by Mike Ratliff
“I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:25-33 ESV)
I love talking with dedicated believers who are relatively new in their faith as we discuss the pressures that they are dealing with in this life that, in many cases, their plastic, “seeker-sensitive” or “emergent” form of religiosity has in no way prepared them for. Yes we are all in process and no, none of us have become so mature that we never struggle with the fires of tribulation that the world can bring to bear upon us at times. I had a recent discussion with a young man who is a growing disciple yet I have noticed that the fervent heat of his faith has really gone into the background lately. I watched him for a few days before we talked and noticed how he was still very much engrained into the entertainment and ways of the world that are so prevalent with those of his age group (college student). We had some private time and I said nothing about any of that. What I did say to him was that for the believer, seeking fulfillment from any fleshly source is deadly to our walk and designed by our enemy to distract us from humble service. I also said that I could not name one thing the world had to offer that gave me more fulfillment than spending time rightly dividing the Word of Truth and teaching others what the Holy Spirit taught me. I could see the working of the Holy Spirit in him as we talked. I pray that the next time we see each other we can talk some more about it.
Yes, there is a place to stand firm and confront error and call out those who are leading the flock of God astray with false teaching. We are commanded in God’s Word to do this and we must obey this regardless of the pressures put on us by those who have compromised with this culture to demand unity above all while overlooking heresy for unity’s sake. However, there is also a call to God’s people to understand that in this world persecution will come and if we stand firm against the pressure to compromise then those fires of tribulation will come upon us as well. Right now in the United States this is not very bad as far as it goes, but in other parts of the world it can mean beatings, prison and even death. However, who is sovereign? Who is really in control?
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)
What do we take from this? This is Biblical or Theological truth with legs, that is, it is applicable to how we live our lives each and every day right now. So many Christians are silent and easy going and never stick out or stand for anything and in so doing they avoid being singled out as “one of those Christians.” However, as I said the other day, this temporal life is certainly temporary, we are eternal beings, this world is not our home and we are just passing through. There will come a point when we will stand before our Lord and give an account.
Much of what we did here that will be pleasing to him that brought him glory is how we denied self and followed him as Lord. This involved walking in repentance in every area of our lives. However, I challenge each of you to think of the personal encounters you have throughout each and every day and how you interact with others, even those who are not so nice. Does your behavior with them bring your Lord glory as you deny self and reflect Christ to them? How about that person that is actually persecuting you for being a Christian? How do you respond to him or her? I think the hardest for me to deal with are those who profess to be Christians, but whose teachings and actions make it obvious that they are not. The only ones that the Bible declares to be outside of God’s grace are apostates (those who have committed the sin unto death). However, do we even know who they are?
These are just a few things on which to mediate and pray about my brethren.
Soli Deo Gloria!