Living Without Rights: Constitution or Covenant, Democracy or Kingdom, Rights or the Gospel?

Today’s selected reading continues in the first New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul which was written unto the saints which were at Corinth. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters five through nine of this New Testament book. “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1-5). “And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. For who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you. For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; and labour, working with our own hands: being reviled we bless; being persecuted we suffer it: being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me” (1 Corinthians 4:6-16). “Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. What will ye? Shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?” (1 Corinthians 4:18-21).

            IT IS REQUIRED IN STEWARDS, THAT A MAN BE FOUND FAITHFUL! HE THAT JUDGETH ME IS THE LORD! JUDGE NOTHING BEFORE THE TIME, UNTIL THE LORD COME, WHO BOTH WILL BRING TO LIGHT THE HIDDEN THINGS OF DARKNESS, AND WILL MAKE MANIFEST THE COUNSELS OF THE HEARTS! THEN SHALL EVERY MAN HAVE PRAISE OF GOD! [NOT TO THINK OF MEN ABOVE THAT WHICH IS WRITTEN, THAT NO ONE OF YOU BE PUFFED UP FOR ONE AGAINST ANOTHER] FOR WHO MAKETH THEE TO DIFFER FROM ANOTHER? WHAT HAST THOU THAT THOU DIDST NOT RECEIVE? [NOW YE ARE FULL, NOW YE ARE RICH, YE HAVE REIGNED AS KINGS WITHOUT US: “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art likewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shaem of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see” (Revelation 3:14-18).

            Before I delve into the words which are written and recorded in chapters five through nine of this New Testament epistle I feel it necessary to at least highlight and underscore the words which are found in the fourth chapter. In the final verses of the third chapter the apostle Paul writes—not only concerning the work of the ministry and that which is being built in the name of the Lord, but also how every man’s work is going to be tested and tried by fire. We cannot and must not attempt to get into the words which are written and recorded in the fourth chapter of the New Testament epistle of First Corinthians without first coming face to face with the tremendous work that every man’s work is going to be tested and tried with fire. Although in the fourth chapter of this epistle the apostle Paul writes concerning it being required of stewards that a man be found faithful, the apostle Paul would in the verses just preceding this emphatically declare and proclaim that men must needs take heed—not only how they are building, but also upon what foundation they are building. The apostle Paul gave a truly powerful declaration unto the Corinthian saints concerning the work being tested and tried by fire, and how every man’s work can and will be manifested in the sight of the Lord. Although in the fourth chapter the apostle Paul does not write, nor does he speak of works, he nonetheless writes and speaks about that which is hidden and that which is concealed being revealed in the sight of both God and His Christ when everything that had previously been hidden is made manifest by the Lord. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand the words which are found in the final portion of the third chapter of this epistle, for they help set the stage for each man’s work(s) which they engage in and perform in the earth. It is in the latter portion of the third chapter of this epistle where we not only encounter the works which men engages in, but also the work which the Lord Jesus Christ Himself engaged in, as not only did He build, and not only is He building His church, but He has indeed built a temple of the Holy Spirit. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand the reality of what is presented before and unto us within these verses, for not only are we confronted with that which we are building, but we are also confronted with our works within this life and upon the earth. You cannot read these words and not come face to face with the tremendous and powerful truth and reality that both our works and that which we have built in this life can and will be tested—and not only tested, but also tested by the fire of the goory and presence of the Lord. With this in mind, I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the third chapter beginning to read with and from the tenth verse:

            “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:10-23).

            WHAT ARE YOU ATTEMPTING TO LAY UPON THE FOUNDATION OF CHRIST? WHAT ARE YOU ATTEMPTING TO BUILD UPON THE FOUNDATION OF CHRIST? The words which are presented here in this portion of the text are of great importance and necessity to us, for with and by them the apostle Paul highlights and underscores the tremendous truth that Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God is indeed the foundation—and not only the foundation, but also the foundation of the Church. The apostle Paul with these words attempts to reveal unto the Corinthian saints that there is a foundation which has already been laid—that foundation is the foundation of Jesus the Christ, and is a more sure foundation than anything else we would think or imagine. You cannot read the words which are found within this epistle and not encounter the awesome truth that the foundation of the apostle Paul’s gospel, and the foundation of the apostle Paul’s teaching and preaching was indeed the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul made it perfectly clear that the foundation of the church, the foundation of the gospel, and the foundation of his preaching was indeed Christ—and not only Christ, but also the cross of Jesus the Christ. Perhaps one of the most important truths and realities we as disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ must be absolutely careful on/with is what we attempt to build on top of the cross of Jesus Christ. There is a great need within our hearts and our lives to be incredibly careful when it comes to anything we seek to build on top of or add to the foundation of Jesus the Christ as the very core of the gospel. There have been countless ministers and leaders within the Church who have thought and believed the lie and the deception that they can add prosperity to the foundation of the gospel, or philosophy to the foundation of the gospel, or psychology to the foundation of the gospel, or even man-made promises to the foundation of the gospel. If you go to any secular or Christian bookstore you will find the shelves are lined and inundated with countless books written by “leaders” and “ministers” who might very well be presenting Christ as the foundation, and might be presenting the cross as the foundation, however, they are building upon that foundation that which should not be there. There are and there have been countless men and women who have taken the foundation that is the person of Jesus the Christ—even the declaration that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of the living God—and they have added countless different means and methods on top of it.

