eternity with God, free from sorrow, pain and death (Rev. 21:1-8).

Not only do we have these to look forward to, but there are also “present blessings.” Jesus offers a PEACE the world cannot give to calm the troubled heart (John 14:27). His words inspire JOY to lift our spirits out of any depression (John 15:11). He also offers to those who follow Him the ABIDING LOVE OF GOD, which can cast out fear (John 15:9; 1 John 4:18). And he makes it possible for us to be members of the family of God, which is able, if need be, to replace our physical family (Mark 10:28-30). There are many other blessings we could mention that are enjoyed by disciples of Jesus; but these suffice to demonstrate that though discipleship is costly, the rewards far exceed the cost!

Now that we understand the nature of discipleship, its cost and rewards, I hope that we want to be true disciples of Jesus Christ. But how does one begin? For the answer we return to our beginning text—Matthew 28:19-20. According to Jesus, the beginning of a disciple involves baptism (Matt. 28:19).

Why baptism? Remember the goal of discipleship: to be like Jesus. He was holy and sinless, yet we are to be like Him. Fortunately, baptism is described as an act of faith which puts us in contact with the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ so we can be forgiven (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4). It is also the means by which one “puts on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). So baptism is the logical starting place for true discipleship!

But what is baptism? It is an act of submission which must be preceded by faith in Jesus and repentance for our sins (Acts 2:36-38; 8:36-37). This precludes infant baptism, for infants are incapable of believing and repenting. It is also an act of submission which involves a burial in water, in which one then rises to walk in newness of life through the power of God (Acts 8:38; Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12). This precludes sprinkling or pouring as a mode of baptism, because neither of these involves a “burial” nor an immersion (which is the meaning of the Greek word “baptidzo”). When done according to the Word of God, baptism then becomes an act of faith on our part which results in a wonderful working of God in our lives! Our sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus (Acts 22:16; Eph. 5:25-27). We are “regenerated” and “renewed” by the Spirit of God so we can now live for God! (Tit.3:5-6). It is truly a “rebirth” involving both water and the Spirit (John 3:5).

Baptism is only the beginning. Teaching and obedience must follow (Matt. 28:20). This brings us back to the very definition of discipleship, for Jesus clearly states that we are to be TAUGHT (that is, to be LEARNERS), and we are to OBSERVE (that is, to be ADHERENTS or DOERS). In this way we embark on a life devoted to learning and doing all that Jesus has commanded us to do.

In conclusion, we note that only those scripturally baptized and demonstrating the “marks” of discipleship, despite the “costs,” can truly be called disciples of Jesus! Only they can realistically look forward to the “rewards” of discipleship, and take consolation in the promise of Jesus: “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, then the prospects of “A Closer Walk With God” and more fruitful service as a disciple should be of great interest to you. My prayer is that this lesson will help spark that desire in you.

Tribulation–A Sign of Salvation

Persecution and tribulation were a sign or token that the disciples were on the right path.

And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.  For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me (Phil. 1:28-30).

This suffering was ‘given’ to these Christians.  The Old Testament prophets were on the same pathway.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you (Matt. 5:10-12).

The Corinthian’s salvation was made effectual by suffering the same suffering that Paul and Christ had suffered.

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation (2 Cor. 1:3-6).

The Greek word for ‘effectual’ is generally translated by the verb ‘to work.’ Their salvation is effectual or works by enduring the same suffering Paul was suffering.  Paul said that the suffering of Christ abounded in him which is to say that Paul and the Corinthians were following in the same pathway Christ walked.

God calls men out of the world to walk in the same steps of suffering that Jesus suffered. “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1 Pet. 2:21).

The popular notion that Jesus suffered so that we don’t have to suffer is simply not according to the scriptures. He suffered so that we would follow his example. In fact, we are commanded to have a mind to suffer. “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind” (1 Pet. 4:1-2).

The disciple is not above his master and must follow the same steps. “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also” (John 15:20).

This is a promise, and the Lord’s disciples must have a mind to endure as he suffered. This is a critical reason that many are not able to follow Christ.  In the parable of the sower he describes the disciple who falls away.

But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;  Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended (Matt. 13:20-21).

He did not say ‘if’ tribulation or persecution arises, but ‘when’ it arises.  This is the plan the Lord has for his children.

