“Take Heed to Yourselves”
“But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them. And the gospel must first be published among all nations. But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost. Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Mark 13:9-13)
As our Lord Jesus warns us of the trials, troubles and persecutions we must face while we live in this world, he admonishes us, saying, “Take heed to yourselves.” Our Savior here reminds us both of the troubles we must expect in this world and the consolations God has given us in anticipation of them, lest we be overcome by them. Let us ever beware of these things and take heed to ourselves. We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
Many have the dreamy-eyed idea that faith in Christ puts an end to earthly trouble. Nothing can be further from the truth. There are many troubles that are sure to follow faith in Christ. It is written, “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). Trouble, sorrow, heartache and pain are the things assured to all men because of sin. It is the common lot and portion of Adam’s fallen race. Where there is sin there is sorrow. These are the thorns and thistles of our hearts.
Yet, there are specific troubles to which all true believers are and must be exposed in this world. These are our lot and portion as long as we are in this body of flesh. The believer’s life is a checkered history of great sorrow and great joy. All the prophecies dealing with the church of God on the earth between Christ’s first and second advent assert this plainly. Certainly, none can doubt that our Lord asserts this in Mark 13:9-13. Our Master tells us plainly, “In the world you shall have tribulation.” In Philippians 1:29 the Holy Spirit tells us, “Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” As long as we live in this body of sin, every believer has his divinely appointed miseries and his divinely appointed mercies. We will all have our nights of darkness and days of brightness, our trials and our triumphs, our falls and our restorations, our sorrows and our joys. Our heavenly Father has so ordained it.
There is no question about the fact of our many problems and troubles in this world. But we are often surprised by their sources, though we shouldn’t be. Our Lord also told us plainly what the sources of our woes would be. We must always expect trouble from people of the world, especially lost religious people (vv. 9, 11, 13).
Never look for help or favor from “rulers and kings”. Our way of life, the gospel we believe and the God we worship is a constant annoyance to this world. These things will never bring us favor with men. Our gospel constantly exposes their sin, their idolatry and their condemnation. Those who dream that politicians and civil magistrates will one day help the cause of Christ as they once did, have misread both the Word of God and history.
Many there are who have been persecuted, imprisoned, beaten and burned at the stake for absolutely no reason, except their adherence to the gospel of Christ. Trouble from the world is not too surprising. But there is another source of trouble plainly stated in this passage, a source that every believer will experience, which almost always shocks us. If we are faithful to Christ and the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in him, we must expect trouble from our families, too. — “The brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death” (v. 12).
Do not be surprised, my brother, my sister, when those to whom you are most devoted, even father and mother, brother and sister, son and daughter, husband or wife, speak evil of you, hold you in contempt and treat you as an enemy. We must not be surprised if those whose hearts are enmity against our God are also enmity against us. Cain will always persecute Abel. Esau will ever despise Jacob. The seed of the serpent will always persecute the seed of the woman.
We will be wise to remember these things and lay them to heart. We must, if we would follow Christ, “count the cost” of being his disciples. I know that we are living in days of great freedom. Physical persecution, at least in free societies, is not a fear to God’s church today. But persecution is still sure to follow true faith in and faithfulness to the Son of God. You can bank on it. Believers still suffer in their livelihoods for the gospel’s sake. God’s children must still endure scorn, slander, laughter, ridicule, isolation and petty hostilities for their faith in Christ, even from their families. “The offense of the cross” has not ceased. It is still true that “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God.” Those who are “born after the flesh” still persecute those who are “born after the Spirit.” Let us never forget or doubt this word from our God and Savior. It is as true as the declaration that Christ died for our sins. — “Ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.”
Add to these things the fact that many of God’s people in this world live with indescribable bodily infirmities, sorrows, bereavements and losses, and domestic troubles. Yet, there is another source of great trouble. Indeed, the greatest source of our trouble in this world is this third source. — We must, as long as we live in this world, expect to have an unceasing warfare in our souls between the flesh and the Spirit, between the old man and the new (Romans 7:14-23; Galatians 5:16-17). Let me illustrate what I am saying by asking you to consider a few questions. Be honest with yourself. These are things which trouble me greatly. I am sure they trouble you, too.
