Not Every Christian Will Suffer Persecution. Will You?
If you’re alarmed and concerned about how bad the persecution of Christians and the church will get in America in the very near future, you’re showing yourself to be far more astute in understanding the “signs of the time” than most of the professing church today (Matt. 6:33). Why? Because it seems, at least in America, that we have adopted a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” mindset regarding current events and how they may interrupt what we hold most dear: our vacations, our retirement, our free-time, our video games, and our false sense of security in our immature relationship with Christ.
Oh, I’m sorry. Did that last phrase sting a bit? Did it seem somewhat unloving, maybe a little unkind? Good. It shows you’re not completely anesthetized to what is happening all around us. And that’s a good thing. A real good thing.
But to your question: How bad will the persecution really get? Well, that all depends on what kind of Christian you are and what kind of church you attend.
Let me explain.
We Will Not All Be Treated Equally
Not everyone will suffer the same under the coming persecution, just like they didn’t all suffer the same under Nero’s reign of terror during the first century of the church. Nor did all Christians suffer the same under the persecution of the Third Reich. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, for example, was martyred for his faith on Monday, April 9, 1945. But just six days later churches all throughout Germany met in their own church buildings unmolested by the Nazis who murdered Bonhoeffer earlier that week.
How could that be? How could one group of professing Believers suffer persecution at the hands of the Nazis yet another group freely worship with the permission and approval of the persecuting State? How is that possible?
More recently, in September 2015, twelve Christian missionaries, including the 12 year old son of a ministry team leader, were crucified and beheaded near Aleppo, Syria for not renouncing their faith and converting to Islam. If they caved into their fears, as some did, and renounced the Jesus they loved, they would be alive today. But since they “rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41), they died a horrific death. For those twelve, it was more important to obey God and not man (Acts 5:29) and, in doing so, proved the “world was not worthy” of them (Heb. 11:38).
Again, two groups of Believers. One group renounced Jesus and lived and the other remained faithful to Him and died. Both groups were not treated equally. The severity of their persecution, and ours, is always contingent on one’s commitment to Christ. Throughout the history of the church it has always been that way, and it always will.
Soon, in our own country, we will find pastors and true Believers punished for preaching the whole Word of God, especially the Politically Incorrect passages from Romans 1:26-27 that deal with the sin of homosexuality. You heard right, the sin of homosexuality. Those who refuse to compromise on God’s Word regarding sin, even politically protected and government sanctioned sin, will suffer persecution. They will be fined for their faith in Him Who does not change (Mal. 3:6). Many will lose their positions, their life savings, and even their homes for their unwavering faith. They will be marginalized, vilified, mocked and ridiculed, they will be threatened and sued, they will be charged with a hate crime, arrested, and imprisoned for their faith.
And just like in Bonhoeffer’s day, while some are languishing in prison for preaching truth the culture rejects, others will be leading or attending churches deemed “acceptable” and “tolerant” by the very State that persecutes and imprisoned others in the Body of Christ.
What’s the difference? What separates these two groups of Believers?
Simply this: Desire. A desire to live Godly in Christ – no matter the costs.
Those Who Desire and Those Who Don’t
In 2 Timothy 3:12 the Scriptures state, “All who desire to live Godly in Christ will suffer persecution.” Note the condition and the promise. It’s one of the if/then conditions and promises found in Scripture. If you do this or meet this condition, then this will happen.
An if/then condition and promise means if we do our part, if we meet some sort of condition or requirement the Lord has established, then we have the confidence to know God will fulfill what He has promised to do. We see these all throughout the Scriptures. Remember the one from Romans we so often use when we share our faith with others?
If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and (if) you believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, (then) you will be saved (Rom. 10:9).
Now, when it comes to persecution, the Lord gives us another if/then promise. He says, “All who (what) desire to live Godly in Christ will (what) suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12). That’s a promise from the Lord. And that same promise is echoed by Jesus when He tells us not to be surprised, “If the world hates you, you know it hated Me before it hated you” and “If they persecute Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:18, 20).
Let’s look at the if/then condition and promise again:
“All who (if you) desire to live Godly in Christ (then you) will suffer persecution.”
The Condition: “All who (or, make it personal, if you) desire (or, will, wish, want, strive, make it your aim) to live (or, have your existence, your mode or manner of life) Godly (or, devoutly, reverently, obediently) in Christ…”
The Promise: “(again, make it personal, then you) will (or, shall, most certainly) suffer persecution (or, distress, trouble, peril).”
As you can see, not all will suffer the same. The defining characteristic of those who will be persecuted and of those who won’t, will be their innate “desire to live Godly in Christ.” This desire, this longing, this passion to live Godly in Christ no matter the costs, come what may, is the hallmark of a committed Christian’s life. They desire to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). To live as a committed Christian, as a real Christian, is to boldly acknowledge Him before “kings and governors” (Matt. 10:18) and to not count our life as worth anything other than following Him and being faithful to what He has called us to do (Acts 20:24). After all, isn’t that why He saved us in the first place?
