Monthly Archives: April 2009

Demonstrating Spiritual Maturity Through Our Emotions

One of the most incredible parts of existing as a human being is coming to grips with the fact that we were created in the very image of God. 

 

As creations made expressly in His image He gave us a mind, will and emotions. 

 

We have the ability to think, to feel and to make choices. 

 

Francis Schaffer said, “…as God is a person He thinks, feels and acts: so I am a person who thinks, feels and acts.  Yet despite the reality that we were created to be all three intellectual, emotional and volitional in nature, many Christians today have emphasized the mind and the will to the exclusion of the emotions. 

 

This prejudice regarding the superiority of the mind is demonstrated in the current stream of evangelical thinking.  Among most evangelical Christians, the mark of spiritual maturity is the ability to acquire facts and store biblical knowledge.  Many church systems perpetuate the idea that the more biblical truth you can cram into your brain the more spiritually mature you are.  This is a fallacy. 

 

While knowledge of the Scriptures is important, spiritual maturity comes through transformation of the whole person.  It involves applying the Scripture in order to be conformed to Christ in our mind, will and emotions. 

 

The Bible is clear that the basic way to know whether a person is a Christian or not is not to assess how much a person knows but to look at how a person lives.  It is not only important that one think rightly one must also act rightly.  Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love is clearly an emotion, so evidently the expression of emotion in a believer’s life is also a vitally important part of Christian maturity. 

 

Throughout the Bible, we see God expressing His emotions.  In the Old Testament, for example, one thing we are graphically taught is that God can be pleased and made happy and that God can also be displeased and moved to anger. 

 

In the New Testament, God’s emotional repertoire is definitely expanded.  We see Jesus as God incarnate expressing the entire myriad of human emotions.  He feels love, compassion, joy, fear, sorrow, grief, discouragement, frustration, hurt, loneliness and anger.  In fact, just like us, He experiences every emotion on the map and yet He does it all without sin.

 

Emotions despite the judgments many of us might make about them are neither negative nor positive.  They are neutral.  What we do with emotions is what causes the positive or negative impact on our lives.  How we express them determines the constructive or destructive quality of that emotion.

 

What separates Jesus and His expressions of emotions from our expressions of emotions, is that Jesus felt emotions and always expressed them appropriately and without sin.  Jesus’ most common description of himself was, “I am meek and lowly of heart.” 

 

The choice of the adjective meek is an interesting preference of descriptors. Meek is one of the great Greek ethical words and was a word charged with meaning for the first hearers.  It is an understatement to say that it does not have the same meaning today in our culture as it did in the culture of the original recipients.  While meekness in the culture extant at the time Jesus walked the earth described a person who had every instinct, every impulse, every passion and every emotion under control, the term has been downgraded in our society to mean gentle.

 

Use of the word “meek” today conjures up images of Casper Milktoast.  Meekness in the first century however, was attached to images of strength.  Meek meant power put under control.  Now it has come to mean the opposite “powerlessness”.  In Jesus’ time, meek was commonly used to describe an animal which had been trained to obey the word of command from his master. It was used to describe a horse which had learned to answer perfectly to the reins.

 

Meekness as an attribute said something very admirable about our Lord.  It said that although Jesus had all the resources to be all-powerful He chose to express himself as a person under restraint.  He expressed His personality, His emotions appropriately, always keeping His impulses and passions in check.  He was meek. 

 

As we desire to come into conformity with the nature of our Lord it also falls to Christians to cultivate meekness in their own lives.  We are to experience the full gamut of emotions that God created us to experience in his image, yet we should demonstrate true spiritual maturity and like Jesus exercise control over our emotions. 

 

Jesus expressed righteous anger in the temple when He cast out the money-changers.  He chose to overturn their tables and run them out of the place.  It should be realized however, that He could have struck them dead on the spot, summoned angels from heaven to destroy the place or caused an earthquake to level the temple. He demonstrated control.  He exhibited the appropriate emotion with the appropriate force for that circumstance. 

