Knowing Our True Condition
We're living in a day of identity crisis. When I say identity crisis, I mean people say they are one thing when they don't know they are something else. I know that's a part of the letter to the Laodiceans, but the principle of it is far reaching. There are too many going right on in this condition.
The only thing that will ever straighten them out is to get back to the real discerner: God's Word is the thing that divides the sheep from the goats, or the good tree from the bad tree. We can't sit under the precious Work do God, declared under the anointing of God's Holy Spirit, without knowing our true condition.
This is why some come in to a spiritual congregation feeling pretty good, but when the Word of God is preached, they can hardly drag themselves out. Thank God, it's still working! We're not supposed to feel good when we're not right as we ought to be, not where the Word of God is preached. If we are where we're supposed to be spiritually, we'll go out more blessed and more certain of our experience than when we went in.
Jesus taught a very plain Gospel. It was certainly understandable to the people with who He dealt. He likened all mankind to two trees, and He said when you preach, make the tree good or make it evil. Now you and I aren't changing the tree. We're just bringing out the true reality of what is is.
When He said to make the tree good or bad, what He was really telling us was to get rid of being in between, get rid of the confusion and this business of, "I hope I'm alright". Make the tree good or evil, one or the other; don't leave people hanging. He went on to say that you would know whether the tree was good or bad by the fruit. He also brought forth a point on holiness when He said that a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit. We can't be a good tree and have evil things coming forth from our life.
James preached the same thing in James 3:11, letting us know that a fountain can't send forth both sweet and bitter water. In other words, we do what we do because of what we are. There's no need to deal with what people are doing. We need to get down deeper and deal with what they are and deal with getting them changed.
There are too many who are trying to deal with the issues, but Jesus didn't come to deal with the issues. The Old Law dealt with those, but when Jesus came, He came as the Great Physician. He told them that their trouble was heart trouble. All those things proceed from the heart. Get a new heart and different issue will come out of it. That which we do comes about by what we are. If what we do doesn't grow out of what we are, then we're living a fraud. Too many don't truly know who they are.
Who Are Christ's True Followers?
We want to go back to some basics, with the Lord's help, and study some of the marks of true discipleship. We are in a very confused time. In Jesus' day, there were people who made it very plain that they were not Jesus' disciples. They said they were Moses' disciples, and others said they were John's disciples. Paul had to straighten them out and rebaptize them, they became Jesus' disciples.
Today there are people who are following "a religion". They say they're following Jesus, but it is very clear that they are following a particular religion or religious group. They think they are real followers of Christ, but if they would study the Word of God, they would find that they are not following Him. Some are disciple of their own flesh, following their own ideas.
We want to go into the Word of God and study what discipleship really is. Our Scripture text says, "...the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch." The word Christian is only used three times in the Bible, and every time it is used as a nickname, jesting the people of God.
Historians agree that the people of Antioch were famous for using jesting names. When Emperor Julian came to visit them, because he has a goatee they called him the goat, and I could go on and tell you of many other jesting names.
When the disciples of Christ were there, they watched them and thought up a name for them, and the name they gave them was Christian, which actually mans "these Christ folks." You don't need a preacher to tell you that the name Christian has been and is being defamed to most anything today.
I'm not being too technical, but the people of God had a name before they were called Christians. Disciples is what Jesus called them, and that's what they called each other. The word disciple means " follower of Jesus Christ." If you study that name, you'll see that it has a lot deeper meaning than the word Christian. The word disciple was the name Jesus called them.
Let's read John 8:31 from the Amplified version of the Bible. It says, "So Jesus said to those Jews who had believed in Him, If you abide in My Word--hold fast to My teachings and live in accordance with then--you are truly my disciples."
Christ is still speaking today through the Word in the midst of all this confusion and conglomerated condition. Christ is still saying, "Many of you think that you are my followers, but if you are my followers, you will continue to abide in my Words, observe my teachings, live by them, and practice them every day; then you are my disciples." A true disciple is one who faces the issues that Jesus raised and meets the conditions of those issues.