When the darkness begins to fall and the persecution of the church becomes impossible to ignore, some Believers and churches will have that great desire to “walk as Jesus walked” (1 John 2:6) and renounce the deeds of darkness in obedience to Him (1 Cor. 4:2). And sadly some, in fact most, won’t. Some will suffer for the sake of their Lord knowing “this world is not their home” (Heb. 13:14) and they are simply blessed to be called ambassadors for Him, the One True King (2 Cor. 5:20). Others will love their life in this world: their status, financial security, their ease and comfort, and will renounce their love for Jesus, in either word or deed, and continue to hold on to the lie of “Your Best Life Now.” They will forsake their inheritance as a child of God (Rom. 8:16) for something far less and faithfully continue with the pageantry and charade of the life of a good Christian while the true Christians are rejoicing in the privilege of suffering for the truth, just like their Lord (Acts 5:41).
The stark difference between these two groups will be apparent to all. Actually, it’s apparent now. Can you tell the difference?
So you see, not all so-called Christians will suffer persecution at the hands of the State or by the hatred of our culture. Some will live in ease and comfort, proudly bringing their Bibles to the approved churches, the ones that proclaim the virtue of tolerance for sin and promote a god created in the image of man. But some will not compromise. They will bend their knee to no one but the Lord Jesus (Rom. 14:10). They will render to Caesar what is Caesar’s but they will not, under any circumstances, render unto Caesar what is God’s (Matt. 22:21).
In which group of persecuted do you find yourself? Are you one of those who will be persecuted for the sake of Christ by desiring, above all else, to live for Him? Or are you one of those who will persecute Jesus and His Church by feigning your loyalty to Him with false spirituality and loving your life in this fallen, perverted world more than you love the Lord? Are you the righteous or the hypocrite? Are you one who cries out, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matt. 21:19). Or will you, surrounded by an angry, Christ-hating mob, shout through your own apathy and indifference, “Give us Barabbas! We have no king but Caesar!”? (John 18:40, 19:15).
Which will it be? You can’t have it both ways, you know. Persecution has a tendency of forcing those it confronts on either one side or the other. Which side will you be on?
Remember, not everyone will be treated the same because of the name of Christ. Only those who truly are His will be willing to endure suffering and persecution. In fact, true Believers will embrace the honor to show the unbelieving world Who they belong to.
Do you belong to Him? And, if so, how do you know?
That’s the very question we’ll look at tomorrow.
For Part 2: Why is the Church in the Situation it is Today?
The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel.
The book of Proverbs contains some of the over 3,000 sayings of Solomon, who is known as the wisest man who ever lived (1 Kings 4:30). Unfortunately, Solomon didn’t always heed his own advice and found his life, family, and testimony shipwrecked in the end. “But how,” you ask? By trusting in political expedience rather than in the Word of God. Solomon thought he could secure the kingdom God had given to him by using human, man-centered, sinful means. He married pagan wives in the hope of forging treaties and trade alliances with Israel’s natural enemies. And the end result was watching Solomon’s love of his Lord slowly slip away as he gave into the pagan demands of his 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3).
Yes, you read that right. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. And just so we’ll be on the same page, a concubine is the same thing as a wife, just not quite as special. A concubine can be defined as: Wife, Second Class. So Solomon had over 1,000 women in his life continually demanding his time and attention. And, as their husband, it was his job to make them happy. Or, at least to try to make them happy.
So how would Solomon, or you or me for that matter, make 1,000 women happy? Simple. You give them what they want.
Now think practically for a moment. If Solomon spent just one evening with each of his wives and concubines, it would take him almost three years to have dinner with them all. And that’s assuming he didn’t have one or two he liked more than the others that he would book for a longer engagement. Plus, the jealousy and infighting among these women for Solomon’s attention and favors must have been fierce, to say the least.
So Solomon foolishly gave into their constant nagging to let them do what they wanted to do, including serving and worshiping the foreign gods they brought with them from home. And in doing so, Solomon let down his guard, forsook his role as the spiritual leader of his home, and let the enemy of God breach the walls of the sanctity of his life. He gave up on the most important duty entrusted to a man: to lead his family in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). “If you want to worship Baal, fine. Just don’t bother me about it. Geez, give me a break. But I had a really nice time with you tonight and I’ll see you again in a couple of years.”
I know what you’re thinking: “How could a man who is supposed to be so wise do something so stupid?” Great question. I’ve often thought the same myself. But I’ve also found myself making the same mistakes Solomon did. Has that ever happened to you?
