The Price of Following Jesus/‘Worldly Correctness’/“Who is my mother, or my brethren?”

57 And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.

58 And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

59 And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.

60 Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.

61 And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.

62 And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. (Lk. 9:57-62)

I was first drawn to this scripture by the phrase, “Let the dead bury their dead…” I wondered so much why Jesus would call a grieving family “the dead”.

But before we discuss that, let us see what Jesus said to the first man, the man who told Him, “I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest”.

Jesus told this man, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”

That is incredible, to say the least. The Son of the Most High God had nowhere to lay His head? while even foxes and birds have somewhere to lay down and sleep?! The Kingdom of God is a worldly paradox. That is why Jesus’ words cannot marry with the “Money, come to me now!” gospel or lifestyle that worldly preachers try to propagate today (see the clip in my post “Prosperity Gospel vs Suffering for Christ”). Suffering is the price for following Christ.

Jesus was here telling the man the price to pay for following Him. He was to expect to gain nothing of this world.

“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”

The Apostle Paul knew the price. In his writings, he puts it this way, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (1 Cor. 12:10).

At least, now, we know the price. It is to lose all.

Let us get back to Jesus and the man who wanted to first go bury his father then come follow Jesus. Jesus told the man, “Let the dead bury their dead…”

In African society we highly revere a family that has undergone a death, and we would hardly use such words as Jesus used here in a situation where a family is grieving, even in our imagination. But here Jesus tells a man who wants to go bury his father, “Let the dead bury their dead…”

I will tell you one thing: a man who has nowhere to lay down his head can talk a little differently than a man who owns a private jet. He has that luxury because he has nothing to lose. Jesus certainly made full use of that advantage.

But why, pray, would Jesus call this grieving family “the dead”? Was He irreverent?

No, Jesus was neither being irreverent, nor was He callous. I am sure that He loved this family very much, and it is inconceivable that their grief would not have touched His tender heart. But Jesus always stayed in the context of the heavenly Kingdom, and here He was stating a very important fact concerning what He came to do in the world. Jesus came to bring eternal life into the world. The Word of God teaches that anyone who has not received Jesus into their lives is spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1-3).

In the natural, there is only one thing that we can do with a dead person: bury them. Once someone is well and truly dead, all we can do is bury them, to rise no more.

But – thank God! – in the Kingdom of God, we have another option. We can choose to bring resurrection life to people through preaching the gospel. Jesus opted to work with this option: preach the Kingdom of God and bring resurrection life to the people of God.

You can’t be callous with a dead person. In fact, you can rattle them until their teeth fall off if it will bring them back to life again. The people that Jesus was referring to (this man’s family) were spiritually dead. If He truly loved them, there was only one thing He could do for them: give them eternal life! That is why He told this man, “Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.”

What a glorious combination!

Today the modern world has coined a phrase: ‘political correctness’. Many in the world today believe that ‘political correctness’ among worldly leaders is killing civilization as we know it. In the spiritual world, we have an equivalent, though probably unspoken term: ‘worldly correctness’. ‘Worldly correctness’ means we do not want to step on people’s toes with the gospel because we feel we will offend them. I am sure that this attitude on our part will send a lot of people to hell.

A Muslim friend of mine told me that as long as I did not mention Jesus in my discussions with him concerning religion, he would listen to me. I told him, “Whatever I have to tell you begins and ends with Jesus”.

Jesus was not ‘worldly correct’. Jesus had only one aim: to be ‘heavenly correct’. He talked and lived the only life that really matters: the eternal heavenly life. When Jesus therefore told the man “Let the dead bury their dead”, He was stating a spiritual reality of the life that He came to live.

We expend an inordinately large amount of energy and time trying to please and to fit in with the world. But that is not love. Smiling is good, but we cannot smile and expect to save the world. The same goes for intellectual arguments and counter-arguments. If we truly love the world, the only thing of worth that we can give them is to solidly preach to them the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus tells this man, “Go thou and preach the kingdom of God”.

Only the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ can bring true life to people.

Let us have one last glance at this scripture.

If there are “the dead” in this world, then there are also the living. This refers to the church. In this context, I believe  also that Jesus was telling this man to appreciate the church, more than his worldly flesh and blood kith and kin. He was laying upon him the importance of the church vis-à-vis his flesh and blood relations.

This aspect is a challenge to many people in church. Many do not know where to draw the line between their worldly relations and the church.

But Jesus did not have any uncertainties, hesitations or misgivings in this regard. He knew exactly where to draw the line. When His mother and brethren came to fetch Him, the Bible says, “33 And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? 34 And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 35 For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother” Mk. 3:33-35.

That’s pretty tough to swallow. We are called upon to love and care for our own flesh and blood, and even the world in general. But we ought to know where our true inheritance lies. It lies in the church, which is the true Body of Christ. True spiritual brethren are our spiritual inheritance. The church is our “portion”. That is why our true value with God is connected to how much we value His church, the brethren.

