Sunday – January 20, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 13:22-35 “Strive to Enter the Narrow Way”

Sunday – January 20, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – January 20, 2019

Luke 13:23-24
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.

Somewhere in some village some unnamed person in the crowd asked Jesus an interesting theological question: “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” I don’t know the man’s motives for asking the question. Perhaps he saw the increasing opposition from the religious leaders and he could sense that the crowds tended to side with their leaders. But he asked this question, “Are there just a few who are being saved?” It would have made for an interesting theological discussion. But Jesus directed the question away from abstract theological speculation and toward specific application for each person in the crowd. The man had asked, “Will the saved be few?” Jesus turned it around to ask, “Will the saved be you?”

The man who put the question to Jesus seems to have assumed that he was among the “few” who were being saved. He may, like his fellow Israelites, have thought that the “few” being saved were Israelites, while the “many” who were not were Gentiles. Jesus has some very distressing words for those who would think such thoughts. Jesus first shocked His listeners by indicating that they were not already on the inside, so far as the kingdom is concerned. Then, He went on to say that many of His fellow-Israelites who were not on the inside would not ever be in the kingdom.

They believe that mere association with Jesus was sufficient to save them. They had eaten in His presence. He had taught in their streets. Wasn’t this enough? No. John the Baptist, followed by Jesus, required the followers of Jesus—those who would be truly be saved—to identify with Him. This is what baptism was all about. Did the Israelite(s) think that being a Jew saved him/them (choose sing. or pl. for both)? He was wrong. Baptism was a public testimony of the Jew’s break with his culture, and with the legalism and ritualism of Judaism. It was a profession of identifying with Jesus as the Messiah. Identification with Jesus was, to put it in the terms Jesus is using in our text, passing through the narrow door.

May I press this point a little more personally? How many people think that they are going to be in God’s kingdom because they are a part of some religious sect or denomination? How many suppose they are saved because they come from a Christian family? How many think that they are saved by mere association with spiritual things? Nothing could be further from the truth. You are only saved by identification with Christ. Association with Christ (by going to church, reading the Bible, or whatever) isn’t enough. It wasn’t the truth for the Jews of Jesus’ day. It isn’t enough for you either.

Sunday – January 13, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 13:1-21 “A Matter of Perspective”

Sunday – January 13, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – January 13, 2019

Luke 13:1-3
Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

In the past year we have been shocked by the shooting of 17 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We hear of natural disasters that have killed thousands around the world. On a personal level, many of us struggle with private tragedies—loved ones who die untimely deaths, accidents that leave devastating consequences, children who suffer from birth defects or serious diseases. Naturally, we always ask, “Why?” Why did this have to happen to this person? I can understand why many people question God’s goodness and fairness, even doubting His existence. It’s the classic philosophic problem of evil: How can an all-good and all-powerful God allow good people to suffer and wicked people to prosper?

The Lord Jesus gives us some answers to these difficult questions in Luke 13. We don’t know any more about these events other than what is reported. Pilate had sent in his troops to break up a gathering of Galilean Jews that he deemed dangerous. The Roman soldiers did not care that the Jews were worshiping God by offering sacrifices. They slaughtered them so that their blood flowed together with the blood of their sacrifices. Then Jesus brings up another tragedy when a tower fell down and killed 18 people.

Jesus was speaking to people who did not apply spiritual truth to themselves (12:56-57). From His reply, we can see these men were smugly thinking that those who suffered such tragedies were deserving of God’s judgment, but the fact that they had been spared such tragedies meant that they were pleasing to God. Their theology was like that of Job’s comforters, who thought that Job was suffering because he had sinned. Jesus corrects this mistaken view by showing that we all are sinners worthy of God’s judgment. Twice (13:3 & 5), He drives home the application: Were those who suffered greater sinners? “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Rather than asking the question “Why?” with regard to suffering, we should ask the question, “What?” What does this tragedy teach me? The fact that a tragedy has not hit you should show you God’s great patience. If you have not repented of your sins and if you’re not bearing fruit in God’s vineyard, there is still time. But, don’t mistake God’s patience to mean that His axe will never fall. His patience does have a limit. Life is fragile; none are exempt from tragedies. But, if you have fled to Christ for refuge and you are bringing forth the fruits of repentance in your life, you are ready if/when tragedy strikes.

Sunday – January 6, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 12:49-59 “The Consequences of Christ’s Coming”

Sunday – January 6, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – January 6, 2019

Luke 12:49-51
I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!  But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division.

