Suffer

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“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

Ordo Salutis and Other Big Sounding Words – Part 2

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I recently was asked to respond to some questions about certain biblical terms that many people will hear that attend church or engage in Christian conversations. Sometimes these seem like such big and overwhelming words, but they are important to understand, not to sound important, but to understand how God works in the lives of His people.

Today I’m continuing to look at some terms you will hear in the church world. It may be very basic for some readers of this blog, but some may hear these terms and wonder if they are biblical or not.

Faith in Jesus – in the Greek language the word faith is pistis.  It also means belief or to be persuaded.  There are many key verses in understanding “saving” faith.  Saving faith will produce fruits in the life of a believer (Matthew 3:8), as opposed to just a shallow or intellectual belief such as James describes in chapter 2 of his epistle.

James 2:19-21 You believe that there is one God.  You do well.  Even the demons believe and tremble!  But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?  Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?

John 2:23-25 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.

Here are two very clear examples of intellectual belief, without a heart change, and the kind of faith that leads to a new life is explicitly defined in Scripture as a gift of God.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. 

Faith also comes through the hearing of the word, so God’s word is the mechanism by which one receives faith.

Romans 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

It is obviously quite important to understand in the proclamation of the gospel, that the law of God convicts the sinner of his need for forgiveness (second use of the law) and that forgiveness can only come through repentance and faith in Christ, but yet the great mystery is that God gives us the faith to believe.  The man of God must be properly equipped to give the correct message for someone to be truly converted.

Repentance – In Greek – metanoéō: to regret, repent, also to have a change of mind which produces a change of direction.  When God grants repentance, the hearer is able to turn from his wicked ways and embrace a new life which results in a dramatic transformation.  Matthew 3:8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance…

2 Corinthians 7:10 For godly sorrow produces repentance, leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

Paul describes a big difference between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow.  Many people will mourn over their sin, but they mourn because of how it affects them, not that it was sin against a Holy God.   We must also understand that God grants repentance, which is consistent with the entire message of scripture that salvation is from God, 2 Timothy 2:24-26 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.

Accepting Jesus into my Heart – this is an invention of man and not a biblical concept.  Although from our perspective it seems that we have a role in salvation (responsibility of man), we do not believe that bible supports decisional regeneration.  The verse most people will cite is Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”  However, this is not a call to salvation; it is Jesus speaking to the church and calling them to repent over their lukewarmness and their sin.  If we read all of Revelation 3 it becomes very clear.

The gospel message begins with a presentation of the law, showing a sinner their sin, their need for forgiveness, and Christ as the solution to their problem.  Then given this information a call to repent and turn from their sin and receive Christ in faith.  So the acceptance that is so often heard at large evangelistic campaigns and altar calls at church services, is not a biblical call. It most often involves appeal to emotion, through music and a slick presentation by a gifted speaker, but Paul tells us he did not come to them with persuasive words or excellent speech, but only Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:1-5) and listen to this in verse 5 …that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Acts 2:38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

It’s important to take this verse in context, as Peter had given a very convicting sermon and we can see in verse 37 that his message “cut them to the heart”.  This verse also ties in with Baptism, we would not believe that baptism saves, but that Believer Baptism is an external sign that one has been saved, and as Peter calls them to be saved and then be baptized.

See also Acts 8:38, the account of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.

Backsliding – is a modern concept of the church in the way it is now used.   While true believer’s may have times of spiritual drought in their life, if they are truly converted it is impossible for them to lose their salvation as we looked at with perseverance.  Most people use this term for a child that “received” or “accepted” Christ at a young age and then goes on to live a rebellious, sinful life.  If my parents knew the life I was living as a young man, they would have undoubtedly thought I was backsliding.  The truth is that I was never really converted.  This is why the doctrine of salvation is so important; most people do not understand salvation as the bible describes it.

Just a couple days ago I was having a discussion with my sister-in-law and she told me her daughter “believes” in God.  When I explained belief to her and asked her if her daughter has a new life, the light-bulb came on that her daughter is not really saved.  When we understand we are dealing with only two types of people in the world, either believer’s or non-believer’s we can then discern how to minister to people.    If people are believer’s and are sinning they need to understand the Third Use of the Law, if they are non-believer’s they need the Second Use of the Law, or in short they need the gospel to save their souls.

Soli Deo Gloria!

 

Kevin