by Mike Ratliff
 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.  He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,  having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. (Hebrews 1:1-4 ESV)
The Church in the early part of the 21st Century is very sick. This sickness has not happened all at once. Instead, it is the result of centuries of compromise after compromise on the part of Christian leaders and their followers to adapt the Gospel and the Church doctrines to conform to what men want. As a result, the Church has lost its savor. It is no longer salty. The countries in Europe where the Reformers restored the Gospel at the cost of untold numbers of martyrs would not now be considered Christian at all.
In the United States, the visible Church still has some influence in politics and society, but is that what the Church is supposed to be about? The segment of the American Church that would consider itself evangelical has become so doctrinally shallow that most of the members as well as their leadership have no idea what they really believe. If they are confronted with the Arminain/Semi-Pelagian vs. Calvinism debate they would be clueless about what each side believes and does not believe. In fact, they are so spiritually shallow, they don’t understand why it is important to know what you believe and why you believe it; hence the childish attacks upon Reformed Theology using the reasoning methodology of pre-teens.
The reason this sad state of affairs is prevalent in our time is that most professing Christians are fleshly and, therefore, hard of heart. They are self-focused and believe that they are Christians because they are religious or they made some decision when they were a child or their whole family has always been Christian, or they heard a sermon once that spoke of hell and it scared them into walking an aisle, praying a prayer and filling out a card. They may or may not have been baptized later. Is that how people become Christians? What is the mindset of these people in regards to Jesus Christ? How much of their time each day do they spend with Him or meditating about Him? How much of what He taught governs their lives? Is this real Christianity?
Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He is the Messiah. He is over all. One of the major reasons the Church is so sick is that it has lost sight of the superiority of Christ and what that means.
 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.  And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:17-20 ESV)
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus. What does that mean? He is Lord. He is not someone we can casually know. If we know him then he knows us and that means we belong to him as bondservants. He is our Saviour and Sovereign Lord. What he commands for us to do and not do we must obey him no matter the cost.
 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,  having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. (Hebrews 1:3-4 ESV)
The Church these days, or at least segments of it, are into becoming familiar with spirits. Those doing this believe they are dealing with Angels, but they are doing this instead of focusing on Christ and relying on him to be their all-in-all. What should our understanding be of Jesus and the Angels?
 For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”?  And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”  Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds,
and his ministers a flame of fire.”  But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.  You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
 And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands;  they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment,  like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”  And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?  Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:5-14 ESV)
Angels are ministering spirits, but they work for our Lord. We are to worship and obey him and not be concerned about them. How are we supposed to walk this walk?
 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Hebrews 12:1-3 ESV)
We are run the race set before us by faith with endurance looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Why are we to look unto Jesus all the time? What’s wrong with just giving him a hour or two a week on Sunday’s? Is he the Lord of those who treat the one who endured the cross as if he is simply a fire insurance salesman? What will genuine salvation, the result of the washing of regeneration and the work of the Holy Spirit, look like? Is salvation earned or deserved? Does it come to those who will for it to be so?
 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them,  “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
(Luke 14:25-27 ESV)
Let us not mince words here. This is too important a discussion for that. There are two types of people. There are Christ’s disciples then there is the lost. There is no third group of people who are Christians, but not disciples. That is taught nowhere in the scripture. No, a person is either a disciple of our Lord, or they are not his. Look at the passage above. What is our Lord saying? He is saying that he is far superior to any other thing or person that we value. Those who are his disciples love him more than anyone or anything else. They love him and love that he loves them. They want to leave this life to be with him. They possess the treasure that is the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour and blessed hope.
 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,  saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’  Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?  And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.  So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:28-33 ESV)
Counting the cost is to take Jesus words of the high cost of genuine discipleship and coming to the conclusion to receive Him as Lord and Saviour or to not do so. This is why Gospel preaching needs to be Law and Gospel. The Gospel needs to be explained to the hearers and that includes the bad news of the Law followed by the good news of saving faith being given to all who believe. However, that belief must include counting the cost. The hearer must see Jesus as he is. If they do not see Jesus as superior, and beautiful, and perfect, and the one they want to serve and love for the rest of their lives at the cost of their own lives, and all of their affections then they have not counted the cost and are not his disciples.
How can anyone make that decision to receive him at such a high cost? We already know that no one can come to Christ unless the Father first gives them to our Lord (John 6:39) then he must draw them so they can believe. (John 6:44) Therefore, regeneration must take place first. This new birth brings to life that which was dead. This new creation is now spiritually alive and will see the high cost of being Jesus disciple, but then eagerly receive him because he is superior to all things and everyone else. Their new nature loves Jesus and deeply desires to please him with the way the disciple walks before the face of God.
Do you see the tragedy of the train wreck that the Church has become? It preaches Satan’s version of the Gospel that saves no one. When Satan speaks the truth he is the most dangerous. The gospel that the new evangelism and the emergent movement and all liberal churches preach contains elements of truth mixed with man-focused easy-believism. This is leading untold numbers of people into a false belief that they are Christians when they are not. Who are genuine Christians?
 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.  It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.  Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.  I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.  This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”  The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”  So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.  As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:44-58 ESV)
Does salvation, then, come to those who simply want to avoid Hell? Jesus tells us here that only those who enter into a blood covenant with him are saved. These will live their lives within this covenant. To them Jesus is their all-in-all. They love him and their lives are wrapped up in him, not doing church stuff and just being religious, but in living their lives for him in obedience to him as their covenantal lives are lived out for His glory alone.
Genuine Salvation carries a high price tag. It costs the called-out ones their lives. They give themselves to their Lord and live for him and his glory alone. Is this the message heard from most pulpits in churches on any given Sunday?