Following in His Steps

Some printed info from a special interest group about an upcoming public event that talks about open-mindedness, diversity, discrimination and no-tolerance to any who are in disagreement with them is long on rhetoric. Their neatly packed language aims to build non-judgemental views about themselves and their event(s). It turns out to be a homosexual sponsored event. Trouble is that God cannot be intimidated or sent packing from His planet. His Character and what He wishes for man are positive and holy morals, which cannot be changed or dismissed. We would do well to listen to the prophet Habakkuk “But the Lord is in His holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before Him.” (Hab. 2:20). God gave us His Son who in turn when He had completed His mission left behind a Great Commission. He had commissioned the Church “to make disciples of all nations.” (Mat. 28:18-20). Believers are given the responsibility to reach out to all people, no discrimination intended here, everyone is in His field of view since all are sinners and in need to be saved. All this talk about inclusiveness and diversity is simply a means to put on a happy face to immoral living once you understand things from a divine perspective. Two thousand years ago, Christianity came into effect because of the act of one man, Jesus Christ. He carried out His mission to save lives from hell and taught His followers to understand their role in spreading the gospel. Many have taken-up His cross since then. Anyone who follows in His footsteps will require courage and boldness to witness for Him. Just look at the Lord’s life and that of His followers and see why.

Jesus the image of God who suffered and died for sinful man faced great opposition and persecution on His way to the cross. Isaiah describes Him as one “who was led as a lamb to the slaughter” (Isa. 53:7b). Jesus epitomized courage and commitment and Peter reminds us that to follow Jesus is to follow in His steps (1 Pet. 2:21). The terms witness and martyr are closely aligned when identified with suffering, persecution and death and may be used interchangeably depending on context.

For Christians, the willingness to suffer means more than an uncomfortable pew or longer than usual messages. Real suffering is connected to the realities of what Christ had to endure. In Hebrews rests a collection of testimonies from and for His followers; unfortunately martyrdom continues today for many Christians in many Islamic lands.

Hebrews 11:32–12:2

And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets — who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated — of whom the world was not worthy — wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth ……. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

No doubt Jesus suffered greatly. He paid the dearest price of all. He became man and braved the assaults and rejection of men. Yet, he willingly went to the cross for our sake. I had hoped that by reasoning through the Scriptures, it has convinced the reader that to follow Christ is a costly calling. Yet, with a trail of unflappable testimonies from our past in Hebrews, the promise of eternal life and God’s help in standing firm in this life for His Son, you can see why Paul can say “I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ.” (Gal. 5:22) Consider your need for Christ and His forgiveness in your life and begin a challenging journey that will see you in heaven one day. Trust Christ and repent of your sins and He will save you.

Hide and Seek

The game of hide and seek was and still is a very popular children’s game. It originated sometime in 2nd century Greece, where it was described by the poet Julius Pollux in one of his writings. Shakespeare speaks of the children’s game in Hamlet, where several scenes in he mentions it as “Hide Fox, and All After.” There exists an upscale detective version where adults from 66 international teams gather to participate at a world championship in Italy, which in 2016 was won by “Sneaky Frenchy”, a team from France. This activity has universal appeal because it is both fun and entertaining. Even so, and sadly to note, that a spiritual counterpart exist that we should avoid at all cost.

Back in the 16th and 17th century, the Reformed Protestants would begin their preaching by teaching the law first to build conviction of sin then follow it up with the cross. The sinner was clearly shown where to find relief from his guilt and condemnation. While the temptation for sinners is to conceal personal sin, confessing and forsaking of sin is needful. Sinners that seek to cover up their sins may attempt to exonerate themselves with any number of excuses. A prime example of this is the scene in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve went into hiding because of their disobedience. When discovered Adam attempted to absolve himself from any wrong doing by placing the blame on Eve. Deceiving God is an impossibility. Though our actions may lie hidden and undetected from man, nevertheless God sees everything and that is very important for us to grasp. Nothing escapes God.

