Are You a Disciple?

24Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it (Matthew 16:24-25).

In the late 1800’s Ernest Shackleton, the famous British explorer, when he was about to set out on an expedition to the South Pole, put an ad in the London Times, “Men wanted for hazardous journey to the South Pole. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.” How many people do you think responded to the ad? (Scrolling further down to the end of the next paragraph will give you the answer).

Pastors of the Western church of Jesus Christ have a tendency to want to make it easier for people. We’re afraid that the message of Jesus Christ and His call to commitment will put some people off. We put coffee cup holders at the back of the seats, and only brew premium coffee. We make the room warm, but not too warm in case we put people to sleep. The music has to be just right, with perfect sound reproduction. The children’s classrooms have to have enough toys, with no hint of a stain or blemish on any of them. Our Western culture has permeated our church culture. As a result, we have a marketing mentality. People in the West are used to this. The churches in Asia are not bound by such marketing strategies; they have grown strong by deep commitment to the cause of Christ. When we think of Shackelton’s advertisement, why would this draw anyone? When calling for a commitment, Earnest Shackleton told them that this would not be easy, and only those who were ready to give up their lives for the cause should apply. He wrote, “Safe return doubtful.” This would be a trip of great hardship with a small wage, bitter cold, and long months of darkness. What would move anyone, we would think, to desire to go with Shackleton? In speaking of it afterward he said that so overwhelming was the response to his appeal that it seemed as though all the men of Great Britain were determined to accompany him. In fact, Shackleton had over 5000 replies to his ad.[1]

Why do you think 5000 men responded to such an advertisement?

I think many are looking for something to give themselves to that would live on after their deaths. Men need a challenge. Even though there was a possibility of death, the response was overwhelming and surprising. However, out of those 5000 people only 27 were chosen for the trip. Advertisements for young men to join the Marines play on this desire for challenge, commitment, hardship, honor and recognition. I would think that if we could have questioned the 5000 responders their main motive would have been the same as those that join the Marines, that of the challenge, glory, hardship, and the desire to be part of something that will make a difference. The most inspiring thing you can ever say to somebody is that they have made a difference through what they have done. Many are aware that the future does not look bright for anyone who has a mind to look at what is happening in the world. It will become increasingly dangerous to be a Christian as we approach the end times, yes, even here in America. There will be increasing pressure to compromise your faith and your values. What things do you see happening that is pressuring Christians to compromise their faith?

Without a deep commitment to the cause of Christ and an intimate love for the King of Love we will be swept away from the centrality of Christ and obedience to His Word. We are called to not only believe but to be a disciple, a disciplined one. Let me ask you this question, if it were illegal to be a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Your answer to that question may shed light on whether you are a nominal believer, or a disciple. I pray today that these words today may find an opening in your heart to desire to be a disciple rather than just a believer.

Read more on this study by scrolling down to the Becoming a Disciple Series and click on the second study, “A Revolution of the Committed.”

Keith Thomas

[1] Carl Hopkins Elmore, Quit You like Men, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1944).

What Does Your Faith in Christ Cost You?

If you would walk a godly life in Christ Jesus there will be a cost. Many of us in the West have known little cost to taking the path of discipleship. But if we are to be disciples of the Lord Jesus there will be times of challenge to our faith. The Lord, the Vinedresser of His vineyard will make it so:

1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful (John 15:1-2).

Your faith will be challenged. Ask God for sensitivity so that you will know and realize the challenge when it comes. The challenge will be for you to compromise and take a side path rather than the highway of holiness to God. For instance, when Sadhu Sundar Singh of India was converted to Christ from his family religion of Sikhism, he was immediately challenged to compromise and leave the path of faith in Christ. When he told his father of his having seen Jesus Christ, his father said, “don’t bring disgrace on your family by joining those dirty outcastes,” referring to the fact that the gospel had taken hold among the lower caste system in India. The local Christians were mostly of the sweeper castes that did all the dirty work in the village. How could Sundar bring such shame to his family by becoming one of them? His friends in the gang that he was a part of, threw muck at him and rejected him from the group. He no longer could eat meals with his family and was told to eat outside.

After all kinds of pressure on him to abandon his faith, his uncle took him down into a deep cellar, and opened an iron box filled with money and precious jewels. His uncle promised that it would all be Sundar’s, if only he would abandon his faith in Christ and return to the religion of his family. Sundar refused to abandon Christ. He knew he had to do something that would release him from these daily trials and attacks to turn him from the faith. One day, he went out and cut off all his hair. To a Sikh in the Punjab region of India, long hair was the chief of the Five Signs, his glory, the Kev which he wore tied in a knob at the top of his head.

The shock and horror of his family at this act knew no bounds. His father ordered him out of the family. He had to sleep the night under a tree. He knew he had to leave, but before he left, his sister-in-law, unsmiling, put some food out under the verandah, the place where outcastes were allowed to eat, and indicated that it was for him. After eating the food, he left to see a local Presbyterian pastor. When he got there he began to have violent spasms of pain. He had been poisoned by his family! Later he found out that his only Christian friend, one that had also been converted from Sikhism, had also been poisoned and had died. The doctor came quickly but said that the amount of poison he had could not be stopped. He left him to die. The doctor could do nothing. Sundar turned to the scriptures and read aloud the passage:

17And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well” (Mark 16:17-18).

 The next morning, to the doctor’s amazement, Sundar was completely well. The Lord had healed him. The doctor, for the first time, read the New Testament and a complete turnaround came to him from that point. For Sundar, this time was full of joy at the working of the Lord in his life. The peace of Christ was with him and he was free of religion full of ritual to a true relationship with Christ. How about you, dear reader, is your relationship with God something real? Get the real thing—faith in Christ.