Think about it, Solomon willingly forgot about the Lord’s warning to each of us regarding light and darkness and being unequally yoked. He confidently ignored the warning that says, “Do not be deceived, bad company corrupts good character” (1 Cor. 15:33). The bad company was the foreign gods Solomon allowed, not only into his kingdom, but also into his very house. And the good character was Solomon himself. He allowed himself to be corrupted by the evil influences in his life.
And there’s a lesson here for each of us.
Starting Strong, Finishing Weak
But Solomon didn’t start out that way. Somehow this incredibly wise man went off the rails, got sidetracked and bamboozled, and didn’t listen to his own advice. Like many of us he started out strong and committed, with unlimited potential and a bright future, and ended up as the classic example of someone getting everything they could ever want and still not be happy.
But it didn’t begin that way with Solomon. And it usually doesn’t begin that way with us.
When Solomon was given the kingdom by his father David, he immediately recognized how inadequate and how unprepared he was for the job. So what did he do? He asked the Lord for wisdom.
“Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted. Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” (1 Kings 3:7-9).
Solomon asked for wisdom and the Lord graciously granted his request and gave him not only more wisdom than anyone has ever had from that time until today, but He also gave him what he didn’t ask for: riches, honor and a long life (1 Kings 3:11-14). All Solomon had to do was live according to God’s wisdom and not by the deceptive human philosophies and carnal teachings of his day (Col. 2:8). And Solomon, like most of us, started out strong and then crashed and burned in a spectacular fashion.
Did you ever wonder why?
Probably because, like us, Solomon learned to trust his own instincts and intuition about life and not rely on the “still small voice” of God speaking wisdom into his heart (1 Kings 19:12). Maybe Solomon felt, after a string of earthly successes, He didn’t need to rely on God as much now as a man as he did when he viewed himself as a boy. Or maybe Solomon craved the approval of his peers more than the approval of His God. Who knows? But whatever internal voice led Solomon to his great fall is the same voice we are listening to today. And be warned, we do this to our own great peril and regret.
Our Book of Practical Wisdom
The Book of Proverbs, especially the first 10 chapters, deal almost exclusively with how to acquire wisdom and why wisdom is so important for each of us. Over the next 40 days we will look deeply into God’s Book of Wisdom to glean all He has to say to us.
And my prayer, for each of us, is to heed and follow the wisdom of God and not rely on our fallen, self-centered, narcissistic, feel-good understanding of the things of God we know nothing about.
Buckle up! It looks like we’re in for quite a ride.
The Danger of Bad Company
One of the most overlooked and ignored warnings in all of Scripture is found in 1 Corinthians 15:33. Here the Lord tells us to not be deceived. But deceived about what?
1 Corinthians 15:33 – Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”
But what exactly does “evil company” and “good habits” mean? And what do they have to do with the Proverbs? Great questions. Now let’s find the answers.
First, what it says:
1 Corinthians 15:33 – Do not be deceived (or, to be lead astray, to wander, to roam aimlessly, to be lead away from the truth and into error and sin, to mislead, to seduce): “Evil (or, bad, worthless, wicked, vicious, malicious, cowardly, destructive) company (or, companionship, communion, conversation, speech, talk) corrupts (or, destroys, spoils, waste away, to utterly decay, to corrupt fully, to deprave) good (or, moral, useful, pleasing, virtuous) habits (or, morals, character, one’s manner of life).”
Then, what it means:
The Lord is warning us not to be easily deceived into thinking His Words and admonitions are meant for someone else, and not for us. Maybe He meant them for someone not quite as spiritual as we are, someone not quite as mature, not quite as smart. Maybe someone weaker, more naive, someone that can’t be trusted to always do the right thing at the right time like we can. Really?
It’s just that kind of thinking that gets us into trouble every time. Wouldn’t you agree?
The first warning is about deception. We are not to be deceived into thinking what God is telling us is either not true, or doesn’t apply in our situation. We are not to be deceived into believing this warning was meant for someone else. Why? Because that’s exactly the rationalization each of us makes regarding God’s Word whenever His Word won’t allow us to do what we want to do and what we think is right. After all, we want to follow our heart, and to our own heart be true. Yet we willingly forget God states our heart is “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9). So, to have the knowledge of God, our heart would be the last thing we would want to follow.
Yet we still do. Over and over again.
And we never seem to learn.
The second warning is about the essence of the deception. And it’s the lie that we can play with fire and not get burned. We can roll around in the mud with the farm animals and not get dirty. We can live like the world, think like the world, look like the world, value what the world values and crave the world’s love and acceptance and yet remain pure from the world. I mean, how stupid is that?
God tells us there is a one-way path when we associate with evil people. Just one way. And that way is from purity to defilement. From virtue to sin, from light to darkness, from worth and value to corruption and decay. It’s a one way street that leads from holiness to depravity, and not the other way around.
“But I know the Jesus in me will change their hearts if I just spend enough time with them and do the things they are doing.” Don’t be deceived.