            ARE YOU TRYING TO MAKE CHRIST MORE APPEALING? ARE YOU TRYING TO MAKE THE CROSS MORE ATTRACTICE? I am absolutely and completely convinced that we must needs pay close and careful attention to these two questions, for it brings us face to face with the tremendous and powerful truth that there are indeed countless individuals who do not believe that Christ is lovely enough, who do not believe that Christ is beautiful enough, who do not believe that Christ is appealing enough, and so they seek to add all these different vain imaginations and philosophies to the foundation that is the person and declaration of Jesus the Christ. What’s more, is there are countless men and women who have taken the cross of Jesus the Christ and have attempted to make it more appealing and more attractive than it is—much like men and women feel the need to make the altar an attractive and appealing place among us in our midst. There are countless individuals who will seek to dress the altar up, and wo will seek to polish the altar as a glamorous place when it is in all reality a gruesome place of sacrifice, of blood, of death, and the like. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for there are countless individuals who feel as though Christ somehow isn’t appealing enough, and that Jesus the Christ is somehow not attractive enough, and so they dress and polish both up to essentially make them “user friendly.” Oh dear reader—the question I must ask you is have you attempted to make a more user-friendly Christ, as well as more user-friendly cross within your life? Dear preacher and minister of the gospel—have you attempted to polish Christ and the cross up within your message and have somehow removed the need for sacrifice and surrender int direct connection with it? We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this truly astonishing and powerful reality, for it brings us face to face with the fact that there is a sure foundation that is the person and revelation of Jesus who is both Christ and Lord, as well as the cross which was the instrument of sacrifice and offering within His life.

            I sit here today and I can’t help but think about the fact that there are countless ministers and leaders within our churches who may have the foundation correct—who may have Jesus as the Christ and Lord, and who may have the cross of Jesus as the center piece of Christianity—however, they have added vain imaginations, careless opinions, and various philosophies to the foundation that is the person of Jesus the Christ and His cross. It’s interesting to note that when the rich young ruler came to Jesus the Christ asking Him what good thing He must needs do to inherit eternal life Jesus looked at him and with love in His heart declared unto him that he lacked one thing. Not only did Jesus tell him that he lacked one thing, but he also declared unto him that if he wanted to have eternal life he needed to sell all that he had, distribute and give unto the poor, and then come and follow after Jesus the Christ. OH it is absolutely necessary that we pay close and careful attention to this, for it brings us face to face with the absolutely amazing truth that this man lacked one thing, and it was that one thing which would have provided for and afforded him eternal life. When it comes to Jesus the Christ we must needs recognize that it has never been and must never be Jesus Christ + this, nor must it be Jesus Christ + that. Perhaps the single greatest question we must ask ourselves is whether or not Jesus as both Christ and Lord is truly and indeed enough for us within our hearts and lives. We must needs ask ourselves whether or not Jesus is not only enough for us, but in all reality is more than enough for us. How we answer this question will not only determine how we worship, how we serve, and how we follow Jesus within our hearts and lives, but also how we preach and proclaim Him in the hearing of others. I would dare say that if Jesus as the Christ and Lord is somehow not enough then not only are you in danger of creating and fashioning a false image of Jesus within your life, but you are also in danger of worshipping and serving a Jesus who was never intended to be worshipped or served. Oh there is a great and tremendous danger when we seek to build upon the foundation stone that is the person and revelation of Jesus as the Christ and Lord, and do so with wood, with gold, with silver, with precious stones, with wood, with hay, and stubble.

