NOTE:  This morning I received an email from a young friend who asked me to remove him from my subscription list.  He sent me a list of positive promise verses that all talk about God giving us “over and above” “superabundantly” and having a “plan” for our life that involves prosperity and good things.  Knowing his struggles, I sent him this reply.  I pray that this reply will help others of you who have friends struggling with the same issues.  Feel free to use it if it helps!

A. Brother

Dear _________,

Thanks for thinking of me.  Because I care about you, and am not sure why you sent me this letter, I'm going to respond fully.  From our talks, I know you've been struggling with things, and I can relate to that struggle completely.  These are my thoughts. 

I pray that our devotion to Christ would be of such depth that we would be willing to give up all for Him.  Many follow Him because of the "blessing" verses. 

When Jesus began to teach the "hard stuff" about dying to self, and living only to Him, the crowds dwindled down to a few hundred out of thousands.  He talked about giving up all, including those around us if necessary, to follow Him.  About living "upside down" lives, being the servant, like He showed us how to be, washing others feet.  About how the first in this life will often be last in the next.  About selling all we don't need and giving it to the poor.  About taking up our crosses, and being willing to follow Him to Gethsemane and Golgotha, learning the dying that the apostles talk about in their books and letters.  This dying to self, this giving up everything, is required of true disciples.

I spent over 50 years hearing the "prosperity gospels" and many other man-made gospels that ignore Christ's call to true discipleship. 

I was frustrated, struggling with sin in my life, and wondering where Christ actually was in all the hoopla.  It seems we are often more concerned about creating a Christianity that is smooth, and full of good things in this life, and easy to digest, than we are concerned about really listening to Christ and hearing Him.  Our loud and carefully-crafted worship services do not bring us closer to Him.  Being on the narrow road, obeying His voice, learning in the hardships is what brings us close to Him.

The apostles preached the "full message of this new life" that Christ had brought them. (Acts 5:20)  It involved difficulty, and perseverance through trial and pain.  They were warned of that by Jesus, and knew it by experience.

"'We must go through many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God,' they said." (Acts 14:23)  This was the boot camp of early Christians. 

We have abandoned it for teaching the easy promises, which are all true, but they are only true spiritually in Christ.  We have all blessings in Christ.  He promises us to never leave us or forsake us.  He gives us the great gifts of the Holy Spirit, not riches in this life.  He has an entire Body of people all over the world who become our brothers and sisters when we are rejected by our families and loved ones for His sake.  He empowers us to live lives full of grace, love, truth and victory.  He gives us joy even when we are in the middle of severe trouble and pain.  These are the promises fulfilled.

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are YES in Christ.” (2 Cor 1:20)

Christ becomes our life when He dwells in us.  We no longer have worldly ambitions for comfort, and ease, and an easy life.  We become soldiers in God's army, and members of the household of faith.  We are no longer citizens of this world, but of the Kingdom of God, with only Christ's good in mind. 

He works His holiness in us through the dying of our old sinful nature, and the rebirth in us by His Spirit of a New Man, and this ongoing work results in us becoming conformed to the image of Christ.  It is not our own work, and we don't get credit for it with God.  We don't do it by working up a bunch of emotion.  We do it by giving up to Christ all that would benefit us.

"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I now 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..." (Phil 3:7,8)  Was this just the life of an apostle?  Or was Paul teaching us that this is the life of any true disciple of Christ?

I write this to you today, brother, because I know you've been within the church a long time.  As I was.  And many things are ignored there, for the sake of keeping things on a happy, everything fine level.  But things aren't fine.  There are a lot of things going on behind the scenes.  I know--I was there.  I was living a double life myself, struggling with sin, and yet looking good at church.  I couldn't share my sins and failures there, because people just wouldn't believe me.  It was NOT OK to be NOT OK!  And the churches are there today, still.  I tried confessing and getting help, but it seemed there were just more platitudes and verses thrown at me, because nobody seemed to know how to deal with problems.

When I went to Christ Himself, and threw myself on Him, He answered, and began to show me how I'd been taught and trained in an insufficient way to understand what He calls us to.  His calling is so much higher than we have been shown. 

We have this great gift, above all others:

"For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have."  Phil 1:29,30

I pray the highest and best in Christ for you, my brother, and that you would become involved in the "same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have."  This struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of darkness that would keep us preoccupied with trying to build a comfortable life, full of good worldly things, here on earth.

Follow Christ into the dark forest of our fears.  Let Him take you where you would never dare to go.  He will never leave us or forsake us.  That is true discipleship.  It is His work in us, not our work for Him, that counts. 

In Christ, Your Brother,
A. Brother


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