Go back to your seat, part 2 (Luke 14:25-33)

People were excited and enamored with what Jesus was saying. He spoke with authority. He had to be very careful with whom He spoke to and gave His life to.

He said that to follow Him you would have to pick up your cross. In other words, He told His followers to follow Him, but that following Him would not be easy.

Jesus knows the motivation of your heart. What if He were honest with you and told you to just go back to your seat?

Remember, in order to be His disciple (not just Christian, but disciple), you have to love Him more than any other person on the planet. Any one else you try to love should pale in comparison to the love you have for the Lord.

God is in control and He is worthy of our love and adoration.

The American church loves the God of comfort more than anything else. He will stir up your life just to see if you trust Him most.

We want to naturally gravitate to what is comfortable to us. It’s what we’ve been conditioned to do. But God calls on us to change the world for Christ.

God can close doors no man can close, and He can open doors no man can open.

There are no gray areas in discipleship. Either you’re all in or you’re all out.

The gospel writer uses two very simple analogies to illustrate these things.

For example, if you are planning to build a tower, you first have to count the cost to see if you can finish it. If you lay the foundation and then run out of resources, you will be mocked.

Also, a king going off to war must first determine if he has the manpower to overcome his enemy. Otherwise, it would behoove him to make peace instead.

This means that in order to be a disciple of Christ, you must be willing to forsake all you have for Him.

Give thanks to God for every single blessing. Because everything ultimately comes from Him.

We have to stop being afraid that God is going to take everything from us. The question is, are we willing to give it all up for Him? He might not ask for anything. Or He might ask for everything.

Don’t play games with the Bible. God knows if you’re a pretend follower or not.

We all have gifts that are to be used in the local church context.

Stop making decisions that you don’t follow through with.

We talk too loosely about our commitment to Christ. He always comes first. When we put God first, all these things will be added unto us.

If God isn’t first in your life, you are bankrupt.

If we aren’t willing to live through the hard stuff, then, yes, we can be saved, but we cannot be His disciples.

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Keep your eyes on the prize (Hebrews 12:1-3)

God has set before you a race. It is your own personal race. Keep your eyes on the prize and do not give up. If you do give up, it’s no one’s fault but yours.

It is the object of our faith that is most important.

The “great cloud of witnesses” in verse 1 are all the faithful who have gone before us.

1. The Bible is filled with broken people that encourage us to keep running the race. The Bible is filled with heroes of the faith who were nonetheless messed up people (Abraham, Samson, Rahab). Yes, God can forgive you of your past. God changed all of these people. God used them for His glory. The Bible is filled with broken people who tell us to keep going.

Our lives are a continual process. Not everything that holds us back is sin. Sometimes it’s merely distractions that hold us back.

2. The one sin that holds all of us back is unbelief. God delivered the Israelites from slavery. They walked across the sea on dry ground. Do you think God can’t handle your situation?

You either believe God, or He’s a liar. I’ll take my chances with God.

You have to learn to have patience. God will put us in tribulation to teach us patience. Running your own race requires patience. We have to run our own race with what God gave us. We are not called on to run someone else’s race.

Jesus came for the sick and the lame and the broken-hearted. That was His race.

3. As long as you keep your eyes on Jesus, nothing else really matters. The Cross was part of His race. He became our sin and took our punishment and then came into His divine righteousness.

Pastor: You have stop putting me on a pedestal in this church. Don’t idolize the guy with the microphone. He will let you down. Consider that he might hurt just as much as the rest of the church.

Christ lived as an example but died as a redeemer. The religious leaders hated Christ, but the broken loved Him.

4. Righteousness and ridicule are inseparable. If you do something for the Lord, people will talk about you. You can’t lose sleep over it.

If you can’t “play hurt,” then get off the field.

Don’t get too close to your heroes, or you’ll find out they’re not who you thought they were.

“Before the world hated you, it hated me first”

Every Sunday and most Wednesday’s, I post sermon notes I take at the Global Vision Bible Church and post them on this blog with a link also on Twitter. Likewise, I’ll also post a quote or two from Pastor Greg Locke on Twitter, which he sometimes retweets. In addition to 1.3M Facebook followers, he also has 46.2K Twitter followers, so when he retweets something of mine, I duck. Most of the feedback comes in the form of likes and retweets and an occasional “Amen.” But there are also haters. I honestly don’t mind haters. If the world doesn’t hate what you have to say about the Gospel, you’re probably doing it wrong. Yesterday, I tweeted that “It is my perception that @pastorlocke & @globalvisionbc are being tested by fire during this season. God is separating wheat from chaff.” It got retweeted. And then came the haters.