            It is absolutely remarkable and astounding to sit here reading the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the third chapter of the New Testament epistle of First Corinthians, for not only does the apostle Paul highlight and underscore the tremendous danger of building upon the foundation of Jesus as Christ and Lord with earthly, natural and man-made inventions, but the apostle Paul also goes on to emphatically declare that we are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in us. The apostle Paul goes on to declare how if any man defiles the temple of God—that man shall God destroy, for the temple of God is holy. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we come face to face with the words that are found in this passage of Scripture, for the words we find here shine a great spotlight on the person of Jesus the Christ within our hearts and lives—and not only the person and presence of Jesus the Christ within our lives, but also the power of the cross. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of that which is presented before us, for there is a great danger—not only in building upon the foundation of Christ and His cross with earthly inventions and vain imaginations, but also defiling the temple of God with our fornication, our filth, our idolatry, our immorality, our lewdness, our wickedness, and our transgression. In all reality, I can’t help but see two distinct dangers that are found within this passage of Scripture—namely, the danger of building upon the foundation of Jesus and His cross with man made inventions, philosophies, psychology, opinions, thoughts, and the like. Not only this, but there is a great danger and temptation is defiling the Temple of the living God—of which we are—and grieving the heart of God while also simultaneously profaning the holy name of the living God. What’s more, is that it is possible to profane and defile the temple of God of whose we are with our sacrifices and offerings, and how we even draw near to and approach the living God. Consider if you will the words which are found in the first and opening chapter of the prophetic book of Malachi beginning with the sixth verse:

            “A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: If then I be a father, where is mine honour? And if I be a master, where is my fear? Saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And e say, Wherein have we despised thy name? YE offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it now unto thy governor; Will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? Saith the LORD of hosts. And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us: This hath been by your means: Will he regard your persons? Saith the LORD of hosts. Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? Neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand. For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: For my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fuir thereof, even his meat, is contemptible. Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! And ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? Saith the LORD. But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the LORD a corrupt thing: For I am a great King, saith the LORD of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen” (Malachi 1:6-14).

            THEY SAY TAKE IT LIKE A MAN—I SAY, TAKE IT LIKE A DISCIPLE! THEY SAY TAKE IT LIKE A MAN—I SAY TAKE IT LIKE A FOLLOWER OF CHRIST! ARE YOU ABLE TO TAKE IT? ARE YOU ABLE TO ROLL WITH IT? ARE YOU ABLE TO BEAR UP UNDER IT? ARE YOU ABLE TO STAND FIRM IN THE MIDST OF IT? WHERE IS YOUR STRENGTH? WHERE IS YOUR ENDURANCE? ABLE TO WITHSTAND? WHERE IS YOUR STAMINA IN THIS WAR OF ATTRITION? ”And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. THEN SHALL THEY DELIVER YOU UP TO BE AFFLICTED, AND SHALL KILL YOU: AND YE SHALL BE HATED OF ALL NATIONS FOR MY NAME’S SAKES. AND THEN SHALL MANY BE OFFENDED, AND SHALL BETRAY ONE ANOTHER, AND SHALL HATE ONE ANOTHER.

And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:4-14).

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speakth in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The disciples is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciples that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much shall they call them of his household? Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:16-28).

These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues; yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God a service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things said I not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you. But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see my no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” (John 16:1-11).

I have taken the time to present you with each of these passages because there is something found within the epistle the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian saints that must needs be clearly understood and recognized by us who are disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus the Christ. I sit here today thinking about some of the words which are found in the fourth chapter of the first epistle written unto the saints which were at Corinth and I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and captivated with and by the tremendous truth that when the apostle Paul was writing unto them he spent a great deal of time writing concerning the suffering, the afflictions, the trials, the troubles, the tribulation and the persecutions which he faced within the earth for the sake of the gospel concerning Jesus the Christ and His cross. You cannot read the epistles written unto the Corinthian saints—whether the first epistle, or the second epistle—and not encounter and come face to face with the truly awesome reality that when writing unto the Corinthian saints the apostle Paul spoke very freely and very candidly about the suffering, the conflicts and the struggles he faced within this life. You cannot read the epistles which were written unto the Corinthian saints and not encounter and come face to face with the fact that the apostle Paul held no punches, nor did he hold anything back when it came to the struggles he faced within this life. In all reality, I have to admit that I absolutely love the epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome because the apostle Paul was incredibly vulnerable when it came to the internal struggle, the internal conflict, and the internal battle he had within this mortal body and with his flesh. We would like to think the apostle Paul was somehow above any type of conflict and struggle within his flesh, and yet the truth of the matter is when he wrote unto the saints which were at Rome he spoke very candidly about doing those things which he did not want to do and not doing those things he wanted and knew he needed to do.

