by Mike Ratliff
And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” (Mark 10:37-40 ESV)
The truth, Biblical truth that is, cuts like a sword or the sharpest dagger ever seen. God’s ways are not Man’s ways or the ways of the world. No, God’s ways are antithetical to the ways of fallen Men. Many reading this can testify to losing close friends and having conflict within family groups because God has quickened them by His grace. Their faith is alive. They are regenerate. They now can see the truth and are able to obey God. This new life in Christ belongs to those who have found the narrow gate, which is Christ. They have passed through in belief and now are on the narrow way which leads to the Celestial City.
The conflict arises from this new life when it comes to bear on those around the believer who know not God. They may indeed be religious. They may be professing Christians, but neither of these things are guarantees of eternal life. The genuine believer is a possessor of the truth, God has written it on his or her heart. However, the unregenerate cannot grasp this truth. They see it as utter foolishness. When the regenerate believer walks in this belief with it affecting all parts of his or her life the unregenerate react in many ways. Anger, resentment, skepticism, hostility, and disdain are just a few of the reactions genuine Christians will encounter when they walk by faith.
These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. Acquire no gold nor silver nor copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics nor sandals nor a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. (Matthew 10:5-14 ESV)
Obedient Christians will encounter two groups of people in their walks. Some are honorable the rest are not. The honorable receive the truth while the rest will not receive it to themselves nor listen to the truth. Jesus instructs us to shake off the dust from our feet as we depart from them. This is to show them that God’s peace is for others, not them.
Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town. “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:15-28 ESV)
The hostility from those unworthy of the truth is like that of a wolf pack going after a few sheep. How are the sheep to respond? They are to be wise and serpents and innocent as doves. They are to beware, to be careful. However, there will be times when the hostility will break forth into persecution. This can take many forms, but it is always going to be centered on hostility against the exclusivity of the Gospel. In our day the move is going full bore to open wide the narrow gate as far as possible, removing all of Christ’s restrictions on entering thereby. The narrow way is being made broad and as inclusive as possible. However, when the truth is spoken that these ways are unbiblical and not of God, the sheep who is drinking from Christ’s cup of obedience in speaking this truth will suffer persecution.
Their own families will turn on them. Their friends will view them as “insane.” They will be seen as religious fanatics and legalistic and treated as unworthy of any grace. However, it is during these times that God will put His words in their mouths to speak for His glory and to seal the judgment on those who are persecuting them. Jesus tells us that if we live obedient Christian lives then we will speak the truth and it will cause evil to come our way. We are not to fear those who persecute, but instead we are to fear God and obey Him instead of men.
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:29-42 ESV)
No matter how horrible the enemies of the truth treat the believer who speaks the truth, Christians must remember that the Father is holding them in His eternal protection. Those who bear this and do not recant, but continually proclaim the truth in the face of God’s enemies will be acknowledged by the Son before God the Father. What a wonderful promise! In this post-Evangelical period of the Church this is not seen as the reward it really is. In our time it seems that the Church has lost its eternal focus and has become completely temporal. Because of this, the Gospel is changed into a man-made version of it that saves no one. It is one that offers peace with God for being religious or joining a church or saying a prayer. There is no mention of the Law and every person’s guilt before God because of it. There is no mention of why Jesus went to the Cross and why He had to become the propitiation for the sins of His people.
When the one who has drunk from Christ’s cup of obedience tells the truth against these lies then the heat and backlash from the neo-evangelicals and liberals comes quickly and seems deadly. Why? These “defenses” are fiery darts from the enemy himself. We must never stop preaching the truth about the high cost of discipleship. Genuine believers have given up their lives for their Lord. They have lost their lives for His sake. However, in this, they will find their true life.
When Jesus sent out His disciples He told them not to carry food or extra clothing. They were to depend on His providence which would be revealed in those people who received the Gospel gladly. However, Jesus’ earthly ministry ended. He is in Heaven with the Father. Before His crucifixion he revealed how things will be different for His obedient sheep.
And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.” (Luke 22:35-38 ESV)
When Jesus sent the disciples out before, He had sovereignly arranged for their needs to be met. However, now things have changed. From now on they were to use normal means to provide for their own support and protection. The things Jesus told them to take and possess, the moneybag, the knapsack and the sword were figurative expressions for this. The sword was a dagger like weapon meant for protection, not aggression. However, His thickheaded disciples misunderstood what Jesus meant here. When they proclaimed that they had two swords, Jesus response was literally, “enough of such talk!” We know that Jesus did not mean for Christians to respond to unbelievers with the sword of steel by His response to Peter’s aggression in vv47-51. No, we don’t defend the Gospel with violence. When we are mistreated because of it and our refusal to compromise it then we will suffer the wrath of the unbelieving, but we still do not respond in kind. Instead, we tell the truth. We never compromise. We respond with the words God puts in our mouths. This is why we must know the Word of God.
Some reading this have felt a pang of guilt because they have genuine faith and are children of God, but they refuse to stand for the truth in the face of hostile family members or friends or co-workers. This stand is not a call to be obnoxious, but loving. There are times for the use of the Sword of the Spirit against the enemy and those he uses to attack the truth, but even then we must not resort to their tactics. Instead, we drink from the cup that the Father has given us and hope in His promises.