The word “fire” can arouse a wide variety of responses. If someone were to yell, “Fire!” at the top of their lungs, it would probably produce a great commotion. One the other hand, on a cold winter night, the suggestion to “build a fire in the fireplace” arouses all kinds of warm emotions. And who can forget singing “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” at Christmas time? Now, that give us a warm, sentimental feeling. But when Jesus said/says that He had come to “kindle a fire,” He was/is saying that He has come to bring about the outpouring of God’s wrath on sinful Israel. That certainly is neither warm nor sentimental!

There are a number of seeming contradictions in our Lord’s words, here and elsewhere in the gospels. He is the Prince of Peace, but He will bring division. He promises men life, but He calls on them to give up life. He tells men to lay up treasure in heaven, but they are to give up the pursuit of riches in this life, and to give to the poor. The difference is between the “ends” and the “means” by which they are achieved. “Peace” is the end, but a sword and division are the means. “Life” is the end, but death—our Lord’s death, and the/each disciple’s “taking up his cross” is the means. “Blessing and riches” are the end, but giving up the pursuit of them is the means. Since the means appear to contradict the ends, we must go about these means by faith, and not by sight.

But how can Jesus be so zealous for this “fire” to be kindled? If He is going to bring about the judgment of God upon sinners, and if this is not a work in which He takes pleasure, why is He eager for the “fire” to be kindled? I think the answer is simple—this painful and unpleasant (for both God and men, I believe) outpouring of wrath is a prerequisite of and preliminary to the establishment of the kingdom of God. In order for the kingdom of God to be established, sinners must be punished and sin eliminated.

The means by which God has determined to bring about His kingdom is not just painful to sinful men, it is exceedingly painful to God. Not only because men will suffer for their sins, but because Jesus Christ, God’s Son, will suffer His wrath as a payment for man’s sins. Jesus said that before He casts fire on the earth, He had a baptism with which to be baptized. This baptism is the death which He would die on the cross of Calvary. His death on the cross would set in motion a series of events, which will conclude in the pouring out of God’s divine wrath on sinners. The sad reality is that it is not really necessary, because Jesus experienced the full extent of God’s wrath on the cross. For those who trust in Him, that is the full payment for their sins, but for those who reject Him, there is yet to come the outpouring of God’s wrath in the day of judgment.

Sunday – December 23, 2018 Christmas 2018 – Acts 20:33-38 “The Blessing of Giving”

Sunday – December 23, 2018

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Word On Worship – Sunday – December 23, 2018

John 3:16-17
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

As Christians we should be able to think of numerous texts which encourage or even command us to give. Likewise, the Scriptures give us directives as to how much we should give (generously), how we should give (cheerfully), and to whom we should give (e.g. those who proclaim God’s Word, and those in need).

There are no commands for God to give, only instances in which He does freely give, and give generously. So, what is it that prompts God to be a giver? Giving is God’s nature; it is God’s predisposition. He delights in giving freely, and He savors the opportunity to do so. Christmas is the season we celebrate the greatest gift ever given by God to mankind – the free gift of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. It is amazing to ponder the truth that our Lord left the splendor of heaven to come and dwell on earth, to live among sinners like us. But what is even more amazing is that the incarnation qualified our Lord to die as an innocent sacrifice in order to bear our sins on the cross of Calvary.

Many efforts to convince Christians to give come from the exhortation or instructions found in God’s Word. But the ultimate basis for becoming a giver is because God is a giver, by nature, and when we come to faith in Christ we become partakers of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). We should not be surprised, then, when the first thing we read about the new believers in Jesus in the Book of Acts is that they gave, and gave generously (Acts 2, 4, and 11). And saints like those in Macedonia gave gladly and enthusiastically, even with their limited means (2 Corinthians 8-9).

We may think that our giving nature is adequately expressed by giving gifts to friends and family at Christmas time, but we should give this matter more thought. The magi did not come with gifts for Mary and Joseph, but rather with gifts for the Lord Jesus. To what use were these gifts put? We are not told, but one plausible option is that these gifts were the resources which sustained Jesus and His parents in the years they spent in Egypt. The gifts supported the person and work of the Savior. I want us to consider the privilege that is ours to be a generous giver, because we share the nature of a generous, giving God. Give, not just because you are instructed by the Scriptures to do so, but because it is your nature and predisposition to do so, as it is with our Great Giving God.

