To Suffer With Christ, Part 2
In Romans 8: 17, God tells us:
Romans 8:17 – Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
To put it a more simple way and translate it God is saying we’re not children of God unless we participate in the sufferings of Christ Jesus. We’re not saved unless we suffer with Jesus; we have no hope of being in the resurrection when Jesus returns unless in this world, in this life, we’re already suffering with Jesus. We don’t have the fullness of the Holy Spirit, we don’t have the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we’re not Spirit-filled people unless we are participating in the sufferings of Jesus Christ. You’re not able to say, “Jesus is Lord,” by the power of the Holy Spirit unless the sufferings of Jesus are in your life. You’re not privileged to cry, “Abba, Father,” as Romans 8 talks about in verse 15.
Romans 8:15 – For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
You’re not privileged to say, “Da-da” unless you’re participating in the sufferings that belong to Christ Jesus. You’re not allowed to claim that you’re an heir with Christ, that somehow you’re going to be going to heaven. Don’t even bother to claim one single promise that’s in Scripture unless you’re preparing yourself to participate in the sufferings of Jesus or unless you are suffering some of the sufferings of Jesus. You’re not bearing the fruit that Jesus says will mark those who belong to Him. So often people say, “By your fruits you know them.” What they immediately point out is that they pray, they’ll point out that they’ve been baptized, they’ll point out that they do all kinds of work. And not very often do you hear people say and point to their sufferings in Christ Jesus. We need to be a people knowing what fruits to look for. The Pharisees prayed, the Pharisees gave their money. The Pharisees fasted. The Pharisees looked righteous from the outside but none of the Pharisees that didn’t love God suffered for Christ Jesus; they always rejected Jesus Christ. And that’s the fruit we need to be looking for in people who say they are Christians. People that say they have a claim to heaven, that somehow they’re in a relationship with God. You need to look at their life and say, “Okay, are they suffering for the gospel? Are they suffering because Jesus lives in them?” Are they participating in the same sufferings that Jesus had when He walked here on the earth? If we are not participating in the sufferings of Jesus then we’re chaff and not wheat. We’re dead and not alive. In short, we are not Christians. I hope that’s basic enough and I hope that’s bringing it down to a simple enough understanding that no matter who listens to this, no matter who we talk to, that they need to come to understand that unless you are suffering as Jesus suffered and doing that by the power of God, then you have no hope of resurrection, you have no hope of glory, you have no hope of eternal life. In fact, don’t even claim that you do. Let’s look again at verse 17 and let’s listen to it very, very carefully.
Romans 8:17 – Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed”—and you can just circle that word “indeed”—“if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may share in His glory.” It’s almost as if God is saying now, “In order to share in the glory that is in Christ Jesus you must participate in the sufferings that are in Christ Jesus.” That’s why James writes and says, “Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds,” because he knows that every person who actually knows God will face trials of many kinds. It’s without exception. But to be a child of God, to have Jesus living in you means that you participate in the sufferings that belong to Christ Jesus. And anyone who is not suffering in the sufferings of Christ Jesus is not a Christian. Is not born again, is not filled with the Holy Spirit, has no promise of heaven and no promise of glory. And that can’t be repeated enough and that can’t be put in our hearts deep enough. Let’s plead with the Holy Spirit to write that on our hearts to be sure that each morning when we wake up asking ourselves, “Am I prepared to suffer for the sake of Jesus Christ?” “Are the sufferings of Jesus overflowing into my life?” And then the comfort is also overflowing. Or somehow are we fooling ourselves thinking that when we get up in the morning that we’ve got all this peace and we’ve got all this joy and we’ve got all this rest, that somehow God’s Spirit must be upon us, and yet not participate in any of the sufferings? It’s as if God is saying, “You’re going to receive the comfort as you suffer.” A lot of people’s rest comes from the world. When you live in the United States there’s plenty of food, there’s no hunger there. You have plenty of time to do what you want to do. There are plenty of occasions for rest and for peace. There is a peace that Satan gives the “church.” You can go to the church and get all kinds of philosophies and all kinds of ideas and concepts about thinking positive and thinking well. And if God were to remove that food away, and if God were to move that worldly peace away, I wonder how many people would really have the peace of Christ in them? And even though we live in a land that allows spiritual freedom and religious freedom, if you will live according to the Spirit, if you will let Jesus live in you, you will face those hardships and you will face those sufferings that are in Jesus.
Now all of the suffering comes from the Holy Spirit and that’s an important point. It’s of no value if it comes from self. You know, even Catholics hope that when their daughter grows up they’ll marry another Catholic. The suffering that they can endure comes simply because of their religion and because of different view points. And Paul writes us in the second letter to Timothy and we read it last week it says:
2 Timothy 1:8 – So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God,
He invites Timothy to participate in that suffering but then he adds a couple of words there that are very important. He says, “… by the power of God.” If we suffer let it be by the power of God and by nothing else.
