It may go without saying but things are changing. Many of us westerners who have lived in a form of naivety to suffering and tragedy are being thrown into emotional disparity as we dread even scrolling through Instagram or looking at a news source for fear of yet another unsettling situation. The world is chaotic.
In light of recent world events and especially in light of the Martyrdom of Reverend Hamel in Normandy yesterday I’ve been thinking about the state of the church. Specifically, about how we choose to speak to current events and the emphasis that we embrace over the next period of time.
Jesus speaks to his disciples in John 15 and 16 explaining that they will be persecuted just as he was persecuted; that they must also testify about him even when they are ostracized from community or killed for the sake of his name. Then he says something surprising in 6:16: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace“…. Uhhh what? Yeah, he said peace. There’s an interesting thing in his statement:… so that IN ME you may have peace… What does it mean to be “in Him”? When we turn away from doing things our own way we are saved from the consequences of living a life separate from God (i.e. sin and death). We then enter into relationship with Jesus and it’s through him and in him that we find life and connection to God (i.e. salvation, eternal life). This is why we become dead to sin and alive in Christ. So in the face of suffering or possible threat how can we feel peace and not fear as Jesus tells his disciples?
In Hebrews 2:14-15 Paul writes: “Since the children [of God i.e. you and I] are made of flesh and blood, it’s logical that the Savior took on flesh and blood in order to rescue them by his death. By embracing death, taking it into himself, he destroyed the Devil’s hold on death and freed all who cower through life, scared to death of death.”
Separate from life in Christ all of us would have remained held by death in Adam (or separation from the life of God) for all of eternity. We don’t fear death because the extent of satan’s affect can not go beyond the flesh; this earthly life. He can do nothing to steal your life (eternal connection to God). The time that we spend on this Earth is only a moment on the timeline of all of eternity.
Further in John 16:33 Jesus goes on to say “…In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Wait did he say “will”? What about “might”? Maybe we’ll only have trouble if we don’t have enough faith? Doesn’t a life in Christ give us nothing but abundance and money and happiness? The Bible never promises us freedom from pain or possible suffering, however it is through Jesus that we are promised an eternal hope that supersedes this world and the pain that can come along with it.
Often I have preached and absolutely believe that in Christ we find healing, prosperity, joy and favor and all the rest of it. BUT, we have to be careful that in preaching Mark 10:30 or Revelation 12:11 that we don’t leave off the last lines. It’s about balance in what we understand as being a follower of Christ:
“I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life.“
“And they have defeated him [satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.”
We, as the church, need to emphasis a bit less what Jesus died to give us and bring into light what we are prepared to give him. This faith is a two way street. We have everything in Christ. Have we given everything back to Him?
If Jesus never healed me again or gave me another dollar I would still owe him my life. Yet he gives to us so freely. Let us not take “his benefits” (that we are so often encouraged to remember) for granted at the expense of the cost of living an authentic faith and a life laid down for him.
We need to shake the entitlement out of our relationship with the Father. As Paul writes in Philippians 1:27, let us live lives worthy of the gospel.