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Dare to be a disciple



"And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."
Good Morning my beloved,
We welcome you to worship in the name of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We're glad to have you here with us today. Though we all come from different backgrounds, cultures, and personal experiences, we are bound together by a common purpose, to honor and glorify our Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ through our worship. Let us embrace this opportunity to to seek His guidance, and to find comfort and strength in His presence as we deepen our relationship with our Lord.
Despite a plethora of church members who claim to be followers of Jesus, it is evident that there is a lack of willingness to truly submit to His reign and obey His commands, which raises serious concerns about the level of commitment among Christians today. In fact, the demand for a total commitment to Christ is just as high as it was in the early days of the Church, if not even higher.

One of the biggest contributing factors to this issue is the tendency of many pastors to preach a watered down gospel, lowering the standards of salvation and discipleship in order to make it more appealing for their congregation. Tragically, they have created an environment that prioritizes personal comfort over wholehearted commitment to Christ, misleading Christians about the true implications of following Jesus.

I believe many churches place more emphasis on prosperity and material blessings rather than the call to take up one's cross and follow Christ. They shy away from preaching about the cost of discipleship, such as the need to deny oneself and prioritize God's kingdom above personal desires and ambitions.

Furthermore, the prevalence of cultural Christianity has contributed to the lack of commitment among believers. Many people identify as Christians without truly understanding what it means to be a follower of Jesus, leading to a superficial faith that lacks deep conviction and genuine surrender to Christ.

Statistics support the observation that many Christians struggle to grasp the full implications of personal commitment to Jesus, as well as a significant percentage of churchgoers do not consistently engage in spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Bible study, and fellowship with other believers, indicating a lack of prioritization and dedication to growing in their relationship with Christ.

Despite the recent increasing numbers of people who claim to love Jesus, there is a significant gap between their profession and their level of commitment. The lower standards of cultural Christianity have contributed to this issue. Therefore, I believe it is crucial for pastors and leaders to prioritize teaching and modeling a wholehearted commitment to Christ, emphasizing the true cost of discipleship as found in Scripture. Additionally, individuals must personally take responsibility for deepening their understanding of what it means to follow Jesus and actively engage in spiritual disciplines. It is only through a genuine and surrendered commitment to Christ that can believers fully experience the abundant life and purpose that He offers. If you want to come to Christ, if you want to be His disciple, if you want to be a Christian, you have to understand the total surrender to His Lordship and the total abandonment of your own will.

Let us pray,

Heavenly Father,

Father, thank You for Your Word, truly a source of divine wisdom, so clear and so precise, encompassing every aspect of life. Lord, illuminate these timeless Truths and grant us the gift of understanding through Your Holy Spirit that we would conduct our lives in such a way as to never do anything that would bring shame on Your name.  Father, open the hearts of sinners, even today, that need to be saved. May they rightly be ashamed of their sin and cry out for mercy and forgiveness and embrace Christ as Savior and submit to His rule and reign as Lord. Help those of us who know Christ to recognize this is our time to deny ourselves and be obedient, even unto death on a cross. Make us willing to take up our own cross and follow You no matter the cost. We ask and pray in Christ's name.
Today's Message: Dare to be a disciple
Like many other secular trends, the normalization of sexual immorality has tragically infiltrated the church, convincing those who ought to be deeply ashamed of their own wickedness and preoccupation of sexual sin; shamelessly engaging in everything from pornography, fornication, adultery and homosexuality to the horrendous crime of pedophilia, all without displaying any genuine remorse or repentance. It is truly disheartening to witness those who claim to follow the teachings of Christ engaging in and condoning behaviors that undermine the sanctity and purity of the church, rather than fostering an environment of genuine repentance, and spiritual growth while equipping individuals with the tools to overcome their struggles and desires with sexual sin, upholding biblical values, guiding them towards a path of righteousness. It's unimaginable that anybody would think Christ paid the price for their sins so they could continue to satisfy their lustful desires. 
I believe this is the most important message sinners could ever hear in our Lord's own words with regard to inviting them to come to Him for forgiveness of sin and eternal life. Every pastor in every church everywhere needs to understand this is the standard for all invitations for which we are all held responsible. I believe I can safely say most pastors rarely proclaim self-denial, cross bearing, and obedience to sinners in most churches today, but it is the one we must proclaim if we are to be faithful to Christ's teaching. One cannot read this without concluding that it is differs significantly from the typical man-centered approach of inviting people to accept Christ for personal fulfillment and a life free from troubles. Yet, this is consistent with the Lord’s invitation found in Matthew and Luke where He emphasizes the importance of carefully counting the cost of discipleship, the level of dedication and sacrifices associated with following Him.
Matthew 10:36-38, "A man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me."
Today, we often hear a gospel message of tolerance and inclusion but it is crucial to recognize that Jesus Himself demanded much more from His followers by engaging with sinners to effectively convey the message that everyone had the potential to change their ways. He taught the significance of repentance, necessary for forgiveness and reconciliation with the Father and move towards a path of transformation, in order to obtain eternal life. Jesus' didn't lower the standards for salvation, in fact, He set the bar even higher, by saying "You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." 
Open your Bible to Mark chapter 8 and follow along with me as I read, this very profound passage, as it pertains to the sinners invitation to follow Jesus as well as His severe warning for those who reject it. 

