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Discipleship – Loyalty to Jesus

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          Luke 9:23-24 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.Luke 14:26-27 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.Matthew 10:38-39 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” In today’s world and even in the church everyone only wants to hear a positive word, a positive message, something to pat them on the back and make them feel good. But there is a phrase that was uttered by Jesus several times. “You cannot be my disciple…” Why did Jesus speak so negative? Obviously Jesus did not read the book, “How to win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie. I mean, why did He have to state it negatively when He could just have easily said it in a more positive sounding way, like “If you want to be my disciple, you have to do such and such.” There has to be a reason and purpose for it being given to us in this manner, because God has never said anything without purpose, including the method of delivery. Not only what He spoke but how He spoke it had a purpose and meaning.

So I can only conclude that it was so that there could be no misunderstanding, to make the statement stronger because such a strongly worded statement is obviously meant to get your attention and because He didn’t want anyone to follow Him for the wrong reasons. If it was stated positively, then it is easy to try and put God in a box. Oh, if I just do this, then I’m His disciple and He accepts me. It’s kind of like the Pharisees, it would have been turned into salvation or discipleship by what you did, or simply, by specific works, actions or deeds, which is what the Jewish leaders had turned the Laws and Commandments of God into, a man-made religion of do’s and don’ts, salvation by works, without regard to your motives or the condition or attitude of your heart. God is not interested in that. He doesn’t want men to serve Him for or of the wrong motive or reason. So, Jesus statement is not in itself all inclusive, but that you can’t follow Him unless you do these things.

          We can see that Jesus didn’t want anyone to follow Him under false pretenses. Jesus was not interested in or concerned that those who were merely interested in Him and that would follow Him simply because of His power to perform miracles and because of His wisdom or those interested in Him because of His physical provision. Remember those who followed Him after the miracle of the fish and loaves of bread feeding the multitude. Jesus said they came because their stomachs were filled, not their spirit. John 6:25-27 And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither? Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.  Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you….John 6:35 I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

          Jesus looks at the multitudes of people who were pushing and straining to follow Him and said, “Unless you carry your cross daily, you cannot follow me, you cannot be my disciple.” Jesus was saying that if you want to be my disciple, you have to be loyal to me, love like me and live like me.

          So what is being loyal to Him all about? The one thing about Jesus is He never minced words. He always said what He meant and meant what He said. He never played with words or played word games like modern politicians. That is true of all of the Word of God.

Jesus would not have made a good modern day marketing executive. The very core and purpose of marketing is to have as many people as possible to be exposed to your product and to buy your product. Now, there is nothing wrong with that as long as it is done with truth and honesty. However, marketers understand the psychology of buying; they understand the psychology of the buyer and know how to make people want to buy their product. They know how to cause you to buy something that you would not have bought if it were not for their ads. Many people buy a product not because they need it, but because someone else is buying it or because of a good ad that appealed to them in some way, appealed to their ego, appealed to their lust of the eyes, appealed to their desire to be like someone else who is ‘somebody’ to them. So, that is why they use so-called stars or celebrities to advertise products and pay them big money to do so. So you will want to wear what Tiger Woods is wearing or Michael Jackson is wearing. Marketing Psychologists understand teenagers and how to market to them. They know that teens don’t need those $150 tennis shoes. But they know how to make them want it because others wear them and if they wear these shoes then they are part of the ‘in’ crowd, they are somebody. Peer pressure and being with some group that makes them part of an ‘in’ crowd is why many teenagers wear what they do from their shoes to baggy pants or low cut pants that shows their midriff or underwear. It isn’t because it is what they would have done, but what they do to be cool and recognized by others as with it.

          There is this story about a country store owner who really had a hard time getting people to come into his store. His parking lot was empty and he wasn’t having any luck at attracting customers. Then finally he got this idea. He went out to all his friends and borrowed their cars. He would go to each and say, ‘hey, can I borrow your car for a day.” And soon he filled the front of the store with cars, though they were borrowed cars. But, you guessed it. Within a few days he was doing a roaring business. People thought that this must be a good store because of the cars there, so they went to it. And he became successful.

