The High Cost of Living Righteously

by Mike Ratliff

10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 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. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:10-13 ESV)

“Christians” in the United States and other “civilized” countries do not exist in a climate of a fear of persecution like those in China and India. Some would say that is because of our culture or that there are huge numbers of Christians here. However, the truth of the matter is that Christians who live in total obedience to their Lord will be persecuted. So, what does that say about Christians who live at peace with the world around them? The truth of the matter is this; the reason Christians are not persecuted in the US is that very few of them are walking in the level of obedience to their Lord that would draw attention to them from those who hate the real Jesus and the Word of God. However, if they were living holy lives, sharing their faith, actively making disciples, and preaching the whole Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ the wrath of Satan and his seed would come upon them.

Nothing has changed in the hearts of men and women since the fall into sin in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). Men’s hearts are wicked beyond belief. None are righteous and no one seeks after God. Unless God regenerates his or her heart no one can believe and repent. Therefore, those who have followed hard after God have always been the persecuted, the ridiculed and those of whom the world is not worthy. Daniel was one of these.

1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; 2 and over them three presidents, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other presidents and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 Then the presidents and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.” (Daniel 6:1-5 ESV)

Never let anyone tell you that God’s Law and His ways can ever be at peace with the world and its ways. That is why this merging in the US of the “Religious Right” with the Conservative wing of our political system is a foolish match. The fact that it has been going this way for so long should be a huge warning to us that the “Religious Right” is Christian in name only. If these people were living Righteous, Holy lives in obedience to their Lord; they would not be concerned about worldly things, but would be obeying their Lord in all things. That would mean living lives that please their Lord by seeking first the Kingdom and His Righteousness instead of trying to build that Kingdom here in partnership with godless men and women.

Daniel lived that way. He served his King, but his primary purpose in life was serving God. That is why he had such an excellent spirit. He was not bound to “stuff” or “money” or “fame” or “self.” Instead, he simply lived out his live in obedience to God in whatever he did. This provoked the godless men he kept honest to try to have him removed. Without Daniel in charge these men could line their own pockets at the King’s loss. They were right about one thing though. The only way they could ever get leverage against Daniel would be through his uncompromising service to God.

6 Then these presidents and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! 7 All the presidents of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. 8 Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 9 Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction. (Daniel 6:6:9 ESV)

What was the method of attack they came up with in order to have Daniel removed? They incited the King to pass a law that no one could pray to any god or man for thirty days except to the King himself. This sounds strange doesn’t it? However, these pagans knew in their hearts that their gods were impotent therefore they often worshipped their monarchs as gods. This plot was based upon stroking the King’s ego to have people actually worship him. We may see this as strange, but the Lawless One will demand and receive worship during his reign over the whole Earth during the Great Tribulation. What is the penalty for not worshipping the King exclusively? It was death by being cast into the lion’s den. The Lawless One will have those who refuse to worship him beheaded.

10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. 11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. 12 Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 13 Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.” (Daniel 6:10-13 ESV)

Did Daniel hide his faith? Did he try to appear innocuous to everyone in an attempt to avoid this danger? No! He did not compromise anything. He knew the law was meant to “get” him. He knew he was being watched. He knew that he could simply not pray to God for thirty days and there would be no danger, but he also knew that thirty days without prayer and fellowship with God would be like death to him. In his economy, God’s glory and his obedience far outweighed any temporary benefit that would be gained by compromise. He had eternal focus. He had a heart that went hard after God. To him, the eternal was far more important than the temporal. Therefore, he changed nothing. He prayed to God three times a day as he always did. Then his accusers went to the King to bring charges against Daniel. I am sure they thought that this was it. Daniel would soon be gone and the kingdom’s riches would be easy pickings for them. Notice also that their total accusation against Daniel is not that he doesn’t serve the King with an excellent spirit, but that he is praying to and serving his God.

