by Mike Ratliff
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; 16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 1 Peter 4:12-17 (NASB)
In yesterday’s post, Born of the will of God, I shared the experience of a trying day with someone who hated our faith and wanted to do everything possible to discourage us and attack everything we hold dear about what God has given us in Christ. This morning I was reading a friend’s blog and discovered that he had gone through almost the same experience that day as well. He and I agreed that God was obviously working in us for His purposes yesterday. Several days ago a missionary was killed trying to reach an isolated people on an island in the Indian Ocean. There is a lot of controversy about this. Some are saying he was not a real missionary. Some are defending him. Some of the most vicious attacks are coming from within the ‘visible church.” I don’t know all the facts so I have stayed out of all that, however, in one discussion group in which I am part of the firestorm over this began today. I started reading through it and discovered to my dismay that a few of the admins of that group were taking turns blasting a good friend of mine who was defending the integrity and mission of the missionary who was killed. I stepped in and got between him and the admins. I took a lot of the heat, traded blows, made them back up some then the most vicious one became very insulting. I asked, “Am I supposed to be afraid of you just because you are an admin sonny?” A few minutes later he muted my account for 24 hours.
I contacted a couple of the other admins about this. Both were silent for awhile, but the one who is the most fair of the bunch told me to just take the evening off and relax and pray for the one who did that that his heart would be softened. Yeah, I can do that. This really made me think of why all this is taking place. Why is God allowing this within the ‘visible church’? We shouldn’t be arguing about things like this.
On another note, I’m sure you are aware that we are in the Christmas season. We who are in Christ should be all about living in full awareness that we are born again. We are new creations that are not of this world. For us to be materialistic or secular minded is a great sin. Why? God saved all believers for a specific purpose.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:3-14 (NASB)
All in Christ are saved by God because He chose them, set His heart on them, worked out everything in their lives to bring them to repent and believe. Why? It was so that they would be holy and blameless before Him. His plan is to adopt them so they would Jesus Christ’s siblings. Why? It was for the purpose of His will to the praise of His glorious grace. All in Christ were saved by Him according to His purpose, not their’s. Does this mean that they were saved into a life to be free from torment or persecution or hardship or sickness or poverty or conflict?
Salvation seals Christians in Christ eternally, however, in this temporal existence, suffering is the number one thing God uses to perfect them in Christ. This sanctifying work of God can be quite stressful, painful, even deadly. However, Peter tells us in 2 Peter chapter 4 that we should not be surprised when we find ourselves in fiery trials. Why? As long as Christians suffer for righteousness sake they share in the sufferings of Christ. This glorifies God and marks Christians who suffer this way as being His chosen ones.
We must never forget that this world is not the home of those washed in the blood of the Lamb. He shed His blood because that was the cup the Father gave Him to drink.
11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?” John 18:11 (NASB)
Jesus obediently laid down His life because that was the Father’s will. It was part of His eternal plan to redeem His people. He did not save them to be part of this world. He did not save them for them to find their fulfillment in the temporal. He saved them for His glory and that happens only when they operate in the eternal by the power of the Holy Spirit. They exist in the temporal, but are seperate. They are holy as God is Holy. They are separate from the contamination of this evil world. They seek God’s glory in all things because they know that an attempt to be fulfilled in anyone or anything except Him is a great sin.
When God’s people succeed in living this way is there some change or mark in their lives that shows everyone that they are different? Won’t they take on Christ’s character when they are Spirit-led? Won’t they take on the world’s character when they aren’t? Aren’t the world’s ways antithetical to Christ’s ways? Sure they are. Isn’t the world consumed with fairness? If that is so, then what should we think of those who demand that God be fair? Fairness speaks of judgment. Do we want God’s judgment? I don’t and I submit that you don’t either. In that case we should not demand that God be fair. Instead we should seek His grace. In this scenario we will not look at our circumstances as if they should be fair or demand that they be so. Instead we should see our circumstances as the tests and trials God is using to humble us and build Christ’s character in us.
If you suffer in this age then praise the Lord for not allowing you to become satisfied with the temporal. Instead, rejoice that there is a day coming when you and I will be with Him in glory. In that day we will see this life from His perspective instead of the temporal. We will then see that all the things in our lives that we did not enjoy or suffered through were actually the fires of purification in our lives that God used to produce the character in us that brings Him glory.
Soli Deo Gloria!