July 17, 2014

Boldness to speak?

My husband is in a part of the world where many people are fasting because of their religious beliefs. He is told not to eat or drink in their presence out of respect for what they are doing. Of course there will be no toleration of anyone speaking about the Christ or sharing Christian truths.

While various cultures at various times sometimes respect Christian practices, this is not the norm. Intolerance began in the days of the early church when, “the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison.”

They did not like what the apostles were teaching about Jesus Christ. However, “during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out.” This angel told them, “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.”

The apostles obeyed and “entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.” Without knowing this, the high priest “called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison” and returned to report, “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside.” As they wondered about this, someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” (Acts 5:17–25)

I’m convicted by this boldness to obey God despite the pressures to shut up. I can so easily keep my mouth closed, sometimes even with Christians who could use a good word from God’s Word. Yesterday my friends were complaining about those who try to shut down Christian practices, but they forget that this is not about fairness. Those who believe in Jesus will always be pushed aside just as He was pushed aside. We can respect others yet make no demands that they do the same for us.

But back to my problem with not speaking when I should. Paul didn’t have that problem. He continually challenged any lack of faith in his own people because his “heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.” He understood they were “ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own righteousness.” He was fully convinced that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” and that their ‘law-keeping’ could not save them for “all fall short.” Do I have that same zeal? I don’t think so.

Paul’s message was simple: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” He knew there is “no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:1–13)

I know that too. Why then should I so quickly lose heart and become afraid to share it? Silence may be golden but is not what God wants. He clearly says that I am to turn from all “disgraceful, underhanded ways . . .  refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word . . .  and commend (myself) to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” But I am also to speak to others about Jesus. I know that if they do not want to listen, it is because the Gospel “is veiled to those who are perishing” and “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” That is not an excuse to be silent.

Whether pressured to shut up or not, I am to proclaim “Jesus Christ as Lord” and myself as a servant to others for Jesus’ sake because God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in my heart “to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:1–6).

Paul exhorted Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” I have not been called to that task, but still commanded to share the good news of Jesus Christ in whatever way I can. There is a need because Paul’s dire prediction to Timothy is as true today as it was then. He said, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

Like Timothy, I am to “always be sober-minded, endure suffering . . .” and fulfilling the ministry God has given me. (2 Timothy 4:2–5)

I can’t do that with my mouth shut.

No comments: