Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Persecuted?



The news feed on my computer allows me to select news concerning my interests. Besides world and local events, I’ve added specifics like ‘landscape painting’ and ‘modern quilts.’ Before our trip, I selected the city where we were going and was given tidbits of what was going on there.

Another news feed choice has been ‘Christian persecution.’ Most of it is horrifying but there are some positive reports. However, one report bothers me because it says Christians in North America are reporting persecution when there really isn’t any. This could be correct, but if people are reported to be exaggerating when they really are being persecuted, this seems to me just another form of persecution!

God does not intend that sincere people who live for Christ should suffer because of it, but He did warn us that this would happen. He also tells us how to respond:

“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:13–17)

The Bible says we may suffer for doing good, but it should never be for the opposite reason. In other words, don’t earn persecution by being a jerk!

After reading this passage a few times, I thought of something else. It says I am to be prepared to give a reason for my hope. My reason is that God assures me of eternal life because my hope is firmly grounded in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His promises. I know that my best efforts fall short and there is nothing I can do to earn or deserve eternal life or any blessing from God.

However, on occasion I’ve asked people if they have assurance of eternal life and received this answer: “I am doing my best and just hope that God will accept me.” This is an answer to the same question, yet it is based on their reliance on their own goodness and a vague idea that God will honor them for doing their best.

It seems logical. Our fathers, teachers, mentors and many others tell us to “do your best” and that is all that a person can do. This may be true when it comes to baking bread, drawing a horse, riding a scooter, or acting in a play, but in the kingdom of God, my best is “like filthy rags” (see Isaiah 64:6).

No regard for best effort seems unfair, but compare the evaluation of my life to an omelet. Some of the ingredients are fine, but toss in one rotten egg and the entire omelet is ruined. Further, I cannot claim perfection; I know the rotten eggs are in the mix. Like any chef, God will not accept less than perfection. How could I worship Him if He did? My hope is in Christ, the only one who passes that perfection test.

This is the reason I need Him: He stands for me as my substitute who took my penalty for sin — and is also my righteousness who meets God’s standard on my behalf. In Him, I am made perfect.

“God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” (1 Corinthians 1:28–31)

God does not honor those who do their best; He chooses those who are lowly and who realize they have no ‘best’ that measures up. God honors all who are in Christ Jesus. He is our wisdom, righteousness, and perfection, our only boast.

Comparing these thoughts, persecution becomes more understandable. No one who assumes they are good enough is likely to tolerate anyone who says otherwise. However, I’m not referring to people who preach ‘turn or burn’ and act as if they are better than everyone else.

It is easy to say ‘you have no right to tell me what to do’ to a jerk, but much harder to say ‘you do your best’ to a person who already realizes that salvation does not happen that way. Offensive people may experience that false persecution the news reports because they are smugly self-righteous.

On the other hand, those who live for Christ in the grace of the Holy Spirit often get the real persecution because they convict sinners of their pride. Those who are too proud to listen will try to turn off their voice.

^^^^^^^^^^
Jesus, I need You to enable me to live as Your child. I need Your wisdom and grace, Your ability to draw people to Yourself. I don’t want to be a jerk who flaunts what You have given me as if I am somehow better than everyone else.  However, I also realize that if I am like You, truly like You, some will want to nail me to a cross.

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