As I read the words which are found in the two epistles written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Corinth I find it truly astonishing to find the apostle Paul being incredibly vulnerable when it came to the conflicts, the struggles, the troubles, the tribulations, and the trials he faced within this natural and earthly life. If in the epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome the apostle Paul spoke very candidly and clearly about the struggle within his flesh in terms of the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit then in the epistles which were written unto the saints of Corinth the apostle Paul would speak very candidly and personally about the struggles he faced within this life. What makes this even more intriguing and even more captivating is when you think about and consider the fact that Corinth was one of the cities where the apostle Paul would experience opposition, affliction, suffering, tribulation, trials and troubles. If you journey back to the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find that it was while the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy were in Corinth that he was pressed in the Spirit and began declaring unto the Jews that Jesus was indeed the Christ. The physician Luke writes how when the Jews had opposed themselves and blasphemed in the presence of Paul and his companions the apostle Paul rose up, shook the dust off his feet, shook out his raiment and emphatically declared that he would preach unto the Gentiles. It would be in the city of Corinth the apostle Paul would receive a vision from the Lord Jesus Christ in the night instructing him to be of good courage, to fear not, and to continue to speak freely and boldly. The Lord Jesus Christ would declare unto the apostle Paul that He was with him there in the midst of the city, and that there would no man who would hurt or bring harm to him, for He had many people within that city. It is necessary that we recognize and understand this, for when the apostle Paul wrote these epistles unto the saints which were at Corinth they would have been aware of the great conflict, the great struggle, and the great opposition and affliction he initially experienced there in the midst of the city. It was in the city of Corinth the apostle Paul labored and toiled in the work of the ministry of the kingdom, and we know that he labored and toiled there in the city for a full year and a half. For eighteen months the apostle Paul would labor, would toil, and would work the work of the ministry of the kingdom among the Corinthians, and would do so that a church might be established among them.

When the Corinthian saints read the words of the apostle Paul within these epistles they would have been aware of the conflict and struggle he initially had within the city among the Jews, as it was there in the midst of the city the Jews—after opposing themselves—would blaspheme. So grieved, so troubled, and so pressed would the apostle Paul because of their resistance to and their rejection of the gospel that he would make the decision to go only unto the Gentiles from that time forward. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand this, for not only would the Corinthian saints have been aware of the suffering, the affliction and opposition the apostle Paul experienced among them, but within these epistles the apostle Paul also spoke very candidly and freely about the sufferings, the struggles, the conflicts, the afflictions, the oppositions, and the persecutions he experienced within this life. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this truth and these words, for they bring us face to face with the fact that when writing unto this church and body of believers which seemed to be ruling and reigning as kings in the midst of the earth, the apostle Paul—while laboring and toiling in the work of the ministry of the kingdom—would experience tremendous suffering, affliction, opposition and persecution. This is something we must needs understand and come face to face with, for essentially that which the apostle Paul was setting forth to do was provide a stark contrast between the sufferings he faced and experienced within this life, and not only their reigning as kings, but also their unwillingness to suffer in this life. In fact, if you come to the sixth chapter of this first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints you will find the apostle Paul writing very clearly and candidly unto this body of believers concerning their unwillingness to actually bear up under suffering, to bear up under affliction, to bear up under conflict, to bear up under being wronged, and to bear up when someone else somehow offends them. In order to truly understand the words which are found in the sixth chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Corinthian saints, we must needs pay close and careful attention to the words which Jesus our Lord spoke unto His disciples and followers when delivering the Sermon on the Mount. It is the words found written and recorded within the fifth chapter we come to see and understand the context and framework for that which the apostle Paul wrote:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you: that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the judst and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:36-48).

It is absolutely necessary that we pay attention to the words found in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, for it is within the Sermon on the Mount Jesus issues an incredible invitation unto His disciples and followers. The invitation Jesus issued and offered unto them was one of being willing to experience affliction, of being willing to experience opposition, of being willing to experience suffering, of being willing to experience offense, and of being willing to experience mistreatment from others. Perhaps the single greatest question surrounding the words which Jesus the Christ spoke unto His disciples and followers is that of whether or not they are willing to allow themselves to be offended, and whether or not they are willing to allow themselves to experience conflict, struggle, trial and trouble in this life. The words which our Lord Jesus spoke unto His disciples and followers not only instruct and invite them to bear up when they are opposed and afflicted, but also to give themselves to experience affliction and opposition even further. If you read the words which Jesus spoke you will find Him instructing those who are smitten on the right cheek to turn unto the one who smote them other cheek also. Moreover, you will find Jesus declaring unto them if any one would sue them at the law and take away their coat they were to let them have their cloke also. Not only this, but Jesus would also declare unto them anyone who would compel them to go a mile, they were to go with them an extra mile. THE EXTRA MILE, AN EXTRA GARMENT, A SECOND CHEEK! Oh as I sit here I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and captivated when reading these words, for essentially that which Jesus the Christ spoke unto His disciples and followers was how the Lord had seen fit to give men a second check that when they are struck on the one they might offer the other. Not only this, but the Lord would also speak of having an extra garment with which to offer and give unto that one who would sue another at the law and take away their coat. Moreover, Jesus would also speak of going the extra mile—despite the fact that you might not have any desire to go that extra mile with them.

