Friday, May 31, 2019

Cost of Discipleship

Cost of Discipleship

In general terms, the term cost is used to describe the loss or penalty incurred in gaining something.  In finance, it is the amount or equivalent paid or charged for something; such as price.  When I buy a piece of fruit, the cost is what I give the merchant in exchange for the fruit.  I lose money, but I gain the fruit.  I give up A, to obtain B.  This implies that the fruit is of more value than the money.

The word cost is also used to define the outlay or expenditure (as of effort or sacrifice) made to achieve an object.  Runners sacrifice time with loved ones, favorite foods, and amusement time - among other things - to exercise and practice their sport.   To practice for the chance of participating in a racing event and winning is of more value than the things they give up.  Paul saw what runners do as a parallel to the Christian experience.  Ellen White elaborates on Paul's idea.  Let us read,

In referring to these races as a figure of the Christian warfare, Paul emphasized the preparation necessary to the success of the contestants in the race--the preliminary discipline, the abstemious diet, the necessity for temperance. "Every man that striveth for the mastery," he declared, "is temperate in all things." The runners put aside every indulgence that would tend to weaken the physical powers, and by severe and continuous discipline trained their muscles to strength and endurance, that when the day of the contest should arrive, they might put the heaviest tax upon their powers. How much more important that the Christian, whose eternal interests are at stake, bring appetite and passion under subjection to reason and the will of God! Never must he allow his attention to be diverted by amusements, luxuries, or ease. All his habits and passions must be brought under the strictest discipline. Reason, enlightened by the teachings of God's word and guided by His Spirit, must hold the reins of control. {AA 311.1}

It is evident then that there is always something to give up.  The following verses make this point clearly.  Let us read them,

Luke 14:26 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.
Luke 14:27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

 There is no successful runner that gratifies inclination and refuses to obey their coach, likewise, "There is no such thing as following Christ unless you refuse to gratify inclination and determine to obey God" (MYP 154).

Now, in addition to giving up self, those who follow Christ will suffer persecution.  We read in John 15: 18 – 20,

John 15:18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
John 15:19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
John 15:20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you;

So, there is a double cost to be a disciple: what we give up and what we endure.  To get B I must give up A, but to retain B – forever - I must endure C.  So, the question is what is B, and is it worth giving up A, and enduring C, to have it.  Evidently, B is Christ.  A is self, and C is the persecution and hatred we encounter as we become followers of Christ.  We see this dynamic in Paul's experience as presented in Philippians 3: 7 – 10,

 Philippians 3:7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
Philippians 3:8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
Philippians 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
Philippians 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

In the beginning verses of Philippians 3, Paul talks about what he gave up.  Nothing he had before – his ethnic background, his high standing in society, et al. – compared to the matchless charms of Christ.  In verses 7 and 8, Paul says he gives up everything to know Christ, and in verse 10, Paul says that he endures suffering and even death to continue to know Christ.  We can see that Paul makes a distinction between what he gave up and what he suffered.

What is not readily said is that the giving up and the enduring are related.  God designs the enduring, to help us in the giving up; and, the giving up helps us in the enduring.  Often the enduring reveals what we ought to give up. If we do not give up what the enduring reveals we should give up, we will fail to endure. Many may believe that the initial cost should be enough, perhaps too much.  Why should we endure trials?  Let us put it this way: if to receive Christ, we must die to self, then the trial is to help us stay dead.  Trials teach us to trust, depend, and wait on God.  Trials rightly understood and endured, are to help us develop Christ-like character.  Ellen White says,

God never leads His children otherwise than they would choose to be led, if they could see the end from the beginning and discern the glory of the purpose which they are fulfilling as co-workers with Him. {OFC 67.1}

What about us: Laodicea? What will it "cost" Laodicea to be in partnership with Christ, our High Priest in His mission to the world? There is a difference between fulfilling the great commission,-- "Go ye ... and teach [disciple] all nations,"--before 1844 and being co-laborers with the Harvester during the cleansing of the sanctuary.

It will cost Laodicea everything she thinks she knows about righteousness by faith in exchange for an appreciation of what it cost the Son of God to obtain justification by faith which is parallel to and consistent with the at-one-ment with God; this is the "offense" of the cross.

Why is Laodicea's discipleship and devotion to Jesus lukewarm and lackluster? The True Witness diagnoses her disease which is causing Him acute nausea,-- "I am about to spue thee out of my mouth" (Rev. 3:16).