 

In conclusion, emotions are a valid part of each of us created in God’s image.  As Christians, we should never deny, ignore or even downplay the emotional part of us.   True spiritual maturity involves being conformed to the image of Christ in our mind, will and emotions. 

 

Christ expressed a wide variety of emotions in His life, yet always in appropriate ways at appropriate times. That should also be our goal.  We need to be truthful as we express the emotions that are inside of us; that’s what makes us human beings made in the image of God. The key is that as Christians, we must strive to communicate our emotions in proper God-honoring ways.
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Changes Are Needed in Evangelism in America–Let Your Light So Shine Before Men

Linus’ buddy the little blonde girl may have had good results as an evangelist by hitting people over the head to get them to change their religious stance.  But in the current climate of religious change in our country; it is doubtful that hitting someone over the headwith your lunch box or even your version of the truth for that matter–will yield much fruit.

Preaching the gospel is getting far more difficult in our county where resistance to Christianity is spreading.  The old tactics of competitive evangelism –“my truth is better than your truth”– are simply not as effective as they once were. 

Many are calling for change in the predominant style of evangelism; a change that couples sharing gospel truths with demonstrations of Christ’s love and relationship in an impacting way.  In a post-modern America that is increasingly antagonistic to Christianity–just arguing for our version of the truth is frightfully anemic.

America is no longer a Christian nation.

President Barack Obama recently stated at a press conference in Turkey that “as Americans we no longer consider ourselves a Christian nation.”  This quote was startling to many people but in reality it was just Obama giving voice to the inevitable trend that is showing up everywhere — Christianity is no longer as popular or influential as it once was.

Obama’s comment came as a reinforcement of a published cover article for Newsweek magazine. The article entitled “The Decline and Fall of Christian America” discussed the shift in the religious identifications of the United States and claimed that according to polls done in recent years things look pretty dismal for Christianity. 

The article pointed out that the percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen over 10 percentage points since 2000, and meanwhile the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation at all has nearly doubled in the same amount of time.

While such statistics may seem jolting to some, Christianity’s slipping image is in actuality old news.  In 2007, in a book entitled unChristian, Barna group president David Kinnaman, began revealing statistics about the spiraling downward popularity of Christianity. 

His research showed that: a decade ago the vast majority of Americans outside the Christian faith, including young people, felt favorably toward Christianity’s role in society.  While today, just 16% of non-Christians in their late teens and twenties said they have a “good impression” of Christianity.

Kinnaman also illustrated that Christians seem aware of the shift in people’s perceptions of “the faith.”  Barna polls showing: that 91% of the nation’s evangelical Christians believe that “Americans are becoming more and more hostile and negative toward Christianity.”  The author, Kinnaman writes,

“Some Christians fear the changing reputation of Christianity and it certainly represents an uncomfortable future. Yet, rather than being defensive or dismissive, we should learn from critics, especially those young Christians who are expressing consternation about the state of faith in America.

Jesus told us to expect hostility and negative reactions. That is certainly nothing new. But the issue is what we do with it. Is it a chance to defend yourself and demand your rights? Or is it an opportunity to show people grace and truth?

In order to deal with the vanishing common ground between Christians and those outside the faith, Kinnaman and many others such as John Piper, Mark Devers, Francis Chan and Rick Warren to name a few are all calling for changes in our evangelistic methodology.

What these best selling Christian authors are saying is that Christians need to begin to deal realistically with the pessimistic and skeptical views that those outside of Christian circles possess and that we need to take measures to change their view of Christians.

It seems to be a consensus that when we set out to evangelize in American society today, we must take into account the expanding hostile environment that surrounds us and have strategies to counter act the negativity. While it is true that none of us are perfect, our lives should lend credence to and speak well of the gospel we are preaching.  And our interactions with others should be the confirming echo of our witness for Jesus Christ.

 

It is taught throughout Scripture that our lives are meant to be God’s best advertisement in our community and that Christians corporately need to begin living that way.  Jesus Himself taught,

 

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:16

 

And the Apostle Paul reiterated the same emphasis on lifestyle and relational evangelism in the epistles.