Our worldly relationships with our worldly kin should be whittled down to the bare minimum. (In the Spirit, of course, we will be working overtime to get them saved!)

But on the contrary, we should love and devote ourselves to the church with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our strength. Jesus set the example for us.

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[Photo credit: Carol Lanthier]

Prosperity Gospel vs Suffering for Christ

Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him… Is. 53:10

Moses never went through the sufferings that his brethren underwent under Pharaoh’s brutal oppression. But soon enough he would undergo sufferings of his own, probably more severe than the Israelites were going through. Soon he would fall from a position of unlimited power and luxury to become a poor shepherd “boy”. He would know rejection, and loneliness. He would know the simple life like he had never known it in his life. It would be a system shock for him.

When Moses killed the Egyptian in defense of his people, he thought he knew God; but God told him no. In the wilderness, after the liberation of the children of Israel, Moses would know more suffering. He would know opposition. He would know hunger and thirst (40 days he spent in the presence of the Lord without food or water). Moses would pass through much for him to claim to know God.

In other words, in order for Moses to fit in with God’s plan for his life, he had to suffer. This is so important for the church to grasp. If it pleased God to “bruise” Jesus, it can hardly be supposed that we will not be “bruised” in like manner. Yes, we will, and we must be willing and prepared to pass through the same sufferings in the flesh that Christ went through. If we truly desire to be conformed to the image of Christ, we will rejoice at this revelation.

But the charismatic gospel that teaches the good life simply has no idea of this singular fact which confronts every child of God who desires to please God. That is why the bulk of today’s gospel is at fault. It does not recognize that our lives are to be identified with the sufferings and death of Christ on the cross. Nearly everything else is taught in church today, except that. But the sufferings of Christ are the essence of the gospel.

I can comfortably say that the majority of the church today has not grasped the revelation that the Apostle Paul received concerning our identification with Christ in His sufferings and death. But suffering and dying with Christ is the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I have never read of anyone in the Bible who pleased God who did not go through some form of suffering.

Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him…”

The Bible also says, “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Heb. 2:18). Who are tempted? It is we. And how are we tempted? It is through the sufferings that we undergo in the flesh that our faith is tried.

In the clip below I want to show that the comfortable gospel that many of today’s major Pentecostal preachers are preaching something that clearly goes against the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The vein of their doctrine is the good worldly life. No hint of welcome for the sufferings of Christ.

Someone, in trying to defend these preachers, talked of context. But there is no issue of context here. You do not need  context to know where these men and women are headed.

The real tragedy here is that these are the kind of churches where the majority of Christians are concentrated. This is where many of God’s people are being comfortably robbed of their spiritual inheritance.

So what should we do? The Bible says “come out from among them” (2 Cor. 6:17). Yes. Come out from these kinds of churches. That’s painful and difficult, but it is the only way.

Way too many of God’s children are sitting comfortably by as worldly preachers whittle away their spiritual inheritance while promising them the temporal things of this world.

[Below: No suffering!]

The Power of The Cross

1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Ephesians 3:1-7

The superiority (if we may put it that way) of the gospel that the Apostle Paul carried over the gospel that the other apostles carried was its ability to accommodate everybody. It is clear that even the believing Jews in Jesus’ day struggled to accept Gentiles into an inheritance which they deemed their own.

But the power of the gospel of the cross was revealed in the ability of one of their own, Paul, reaching out to the very people whom the Jews simply could not tolerate. One of the greatest things that the cross, as a revelation, does in our lives is to break down barriers. That was the power of the cross that was revealed to the Apostle Paul.

You see, the church is a Body. If this Body is to be one with Christ, how much more should we as members be one? If Christ died so you and I could be one with Him, how much more should we die to self that we may be one with each other?

We cannot claim to carry the true gospel of Jesus Christ while there are barriers in our hearts. Even the tiniest barrier is a grave sin in this regard. (And don’t even think about how big a minister you are! These are the kind of thoughts that will unexpectedly send many people to hell.)

All our barriers must come down if we are to carry the true gospel of Jesus Christ!

That is the central message of the cross. Indeed, Paul spent a large part of his letters talking about unity and love. He put the Body above everything else. We are to do all for the benefit of the Body of Christ, he said.

In 1 Cor. 14:5 Paul says: “…greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.” Greater is the man who regards the Body than he who regards himself, however ‘spiritual’ he may be, Paul says.

In scriptures galore the Apostle Paul talks of this unity of the Body of Christ, but 1 Corinthians is very important in this regard.
Philippians chapter 2 also has much to say about humility and unity.

“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:18

[Below: The gospel is all about the Body: on our way to Zanzibar with our Canadian brothers!]

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