Philippians 1:29 Paul says:
Philippians 1:29 – For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him,
He says, “For it has been granted to you”—it’s been given to you, it’s a privilege. It’s something that God gives to you. It’s something that He pours out into your life. And, of course, Romans 8 is completely talking about a life controlled by the Spirit and walking in the Spirit and the mind being controlled by the Spirit. And that’s why I read in verse 17 that if we share in Christ Jesus, if we share in His sufferings. Let’s be sure of this, that without suffering by the power of the Holy Spirit, hell is your forwarding address after you die. There is no other conclusion that can be drawn from the Spirit or from Scripture. Not to mention the joy that you’re going to miss because it’s those who really participate in the sufferings in Christ Jesus that really have the joy that belongs to Jesus Christ. That if God puts His children in positions of suffering, if becoming a Christian is just a natural result that produces suffering, He’s going to see to it that they have the joy that’s there. And there are so many Christians and so many “believers” that are missing the joy that comes from God simply because they won’t give up their life and allow God to live through them and so participate in the sufferings that belong to Jesus. There’s a joy that comes from being in the kingdom of God and knowing God’s will. There’s a joy that comes from serving others. There’s a joy that comes from knowing Jesus. But we can’t know Jesus unless we’re willing to suffer. And you can’t know the comforts of Jesus until you begin to suffer for God.
Let’s look at 1 Thessalonians 2. How quickly people say that they walk and enjoy the Holy Spirit and yet at the same time they don’t know anything of the sufferings of Jesus. And that ought to be kind of strange there for somebody to be walking around saying, “I know the joy of the Spirit,” but then you don’t see those sufferings going on there. And how few people there are who can really boast of the sufferings that belong to Jesus Christ but it’s almost like everybody boasts of the Holy Spirit. Everybody says that they have that. Everybody boasts that they have a good life that comes from God but very few people are able to boast of their sufferings in Christ Jesus. In 1 Thessalonians 2:13 Paul says:
1 Thessalonians 2:13 – And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.
The word of God comes into us and begins to dwell in us and does its work and we begin to live as Christ walked and to walk as He did. Now we die out, as Galatians says, and Jesus just lives through us. Verse 14 says:
1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 – For you, brothers, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.
He’s saying that when you came to Christ Jesus, even though you were Gentiles, even though you weren’t Jews, you participated in the same sufferings as the Jews. So don’t let anybody tell you that it’s because Paul was preaching to the Gentiles that the Jews persecuted him. That had nothing to do with it. It had to do with the fact that he was preaching Jesus Christ. And I don’t care if you’re Gentile or if you’re a Jew, if you preach Jesus Christ, if you do as verse 16 says, if you begin to speak to people about Jesus Christ you will begin to participate in the sufferings that are in Christ Jesus. Because no matter who Jesus spoke to whether it be Gentile or Jew or anyone there was a suffering that was involved in that. Not always persecution but there was always a suffering that was involved. Verse 16 again says, “In their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles.” Just look at how we’ve been prevented when people have tried to stop us from speaking the message. Look how quickly that came up. And we live in a land of religious freedom. We live in a place that boasts that they tolerate other people. And the truth is they don’t tolerate the truth, they tolerate opinions.
1 Thessalonians 1:4 says:
1 Thessalonians 1:4 – For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,
We know that God has chosen you, but why has God chosen you? And how do we know for sure that God has chosen you? He says, “We know that God has chosen you.”
1 Thessalonians 1:5-6 – because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
Paul is saying, “We know that the Holy Spirit has come upon you, we know that the word of God came with conviction because in spite of severe suffering you imitated us and you imitated the Lord, which meant there was suffering involved. And you accepted the word of God as it was.” One of the things that puts a stamp or a seal of approval that says, “Yes, that person is a Christian,” is the fact that they are participating in the sufferings of Christ Jesus. One of the things that separates false teachers and false Christians from those who really believe and love God is the fact that they are suffering in spite of that message. It’s those that aren’t suffering and those that aren’t participating in the sufferings of Jesus Christ, again, that do not belong to God. Verse 7:
1 Thessalonians 1:7 – And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.
A model, an example to be followed. He says, “You followed us, you followed Christ Jesus, you received the word of God with the power of the Holy Spirit and then you became a model and an example for everybody else.” Are we that kind of example? Are you that kind of Christian that people can look at your life and say, “That’s a person dying to themselves and participating in the sufferings of Christ Jesus”? Do we know what the sufferings of Jesus are? Or do we only know the side of grace, the side of mercy, the side of toleration to the point of that being sin? Do we know an empty gospel? Do we know the balance? Do we know both of those things in our own lives?
Let’s look at 2 Thessalonians chapter 1, verse 4. Paul says:
2 Thessalonians 1:4 – Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
He begins his letter by saying, “Look, when we go to visit places we boast about your persecution. We boast about your trials, we boast that God’s word came with power. We boast that you’re participating in the sufferings of Christ Jesus. We boast that you’re following our example and you’ve become a model to everybody else.” And that model and that example is suffering and trials. Verse 5:
