September 18, 2019

Fearing consequences?

Last week, my hubby was asked why so many people consider themselves Christians yet attend church only 1-2 times a month and are not actively involved in sharing the Gospel. The person asking the question was puzzled for several reasons yet the two of them were mostly concerned that faithful commitment to church might be a measure of commitment to Christ. Perhaps apathy signals wavering in our relationship to Him.

This is on my mind too. Christians in North America have been blessed. Our comfort level is high. We have enjoyed the ‘good life’ for decades and I’m certain that most of us don’t want that to change.

However, there is a difference between a ‘good’ life and a ‘godly’ life. Anyone can have the comforts of the good life without naming Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. As for those who do, we can expect God’s goodness yet not everyone will gladly endorse or receive what Christians are supposed to say and do. Paul wrote this to Timothy, a young pastor who seemed to be a bit fearful and needed encouragement . . .
You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:10–17)
Loving and serving Jesus Christ is not merely about wearing the label and going to church. It is about following biblical teaching, living as the early Christians lived, making a deliberate choice to live by faith, loving others more than myself, and being steadfast about it even when the persecution starts.

And it will start. The Gospel has a tremendous appeal; those who believe it are forgiven and inherit eternal life, BUT it also is offensive. It tells people that they are sinners — without faith in Christ, they are lost and condemned. Not good news and often producing great hostility in those who have determined that they are just fine without faith, without God, without Jesus Christ and without Christians talking to them about their spiritual destiny. Could it be that those who claim to be Christians are hanging back to avoid this kind of reception?

Many of us know the concept of ‘friendship evangelism’ where we are told to get to know our neighbors, show them love and care, and hopefully win their interest in Christ by being a good friend. We have heard the saying, “Be a good Christian witness at all times, and if necessary, use words.” The problem arises with that little word “if” because it ought to be “when.” The Bible says that faith comes by hearing words about Jesus Christ. (Romans 10) If we are going to be effective in sharing the gospel, eventually we need to tell someone what it is: that Jesus Christ came to save sinners, and that includes all, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

The last verse in the above passage is encouraging for it says God equips me to do whatever He wants from me by using His Word. If church attendance lags, perhaps reading and studying the Word of God is lagging too. I don’t know. I just know that fear of losing the comforts of life is a powerful and negative force. This fear is not from God . . .
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, (2 Timothy 1:7–8)
Lord Jesus, we need Your holy boldness, the power that is spoken of in these verses, and Your love for others that motivates us to share the good news with them. We also need that self-control that enables us to behave in a wise and sensible manner. Life is short, for me and for those around me. I do not want to ever feel shame or embarrassment for trusting You, nor let fear of suffering keep me from telling others about You. I know it happens. Change my heart and set me free to speak about You about without fear of any negative consequences to myself. Eternal destinies are at stake.

Today’s thankful list . . .
This reminder to speak up when God gives that nudge.
This reminder to never fear what people can do for God stands with me.
A slow day where my hubby could sleep and heal.
Sunshine on a lovely fall day.
Green and gold.
God loves me.

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