 

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.  Philippians 2:14-15

 

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.6 Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. Col 4:5-6 (NLT)

 

Real Christianity is an attractive thing when it is lived out and we as Christians need to take heed to that and begin to demonstrate it in the communities in which we live. Christian evangelism today needs to be a lot more about demonstrations of  Christian love, faith, relationship and the power of God to change lives and a lot less about correctness and aggressively assaulting the other guy’s truth before you have earned the right to speak.

 

We need to learn from the advice of the Apostle Paul who in the first century was also operating in a culture that was antagonistic and suspicious of Christianity.  David Kinnaman has pointed out and I agree that Paul’s exhortation to “live wisely among those who are not Christians’ and to ‘let your conversation be gracious and effective,” (Colossians 4:5-6, NLT) is perfect counsel to committed Christians in America today. 

 

Let’s put away our “I’ll hit you over the head with the truth” techniques of old and begin sharing the truth clothed in Christlike love, integrity and authenticity the way Jesus did and maybe then they will listen to our truth.

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Thou Shalt Not Commit Blog Fraud

In this so-called “post-modern” world one of the big buzz words repeated again and again is authenticity. 

 

Post-moderns want to be authentic and call for those around them to be authentic as well.

 

If you are foggy about the exact definitions of these terms, let me refresh your memory.

 

authentic: adjective — not false or copied; genuine; real.

authenticity: noun — the quality of being authentic; to have totally undisputed credibility. 

 

The problem that I see with the overuse of these buzz words is a blatant temptation to be hypocritical.  We have a generation that is calling for authenticity in a world that is beset with opportunity for all-out fakery.  

 

In this 21st century social milieu—in a world increasingly defined by the internet and the possibility of faceless, voiceless communication; authenticity is vanishing.  Social networking sites such as: Facebook, My Space and Twitter and information brokering systems like blogs deliver the temptation to be anything but authentic. Occasions to be fake, fraudulent and a counterfeit are offered in a plethora of ways everywhere online.

 

The young country music artist Brad Paisley expertly summed up the reality of blog deception in a song he entitled “Online”.  In the tune he tells the story of a “mama’s boy” turned “poser” online. 

 

I work down at the Pizza Pit
And I drive an old Hyundai
I still live with my mom and dad
I’m 5 foot 3 and overweight
I’m a scifi fanatic
A mild asthmatic
And I’ve never been to second base
But there’s whole ‘nother me
That you need to see
Go checkout MySpace

 

‘Cause online I’m out in Hollywood
I’m 6 foot 5 and I look damn good
I drive a Maserati
I’m a black-belt in karate
And I love a good glass of wine
It turns girls on that I’m mysterious
I tell them I don’t want nothing serious
‘Cause even on a slow day
I could have a three way
Chat with two women at one time

I’m so much cooler online
So much cooler online

 

We may think such unashamed hypocrisy is rare but the news in the blog world reveals the opposite– in actuality–blog fraud is rampant.  Online “posing” is on the rise and it is not always as harmless as it seems. Recently, the U.S. chapter of the IT Service Management Forum filed a defamation lawsuit against its former executive director, alleging that he tried to discredit the group via blog comments posted under a fictitious female name.  It is the first such case to get to court but if the man accused loses he will pay “big” money in damages.

 

In another example of blog fraud, the online community had been wondering for a long time about the “real” identity of the anonymous blog author of “OffAgain-OnAgain Boy”.  The web-log which featured a graphic exposé of the life of an IT support manager was attracting a hefty readership and many questions.  As a result a newspaper investigation was launched to solve the mystery surrounding the anonymous blogger’s identity and they hit pay dirt.  The paper soon revealed that that the writer did not actually work in the IT industry at all but was in fact a £3,000 per night prostitute.  Online reports revealed that “the stories of late night sessions spent identifying the cause of widespread spreadsheet corruption, and the details of three hour meetings debating the merits of Windows upgrades were pure fantasy.

