Monthly Archives: December 2012
“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” – 2 Timothy 3:12
IT IS OF serious concern nowadays as to why the above truth sounds so foreign to our ears. Affluence and prosperity has anaesthetized many a Christian to pursue a lifestyle of comfort and ease, rather than awaken to such sobering realities that in turn braces the believer to withstand the trials of faith.
The popular and widespread diet of today’s evangelicalism is intolerant to anything that would challenge, upset and spoil the appetite for self-realized dreams, self-recognition and self-development; anything that would postpone or threaten such ambitious pursuits are deemed negative and oftentimes labelled as divisive that counters the building up and nourishment of Christ’s body. Somehow, mainstream evangelicalism has followed the pattern of the world’s standard in how it perceives accomplishment through materialistic prosperity rather than in the character of a person that speaks of soul wealth.
The true spiritual measure of a Christian is not in how they thrive under success but how they hold under distress. The apostle Paul would have been a miserable failure and a dampener to many of today’s Christian enterprises, let alone the worlds. Yet, Paul would rather look like the ‘looser’ – and even boast about it – knowing that the power of Christ had rested upon him. Listen to the calibre of this spiritual giant: “In all these things”, not in times of visible success, ease and prosperity, but in “tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger and death” (Romans 8:35) do we realize we are more than conquerors. Paul was “content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecution and calamities” (2 Corinthians 12:10) because that is where he perceived spiritual success – weak in himself while strong in Christ. This is pure madness to today’s ‘progressive’ Christianity, but a careful and honest study of the New Testament epistles will reveal how digressive our modern approach has become.
Many automatically assume that to follow Christ is a sealed guarantee to blessing and prospering all their plans; they may expect a little turbulence periodically, but an unexpected journey, where all their plans are thwarted through misadventure, is hardly perceived as the will of God taking place. Many embrace the insurance-lie that if we obey God’s commands, we are cocooned from trouble, but such presumptuousness makes Christ out to be a liar: “In this world you will have tribulation.” (John 16:33) and Paul who strengthened and encouraged the disciples to continue in the faith, stating that: “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). The lives of Samuel Rutherford, David Brainerd, Jonathan Edwards, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Hudson Taylor, Charles Haddon Spurgeon and Richard Wurmbrand exemplified that – but seldom do you find present day leaders going through such fires. Great faith and great trials go hand in hand and the depth of faith’s trial is the measure of spiritual maturity. Can we say that would God trust us with such testing; has the Holy Spirit tempered and weathered us to face such baptisms or we do we care too much for our comfortable lifestyles? Forget about the easy pat answers; the problem with too many of us is that we know too much about instead of personally knowing through experience. Peter was a very different man after denying His Lord; he wasn’t too cocksure of himself. James and John would eventually understand the real implications of being baptized with the same baptism of Jesus (Mark 10:35-39).
The fact that persecution is extraneous to Westernized Christianity ought to unnerve the widespread state of spiritual indifference and mediocrity. A comatose Christianity is no threat to the kingdom of Satan but a demonstrative New Testament Church is a marked target in hell and the sooner a Christian wakes up to the sobering reality that this world is not a playground but a battleground, the road to spiritual victory will be clear in sight.
What is our immediate reaction to a possible coming persecution? One thing for certain is that the majority are not prepared for it, but rather fear it. What we ought to fear is our so-called ‘prosperous’ state because it hasn’t made us rich. Here’s the state of America’s spiritual pulse (and you can throw in Canada and Britain too) : “You say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17). That’s not a message to the world but to the Bride of Christ! Our lust for prosperity has disabled the church. “Persecution has never hurt the Church”, Paul Washer said, “…only prosperity.” This is how unfamiliar we are with God’s ways: “God’s method of spiritual prosperity in our lives is serious adversity” – Arthur Neil. Serious adversity; how does that sit with the Church today? Is there any church here in America of late that has encountered genuine satanic opposition? This is not a reference to paranoid ‘demon hunters’ out there that are ludicrously ignorant of Scripture’s warning (2 Peter 2:10-12; Jude 8-10); this is concerning anyone, any church that has come under front-line attack having engaged in serious spiritual warfare.