2 Thessalonians 1:5 – All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.
“All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.” Is there enough evidence in your lives to demonstrate that you’re worthy of the gospel? Is there enough evidence to demonstrate that you are really suffering for Jesus Christ? That those sufferings are overflowing? Are you being counted worthy for the kingdom of God? Are you speaking and living and praying and serving in such a way that the suffering for Jesus is just flowing out and you’re standing firm to the gospel in spite of severe opposition? And so you become worthy of the kingdom of God? What’s so sad today is that so many people think the gospel is a gospel of human-made peace. That Jesus, what He came to bring was peace between two people, between your father and your mother, between you and your mother. Jesus didn’t come to bring that at all. He came to bring one kind of peace and that’s the peace between man and between God and that comes out individually. As each individual decides whether he wants God or not, that sets up divisions, that sets up the war line. That puts people in one camp or in the other camp. There are no people in the middle ground. You separate and go for the Lord or for Satan. “All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.” Are we being counted worthy of the kingdom of God? There are some people in this body that are being counted worthy. There are some people speaking and loving God with all of their heart in such a way that they will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God. Some of us are far too silent, though. We’re backed up in the corner, we won’t get out there and suffer for Christ Jesus. That calls for a heavy kind of repentance because what you’re declaring before us and what you’re declaring before God is that you are not a child of God.
Well, what are some of the sufferings of Jesus? Let’s begin to grow and know what those are. The number one kind of suffering in Christ Jesus, the number one kind of suffering that hinges on all other sufferings is this: that is amazement that men will not repent. 1 Corinthians 13:7 talks about love. It says:
1 Corinthians 13:7 – It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love always protects. Love always trusts. Love always hopes. And love always perseveres. The kind of amazement that we’re talking about here, the kind of amazement that comes from the Spirit springs from love. It’s a love that always hopes men will repent. It’s a love that always prays for revival. It’s a love that always preaches the message. It’s a love that always perseveres in putting the message out. It’s a love that is always continually disappointed. It’s a suffering that you do everything you can to present the message to people. You persevere for years and somehow in utter amazement they refuse the love and the grace of God. If you’re not participating in this suffering you’re not participating in any suffering that’s in Christ Jesus because all other sufferings hinge on this one suffering, and that is, the preaching of the message. That is, the presenting of the gospel. God did everything He could to get man to repent. He came and died on a cross and God is utterly amazed that men will not respond to that love. It just grieves God and just tears Him apart. You know how this morning we were praying for revival, we’re just longing for a tremendous repenting on the part of men and we poured our hearts out and we knew the Spirit was in that. And yet that doesn’t seem to be taking place. That’s part of the sufferings of Christ Jesus. God does everything He can to get men to repent. He has angels pray. He has prayers going up for the saints. The heavens are pouring out the message of God and God’s grace and love. Jesus came and bled an died and men sit there in complacency and they soak in a false gospel and they don’t want to turn to God. Now if that isn’t suffering I don’t know what is. That’s like raising a child and bring a child into the world and you teach them about God and you teach them what’s good and you give them a house that’s full of peace and love and grace and when they’re twenty-five years old they decide to go into the world. They get involved in drug addiction or they get involved in materialism. You see them wasting their lives and you see their bodies rotting and you see their souls deteriorating. You did everything you could to show that child what is good, what is holy, what is righteous and noble and that child didn’t want it. And yet love always hopes for repentance. Love always perseveres and love always puts out the message. But sad to say, love is always disappointed. Very, very few people respond to the message. Although there’s a rejoicing but most of it is disappointment. Most of men do not want God. And I’ll pray a thousand prayers like I did this morning, I’ll spend two hours in prayer. Every day that God calls me to pray for revival and if I never see revival, if I never see tongues of fire rest on anybody, if I never see anybody repent, I am participating in the sufferings of Jesus because Jesus has done everything He can to get people to repent and they refuse to do so.
Instead of God putting us down for a lack of faith you say, “God, why didn’t You answer our prayers?” God’s looking down at the world and saying, “Why aren’t you answering My prayers? Why aren’t you responding to My grace instead of falling into self-pity and saying, ‘God, where were You when we prayed and we asked that You do these mighty things?’” Instead of worrying about that, that’s not the problem. A love will always pray and a love will always trust and a love will always put out the message. But love is disappointed. The first suffering of Christ Jesus is the putting out of the message and being told, “No, I do not want it.” Are we consumed with a holy fire for the lost? Are we preaching the gospel in such a way that it springs from a love that perseveres? It doesn’t have anything to do with numbers. It doesn’t have anything to do with you getting any glory. It doesn’t matter whether you see the person baptized or not. Do you have a love? Do you have Jesus so much within you that you’re putting out the gospel and you’re persevering with that without seeing any results or seeing a thousand people say no to the few twenty who say yes? If you have this kind of love, if you’re participating in this kind of suffering that’s in Jesus and it’s the number one suffering, then prayer will come easy. And pleading for the lost will be natural. Speaking the truth will burst forth from your lips. You won’t have to be told to do it. You won’t have to psych yourself up for it, because love is always looking out for somebody else. And part of the sufferings of Jesus is laying your life open and laying the gospel before people and they say no. How little we’re consumed with the holy fire that says, “Aim for perfection” and “Be holy as I am holy.” What Jesus came for was to preach the message—that’s the first suffering that Jesus participated in. The very first town He goes into to preach the message was His hometown. He says, “I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his home town.” And he was amazed at their lack of faith because He couldn’t do any miracles. He was distressed at that fact. How often you read in Scripture that Jesus looked out among the crowds and He says He was distressed and angered at their stubborn hearts? That anger came from a disappointment. That anger came from a frustration. It came from a love that was pouring itself out to men and they were angry because He healed on the Sabbath. And of course today they’re angry if you heal.
