By Andrew Lorek
24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
Usually, when I begin messages, I give an illustration and example of the topic at hand. But I want to get straight to the point in this matter. Too many "Christians" forget what being a Christian means. Their lives are based off of their own assumptions and what every other Christian is doing.
Our lives as Christians shouldn't be based on what we think, but based on the Word of God. We have to remember that we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. So now God has given us His Word (the Bible) so we can obtain that glory that we once had in the beginning. But only by the life, sacrifice, and resurrection of Jesus, the Forerunner of our faith, we are now able to do so. Jesus not only came to die for our sins, but He came to lead by example how God wants us to live. Otherwise, Jesus wouldn't have commanded us in Matthew 16:24 to "follow" Him. Jesus, according to Colossians 1:18, is the "head of the body,the church". That means that Jesus is the Leader of our faith, and Chief and Commander of our lives . He is the Creator of all things (Colossians 1:16) and the Giver of salvation. Without Jesus, we would all perish. He is our Intercessor and the only reason why God hasn't wiped this rebellious world and people off the face of the earth and given us the hell fire that we deserve.
He is the reason for our existence and should be the Head of our lives, but we just push Him to the side and only seek Him when we think it's convenient. Is that how we are to repay the One who willingly gave His spotless life as the ransom for our sinful lives? The one who saved us from eternal damnation? Absolutely not!!
Since He was willing to give His precious life for ours, we should be more than willing to give our lives and live for Him. Meaning;
Jesus should and deserves to be number one in our lives. His teachings, words, and commands are to be our guide for this life.
1 Corinthians 6:19, so says;
19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
You are not your own!
According to 1 Peter 1:18, 19 you were "redeemed"... "With the precious blood of Christ"
The word redeemed in the Greek translation means, to ransom (lit. or fig.) the word ransom means: something paid or demanded for the freedom of a captive. To free from captivity or punishment by paying a price.
There was the debt that we owed that we couldn't pay because of our sins. So Jesus gave His perfect life that He didn't owe, so we can be safe. We owed a debt that we were and are incapable of paying, so Jesus paid that debt that He didn't owe that only He and He alone could pay.
So what should our response be?
- Full submission to God's will and His words and commands.
When we come to Jesus it's only right that we make His will our will, and His way our way.
Matthew 16:24 Jesus said, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross,and follow me.
Deny - to deny utterly, disown, abstain
Cross - exposure to death, self-denial
Follow - to be in the same way with, to accompany, (specifically as a disciple)
One thing to remember about Jesus is that He never asks you to do something that He Himself hasn't already done. One of the reasons why He came to earth was to show that as a human and through the power of the Holy Spirit, you will be able to do what God has called you to do. Jesus made His desire to do His Father's will.
He said in John 4:34 that His meat (food) was to do the will of His Father. What satisfied Jesus was knowing that His Father was pleased and satisfied with Him.
The Father depended on Jesus to carry out His will because if Jesus didn't do it, then we would all perish and never have the relationship that He desired us to have with Him, as He created us to have. But according to Philippians 2:5-11, Jesus humbled and denied Himself for our sake so He could accomplish God's will and now because of His obedience, He is seated at the right hand of God with the Name above every name!
Jesus asks us to follow Him and after His example. Taking up your cross means; self-denial and exposure to death. We have to continually deny our will and desires, which will only lead us to a dead end, and take on the will and desires of God, and follow after the Way (see John 14:6) which will lead you directly to the Father, into everlasting life. We have to die daily as Paul said in first Corinthians 15:31, so Jesus can be glorified in us just as the Father was glorified in Jesus (John 17:14).
How do we deny ourselves? The first step to denying yourself is to humble yourself. You do this by acknowledging who you are, a human who wants a new way of life. You do this not because God wants you to hold guilt over your head, like in the Old Covenant, but to remind yourself how worthy God truly is of our obedience, because we did nothing but rebelled against God, and He in returned manifested His love toward us through the life, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus!
We have to continually remember that we wouldn't have anything without him, and we wouldn't even exist without Him. Lucifer, before he fell and became Satan, failed to acknowledge God for the power that he had been given by God. He failed to acknowledge that God made him to be the leader of worship, and that it as God that gave him the ability to create worship from his own body. He had gotten puffed up in the head and his pride. In return it caused God to cast him down and out of His presence. Now Satan and the other fallen angels are doomed to everlasting destruction (see Isaiah 14:21-24, Ezekiel 28:12-19, Matthew 25:41).
We are not better than anyone else. For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:21). It's only by God's grace and the work of Jesus on the cross that we are now children of God, and the righteousness of God. He Himself made us right with him (2 Corinthians 5:21, Colossians 1:12-23). So in return He deserves all the glory, honor, and praise. We have to continually acknowledge God and remind ourselves in prayer and while you're reading His Word, that God is truly our Source of everything: Salvation, wisdom, peace, hope, protection, love, power, etc.