14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. 15 Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”
16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” 17 And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. 18 Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him. (Daniel 6:14-18 ESV)

We see in these verses that this King saw the folly of this stupid decree now that Daniel had been caught in its net of intrigue. He knew that Daniel had done no wrong. He had obeyed his God over the commands and laws of men. That was his crime. I believe that God is calling His people now to live at this level of commitment to Him and His commands. The reason that most professing Christians are not persecuted is that they do not live this way. They do not have this level of commitment to their Lord. The vast majority of them are not genuine. However, those who are should repent, seek the Lord, go hard after Him and then walk in repentance and obedience to Him in all things. Persecution will surely come to those who do this, but what is that when we are eternally focused? The King’s heart was broken over these events. I am sure he saw the folly of the decree. God gave him no rest this night.

19 Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” 23 Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 24 And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions-they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces. (Daniel 6:19-24 ESV)

I watched this video not long ago of Benny Hinn trying to show his miraculous healing powers to a large crowd. Of course no one with obvious infirmities were allowed to come near him. Only people with diseases or maladies that could not be verified were allowed to approach him. He did all sorts of arm waving and voice characterizations. He looked like a circus performer mimicking a magician to me. Well, this miracle of the lions not harming Daniel is one that only God can do. Daniel was not harmed. Why? He constantly served His God and trusted Him. The King knew this. He prayed as Daniel was cast into the lion’s den for him to be protected by God. He cried, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” That is quite impressive that this King knew that Daniel’s God was the Living God not anything like those impotent stone gods his people worshipped. The King’s justice is swift and succinct. He casts those who accused Daniel into the den of lions. This time no angel stopped up their mouths. Before they, their wives and children even reached the bottom of the den, the lions overcame them crushing their bones. This is a good analogy of the final judgment by God. When people are judged by God it is always just and right. These evil people were killed the way they sought to have Daniel killed. Instead of removing Daniel, they were removed.

The enemy of man, Satan, is a liar and a murderer. He accuses God’s people continually before God’s throne. However, he is powerless to touch any of them unless God allows it. The persecution that comes may be unto death or great pain, but in it God’s will is done and He is glorified. Justice will prevail in the end as God is worshipped and glorified, as he deserves.

25 Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. 26 I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel,
for he is the living God,
enduring forever;
his kingdom shall never be destroyed,
and his dominion shall be to the end.
27 He delivers and rescues;
he works signs and wonders
in heaven and on earth,
he who has saved Daniel
from the power of the lions.”
28 So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian. (Daniel 6:25-28 ESV)

Why is it that professing Christians would ever believe that God is not sovereign? King Darius (or Cyrus) was not a Jew and probably not a believer, but he knew that God was the living God who could humble the proud and deliver His people with no problem at all. Tragically, most professing Christians are in love with this world and see their religion as a ticket to Heaven so they will not go to Hell. In the meantime, they simply live as they please. Why? Their religious leaders tell them that that is okay. God is love and just wants to save everyone. Forget that repentance stuff. Just love Jesus and you’re okay.

That is a “fairy tale” folks. God is the living God, enduring forever. His Kingdom shall never be destroyed. His dominion shall be to the end. He judges the wicked and demands obedience from His people. Our Lord Jesus Christ went to the cross to be the propitiation for the sins of His people. He took their sins upon Himself and had the Father’s wrath against those sins poured on Him. This satisfied the Father. The penalty had been paid. The work of redemption was complete in His death. He rose from the dead on the third day. He is risen! This proves to all those who believe on Him that their sins are forgiven and they have eternal life in Him. Those who are Born Again believe and repent then are justified, sanctified, and adopted. They are not perfect, but live lives of repentance. They do not take their salvation for granted and live any way they choose. They are New Creations who have been freed from the penalty of sin in their justification and are being freed from the power of sin in their sanctification.

Only those who are truly Born Again believe and are saved. Only they will be able to stand and not fall before the fires of persecution when they come. Those who are not genuine will compromise their faith and do anything possible to avoid the persecution. On the other hand, those who do know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour will be given courage and the words to speak when the time comes. We must pray that the Lord be with us in these last days that we will stand and not fall as He gives us the grace to do so.

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22 thoughts on “The High Cost of Living Righteously

  1. THANK YOU! Nice post. You wrote:

    That would mean living lives that please their Lord by seeking first the Kingdom and His Righteousness instead of trying to build that Kingdom here in partnership with godless men and women.

    I have mentioned similar words to “christians” and they will come back with “Well, as long as I have to pay taxes I am gonna make sure that…..”