You may say, I know that I am a disciple"...I'm leery of those who say, "I know I am a disciple. I don't need to hear all that preaching." Look out. There is not one of us that knows our true condition except through that which God reveals us to be by His Word. We can believe a lot of things, but any experience that won't stand up against the preaching of God's eternal Word is not a true experience. It won't lead us in a pathway of victory.
Counting the Cost Before We Start
We're going to get into some of the issues that Christ raised and see if you can face them and live by them. Anywhere Jesus gathered a crowd, they thought they were His followers, but He turned and, in so many words, said, "Hold it now, you can't be my disciple unless you do what I command you to do." See, He wasn't like modern preachers. Preachers today will do most anything to get a crowd.
When Jesus got the crowd together, He told them the truth, and when He told them the truth, He didn't have anybody left except His disciples---and that's all we're supposed to have left. The straight teaching of God's Word will leave nothing but His Disciples. Oh, I know some people think they're a greater teacher then Jesus. They think they have a way of doing it where they can still hold the crowds.
The crowd gathered in one place where Jesus was until they were so deep that they trod on each other to try to get to see Him. Jesus saw that there was nothing real to it, so He told them that unless they forsook father, mother, houses, land, children, and everything for His sake, they couldn't be His followers. The disciples said, "Don't you know the Pharisees got offended at your hard preaching?" He told them to leave them alone and not pamper them or even invite them back.
Some think when you preach that way you're not showing love, but Love Personified (Jesus) said that. If we leave them alone, God will deal with them; but if we go around pampering and petting them, you'll mess them up. In Mark 8:34 we read, "And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." You can also read it in Matt. 10, Matt. 16, Luke 9, Luke 14, and John 12.
Christ mentioned three definite things that one has to obey and abide by to be His disciple. He let us know that if any person wants to be a follower of Christ, there's no other way you can do it. He didn't set up any hard law: He set up those things which are necessary for us to start following Him. Why? He wants us to count the cost before we start. If more people would count the cost before they start, and pay the price, there wouldn't be so many giving out in the middle of the race. So He said, "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."
Someone may say, That's worn threadbare." No, this could be preached thousands of years and it wouldn't be worn out. Too many think that they've worn the Word threadbare when they haven't even gotten down to where the truth is.
The First Aspect of Real Discipleship
To deny oneself means that in every moment of our life, every moment we live, we say, "no" to self and "yes" to God. Self-denial is not a condition we meet somewhere at an altar of prayer; self-denial is an experience that we live day by day. Self doesn't want to go along with God and His way; therefore, our body has to be brought under the divine teachings of God's Word.
Self must be denied; there's something or someone for us to deny every day, all the way. Self-denial is an experience which we have to live. It means, once and for all, to dethrone self and enthrone God. Within every heart there's a cross and a throne: if we're on the throne, Jesus is on the cross; and if we're on the cross, Jesus is on the throne. The Word of God is suffering from the spiritual standpoint and the financial standpoint, and it all stems back to the fact that people have not begun with the first aspect of real discipleship---denying themselves.
To deny self is to obliterate self as the dominant principle of our life and make God the ruling principle. To deny self is to say "no" to our own natural love for ease and comfort. This is why we don't see more people working on the mission fields. Oh, we might take a vacation and go look, but I'm talking about getting right out there and living like the people live. I've done it; I know what it is. Too many are just not willing to deny self.
This gets right down where we're living. We have been so pampered and petted, and we have lived in such ease and luxury. You may say, you don't know us. We don't live in luxury." You sure do. You pay luxury tax, and no one pays luxury tax who's not living in luxury.
Self is the only "fellow" that really cause us trouble. If we're not having the victory that we ought to have, there's no one else that we can blame. Oh, I know we're in a day and time when people blame the preacher or blame the church. I visited some people one time who said, "There's nothing "there" anymore." When we got through talking, they found out that it wasn't the fact that there was nothing "there". The Spirit of God is still "there", they just didn't have anything in which to get it.