"And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."
Like so many today, they come to Jesus seeking the gift and not the Giver, willing to worship Him for what He could do for them. However, in Luke 9:57-62, we read Jesus discouraged those who would follow Him casually, whose minds were set on earthly things.  "As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, "I will follow You wherever You go." And Jesus said to him, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." And He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." But He said to him, "Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God." Another also said, "I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home." But Jesus said to him, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."
Let's look at verse 34, "And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me." This doesn't sound  like the attractive open invitation to follow Jesus heard in thousands of churches all across America on any given Sunday, does it? Where's the mention of health, wealth and prosperity? It's hard to imagine anyone attempting to amass a crowd of church goers with that invitation, that's going to eliminate a lot of people!
What is He thinking leaving no room for negotiation? But this is the clear invitation Jesus offered to the thousands of adoring people who imagined they could follow Him superficially. Jesus isn't seeking fans only interested in the blessings, He's seeking true disciples, who are willing to pay the price of following Him into the Kingdom. In other words, if there is no willingness to suffer, if there is no willingness to go to the cross, there will be no kingdom! Jesus is saying if you think that self-sacrifice is optional, you're fooling yourself. Is it any wonder why the disciples were astonished, asking the question, in Luke 13:23-25, "And someone said to Him, "Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?" And He said to them, "Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’" Salvation is free but it's not easy.
I have been around the church for several decades now, I've found nowhere in Scripture where Jesus promises to shower me with material blessings or shield me from life's difficult challenges this side of heaven. That's because many tribulations pave our entry into the Kingdom of God. Modern Christians falsely imagine that they can demand answers to every challenge we face and God will comply. I believe we need to be reminded that, "We walk by faith, not by sight." The Bible is not a "How To" instruction manual for those seeking an easy life; it presents quite the opposite. It is the story of what God has done for us through the person of Jesus Christ, encouraging us to continue in the faith, as we face the challenges that are common to mankind, realizing that it’s going to require self-denial, suffering and obedience, even unto a cross.
To deny is the Greek verb "aparnéomai," means to disown or refuse to associate with your former self, to divorce yourself from the person that you once were. Jesus' language here is very similar to His words in the Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." That’s why He said, "I didn’t come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance," it's harder to convince self-righteous religious people to be ashamed of themselves than it is sinners. But that’s exactly what's required for them both. You have to come to the end of yourself to come to Christ. Spiritually bankrupt people know they have nothing to offer God, they mourn over their condition. Self-righteous irreligious people aren't ashamed of themselves, they're openly sinful. The day is coming when God is going to uncover every sin, laying everything bare just as naked as they day they were born.
Listen, if you are not ashamed about your behavior, over the hypocritical sinful condition of your heart, judgment is inevitable. There are a lot of self-proclaimed preachers of God's Word who ought to be ashamed for their manipulation of the Scripture, misrepresenting God. I've been cautioned by other pastors not to preach too aggressively and to avoid naming sins, saying "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." To which I replied "Jesus isn't interested in catching flies, He's seeking faithful disciples, who will honor Him by living righteously." Perhaps, that's the issue with the modern church, they have invested too much time and energy in a vain attempt to collect flies for the Kingdom of God by pandering to the spirit of this age. I believe it's far more important to speak the Truth in love than gather a large following based upon deception and damning lies. 
By taking up your own cross, Jesus is saying following Me is going to cost you everything. No sacrifice is too much, even your own life, should it come to that. Even though they were very familiar with crucifixion, it's safe to say the disciples weren’t thinking that Christ was going to die on the cross because He hasn’t told them about His crucifixion yet. He only told them He’s going to suffer and die.
I don't believe most Christians in America today really understand what it means to endure persecution, because nobody’s trying to kill us because of our faith. I believe we'll get the chance to prove exactly how valuable Jesus is in this country before long. When we must obey God rather than men, that's where the rubber will meet the road. I want you to understand, that not all of you will die as martyrs. It means that because you identify yourself with Him, you’re willing to suffer in service to Christ, if you’re called to do so.