    ARG! Jennifer

  2. Jennifer,

    ARG! is right. That is worldly focus and I can assure you it is not what Christians are called to do. Come soon Lord Jesus!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  3. The chaff grows strongly among the wheat here in the West where God is allowing it to build up his righteous wrath. Pray for mercy and that some might still be saved.

  4. I’ve found myself praying a lot lately for the sleeping church to wake up. I speak as someone who was previously sleeping (well, maybe not completely asleep … but I was severely distracted by some serious life issues for several years). Without meaning to, I sort of lost touch with and ignored many developing trends in the Church at large. One day — not that long ago — I had a definite feeling like I’d woken up from a spiritual “nap” … and while I’d been napping, the Church had changed. When I’d gone to sleep, it was still a good thing to be a Bible believing Christian who believed that Jesus was THE way, THE truth, and THE life. But when I woke up, I suddenly found myself marginalized, called a “Fundie” (and worse), and just generally feeling out of step and at odds with the whole Purpose-Driven / Emerging / Contemplative / Inclusive “movement” that had completely immersed the evangelical Church with compromise. My faith, which had previously been pretty representative of the norm in the Christian circles I traveled in, suddenly — and I mean SUDDENLY! — was considered outdated and even “dangerous.” All that to say, I’ve been praying often that others out there like myself will wake up in time to shake off the effects of sleep and prepare themselves, their families, and their church communities for what may be just around the corner.

  5. Mike,

    Thanks for another awesome post! You, with God’s guidance, give such strength to your readers.

    I continue to fail in this department, speaking up – (well, in many departments) this is heavy on my heart (ok, many are heavy on my heart)…but I will continue to ask for His guidance to speak up for truth…not to seem as if I am ashamed of Him. The Scripture that refers to Him denying us before His father is a great warning that I need to heed to. I tend to worry too much about saying the wrong thing…too little faith, I suppose.

    Lord have mercy on my soul!

    In Christ,
    Sherry

  6. Excellent post! This supports one of my pet peeves which is what passes for evangelism today. Many Christians do not want to be so bold as to actually witness to others in Jesus’ name, so they do good deeds and hope others “catch” salvation.

  7. Wake – I think you mean the TARES grow among the wheat. Chaff is the papery covering on the grains of wheat that is taken off before grinding the wheat.

  8. Excellent post – and very relevant to the current situation we now face. Recently, I was serving as a missionary in East Africa in an area where Christianity is not very prominent (ancient religion is more the norm). You are faced with important decisions each day that almost force you to maintain your testimony and faith is actually tangible. But I find that back here (in Canada), you can easily be lulled into a spirit of complacency because the battle does not seem as open and physical. Having lived in both places, I would say the conditions in North America are more pernicious than those in areas overseas because we live with a strong misconception of what it really means to live for Christ. As the ancient mariner said, “Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.” Thanks again for this post.

  9. thegreatapostasy,

    Well said! You described pretty much how God drew me from darkness to light as well. There is no room now for fence sitters. We are now at at place in church history where we either stand and live righteously – consciously righteous because the “Church” has become compromised from within. God has pulled some of us out of the mess and we see the truth. It can be very disconcerting to suddenly find yourself on the outside looking in on what you used to be part of. However, God is sovereign and we love Him and serve Him with our all. Let us pray that He will use us to continue wake up and educate His people.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  10. Sherry,

    God’s ways are not our ways. Whereas the world says we must be strong to persevere, God’s way is for His people to be weak and penitent before Him then they are strong in Him. You are on the right track sister.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  11. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but this fear is not taught or practiced by most church bodies today that live in free countries such as ours.

    Even Jesus’ beloved deciples were warned by Christ Himself in Luke 12:5 to fear God. And the severe warning of the striking dead of Ananias and his wife Sapphira in Acts 5 is lost to the “feel good” messages today.

    Satan sure knows how to blind the masses and keep them happy and away from the whole truth.

    1Pe 4:18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?

    …and where will the happy blind masses of ‘feel good’, ‘easy believism’ believers appear.

    My prayer is to “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.”