Self is the worst enemy we have. We're the only person that can keep us out of Heaven. No man can stand before us. God gave us a clear run, but self can raise up and cause us to miss it. He said that unless you hate your own life you cannot be His disciple. If we'd quit looking out for "ourselves", God will look out for us. This is the blessedness of salvation; this is where the joy comes. We don't have to look-out for ourselves.
The Groundwork of Holy Living
Study the Old Testament types. God said that He would fight out battles. We don't have to fight them. Somebody may ask, "Don't we have to battle in the New Testament dispensation? I thought it was a battle." The Bible doesn't say to put on the whole armor of God and fight. The Bible says to put on the whole armor of God and stand and watch.
We have to fight the good fight of faith so that we can keep the faith. The enemy is out to cause us to lose our faith in God through the powers of unbelief. If we get the idea in our head that God is not going to take care of it, and we try on our own, all we'll do is lose our own experience; so we have to deny self. May God help us to see it.
It is denying self to say no to every course of action that's based on self-seeking or self-will. To deny self is to say not to the instincts and desires that prompt us to touch, taste, and handle forbidden things. Self-denial will keep us out of sin. Why? It is self that wants to touch this and handle that. Self-denial is the groundwork of living holy.
In self-denial, we must be able to say with the Apostle Paul, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." Too many have dept their "I's." One day I saw a bumper sticker that said, "Christ is My Co-Pilot." That's not so, Christ is the pilot.
That's where many are in trouble: they want to be the pilot and they want Christ to be the co-pilot, then when they get in trouble and in a mess, they ask God, "Won't you take over?" There's something better than that. We need to make sure He has hold of the wheel before the storm comes.
It is necessary that we really live self-denial and be sure that it's no longer us, but Christ that lives within us. There's too much of us sticking out, too much self still hanging on. We have Jesus wrapped up in self, but nobody can see Jesus for seeing us. They're sick of us, they want to see Jesus.
John's Gospel tell us that the Jews were having a big feast and some Gentiles came. The Gentiles were sick of feasts and ceremonies, and they walked right into the midst, even thought they were not welcome, and said, "Sir, we would see Jesus." In other words, they were saying, "We don't want ceremonies or meetings. We want to see Jesus."
That's the cry of every honest hear over our land. Millions are sick of religion. They've given up on religion and won't even go back to church, but they're not sick of Jesus. The one that lives in self-denial no longer follows his own will, but the will of Christ.
A Life of Sacrificial Service
Jesus said, "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." The second thing Jesus required was, he must not only deny himself, but take up his cross. Too many don't understand this, I am sure. When Christ speaks of a disciple taking up his cross, putting it in plain language, He's saying, "We must take up our burden of sacrifice for the work of God." The real disciple's life is a life of sacrificial service. This is what Paul was talking about. He said in Romans 12:1, "...present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."
The old sacrifice was burnt up and consumed, and that was the end of it; but we present our body, our very being, a living sacrifice every day we live. James preached it this way: Don't begin to say, "I'm going to college and get and education," or "I'm going over here and make money" until you say, "If the Lord be willing." This is called living by the will of God. Your body is presented a living sacrifice that's used over and over and over.
Paul said that it's our reasonable service. There's nothing unreasonable about it. People today think it's unreasonable. When talking to people about giving up completely to Christ and living according to sacrificial service, the requirements are just too high for most people; nevertheless, those are still the requirements of being a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
The true disciple will have to abandon personal ambitions to follow Christ. I've dealt with people enough that I can make this statement truthfully: There are too many who feel that it's too much to give up (especially the youth) now to go to a mission field, and too much to give up to go out somewhere and raise up a congregation. This is one reason congregations are without pastors and why there aren't more congregations raised up.
A good, godly, older mother wrote me one time and said, "There's not a place in the town where the truth is preached. Won't you send somebody to get a work started for God?" Why isn't it being done?---too much sacrifice.
I've actually heard people who profess to be "saints" say, "I don't want my children to be preachers. They have to put up with too much and put up with going without so much." Well, truth is: God doesn't have one standard for preachers and another for saints. We may never preach the Gospel, but we have to live just as sacrificial a life as the man the preaches the Gospel.