“But I love him! And I know if we date or get married he will someday see the Jesus in me and become a Christian. I just know it!” You’re being deceived.
“Hey, they’re my friends. I can hang with them and just not do what they are doing. You know, I can be a light in their darkness.” You’re deceived.
Non-believers never become Believers by osmosis. That takes a sovereign act of God. And you have been warned by the Lord not to be deceived into thinking “good morals or good character will redeem bad company.” In fact, the truth is just the opposite. Don’t be deceived into thinking this warning from God doesn’t apply in your case for whatever reason you conjure up in your mind to justify your disobedience.
It’s just not going to happen. Why? Because God doesn’t lie.
The Addiction to Peer Pressure
We see this scenario graphically played out for us in the life of a young man in the first chapter of Proverbs. It’s peer pressure run amok. It’s the “us” and “we” and “they” and “everyone” against the “you” and “your” and the faithfulness of God’s Word. It’s a classic picture of temptation. And of classic failure.
First, the gracious warning from the father and mother and the blessings of that warning.
Proverbs 1:8 – My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother; (why) for they (the instruction and the law) will be a graceful ornament on your head, and chains about your neck.
Again, Proverbs 1:8 – My son, hear (or, listen, obey, proclaim to others) the instruction (or, correction, discipline) of your father, and do not forsake (or, abandon, cast off or away, to leave alone) the law (or, direction, custom, manner of living) of your mother; (why) for they (the instruction and discipline of our father and the law or custom or manner of living or example of your mother) will be a graceful ornament on your head (or, a wreath of grace, a garland), and chains about your neck.
The phrase a “graceful ornament” seems strange to our ears today. I mean, what’s that exactly? It’s a garland, a wreath, a decorative headpiece worn as a sign of approval and honor and is given as a result of following wisdom. In fact, it’s actually awarded by wisdom itself (Prov. 4:9).1
And the “chains about your neck” might give us the mental picture of Mr. T or some rap artist with a wad of bling hanging from his neck. But that’s not what this passage is talking about. It’s a necklace, and is used figuratively of wearing a parent’s instructions around one’s neck as a valued chain of remembrance. 2
In essence, do not forsake what you have been taught. Do not abandon the acceptance and honor you have received by living a life of wisdom. Do not throw it all away for the fleeting approval of the world. Do not become friends with those the Lord commands otherwise. Do not make yourself the very enemy of God. Remember?
James 4:4 – Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity (or, hostility, hatred, enemy) with God? Whoever therefore wants (or, desires, is inclined) to be a friend of the world (what) makes himself an enemy of God.
And who in their right mind would want to make themselves an enemy of God? But that’s exactly what happens when we desire the friendship of the world. Hence, “Do not be deceived: Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Cor. 15:33).
The Quick Slide into Sin and Judgment
Now watch how quickly temptation can come to the young son. And notice how appealing it all sounds. Just like the motto of the Three Musketeers, “All for One and One for All!”
And pay careful attention to the detail in which the father warns his loved, naive, gullible, young son about the ways of the world and the temptations he will face.
Proverbs 1:10 – My son, if (or, when) sinners (or, those reckoned as offenders, those facing condemnation for their actions, those under the wrath and judgment of God) entice (or, deceive, persuade, allure) you, (what) do not consent (or, yield, be willing, acquiescent).
Then there’s the appeal to the flesh. The almost irresistible compulsion for acceptance, power, anticipation, greed, lust, companionship and belonging. All of what is to be found in Christ is used as a temptation to entice the young son away from Christ and into a life of sin.
Have you ever been there? Does any of this sound familiar? Do we not sin to satisfy, in our selfish flesh and in our own ways, the very needs Christ promised to fulfill for us in His own flesh?
Acceptance and Belonging
Proverbs 1:11a – If (or when) they say, “Come with us (acceptance and belonging)…”
Power, Violence and Excitement
Proverbs 1:11b-12 – Let us (acceptance and belonging) lie in wait (excitement) to shed blood (power and violence); let us (acceptance and belonging) lurk secretly (excitement) for the innocent without cause (power and violence); let us (acceptance and belonging) swallow them alive like Sheol (power), and whole, like those who go down to the Pit (power).
Greed, Lust and the Love of Money
Proverbs 1:13 – We (acceptance and belonging) shall find all kinds of precious possessions (greed, lust and the love of money), we (acceptance and belonging) shall fill our houses with spoil (greed, lust and the love of money).
Companionship and Belonging
Proverbs 1:14 – Cast in your lot among us (companionship and belonging), let us (acceptance and belonging) all have one purse (companionship).
The Warning from Our Father
Now the father, our Father, reveals to his son, you and me, the end result of a life lived in the flesh. It’s the natural consequence of being deceived about “evil company” (1 Cor. 15:33). First, he gives the stern warning to not even get close to those under the wrath of God. Don’t even associate with them or walk in the “way with them” he says. Why? Because we are not to be bound or yoked together by friendship or affection with unbelievers. “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness” (2 Cor. 6:14).