The New Man has One Shepherd—ONE Master

Once the new man is in God’s family, he has but one Master, one Shepherd and runs from all others.  Jesus said, “And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.  And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers” (John 10:4-5).  Those who ‘speak where the Bible speaks and are silent where the Bible is silent’ and thus speak only as the oracles of God understand this principle.  Paul understood this principle.  He said, “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.  For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:11-12). Paul listened strictly and only to the words of God. The creeds and manuals of men add to and take from the word of God.  The Lord commanded that no man should add to or take from anything in the Old Law.  He said, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you” (Deut. 4:2). Peter and all the prophets understood this principle. Peter said, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.  For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet. 1:20-21).  If all the prophets spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, then they did not speak their own words and thus did not give their own interpretation to the word of God.  They were faithful to speak and write only those things in which they were moved by the Holy Spirit.  The prophecy they spoke was never given by their own will (the will of man), but only the will of God.  Those who interpret God’s word today simply ignore what God said and speak their own words.  When asked why they would interpret when the Lord plainly informs us that it is not allowed, some dare to change the word of God saying it should not read “interpret” but it should read “no private origin.” Virtually every literal translation except the paraphrase translations (like the TLB) translate the word ‘epilusis’ as interpret.  There is absolutely no manuscript listed in the Greek manuscripts (Nestles or UBS) that has anything but ‘epilusewV’ in that verse.  What justification could any man have for changing the word of God?  When the scriptures disagree with our theories it is time to change the theories, not the word of God.

Consider God’s faithful prophets and apostles regarding adding to or taking from the word of God.  Paul said “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Cor. 2:13).  Plainly he states that he did not use words which man’s wisdom teaches.  God inspired Paul to congratulate the Thessalonians because they understood this principle.  He said, “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thess. 2:13).  They did not receive the words from Paul as the words of men (as Paul’s words), for they were not Paul’s words, but God’s words, inspired by His Holy Spirit. Timothy understood this principle. “For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church” (1 Cor. 4:17). Paul taught the same thing in every church and Timothy was no different.

Jesus followed the principle excellently. “Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 5:19).  “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works” (John 14:10). The very words Jesus used were not his own.  He makes it even clearer when he uses each different kind of Greek word which refers to the ‘word.’  “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words (rhema – utterance), hath one that judgeth him: the word (logos—something said) that I have spoken (laleo—talk, utter words), the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken (laleo—talk, utter words) of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say (epo—to speak or say), and what I should speak (laleo—talk, utter words). And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak (laleo—talk, utter words) therefore, even as the Father said (ereo—speak or say) unto me, so I speak (laleo—talk, utter words)” (John 12:48-50).

The Holy Spirit followed the same principle.  Jesus foretold how the Holy Spirit would reveal the word of God to the apostles.  “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit did not speak of himself.  What he heard from Jesus is what he spoke to the apostles.  We have already seen that Jesus spoke only what he heard from the Father and the next two verses (John 16:14-15) say the same thing. The Holy Spirit searches the depths of God (1 Cor. 2:10-11) but He is still faithful to speak the words of God which he hears, and nothing else.

No man on earth is greater than the apostles, the Holy Spirit or Jesus; yet, men exalt themselves to speak their own words. Commenting on and giving examples of man’s work in rejecting the commands of the apostles and Jesus is not adding to the word of God.  It is exposing the folly of speaking one’s own words.  If any man speak, he is to speak as the oracles of God (1 Pet. 4:11), not as some who claim to speak, ‘in harmony with the word of God.’

THE NEW MAN IS ENTIRELY NEW

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).

Some wonder about this scripture for they can look at their own lives and see, in fact, that very little has changed. The Lord shows us how all the old things can pass away and everything can become new. “And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15). If the new man has the new mind (repentance) in not living for himself at all, then all of the old has passed away. If the new man has the new mind in turning to live only for the one who died for him, then truly everything has become new. If we lose our life for Christ and the gospel (Mark 8:25), deny ourselves and take up our cross daily and follow Christ (Luke 9:23, 24), and forsake all that we have (Luke 14:33), surely the old will have passed away and everything will become new. We have clear examples of prophets and apostles who, without question, lived for God and not for themselves in any way, like Moses and the other prophets, and Paul and the other apostles. Jesus did literally nothing of himself, but what he heard and saw from the Father—who is our chief example to follow. Truly, if we determine to walk in Jesus steps, live only for the Creator, everything will certainly become new, and the old will all be passed away.

So, who lives in the new man?

The new man no longer is willing to serve men, as he did before, for he has been bought with a price and commanded “be not ye the servants of men” (1 Cor. 7:23). If indeed he heeds the admonition, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10), he does so, not because of his own desires, but because his Master has commanded him to do so. When he serves his earthly master, he no longer does so to get his favor or to get a raise. He does so “Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men” (Eph. 6:6-7).

The life he now lives is really not his living for himself, but living to serve Christ who lives in him (Gal. 2:20), for he truly is living only for Christ. The new man follows his one Master’s example who said, “…Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 5:19). He no longer receives (accepts) honor from men, but receives honor from God only (John 5:44), like his Master (John 5:41). He no longer receives (accepts) any praise at all from men, but any praise he does receive is from God only (Rom. 2:28-29). It is no wonder he states that for all those with the new mind (repentance), all of the old has passed away and all has become new for they have crucified the old man and risen with Christ to walk in the new life.