In this week’s audio I’d like to explore more of this purity and love we stand in during suffering. Now I realize that ‘suffering for Jesus’ has taken on MANY
meanings over the years. For those of the religious mind, it means all sorts of random things while those who have the Spirit usually don’t even know it is happening when it is indeed happening to them. For the suffering that does happen to those in Christ most likely won’t make an obvious outward show of itself. Our society, being fairly civilized, tricks us with what seems like a lack of clear-cut outward persecution. We must not be thrown off by this. Jim, are you catching what I mean by our seeming lack of suffering based on outward assessments?
I do … and I can remember my own struggles with what it was supposed to mean to suffer for Jesus. I attempted to define that suffering by what I heard being professed by those around me — those who were probably just as clueless as I was. I’m not saying that the truth of what it is to suffer in reference to Jesus wasn’t happening in my life, but I think I had misdiagnosed most of what Paul referred to as the “fellowship of his sufferings” … a phrase that comes from Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; Philippians 3:10 NASB
And I suspect it’s because I had been fooled by the religious perceptions of suffering and persecution that had more to do with people’s irritation and rejection of obnoxious Christians. Yeah, sometimes we simply bring a lot of what we call suffering upon ourselves because we’re trying too hard to be “Christians.” And then, to make matters worse, we put a spin on those confrontations so that we can establish some proof that we’re suffering for Jesus! However, it’s not up to us to manufacture this suffering, because it comes with the territory!
For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, Philippians 1:29 NASB
Jim do you see this suffering as tied into the reality of all things being rewritten in Christ?
…all things rewritten in Christ … yes! I mean, how could something so earth-shattering not have something to do with this suffering? And what I mean by that is … because everything has changed for us while not having been changed for those around us, we have been put in the cross-hairs by those who cannot help but sense an increase in their own emptiness. The sense of emptiness I’m referring to does not come about from being preached to concerning the matter, it arises from an inner awareness that one’s own emptiness is made more obvious and more intolerable by the presence of something substantial. Without the free gift of life, such an awareness can only stir jealousy and hatred on some level, for this is the way of the world. Do not miss the distinction I’m making between a persecution that comes because of who we have been made versus one that comes as a result of what we say.
Now, of course, I would hope it’s obvious that I have nothing against the speaking of words (even those that can’t help but stir some to jealousy), otherwise I wouldn’t be talking right now. However, because so many Christians seem to think the power of God comes from their handling of the proper information — and I say this from personal experience — it ends up perpetuating the fleshly lie that causes people to badger and harass others in the name of God. And let’s face it, who likes to be nagged?
Jim when you mentioned “However, because so many Christians seem to think the power of God comes from their handling of the proper information“ I could not help but, speak up on some things the Lord has been showing me regarding this.
I received a phone message from a relative the other day asking my opinion on some scripture passages that he was having a hard time ‘fighting “ back on with his current place of fellowship. It reminded me of the very thing that the Spirit had been working into my attention lately regarding the passage “study to show thyself approved”. In fact this was the very passage he [my relative] was using to justify his path to get the right info to fight with.
Jim I don’t know about you but, this desire to be ‘correct’, to be ‘accurate’ and right has come to show itself as something very, very fleshly for me. The COOL thing about this is that it is a total release from the need to originate and then maintain the right thing and the right information about God and the Scripture!
Can you imagine Paul going around to all the Gentiles loading them up with “study, study, study!!!!!!” “God will not be happy unless you are accurate!”
YOU are the one that needs to work this into existence.
YOU are the one who needs to maintain it.
YOU are the one who is accountable for it!
Ah but, we know that this ‘wisdom’ does not come from the one who can not be seen by flesh and blood. For this only draws away from dependence on Him and to looking to our flesh to produce His work. Nice try Devil!
And here again, it’s not the information or the facts that create the problem, rather the false perceptions of the natural mind have suggested that truth is found through the accumulation of accurate facts. And you know what? People are persecuted throughout the world because of how they obnoxiously preach or badger others with their versions of truth.
Now, while it may be true that people just don’t want to hear about Jesus, let’s pull the covers back to expose how the real source of animosity against him is his very presence because that’s what convinces the world of its evil, and its guilt and shame and emptiness. I’m not saying that the words don’t matter — no, no, quite the opposite — for I’m saying that in the spirit of life, true words work together in harmony in the one who speaks them. Surrounded by a world that speaks in half-truths and deception, this might seem difficult to grasp, but it is this contrast by which the truth reveals itself in clarity. Never be satisfied with witnessing techniques and teaching strategies, for they come from the mind of man.
