By Evan Wiggs
(Mat 16:24 NASB) Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
(Mat 16:25 NASB) "For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.
The nominal Christian that fills a thousand pews in a thousand Churches knows little about the deep walk that God commands his followers to walk. It is said that the 90-day wonder Jehovah Witness can undo the nominal Christian at his front door in about 15 minutes. Why? The Christian doesnít truly know his God. He doesnít read his bible and his lax prayer life leads him to no real spiritual power. As a result his life if full of sin and his Christianity is casual. He may be saved but for the most part if he were on trial for being a Christian he would be acquitted for lack of evidence. I try not to be harsh in this, for God truly loves these people with a deep love that would utterly surprise them if they would become aware of it. But the enemy of our souls laughs at these Church attendees who come to church not even aware of the terrible weight of sin that sears their souls. Their minds are full of lust, jealousy, pride, and judgement even during the worship. I have talked with many that are just such churchgoers. When you get away from sports, or the weather, or politics and to their life in God you see the glaze in their eyes, there is no interest there. Oh how they grieve their Lord!
But the eyes of the Lord are looking over the whole earth seeking those whose hearts are turned to him in even the slightest way. I know I was one of those several years ago when the Lord sought me out and set my soul on fire. The verse out of Matthew 16 above speaks of those who wish to follow Him. To follow after Christ! Something in that phrase makes my soul sing. What a privilege to be made not only heirs but also joint heirs with Christ. It is no small thing to follow after Him. The verse above talks of two things the modern day Christian is little aware of and frankly doesnít care much for. Death and denial.
The Cross is an instrument of death. Notice we are not requested to take up Jesusí cross but our own. Take up his cross. What could that mean?
(Rom 6:6 NASB) knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin;
(Eph 4:22 NASB) that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,
(Eph 4:23 NASB) and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind,
(Eph 4:24 NASB) and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
(Gal 2:20 NASB) "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.
So you see death is necessary for us. When the Spirit of God, the Comforter, came in he set up shop to kill the works of the Devil in us. He came to destroy all the works of the enemy in our bodies and lives. The cross is an instrument of love in the hand of my Lord. With it he breaks us and breaks us and breaks us until we can do nothing but yield to Him. What a wonderful thing this is to the believer who really grabs hold of his God. IT IS ONLY THROUGH THIS BREAKING AND YIELDING PROCESS CAN THE CHRISTIAN MOVE INTO THE REALMS WE ARE SUPPOSED TO DWELL.
Now the deny himself part. This is incorporated into the work of the cross but I want to take it out, so to speak, and examine it alone. We are a rich society, we are not used to having to deny ourselves very much, it comes very hard. We continually hunger for more. We seek approval of men and the institutes of the world at the peril of our souls.
(Prov 27:20 NASB) Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, Nor are the eyes of man ever satisfied.
Isaiah lived in a similar time in Judah. The people were rich and at ease. They had forgotten their God and left him out of their lives. Many people donít even darken the doors of Church except at Easter and Christmas. Even many Churchgoers are only marking time in the pews until they can get back to the game or whatever attraction is more important than their God. Many Churches are trying to accommodate these people. They have services that are short and they have clips from R-rated movies to make points in their short sermons. They try to make God a modern God who winks at sin and says, "boys will be boys". Hear the word of the Lord.
(Isa 5:11 NASB) Woe to those who rise early in the morning that they may pursue strong drink; Who stay up late in the evening that wine may inflame them!
(Isa 5:12 NASB) And their banquets are accompanied by lyre and harp, by tambourine and flute, and by wine; But they do not pay attention to the deeds of the LORD, Nor do they consider the work of His hands.
(Isa 5:13 NASB) Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge; And their honorable men are famished, And their multitude is parched with thirst.
(Isa 5:14 NASB) Therefore Sheol has enlarged its throat and opened its mouth without measure; And Jerusalem's splendor, her multitude, her din of revelry, and the jubilant within her, descend into it.
