We live in a time when people have similar attitudes and responses to truth. Sometimes we suffer persecution, not just for what we say or do, but for who we are. Darkness hates the light. Sometimes our persecutors can be people close to us, even our own family members.
What can we learn from Jesus about persecution? And what did Peter, who once denied his Lord, learn that can help us trust God and have the strength to do what He’s called us to do?
Ezekiel 3 & 4
Do not be afraid of them!
Ezekiel 3 & 4:
Strength for the Job
8 Behold, I have made your face strong against their faces, and your forehead strong against their foreheads. 9 Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house.
Ezekiel had a difficult job. Even after their years of rebellion had taken them into captivity, the people had not softened their hearts or turned back to God. Instead, they had become more rebellious.
We live in a society today where many people have similar attitudes.
It can be very difficult to speak the truth when we’re made to look unloving or judgmental. But since God has called us to live at this time in history, we can take heart in the fact that God will give us the strength and enable us to be the light wherever and in whatever circumstances He has placed us!
Like Ezekiel, He will make our faces and our foreheads as strong and hard as necessary. That does not mean we are to harden our hearts or become argumentative or angry, rather we are to be “blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” and to trust Him to give us the inner strength and the determination to be light in a dark world as we “hold fast the Word of life” (Phil. 2.15-16).
Today’s Other Readings:
Persecuted without a Cause
“Princes persecute me without a cause but my heart stands in awe of Your word.”
Sometimes it’s not just hard to speak truth to a rebellious generation, but we can suffer various forms of persecution.
The “princes” may be members of our own family or others we love and care about or they may be people in places of authority. We shouldn’t be surprised by persecution. Jesus warned us to expect it:
19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant 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. 21 But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me (Jn. 15).
And the Apostle Peter reminded us in 1 Peter 3:
13 And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
Peter, the Apostle who had once denied Christ, had come to understand that even suffering for Christ was a great privilege. It is said that when he was martyred by crucifixion, he asked to be crucified upside down because he didn’t consider himself worthy to die the same way as his Lord.
“He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.”
We may be able to put on a good front for others. Some people even manage to live a double life for many years, hiding a sinful lifestyle while appearing to serve God. But God is omniscient—He knows everything—even the sinful thoughts and intents of our hearts. And no matter how it looks from the outside, unconfessed and unforsaken sin always has consequences.
Our Merciful & Faithful High Priest
Verse 17 speaking of Jesus says:
“Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”
Charles Ryrie in his book Basic Theology says propitiation is “the turning away of the wrath of God because of the offering of Christ.”
Because Christ’s sacrificial death satisfied God’s wrath against sin, those who have accepted His sacrifice by faith, don’t have to pay the penalty that their sin deserves which is eternal separation from God.
And, although our fellowship with God is hindered when we sin as believers, it is restored when we confess and turn from it.
If you’re not sure you have accepted Christ by faith or don’t know what that means, please don’t let another day go by without talking to a pastor or you can leave me a comment. I will be glad to respond here or by email.
Too often people think they have time to get right with God, but no one is guaranteed tomorrow! Or as 2 Corinthians 6:2 says “…today is the day of salvation.”
How has God spoken to you today? Did you see a passage in a new light? Did you see an area where you need to grow and change? Did you find a promise to hold on to? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
In the next few days, we’ll talk about why God doesn’t immediately deal with some things, discuss the question, “Does Salvation + Time + Knowledge = Spiritual Maturity?” and discuss whether we can be addicted to religion.
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