Jesus said to the Father in John 17 that He has done the work that He gave Him to do and that He has shown us the Father. Jesus had this one thing to do, in everything He did, which is to show us the Father. He has led me to talk about His Kingdom and it is truly a radical Kingdom with a wisdom contrary to this world. And because the wisdom of this world and the wisdom of God is so different, reality for each person is different as well. What constitute reality for one, is not for the other. In this world we have reality shows and even virtual reality, but we know that these shows are scripted, and we know that virtual reality is anything but reality. So then what is reality? How do we define reality in a world so fixed in unreality?
God is reality. God is real. As Christians it behooves us to have a grasp on the understanding of Kingdom reality. Jesus said to the woman at the well that there will come a time that those who worship Him, will worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. Both these two “elements” are real. The Spirit is real, because God is Spirit. Truth is real and He is the Truth. If we are to understand the realities of the Kingdom of God, it will have to be from this point of view…Spirit and Truth. And Father knows just how much we live in unreality, whilst believing that we are in it. We have all received a free will to choose how much of the reality of God we are willing to embrace and live in. He is not going to force it upon us. From out of ourselves, we have to seek Him, who is reality. At the heart of reality is truth. Not what we would like it to be, or wish to be or even hope to be. Certain things of the Spirit are just not easy to embrace. Subconsciously we read over them when we search the scriptures. Or we think that it applies to others and not to us. There is always a high sense of self-preservation that wants to protect us from harsh realities. Ignorance becomes bliss. Especially when it comes to suffering. We are willing to suffer, but are we willing to suffer ultimately? Subconsciously we place boundaries around this reality. We have to ask ourselves whether we are in reality if we do this. When we decide the perimeters, we stand the chance of professing something, whilst being outside of the reality. And of course we prefer that nobody impress their reality upon us, even if it is God Himself. We would rather remain in sweet ignorant denial.
This type of self-preservation forms part of this world’s wisdom. Love thyself, embrace thyself, be proud of yourself…and last, but not least, save yourself. As Christians we are called to deny ourselves and take up the Cross. Two very opposing views. For us to want to save ourselves comes very easy, however, to deny ourselves is extremely difficult.
The stark contrast between the Christians in western civilization and those of the first Christians after Pentecost, as well as those being presently persecuted and killed in communist and muslim countries, are so vast. I think there are two things that stand out the most to me about the persecuted Christians. The first is the love for one another, and the other is a deep sense of gratitude, because most if not all, have very little. However, on the other hand, I do not have to explain western Christian culture. Such a stark contrast between underground hiding and only single papers of the Bible, sharing in all things, to those who have Christian shows at stadiums and Bibles sold in twenty different versions at ridiculous prices. The one recognize that they have no rights, the others fight for their rights. As I have said before, "Sometimes it takes tribulation for the Church to be the church as God intended". There is also one central and very important difference between these two Christians. Those who are persecuted and killed, just like the Christians since the first Pentecost, are Kingdom minded. Their reality of the two Kingdoms are not blended. They do not look to a Kingdom to come, but have already entered into the reality of this Kingdom now. Just like the very first Christians received their commission to start at Jerusalem and then to Samaria and all over the world, the central theme to the preaching of the Gospel of this Kingdom, is the cross. The cross was preached, but it was also lived. The first Christians were called “the followers of the Way”. Interesting choice of words. What way? The way of the cross. The cross was preached all over the world. Not only its purpose, not only its application, but also the victory. It was simple. No long seminars and courses to go to. At the heart of Christianity is the cross. So simple that even a little child can understand it.
What is the message of the cross?
John 3: 16 - 17
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
When we read this very well-known verse, we see that two actions are done. Which is love and give. This love of God is a giving love that gives ultimately. It does not hold back. The extent of His love is not only seen in the fact that He gave His only Son, but in the suffering and death of the cross. The reality of this love that died on the cross was central to the first Christians and of those who are presently being persecuted. There is a 100% expectation of having to have to die as “the followers of the Way”. There was no ‘ifs or buts” about it. It is not that they did not think that the Lord would protect them, but they knew that there was a very high chance that they would die. In fact, they considered it the greatest honor to not only to suffer for Christ, but especially to die for Him. This was the highest honor and one they desired.
We cannot choose where we are born. Western civilization does not experience this kind of persecution and therefore do not live in this reality. Our conscience in this day needs to be restored to this Kingdom reality for the time to come, because persecution is knocking at our front door. Unless we consider this reality and keep on placing perimeters around it, as if it does not apply to us, are we then really “followers of the Way”? Are we then not really in affect saying that we are willing to carry our cross, but not die on it? The cross is the ultimate expression of His love.
Paul said, I am determined to know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified. We also read this statement of Paul in Acts.
