Jesus Christ Does Not Drag His Followers Kicking and Screaming

Jesus’ desire is that people repent. “Repent” means to turn. We turn from our old life to a new life in Christ. A life headed in Christ’s direction, not the direction our flesh was planning on going.

God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

If this is God’s desire, and God has all authority and power, why doesn’t He just make it happen then?

This is where the Calvinist will tell you that God has many different kinds of will. They redefine words to fit their theory even though the Bible never speaks of differing wills of God.

If God desires (the same Greek word as “wills”) all men to repent, and yet also has a will that prevents people from repenting, then God is a house divided.

Instead, we should just go with what the Bible says. Sola Scriptura, don’t ya know.

God wills all people to repent. Not all repent. Therefore, we must conclude that God’s will is not always being done on earth.

In fact, we can see that clearly in the Lord’s Prayer where we request the Father’s will to “be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

God’s will is not being done here.

God leaves it up to us. Notice His words: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

“If any man will” is an important part of the verse. Jesus does not force people to follow Him.

What He says is: if you desire to follow Him, if you are willing to follow Him, then deny yourself, take up the cross, and follow.

Jesus Christ does not drag people behind Him kicking and screaming. If you want to come, then come. He tells you how. It’s up to you whether you come or not. He’s done everything necessary by His grace to provide the way.

You just need to decide to follow Him in The Way.

Following Christ Is What Faith Is

Jesus gives these instructions to prospective followers: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Denying yourself means giving up ownership of your life, coming under a new Master–not your flesh, but Jesus Christ, your Lord and Savior.

Taking up the cross is the means by which we do this. Christ died for us, and by faith we see ourselves crucified with Him.

Following Christ is the last part. This one seems fairly self-explanatory.

However, I’ve been around people long enough to know that the most self-explanatory things are often the things we confuse the most.

Following Christ sounds good in theory, the practical application, however, doesn’t sound as fun. I’ve received resistance from many people over the idea that we have to follow Christ (which is an amazing thing to see in the church of Jesus Christ who is the Head of the Church. Head being the thing that leads the body that is following).

To follow Christ means to obey His commandments.

Again, heads explode. “We’re not under law; we’re under grace! We don’t have to do any commandments!”

The Great Commission tells believers to go into all the nations and teach them to observe whatsoever I have commanded you.

John says, “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

John says in Revelation, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.

Paul says, “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings.

Listening to Christ is kind of the whole deal. People who profess faith and don’t listen to Christ are liars, and liars have no place in the New Heaven and New Earth.

I understand why people don’t want to listen to Christ. I get it. My flesh doesn’t want to listen to Him either.

But a person who truly has the Holy Spirit will want to obey the one whom the Spirit testifies of–Jesus Christ.

The flesh and the Spirit will battle every decision. But the believer in Christ will see growth and victory over sin. There will be increasing freedom from sin’s rule.

“Be followers of me as I am of Christ” says the Apostle Paul. Peter tells us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.

There is no other point to new life in Christ than living the life of Christ: following Him.

Familiarize yourself with the life of Christ, and may we all have the desire that Paul expressed:

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death

Dying on a Cross is the Only Way to Live

Jesus says to any who would follow Him, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Self-denial is disowning your life, not living for your desires but for your Creator and Savior’s desires, since He owns you.

Taking up your cross is the means by which self-denial happens.

I once had a guy tell me that we don’t have to take up a cross, Jesus already did that.

This is quite silly.

Obviously Jesus took His cross. He’s not asking us to take His own cross, He’s asking you to take your cross.

What is your cross?

I’ve heard some say their bum knee was their cross to bear. Some say it’s their old beater car. One guy even told me his cross to bear was his wife.

The cross we are to bear is the cross of our own crucifixion.

Paul says in Romans 6 that we were crucified with Christ. Galatians 2 says “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”

Taking up the cross is seeing yourself as crucified with Christ. When Christ was crucified, by faith, you identify yourself with Him there.

By the Spirit we mortify the deeds of the body. We mortify our members which are upon the earth. If you are dead to sin, why live any longer in them?

This sort of death language is all over the New Testament. You are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God.

To follow Christ means not walking as unbelievers walk.

To follow Christ means not doing things for your fleshly lusts and desires.

To follow Christ means to follow Christ’s lead, not your, nor anyone else’s lead.

Taking up your cross is the means by which we see ourselves under new ownership, my old life is dead, I have nothing to fight for there.

By faith, I have been raised up with Christ to newness of life. Resurrection life takes over, which is completely different in every way from our old flesh life.

Take up the cross. You’re already dead to this world, to the flesh, and to sin.

To those who have taken up the cross, physical death has no sting, nor power over us. We’re already dead! What can death do to us?!

Seeing yourself as crucified and dead with Christ is liberating for the Spirit. But for the flesh, it’s, well, death. Your flesh wants no part in taking up a cross.

Don’t be surprised if people oppose you on this doctrine. People don’t like dying. But according to Jesus, dying is the only way of living.

