John 13:37 “Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake.”
For three and a half years, they had followed Jesus whithersoever he went. They beheld astonishing healings, incredible deliverances, and the dead being brought back to life. Three of them saw Jesus in his glorified state, and one of them had such a heart that he became identified as “that disciple whom Jesus loved.” This was in reference to John. We know that Jesus loved all of the disciples so this statement from scripture is addressing something deeper. John had such a heart for the things of God that he let nothing interfere. When the other disciples were debating over which of them was the greatest, (Luke 22:24) one cannot imagine John taking part in that discussion. Three and a half years ago, the lives of these twelve men were supernaturally altered when Jesus said to each of them “follow me.” Now they were about to witness another abrupt change as the Lamb of God was soon to give his life as a ransom for all.
Luke 22:28-30 “Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” John 16:5-6 “But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou?
But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your hearts.” “
“Sorrow hath filled your hearts.” These words bring us into the topic at hand; that of a soul which longs to be with Jesus. One who has been born of the Spirit, tasted the indescribable goodness of the Lord and seeks out every opportunity to be with him. He satisfies their soul with such completion that all of the trappings of this life seem empty and void of substance. Such a one has forsaken the former lusts, cancelled the agendas that once framed their identity, and now seek to be about the Fathers business in all that they do. And yet, despite being completely fulfilled on a level that only the Lord Jesus can offer, they are simultaneously sorrowful over the current physical separation. While the heart is abiding continuously in heavenly places, the spirit inhabits an earthly tabernacle which still harbors the old sinful nature. They await; diligently and longingly, for the moment when this corruption takes on incorruption and the contrary law that inhabits the flesh is forever a thing of the past.
John 14:21 “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of the Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.”
There are questions that we must continually seek honest answers to as we strive to gauge our spiritual state. “Am I longing to be with Jesus? Is my desire unto the Lord so intense that that the former lustings can no longer compete for my affections? Is my love for the Savior so strong that, if necessary, I’m prepared to have my closest contemporaries turn against me? Do “I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches” or do I fill my thoughts with the alurements of the world and dreams of making a name for myself? Am I prepared to lay down my life in this world?” These questions are not designed to determine our present level of spirituality. Without a doubt, all of us are at different levels, from babes whose names have just been recorded to mature saints who have walked the narrow path for decades. These questions are to determine the condition of the heart; whether we diligently seeks after the Lord and make Jesus our boast, or we continue to harbor attachments to things which are void of life and temporal.
In times of peace and safety, there can be a tendancy to not give thought to such things beyond verbal profession. We say all of the right things and do all of the things that the other professors do. We are in church whenever the doors are open, we sing when everyone else sings and clap when everyone else claps. We have a fish emblem with the letters ‘IXOYE” on the back of our vehicle while the radio is tuned in to our favorite Christian radio station. We read through the bible in a year and pray at all of the appropriate times. We take part in the kinds of activities that the others in our fellowship engage in. And while these things are oftentimes a reflection of a heart whose first love is the Lord Jesus, they can also be engaged in mechanically by one whose heart gravitates toward other venues. It’s very easy to deceive ourselves with a flurry of noble activities which, for a season, can cover up “an evil root of unbelief” Continual examination is necessary and the following story reveals the seriousness of this issue.
In his book “Tortured for Christ” Richard Wurmbrand tells about a particular home church in Romania. (It’s been a while since I read this, however, the thrust of the message is intact) One day, while the saints were gathered, the house was unexpectedly invaded by Russian soldiers. They announced that anyone who confessed Jesus was going to be executed on the spot, however, anyone desiring to renounce Jesus would be permitted to go free. A few of those present decided to save their lives in this world and subesequently, said the right things in order to do so. The majority of those gathered, however, remained steadfast; willing to lay down their lives here because their hearts were in heavenly places. Romania was under communist rule and the dangers associated with a profession of faith in Jesus abounded. Yet even in this hostile climate, there were some who, despite their outward appearance, had an attachment to this present world. This flaw never materialized until suddenly, they were looking down the barrel of a gun.
Matthew 16:24-15 “The Jesus said unto his disciples, If any man come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
Matthew 16:26 “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
The story had a fascinating conclusion. After the room was cleared of those who harbored reservations, one of the Russian soldiers explained their true objective. They were seeking to know about Jesus. The threat to execute all in the room who maintained their testimony was their way of ensuring that they were talking with authentic believers. (Russians have a unique way of getting right to the point) Those who remained witnessed a miracle. Those who departed had some serious issues to wrestle with. They had been confronted by what appeared to be an opportunity to leave this world and instantly be in the presence of Jesus. The eternal abode seemed only seconds away. If their hearts had been dwelling in heavenly places, this would have been a victorious moment. Instead, it became a episode that they would always regret. Something else must be noted concerning this. The Lord knew who would cut and run in the critical moment. He may have used this incident, not only to reach the inquiring soldiers, but to reveal to the wavering ones that they had some issues to address…..quickly……because the years to come would be even more hostile.
In 1988, a situation transpired that fostered serious cogitation along these same lines. It was a warm Saturday evening in Virginia and our church was out street preaching. (We did this every Saturday) Eleven-year old Wesley approached a car that was sitting at a red light, and tried to hand the driver a tract. The driver angrily rejected this. When Wesley continued to talk about Jesus, the driver pulled out a pistol and pointed it directly at his face, saying “I told you to get away!” Wesley calmly responded with “Praise God I get to go home tonight.” (or words to that effect) To this day, I often inquire “How would I respond to such an incident?” I routinely venture into a number of dangerous neighborhoods without any fear. Yet this isn’t a true barameter as my life has never been threatened. There was one incident where I thought that a guy was going to open me up with a knife in an alley. He was wanting money and he positioned himself right right in front of me. Less than 2 inches separated us. His eyes were very glassy and the situation could have quickly turned deadly. I was somewhat apprehensive, however, my composure remained intact until tentions subsided. It wasn’t time to go home.
II Corinthians 5:6-8 “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:
(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”
Since that warm summer day in Virginia, the spiritual climate has continued to deteriorate. The wicked have become bolder while muich of the professing church has fallen into apostasy. Despair is in abundant supply these days. The social fabric is being twisted and ripped apart while economic pressures mount. That which seems to be stable will shortly be brought down as everything that can be shaken will be. The time of antichrist is quickly approaching. It’s imperative that we give all diligence to make our calling and election sure. Longing to be with our first love; the Lord Jesus, is much more than a lofty proclamation. Our spiritual survival demands it. Jesus told the saints in Smyrna “be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” We must love not our lives in this world as we will soon have to maintain the testimony of Jesus when most of our contemporaries have opted for compromise. They will use rational speech to justify their decisions (like misapplying I Timothy 5:8) and then they will turn on the remnant.
Luke 21:14-15 “Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: For i will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.”
Well I have to be going for now. My prayer is that all who profess to know Jesus will take a serious inventory of their spiritual condition; specifically those areas that we’ve never had to confront outside the arena of theology. Eternity is a long time to ponder “what might have been had I not sought an easy way out.” Our light affliction is but for a moment and the persecutors cannot pursue us beyond the grave.
Blessings always in Jesus name.
Isaiah 65:17 “For behold, I create a new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come to mind.”