Marketing is great and I will show you that marketing that is done honestly is good, but that which is dishonest doesn’t fit the bill of acceptance for the Lord Jesus. Luke 14:25And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them,” Prior to this, Jesus had a hugh crowd following Him. The marketers dream. Great multitudes followed Him. He had the chance to influence multitudes. Then the winsome Jesus becomes the winnowing Jesus. For those who need it, winsome means “Charming, often in a childlike or naive way.” Winsome people easily win friends, so it is not surprising that winsome and win have a common root. But Why did Jesus turn from being winsome to winnowing of the crowd that followed Him? What was His purpose, to get rid of people? Don’t you want lots of people to follow you? But you have to understand this about Jesus. If you want to be His disciple, you have to be loyal to Him.

There is so much cheap grace dispensed in the church today. It will ruin any sensitive Christian. The reason is that they don’t want to offend anyone. The church wants the crows to come and is willing to water down and compromise truth to get them. They run the church like a business out to make money by selling a product. They are making money and the product they are selling is mostly themselves and their ‘ministry’ as much as Jesus. Let me say that I don’t want to offend anyone either but there is a difference between being an offensive person and a person being offended by the truth of the Word of God.

I don’t want to be offensive to anyone, but if I lie to others in order to not offend them, have I not already offended them, even if they don’t know or recognize it? If I tell you a half truth in order to not offend you, have I not already offended you, when that half truth can cause you to be eternally damned? If I simply tell you what I know your flesh wants to hear, rather than the truth of God’s Word, have I not already offended you? You may not know or recognize it now, but I guarantee when they wake up in a hell they didn’t expect, they will be greatly offended a those who lied to them. Preachers in hell are going to be some of the most popular or unpopular people, depending on how you wish to view that. People who ended up there because they were lied to will be looking for that preacher and will be making him pay for eternity for what he did. It will be the opposite of those who make heaven and take others with them, where there will be eternal rejoicing together. In fact, if I did any of these things I have mention from outright lying or telling half-truth that deceives, to covering up truth that would offend and just pat people on the back to feed their fleshly emotions, I would be greatly sinning against not only you, but God.

Loyalty to Jesus requires integrity and integrity is on the list of endangered species in our culture and even in our churches. Many companies’ execs lie and cheat and deceive their stockholders to enrich themselves and see nothing wrong with that. We are seeing journalists and writers making up stories and fictitious events and they see nothing wrong with that. Politicians telling outright lies, as Clinton and as Kerry before the Senate when he returned from Vietnam and many other times. We are seeing preachers in the pulpit with messed up lives, watering down the truth so far it cannot be recognized and they think there is nothing wrong with it. They have to water down truth and justify sin because of their own sinful lives, so they are not ‘condemning’ themselves. We are seeing students in greater numbers every day that are cheating and copying term papers from the internet and they see nothing wrong with it. People are not willing to do things the right way, which takes more effort, work and labor, but want a shortcut to success. Television program after television program is designed to glorify deception and we seem to see nothing wrong with that. They are making people desensitized to sin and wrong, ever more increasingly. No wonder less than 13% of the population of the United States believes that the Ten Commandments are applicable to us today, even though a great majority claims to be Christian and a lesser majority who go to church. But what do they believe and stand for? Yes, less than 13%. No wonder we are in the mess we are in within the church and as a nation.

It all began with those in the pulpits when the preachers began to place marketing ahead of truth, when preachers began to put pleasing people above pleasing God, when preachers have made an accommodation for sin instead of a condemnation of sin, when preachers began to put popularity ahead of God’s precepts. This is where it all began. And we can see the consequences of what began in the pulpits of America years ago and what it has done to the church and our society. We have ceased to be salt and light in our society. We no longer are a preserving factor and no longer do we expose darkness and sin. Why do I say this? Because as the pulpits of America go, so goes the society. Our society is in danger of falling apart and ceasing to exist because of this continuous slide in integrity, especially in the loyaltyministry. No culture has ever been able to survive such a slide. Those of us who love this country ought to be crying out. Seeing such insanity as in a church recently in Florida where Kerry was campaigning as if God is involved in such. Paul said, “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

So here Jesus has this hugh crowd, which is a marketers dream. And what does he do? He says to them, “Unless you are prepared to deny yourself, carry your cross every day and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.” I am sure that some of the modern day marketers, the Madison Avenue crowd would have advised Jesus. “Just chill out, Just at least give them some soft words, some smooth words to get them following and believing in you and then tell them the truth. (Actually, many false preachers and prophets today have done a similar tactic to deceive people. They started out with truth and then gradually started perverting the truth and leading people astray.)