Before God saved you, did you ever imagine that a believer, a sinner redeemed by the blood of Christ, robed in his righteousness, saved by God’s free grace, living in the prospect of heavenly glory, a person truly born of God, one who truly believes and loves the Lord Jesus Christ, could have so much difficulty with inward lusts as you do? — Could find it so difficult to read the Word of God as you do? — Could be so indifferent to the things of God as you are? — Could have such a hard time praying as you do? — Could love the world so much and love Christ so little as you do?
No wonder our Lord said, “take heed to yourselves!” We who know ourselves to be such sinners have great reason constantly to give thanks to God that salvation is by grace alone (1 Corinthians 15:10). Let us ever give thanks for him who is our unceasing, all-prevailing Advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1-2).
Our blessed God and Savior holds before us in his Word an immeasurable, rich range of promises to encourage, comfort and inspire us in the midst of the many problems and trials we have in this world. Here are two sweet cordials with which we may encourage our own hearts and one another.
First ,and foremost, we are assured that God’s purpose of grace in Christ shall be fulfilled. Look at verse ten. Right in the middle of this list of woes, our Savior interjects this blessed word of promise. “And the gospel must first be preached among all nations.” He seems to be saying, these things are all necessary for the accomplishment of God’s purpose of grace toward his elect. This is how I am going to bring about the fulness of my kingdom and the glory of my name. There is a people in this world, loved and chosen of God, redeemed by the blood of Christ, who must and shall be saved by God’s irresistible grace. God’s appointed means of grace and salvation is the preaching of the gospel (Romans 1:16-17; 10:17; 1 Corinthians 1:18-23). Therefore the gospel must be preached among all nations.
Let men and devils, kingdoms, empires and nations do what they will, God’s purpose of grace cannot be thwarted. Those specks of dust, though they swell and burn with rage against our God, his Christ and his gospel, are as surely under God’s control and as surely used by him to fulfill his purpose of grace toward his elect as the angels of heaven. The Word of God is not bound and cannot be bound (Isaiah 55:11; 2 Timothy 2:9).
Second, our Lord Jesus here assures us that when special help is needed special help will be given. — “But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost” (v. 11).
Many pervert our Lord’s words here and use them as an excuse for laziness and being unprepared for the pulpit ministry. Such an attitude toward preaching the gospel is utter foolishness! God’s servants labor in the Word and doctrine of Christ, studying diligently, praying earnestly, as they seek God’s message for his people. Faithful men never step into the pulpit unprepared!
Our Lord’s promise in verse 11 has nothing to do with preaching. It is talking about persecution. Our Master here promises that as he gave words of wisdom to his apostles before their persecutors, so he will give us words of wisdom to answer our persecutors as needed, or else he will give us wisdom and grace not to answer them at all (1 Corinthians 10:13; Isaiah 43:1-5; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Romans 16:20).
Tribulations shall come. But our Savior holds out a word of promise to those who endure to the end, to those who will not forsake the gospel, who will not, for any reason, receive the mark of the beast. — “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (v. 13).
Let it be clearly understood that perseverance is a matter of personal responsibility. We must hold on our way. We must cleave to Christ. We must take heed to ourselves, lest we wind up like those who perished in the wilderness. Demas, Diotrephes, Judas and Lot’s wife stand upon the pages of Holy Scripture like blazing beacons to warn us. Having put our hands to the plow, we must not look back. We must not drop out of the race. We must resolutely take up our cross every day and follow Christ.
Yet, perseverance for God’s elect is a matter of absolute certainty. Our names are written in the book of life. We have been predestinated to everlasting salvation. Our Surety, Christ Jesus, has already obtained the purchased possession for us. We have the pledge of heavenly glory within us. We are sealed unto eternal life. We are kept by the power of God’s grace in Christ. We have our Savior’s promise. — “They shall never perish!” In fact, the Book of God declares that all God’s elect were glorified with Christ before the world began (Romans 8:30) and that we were risen and seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high with our blessed Substitute when he took his seat in heaven (Ephesians 2:6).
All who persevere unto the end shall reap a rich harvest of grace. — “The same shall be saved!” We may sow in tears; but we shall reap with joy. We may pass through much tribulation; but we shall pass through it into the kingdom of God. Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, shall work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory! When those who hate our God, despise our gospel and persecute us are cast into hell, we shall enter into life everlasting with Christ (Revelation 19:1-8; 21:1-5).
Listen to sermons at FreeGraceRadio.com