A Cross of Service
Taking up our cross is the sacrificial service that we must put forth to be a follower of Jesus Christ. I want to say right away, if we really sell out to Him, we will have our plans upset. What do I mean? I'll use my family as an illustration. We have six children, and when they were younger, we would get ready to go somewhere for an evening with the family. We would have them all in the car, then the telephone would ring and someone would say, "I need your help." So we would say, "Get out of the car, children, and go back in the house. Daddy has to go."
A real child of God cannot make too many plans out ahead. How can we program way ahead if the Lord be willing? Some make their programs and even tell you what they're going to be doing a year from now. Some say, "Yea, just eleven months, and I'm going to retire. I've already got a home bought down in Florida; I'm going to take it easy." Woe, woe, woe! There was a rich man in the Bible that used those words and he went to hell that same night.
This is basic. We must deny ourselves, and if we don't deny ourselves, we'll never take up our cross because self won't let us. For the true disciple, many times the reward is small and the prestige is non-existent. To be a true follower of Christ, we have to sacrifice time, leisure, and pleasure, and take that which we have sacrificed and use it for the good of a lost world.
The Bible tells everyone (It's a command.) to visit the fatherless, the widows, and the sick, but now we pay the pastors to do it. Well, we're not getting by. That is part of pure religion, true discipleship. Where is the old-time desire to visit? How long has it been since we visited the fatherless and the widows. See, many have just thrown that Scripture out the window, and said, "It's not a necessity," but it still makes up a part of pure religion.
Why aren't we reaching the world? Our visitation program has fallen to pieces. We're not reaching the world because we've lost contact with the world. May God help us! We have to take up a cross of service, reasonable service. I say again, there's nothing unreasonable about this. Let's face it, many times the comfort of home, the enjoyment with the family, and the place of entertainment must be sacrificed.
I want to say, we'll find that it's a cross when we could have gone somewhere to enjoy something or fellowship with people that we like to be with, but Jesus says, "No, not that way. Go visit this older sister who is real grumpy." Come on...She may die one of these days and she needs help. She has to know, first of all, that we care for her.
God will start doing the things we can't do, when we start doing the things we CAN do. If we're going to follow Christ, we'll have to sacrifice things that we could well and easily possess to give more to the needy, even to people who we may think don't deserve it. I get troubled with people saying, "I'm not going to send money over there...Those people don't deserve it."
How deserving were any of us when Jesus picked us up? How much did we deserve help? I don't know anyone who really deserved being saved. There are many spirits that have gone out, and they can get hold of us if we're not mighty careful. The first thing we know, we won't help anybody.
The Key to Real Joy
If any one of the taxicab drivers in town picks up a "bum", he says, "If you'll let me take you out to Reverend Wilson's, he will help you." Someone may say, "That's awful. Don't you know that you help a lot of people who aren't worthy?" I expect I do, but I'm glad to help them. I preach to a lot of people who aren't worthy of the Gospel message. You can read that right from the Bible in the book of Hebrews.
I rest on this rule when helping others: The Bible says that I might entertain an angel unawares, so I will feed six "bums" so I don't miss an angel. One of them might be an angel, I don't know. I know this, he said that many entertain angels unawares, so that means that I would not know them when they come.
We're thankful for what is given, but our giving could go up a hundred percent in missions if there were more real sacrificial living. I realize that it's necessary to rest from the strains of Christian work, but, we think nothing of sometimes spending six or seven hundred dollars to get away to have a good time for a few days. However, when a special mission offering is taken, don't forget that God is looking on.
Sacrifice is an extreme for most people today, but it's normal for a real disciple. We need to sacrifice things that we easily possess to give more to the needy. The mark of a true disciple is a life of sacrifice. Jesus, in Luke 9:23, used the word daily so we could understand it. He said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily..."