Let’s look at Luke 4. If you want to participate in the sufferings of Jesus tonight don’t go and try to have yourself thrown in prison. Don’t go spend six hours in prayer. Don’t go fast and pray. Don’t go sell everything you have. If you want to participate in the sufferings of Jesus go preach the message. Preach it from an attitude of love and grace. Preach in such a way that whatever you do is for the benefit of somebody else. Then you will begin to participate in the sufferings that are in Christ Jesus. Luke 4:42. It says:
Luke 4:42-43 – At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”
The first suffering of Jesus is going out to preach the message. Of giving up your life to go preach that message, of saying goodbye to your family, of being up late and being with other people. Of getting up in the middle of the night when you want to lay there next to your wife or to your spouse. When you want to be with your children and you’re gone for a couple of weeks, the first sacrifice, the first suffering that’s in Christ Jesus is going forth to preach the message. And unless you’re participating in that suffering don’t worry about the rest of these things out here because they don’t count. Unless you’re doing all these sufferings in such a way as to preach the good news to other people you’re not accomplishing anything. If you give your money to the poor but it’s not in such a way as to spread the good news you haven’t suffered for any reason at all, except probably for your own vain, secret pride. Verse 44 says:
Luke 4:44 – And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
The perseverance is there and He kept on preaching and He kept on declaring the message. And the preaching Jesus put out was not one continual growth or revival, it led to a cross where everybody abandoned Him. It wasn’t until later that Pentecost was born and very, very few men actually responded to the gospel. “He kept on preaching.” Does this love, does this fire burn within you? Is this the suffering that you’re participating in? Does truth spring from your lips because of a holy love? Are you saying, “I must go preach somewhere else, I must declare the message”? Are you keeping on with the message? Are you persevering with people? Are you hearing them say no a thousand times? Are you hearing them say, “Don’t bug me” and “Don’t put pressure on me,” and you just keep bringing the message? Are you asking God when you say, “Oh Lord, I want to participate in the sufferings of Jesus, I want to know Him” and He says, “Go speak to those people in that church, go call that person up, go tell them their loss and tell them in the plainest terms you can tell them in the power of My Spirit, do what My Son would do, speak as Jesus would speak, how would He tell them they’re lost”? When a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus turned to that man and said, “Why do you call Me good? There is no one good except God alone. None of your friends are good, none of your brothers and sisters are good.” There is only one good and that is Christ Jesus. You begin to tell people that and you watch the sufferings of Jesus come your way. You watch people reject that kind of message. They want to be told they’re good while you take them to the repentance altar and it will never happen. No one comes to that altar saying, “Hey, I’m half good.”
Luke 19:10. This is our purpose, this is the holy fire that consumes, this is what your whole life is spent for on earth. If you have Jesus living in you and you really are crucified with Christ you will have one holy passion, one purpose in this earth, one purpose while you live. That will be what your family is for, that will be what your husband is for, that will be what your wife is for, that will be what your children are for, you will have one purpose and one purpose only. The only purpose was what Jesus Christ came for and how little we participate in that particular suffering. And it is the suffering of all sufferings. It is the beginnings of the sufferings in Christ Jesus. It is the pivot point. It is the door, it’s the hinge that hangs the door on there. It is verse 10:
Luke 19:10 – for the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.
“he Son of Man came,” the purpose for which He left heaven for; the purpose for which He died for was to come down to earth, get out of His home, get out of His easy chair and move and to seek people to find out who was lost. He gave up all the comforts and all the glory of heaven in order to seek you. In order to seek those people that were lost. Is this the holy fire that is consuming within you? Is this the love that rages within you for people? Are you burning with the desire to save the lost? If you can say yes, if you can say that all your work is now spent to seek and to save the lost and Jesus lives within you then you’re participating in the sufferings of Jesus. If you have this holy love nothing will be too hard for you to save other people. Love will always hope, love will always persevere. There will be nothing that will be too hard. There will not be a sacrifice that will be too great. There will be no inconvenience that is too large. There will be no letter that is too difficult to write. How often I’ve heard in this body people say, “I just don’t know what to write. I just don’t know what to say.” Love will write, love will put it out, love will suffer, love will tear that letter up ten times in order to put the message out if we participate in the sufferings of Jesus. Love will persevere in prayer and say, “God, I can’t take no for an answer. I want to reach that person. I want to preach the message to them. Father, You have sent me to seek the lost, now I need every tool available in order to do that.” No service will be too small, whether that be sweeping somebody’s house or that be sharing the message no matter how meager or how small or menial or how insignificant it will be, there will be nothing so small that you will not do. If that means you have to get down and wash the feet of your fellow saints you’ll do that in order that people will know Jesus Christ. No words of kindness will be too hard for you to utter. No words of love, no words of grace, will be too hard for you to utter to someone that is tormenting you. Someone imprisoning you, someone taking advantage of you, nothing will be too hard for you to do. You’ll be able to put your arms around that person and say, “I love you and I plead for you to suffer with Jesus.” And that you begin to put the gospel out. To love God means that you automatically begin to share the message with other people and you’ll persevere and you’ll suffer and you’ll die on a cross if necessary in order for people to see and understand that God is God. You’ll pray for revival Sunday after Sunday after Sunday after Sunday if that’s what it takes.