Proverbs 1:15 – My son, do not walk in the way with them (or, in their manner or course of life, on their journey), keep your foot from (what) their path.
This reminds us of the importance of staying completely free from the contaminating influence of the world, the ungodly, the sinful, and the scornful, and to have as our delight the things of God, even His law and His decrees.
Psalm 1:1-2 – Blessed is the man who (what) walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor (what) stands in the path of sinners, nor (what) sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.
The father now anticipates the pointed questions now hurled at him from his son. They are probably the very same questions he threw in anger at his own father: “Why? Why can’t I spend time with my friends? You don’t even know them. You know nothing about them. You’re trying to control who I hang around with. They’re my friends and you can’t choose my friends for me!”
But the father does know all about his son’s friends and what will inevitably happen to them. And he also knows what will happen to his own young son if he continues down this path in a relationship with them. How? How does he know this? Because he believes the Word of God and the warnings given and he has seen, firsthand, all through his life, the pain and suffering that has come upon those who have gone their own way and shipwrecked their lives running from the truth. He knows. He’s seen. And it breaks his heart to imagine the same happening to his own son.
Proverbs 1:16-18 – For their feet run (or, to run swiftly, quickly, to hurry) to evil (or, what is wicked, malignant, hurtful, bad in a moral and ethical sense), and they make haste (or, are anxious, hurried) to shed blood. Surely, in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird; but they lie in wait for (what) their own blood, they lurk secretly for (what) their own lives.
Evil is always self-destructive.
Galatians 6:7-8 – Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for (condition) whatever a man sows, (result) that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.
The truth from Scripture teaches if a man, even your friends, are swift to do evil and live unlike the Lord Who created them, their end result will be the ruin and destruction of their own lives. They will sow to their flesh and, in doing so, reap corruption and death and despair— not only in this life, but in the life to come. But if they sow to the Spirit, as the father is trying to warn his young son, they will reap peace, joy, love, and everlasting life. There are only two roads, only two paths, and only two choices. One to life and, as Jesus said, the other to destruction (Matt. 7:13-14).
“Which will it be, my son?” the father asks. “Which road do you choose?”
Which will it be for you?
And just so we don’t fall prey to the deception we talked about in the beginning, the “evil company corrupts good habits or morals, character” thing, the father leaves us with one final, global truth that applies to all of mankind. It’s actually quite simple.
Proverbs 1:19 – So are the ways of everyone (or, the whole, everything, each, all, the entire, without exception, including you and me) who is greedy (or, to gain wrongfully or by unrighteous violence, to cut off, to break off, to be covetous) for gain (or, profit gained with selfish goals or motives in mind); it (the greed for gain) takes away (or, seizes, captures, to carry off as plunder, to snatch away) the life (or, soul, self, desire, mind, emotion, passion) of its owners.
The love for money consumes those who lust for it like an uncontrollable, raging fire that devours all that is in its path. And, unfortunately, this very love for money is the hallmark and centerpiece of our society. It becomes our idol, our passion, and the standard by which we measure our own value and self-worth.
“I make more than this guy. Therefore, I’m a better man.”
“I can take a better vacation than you. Therefore, I’m a better man.”
“I have nicer clothes, a bigger house, a brand new car. Therefore, I’m a better man.”
But in whose eyes are you deemed a better man? Yours? Probably. But certainly not in the eyes of the Lord. After all, “the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).
And with our drive to be a better man, at least in our own eyes, we will soon find ourselves willing to sacrifice our marriage, our time with our children, and even our love of our Lord for just a little more money. And why? Because we’ve so quickly forgotten the warning from the Lord.
1 Timothy 6:9-10 – But those who desire to be rich (or, wealthy) fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. (why) For the love of money (or, covetousness) is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
“Don’t let that happen to you, my son,” the father would say.
How Much is Enough?
One final thought. When the multimillionaire, John D. Rockefeller, was once asked, “How much money is enough?” He replied, quite transparently, “Just a little bit more.” Or, “I really don’t know. But, for some reason, the millions of dollars I already have don’t make me feel good about myself. So I guess a little bit more will help. Just a little bit more.”
Sad. So sad.
Because true joy and purpose comes from the “fear of the Lord.” After all, that very “fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7). That wonderful knowledge is the blessed knowledge of the Holy One and of His ways.
And nothing compares with knowing Him.
Adveho quis may.
Come what may.
1. Baker, W., & Carpenter, E. E. (2003). The Complete Word study Dictionary: Old Testament (p. 545). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
2. Ibid., p. 855.
While I was preparing for last Sunday’s sermon I was arrested, literally taken captive, by a statement Jesus made during His last message to His disciples before heading to the cross. He was praying to His Father for them that they would be protected from “the evil one” (John 17:15). He was not praying for the lost world, but only for His disciples (John 17:9).