    Thank you Mike, for pursuing this ministry that the Lord has given you. It certainly is an encouragement.

  12. Linda,

    Let us simply obey our Lord in all things, making disciples and training them to do the same thing. It will make us offensive to the world and all those who hate the truth, but this is what we are called to do. Amen!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  13. Paul C.

    Well said brother. You expressed very well what I have been trying to say. When you were in East Africa your faith was being tested by being on trial against those ancient religions. However, here, the very ones who should be with us are now compromised in a form of Christianity that I would call “churchianity” for lack of a better term. It takes many forms, but those who walk the narrow path carrying their crosses in their Lord’s footsteps will be seen as radical and dangerous here. It brings a different sort of suffering, but it is that. The rejection and isolation from being obedient throughout ones life instead of simply living a life of sin avoidance will make us look like legalistic judges to those who simply want to live safe and non-offensive lives.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  14. “Men’s hearts are wicked beyond belief.”

    Who can know it? And TheGreatApostacy writes:

    “My faith, which had previously been pretty representative of the norm in the Christian circles I traveled in, suddenly — and I mean SUDDENLY! — was considered outdated and even “dangerous.” ”

    Wow, what a great description. Once movies were of the world, now even R rated sex and violence are accpetable entertainment. One of the first sins that a new Christian delt with was cursing, now even pastors let it fly. Once we all agreed that Roman Catholicism was a false church, now it is a sister church. Once modest dress was required at church, now you must hide your eyes.

    And once Jesus was the only way, today He can be found in many different religious genres. How the mighty have fallen!

  15. Once again, food for the soul, and I’m talking about both the post and the comments by everyone. It is such a blessing to partake of the community here. Bless you all.

    Yes; I ‘woke up’ too in a sense and still wonder till today, “What happened?”

    Here in Nigeria, we have evolved highly inoffensive shades of the faith, such that many who claim to be believers are comfortable in a wide range of circles they would otherwise not be.

    One pastor told a small group meeting my wife and I hosted last year that John the Baptist is not an example of someone to follow. In his opinion, no believer ought to die the way John did. According to him, John was a failure who ought to have shut his mouth instead.

    Another prominent ‘pastor’ here recently wondered why an apostle like James was killed the way he did, and then went on to explain that ‘these guys didn’t know how the kingdom functioned’. Apparently, the entire early Church was at a loss, for Peter, Paul, John and many others were also persecuted to the death.

    Here in my country, church folks will say that John and the apostles were not ‘wise’. That is part of the fruits of a ‘wisdom’ move that started many years ago.

    A dear sister on my team recently shared how another professing christian told her that ‘the christian faith is not absolute’ as they discussed certain fundamental issues.

    All the above is what mainstream Christianity here stands for. The faithful all over the world may expect a time when the elect may be officially branded terrorists and outcasts. It will be persecution with an official seal. But we will stand by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. We will stand.

  16. I struggle with this at work. When I share the Gospel most seem bored or say “that’s your view”. Yesterday, we were talking about how this one girl was compassionate. She responsed that she tries to be a good Buddha! It threw me off guard and the picture that flew through my head was a squatting, fat Buddha which made me laugh even though I didn’t mean to and said, “What did you say?” At which time she repeated herself. I don’t know why I was so taken off guard….maybe because she’s American looking. Anyway, I stumbled over my words and really didn’t share the Gospel with her…I’ll try bringing up the subject again. What is hard is that where I live anyway people are so tolerant. I tell them the “hard” things about their sin etc and they shake their head and chuckle but say, “Each to their own”. It’s hard to get through in any significant way when you have such short interval of uninterrupted time in which to share the Gospel. I will admit that I’m not faithful to share the Gospel as I should.

  17. Yomi,

    Thanks for that insight into the state of the church in Nigeria. The spiritual blindness in the church right now is unprecedented. We are very close my brother to the time of the great falling away. Yes, persecution is coming to the faithful, but they will stand even unto death.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  18. Sarah,

    The deep darkness in the world is becoming ever darker. Keep praying and sharing. Just be obedient. Stay as close to the Lord as you can by drawing near unto God and becoming Spirit-filled. That is the only way the faithful can stand as the fires of the coming persecution come upon us.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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