Self-Denial is More than just Skipping Dessert

According to Jesus Christ, following Him is an all-or-nothing proposition. There’s no halfway following.

He says several times, words to this effect: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

You cannot follow Him and follow yourself. You cannot be living a life after Him, if you are still living your old life you had before you knew Him.

You can’t.

These are not words just for super-Christians either. These are words for any believer. Any follower of Christ.

He says we are to deny ourselves.

Many have the idea that self-denial here means not eating that second piece of pie, or not buying Pearl Jam CD’s anymore.

But the word “deny” actually means denounce or disown. You don’t belong to you anymore. You’ve given up ownership over your life.

It’s a similar concept to Philippians 2:7 where it says that Jesus Christ emptied Himself (made Himself of “no reputation”). He was given a body, not to do His will, but the will of His Father who sent Him.

Paul describes Christ’s work like this: He who was rich became poor, so that we who were poor might be made rich.

Jesus Christ our Lord gave up heaven to humble Himself to suffer and die on the earth, so that we who were suffering on this earth might be able to live in heavenly glory with Him.

Self-denial is more than denying yourself fun and enjoyment. Self-denial isn’t necessarily mopey and depressed, long-bearded guy in a cave eating bugs.

Self-denial means doing what God says because you acknowledge that God made you and owns you–you were bought with a price.

For the new man created in Christ Jesus, doing what God says is not grievous. It might even be enjoyable. It might even include another piece of pie.

Then again, maybe you don’t get pie. I don’t know, it’s what you can do before God in faith. But simply skipping pie doesn’t mean you’re denying self the way Jesus meant it. It might mean you’re pride is dominating.

Self-denial is a way of life resulting from new ownership over your body.

Lay down your bodies as living sacrifices. Prove God’s will. You are not your own.

Babel and Big Government

Genesis 11 tells us about the Tower of Babel. People gathered together to build a tower to heaven. God confused their languages to defeat their purposes. The end.

Most applications of the story are about not trying to save yourself by good works–building a stairway to heaven (without being alarmed with bustles in your hedgerow). Or it’s about pride and how God wants to crush you.

The obvious application of the story, which I’ve never heard anyone say, is that God is against unity. He’s against people gathering together.

When I was a kid, I always did worse things in a group of other kids than I did alone. Collective stupidity is greater than individual stupidity.

Humanism was invented to gather humans to achieve greatness. The Olympic spirit. Can’t we all just get along? People are all for unity and bumper stickers tell you all the time to “Coexist.”

Everyone is for unity, which is how you know it’s wrong.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: The New Testament tells us there should be unity in the Body of Christ.

Indeed it does. Unity, however, is not the goal. Unity is a result of each individual growing into Christ. If each individual is determined to grow into Christ, there will be unity.

But, if unity is the goal, expect God to get left out.

Ecumenical movements spring up throughout Church History. Attempts to unify result in watered down doctrine. We end up with such rigorous statements of belief as “We believe in a god.” Any more depth than that, unity is gone.

When unity is the goal, God will be left out.

When people gather to celebrate how awesome they are and “look what we can achieve,” God gets left out. We’re not interested in Him; we’re interested in us.

This happened at Babel. It also shows up in Revelation. The Great City Babylon (notice anything similar about that name?) represents the one world government and one world religion. Unity. There will be temporal peace and celebrating of the awesome. Until it comes unhinged and eventually toppled.

Humans gathering to be awesome can be a dangerous thing. The Tower of Babel clearly tells us this.

Look at the places people gather to celebrate humanity: places like universities, Hollywood, Washington DC, I shall even suggest large cities in general. Notice anything about the reputations of those places? Anyone? Anyone? Those places predominantly vote for big government and have, as the news shows us every day, disgustingly, horrible morals.

Think Babel has some points to make there? I think so. What the application is, I shall leave with you.

The Bible and Big Government

Although the Bible avoids politics, your beliefs about the Bible’s message will shape your political beliefs.

In a humble effort to make a very complex and muddled idea simple(r), and to more than likely offend everyone, let me step in some hot water!

The Bible says human nature is messed up. The heart is wicked and deceptive. The Bible’s solution to this problem is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The wicked heart of humanity cannot be controlled. We must be given a new heart.

Although most Christians would agree in theory with this message (it is the Gospel after all), in practice most Christians don’t believe this one bit.

If the Bible’s message is true and our only hope is to receive a new heart, then we must conclude that other efforts to control the heart will fall short. Thus, we can not put our trust in laws, rulers, governments, or human authorities.

One of the large points of the Bible is the massive section before the New Testament called The Law. The Law was a failure. An external law written on a rock cannot control or change the heart. It doesn’t work.

Therefore, if any time something bad happens you think: They should pass a law! That should be outlawed! You are denying one of the Bible’s main points.

You are probably now thinking, “That’s insane. There should be no laws? People should just do whatever? Isn’t that what lead to the Genesis Flood?”

This is where the issue gets muddled.

