The Perplexing Paradox of Christian Persecution 

Do you ever experience those times when God is attempting to teach you something? There have been many times as I have studied His Word where the Holy Spirit has revealed a deficiency in my walk with Christ. This was one of them. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to develop and present a message during our evening Philippians Growth Group series. The latter portion of Philippians chapter one speaks to the reality that Christians do experience persecution. Paul expresses that identification with Jesus Christ will inevitably produce a certain measure of persecution. Through this passage he helps believers to understand that persecution is an evidence of Biblical salvation and that suffering is a gift from God. The idea being that if we are to walk worthy before the Lord, suffering will be a natural part of Christ-followership.

This is where the paradox begins. My selfish view of Christianity is bent toward ease, comfort, and expected blessing. For many, our view of church is seen in comfortable seats, a great worship experience, and a practical message that encourages me. “The coffee better taste good and if the thermostat is not set to 73 degrees, ‘church’ is just not right.” The problem is, this is not found in New Testament Christianity.

Now before you you dismiss the premise of this spiritual truth, I would encourage you to consider the words of our Savior. Remember, we claim to be His disciples. Jesus said: “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.”(Matthew 10:22) In verses 24-25 he goes on to say: “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?”

Jesus says to his followers, both then and now that we will be hated as he was hated. Despised as he was despised. Rejected as he was rejected. Persecuted. Now I want to quantify this persecution be helping us to realize that there are various degrees of implementation. For the Philippians, some were ostracized from their family, friends, and culture; while others were put to death.

Perhaps the more convicting aspect of this study came when I began to unpack the below verse:

“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”- 2 Timothy 3:12

The above verse promises persecution to those that will “live godly in Christ Jesus.” If you rearrange the thought one could say this: those who do not live godly, will not suffer persecution. Brothers and sisters, if you and I do not experience persecution, people probably do not know that we are Christians. You say “well of course they know, I go to church every Sunday.” 

These past few weeks, I have been challenged to consider how committed I really am as a disciple of Jesus. Am I adequately showing the one who I say I follow? Silence is perhaps the greatest way to avoid persecution. However, sir, when you laugh at the world’s jokes at work and enjoy the entertainment when it mocks God you most certainly will be accepted and won’t feel the heat of persecution. Ma’am, when you talk about someone negatively to an unsaved friend or display a worldly attitude, don’t expect to see Christ glorified and that friend miraculously believe what you claim to believe.

The believer has no fear of persecution because we have a God who is greater (1 Cor 10:13). Paul says in Philippians that persecution is a gift as is salvation. (Phil 1:29) My desire is that I would never be like the individual that Jesus describes in Luke 9:26: “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.”

 

You're Not Alone

Today, my wife and I had the privilege of hosting the Singles+ activity at our house.  What a gorgeous day to do so!  We enjoyed sitting under an EZup eating way too much food while a nice breeze swept over us.  We also took timeto read from Josh. 14 about the testimony of Caleb.  The lesson he teaches us in that section is that, if we are alive, God can use us greater than we think.  He rejoiced in what God had done in the past based upon His promises.  He knew God wanted to work in his future.  He made an impact on those younger than himself.  With each thought, we took timeto write down, then share how those truths were at work in our own lives. 

Here are some takeaways that encouraged me from this group:

#1 Testimonies- People shared about God's provision in their life, about Him caring for them day by day, about knowing they're not alone, Him strengthening their faith, etc.

#2 Plans- It was awesome to hear about how they wanted this group to be a blessing church-wide to singles regardless of age or why they are single.  This group isn't for "Seniors", it is for singles of any age (think Titus 2).  

#3 Name- There was a consensus that we need to find a label for the group that communicates who is involved and what they are attempting to do.  If you find yourself single, send in your suggestion this week to pastor@includefaith.org

#4 Be Involved-  Overall, there was the expressed desire to see others not currently involved to be included and understand there is an opportunity for them each month to be encouraged.  People were actively trying to think of those who need to be sought after and included that perhaps are unaware of the group or are unsure if they are welcomed to it.

My heart was encouraged by the testimonies and discussions to realize you're not alone.  The Father isn't derelict to His children.  No time of life, nor tragedy in life removes you from His care. Christ's Church cares for you.  There are people in the assembly who desire you to feel welcomed, to find encouragement, and want you around! 

You are not alone!

- Pastor Paul

Dressed for Success

What a week we’ve had at Camp CoBeAc! Thank you to all those who have prayed for us this week. Many potential life-changing spiritual decisions have been made this week, including even one trusting in Christ for salvation! 

Throughout the week, the teen campers had the privilege to hear Evangelist Dave Young preach. In each morning session, he focused in on a section of Ephesians 4:17-32 as his text. He challenged us to spiritually “dress for success” by putting off the old man, allowing our minds to be renewed by the truth of God’s Word, and putting on the new man created in Christ Jesus. 

Bro. Young stressed and repeated each day this phrase and it is equally applicable to the spiritual lives of adults.

“As you read the Word of God and apply the Word of God, the Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and makes you more like Christ, so that you will have the blessings of God.”

I hope you will make plans to attend our Teen Take Over Service on Sunday night, July 8th that will include testimonies from both junior and teen campers. 

Pastor David