Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Following Jesus Means Self-Denial by Rev. Reimar A.C. Schultze (What Next Booklet - Part 2)

 In our last blog post (which you can read here), we shared some wise words about following Jesus from a friend of mine. Pastor Reimar Schultze is a Holocaust survivor who emigrated to the U.S. in the 1950’s and now makes his home in Kokomo, Indiana. He has written a booklet entitled, “Now That You Are Born Again...What Next?” Today, I'd like to continue sharing from this little book in our desire to answer the question, “What does it mean to follow Jesus?”

Following Jesus Means Self-denial

“Then He said to them all, If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me (Luke 9:23).” Here, Jesus tells us that you do not only need deliverance from sin but also deliverance from Self. So then, Jesus died on His cross to save you from your sin, but you must die on your cross to follow Him.  This is what Jesus had in mind when He told a group of Greeks who came to Jerusalem for the Passover: “...unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain (John 12:24).” This means you must forsake your life to get into His life and that requires self-denial. It means that your growth and fruit will come about as you crucify your Self. So it is not by self-assertion or by self-will, but only by dying out to Self that your roots go down in brokenness and humility, and that your spiritual branches spring upwards.

Instantly after conversion, you quickly discover that there is an enemy within you...something within
you that does not want to die, that does not want to go with you on this new journey of forsaking your old life. There is something within you that does not want to take time to go to prayer meeting, to witness for Jesus in public, to break up ungodly relationships or to abandon harmful old habits. You also discover that there is still a critical, murmuring, judgmental and self-seeking spirit within you. The Apostle Paul calls it: “...the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:2)” which is the spirit of Satan. It is also called the Self, the flesh, the carnal nature, the Adamic nature, and the old man.

Again, as soon as you are saved, you will discover that this Self within you protests and resents every step you take in following Jesus. You will notice a battle raging within you of the flesh against the Spirit. And that is why Jesus said that for you to stay with Him, you will need to take up your cross daily...This means that we must continuously resist and crucify the sinful nature whenever it raises its ugly head. This is why Paul said, “...I die daily (1 Cor. 15:31)” Remember, it was only a few seconds of not keeping his heart that took David into adultery; and it also took only a few seconds for Peter to deny his Lord. The Self within you will continue to choose the ways of convenience, of least resistance, of avoiding conflict and of seeking popularity. The way of the cross is not like this and it is generally despised by men, yet applauded by heaven. It is the only way to true happiness.

Take note that every morning the Self (and the devil) has plans for you that day, but so also does your Lord because the Bible says: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord…(Psalm 37:23)” Which plans are you going to pursue? Who are you going to follow? Is it “your kingdom come” or is it “God’s kingdom come” that matters to you?  Is it "your will be done" or "God's will be done?" To whom will you turn over the control of your life from now on, to the old man or the new man?

The Self may want you to go to the wedding of a friend, but Jesus may want you to visit and pray with someone in a hospital. Are you going where Jesus wants you to go and have His anointing, or are you going where self wants you to go without Jesus and without His anointing? The Self may want you to buy a new television, but the Lord may want you to help a missionary in Africa with that finance. The Self may want you to work on a project at home, but God may need you to repair something at a widow’s house. My friend, be encouraged because every time you deny Self and obey god, you will receive the joy of the Lord as your reward. Once you begin to obey consistently, you will have a continual stream of peace and joy in the Holy Spirit flowing into your heart, refreshing you and others likewise.  Praise the Lord!
Self-denial is the first step towards obedience allowing you to do the will of God.  And nothing else matters in your life but finding and doing the will of God:  nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else.  Jesus said, "Behold, I have come - In the volume of the book it is written of me - To do Your will, O God (Heb. 10:7)"  That was His mission and He fulfilled it:  and now it is time for you to let Him fulfill that mission in you.  Let the Holy Spirit live in your body as He lived in Jesus' body 2000 years ago.  The first Adam lost paradise by disobedience, the second Adam (Christ) regained it by obedience.  May the Lord grant you the grace to obey Him in every future moment of your life.  

Because self-denial opens the way to obedience, it is the queen of all disciplines. It is the giving up of one thing to gain another.  For you as a Christian, it means giving your all to get God’s all. Say “yes” to self-denial. Armies cannot win without self-denial. Athletes must embrace it to win their trophies.  Graduate schools look for students who live by self-denial.  Airlines will only hire pilots who exercise it.  All significant advancements of mankind have originated from men who have embraced self-denial, and a Christian cannot be a Christian without continually exercising it.

Only the self-denying Christian can have unbroken fellowship with Jesus.  There is no room for a servant of Jesus Christ to engage in self-indulgence, or to get side-tracked by having his life cluttered with matters outside the perfect and acceptable will of God. 

Faith engages the heart (Romans 10:10), but self-denial and obedience engage the will.  Engaging the heart without engaging the will makes you fall short of having fellowship with your Savior: the heart grasps for the things of eternity; the will engages you into those things.  Therefore, Jesus taught us to pray:  "...Your will be done (Matt. 6:10)" and He also said:  "...whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother (Matt. 12:50)."

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Following Jesus by Pastor Reimar A.C. Schultze (What Next Booklet - Part 1)

Those of us who call ourselves Christians began this journey with something the Bible calls “the new birth.” It is through faith in Jesus Christ that we are saved. Ephesians 2:8 tells us that it is “by grace you have been saved through faith...” For those of us who have received Christ through faith, Paul tells us “...if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17) Having taken this step of faith, we now have everlasting life! (See John 3:16) The question remains for those who have taken this momentous first step...”What’s Next?”

