THE BENEFITS OF FOLLOWING CHRIST
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
January 28, 2018
21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” 23 Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
— Luke 10:21-24, ESV
We live in a liberal democracy where a good portion of our citizenry receive benefits with no costs. This is something that cannot be sustained indefinitely. However, it guess it beats living in a Communist regime where only costs are exacted and virtually no benefits are given. A better society would offer an equitable balance between costs and benefits.
Such is the kingdom of God! The cost for entrance has already been paid, by the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. But, as we are learning from Luke, there is a cost to the disciple that is every bit as complete as the price Jesus paid for us. Luke writes the bill for this cost in 9:21ff, 9:57ff, and will hammer it out again in 14:25ff. But all costs and no benefits would make for an arduous, burdensome faith, which of course Christianity is not.
There are benefits to being a follower of Christ. There is the joy of the journey and the hope of Heaven. All along the way we are showered with the love of God, because of the grace of God, which guarantees us the presence of God. These are our best benefits for being followers of Jesus Christ.
The Love of God
This short passage depicts the scene of Christ welcoming back His disciples after a short-term mission trip. Jesus, after touting the cost of being a disciple, had added seventy-two to His twelve and sent them out to make even more. After they “returned with joy,” Jesus reciprocated when He “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit” and thanked the Father for His “little children.”
By the way, this is one of many beautiful pictures of the Trinity in the Holy Bible. Here, God the Son is filled with God the Spirit as He prays to God the Father. The transcendence of the triune God cannot fully be fathomed or explained, but the imminence of God is felt, heard, and seen in the smile on Jesus’ face. I can just see Him now, our Lord Jesus Christ, who was, is, and always will be God, rejoicing in His followers, His disciples, His Christians, His children. Why?
As a parent or mentor, have you ever witnessed your child doing something good? How did it make you feel? Did you “rejoice?” Of course you did. Why? Because you love them.
If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, God loves you more than you will ever know. It is the great benefit of the cost Jesus paid on the cross for our salvation, and the cost we pay when we carry our own cross and follow Him. When God sees us doing something that glorifies Him and does good to other people, His heart explodes with joy because His heart is full of love for His children.
Oh by the way, when God sees you doing something that is not good, even sinful, He still loves you with a steadfast, faithful, covenant love. When you sin, God sees the blood of Christ which has made a full atonement for it. When you obey, He rejoices with unspeakable joy. All of this is a product of God’s love, the great benefit of being a disciple.
Where does such a bucket of love come from? It comes from the well of grace.
The Grace of God
The love of God is as mysterious as it is lavish, because its effect upon the elect is owed to His sovereign grace. There is a sense in which God loves everybody, because “God is love” (ref. 1 John 4:8,16). But this universal love becomes quite particular in salvation, and only some can savor it.
Esau did not, for God said, “I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated” (ref. Malachi 1:2-3). As Paul explains, this is because God “has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills” (ref. Romans 9:18). I do not know exactly why God would choose to save Jacob and not Esau, or why He would save me and not someone else, but I do know it is not because Jacob was better than Esau nor because I am better than anybody else. It is because of grace.
Listen to Jesus’ words here carefully: “for such was your gracious will … no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” They sound similar to Christ’s words recorded by John: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, … no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father” (ref. John 6:44,65). And Paul summed it up this way: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (ref. Ephesians 2:8).
If you are enjoying the benefit of the love of God it is because of the sovereign grace of God, which by no means nullifies the responsibility of man to repent and believe the gospel. The mystery is that if you have repented and believed, such repentance and faith are gifts from God (ref. Acts 11:18; Ephesians 2:8). If you have chosen to follow Jesus, it is because He first chose you (ref. John 15:16). If you love Jesus, it is because He first loved you (ref. 1 John 4:19).
Such grace seems unappreciated and incomprehensible to the “wise and understanding” of Jesus’ world, and ours. The religious rulers of old and the cultural intelligentsia of today do not often acknowledge God, much less His proffer of salvation by grace through faith in Christ. But “little children” revel in it. Children don’t have to explain things, they can just enjoy them, and so it is with the love and grace of God.
The gifts of God’s love by His grace grant us at least one more outstanding benefit.
The Presence of God
The greatest gift God gives is Himself. Jesus said so to those “blessed” disciples on that fateful day. They saw Jesus, they heard Jesus, and in the seeing and hearing they witnessed the very presence of God. And, God has never left them alone.
Consider the present of the triune presence of God in the life of these true believers. God the Father had His eye on them since “before the foundation of the world” (ref. Ephesians 1:4), before they were born, before they were born again. God the Son chose to reveal Himself to them and call them into His family and into fields of ministry. God the Spirit entered their hearts to convert them (ref. Titus 2:5) and abides with them forever (ref. John14:17; 1 John 3:4). God was, is, and always be with them, as He will be with us, today, if we are His children.
To be sure, Jesus said these first disciples were extra blessed because they witnessed His first coming in person. Perhaps we will be the generation of Christians who will be eyewitnesses when He comes again. Wouldn’t that be a special blessing?
I was not there, two thousand years ago, on that last journey with Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem. I really wish I had been. I may not be here, at the time known only by the Father, when Jesus comes again. I hope I am. But even though I was not and may not, I am not without the amazing, eternal benefits of being a Christian. God loves me, more than I can imagine. God is gracious to me, for reasons I do not understand. And God is with me and will never leave me. Though I cannot see Him now, I will, and what a great blessing that will be.
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org