The Madison Avenue crowd would have advised, “Jesus, just let them follow you for awhile first until they fall in love with you and then tell them about the cost of discipleship. At least, let them first see how wonderful you are before you tell them the cost of following you. Jesus, at least let them come to understand the importance of eternal life, then of the all important decision of following you, but at least give them a chance. Jesus, just let them hear about the good things you are going to give them, forgiveness from sin, eternal life, peace of mind, freedom from anxiety and fear and tell them about the importance of loyalty to you later on, just not up front.”

But with Jesus there are no misleading subtitles. There is no small print that you don’t notice at front and only realize and find when it is too late and your already trapped into something. With Jesus there is no sugar coating and everything is spelled out clearly up front. Don’t you just hate small print and all that it means and tries to do, hide an important truth? But the church is not being like Jesus and telling those who come to them the cost of following Jesus, not up front and not ever. After all, they don’t want to ruin a good deal and cause people to leave because they are not willing to pay the price. They are never told there is a price, but it is a come to Jesus and get everything without cost or obligation on your part, which is a lie.

At least now in the truth of advertising laws, after they tell you how their pill is going to make you feel better in some specific way, as to lower your cholesterol, then comes this softer faster speaking voice that tells you all the side effects you could have. “This product may give you diarrhea, headaches, cramps, liver problems, kidney disease, your hair will fall out, you might have a heart attack, but it will make you feel better and you might live longer.” Don’t you just love such advertisements? Don’t you want to go try that stuff right now?

Integrity is the integration of what you believe with how you live. That is what integrity is all about. Not, this John Kerry, I personally believe that marriage is a man and a woman, but then fight all out for the homosexual agenda as he has consistently done. Jesus said, your actions speak lower than your words and what you do proves who you are and what you are, no matter what you say. It means nothing to say, “I don’t personally believe in abortion” and then fight for abortion rights with the simplistic deceptive excuse of, “I don’t wear my religion on my sleeves like the President.” Wanna bet? What you do, how you live, is your religion. Your daily life and lifestyle cannot be separated from what you truly are and truly believe. Empty words mean nothing before God or anyone with a slight bit of discernment and common sense.

There is no discrepancy in integrity. But when discrepancy occurs, as it does in all of us creatures of flesh, we admit it and confess it and ask for forgiveness. Not pretend and put on a mask. If there is no integrity in preaching we cannot expect integrity in living, in the lives of the people who listen to preaching without integrity and with the wrong motive. Where there is no integrity in the pulpit there can be no integrity in the pew and that is where the problem began, in the pulpit. When preachers preach a compromised gospel the people will live compromised lives. When preachers do not call sin, sin, people will wink at sin. When preacher’s tell only half truths, people will be blind sighted and the trouble we are in today as a society can be placed squarely at the feet of the preachers and ministers. And so Jesus said, “You cannot be my disciple, without total loyalty to me.”

Luke 14:26If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” Well what about that verse. How can Jesus say something like this? What could he have meant? Unless you hate your father and mother – wait a minute, you mean Jesus wants us to hate our father and mother? What about the Ten Commandments to honor our father and mother?

No, Jesus did not mean that you are to hate your mother and father, which would contradict even his own teaching and the already written Word of God which He came to live and fulfill in example and life. That would be an absolute misunderstanding and fallacy. What Jesus is doing here is making a distinction between redemptive love, which is divine, and possessive love which is human. Jesus was saying that our relationship to our loved ones, unless it grows out of redemptive love, it will not last. He is saying that if a husband and wife’s love for each other does not flow from Christ’s love for them it is possessive love and not redemptive love. Jesus is saying that possessive love is selfish but redemptive love is self giving love. And selfish love is doomed to failure. But love that comes from total commitment and total loyalty to Jesus Christ is a love that can only grow deeper and stronger and higher. When Jesus is unrivaled in your life and in my life, then your love for others and my love for others will be real and genuine and not selfish and possessive.