The dramatic episode with Achan is further proof of this. Even though Achan did his evil deed away from any witnesses, God was there to see him take the wedge of gold, silver shekels and the Babylonish garment. Achan drew up his plans with precision. He counted on the confusion of the battle for Jericho to be a diversion, yet God was watching his every move. While everyone else was preoccupied taking Jericho, Achan was also busy stealing and hiding his loot. Achan thought he had successfully concealed what he had done. While he may have counted his venture a success and fooled men into thinking all was well, in reality things could not have been worse for him. God warns that “He who covers his sins shall not prosper” (Proverbs 28:13). Unconfessed sin prevents further blessings from God. “If I regard iniquity in my heart—the Lord will not hear me” (Psalm 66:18).

Now pride and pompt will always stand in the way to confession and repentance. Surrender to Christ is never that easy. Spurgeon says this about ways men try to cover their sins. “Excuse-making is the commonest trade under heaven. Some cover by secrecy and some by falsehood. Some think their sin has been hidden away by lapse of time.” That seems to be a fair summary.

Whatever argument we wish to prop up, unconfessed sin will inevitably harden your conscience. The power of sin will be felt deep in the soul, the heart becomes callous over time, unresponsive to the tender mercies of God. Where a child of God neglects sin the conscience comes to a place where it thinks almost nothing of a sin. Where once you may have been receptive to the prodding of the Holy Spirit where guilt pangs rang loud and clear, now they are barely heard.

Sin is seductive and at its core is the deception of the heart. Adam and Eve were deceived along with Achan. For Adam, he knew what he was not to do but chose to disobey anyway and then sought to excuse his actions by shifting the blame to Eve. No one can hide their sins from God (Prov. 15:3, Prov. 5:21, Hebrews 4:13) Achan thought he could hide his sin by burying his booty. Yet, he was discovered and punishment levied. It is hardly surprising that things only get worse when we disregard sin in our lives.

Have you dealt with your own personal sins? If you are feeling remorse or guilt do not set your heart on a timer and think you can act later on this matter. Things can only get worse for you. Confession and forsaking your sins is only possible in Christ. Trust in Christ today. Place your faith in Him for forgiveness and be cleansed from your sin and guilt.

True Godly Fear

Godly fear can be life changing. God can use personal guilt and remorse to steer our lives away from evil. Known criminals have been known to turn over a new leaf. However, it does not always mean that they have sought forgiveness from God.

In the news were reports of a man that had banded with others to torture a young woman in Windsor. After the youngest of the group was apprehended, he expressed sorrow about what he had done. On another front, a Mafia leader following his imprisonment had expressed remorse about his past. These and others stir our interest probably because we wish to find out if their sorrow will lead to new behavior. Real Christian conversion means that not only are we “sorry” but will always involve God and a refusal to return to the old life of sin. Although backsliding is possible, it is never permanent if God is working in your life. The child of God will always experience correction if he ever steps out-of-line. Another story of a criminal who was never detained or even arrested for his crimes, monstrous and many as they were, has been well documented.

He was a leader of soldiers and had been responsible for the deaths of numerous people. In fact killing had had become routine for him. He had accomplices. They considered the killing of prisoners just and that they were only carrying out orders. They were trained to kill and did it well. Their subject had been tortured before he was brought to them, and his murder would be witnessed by a contentious crowd, some grieving and others cheering and cursing the prisoner. It took place outside of the city, near a garbage dump. During the slow and painful execution, these soldiers were overcome with remorse.

“When the centurion and those with him where guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that happened that had happened, they were terrified and explained, “Surely he was the Son of God.” (Matthew 27:54) What happened next that day at the crucifixion of Christ was a series of events not since repeated: there was the clear audible cry of Jesus; the tearing of the curtain in the temple; the shaking of the earth; tombs opening and the dead raised to life. The Bible teaches that these soldiers were truly afraid and they believed Christ was truly the Son of God.

Godly fear is a good thing when turned inwardly for it helps us to see our sins and our need for salvation. These executioners who stood at the base of the cross and who had a hand in Christ death that day underwent a soul changing event. It was miraculous as it was frightening! We are all criminals in the sight of God, none of us are innocent. We are all personally guilty of moral wrongs that we have committed against God and His Holy Laws. We have all sinned and therefore must stand before Him. He is the Judge of all the earth and we will find ourselves in His presence one day. In the time that is still left, we must decide whether to trust in Christ’s work at Calvary, for the forgiveness of our sins; if we do, He will wipe our sins clean from existence so that we can be found guiltless before a Holy God at judgement, but, if we refuse, then we will experience eternal torment in hell forever.