Suffer

asuffer

“Blessed be Your name, on the road marked with suffering…” These lyrics appear in a popular, modern, worship song by Matt Redman. But what does it mean to suffer in today’s Christianity, as I’m sure many people sing along with this song but have no concept of real suffering.

I think most people equate suffering today, in the “church” as something that comes from numerous sources, none of which are biblical standards of suffering. I expect that even making this statement will be offensive to many because when we are suffering we want to believe we are suffering biblically, especially if we name the name of Christ.

What is it to suffer?

Experience or be subjected to (something bad or unpleasant) – this is the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition. I could probably dig a little deeper, but this is what most people will consider to suffer.

When we feel bad, or when we feel like we didn’t get what we deserve, we feel as though we are suffering. Some might be suffering the loss of a loved one, or suffering the loss of a job. These are certainly unpleasant things that occur, and nobody likes them, but are they really suffering as the Bible would describe it?

Our family has recently been watching a series about heroes of the faith. These are people that endured prison, endured beatings, and many of them endured martyrdom. Pastor Richard Wurmbrand was imprisoned in Communist Romania for speaking out against Communism. He spent over eight years imprisoned and three years in solitary confinement with no lights or no windows. He was beaten and tortured, physically as well as psychologically and yet he maintained his sanity by preaching sermons during the night to himself. His survival and proclamation of the gospel is beyond what we can imagine today.

But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. – 2 Timothy 3:10-12

Paul is instructing young Timothy how to be a faithful minister of the Word. He is setting the example before him of his own life. He is telling him how it’s going to be…and Timothy must know how his future will most likely turn out. Only a true believer will set himself up for this, because it’s not going to be fun.

I’m challenged by this, and I hope you are as well, because I think we need to be. I think we must be…

We don’t currently experience this today, at least not in this country, mostly… But I believe we will, and I believe I must prepare my children. It’s why I think it’s important for them to see those that gave their lives for the faith. They suffered and died to proclaim His name.

Consider these great heroes of the faith, their names are unknown to us, but their example lives on, and it’s one for us to consider when we are afraid to open our mouths and hand someone a gospel tract.

…Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mocking and scourging, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, 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 mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should be made perfect apart from us. – Hebrews 11:35-40

This doesn’t sound like my Christianity? I realize we are in a different time period, and the place we live right now, is unlikely that I’m going to be destitute and or sawn in half. But should I then say, this has no place in a conviction in my life? Absolutely not, this should shame me when I won’t open my mouth, or I look at my 401K statement and think, boy if I only had a little more, I’d be in pretty good shape.

No, how about giving until it actually effects my 401K? How about standing on a corner and proclaiming the name of Christ and actually praising God for the ridicule that will no doubt ensue? Would this be better or worse than being slain with the sword? That’s not a mutually exclusive proposition; I can do one without the other. I probably won’t be slain, but I will probably be made fun of, and that would be a slight way in which I could suffer for Christ sake, wouldn’t it?

Could I, or could you risk some embarrassment every now and again, to give someone a message of love? To tell them they need Jesus, because without Him they are on a crash course for Hell? Do we believe that? If we sort of don’t…then we won’t… If Hell is real, then its consequences are real, and we need to tell people, we need to warn them.

I’d like to consider this verse in a different way today.

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled.” But ou do nt give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead. – James 2:14-17

This verse is clearly and plainly for believers, please don’t be confused, and here is how I want us to think differently about it. If we don’t live out our faith in a tangible and real way, proclaiming Christ to dead people, we are doing the same thing to them. We might even give them something warm and fill them with food; in fact lots of misguided ministries do just that. But…..do they give them the bread of life?

Do we tell them God is holy and man is sinful? Do we tell them Jesus is the answer to their sin problem? Do we tell them they must turn from their sin, and embrace a new life in Christ? This is the gospel, this is necessary, and they need to be born again, or they will not inherit the kingdom of God.

So, let’s go out and suffer, just a little bit this week. Just a little bit, so we can learn to suffer a little bit more and then someday, maybe we can really learn how to suffer.