Would it shock and surprise you to think about and consider the tremendous reality that with these words the Lord Jesus not only seems to instruct and invite you to bear up under opposition, offense, wrongdoing, affliction, suffering, and the like, but He also seems to instruct His disciples and followers to willingly give themselves to it. Oh I can’t help but think about and consider the words which Jesus Christ our Lord spoke when He boldly and emphatically declared that anyone who loves their life will lose it, and those who lose their life will by all means gain it. You cannot read the gospel narratives concerning the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ and not encounter and come face to face with the fact that Jesus boldly and without hesitation and reservation spoke unto His disciples and followers and instructed them to commit and give their lives to suffering, to give their lives to offense, to give their lives to persecution, to give their lives unto affliction, to giver their lives unto wrongdoing, and to not seek to defend or save their lives. Oh dear reader—would it surprise you if I told you that nowhere in the gospels did Jesus ever give you the permission, nor the right to defend or save your life? Would you be surprised if I wrote unto you that nowhere in the gospels did Jesus every give you the right to somehow guard your life and to try and keep yourself from suffering, from opposition, from affliction, from wrongdoing, and the like? Oh there are countless men and women among us who try and guard and protect their lives by erecting and building walls around them so others outside and beyond those walls can’t hurt them. Such men and women most likely have been hurt, wounded, bruised, battered and afflicted by others, and as a direct result of this they have erected walls around them that they might have a safe space and place where they can be safeguarded and protected from that which would otherwise hurt, bruise, wound and cause them pain. I feel it absolutely necessary to be bold right now and declare that nowhere in the gospels did Jesus ever authorize or give you the right to guard, to protect, and to defend your life. Nowhere in any of the gospels did Jesus ever authorize His disciples and followers to guard and protect their lives from offense, from suffering, from affliction, from opposition, from oppression, from trials, from troubles, and from wrongdoing. You can search the gospels through and through and you will not find a single place in the midst of the gospels where Jesus instructed His disciples to guard and protect their lives—much less seek to defend and save their lives. Oh Jesus was very clear when speaking unto His disciples and followers and declared unto them that those who sought and desired to save their lives would lose them, and those who were willing to lose their lives would gain them.

I am sitting here today and I can’t help but think about how many systems, how many measures, how many procedures, how many walls, how many gates, and how many safeguards we seem to put in place within our lives to somehow save our lives from what we might experience in this life. I can’t help but think about how many men and women work tirelessly setting up and putting certain measures and degrees in place to safeguard, defend and protect themselves from the suffering, the affliction, the opposition, the persecution, the wrongdoing, the hurts, the wounds, the bruises, and the scars others around them might inflict within and upon them. What’s more, is that I can’t help but think about how one of the single greatest means and measures within and among us in this generation—and not only in this generation, but in generations past—to guard and protect ourselves from wrongdoing and from those who would seek to offend and wrong us is the judicial system, and the courts within and throughout the nation. There are laws which have been put in place, there are rights which have been put in place, and there have been courts and judges which have been put into place as means to help govern the land, however, we play a dangerous game when we seek to use these means and measures to guard and protect ourselves from being wronged, from being offended, from being wounded, from being bruised, and from experience suffering and affliction within this life. When the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth the apostle Paul wrote unto them and indicted them for their use of the courts and their use of judges and the judicial system that was in place among them to defend themselves from wrongdoing. If and as you read the words which are found in the sixth chapter of this first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints you will find the apostle Paul rebuking and indicting the Corinthian saints—not only for not being able to bear up under mistreatment and wrongdoing, but also seeking to save, guard, protect and defend themselves and their lives from that which would cause them hurt and pain. You cannot read the words which are found in the sixth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Corinth and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth that the apostle Paul indicted these saints—not only for their unwillingness to be mistreated, wronged and offended, but also them feeling they had the right to defend themselves against wrongdoing. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the sixth chapter of this epistle beginning to read with and from the first and opening verse:

Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? How much things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? No, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. WHY DO YE NOT RATHER TAKE WRONG? WHY DO YE NOT RATHER SUFFER YOURSLVES TO BE DEFRAUDED? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren” (1 Corinthians 6:1-8).

