What It Means To Be A Christian #3

As we discovered in our last blog, self-defense in the face of persecution is not an appropriate biblical response.  Yet in the face of the violent storm on the horizon how do we deal with the fear of persecution.  This is of the utmost importance for where fear dominates, faith is made inoperative.  It is for this reason the word of God is filled with “Fear not” and “Be courageous” statements, because fear will lead to compromise if notovercome with our God given faith.  In II Timothy 1:7 we are encouraged that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power (God’s miracle power), and love and of sound mind.  It is for this reason we must examine the reality of the human emotion of fear. 
Emotions are God given and natural expressions of unique personality traits as well as our more general and common humanity.  Anger is not evil, nor is happiness, nor loneliness, nor anxiety or fear, in and of themselves.  In fact, these emotions lead us to good common sense decisions about important things even for those who are not in Christ.  Emotions ought not to be the primary reason for a decision, but a complimentary piece.  Jesus had many emotions, some which erupted into forceful display, yet He never sinned, for the emotion was commensurate to the crowd, the truth He spoke and what was ultimately on the line concerning the Kingdom of His Father.  Therefore, when emotion is handled as it should be, it is not an issue, but when emotion begins to drive our thoughts and our responses, we get into difficulty. Let us consider Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane for a moment Luke 22:39-44; Mark 14:32-37.

We know that He was distressed and exceedingly for He prayed at least twice asking for the Father to let his passion pass if it were possible.  So emotional was He, that after being refreshed by an angel, He prayed with such intensity that He appeared to be sweating blood.  What was the driving emotion? The driving emotion was fear; fear of what He was about to face.  He knew the torture of the cross, the torments of the cross and the pain of the cross, having witnessed them His entire human life. He knew the separation from His Father’s favor He would experience (Psalm 22:1).  Jesus knew what was coming.  He is the Living Word who inspired the O.T. writers of the word of God, through the Holy Spirit, to write about His passion.   

Although Jesus was overwhelmed and battling human fear, He was not sinful in this, for fear is a natural God given emotion.  Had He let the fear win, it would have been sin.  Faith overcomes the natural emotion of fear, and its sinful product, which is disobedience to the will of God.  Jesus overcame fear by faith. In Hebrews 12:1-2 we see how Jesus overcame by faith. What was it that propelled Him through the Garden experience, the per-crucifixion torture, and the shame and suffocation of the death of the cross?  It was the joy set before Him!!! What does that mean? It means He had faith in the promises of the Word of God about Him!

He knew of the pain, death, and the grave! But My Father will not allow me, His holy one to suffer the corruption of the grave (Psalm 16:10)! They all hate me, my disciples are scattered and I am completely alone!  Yet I will rise and meet with the disciples as I promised them and we will be together.  Peter, Peter my friend the pain of your abandonment in my hour of need is like a fourth stake through my heart!  But I have prayed for you and when I see you, you will understand love (Luke 22:32)! Oh the pain, Father why have you left me, what have even you forsaken me, am I a curse?  Yes, Father it pleases you to put Me to grief as a sin offering, but You will prolong my days in the resurrection, my work will prosper and I will know your favor as You highly exalt me with the name above every name(Isaiah 53:10-12; Psalm 2).

Jesus overcame fear with faith and we are to do the same thing.  How? Live in the moment of today as a wise old turtle said “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift, that is why it is called the present”.  Our fear arises from the “what if’s” of tomorrow. Remember Jesus said “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble”.  Live seeking to be absolutely surrendered to His will and leading in the day. 

Herein lies the biggest reason for our searching for justification for self-defense; Fear of the “what if’s.   “What if they come to kill my family?”, “What if they assault my wife?”, “What if they threaten to take my church?”, “What if they threaten to take my civil liberties?”. Motivated by fear, Christian’s in America spend massive amounts of money to lobby congress, and higher lawyers to fight battles over “what if“.  We spend hours arguing our positions over how we can biblically respond to “what if’s”.  Fear of losing what we have is the reason.  Remember a man’s life is not in the abundance of what he possesses whether it be material wealth, civil rights, numeric family, or relative safety and security .  A man’s life is in the treasurer He has in heaven. 

Jesus overcame for the joy set before Him, this of course was an act of faith.  Galatians 2:20 tells us “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live, but not I, it is Christ who lives in me, and the life I now live in the flesh, live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me”.   As Jesus lived by faith and the leading of the Holy Spirit moment by moment, so we are called to the same.  We actually live by His faith, as it is a gift to us.  Let’s look to Paul’s pattern in three tracts of scripture that articulate His actions living by the faith of the son of God in persecution. 

