Blessed are those who are persecuted for doing right,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Let me state up front that there are millions of persecuted Christians around the globe. We must be conscious of our brothers and sisters who are not allowed the freedom to assemble, to pray, to worship, or to hold a Bible in their hands. They face death simply because they believe in and express their faith in Jesus Christ. There are also still too many women and children forced into the sex slave trade. I have listed ways at the end of this post to step up and support adults and children in persecuted or impoverished areas. I’ll write more about those brothers and sisters next week.
This week, please – please – reach out. Please have one less latte’, one less fast food dinner, one less anything. It can mean food, fresh water, a microloan, a schoolbook, shelter, rescue – it can mean hope. See the end of this post; click one of the links. Act now!
This post is about those of us living in areas free to worship, who are wondering what it means to live as committed followers of Christ, who are on a quiet quest to discover what it means personally, relationally, intimately. It is for those of us who have been told the gospel means one thing, had it wrapped up in a pretty box tied up with ribbon, and placed it on a shelf. It is for those of us who want to be released from the bondage that ribbon has created.
The gospel embraces both sides of the grave. Richard Foster
This is what most of us think the gospel means:
- We are chosen, saved and forgiven.
- We get to go to heaven when we die.
- John 3:16
Other than those three things, we go about our daily lives pretty much as we did before. We believe in Jesus. We’re thankful that we’re going to heaven. Every once-in-a-while, we rant against the government. Or we rant against those who rant against the government.
I learned from Kyle Idleman’s Not a Fan, and verified on Biblegateway.com, that in the gospels, Jesus tells us to believe in him fewer than half a dozen times. He tells us to follow him more than twenty times.
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
What does, “take up his cross daily,” mean?
It’s a radical call to commitment. It’s living for the kingdom. It’s the dying to self the apostle Paul wrote about:
Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.
Ephesians 4:20-24 But that’s no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.
Philippians 2:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Colossians 3:3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
God wants us to make Him known. Not His rules, but Himself.
Each of us is a missionary for God. Missionaries are not just people who travel to other countries to evangelize and convert. Everywhere we look in the Bible, God uses people to carry out His mission – bringing all of creation to Himself.
God used Moses free the slaves in Egypt, and sent him to speak to Pharaoh on His behalf. (Exodus 3:9-10) The Holy Spirit used Philip to explain the gospel to an Ethiopian court treasurer. (Acts 8:26-39) He used Ananais to take the scales from Saul’s eyes, and allow him to be filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 9:10-19) Thereafter, He used Saul – the apostle Paul – to be His light to the gentiles.
We are all lamps for God’s light. Some of us provide light where we work. Others provide light in our homes. Still others write or teach, garden or build, crunch numbers or create.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16
To make a commitment, we have to be willing to rid ourselves of the ribbon of safety, unwrap the box of comfort, discover and take a stand for what Jesus means by following Him. It means missional living, even if we might be persecuted by our families, by our coworkers, by our friends.
It means following Jesus not just at church on Sundays, but also Monday-Friday at work, at school, with our children, with our parents or teachers, in meetings, at the grocery store, in traffic, waiting in line, cooking dinner, or helping our kids with homework.
It means following Jesus on Saturday when we’re at a game, on a date, out to dinner, meeting with friends, in a bar, texting, on social media, at the gym, or alone deciding what book to read, what movie to watch or what to watch on tv.
For now, just know – like it or not – it means more than you going to heaven.
Compassion International www.compassion.com
Destiny Rescue http://www.destinyrescue.org/us/
International Justice Mission http://www.ijm.org/
Liberty in North Korea http://www.libertyinnorthkorea.org/
Living Water International http://www.water.cc/
Open Doors USA https://www.opendoorsusa.org/
Red Window Project www.redwindow.org
UNICEF End Trafficking http://www.unicefusa.org/mission/protect/trafficking/end
Voice of the Martyrs https://www.persecution.com/
World Food Programme, http://www.wfp.org/
World Vision www.worldvision.org
Next Week: Part 2 – God’s Mission