by Mike Ratliff
But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. (Acts 5:34-42 Emphasis Mine)
I am sure you have heard some preacher somewhere at sometime say something like, “Come to Jesus so He can bless you and make your life better.” Every time I hear or read something like that, I want to grab them and ask them if they have ever seriously read their Bibles. Yes, a life in Christ is far superior to life outside of God’s grace; however, people who preach a gospel of health, wealth, and prosperity are guilty of misleading the gullible. The walk of a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ is one of self-denial, humility, obedience, and devotion to God’s glory.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?” (Matthew 16:24-26)
That doesn’t sound much like a walk that is seeking riches and comfort does it? Instead, the Christian is called to a life of sacrifice and service. I once heard a preacher say something like, “Rejoice if you are suffering because God is preparing you for greatness.” That greatness is not greatness in the world’s eyes, but is greatness in the Kingdom of God. Who is great in the Kingdom?
And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)
Who can do that and like it? Only the Spirit-led believer can do this because humility is growing in depth and breadth in him or her according to God’ will. Who judges hypocritically? The proud do that. Who judges not? The only ones capable of shedding hypocrisy are the humble.
As God grows believers in grace, they take on Christ’s character. Christlikeness is a term describing a believer who is humble, God-focused, and Spirit-led. The believers who attain this level of spiritual maturity will take on the mantle of Church leader whether that is what they want or not. Why? This is God’s design. Our churches desperately need spiritually mature believers to become the godly mentors and disciplers who, lead by the Holy Spirit, will pour themselves out in service to the immature believers around them whom God is growing in grace. Just as Jesus became broken bread and poured out wine for the sake of the Church, the spiritually mature believers must sacrifice themselves for the sake of those God has brought to them. Jesus never pushed away those who sought the truth. He poured Himself into their lives. He discipled them even when He became exhausted. Mature believers are to do the same even though the immature believers who are hungry for the truth will drain the vitality right out of them. The reason this is so is that the mature believer willing to pour himself or herself out like this is actually the spiritual nourishment the immature believers are consuming. This will continue until the immature learn to go the source themselves to be fed. The mature believer can do this because he or she knows where to go to become filled and recharged.
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)
Who can continually go through this cycle of becoming broken bread and poured out wine to the point of complete exhaustion in service to immature believers? Only those who know where the source is and how to feed from Him can do it. The key component in the character of the believers who do this is humility. They never judge those they are discipling and leading into the truth. If they do then they are being hypocritical and that means they are not as mature as they need to be. This does not mean that there will never be times when disobedient disciples will need correction or rebuke. In those cases, it will be God’s judgment coming through the leader according to His will.
Does this sound like drinking from Christ’s cup of suffering? It is part of it. Being broken bread and poured out wine for the sake of immature believers, all for the glory of God will lead to suffering. However, there is another level of suffering. Only genuine believers love the Gospel. The world hates it. Why? It states the truth of Man’s utter inability to save himself from God’s wrath. The unregenerate hate to hear that. They do not understand their need for a savior. They hate God and want nothing to do with Christians. Some of them are actually God’s chosen elect, but they do not know it. However, most are not. They will persecute the one giving them the message of the Gospel.
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ (John 15:18-25)
Did you notice how many times the Lord used a form of the word “hate” in that passage? I counted seven times. That is the reality of taking the Gospel into the world. In Islam, if Mohammed or Allah is defamed or spat upon or “hated” the mobs come out burning and pillaging in their defense. However, Jesus went to the cross suffering persecution, hate, torture, vilification, and scorn. Since then the world has continuously abused Him and His character. It is shameful. Jesus is the most blasphemed person who ever lived. For now, this is tolerated, but it will not be so forever. Any unrepentant sinners, guilty of abusing our Lord and His character, will have to give an account to God at the Final Judgment. It is at that moment when all debts are settled and the books are balanced. Nevertheless, for now, we must drink from the cup of suffering that Jesus is holding out to each of us. We must take the gospel to places such as Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Pakistan, China, and North Korea. Perhaps God wants us to take the Gospel to our next-door neighbor or the person in the cubicle next ours at work. In any case, it is costly to be a genuine disciple of Jesus Christ because it costs the disciple everything. However, they gain unimaginable treasure in the Kingdom of God.
The believers who drink from the cup of Christ’s suffering are those who have matured to the point they are humble and relatively Christlike. They have purchased costly grace instead of the cheap grace of the Humanistic gospel. Hypocrisy is being eradicated from their character. They do not judge hypocritically because that would be an exercise of pride. They have a Spirit-led walk, which nullifies pride, and a cross-centered life that sees the world as a field ripe unto harvest.
Dear Heavenly Father, hallowed be Thy name. You are Holy and Just. Your grace is beyond our comprehension. Thank you for saving us by your grace through the faith you have given us. I pray Lord that your Kingdom will come soon. Oh come Lord Jesus, come. I pray for your will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Oh Lord, teach us the reality of costly grace and the cup of suffering. We now know that living that way maximizes our treasure in Heaven. It also builds the godly treasure in our hearts that causes us to live Christlike lives. Oh Lord, we can do nothing without your grace and your joy which is our strength. Please Lord, give us wisdom and discernment so we can boldly obey you in all things. Make us broken bread and poured out wine for the sake of the Gospel and the Church. In Jesus Name—Amen!
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™ Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.