We can overcome our fear by faith. by trusting the purpose for our suffering.  This deals with God’s glory in the suffering, the benefit of our suffering to the body of Christ and Jesus intimate revelation to us, as individuals, in times of tribulation.  In the above Paul relays they are delivered to death so that Christ would be manifest in their mortal bodies.  This principal is of such great importance to understanding the purpose of our suffering.  The reason: It is god’s supernatural presence and power coming through the broken and weak.  This will always bring glory to God (I Peter 1:6-7). 

Paul’s encounters of persecution are a list of the most fearful “what if’s” (II Corinthians 4:7-9).  So great were the potential and terror, they caused Paul, at times, to despair even of living another day.  Yet he declares this was so he would trust in God alone, for His promise and provision (sounds like faith in the face of fear; II Corinthians 1:8-11).  If you look at Paul’s list you will see the sufferings of the church throughout the ages; in a church that doesnot defend itself, but walks even as Paul.  For Paul the primary purpose in suffering was the manifestation of Christ in his moral body.  This manifestation of Christ, would be a testimony to the faithful of God’s power and presence,  as well as a testimony to the lost of God’s power and presence (Act’s 7:54-60) 

Thirdly, in the midst of suffering with the potential for death, when faith overcomes fear, the supernatural manifestation of Jesus presence is personally intimate to the one suffering.  Think of Paul‘s request and the outcome of that request being denied in II Corinthians 12:7-10. Here is where we find the ultimate strength to overcome through faith Psalm 116:15.  We are precious in His sight, yet it is when we are facing painful consequences for being His follower, that He is most closely encountered in His manifest presence.  Remember it is in “the valley of the shadow of death” where we fear no evil, knowing He is with us, receiving His personal comfort, correction and encouragementIt is when we are in the most unbearable potential for personal loss or destruction, that through the exercise of faith, we encounter Jesus most personally intimate to us (Philippians 3:10). 

Here we see the development of years of choosing faith over fear.  Paul declares that if their natural life should end in persecution, they are 1000% sure, with perfect certainty that they will be present with the Lord.  We understand that while we are more comfortable with our natural life and the feelings and the good desires of this life, that to be in them means we are devoid of His literal physical presence.  Paul boldly professes “We walk by faith, not by sight”; This means no matter how comfortable and common-sensical it may seem to hold on to life here and now, it is far better to hope and desire and yes to be absent from the body and present with the Lord (Romans 8:18; II Corinthians 4:17-18). 

Yet our dear brother goes still further to cement this truth Philippians 1:20b-25. (vs. 20) A reiteration of His faith of what is seen in the midst of our suffering, Gods’ presence.  (vs. 21) If I live longer, every moment I will strive to pursue to glorify Jesus, If I die… It is far better read (vs. 23).  What we see is that Paul was not worried about living more, he merely wanted to be faithful until his departure to be with Jesus.  How extreme was this desire Acts 14:19-20, Acts 21:7-14? 

Here is the point: Paul was so convinced of the outcome of his death, being immediate entrance into the presence of Christ, he did not let fear stop his pursuit of the will of God, even the fear of his death or that of others, would not lead him to give into walking contrary to God’s will.  Many a person claims quite boldly they will die for Jesus, but if you do not exercise faith now, when the threat is low, how will you when it is high?  Why try to make a justification that does not exist in the scripture for defending ourselves or preserving life, when Jesus Himself taught otherwise. 

We must guard ourselves from looking for a hidden meaning or one more inclined with our modern human idea of rights, when looking into the word of God.  Seek to save your life, you will lose it and that has eternal ramifications Luke 9:23-26.  We need not fear, this world is not our ultimate home, and life here and now is exactly that, here and now.  This current time could never compare, with all the potential good and momentary suffering, to the glory we will share when we see His face. 


About Michael J Erdel

Mike is a pastor with The Assembly of God Fellowship. He is the lead pastor at Encounter Church in Fostoria Ohio. His desire is to encourage the Church of Jesus Christ, and declare God's hope through His Son Jesus, to a world which is long on excuses and short on hope. Mike has experienced the truth that when we kneel before Christ, surrendering to Him as Savior and LORD, being led and empowered by His Spirit. To Jesus Christ be all glory and honor.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, despair, martyrs, presence of God, spiritual warfare, the Christ Life, worldliness and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What It Means To Be A Christian #3

  1. Anonymous says:

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  2. Anonymous says:

    amen we will get our eternal reward.