Acts 20: 22 – 24
22 And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there:
When Paul says that he does not count his life dear unto himself, he is not implying that which constitute his possessions, food, family and friends. He is making it clear that where he is going, will cost him his life, but because he does not count his life dear unto himself, he is determined to finish the course with joy. That is what you call living in reality. No limitations or boundaries set. I cannot help but to think of poor Peter and with what sincere bravado and love he told Jesus that he would never deny Him and would even die for Him. We all know how that story played out. Jesus knew that Peter would deny Him. Not because it was foretold, but because He knew the heart of man. In the end, all His disciples were scattered at the day of His arrest. They were following Him closely for three years. Without going into too much detail, think on the dynamics of their relationship with the Lord. What they must have seen, experienced on a daily basis in the public eye, but also intimately behind closed doors. So much happened that John said that not even all the books in the world would be able to contain them if it had to be written. And yet, they who touched Him, walked with Him and even did miracles through Him, were all scattered the moment their lives were at stake.
Peter meant every word when he said that he would not deny Christ and yet when it came to reality, he could not live up to it. This way that we are called to is so much in opposition to the disposition we live by in the comfort of our homes, our ideals for the future, and social activities. We have been so conditioned by a safe and comfortable "Christianity" that subconsciously and often not, suffering is avoided. Not that we should have some sick desire to suffer. There is no guilt trip involved in this conversation as I myself am writing this in the comfort of my own home and not from a prison sell like Paul. But because of this, our Christianity is cushioned and lacks the depth and weight of reality, the reality of the Kingdom of God. The reality is that persecution is at our door and the comfort of our homes will soon be a distant memory. Can we afford not to address this issue?
There is only one way to bring us to this reality. The cross. The cross is the full expression of all of Jesus’ suffering in His life. Like I said in the Building the Kingdom devotional…suffering reveals ultimately. What did Jesus’ ultimate suffering reveal on the cross? The love of the Father.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…”
As “the followers of the Way” we too are to express this love of the Father. Not only through our suffering day to day, but even if need be, by our death. The way goes all the way. Have we sufficiently been prepared for this behind closed doors by the Spirit of God, or have we avoided the topic altogether?
For this He has orchestrated our comfortable lives to be wrecked by calamity, hardship, sickness and the like. In Isaiah 54: 16 we read:
Isaiah 54: 16
16 Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy.
Those are some contradictory words to how some people view His love. Why would he do that? We know that only in fire the dross is removed from the gold, and that hardship is the soil for longsuffering, endurance and patience to grow in.
James 1: 2 – 4
2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
Who is your smith that He created in your life? Is it your husband or wife? Maybe your children or your boss? Maybe it is sickness? Jesus told Pilate, “You have no authority over Me, except that which has been given to you by My Father”. Jesus was operating from the perspective of the reality of the Kingdom of God. The reality that all of life has eternal value and consequences, even to the smallest detail. If we lose sight of the Kingdom purposes of God for the Church, then we do not take into consideration that nothing happens to us without going through the Father first, even our death. In all of this we still have a choice. We have a choice on how we view suffering. We are making a choice even by our secret disposition, whether we like it or not, which ultimately reveals our true understanding of reality in this regard. We ask people in this day and age to give their lives to Jesus, without explaining and expounding on the implications of that choice. That it is not just your possessions and future, but your very life itself. Unfortunately this adds to the unreality and often flaky Christianity out there. However, the Christians of old knew exactly what it meant, and had to count the cost. Today, it costs nothing to give your life to Jesus. A gospel without the cross and grace cheapened by our lack of the eternal purposes of God for the Church on the earth. Where it is not just about your salvation and going to heaven, but a mandate to demonstrate the manifold wisdom of God to the principalities, which is meekness, love, forgiveness, longsuffering, patience and joy... IN suffering, persecution and trials.
God would be a horrible Father if He did not prepare us for reality. However, He will not force it on us. Part of introducing us to this reality is to show us just like He did with Peter, that left to ourselves, we will deny Him in a snap! Do you know that? When we truly know this, and what is to befall Christians very soon, it will cause the fear of God to fall on us. Out of the depths of our being we will cry out to Him to keep us from this. The only way for us to truly know and not just “parrot” it like the rest, is when He bring us to that place. Therefore, the smith and waster in your life. Suffering reveals ultimately. What does your present suffering in your life reveal about you? A Kingdom perspective is one where we see everything in the light of eternity. Everything we are going through has eternal value and consequences, because it is an eternal Kingdom. Nothing is by chance.
