Wednesday, September 29, 2010

In The World, But Not of the World

When Christ called us to repentance and warned that the Kingdom of God is near (Matthew 4: 17), at the very beginning of His ministry, potential disciples ever since have been faced with the gut-wrenching reality that most of us are very much of this world, and such a call to true discipleship would bring us to a place where we would have to face some very real, radical, and sacrificial choices. Let’s face it; a true disciple cannot live in this world without suffering much loss of those things that his flesh so deeply desires. (John 12: 25 and John 15: 18-19) These scriptures are the words of Jesus Christ, not me; but I must ask you, does the world hate you today? Or do you blend in with this world, so much, that at times in your ministry you’re applauded and heralded as being a really good guy? “Sure you’re a Christian, but at least you relate to those of us who are non-Christians, and you don’t preach at us”, they might say. We must love the lost and like Paul relate to them, but to love like Christ... is to suffer. And we must never compromise the truth of the gospel.

Is the statement, to be in the world but not of the world, a question without an answer; a theological quandary that gives us permission to simply sit on our hands and think? Be careful brothers, don’t think too long. If the world does not hate you, I would say based upon God’s word, it’s possible that you don’t belong to Jesus Christ. In Matthew 13: 24-29, Jesus tells us in the parable of the weeds, that while everyone was asleep the enemy came along and sowed bad seeds among the wheat. I would argue that many of the leaders of the churches of the western world are asleep today! And the amount of bad seed that has been planted, and continues to be planted, is almost to the point that it is beginning to choke out the wheat.

If a child of God, who is radically chasing after His Saviour, finds himself in the religious factory of western culture known as the evangelical church, it’s quite likely that he will be told not to sell too many of his things, or give too much up, instead that he should put his faith in perspective. It’s also quite likely that he will find men of power in the church today that would rather have him still seeking his own filthy sin, and never depart from his flesh, as long as the status quo in their church would not be challenged. Like a white washed tomb, he could look outwardly presentable to that which culture deems normal and good, and never really encounter discouragement from within the church; a dead man, never being told of his impending doom without faith in Christ. Yet if that same man falls so deeply in love with God, for the free gift of salvation and grace that he begins to die to his flesh and live a life so focused on things of God, many times that man will face criticism and rejection from the very brothers around him that should be inspired most.

God did not create man to glorify man, God created man to glorify God! And I don’t know how I can live my life seeking the things in this world and not be of this world? I’ll say that again; how can I live my life seeking the things in this world and not be of this world? It’s impossible! We must live in this world, yes! But let’s get honest about the condition of our hearts! Toiling over material purchases, obsessing during the day about what entertainment we’ll enjoy for the evening after work, spending hours watching or playing sports, trying to earn greater amounts of money to pay for 2 or more cars, trying to gain worldly wealth through investments and trading, pouring the heart into a smorgasbord of worldly things! And then because I do some ‘ministry’ work at church on Sunday or get involved in the right programs within the four walls of the church, I can receive the blessing of that church and its members? How does that make me a man a disciple of Jesus Christ? If He has called me to give up the ways of this world in favour of saving souls; then I better do it!

Wake up children, we’ve been put to sleep by the enemy, through a decadent culture that has made us so drowsy to truth, we hardly care anymore. Are any of the previously mentioned lifestyle activities, evil in their own right? I don’t think so. But when your heart and life is lived in such a way that all of those things add up to great big pile of dung that divides your heart from that of your love and devotion for Jesus Christ; then I believe you have chosen to live an evil, self-serving existence. (Romans 12: 1-2 and Matthew 6: 24) The issue isn’t political either, so if you’ve been anesthetised by that poison, give it up. This isn’t about socialism verses capitalism; this is about Jesus Christ and what He did at the cross! He commands us to be genuine followers of Christ. He didn’t go to the cross for our worldly well being and political might; Jesus went to the cross to save the very ones that sent Him there! That’s us; you and me! Please wake up to the truth!

We have so much more than we ever need, it’s almost sickening! Does the LORD give to us so that we might have comfort and pleasure? No, He gives to us so that we might be good stewards and use our resources to give to others, and of those gifts that which is most life giving; the good news of Jesus Christ, the gospel, unedited and without compromise... without compromise... without compromise. (Matthew 6: 24)

We will be hated by this world when we live without compromise. Are you hated by this world today? Do your coworkers and people around you know you to be a man without compromise, with that which is the love and truth of Christ crucified? Is the blood of Christ so dripping from your soul that if those around you were to touch you today, they’d risk becoming blood stained themselves? If so, I would say to you, my brother in Christ, you know of rejection, and loss in this world. But if you’re the ‘compromising Christian’, who makes excuses why you need to put things in perspective, in your daily activities, you probably don’t have too much to worry about in the way of the world hating you, do you. But where does that leave you in the Kingdom of God? Is Jesus making your life better able to have your cake and eat it too, or is He leading you to taking up your cross, and partake in the suffering, each and every day?

Are you a weed among the wheat? Have you had the seeds of this world so planted in your heart, even by the leaders of the churches you’ve depended upon, that you’ve lost your fire for Jesus Christ, or maybe never even had one? Have you become a person that discourages brothers in Christ, from obedience to Christ, in favour of your own interests, and comfort? Repent if you are! Get on your knees today, and then when you arise, take up your cross again and share His glory with everyone you can!

Being hated by this world is not our goal; it is a by-product of Christ living in us and through us. We cannot be lost in the ways of Jesus Christ and be so easily tolerated by this world. The same sinful world that He pulled me from, the world where I hated Him, the world of pride and power, the world of human glory and accomplishment, the world of greed, lust and money; that world HATES GOD! So if we are of Him and sent by Him, how can we not also be hated in this place that so hates Him? This does not mean that we hate the people of this world, on the contrary! We cannot love, or even really like this world, but we must know that the LORD has left us a mission; to bring His sheep home!

They are His sheep, not yours or mine! So they are precious, and He told us that a good shepherd would leave 99 sheep to go find one. That’s how much He loves His sheep! So as His Hands and Feet, we need to love them as His own, and put up with being hated as we take the message of the gospel to the world. We must rely on Him to bring His sheep home. We only need share the truth in love, and let Him save the souls. But we must live as true disciples crucified with Christ, without compromise, otherwise the lost sheep will see our hypocrisies and we will become their stumbling blocks. We must not go deeper into the darkness of hiding our sin so as to avoid looking like hypocrites, but instead, truly repent and believe in Jesus.

Action must be taken! Believers must stand up and be counted, today! If Christ has revealed to you that you have given way to slavery in your life, you need to run from that which keeps you from hating everything else compared to Him! (Luke 14: 25-27) It’s time we recognize the cost of being a disciple, my brothers! Maybe He has led you to do things others don’t understand or given you gifts that could be misunderstood, but don’t let your heart deceive you into receiving worldly rewards in the name of Christ, when He didn’t give them to you in the first place. Stop chasing your dreams and start chasing after Him! I’ve found that Jesus rarely leads us to a place of comfort in our flesh, but when we follow Him without compromise He always brings us a stillness of spirit, peace and joy.

May God bless you today.

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