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Summary: Jesus did not call us to an easy, comfortable life, but one of challenge and opposition, and possibly even suffering and death. He gives us forgiveness of sin and eternal life, but requires us to take up our cross as we follow him.

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Jesus would have fallen foul of the Health and Safety laws

if he had been around today,

and I imagine it would have been hard for him to advertise on TV.

Just imagine someone saying today:

‘Come and follow me, and the chances are you will be spat upon,

thumped, sworn at, and maybe killed!’

His activities and those of his disciples would have fallen foul of various regulations.

His disciples would have had to wear safety helmets and waterproof coats,

if not body armour for a start,

and no one would have given them Accident at Work Insurance cover.

Just imagine seeing an advert on TV:

‘Join our group. You will get no wages

and your family and friends will probably turn against you and stop speaking to you.

You will get the chance to travel,

but usually to places where people will chase you out of their towns.’

The Army recruitment adverts don’t say:

‘Join the Army and get shot by a sniper or blown up by a roadside bomb’.

They stress the adventure, the comradeship,

and the contribution recruits would make to this country’s security.

But Jesus made no such nice promises to those who followed him in the beginning,

and he makes no nice promises to those who follow him today.

As I said last week, if you want to walk on the wide, enjoyable and popular way,

do NOT follow Jesus,

because he wants his followers to walk on the narrow, often unpopular and hard way.

He even said, in Mark 8:34,’ If anyone would come after me, (meaning join him),

he, and she, must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’.

You want a quiet life; you want lots of friends;

you want people to think nice things about you:

DON’T become a Christian!

There should be a ‘Health Warning’ on our doors

like those on cigarette packets and medicine bottles;

saying something like: ‘Beware, becoming a follower of Jesus could shorten your life’.

In Matthew 10:1 we read how out of all the people who had been following him

since he was baptised by John and had started preaching and teaching and healing, and after he had preached his Sermon on the Mount,

that Jesus ‘called to him his 12 disciples’;

and in Matthew 10 verse 5 we read how ‘these 12 Jesus sent out,

instructing them to proclaim ‘the kingdom of heaven is at hand’,

not too different from the message preached by John the Baptist,

the message of the need for repentance,

before the coming judgement,

except that there is no record of them baptising sinners who repented.

In Matthew 10:16 Jesus sends them out with a warning:

‘Behold. I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves;

so be shrewd, or wise, as serpents and innocent as doves’.

In Luke 10:1-3 it is recorded how:

The Lord appointed 72 others and sent them on ahead of him, 2 by 2,

into every town and place where he himself was about to go.

And before they set off, he said to them:

‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few.

Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest

to send out labourers into his harvest.

Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.’

His metaphor, ‘Sheep in the midst of wolves’ is appropriate

because Jesus did require his disciples to go into dangerous environments.

In Acts we have three examples:

in chapter 5 verses 17 and 18:

‘Then the high priest and all his associates,

who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy.

They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail’.

In chapter 7 we read about one of the newly-appointed Deacons, Stephen,

preaching to the Jews,

and in verse 54 it says: ‘When they heard this, they were furious,

and gnashed their teeth at him’;

then verses 57 – 60:

‘yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him,

dragged him out of the city and began to stone him’

until he died.

Then in Acts chapter 9 it is recorded how Paul had not been a Christian for very long

before Jews in Damascus conspired to kill him,

and they would have if the Christians had not took him under cover of darkness

and lowered him out of the city in a laundry basket.

Jesus told his followers then, and he tells us now,

to ‘Be shrewd or as wise as serpents’

meaning we must exercise discretion and good judgement;

we must think before we speak or act.

We have to do this, just as Christians have always had to do it;

whether those around us are Roman Caesars or Nazi dictators or Communist dictators

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