Friday, September 22, 2017

Persecution Every Christian’s Lot

This morning I was reading a sermon by George Whitefield entitled, “Persecution Every Christian’s Lot”. How powerfully convicting! I feel as if my heart has been laid bare before my Lord as His spotlight points to areas in my life which fail to reflect His righteousness. It would be easy to respond to the Holy Ghost’s examination in the words of Romans 3:23 as a lame excuse: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Yet, more is required than a simple reference in an effort to explain away my failures. I’m called to repent and apply the transforming Word of God to those areas which fail to reflect my daily walk with the Master.

Whitefield made an observation that brings me to why I’m sharing so transparently. After carefully describing a life of Godliness, he asserts: “…hence we may easily learn why so few suffer persecution. Because so few live godly in Christ Jesus. You may live formally in Christ, you may attend on outward duties; you may live morally in Christ, you may (as they term it) do no one an harm, and avoid persecution: but they ‘that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution’” (2 Tim 3:12).

Aside from the Holy Spirit’s spotlight revealing areas needing work in my own life, I am reminded of a question I’ve heard many ask in one way or another: “Why do so many in other areas of the world suffer for their faith?” Oftentimes it is noted that America will also one day face persecution on a similar level. But, I have to wonder if the American church is not facing great persecution because it has (for a great part) lost sight of what it means to “live godly in Christ Jesus.”

Allow me to share more of Whitefield’s sermon in an effort to establish what it means to live godly in Christ Jesus. And, while you read it, do so only as you look into the mirror of your own life, not in an attempt to applaud your successes because you measure up to these standards, but to allow the Holy Ghost to reveal areas in your heart (like He has mine) that need work. Read Whitefield’s description:

“Let us consider what it is to live godly in Christ Jesus. This supposes, that we are made the righteousness of God in Christ, that we are born again, and are one with Christ by a living faith, and a vital union, even as Jesus Christ and the Father are One. Unless we are thus converted, and transformed by the renewing of our minds, we cannot properly be said to be in Christ, much less to live godly in him. To be in Christ merely by baptism, and an outward profession, is not to be in Him in the strict sense of the word: no; ‘They that are in Christ, are new creatures; old things are passed away, and all things are become new’ in their hearts. Their life is hid with Christ in God; their souls daily feed on the invisible realities of another world. To ‘live godly in Christ,’ is to make the divine will, and not our own, the sole principle of all our thoughts, words, and actions; so that, ‘whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do, we do all to the glory of God.’ Those who live godly in Christ, may not so much be said to live, as Christ to live in them: He is their Alpha and Omega, their first and last, their beginning and end. They are led by his Spirit, as a child is led by the hand of its father; and are willing to follow the Lamb withersoever he leads them. They hear, know, and obey his voice. Their affections are set on things above; their hopes are full of immortality; their citizenship is in heaven. Being born again of God, they habitually live to, and daily walk with, God. They are pure in heart; and, from a principle of faith in Christ, are holy in all manner of conversation and godliness.”

This, my friends, could very well be why the American church has not seen the level of persecution we find in North Korea, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iran, Pakistan, Eritrea, and Nigeria (the ten countries where persecution is the highest in the world according to Open Doors www.opendoorsusa.org].

Conversion in the American church has become little more than a trip to the front of the church, a quick prayer and a handshake. While this is not the case in every church in America, there seems to be little depth of ministry and commitment to lead and disciple those who feel the drawing of the Spirit to surrender their lives to God through a born again experience. It is sad that so little is done to help new believers develop a close walk with Christ where a bold testimony is formed through godly living as the babe in Christ goes through a necessary transformation that comes from learning and applying the Word of God.

When we adopted our children, we appeared before a judge who signed the papers making them official members of our family. Their names were changed to Ross. But, it took time for them to learn our lifestyles, to become one with our family so much that they would be recognied as “one of those Rosses” by their actions, conversation, and lifestyles. That only happened as they lived with us, spent time with us, interacted daily with us. They had to learn to look to us for their provision, for their contentment, for all their needs in life. It took work on their part (and on ours). One by one, as they began to fall into line with our lives, they became true Rosses, leaving behind their old lives filled with abuse, rejection, abandonment, and shame. They had a new family and, essentially, became “new creatures”. The old was behind them and their new lives were in front of them. They were eager to please and proud to be a part of a family where love abounded, where there was no fear of rejection, and they were assured of a lifetime as part of our family. While I could go on about how one of our adopted children “looked back” and forsook their new life which opened doors to constant confusion, pain and rejection, suffice it to say that the analogy is perfect though unbelievably sad.

Living a godly life is taking on the very character of Christ. I admit that I fall so short in so many ways. I can’t help but think if we all were willing to admit we have a lot of work to do in our own hearts, that the American church would rise up strong. Yes, we would face persecution on greater levels than any of us have seen but, in the words of George Whitefield, “we would never suffer justly as an evil-doer, but only for righteousness sake.”

I pray that all true believers would joyfully follow Him, both to prison and to death, if He is pleased to call us to testify to His truth with our blood. As His Bride, we must rise up, be no ashamed of the Gospel, that Christ may be glorified in us.

In persecution, may we rejoice to be found worthy.

 

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(c) 2015 Jan RossAll Rights Reserved

 

 

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