“If any of you would come after Me, let him deny himself, pick up his cross and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24)
In Christianity there is a process, in this process there are certain definite steps that we must take. Definite steps are Precise; explicit and clearly defined, known for certain. This process consists simply of what Jesus told His disciples in the Matthew 16:24, “If any of you would come after Me, let him deny himself, pick up his cross and follow Me.” Notice Jesus did say “if”. Let's pick up on the word “follow”. The word “follow” means to travel behind, go after, come after. But it also means to act in accordance with someone's rules, commands, or wishes; to imitate in behavior; take as a model; accept and follow the leadership or command or guidance of that one that you are following. Read this paragraph over, chew it until it sinks in. The word “follow” is a lot to grasp! The child of God that has been born again and Spirit filled has a promised inheritance. If we would just set aside time to truly study and meditate and comprehend all that is in the inheritance of the child of God we would begin to see how low a level we have been living on.
The born again believer has an inheritance, this inheritance is freely giving once Christ is received into the heart. This inheritance is obtained as we walk in the daily process that God has created for the Christian (Ephesians 1:13-19). The promise of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26, Acts 2:1-4) is to give us power to live as Christ did and to lead us into ALL TRUTH. As we are led by the Spirit, led meaning we allow Him to guide us as we walk and as we allow Him to guide us He will lead us down the road in the process. The most important thing in the child of God's walk with Christ is to be absolutely obedient to the voice of God (whether spoken through the Holy Ghost, an inspired preacher of the Gospel, His inspired Word or by an inspired vessel of God), we must remain totally obedient to God and His Word. Through yielding our heart, mind and body to the Holy Ghost He leads, guides, teaches, molds, eradicates, recreates and prepares us to be the Bride of Christ without spot, blemish or wrinkle (Ephesians 2:10; 5:27).
As the Holy Ghost leads us down this journey and as we continue to yield ourselves to Him, He is working the old man out and working the new man in (Colossians 3:8-10, Ephesians 4:22-23 Amplified Version). As time goes by we begin to look more and more like Christ and less and less like ourselves. We take on the characteristics of Christ, His heart and His mind, the entire personality of Christ. When that begins to take place in our life we will see the manifestations of the Life of Christ in and through our lives, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me . . .” Galatians 2:20. The key to all this is a totally surrendered heart to the work the Holy Ghost. When a Christian yields his heart to the Lord there is nothing impossible with God! The Bible says, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us”, this is not some figure of speech, or a sentence we sing in some song, this is the INHERITANCE of the Christian! This is not for some elite few or for those in the five fold calling, this is for every man, woman, boy and girl that calls themselves a Christian.
Christianity is not a “walk in the park”, it is a battlefield where we fight for the souls of lost men, where we fight to see the Kingdom of God advanced, where we war with the powers of Satan and hell who are seeking whom they can destroy (Ephesians 6:12, 1 Peter 5:8). But when the Child of God walks with God, leans his entire personality on Christ (1 Timothy 1:19 Amplified) there is nothing that God can't do through us. Our inheritance and every promise that God's Word makes to the Christian is ours for the taking, to walk in the fullness of it. We are not meant to simply at some point say a prayer of salvation (however sincere and heart felt it may be) and never enter into the FULLNESS OF CHRIST. From the time we get saved (born again) till we go home to be with the Lord in Heaven, we are progressing in this journey. We are learning, being taught, growing in wisdom, and being spiritually educated through the Word of God, the preached Word and the Holy Ghost. In this place of total surrender of the will to God, a complete renouncement of our way and our rights, in this place is where the perfect will of God is completed in our lives. In this place the inheritance unfolds each and every day before us as we go on. In this place we see every promise, every scripture and every work of grace fulfilled in our lives. We become more intimately and deeply acquainted with the One who saved us (Philippians 3:7-10 Amplified).