 

Recently in an example closer to home, on a blog authored by a Christian skeptic named Daniel Florien another case of blog fraud was exposed.  Florien revealed in a post called “Pastor caught lying for Jesus” that a Christian minister was in fact on his blog fraudulently posing as an atheist.  The lying pastor falsified comments in which he attempted to make a supposed atheist contributor look like a total immoral idiot. 

 

He wrote, “What’s wrong with killing babies? I see no problem with it. I have enough mouths to feed. I don’t get the argument and I am an atheist. Since I don’t believe in God, I don’t believe in anything characterized as good, bad / right, wrong. So, what’s the big deal?”

 

At first Florien reported that he was shocked that anyone could say things like that and then he realized that he was dealing with a “fundie” in disguise, a sheep in wolves clothing. He had done some digging and realized that the deceiver was using a variety of names on his blog. 

 

Florien states, “In a few hours, he (the poser) went from apologizing for our past dealings with slimy lying Christians, to suggesting it’s okay to abuse women, kill neighbors, and slaughter children under the guise of atheism. So I banned him. I found what he did to be disgusting. It would be like me pretending to me multiple Christians on a Christian blog, asserting there’s nothing wrong with raping women and killing children because God commands it in the Bible.”

 

I probably would not agree with Florien on many subjects but on this one we are in accord—I cannot tolerate liars.  It is disgusting when people practice this kind of lack of character and authenticity.  Such posers are guilty of fraud and it is particularly repulsive when this kind of activity comes from a Christian minister.

 

In my opinion it is one thing to use a moniker or hide behind an avatar but it is another to falsify comments, pose as someone you are not, or dream up blog content. I like blogging and interacting anonymously on line as much as the next person but at times there is obviously a fine line between “blog fun and games” and lying. We must remind ourselves as we are tempted by blog fraud –the ninth commandment still unequivocally states–“thou shalt not lie.” 

 

In conclusion, I believe if we in this post modern world are going to preach about the necessity of being “authentic” we better practice “authenticity.”  And for those of us who are Christians if we are true adherents to our faith we should obviously practice what we preach as well. 

We, who so vehemently stand for advancing the Truth, should (duh) tell the truth. We need to be as aware of lying on line as we would be if we were doing it face to face. As we conduct our online relationships and become citizens of the worldwide internet community let’s strive to raise the moral bar rather than trampling all over it. Let’s hold one another accountable to a standard of truthfulness and spread the word –“thou shalt not commit blog fraud.” 

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Happy Resurrection Day!

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Christ’s Death the Ultimate Expression of the Love of God

God proved his love on the cross.

When Christ hung, and bled, and died it was God

saying to the world—I love you.  Billy Graham

 

God sat in silence while the sins of the world were placed upon his Son. Was it right?

No. Was it fair? No. Was it love? Yes. In a world of injustice, God once and for all

tipped the scales in the favor of hope. Max L. Lucado

 

What happened that Friday, Good Friday?

 

The Apostle’s Creed states it without embellishment: “He was crucified, dead, and buried.”

 

After being tried and sentenced Jesus carried His own cross to Golgotha, And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center. John 19:17

 

Golgotha in Aramaic (The place of the skull) was probably called this because the hill

with its stony barren top looked like a skull. The probable site of Golgotha was outside

the city wall and not far from Herod’s palace—perhaps a thousand feet north/northeast of

it. Roman custom placed crucifixions, and Jewish custom located stonings, outside towns

rather than at their center

 

The sin offering always used to be taken outside the camp or city (cf. Heb. 13:11-13). For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people withHis own blood, suffered outside the gate.

 

Several stakes, at most about ten feet high, stood in Golgotha ready to be reused whenever executions occurred. The upright part of the cross (the stipe) was permanently mounted in the crucifixion area. The part that the victim carried was the cross bar, weighing in at 75 to 125 pounds. The cross bar would be balanced on the victim’s shoulders, and their arms would be tied to the crossbar. In this position, if the victim tripped or fell, they could not use their arms to break their fall, and they would likely fall face first into the ground.