Normally, I don’t respond to any of this. You’ve heard the saying that if you argue with a fool, you’ll end up looking like a fool yourself, and there is nothing to be gained by engaging these people. And keep in mind this is just a tiny sample of the hate that gets directed at our church and our pastor on his much larger Facebook platform. I don’t take it seriously because I’m not going to be lectured to by those who don’t understand our faith or the Scriptures. True, we are under authority to help the lost find that straight and narrow path that leads to salvation. But some outright reject the faith, and so that’s when you shake the dust from your feet and move on.

How great is our God (John 6:53-71)

Pastor: Last week was the definitive message of my ministry. Today is my 25th anniversary of preaching the gospel.

The imaginations of Jesus’ followers were captivated by what He was saying. In these verses, they must have been shell-shocked by the things He said.

He was talking about eating the bread of life, literally eating His flesh and drinking His blood. But Jesus was giving an illustration that you partake all of Jesus or none.

1. When it comes to Jesus, if you’re half in, you’re all out. Jesus has given us one final exit strategy. Either you take it or get left out. We submit to His lordship every single day. This shook the foundation of their religious tradition.

What Jesus was illustrating is that you can’t accept just a part of Jesus and fulfill your eternal destiny. The church in America is today diseased by only a “half-worship” and gray areas in Christian life.

2. The spirit of religion must be attacked at its very core. Jesus went to the very places where religious people congregated and told them things that made them hate Him. Religious people cannot stand what we propagate. This church is not about do’s and don’t’s. It’s a bondage that some of us have been under our entire lives. Some of us are dying in religion.

Religion is disgusting. The church in America is strangled by religion. The things that religion tells us we must “do” have already been done by Jesus. He has already fulfilled all the rules.

Pastor: I’m saying things I’ve never said before and praying things I’ve never prayed before.

If you’re hoping to walk deep with God, then…

3. Get used to the hard stuff. Life is hard, and when things aren’t good, God is still there.

Even Jesus was a bit confrontational and sarcastic in the things He said. He asked His disciples in this passage, “Does this offend you?”

It is the spirit of God that reveals these truths to us. He helps us process conviction.

Indeed, many of His disciples left Jesus at this point and went back to what was natural to them. (Isn’t this the tendency of us all?)

Jesus asked the twelve if they, too, were also going away. This was huge. Jesus had given his hand-picked followers an out.

Peter gave a great answer: “Where else are we going to go?” Indeed, once you have immersed yourself in Jesus, there’s no place else to go. When you are filled to overflowing, there is nothing else that will satisfy.

4. When you’re totally out of options, Jesus is enough. God has to do some things in our lives that we don’t like. We must have a testimony that is blameless.

Pastor: I’m done losing sleep over people who can’t handle what this ministry is going through.

Go back to your seat (Luke 14:25-33)

When you allow yourself to be vulnerable before God, it will set you free. You have to be willing to do this in order to serve Jesus faithfully.

Jesus was grace-filled. The Bible does not say to speak love, per se, but to speak the truth in love. Sometimes this sounds abrasive.

Jesus drew crowds everywhere he spoke. He was a magnetic Messiah. Many times we are told that the people heard him gladly. When He opened His mouth, there was something magical about the way He spoke.

Jesus certainly didn’t “follow the book” in the way He preached. In other words, He did not do things in the conventional way.

Our churches today are a mess because we are so enslaved by sin and our message is tepid.

There were great multitudes following Jesus. (They had space issues to.)

Pastor Locke: “There is not a more broken person in this room tonight then me.”

In our passage this evening from Luke, Jesus says one of the craziest things (to us) He ever said. He said that if any man comes to Me who does not hate his father, mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters, even his own life, then he cannot be My disciple.

Huh?

In other words, our love for the Lord should be so great that our love for anyone else pales in comparison. Our people ought to know that we love Jesus more than we love people.

In order to be good husbands and fathers, we must first pursue God with our lives.

Even though we love people Biblically, there should be no competition in our hearts between God and the people in our lives.

