Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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The Demands of Jesus

Jesus

by Dennis Pollock

There is a strange heresy that has floated around the body of Christ and surfaced from time to time throughout the 2,000 years of the church's existence, which suggests that salvation does not need to lead to a transformed life and behavior. The folks who preach this bizarre and unscriptural doctrine, sincere though they may be, could not be any more wrong. They seem to get much of their inspiration from the fact that salvation is, to use the words of Paul, "by grace through faith." They also love to quote that mantra of the reformers: "faith alone." No one familiar with the Scriptures can deny these things. However these people stretch this concept to mean that such things as change, transformation, repentance, and a sincere effort to live a godly life are totally irrelevant, and that when pressing men and women to come to Christ, we should remain totally silent about such things. In their view, salvation is a matter of mentally grasping certain facts, and has virtually nothing to do with any intention to turn away from a sinful, selfish lifestyle. Let the sinner go on in his sins, the womanizer in his womanizing, and the thief in his stealing. As long as he has believed in Jesus, he is eternally safe and secure, and is guaranteed a place in heaven.

Sometimes people attempt to turn salvation into a two step process: receiving Jesus as Savior first, and then perhaps later on they may or may not receive Jesus as Lord. They see receiving Jesus as Savior as a "get out of hell free" pass, and then receiving Jesus as Lord as a means to be a better, shinier representative of Jesus. The first is absolutely necessary; the second is a luxury that some deeper Christians may experience, but it is not compulsory. The main thing is that you have received Jesus as Savior and therefore don't have to worry about going to hell. This can be done with a simple prayer, repeating certain words and phrases, regardless of whether you ever intend to actually follow Jesus and live by His ways and words.

That anyone familiar with the Scriptures could actually believe such nonsense seems remarkable to me, and yet many well-meaning, Bible-reading, church-attending folks do. They are so determined to uphold the doctrine of salvation by faith alone, they totally abandon the concept of transformation of heart and life through an aggressive faith in Jesus that can never allow people to rest comfortably in their sins and selfishness.

Discipleship

What many fail to see is that to be born again is to become a disciple of Jesus. The concept of discipleship is huge in the New Testament. The word "disciples" is continually used of the men who followed Jesus. We do not read about the converts asking Jesus a question, or the converts becoming afraid, or the converts being sent out by Jesus. It is always the disciples. A disciple is a learner, one who willingly submits to the leadership, authority, and teachings of his master. After His resurrection, when Jesus gave His followers that charge which we call The Great Commission, He told them to "go and make disciples of all the nations." He did not tell them to make converts of all nations, or to go and get people to repeat a certain prayer, or encourage men and women to sign their name to a particular creed. They were to do as He had done - to make disciples, followers and students of Jesus. The process of becoming a disciple is certainly a faith process. But we must make no mistake about it - the kind of faith Jesus requires is a faith so intense that it powerfully rips us out of our former lifestyle of living for self and places us on the path of following Jesus wherever He may lead us, and obeying the voice of the One we call our Master. Any kind of faith that doesn't bring this about is the faith of demons who, according to James, "believe and tremble" (James 2:19).

Jesus was never timid about warning prospective disciples that following Him would require sacrifice. Perhaps nowhere do we see this more vividly than in the fourteenth chapter of Luke:

For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it – lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:28-33)

Perhaps some might feel that Jesus has done things backwards. He should have made them to become His followers first and then later told them that they might face some difficult times. But Jesus wants people to know from the very beginning that being His disciple is costly. It will not always be fun; it will not always be continual miracles and popularity and success. You will be challenged, you will be attacked, and you will be persecuted. And if you are not willing to face these things, better just forget the whole business of following Jesus! You may just prove to be a major embarrassment to Him and a hindrance to others.

