by Steven Gledhill for FREEdom from MEdom Project
At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. John 6:66 (NLT)
Much of the world these days lives in perilous times; a sign that we are likely in the latter days, if not the last days, pending the return of Jesus Christ to retrieve His bride, the church; the family of God; you and me and all who believe. We who are in relationship with Jesus are already citizens of heaven in the aeon of resurrection; the age of God’s grace. Even in America we are experiencing difficult times in the face of a vulnerable, increasingly fragile economy. It won’t require the might of foreign enemies to bring down nations considered to be world powers. It will be what has been referred to as the seven deadly sins that will bring powerful nations to their knees: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth (laziness), wrath, envy, and pride.
Throughout the world there appears to be a widening divide between right and wrong, good and evil. In places in the world where poverty and oppression abound, there tends to be movement toward “God” from a place of desperation. I put quotation marks around the word ‘God’ since religious movements are afoot that are in the name of God or Allah, that involve people whose religious activity is intolerant and hostile toward those that do not believe as they do, and/or whose religious practices violate the precepts of authentic faith through relationship with Jesus Christ and, according to Scripture, are enemies of God.
Then there is the church of Jesus Christ. Talk about vulnerable and increasingly fragile, today’s church, particularly in western civilizations, appears to be compromised and settling for comfort and convenience over responsibility and discipline. The armor of God is too heavy and we as today’s church prefer to go out there unprotected and vulnerable to attack from the enemy.
“On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18 (NKJV)
While several translations suggest that the church will not be overcome by the powers of evil, I tend to agree with the teachings that it is the church full of the power of all-consuming God that is on the march against its enemy whose gates are not strong enough to keep the church of Christ—the spiritually-armed family of almighty God—from overwhelming and overcoming it. But how does an army lulled to sleep by the indulgent comforts afforded her by her enemy remain strong, alert, and prepared for battle? The enemy army is adding to its numbers at an alarming rate immersed in training for war against everything the church of Jesus Christ stands for. There is a spirit of antichrist alive and well on planet earth. This isn’t new. It’s been the case for a couple thousand years. The spirit of antichrist in the world seems to be discouraging today’s church. Do we not know that even though our opposition looks formidable, even intimidating, that this is not a wrestling match of equally weighted foes. The people of God, led by the Spirit of God, are a dominant, superior force that is unmatched on every level. So why do we look and act like we can lose; that it’s even a possibility?
Dear children, the last hour is here. You have heard that the Antichrist is coming, and already many such antichrists have appeared. From this we know that the last hour has come. These people left our churches, but they never really belonged with us; otherwise they would have stayed with us. When they left, it proved that they did not belong with us. But you are not like that, for the Holy One has given you his Spirit, and all of you know the truth. So I am writing to you not because you don’t know the truth but because you know the difference between truth and lies. 1 John 2:18-21 (NLT)
Today, it is paramount that we engage by way of surrendered obedience unto the truth by which we claim to believe and live by. Keeping this on the I-statement, I must ask myself what it means to be all in unto surrendered obedience in my relationship with Jesus. If I am being honest here, I must admit that I am married to the creature comforts and luxuries not afforded to most of the civilized world. Working at the prison, I suggested to the group of men I counsel that as prisoners in America they have it better than at least two thirds of the people on this planet. What does that say then about me and how good I have it?
While in the flesh on the earth, Jesus experienced human nature. In his human nature he experienced real temptation. He spoke from the knowledge of his experience out of sympathy for the human condition in all of its sense of entitlement. And from his human perspective, Jesus had this brief conversation with someone who was probably just like me, and it went like this:
Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”
“Why ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. But to answer your question—if you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments.”
“Which ones?” the man asked.
And Jesus replied: “‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else must I do?”
Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Matthew 19:16-23 (NLT)
This is a hard teaching for me living in the comforts of the American lifestyle as a Christian man serious about recovery from my addiction to me. What does God require of me? What does it really mean for me to humbly live a life surrendered unto obedience, serving God with my life in how I live day to day? Am I willing to be totally committed, capturing every selfish manipulative thought that wants its own way—my own way—arguing against authentic recovery from my preoccupation with what I feel I deserve?
We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NLT)
I have all too much in common with those who struggle to go all in, humbly serving Him whom I profess to be Lord, meaning Master, of my life; what I do… what I say… what I think.
