Wednesday, July 18, 2007

How Should We Live When Suffering for Christ (Part 6 of 6)

Gospel Presentation
Think of it this way. You have found a priceless, matchless treasure. You try to have it appraised but no one can assign a monetary value to it. There is no treasure in existence to which the treasure you found can be compared. It is, in every sense of the word, priceless. It is a one of a kind treasure. Hitting the jackpot in Las Vegas or winning the lottery pales in comparison to the intrinsic value of this treasure. Everyone you talk to, appraisers and friends alike, encourage you to deposit the treasure in the bank. What would you do?

Would you simply thumb through the Yellow Pages and let your fingers do the walking and deciding? Would you entrust a public storage facility with the safekeeping of your treasure? Would you entrust a typical savings and loan institution with the safekeeping of your treasure? Would you entrust a government agency with the safekeeping of your treasure? Would you entrust it to the care of one of your fallible friends or family members? Would you hide it under your mattress and trust yourself? Difficult, isn’t it? If you were honest, you would say that you couldn’t think of a single person or entity to which you would entrust the priceless, worldly treasure. Over time, you would find that the mere possession of such a priceless, earthly treasure would be a source of stress as you worried about its safekeeping. You would worry about losing something so precious and irreplaceable. Over time, it might even come to mean more to you than life itself.

If we all were to honestly look back through the course of our lives, as far back as our early childhood, each of us could probably point to possessions that have meant as much to us as the treasure described in the illustration I just shared. Maybe for you it was a special toy you cherished as a small child. Maybe for you it was your first car—the one you polished and pampered incessantly. Maybe for you it was the first home you purchased, or the home in which you live today. Maybe for you it is your career to which you attribute so much of your status or identity. As you look down the corridor of your own life and think about the things you have cherished the most, to whom did you entrust their care? No one. They were too important to you to put into the hands of another. The treasure, whatever it was or is today, was or is not allowed out of your sight. It’s too important.

So, allow me to ask you this? What about your soul? To whom have you entrusted your soul? Maybe for most of you gathered here today the answer is obvious. But for others it may not be. Please do not be too quick to blurt out the name of God when answering such an eternally important question.

Listen carefully to the word of Jesus. He said:

"If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's shall save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels." ~ Mark 8:34b-38

True followers of Jesus Christ will not be surprised when persecution comes. Those who know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will live with an attitude of authentic joy, seeing suffering as a blessing from God. Those who are truly His disciples will continually practice self-examination to make sure their suffering is a result of right Christian living and not a result of the sin in our lives. And when times of difficulty come as a result of sinful behavior, disciples of Jesus Christ will be quick to repent (turn from their sin) and seek God’s forgiveness. And, finally, those who are soundly saved, who are born again, will commend themselves to the wonderful, matchless care of God. All of this the Christian will do as a result of their salvation, not to earn their salvation. Such a gift can neither be earned nor deserved.

Does this describe you? Are you one who has received the priceless and most costly treasure anyone can ever receive—the free gift of eternal life? And have you truly entrusted your eternal existence to the only God who can safeguard it for all eternity? Or are you the pitiful person Jesus describes who seeks to gain the whole world while forfeiting his or her soul?

In his second letter, Peter writes: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

God the Father patiently continues to gather His flock as He draws those whom He has chosen to save, to repentance and faith in His Son Jesus Christ. The time will come when He has finished His saving work. All those whom He will draw to Himself will come to repentance and faith. As we learned last week, the end of all things is near, and the glorious return of Jesus Christ is imminent. Will you be counted among those God has chosen to gather to Himself, for His glory and good pleasure?

If you have been born again and the fruit of which, namely genuine repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, is evident in your life, then you can answer yes, with confidence in Christ. Paul had this confidence, this sense of eternal security, when he wrote:

“Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, ‘FOR THY SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.’ But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~ Romans 8:33-39

But if you are relying on your own perceived goodness, if you are relying on what you perceive to be your good works or your own brand of spirituality, if you fail to realize that you have broken God’s Law and are deserving of swift and eternal punishment in hell, then you can have no assurance of the free gift of eternal life. If you are living life in denial of the truth of God’s Word and in disobedience to what Jesus commands and requires of you, then it is you of whom John the Baptist spoke.

"He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." ~ John 3:36

Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again'” (John 3:3, 7). My hope and prayer for you is that God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is drawing you to Himself. If He is, then you will be born again. And if you are born again, then you will turn from your sin and place your faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation.

Cry out to God. Ask Him to forgive you for the countless times you have fallen short of His glory and sinned against Him. Tell Him that, with His help, you want to turn away from doing that which is displeasing to Him. Ask Him to save you from the just penalty for your sins and to give you a new heart with new desires. Ask Him to be your Lord and Savior.

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