Sunday – December 9, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 12:12-23 “Affliction of the Affluent”

Sunday – December 9, 2018

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Word On Worship – Sunday – December 9, 2018

Luke 12:15
Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”

When I read the parable of the rich fool, I cannot help but think of Howard Hughes. From some of the reports at the time of his death, he had accumulated a great deal of wealth but did not enjoy any of it in his last years. In this sense, Howard Hughes is a present-day example of what Jesus is giving us warning. The danger of thinking of a man like Howard Hughes implies that the text applies primarily to the rich and enables us not to think of ourselves as a “rich fool.”

We may come to this parable with a sense of smug security. Perhaps Jesus will be speaking to us when he gets to the next section, where Jesus is addressing His disciples. But here, Jesus is telling a parable about a very wealthy, unlike ourselves. Jesus can hardly be addressing us. I’m not so sure about that. I think that most of us would be hard pressed not to admit that we are, as individuals, financially comfortable. Our nation is, in comparison with most others, exceedingly blessed.

The world says our life consists of things, but God says life consists of being rightly related to Him and to others. The world would view this rich man as a success. He would be held up as a model to follow. He had not gained his wealth by dishonest or corrupt means. He had worked for it, poured his money back into the business, and had done well. He was financially secure. He could now enjoy the good life: good food, fine wine, servants, and whatever pleasures money could afford. Isn’t that what we all aim for in life? Isn’t that why we go to college, so that we can get a good career, make plenty of money, provide the finer things in life for our children, and retire some day with plenty in our investments? What’s wrong with that?

This man’s whole attitude was the very reverse of Christianity. Instead of denying himself he aggressively affirmed himself; instead of finding his happiness in giving he tried to conserve it by keeping. His goal was to enjoy life, but in seeking his life, he lost it. What was wrong was the man’s focus. He had the world’s perspective, not God’s perspective. God’s perspective is not that riches are inherently wrong. Money can be a great good if used with a perspective of the life to come. There are several wealthy men in the Bible, such as Job, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph who enjoyed God’s blessing and were godly men. But, to a man, they were generous men who lived in light of eternity. As Paul tells Timothy, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17). If we want to be rich toward God, we need to be careful to distinguish between the world’s perspective and God’s perspective. God’s perspective always takes into account the life to come.

Sunday – December 2, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 12:1-12 “Hazards of Hypocrisy”

Sunday – December 2, 2018

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Word On Worship – Sunday – December 2, 2018

Luke 12:8-9
And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.”

The Greek word for hypocrisy refers to a mask worn in acting. The hypocrite’s emphasis is on how others see him, not on how God sees him, so his focus is on the outward person, not on the heart. Jesus calls it leaven or yeast because it is subtle, just as a small pinch of yeast will spread until it puffs up a large lump of dough. In Galatians 2:13, Paul charged Peter and Barnabas with hypocrisy because they openly ate with Gentile believers, but when the Judaizers came to town, they suddenly withdrew out of fear of what the Judaizers would think. If such godly, strong leaders as Peter and Barnabas were susceptible to hypocrisy, then it is a sin that we all need to be on guard against!

Hypocrisy in the lives of the disciple can have a devastating impact on the gospel we proclaim. This is why Paul reacted so strongly to the hypocrisy of Peter in dissociating from the Gentiles and eating with the Jews alone in Galatians 2. Why make such a big issue of such a little blunder? Because it was a denial of the gospel. The gospel declares all men, Jews and Gentiles alike, to be lost in their sins, with nothing to commend them before God. The gospel offers salvation to all men, Jew or Gentile, on the same basis: faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ, who died for the sins of men on the cross of Calvary. To give preferential treatment to the Jews and to avoid the Gentiles was to imply that the Jews were on a higher spiritual plane than Gentiles, a denial of the gospel which makes all believers equal (equally lost, equally saved). Paul rooted out this little bit of leaven, knowing where it could go.

To confess Christ means to proclaim to others the fact that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Lord and that our salvation is all from Him and not at all from us. We do this initially through baptism, where we publicly confess that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Lord. Then, through both our lives and our words, we openly acknowledge that we are followers of Jesus Christ and that He has saved us by His grace, apart from anything we have done. If Jesus Christ has truly saved you, then you will be a different person. You will be growing in righteousness, love, and truth. You will judge and confess your sins. When opportunities come up to tell others of the great love and mercy of the Savior, you will do it because of your gratitude to Him for saving you.