 

The victim was escorted by a Roman guard (probably a centurion and several soldiers), who were responsible for guarding the victim until his death. One of the soldiers would display a sign with the crime written on it. Once the crucifixion area was reached, the victim would be offered a drink of wine mixed with myrrh to act as a mild pain killer. The drink was a charitable service performed by an association of women in Jerusalem.  Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. – Mark 15:23

 

The Crucifixion

 

The victim would then be nailed to the cross bar. The nails would be driven through the wrists, not through the palms, as these would not support the body weight. The cross bar would be raised and placed on the upright post, where the victim’s heels would be nailed to the post.

 

Once crucified, a victim would live for a period ranging from a few hours to a few days. How long he lived depended mostly on how severe the scourging was. If no one claimed the body, it would be left on the cross to be eaten by predatory animals. The family could, however, claim the body for burial. In this case, a Roman soldier would pierce the chest with a sword or spear to make sure the victim was dead.

 

What actually kills the victim of crucifixion?

 

The initial scourging would weaken the victim, cause massive blood loss, and probably induce shock. By the time the victim had carried the cross bar to the crucifixion area, he would be exhausted. Once up on the cross, the victim would have his body weight suspended by their arms. In this position, it is difficult to completely exhale. The victim could take shallow breaths for a while, but eventually would be forced to push himself up to take a full breath.  At this point three things happen:

 

The victim’s weight is now fully supported by his feet. The nails through the feet would be likely to hit two major nerves running through the area. The result would be excruciating pain in the legs.

 

The nails in the wrists would be likely to pierce the main nerve running through the arm. As the victim pushed up to breath, the wrists would rotate against the nail, irritating the nerves and causing intense pain in the arms. Some authorities also believe that the crucifixion position would dislocate the shoulder or elbow. Any movement would aggravate the pain from these injuries.

 

The wounds on the victim’s back from the scourging would push up against the rough part of the centerpiece. This would tend to re-open the wounds, leading to more pain and blood loss. This combination of pain would quickly force the victim to lower himself back down. Eventually, the victim would no longer be able to raise himself up and would suffocate. The shock from blood loss due to the scourging would hasten this process. In some cases, the victim’s legs were broken to “finish him off.” This would prevent the victim from being able to raise himself up and he would suffocate in a matter of minutes.

 

Theories about, what specifically killed Jesus?  Medical Aspects of Crucifixion (from Wikipedia article on Crucifixion of Jesus) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion_of_Jesus

 

A number of theories that attempt to explain the circumstances of the death of Jesus on the cross via medical knowledge of 19th and 20th century have been proposed by a range of people, including physicians, historians and forensic specialists.  Most theories proposed by trained physicians conclude that Jesus endured tremendous amounts of pain and suffering on the Cross before his death.

 

In 2006, general practitioner John Scotson reviewed over 40 publications on the cause of death of Jesus and theories ranged from cardiac rupture to pulmonary embolism. As early as 1847,  drawing on John 19:34, physician William Stroud proposed the ruptured heart theory of the cause of Christ’s death and it influenced a number of other people.  The asphyxia theory has been the subject of several experiments that simulate crucifixion in healthy volunteers and many physicians agree that crucifixion causes a profound disruption of the victim’s ability to breathe.

 

A side effect of exhaustive asphyxia is that the crucifixion victim will gradually find it more and more challenging to obtain enough breath to speak. This provides a possible explanation of the fact that the last words of Christ were short utterances.

 

The cardiovascular collapse theory is a prevalent modern explanation and suggests that Jesus died of profound shock. According to this theory, the scourging, the beatings, and the fixing to the cross would have left Jesus dehydrated, weak, and critically ill and that the stage was set for a complex interplay of simultaneous physiological insults: dehydration, massive trauma and soft tissue injury (especially from the prior scourging), inadequate respiration, and strenuous physical exertion, leading to cardiovascular collapse.

