World Tomorrow

Not Easy Being Christian

by Herbert W Armstrong


Is it easy to be a Christian? This is the day of mass evangelism. Are there many, or only a few being saved? Well Jesus Christ answered that question. Luke 13:23-24:

"Then [one said] unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." (Luke 13:23-24)

Many will seek to enter in to salvation, and shall not be able. Alright now, quickly turn back to Matthew 7:13-15 and listen, Jesus said:

"Enter ye in at the strait gate [and it's spelled s-t-r-a-i-t, which means hard and difficult, rutty, a hard road]: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth [un]to destruction, and many there be [that] go in thereat [that's the road that leads to destruction]: Because strait is the gate [that is, very difficult], and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." (Matthew 7:13-14)

So said Jesus Christ, my friends. That isn't the common idea today is it? And yet that's the very teaching of Jesus Christ. Then He continued, now listen, here's the connection. He said that " ...strait is the gate, narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, [or to real salvation] and few there be that find it [next He said]: Beware of false prophets, which come [un]to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." (Matthew 7:14-15)

Not Everyone Will Enter The Kingdom Of God (PLAY FROM 02:03)

You know Jesus continually foretold that there would be many false prophets that would come and say that Jesus is the Christ, but mislead the many. Now right here in verse twenty-one, drop down just about four or five more verses, and Jesus says this:

"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven [not everyone that professes Christ. Not every one that says, "I receive Jesus as my personal savior." Not every one that confesses Him before men and says Lord, Lord shall enter into the kingdom of heaven]; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21)

My friends, why do we hear so much teaching today that there is no doing, there are no works to salvation? That is not the teaching of your Bible. That is not the teaching of the apostle Paul to the Gentiles, any more than it was the teaching of Jesus to the original twelve apostles, or the teaching of those apostles, or the belief of the early church as Jesus started up that church in all of its purity. Well now there it is.

Now next turn over to Luke, Luke 14:25-28, and here's what we find. "And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, ...whosoever doth not bear his cross..." (Luke 14:25, 27)

He'd been talking about the fact as He said here, and in other places, that He had not come to bring peace to this world but a sword. He is coming to bring peace, my friends - the second time - but He came this time only to teach and train His disciples, to send them to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom, and my friends, the word of God that He came to reveal.

And the gospel that Jesus brought, the message that God send by Him, that He came to proclaim and to instruct His disciples, His apostles, so that they should continue to proclaim it. That message is the message of your Bible. And that message, like the Bible, is like a sharp two-edged sword and it cuts, it reproves, it rebukes. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for [what? profitable] to correct us, to reprove us, to rebuke us and to instruct us in righteousness." (II Timothy 3:16 paraphrased)

But, Jesus said: "This is the condemnation that light has come into the world [He was that light. His word is that light. His gospel is that light, if people really preach His gospel. But, He said], men loved darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19). And they didn't want to be reproved.

Persecution Comes From Our Own Household (PLAY FROM 04:29)

Now He had said that a man's foes will even be those of his own household (Matthew 10:36). And here He had said, "If any man come unto me and hate not his father, his mother, wife, children or brethren" (Luke 14:26): – that is those that turn against him and begin to persecute him. And if he is not willing, if need be, to give them up, even for the gospel.

Because in many cases, my friends, you cannot retain your family relationships, your former friendships, your former companionships, and also be a Christian, because it's going to divide between you and them unless they will accept and love the same truth and really love the same God that gives them the same truth.

And consequently, in many cases, they're going to turn on you and persecute you. Yes Jesus said that a man's foes, even if he is going to accept the real cross of Christ, if he's going to really follow Christ, if he's going to live, as Jesus said, by every word of God, his foes will even be those of his own household. (Luke14:26)

And my friends, did you ever notice that most of the persecution of a real Christian will come from religious people. Those that profess religion, and make a hobby of religion, but they haven't got real Christianity, it's just religion. And so they are the ones that will bring the persecution, my friends, the most often, believe it or not! And that is the experience of everyone who is a real Christian.

Jesus said, or your Bible says in the New Testament that, " ...all [who] will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" ( II Timothy 3:12). Do you?

