Intro: Last Sunday I ended the message with Paul’s passion of the purpose and goal for his life. This came about after he got saved. Let me quote it gain. “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24
Have you considered how much you are worth to yourself? This may come in the form of assets, possessions, money, to the company you are working for and to your family. Sad to say that in recent days there were suicides by young people, teenagers who were bullied and demeaned because they were gays resulting in giving up their lives perhaps out of shame and feeling unworthy. What about those who went bankrupt and lost everything and all their worth in life who also committed suicide? In a recent survey, Las Vegas has the highest suicide rate in the country. Guess why? These are lives that were anchored on their worthiness.
The apostle Paul also had something of worth in his life. He was a very religious man that we call today a fanatic and sincere to his religious beliefs yet lost. And one day after he was saved by Christ, he said this of all his accomplishments. “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” Phil. 3:7-9
What radically changed Paul? Paul realized that there is one who has all the worth one can ever imagine and yet gave it all up and made himself nothing. He is none other than Christ Jesus. Here is what was revealed to Paul by the Holy Spirit, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself andbecame obedient to death – even death on the cross.” Phil. 2:5-8
What did Jesus mean by making Himself nothing? Was He worthless? Of course not! Jesus gave up His rights as God, laid aside being Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omni-present, but made Himself human and subject under the authority of God as His Father and He being a Son. Though He was God before coming down to earth Paul says we cannot grasp His being equal with God and that will remain a mystery to us. It is beyond us to understand what happened to God the second person of the Trinity when He was sent down to earth and took on a human body so He can die for the sins of man. And because of this, Paul changed his attitude and his worthiness when he compared himself to Christ that all his accomplishments became nothing to him but rubbish. All his religiosity did not count a thing with God. In fact he realized this truth from the prophet Isaiah, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” Isa. 64:6
Paul then gave up all of himself to Christ for this one reason “For Christ’s love compels us (me).” What about you and me, how do we respond to Christ’s love?
“Surrender all for the love of Christ”
“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matt. 10:37-39
What does Jesus mean with His statement of losing one’s life after finding it and then finding after losing it? The context of this statement is based on the demand of Christ for those who have acknowledged Him as Lord. This is the cost of having received salvation and committing themselves to the terms of God’s covenant in salvation. Together with the cost it comes with a consequence to the family. “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” Matt. 10:34-36
I have had experiences after sharing the gospel to people of different religious backgrounds rejected Christ because of how it will affect their family ties. One very common excuse is, “I was born with this religion and I will die with it.” I believe the reason behind this is that they will turn their backs and be disloyal to their parents who brought them up in this religious belief. When I was in Angola, Africa I had the opportunity to share the gospel to two Catholic priests in their convent. They welcomed me because they would get a free ride from us when they travel to the capital. They admitted that they know the gospel, they know what to do with it but they could not turn their backs and face their families who look up to them and I’m sure proud of their being priest in their hometowns in Ireland. That’s nothing compared to Muslims who embraces Christ. They will be treated as infidels by their families and in danger of death. Unconverted Jews will disown their children if they follow Jesus and leave their religion of Judaism. That means one can lose his inheritance if they have. Roman Catholics will not go to that extreme but certainly will affect family relationships. I have experienced this and it took 22 years before my older sister became one with me in Christ. I had other relatives who became cold to me but that is very mild compared to the others.
When I heard the gospel I was ignorant of all these consequences for I have not read through the Bible especially about this cost. All I knew was I was a sinner and already condemned to hell. What mattered to me then was I want to be saved from everlasting punishment. The cost to me at that time was to give up all the sins I knew I have done against a holy God in repentance and surrender my life to Christ as my Lord in order to be saved. Only then did I experience a mild rejection from my family and relatives. Why, because I was no longer one with them in their religious belief. I have changed sides and to them I have turned my back to what I grew up with and have been passed on to me.
Our text today is a test to ourselves as to who do we really love? Who do I love most above anyone or anything in this world? In the gospel of Luke, he reported what Jesus said at another time to another group what it means to be a disciple. Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes even his own life – he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:25-27.
Did Jesus really mean for us to hate our families? What about hating ourselves? If we have a choice to hate ourselves or to hate our families, which do you think would an unbeliever rather hate? Every so often we hear especially among celebrities and the rich that their marriages are ending in divorce. What does that tell us? The most probable cause is infidelity because a spouse has found another woman or man. So who does he love more, his wife or himself? Obviously he loves himself and does not care about his wife but only his pleasure that he finds in another woman. This explains what Jesus meant by hating any relationship by loving them less and loving God more if they want to follow Jesus. Following Jesus as His disciple becomes a priority before family and self.
In the gospel of Matthew Jesus is addressing His disciples and telling them the cost and consequences of having followed him. This is what they are to expect. Are His words still true today? Yes it is. And when this happens it only affirms and shows that you and I are truly His disciple and how we are to live in our love relationship with Christ. Who do I love most? Is there anyone that comes in between my love for Christ? This would be spiritual adultery. But when I love my Lord Jesus Christ above all, is it reasonable that I will not love my wife, children, parents and family? My love for my family will be out of my obedience to Christ. I am even to love my enemies and that is only possible because of the divine love produced in me by the Holy Spirit. Will I divorce my wife for someone else? Never! For God says, “I hate divorce.” If we are His disciples, this is what Christ expects of us. “Whoever finds his life will lose it.” When one has already this life, meaning eternal life, this life is to be lost to Christ. Total abandonment and surrender to the One who gave you and me this life. This I believe is why Paul realized this truth to lose and abandon his life to Christ. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” Gal. 2:20a
To Paul his life is no longer of any worth to himself but lost it all for Christ. Then Christ will have full control to live His life in Paul. Paul was totally surrendered to Christ giving up all his rights to himself so Christ can do whatever He pleases to do through him. His only will was for God’s will to be done in his life, His way. “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Phil 2:13
Then “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” This is not to give up one’s life as a hero and be martyred like Gandhi. He didn’t do it for Christ’s sake. Giving ones life for his country but not for Christ is of no worth to Christ. But losing one’s life for Christ’s sake for his glory will have eternal worth. But what do we find by losing our life here on earth? You will experience what He promised. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10
In another version this is rendered, “and have it abundantly.” Can we fully know and understand to what extent having a full life mean? My conclusion is this, we can experience the life Christ lived on earth as human with the divine nature of God. In fact we already have that when we received Christ as Lord by giving us His Spirit to live in us. This is what we have and what we will experience when we lose our life to Christ in full submission and surrender die to self. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” 2 Pet. 1:3-4
How do we participate and experience fully His divine nature? Only when we lose our lives to Christ and He lives His life in us. That’s why we are remembering today and proclaiming His death because if Jesus did not die to pay for our sins we will be the ones paying for it in hell for ever and ever. Paul never forgot, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1 Cor. 2:2
How much is your life worth to you? By surrendering your all to Christ, all His worth will be in you, thus you become worthy of Him.