Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Why Are Christians Hated?

For the past several weeks, we have been looking at the idea of Christians being persecuted. We looked at Paul's writing to Timothy stating that "all that wanted to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Timothy 4:12). These words trouble many people today because of the certainty that is behind them. Why do Christians have to suffer persecution? Well, to simply put it, because Jesus said it would be so.

As Jesus was sending out his disciples in Matthew 10, he told them plainly what they were to face. The things that they would face would be harsh and unrelenting at times. They would be brought before councils and kings to give witness of him. Jesus told them not to worry about what to say because the Spirit of the Father would give them the words to speak. In the face of great times of trouble, Jesus reminds them who is in control and to whom they are to have allegiance; God and God alone!

Even with Jesus telling his disciples these truths, we may still question why the world hates us so. If we are simply living for Jesus and haven't really bothered anyone, then why hate and persecute us? Jesus gives us the answer in John 15. In this great teaching, Jesus is revealing who he was and how we relate to him. In John 15:5 Jesus says:
"I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." 

Jesus is telling his followers that life in him is a total dependent life. To live means to be in him and him in you. Our life becomes immersed in him and Jesus lives in and through us. This is the Christian life! 

But there is something that we must know as followers, which explains why they world hates us so much. It is found in verses 18 through chapter 16 verse 4. 

"If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: 'They hated me without a cause.'
"But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
"I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, not me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you."

Please read that text again slowly! 

Jesus reveals to his disciples why the world hated them; they hated him first. Why would people hate Jesus? They hate him because he came and spoke to the world and the world became guilty of its sin. Jesus says that there is no longer any excuse for sin. His very life makes it where we must come face to face with our sinfulness. People do not like this. So this is why they persecuted Jesus and persecute his followers. By this they think they serve God but they are actually showing that they hate God. 

We may not fully understand this but we need not worry. Jesus is providing the Helper to lead us into truth and through the Spirit we will be witnesses of him. We need to know these things so that when these times come, we will not give up. We will be strengthened to stay the course and keep the faith. 


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

For Jesus (Part 2)

In the last post we looked at the words that Paul shared with Timothy about what happens to those who want to live for Jesus. He says that they will be persecuted. We know that this idea is very unpopular for most Christians in America today. We have bought into the deception that we should not be persecuted at all but received with open and loving arms by everyone we come into contact with for the gospel's sake. This is not reality. Jesus shared from the beginning that it was not an easy life for these who would follow him.

In Matthew 10 we read that Jesus had called and sent the Twelve Apostles out to the cities of Israel to share the good news. They had been given authority to do powerful signs that would show that God was truly doing something great in their midst. But before the disciples went out, he told them that it was going to be difficult. Here is what Jesus said to them:

"Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpent and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes."
"A disciple is not above his teacher, not a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household." (10:16-25 ESV) 

The first thing that I notice is the certainty of persecution that Jesus speaks about. He uses the word "will" several times. He is not speaking as if persecution could or might happen. He says that it WILL happen! His disciples would suffer and this suffering would happen because of him. 

Secondly, Jesus gives them encouragement. He reassures them that they do not need to worry about a defense for themselves. They did not need to rely on their own knowledge or understanding to speak to their persecutors. He promised that the Father would give them the words to say through the power of the Holy Spirit. They just needed to rest in him and he would provide!
I believe that too many times we make things worse by trying to figure out what needs to be said. We over think things and rely on our smart to defend our actions or beliefs. It is important for us to trust God and know that he is in control of all things. Our greatest times of witnessing for the Lord have come when we didn't know what to say. We, in that very moment, just simply relied on him and he did what we could not do. Thanks to be unto God for his faithfulness!

Lastly, Jesus puts the struggle of being persecuted into perspective. When we think that it is wrong for Christians to be persecuted we are actually saying that they are better than Jesus. Reread verses 24 and 25:
"A disciple is not above his teacher, not a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household."

Truly no one likes to go through things like being beaten or put into jail. No one wants to die, but look at what they did to Jesus. Do we really expect any less? Do we think that we are better than him? Are we really that prideful and arrogant? Well yes, we are if we really believe that Christians should not be persecuted.