Also it is a matter of degree. The first commandment is that we love God will all out heart, soul (mind) and strength. So in comparison to that, our love for anyone or anything else must take second place and be hatred in comparison. Jesus demands absolute loyalty to Him first and foremost. If the desires or wishes of anyone else in life, whether father, mother, spouse or children is different from the known will and desire of God for us and what He wants us to do, then we must reject that which is contrary to His will and desire for us as with hatred, and deny self, even family, because truth can sometime comes as a sword within a family and divide it, but we must always choose Jesus above all else or anything else in this life and world to be His disciple. Yes, even if it means to be rejected by or family, hated or disowned by them and persecuted even by family, friends or whoever. This has happened to many believers for the past 2000 years and is happening today, when a member of a Jewish family comes to Jesus, they disown that person, have a mock funeral for them and say they are dead and from that point own do not even recognize them as alive. If a Hindu comes to Jesus, they will be persecuted, beaten and could be killed, as with a member of a Muslim family in a Middle East country. It is only in the Western world that following Jesus has had no cost or cross for many years. Christians are being persecuted and mistreated and filled today in many countries of the world. That is the love for God, for Jesus that He requires of us. A love that says, no matter what they cost, how it affects me or my family standing or whatever, I will deny myself, take up my cross, that which of the will or desire of my flesh that is in direct conflict with your will and desire for me and I will follow you. That is the only way to follow Jesus. If we are not willing to deny self, we cannot take up our cross and if we do not take up our cross, daily, we cannot follow Jesus.

So, simply put, what is loyalty to Jesus? Unless you carry your cross, and identify with Him, every single day, no mater the cross or cost, you really shouldn’t call yourself a disciple or follower of Jesus. That is what loyalty to Jesus means. You cannot call yourself my disciple without total loyalty to me. You cannot call yourself my disciple when you are keeping your mouth shut concerning me and not telling others of my love and sacrifice for them. You cannot call yourself my disciple when you are ashamed of my name. You cannot call yourself my disciple when you deny on Monday what you confess on Sunday. You cannot call yourself my disciple when you practice deception. You cannot call yourself my disciple when you worship gold more than you worship God. You cannot call yourself my disciple when the pursuit of happiness is far more important to you than the pursuit of holiness. You cannot call yourself my disciple when success is far more important to you than surrender. You cannot call yourself my disciple when truth means less to you than treasure. That is what Jesus meant when He said; you cannot be my disciple unless you carry your cross every day and following me. If you want to be my disciple then your loyalty to me must be above everything else, even if that loyalty causes you embarrassment among your peers, even if that loyalty causes you sacrifice, it is nothing in comparison to my sacrifice. Even if that loyalty causes you to carry the cross of Jesus on your shoulder every day, even if that loyalty causes you to be misunderstood by those nearest and dearest to you, even if that loyalty causes people to attack you and criticism you and malign you for His names sake, even if that loyalty would cause you to be hated by others, do it anyway.

Because He will give you the strength to do it and you will not be doing it alone. Because all these things are a pittance that cannot be compared with the glory that is revealed to us, the fact that we are adopted by the king of kings and we are called His sons and daughters, that we are called His children, that by His own blood, He signed our adoption papers, all these other things are nothing in comparison.

In fact, Jesus, as if He senses that the crowd is feeling a bit uneasy about carrying a cross everyday and so forth, as if they were saying to Him, Jesus why are you pushing us away, why do you have to make it hard for us to follow you, why do you have to talk about crosses, give us the healing, give us the food and the things that you are good for and just let us not talk about crosses, Lord. It is as if they are saying, why should our loyalty to you cost us anything. Jesus then goes on to say, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it (Luke 14:28)?” Because building a building that is unfinished, when you start and never finish, it invites all kinds of ridicule on the owner, it invites all kinds of attack on the owner, it invites all kinds of squatters and bandits. In the same way, if you want to be my disciple and you don’t have a clear cut loyalty to me, you are inviting ridicule upon my name. If you are planning to be my disciple without a clear cut loyalty to me and what I stand for, the outcome in your spiritual battle will be without a doubt, defeat. What does your loyalty to Jesus look like? Only you can answer that. Is it half-hearted? Is it only outward? Is it only when you are with other Christians? Is it only on occasions? Is it only when you need him? Or can you say to Jesus, Lord, I want to be your disciple, you have my complete loyalty, regardless of the cost, because in reality, Lord Jesus you have paid all the cost on the cross of Calvary and the little things are nothing in comparison.

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