Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

“And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men;
but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men
 is abomination in the sight of God”. – Luke 16:15 

      If you love a good yard or garage sale like we do, then you have probably experienced the happy feeling that comes from finding super great deals on things you were searching for. Most folks who go to all the work of setting up a yard sale seem to have a built in “instinct” as to how much money people will pay for different items. But, there are always those sellers who hold out for next to top-dollar for their stuff. Maybe that works in some locales, but in the communities in which we have lived, people are looking for real bargains and if things are overpriced they will conclude that “it just isn’t worth it” and move on to a better hunting ground.

      One way or the other, everything comes with a price. Neglect your health, job, vehicle, house, property, or anything else and sooner or later there will be a price to pay. Neglect your responsibilities to the people in your life whether young or old, the animals that depend on you, or your civil duties to your neighbors and the Lord will deem you to be “wicked” regardless of whether you go to church or consider yourself to be “spiritual.” (See Proverbs 10:20; 12:10; 21:29; Psalm 66:18.)

      This is especially true when it comes to neglecting our life in Christ.     “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him” Hebrews 2:3? This “great salvation” that has been given to us by God is a possession that can be let go “if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven” Hebrews 12:25. What many Christians fail to realize is that, even though they may have “accepted” Jesus, they still have their own free will, which means they can decide that following Jesus and living for Him “just isn’t worth it” and turn back to the world. Just because a person buys a ticket to climb aboard the ship, that doesn’t mean that they can’t jump overboard if they change their mind. What we need to remember as we witness different stages in a person’s life is that God always looks at the heart.

      Tragically, we know people who, for different reasons, have “jumped ship.” Whether they will someday be convicted and repent, or continue on in unbelief and sin, only God knows. Unfortunately, the preaching today of “easy believism” and “cheap grace” fails to make it clear that there is a price to pay, not to be born again, but to live the Christian life by being converted to the ways of righteousness. This is what Jesus meant when He said to Peter, after telling him that he would deny he even knew Him three times, “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” Luke 22:32. [Emphasis added.] Jesus “said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” Luke 9:23. What is the price? The answer is your very life. Jesus said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away” vs. 24, 25? The Apostle Paul said, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” 1 Corinthians 9:27. Jesus warned, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” Luke 9:62. We all need to remember what happened to Lot’s wife, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” Matthew 6:21.

      People generally follow their heart. If the world is in their heart, and their heart is in the world, and if they have no true inclination to obey what Colossians 3:2 admonishes, “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth,” then instead of their priorities being spirit, soul, and body, their priorities will line up this way: body, soul, and spirit. Their motivation will be “me, myself, and I” instead of God, others, and, last, myself. Such people love themselves enough to not want to spend a Christ-less eternity in hell, but on the other hand, they absolutely do not want to forfeit their love for the things of the world either. This attitude results in a tormenting upheaval of emotional and mental conflict as people caught in such a dilemma wrestle with how to “have their cake and eat it too”; how to have a guarantee of heaven someday while pursuing the world in this life. Jesus explained, “He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful” Matthew 22:13.

      The key is we must examine our own hearts, not through introspection; that is, looking into ourselves, but with honest spiritual evaluation of our fruits. Do we truly love God with our whole heart, or have we concluded that He “just isn’t worth it?” Our fruits will reveal the answer to us. Jesus made it clear, “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” Matthew 7:16-20. Paul wrote, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates” 2 Corinthians 13:5?

      Someone may protest, “Not every Christian can leave everything behind to follow Christ in order to serve Him.” True, but “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth” Isaiah 52:7! God expects every believer wherever he or she may find themselves to put God first. In other words, have your priorities in order. Jesus said, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these” Mark 12:30, 31. Therefore, wherever you are planted, whether in the city, the country, on sea or on land, along the highways and byways, whether single, or married, free or in prison, healthy or infirm, to the best of your ability with the help of the Holy Spirit, always “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” Matthew 5:16.

