Saturday, June 20, 2015

Persecution for the Sake of Christ Is Always Good: consider it joy

Churches take pride in many things:their large membership roll or attendance, the size of their campus, the design of their buildings, their wealth, their music, the social status of their members, the prominence of their pastor, their political clout, their influence in the community, or their zeal for a particular theological cause. Others celebrate their creativity and freedom from traditional modes of worship, trading theology for psychology, choirs and organs for rock bands, and replacing sermons with skits, musicals, and other forms of entertainment in an effort to create an inoffensive, nonthreatening atmosphere for the unbelievers and nominal Christians in their congregations. They have become the model churches many seek to emulate. (For a critique of the contemporary church growth movement, see John MacArthur, Ashamed of the Gospel [Wheaton, Ill.:Crossway, 1993].)
Judged by the superficial standards mentioned above, the Thessalonian church certainly had little to commend it. It had no buildings (the earliest known church building dates from the third century A. D.), programs, performers, or publications. It was not a large or wealthy church (most of the early Christians were from the lower social classes; cf. 1 Cor. 1:26); the congregation lacked social and political influence (Christians were despised outcasts in Roman society); nor did they have a famous pastor (the names of the elders are not even mentioned). They could not offer prospective converts the comfortable, entertaining, non- threatening environment of a modern "user- friendly" church but merely "persecutions and afflictions" (1:4). Yet they were a church to which the apostle Paul could write, "We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting…. We ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God" (2 Thess. 1:3- 4). The opening verses of this epistle list several reasons for Paul's grateful boasting about this church.

The blasphemous notion suggested by some that Christians need to forgive God for allowing them to suffer completely misses the point. According to that view, believers suffer because though God is well meaning, He is unable to work out all of life's contingencies. Nothing could be further from the truth. For the reasons noted above, suffering is part of God's wise, loving, perfect, sovereign plan for His children; they "suffer according to the will of God" (1 Peter 4:19). "Consider it all joy, my brethren," wrote James, "when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2- 4). Peter reminded suffering believers, "After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you" (1 Peter 5:10).
The Thessalonians' increasing faith in the face of persecution affirmed their genuine conversion.

Persecution strengthens believers' faith by driving them to God. Facing a painful, difficult trial, Paul "implored the Lord three times that it might leave [him]" (2 Cor. 12:8). Trouble, distress, affliction, pain, and suffering drive those with genuine faith to a greater dependence on the Lord. That increases their knowledge of Him, which in turn increases their ability to trust Him. Therefore, the psalmist could confidently declare, "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word…. It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes…. I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me" (Ps. 119:67, 71, 75).

~MacArthur NT Commentary on 2 Thes. 1

Contrary to the recent call to arms for all to show up to church on Sunday (tomorrow) as a result of the Charlston NC shooting of an AME church that killed nine people, we are NOT call to do so by our Lord and King. We show up to local church that is really HIS church that preaches HIS gospel and feeds HIS sheep. Race and violence are left at the door as distractions literally, of the flesh. We come together to worship our Triune God and minister our gifts to each other. Those in false churches with a false gospel of social justice can ONLY focus on things of the flesh, therefore they have every reason to fear the flesh. Their hope is not in Christ, nor the Word. It's in the flesh and the world, both of which are utter failures and offenses to the thrice Holy One of Israel.
Unlike the call to arms for churches across America for racial issues, true Christians are to count it amazing that they are counted worthy to be persecuted for Christ Jesus, and count it all joy.
Act 5:40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
Act 5:41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.
Act 5:42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.

1Pe 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 
1Pe 5:9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 
1Pe 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 
1Pe 5:11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 

Jas 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 
Jas 1:3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

Doing religious things when one is scared of an enemy is what Israel was condemned for b/c in their hearts they did not truly believe and submit to God. 

Isa 58:2 Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did r
ighteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God. 
Isa 58:3 'Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?' Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. 
Isa 58:4 Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.

Psychology and guns are NOT the answer. It's running to Egypt b/c they have horses.

 Matthew 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Is. 31:13 Woe to those who go down to Egypt and rely on their horses which are man and not spirit, and don’t look to the Holy One of Israel. God will punish the means used b/c not holy but of the flesh.

Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

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