by Mike Ratliff
1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. 3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. Hebrews 1:1-4 (NASB)
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. That process is called “Pragmatism.” 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.
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.
17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:17-20 (NASB)
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 or slaves. He is our Savior and Sovereign Lord. What He commands for us to do and not do we must obey Him no matter the cost.
3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. Hebrews 1:3-4 (NASB)
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?
5 For to which of the angels did He ever say,
“YOU ARE MY SON,
TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU”?
“I WILL BE A FATHER TO HIM
AND HE SHALL BE A SON TO ME”?
6 And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says,
“AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP HIM.”
7 And of the angels He says,
“WHO MAKES HIS ANGELS WINDS,
AND HIS MINISTERS A FLAME OF FIRE.”
8 But of the Son He says,
“YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER,
AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM.
9 “YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS;
THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU
WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS.”
“YOU, LORD, IN THE BEGINNING LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH,
AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS;
11 THEY WILL PERISH, BUT YOU REMAIN;
AND THEY ALL WILL BECOME OLD LIKE A GARMENT,
12 AND LIKE A MANTLE YOU WILL ROLL THEM UP;
LIKE A GARMENT THEY WILL ALSO BE CHANGED.
BUT YOU ARE THE SAME,
AND YOUR YEARS WILL NOT COME TO AN END.”
13 But to which of the angels has He ever said,
“SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND,
UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES
A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET”?
14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation? Hebrews 1:5-14 (NASB)
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?
1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NASB)
We are to 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 Sundays? 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?
25 Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, 26 “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. 27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. Luke 14:25-27 (NASB)
Let us not mince words here. This is too important a discussion to do 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 Savior and blessed hope.
28 For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. Luke 14:28-33 (NASB)
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 Savior 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 him or her 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. I heard John MacArthur say in one of his sermons that when Satan speaks the truth he is the most dangerous. The gospel that the new evangelism and the emergent movement and all forms of liberal churches, including Social Justice churches, preach contains elements of truth mixed with man-focused easy-believism or works-righteousness. This is leading untold numbers of people into a false belief that they are Christians when they are not. Who are genuine Christians?
44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”
52 Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” 53 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 yourselves. 54 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” John 6:44-58 (NASB)
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 saved ones their lives. They give themselves to their Lord and live for Him and His glory alone. Is this the message heard from the pulpits in our churches on any given Sunday?
Soli Deo Gloria!