      On the subject of the servant’s primary goal, Oswald Chambers gives this valuable insight: “It requires a conscious decision and effort to keep our primary goal constantly in front of us. It means holding ourselves to the highest priority year in and year out; not making our first priority to win souls, or to establish churches, or to have revivals, but seeking only ‘to be well pleasing to Him.’ It is not a lack of spiritual experience that leads to failure, but a lack of working to keep our eyes focused and on the right goal. At least once a week examine yourself before God to see if your life is measuring up to the standard He has for you. Paul was like a musician who gives no thought to audience approval, if he can only catch a look of approval from his Conductor.

      “Any goal we have that diverts us even to the slightest degree from the central goal of being ‘approved to God’ (2 Timothy 2:15) may result in our rejection from further service for Him. When you discern where the goal leads, you will understand why it is so necessary to keep ‘looking unto Jesus’ (Hebrews 12:2). Paul spoke of the importance of controlling his own body so that it would not take him in the wrong direction. He said, ‘I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest . . . I myself should become disqualified’ (1 Corinthians 9:27).

      “I must learn to relate everything to the primary goal, maintaining it without interruption. My worth to God publicly is measured by what I really am in my private life. Is my primary goal in life to please Him and to be acceptable to Him, or is it something less, no matter how lofty it may sound?”

      We are all “building the houses of our lives” by every decision we make whether it is based upon the Word of God, or the so-called “wisdom of this world.” In the end, the rain will descend, the floods will come, and the winds will blow and beat upon our life’s foundation. Those who have paid the price of self-denial, losing their lives for Christ’s sake by rejecting the ways of the world, the flesh and the devil, will stand because they built their house upon the Rock. But, for the negligent who think within themselves that “it just isn’t worth it” Jesus says, “And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it” Matthew 7:26, 27.

      Humanly speaking, what does our life consist of that we esteem so highly that it can cause us to neglect our salvation? The Apostle John wrote, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in Him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” 1 John 2:15, 16. John is speaking of the systems of the world, which are not of God, but are of Satan who is “the god of this world” 2 Corinthians 4:3, 4. Proof of that is as near as the daily news which we can see, hear or read. Today we have self-serving politics and economic systems, war, anarchy, terror, violence, hatred, murders, abortions, lawlessness, conspiracies, lies, gross immorality, godlessness, atheism, idolatry, chicanery, occultism, cults, lewdness, fornication, evil imaginations, addictions, earth worship and every other thing that brought about the great flood in Noah’s day where only eight souls and those animals that God shut into the ark were spared.

      We may be able to somewhat understand how natural it is for the ungodly to lust after fame and fortune, while highly esteeming the things of this world, but it is frightening and tragic when professing believers “neglect their salvation” through disobedience to the Word because they are lusting and longing for the world, while secretly concluding that the cost of following Jesus “just isn’t worth it.”  In the back of their mind the price is “too high” if it involves anything more than going to a “predictable” and “friendly” church that weekly offers a watered-down sermon on doctrine that never challenges, convicts or cramps their casual lifestyle. Such are “cake Christians” who somehow want to “have their cake and eat it too.” “Cake Christians” can be compared to the Laodiceans of whom Jesus said, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” Revelation 3:15, 16.

      God says, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him….” Deuteronomy 30:19, 20a. “And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word” 1 Kings 18:21. “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision” Joel 3:14. “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve” Joshua 24:15a. God is still calling out to the people to make up your mind! Make a decision! Choose this day who you will serve! Get off the fence! Decide! You cannot have your cake and eat it too in the real world.