This warning is parallel to that Christ gives those who say, "Lord, Lord, open unto us ... I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from Me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth ... " (Luke 13:25-28). That's an awful word-- "iniquity." We instinctively pass it on to our Sunday-keeping neighbors.

What we need to realize is that devotion that is appropriate during the ministry of the High Priest in the Holy Apartment becomes "iniquity" when weighed against the incomparably greater scope of His ministry in the Most Holy Apartment! Christian experience perfectly acceptable in times previous to the cleansing of the sanctuary becomes "lukewarmness" in our day. To our High Priest, there is no more nauseous sin than this.

The truthful Witness testifies that Laodicea's self-understanding of righteousness by faith is pre-1844. Moreover, she has no hunger and thirst for righteousness. Her confession is: "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." According to the Heavenly Counselor, she doesn't know her spiritual condition: "And knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Rev. 3:17).

The True Witness is speaking to "the angel of the church of the Laodiceans" (Rev. 3:14). "The angel" is the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church who have unwittingly led the church into a self-centered understanding of righteousness by faith which it proclaims to the world as its gospel commission.

We know Jesus challenges the Adventist Church regarding her message because He appeals for correcting our course. "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed" (Rev. 3:18). The Savior couldn't be more precise. The "white raiment," which Laodicea lacks, is the garment of righteousness. This clothing is "gold tried in the fire." Furthermore, the Heavenly Merchantman markets His commodity to her. She is "to buy of me gold."

The "gold" of which He speaks is faith and love. "The gold tried in the fire is the faith that works by love. Only this can bring us into harmony with God. We may be active, we may do much work, but without love, such love as dwelt in the heart of Christ, we can never be numbered with the family of heaven." [Christ's Object Lessons, p. 158.]

Her problem is not a deficiency of doing "much work." The "gold" we lack is not more feverish activity: that we're truly "rich" in, already. Our need is basic. In respect of the very "gold" itself, the True Witness says our treasure-box is empty.

Why "buy" it? Why doesn't He say, "Ask of Me, and I'll give it to you"? Could it be that we must surrender our false concepts of righteousness by faith in exchange for the truth? These "goods" we do possess: "Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods" (Rev. 3:17).

Writes the pen of inspiration: "What greater deception can come upon human minds than a confidence that they are right, when they are all wrong! The message of the True Witness finds the people of God in a sad deception, yet honest in that deception ... Those addressed are flattering themselves that they are in an exalted spiritual condition ... secure in their attainments ... rich in spiritual knowledge." [Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, pp. 252, 253.]

The "price" we must give up is "deception," false "spiritual knowledge." In other words, we must surrender our false ideas and deceptions regarding righteousness by faith to "buy" the "gold."

Is our Lord trying to tell us that we don't understand what love - agape - is, and therefore cannot have true faith? Is the "angel" of the church destitute of "such love as dwelt in the heart of Christ"?

There are two great antithetical ideas of "love." One has come from Hellenism and is the kind of "love" that the modern evangelical churches accept today. The other is entirely different and is the kind of love that can have its source only in the ministry of the true High Priest in His cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. [Early Writings, pp. 55, 56].

Christ Himself makes clear what New Testament faith is, and His view is different from that of the "popular ministry": "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him ..." (John 3:16). God's love is the first thing, and until that love is revealed, there can be no "believing." As a result of His "loving" and "giving," the sinner finds it possible to "believe." Faith is a heart-experience, "heart-work" to borrow Ellen G. White's phrase, and it cannot exist until God's love is understood and appreciated.

The "believing" is not motivated by a fear of "perishing" or an acquisitive regard for "everlasting life." The primary cause of faith is "for God so loved." The results of God's love are "that He gave His only begotten Son" and "that whosoever believeth." The believing is a direct result of God's loving the world.

Thus Jesus' clear definition: Faith is a heart-appreciation of the love of God revealed at the cross. A subtle shift has occurred in the Seventh-day Adventist Church regarding its understanding of righteousness by faith. An acquisitive hope of reward is set forth before the people and the world to offset the "cost" of discipleship now. Such self-centeredness is antithetical to the "gold" of Christ's righteousness. When faith and love are truly tested, it will be revealed as to what source produced the righteousness--whether it be self or Christ.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Giving all for the sheep

Giving all for the sheep

A Brazilian evangelist, Pastor Veloso, was in the middle of what could have been his most successful evangelistic series.  It was in a stadium and thousands were attending.  Hundreds had already made decisions to get baptized.  Moreover, they expected hundreds more to do so, possibly topping the thousand mark.  This man had had an incredible track record.  Thousands had come to the church due to his preaching.  However, it had come at a cost.

