Christian suffering

by Mike Ratliff

35 James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, *came up to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” 36 And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” 37 They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 They said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. 40 But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” Mark 10:35-40 (NASB) 

The truth, Biblical truth that is, cuts like a sword or the sharpest dagger ever seen. God’s ways are not Man’s ways or the ways of the world. No, God’s ways are antithetical to the ways of fallen Men. Many reading this can testify to losing close friends and having conflict within family groups because God has quickened them by His grace. Their faith is alive. They are regenerate. They now can see the truth and are able to obey God. This new life in Christ belongs to those who have found the narrow gate, which is Christ. They have passed through it in belief and now are on the narrow way which leads to the Celestial City.

The conflict arises from this new life when it comes to bear on those around the believer who know not God. They may indeed be religious. They may be professing Christians, but neither of these things are guarantees of eternal life. The genuine believer is a possessor of the truth, God has written it on his or her heart. However, the unregenerate cannot grasp this truth. They see it as utter foolishness. When the regenerate believer walks in this belief with it affecting all parts of his or her life the unregenerate react in many ways. Anger, resentment, skepticism, hostility, and disdain are just a few of the reactions genuine Christians will encounter when they walk by faith.

5 These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; 6 but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. 9 Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, 10 or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support. 11 And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city. 12 As you enter the house, give it your greeting. 13 If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. 14 Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. Matthew 10:5-14 (NASB) 

Obedient Christians will encounter two groups of people in their walks. Some are honorable the rest are not. The honorable receive the truth while the rest will not receive it to themselves nor listen to the truth. Jesus instructs us to shake off the dust from our feet as we depart from them. This is to show them that God’s peace is for others, not them.

15 Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.
16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; 18 and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20 For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.
21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.
23 “But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.
24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!
26 “Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:15-28 (NASB) 

The hostility from those unworthy of the truth is like that of a wolf pack going after a few sheep. How are the sheep to respond? They are to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. They are to beware, to be careful. However, there will be times when the hostility will break forth into persecution. This can take many forms, but it is always going to be centered on hostility against the exclusivity of the Gospel. In our day the move is going full bore to open wide the narrow gate as far as possible, removing all of Christ’s restrictions on entering thereby. The narrow way is being made broad and as inclusive as possible. However, when the truth is spoken that these ways are unbiblical and not of God, the sheep who is drinking from Christ’s cup of obedience in speaking this truth will suffer persecution.

Their own families will turn on them. Their friends will view them as “insane.” They will be seen as religious fanatics and legalistic and treated as unworthy of any grace. Their doctrine will be proclaimed as “toxic.” However, it is during these times that God will put His words in their mouths to speak for His glory and to seal the judgment on those who are persecuting them. Jesus tells us that if we live obedient Christian lives then we will speak the truth and it will cause evil to come our way. We are not to fear those who persecute, but instead we are to fear God and obey Him instead of men.

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.
32 “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.
34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and A man’s enemies will be the members of his household.
37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.
40 “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. 41 He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. 42 And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” Matthew 10:29-42 (NASB) 

No matter how horrible the enemies of the truth treat the believer who speaks the truth, Christians must remember that the Father is holding them in His eternal protection. Those who bear this and do not recant, but continually proclaim the truth in the face of God’s enemies will be acknowledged by the Son before God the Father. What a wonderful promise! In this post-Evangelical period of the Church this is not seen as the reward it really is. In our time it seems that the Church has lost its eternal focus and has become completely temporal. Because of this, the Gospel is changed into a man-made version of it that saves no one. It is one that offers peace with God for being religious or joining a church or saying a prayer. There is no mention of the Law and every person’s guilt before God because of it. There is no mention of why Jesus went to the Cross and why He had to become the propitiation for the sins of His people.

When the one who has drunk from Christ’s cup of obedience tells the truth against these lies then the heat and backlash from the neo-evangelicals and liberals comes quickly and seems deadly. Why? These “defenses” are fiery darts from the enemy himself. We must never stop preaching the truth about the high cost of discipleship. Genuine believers have given up their lives for their Lord. They have lost their lives for His sake. However, in this, they will find their true life.

When Jesus sent out His disciples He told them not to carry food or extra clothing. They were to depend on His providence which would be revealed in those people who received the Gospel gladly. However, Jesus’ earthly ministry ended. He is in Heaven with the Father. Before His crucifixion he revealed how things will be different for His obedient sheep.

35 And He said to them, “When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?” They said, “No, nothing.” 36 And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘And He was numbered with transgressors’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.” 38 They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.” Luke 22:35-38 (NASB) 

When Jesus sent the disciples out before, He had sovereignly arranged for their needs to be met. However, now things have changed. From now on they were to use normal means to provide for their own support and protection. The things Jesus told them to take and possess, the moneybag, the knapsack and the sword were figurative expressions for this. The sword was a dagger like weapon meant for protection, not aggression. However, His thickheaded disciples misunderstood what Jesus meant here. When they proclaimed that they had two swords, Jesus response was literally, “enough of such talk!” We know that Jesus did not mean for Christians to respond to unbelievers with the sword of steel by His response to Peter’s aggression in vv47-51. No, we don’t defend the Gospel with violence. When we are mistreated because of it and our refusal to compromise it then we will suffer the wrath of the unbelieving, but we still do not respond in kind. Instead, we tell the truth. We never compromise. We respond with the words God puts in our mouths. This is why we must know the Word of God.

Some reading this have felt a pang of guilt because they have genuine faith and are children of God, but they refuse to stand for the truth in the face of hostile family members or friends or co-workers or perhaps leaders in their church who are compromising. This stand is not a call to be obnoxious, but loving. There are times for the use of the Sword of the Spirit against the enemy and those he uses to attack the truth, but even then we must not resort to their tactics. Instead, we drink from the cup that the Father has given us and hope in His promises.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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