We have to get to a place where we’re serious about our faith. But sometimes we have toxic relationships in our lives that hold us back. We waste too much time being ourselves when we should be spinning our wheels for Jesus Christ.

Too many times we see marriages ruined by pornography, for example. If we can’t get close to our spouse, perhaps it’s because we can’t get close to God. You cannot love people correctly — including yourself — if you don’t make Jesus #1.

The biggest enemy you have is you. Indeed, our flesh is intoxicating. That’s why you have to be willing to love God more than yourself.

Christianity is not happy-go-lucky. Sometimes we feel empty.

Peter asked Jesus, “Where else are we going to go?”

If you want to serve the Lord, don’t put your family in a dead church that doesn’t preach the truth.

Jesus said that whoever doesn’t bear his own cross cannot be His disciple. This does not mean we are responsible for our own salvation. But the closer you get to God, the more fallout you’re going to have in your life.

Sometimes when you serve Jesus, you walk alone.

When God starts resurrecting things, He puts people out and shuts the door.

Jesus says to love Him more than any person and to go wherever He tells us to go. Are we willing to do that?

Pastor Locke: “If you knew the depths to which I am broken right now, you’d never drive by this church again, If you have a spirit of religion, you’re in the wrong house. Religion will kill what God is trying to do in this place. I will pastor this church but I will not babysit you. I am tired of playing games with people and with myself. I have no more reservations in my life and live with no regrets.”

You’ll burn yourself out if you pursue things God never asked you to. Instead, use God’s power to promote God.

The mystery of time

There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven:
a time to give birth and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to uproot;
a time to kill and a time to heal;
a time to tear down and a time to build;
a time to weep and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn and a time to dance;
a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing;
a time to search and a time to count as lost;
a time to keep and a time to throw away;
a time to tear and a time to sew;
a time to be silent and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate;
a time for war and a time for peace.

When there is no way (Exodus 14)

Sometimes the Lord allows our pastor to preach from the overflow of things he is dealing with personally, and if God places certain things on his heart in order to minister to him, it will surely be worthwhile for us, too.

Leading up to the Israelites’ crossing of the Red Sea, there were 430 years of bondage and slavery. Even after agreeing to let them. go, Phaoroh changed his mind and chased the Israelites after they had left. Moses led the people as far as He could.

They did not take the sea route because they were lost. God led them this way in order to take away all their options except one. 

1. You can’t speak to others what God hasn’t spoken to you. Moses had the glory of God about him. In order to make the church better, God has to make its leaders better. A church cannot rise above its leadership.

You can get so good at something that you can do it without God’s help, and this is very dangerous for a pastor. When God gets you by yourself, you had better listen.

It’s useless to marvel at what God “used to do,” because He can still do it today. So pray for God to work right now.

Sometimes God says, “Be still and know that I am God.”

God isn’t looking to bless you, per se, but He is looking to trust you.

2. If God leads you to it, He will always lead you through it. It can never be said that God has ever been unfaithful to us.

Sometimes God prepares us for a great depth of brokenness. We sometimes don’t know where we are going, nor what God is going to do next. We literally have to wait and see what He chooses to do next. It all begins with repentance.

3. God will prepare the people around you for the work He’s about to do within you. The spirit of God knows us better than we know ourselves. Major blessings are on the way, but He will break us first.

4. God likes to work when nothing else will so He gets all the glory when it’s done. The first miracle Jesus ever performed was out of an overflow of someone else’s need. God doesn’t need us carrying His load. Fear not and be still. Don’t try to force God’s hand.

The power of paying attention (2 Peter 3:17-18)

This is our final Sunday in the study of 2 Peter. The concepts of Biblical growth and spiritual maturity are of monumental importance. We know that Jesus will come again and these things will be fulfilled. Events are going to get worse and will not get fixed until Jesus comes again.

In the end, people will fall away from the faith they once loved. If we are not careful about the evil influences around us, they will pull us away from our faith.

1. Never allow the evil influence of others to hinder you from faithful service to Christ. You can’t hang around the wrong crowd and turn out right. If you associate with negative people, you will end up negative. If you associate with unspiritual people, you will end up unspiritual. If you are pulled away from the faith by negative influences, it is your own fault.

There are going to be fleshly influences that come against us. So get your wisdom and influence from the right sources. Grow in grace.

