Saturday, January 06, 2007

Jesus' bold church (part 3)

Teaching and preaching the WORD of GOD wasn’t without cost to the early Christians. JESUS promised the apostles persecution for teaching the TRUTH. “’If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their law: ‘They hated me without reason.’” John 15: 18-25 (NIV)
As the early church taught and preached that JESUS was the CHRIST, the SON of GOD; they were persecuted. They were beaten, they were put in prison, they were killed. Stephen was the first Christian whose death by the hands of the world was recorded in Acts. A few chapters later, the apostle James, the brother of the apostle John, was murdered.  
The apostle Paul in II Corinthians 11: 23-28 wrote the following about his own experiences teaching and preaching the WORD of GOD. “Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”
Why did Paul and other Christians of the early church endure such hardships and persecution? Have Christians today compromised our boldness to proclaim GOD’S TRUTH to better fit in with the world? Have Christians today compromised our boldness to proclaim GOD’S TRUTH to avoid persecution? Are we following the example given by the early church of boldly teaching and proclaiming all of GOD’S TRUTH? Are we still JESUS’ bold church?
Have we “watered down” the message by rationalizing that we don’t want to offend anyone? Have we “watered down” the message to avoid persecution? Have we “watered down” the message to increase our numbers on the “roll” but not to increase the number of obedient Christians? Are we still JESUS’ bold church?      


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