The New Christian
By Ptr. JC Balao
We are at the dawn of 2011. At this point, we are in a state of transition. Transition is “a process or stage of change” from the following:
As we enter 2011, we expect greater things from the Lord. As always the Lord always gives the best. We must always expect the best from our Lord. It is the least that we could do because to expect the least from God is to limit the power and authority of God. And to limit God means to doubt God. Expecting the best from God only denotes one’s full trust on the Lord.
Let us make some examples on transition. A certain marine soldier has finished his tour-of-duty in Vietnam. He had a very rough and horrible experience. When he went home, his environment had changed from chaos to order. But when a certain situation arose, a firecracker went off; he immediately ducked for cover and yelled, “ENEMY AT THE REAR!!! COVER ME!!!” He never got off from his Vietnam experience and thought that he is still in Vietnam fighting against the Vietcong. This is the state of transition; a state wherein a person must undergo a process of change to adapt to the new environment that he is in.
Christians also have their own state of transition. Unknowingly, Christians have finished their tour (of duty) in their ungodly world and had moved to their peaceful and joyful world which is the Christian world. But Christians don’t change in 24-hours. They have to undergo a process of change or transition to meet the standard of Christianity. With all honesty (I pray that many will not be offended), Christianity is not about confessing the Lord Jesus Christ as one’s God and Saviour ONLY. Matthew 16:24 places a period on this; “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” The state of Christian transition has three processes:
· Deny himself
· Take up his cross
· Follow Jesus Christ
Nothing is simpler than that. Christianity is not about lip-service. As some has often phrased it, “Walk the talk or take a walk.” The definition of a new Christian is already there; a man that denied himself, took his cross and followed Jesus.
To deny is “to disregard or to negate”. Denying oneself is not about forgetting who you were but to deny the lust and the temptation that one’s flesh is craving. For example, a drug addict was taken to a rehabilitation center. When he finished the medication and the processes that the doctors had done, he walks out of rehab. But does it mean that he is no longer a drug addict? No, he is still addicted to drugs. Once he sniffs a little smoke of drugs then BAM, he returns to being a drug addict. The rehab only teaches their patients how to deny their wants of drugs so they won’t be addicted any longer. The same is true with sinners. If sinners received Jesus as their God and Saviour, does that mean they are no longer sinners? No, they are still enticed by their own weaknesses.
I, for one, was an alcoholic before I received Christ. But does that mean that I am no longer enticed with alcohol? Still, my body is CRAVING for alcohol but as a Christian it is my responsibility to DENY THAT CRAVING because I am accountable to my actions or decisions. A Christian’s body is still CRAVING FOR SIN but as Christians it is one’s responsibility to DENY THAT CRAVING because a Christian is accountable to one’s actions or decisions. Therefore, to deny oneself is to deny the body’s craving for sin.
Another worth noting is when Jesus answered a certain man with much possession, “(Mark 10:21) Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” To deny oneself is to deny whoever we are and surrender to the authority of Jesus Christ. This passage is not pointing that a Christian must live in poverty to follow Him. He mentioned that He came to give life so that we may have it more abundantly (John 10:10). Thus, Mark 10:21 is not on the issue of being rich but on one’s attention and focus. This man’s focus was not 100% geared on Jesus. When Jesus mentioned about his possession, the man was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions (Mark 10:22). That was why Jesus emphasized in Mark 10:24, “Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!” Therefore, to deny oneself is to disregard one’s trust on earthly possessions and riches.
TAKE UP ONE’S CROSS
If you think denying oneself is already difficult, think again. It is more difficult to carry one’s cross.
When Jesus said, “Take up his cross”, what did He mean? Is it the same with the way He carried His cross all the way to Golgotha?
Jesus said in Matthew 10:38, “And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” He also said in Luke 14:27, “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” In Mark 10:21, Jesus said to the man with great possessions, “go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” Therefore, to follow Jesus yet hesitant to bear one’s cross is not worthy of Jesus and cannot be called His disciples (in short, cannot be called CHRISTIANS because a Christian is a disciple of Jesus Christ).