Now Jesus said if we think more of just keeping our old friendships and our old ways ... you can't keep your old friendships my friends, unless you go along with these people and their ways. And if you think more of that, He said, you can not be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and that's the cross He's been talking about.

"And whosoever doth not bear his cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish [it]. (Luke 14:27-28)

Now the real meaning of that, and what He's trying to say is; which of you, if you want to enter the kingdom of God, if you want to really be born again, if you want to come into the GLORY that God has in store for the saved, have you sat down and counted the cost​? Do you realize what you'll have to forsake? Do you realize what you'll have to give up?

Did you ever read how Peter and some of the others were ...well now Peter was a fisherman, he was in a ship, and how Jesus came along and called him. You know, he didn't come to Jesus and say, "Look I want to be a preacher, I think you're the Messiah, and I want you to teach me so I can join you. And I want to be one of your apostles. I want to apply for the job." Peter didn't do that. Peter wanted to be a fisherman and Jesus called him. He said, "[Come], follow me, and I will make you a fisher of men." (Matthew 4:19)

And did you ever read in your Bible where it says that Peter forsook all and followed Christ (Luke 5:11)? He forsook ALL. And that's exactly what you're going to have to do, my friends. You're going to have to come all the way out of this world and be willing to count the cost.

Did you ever read the pearl of great price parable of Jesus, and some of His other parables​? Of the one who found the one GREAT pearl and he had to go and sell ALL that he had (Matthew 13:46). He had to give up everything else for that great pearl. Well, the kingdom of God and your ultimate salvation is that pearl. But listen, the thing you don't understand, I think the thing that most of you don't know, is what God has in store, is what your real destiny is.

You thought of going up to heaven. My friends, oh I tell you, the real glory, the real thing that means anything to you for eternity, isn't just a geographical location. You know, up in heaven there might be castles, mansions, all made of diamonds and of gold, and of silver, and of precious stones and metals, just glistening in their beauty. There might be the most WONDERFUL things that you can imagine. And you might be taken up there with nothing to do but just lie around all the time in idleness and ease, and being waited on by others.

Real Happiness Is Not In Physical Things (PLAY FROM 09:33)

You know that wouldn't make you happy. Why, that of itself, wouldn't give you happiness, not at all! Happiness is not a geographical location. Happiness is not a matter of the physical things that surround you. Happiness is not a matter of buildings. Happiness is not a matter of beautiful grounds and gardens and a thing like, for instance, the garden of Eden, or paradise.

Oh I tell you, why we have, I think, very beautiful grounds here at Ambassador College. And some have told us, a man who is in a very high official capacity as a super gardener here in southern California over, I don't know how many other men, but it's a great many other men in that field. I am not going to just say who he is, I wouldn't want to embarrass him under any circumstances. But he has said that we have the most beautiful grounds in all southern California, right here in our Ambassador College campus.

Well they're very, very beautiful and we're very, very grateful. You know, Esau didn't appreciate the physical blessing that God had bestowed in the birthright. A birthright is the physical promise, and he sold it for a mess of pottage, which was merely a bowl of red soup. And he was severely condemned of God because he didn't appreciate it.

Now if God does give us anything very nice, very fine, and very beautiful, we should have gratitude. One of the greatest sins, and the most universal, is a lack of gratitude, a lack of giving God thanks in all things and for all things. Do you do it? Are you really grateful for what God has given you, or are you griping, grumbling, complaining, a great deal of the time?

You have been put here for a purpose and I have explained that that purpose is to create in you a new mind, a holy, perfect, righteous, spiritual character until you become such a spirit being, such a spirit character, until you enter the kingdom of God. But, my friends, the real reward is not a place, and I don't care how beautiful a place. I don't care how beautiful the grounds....oh I was going to say about our beautiful grounds right here, we're so grateful and thankful, and I know God wants us to enjoy them, we try to.

We try to show all visitors around our grounds. We hope they can enjoy it with us. We just love to share that enjoyment with them. But you know, that's, that's not permanent happiness, and we know that. We want to be very grateful and thankful and appreciate it for what it is. But we know there is something so much bigger and so much greater.