Romans 10:1, Paul says:
Romans 10:1 – Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.
“Brothers, my heart’s desire . . .” You know Scripture says God gives the heart’s desire to those who love Him. The one heart’s desire, that which consumed Paul, is that they could be saved. Is that what consumes you? Is that what motivates you during the day? As you go to the grocery store, as you go to school, as you go to work, are you consumed with a burning passion to present the message to people? Some of us aren’t even plowing. We’re not even putting the plow down and digging deep and pushing that plow and holding it down in order to turn that ground up. You do some plowing and let somebody else plant and somebody else water. It’s in your growth that they may come to the Lord. I almost want to say, “Let’s do away with that thought.” Let’s say that they’ll come to the Lord through you because most people present the gospel in such a way that, “Oh, I planted the seed and somewhere along the way they’re going to come to the Lord.” And the truth is they didn’t plant any seeds and they didn’t do any plowing and they didn’t go with faith and they didn’t go with serving, they were so small in the way they were presenting the message they wanted to give themselves some glory and pat themselves on the back and say, “Oh, well, ten years from now that person’s going to come to the gospel because I planted one little seed.” I want to say that people will come to the gospel because of me. I will plow, I will plant, I will water, I will do whatever it takes in order to get them to see the light. And I will persevere no matter how long it takes. If you begin to say, “God, I want to know this,” He’ll give you people to persevere with. There are people you shouldn’t pray for, there are pigs that you shouldn’t present the message with, there are times you should shake the dust off your feet, but there are plenty of people you can be persevering for. There are plenty of people God will give you but we’re not asking, we’re not willing to suffer for that.
Look at Romans 9:1. Paul says:
Romans 9:1-4 – I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.
Why is it that we don’t participate in this suffering? Most of us are too self-absorbed to be participating in this suffering. But this is the kind of love that we read in Romans 9 that should be for every Spirit-filled believer. Every Spirit-filled believer. This should be the one first and burning passion within all of us. Why is it that it’s not there? Because we think it’s going to cost us peace in this world. We think it’s going to cost us comfort in this world. Because to have this in your life means to have sorrow in your life and not many people value the sorrows that are in Christ Jesus. It means that you’re going to have to lose some of the peace that you have and some of the rest and the sleep that you have. It means that you’re going to look at a picture of your parents and begin to weep because they’re not saved. It means it’s going to distract you from the things that you want to do. You’re going to have to go where you do not want to go. You’re going to have to actually pick up that cross and begin to deny yourself daily and most people don’t want that. Look at verse 2, he says, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.” Are you willing to have that in your life? Unceasing anguish. It never stops. It never ceases, it always continues day in and day out, whether you’re sleeping or whether you’re up. Whether you’re working or whether you’re sick or well, you burn with one passion—one passion only—and that is that you can see people saved for the gospel. “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.” And not only that he can boast of it. He can say, “I’m telling you the truth in Christ Jesus. I am not lying. I have the Holy Spirit in agreement with this.” But we pass by, we go to the other side of the road on Jericho. We forget to go by people’s houses. How can you forget if you have unceasing anguish in your heart? How can you forget to stop by when there’s an unceasing kind of pain and there’s great sorrow in your heart? How is that possible? We won’t plead with people and how is that possible if we’re participating in the sufferings of Jesus? We won’t bug people, we won’t pressure them, we won’t call, we won’t write because it might upset our plans and we might be a little inconvenienced in what God’s asking us to do. We’re too afraid of what they’ll think of us—how petty and small we are! Or our favorite one is, “They’re so wicked, they’re so gross, they turned me down once I’m never going back again.” But praise be to God that He didn’t do that with you. We love our families more than God and that’s called idolatry, so we won’t speak and we won’t go out and we won’t go seek the lost. We won’t get out of our nice little warm homes. We won’t get out of our nice little cozy prayer closet, and get out there and begin to actually seek people. Oh, I plead with you to do it while you’re young, while your hands can write letters, while your eyes can still see to write, while your mind is still fresh. Use every tool and everything you’ve got. Keep your spiritual fervor serving the Lord. There will be a time when your hands won’t be able to write. There will be a time when your eyes can’t see. There will be a time when the people you want to reach out to are now dead and gone. And you’ll be in a nursing home somewhere and you won’t be able to speak. And your voice will tremble and the days are gone. And how you’ll beat your chest and say, “Oh, God, that I would have spoken. Oh, that I would have had the sorrow then.” And the only privilege you might have then is to be able to pray for somebody else younger or more able to go out and do it. Oh how we cry in prayer. We say, “Oh Lord, I don’t have the words to speak. I don’t have the words to write,” and what we’re really saying, what’s really in our heart, if it really came out we’d say, “God, I won’t write and I won’t speak and I won’t go.” Oh how we pat ourselves on the back and say we participated in the sufferings of Jesus. If we don’t have this burning desire, if we don’t have unceasing anguish in our heart, if we don’t have great sorrow we’re not participating in the sufferings of Jesus. We’ll never persevere with anybody. You’ll never hope for revival and it doesn’t come with your first two-hour prayer and you give up. My goodness, we haven’t even begun to persevere. That fire is kindled with a very, very small flame and if nothing happens today it’s going to happen tomorrow. And I’m going to fan it into flame and I’m going to pray for it to happen and if I never see it happen it doesn’t matter. God is still waiting for revival to hit this world and it hasn’t happened. Noah preached for three hundred years and didn’t save anybody else. Everybody wants the easy field. They want an easy gospel that brings people in. They don’t suffer for Christ. Oh, they’re inconvenienced maybe, they maybe have busy schedules, but a busy schedule is not the suffering of Jesus, necessarily.
