Is God a means used to attain an end or is He the end for which all else is subjected to attain? Is God our servant or are we His servants? This is one great difference between true Christianity and false Christianity. Though they may outwardly do some of the same things and say the same words, the motive makes it either blessed or cursed. One’s purpose and intent for serving God will make the difference whether one will turn back or stand faithful amidst the fire and storms of life.
Two brothers came to Christ seeking to sit on His right and His left in His kingdom. Jesus was their chance to greatness. They yet lacked understanding of the nature and the greatness of the kingdom of God, for this kingdom was destructive to the vainglorious and selfish seeking of man.
Many are labouring in the gospel, or so they would like you to believe, but it is a gospel of their own devising. Many seek the pulpit because they desire to move the crowds, to be notable, to be reverenced and admired, or simply as a career choice. Some seek God to find a mystical experience that they can feel good about or that will outshine what others have found.
Others have been tossed on the raging waves of sin till they have been stripped of all they had. Weary of the drugs and the fast life, they turn to religion for relief. They regret that their dreams did not work out, that they pursued the wrong path to pleasure, and are sorry for the disappointment. They come to Jesus seeking yet another experience, yet another high, hoping that Jesus will give them the pleasures, comforts, riches or esteem that they crave. Maybe God can provide the means to their desired end.
And so, many use the gospel and fit it to themselves. Hence, some rise to popularity, pad their pockets, or ease their consciences.
Men have come to ignore Jesus’ reply to the two brothers. “Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? And be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” Some dare to answer with the sons of Zebedee, “We are able.” But are they? For surely the suffering and reproach of the cross cannot be endured by those who are yet so much alive to their own self-interests and comfort; for those that reason, “A little cross I can afford if I can thereby attain to what I want.”
Many professing Christians are saying what Micah said in Judges 17:13: “Now know that the Lord will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest.” “Now know I the Lord will do me good, seeing I have professed His name, I have given up some of my ways and been baptized, I am faithful to my companion, I give money to the church and to the poor. Surely now He will do me good.”
Jesus Himself declared that many would say, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
Their answer may well be, “But I didn’t do the wicked things I once did. I was morally good. I was zealous about my religion.” Yet the answer from Christ may be, “You have used my gospel to glorify yourself. Yes, you ceased from your fornicating and lying and carousing and sinning because it was taking your money, ruining your health, and ruining your image, but you are yet desperately wicked. You traded your fleshly wickedness for spiritual wickedness. You are a thief, using my name and my gospel for your cause. You have never come to me repentant because you have sinned against a just and holy God, because you have trampled my love and the blood that was shed for you. You have never seen how righteous and holy I am and how miserably wretched and wicked you are.”
People think that God owes them heaven. They have never seen His holiness, nor their own wretchedness. They have never come to see that hell is no greater punishment than they amply deserve.
There are many Simon the sorcerers and rich young rulers professing the name of Christ. The word to such is, “Thy money perish with thee. Go and sell all that thou hast and follow me.” Do you want to be a Christian? Can you drink of my bitter cup? Do you want to bear my name? Then bear my cross, bear my shame. Do you want to reign with me? Then be humiliated and serve with me. Do you want to live with me? Then you must be crucified with me. Do you want to be rich? Then you must suffer the loss of all things. Do you want eternal pleasure? Then you must suffer with me.
To be a Christian, one must do it on Jesus’ terms and for His cause. No other terms and no other cause; no other purpose but to give to God what is due Him and to glorify Him. He is the King and we are the servants.