Why we'd give this up in a second if it were required of us, if it were necessary for the work of God, because the work we're doing and the things that we're helping you to come to, of ultimate salvation, are billions, trillions of times greater, my friends. And we realize that. If God prospers us, and it is God's will to prosper every one of us. He says don't set your heart on the prosperity.

Well that's one lesson we have learned here. I hope we've all learned it, I know that I have and I believe our staff here has too. But what I was going to say is, beautiful as our grounds are, why they must be really downright shabby compared to the Garden of Eden that God built for Adam. Because what we have here, it's very nice, and our grounds were designed by one of America's leading architects, one of the greatest architects in the country, had a national reputation.

And they are very, very beautiful. Our sloping grounds with their beautiful contours, the velvety green carpet of grass, some of the magnificent trees, the magnificent landscaping, all of the other things that have built in. You know the most beautiful setting is where you have the most beautiful architecture built in with the surroundings and the background of nature, of trees, of beautiful sloping ground, so much more beautiful than just level, flat ground. Naturally now, that is beautiful.

But listen, that's all man's doing, it's man's designing, it's man's planning, it is the best. It's come ...we've had experts do what we have done, and nationally known architects as I say, had created what was done here before we ever came around or purchased the property. But, my friends, it's all from man's hand. But the garden of Eden was designed and planned and completely produced by God Himself. Now how much more perfect then would God have done it?

Now there are no photographs of the garden of Eden. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could have some pictures in color of that original garden of Eden? I want to tell you, it's a dream such as you couldn't conceive. But listen, Adam and Eve weren't happy there, and what did they do in it? They sinned. And if you were in such a place in all your sins, you wouldn't be happy.

If you could go to heaven with everything you have ever dreamed heaven is, with your gripes and your grumbling and all those things and you carrying them right along with you – you wouldn't be happy up there. And with heaven as what you think it is, and you would go to the kind of heaven you've dreamed about, there would be all the righteous people and there would be God the Father and Christ the Son, and all the holy angels.

My friends, if you were in the condition that most of you are in now, you would be so miserable in the presence of such HOLY companions, you couldn't stand it. Why heaven would be the most miserable place you could go. So after all, the thing to be concerned about isn't the place, but the condition. It's the condition in which you find yourself.

The Deceitfulness Of Sin (PLAY FROM 15:24)

And what kind of condition are you in now? Well I want to tell you. Most of you are in a pretty rotten, filthy condition right now. I mean to say that so you'll realize it. I don't say it to insult anybody, EVERY ONE of us has been in that condition. But I say that some of you, or most of you are, because I know that some of you have repented of that condition, and you've come to God really broken up about it.

And you have accepted the sacrifice of Christ in PAYMENT for what you have done, and the blood of Christ has cleansed you from all that filthiness and all that sin so you're not so rotten dirty any more. But you have been, every one of you, so have I, and so have we all. "All have sinned..." (Romans 3:23). And you know sin is the most hideous thing? We take it for granted!

Why sin masquerades under the bright lights and all kinds of things, until people seem to think that sin isn't ... well it's the forbidden fruit and it's just natural for a carnal mind. We want it. It seems to be the thing that's most alluring to us, the thing that is most attractive and has a lot of bright lights and it just glitters and glows and we think we want it.

I am always reminded of these bugs, I saw them in Kansas City one night when I was there. And you have...I don't mean that Kansas City is the only place that has them. It just happened to be that they were there when I was in Kansas City one night. A lot of you other people in your other cities have them too. But they're this kind that come out one night, and the next morning they are lying dead all over the pavement and the sidewalks and wherever they are. And they just seem to have a lifetime of about one night.

Now where they come from, I don't know, but once in a while you see them. And I have seen them occasionally. Why these bugs, they were so thick there in Kansas City that time that we could hardly breathe without breathing them into our nostrils. And they're the kind, they're here tonight, they're gone tomorrow. And they flutter around the lights, they just swarm around the lights. That's the way with a lot of people.