I read a devotional written by John MacArthur titled, "Are You Avoiding Persecution?' In is he talks about a man who started a new job and was worried that his coworkers may harass him if they found out that he was a Christian. When he came home from his first day on the job, his wife asked how things went. He answered, "They never found out I'm a Christian." To this story MacArthur writes:
"Silence is one way to avoid persecution. Some other ways are to approve of the world's standards, laugh at its jokes, enjoy its entertainment, and smile when it mocks God. If you never confront sin or tell people that Jesus is the only way to Heaven, or if your behavior is so worldly no one can distinguish you from the unbelievers, you will probably be accepted and won't feel the heat of persecution." He goes on to say: "If you take a stand for Christ and manifest Beatitude attitudes, you will be in direct opposition to Satan and the evil world system. And eventually you will experience some form of persecution."

Hearing words like these, and especially Jesus' words, are not very comforting to us if we have become accustomed to being accepted by the world around us. We want to argue with this idea and try to justify how we have been living a life free of even the mildest form of persecution.

Please hear me out. I am not saying that we should go looking to be persecuted. And I am not saying that we shouldn't run from it either. Jesus says that we are to run to the next city if we are being persecuted in one city. What I am saying is that we should rejoice in and through the persecution. I remember reading in the Book of Acts where the disciples had been put into prison for teaching and healing in the name of Jesus. Acts 5:40-42 says:

"and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus."

Did you see that? They rejoiced! They saw it as an honor to suffer for the name of Jesus. Do we react this way? I will say that for myself, I haven't responded to being made fun of or rejected because of Jesus in this way that the Apostles did. Honestly I will admit to this. How about you?

Why are we so resistant to persecution? Maybe it is a lack of understanding of the teachings of Jesus concerning being persecuted and how to endure. Next time we will turn our attention to John 15 to search out more teachings of Jesus about this matter. Until then, may your trust ever be in Jesus!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

For Jesus

     "In fact, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."
2 Timothy 3:12 (CSB)

     These are not too comforting of words that we read from Paul to Timothy. We Christians in America do not truly understand these words. In fact we often reject them. We think we should not suffer persecution. "That type of stuff happens in foreign lands and to other types of people. If they do happen to Christians then those Christians must have done something to warrant the persecution," we erroneously say.

     Most Christians that I know believe that it is wrong for Christians to suffer any type of persecution. "That is not the way it is supposed to be," they say. We have a wonderful message and it should be received with joy and open arms by all who hear it. We are correct in saying that the message is wonderful and should be received by everyone, but is this idea biblical?

    Not according to the above verse. "... all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." Three things pop out to me from this verse; all, godly life in Christ, and will be.

     First I must share that Paul is not writing a new thought or belief to Timothy. He is in fact sharing the teaching of Jesus within this verse. Jesus did not hide from his disciples the fact of persecution. He openly shared what would take place to them for following him. In Matthew 10 and John 15 we see this and we will go into more with those scriptures at a later time. For now let's just focus on Paul's words to Timothy.

      The first thing that jumped out at me was the word, "all."  All is a very inclusive word. It does not mean some or a few but all; everyone; every single person that wants to live a godly life in Jesus. Now this doesn't say every person in the world will suffer persecution. It is limited to those who want to be like Jesus, and of those in that group, all will be persecuted.

     The second thing that jumped out was the words "godly life in Christ Jesus." All those who want a godly life in Christ Jesus means that these people don't just want the name of Christ to be theirs but they want to live a life that glorifies God just like Jesus. This doesn't mean simply wanting to have a good life but a life that fulfills its purpose. A godly life is a different life; not like the world around us. It reflects God's glory through all that we do. Our desires are not for the things that we want but we seek God's desires and what God wants.
     A life like this is very different from the culture in which we live. We live opposite the culture of the world. We don't seek to be different just to be different but we are different because of the change that God has worked in us through his grace in Jesus Christ.

     The third and last thing that jumped out at me was the words "will be." These words show that this is definitely going to happen. It is certain to happen. We are guaranteed for this to take place. It is a matter of when it will happen and not if it will happen.

     So, this verse can be a very convicting. If it says, "all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" and we are not, nor have been, persecuted, then what are we doing wrong? Do we not truly wanting a godly life in Christ? Do we live too much like the world that people can't see a difference in us? Is there no reason for them to persecute us for Christ's name because we are not seen as a threat to the status quo?   

