Thursday, April 4, 2013

Neither, popular nor famous

Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, and receives the impossible.

Corrie ten Boom

Adrian Rogers spoke about missionaries a couple of years ago. Adoniram Judson was a great missionary. He went to Burma and labored long. He prayed, fasted, and witnessed. But rather than seeing souls come to Jesus, Adoniram Judson was arrested. He was tortured and cast into a vile, filthy, vermin-infested prison. Later when he was home on furlough, he was asked if the prospects were bright for the conversion of the world. His famous reply was, "As bright, Sirs, as the promises of God!"

It is nigh impossible to be wholly truthful and also be universally liked. It is very difficult to believe strange things and be popular. It is unlikely than one who lives as a servant will draw fame and admiration from people in high places.

Also, there are many unhappy people living in the world today. The saying goes, misery loves company. Miserable people spread their misery around. On the other hand, people who possess joy can also share it. Our God shines forth His blessed light in order to destroy the darkness of anger and shame. As Christians, we should reach out in love, not only to those who care for us and build us up, but also to those who devise our unhappiness. They are the ones who need it most.

Thankfully, Jesus calls us neither to be universally liked, popular, famous, or admirable in the eyes of wealthy men.

We have an expression in America that says, "He's the real deal." What we are saying is the person in question is really who they are appearing to be. They are not trying to be or convince you they are someone they are not. It is a compliment when someone says "You are the real deal." It means you are not a hypocrite or trying to be someone you are not. 

Every field of life and labor has a bottom line. In business, it is making money, earning profits, and increasing revenue. In education, it is passing tests, making grades, or earning a degree. In sports, it is winning games, awards, and championships. Everything has a bottom line.
In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handing the word of truth” (ESV).

Note that Paul did not challenge Timothy to be better than anybody else. He says, “Do your best…” You don’t have to compare yourself with others, compete with others, or come in ahead of others. Just give God your best – nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. If you give God your best, it will sustain you when the work is difficult, frustrating, and tiresome. And you will be an approved workman.

But hold it – we can’t just stop there. Beware, lest we swagger with pride in the knowledge that being disliked, unpopular, and obscure will place us in high standing with our Lord. God has a distinct mission for us: to reach the world with the Gospel (that is, John 3:16). He has also set a distinct example for us to follow as we live and try to proclaim that gospel through our words and actions. All too often, however, we fall short of his example and become entirely unapproachable to the exact people we should be loving and reaching with God’s truth and love.

Also, being full of the Spirit through prayer does not guarantee the conversion of the one with whom we are sharing. Even our clearest presentations of the Gospel with the most loving approaches toward the unbeliever cannot make someone respond to the truth about Christ. A heart that is blind to God's glory, corrupt in its thinking about God, hateful toward its creator, and completely unregenerate is not overcome by the craftiness or perfection of our speaking. Only the power of Christ opens lost eyes to salvation in Christ; it is a work of divine grace and mercy, not of human skill.

The Bible teaches that upon conversion we enter into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Jesus is our mediator, the one who reconciles us to God. Justified by faith alone, we are united to Christ. We indeed have a relationship with Jesus, and this truth is glorious! Using the language of "relationship with Jesus" makes communion with God central to Christianity. That's not a bad thing. The phrase is evocative, and it has been useful.

Living as Christians in this world we see many of them hurt us, scar us, and leave us sore and bruised. Also,when we face hardships, whether big or small, we can become indignant, believing that we did nothing to deserve them. Job's attitude can guide us here. We must be careful to avoid accusing God or believing we're right and he's wrong. God is always right, even if we can't understand our own circumstances. God is always right. Period. 

God’s word is marked “Handle With Care.” The way you handle God’s word is the way God will handle you. Proverbs 30:5-6 says: “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.” So labor not to mishandle God’s word. Cut it straight. Don’t add to the word. Tell the truth on God! Fully give yourself to diligently explain and exhort the truth of scripture to the glory of God.

The kind that can’t be taken away—not by trouble, failure, hardship, not even death. After all, we’ve already faced it. Even more, Christ has faced it for us.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39

Raj Kosaraju

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