“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:35, 37
There is an intense spiritual battle being waged in the world. Our own land of the free is fast becoming anything but free for those of us who proclaim Christ. Make no mistake about it…the enemy thinks he is winning. In less than half a century, the morals of our culture have become twisted and upside down, and many people in our culture view Christians with contempt. They know nothing of God and don’t wish to know Him. They mock us, and in so doing they mock Him. They distort the Establishment Clause of the Constitution and act as if “separation of church and state” is a phrase contained in the U.S. Constitution. It’s not.
Take, for example, these recent headlines:
In each of those stories, Christians face persecution. Here, on American soil. We were properly outraged when two Christian missionaries were captured by the Taliban for sharing their faith. Where is the outrage now?
I think most of us, myself included, are not outraged because we’ve been lulled into complacency. We have full bellies and blessings galore. The battle over religious expression is merely an intellectual battle, is it not? Wrong! This battle is but one prong of the enemy’s attack. Jesus himself warned us about our tendency to become complacent. From Mark 13:
“Stay alert! 34 The coming of the Son of Man can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. When he left home, he gave each of his slaves instructions about the work they were to do, and he told the gatekeeper to watch for his return. 35 You, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know when the master of the household will return—in the evening, at midnight, before dawn, or at daybreak. 36 Don’t let him find you sleeping when he arrives without warning. 37 I say to you what I say to everyone: Watch for him!”
Jesus tells us that we are like servants who have been given instructions about the work we are to do, and while we are at it, we are to…
- be on guard
- stay alert
- keep watch,
- and watch for His return,
all within six verses. I’d say that keeping alert is a priority to our Savior!
I want to zero in on the component of those verses about the instructions the man left for his slaves. What kind of instructions is he talking about? Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are chock full of instructions Jesus has given us, his servants. None of these contradict the commandments God gave Moses; rather, they enhance them and aim to transform our hearts so that we obey out of love, not simply out of fear. Here are a few instructions that many in our Christian culture do not fully embrace:
…becoming as humble as a little child (Matthew 18)
3 Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. 4 So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
5 “And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me. 6 But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.
What does humility look like? How does a Christian show humility? By giving all the glory, all the credit, to God. By being willing to do the least of tasks. Many of us want to accomplish great things for our Lord. How many times have I prayed, asking God to use me? I often lose sight of the fact that he does use me. He uses me as I go about my daily life! If I wear blinders and am lulled into complacency, I miss the miracle of what he is accomplishing. I confess that I’ve been wearing blinders. I have been complacent. I have allowed myself to be so distracted with each day’s tasks that I lose the chance to make each task count or to give Christ credit.
One of my favorite songs is Show Me Your Glory, by Third Day.
I caught a glimpse of Your splendor
In the corner of my eye
The most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen
And it was like a flash of lightning
Reflected off the sky
And I know I’ll never be the same
Show me Your glory
Send down Your presence
I want to see Your face
Show me Your glory
Majesty shines about You
I can’t go on without You, Lord
When I climb down the mountain
And get back to my life
I won’t settle for ordinary things
I’m gonna follow You forever
And for all of my days
I won’t rest ’til I see You again
I want to live like that. Rather than seeking to be the lamp, I will focus on ways I can be the lamppost, or perhaps on being the bolt that holds the post to the ground, or maybe even just a molecule of steel that makes up the post. If I take time to humble myself to this extent, I will see His glory everywhere.
…making sure we don’t look down our noses at others (Matthew 18)
10 “Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father.[c]
12 “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? 13 And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! 14 In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.
Who have I found myself looking down upon? Just yesterday I read a very sad story in the newspaper that made me angry before it made me sad. A young woman was arrested after she threw her newborn baby in a hospital trashcan. She’s gone to the ER with stomach pains, went to the bathroom, had the baby, and then threw him away. Somehow they tracked this infant to her and have now charged her. My first reaction was disgust. Who could possibly throw away a newborn baby? What a sicko, right?
Exactly. Jesus didn’t come to save those who are well.
15 Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) 16 But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees[b] saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?[c]”
17 When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
And just like that, I am seared inside. Rather than looking down my nose at that young girl, why can I not love her? Pray for her? There could be a million reasons why she did what she did, but the saddest thing of all is that she thought throwing away a life was the best choice.
I think Christians today (myself included) must be very alert to our own tendencies to badmouth those who make such horrible choices. Think of what might have happened had that young girl had a mentor, or her teacher reached out to her, or her friend’s mom took her under her wing. Who in my circle of influence does the Lord want me to reach out to today?
…loving God, and loving our neighbors (Matthew 22)
37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[e] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[f] 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
It’s very difficult to love the unlovable, yet that’s what Jesus calls us to do. If we Christians actually DID what the Lord commands us to do, we would be like a great cloud of witnesses — all without saying a word. Rather than storing up hatred for politicians and political candidates with whom we don’t agree, Jesus would have us invite them over for dinner! Who among us would extend a heartfelt dinner invitation to Senator Hillary Clinton? Look at who Jesus hung out with….the ‘worst sinners’ ever — the tax collectors! In my twenty-first century Christian worldview, a ‘worst sinner’ in today’s world might be a corrupt politician! Yet I’m called to love.
…honoring the Sabbath (Mark 3)
3 One Sabbath day as Jesus was walking through some grainfields, his disciples began breaking off heads of grain to eat. 24 But the Pharisees said to Jesus, “Look, why are they breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath?”
25 Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you ever read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 26 He went into the house of God (during the days when Abiathar was high priest) and broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat. He also gave some to his companions.”
27 Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!”
How many Christians do you know of who actually take one day out of the week to rest? My Sundays are hectic between getting ready for church, teaching Sunday School, getting home, getting lunch done, and preparing for school the next week. As I write this blog, I have several loads of laundry calling my name. Many of our lives are so filled with activities and duties that the weekends are the only time we have to get our house chores done. Is it sinful to do work on Sunday? If I blast praise music from my stereo while folding clothes and pray while I chop vegetables, then I believe I am still keeping the Sabbath holy. But if I let the day pass just like any other without taking time to rest my mind and recharge my heart with praises, then I shortchange myself. My emotional and spiritual needs are not met, and my week begins with an empty heart, and I often miss the chance to see God’s glory.
I’ve spent so much time and energy these past few weeks volunteering and blogging for the Huckabee campaign. My spirit needed to take a detour back to my center, which is Christ. I am in Him. Regardless of the outcome of any political election, God reigns. Christ conquered death. May the outcome of this election be all to God’s glory, so that his power is displayed for all to see. I do look forward to the day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. Until then, there will be hardships. There will be persecutions, yes, even in America.
May it be to His Glory!