- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 23, 2006

The following are excerpts from a sermon delivered Saturday by Ron Halvorsen Jr., senior pastor of Sligo Seventh-day Adventist Church in Takoma Park.

One cannot follow Jesus and the disciples for very long without finding a glaring difference between what Jesus said and what many that claim to speak for Him today say. In fact, Jesus told His followers plainly, “What people have done to Me they will do to you.” Isn’t it nice that we have more positive preachers than Jesus?

Maybe we Christians enjoy the state of denial as much as anyone else. Besides, it is so much easier to see others’ problems with denial than our own. The problem is that while denial may be easy, you never get well in there.

Jesus said the truth would set us free, but wasn’t it nice of the more positive preachers in our day to free us from that truth? I mean, Jesus talks of a cross — and [these modern] disciples translate it as not truly being a cross, but rather a condo at Disney World. It seems that present-day disciples are just as good at denial as the first ones were.

It seems that we have confused the already and the not yet, the kingdom now and the one to come. And I can’t blame us, even though Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom had already come — He was speaking of Himself and His gift, by the way. He also said: “If anyone would come after Me, they must take up their cross and follow Me.”

I know, I know, that was just Jesus, and He wasn’t on television, like some of His present-day disciples are … I mean, what does He know?

Today, you hear little about our crosses. In fact, if you listen to many popular Christian voices today, you would come away with the idea that the only crosses Christians carry are ones of gold or silver. And besides, they are light enough to go around your neck, or the mirror in your car.

God wants us to be right, healthy without problems, living a carefree life … and while I believe that is what He wants, I don’t for a moment believe it is necessarily our lot in this life, even as a believer — maybe even especially as a believer.

I mention this not to take shots at other preachers, but at a falsehood that is being given as truth, in order to set us up, so the enemy can take us down. There is a large prosperity gospel that is alive and well and very popular. I am not speaking against it because it is popular, but because it runs against the grain of Christ’s cross.

The problem I have with this popular counterfeit is that it doesn’t fit with Scripture: “Take up your cross and follow Me.” How do you match that up with the prosperity gospel?

The greatest wealth we can have in heaven we can have right now, as well. And it’s not the driveway of gold that leads to your mansion; it will be just what it is here — the priceless Jesus. The treasure is Christ, and He is of such value that He brings beautiful things from poverty, broken health and, yes, even from death.

I have a passage of Scripture I want to share with you because God has shown me some Good News for this world of bad news.

As we read in 2 Corinthians, Chapter 4, beginning in Verse 5: “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”

For a long time, I was hoping that all [of] Jesus’ warnings and talk of difficult times or persecution of one kind or another found throughout the New Testament were written for “other” disciples. I had hoped that the bad news was for the Apostle Peter, and not the disciple Ron.

But that is not what God is saying to me in this text. He is telling me we are all earthen vessels, and most of us are cracked pots, but that’s OK. In fact, it can even help others see the treasure better, the treasure Jesus.

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