WHY DO YE NOT RATHER TAKE WRONG? WHY DO YE NOT RATHER SUFFER YOURSELVES TO BE DEFRAUDED? I am absolutely and completely convinced we must needs pay close and careful attention to these questions asked of the Corinthian saints by the apostle Paul, for they bring us face to face with something which is incredibly dangerous within the heart of a disciple and follower of the Lord Jesus the Christ. With these two questions the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian saints and asked them why they would not choose to take wrong, and why they would not choose to suffer [allow] themselves to be defrauded. Essentially, that which the apostle Paul wrote and spoke unto the Corinthian saints were powerful question—and not only questions, but statements—concerning their feeling they had the right to guard, defend and protect their lives. The apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian saints concerning their feeling they had the right within themselves to save their lives in this life, and to somehow safeguard, defend and protect themselves from wrongdoing and from being defrauded by others. With these words the apostle Paul not only indicts the Corinthian saints, but also speaks unto us concerning the right(s) we feel we have in this life to safeguard, protect and save our lives. Even as I am writing these words I am absolutely and completely convinced that sometimes one of the greatest detriments, one of the greatest dangers, and one of the greatest downfalls to the disciples and followers of Jesus the Christ in this generation is that of democracy—and not only that of democracy, but that of the rights we have according to Constitution. There is not a doubt in my mind that it is indeed possible for the Constitution of the United States to be a stumbling block—particularly and especially when we live our lives as though we are members of a democratic society versus a kingdom. Oh I can’t help but be incredibly challenged within my heart and spirit concerning one of the greatest dangers that is found within our hearts and lives—namely, whether or not we are giving ourselves to the democracy and system which is before and all around us, or whether we are living as members of and giving ourselves unto the kingdom of heaven within and upon the earth.

Oh dear brother, oh dear sister—I feel it absolutely necessary to impress upon you the tremendous danger of giving ourselves to the system(s) of this world rather than committing ourselves to the kingdom of heaven. If we allow ourselves to be caught up in being members of the system(s) of this world then I would dare say that we play a dangerous game and run a tremendous risk of keeping ourselves from not only living as citizens of heaven, but also as members of the kingdom of heaven within and upon the earth. I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in the sixth chapter of the epistle written unto the Corinthian saints and I find myself being greatly challenged concerning the right(s) I feel I have to guard, protect and save my life in this world. The apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian saints and spoke of their going unto the court and taking brother to court according to the law(s) of this world. The apostle Paul would then go on to write and speak unto them concerning their unwillingness to suffering themselves to be defrauded, and their unwillingness to take wrong. There is not a doubt in my mind that we must needs pay close and careful attention to the words which are found here in this passage of Scripture, for the words which we find here bring us face to face with the absolutely incredible and astonishing reality that we have not been given permission, nor have we been given the right to somehow guard, somehow protect, and somehow save our lives within this life. If anything we have been invited and instructed to lose our lives and to give up our lives in this life rather than trying to hang and hold on them. Oh I can’t help but think about the countless men and women among us who are devoting much time, much energy, much effort, and much resources in seeking to hold and hang on to their lives in this life, and they are doing absolutely anything and everything they can to keep themselves from ever being wounded, from ever being bruised, from every being defrauded, from ever being persecuted, from every being despitefully used, from ever being offended, and the like. There are men and women among us who are spending a considerable amount of time committing themselves to a process and procedure that was never authorized in Scripture, and which was never authorized by the Lord Jesus the Christ. I am fully and completely reminded of the words which our Lord spoke—not only when sending out the twelve into the harvest, but also after the powerful confession which Simon also called Peter made concerning His identity and person. Consider if you will the following words which are written and found in the tenth and sixteenth chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followerth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:34-39).

Then said Jesus unto His disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? OR what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:24-28).

HE THAT FINDETH HIS LIFE SHALL LOSE IT: AND HE THAT LOSETH HIS LIFE FOR MY SAKE SHALL FIND IT! FOR WHOSOEVER WILL SAVE HIS LIFE SHALL LOSE IT: AND WHOSOEVER WILL LOSE HIS LIFE FOR MY SAKE SHALL FIND IT! Oh dear brother, dear sister—I firmly believe with all my heart that we must needs pay close and careful attention to the words which are written and recorded within these two passages of Scripture, for within these passages of Scripture you will find that Jesus never authorized, nor did He ever give us the permission or the right to save our lives in this life. Nowhere in any of the gospels will you find Jesus giving permission unto His disciples and His followers to guard, to protect and to save their lives. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this incredibly powerful truth, for it brings us face to face with one of the greatest dangers that is facing countless men and women among us within the Church in this nation. Even as I am sitting here right now I can’t help but get the strong sense that one of the greatest temptations and tragedies that can and will face countless men and women within and among our churches during these Last Days is that of guarding, protecting, defending and saving their lives when opposition, when affliction, when persecution, and when tribulation arises. I feel compelled within my heart and spirit to write concerning the vast number of men and women within our churches who when persecution, when affliction, when suffering, when opposition, when tribulation arises in this nation for the sake of the name of Jesus the Christ can and will do anything and everything they can to save their lives. I can’t help but get the strong sense within my heart and spirit that during the days in which we are about to enter there will be men and women among us who not only will be unable to stand when such opposition and affliction arises, but can and will also seek to save and guard their lives. There is not a doubt in my mind that when trouble and tribulation rises up with this nation there will be men and women who will do absolutely everything they can to not only keep themselves from experiencing it, but will also keep themselves from suffering, from being persecuted, and from being offended and defrauded.