To take up one’s cross is to bear Christ’s Responsibility On Saving Souls. That is the purpose of the C.R.O.S.S. God has given His only begotten Son for the salvation of mankind. It is through the CROSS that Christ’s body was beaten, scourged and humiliated. It is through the CROSS that Christ’s blood was shed for the remission of sins. It is through the CROSS that sinners turn to repentance. It is through the CROSS that we remember how Jesus has sacrificed so much for our pathetic souls. That is why Jesus commissioned us, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world (Matt 28:19-20).” He is extending that responsibility unto us. We must carry our own C.R.O.S.S. if we love and trust our Lord.
Therefore, to be new Christians, we must be able to bear our CROSS.
“Follow”, in Greek, means “to be in the same way with”. Another definition is “to join one as a disciple, to be or become his disciple”. But the best definition so far is “to imitate”.
Just as the apostle Paul had written in his letter to the Corinthians, “Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me (1 Corinthians 4:16).” It doesn’t mean that they have to follow him blindly. Paul added in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” Paul actually meant that they should follow Christ. But they couldn’t see Christ. That was probably the reason why he posted himself as an example to be patterned because he also is an imitator (follower) of Christ.
If we read Acts and all the epistles of Paul, we can see that the life of Paul was a life of imitating Jesus Christ. Not only did he deny himself. Not only did he carry his own cross. But he also imitated Jesus Christ. He lived a life of servanthood. He lived a life of sacrifice for he surrendered everything to Christ Jesus.
All the disciples of Jesus Christ followed Him. They left everything. They carried their own cross and became His disciples.
A NEW LIFE = A GREAT BEGINNING
Some of you are probably thinking, “Is Christianity really worth it?” “Is Christianity a life of poverty, pain and misery?”
Note that we are trying to emphasize about trust. Proverbs 3:5 says it all, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” Denying oneself is leaning not unto our own understanding. Denying oneself is to trust in the Lord WITH ALL YOUR HEART. And when we say “heart”, it means every heartthrob, every beat will we trust in God. Denying oneself is a total surrender of oneself to God. Denying oneself is focusing not on earthly matters but spiritual ones.
Denying oneself, as explained earlier, is not about being poor financially. Denying oneself is not to put our trust on riches; it must be on God alone. We deny ourselves because of the fear of the Lord. We deny ourselves because we humble ourselves. And what goes with humility and the fear of the Lord? They are RICHES, and HONOUR, and LIFE (MORE ABUNDANTLY) - Proverbs 22:4 (John 10:10)!!! Therefore, endure till the end. Jesus said, “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved (Matthew 24:13).” There is a great reward to them who are patient.
Taking up one’s cross is not that hard. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” The cross that we are to bear is easy and light. The thing that makes the cross heavy is due to our attitude. We keep on thinking that sharing the gospel is too hard; that it is not our responsibility but our pastors’. We have faith but when our faith is tried then we begin to fall. Note in Psalms 11:5, “The Lord trieth the righteous.”
But how do we carry our cross? Simple; all you have to do is to open your eyes and ears. If you see a person that needs to hear the gospel, then share God’s word. If you hear somebody and felt that his or her voice needs to know about the love of Jesus Christ, then share God’s word. Even if you think that they won’t respond, just continue to share. Jesus experienced this. He taught thousands of people and fed more than five thousand after they heard the good news. But only a few were left when Jesus’ life was at stake. Some left while the others cast stones, spit and insults unto our Lord. Jesus knew who was to betray Him and yet made Judas Iscariot as one of His trusted disciples. Jesus knew who were going to humiliate him when the time comes, but still He continued on sharing the good news. How about you? Can you carry the responsibility of Jesus that He hath bestowed upon us?
Following Jesus is not that easy but not that hard. It won’t be too easy that we become lazy. It won’t be too hard that we begin to lose heart. It will be painful yet joyful at the same time. The feeling will be like that of a pregnant mother. To bear a child is painful during the stage of pregnancy but the expectancy is joyful. In order to follow Jesus we must be looking unto Him, who is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 11:1). Pray that the Comforter (Holy Spirit) will teach us and guide us. Always meditate on God’s word night and day so that we will have good success (Joshua 1:8). And always claim that the presence of the Lord is always with us (Joshua 1:9)
My brethren, this year will be a year of abundant blessings. Claim the promises of God. Declare that this year we will have a Great Beginning; starting with ourselves as new Christians.
Remember, “The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it (Proverbs 10:22).”