For the last 200 years we in the West have lived in a virtual "Disneyland" of Christian belief and service. In this circumstance we are guaranteed freedom to worship and serve God in virtually any form we choose. Beyond this we are even granted special monetary privileges on the assumption that the work we are doing is "non-profit" and advantages society as a whole.
America is rich with opportunity and material wealth beyond any time in recorded history. In this environment it becomes very easy to miss the life promised to those whose life is described in the New Testament
"Yea, and all that will live Godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" 2 Timothy 3:12
The life promised in the New Testament is not the life taught in the Old Covenant. This is a critical point that is often missed by believers as they are taught the expectations of the Christian life. In the Old Testament God designed a plan that was to provide temporal blessing and reward for the faithful as well as swift judgment for sin and rebellion. For 2000 years this was so, but moving to the New Testament you find an entirely new concept: that of the Kingdom of God. This new plan and its service is vastly different from the specific work and expectations of the Old Covenant.
Understanding these basic differences between the two covenants, we can now move to the meat of this chapter: a multitude of verses and clear instruction and promise from God that teach:
"The Real Christian Life"
· "Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake…blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in Heaven: for so persecuted they the Prophets which were before you". (Matt. 5:10-12)
· "Behold I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves…beware of men: for they will deliver you up to councils…they will scourge you in their synagogues…ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake…" (Matt.10:16-18)
· "And brother shall deliver brother …children shall rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death…ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake…. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I come not to bring peace, but a sword...to set a man at variance against his father & daughter against mother...and a man’s foes shall be they of his own household..." (Matt 22, 34-39, 10:21)
· "If they called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of his household…" (Matt. 10:25)
· "A prophet has honor except in his own country…among his own kin…" (Matt.13:57; Mark 6:4; Luke 4:24)
· "Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me…for whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the Gospel's, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:34-35)
· "Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets..." (Luke 6:22-23)
· "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you..." (John 15:18)
· "If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:20)
· "In the world ye shall have tribulation" (John 16:33)
· "I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (John 17:14: Jesus praying to the Father)
· "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22)
· ”Who have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Chris” (Acts 15:26)
· “We be slanderously reported” (Romans 3:8)
· ”For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter” (Romans 8:36)
· “We are fools for Christ’s sake, we are weak. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day” (1 Corinthians 4:10-13)
· “We are troubled on every side: we are perplexed, cast down and persecuted. Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus... For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:8-11)
· “But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in layouts, in watchings, in fasting...by honor and dishonor, by evil report...as unknown...as dying...as chastened...as sorrowful...as poor...as having nothing” (2 Corinthians 6:4-10)
· “…in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews 5 times received I 40 stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27)
· “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake...” (Philippians 1:29)
· “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: ...I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:12-13)
· “For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God” (1 Timothy 4:10)
· “Be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:8)
· “Thou therefore endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3)
· “Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain salvation” (2 Timothy 2:10)
· “And others were tortured...and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy:), they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and cave.” (Hebrews 11:35-38)
· “Disallowed indeed of men” (1 Peter 2:4: about Christ)
· “If, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his step.” (1 Peter 2:20-21)
· “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you” (1 John 3:13)
This litany of verse and description stands in marked contrast to the promise of supposed "abundant living" offered today. From Billy Graham to Campus Crusade for Christ to Promise Keepers to the 700 Club and to even your own Pastor, the above truths are often hidden in a misguided effort to gain converts. The expectations of the erroneous "Channel 40 Prosperity Doctrines" are a likewise a huge deception in light of the true Biblical descriptions you have just read.
This is by design, a well thought out approach that delivers a host of converts to a "partial truth" and misguided Christianity: a faith in which failure or compromise is all but guaranteed. Is it any wonder that as "converts" stream down the aisle most will fall away? It is like being sold an automobile that is gleaming and impressive to the eye but is like a farm tractor to drive. That some overcome this initial "sales pitch" and go on to labor in the true work, is testimony only to the ensuing knowledge of the real Word of God and His faithful Spirit
There is an axiom in Christianity that needs to be learned and riveted to the frontal lobe of all believers.
THE BETTER YOU ARE AT FOLLOWING CHRIST IN THIS LIFE, THE WORSE YOUR LIFE WILL BE ON EARTH ...BUT THE BETTER IT WILL BE ON JUDGMENT DAY!
In our Western civilization, the life most of us live is far from the description in the verses we have cited. To live within the material and governmental blessings we enjoy puts us in a position of great responsibility and judgment (Luke 12:48). That we may be someday graced to partake and taste of the “real” Christian life described herein is quite possible and should be vigorously prepared for. To those properly prepared, and faithful, will come the blessing and reward promised!
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