Thursday, January 24, 2008

Lessons From Would-be Disciples

When it comes to discipleship everyone ultimately has only one decision to make; and this decision has only two options—yes or no. (To put it off is to say no.) Although God placed the entire human race in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1); though we are in Christ (in a purely judicial sense) at the time we are born, at some point in our experience, God confronts us with the question: “Will you be My disciple? There is something in your life that is going to bring you down. There is a fault or defect in your character that I need to remove—to replace with My good works of righteousness. Will you let me have it? Will you believe?”

Now what do we do?

How good are you at making excuses? “I’m busy right now.” (Are you so busy with the work of the Lord you don’t have time for the Lord of the work?) “What is wrong with ... ?” (Maybe nothing. But who is first in your life? What does God want? Do we worship God the way He wants to be worshipped? Or do we worship God in our own way, thus worshipping self?) “Well, so-and-so did such-and-such and so I have to respond accordingly.” (And who did you say is in control of your life?)

There were prospective disciples who made similar excuses to Jesus for which He responded, “Let the dead bury the dead.” And “Foxes have holes ...” For each situation there was a different response based on what the individual’s stumbling block was. Whom do you worship? What is your idol?

There is an old saying: “You are only responsible for what you can say yes or no to.” I like that because it places the responsibility for our decisions directly on the one who makes them. You and I have ultimate control of what finally happens to us. I cannot control what others do, but I can make my own decisions.

When God comes to you and says, “There is something in your life that is going to bring you down. There is a fault or defect in your character that I need to remove—to replace with My good works of righteousness. Will you let me have it?” Say YES right away. For to say “no” and to continue to say “no” will ultimately cause you to want to kill God (Mathew 26, Revelation 20). So I encourage you to say YES—and to mean it.

Let’s allow one of the 1888 messengers, A. T. Jones, to say it in the way only he can:

Well now, we have read the verses, “He gave himself for us.” He bought us. How much of us? [Congregation: “All of us.”] When was it that he did it? [Congregation: “Before the foundation of the world.”] What kind of folks were we before the foundation of the world? ... What did He buy just then? He bought us, and all there was of us. And as He bought what there was of us, He bought our sins. Isaiah describes it—wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores; no soundness at all. Is that so?...

Well, now, let us carry that a little further. He gave Himself for our sins; but the same thought goes through all: He will not take our sins—although He bought them—without our permission. Look at it a little further, carrying the same thought forward. “He gave himself” for whose sins? [Congregation: “Ours.”] Whose were they? [Congregation: “Ours.”] He gave Himself for them. They being ours, to whom did He give Himself when He bought them? [Congregation: “To us.”] He gave Himself to me, for my sins? [Congregation: “Yes.”] Then the choice is forever with me as to whether I would rather have my sins than to have Him, isn’t it? [Congregation: “Yes.”] That is the living choice before me, is it? [Congregation: “Yes.”] Is that the choice before you? [Congregation: “Yes.”] Which would you rather have, your sins or Christ? [Congregation: “Christ.”] Then from this time henceforth can there be any hesitation about letting anything go that God shows is sin? Will you let it go when it is pointed out? When sin is pointed out to you, say, “I would rather have Christ than that.” And let it go [Congregation: “Amen.”] Just tell the Lord, “Lord, I make the choice now; I make the trade; I make Thee my choice; it is gone, and I have something better.” Thank the Lord! Then where in the world is the opportunity for any of us to get discouraged over our sins?

Now some of the brethren here have done that very thing. They came here free; but the Spirit of God brought up something they never saw before. The Spirit of God went deeper than it ever went before and revealed things they never saw before; and then, instead of thanking the Lord that that was so, and letting the whole wicked business go, and thanking the Lord they had ever so much more of Him than they ever had before, they began to get discouraged. They said, “Oh what am I going to do? My sins are so great.” There they let Satan cast a cloud over them, and throw them into discouragement, and they get no good out of the meetings day after day. ...

If the Lord has brought up sins to us that we never thought of before, that only shows that He is going down to the depths, and He will reach the bottom at last; and when He finds the last thing that is unclean or impure, that is out of harmony with His will, and brings that up, and shows that to us, and we say, “I would rather have the Lord than that,”—then the work is complete, and the seal of the living God can be fixed upon that character. ...

Which would you rather, have the completeness, the perfect fulness, of Jesus Christ, or have less than that, with some of your sins covered up that you never know of? ... And so He has got to dig down to the deep places we never dreamed of, because we cannot understand our hearts. But the Lord knows the heart. He tries the conscience. He will cleanse the heart, and bring up the last vestige of wickedness. Let Him go on, brethren; let Him keep on His searching work. And when He does bring our sins before us, let the heart say, “Lord, thou gavest Thyself for my sins; Oh, I take Thee instead of them.” They are gone, and I rejoice in the Lord. Brethren, let us be honest with the Lord, and treat Him as He wants us to. (General Conference Bulletin, 1893, pp. 403, 404; The Third Angel’s Message, pp. 119-120.)

What are we waiting for? Say “Yes” to God now, and experience the true joys of discipleship—today! They are yours already; now you can have, realize them in your experience.

Craig Barnes

Please forward these messages to your friends and encourage them to subscribe. "Insights" on the Internet:

To subscribe send an e-mail message with subscribe in the body of the message to: <>