29 02 2020

standI was talking with my youngest son Joel the other day, and I asked him, “Do you think that Christians are being properly prepared so that if they ever had to choose between renouncing their faith or having to die, they wouldn’t deny Jesus Christ?” He hesitated but then thoughtfully added, “No Dad, I don’t think so.” In a day that so many churches spend so much time trying to make everybody comfortable, are we doing our parishioners a disservice by not getting them ready for battle? In so many parts of the world, people are dying daily because of their crime of believing in Jesus. Men and women love the Lord more than their own lives and refuse to walk away from Jesus even though they are threatened with being beheaded on the spot.

In America, we are well known for our declarations. We make bold statements all the time announcing our faithfulness and commitments and perseverance no matter what might stand in our way. The problem is that we are also known for talking more than walking when it comes to the behavior backing up beliefs. The first step is making a dedication of your heart to God before making any empty declarations of how strong you are going to be in the face of danger. If you won’t follow Jesus when it’s easy, how will you ever be courageous when it might cost you your very life and breath? If you don’t believe what I am saying, maybe take another look at the disciple Peter! He learned the hard way that proclamations without personal promises only make you look foolish in the long run. Let your life make the loudest noise. If more believers lived like the real Jesus did, Christianity might be much more attractive to a lost and dying world. There would definitely be more fight and light than we presently see in the Body of Christ!

The political correctness of our culture wants to edit Jesus from everyday life. You can talk about almost anyone else but start talking about our Lord and people get uncomfortable quickly. There is no other name under heaven given to men and women for how they can be rescued. You can understand why the enemy wants to keep that confession from the lips of people. Jesus never forced anyone to worship Him. Power can do many things but it can’t force you to love someone. That only comes from the decisions of the heart. But tyrannical human leaders have come and gone over time and their goals are much more egotistical and driven by pride and not the unconditional love that flows from Jesus.

Let me tell you the story of the ancient emperor Domitian. He was the brother of Titus, the Roman general who destroyed Jerusalem and its temple in AD 70. Jesus had prophesied about this ahead of time in the Gospel of Matthew. Domitian allegedly poisoned Titus so that he himself could become the sovereign ruler. After his brother was disposed of, Domitian became emperor.

At the beginning of his reign, Domitian like Nero before him proclaimed himself to be deity. He demanded that everyone throughout the Roman Empire worship him as a son of god. Under his law, people were forced to burn incense before statues of the emperor, and as they were doing so, they were forced to chant to the mantra, “Our lord and god.” There was nothing righteous about Domitian. He was a conceited and ruthless tyrant who ordered mass murders as casually as most people would swat a fly. He imposed severe punishments on anyone who disobeyed him. All in favor of his way would live. If anybody was opposed, he died on the spot!

The Apostle John was pastoring his congregation in Ephesus at the time. He challenged his flock to stay true to Jesus and not to bow to idols, and not to burn incense to the emperor’s image, and not to yield to government threats. He made it very clear that for the believer, there was really no choice at all. Jesus alone was worthy of worship and Jesus alone was the truth no matter what the cries of the crowd might say. In a crowd of lies, John said to stick with the truth. Domitian didn’t care for the words of John and exiled him on the first boat leaving town. He exiled John to Patmos thinking that would shut John up. It didn’t. People can try to lock God up but His word can’t stay contained.

As long as Domitian was emperor, John was stuck on Patmos. But John received the vision of the Revelation of Jesus that Domitian couldn’t stop. John gave us the book of Revelation against the backdrop of intense persecution. The Lord gave John a message to deliver to the seven churches. That message can be summed up in two words: don’t compromise. Yet the faith of too many is filled with it being watered down and is only an inkling of what God intended it to be.

When Domitian commanded that incense be burned before his image as an act of worship, many Christians said, “What harm would it do to burn a little incense? I still go to church and pray. If I defy the emperor, I might lose friends, lose business, and lose my job. If burning a little incense keeps the government off my back, what’s the harm?” But the Lord’s message, delivered through John, is clear: Don’t compromise. Take a stand for the truth. Stop worrying about what other people think. Stop worrying about what the government may do to you. Instead, consider what you will lose eternally if you compromise the truth. That’s still His message to us today: “Don’t compromise. Stand firm for the truth.”

How devoted are you to Jesus? Is He truly your first love? Is He number one in your heart? Jesus never gave you anything but His absolute best. Jesus died so that we could live. He gave His life for us so that we might have an eternal home with Him. What’s too much to do for a God who did everything for you? Seek Jesus and fall in love with Him. You can’t love Him if you don’t follow Him. You won’t be willing to die for someone you aren’t presently living for. Christianity isn’t just a hobby. It is not something to do with your spare time. Faith should be the driving engine of your soul. It’s time to stand up for the light in the middle of the night. Will you?



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