We need to remember the most important one in the Kingdom of God is the one who is the servant of all. The servant! We all want to be leaders and people of power. There was a recent deacon election in a Church I know. Usually many more are nominated than can be selected and then voted on. The current board prunes down the list to the ones who have exemplified in his or her life what the deacon is supposed to be. One man, when he found out his name had been culled from the list, rose and threatened to sue the Church because he had been removed. Is it any wonder why he was removed? Many seek ecclesiastical power in the Church to be the leaders of all.
Oh Lord, our sins are great before you, in your Judgment remember mercy!
In WWII there is a fascinating story that is much unknown about the underground resistance in occupied Europe. Many of these people were considered "expendables" by the military command. Their jobs were extremely dangerous and the chances of them being caught, tortured and killed were great. The people knew this too. Why did these brave people go into almost certain death? They had counted the cost and they knew the enemy would snuff out freedom for the whole world if the allies failed. They knew they were important in that battle and the information they relayed back could be the crucial information to win the war.
One such an instance happened early in the war. The Germans had a code machine that was supposed to be unbreakable. It was called the enigma machine. Through many unknown brave peopleís blood a machine made its way into allied hands. One the Germans didnít even know was missing! Further more, for a period of time information was relayed on codes the Germans were using to "prime" the enigma the allies had. The Germans were so confident of this machine they gave them to the Japanese and of course we knew their codes as well. This was absolutely instrumental in winning the war.
(Eph 6:12 NASB) For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
We are engaged in a war today too. The foe is even more implacable, more devious and more powerful than that enemy in WWII. Have we counted the cost? Have we looked to the Savior to seek His heart? We are to take up the cross and deny ourselves. This is the only battle fought on knees. We are to be expendable in Godís kingdom.
(Rev 12:10 NASB) And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them before our God day and night.
(Rev 12:11 NASB) "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even to death.
We overcome the enemy by the Blood of the Lamb. The Blood cleanses us from the works of the enemy or sin. Sin blocks the power of God in our lives and must be eradicated.
Smith Wigglesworth said:
"Beloved, you will not be able to bind and loose if you have sin in you. There is not a person within the hearing of my voice that is able to deal with the sins of others if he is not free himself. "Öhe breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost" (John 20:22). He knew the Holy Ghost would give them a revelation of themselves, and also a conception of God. He must reveal to you your depravity. Do you believe you will be able to bind unless you are free yourself? But every man that has this living Christ within him has the power to put to death all sin."
(1 John 3:8 NASB) the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil.
We must let the cross have its way in our lives.
Now we see the Testimony of Jesus. What is that? Is it some witnessing program? A new four spiritual laws? Is it fearfully going to someone and telling them about your church and all its programs and inviting them to come. No it is really none of the above, even though some aspects of the above can be part of the testimony of Jesus.
The testimony of Jesus is having such a vibrant, holy fire and passionate relationship with Jesus that it explodes out of you and gets all over people. They find it attractive. When Mary went into the house and broke open the bottle of expensive perfumed oil and poured it over Jesus she got some on herself. When they left Jesus smelled good, so did Mary. She smelled just like Jesus. We need to spend so much time in the throne room we smell like Jesus.
E. M. Bounds said:
Conduct is what we do; character is what we are. Conduct is the outward life. Character is the life unseen, hidden within, yet evidenced by that which is seen. Conduct is external, seen from without; character is internal Ė operating within. In the economy of grace conduct is the offspring of character. Character is the state of the heart, conduct is its outward expression. Character is the root of the tree, conduct, the fruit it bears."
Our mouth speaks what our heart is full of. What comes out of your mouth? We need to let the Holy One have His way in our lives to cleanse us and redeem us.
Now we look at the idea of not loving our lives even unto death. Oliver Cromwell had an army he fashioned of men who were dedicated wholly to the Lord. He called it the new model army and with it he was almost invincible. This army marched into battle with praise on their lips. They were not afraid of dying and in that was their strength.
Are we afraid of dying both spiritually and physically? Do we try to save ourselves? Jesus didn't save himself but went willingly to the cross. There is something there for us. I have seen missionaries who marched off at the call of God to lose their families and their lives in His service and shout VICTORY at the end. Is it in our soul to do that. If not we need to repent and seek our first love again. We may face the flames of persecution again in this country and to do that we must be totally sold out.