In Romans 9:3 he says, “I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race.” In other words, “I wish that I were cursed that they could be saved, that I were cut off from Christ.” Does that burn in your heart? Is that the holy flame that people see in your eyes? Do they see that you would do anything for them to save them?
We all know a guy at another church, the thing that attracted him was that he knew I wasn’t after him as a number. I loved him but I hated his sin. Do people see a holy flame in you that cares only for the person? Only for the person—not to say that you brought them to Christ, not to say that you had any privilege in doing that—you are nothing anyway. Are you willing to say, “I wish that I were cursed in order that they might see, that I were demon-possessed?” Are you willing to say, “God, make me crippled and then heal me miraculously in order that people can believe”? Do you think this is Paul saying this? Do you think Paul is saying, “I wish that I were cursed”? It’s not Paul, it’s Jesus Christ. Paul no longer lives. Paul would not say this kind of thing, only Jesus would say it. And how do we know? Let’s look at Galatians 3 and I’ll show you exactly how all of us should be saying this. Everyone of us should be saying, “I wish that I were cursed.” Our life ought to be that kind of declaration. Our life ought to be that kind of prayer. We are literally saying to the angels and to men around us, “I wish I were cursed in order that you can see.” Galatians 3:13 says:
Galatians 3:13 – Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
It says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” Do you see what Paul is saying? He is saying what Jesus is saying through him. He feels what Jesus feels. Jesus actually became a curse, so when Paul says, “I wish that I were cursed,” that’s Jesus praying that through him. He feels that because Jesus was cursed for us. And if you boast of Jesus living in you you’re going to wish that you were cursed in order that people could see the gospel. Scripture says, “Cursed is everyone who hung on a tree.” It says that Jesus:
Galatians 3:14 – He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
The reason Jesus was cursed was so that other people could be blessed. Are you really willing to be cursed in order that other people can be blessed? That the Holy Spirit can come to them? You see, if you begin to preach the gospel in such a way that says, “I want them to be blessed, I want them to have the fullness of the Spirit,” it won’t matter if you’re rejected. It won’t matter if you’re hanging up there on a cross looking humiliated and weak and empty. It won’t matter if people say, “Your life doesn’t look like any power at all. I don’t want that kind of gospel if that’s what the gospel is about.” It won’t matter if people spit on you. It won’t matter if people flog you or put a crown of thorns on your head. Your heart’s desire is when that’s all said and done, when all the pain is over with, they will finally see and know that Jesus is Lord and that God finally does love them. It doesn’t matter to me tonight that half—well, all—of the Church of Christ thinks I’m cursed from God because I preach the message about the Holy Spirit and the need for revival. It doesn’t matter. Let them wail and let them curse, let them reject, it doesn’t matter. Love always perseveres and love always hopes. It doesn’t matter how many unanswered prayers that seems to come about. He did this for one reason and one reason only, verse 14 again, “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham.” The blessing. Love labors, love works only for one purpose, and that is to bless other people. It won’t matter if you have sleepless nights. It won’t matter if you have to go through prayer and fastings. It won’t matter if you have to speak the gospel with fear and trembling. You’ll preach the gospel in such a way that other people can be blessed. It won’t matter if you’re up for two or three days in a row, you do it so that other people can be blessed. It won’t matter; it will be joy to you. The one joy that Jesus had was to preach the good news. How are we participating in the sufferings of Jesus? Look at your evangelism and you’ll see your answer. Are you a child of God? Look at your evangelism and you’ll have your answer. Are you an heir with Christ? Do you have the Holy Spirit crying, “Abba, Father,” through you? Look at your evangelism. Look at your heart’s desire for those people around you. Are you mature in Christ Jesus? Look at the zeal with which you burn for other people to know Jesus Christ, to know His majesty and His glory and His holiness. Ask God, “Show me why I do the things I do. Why do I share the message with the person next door?” Are you doing it because they can be blessed? Or because you can be patted on the back? Are you going out and seeking and saving the lost? Or do people have to push and push and shove and shove in order to get you to say the smallest of things to somebody? You’re not an heir with Christ, you’re not a child of God. I don’t run out here in self-effort. Join with us in suffering for the gospel by the power of God. Get back in and plead with God for a heart that hurts. Ask God to crucify you so much that you’ll wish yourself cursed if other people would come to the knowledge of God. And you’ll participate in some of those cursings. I guarantee you when you put your arms out to love them they’re going to curse you for it. When you point out sin and you point out truth they’re going to reject you for it and condemn you.