Keith Thomas

For You, O God, Tested Us…

silver10For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. 11You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. 12You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance (Psalm 66:10-12).

See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction (Isaiah 48:10).

Sometimes our lives are full of burdens and it seems as if God is nowhere to be found. In fact, it seems as if He is letting men ride over our heads and lay burdens on our backs. Why would God allow these things to go on in the lives of His children? I am presuming that you are a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ. If not, then maybe today is your day to place your trust in His finished work in full payment of the debt of sin you owe.  If you are a Christian, God views our testing as a refining of our character. Just as a metal sword made for combat was put through the fire, refined and hammered on the anvil, in the same way God allows for trials and difficulties to come to our lives so that we may grow spiritually through them. We do not know God’s plans and purposes for our lives. Our life experiences would make more sense if we could only look into the future and know what we are being made into. Often we don’t see God’s plan until twenty years later when we are enjoying the fruits that come from the trial. What are the fruits of trials? I would say that it is a greater presence of the Spirit on your life and a maturing of our character—these are the things that please God. Of course, this can result in other blessings in our lives and in the lives of others too. God has a purpose and a plan for each one of us. How do I know that? The mother of the two disciples, James and John, asked that they would be able to sit in the best positions in the Kingdom of God, on the right hand and on the left hand side of Jesus. Jesus replied saying that those places are for those who will endure the cup of suffering in the same way as Jesus would and did. He said to James and John:

“You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father” (Matthew 20:23).

What can we infer from this passage and several others? God knows what He is doing. John and James wanted the seats of honor on either side of Jesus, but were they ready to take the same cup of suffering that Jesus was to take? To be great in the sight of God is to be a servant of all, and to put self on the altar in order to serve even through times of suffering. The way up is the way down. Christ must become greater, and we must become less important. God has seen ahead of time those who, in their heart of hearts want to go all the way with Him. In the preparation of His people, God prepares ahead of time opportunities for His servants to be exercised in their servant hood. He has seen the end from the beginning. He has a picture of the finished product of your life that He is making you to become. You are a product of the choices and responses to different trials that God has prepared in advance for you. When the cup of suffering is handed to you, will you choose to take the way of suffering or will you opt for the easy way out of the trial and compromise your faith?

 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

What does this scripture say? First, it says that God Himself is working on you—you are His workmanship. Secondly, it says that you were created to do certain works that God Himself, outside of time, before the creation of the world, prepared in advance for you to do. Will you allow Him to shape and mold you to be the person you were created to be? Lay your life down before Him today and sincerely ask Him to have His way in your life—you will never regret that decision!

Keith Thomas

Are You Committed to be a Believer or a Disciple?

shackleton-endurance-composite24Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it (Matthew 16:24-25).

In the late 1800’s Ernest Shackleton, the famous explorer, when he was about to set out on an expedition to the South Pole, put an ad in the London Times, “Men wanted for hazardous journey to the South Pole. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.” How many people do you think responded to the ad? (Scrolling further down can see the answer).

We have a tendency in the Western church of Jesus Christ to want to make it easier for people. We’re afraid that the message of Jesus Christ and His call to commitment will put some people off. We put coffee cup holders at the back of the seats, and only brew premium coffee. We make the room warm, but not too warm in case we put people to sleep. The music has to be just right, with perfect sound reproduction. The children’s classrooms have to have enough toys, with no hint of a stain or blemish on any of them. Our Western culture has permeated our church culture. As a result, we have a marketing mentality. People in the West are used to this. The Church in Asia are not bound by such marketing strategies; they have grown strong by deep commitment to the cause of Christ. When we think of Shackelton’s advertisement, why would this draw anyone? When calling for a commitment, Earnest Shackleton told them that this would not be easy, and only those who were ready to give up their lives for the cause should apply. He wrote, “Safe return doubtful.” This would be a trip of great hardship, with a small wage, bitter cold and long months of darkness. What would move anyone, we would think, to desire to go with Shackleton? In speaking of it afterward he said that so overwhelming was the response to his appeal that it seemed as though all the men of Great Britain were determined to accompany him. In fact, Shackleton had over 5000 replies to his ad.[1]

Why do you think 5000 men responded to such an advertisement? I think many are looking for something to give themselves to that would live on after their deaths. Men need a challenge. Even though there was the possibility of death, the response was overwhelming and surprising. However, out of those 5000 people only 27 were chosen for the trip. Advertisements for young men to join the Marines play on this desire for challenge, commitment, hardship, honor and recognition. I would think that if we could have questioned the 5000 responders, their main motive would have been the same as those that join the Marines, that of the challenge, glory, hardship, and the desire to be part of something that will make a difference. The most inspiring thing you can ever say to somebody is that they have made a difference through what they have done. Many today are aware that the future does not look bright for anyone who has a mind to look at what is happening in the world. It will become increasingly dangerous to be a Christian as we approach the End Times, yes, even here in America. There will be increasing pressure to compromise your faith and your values.

Without a deep commitment to the cause of Christ and an intimate love for the King of Love, we will be swept away from the centrality of Christ and obedience to His Word. We are called to go beyond being believers to being disciples. Let me ask you this question, if it were illegal to be a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Your answer to that question may shed light on whether you are a believer, or a disciple. I pray today that these words today may find an opening in your heart to desire to be a disciple rather than just a believer.

Read more on this study by scrolling down to the Becoming a Disciple Series and click on the second study, “A Revolution of the Committed.”

Keith Thomas

[1] Quit You like Men, Carl Hopkins Elmore (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1944).