 

Kevin

“Is it I?”

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When evening had come, He sat down with the twelve. Now as they were eating, He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” – Matthew 26:20-21

The mere thought or reading of this verse is devastating to me. I can barely take in the magnitude of what was happening at this moment in time. The closeness of the relationships that had been formed for three years between Jesus and the twelve is probably hard for us to grasp at this point in history. We have very little to compare that level of relationship, these men traveled and ministered together, and were with each other for nearly every moment.

Judas was a good liar, and he was adept at concealment. He knew how to blend into each and every situation. He might have started out with wonderful expectations of the Messiah. Perhaps, he thought the Messiah would deliver them from the hands of Rome…finally, and then he would achieve the goals he had, the fulfillment he desired, or whatever it was that he really thought he wanted. He clearly, in his inner most being, had no desire for Christ for spiritual reasons.

But don’t we all have those tendencies and desires sometimes?

When I put the work into examining my motives for what I do, and why I do them, I really must stop sometimes and say, “What are you doing?” “Why did you do that?” “Was that for God’s glory or for your own pleasure, your own personal fulfillment?”

Then Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, “Rabbi, is it I?” – Matthew 26:25

Did he know?

Isn’t this a profound question, something for us to really think about?

Did Judas realize what he was doing, or did his sin blind him so much that he didn’t think that far down the road. In fact the Lord said, “It would have been good for that man, if he had not been born.” (Matthew 26:24) Can you imagine that it would have been better for Judas to have never been born, to never have walked the earth, to never have breathed a breath, or have his heart beat, to never have seen the sun, taste good food, or to have walked with God Himself on this earth?

He spent time with his Creator, he knew Him on a very intimate level, but yet he really never knew Him at all. Just think, Judas associated with Christ, but he never “knew” Christ, there are many people out there just like Judas. Many of them have a deep intellectual understanding of Christ, yet they don’t know Him.

Why?

They are holding onto something… To truly know Christ, means denying yourself, it means that you will abandon everything you have ever, or will ever place your trust in, outside of Him. Charles Spurgeon once said that “If you really long to save men’s souls, you must tell them a great deal of disagreeable truth.” Those that evangelize to the dead, or preach the gospel of peace, know this reality. You know people don’t like what you are telling them. They don’t want to face their sin. It means they have to let go of something. It means they have to admit “it would have been better that they never had been born”, and this is so very true isn’t it? Because what’s the alternative? The alternative is a short life, here on earth, grasping for 30 pieces of silver. When we get that silver, we realize it never held any real satisfaction…a temporary fix at best. Its blood money, but most don’t see it that way.

This past week I had a conversation with a guy that I’ve known for a long time and as I listened to him tell me things I could see that what he thought about himself was really important. However, my heart was crying for him, because he is so lost, and he doesn’t even know it. He’s a nice guy, in some respects, but he doesn’t know the wrath of God abides upon him. He doesn’t know that it would be better that he had never been born, unless he repents and believes the gospel.

From his book “Twelve Ordinary Men” John MacArthur wrote this:

“He was a coward. He knew the popularity of Jesus.   He was afraid of the crowd. Like every hypocrite, he was obsessed with concerns about what people thought of him, so he was hoping to betray Jesus as quietly as possible. He was looking for the doorway to hell that was most convenient. And when he found it, he plunged right in.” [1]

What happens when we fall into sin? Are we a Judas or are we Peter? Do we have sorrow that leads to death or sorrow that leads to repentance? This is the difference and if you’ve never understood that you are a Judas outside of godly sorrow leading to repentance, then you are still a Judas. Judas deceived himself, and he never knew his eternal fate had been sealed when he committed himself fully to Satan’s plan.

You will either be broken on the Rock, or smashed to pieces by it. Today is the day to get right with God. Today is the acceptable day of salvation for those that truly understand they are hanging by a thread over the eternal flames of hell. Those in eternal torment right now, with no way out, know it. Don’t find it out too late. Repent, and turn from your sin and be saved.