Many of his disciples said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?”
Jesus was aware that his disciples (not merely the twelve but all who followed him from location to location) were complaining, so he said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what will you think if you see the Son of Man ascend to heaven again? The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But some of you do not believe me.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning which ones didn’t believe, and he knew who would betray him.) Then he said, “That is why I said that people can’t come to me unless the Father gives them to me.”
At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?” John 6:60-67 (NLT)
These folks that were following Jesus trended toward pursuing the manifestations of his power (healings, deliverances, and miracles) rather than pursuing fellowship with Jesus himself. They wanted the show more than they wanted the substance of God through relationship with Him. So Jesus spoke of things like the eating of his body and the drinking of his blood as the way to fully take in the best of who Jesus is in relationship. But most of Christ’s followers that day confused this teaching with the cannibalism that went on with some their ancestors for the pleasure of their idols. Lacking understanding they deserted Jesus and went back home; likely among the crowd that would later cry out, “Crucify him.”
That is why Jesus turned to the twelve of his closest friends and said to them, “You’re still here? Will you not also leave me?”
In titling this article, “6.66… Will You Also Leave Me?”, I deliberately used the numbers 666 to grab your attention. And while accepting the mark of the beast would represent a betrayal of the Savior, this clearly isn’t some discussion of end times kinds of things. What this is intended to be is a discussion about who I really am in relationship with Jesus; who you really are in relationship with your Savior, especially if you espouse Him to be the Lord, the Master, of your life.
What are you doing with your time? How are you living each day of your life? Are you surrendered to obey God with your time, energy, and resources? These are the questions I do not appreciate. I do not want that degree of accountability. The Bible says that what I do in secret will be exposed when the light of God shines on it. I am uncomfortable with that. But so what if I am uncomfortable with that.
At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?” Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. John 6:66-68 (NLT)
What other option exists for me when I have accepted that the Word of God is the truth? What other choice is there? What other solutions are there to my problem of discontentment? The reality is that I am dying on so many fronts and the only source for real life is in the person of Jesus Christ who wants relationship with me immeasurably more than I want relationship with Him. That is the truth and there is no other way to say it.
Your selfish core belief of entitlement has set everything in your life on fire and Jesus is the fireman here right now to rescue you from certain destruction and death. There is nothing to hold onto when He comes for you since everything is on fire. To hold on to things on fire is to continue to get burned. Let it all go and go with Jesus who wants to share with you His best; His best for you and all you love.
The irony, I suppose, is that to let it all go is to surrender it all into the consuming fire that is God. Rendered into the holiness of this consuming fire is to be purged of all that is wicked, and purified into all that is worthwhile and intended by the Creator of all that is good and best.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28-29 (NIV)
God loves you so much that He sent Jesus to come for you. Allow Him to come in to change you; transform you into something new, something perfect, something godly.
“I find a good many people have been bothered by…our Lord’s words “Be ye perfect.” Some people seem to think this means “Unless you are perfect, I will not help you,”; and as we cannot be perfect, then if He meant that, our position is hopeless. But I do not think He did mean that. I think He meant “The only help I will give is help to become perfect. You may want something less; but I will give you nothing less… The command “Be ye perfect” is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command… If we let Him—for we can prevent Him, if we choose—He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness.” —C.S. Lewis
Please notice that C.S. Lewis did not say or intend to imply that we will be gods in the sense that we will be worshiped. What he is saying emphatically is that we were created in the image of God and will be restored into what God intended us to be as we worship Him throughout eternity as the glorious creatures He created us to be… perfect in every way.
Just like Jesus said to the man earlier in this piece, He is saying to you and me today, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
We must humble ourselves to be obedient with a willingness to serve, willing to let go of all we are and have (Why not, since it’s all on fire anyway?) and seek first His righteousness—the best of all that God wants and has for us—trusting that God will care for our every need as we look forward to the treasure that awaits us in glory forever living the life that He intended for us all along.
“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be… No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money (material wealth, possessions)… Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:19-21, 24, 27, 30-33 (NLT)
If we are living in the last days awaiting the return of our Master, Jesus Christ, then we look forward with great anticipation to worship in glory Him having been made perfect, and all the more willing today to surrender all, enlightened by truth, even though it is at odds with the flesh, since after all, what other choice do we have?
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:68-69 (NLT)