Saturday, April 11, 2015

Hard Sayings

"Wait...  Was Jesus just preaching cannibalism?!?"

In the 6th chapter of John, Jesus told his disciples that in order to properly follow Him, please God, and live eternally that they should eat of His flesh and drink of His blood.

Obviously, Jesus was speaking metaphorically in this instance...  but it is evident that His words did not sit well with His audience!

John 6:60  Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” (The NIV translation of this text reads “Who can accept it?”)

Some of Jesus’ disciples could not understand or weren’t willing to accept Jesus’ statement.  We ought to notice that the problem here wasn’t what Jesus had said, but rather how His disciples interpreted it.

Jesus, recognizing that some of His followers were upset, bluntly asked them in John 6:61, “Does this offend you?”

Apparently, many of His disciples were offended and John 6:66 tells us that “from that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.”

It’s obvious that if these disciples, like those that remained, had hung around just a little while longer that they would have come to understand and accept what Jesus was actually saying.  But instead of continuing to follow Jesus, they let just one “hard saying” stand in the way.

Do we make the same mistake and let the “hard sayings” of the Bible stand between us and our Savior?

Let us examine several “hard sayings” from God’s Word, which people allow to keep them from being the best followers of Christ that they could be.

Deny Yourself; Serve God and Serve Others

Matthew 16:24  Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

1 Corinthians 10:24  Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.

Many of the “hard sayings” of the Bible that people struggle with concern putting the needs others before their own.  This seems to be completely against human nature!  After all, if we are brutally honest with ourselves, there are many people in this world that we feel don’t deserve our time, our effort…  And certainly not our servitude!

In spite of this, however, we must remember that Jesus did this for us, even when we didn’t deserve it!

Romans 5:8  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

As sinners who constantly rebel against God’s will, we don’t deserve the love, mercy, forgiveness and salvation that God offers, but He gives it anyway...  Because He loves us!

Likewise, Christ commands that we love each other!

John 13:34-35  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

Along with loving one another, we are commanded to serve each other!

Galatians 5:13  For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Put Family Second; Put God First

Luke 14:26  If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 

I want to take a moment to point out that Jesus is not teaching literal hate in this verse!

In this case, the word hate means to “love less.”  According to Strong’s Concordance the Greek word used in this instance is miséō which means to “to detest (on a comparative basis); hence, denounce; to love someone or something less than someone (something) else, i.e. to renounce one choice in favor of another.”

Jesus is not saying that we shouldn’t love our earthly families (or shirk our familial responsibilities), but that we should love them less than we love Him.  We ought to love Christ above all.

This is an extremely difficult command to follow!  It is hard to put God before your earthly family and/or friends, and, unfortunately, this leads to a stunting of spiritual growth for many people.

Matthew 10:37  He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.

God, as our Heavenly Father and Creator, deserves and should therefore receive the majority of our love!

It’s important to note that putting our Heavenly Father before our Earthly family is by no means a disservice to them; a genuine love for and dedication to God actually allows us to love everyone else that much more deeply!

Do not Love Riches; Trust God

In Matthew 16:16-22 Jesus counseled a rich young ruler on what he ought to do attain eternal life.  The successful young man must have felt pretty good about himself as Jesus told him to keep the commandments he was already following.  He told Jesus as much and then asked what he still lacked.  Perhaps hoping to hear Jesus say, “Nothing,” we read that the young man ended up walking away sorrowful after Jesus told him to sell his possessions.

Matthew 16:22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Jesus pointed out that in spite of the young man’s dedication to keeping the commandments; he still harbored a love for his possessions and worldly riches.

As Christians, we too must recognize that our mission in life is not to fill our wallets or our bellies.

Matthew 6:24  No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

Mammon is another one of those fancy Greek words which means “worldly riches”

We know that the Bible teaches us that we should trust God instead of riches.

1 Timothy 6:10  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

1 Timothy 6:17  Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.

What a shame it would be to live life in such a way that we attain everything, yet in the end find that we cannot take it with us.  Even worse, to find that we condemned ourselves in the process!

