Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Christians Living in a Post-Christian World

Living as Sheep Among the Wolves
Barbara Henderson

Before we get into this article please listen to this song and follow along with the lyrics.

Troublesome times are here, filling men's hearts with fear
Freedom we all hold dear now is at stake
Humbling your hearts to God saves from the chastening rod
Seek the way pilgrims trod, Christians awake
Jesus is coming soon, morning or night or noon
Many will meet their doom, trumpets will sound
All of the dead shall rise, righteous meet in the skies
Going where no one dies, heavenward bound
Troubles will soon be o'er, happy forevermore
When we meet on that shore, free from all care
Rising up in the sky, telling this world goodbye
Homeward we then shall fly, glory to share
Oh, Jesus is coming soon, morning or night or noon
Many will meet their doom, trumpets will sound
All of the dead shall rise, righteous meet in the skies
Going where no one dies, heavenward bound
Jesus is coming soon, morning or night or noon
Many will meet their doom, trumpets will sound
All of the dead shall rise, righteous meet in the skies
Going where no one dies, heavenward bound
Heavenward bound, heavenward bound

If you read my article last week you know our duty in troublesome times is to not worry, trust in the Lord, delight in the Lord, commit our lives to the Lord, wait on the Lord, and look forward to the future that God has promised those that love him. 

This week let’s look at joy and anticipation during troublesome times.  Our example is the Apostle Paul.  What a guy!  Beaten, imprisoned, chained to a Roman guard waking and sleeping, and other difficulties were his constant companions.  Yet what did Paul do?  He rejoiced in the Lord.  I very seriously doubt that Paul ever rejoiced in the actual beatings or any other torture.  But he did rejoice in the Lord.  I suppose that he kept his eye on the joyful end for all Christians, and he anticipated his eternity with joy in the here and now. 

Technically, we don’t know the exact time that the Lord will come.  He may come in our life time.  He may come for us as individuals one at a time.  Either way, our peaceful joyful future is secured through Jesus Christ.  I have to admit that there were times during my cancer treatment that my pain was severe enough that all I could do was cry to the Lord for help.  I was at the point of not caring if God allowed me to be healed or if He came and took me home.  I just wanted some relief from the pain.  All pain killers, both over the counter and prescription, had failed to do anything except make me groggy.  So, I stopped taking them.  If I was dying then I wanted to die well aware of what was going on.  I found joy in looking forward to heaven and thanking God for the wonderful blessings He has given me in this life.  That was a very difficult time for me.

Every time I visit the doctor now they want to know how I am doing, and if I am experiencing depression because of not being able to do things that I did  before cancer.  I always give them the same answer.  Umm – no.  I am fine.  I honestly am fine.  Jesus was with me all the way.  He is with me now.

While going through the cancer treatment, Jesus did not give me any insight into whether or not I would survive.  He hasn’t given me any insight into whether or not the cancer will return.  That does not change the fact that he is with me all the time.  It does not change the fact that He will either call His children home or take us home one by one.  I just don’t know.  What this does is cause me to be curious, but nothing more. Actually, I really don’t want to know the actual future because we do know that we will all die at some point.  I don’t care to know the exact details of that event.  I do care very much that I will not be facing that moment alone. 

In the world today no Christian is alone.  Nothing can separate us for the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans eight promises us,
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’

We have cause for rejoicing that the children of this world do not have. 
We also have a duty to preach the good news of Jesus Christ that the children of this world do not have.  Obviously not all are called to preach from the pulpit as an ordained preacher of the gospel.  However, all Christians are called to live a life of obedience that effectively does preach the gospel through our actions.  We are called to study the Bible and know how to give right answers to those who question the authority of God Almighty to make the rules and to enforce the rules. 

Now is a good time to change our expectations of the future.  Unfortunately, we can no longer expect safety through the protection of the constitution and government of the United States.  In fact, we can expect to at the very least be socially and verbally condemned for our stand on Biblical truths. 

No matter how hard we work, we cannot expect to benefit from the work of our hands.  We can expect that treasures laid up in heaven will not be stolen or corrupted.
We cannot expect our families to be strengthened by government policies.  In fact, we can look for traditional families to be persecuted, marginalized, and trivialized. 

An actual question asked of presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, a practicing Baptist and former preacher, was, ‘As a Christian do you believe you could actually represent all people?’  What a ridiculous question.  I would say that up to this point every single President was an avowed Christian.  Of course that doesn’t equate that all presidents actually were Christians, but they did profess to be Christians.  Politicians represent their own political agenda.  Period.  Liberals have no ability to actually represent conservative because they are at opposite ends of the ideology spectrum.  There is no middle ground on one single important subject. 

What are Christians to do?
First we are commanded to not grow weary.
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.  Galatians 6:9
This verse gives instructions and promise of rewards. 