Let’s look at Psalms 126 and we’re going to see how Jesus prayed. We’re going to see how we, too, can pray if we allow God to work within us. You want to know how your standing is with God and how those sufferings are coming out. Look how many letters you write. Look how many people you call. Look how many people you invite over for dinner. Look at the opportunities you take when you’re in the store. I think we all have to plead before God that the opportunities we let go by, our love is so small, our sufferings in Christ Jesus so small because we won’t preach the message. We won’t seek them. We wait for them to come to us. Jesus didn’t sit in Jerusalem and open up a church and let people come to Him. He was out there where they were at. All that within the guidance and the timing of the Spirit but are we making ourselves available for that to happen? Are you getting ready to suffer for Christ Jesus? Are you hurting and moaning and wailing because you’re not prepared to do so? Are you saying, “Oh God, that I were more useful to You than I am”? Psalms 126:5 says:
Psalms 126:5-6 – Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.
Those who take the gospel out weeping, those who carry the burden of the church, those who pray and plead with God will come back with songs of joy. Now I can’t guarantee that in a week, that ought to be plainly obvious by now to all of us. With some of you it might be. Some of you might be a week. You might cry in love but somebody else has done the hard work, let me tell you. Jesus prayed with tears and He prayed with unceasing anguish. And there’s one goal and there’s one purpose that He would be cursed in order that you could be blessed. And that same thought, that same feeling, that same emotion was in Paul and could be in us. Oh to seek and save the lost, to act and to speak, to live for one thing and one thing only to benefit other people. How few people there are like that. The reason this suffering is so great is because you do everything you can to save people and most people reject it. I mean you pour out your heart, you pray, you write, you write when they don’t want to hear from you, you search down their address, you go by and stop out there and nine times out of ten they’re busy but you go by and you keep going by and you keep plugging at it until God tells you to quit and to move on. You just keep persevering and nine times out of ten they’re going to say no but you keep on and you keep on and you keep weeping until God gives you what you ask for.
Look at Ezekiel 18:30. These will be the words the Spirit will write in your heart. These will be the feelings that God feels when He preaches to us, when He shares the message with us. Verse 30:
Ezekiel 18:30 – Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall.
I don’t think the Lord’s speaking this here in wrath. I don’t think He’s speaking here in anger. He’s pleading with the people in this particular verse. He’s saying, “Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign Lord.” He’s pleading with them to know that God will judge. Paul says that we know what it is to fear God so we plead with all men to save themselves. Do we know what it is to fear God? Jesus told us He would teach us who to fear. That’s why Jesus preached.
Ezekiel 18:31-32 – Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!
Don’t you see God pleading with the people? “Why will you die? I don’t understand,” God is saying. “I’m just asking you to put away your sins, I’m asking you to put away your offenses, I’m asking you to put down your worldly wisdom, I’m asking you to put down your self-effort. All I’m offering you is peace and rest and hope and salvation from My wrath. Why will you die, O house of Israel?”
Carla and I were at a church one time and all they talked about, they were a group of older people, was the day that the last person died and locked the doors on the church. It was like they’d given up. They didn’t care. “Why would you die, O house of Israel?” There is no need for it. Are we pleading with those people; “Why are you so stubborn? Why are you so hard?” How little we plead with people. I mean, get down on your hands and knees and beg people to open their eyes to the gospel. Serve them and love them and take the word to them. Do whatever it is, but do it with that burning passion within you. Be inconvenienced. You’re only inconvenienced because you’re trying to do your own will, right? If you’re doing God’s will there’s no inconvenience because you’re just doing His will. “Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!” If you’re overturning tables in the temple it’s with this heart, it’s with this thought, why die? If you point out a Pharisee, if you get down and you serve, if you go over and help somebody it’s for one purpose and one purpose only, repent and live. Why die? Oh I wish that I were cursed and I wish that I were separated from God in order that my people could see and be saved. God is weeping and those are the sufferings of Jesus. That’s why Jesus could preach in town after town and then He denounces most of those towns because they didn’t receive Him and they didn’t believe in His miracles. You can’t renounce anybody until you’ve persevered with them. You can’t renounce anybody until you present the message with them as long as God wants you to do that. You don’t know the sufferings of Jesus until you burn with a holy passion to love people.
Look at Micah 6:3, God says:
Micah 6:3 – My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? Answer me.
My people, my people. This is the church. These are the believers. These are our brothers and sisters. These are our brothers and sisters that we knew. These are our brothers and sisters that we once fellowshipped in the house of the Lord with.
Micah 6:4 – I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam.