The news came to him in the morning.  His son, Chico, had been picked up by government authorities.  Chico was hospitalized and found with high levels of heroin in his system.  To make matters worse, Chico also had a couple of grams of heroin in his pant pockets.  The plans were to clean Chico up and send him to jail.  However, out of courtesy for Pastor Veloso, they delayed making a decision, until contacting him.  The authorities had high regards for Pastor Veloso.

Pastor Veloso called for an emergency meeting with his staff and organizers.  They all agreed that a scandal like this could hinder his ministry.  How should they handle it?  Some suggested asking the authorities to quietly put Junior in a rehab center, citing that God's work must go on.  Others, suggested, to hold a press conference, come out in the open, that way they minimize the scandal, and it hinders the ministry less.

A young pastor opened up his Bible to Luke 15: 4 – 24 and read,

Luke15:4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
Luke15:5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
Luke15:6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
Luke15:7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
Luke15:8 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?
Luke15:9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.
Luke15:10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
Luke15:11 And he said, A certain man had two sons:
Luke15:12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.
Luke15:13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
Luke15:14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
Luke15:15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
Luke15:16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
Luke15:17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
Luke15:18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
Luke15:19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
Luke15:20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
Luke15:21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
Luke15:22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
Luke15:23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
Luke15:24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

After finishing reading, the young Pastor then asked Pastor Veloso, "The people you preach to, what are they: lost sheep, the lost coins, or the prodigal children?  How about your son?"  Pastor Veloso started to cry.  All the men in the room were dumbfounded, then they looked at the young Pastor and yelled at him, "Look what you've done."  Pastor Veloso then said with a loud voice, "Let him be. He's right.  If I went to reach lost sheep, I did not secure the one I had to find the others.  If I went to find lost coins, I have been cleaning everybody else's home, but mine.  Now, if my son is a prodigal son, he needs to know that I am waiting for him, and I need to wait for him."  Pastor Veloso resigned that same day, to save his son.

Pastor Veloso's son eventually cleaned up, gave up drugs, and gave his life to Christ.  He said, "My Dad gave up everything for me, just as Christ gave up everything for us.  Just the thought of that and that heaven rejoiced when I gave myself to Christ makes me rejoice.  I wonder if heaven also rejoiced when my Dad chose to give up all for me." 

Friday, May 10, 2019




It was a very dark, damp and cold night. But that didn't bother her, for she had a dim candle to light her way to bed. During the time when she lived, most of the homes were very simple. There were one or two rooms, whose floors were made of dirt and covered with hay; this type of flooring meant that the occupants' feet were dirty and needed to be cleaned just prior to going to bed. Hers were no exception. By the side of her bed, there was a little bowl of water. Nightly she sat on the bed, placed her feet in the cold water, washed and immediately dried them with a small towel she had by a table - where she had placed the candle. As soon as she dried her feet, she put them on the bed, leaned over, blew out the candle, and then pulled the thick blankets up to cover herself. After a few minutes, she began to feel comfortable and warm. As she felt the heaviness in her eyes, and limbs, she began to relax, thinking that at last she'd get a good night's sleep. As soon as she closed her eyes, and began to drift into sleep, she heard the knock at the door. Startled, she opened her eyes, and listened intently. It was her Beloved Lover calling to her, telling her he wanted to see her, that he longed spend time with her and that he wanted to be intimate. Annoyed that he had awakened her, she decided to remainquiet; perhaps he would go away. Afterall, he could come at another time—a more convenient time. But he didn't go away. Instead, he continued knocking, pleading even more softly, and persuasively, "Please open the door, my love, I wish to see you.Won't you let me in? Don't you miss me? My darling, it's so cold out, it's raining, and I'm wet.  Can't I at least come in and dry off?" Conflicted, as he continued to pleadfor entry, she finally, retorted, "Not now! It's very dark, and I've blown out the candle; it's cold, and I am underneath my blankets. Besides that, my feet are already clean, and I do not want to dirty them by going to the door."  Quiet for a few moments, her lover responded, "It has been such a long day; I have not seen you, and really want to spend time with you; you will not regret it." Frustrated, yet conflicted, she firmly replied, "Come back tomorrow." Her response was met with silence. Feeling awful that she had rejected him and moved with remorse, she got up, and walked in the dark to the door. After a few moments offeeling her way, she found the knob. Turning it, she opened the doorand sadly found that her lover had left. Filled with angst, she wept, thinking that it would probably be days before she could see him again. It was likely that he left to see his fields far away and would not return anytime soon. 