But a phrase in Jesus’ prayer stopped me cold in my tracks. He said:
“I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them” (John 17:9-10).
It was the last sentence that really got to me. Read it again for yourselves. Slowly.
Jesus said, in effect, that all that is His belongs to the Father and all that is the Father’s belongs to Him. The context of the “all” is Jesus speaking of His disciples, those with Him in the Upper Room and those, you and me, the church, “who will believe in Me through their word” (John 17:20). Jesus was also speaking of His church— the called, chosen, justified and redeemed (Rom. 8:29-30).
But look closely at what He said about His church, about you and me. He said, “I am glorified in them” (John 17:10). That’s not future tense, but present tense. He is glorified, now, in them. He is glorified back then, and also today, in them. He is glorified in the present in them. And the “in them” means, of course, the church. “In them” includes those in the Upper Room and those of you reading this post today. It includes all that call upon His Name for salvation no matter where they live or what local church they attend. It includes all, everyone, who have ever been saved.
And it includes you and me, individually, and each of us, collectively, as the church— whatever local body of Christ we choose to attend.
I Am Glorified
But what convicted me the most was the glorified part. Jesus said He is “glorified in them” or in us. Not will be glorified or maybe, someday be glorified, but He is, right now, glorified in us. How can that be?
The word, glorify means “to bring glory, honor, or praise to someone, to show great dignity, to highly esteem, to celebrate profound worth, to magnify and exalt above all others.” Wow. Jesus said He is all of that in His church and in you and me, right now. I don’t see it. I don’t see it at all.
Do you know why? Because I live, like you, in the Laodicean church age (Rev. 3:14-22) where the prevailing spiritual mindset is embodied in the meaning of the name, Laodicea: “the people rule.” That’s right, we call the shots. We’re masters of our own fate, our own destiny. We’re independent, self-made and proud of it. We refuse to bend our knee to anyone or anything except our own selfish lusts and pursuits. And this carnal attitude is engrafted into our DNA, into the very fabric that makes us who we are.
How can Christ be glorified in a church like that? And, worse yet, how can He be glorified in me when the only glory I seem to seek is my own?
In my flesh, He can’t. There’s no way. It’s an impossibility. There’s nothing I can do on my own to bring Him glory. Jesus said, “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5) and He was talking about bearing spiritual fruit so that “My Father is glorified” (John 5:8). He even goes on to say that we are created, as disciples, “to bear much fruit, (why), so you will be My disciples” (John 15:8). And bearing fruit, according to Jesus, is the greatest evidence of our salvation (Matt. 12:33).
But the good news is that with the Spirit “all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26) and we can move beyond our inherent, diseased DNA and leave the land of Laodicea and strive to live in the wonder of His grace, of His Spirit, in union with the Father, as children of God and “joint heirs of Jesus Christ” (Rom. 8:17). In other words, we can be different than those of the church age in which we live. Things can change. We can change.
“How?” you ask. “How can we be different from all that is around us and all we’ve ever known?”
The answer to that question is the reason this blog exists. Together we will devote our lives to knowing and understanding how to help each other move beyond our apathy, our cultural conformity and moral carnality and embrace the life our Lord designed for us to live. Remember? He called it the “abundant life” found only in Him (John 10:10). Are you living the “abundant life” in Him right now?
If not, I’d say it’s high time to pack your bags and jump on the next bus out of Laodicea. It’s time for all of us to leave Laodicea and never look back.
Are You Ready?
Are you ready? Are you ready to forge ahead into the wild unknown in your life with Christ? Are you prepared to “count the costs” of true discipleship? (Luke 14:28). Are you willing to forsake everything, and I mean everything, for the sake of “knowing Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead”? (Phil. 3:10-11).
Are you ready to live your life for the sole purpose, like Paul, of fighting “the good fight, finishing the race, keeping the faith”? (2 Tim. 4:7). Are you prepared to “suffer hardship as a soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3) and to bear His reproach gladly?
Are you ready to experience an intimacy with the Lord Jesus that is beyond description? Are you ready, maybe for the first time in your Christian life, to be truly one with Him?
If so, rejoice. Because making a commitment, a definite resolution, a sacred vow to forsake your citizenship in the land of Laodicea and move to the promised land the Lord has given you, will open for you a promise of blessing previously unknown to the church for centuries. It’s the promise to the overcomers, the blessing of Ephesians 3:20-21. Read these words with a hunger and anticipation of the glory waiting to be revealed in you and “run with endurance the race that is set before us, (how) looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2).
This, beloved, is your inheritance in Him today when you leave Laodicea.