Pastor Reimar Schultze, a Holocaust survivor who emigrated to the U.S. in the 1950’s and now makes his home in Indiana, has written a booklet that addresses this important question. I’d like to share some of his insights in this and the next several blog posts. These words are not only for those who have just been born again, but for those who may have had a conversion experience many years ago, yet never understood what the next steps were to be:

Congratulations on your birth in Christ Jesus.   It was the most important event of your life.  You have recognized your sinfulness and understand that Jesus died to save you from your sin.  You have repented and asked Jesus to live in your heart.  You have passed from death into life, from darkness into life, from a lost state into the arms of your beloved Savior, Jesus Christ.  And although you have barely begun your journey with your Lord, simply by repenting of your sins, you have already created a stir in heaven, for the Scriptures say: "...there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10)."

But now, we must address the monumental question as to what is next.  First, we shall go to the book of Genesis, to the beginning.  And here is the answer plain and clear: Man was created to walk with God.  We learn that Adam and Eve were placed in a garden to walk with God; we hear of Abel walking with God; and then of Enoch of whom it says: "And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him (Gen. 5:24)."

For this reason, we are born again to walk with God, because man had been driven out of paradise because of sin.  But there is another paradise for us today.  It is the paradise of His presence which we enter by receiving and following Jesus.  This is why, immediately after Jesus chose His disciples, he called them to follow Him. "And as He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and said to him, 'Follow Me.' And he arose and followed Him (Mark 2:14)."  

You must understand that conversion belongs to a moment, but following Jesus is your life-long calling. It is your new purpose in life and everything must flow out of it...Jesus said: ."..where I am, there My servant will be also"...and this means that from now on you live all your life together with Him –all of it, all the time.

Hence when Jesus was on earth, He insisted that His disciples be with Him 24 hours a day, seven 
days a week even as He also was with His Father 24/7. He never gave His disciples a day of vacation from His divine presence, neither did His disciples ever seek any leave from Him. And in order that this intimate fellowship with Jesus would continue after He left the earth, He, on the day of Pentecost, moved religion from the outside to the inside by sending the Holy Spirit to dwell in every disciple’s heart as His representative. 

There is nothing less that is worthy of the name, “Christianity:”Christ’s disciples being with Jesus. And again this is only possible when you follow Jesus. It is the only method by which you can have the peace, the strength, the joy, the love, the fellowship, the protection, the revelation, the provision, the inspiration, the renewal and the daily refreshing of your heart that you need for consistent victorious living. You must realize in your heart that any moment that a disciple is not with his Master is an invitation to trouble. But while you are following Him, everything that God has for you will come your way in His own time (Matt 6:33).

There is no life for the Christian except in following.  There is no discipleship without following.  Practically speaking, it means that from now on, you will no longer go to and watch a soccer game unless Jesus goes with you and if He does, you will go as an evangelist and not as a spectator.  Following Jesus means you will no longer go on a vacation unless He goes with you, and it means you will no longer have lunch with a friend unless He goes with you.  If He does not go with you, it means that He has other plans for you for that time.  Yes, this is what Jesus meant by saying "where I am, there My servant will be also."  But, of course, it is best for you to let Him make the choice in the first place about the soccer game, the vacation or the lunch (that is why you need to learn to hear his voice).  

Now then, what all is in following?  What does it really mean to follow? 

Following Jesus Means Forsaking All

 “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple (Luke 14:33ll); “And He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Then they immediately left their nets and followed Him (Matt: 4:19, 20).” In order for you to follow Jesus, you will need to likewise forsake your nets, which means to forsake all that may hold you back from following Him. That is why Jesus said: “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it (Matt 10:39).” As long as you make your own plans, you are losing your life and you are blind. But once you seek God’s plans, you will find your life and you shall see.

It is vital to understand that forsaking all includes all of your plans, all of your priorities, all of your schedules, all of your attachments, all of your goods, all of your finance, all of your relationships, and all of your past religious practices that stand in the way of you being where Jesus wants you to be.  Jesus said: "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon (Matthew 6:24)."

Jesus rejects the gray areas in your life. Christianity is an either/or religion. Whatever you refuse to forsake is the very thing that will prevent you from following Jesus.  Many people, called and chosen by God, soon refuse to forsake something in their lives which prevents them from continuing in their discipleship. It could be a habit; it could be a sport; it could be an occupation or it could be an adulterous relationship. Will you be one of those who will keep holding on to something, be it ever so small, preventing you from following; or will you be one of the few who go on the narrow way of this new life, giving your all to your Savior as He gives His all to you? 

 My friend, it is only on this narrow way that the glory of the Lord bursts forth in its beauty and it is only on this narrow way that you experience the fruits of the kingdom of God: “...righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17).”  And indeed, your willingness to go on the narrow way indicates that you are willing to be rejected, mocked, persecuted, and ridiculed by men, yes, even unto death if necessary.  When Jesus truly calls you, He requests that you die daily, inwardly first and for a few disciples, physically as well.  "A servant is not greater than his master...(John 15:20)."  Jesus said: "...because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:14).

To Read Part 2 (Following Jesus Means Self-Denial), click here.

You can order Pastor Schultze's booklet "Now That You Are Born Again...What Next" as well sign up for his free newsletter by following this link:  Schultze.org

A shorter version of this article appeared in The Posey County (IN) News on January 15, 2019

Below is a link to a previous article on this blog written by Rev. Schultze:

The New Evangelism...Contemporary...Sleek...Appealing...and ABOMINABLE! (Reimar Schultze) Part 1

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