About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Persecuted Saints


Jesus told His disciples that if the world hated them, they should understand that it hated Him first. (John 15:18)  The apostle Paul told Timothy that "all who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution". (2 Timothy 3:12)  The expectation of the early believers, which was preached along with the gospel, was that they would suffer for their decision to align themselves with the Lord Jesus.  Their allegiance to a Lord other than lord Caesar was more than politically, religiously, and culturally unacceptable.  It was criminal.     


I've often thought about why Christians in the western world haven't experienced persecution as Jesus and Paul stated.  Of course many disciples of Jesus are being persecuted in other parts of the world right now, but for Christians in the west, well, we've escaped such troubles.


One reason for the lack of persecution towards Christians in the west is because western civilization has been greatly influenced by Biblical thought, especially since the Christian Reformation and subsequent revival movements.  In many instances societal standards for life and morality have been based on the Bible.  That's no longer the case, as the apostle Paul predicted. (2 Thessalonians 2:4)  Hence the reason for the rough road to be walked for the western Christian. 


Jesus' and Paul's words are now becoming relevant for those of us in the west who have aligned ourselves with the Kingdom of God instead of the kingdoms of men.  The gap between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of men in the west has greatly widened in recent years, and the pace of this widening is accelerating faster than ever.  Not that I'm looking forward to it, but the above passages of Scripture will be realized in our lives in a way we've never experienced in the west before.   


At this point Hebrews 12:1 - 2 is more important than ever.  The NIV reads, " let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus "   The KJV reads, " let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that does so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.  Looking unto Jesus "


According to this passage, there are two things we as Christians need to "throw off".  The first and obvious one is sin.  The other is not so obvious for us in the west.  It is "everything that hinders", (NIV) or, "weight" (KJV).  The Greek word "ogkos" is translated as "everything that hinders" in the NIV and "weight" in the KJV.  "Ogkos" means "a mass of something, or, a bulkiness". When I hear the word "mass", as in this definition, I think of cancer.  Cancer is a growing mass that weakens and eventually destroys the body. "Ogkos" is a weight, a mass of anything, that hinders us from doing God's will.  Like cancer, it eats away at our faith, causing us not to be the disciples of Jesus we are meant to be.   


There are many things in the western world that are cancerous, that attempt to destroy our faith in Jesus, that hinders us from doing God's will and representing Him properly.  They range from a preoccupation with self and materialism, unnecessary busyness, cluttered lifestyles, relational problems, to a million other things.  Whatever hinders you from fulfilling God's purpose in your life, the author of Hebrews says, "throw it off".  Just "throw it away".  Only then will you successfully run the race Jesus has set for you to run.  And let me add, the race is no longer a friendly jog on a smooth track as we've been used to.   


The western world is becoming, or, in some places has already become, anti-Christian, anti-Christ.  Persecution is on its way for true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ  in what once was a somewhat Jesus friendly environment.  First century Christians chose to serve  the Lord Jesus instead of lord Caesar and his religion of emperor worship.  We have a similar choice.  Serve the Lord Jesus or "lord state and society" and its religion of tolerance.  Remember what Jesus said.  "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness " (Matthew  6:33)  Once doing that, let the chips fall where they may.



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