Jesus promises that if we confess Him on earth, He will confess us in heaven (12:8). Every Christian should live every day in light of someday standing before the One who gave His life for us. Our great hope should be that we will hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” Then any suffering or rejection we have experienced will be worth it all!

Sunday – November 25, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 11:37-56 “Fundamentalist Flaws”

Sunday – November 25, 2018

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Word On Worship – Sunday – November 25, 2018

Luke 11:45-46
One of the lawyers said to Him in reply, “Teacher, when You say this, You insult us too.” But He said, “Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers.”

When you study the life of Christ, it is noteworthy how He deliberately did things to provoke the legalists. He could have healed people on any other day of the week, but He often did it on the Sabbath. He could have been more discreet in violating the Pharisees’ rules, but He did it openly. When a Pharisee invited Jesus to dinner, He could have gone along with their elaborate hand-washing custom, but He deliberately ignored it. When they questioned Him about it, He could have been polite, but He blasted them for their hypocrisy. When a lawyer pointed out that Jesus had offended them as well, He didn’t say, “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to offend you good folks.” He said, “Woe to you lawyers as well!” Jesus confronted legalism as sin.

There is probably no sin more tolerated or more widespread in the Christian world than legalism. It may surprise you to hear it labeled as sin. Legalists are thought to be a bit overzealous or “uptight,” but they aren’t usually thought of as sinning in the same sense as adulterers, thieves, liars, and the like. To the contrary, legalists seem to be concerned about holiness. Yet the Lord Jesus had more conflicts with the legalists of His day than any other group. It wasn’t the adulterers, the robbers and that sort, who put Jesus on the cross. It was the legalists.

What is legalism? Some erroneously confuse it with an emphasis on obedience. I have been accused of being legalistic because I preach that we must obey God’s Word. But every book of the Bible teaches that we must obey God. Being under grace does not mean that we are free to disobey God. Others say that legalism is when we set up any manmade rules. But there are many areas not specifically addressed in the Bible where we need some rules in order to function as a family or church. Parents are not being legalistic when they set a curfew for their kids. Churches are not being legalistic when they follow certain procedures or practices.

In most instances, legalism grows from a well-meaning intention to live in a way they perceive is good in the eyes of God.  In Christian homes, parents mistakenly think the way to keep their teenagers in line is to lay down and enforce a lot of rules. In Christian churches, leaders place expectations on attendance, giving and appropriate dress. But the life that is pleasing to God is the individual who knows and responds from a personal knowledge of the Holy One. He’s with them when you are not there. If they truly know Him and know the great love of Christ who gave Himself for their sins, they will want to please Him, beginning on the heart level. Our goal at Sunrise is to equip each individual to live under the lordship of Jesus Christ, in a growing personal relationship with Him. Legalism takes an external approach; biblical Christianity focuses on the heart relationship.

Sunday –October 28, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 10:38-42 “Working Like the Devil Serving the Lord”

Sunday – October 28, 2018

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Word On Worship – Sunday – October 28, 2018

Luke 10:41-42
But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

In their book, First Things First, Stephen Covey and Roger and Rebecca Merrill ask this penetrating question: “What is the one activity that you know if you did superbly well and consistently would have significant positive results in your personal life?” They repeat the question with regard to your professional or work life and then ask, “If you know these things would make such a significant difference, why are you not doing them now?” They go on to discuss how we often wrongly let the urgent take priority over that which is truly important.

That is the main message of this little story that gives us a glimpse into an incident in the life of Jesus and two sisters who hosted Him for dinner. Luke seems to put it here both to contrast it with the preceding incident where a lawyer challenged Jesus by putting a test question to Him. In the first story, the lawyer cites the two great commandments, to love God and to love our neighbor, but the emphasis, through the parable of the Good Samaritan, is on love for our neighbor. In this story, we see an example of what it means to love God, as Mary sits at Jesus’ feet. If we only had the story of the Good Samaritan, we might allow service for God to take precedence over devotion to God.

Mary had chosen that which was “better” and “necessary” (v. 42); Martha was frazzled and frustrated by a whole host of things. What was that “better” thing, that which was “necessary,” that which Mary had chosen, and Martha had not? I think that the “better thing” was abiding in Christ, drawing strength and instruction from Him. It was being taught at the feet of the Master. Martha was preoccupied with ministering to Jesus; Mary with the ministry of Jesus. In the final analysis, He is not dependent upon our ministry to Him, but our life in Him is totally dependent upon His ministry to us. In seeking to serve Jesus, Martha was hindering the sustenance of Jesus in her life, and she even demanded that it be kept from her sister as well.

