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Following Christ...


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#1 mji

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Posted 25 November 2006 - 11:06 PM

Imagine a man bruised and bleeding, a man deprived of sleep and food, stripped down to an undergarment. He’s being manhandled by soldiers, jeered and spat upon by a vindictive public. He struggles for breath; with gritted teeth he keeps his head up enough to see the road ahead. He is shamed, humiliated and desperately weakened. Barefoot, stones cutting into the soles of his feet, he struggles to put one foot in front of the other. He’s making his last journey and he’s dragging with him an ominous burden – he strains under the weight of the wood upon which he will die.
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#2 mji

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Posted 25 November 2006 - 11:07 PM

Maybe you have pictured the scene before; tried to imagine the sounds, the smells as our Lord was led away to be crucified. Perhaps you’ve seen it from the side, in the crowd as he staggers by, up and out of the city.

Now, if you have any sort of image in your head, see it in a specific way: put yourself directly behind him. You too the object of abuse; you too condemned. It is hard for you to lift your eyes above his shuffling feet, to see beyond the place where your feet must soon step. You too wincing with every movement, your back ploughed apart by lashes; you too sagging under the strain of carrying your death-wood. You share his fate, his humiliation.

Anyone who does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:27)
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#3 mji

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Posted 25 November 2006 - 11:07 PM

I wonder if the crowds to which he first said that even began to understand what he might mean. Even for his closest disciples his call of “Follow me!” had attached to it the prospect of importance and glory “…and I will make you fishers of men”. Yet the time John records the Master saying to Peter “Follow me!” that great disciple was left in no doubt by what kind of death he was to glorify God.

Anyone who does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:27)

We know to what we are being called – it is to share his fate, to follow in his humiliation.
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#4 mji

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Posted 25 November 2006 - 11:08 PM

Consider the Thessalonian saints: they were persuaded that “It was necessary for the Christ to suffer”, their world had been turned upside down by the message Paul and Silas had brought to their city.

Whilst Paul and Silas slipped away to face danger elsewhere, the brothers in Thessalonica became enemies to their neighbours. As far as their townsfolk were concerned, “They preach rebellion, they incite treason against this world, they follow the king this world denies”.

The Thessalonian brothers understood that “it was necessary for the Christ to suffer”, and as Paul, Silvanus and Timothy were writing to them they were in the throes of daily taking up their cross and following the Master.

“We boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. This is evidence of the righteous judgement of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering.” (2 Thessalonians 1:4-5)
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#5 mji

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Posted 25 November 2006 - 11:09 PM

Steadfastness and faith in the face of an onslaught from the world. A faith growing abundantly in persecution, love towards each other increasing amid affliction – they bore fruit because they suffered, they showed themselves worthy of the kingdom of God. The trials they faced gave opportunity for them to glorify God.

Suffering for the sake of Christ is clearly a painful commitment, BUT it is for our benefit and God’s glory – it should draw us closer together providing practical opportunities to help and care for one another, it should make clear the division between believer and unbeliever, it should encourage us throw ourselves upon God for strength and deliverance, and it provides opportunities for giving thanks.

Thank God for the example of our Thessalonian brothers – Paul did. Thank God for the encouragement to fight and endure they, and those like them, give us. “We ought always to give thanks to God for you brothers as is right…” Whose example of growing faith and love do you thank God for? Have you been looking out to see people with growing faith and love? Where we see such growth we have evidence that Christ’s body is alive and working; we know that the head is exercising his limbs and God is being glorified. But are we looking out for it?

Are you an example of growing faith and love in adversity for which others may give thanks? Perhaps your example may keep a fellow-saint from turning away.
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#6 mji

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Posted 25 November 2006 - 11:12 PM

But even as you stagger on behind him, putting your foot where his has tread before, is there a part of you desiring to turn away? -to melt into the crowd, to fling the wood aside, to cross through the police guard to be one of the crowd? And they’d let you, you know. There is much rejoicing on earth over one saint that turns away from Christ.

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23

Turning away is constant temptation when all it requires is for one to express oneself. Paul warned the Thessalonians about self-expression and self-assertion:

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you, brethren, not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God



The “apostasy” (if we want to anglicise it) - more simply, the “turning away”, the “rebellion” - is rooted in self-advancement, self-belief, self-empowerment and blasphemous things spoken against God.
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#7 mji

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Posted 25 November 2006 - 11:16 PM

The man of lawlessness, the son of destruction Paul warns of takes power on earth with Satan’s authority (v9), he actually takes his seat in God’s temple (v4) – that’s (potentially at least) amongst us isn’t it? (1 Cor 3:16-17), (assuming Revelation 13 is talking about the same thing) he appears unfightable to those that dwell upon the earth, and he is allowed to make war on the saints…and (here’s the scary thing) to overcome them…to overcome us(?!)

The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.


Those words make the prayer, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” all the more meaningful…we don’t want to be deceived, we don’t want to the delusion God sends.

And yet, when you want to turn away, to fling the wood away the lie is so tempting to believe as true – And the acid test for us is there in v12: “did not believe the truth…” (oh we all believe the truth don’t we? – maybe not!...) “did not believe the truth (and v10) refused to love the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness”. So acid test is do we take pleasure in unrighteousness? Pleasure in unrighteousness is what gives the magic tricks of Satan their power.

Really when all is said and done, when we strip away any front me might put on for the benefit of others… do we know ourselves to be amongst those on Mount Zion, who follow the Lamb wherever he goes, or amongst bowing down to the beast? Do we take pleasure in unrighteousness?

The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God: The greedy, the thieves, the sexually immoral, the drunkards, the idolators. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
...be imitators of God as dearly loved children and live in love...

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#8 mji

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Posted 25 November 2006 - 11:17 PM

Acid test again: Do we love his appearing? “I have fought the good fight (it was bruising), I have finished the race (it was exhausting), I have kept the faith (though I might have turned away). Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

Loving his appearing and taking pleasure in unrighteousness have to be opposites. They involve two completely different outlooks…
- If we love his appearing then we are looking beyond the now, we are able to bear the now and rejoice in a painful now. But if we take pleasure in unrighteousness there is only the now, the future is out of mind, there is no future.
- If we love his appearing, it is partly out of desire to see unrighteousness destroyed and God glorified. If we take pleasure in unrighteousness, his appearing is something to fear, forget or deny.
...be imitators of God as dearly loved children and live in love...

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#9 mji

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Posted 25 November 2006 - 11:20 PM

So far the picture we have, of being there with him on the walk to self-death, sharing in his suffering…well it may have been rather severe and bleak. But there is another side: not only is it the right thing to do – to follow him, it is the positive thing to do and it allows God to work in us. In God’s strength we can overcome rather than be conquered. He may delude the wicked, but he strengthens and enables those he loves to do right.

we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfil every good resolve and work of faith by his power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ...
...we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.


...be imitators of God as dearly loved children and live in love...

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#10 mji

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Posted 25 November 2006 - 11:23 PM

We walk not just with a man who went willingly in humiliation to his death, but with a man crowned with glory and honour. We walk in the knowledge that God chose us and loved us and marked us out to receive the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So as we take his body and his blood again this morning, as we remember the new covenant he brought into being let’s make the effort to lift our eyes up once more to see him walking ahead, let’s resolve again to walk behind “Lord, I know where you are leading, and I will follow” and let’s make our prayers more earnest for the day to come when God will…

grant rest ... to you who are afflicted, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.



In that day may us be able to say of us, “You are those who have stayed with me in all my trials…eat and drink at my table in my kingdom.” (Luke 22:28,30)
...be imitators of God as dearly loved children and live in love...

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