They're just here today but they're gone tomorrow and they're always around the bright lights. The glittering pleasures of this world that never really satisfy. You know, the things of this world that seem so attractive to the natural minded people. Well if you achieve them. If you are willing to pay the price to get these things that money will buy and that the world seems to crave and want. When you get them, you didn't want them after all did you? And they never did satisfy.

No, I tell you, there are a lot of things they say that satisfy, and best for me and best for you, but they don't satisfy, and they're not good for me or for you. I want to tell you that Jesus Christ has the only things that are best for you and best for me, and the things that really satisfy and will satisfy for ALL eternity! And I hope I can say that with a little more conviction than announcers can say the same things about certain other products because I know I have something so much more GLORIOUS to tell you about than they have. And I can really put my heart in it with all sincerity.

Now that's my commercial. That's my commercial, and I want to tell you my friends, I'd walk ten miles, a THOUSAND MILLION miles for it, and it is best for me and best for you. And it's something you can take with a smile forever and ever and ever. That's the salvation of God. Eternal life, the full abundant life, the way of God that will illuminate your body, your mind, your soul, everything. Oh it's a wonderful thing. And there is nothing else worthwhile, otherwise life is empty.

Well now, here I'm getting way off the track, but I think that was worth saying even if I did. Well, I think I was going to read to you Luke 14:25-28

"And there went [a] great multitude with [Jesus] ...he turned and said... If any man come to me, and..." (Luke 14:25-26 paraphrased)

In other words, it doesn't mean you have to have hate in your heart, that is not... Really, I think this should be translated in a different manner, and that is not the meaning of the original words or the meaning of Jesus that He expects you to hate your father or mother. Why, that would go contrary to the commandment if that's exactly what it meant, to honor your father and your mother. But it means that if you love them more than you love Him, that you are not worthy of Him.

We Are To Count The Cost (PLAY FROM 19:55)

"[Now] which of you intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?" (Luke 14:28)

Now my friends there is a cost to become a Christian. You are being told today, and a lot of you are believing that there is no cost, there is nothing you do, there are no works, you just simply receive Christ. And then you profess Him before men and hocus-pocus, just like a magician, you're automatically saved. You can do what you want.

I have said that when you really repent of your sins that the blood of Christ has forgiven them, but you are only forgiven for anything that you have committed in the past. You are not forgiven sins that you can deliberately go out and commit tomorrow, next week and the year after. I HAVE NOT SAID that Jesus Christ died... NEVER have I said and NEVER have I meant that Jesus Christ DIED just to forgive PAST sins but never any future sins.

Jesus Christ died to forgive ALL of your sins, but it only applies, my friends, as you repent and turn FROM them. It NEVER APPLIES in the sense of being an indulgence to permit you to go on and sin all you please in the future and it's automatically forgiven in advance. And anyone that says it is, is a LIAR and is a prophet of Satan the devil.

Well that's pretty strong but that's what it is because I have never preached any such thing. I have never said that Jesus did not die to forgive all of your sins, because He did. Jesus' death on the cross was sufficient to save every sin that you ever did or will commit. But it will not forgive your future sins unless or until you REALLY abhor yourself for it and repent.

And if you sin willfully, if you know what that means. Now frankly, I hesitate about saying that because a lot of people always misconstrue it. They think that if they just sin knowingly, that that means willfully and it isn't at all. But there is no further sacrifice for sins if you ever do that. Now, frankly, don't worry about that because I don't think you've done it.

To sin willfully means that you have done it absolutely deliberately. You weren't under any temptation but you made up your mind you didn't want the way of God. That you deliberately and FULLY KNOWING, and knowing the result of your sin and knowing all of.... well having saving knowledge, knowing what salvation really is, and knowing what you have done and knowing that God's way is right, that you have deliberately chosen the wrong way.

And especially after you have come to a real knowledge of the truth and have tasted of the Holy Spirit and the good things of God, and then have done despite to the spirit of grace and have turned the other way knowingly, purposely, deliberately, not in any weakness, not in any temptation. But you haven't done that, so you don't need to really worry about it. I always hesitate to say that because some people, not understanding, will say, "Well I believe I have committed the unpardonable sin."

