by Mike Ratliff
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:34-39 ESV)
Cleansing the heart of man-made religiosity is not fun and games. In fact, it hurts. Many resist God’s truth even to the point of bitterly expressing their anger over what is taught or preached. God’s ways are not man’s ways. The way that seems right unto man is not God’s way. Even the regenerate can cling to a paradigm they have constructed in their hearts that represents God in a way that pleases them, but in fact, can be idolatrous. Their God would not do x,y, and z while the Word tells us that the God of the Bible most certainly does allow things to happen to His people in such a way that their idols comes under direct attack. Many of us have learned the hard way that in this age God sometimes allows His people to be oppressed by their governments, big business, false teachers, or social activists. This could very well be unjust treatment. How are we to react?
“The scribes and the Pharisees laid also to Christ’s charge (Luke 23) that he moved the people to sedition. And said to Pilate, we have found this fellow perverting the people and forbidding to pay tribute to Caesar, and saith that he is Christ a king. And again in the same chapter, he moveth the people (said they) teaching throughout all Jewry and began at Galilee even to this place. So likewise laid they to the Apostles’ charge, as thou mayest see in the Acts. Saint Cyprian also and Saint Augustine and many other more made works in defence of the word of God against such blasphemies: so that thou mayest see, how that it is no new thing, but an old and accustomed thing with the hypocrites to wite (cite) God’s word and the true preachers of all the mischief which their lying doctrine is the very cause of.
Neverthelater in very deed, after the preaching of God’s word, because it is not truly received, God sendeth great trouble into the world; partly to avenge himself of the tyrants and persecutors of his word and partly to destroy those worldly people which make of God’s word nothng but a cloak of their fleshly liberty. They are not all good that follow the gospel. Christ (Matthew in the thirteenth chapter) likeneth the kingdom of heaven unto a net cast in the sea that catcheth fishes both good and bad. The kingdom of heaven is the preaching of the gospel, unto which come both good and bad. But the good are few. Christ calleth them therefore a little flock (Luke 12). For they are ever few that come to the gospel of a true intent seeking therein nothing but the glory and praise of God and offering themselves freely and willingly to take adversity with Christ for the gospel’s sake and for bearing report unto the truth, that all men may hear it. The greatest number come and ever came and followed even Christ himself for a worldly purpose. As thou mayest well see (John 6) how that almost five thousand followed Christ and would also have made him king, because he had well fed them. Whom he rebuked saying: ye seek me not, because ye saw the miracles, but because ye ate the bread and were filled: and drove them away from him with hard preaching.” – William Tyndale from The Obedience of a Christian Man, 1528, pp27-28.
I pray that you carefully and prayerfully read this excerpt from William Tyndale’s book The Obedience of a Christian Man. To those who did read it, I pray you also noticed that even in the 16th Century people were perverting the Gospel for money and for fleshly pursuits. In fact, this has been the case from the very days of Christ. Genuine Christians “come to the gospel of a true intent seeking therein nothing but the glory and praise of God and offering themselves freely and willingly to take adversity with Christ for the gospel’s sake…” In this age, the Christian will experience adversity and the more Christlike and humble he or she becomes, the more the world will persecute them. Also, God does allow His people to be treated unjustly by the wicked. This fills up the cup of wrath that awaits these people in eternity. God also uses this to refine His people in the fires of adversity.
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:11-21 ESV)
All in Christ are heirs with Him. However, receiving the inheritance that comes to them in Christ involves sharing in His suffering, which is the pathway to sharing in His glory (2 Corinthians 4:17). We also learn in this passage that the Christians will receive glory. This is speaking of the transforming, ennobling, joy-bringing manifestation of God in one’s personal being. This is the spirit-filled expression of Christlikeness that God manifests in mature believers. All genuine believers will experience this freedom in glory when their residual flesh is done away with in eternity. However, let us not forget that it is through suffering for Christ’s sake that the believer will be made ready for this.
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:22-25 ESV)
Yes, those who serve the Lord now will experience the groaning and persecution because they are not of this little kingdom, but of a far greater kingdom. The genuine believer is a citizen of the Kingdom of God. However, many believers still have their focus on the little kingdom of this lost and dying world. This blinds the spiritual consciousness of the blessed hope that awaits each believer. When we are temporally focused we can lose sight of the spiritual reality and this causes us to react in the flesh to the suffering of which we all must partake. This is when we have no patience for waiting for the Lord in our tribulation. However, the spirit-filled believer does have this patience, views it all with joy, and reacts to it in humility.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:26-30 ESV)
Yes, we suffer tribulation if we belong to Christ, but we are not without one who helps us in our weakness. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us as we pray to the Father for help, courage, and deliverance. Our eternal destiny is assured my brethren. God will bring each of His children through the fires of tribulation to glory.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39 ESV)
We are not promised here that we will not have trouble. No, God does allow His people to be treated shamefully at times, however, nothing our enemy or his seed does to us can separate us from our Saviour. So, you see, trouble comes when God’s truth is taught and preached because God allows it. Our Lord came not to bring peace to the world, but to divide His people from everyone else. This division causes conflict. God uses all of this for His glory and the refining of His people unto Christlikeness.
Soli Deo Gloria!