The TESTimony

…Stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.  This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.  Philippians 1:27c, 28.

The sign to the opposition that we are going to be saved is our lack of fear or our confidence through faith.

I can hear the reactions of some of my friends who believe in other ethics objecting stringently to this.  When I hear someone object to the apparent “exclusive” nature of Christianity, it makes me frustrated.  God doesn’t exclude anyone, they do that themselves.  Jesus died for everyone, period.  If a person refuses to accept Him for who He is, how can they kick Him if doesn’t include them in the roster of guests for dinner?  In other words, everyone is invited to the great celebration dinner of the redeemed but only a few accept and attend.  At this dinner the only people who come to the feast are those who RSVP, which any wedding planner will tell you is only right.

It doesn’t make sense to me at all that someone would think they should be able to reject God but still get eternity.  He’s just supposed to save them anyway.  We seem to believe that if God is love, then He loves no matter what (true), which means He accepts them as they are (true) and demands no change whatsoever (not true) to remain with Him.  But let’s think of that ideal for a moment…

If one person doesn’t really like another, do they hang out after work or make plans to go on vacations?  I know a person who treats everyone as if they were there just for this person to use—even when they need to feel good about themselves.  It’s absolutely awful to be around people who think others should bend to their every whim.  Most people wouldn’t treat God this way on everything, but on certain issues they demand to be given “freedom” to be themselves.  The argument I hear most often is,  “If God didn’t want me like this, then why did He make me this way?”  forgetting all the while about that little radioactive spiritual isotope called “sin”.  With sin in the mix no one is who they should be, so the argument doesn’t work.

In the news recently cyber-bullying has been a hot topic.  The questions abound about it, of course, but the most asked question is what do we do with these people who bully others in school or the work place?  And, if a person is driven to suicide, should the people or person responsible be held accountable and charged with manslaughter?  It’s a tough nut to crack since how do we determine who started what and the mental state of the person who died?

In the case of the believers at Philippi, the rest of Philippi saw them as outsiders at best, a threat at worst.  Those who looked on them as outsiders probably left them alone for the most part.  Those who saw them as a threat took pains to harass, persecute, and in some cases kill the believers.  When Paul talks about them standing firm for gospel like he did, he’s referring to his imprisonment and public beating.  Sure God sent an earthquake which opened all the prison doors for them and brought several new converts to the faith, but that didn’t change the attitude of the opposition one bit.  The Jews in the region would have blamed Satan for the earthquake, the Gentiles would’ve thought a specific god brought it about.  In other words, the unconvinced remained antagonists despite the evidence to the contrary.  Paul healed the sick, cast out a familiar spirit and generally blessed a whole bunch of people.  None of it mattered to those who liked their lifestyle and hated anyone shining a light on their spiritual closets.

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him… Philippians 1:29.

The moment we forget what a privilege it is to not only believe in Him but to suffer for Him, is when we begin to find other solutions for our lives and use Him as a fall back.  If we think about the miracles that happened because of or for the disciples, it’s easy to think God will do these kinds of things every time.  But the bloody history of the martyrs doesn’t bear this conclusion out.  Every disciple died a horrible death except for John, who died of old age.  What does this snippet of truth tell us about God’s plans for those who follow Him?

Well, for one thing, it does inform us as to what the miracles were for—something to impress those watching about the truth of the disciples’ teaching.  In other words, if you want to get someone’s attention, do a miracle, which is what God did in the case of the Philippians.  Yet He didn’t keep Paul and Silas from being beaten in the meantime, thrown in the stocks and locked in a dungeon/jail.

We read these stories and gloss over the facts just like they are legends or myths we don’t really connect to at all.  The promise Paul made to the Philippians about suffering is tangible, if we let it be so.  No where in Scripture will you find God promising escape from the mundane or the problems that arise from living a daily life with sin as an ingredient.  We are not only promised mundane trials but suffering directly for our faith.  In almost every story, however, we are given a mere slice of the person’s life.  All we get to see is places in their lifetime where God did something extraordinary for them.  The rest of the time they went about the business of planting, harvesting, working, making babies and generally being alive.  To me this testimony is the real test in the i-mony because our daily routine speaks louder than what happened 20 years ago at our conversion.  If you want to get a glimpse of what it means to be an apostle on the scale of Paul, read his account of his trials in 1 Corinthians 10, where he recounts scores of problems, losses and struggles.  Yet in between all these, Paul went about making tents for a living, discussing Scripture in the synagogues and generally living out an example in front of the new converts.

Now I agree some people take these passages too far and actually try to provoke suffering for the gospel, but those efforts are misrepresenting Christ.  Jesus didn’t set about to provoke the world but to demonstrate the attitude and actions of heaven.  Our job isn’t to get in people’s faces for Christ but to be lights in the darkness.  Will a light shined in a dark place hurt the eyes of those who look directly into it?  Absolutely!  Will this mean those who are a light in a dark place will get negative reactions from the hurting eyes people?  Quite often.  Still a light is merely a tool to reveal what’s around us so we don’t hurt ourselves when we move and also tells us what is in the vicinity.  The purpose of a light is not to offend but to assist one in seeing reality.  A person truly changed by the Spirit of Christ will never shine a light into the eyes of someone else—like your obnoxious brother or sister did when you were kids.  This is rude, unkind, inconsiderate and hurtful for the gospel.  The purpose of the light is not to declare war on the people in darkness but to drive the darkness away for the people.

Those who disagree with or hate our reality in Christ will either ignore our light and turn their backs or fight us tooth and nail to make us turn it off.  Paul’s promise to the Philippians makes it glaringly evident suffering comes as part of the package with belief in Jesus.

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One Response to “The TESTimony”

  1. tlc4women Says:

    Maybe this is why so many people seem disillusioned with Christianity. They are told suffering ends if they receive this Christ of ours and that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s the perspective of a kingdom mindset that keeps us focused on eternity and not just the trial of the day.

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