     I am not saying that we go around looking for things to pick a fight with the world about, but I am saying that I believe if we live like Jesus and his standards, then the world will not want us around. They will want to silence us and even take us out of the picture. I believe we have been deceived to think that persecution for the Christian is a terrible thing and something to avoid at all cost. To understand this we must look at Jesus' words in Matthew 10 and John 15. That is our task next time. Until then, may the Lord use this verse above to strengthen and convict us to seek a godly life in Christ no matter what may come!

    

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Rebellion

     Life as a parent is not easy. Things become especially difficult when raising teenagers. I have come to realize just how great and strong my parents were raising me. I remember the thoughts and emotions that I had toward them. I was a little rebellious outwardly but a whole lot rebellious inwardly. I am ashamed at the thoughts that I had then concerning my parents. They didn't deserve what I put them through even if they didn't know what I was thinking.
     God is a humorous God. He has to be. He allows us to have kids and the we get to experience all and probably more than our parents faced. I say this only for the parents who really care about what happens to their children. Not every parent cares as they should and this saddens me. (Although I must admit there have been times when I have envied those parents who could care less.)
     But I do care! I want the best for my children. I want them to love Jesus and serve him as he leads them to. I want them to be happy. I want them to succeed in life. I want them to have fun along the way. I am not here to rain on their parade or dampen all the fun. I really want them to have a life. But as the Lord brought to my mind a few months ago, I am here not to make them happy; I am here to make them right.
     Saying that doesn't mean that I am to control every move or thought but that I am to guide them in the right path. I am to show them how to live a life under the authority of Christ. I am to love them, correct them and discipline them when needed. Why? Because they don't know how to live life for anyone else other than themselves. They are born in rebellion. Life is all about their needs. They need to see the right way.
     God has given me, as a parent, that awesome task. I am only able to do it by his power and might. I must remember my walk with the Lord and make sure that I am submitting to his sovereign authority. I must be controlled by someone other than myself.
     Paul writes to the Galatian church about living not under the law. They had been set free from that through Christ. He warns them, however, not to use that freedom for their own sinful flesh. They needed to live in Christ and walk in and by his Holy Spirit.
Listen to Paul's words from Galatians 5:13-25:
  
     "For you were called to be free, brothers and sisters; only don't use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement: Love you neighbor as yourself. But if you bite and devour one another, watch out, or you will be consumed by one another.
     I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don't do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
     Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I am warning you about these things -- as I warned you before-- that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
     But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."

     Wow!!!

     Living in the flesh is living in rebellion toward God. When people are breaking the law or being disobedient to authority, they are actually rebelling against God. We fight not against the rules but against the Ruler. 
     As a child, I remember hating rules. I thought they were stupid. They were made by people who just wanted me to do what they wanted me to do. I did not see their value nor understand the lessons that I needed to learn. But laws are needed. They protect and direct us. They inform us on how to live productive lives. Ultimately they show us who we are in regards to God. Paul's says that the "knowledge of sin comes through the law" (Romans 3:20). The law was not to make us righteous but to make us aware of our sin. Listen to Romans 8:1-8:

     "Therefore,  there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. What the law could not do since it was weakened by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh as a sin offering, in order that the law's requirement would be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on the things of the Spirit. Now the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace. The mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit to God's law. Indeed, it is unable to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God."

    The law was weak and what it could not do God did in Christ. He came to change our sinful nature and to give us his. He did not come to change our behavior but our hearts. The heart is the throne upon which only one can sit. From the throne pours forth the decrees that take action. The one who sit upon the throne rules. When flesh rules there is death. When the Lord is seated upon the throne there is life and joy. 
     I watched my middle daughter have a "flesh" moment this morning. She was told to do something and she didn't agree. She began to be argumentative with her mother and then with me. It was a simple request from her mother, but it quickly turned into something quite different. For a moment a coup was happening within her mind. She wanted to overthrow the leader and make herself supreme ruler.
     I laughed at first. But then I began to see that this rebellion was growing in intensity and could become something uncontrollable if allowed to continue. I am glad to report that we are still in leadership at home and lived through it for another day.
     How my daughter reacted and how I acted as a teen illustrates the war between the flesh and the Spirit. The heart of the issue is not the acts or the thoughts, but the one who is having control. Are we in step with the Spirit? Have we crucified the flesh with its passions and desires? When those desires come back up and we seek to satisfy them, are we resistant to them and submissive to Christ?
     

