A Courageous Disciple #1 Lesson 2 from the series, “Discipleship” Reading in Luke 9:23 & 24 (23) “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (24) For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” In another Gospel, He said, “If any man will be my disciple, let him deny himself…” The church is a living reproductive organism. Life doesn’t come out of the church, the church comes out of life. The business of the church is not to produce converts, but disciples. We are dealing with discipleship and the marks of a disciple, understanding that as the church goes, so goes the world. To heal society you have to heal the church. This is a fact of history. No society or civilization has ever failed until the church failed. When that which God has placed at the center of society, His people, His church, ceases to represent God, then the whole of that civilization fails. Every evangelist from Paul until the present, who has affected his generation for God, has dealt with this thing we call the church. Fourteen books of the New Testament were written by one man, Paul the Apostle. He wrote every one of those fourteen books to correct something that was wrong in the church. Of course he brought a revelation, but in every epistle he wrote, there was the correcting of something wrong in the church. This says something of the importance of sound doctrine. To set the church in order you must begin with the basics. Fruit is only known in the second generation. You don’t just say, “Ye shall know them by their fruits,” (Matthew 7:16) and judge a person on how that person is acting at that moment. That is not what God is saying. The message is, the church will be known by the kind of converts she produces. The church today will be judged by the converts that make up the church tomorrow. So we look at this person the Bible calls a disciple. We have seen from the word of God that the major mark of a disciple is faithfulness. Now we talk about the mark of courage. Courage marks those who are true disciples of the Lord. In Matthew 10:33, Jesus is speaking of those who lack this quality of courage. He says, “Whoever denies me before men, I will deny before my Father…” If you confess me before men, I’ll confess you before the Father. In verse 39 He says, “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” That is the mark of a disciple. Jesus said, “If any man will be my disciple, let him first deny himself, take up his cross, follow me.” It takes courage to be right. In this age of infidelity it takes courage to be a faithful person, to walk with God, to speak of those things that are right. Nothing demands more courage on the part of an individual than to live holy in this crooked and perverse generation. This is an age when the heat is on the Christian. The temptation is to just fade into the wallpaper. The weakness of the church is seen in her inability to confront. When challenged on her beliefs, she waters them down to avoid the head-on collision with the world. Those early Christians never worried about what the world thought about them. They had a message to preach and they preached it. It did not matter whether public opinion was on their side or not. They knew they were right, and the conviction of being right gave them the courage to stand. They never placed Jesus in the arena of competition with other gods. They came out of that upper room proclaiming to all other religions that, “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) They competed with nobody. They simply said to those who would listen, “This is the way, you either walk in it or you are lost.” It did not matter if the world called them bigots, they knew what they believed was true, and it was to this message they dedicated themselves. In their lives and actions those early Christians were the personification of faith. They turned whipping posts into pulpits, prisons into churches, and fought the beasts of Ephesus. They were beaten, tortured, driven from their homes, and yet they proclaimed a Gospel that toppled an empire. The lack of courage in this generation is a sad commentary of the times. Ours is an age of conformity. We passed through what was called the Jesus movement, youth who claimed to be striking out against the conformity of society, yet every single one of them were carbon copies of the other. They talked the same, dressed the same, and ran with the same crowd. I can tell you that we serve a nonconforming God who has called us to be different. He has called us to proclaim a truth that will make other people different. He who is afraid to die has no right to live. Until we, as Christians, come to believe that the cause we serve is greater than ourselves, we will continue to lack the courage to face life as it really is. No one has ever known anything about living until there was something in that life worthy of giving their life for. It was said of those first Christians, “They loved not their lives unto death.” The nine hundred people that followed Jim Jones to British Guiana, even though they were deceived, believed that theirs was the only way of life, and rather than surrender, they would take their own life. They were deceived, but yet they demonstrated to the world the kind of commitment that human beings are capable of making. If we can see Christ and His cause as God intends us to see Him, we too, can make such a commitment. God wants Christ to become to us what Jim Jones was to those deceived souls. Jesus must be our Lord to the point that he is more important to us than life itself. It is in that sense of the word that a person who is afraid to die has no right to live. Life is a miserable thing to the coward. We live in an age of fear, with bars on the doors and business places looking like fortresses. I never believed our society would reach the point that it has. It is the day of mass murderers, almost