Verse 35, "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it." How precious the gift of salvation, that you may even have to sacrifice your for cause of Christ, giving up the natural inclination for self-preservation. When when godliness of heaven confronts ungodliness of this world, there's going inevitably to be rejection, hatred and hostility. One cannot help but notice just how far the modern church has strayed from the commitment of the early church. Have we forgotten His words "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master."? If you choose to save your life temporarily, you will lose it eternally, if you're willing to lose your life temporarily for the sake of  Christ and the gospel, you'll gain eternal life in the kingdom of God forever, that's what Jesus is saying here. You need to understand He's not talking about dying for a noble cause, there are many great humanitarians acts for which people willingly sacrifice their lives every day, but none of them will get you into heaven.
Verse 36, "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?" You can have everything this world has to offer but what good is it if you're dead? Nobody could actually gain the whole world, this is the ultimate hyperbole to really confirms His point. You can choose to hang on to your immoral relationship, your adultery, pornography or whatever your sinful pleasure, but you will lose your life eternally. Then you will remember the man in Luke 12, reasoning to himself, saying, "‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry." But God said to him, You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." 
Verse 37, "For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" What we do with what we have reveals who we are, you understand that good works are the product of our salvation. Don't confuse that with salvation through works. God blesses us to bless others through us for His glory, so we should to be generous and ready to share in serving God. Our actions on this earth should align with God's divine purposes and plans, regardless of societal norms. Unbelievers works are a product of the flesh, ours are a product of our salvation.
In Matthew 5:16, Jesus said "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." Listen, all your earthly riches, even all the money in the world, won't buy your soul back on the day of reckoning. This passage serves as a reminder that none of us knows when that day will come, I exhort you to make the decision to get right with God today, your soul is worth more than everything in this world. This world and all of it's earthly kingdoms are going be destroyed on the day of Judgment, the Christian life cannot be compartmentalized in which some parts God is involved, and in others, He is not, serve God, not yourself! How poorly some Christians today represent Christ, living a life that is unacceptable to God, satisfying their own desires, rather than living sacrificially for Christ. Psalm 37:4-5, "Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it."
That brings us to verse 38, "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels." This is a strong invitation with judgment attached to it. If you’re ashamed of Christ and ashamed to identify with His teaching to embrace this world, He will be ashamed of you when He comes in glory, and judgment inevitable. Don't embrace this adulterous and sinful world by being ashamed of Christ's words in this age of tolerance, you will face divine judgment. He will repay every man according to his deeds. Judgment day is coming, express your love for people by telling them the Truth about sin, so they can be transformed by this same Christ that transformed you. His sacrifice was for the sins of the whole world, not just ours. Pray that He will reveal those to you whose hearts He has prepared and ask for the opportunity to witness to them.
Titus 2 says, "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds."

In Closing..
I fear far too many Christians minimize suffering for Christ, uncertain what the cross stands for, convinced that any displeasure or discomfort in our lives is our cross. The cross would impose its will on a crucified man, with no turning back. This is the image of one who wishes to be a disciple, that is utterly committed to following Christ.
Understand the call to discipleship anticipates difficulties and expects the follower to obey all that the Lord commands, not just the parts that suit our needs and desires.  Scripture repeatedly makes clear, whoever does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. He will not accept half-hearted followers. Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Christ wherever He leads you. Let the child of God speak out in rebuke of this godless culture and pleading the grace of God, when it's easier to remain silent and follow the course of this dying world. One single event transformed the disciples, changing fear into courage, baptizing people in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that Christ commanded; the Resurrection of the Lord.

Without question, that is what will truly transform lives, this is the promise of our Lord. When Peter was filled with the Spirit, he boldly confronted the religious leaders with the wicked acts they had performed. May God grant such boldness to those who are willing to commit to following Him today.
May it be so..

And now may the Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you,

And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Now and forever, in Jesus' name

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The Brian Monzon Ministries



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