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Strugglin' with grumblin'

I must admit that this 90 day challenge that I have been a part of at the church where I serve has been DIFFICULT!!!! We are in day 37 and each day gets tougher. What is the challenge that I am talking about? For 90 days, we as church members must do three things. They are the following:

1) Do not ask anything from the church. Do not say I want this or I want that from the church. Instead, ask how you can serve Christ through the church; give instead of take.

2) Do not complain, grumble, or argue about anything. PERIOD! (This is the one that I am finding very difficult.) Paul writes this in Philippians 2:14. I have searched every translation in English to find some type of wording that will allow me a way out. They all say the say thing! UGH!!!

3) For 2 hours a week, serve someone else. Find someone around you to help. Send a note, make a phone call, send a text, cut their grass, bake them something, pay a bill for them, pray for them, etc. Do something for someone else.

That's it. Three things to do for 90 days. Simple, right?

I have just sit here and rewritten this section about 3 times now. I was just typing away, complaining. But I am not going to go down that path. I will state as I said about, that this has been difficult. I know that it will continue to be, but....

I am going to choose to be thankful to Jesus, instead. I want to thank him for all he has done in my life. I want to thank Jesus for who he is; Savior, Lord, GOD!

I can think of a lot that is not right with the things around me. I can focus of how others are acting and complain about it. But I will simply start praising him instead!

I can already feel a difference in my chest. I know that focusing on the right thing matters. I must be obedient to what God has said through Paul. I must stop the madness that complaining, grumbling and arguing bring to my life and the life of others by praising the name of Jesus.

Will you join me in that? Will you praise Jesus and not complain, grumble or argue? The choice is yours!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Holding to a form of godliness...

For the past week I have been reading in 2 Timothy. It has been a truly refreshing experience as someone who serves the Lord through ministry as a pastor. There are times when it becomes very frustrating navigating through this world. Leading God's people through these troubling times is a heavy responsibility that can only be done through his power and grace. It must be done!

Paul writes to Timothy to encourage him in teaching the truth of the Scriptures. This is needed in light of the evil people coming into the church to wreak havoc. He describes these people in verses 1-5 in chapter 3.
 
     "But know this: Hard times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people." (CSB)

Many look at this passage as describing something that will take place in the far future; but Paul is actually describing those who were living then, those living now, and those living in the future until the return of Christ. As John MacArthur explains it Paul and the early church believed that we have been the last days since Christ left this earth after his resurrection until he returns again to claim his people out of this world. I agree with him. We are in the last days.

The Church today is and has always been attacked from within. These are those who call themselves "Christian" but are not. They are "holding to a form of godliness but denying its power." This is what Thom Rainer calls "Churchianity." In his book I Will, he defines it as "practicing our church and religious beliefs according to human standards rather than biblical guidelines" (93). WOW!!!! May this not be named of us!

This idea should horrify us. Are we practicing Christianity or "Churchianity"? Are we all form and no substance? Do we rely on the Holy Spirit to lead us in his power and might? Great and terrible questions!

May it be found within our lives that we are following the Lord Jesus. This should be our desire and prayer; for we are unable to do it in our own strength.

Monday, March 13, 2017

My first ever blog!

Hi everyone! This is my first attempt at blogging. I must admit that I am quite nervous and I don't really know why. It is just writing my thoughts that I would like to share, right? But it is more difficult than one may think. Or that could be just me making it more difficult than it really is.

I was thinking of what to call my blog. I found the word "transferred" in Colossians 1:13-14. It says this:
               "He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whim we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."

WOW! I love it! I have been transferred. I am not in the same place where God found me. I am no longer in darkness. I have been redeemed and forgiven. These words mean so much to me! I get all excited when I read them.

I need to remember that I am different because of Christ. I have been transferred from hopelessness to having great hope. My future is secure in Christ!

I hope that this makes sense to someone. I know it makes sense to me.