Does this scenario sound familiar? If you have read the book of the Song of Solomon, you may realize that this is a paraphrase of Songs 5: 2-6, in which the lovers part ways for a time. Things seemed to be going so well between them, so why did Solomon leave Shulamite? What could have caused him to distance himself in such a way? And why did Shulamite respond to him with such resistance? Of course, we remember that the floor was dirty, and the light out; that she had just drowsily retired to bed, and was in that sweet sleep-wake state. Naturally she didn't wish to be disturbed—after all, who would. I mean, proper rest is needed to function the next day, right? Yes, at first glance we can see these things. But, where was her compassion for him? He was cold, she was warm, he was wet, she was dry, he was shivering, she was comfortable. Leaving a friend outside in the inclement elements is something you wouldn't do. Then why did she do it to her lover? What could have motivated her, and why did he leave? 

The last three questions can be answered, "because she was temporizing." What is temporizing? It is acting evasively to gain time, avoid argument, or postpone a decision. It is what we do when we do not want to be bothered, inconvenienced, or are caught unprepared. In either case, we may be trying to buy some time to find a way out. But a way out of what? Closeness; the vulnerability that comes with both emotional and physical closeness -- Intimacy. 

On the one hand we want intimacy, we desire to be close, to be fully known and accepted. Yet on the other we don't want the vulnerability, and inconvenience that comes with self-exposure. Thus, like the Shulamite woman, we selfishly and immaturely find more comfort in the warmth and cleanliness of our beds, than in the company and presence of our divine Lover who has come so near to us. As Shulamite perceived she was better off in her condition, "in need of nothing" (Revelation 3: 17), we often do too. And by so doing both she and we resist the love, warmth, comfort and cleanliness, the wonderful knowing, and deep acceptance that only our divine Beloved Lover can give.  

You may recall that the Song of Solomon is a metaphor for the relationship between Christ the Bridegroom - the Beloved Lover - and His Bride the Church. Christ has not come back for us, because we - His Bride, the Church -like the Shulamite woman have repulsed His nearness to us – His desire for union. We are content with connectivity, if you will, but not union—or full ongoing disclosure on our part. And yet, it is our permission and receptivity to His closeness that brings cleansing and renewal such as is typified in the cleansing of the Sanctuary. As a body we seem to be preoccupied with teaching and preaching the temporal specifics of how to know He's coming (prophecy), without teaching, preaching or practicing the internal preparation needed for His return. We want Him to be near enough to rescue us from our individual and corporate fears and failures but not near enough to see us as we really are. We're willing to point people to the mirror as a standard of Sabbath keeping, but not as a reflection of our unlikeness to our divine Lover. We're even willing to share the Gospel, as long as it's focused on the righteousness we are to have, and the "nearness" with its attendant victory Christ desires us to receive.

These things are in essence true, however, if we were in school, it would be the difference between theory and clinicals. Spiritually speaking, we as a body like the old covenant theory (and practice), but God wants to provide us with His new covenant clinical model. In the old covenant model, we try to impress God and each other with our theology and endeavors. Under the new covenant model, we believe His compassionate nearness to us (the taking on of our collective humanity, and gaining the victory over sin) along with His promises, and see them as His loving invitation to open the door of our individual and corporate heart to Him. This is the only power that will transform our thinking, our living, and our witnessing.

There is a song that comes to mind, probably one of many with this theme-- "Open the door, Jesus is knocking, open the door let the light shine in. Open the door Jesus is waiting, open the door to Him." Couple this with another that goes something like this, "the Saviour is waiting to enter your heart, why don't you let Him come in? Receive Him and all of your darkness will end, O how He wants to come in. Time after time He's waited before, and now He's waiting again, to see if you're willing to open the door; O how He wants to come in."

Friends, no longer let us temporize, but willingly open the door of our hearts—the deepest recesses of our minds, to Him. 



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