Kevin

“So expert was he in his hypocrisy that he fooled everyone but Jesus, right up to the very end.” – John MacArthur [2]

 

 

[1] John MacArthur, Twelve Ordinary Men (Thomas Nelson, 2002) 193

[2] Ibid – 192

The paralytic

Mark 2:1-11 describes a very interesting scene.  Jesus had become well known through His ministry and the crowds have quickly become very large, almost a mob scene.  People are being healed and Jesus is doing some pretty crazy stuff so of course people want to know what it’s all about.  It’s natural they would be curious.  They are looking for something to happen, maybe they want to see a miracle, maybe they want to be healed, or maybe they want to be fed like in John Chapter 6.

Mark 2:4 And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was.  So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.  When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”

I find this fascinating and wanted to offer a couple observations about this passage.

The most obvious is this man’s friends cared enough for him that they would go to this much trouble to bring him to Jesus.  They wanted him to be healed.  They were willing to go to extreme measures for their friend.  When Jesus saw what they had done he pronounced the paralytic’s sins were forgiven because of “their” faith.

John MacArthur commenting on this

Jesus knew what he really wanted. He wanted healing, sure. But far more than that, he wanted forgiveness. The other guys didn’t seem to care about that, but then again maybe they hadn’t really come to grips with their sin because they were able bodied. The sinner who is paralyzed may have a different view about his own wretchedness and may see that paralysis as a judgment. Certainly they did in that culture. They just connected those and so did the people who were ill. But whatever the motivation, or whatever the stimulation, the man knew himself to be wretched on the inside, as much as wretched on the outside, and He wanted not just a healing, but he wanted forgiveness and he believed that this was the one who could bring him forgiveness from God.


And so, Jesus on this moment on the basis of His own personal authority, absolved the man of all his sins. Listen carefully, “Apart from works, “ right? He didn’t do any works and He obliterated the guilt and this man went from being sentenced to eternal hell to being given the privilege of eternal heaven. The man’s heart must have been like the Publican in Luke 18 who said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” That man went home righteousness, Jesus said.

What is faith?  The word used here is “pis’-tis” moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; abstractly constancy in such profession; by extension the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself: – assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity.

But you say the verse says the men also had faith, why weren’t they saved, look at the work they did to bring their friend to see the Christ?  Jesus only pronounced the paralytic’s sins were forgiven.  This is a big question.  Many go to see Jesus when He’s performing.  Lots of people attend churches and they seem to have faith but what kind of faith do they have?  Is it faith that brings them to repentance and forgiveness of their sins?

John MacArthur sheds light on this once again

Now they all had faith. They all had faith that Jesus could heal. How could they have that faith? Was this some…some supernatural kind of faith? No…no, they believed He could heal…why? Because He had been doing it. This is natural faith. This is human faith, the same faith that allows you to go into the hospital and have surgery. Why do you do that? Why do you let somebody put you asleep? And then they wheel you into a room and somebody slices you open and messes around…why do you do that? You don’t know the guy, you don’t know how he treats his wife, his kids, his friends, his enemies. Well what do you think he’s going to do to you? Why do you do that?

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith (pis’-tis), and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast.

This was God’s gift through no effort of his own.  He was able to see his sin and his helpless condition.  That is saving faith.  Let’s also contrast a couple other notable passages about faith or belief.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes (pisteuō) in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

This uses the verb form of the word as does James 2:19

James 2:17-20 Thus also faith by itself,  if it does not have works, is dead.  But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’  Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.  You believe (pisteuō) that there is one God.  You do well.  Even the demons believe (pisteuō) and tremble!  But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

Just as the friends of the paralytic did not have saving faith we can see from the James passage that demons believe and don’t have saving faith.  The question is do you have saving faith or some other type of faith, do you have some intellectual knowledge of god or do you “believe”?

Heavenly Father may You grant faith to those that understand their wretchedness and helpless condition today.  May you open eyes to see that we can only be saved by You and the faith You give us will produce good works.  Works do not produce faith and I humbly ask that you might show someone this today for the very first time, for Your glory Father.  Amen.

Kevin