There is no better place to be, no place we are more welcome to be, than at the feet of our Lord. When we fall at His feet, we acknowledge His majesty, power, and goodness, and our need. When we fall at His feet, we rightly reflect the response of the creature to the Creator. No sinner in the New Testament ever hesitated to come to Jesus’ feet. The self-righteous would not be caught dead there, because of their pride and arrogance, but the sinner found the feet of Jesus a place of welcome. You are always welcome at His feet.

Sunday May 27, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 6:46-49 “Obedience, Not an Option”

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Luke 6:46-49
“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.”

The words of our Lord in His Sermon on the Mount are indeed difficult and perplexing, but their essence is clear. We are to do what no one else will do—love our enemy. We are to do so because God has loved us while we were His enemies. We are to do so because God is the One who will bless us for obeying His commands. As Jesus comes to the end of this sermon, He asks pointedly, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”

Obedience to the “tough” commands of our Lord proves a person to be a true follower of Christ, and handling the tough tasks now assures us of enduring tough times ahead. Jesus taught that it is not only to call Jesus Lord, they must prove He is Lord by obeying His commands (v. 46). It is in doing the tough things which shows our discipleship. It is not test of a child’s obedience to hand him money and instruct him to go and buy candy. It is a test of obedience to have the child submit to an inoculation at the doctor’s office.

In the parable of the two builders, Jesus sought to illustrate the fact that doing the hard thing now gives confidence in the hard times ahead. When building a house, the wise man “goes the extra mile” of laying a strong foundation. Digging deep to establish a solid foundation is not the easy way, but when the storms come, the building will stand. Obedience to our Lord’s commands regarding the loving of our enemies is not easy, but it does give us confidence that in the future we will have been well founded, well established in our faith and obedience, and able, by His grace, to withstand any coming storms.

In each and every one of these illustrations in the Sermon on the Mount (Luke 6:20-49), the need for “betterness” has been established, even though the cost is high to live according to Christ’s higher standard. The commands of Christ regarding loving our enemies is a very high standard, higher than that which others hold or practice, but this only shows that with God all things are possible for those who trust in Him, who obey His commands, and who are sustained by His power and grace.

Sunday April 29, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 6:20-26 “Defining Discipleship”

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Luke 6:20-22
Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.”

At first reading the words of Jesus are incredible. It would seem as though Jesus has said that all who are poor, hungry, mourning and persecuted are blessed, while all who are rich, well-fed, happy, and honored are cursed. Living in an affluent country as we do, it raises many questions which it would do us well to wrestle in our hearts and minds. Is it a blessing to be poor, hungry, sorrowful, and rejected? Are all the hurting people of the world suddenly so fortunate, while all of the comfortable, happy people of the world are really cursed?

As Jesus frequently taught, when a choice must be made between money and God, God must come first (Matt. 6:24). Money is not evil, unless it takes the place which only God should have. The rich young ruler’s money meant too much for him. When forced with the choice of following Christ or being rich, he chose to remain rich. In the Lord’s parable of the soils, the thorny soil symbolized the “cares of this world” are that which chokes out the seed of the gospel. Luke tells us that Jesus called them “worries and riches and pleasures of this life” (Luke 8:14). When we must choose wealth or Jesus, being well-fed or Jesus, laughter or Jesus, we must always choose Him.

This raises an interesting and important point. What is it that makes following Jesus so great a blessing that men will gladly give up riches, comfort and even friends to do so? Luke’s account would supply us with a very strong reason: the blessings which Jesus gives are eternal, while those which disciples may reject are temporal. We can fill in many other answers from the gospel as a whole. Jesus gives the forgiveness of sins, peace with God, the joy of fellowship with Him and of serving Him. Discipleship leads to the greatest blessings, so great that wealth, health, and the praise of men pale in comparison with the joy of knowing Him.

Giving up lesser benefits for greater ones is not a principle known and practiced only by Christians. It is a principle practiced by all who are wise. We give up immediate pleasures to save our money to buy something that is of lasting pleasure or value. Runners give up food and even friends to maintain rigorous training, all for the joy of winning the race. Sacrifices are a blessing when they lead to greater blessings. That is what Jesus was saying in this sermon. How blessed were His disciples! True, they would become poor, they would experience hunger, and they would be rejected and persecuted. But in light of the blessings of fellowship with the Son of God these were hardly worthy of being called sacrifices.