Even as I am writing these words I feel absolutely compelled to write concerning the countless men and women among us—even right now within and during the days in which we are living—who put various systems and measures in place to keep themselves from being hurt, from being wounded, from being offended, from being bruised, and from being afflicted. There are men and women among us within this generation who will do absolutely anything and everything to keep themselves from being hurt and from experiencing pain, and I believe within my heart and spirit that many of these same individuals can and will be those who will do absolutely anything and everything to save and keep their lives in the midst of tribulation, in the midst of opposition, in the midst of affliction, and in the midst of persecution. I fully realize and recognize that the words which are found in this writing might seem harsh, and might in fact seem challenging, however, I am absolutely and completely convinced that there are very few among us in this generation within this country who are truly ready should the time come when persecution, affliction, suffering and tribulation arises—particularly and especially for the sake of the name of the Lod Jesus Christ. I am writing these words and I am finding myself coming face to face with whether or not I am truly ready within my heart, within my spirit, and within my mind for that moment when suffering, that moment when tribulation, and that moment when persecution can and will arise. What’s more, is I feel within my heart and spirit that one of the greatest needs we have in this life is not only to simply be those who watch and pray as we anticipate the coming of the Lord Jesus the Christ, but we must needs also prepare ourselves for when suffering, when persecution, when affliction arises in this nation.

I am sitting here today thinking about and considering these words and I can’t help but get the strong sense within my heart that we must needs prepare and make ourselves ready for suffering, for persecution, for affliction, and for tribulation within this life—and not only within this life, but also within this country. I firmly believe that we must needs make ourselves ready and prepare ourselves—not only spiritually, and not only mentally and emotionally, but even physically. Permit me to ask you whether or not your heart—in its current state—could handle and bear up under persecution, under affliction and under tribulation. Could your heart truly hold up, endure and survive should persecution, should affliction, should opposition, and should tribulation arise among us within this life? Could your spirit and soul survive should persecution and tribulation rise up in the midst of this life and within this nation? What’s more, is could your body hold up in the midst of persecution, in the midst of suffering, in the midst of scourging, in the midst of beatings, in the midst of floggings, in the midst of tribulation within this life? I am absolutely and completely convinced that there is a great need within our hearts and lives to make ready and prepare our hearts, our minds, our spirits, and yea, even our physical bodies to hold up and to endure in the midst of suffering, affliction, tribulation and persecution. It is with this being said that I am absolutely and completely convinced that those who are presently spending their time seeking to save their lives from being hurt, from being wounded, and from being wronged and offended might very well—and in all reality most likely be those who can and will seek to save their lives when persecution, when affliction and when tribulation arises. Those who are unwilling to allow themselves to be defrauded, and those among us who are unwilling to allow themselves to be struck on the cheek and offer the other are such who most likely will not only seek to save their lives in the midst of tribulation and suffering, but will also crumble and become offended in the midst of it. It was Jesus Himself who wrote that there would be many in the last days who would become and would grow offended in the midst of persecution, and I am absolutely convinced that such individuals can and will become offended because they thought and believed the lie and the deception that walking with and following Christ can and will exempt them from persecution, from suffering, from tribulation, and from affliction and opposition within this life.

Oh dear reader I feel absolutely compelled to draw and call your attention to the absolutely undeniable truth that there is a great danger, there is a great temptation, and there is a great snare and trap within this life to not only seek to save our lives, but also seek to guard, defend and protect it. The apostle Paul—when writing unto the saints which were at Corinth—emphatically and boldly wrote unto them concerning their unwillingness to be defrauded, and their unwillingness to suffer wrong in this life, and I am completely convinced that these same words directly apply to many of us within this life. There is not a doubt in my mind when reading these words that such words powerfully demonstrate the truth that those who are unwilling to allow themselves to be defrauded, those who are unwilling to suffer wrong, and those who are unwilling to allow themselves to be hurt, bruised and wounded are those very same ones who when persecution, affliction and tribulation arises can and will do absolutely everything they can do to guard and protect their lives in the midst of that which they perceive can and will do them harm. In all reality—while there would be many who would like to preach and promote how valuable democracy truly is within this life and within nation, I would dare suggest and propose that it is possible for democracy, and for the Constitution to be a stumbling block for countless men and women. Please note that this is especially true when it comes to the rights you have been given according to the Constitution, and the rights you believe you have in this world and in this life—perhaps not even solely according to the Constitution, but according to the reality of simply being a human being within and upon this world.

