Witness to the world

These are dark days we live in where the persecution of Christianity is not only widely accepted, but praised. Our faith is under open attack. There are those around us who would have our freedom to speak the truth of the Gospel taken away. And, in many cases, it is becoming increasingly difficult to declare truth without having someone try to shut us down.

Why are so many Christians surprised by this? Who told them that a life of following Jesus was supposed to be the easy one? Jesus himself warned us of this very thing.

But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and beaten in the synagogues. And you must stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. This will be your opportunity to tell them about me—yes, to witness to the world.

Matthew 10:17-18 (NLT)

Church, this is our opportunity. This is not the time to back down or to muddle the truth so much that it is no longer truth at all. This is the time to stand up—no matter what the consequence—and declare Jesus! When the words of mere men may fail us, the Word of the Lord stands forever.

When you are arrested, don’t worry about what to say in your defense, because you will be given the right words at the right time. For it won’t be you doing the talking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Matthew 10:19-20 (NLT)

Good Christian men (and women), rejoice! We don’t have to come up with any of the arguments. Jesus has promised that, should we have to defend Him, the Spirit will give us the words to say. So let’s stop trying to win an impossible argument with our own words. Instead, lean on the Spirit of Truth to witness to the world.

Daily Bible reading: Genesis 29-30, Matthew 10:1-23

Free

It seems, more and more, that our culture is moving away from the feeling of shame. No one should ever have to feel bad for anything they’ve said or done.

While I agree that we should not be going around pointing fingers at each other, there is a reason and even a benefit to shame. There are reasons why some win and some lose.

Let’s first look at what shame really is.

SHAME: a painful sensation excited by a consciousness of guilt, or of having done something which injures reputation; or by of that which nature or modesty prompts us to conceal.

In other words, shame is something you should feel when you’ve done something wrong. Even Christians have somehow taken this twisted world view expressing that we shouldn’t feel bad.

Like pain is an indicator that something is wrong with us physically, shame is an indicator that something is wrong spiritually. If we do things that we know are contrary to the life of Christ that we’ve been brought into, we should feel a measure of guilt and shame. What we should not feel, though, is condemned.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:1-2 (ESV)

If you’ve sinned, you’re guilty. There’s no reason to hide from that fact, but the truth that we can run toward is this – that God does not condemn us when we come to Him in repentance.

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the spirit… But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through is Spirit who dwells in you.

Romans 8:3-4, 9-11 (ESV)

Though sin leads to death, those who are in Christ have been set free from it. What better reason is there to run from the bondage of sin than to run towards the freedom life?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 79-81; Romans 8:1-18

Free

I like the word free. I like free stuff. I like free time. I like living free.

If you pay any attention to the news at all, you’ll see that (in North America at least), the governments are making an attempt to change the definition of truth and freedom. Unless we, as the Church, stand up and claim our freedom, it will soon disappear altogether.

Aside from our fundamental freedoms of speech, religion and association (as per the First Amendment and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms), there is another type of freedom that we have that the government can never take away from us.

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

John 8:31-32 (ESV)

Let’s confirm the truth we’re talking about because this verse gets taken out of context all the time. Folks tend to use it for their own designs and purposes by quoting only the last portion. They speak of their own personal truths which may or may not be what Jesus was talking about.

Jesus wasn’t talking about perceived truth, but Truth. Jesus is Truth. (John 14:6) This is not a case of what’s-true-for-me-may-not-be-true-for-you. There is absolute truth and Jesus is it. Nothing, nothing can change that. Not your opinion, not your friends or family, not the government.

So now that we’ve established what the Truth is, what does it mean to be free? What does the truth set us free from? We know that it may not be freedom from the consequences of the law. There are Christians all over the world who are imprisoned for believing and standing up for Truth. There are Christians in North America being persecuted for standing up for Truth. Don’t make the mistake of believing that’s a Third World problem.

If the Truth doesn’t keep us out of jail, what good is it? It sets us free from the power of sin and death. That is something our government cannot take away from us. They can’t even pretend to have control over it (though they surely try).