“What have I done?” God is saying. “How is it that I’ve been so harsh with you and unloving? What is it that you hold against Me that you won’t have faith in Me? What story in the Bible, tell Me, what story in Scripture causes you not to believe in the Holy Spirit? My people, My people, what have I done? What burden am I to you to bring you spiritual gifts? What is it I have done?” “Tell me,” God is saying, “Tell me. I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery.” Are we pleading with God and saying to them, “What has God done so bad in your life that you refuse Him? What is it, O Church, that you’re holding on to that is so great that you would keep from God? What has He done or hurt you in some way?” That’s where Paul writes again in 2 Timothy and says, “Don’t be ashamed to testify about our Lord, Timothy, or ashamed of me, His prisoner, or join with me in suffering for the gospel by the power of God. Join with me in suffering for the gospel.” Seek and find that which is lost. Get the heart of Jesus Christ. Would you come to know God or if you come to be filled with the Holy Spirit you, too, will be amazed at the stubbornness of men. You’ll be overwhelmed by their stubbornness. It will amaze you. It will cause you to weep. It will cause holy anger. It will cause despair. Are we willing to suffer? Are we willing to get into that despair? Are we willing to say with Paul, “Always sorrowful but always rejoicing”? You’re going to be astonished at how people love lostness. Well, not really astonished, because we’re not really preaching the message. We just now barely begin to take those first steps, to taste that amazement that God has. What has Northtown done that is so drastic? Deliver a man from demons, drive down and serve them. Pick out pianos, do whatever is necessary in order to bring the gospel. What is so drastic that we have done? What scripture have we not shared with them? When did we not bring our Bibles to share the message? What is it that is so drastic that we have done? How have we burdened them with the words of life? In what way have we not spoken to them in love and in the greatest of care? Are you not amazed at the fact that they love their lostness? What letter have we written? What steps have we not taken? You need to ask those questions in your own life. What steps have I not taken, O Lord, and teach me to take those steps. It’s amazing, all you’re offering people is to know God, to know the rest of God, to have a life full of faith and blessings. I mean I praise God that brothers and sisters are pleading in this body to know about faith healing instead of worrying about all the sins in their life. I mean, think about it, if that’s the most major trouble they’ve got in their life is trying to get faith healing in life what kind of problems is that? Yeah, it’s a struggle, yeah, it’s a turmoil, but those are the turmoils I want. Somewhere along the way somebody is going to be made well. And how many people out here are wrestling in their sins and boast of the fact that they’re sinners and everybody else is sinners? To be able to stand up and say, “By the grace of God we are clean and delivered unto self-discipline, and the things I’m concerned about is that person over there.” We’ll never know it until we get out and start suffering for Jesus Christ, till we preach in such a way that people don’t leave with any idea in their mind that we’re calling them to repentance, that we’re saying, “Why die?”
The only reason we point out sin is so that people can be forgiven; to be protected from Satan and for chains to be taken off of themselves. I’m amazed that people don’t want that. All we do is offer people a chance to come together on Saturday mornings and pray at seven o’clock in the morning. What is so hard? What is so sacrificing about that to come in to the presence of God?
Let’s look at Matthew 23:37. Love suffers so that people will repent and love suffers when they will not repent. Love will suffer in order to get men to repent and then love always suffers when they don’t repent. But love never gives up. Love never stops loving. Love will always preach. If you’re kicked out of one town you’ll go to the next. Love will never stop until the job is done. With our last dying breath we ought to say, “Repent and live. Why die?” I hope those are the last words out of my mouth. Matthew 23:37 says:
Matthew 23:37 – O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” Jesus says. He’s mourning over Jerusalem. He might as well say and just substitute the person’s name in there that you know. “What have I done?” God is saying. “All I want to do is gather you. All I’ve done is brought peace. I’ve come into your house and said, ‘Peace be on this house.’ All I wanted to do was encourage you in the faith. All I wanted to do was say, ‘Aim for perfection.’ All I wanted to do Myself is get into holiness and righteous with God and you stoned it and you rejected it.” Just live the message as Jesus designed with holiness and communion with God and start walking that way with other people. And they’re going to think you’re rebuking them. They’re going to reject that. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather you children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her sings, but you were not willing.” Jesus was cursed so that we could be blessed. Jesus was crucified so that you could have Pentecost. Jesus was inconvenienced so that you could be blessed. Jesus gave up His life so that you could have life. Jesus suffered so that you can know God. It means that you’re going to have to become a servant to other people. You’re going to have to become a slave. You’re going to have to speak to people you’re afraid to speak to today. You’re going to have to invite people over to dinner that you’ve been hesitating to invite. You’re going to have to go by before you come to church and not wait until the last minute to get ready, but to go by and see if they’re there, to knock on the door and to plead with them to be here. You’re going to have to get with them afterwards. You’re going to have to persevere. You’re going to have to put pressure on them. You’re going to have to begin to preach the message because one thing burns in your heart. One suffering of Christ Jesus you want to participate in—one suffering is that you wish all men could come to the knowledge of God’s grace. And you wish yourself cursed, you desire yourself inconvenienced. You can’t wait to be so busy in the Lord preaching the message that you don’t have time for yourself. This is the number one suffering of Christ Jesus. It was the purpose for the cross and it was the purpose for rejection because He went out and He preached the message. Before we pride ourselves on participating in the sufferings of Jesus, let’s be sure we’re preaching the message like Jesus preached it, with the same zeal and the same fire as Paul had and Timothy had. Before we boast of ourselves and enduring some persecution and rejection you ask yourself, “Am I preaching the message this way? Is this my desire?” Was that your desire this morning when we prayed? If so, then blessed are you. If not, then there’s always a solution and today’s the day of grace.
This transcription has been edited to a reader friendly format. Every effort has been made to be true to the speaker’s original message. Any mistranslations are unintentional. The original audio tape can be ordered free of charge by contacting Sound Doctrine Ministries.