Now to Him (Christ) who is able to do exceedingly abundantly (or, immeasurably, beyond comprehension) above all that we (you and I) ask or think (or, can conceive in our minds), according to the power (Gr. dunamis – explosive, miraculous, achieving, overcoming power) that works in us (in you and me, in the church), to Him be glory in the church (in us, collectively, as the Body of Christ) by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen (Eph. 3:20-21).
This is our inheritance, our birthright. Let’s not let the toys and trinkets of this world take it away, shall we?
Will you join me?
Come what may.
Often I find myself asking the Lord to reveal Himself to me. In fact I find myself, like Moses, continually pleading for God to “show me Your glory” or to at least let me experience a little of what the early church experienced back in the book of Acts. “Lord, give me something. Anything. Just give me a glimpse, maybe just a tiny taste of Your awe and Your power and Your majesty.”
Now don’t get me wrong, I really don’t know what I was expecting God to do. Maybe a flash of light like Peter and John saw when Jesus was transfigured before them. Maybe a chance to see the Spirit of God move in the wind and fire like Elijah did at the mouth of the cave. Or maybe to feel the very foundation of the house shaken by the power of God like it did when the early church prayed. I don’t know. Maybe something memorable. Maybe something out of the ordinary.
Something more than this.
Have you ever felt the same way? Have you looked at the life of the church portrayed in the Acts and then at your own life and wondered what went wrong? What’s missing? And if you have, did it drive you to the Scriptures or did it drive you to a church service that made you “feel” electrified with pulsating music and long, drawn out periods of spiritual aerobics? You know what I mean. Churches that try to imitate what they think the Spirit “feels” like by manipulating the flesh. We’ve all seen it done and we know how superficial it is at best. It’s a bad copy of the real thing. A counterfeit. A mirage. Smoke and mirrors.
Which brings us back to the Scriptures.
“Lord, is there somewhere in Your Word that will show us how to know You more? Is there some passage that can give us the key to unlocking the secret of getting close to You? Is there somewhere in Your Word that will satisfy our desire to know more of You? Lord, can you please help us out?”
And, of course, His answer is, yes.
First, you must understand that His Word is full of places that show us what is necessary to have intimate fellowship with Him. But many of these have to do with living right and striving for holiness, which is not a particularly popular topic in today’s Laodicean church.
So before we tackle the Graduate Level stuff like sanctification and “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5) or “walking by the Spirit and not according to the flesh” (Gal. 5:16) or “not being conformed to the image of this world” (Rom. 12:2), we need to take a step back and examine our level of commitment to living a life of intimacy with the Lord. It’s not something to be taken lightly. It’s a radical change of existence where you will daily die to yourself in order for Christ to live larger and stronger in you. It’s a trade, all of you for all that He is. It will be an adventure of great heights and deep valleys, of pain and hardship and failure— but it is also an adventure of breathtaking seasons of sheer bliss. “Is the pain and hardship worth it?” we all ask. Absolutely! But there’s a price to be paid to hear God speak and understand the knowledge and wisdom of God.
And the question before us is this: Are you willing to pay the price?
If so, let’s begin with some Scriptures that speak of the required level and intensity of our desire necessary to know the wisdom and knowledge of our God.
Proverbs 2 begins this way:
My son, if (a conditional clause) you receive (or, snatch, hold, get) my words and (implied – if you) treasure (or, hide, store up) my commands (not suggestions) within you (2:1).
Uh, question. What does it mean to receive Your words? Can You give me some examples?
So that you incline (or, heed, hearken, be attentive) your ear to wisdom, and apply (or, stretch out, extend) your heart to understanding (2:2).
Ok, got it. But to what extent? In other words, do I apply my heart like I did to high school algebra or is it something greater than that, something more intense? How much do I need to seek the wisdom of God and His understanding in order to experience true intimacy with God?
Yes, if (conditional clause) you cry out (or, call, summon) for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding (2:3).
So am I to cry out for Him like a fan at a football game or like Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire when he cried “Stella!” at the bottom of the stairs or Rocky Balboa when he cried out “Adrian!” in the ring? Or is it more like the two blind men that continually cried out to Jesus, desperate, refusing to be silenced, begging to be heard and healed, “Son of David, have mercy on us!” (Matt. 9:27). Or is it something more?
Can you feel the rising level of intensity in these words? It’s more than simple mental assent or wishful thinking. There’s a sense of dire urgency, of helplessness, of reckless abandonment in these words. The Lord tells us we must seek discernment and understanding like a drowning man seeks one more breath. We must want it more than anything else, more than life itself.
Does that seem a stretch to you? Does it seem too radical, too over-the-top? Then let’s read on.
If (again, conditional clause) you seek her (wisdom, discernment, understanding, knowledge of God) as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasure (2:4).
