So you want to be like Christ? – Part 2

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Ghandi has a quote that is attributed to him, and I guess I have no reason to doubt he said it. It goes like this “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Isn’t that an interesting quote on so many levels?

First of all there is a lot of hypocrisy in this statement. Was Ghandi like Christ? Some people think he was. Ghandi, never professed to be a Christian, as far as I know, but he is saying that if more people acted like Christ, then it might work better for him. Sure, I suppose… But more importantly, I agree with him. I also disagree with him, but I’m not going to spend time showing why I disagree, because I think there is enough here for the point of this article as to why I agree with his quote.

As a reminder, I started this little series based on a discussion I had with a friend over the years on whether one should be a follower of Christ, or Christ like. I argued that if we don’t start by following Christ we will never strive to be like Him, and that most will never TRULY follow Christ. Many will profess to follow, but when the going gets hard, the hardened get going.

But back to Ghandi…

Ghandi claims that Christians are not like Christ, and I have a lot of agreement with him on this point, so, how are we that truly follow Christ to be like Him? Have we considered, from the Bible, what it means to be like Christ? Let’s look at just two ways that we are to be like Christ. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1 Imitate me as I imitate Christ. Paul understood the desire to be like Christ. He had a proper grasp on what was valuable, but he also knew what it meant to really imitate Christ.

Suffering

Jesus Christ suffered. And so did Paul.

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God… – 2 Timothy 1:8 The Christian life and suffering should be synonymous, this is being like Christ and being like Paul.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:10

Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. – 2 Timothy 3:12

For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: – 1 Peter 2:20-21

The suffering and patient endurance for the spread of the gospel should be a privilege for all Christians to share in. Did you get that? It’s a privilege to suffer for the sake of the gospel. Yet in modern Christianity suffering for the gospel probably means the air conditioning is out at your church, or the latte machine is broken.

We have no concept of what it means to suffer for the sake of the gospel, in some cases you might be marginalized or laughed at. If you do any sort of open air ministry you will most definitely be mocked, if you are preaching the true gospel, but rarely will you be beaten. At least not in this country. So I think that true biblical suffering is not readily experienced by most Christians, in fact it’s experienced by very few. However, I will offer some hope that the day is coming when the true elect of God will be revealed through the suffering of the church and it appears that day is not very far away. Do yourself a favor and begin to experience it now, so it won’t come upon you as some sort of surprise.

Preaching

From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” – Matthew 4:17

Well now, that’s a little bit inconvenient for most of us. In a culture that likes to say “preach the gospel always and if necessary use words” this upsets the apple cart. The word “preach” literally means public proclamation.

The word κηρύσσω kērýssō is a word that carries force and gravity. It means that someone is confronted to make a decision about what they have heard. In fact it demands a decision, and it is a call to obey. In the days before newspapers, the nightly news, and the internet, the way a king would get his message to his subjects was through a herald. One that was sent to deliver the message of the king. He went into the town square and read publicly the message. The subjects were called to obey.

Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities. – Matthew 11:1

But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.” – Mark 1:38

And He (Christ) commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. – Acts 10:42

Why is this so important?   Why such a radical call? Most professing Christians will think this is a foolish way to spread the love of Christ and they will offer alternatives like friendship evangelism, life-style evangelism or “missional” group evangelism. I’m not saying we should not evangelize our friends, or those in our life, or we shouldn’t have groups of people sitting around talking about missions, but this is not the primary biblical model that Christ, the apostles, the early church, and the church of the past century utilized.

Why this method?

Paul is very helpful to our understanding of why open air preaching and gospel proclamation is imperative to the spread of the good news. In short God uses this method to save people. Not all will be saved in this manner, but many will.

So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. – Romans 1:15-16

Do we see it? The gospel saves…

The proclamation of the gospel, in particular, through the foolish preaching of the cross of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:18) is the method that God, in His wisdom, chose to save those who believe. That is hard to comprehend, but it is the truth.

And I can affirm to you that one way to bring suffering (like Christ) is to proclaim the gospel.  Publicly, for those called to do so, through the oversight of your church.  The local church is to provide cover and support for this endeavor.  The Elders affirm a man’s ability to preach and they provide accountability, and protection against errant messages.  Understanding that it is to be men that publicly preach, just as in the local assembly.  Women are also called to serve in evangelism but not in the same way as preachers.  They can be engaged in one on one conversations, or passing out gospel tracts and eliciting conversations with people.  In properly ordered churches this will have an impact on the community.  In this manner we can begin to disciple the nations (Matthew 28:18-20).  It’s a beautiful thing.

This will bring persecution and it will bring salvation’s. If you want to be like Christ, these are two ways for you to imitate Paul as he imitates Christ.

 

Kevin

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