I would say that we were addressing the giving part of the “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son” verse. But what about the love? Jesus, as our forerunner and the Patterned Son, came to show us the way. At the heart of this giving, this ultimate suffering, lies the love of God for sinners, for this world. He came to save the world. The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof, and all that dwells therein. He died for every single person whilst they were His enemies and sinners. It will not be our love that will cause us to lay our lives down. Not our love, not our empathy, but His suffering love. As much as we uphold the power of God, the miracles that is bound to happen because of persecution, in the end, the Word says that it is not those things that will endure, but love. Love for the lost, even our enemies, will cause us to lay our lives down.
1 Corinthians 13: 7
7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
The reality is that we do not only need a baptism in the Holy Spirit with power, but we need to be baptized with His love for the lost. Unless we become the conduits of His love, we will not be willing to lay our lives down. Because God so loved that He gave His only Son. His love alone will cause us to do so. We may have the intention, but not the ability. At the heart of the way of bearing the cross in our lives, is suffering until we reach the part of the whole purpose of the cross, which is to die.
We read in Romans 8 that the whole of creation is groaning for the manifestation or the revealing of the sons of God. That is to say the seed of God. His Son, revealed the love of the Father to this world, not just by the life He lived, but by the death He died. There is soon to be a revealing of all the sons and daughters of God over all the earth. Where there was about 2000 years ago a revealing that took place at Golgotha, there has been ever since then a revealing of the way by the sons and daughters of God who have laid their lives down. Also in Romans 8 we read of how God has given us the Spirit of Adoption, by which we cry “Abba Father!” And just after that, Paul says that nothing will be able to separate us from this love of the Father.
Romans 8: 35 - 39
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
The love of God is both our motive and that very thing that will keep us in the time to come.
I realize that this is not a very joyful subject, but part of the goid news of the Way, is the fact that on that cross a great victory was obtained for whomsoever believes not only that the Son of God died on it for them, but has also risen from the dead. Paul says the following regarding the resurrection as he was addressing those who did not believe in it in the Corinthian Church.
1 Corinthians 15: 13 - 14
13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:
The issue is not immortality through the power of God as end-time workers, but the issue is love. There is no greater force in heaven or on earth than love. God is love and He expresses His love by the children He gives, who are willing to lay their lives down, whether in life or death. No matter how little time we think we have left, we have to prepare ourselves by seeking His face in this regard. Some will not have to lay their lives down, but from others it will be required. How you respond and are willing to lay your life down in the face of that which causes you to suffer now, will prepare you for what is to come. Only through and by His love can we endure and will we lay our lives down.
Jesus said the following in John.
John 12: 24 - 26
24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.
Jesus is that seed that fell to the ground. The harvest that came from His death will one day be on display in the heavens. We too are of the seed of God, being His sons and daughters. Once again, He will come and sew His seed in the earth, and the multitude of souls that will come in will not be able to be counted. The currency of heaven is life for a life, payable by death. Covenant. The victory of the cross is the resurrection, but it is also the harvest that resurrection will bring forth. To God be glory forever and ever!
I must confess that I stand guilty of not interceding as I should for our Christian brothers and sisters across this world who are presently being persecuted and killed for the Gospel’s sake. This in itself testify of the unreality I find myself in and many out there too.
I end this devotional with two prayers of two martyrs at two very different time periods.
"Father, make us more like Jesus. Help us bear difficulty, pain, disappointment, and sorrow, knowing that in Your perfect working and design You can use such bitter experiences to mold our characters and make us more like our Lord.
We look with hope to the day when we will be completely like Christ, because we will see Him as He is…My passions are crucified, there is no heat in my flesh, and a stream flows murmuring inside me – deep down in me saying,
“Come to the Father.”
HIS PRAYER WHILE IN PRISON BEFORE HE WAS DEVOURED BY LIONS
ROME C. A.D. 111
We need no rifles or pistols for our battle, but instead, spiritual weapons – and the foremost among those is prayer…Through prayer, we continually implore new grace from God, since without God’s help and grace it would be impossible for us to preserve the faith and be true to His commandments…
Let us love our enemies, bless those who curse us, pray for those who persecute us. For love will conquer and will endure for all eternity. And happy are they who will live and die in God’s love.
BEHEADED FOR REFUSING TO SERVE IN THE GERMAN ARMY DURING WORLD WAR II
AFTER THE ANSCHLUSS IN AUSTRIA BERLIN, GERMANY
The wisdom of God that astounds the forces of darkness, not by brute force, but by meekness as lambs led to the slaughter. These prayers are from the book about martyrs compiled a few years ago by DC TALK, called "Jesus Freaks". The word witness in the Bible actually means martyr. It is necessary that we understand that God is not disappointed in us as such because we are not in the same position as the persecuted church. However, He is wanting us to live in reality of the Kingdom of God and be true “followers of the Way”, counting the cost and living in that reality now.