 

Specifics of Jesus’ crucifixion (adapted from article by ROBERT GIDLE)

http://www.catholiceducation.org/ 

 

Jesus’ crucifixion mostly followed the standard procedure, although there were some differences.  These differences help account for the fact that he died after a relatively short period of time on the cross. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. – Luke 22:63

There is a condition called “hemohidrosis” or “hematidrosis” which occurs in people under extreme physical or emotional stress. The blood vessels in their sweat glands rupture and leak blood into their sweat. The effect is one of “sweating blood.” Several authorities believe that this is a plausible explanation for what happened to Jesus. Although the loss of blood would not be significant, it shows that he was under extreme stress, which would have weakened him physically.

 The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him.

Luke 22:63

Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.

– Mark 14:65

 

Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him – Matt 26:67

 

When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby struck him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded. – John 18:22

Before the scourging and crucifixion, Jesus was beaten by his guards, which would weaken him. In addition, he would have had no sleep that night, and walked back and forth from trial to trial.

 

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. – Mark 15:21

 

As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. – Matt 27:32

 

As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. – Luke 23:26

 

Typically, a prisoner carried his own cross to the crucifixion site. The fact that Simon was pressed into carrying Jesus’ cross suggests that Jesus was too weak to carry his own cross. It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.

Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. – Mark 15:42-44  Since the Jewish Sabbath would begin at Sunset, it was important that the bodies not be left up, as Jewish law required that they be buried by the Sabbath. Note that Pilate is surprised that Jesus is already dead.

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. – John 19:31-32

 

As mentioned earlier, breaking the legs of a crucified person would cause suffocation within minutes, because they would not be able to raise themselves up to breath. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. – John 19:33-34

 

Again, this was typical crucifixion practice — to stab the victim to make sure he was dead before releasing him to relatives. The “water” that John describes as flowing is probably serous pleural and pericardial fluid fluid that would build up from shock and blood loss. This fluid would tend to accumulate in the chest cavity and lungs.

 

What does His crucifixion mean for us.

 

If we believe in Him and trust in Him then our debt of sin is fully paid and the record of our sin is nailed to the Cross with Christ.

 

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all our sins. He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross.  Col. 2:13-14

 

If we believe in Him and trust in Him then those of us who were once far away from God can be brought near.  Nothing remains between God and us but an open door.

 

So brothers and sisters, we are completely free to enter the Most Holy Place without fear because of the blood of Jesus’ death.  We can enter through a new and living way that Jesus opened for us.  It leads through the curtain –Christ’s body. 

Hebrews 10:19-20

 

Take some time and speak to the LORD about your need for forgiveness and the removal of guilt over sin in your life.  Imagine the cross and take those charges you want destroyed once and for all and visualize them nailed there.  Jesus was crucified, dead and buried to eliminate the sins of the world that keep man separated from God.  Believe in what Jesus did for you, allow Him to take your sin, repent and follow Him as Lord and Savior and you will be reconciled with God.  That is the message of Good Friday.

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Pray That They Might Follow Jesus Despite the Fray.

According to Dictionary.com the definition of fray is:

 

1. a fight, battle, or skirmish

2. a noisy quarrel or brawl.

 

Today for better or for worse those who are choosing to come to Jesus in America must do so in the midst of a spiritual fray.

 

With heightening societal opposition it is no longer as easy as it once was to stand up and choose to become a follower of Jesus. Currently people, especially young people must run a gauntlet of cultural antagonism toward Christianity in order to come to Christ.

 

 

The celebration of Resurrection Day 2009 is right around the corner and in my life this provokes an opportunity to pray. I am prompted to call out to God for the people who will hear the claims of Christ as they are brought forth in churches throughout our nation this weekend.

 

I see a need for a great harvest for the Kingdom of God and I am praying that people will be able to tune out the din and the fray that the world supplies and come to Jesus in spite of it all.

 

 

Jesus had similar sentiments early in the week before his crucifixion. He was growing mournful over those who were rejecting Him. In John 12:37, we are told… But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him.

 

Jesus had been faithful; He had done the Father’s bidding and fulfilled the Messianic duties God had put before Him. He had performed great miracles and yet the majority of the people were choosing not to believe and a growing resistance was resulting.

 

Later in the same chapter we are given one of the reasons why, Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:42-43).

