Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Sacrifice and Submission

In my Romans study, we have moved on to the Christians obligation to submit to all authorities as they are positioned by God for the purpose of leadership. I like rules and with order and boundaries there is freedom. I can go about my business without fear of danger, because my authorities are responsible to create an environment of safety. As Christians we are to be model citizens because if we do not obey our civil authorities, we are disobeying God as he is the authority over our authorities and he placed them in their positions.

Tied in with this lesson, our associate pastor preached last Sunday on the persecuted church and how there are Christians even today that are suffering for their faith. He gave the example of the Chinese church that has had regular persecution from the government and yet they still have a strong number of believers who continue to worship knowing at any time they could be arrested and tortured for their faith.

I was particularly struck by one of the verses used in the sermon (based on Hebrews 10) in verse 34, it says "You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions." The two prior verses give it some context: "Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated."

Can I say for my own faith that I would be willing to so submit myself to God's care, that I would be willing to endure mistreatment and persecution? Would I do it even if it meant subjecting myself to unfair treatment? Would I be willing to have things that have rightfully been mine stolen from me? Would I be willing to let them have them? JOYFULLY? Is my hope of my eternal reward so sure that I would be willing to sacrifice my rewards here?

Now, my BSF leader said that the Romans 13 passage was timely for tax season. I find it very timely for Easter. My Lord Jesus left his place in Heaven and came to earth and endured tremendous persecution and torture without demanding His "rights". In John 19:11, Jesus acknowledged that Pilot had authority to put him to death, but He said something amazing: "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above." Jesus placed himself squarely under the authority of Pilot who chose to subject an innocent man to death because he feared the retribution of Caesar if he did not.

Jesus endured this treatment for the greater hope that we sinners would receive reconciliation with God and would become his bride. He came and endured that for me before I was born, before I sinned and even knowing that I would sin greatly against him for the purpose of redeeming me as his bride. I am awestruck and humbled by the prospect that he would love me that much.

Nothing I could ever face here could compare with the glorious riches that await me. I have been adopted into God's family and I can go out today in the midst of trial, mistreatment and misunderstanding and have a song in my heart because I belong to Jesus and he is my rock, my shield, my protector, my guide, my Lord. I can only pray that the Lord will give me the strength to endure if I am ever faced with real persecution.

What I have to endure here is small in comparison to others. If you don't believe that this is happening, I would challenge you to visit the website Voice of the Martyrs is an organization dedicated to sharing the needs of the persecuted Christians. We have it so good and our authorities may fail us, but they have not abused us the way these people have to face.

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