With respect to suffering and persecution, too many Christians have been living in a dream world. Yeah, maybe some of you will get attacked for boldly confronting people with the “claims of the Bible” — which may be little more than self-righteous judgment — but there is something far more substantial to the suffering that comes from being born of God.
If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘THEY HATED ME WITHOUT A CAUSE.’ John 15:18-25 NASB
I’m sure there are a few things in this passage that some of you might have questions on, but I want to focus in on the main theme regarding the persecution and suffering that’s pretty much guaranteed to those who belong to Christ. And that is, that behind the scenes, there is no substantial reason for the hatred that’s pointed at us. You see, it’s because it is found within those who hate. It is an imagined thing in the mind of darkness. For those in the darkness hate the light … without cause. What I’m saying is that we do not have to give the world a reason to hate us, because the thing they hate is inside us.
Jim, because this suffering ties into the reality that all things are rewritten in Christ, how then does knowing we are clean, pure and loved in all things allow us to stand up under these things?
Simply because it corresponds with the life that is in us. You see, that’s what brings the confidence. What I’m saying is that because Christ is really in us and we in him, there is a harmony that occurs when the mind is set upon the truth of it. In fact, it’s in the knowing of this reality that we also recognize the inevitability of the conflict from the world we once called home.
Let me emphasize the point by reiterating what Adam already expressed, which is that the true knowing we’re referring to is not defined by the accumulation of facts through study — Biblical, or otherwise. For example, we quote the amazing verse from John 8:32, “…and you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free,” and yet we most often seem to regard it according to the mind of man.
Yes, the academic mind of man preaches that “knowledge is power.” It seems that many Christian preachers and teachers hold to a similar viewpoint … only the Christian slogan might say something like: “Spiritual knowledge is power.” Did you want to make a distinction here?
Yes, I do. The similarity in natural reasoning can be seen in the direction of the logic: Get the knowledge, get the power. How this translates to most of us comes in the false teaching that says that by learning spiritual things, you can understand God. You see, this lie keeps telling you that by memorizing and/or studying Scripture or by learning Biblically-related facts or other spiritual truths, you will eventually know the truth. And yet, this is totally backwards, because, for in Christ, the power has brought the knowledge.
And the power is God himself!
Yes! For this power in us has everything to do with the very purpose of Jesus Christ through his death and resurrection. And to push this whole backwards perspective even further, let’s consider something Jesus told his disciples in a very familiar passage in Matthew, chapter 10:
But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. Matthew 10:19-20 NASB
I think most Christians like the idea of what Jesus said to his disciples here, but that for most, it seems rather elusive or not applicable. I remember hearing it taught that because Jesus spoke to them of something yet to happen, that for us, this was more applicable to a future time of persecution. But this is not some fallback plan for when we don’t have our Bibles available, this represents the heart of the knowledge of God. You know what? If our modern-day Christian teaching would have had a chance to revamp this passage, it might sound more like this:
But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for in that hour you will recall the Bible verses you memorized. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of Christian theologians and teachers who speak through you.
No, my friends, it is not the memorization of Scripture or the accuracy of our collection of Bible doctrines that bring the knowledge that gives us confidence and hope regarding the real persecution of this world, it is power of God himself that he has put within you through Christ. Regarding the reality of this knowledge, consider something else Jesus told his disciples on the evening before his crucifixion.
In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. John 16:23 NASB
I know we mostly use this verse to support our religious-prosperity perceptions, but it seems, once again, that we totally ignore how it fits into why Jesus said it. Listen to the lead-in:
Jesus knew that they wished to question Him, and He said to them, “Are you deliberating together about this, that I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me, and again a little while, and you will see Me’?” John 16:19 NASB
Why have we ignored the primary meaning and focus Jesus gave to the word “anything” when he said, “…if you ask the Father for anything in my name”? Why do we primarily think of money or cars or houses? That’s how I learned it, and I suspect that most of you did, too. After all, where else did you learn this verse other than in the context of the proper Christian way to make prayer requests? Can you hear how this has everything to do with the reality that God does not hold his wisdom back from us?