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. the slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

John 8:34-36 (ESV)

While I firmly believe that the Church needs to stand up for Truth (not the truth of our own making, but Jesus and him alone), we also need to remember that, no matter what the government may say, there is a freedom in the one Truth that can never be taken away from us. If we abide in the Word and allow him to live in us, we will know the Truth and we will always, always be free.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Chronicles 6-7; John 8:21-36

Teach War

Many people are under the impression that Christians should be peaceful and prosperous. It’s like there is a perceived magic switch that gets flipped at the moment of salvation and, suddenly, all is right with the world.

I don’t know about you, but someone forgot to flip that switch when I accepted Christ. Things are rarely (if ever) perfect and peaceful in my life.

Now these are the nations that the Lord left, to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had not experienced all the wars in Canaan. It was only in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war…

Judges 3:1-2a (ESV)

Wait a minute. That they might know war? I thought God made sure we wouldn’t have to fight. I thought we all became conscientious objectors once we joined the Church.

…to teach war to those who had not known it before.

Judges 3:2b (ESV)

My generation has not really known war. Not in the sense that my grandparents and great-grandparents knew war. I almost wish we did know war. Perhaps if we were fighting for our lives, we’d give up the fight for a lot of other useless things.

We haven’t been taught war because our parents didn’t know war.

I’ve listened to my grandmother tell stories of the war. During World War II, life became difficult, even in their rural community. German was their first language. Our heritage can also be traced back to the Jews. That is knowing war.

I hate to think of the response of my generation if (when?) another world war breaks out. While many fight for the right to kill their own babies, how can we expect these same people to fight for the freedoms our ancestors fought for? Those very freedoms that were gained in the first half of the last century are being wiped away by people who think they know  better. They don’t even know what they don’t know.

God never promised freedom from a fight. He promised that He would be there through the fight.

Don’t spend your life trying to avoid the war because when – not if – war comes into your life, you need to be prepared. You need to know what you are fighting for and who you are fighting with. Then you need to teach the next generation to fight.

Daily Bible reading: Judges 3-5; Luke 7:31-50

Set Out

When was the last time you followed something or someone without question? Do you make a practice of it? Do you avoid it at all costs?

And whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, after that the people if Israel set out, and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the people of Israel camped.

Numbers 9:17 (ESV)

No questions asked, when God moved, Israel moved. And this wasn’t just a few people with a couple of animals. It is estimated that over 2 million people fled Egypt with all their animals and belongings. Now, a year later, that number had surely increased.

Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, abiding there, the people of Israel remained in the camp and did not set out, but when it lifted, they set out.

Numbers 9:22 (ESV)

Can you imagine having just settled 2 million people in a camp and then having to pack it all up and move again? Over and over again, when the cloud moved, Israel moved. No questions asked. After all, this was the very same God who had, just a year ago, delivered them out of Egypt.

When Israel forgot who they were, they got stuck. They became enslaved.

When Israel remembered who they were, they moved. They were free.

When God tells us to move and we move, we are not following blindly – not if we know and understand His Word. When God tells us to move and we move, we are being obedient because we know who we are following and what He is all about.

We have a covenant with God. An agreement that suggests all parties involved have come to an arrangement whereby, if one should not hold up their end of the bargain, the other doesn’t have to either. God’s not going to change. He won’t break the agreement.

When we choose not to follow God, we separate ourselves from our sacred covenant. We forget who we are and become enslaved by things we have no business associating with. But when we remember who we are and the covenant we have with God through Christ, we  are free.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

2 Corinthians 3:17b (ESV)

We follow God because we know that He has a plan and purpose for us that is far greater than our own. We follow God because we have a book that is filled with His promises for us. We follow God because He loves us and we love Him.

Daily Bible reading: Numbers 8-10, Mark 5:1-20

Gift

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

Ephesians 2:8-9

The only hand I had in my salvation was to believe. It would be foolish for me to think that I would be able to do something good enough, spectacular enough to actually merit God’s favour.

My salvation is not a reward from God for good behaviour. It is not mine because of who I am. Salvation is a gift because of who God is.

I cannot boast in or take pride in my salvation. How can you boast in something that is available to everyone. It would be like me strutting down the street encouraging everyone to look at me because I get to walk on the side walk. Just like we all have the freedom to walk on the side walk, we all have the freedom to accept God’s incredible gift of salvation.

I cannot boast, but I do have a duty to share my salvation with others. As anyone would pull someone who had been walking on the street onto the side walk, I have the obligation to and the joy of being able to share my gift with others.

This is the joy of salvation.