As the pastor and teacher of 2nd Street Community Church, it’s my prayer that whenever we gather together here on Sundays, and when we get together in ministry teams, or in community groups, that we will always allow God to use our times of worship, study, fellowship and service, to train our hearts and our minds to come to the place where we’re more surrendered to Him, and more willing to pray for, and come alongside our Christian brothers and sisters in the world whose faith is causing them undeniable persecution … even persecution that ends in death. And I see a FAITH LESSON for us here …
The life Jesus Christ calls us to as His
followers is a “CHANGED LIFE” … it’s a life
of “TRANSFORMATION.” And it’s a life, that
even in North America should be seen as
“DIFFERENT” and “COUNTER-CULTURAL”
and that should, if we’re living it out the
way God calls us to, will have us swimming
“UPSTREAM AGAINST THE VALUES AND
PRIORITIES OF POPULAR CULTURE.”
When I was first became a follower of Jesus Christ in 1978 I knew that Jesus was changing my life, but frankly, I didn’t want to have to become all that different from the way I was before I came into a relationship with Him.
I wanted TO ADD SOME JESUS into the mix of who I was; but I wasn’t all that interested in “TOTAL TRANSFORMATION.” I didn’t want to lose any of my friends who weren’t yet following Jesus Christ. I still got drunk pretty regularly, and I still smoked a lot of weed with my buddies. I still liked going to profane movies. I basically acted the same way as before I was a Christian. And nobody ever really hassled me about becoming a Christian because it was just kind of A PRIVATE CONTRACT that I’d made with Jesus.
I mean my friends knew that I was going to church, but that was about it. God forgave my sins, and then I basically made the choice to stay the way I was before I met Him. In other words, not too much SURRENDER was happening. I was like an employee who really liked getting a paycheck, but who wasn’t all that excited about actually showing up to work and staying on task with the job they’d been hired to do.
But then one night, several months into my new life with Jesus Christ, a friend of mine who knew I’d started going to church, said to me, “Man, you’re such a cool Christian.” And God used his words like a glass of cold water thrown in my face to wake me up. And it was at about the same time, that I remember my pastor teaching through EZEKIEL 36:25-27 …
EZEKIEL 36:25-27 (NEW LIVING TRANSLATION)
25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols.
26 And I will give you a new heart with new and right desires, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new, obedient heart. (emphasis added)
27 And I will put my Spirit in you so you will obey my laws and do whatever I command.
Gang, the bottom line is that God wanted to do this work of TRANSFORMATION in me (just the way He wants to do it in all of us) and I was settling for so much less than He had in mind. When we’re living life the way Jesus calls us to live, our lives, our values, and our priorities will be totally different from the values and the priorities of the world – and that because of that, Jesus says here that there will even be some people won’t like us. And this message from Jesus started to soak in.
And it wasn’t very long after that night when I stopped trying to convince people that I was the same person … but just with a little bit of Jesus added … because I wasn’t the same person! Jesus was changing me from the inside out. Here’s what the Apostle Paul wrote about this to his friends in the city of Corinth.
SECOND CORINTHIANS 5:17 (ENGLISH STANDARD VERSION)
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
When we make the choice to SURRENDER to Jesus Christ and begin to live the life He calls us to live, He’ll be pleased, but not everybody else in our lives might be. And within a few weeks of making that choice to allow Jesus Christ to tell me about how to live, many of my “FRIENDS” walked away from me.
But that was okay, because the One who didn’t walk away from me was Jesus Christ. He stuck closer to me than a brother. He never turned His back on me. He never gave up on me. Here’s how Jesus talked about this truth in The Gospel of Luke … and how the Apostle Paul talked about it with his friend Timothy …
LUKE 6:26a (GOOD NEWS TRANSLATION)
SECOND TIMOTHY 3:12 (GOOD NEWS TRANSLATION)
26a How terrible when people only speak well of you.
12 Everyone who wants to live a godly life in union with Christ Jesus will be persecuted;
Notice, that Jesus and Paul didn’t say that people who follow Him “might” experience persecution. He said that after we make the choice to SURRENDER our lives to Him, that IF WE’RE NOT EXPERIENCING a new kind of rub and conflict with the world because of our choice to be connected to Him, then we’d better go back to square one and ask ourselves if we’ve really chosen Him above everything else, if we’ve invited Him to be the LORD and Master of our lives, and if we’ve really SURRENDERED to His desire to teach us a whole new way to be human. Godspeed.