2. Spiritual growth is a Biblical command and a daily choice. We can’t get around the fact that the writer says, “I want you to grow.” And so we have to make the choice to grow. The path is clear. We just have to take the path. If you want the spiritual power, you have to submit to the process of spiritual maturity.

  • Keep your head down. Have some humility about you. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Pride goes before destruction. Only by pride comes contention. Anything good in you, God did it. Anything rotten in you, you did it.
  • Keep you knees bent. Pray without ceasing. Arrogant and self-righteous people don’t pray. Seek the face and the favor of God. You have not because you ask not.
  • Keep your eyes fixed. We tend to be socially and technologically distracted. Set your affection on things above. Seek Him first and all these things shall be added unto you.
  • Keep your sword sharp. The sword of the spirit is the word of God. The Bible is a double-edged sword. Even Jesus used the word of God to combat temptation. If you are not in the word of God, you are not in the will of God.
  • Keep your back straight. We have too many limp-wristed, sissified pastors who do not preach the truth of the word of God. We don’t have to walk around dreading the devil. We are to combat the devil. God honors those who resist the devil. God blesses courage.
  • Keep your mouth shut. Every one of us is tempted to spout off whatever is on our mind. There are some times when it’s best just not to talk. We talk about things we shouldn’t and stay quiet about the things about which we should speak. The one member of our body that can lead to destruction is the tongue. Sometimes silence is deafening.
  • Keep your hands busy. We all have talents. God has gifted us and organized our hearts. We work even while we wait. Laziness is the scourge of the American church. If you do not use your talents in the context of the local church, then you are wasting the gifts God gave you.

3. Jesus gets all the glory for the work He is doing in our lives. IF you are paying attention, you know God is working in your life. Get out of the way and let God move. Look for opportunities right now. God shares His glory with no one.

The power of the pattern (Matthew 6:9-13)

The Sermon on the Mount is the longest sermon preached by Christ that is recorded in the gospels. There are many spiritual truths contained in these chapters.

There’s not one person who has ever had a sizeable impact on the work of the kingdom here on earth who did not have an intimate prayer life.

What we know as the “Lord’s Prayer” is contained in this passage. It is the model prayer of how we should pray.

Unfortunately, this has become the “rosary prayer” for modern Christianity. We don’t have to use the exact words, but ought to instead follow the pattern of this prayer.

The greatest way to pray to God is to use the word of God. The more of the word of God we store in our heads the more we’ll be able to pray it back to God.

The Bible has a lot to say about God’s people “getting low” before God. Real prayers are only delivered when we humble ourselves before God.

We believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths, but it’s the pattern of the prayer that we are to use.

1. Position

God is the Father. We are His humble servants. We approach God with this in mind. We go to Him with our deepest longings and brokenness and in our greatest time of need.

God is the perfect Father. He is never unjust. He actually wants to hear from us. We are family, after all. How much more shall He give good things to those who ask?

Prayer is not about us, but about Him.

2. Place

Heaven is a real place. We are only granted access by grace and repentance. But we get the ear of heaven when we pray.

In the Father’s house are many mansions. It is a lofty place, a place of majestic character.

Sometimes God will have to remove things — even good things — from our lives that have become distractions.

We don’t need a pope or a priest. We have direct access to God the Father. Christ has already served as our mediator. If you don’t pray, then you forfeit that privilege. We are distracted by too many things here on earth.

3. Praise

Hallowed be thy name. When you pray, bring a whole lot of praise with you. It doesn’t matter how many trials you face in a day, you can still praise God for something.

Things could always be worse. Someone does have it worse. You aren’t dead yet. And God is still good. But we go into God’s presence and ask for stuff instead of praising Him for things we already have.

He deserves all of our praise and adoration. Sometimes it is good to just go before God and praise Him and not ask for anything (a “praise-fest”).

When you have praise on your tongue, it confuses the enemy.

4. Prophesy

We know because of Jesus that His real kingdom is coming. We will reign with Him. We ought to anticipate these things. We want to watch God fulfill prophecy.

The very next thing on God’s calendar is the snatching away of the bride of Christ.

5. Principle

The way things happen in heaven are the way things should happen here on earth. In heaven, people are praising and rejoicing. If the word of God is exalted there, it ought to be exalted here.