Mark 8:36  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?

Matthew 6:19-21 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Earthly treasures ultimately deteriorate, but Heavenly treasures are eternal and incorruptible.

Forsake Lusts of the Flesh; Live for God

Galatians 5:16  I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

This is difficult for human beings because we so love fulfilling our lusts.

As if it wasn’t difficult enough, we live in a society in which we are constantly tempted and succumbing to lust in all of its various forms is actually encouraged!

"Carpe diem!"


"Just do what makes you happy."

For many, this is a huge road block to becoming a Christian.  Instead of focusing on the relationship they could have with God, they choose dwell on and pine for the lusts of the flesh that they will have to leave behind. Worse still, even Christians will allow themselves to give in to such enticements, being drawn back into the quagmire of sin!

Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Are the fleeting works of the flesh really worth not inheriting the kingdom of God?

When we become Christians, we must forsake the world and not look back!

Luke 9:62  But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Proverbs 26:11  As a dog returns to his own vomit, So a fool repeats his folly.

We should turn our attention to serving God and seek to exhibit the fruits of the Spirit

Galatians 5:22-24  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.  And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 

Colossians 3:2-3  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

We have to deny our lusts and exhibit self-control if we want to please God.  We should follow Christ’s example and do the will of God instead.

1 Peter 4:1 -2  Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,  that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.

This may be one of the most difficult aspects of becoming a Christian; the transition between a self-centered life to a God-centered life is not easy.

Matthew 7:13   Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.

Despite the destructive consequences foretold in the Bible, many choose to go their own way instead God’s way.

Reject False Doctrine; Obey God’s Word

Matthew 15:8-9  ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.  And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

Sometimes it is not just a single hard saying that prevents one from following Jesus, but entire passages of God’s Word!  There are so many that genuinely seek to serve Christ only to fail by not following His teachings through Biblical illiteracy.  Despite their faith and sincerity, they are being misled by false doctrines.

Whether it is by ignoring the Bible’s stance on homosexuality, avoiding uncomfortable truths on topics such as Hell, or rejecting baptism as a necessary part of salvation, many cling to false doctrine in one form or another.

2 Timothy 4:3  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers...

Galatians 1:8  But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.

Regardless of what any human chooses to teach (or not teach), whether it is based on long-held manmade tradition or “progressive” changes within culture and secular society, it is the Word of God that is ultimately meant to be a Christian’s standard.  In a world that embraces pluralism, the Bible teaches but one, singular path that we ought to adhere to.

Ephesians 4:4-6  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

John 14:6  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

You Need to Change:  God Loves You, but You Need to Change

Luke 13:5  I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.

“God loves me just the way I am,” is a saying we commonly hear.  This statement, however, is only partially true.  Indeed, God does love you (unconditionally even), but He wants you to change. This idea likely causes many to recoil in disgust and indignation!  “Why should I have to change to please God if He loves me unconditionally?”

However, this is actually a consistent message throughout God’s Word and is central to the Gospel.  The terms repent and repentance occur some 78 combined times throughout the Old and New Testaments.  God wants us to have a change of heart and turn away from sin!

Acts 26:20  …but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.

To many this would seem to be an incongruity:  the idea that God loves us unconditionally... and yet He wants us to change!  But - as always - God knows best.  Not only does repentance bring us closer to God, it is also a necessary step toward salvation.

Acts 2:38  Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

2 Corinthians 7:10  For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

2 Peter 3:9  The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

The Ultimate Hard Saying: “I never knew you.”

In the 7th chapter of Matthew, Jesus describes a judgement scene and the ultimate hard saying that none of us would hope to ever hear.

Matthew 7:21-23  Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’  

Jesus tells us that those who don’t do the will of God will not be recognized by Him and will perish.
But...  If we read on to the very next verses we find out that this does not have to be the case!

Matthew 7:24-25  “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.”

Can you accept the hard sayings that the Bible presents us with?  Will you be like the wise man who built his house on a strong foundation and build your life on the strongest of all foundations?

If you desire to serve God, become a Christian and accept the salvation He offers, please do not delay!