a totally demon possessed world. This has produced a fear that has driven men behind barred doors. It’s better to die than to live in such a way. It is better to live one year free, than a thousand years barricaded, hiding from the devil your entire life, hounded by fear. Those persons who are too weak to live by what they believe are misfits and failures. Sad to say, but you see more fear in the church than anywhere else. People go to church, talk about how wonderful Jesus is, then get on a job and are afraid to mention His name. The world will blow its beer breath in our face, try to force their filthy jokes on us, and yet we try to hide what God has done for us. We are disciples of the Lord, we need to stand up, proclaim what we are. Say to them, “I am a Christian, I belong to God.” It takes more courage to do that, than it does to ball up your fist and hit somebody. Jesus said, “If a man smites you on one cheek, turn the other.” (Matthew 5:39). That takes more courage than it does to hit him back. The person who is afraid to live by what he believes is a misfit. God is looking for quality, and not quantity. It is a fact of life that the closer you get to Calvary the less people there are. When he was out on the hillsides of Galilee, breaking bread, feeding the multitudes, there were thousands out to watch the religious show, but as he moved toward Calvary and said to that multitude, “Except you eat my flesh, drink my blood, you have no part of me.” (John 6:53) They left him by the droves. They were saying in effect, “We didn’t come out here to be told this kind of stuff. We’re not here for you to tell us we are going to have to suffer. We are here to watch the miracles.” They walked off and they left Him. Pentecost didn’t come out of a full page ad in the Jerusalem Post or three hundred television stations. It came out of God’s terrible dealings with twelve men. He squeezed every emotion, every ambition, until he broke them. They said, “Let me sit on thy right hand.” He said, “It isn’t for me to give.” He pulled them from the tax office, doctor’s office, and fishing boats and moved them out. When he left them, they were empty, broken, bruised, and it was into that broken vessel Pentecost came the first time. It will be to that same kind of vessel He will come the second time, when there is no other place to turn but God. God looks for quality, not quantity. He changed the world with a handful of people. It isn’t that big, soft underbellied religious crowd that will make a difference today. It is that quality of believer, that when he has done all to stand, he stands. Though the lion roars, the river flows, the fire burns, he stands with his loins girt about with the truth of God. When Martin Luther was commanded to appear before the Diet of Worms, his people pleaded with him not to go. They said to him, “They will burn you at the stake.” His reply was, “I don’t care if they build a fire from Wittenburg to Rome, I can march into it singing the praises of Him that bought my soul at Calvary.” The only thing necessary is to know you are right, then stand for that which is right. God will stand with such people. God never uses the undecided. They have no place in the kingdom of God. It is those that cut every shoreline, and say, “It is Jesus or nothing.” This Gospel is worth everything, or it is worth nothing. “Here I stand, I can do nothing else,” were the words of Luther in his darkest hour and at that point he wrote the song, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. God wants us to come to the place where all shorelines are cut and we rest our case in the fact that this Gospel is the answer. We not only have the truth, we have become the truth and we stand in the midst of this crooked and perverse generation that is going in the wrong direction and say to it, “This is the way, walk you in it.” God is calling for disciples of courage. He can never use the undecided. God wants soldiers. Paul took John Mark on a missionary trip. In the heat of the battle, John turned back. When it came time to go again, Barnabas wanted Paul to take John Mark. Paul refused. Paul said in effect, “I leaned on that reed once and it broke, I’m not taking him again.” John Mark prayed through and became a soldier, but he had to prove that to Paul. Paul said by his refusing to take John Mark, “I cannot use the undecided.” You must make up your mind. “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:8). You must come to the place of conviction where there is no detraction. It said of the Hebrews, “If they had been mindful of where they came from, they would have gone back.” Paul said, “Demas left me, having loved this present world.” Demas never left the world, he dreamed of the world, and he went back to the world. If you still have aspirations out there in the system, you are going to wind up back in that system. God wants your life and for him to have it, you must lose it. God isn’t looking for Sunday saints. He does not need people who only pray through when they are in trouble. He wants you to talk to him. In II Chronicles 7:14, God says, “If my people, which are called by my name, will humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face…” That isn’t repetition, “humble yourself, and pray, and seek my face.” Heathens pray, Moslems pray, Hindus pray; but to seek the face of God is to seek the presence of the Almighty, not just to get something out of Him, but to have fellowship with God. God is not a God of convenience. His desire is not toward a people who patronize Him on Sunday and on Monday live like the devil. He wants a people who every moment of every day are occupied with Him, a people who are not excited about what God did for them, but a people who are excited about God Himself. God does not have to have you, but you do have to have God. Sin is a mark of weakness. We speak of worldliness. We