In this place, where we learn all things pertaining to Christ and Christianity, every door is open to us, every opportunity is afforded us, every trial equals advancement, every circumstance teaches us, every mistake humbles us and leads us to the feet of Christ where we find grace, strength and forgiveness. There is absolute victory in Christ Jesus! This is the process of Christianity! When this process is walked out and is not side-stepped, then all that you have read here in this article and in the scriptures listed is the Life of a Christian. This is a battle and there are many tears that will be shed. There are many things we won't understand. There are things that will be required of us that we absolutely will not want to do. There will be many times down this road where you question everything you believe in. There are times of despair, times of doubt, times of mourning, times of pressure and fear, but the Bible tells us in John 16:33 Amplified version,
“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]
This is how we stand unmoved and only through a surrendered heart and a willingness can this way of life be obtained.
The truth is that everyone has a choice. If you remember back to the very beginning of this article you'll recall the verse we read in Matthew 16:24 where Jesus said, “If any of you would come after Me, let him deny himself, pick up his cross and follow Me.” Jesus' first word is “if” saying in essence, "if you want to follow after me then this is what you must do". Remember back to the definition of the word “follow”. Jesus is not speaking to those who go to church and are good committed members. He is not speaking to those who have great zeal and do many great works in the name of God, or to those who have a great compassion for their fellow man, or those who have a great understanding of the Bible and the “things of God”. No, no! You can do all those things and do them well, yet never be surrendered and yielded to the Lord to do them! Think on that.
The world, and especially the church world today from the pulpit to the pew, is filled with people who do all those things without ever giving their hearts to Christ! They may have said a sincere prayer, but they have not walked in or walked out the process that God ordained the Christian to walk in. Attendance in church is a good thing, but it's not the ultimate thing. Who was Jesus talking to? He said, “If any of you would come after Me...”, and therein lies that dividing line. Those who want to come after Him, for Him, are the ones Jesus is speaking to. If you want Jesus, if you want to know Him in a personal way, if you want His life in you, if you want to experience the fullness of who He is, the mysteries of Christ, then this is what you must do to obtain that life. Anything less than that is not what Jesus intended to be the Bride that He will come back for to take to Heaven. Whenever this process is side stepped we create religious church goers. We know God with our head, but not with our heart. You can teach a parrot to copy what you say, but that parrot has no understanding of what he is saying. Thus we have good committed church members, wise theologians, good workers, compassionate humanists, but no heart knowledge of Jesus. Outside of this knowledge the process of Christianity is limited and can never be fully complete. If you begin to deviate from the steps that God has laid before you He, in mercy, will endeavor to open you eyes to that fact. Here again is a choice, we must choose hear God's voice and obey what He tells you. If you do this He will get you back on the straight and narrow path, but if we choose to believe that we can take another way, deviating from God's process and skip certain steps we will open the door to the enemy. How so? By choosing our own way, creating our own process, picking and choosing what we obey and do not obey we, in our hearts, have done just what Eve did in the garden and we have committed the same crime Ananias and Sapphira committed.
Eve did not believe that she had to totally obey all that God said. Ananias and Sapphira believed they did not have to give ALL, only some. We see so much of this in so-called Christians today. Everyone has their own brand of Christianity because down through the years the black and white Christianity that made the church great in her youth has been watered down and made into something that everyone can swallow and not have to sacrifice much of anything for it. Christianity has been made to fit us and our way of life. God's way is for us to fit His image and His way of life. We have created a whole new kind of creature, one that can do all the right things, go to church, speak in tongues, pray, worship, but all the while they side step the process of God. We see this from the oldest to the youngest, from the preachers to the pew dwellers.
Over the years our enemy Satan has become more and more clever. He watches the times, and the hearts of men as the centuries pass. He has learned how to get into our churches and destroy us from the inside out, as a Trojan horse. As we discussed in part one there is nothing impossible with the Child of God who is continuously yielding and surrendering their heart and will to God Almighty. As you're open to the Word and walk in that Word, everything you've heard will come to pass in your heart. The Bible tells us the Word of God is, “quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) The Bible also says in John 8:32, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” When a Word as powerful as that is adhered to there is no mountain great enough that God cannot remove it. Isaiah said in chapter 40:4, “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.”