Oh no you haven't. I've talked to a lot of people and they're all broken up about it, and they wish they hadn't but they just feel they've committed the unpardonable sin. Why the very fact they have regret over it, and the very fact they wish they could be saved, means they haven't committed the unpardonable sin. Because when you get to the place where you've done that, I tell you my friends, you'll have no regrets, and you won't even want any salvation. You will have turned your back on it totally and completely.

A Life Of Overcoming (PLAY FROM 23:35)

Well, now there is a cost then. What about the scriptures that I've been reading to you in the past few programs? "Work out your OWN salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). What about some of these things I have been reading? What about what Jesus said, the straight and the narrow way that isn't so easy after all? It's a life of overcoming.

Now I want you to notice what Jesus said to His church. He said this to His church in Revelation the second chapter and the seventh verse. Revelation 2:7. This is to the church at Ephesus, this part of it, it's for all of us of course, but primarily this was to the apostolic church.

"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that OVERCOMETH will I [grant] to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." (Revelation 2:7)

Now that's merely symbolic language for receiving the Holy Spirit, being begotten, and then becoming born of the very Spirit of God. And he "...that is born of the Spirit IS spirit" (John 3:8). That's what he will be - spirit - when he has been really born of the Spirit of God.

To him that OVERCOMETH. You have to overcome this world. You have to overcome sin, the transgression of the law. You have to overcome that pull in your own nature that pulls you the wrong way. Now God will illuminate your mind to understand the right way and the truth, but you're going to have things in your nature that pull you the other way you have to overcome. Overcome bad habits, your faults.

Listen my friends, I doubt if a one of you listening to me, at least the way I look at it, I doubt if a one of you has ever been born with as many weaknesses, as many faults, and things within yourself that you've had to fight and overcome as I have. Now of course, I may be mistaken. It may be that I've been so close to mine and they've mounted up pretty big, because I've been struggling with them a long, long time, and I've come to realize just how great those faults and those weaknesses and everything in me have been, that perhaps I just think nobody else could have them that great.

But it does seem that way to me and I am quite sure of this, that most of you have never had the faults and the weaknesses to overcome that I have. And you haven't heard much about it. Well now, I have overcome a good many of them by the help and the power of God in the name of Jesus Christ, and not in my own power and strength. I learned long ago that I couldn't do it in my own power and strength. But I have WANTED to and I have put my WHOLE HEART into it and I've had to POUR out my heart to God and to Jesus Christ in prayer and ask Him for help and ask Him for STRENGTH.

Did you ever read the fortieth chapter of Isaiah? God is the God of power, a God of strength, and He will give strength to the weak. Now we're all very weak spiritually. Well I have been, but God has strengthened me. Now I haven't overcome everything yet, but I just don't tell you about those things, but don't you think I don't know. I certainly do! I don't need enemies to hack away at me because I can look into the spiritual looking glass as well as the physical one, and I know where my faults are. And there are still some that I am working mighty hard on. Are you?

What about you? Are you without fault? Remember what Jesus said, "Let him that is without sin among you, throw the first stone" (John 8:7 paraphrased). Maybe you don't have any sins. Maybe you don't have any faults. Well I confess I've had them. But I want to tell you that – well I can't take any credit. I can give God a lot of glory and praise for having helped me over a lot of them. Have you been overcoming? It is the overcomers that are going to inherit the kingdom of God.

Now let's go on here real quickly, we only have a minute. The eleventh verse now.

"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches [this is to the Smyrna church]: He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death." (Revelation 2:11)

In other words, you gain then eternal life. And now the seventeenth verse. "He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith [to] the churches [this is the Pergamos church]: To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna" (Revelation 2:17). That'll give you eternal life. And so it is. And then the twenty-sixth verse.

"He that overcometh and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:" (Revelation 2:26)

Well here again, I talked about other things, I wanted to tell you how you can endure, HOW you can keep from falling. And always remember, there is a God in heaven who is able to keep you from falling, if YOU WANT TO keep from falling. But you have your part to do.