Perhaps one of the greatest manifestations of this reality and concept of rights was manifested when the pandemic first took place within this nation as businesses, as churches, and the like were forced to shut down. What’s more, is that when men and women were instructed and advised to shelter in place and remain in their homes while a deadly virus ravaged our cities, our streets, our neighborhoods, our hospitals, and the like, there were those who immediately began screaming that their rights were being violated. When churches were ordered to shut down and pastors, ministers and leaders were forced to adapt their means of delivering their sermons and messages unto those who would normally sit in the pews and listen virtually, they immediately began crying out that their rights were being violated, and that they were experiencing persecution within this nation. I found myself during this particular time when the pandemic was just starting feeling pressed and grieved within my spirit that such individuals who screamed and cried out persecution during this time because they could not meet in the church buildings were those who not only would be unable to recognize true persecution when it rose up against them in this world, but also would be unable to stand in the midst of and bear up under such persecution. Even as I am writing these words I find myself being pressed within my spirit concerning countless men and women among us within this generation in which we are living who in all reality are not and have not been made ready for suffering, for persecution, from tribulation, and for affliction to rise up within this nation. I am absolutely and completely convinced that there are countless men and women among us within this generation who will be absolutely unable and unwilling to stand up in the midst of and face suffering and persecution—and not only will they become offended, but they can and will also turn back and choose to walk no more with the Lord Jesus the Christ. I believe with everything in me that there are countless men and women among us within our churches today who have spent so much time seeking to guard and protect themselves from being hurt, from being wounded, from being wronged, and from being defrauded because they believe it is their right. As a result of this these individuals can and will find themselves unable and unwilling to stand up in the midst of and endure suffering, affliction and tribulation.

As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the fact that we have not been given the right, nor have we been given the permission, nor have we been authorized to guard, to protect, to defend and to save our lives in this life. There is absolutely nowhere within the gospels where we have been given the right and the permission to save our lives in this world and in this life, and I am absolutely and completely convinced that there are many among us within our churches who are presently unprepared for that time and those moments when suffering, when affliction, when tribulation and when persecution can and will rise up among us in our nation. There are countless men and women among us who have spent so much time seeking to save their lives that when the time comes to lose their lives—and to lose their lives for the sake of the gospel and for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ—they are absolutely unwilling and unable to do so. I am absolutely and completely convinced there are countless men and women among us in this generation and within this nation who will not only be offended, but who will also become angered, outraged and infuriated when suffering, when affliction, when persecution and when opposition rises up within this nation, and can and will turn their backs and walk no more with and no longer follow Jesus the Christ. Oh there is a great and tremendous need in these upcoming days, in these upcoming weeks, in these upcoming months to prepare ourselves for that time when true suffering, when true affliction, when true persecution, and when true opposition arises. What’s more, is that I don’t believe we have too much time left to make ourselves ready and prepare ourselves for such a reality and manifestation among us within this life. I do not believe for a single moment that we have a lot of time left to make ourselves ready and to prepare ourselves for what is coming, and there is an urgency to make ourselves ready for the trial, the trouble and the tribulation that can and will face us in the upcoming years, and perhaps even in the upcoming years.

I conclude this writing with an emphatic and passionate plea to you who are reading the words which are found here that you have a great need to make yourself ready and to prepare yourself for that which is going to come upon this nation, and upon this world. I feel absolutely compelled to emphatically declare and proclaim unto you who are reading these words that you must needs recognize and understand that you have not been given the right, nor have you been given permission to guard, to protect, to save, and to defend your life. You and I have a great need and a great invitation before us during this hour to make ourselves ready for that which can and that which is doing to come in this life and in this hour. I am terribly grieved and pressed within my spirit when I think about the countless men and women among us who right now are not ready for persecution should it arise among us tomorrow within this nation. There are countless men and women who are going to be caught off guard and surprised when such opposition, when such tribulation, and when such affliction arises, and in that process of being caught off guard they will not only grow and become offended, but will also become angry and enraged at its presence within their lives. Just think about how men and women responded to the pandemic and how many became outraged, infuriated, and angry when they were told to wear masks, when they were told to social distance, and when they were told to shelter in place. There is not a doubt in my mind—and it is something that has been said by others—that this pandemic is a dry run and preparation for suffering, for affliction, for opposition and for true persecution to rise up among us. Oh dear brother, dear sister—please know and understand I do not in the slightest bit believe that being told to wear masks, being told to shelter in place, being told to social distance, and being forced to do church and to be the church outside of and apart from the church building is and has been persecution in this life. I believe with all my heart that if you weren’t able to bear up under and endure that which took place in the midst of this pandemic then I would dare say you might very well be those who will be unable to bear up under and endure true and real persecution that can and will rise up among us. Oh that we would be a people who would make ourselves ready and prepare ourselves—not only emotionally, not only mentally, but also spiritually and physically—for that time and that hour when true persecution, when true suffering, when true affliction and opposition truly does rise up among us in this life.

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