tried to make worldliness some kind of dress, somewhere you go. Worldliness is to be influenced by the wrong system. If all the devil has to do to keep you out of church is to send Grandma to visit you on Sunday, then you are as worldly as a man on a bar stool. If a visit from Grandma is more important to you than the house of God, then you are influenced by the wrong system. We are on earth to do the will of God. Whatever else we do is only a means to do what He has called us to do. God’s will is for us to be a vessel through which He can live. We are here then, to be filled with the Holy Ghost, and then wherever we go, God is there. I must have the courage of conviction to manifest God. Now whether men want God or not is immaterial. I must let them know about God. If we are afraid to be different, then we are of no value to God. If you are a Christian, you are different. The world has nothing like God and if you are a real Christian, they are going to know that you are different. If you are afraid to be different, you will die with the crowd. God will leave you. When in Rome, do as the Romans, is a poor rule of life. When in Rome, just do what Christ would do. Have the courage of conviction. Stand up, proclaim Christ wherever you are. All sin is a manifestation of weakness. Lying is an attempt to hide the defects of your character. Cursing demonstrates your lack of ability to express yourself. It is true, A drunk man’s action is a sober man’s thought. The drinking man doesn’t have courage without liquor to do what he wants to do. Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13) I can love, I can believe, I can stand, and I can be faithful through Christ Jesus the Lord. True disciples died by the millions through the centuries. They were burned at stakes, sawn asunder, fought with beasts, all simply because of the testimony of Jesus. All they would have to do was to deny Christ and it would all be over. I was in Scotland in 1978. Not far from where I was preaching was a place called the Hill of Martyrs. Three hundred thousand Scots were killed in twenty-nine years, simply because they refused to confess that the Pope is the head of the church. They stood in line from sunup to sundown. They could see the blood of the slaughtered as it ran down the hill. As they drew near the execution sight, they could hear the sound of the ax. All the while, a demon possessed priest of religion was saying to those in the line, “Deny what you believe, confess the Pope to be head of the church and get out of line.” But “They loved not their lives unto death.” They would rather die than denounce what they believed. They believed something and that something meant more than life. They could save their life, but they knew in saving it they would lose it. No matter how wicked the times, God has never needed anything but militant, courageous disciples. Isn’t that a wonderful love! In Noah’s day when the world had gotten so rotten that God had to destroy it by a flood, all God needed was a militant preacher. Noah was one of the most effective preachers that ever lived. He stood in the midst of that crooked, perverse generation and proclaimed the Gospel of deliverance to all who would hear. When Nineveh was so rotten that a turkey buzzard had to hold its nose to fly over, all God needed was a man of courage. Jonah hit the streets of Nineveh proclaiming, “Within forty days God is going to destroy this city.” (Jonah 3:4) Six hundred and twenty thousand souls repented in sackcloth and ashes. All God needed to change that situation was a militant man who would stand up and preach what he believed. The preacher’s place is not marching in the streets or lobbying with politicians, it is in the pulpit dealing with the church. There is enough sin in the church to make grown men vomit. Clean up the church, let her stand up as the righteousness of God, and she will rebuke the darkness. Let her have the courage to be different in this society and God will change things. All God ever needed was a people who would stand. When Sodom became so perverted God had no alternative but to destroy it, He made a promise to Abraham for Lot’s sake. God said, “If you find ten righteous people, I will spare the city.” ( Genesis 18:32) Abraham did not have to save one Sodomite. All he had to do was find ten people in whom God lived. Let the church represent God and He will spare the nation. But, if we continue in the tragic mixture of true and false, flesh and Spirit, God will allow the same judgment to come on us as he allowed to come on Eastern Europe. The true church in Eastern Europe knew beyond a doubt that God allowed Communism to come to Eastern Europe for the same reason He allowed Nebuchadnezzar to go to Jerusalem; that was, to break the stronghold of false religion. God doesn’t love America or any other nation more than he loved Eastern Europe or Russia. The church must be right or God will judge the land. If God in any age can find a people who will stand up with Him, and for Him, before that society reaches a point of no return, He can and will redeem that society. True disciples know that what God has placed at the center of civilization, His church, affects the whole. Knowing this, they are not afraid to strike at the heart of the matter. The cheap grace that is being sold in the market place! The Sacraments, forgiveness of sin, baptism, and the consolations of faith, are thrown away at cut-rate prices. The modern church preaches a Heaven without a hell, Communion without discipline, and church membership without fruits of righteousness. Caught up in this tide of cheap grace, the church refuses to proclaim the whole counsel of God fear of offending those worldly souls who will grace the church on a Sunday morning and claim to be disciples of God, yet will live like the devil on a Monday.
Luchen Bailey | PentecostalTheology.com