The Litmus Test : For Christians Only
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Circle of Disciples - If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. Luke 14:26

And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. Luke 14:27If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
(Luke 14:26-27)

As Yahshua[*] said these things to His followers, perhaps He thought back to the time when even He had to disregard the words of His own mother, Miriam. That day He had been sitting in the house with His circle of disciples and the crowds of people who hung on His every word. Filled with the Holy Spirit, He was speaking to them in parables, but the priests and the Pharisees were outraged. “Who does this nobody from Nazareth think he is, telling the people that the religion of today is corrupt? We are the ones chosen to teach about God... this man has lost his mind!”

Word had reached His mother and brothers that He had gone crazy and that He had a demon! What could have happened to Him since that day so long ago when He was a small boy and yet He confounded all the teachers in the temple with His deep understanding of the Law and the Prophets? Why weren’t those same men accepting Him now? Surely He must have gone off... Something had gone wrong... She must go immediately and get Him before it was too late.

But remember the words of Simeon back when He was just a little baby and Mary and Joseph had brought Him to the temple to be dedicated? “Behold this child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be spoken against. And a sword will pierce even your own soul…” (Luke 2:34-35). What did that mean? Why would the Messiah be spoken against? Shouldn’t He be received with great pomp and ceremony? Certainly something wasn’t right.

So off she went with her other sons to rescue Him. When she arrived at the house it was so packed full of people that she couldn’t even get in. People were sitting and standing anywhere they could, just to hear what He was saying, just to catch a glimpse of Him. And there were the Pharisees, filled with jealousy toward this imposter who was stealing all their loyal disciples away and telling them the truth. How they hated the truth, grinding their teeth at every word that shined a light into their dark souls, revealing that they were really nothing but hollow shells that produced no fruit.

Leaders and Laity

The Master had said to them, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing the fruit of it.” (Matthew 21:43) They were the leaders of a dry and mystical religion that had no love in it, nor any semblance of a link back to God. But still, they were the leaders. They obeyed the law meticulously, so they didn’t need love or joy or peace or patience, gentleness, self-control, or any of the things that this man talked so much about. However, it was these very qualities that captured the hearts of the people. The leaders had the Law of Moses and the traditions of Judaism, which had been passed down for hundreds of years. Now all their people were being misled by this blasphemer. They would have to do something to gather their sheep back into the fold, or else they would lose their entire nation.

... and a sword will pierce your own soul to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed. Luke 2:35So there was Miriam, Yahshua’s own mother, hearing all the things these respected leaders were saying about her Son. But did she remember the words? “… and a sword will pierce your own soul to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Did she understand that the very thoughts of their hearts were being revealed?

His Circle of Disciples

“Can you please give this message to my son?” she asked the nearest bystander. “Please tell him that his mother and brothers are here to see him… We need to talk to him right away.” She waited anxiously for him to come running out. “Surely he’ll come out to talk to me after all I’ve done for him. I mean, I am his mother.”

He would never want to split up families, especially his own family, would he? Would God ever ask such a thing? After a moment or two, she noticed a hush come over the crowd. She strained her ears to hear whether the message had made it to him… Then she heard the reply. Yes, she knew it came from him, she knew his voice so well. “Who are my mother and my brothers?”

Desperately pushing aside those in her way she made her way close so He could see her. But she noticed Him looking around at His circle of disciples who were sitting tightly around him… then He was motioning to them.

“Behold my mother and my brothers? For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” Like a knife the words plunged into her soul. He would not come out... He was devoted to those people sitting with Him in there. He would stay with them.

The words of Simeon resounded in her heart with unmistakable clarity. Now she understood. He had now become the sign that would be spoken against. He had become the witness of God on the earth that would be opposed by all the spiritual forces of the evil one. And the evil one was manifested in the leading men of their religion – the preachers of their congregations and synagogues. They were the ones speaking against Him.

But He didn’t care what the religious leaders thought of Him. No, He was gathering people who would set themselves apart to do the same thing He had – to be holy and set apart, a nation separate from the world.

He would establish the true kingdom of God on the earth, even if it separated mother from son and brother from brother. He would not compromise or let the gospel be watered down. He wanted a circle of disciples who would take on His own heart. Therefore He said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) How could His disciples have true love for one another if they all lived their own separate lives? How could their love be shown as a witness so that all men would know and be persuaded that they were true disciples unless they shared a common life together?

Obeying the Gospel

The Master never meant for there to be divisions and dis-unity among His followers. He wanted there to be love and care to show how God really is.

In John 17:11, just before He was brutally murdered, the Master had earnestly prayed the greatest desire in His heart, “I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Father, keep them in Your name, the name You have given Me, that they may be ONE even as You and I are ONE.”

Is His prayer relevant today? Shouldn’t what was so important to the Master back then be just as important today? It had enough weight then that people were abandoning all their possessions and their families to be a part of it. But now most who claim to follow Him are still living their own independent lives and maybe going to church once or twice a week. And they say about the Master’s words, “Oh, that was for back then. Things are different now.” But why shouldn’t the gospel be obeyed today just as it was in the beginning? Can’t we break out of the sleepy religious traditions we have grown up with and recapture the vitality and excitement of those early believers we read about in the Book of Acts?

Yes! Now there is a group of people who are obeying the gospel with all their hearts. They are actually living a life of love and unity, laying down their lives for each another every day. They are getting back to the roots of the true church, the community, not living their own selfish lives, all the while believing that they are doing the will of God. They really live together in community, just like the first church did back then. They deny themselves daily, putting the words of their Master into practice in their own lives, not reasoning them away and excusing their lack of obedience to the gospel He preached.

[*] For more on the name Yahshua, see What's in a Name.

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