The government has been given the authority, according to Romans 13, to bear the sword, to punish evildoers. Law and order are part of society and are based on God’s law.

Yes, we need laws. Yes we need government. We need them because we are all evil and left to our own devices we’d do nasty things.

However, Galatians tells us when the Spirit is at work in us we produce fruit of the Spirit, “Against such there is no law.” Laws are made not for righteous people, but for unrighteous people.

A believer and follower of Christ is not going to be breaking any laws (unless unrighteous people pass laws that make the good evil, and the evil good–which is exactly what happened to Israel when they were under The Law, because Law doesn’t work).

Perhaps you are confused. So, is law good or bad?

Law is fine, unbelievers need a check on their human nature. But law will never solve the problem.

Everyone today wants more laws. We want more behaviors to be controlled by the law. Any time there’s a disaster, we immediately look to government. Gun control will not stop murder. Outlawing abortion will not stop abortion. We’ve already outlawed pretty much everything, and yet people are still doing pretty much everything.

The problem comes, not whether there are laws, but whether you think laws will actually control human nature!

Government is fine and necessary, but it’s not the savior. People don’t need more government and more laws, they need the transforming power of the Gospel. Government and laws can keep sin in check a little bit; the Gospel destroys the desire to sin.

Neither party is following the Bible’s instructions and both are driving for bigger government. Politicians want you to think of them as your savior.

The Book of Revelation says all the government leaders will line themselves up against Jesus Christ in the great showdown at Armageddon. They will be there lined up with all their minions who sold their soul to temporal powers.

The human tendency throughout our history is to make more laws. This is our effort to defeat sin through human ingenuity. It doesn’t work. We should stop thinking it does.

How To Understand God

Theology is the study of God. Unfortunately, theology has mostly become “speculation about God based on our goofy thoughts.”

Theology, as it has been codified, is partially helpful, partially a complete waste, and increasingly destructive.

Bad definitions of theology focus on our own thinking. Good definitions talk about a “science” or “study of God.” This is good, as long as the textbook is Scripture.

Science in our day, although widely celebrated, is not done often in the public sector. Bill Nye is who most think of when we think science. That is too bad.

Much of science today is tied in with politics and philosophical axes to grind.

Much good science is being done today, you just won’t ever hear about it. Most publicly consumed science is sensationalist philosophy in a lab coat. One might say the talking-head in a lab coat is the modern day wolf in sheep’s clothing.

I would like to give you some quotes from an actual real scientist. Richard Feynman was one of the scientists working on the Manhattan Project. He was a formative thinker in the development of the computer among other sciency things.

If theology is a science, let’s do it the way a scientist would do science. Observe:

“Science is a way to teach how something gets to be known, what is not known, to what extent things are known (for nothing is known absolutely), how to handle doubt and uncertainty, what the rules of evidence are, how to think about things so that judgments can be made, how to distinguish truth from fraud, and from show.”

“Our freedom to doubt was born out of a struggle against authority in the early days of science. It was a very deep and strong struggle: permit us to question – to doubt – to not be sure. I think that it is important that we do not forget this struggle and thus perhaps lose what we have gained.”

“Learn from science that you must doubt the experts. As a matter of fact, I can also define science another way. Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”

I like his approach. Feynman is not a Christian, that I know of. He thinks that religion is what people do to avoid dealing with doubt.  He said, “Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.”

Religion, according to Feynman, is what you go to in order to resolve mysteries, thus it eliminates curiosity, wonder, and science.

Although I’d probably disagree with that notion, I see why he views things that way.

One of the things Feynman warns against is pseudoscience and the proliferation of popular science dressed up to impress and push an agenda. He died in 1988 and would be in shock as to where science has gotten today.

Anyway, back to our point, theology at its best is a science. Feynman says science only works when we doubt experts and long-held assumptions.

Theology should be the same. yet we see the same thing happening in theology as we do in most areas of science: authority figures answering all questions, immediate repercussions if you question long-held beliefs, group think, more philosophy than faithfulness to truth, etc.

This underlying doubt of experts should drive you to examine your doctrine. Are you believing what the Bible says, or what a bunch of dead guys thought up?

The Reformers have Five Solas. We’ve examined several of these solas and come to the conclusion that they don’t make much sense unless you buy into their underlying philosophy.

If you doubt theology and doubt experts, questioning their conclusions will be as natural as breathing.

If, however, you trust authority and think they are smarter than you, then you won’t question and you’ll go on believing people’s opinions until you die.

Faith comes by hearing God’s Word. Notice faith doesn’t come by hearing people’s opinions about God’s Word.

Think. Examine. Question. Doubt. Test the spirits. The Scientific Method was actually invented by the Apostle Paul hundreds of years before it was codified in science books:

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

“Prove” means to test. Test stuff. Start by testing what all the theological authorities have been spouting for hundreds of years. Hold to what passes the test. Know the Scripture. Rely on the Holy Spirit. Do the work. The unexamined faith is not worth believing.