Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Are You Willing To Die?

A few days ago, yet another video was published of members of ISIS beheading 21 Coptic Christians in Egypt. These are the continuing blossoms of the “Arab Spring” and other unwise political decisions. And, the worst is probably yet to come. Before we share some thoughts regarding what all this means to you, we pause to celebrate these Christians. As I see the photos sprawled across the media airwaves, I am filled with sadness mixed with breathless inspiration. These 21 brothers were true martyrs. They paid the ultimate price. Our prayers go out to these families that God’s Holy Spirit would heal and comfort as only He can. We pray also that this example will inspire the faith of all Christian brothers and sisters throughout the world today because the Bible warned us of more of the same before Jesus returns. Growth in inspiration will likely become more necessary in the tragic days to come.

We can say with reasonable certainty that there is more to come as Revelation 20:4 says, “Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” It is probably not a stretch to suggest that what the Apostle John was seeing in his vision was precisely what we are watching today. Yes, beheading was nothing new as even John the Baptist was beheaded. But, the style of killing Christians during John's day was crucifixion, not beheading. If this is fulfillment of yet another prophecy, it serves as even more proof of the Bible's divine inspiration. 

Also, with regards to prophecy in the Bible’s final book, remember that Revelation (specifically chapter 17) refers to the “whore of Babylon” and her “harlot.” And, Babylon is modern day Iraq from which ISIS currently emanates. Further, many believe that the Whore’s “harlot” in Chapter 17 is the church – more specifically the false church. Does it make anyone wonder why the Vatican is reaching out to Islam and even inviting Muslims to pray to Allah in her Cathedrals? I am typically hesitant to interpret prophecy, but if the church embraces to any degree the notion of Allah as God, she is worse than a whore in the eyes of the one true God.

These events should cause every Christian to ask and answer some pretty serious questions. For example, are you willing to die for what you believe about Jesus? Are you willing to die for the One who died for you? Are you willing to lose your life to gain everything? You might be answering these questions with affirmative resolution, while admitting that you don’t look forward to such an outcome. That is only human. In fact, Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane modeled for us the candor in which our flesh can reasonably cry out. But, we must also prepare ourselves, as Jesus did, to surrender to our Father’s will. And, after all, Jesus deserves no less from us. It is okay to wish for a less painful outcome while surrendering to whatever our Father demands.

But, for those who find themselves wondering if they can follow through with it at all; for those who ponder the notion with a pang of retreating fear; for those who see this as a distant possibility; haven’t you missed the point? Jesus called us to take up our cross daily, not just one point in time in the fuzzy future. This concept should not be distant to us. In Luke 9:23-26 Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” In that passage (and others) Jesus called us to lose our lives now/today/daily. We are already supposed to be crucified with Christ. Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Does the fact that these realities of martyrdom seem distant to you suggest that you are clinging to something that needs to be crucified?

True followers of Christ are crucified with Him. And, all that remains for us is the physical portal that leads to our true and better eternal lives. Yes, that portal will likely be accompanied by pain. But, that pain is temporary. And, what lies beyond is Jesus. The thought of seeing Jesus face-to-face; the thought of embracing the one who took my place; the thought of feeling the warmth of His embrace, is worth any measure of temporary pain that the enemy might throw our way.

How perfect is it that the ISIS murderers referred to our martyred brothers as “People of the cross?” Would you refer to yourself as a “person of the cross?” Or, is the cross something that you either shun or wish to avoid? The time is at hand to stand and be counted. Are you standing? Are you willing to die for Jesus? Or are you only willing to die for you?

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