Let’s be honest … many of us would like to believe that the Christian life is a life without trials, tribulation and struggles. But that is an unrealistic expectation … one not supported in any way by what is found IN Scripture regarding those who follow Christ Jesus.
In our minds, American Christianity … more often than not … is more about a religious and moral lifestyle than a devoted walk of faith … a lifestyle believed to be ‘free’ of any costs … especially any hard or harsh costs … (stop and consider Luke 14:25-35).
In the walk of faith with Christ, most have considered the self-imposed costs of denial, surrender and submission … but few have taken the time (including me) to truly consider the costs Scripture reveal that the world and evil will inflict upon the believer IN Christ Jesus.
We teach and hear frequently about the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus … but I rarely, if ever, remember hearing a sermon on the persecution of Jesus … yet consider His very own words.
Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. John 15:20 (NASB)
In America today, we find our religious liberties … actually only Christian liberties … being eroded and taken away. Christian discrimination in the USA is rampant and we are on the verge of widespread Christian persecution … a persecution that on some small scale many are already experiencing. As American Christians, this is something we never expected to see in the ‘land of the free’ … yet Jesus tells us it is a blessing … He tells us to rejoice and be glad … a response, I honestly find difficult to expect of myself …
“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:10-12 (NASB)
In a different way, Peter reiterates that same point … stressing that we are indeed sharing in the sufferings of Christ …
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 1 Peter 4:12-14 (NASB)
Bet you never considered that aspect of being born-again and Spirit filled? Paul warns Timothy that ALL who desire to live godly lives IN Christ Jesus WILL be persecuted …
Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! Indeed, ALL who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus WILL BE persecuted. But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is IN Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:10-15 (NASB)
Perhaps it’s just me, but as I read Paul’s message to the church in Corinth below, it seems that it could just as easily be a message to the church in America …
We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent IN Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now. I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 1 Corinthians 4:10-14 (NASB)
As persecution in America draws closer to being an every day reality, our response is oftentimes one in which we defend ourselves, proclaim the violation of our constitutional rights and act indignantly. Yet is that really the response God expects from His children … His joint heirs with Christ?
He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth. Isaiah 53:7 (NASB)
May God be glorified and magnified in our response as He is in the response of Jesus!
(Lord willing, next up … exploring the response God expects in the midst of persecution … for a preview, reread 1 Cor 4:10-14 above)