The Gospel Saves and Sustains

Acts 14:21-22, “And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”
We must be gospel-focused and eternity-minded. Disciples of Christ are made as local churches consistently, charitably, and courageously proclaim and live the gospel in their communities. Likewise, believers are strengthened in the things of Christ and encouraged to continue in the faith, by the power and truth of scripture. Living the Christian life is not easy. Before we enjoy glory we will experience trials and persecution, for the gospel’s sake. Paul did. Just before this passage he had been stoned in the street and left for dead. Believe God and His gospel, both to save and to sustain you. It is the power of God unto salvation, to everyone who believes.


Fruitfulness is Linked to Faithfulness

John 15:5, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”
Every road has two ditches. One says, “I can’t do anything.” The other, “I can do it all by myself.” Remember Jesus never said, “Without Me you cannot do the big stuff.” The issue is not that we can do some things in our own strength. The issue is that we can do nothing apart from Christ. Fruitfulness in God’s work has one requirement: faithfulness in God’s Son. The only way a believer will make any progress in becoming more like Christ, is by relying on the Holy Spirit rather than our own abilities. To abide in Christ requires trusting Him, no matter what. He will take care of the rest.


What is the price?

In a recent Fireside Chat Dennis Prager asks an important question: “What is the price?” According to Prager, asking that question all the time about everything is an adult characteristic, and one of the most important questions regularly asked.
I think Prager is right, but my reasoning is a little different from his. I believe the question “What does it cost?” is so important because of Luke 14:25-35. Follow the link to read that entire (and routinely misunderstood) passage. Here are verses 27-28:
And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
Counting the cost is fundamental to being a follower of Jesus Christ. 

How do we count the cost?

How do we count the cost if we don’t know the price? The only right answer is that to follow Christ is to be all in for Christ. To be Christ’s disciple is to be unconditionally surrendered to Him. Jesus said in Mark 8:34-38:
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, and take up his cross, and follow me. 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. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 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.
In counting the cost I don’t need a specific price to figure. The upfront agreement is that I am Christ’s at any cost to me because He has already paid the highest price for me (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Galatians 3:13; Colossians 1:14; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 9:12; 1 Peter 1:17-19).
There is no negotiating with the Lord Christ Jesus. He expects and deserves my everything. John Piper has correctly stated that “Authentic discipleship may exact from you the highest price relationally and the highest price physically.” The lives of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Daniel 1-6) certainly bear that out, as well as the lives of the apostles.

All to Jesus I surrender.

Believers don’t bargain with their Lord. They simply believe Him. My resources may stay under my control, but now I’m just a steward, not the King. Now I’m only the manager, not the Owner. I must be ready at any time to let go of everything for sake of Christ and His gospel. Believers answer the question “What is the price?” by assuming the cost is TOTAL. That is the only calculation to be made.
Mark 8:27-38 is the first time Jesus openly taught His disciples about the cost that He would pay on the cross, and the cost of our discipleship. That block of instruction is immediately followed with a glimpse of eternity on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:1-7). To quote Piper again, “There is no cost you can pay in following Jesus that won’t be made up a thousand fold in the resurrection.”
Jesus’ words from John 12:25-26 are even better: “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.” 


Would You Bow Down?

Everybody lives by faith in something or someone. The difference between a true believe and an unbeliever is not the presence of faith but the object of their faith. Daniel 3 is the text for today’s study and this evening’s sermon. There we find that leaders and influencers from across the great Babylonian Empire were assembled to worship the 90′ high and 9′ wide golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had erected. He wanted to unify his diverse empire by means of religion and fear. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Faith Tried by Fire

Trials are used by God to develop our faith. The same trials are used by the enemy to destroy us. During such times we will either be drawn closer to the Lord or further away from him. 
The Babylonian authorities showed up because of the King’s commands. They all stood up for the image’s dedication. When the music played they all bowed down. All except for three. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to break God’s Law. They had already proven a willingness to cooperate with their new pagan leaders, but they would not compromise the clear commands of scripture. Instead, they were willing to pay the price that comes with trusting God.
I wonder if the Apostle Peter had these three men in mind when he wrote 1 Peter 1:7; 4:12:
That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
Shadrach, Mechach, and Abednego were confident in the Lord’s control of  their situation. They stood tall when everyone else bowed low.
Would you bow down?
That is a question to ask and answer as we work through Daniel 3 tonight at 7pm. 


This Sunday’s Sermon

We are making our way through Mark on Sunday mornings. Today we will walk in 9:38-50. As we work through this text we should learn about…
  • the folly of misplaced zeal, 
  • the seriousness of discipleship,
  • the necessity to deal drastically with your own sin, and
  • the fact that we are called to be salty rather than sinful Christians.
As Sinclair Ferguson writes in Let’s Study Mark:
“Our Lord’s point is that unless we maintain the purity of our own lives and are purified by the flames of testing, and remain faithful to Christ, our lives will have no preserving influence on this corrupt world. If we begin to fall into the same patterns of life as those which are characteristic of the world, we will never be able to point men and women to another world.”
Sin is serious. Discipleship is, too, and both must be treated as such. Dealing seriously with sin will enable continued spiritual growth. That will produce increased joy, no matter the circumstances. This is serious and for our joy.
We will not gather for worship today, but the sermon will be live-streamed. Follow this link to watch the video feed.