For those of you who read my blogs, you know I am not afraid of controversy. Unfortunately, stating my Christian beliefs are becoming more and more controversial all the time. I have found from personal experience that witnessing to people about the Lord has become more socially inappropriate than it was just a few years ago. Not long ago, I used to do my Bible studies in fast food restaurants, and there would be a near steady stream of Christian and non-Christian people walk up to me for conversation. That has ceased. I’ve never been a “Bible thumper”, but I admit I am enthusiastic when I talk to others about the gospel when I see they are interested. It is not my enthusiasm that has driven people away. I truly believe it is a case of the world and the cares of the world stealing the energy, minds and hope of disillusioned, beaten-down souls.
When it comes right down to it, the only hope a non-believer has is the results of their own free-will decisions in this lifetime. They may be the heirs of the richest family fortune on earth, but when they die, they are put in the grave to decay. Or, if they believe in reincarnation, perhaps they will live hundreds of lives only to reach the ultimate, perfect state of nothingness.
A Christian, on the other hand, has a unique hope made possible by the death and resurrection of their Messiah, Christ Jesus. This hope is actually made up of hundreds of amazing promises of provision and protection for the true follower. I don’t mean to be a party killer, but I am beginning to notice a disturbing trend of Christians allowing the state of moral affairs in the world get them down. Senseless shootings in schools. Overt sexuality and glamorized violence and language on the rampage in mainstream media. The greed of corporate America, while oppression of the poor and needy continues. I could go on and on, but you know what’s happening. I don’t care what the ”polls” say about over 80% of people in this country considering themselves Christians. If that figure was true, then who are the massive amount of people who take part in the godless activities mentioned above? It’s one thing to say you’re Christian, but another to actually be a Christian.
O.K. Let’s get controversial. The Apostle John’s epistles are purposely written in the simplest possible way to interpret and understand. This is because, at the time, the church was being indoctrinated with the teachings of the gnostics – a group of pseudo-spiritualists who believed the way to transcend to the next level of spiritual existence was through secular knowledge. So, they tended to over “philosophize” everything to make it sound really profound. First John 3:19 reads, “No one born (begotten) of God (deliberately, knowingly and habitually) practices sin, for God’s nature abides in him (remains permanently within him), and he cannot practice sinning, because he is born (begotten) of God.” [AMP] Please understand, this is not saying that we will no longer sin when we are born of God into His Spirit. It is saying that when we are born of God, we become “new creatures” in Christ who will have a very difficult time habitually practicing sin as a lifestyle, because His Holy Spirit will be convicting us of our sins. Again, I believe there are a lot of people who call themselves Christians who have never truly been “born” of God, so His new nature does not abide within them, and so they continue to practice a lifestyle of sin even after confessing Christ as their savior. The problem is, they never got to the point where they made Him the Master of their lives. I needn’t tell you what their eternal destiny will be unless they repent.
There is always hope in repentance.
So, as I say, now I’m seeing Christians allowing the matters of the world rob them of their faith in God’s provisions and protection. Could it be these are the ones who do not really know Christ? The Spirit simply does not abide within them to bring forth fruit of peace, patience and joy? Don’t get me wrong. We all have times of vulnerability when we question God. But we need to become concerned if we see our faith consistently wane. Jesus’ parable of “The Sower and the Seed” explains that perfectly. “The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.” [Matthew 13:20 NASB]
We typically view affliction and persecution in the biblical sense as usually meaning being tortured or put to death. But there are many forms of persecution happening today in our “free” country. Think separation of church and state and all the rediculous legislature that has been passed to squelch religious expression. Muslims can come to our country and establish communities where Sharia law overrides state law in some cases on the basis of religious discrimination (Oklahoma is probably just the beginning). While, In October 2009, President Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Act as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. This legislation could pave the way for pastors who preach against homosexuality from the pulpit, or even quote passages of the Bible pertaining to homosexuality guilty of a hate crime. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to envision a time when the imprisonment of pastors for speaking against homosexuality in their own church possible. Land of the free? (Note: Though I uphold the right of free will choice for any to be gay, I can’t condone the lifestyle, though I love the sinner but hate the sin. Heck, we're all sinners! But, as I have said, some of us practice a lifestyle of sin. I’m all for same-sex couples having equal legal and civil rights. I’m just pointing out the hypocrisy of the structure of our "democracy".)
It is interesting that the Bible makes a strong point that a distinguishing mark of a true follower of Christ is that they will suffer for His sake. Each in our own way, we will suffer. Each of us will suffer to varying degrees. That is all up to God for His own divine purpose. Suffering is the way God teaches us to rely on Him for deliverance. Suffering is God’s way to teach us to appreciate what He has given us. Suffering is God’s way to teach us we have fallen by the wayside and need to return back to Him. If we did not suffer, there would be no reminder that we should be dying to our carnal nature every day in order to grow more and more into the likeness of Christ Himself. “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” [II Timothy 3:12 NASB] “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,” [Philippians 1:29 NASB] Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man.” [Luke 6:22 NASB] I’m trying not to be judgmental here, but when I know of a Christian whose life is always wonderful and comfortable, I have to come to the conclusion they are not sticking their necks out for Him. They are not bearing “the cross” Jesus requires them to carry. Those are His own words, friends.
And speaking of persecution, when is the last time you tried to give testimony to someone? Might they have looked at you like you were crazy? Might they have said some harsh words to you? Might they have fired off some expletives about the faith you hold so dear? Well, I wish I could say things are going to get better. But the book I live my life by says things are going to get a lot worse. But there is good news for true believers who are feeling oppressed by the power Satan currently has over this world! The timid and weak can pray for boldness and God’s strength. I Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” [NIV] Temptation here means “testing”. We cannot be tempted except by God’s divine permission. It should be extremely comforting for us to know our Father knows us better than we know ourselves, and he will only test us to that point at which we can bear it physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. If life gets us down, it is only because we don’t see the full potential in ourselves and God in dealing with out trials as He does. And as long as our trust holds in His faithfulness to us, in His time, He will provide a way for us to escape our dilemma. God does not always remove an affliction immediately. But He will give us the grace to bear up under it and withstand it, so as to make victory over it that much sweeter!
Be of good cheer! For you true believers, Christ died and lives for the forgiveness of the repentance of your lack of faith, your anger toward Him, and even that sin you find hard to shake off. He is no respecter of persons. No matter who you are; no matter what you own or do not own in this life, you have His undying love. No matter how meager or poor your life may be now, you have an eternity awaiting you where you will be in the presence of almighty God forever in the New Jerusalem. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep my commandments.” Try your best, and you will be richer and happier than you could ever imagine. And if you sacrifice for what you believe in, listen to Jesus’ words in Luke 18:28-30 [AMP], “And Peter said, See, we have left our own [things—home, family, and business] and have followed You. And He said to them, I say to you truly, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God who will not receive in return many times more in this world and, in the coming age, eternal life. We may not have to leave everything behind, but we will receive blessings for the sacrifices we do make, not just in the coming age, but in this world! Lift your eyes above the mire of Satan’s kingdom here on earth, and set your sites above every day to the skies where Christ will one day return to reign as ultimate King. May you have a Christ-filled life!