This is not a Sunday work; it's a daily work. It's a life lived consistently, day after day, and this is the thing that the world doesn't understand. Somebody may say, "We give till it hurts." Well, let's give until it quits hurting, then we'll have joy. The trouble now is that too many are right in the area where they have given until it hurts, and they labor until it hurts. Let's move on out until we labor and give until it quits hurting, then we will find joy in giving and laboring for God.
Jesus used the word daily in that verse of Scripture, letting us know that He doesn't want great moments of sacrifice. We thank God for the great moments of sacrifice, but He wants a life lived constantly, hourly, daily, with the awareness of the demand of God and the needs of others. I know we know this truth, but we're being reminded: we're not saved for ourselves, we're saved for others, completely for others. We must be willing to take hold of a sacrificial service for God.
Following In His Steps
A true disciple must follow Jesus. Let's read Mark 8:34, "And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them. Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself [This is the first requirement.], And take up his cross [Second, be ready to take hold of sacrificial living.], and follow me." When Jesus said that he must follow Him, it means, "he must render to Jesus Christ perfect obedience."
When you were a child, did you ever play follow the leader? You do the best you can to do what the leader does. Living for God is not a game, but we are following the leader. This is the way we have unity, and this is the way we are together. "The disciple," Jesus said, "is not above his master" (Matt. 10:24). We must follow in His steps wherever He leads.
Mark 8:35 says, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it." Here He begins to point out some dangers along the way. What is one of the greatest dangers we have as followers of Jesus Christ? One of the temptations that strikes us the most is the temptation to save our lives.
We have preached on denying self. Now He is saying that if we will lay down our life, and spend our life freely for His sake and the Gospel's, we'll save it. On the other hand, if we try to save our life, we'll lose it.
Mark's Gospel was written about A. D. 90. Bitter persecution was beginning and many were tempted to recant and back off to save their lives. I am sure that these words meant more to them than to us, but I want us to see that the time will come when we can save our life by abandoning the faith. We can save ourselves a lot of trouble, presently, by backing off the words of Jesus Christ. Oh, yes we can. We can save our reputation; we can save our fellowship with the world.
There are many things that we can save by backing off the Bible standard, the words of Christ. We need to watch the temptation to save face. Some have actually backed down to save face.
He went on in verse 36 and said, "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" He brought up a second temptation in this verse. What is it?---worldly gain, a profit that this world could give us. We can lose our life through worldly gain.
There are people moving all over the country because of employment, and they are not getting their souls fed. They're not in a place where they can even hear the Gospel preached as it is, but they are going after worldly gain. It's a danger. Worldly gain stands for material things that are opposed to God.
No Substitute for Giving Ourselves
Christ is talking about eternal life when He said, "...whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it." Now there is a people that is sold out. Material prosperity has nothing to do with it.
He said in verse 37, "Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Let's think about it now. There's nothing a man can give to Christ in place of his life. Too many today try to give money and withhold their lives; too many give lip service and withhold their lives. The first possible gift we can give to God is ourselves. If there's any selfishness in our life, we'll give most anything before we'll give ourselves. Sure, there are many things that we can give beyond ourselves, but that's the starting place.
The first gift we can give to God and the Church is ourselves. There's no substitute for giving ourselves. You can read in 2 Cor., the eighth chapter, and the first five verses, where Paul wrote about the churches in Macedonia and told how poor they were; but in their poverty, they were moved to great liberality because they gave more than the churches that had money. Then he went on and told why they did it: it was because they first gave themselves to God and to us (the ministry of the Gospel).
How could the churches of Macedonia be so liberal in their poverty? They had more to give than people who had plenty to give. Paul gave them the secret: they first gave themselves to God and to the ministry of the Gospel, then God blessed their giving until their liberality in giving was a memorial upon which Paul would have all churches look. Again, there's no substitute for giving ourselves.
Living for the Present
Christ had been speaking, in the eighth chapter of Mark, of His death; He was near the cross. He was going to be rejected of the elders and chief priests, be killed, and after three days rise again. Yet He is absolutely sure that every bit of it will end in triumph. He triumphed over it all, and He let them know that He was loyal to those who had been loyal to Him (and His mind has never changed), and He is ashamed of those who are ashamed of Him.