Got it, we are to seek and desire and crave the wisdom and knowledge of God more than the very treasures we spend our lives trying to accumulate. We must want it more than gold and silver, more than comfort and ease, more than our own pleasure. We must seek it like the man in search of fine pearls (Matt. 13:46) or the woman with the lost coin (Luke 15:8-10) or the man who finds the treasure in a field (Matt. 13:44). We must be willing to sell all that we have to possess the very wisdom of God and the knowledge of God and experience the very presence of God. After all, nothing else really matters, does it?
Then (the result of all the previous “ifs“) you will understand the fear (or, reverence, awe, terror) of God and find the knowledge of God (2:5).
Simple truth. Clear path. Wonderful reward. But are you willing to pay the price and fulfill the “if’s“, the conditional clauses, to receive the “then” at the end?
I know that I am. Are you? And, if so, will you join me on this grand adventure?
Adveho quis may.
Come what may.
There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
I was reading in the Proverbs and came across a verse that seems to perfectly describe the contemporary church culture of today. Surprised? You really shouldn’t be. After all, we are living large in the land of Laodicea where our mantra, our politically correct slogan, our bumper sticker of choice is: “Look at me, I’m important, I have worth, I matter to me.” We think it’s all about us, all about our wants and our desires and our opinions and our likes and dislikes. Our life literally revolves around us. It’s about who we friend on Facebook, who we tweet with our self-inflated pearls of wisdom and how cool and sexy and desirable we think we look in the thousands of selfies we post for everyone to see. We believe the world is anxiously waiting for us to post the next bit of trivia in our lives so they can rejoice with us at the picture of the meal we are eating or that we just completed 2 miles on the treadmill or how cute our cat looks all curled up on the couch. Our thoughts become consumed with “who is following me on Twitter, how many friends do I have on Facebook, who is checking out my profile? Wow! I must be something!”
And this chain of self-absorbed and prideful thinking then bleeds over into our spiritual lives and we begin to reason that if God were really the God we think He is… no, if He was the God we created Him to be, then He would see things our way. He would have the “mind of His creation” and not expect us to “have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). He would be our clone, our twin, someone greater than us designed to do our bidding and meet our every need. And why not? It’s all about us, isn’t it?
But that’s not at all who God is— and we know it. We just chafe at the thought of having to submit our will and conform our lives to the likeness of someone we can’t control or even understand. And if we were honest, we really want it to be about us and not about Him.
But that’s what the Christian life is all about. The life in Christ is a life of dependency and submission and not of self-will and self-gratification. It’s not a life of relying on our own understanding and choosing what is best in our own eyes. It’s not a life that “seems right” to each of us based on our own carnal, fallen sense of morality and righteousness. It’s not about living by our own rules and then feeling good about what we feel good about.
In other words, it’s not about us. Never has been. Never will be.
If we persist in demanding to be the god in our own life and to judge ourselves by our own standards we will inevitably continue to slide down the way that seems right to each of us. We will continue to journey down the path of living to only satisfy what we want to do, what we feel good about and what makes our flesh happy with ourselves. We will, in effect, reject God’s standards and pay a frightening price for doing so.
Proverbs 14:12 states:
There is a way or a path, journey, manner of living
that seems right or correct, or just
to a man or to each of us
but its end or the end result of going down that path that seems right or correct to us
is the way of death.
The Word of God clearly states the consequence of going our own way, of living like Laodiceans, of doing what seems right in our own eyes, of shaking our fist in the face of a holy, sovereign God who saved us by the death of His only Son— is death. It’s spiritual death, eternal death, physical death, moral death, certain death.
This is not the time to journey down the path that seems right to each of us. It’s not the time to do what our heart tells us to do. Why? Because God’s Word says that our heart is “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9) and is not to be trusted. Plus, following our wicked and deceitful heart will only lead us down the path of death and destruction, so say the Proverbs.
Remember the words of Jesus: “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” Or, “Why do you call me Lord and not obey Me or follow My commands?” One answer for the almost criminal carnality and disobedience in the church today is found in 1 John 1:6 where John says: If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
Let’s look at that verse a little closer.
If we say that we have fellowship or communion, participation, koinōnía
with Him or say we are Believers, follower of Christ, Christians
and walk in darkness or live unlike the Lord we claim to love and serve, to disobey His commands and neglect His Word
we lie in saying we are Believers, followers of Christ, Christians
and do not practice the truth or live like the Lord we claim to serve.
In effect, we are heading down the way of death according to Proverbs 14:12.
So which is it? Are we carnal and self-absorbed because we don’t truly know the Lord and are lost and deceived in thinking we belong to Him? Or are we simply losers in the spiritual life and suck at following Christ? Look deep inside of you and ask, Which is it?
It is now the time to stand for Truth (John 14:6), to surrender our lives to the One who created us (Rom. 12:1-2), and to walk as children of light and not children of darkness (Eph. 5:8). It essence, it is high time to become obedient to the Lord and the Word of God.
Adveho quis may.
Come what may.