Every hindrance that keeps us from going on with the Lord shall be removed if we yield to the Word, and walk that Word out in the daily life. The scheme of Satan and the flesh is exactly what Ananias and Sapphira fell folly to. When we continually refuse to obey God's Word the Devil sees opportunity straight ahead. When the flesh is not put to death by the Cross of Calvary it is allowed to live on, no matter how small it may seem at the time, it will continue to grow and hinder us. Not only does it continue to live but it demands to fed. When you feed something it grows, there is not way around it. When you refuse to obey God's Word and do not surrender your will and independence to Him you have just denied the Spirit man food and thus his ability to grow is denied. You are made up of two natures: the flesh and the Spirit. The one you feed is the one who will be dominate. We may not blatantly refuse God's will your mouth or with your initial action, but the daily life tells the tale.
When you don't completely open the door to God, you do not completely shut the door to the flesh and the process that begins to take place in your life is a slow breaking-down of everything that God desires and has endeavored to establish in our walk with Him. Whether we've been saved two years or twenty years, if at anytime in along this journey we begin to side step God's process, we slowly begin to open the door to the flesh and the enemy. Everything that is godly, everything that is pure and has character and integrity is now in jeopardy. If we continue to allow this deviation to take place in our life we begin to take on a spirit that is of the flesh; a spirit of carnality. Carnality is the opposite of everything that Jesus Christ is and stands for. Jesus Christ is holy, pure, upright, honorable, full of grace and truth, faithful to the Heavenly Father, devoted to His calling, the ultimate example of integrity, justice and sacrifice. Carnality is a disgusting thing in the sight of God and all those who walk close to God. When carnality takes root in us it grows as a vine twisting itself around every good and pure thing in our heart and mind. Its soul purpose is to seek out and destroy the life of Christ in your heart. To stamp out your desire for God and all things that pertain to God. When this is ALLOWED to take place, we see the works of the flesh pop up all over the place; in our conversations, in our thoughts, in our actions, in our ethics, in our principles and in our beliefs. Everything becomes corrupted and tainted. Our homes, our children, our marriages, friendships and relationships, our businesses, our job sites and our testimony before God and man are all slowly but surely being infected by carnality. You will see and hear things that no Christian would ever think or dare to do and say. You will see indifference and apathy towards the Word and God. You'll see hands in the air, intense facial expressions, but never a tear, never a heart-rendering cry. Outwardly not much has changed, but inwardly the disease of worldliness and carnality is spreading and it will only be a matter of time before it shows up. Our concern for the lost will fade, our prayer life will loose its fervor, our worship will not be intimate, our most earnest sincere pleas for mercy and deliverance will not be enough, our zeal without knowledge will shine like the north star, our nasty malicious attitudes will not be able to be contained anymore. Our tongues will find themselves speaking vain, sensual words, even profanity and lies. Our minds will become rich soil for every vain thought imaginable and these thoughts will soon become words, then deeds. Desires, cravings, lusts, impulses, all begin to take their places. This is where all sin starts. Once it is allowed to enter and remain it begins to build. Our principles are not as strict anymore, our rules and standards are lowered. Our children are turned loose to raise themselves. Integrity is thrown to the wind, along with our testimony before our fellow brethren, the lost and especially God. Discipline is overrated and outdated. Brokenness and humility are shunned. Intimacy and surrender are feared and hated. Sooner or later if the heart is not dealt with you will see every blatant sin appear in the body: lust, anger, pride, adultery, fornication, incest, jealously and lying in the house of God. Yet somehow we still manage to keep the outer covering of a Christian. We come to church but we never become the church, the church that God intended for us to be. We call ourselves Christians but we do not possess our inheritance. We never obtain the fullness of Christ.
Jesus has created a process for His followers; for those who will loose sight of self and reputation and come wholehearted after Christ. None of us has to settle for anything less than what God offers us. Through His Son and by His grace we all can obtain everything that God has for us in His perfect will. It won't be easy at times. We will stumble and fall and go astray at times, but if we will call on His name, yield the heart back, continually to the Lord, nothing will stop us! Put on your armor, fight the enemy, pick up your cross, follow hard after the person of Jesus and you will obtain your inheritance, you will come to know the person of Jesus. Everything He has ever promised is yours, simply follow in the process that He has designed on a daily basis and you will win the victory! Praise God!