Powerful Strangers and Glad Persecutees

Why Rejoice when Persecuted? Why start to get concerned when you aren’t? Where is your real home? These three questions are all linked. Listen to the big guns:

“Indeed, all who delight in pursuing righteousness and are determined to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be hunted and persecuted [because of their faith].” 2 Tim 3:12

“Woe to you when everyone speakwell of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.” Luke 6:26

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot." Matt 5:11-13
The other day I painted this purposefully satirical picture of an Alpha interview:

Alpha interviewer: "what has Jesus done for you?"
Alpha delegate: "freed me from addictions, filled me with the spirit of resurrection and caused my family to hate me. Oh and I lost my job and got interviewed by a team of social workers for hate speech. But I'm thankful they haven't built a Colloseum yet..."
Church leader:"Cutttttt!!"
#tryalpha #carryyourcross #keepinitreal

Now, what I wrote is funny. And slightly tragic. There’s also a lot of truth in it. But in no way do I wish to dishonour or hinder the Alpha model. I want to help it. I love alpha. The point I am making is that we have to be very careful that we don't sell Jesus as a life improvement product. Jesus comes as Lord or He doesn't come at all. Following Jesus is a death (daily) that brings life, abundant life now and everlasting life to come. That’s why a solid understanding and practice of full immersion water baptism (the watery grave of death to the world, unto glorious resurrection) is so vital to preach, teach and carry out.

When you walk with Jesus there is persecution, cost, suffering - period. This is a given - as Paul says, "suffering persecution" is the very evidence of our godliness (2 Timothy 3:12), and as Jesus says the evidence that we're not false (Luke 6:26). This is why Jesus insists that we celebrate, become "exceedingly joyful" about the fact. GREAT is our reward in heaven (Matt 5:11-13)! This is the case more than ever today in the west. In fact, if you're not running into trouble fairly regularly today you need to take a good hard look at your devotion to Jesus.

With much of our overtly seeker-sensitive, well-marketed presentation of the gospel (in truth the gospel needs no dressing, when we are true to His word, the Holy Spirit is ample conviction, confirmation and divine demonstration), we must be careful that we do not hoodwink people into the kingdom then wonder why they fall away, backslide or compromise truth when their flesh, what they "bought into", isn't given what it wants, what it has been trained to expect. If you win people to Jesus by the flesh you will have to keep them by the flesh.

Powerful Strangers

Christians are strangers to the world. Powerful, happy ones.

“These men of faith … saw it all awaiting them on ahead and were glad, for they agreed that this earth was not their real home but that they were just strangers visiting down here.”
(Hebrews 11:13 TLB)

John Wesley said, “We ought to live every day as though we’ve come out of another world into this world — but with the power of that world still upon us. We should live and speak and move in that power, and have our whole being in Jesus Christ!”

When we are in Christ, we are called to live like strangers in this world. We are present in it, yet we are like foreign diplomats who belong to an entirely different kingdom, who have been dispatched here to perform a specific mission. We may have to live within the framework of this land, but ultimately we are subject to a higher authority.

Many people live lives that are governed by their environment and the circumstances in which they find themselves. Our English word “circumstance” finds its origin in Latin and literally means “that which surrounds us”. As believers who are learning each day to walk in the Spirit, we find that we can live life two ways:

1. We can live in reaction to the things that surround us – our culture, our circumstances, the example of the lives of others – and be defined by those things.

Or,

2. We can live from an inner source of faith, hope and love and allow those fruits of the Spirit to shape and define us.

When we live from the inside out, as carriers of the presence of God, we find that our reaction to our “surroundings” in life is entirely different. We are no longer blown about by our circumstances, but rather led by the gentle wind of the Spirit. Circumstances submit to Christ in us. No longer are our lives like thermometers; we become thermostats – atmospheres change around us.

Born again Christians are a new race of people, seated in a new realm (1 Peter 2:9, Ephesians 2:6). We are beyond human (1 Corinthians 3:3). We are to live differently to those around us. Most people cling onto the fabric of their lives – people, possessions, self-worth, self-image – because they have nothing else apart from the here-and-now. Instead, we are to live as pilgrims. The material aspect of our world need have no grip on us, because we are on a journey to a better place. We have our eyes fixed on our eternal destination. Here are five indications that your Christian pilgrimage is maturing:

  • ·      You carry increasing joy outside of circumstantial blessing
  • ·      You can rejoice in persecution, for the joy set before you
  • ·      You walk in deepening trust outside of circumstantial control
  • ·      Your desire to see people saved far outweighs your desire to stay safe
  • ·      You are less concerned about “me” and more concerned about serving God and others

Remember today that the “here and now” is not your final destination. You are here, but actually you don’t belong, because you are a citizen of another kingdom – the kingdom of God. Rejoice!


This article is an extract from 

God Hunger: Meditations from a life of longing








Comments

Popular Posts