Notice that Christ speaks of the people as being an adulterous and sinful generation. Certainly, we know that there was much loose living going on then. There was literal adultery and fornication going on. However, He calls people who will not abide by His words a sinful and adulterous generation. He wasn't talking about the actual act of adultery; it has deeper meaning.
Let's look at two or three Scriptures that will let us know what He means when He calls a people an adulterous and sinful generation. In Isaiah 54:5 we read, "For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called." In Jeremiah 31:32, he said, "...my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them..." You can also read Jeremiah 3:20. In 2 Cor.11:2 Paul said, "...I have espoused you to one husband [Speaking to the Church]..."
Jesus said in Mark 8:38, "Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
See, when we're ashamed of Him and His Word and go after other loves and other ways, we're branded as an adulterous and sinful generation. When are we a sinful and adulterous generation?---when we refuse His Word, refuse His love, and go after other loves and other ways. May God help us to see that we must be careful.
We can get caught in the spirit of the age. What is the spirit of the age? Basically, it's living for the present with the shades pulled down about the future. Living for the best we can get out of life right here without too much thought about how it's going to affect us in eternity.
The devil has people deceived by causing them to think, "What I'm doing must not be too wrong or God would stop me." No, judgment isn't quickly executed, and because of this, the hearts of men are set on doing evil and going on. I'm trying to stir up our pure minds in way of remembrance.
What happens to us when the spirit of the age gets hold of us? We become spiritually blind, not so blind that we can't see at all; but blinded so that we can't see afar off. All we can see are our own pleasure and to fulfill our own desires. I say again, we need to be careful of the spirit of the age.
Too many today aren't living with that blessed day in mind. How long has it been since we thought upon Christ saying, "Well, done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord."
Inviting a Wrong Spirit
The last days reach from the day of Christ clear through until the end of time. I want to make this plain, I don't believe that the perilous times that Paul deals with in 2 Tim. 3, just deal with a specific period of time. The reason is because, if we read verse one closely, we can see that it says, "This know also, that in the last day perilous times [plural] shall come."
The church has gone through good times and there are also perilous times. He didn't say "a perilous time" will come, rather perilous times. Paul tells us why perilous times come on the church. Let's read verse 2, "For [or because] men shall be lovers of their own selves..."
That's the most perilous thing that can ever happen to us. The church is suffering more from that today than the worldliness and ungodliness that's going on in the world. It's terrible, but our real hurt, our real suffering, is because too many have become lovers of their own selves. They're not willing to deny themselves. They're not willing to take up the sacrificial life to which true discipleship calls us.
The outgrowth of it is, we've lost control of our home, the children are disobedient, and many other things. There are perilous times, and we see some of them. We're living in a very deceitful time. The devil has been working ever since the Garden of Eden, but let's study this deceitful time to clarify this point. It lays real heavy on my heart.
There are many spirits which have gone out into the whole world. We don't have to play around too much to invite in a wrong spirit of one kind or another. If we use our own human reasoning to too great a degree, we'll invite in a wrong spirit.
We can read in Luke 9 where Jesus set out to go to Jerusalem, but he wanted to go through Samaria. The Samaritans so hated the thought of anyone going to Jerusalem that they were stirred. When they got stirred, James and John said, in so many words, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down and destroy them like Elijah did?" (verse 54). "But he [Jesus] turned, and rebuked them, and said, "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of" (verse 55).
He didn't just say that they had a wrong spirit. He told them that they didn't know what was working on them, and this can happen to you and me. I just want to make it plain and concise, when any kind of wrong attitude begins to work in our mind because somebody has done us wrong, and we begin to say, "Well, I just hope they have a wreck or their house burns down," or "I can't hardly wait until God gets even with them. You just wait, I am living for the day when God pours judgment out on them," you don't know what spirit you are of.
We may have lived for God a long time, but a wrong spirit got in somewhere. That's not the Spirit of Christ, and we'd better get rid of it. It will wreck us and ruin us. A true child of God doesn't want heartache, misery, or accident to come to anybody, no matter how much of an enemy they are to us or no matter how much they misuse us. We should never, in any way, want harm to come to them.