      Lukewarm “cake Christians” will go along for the ride as long as there are elements to it that serve their purpose; that is, making them feel good about themselves, assuring them that they are “saved by association,” and meeting their “felt needs” by way of acceptance, flattery, and “positive” reinforcement. People who settle for low-level, nominal “Christianity” are rendered, by the god of this world, deaf and blind to the Spirit and Truth that screams at them from every page of the Holy Bible. How fitting are the following Scriptures! Ezekiel 12:1, 2, “The word of the LORD also came unto me, saying, Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not: they have ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious house.” Matthew 13:15, “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

      There are many examples of people in Scripture who thought that it just wasn’t worth it to follow Jesus. One such person was the rich young ruler who came to Jesus and asked, “Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.” This is an example of a “cake Christian” that will go along with some of the commandments because they don’t affect where his or her heart truly is; but, when Jesus put His finger on his riches, giving him a choice between his riches or his life in Christ, he went away very sad because to him the price was too high to pay. He possessed a divided heart, and to him the price to be Jesus’ disciple just wasn’t worth it.

      Many of Jesus’ disciples (students) turned away from Him after He preached to them about the truly consecrated life. (See John 6.) It just wasn’t worth it to them. Their hearts refused to be enlarged to embrace the true Manna from heaven. “Then said Jesus to the twelve, Will ye also go away?” This is one of the saddest questions in the whole Bible, yet Jesus is still asking that question today. Those who tell Him, “It just isn’t worth it” are actually saying, “You just aren’t worth it.” Let’s face it, if a person rejects the price of total consecration—a fully surrendered life of self-denial, commitment, dedication, obedience and love for Jesus, what he or she is really saying to Him is, “I want to go to heaven, but as for the price I have to pay—You just aren’t worth it.”

      When it comes to the example Judas Iscariot has left us, we see a man whose true heart condition was revealed in John 12:1-8. Judas had been chosen by Jesus to be one of the twelve disciples, where for over three years he had been taught and trained by the Lord Himself, witnessed Jesus’ miracles, and had even tasted of the power of the Holy Spirit, yet he still was not fully surrendered to God. Deep down and in the “back of his mind” he had his own ideas, doubts, and agendas. Pride reigned. “Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.”

      Being truly converted to the ways of righteousness was not on Judas’s agenda, but pretending that he was “religious” and cared for the poor afforded him the opportunity to steal. Jesus defended Mary, “Let her alone; why trouble ye her? She hath wrought a good work on me. For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always. She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her” Mark 14: 6-9. Rebuking Judas, and exalting a “mere” woman in front of others instead of exalting and commending Judas, brought out his true colors. “And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them” Mark 14:10. So we see that, on the one hand, there was Mary who poured out the precious, valuable ointment upon the Son of God because she knew He was eternally beyond “worth it,” and there was Judas whose self-centered heart condemned Him because to Judas He “just wasn’t worth it.

      Finally we come to Demas who was a “fellowlabourer” with Paul. Sadly, in 2 Timothy 4:10 we can feel Paul’s disappointment as he penned the words, “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica ….” Being a servant of the living Lord and laboring with the Apostle Paul for eternal rewards “just wasn’t worth it” to this man whose heart loved the world. James 4:4 warns, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”

      Jesus made it clear that a person can only serve one Master at a time. The professing Christian who has deluded him or herself into thinking that he or she can somehow serve both Jesus and the world is declaring that the true Christian life, and the Son of God Himself “just isn’t worth it.” This world is full of people, who have, by their attitudes, philosophies, belief systems, priorities, and lifestyles come to the conclusion, either consciously or unconsciously, that loving God, following Jesus, and living according to His Word “just isn’t worth it.” “Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas” John 18:40a. If you listen, you can hear the same cry today by the majority of lost mankind. The whole world trembles as multitudes cry, “Not this man, but give us Barabbas”!

      What about you? Will you choose this day who you will serve? Will you choose Barabbas, or Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God? Is He worth it to you?

Have you come to His cross,
Seen His suffering and shame,
Looked into his eyes,
As He whispered your name?
Have you come to His cross,
Looked upon God’s Sacrifice for sin,
Opened your heart, and let Him in?
Have you come to His cross,
Watched Him suffer and die,
As His eyes searched your soul,
Did you turn and say, “Goodbye”?
Have you come to His cross,
To search for another way,
Because the price of Lordship
Is too high to pay?
Have you come to His cross,
Did your heart melt, and repent,
Or did it become hardened,
For He “just isn’t worth it”?