Followers

The idea of following Jesus is at the heart of discipleship. Of course in the days when He was on earth, this was a literal command. Men were called to literally follow Jesus around from town to town as He was led by the Father. Today of course we cannot do that, but we can follow Jesus as He leads us by His Spirit and through His words in the Scriptures. To be a Christian is to be a Christ-follower. He is our Master and we are His disciples. He teaches and we learn. He directs and we submit and obey. For us to follow Jesus was obviously very important to Him, and we see Him speaking of this again and again:

  1. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." (John 10:27)
  2. "If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me..." (John 12:26)
  3. Then He said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." (Matt 4:19)

 

Jesus tells us that His sheep have two characteristics: they hear His voice and they follow Him. He suggests that sheep that do not follow Him are not His sheep. They may sound like Christians and pray like Christians and talk like Christians - but if they are traveling south while He and His sheep are going north, they must be someone else's sheep. They couldn't possibly be His.

And Jesus had very definite expectations of those who would follow Him. He says: "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Matt 16:24). To take up our cross is to be willing to deny ourselves, our flesh, our passions and desires, and live for the will of God. This is discipleship; this is following Jesus. And this is part and parcel of salvation. To encourage people to believe on Jesus, but give them the impression that there is no need for repentance and certainly no necessity of a lifestyle change is to present some other Jesus. You certainly aren't speaking of the Jesus we read about in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John!

Why Call Me Lord, Lord?

hypocriteImagine a group of Christian converts holding a testimony meeting, where they will share what Jesus has done in their lives. The first to speak arises and declares, "I used to be a thief. I broke into expensive houses and took everything I could find of value. But now I am saved. Of course I am still a thief. But now I am a born-again thief. I always leave at least ten percent of their valuables behind, plus I leave a gospel tract on their kitchen table." Another man stands to his feet and announces, "Before Jesus came into my life, I had no purpose. I was addicted to cocaine and constantly drank myself into unconsciousness. Then I asked Jesus into my heart. I asked Him to be my Savior. I haven't yet asked Him to be my Lord, but I am thinking about doing that maybe when I'm older. For now I still snort cocaine and get drunk, but these days I always play praise music while I am getting stoned. It makes all the difference in the world!"

Finally a woman gets up and says, "I want to testify that Jesus has totally changed me. Before I was saved I used to sleep with different men every week. But now that Jesus is in my life things are so different. I still sleep with almost any man that asks me out, but now I force these men to listen while I share Jesus with them before we go to bed. And I find these guys are such great listeners!"

Jesus said this, "Why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and do not do the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). In another place He says, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed." Again He states: "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15). Is it possible to be saved and not love Jesus? Shall we say, "I don’t pretend to love Jesus. I have no intention whatsoever of actually obeying His commands. I think His commands are absolutely primitive and far too strict. The last thing in the world I would ever want to be is His disciple. But I'm just glad I am saved. I have believed that He died on the cross and rose again, and therefore I don't have to go to hell, praise Jesus!"

Keeping His Words

Jesus set a premium on "keeping His words," in other words, actually doing the things He tells us. In John we read, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me" (John 14:23,24).

Again we see there is a definite and unbreakable correlation between loving Jesus, being His disciple, following Him, and obeying Him. This is why Jesus, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, and the rest of the apostles preached repentance as they exhorted men and women to believe on Jesus. When Jesus sent out His disciples to preach the kingdom of God throughout the land of Israel, the Bible tells us: "So they went out and preached that people should repent" (Mark 6:12). Paul writes: "I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance" (Acts 26:19,20).

It is not that there are two ways to salvation, and you are given the choice of which way to go: repentance or faith. Rather it is that real faith, faith that saves, faith that brings about the forgiveness of sins and results in the gift of the Holy Spirit, is a faith that is so dynamic that it cannot possibly allow one to retain his old lifestyle of greed, selfishness, lust, and independence. This faith contains a great big dose of repentance! It is a faith so entirely centered on the beauty of the Person of Christ Jesus that it subordinates every other relationship. Jesus declares: "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:26). It is more than mere faith to be delivered from hell and eternal punishment. This faith makes one a disciple, a student in that divine classroom where Jesus Christ is the only Teacher. It is an incredible privilege to be allowed to enter that classroom, for many are rejected. Jesus has declared: "Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:33). To be born again is to become a disciple of Jesus. The Bible recognizes no other form of salvation but a born-again experience through faith in Jesus which leads to discipleship.

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