The longing for a revival is still given expression in words and prayers, but what kind of revival is being requested and in what manner is it expected to come? The general modern romanticized view of revival is utterly different from those who have encountered an authentic move of the Holy Spirit; a contemporary perspective is having a ‘knees-up’ or a celebrative occasion; a spiritual renewal and reformation is when God makes His presence known and felt – and no-one stands up in it unabashed and confident as if God were some kind of ‘buddy’. The godliest men have been on their faces and in the same company as Isaiah – “Woe is me, for I am undone; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5).
I strongly believe that if this nation is to know another genuine spiritual awakening and renewal, it will coincide with the fire of persecution. It shall be a time of testing our ‘metal’ as Christians; it will sort out the chaff from the wheat; those who have a mere profession in the faith, disclosing a sharp line of distinction between those who have a form of godliness, yet void of power, to those who have been spiritually born by the resurrection power of Christ.
Christians have done well to hide in large numbers and large gatherings that appear spiritual; we can all easily hide in crowds to the point where there is no accountability to one another, where fellowship has been substituted with socializing and where people have substituted fellowship alone with God to being with people all the time. Genuine fellowship with other believers is the gathering of saints – assembling together, no matter how small – sharing of their walk with God; they give according to the measure of how real God is in their personal lives. Without that, there can be no sincere fellowship. Somehow we think big and mega gatherings are spiritual. Well, so much for our New Testament era churches! Large numbers do not make believers immune to adversity; fellowship with others in the Holy Spirit is what builds up the church to withstand the fires of persecution.
Paul Washer recently said, “You mark my words, and it won’t be long … when persecution begins in this country [USA], and it strips everything from you, and most of the evangelical church goes totally apostate, and little groups are left to be berated, THEN you will see that Christ is enough.” He is not wrong to state “most of the evangelical church goes totally apostate.” Why? Because they are building on the wrong foundation; they are not building on Christ, where He is everything to you. That’s the danger within contemporary Christianity; it’s Christ and…Seldom do today’s churches preach our sufficiency in Christ alone, it’s always the subtlety of something else added to it that appears to be good and harmless when in actual fact it leads down a path where we lose our fervency for Christ; a love we have for Him that we have for no other and a love that obeys above all others.
I can vouch for what Paul Washer said, “My dear friends, there’s a sense, when poverty comes upon you, when you have nothing … no one can help you but Christ! Then, Christ becomes precious to you.” Sometimes for that to take place it does require a stripping of all that we put our trust and confidence in, whatever that may be – friends, family, qualifications, credibility, wealth, even Christianity itself – but there is a sense of an all-round poverty when you are brought to the place of realizing that the only thing that will stand, through whatever, is your life on the Rock – Christ alone. He takes that rightful place of being your all; you may lose everything else around you but in time you will come to know that He is your inheritance; He is your reward.
Is Christ our all now and are we free in Him now no matter what limitations are put upon us? The freedom that remains in our lands, do we invest that in Christ; do we invest much time alone with Him? Are we strong in Him? The very key to that is to see our own poverty, not just materially but in and of ourselves that in turn leads us to Him.
This obviously is not the usual sentimental end-of-the-year inspirational thought, but my prayer is that as we embark upon 2013, we walk into next year with our hand in God’s, secure in Him, resting in Him, pursuing Him with all our hearts and come what may, we will live honourably to Him Who has called us to eternal life; let us take hold of that, keeping His ways, unstained by this world and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God holds the key of all unknown,
And I am glad;
If other hands should hold the key,
Or if He trusted it to me,
I might be sad.
What if tomorrow’s cares were here
Without its rest!
I’d rather He unlocked the day;
And, as the hours swing open, say,
“My will is best.”
The very dimness of my sight
Makes me secure;
For, groping in my misty way,
I feel His hand; I hear Him say,
“My help is sure.”
I cannot read His future plans;
But this I know;
I have the smiling of His face,
And all the refuge of His grace,
While here below.
Enough! this covers all my wants,
And so I rest!
For what I cannot, He can see,
And in His care I saved shall be,
(Hymn by Joseph Parker 1830-1902)