Second, we are to stay close to our Lord who is the Good Shepherd. In actual reality sheep are safest when they are closest to the shepherd who cares for them to the point that he would jump between his sheep and a lion.  The shepherd would lay down his life for his sheep.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd, has far more ability to protect His sheep than an earthly shepherd has to protect an actual herd of sheep.  For one thing, the Good Shepherd has already laid down His life for His sheep.  That is not going to happen again!  Jesus has power over all the things of this earth.  Stay close to Him by studying His word and applying Bible teachings to personal actions.  It is a simple formula.

Third, Pray.  We are to pray without ceasing.  Stay in a prayerful state of mind.  This keeps you closer to the Lord at all times.  It also helps you to avoid sin.  It would be like a teenager who drinks and curses when his dad or mom is not around.  But in their presence that same teenage suddenly exhibits angelic behavior.  Even stable adults have some things they don’t want to do in front of their parents.  The closer we are to God the less likely we are to fall into sin.

Fourth, don’t be concerned with getting along with the world.  Actually, you really can’t get along with the world and please God at the same time.  Sometimes doing something good is applauded by the world, but not often.  And in these perilous times the world is increasingly calling evil good and good evil.  If you are in step with the world on anything it might be a good time to re-evaluate what you are doing.  Peer pressure is a powerful thing.  If you must be influenced by those around you, surround yourself with godly people to the extent that is possible.  Read the biographies of those who followed Jesus through the direst of circumstances.  But don’t try to get along with the celebrities of this world.  Most of them have no concept of the truth about anything; or they have intentionally rejected the truth of Jesus Christ in favor of doing what seems right to them at the moment. 

Fifth – be inspired!  Stories abound regarding heroic efforts on the part of individuals.  On the battle field untold numbers have laid down their very lives to save others.  People have rushed into burning buildings to save others.  People have jumped into raging floods to save the drowning.  Parents have given up their own food to be able to feed their children.  And the list could go on to fill many books.  How much more important is it to help people escape hell?  Hell is the place that is filled with nothing but torment, sorrow, weeping, and crying hysterically.  Every good thing in this world is a hazy picture of the wonders and joy of heaven. Every sorrow is a picture of the evil that will be in hell. There will be no good thing there.  There will be no love, no hope, no joy, no music, no friendship, no beauty, no lovely creation.  It is a place of torment without relief.  It is a place of darkness without hope of light.  It is a place without any grace or goodness.  As a brave fireman or soldier is inspired to risk his own life to save someone in need, so should Christians be inspired to tell the lost that Jesus saves.  There is a real future in hell for the lost and real future in heaven for those who believe in Jesus Christ.  Dear Christian, be inspired to tell the world that Jesus saves.  Souls are going into the abyss every second.  Only Jesus can save them.  How will they turn to Christ except someone tells them about Jesus? 

Sixth – be prepared! What the future holds we do not know.  We are attempting to prepare for circumstances and events that we don’t fully understand. I am sure the unexpected will hit us more and more often as these troublesome times advance the kingdom of hell.  We should be prepared to suffer.  Paul suffered, but he did not lose his testimony of the superiority of Christ and the blessed future promised to believers.  We prepare for the future by leaning more on Jesus in the good times.  He will strengthen us as necessary. 

Now is a good time to go over your own self-definition.  It is a time to consider you self-imposed self-discipline.  If you have set boundaries for how you live based on the boundaries set by Jesus for Christian living, then go over those boundaries and make sure you are actually living within those boundaries.  Everyone could probably improve a little in how they behave. 

Seventh – remember your Christian duty!  It is the duty of every Christian to study God’s word.  It is our duty to tell the lost that the way of salvation is through Jesus Christ alone.  People have said that it is unloving to criticize false religions or to say there is only one way into heaven.  However, telling the truth to those who don’t know the truth is the kindest and most loving thing anyone can do.  Those who turn to Jesus because someone told them the way of salvation will never repent of their decision.  Those who hear the truth but refuse it will have an eternity of torment to regret their decision.  Christians, it is time to do our Christian duty no matter the cost. 

Proverbs 11:30,
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.

I traveled on a lonely road and no one seemed to care.
The burden on my weary back had bowed me to despair;
I oft complained to
Jesus how folks were treating me,
And then I heard Him say so tenderly,
"My feet were also weary, upon the Calvary road;
The cross became so heavy, I fell beneath the load,
Be faithful weary pilgrim the morning I can see,
Just lift your cross and follow close to me."

"I work so hard for Jesus" I often boast and say
"I've sacrificed a lot of things to walk the narrow way,
I gave up fame and fortune, I'm worth a lot to
And then I hear Him gently say to me,
"I left the throne of glory and counted it but loss,
My hands were nailed in anger upon a cruel cross,
But now we'll make the journey with your hand safe in mine,
So lift your cross and follow close to me.

Oh Jesus if I die upon a foreign field someday,
'Twould be no more than love demands, no less could I repay,
"No greater love hath mortal man than for a friend to die"
These are the words He gently spoke to me,
"If just a cup of water I place within your hand
Then just a cup of water is all that I demand.
But if by death to living they can Thy glory see,
I'll take my cross and follow close to Thee.