The voice of experience and wisdom gained through suffering…
Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen, -Galatians 6:17, 18
The hardest lesson most people must learn is that you cannot make everyone like you, nor can you make everyone happy. If you choose to follow Jesus Christ, people will despise you, call you names, ridicule you and mock you. It hurts. You cannot begin to understand Jesus until you have scars, for only in the fellowship of his sufferings do you begin to understand the true cost of discipleship. What is a sign of maturity, I suppose, is getting to the point where you don’t care anymore whether people like you or not. It is when the opinions of others don’t destroy your confidence in yourself or in God your Father’s Love for you, that you really begin to resemble Jesus. It is for that reason that Paul said we are not to appoint anyone who is young in the faith to be an elder in the household of God.
Just to share a little bit of my journey with you:
- I have been kicked out of a church for being a committed, prolife pastor and went for 9 months without a job after that.
- I resigned from my Presbyterian denomination over its rejection of the Word of God as the authority and standard for matters of faith and practice.
- I helped start a mission outreach to the poor, the outcast, and the underprivileged and worked for almost nothing while doing so for 5 years.
- I have seen the hypocrisy and the shallowness of what passes for “church” in most places, where the desire for entertainment outweighs the call of sacrificial service to God and others, and realized that if real persecution comes, most large churches will fall apart for their inability to weather the storms.
- For years we have had a home church with a few like minded believers, and our ministry to others has taken place outside of the traditional church setting.
- At times, we have felt like hermits, or outcasts, because we do not fit within religious traditions.
- We long for the manifest presence of Jesus in our midst as the fulfillment of our deepest longings.
- We are seeing signs of life in the Body as the Lord pours out new wine into new wineskins, but this new wine is challenging to dead, religious traditions and organizations that do not respond to the Holy Spirit’s desire to reach out and reach the lost.
My point is simple: if you think that being a Christian guarantees you an easy life, free of rejection, free of sorrows (if not for yourself, then at least for others) and free of suffering , then you don’t understand what it means to be a Christ follower.
Many people wear crosses around their necks to testify to their faith, but they have made a brutal form of execution into a type of jewelry. If we were to wear a contemporary equivalent to that cross today, people would wear an electric chair around their necks, for that is what the cross was: a way to execute convicted criminals. Jesus said, “whoever does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” What he was saying is that unless you are willing to be considered a criminal by this earthly government and be executed for it, you cannot be his disciple. Imagine doing something so “on fire” for Jesus that the State wants to kill you. I’m not talking about hurting others, but just showing Jesus so clearly that the corrupt State and the present religious institutions can’t stand the light and want you dead!
Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived. -2 Timothy 3:12, 13
This is what I call “You want the Truth? You can’t handle the Truth!” version of the Gospel. Not sickly sweet, pie in the sky bye and bye, but a crucified, flayed, dirty Gospel. Unless you are willing to have people hate you and reject you, you cannot be a disciple, much less an elder in the faith.