 

 

Many in Israel were choosing not to become followers because they feared losing their reputations among those who were in power. They feared man more than God and they did not want to face the ultimate rejection that belief in Jesus would cost them.

 

 

In verse 44 of chapter twelve we are told, Then Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me. And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.

And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him–the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.

For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life.” John 12:37-49 (NKJV)

 

 

These words in John 12:44-49 are the last comments of Jesus Christ in a public setting before his arrest. From that point on we know from the gospel accounts that He went into hiding. He withdrew to prepare Himself for His impending death.

 

 

The distressing truth was that, in spite of all the clear evidence that was presented to them, the majority of the nation Israel simply would not believe. They had heard the message and seen the miracles, and they still would not confess that Jesus was their Messiah.

 

 

It is a sad reality that when people start to resist the light of Christ, something begins to change within them. And it is even sadder that concerning such people it is eventually true that it becomes almost impossible for them to believe.

 

The Scripture teaches that it is a serious thing to treat God’s truth lightly, because people can miss their opportunity to be saved. Isaiah 55:6 says, “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near.” Quite simply, it is important that people respond when they hear the truth because there is no guarantee that they might ever get a second chance.

 

Amongst the nation Israel at the time of Christ there were those who would not believe, and there were those who would not openly confess Christ even though they had believed. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea belonged to this group of secret followers. They were two examples of individuals who were unable to pay the price of open acknowledgement, but who eventually came out and confessed Jesus.

 

This insight is encouraging as we consider the many around us in this day and age who have heard the message of the gospel and appear to approve but seem reticent to follow Jesus.

 

Could it be that they also want to believe but are being hindered because of their own fear of what man will say or do? Are they being hindered because of the societal voices that are ringing so loudly in their ears?

 

As you pray for the salvation of those who do not know Jesus—among your friends and relatives this season; pray for them wisely.

 

Realize that many people neglect responding to the truth simply because of the fear of man and the possible rejection it will cost them. As you pray for those you love pray specifically that those fears would be shown for what they are and be broken around the lives of your family and friends.

 

It is much better to fear God and go to heaven than to fear men and the rejection of men and go to hell! Jesus did not come to judge; as He points out in this passage–He came to save. But if the sinners will not trust in the Savior, their own choices will spell judgment.

 

 

Through failing to come to Jesus and trusting in the salvation that he offers the sinner who does not believe is actually passing judgment on himself. Jesus never refuses to bring anyone to salvation and eternal life but people often refuse Him and by doing so they choose their own consequences.

 

 Countless people in the U.S. today are like the unbelievers of Israel in the time of Jesus. Because of the freedom of religion we have in the U.S. many have received a clear presentation of Christ and in fact the majority have heard it again and again. Many American citizens are like the inhabitants of Jerusalem so long ago in that they have had the opportunity to see it all and hear it all. And like the unbelievers of Jesus time they are also hearing the threatening and mocking accusations of the current culture sounding off in the background.

 

 

Seekers are being forced to deal with the noise and the spiritual competitive brawl that the societal status quo who oppose Christ provide. In post Christian America people now know that they will have to pay a price in terms of reputation in order to become associated with Christ. Christianity is no longer as popular as it once was and the church has a spotted and soiled status at best.

 

For the first time in decades there are clear and present mounting societal barriers in our country to all those who would seek to call Jesus their own.

 

But Christians can not just sit back and whine and moan. What we must keep in mind is that these barriers are not insurmountable, we must remember that they can be overcome. We are not the first generation seeking to share Christ in a hostile environment but with that said what may be required of us is a commitment to pray. It may take prayer, prayer and more prayer to see our loved one’s successfully birthed into the Kingdom of God.

 

 

I would exhort you to pray with commitment and wisdom for the unbelievers you know. Pray that the unsaved would hear the clarion call of Jesus’ invitation to eternal life rising above all the background societal flack and noise. And pray that those you know who are in the process of being drawn will be like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea who persevered and finally found the courage to cross over to being true disciples–despite the fray.

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