And something tells me that this doesn’t refer to God giving us the proper interpretation of a troubling Bible passage…
No. For this speaks of the very mind of Christ which has been given to us, the mind which sometimes shows itself through a correct interpretation. Listen to this:
In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. John 14:20 NASB
This describes the essence of knowing all things — which is the knowing that Jesus spoke of that would set us free. This is the knowing that is stimulated within us when we hear the words that announce the extent of our freedom. This is the knowing that offers us hope in the midst of the suffering we experience in and from this world.
Jim, I would like to also bring up something I think the mind of the world has grabbed hold of and promoted regarding sufferings. I would like to start off by saying that many of us believers in Christ have a hard time with even directing our thoughts toward a God we perceive as either inattentive, unloving or else simply untrue. When in the grips of this projection it is literally impossible to sense God’s love even though our inner beings may very well be testifying, even shouting out to its reality in the background.
But what if the activity of God, though moving in the realm of the Spirit, truly did exist? We would suddenly be standing in a reality that has been hidden from the children of God through a crafty veil like mirage made to look as though it were our only recourse. Hey do you remember how Christ lived among His people in the time of His early adult life? What stands out to you about His life from that time until the day He died? He suffered, yes again and again.
And when we see Jesus, not according to the flesh but rather according to the spirit, we can see that he was the living example of a man with the Spirit who walked by the Spirit. One who was pleasing to God in this suffering.
Now just to be sure that I am not losing anyone to our enemies crafty persuasions, I want to call your attention to some fairly obvious objections to what we are saying that are demanding an answer. Such as “ Well Jesus KNEW He would suffer and God had already told Him that is what He came for!” Or “ Well Jesus must of read the scriptures from a young age that foretold that the Christ would suffer. We don’t have that today, it’s not the same!” To that I say are you sure? Did Christ not tell His disciples as the Father told Him, that they would suffer? Oh but, you say that was THEM not us!! To that I would say lets look at a passage from the writings God has seemingly left to us for our encouragement in the second letter to Timothy (2 Timothy 11-12):
Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance,persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
I notice that you emphasized that last statement, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” What are you getting at there?
If you are in Christ YOU desire to live godly and DO!
Well, I’m sure there are some who would dispute that — just as there are some who dispute every truth that is not sufficiently grounded in appearance — but I totally see it. :)
Friends we are called to see things as Christ sees these things. ALL these things. Jim if there is one phrase that I think has captured the essence of the natural minds response to suffering it is: “Why did God allow it?” Doesn’t this sound a little familiar?
I think it sounds like the very same question that hangs behind most of our bottom-line questions to God in times of trouble, which is the very same question Paul posed in his letter to the Romans: “What shall we say then?” Our listeners might not always agree with that, but I hope they come to see it eventually. For it represents the frustration of everything we have come to understand in the natural world.
As God has rewritten our whole history to be found in Christ and His life, we can now see things in a way that we never could before. Lets look at some of the ways Christ could have responded to God in the face of tribulation while walking as a man in this world:
When Jesus was treated as a common man by His parents He could have said “God why won’t you force them to see who I am?” “Are you even out there?”
When the Lord was put down by His brothers in his own family for not yet showing Himself to Israel He could’ve said something like “ God why are doing this? Why are letting even my own family, my brothers deny me!!?”
When Jesus was rejected by His people and even most of His followers He could have said “God HOW could you LET this happen!?”
When Jesus was terribly misunderstood and eventually let down by His chosen followers He could have said something like “Why God, Why???!”
Finally when He was abandoned to death and even those around HIm hurled insults at Him He could have screamed in anger at God shouting something like ‘ I didn’t deserve this! WHY are you ALLOWING this! What kind of God are you anyway!!!!???”
And the truth is that, shortly before giving up his life on the cross, he did express the question to his father, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Could it be that having become sin for us — that is, having taken on the sin of the world — that he expressed the very question that haunts us, the question that sits at the heart of man toward the unexplainable, unimaginable, and incomprehensible God?
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
See, the mind of the flesh only sees a question mark when hearing of the suffering of Jesus. Outward man says “why let Jesus suffer?” Yet the mind of the flesh has no communion with the Father and therefore can not see Him working. [Christ mentioned this many times] For God knows and sees ALL things.
“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”
I love how you bring out that the mind of the flesh has no communion with the Father and cannot see him working, including the whole gamut of suffering and persecution. Many believers are just not settled on this truth, and I suspect that much of this can be attributed to the overwhelming presence of a religious Christianity that thinks it can somehow reconcile these two totally incompatible perspectives.