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The Challenge...after the Challenge...after the Challenge....

Are you aware of the continuous challenge of the Christian life? Although in one sense you have "arrived" when you repent and believe, this "seeing" after your blindness is just the beginning of the story. The Lord saves you unto eternal life, but then expects you to be His disciple and follow Him.

Following Jesus Christ has serious consequences. Jesus suffered the Cross to save the world from sin, but also to perfect Him. To those of us that follow Jesus Christ, the Cross is not just a symbol of the faith, but it is or should be an instrument of death to all that is, or was, our life. We cannot receive the fullness of the life of Christ until we to lay down our soul life in death.

In Philippine 3:7-10, Paul says that "....what things were a gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.......I also count all things loss for the excellence of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ. Notice the words highlighted. Is Paul saying that to gain Christ, I must lose all things. Whatever could he mean? What about all the things I want to do? Right now Paul quickly explains the gains and the losses. Notice the six factors.

  • "and to be found in Him,.." Abiding intimately with Him.

(I like the sound of that Lord)

  • "not having my own righteousness,.." Implying the exchange of our own life, for His righteous life. ( that's nice - to be like You )
  • "that I may know Him.." ( I want to know you Lord! )
  • "and the power of His resurrection."

(Your power! Wonderful! Thank you Lord!)

  • "and the fellowship of His sufferings," Willingly suffering unjustly at the hands of others, when God permits this to happen. ( Lord, are you saying I have to suffer like You ? )
  • "being conformed to His death." Having the Cross of Christ applied to our own self life; dying to self as it is sometimes called. ( All my self life has to die Lord? Are You sure? )

Just as it was for Jesus, the first four were desirable, but God's package comes with the necessity of the other two, otherwise nothing works.

So what is this process of learning to be a disciple?

Every conversion is an absolute miracle of God's grace and power, but is only a beginning of a life time process. After we are saved and have a standing of being delivered from sin, our flesh, the law and the world, we then have to co-operate with the Lord as He works those things out experientially in our lives. So what comes next after salvation?

It is simply no good if we keep sinning, as the Lord will not hear me if I regard iniquity in my heart. ( Ps . 66:18 ) So I must have victory over sin. Romans 6 : 6 and 6 :11 provide the basis for having that victory. "..our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin....and... reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Now that victory takes a while, because the Lord tests you again and again until you are not an habitual sinner. What comes next?

The next stages are the most wonderful, awesome and terribly difficult, even when you understand something of the way the Lord works. Moreover, the Lord's perfecting of us lasts a lifetime. It could be referred to as dying to your own selfish agenda so that the life of Jesus can be implanted. Or the circumcision of the heart of those things that we have offered to the Lord. Sometimes they are even really good things humanly speaking. It is the loss of all things that the Lord knows we need to lose in order to apply all the Philippine verses to our lives. It is the refining and pruning that the Lord does to cleanse our lives and sanctify them to His use.

It is perhaps best explained from John 12:24. "...unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain." The analogy is that just as wheat needs to die in the ground in order to produce any grain, so does our self life need to come to death, so that we can be filled with the life of Christ. So, in terms of Philippians, after the suffering and the death, the life can begin to come, in the form of being in Him, knowing Him, having His righteousness and His power.

Do you lose everything? Not necessarily. But you may have to face the loss of some surprising things. If you really co-operate with the Lord, He knows what to circumcise. One way to go is to offer the Lord everything and let Him take what He knows will empty you for the filling of His life. Two warnings. "Everything" means more than you think. And be honest, as the Lord knows your heart.

In this life we only get one chance to be a true disciple of Christ. Many Christians know little about these things, which helps to explain the weak position of the church in the world and our somewhat poor representing of Jesus Christ in this wonderful world He has given us. Are you going to accept the continuous challenge?

Ken Walker. Feb 1999