Interestingly, when we talk about God’s goodness, the one thing that seems to offend people more. Jesus loves you even when you make mistakes and do not “perceive” yourself as being loveable. He loved you enough to die on the cross to pay the price for your sins before you even had a chance to commit the first one!
I believe that a lack of persecution in the Christian life indicates a person who is not operating in the grace of God. The message of the cross is grace provided regardless of our perceived worth. Jesus paid the total price for every sin that any person will ever commit for all time, and no debt remains due in the courts of heaven.
You and I can do nothing to “make” ourselves worthy in God’s eyes. He views us through Christ’s redemptive work; our standing before Him is on that work alone. You and I can do nothing to increase our value in His eyes. His love for us is endless and unaffected by our “mistakes” and “failures.”
And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased. (Galatians 5:11)
The western Church today seems to have very little understanding of what it means to be persecuted for following Christ. Our idea of this is having someone criticize us for what we’ve believed. In Paul’s time, Christians were beaten, stoned, and thrown to the lions for their faith.
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12)
Paul tells us here that Christians who are not being persecuted are those who do not live godly. Modern Christianity focuses on “comforts” such as prosperity and divine healing. While I believe that “healing” and “prosperity” are two of our covenant benefits, they must never become our reason for serving God.
I have heard ministers tell people that their sickness or inability to pay bills is not living a “holy” life. In other words, they have not been “good” enough to “deserve” anything from God. Jesus did not die to open a door for us to spend our lives laboring to earn our heavenly Father’s love!
Oral Roberts once said that the number one source of persecution in his ministry was his willingness to tell people that God had something good planned for their lives. It amazes me how people react to any indication that God is a good God who only wants good things for them.
For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. Hebrews 10:1)
Without realizing it, most Christians have been drawn back into a “works” mentality by religious tradition. We think the answer to our struggles is praying more, being more faithful in our church attendance, or memorizing more verses. Jesus has completed work and calls us into His rest, but how many of us will heed His call?
I’ve found that people will not persecute the minister preaching works like they do the one who preaches God’s goodness. They may live under a cloud of condemnation their entire Christian experience but will more readily accept what they are being fed. The reason for this, I believe, is that it is much easier to think we must “earn” God’s favor because the carnal mindset focuses on self-effort.
Parents train their children from infancy that nothing is free. Everything will require some form of effort from us to obtain or earn. The idea of resting and receiving without any expectation of our expending any effort is foreign.
But the natural man receiveth, not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)
Our natural mind cannot understand the message of grace. It is not a concept readily accepted by the “carnal” part of our being.
Jesus paid the price for every sin that any human being will ever commit. He poured His blood out on the heavenly mercy seat and satisfied the requirements of God’s justice for your sin. Your repentance and promises to try harder or add an extra hour of prayer do nothing to increase your standing before Him. God views you through the accomplished work of Christ alone!
The only thing capable of purging sin is human blood. In the Old Testament, the blood of animals “covered” sin but could not eradicate it. I thank God for not requiring us to shed our blood. He loved us enough to send Jesus to do that for us.
The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)
Jesus came to this earth to stand as our sacrificial Passover lamb. Our repentance, goodness, and promises to work harder will never replace the redemptive work He completed on the cross. They will not make God love us more, and no amount of expended effort on our part will ever increase our standing before Him.
Some people will misinterpret what I am saying as giving them the freedom to live how they want and to continue in sin. We must keep things in balance. God loves us whether we live in sin, have perfect church attendance, or live a mediocre Christian life. Sin does not change His view of us but creates an open door for Satan to work, which is something none of us want.
I believe that Ezekiel provides us with a picture of God’s love in chapter 16. He tells us that God found us in our filth. We were not clean when He sent Jesus to die on the cross, so why do so many think it is necessary to “clean” ourselves up so that God will accept us now? Just as God accepted Israel and chose to love them, He also accepts and loves you just as you are.