We in return take the next step and give up our wants and needs, and take on the will of God.
We have to allow the Word of God to be the lamp unto our feet and light to our path. Our foundation should be built off of the Word of God. Jesus said in Matthew 7: 24-27
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon
25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
God knows everything. His wisdom is a billion times greater than ours. He has given us His Word (the Bible) so we will know what He wants us to do. And when we put his word to practice and not just merely read it, we are using the wisdom of Jesus Who has overcome this world (John 16:33) to overcome this world!
We will be able, through the power of the word working through us, to have the victory in our lives when the storms of life come our way. We might fall sometimes in the process of fighting with the Word of God (see Ephesians 6), but "Consistency is the key to the breakthrough" (Creflo Dollar). The more you actually use the word as your weapon, as Ephesians 6:17 tells us, the less difficult it will be to conquer problems that you're facing.
When you meditate upon the Word of God and continually remind yourself of it, the more you will see victory in your life because you're filling your mind and soul with the life from the Word of God Almighty, and eliminating the lies of the enemy. When you put God's Word to work, you're not just pleasing God by your obedience but you're building up your faith and trust in God and the power of His Word as you see it (the Word) coming to pass in your life.
You're letting it be known that God's Word is true and powerful as it says in Hebrews 4:12. You're glorifying God as you're allowing His glory to be manifested upon and through you, through His all powerful Word.
Pastor Rick Warren stated in one of his books that, "the heart of worship is surrender."
Romans 12:1,2 states in NLT:
1 And so,dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.
2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
There is nothing wrong with praising God in singing and dancing, but if you only reverence God on Sunday and deny His Word all the other days of the week, then you might as well not sing at all, because your worship is in vain. Though singing is a way we show our love to God, it doesn't mean that we're loving God the way we're supposed to.
Jesus said and John 14:5, If you love me, keep my commandments.
The loudest song you'll ever sing to God is through your actions and how you conduct yourself. If you really love God, you will obey Him. The only way to please God is through your faith. Hebrews 11:6
God wants us first of all to believe that He exists, and that He Is what His Word says He Is. And if we believe that He Is what He says He Is, then we should believe that His plans and provisions for us are good.
Jeremiah 29:11 says in NLT,
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
The Lord's intentions for saving you is for your good and for your benefit. He promises to bless us and all we have, including our family, job, finances, etc. but we according to Deuteronomy 7:12, have to hearken to His Words and obey His commands. And in Jeremiah 18:7-10 God says,
At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it;
8 If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.
9 And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it;
10 If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.
To make this clear, we're not talking about salvation here. Salvation is the free gift from God, We're talking about rewards God promises to us. But the rewards are not free. They are earned. How are they earned? By obedience to God and His Word.
Your actions affect the way God works in your life.
If He promises to do more good to you, it's because you've already been pleasing in His sight.
It's your job to continue therein, in the good that was already pleasing to God, so He can reward
and bless you.
But if you don't progress in obedience to God, you will stay in the same place that you're at, or move to an even worse place, so God your father can convict and discipline you.
For what parent rewards their children for doing bad? And what parent punishes his or her children for doing good and being obedient?
The way your earthly parent rewards or disciplines you, is the same way your heavenly Father will treat you. Will he stop loving you because you're doing bad? No. He'll just continue to allow you to go through some rough times until you learn, as it says in Hebrews 12:5-11
If you want to move forward with God, so you can grow closer to Him, so He can bless you, obedience is the key.
We have to humble ourselves and put Jesus first in our lives and acknowledge Him when we make decisions for our spiritual benefit.
Jesus said in Matthew 6:33; "seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you"
We have to do what God wants first and do what is pleasing in his sight, Then when you're walking in obedience, God will not only supply your needs according to his riches in glory, but He will satisfy your soul with His Presence as He fills you with peace and joy! But Jesus does not want a lukewarm follower. He said in Revelation 3:16
"So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spit you out of my mouth."
Jesus needs you to be all for Him and dedicated to doing His will. He will reward you physically, financially, superficially, and spiritually. I am a grateful partaker of all those blessings, and I could tell you of numerous accounts of my own life, even while incarcerated. In all the above areas, but I want you to experience God's blessings for yourself.
Jesus promises, in John 14:21, to reveal Himself through His love towards you, but only if you show love towards Him, by obeying and keeping His words and commandments. If you'll be faithful to God, He'll be faithful to obey His own words and bless you in so many different ways! God holds himself accountable to his own words. Isaiah 55 10, Numbers 23:19, Psalms 138:2.
Put Him to the test, and may your life be blessed forever more.
With much love,