We are going to be enamored by the majesty of God. And when He starts something up there we ought to feel it down here.

6. Provision

If we didn’t have needs, we wouldn’t need to come into the presence of God. Everything we have is a provision from God.

It says give us our daily bread. So stop praying for what you might need 6 months from now and pray for what you need today. And you don’t need more, you just need a sufficient amount.

7. Pardon

We are supposed to forgive others as God forgives us. Sometimes our prayer lives are hindered because we are unwilling to forgive others who have wronged us. So let’s pray for the grace we need to forgive others. If we are unwilling to grant forgiveness, we won’t know how to receive it ourselves.

What others may have done to us pales in comparison to what we have done to Christ.

There’s always a choice to taking a way out of sinfulness if we would only take it. Sometimes we just don’t want it.

8. Purity

Walk with God and be holy. Be pure and God will bless our lives for it.

9. Power

Let Him who owns the church get credit for the church. He owns it all. It is His kingdom and His world.

There’s no way the church can operate only on the power of its pastor or its people. It’s His power and His glory, and so we give God the worship and praise He deserves.

Prayer honors God. Get out of the way and exalt Him first.

There was a man sent from God (John 1:6-8, Matthew 3:1-12)

John the Baptist is a very well-known but misunderstood figure in the Bible.

Shouldn’t we be believers that the world just can’t ignore?

John is the most evangelistic of all the gospel writers.

We are told from the outset that John the Baptist was a man sent from God. He came to prepare the way specifically for Jesus Christ.

John the Baptist was a witness just as we are witnesses today. We know he was sent from God because of the spiritual fruit he produced in his life.

When you repent you live a life that proves you have repented.

John the Baptist was a young man, no more than 31 years old. He lived in the wilderness doing some unbelievable things for the kingdom.

Until John the Baptist, the world had endured some 400 years without a word from God. When God didn’t speak, man simply made up things about God and presented it as doctrine.

In the Old Testament, God always had a prophet to call the nation of Israel to repentance. And then it stopped, so that for 400 years God was silent.

Religion had dominated the world and the people were so beaten down by rules and regulations that they were unable to recognize the truth. And then came John the Baptist just when the world needed him most.

Religion is fake and it is man-made and it will burn you to the ground. Legalism will break you one way or another.

John was called “the Baptist” simply because he was a baptizer of men.

Why did people show up in the wilderness to hear John the Baptist? It’s no more complicated than the fact that John was preaching the Bible. People will go anywhere if they know they will get spiritually fed when they get there.

Christ said John the Baptist was the greatest prophet who ever lived. John preached a message of repentance.

The gospel has been so watered down that a preacher who calls people to repentance draws ire and anger.

People sent from God tell the truth whether the people want to hear it or not. 

Sometimes pastors seem mean and stern, but don’t ever mistake passion for anger. Jesus Himself was a passionate preacher. And it’s okay to get angry about sin and get mad at the devil.

John the Baptist wore camel’s hair and leather when the religious leaders in that day wore colorful robes. He wore a beard when the Levites were clean-shaven. John the Baptist did not want to be confused with the religious leaders.

The most honest preacher is one who cannot be bought out. And most of the people John the Baptist angered were the religious leaders.

The Pharisees and Sadducees showed up to see John the Baptist preach and they hated him. They were there as fault-finders looking to criticize the things he was saying.

The most abrasive preacher was also the one whom Jesus chose.

You don’t have to be a jerk, but you also don’t have to water down your beliefs just to keep from angering others.

Even the religious leaders, who knew the Scriptures better than anyone, had to be called to repentance.

God isn’t interested in all the things we have done, but cares all about our relationships, especially our relationship with Him.

John the Baptist knew he was a “big shot,” but approached his ministry with great humility.

In the end, God will determine who’s fake and who’s real.

In Luke 7:28, Jesus said there was not a greater man born of a woman than John the Baptist.

What kept John’s head low to the ground was the understanding that his only role was to bear witness to a much greater Witness. He must increase and we must decrease.

The king ultimately called on John the Baptist to speak and learned very quickly that you don’t let a prophet preach for a pervert. John called him out on his sin.

In the end, John the Baptist was executed for preaching the truth. We don’t know the name of the executioner because it isn’t given. If you stand up for the truth of the gospel, no one will remember those who try to tear you down.