Jesus rebuked His disciples, and He still tells the pastors to rebuke those who are wrong. Sometimes we need to openly rebuke those who are wrong that others may see it and not sin. Oh, the spirits that we put up with today---hateful spirits, undermining spirits, hypocritical spirits that work one way to your face and another way completely behind your back.
The message still is, too many don't know what kind of spirit they are of, and I want to put the emphasis on "You know not." This thing is deceptive. There are people today who will stand up and say, "Thank God, I have been saved forty years," but the very spirit they are manifesting lets you know that they are not even saved now. What's the lesson we're considering?---true discipleship and what it means to be a follower of Christ.
Hindering the Work of God
John was the one who loved Jesus, he laid on His breast; but he let a wrong spirit get hold of him. Our congregations have too many who don't know what kind of spirit they are of: they are deceived. They'll tell you that they are sold out to God, really working for the work of God, and all the time, the devil is using them to hinder the work of God. What's the lesson here? It's possible for the devil to use us.
In Mark, the eighth chapter, when Jesus began to tell His disciples where he was going and that He was going to die and rise again, Peter began to rebuke Him. "But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men." That verse from the Amplified Bible says, "...For you do not have a mind intent on proposing what God wills, but what pleases men---you are not on God's side, but that of men."
I brought that up to show you how conditions, if we're not careful, can move us to a wrong attitude, a wrong spirit. Peter was relating to the lower world, the life that now is, more than the upper world, the life to come. Jesus said that he thought in terms of the things of men---our own credit, our own ease, our own safety---more than the things of God.
This is a very great sin and the root of much more, and a sin that is still too common among Christ's disciples today. It appears in times of suffering and times of temptation, then if we're not careful, our very thinking and our prayers will be in terms of the things of men.
James 3:15 says, "This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly [human], sensual, devilish." You may ask, "What do you mean when you say that it comes in times of temptation? Why did Peter say, "You will never go to Jerusalem. They are not going to do that to you?" He did it because he loved Him. We have to be careful that our love doesn't reach so far that our thinking and our actions are governed by the things of men.
Temptations and hard places are the areas through which the devil will introduce human thinking such as, "I will tell you what's best for you to do." Well, I'm going to tell you what's best for you to do---what Gods says. We are hindered today as the people of God, and our progress is retarded as the church, because we are suffering too much the things that be of men and not enough the things that be of God.
If we're going to be a follower of Christ, we have to throw out the things of men no matter how appetizing, how real, how honest, and how clear they may seem to be. You men don't labor thirty-two years in a factory until you get retired. It's logical to retire, but not if God says, "Stay on the job." Many have gotten misled and had to take a rebuke. Jesus told Peter, "Get behind me, Satan." Peter was not the devil, but he was an adversary, working against the cause of God; he was letting the devil use him to talk against the things of God.
The Cup of Suffering
We would see more miracles and more healings if the saints would quit talking so much human wisdom and talk the Bible. We hurt our own cause through human reasoning.
God's charge against too many is, we are savoring the things that be of men. We are thinking and we are talking the things that be of men and not of God. God's way is a sacrificial way. Jesus had just told His disciples that he had to go up to Jerusalem and be rejected of the scribes, the elders, and the chief priests. He told them that they were going to kill Him and put Him in the grave, and that in three days He was going to rise again. Then Peter rose up, "On, no, no, no!" You see, they were human, and in our humanity, we don't want to go the way of suffering and hurt.
Christ drank the greater part of the bitter cup; He tasted death for every man, but He left a part of that cup for us to drink. Paul talked about the church filling up that which is lacking or left in the suffering of Jesus. We might say, "Oh, Jesus suffered and died to win the world." Yes, He drank most of the cup, but you and I have some left. There are some sufferings to fill up. We are called to be the body of Christ, to show the world that we can suffer as He suffered for right---right principles, the right way, and the right spirit. We must fill up that which is left of the cup of suffering by taking up our cross.