Faithfulness

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart (Proverbs 3:3)”

 

AD 203 – She was hanged from a post and exposed to wild animals that for some strange reason did not attack. She died after being tortured and trampled to death by a bull in the Roman Coliseum. Blandina and her two other friends, who also suffered horrible deaths, refused to deny Christ. Their steadfast faith and courage was such that several spectators including the governor of Rome converted to Christianity.

AD 2010 – A high school student had the opportunity to speak out for Christ but didn’t do so. After all, he didn’t want to be labeled a Jesus Freak and not have the chance to be an influence on campus. Besides, he might lose some friends. “God wants us to be wise in dealing with people, right?”

AD 1595 – The court ordered that on February 20, 1596, Robert Southwell be hanged by the neck until near death, then be taken down to have his arms torn from their sockets, and finally, open his torso and have his organs removed until he died (onlookers pulled on his legs at the hanging to shorten his agony). On his way to the gallows Southwell preached from Romans chapter 14; his final words being, “into your hands Lord.”

AD 2010 – After being ordered to remove the Bible from the top of her desk, students noticed, after the much publicized event, that it was now gone. She had invested much time and expense to have this job and couldn’t just throw it away. “God understands that I must have an income, right?”

AD 2005 – The first man thrust his knife into Ghorban’s stomach. The second stabbed him in the back and the third slit the pastor’s throat. His final words to the Islamic leaders who gave him one more chance to return to Islam were, “I am not going to deny Jesus.”

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These real incidences are taken from “Foxe: Voices of the Martyrs.” The “unreal” ones, those dated AD 2010, I made up, to show what I believe is a realistic contrast. However, the “made up” ones happen all the time in a variety of forms and situations. Probably most of us can point to a time of conviction when our silence was not golden, but yellow. I know I can.

It seems incredible that somewhere in the world today Christians are being murdered for their faith. And the number is growing. What has compelled people across the centuries to give up their lives for their faith? The better question might be, how many Christians in affluent, predominantly Christian countries would do the same? Perhaps the martyrs represent the “cream of the crop” Christians since most have lived lives of severe persecution, having been radically saved and delivered by Christ. If one has been dramatically delivered, faithfulness may not even be in question. In fact it is not in question when Jesus says, if you deny me before men, I will deny you before my Father in heaven (Matt. 10:33). Faithfulness can be a matter of life or death in more ways than one.

Most Christians would eagerly answer that if faced with a life or death decision about their faithfulness to Christ, they would surely choose Christ. I, too, believe that I would choose Jesus if ever faced with that choice, but we probably can’t be sure what that kind of real pressure would do especially to the non-challenged lives of comfort to which we have been accustomed. But what about faithfulness to Christ in more subtle ways?

How far can we go as Christians, living lives that are not in accordance with the Word of God, and still be called faithful? Are we faithful even when we violate Scripture? The Bible says that anyone who is a friend of the world is an enemy of God (James 4:4). We must be in the world, but not of the world. What does it mean to be a friend of the world? How far can we wander from the truth of God’s Word without becoming unfaithful and placing our salvation in jeopardy?

These are questions that every committed Christian asks at one time or another. There are many passages in the Bible that list a variety of sins that after being enumerated ends with something like, “Whoever commits these will not have eternal life.” What’s scary is that the lists contain, in addition to “biggies,” some like, “greed,” “foolish talk,” “coarse joking,” “slanderer,” “drunkard,” “swindler,” and others. I don’t think I have ever heard a Christian voice a concern about losing salvation because of engaging in “foolish talk,” whatever that is.

Barna research collects data on Christian behavior that is startling. The majority of born-again believers, again that is, born-again believers, in their 20’s and 30’s, believe that co-habitation, gambling, and sexual fantasies are morally acceptable (57-59%). The percentages drop slightly for sex outside of marriage, profanity, drunkenness, pornography, homosexual sex, and illegal drug use (16-44%). Faithfulness to clear Biblical teaching for these people is non-existent. According to Scripture, these “born-again” believers are enemies of God. Whatever happened to “old things are passed away, behold all things become new (II Cor. 5:17)?”

As serious as a lack of faithfulness in being “not of this world” might be, I believe the most serious has to do with accepting “another Jesus (Gal.1:6ff).” Throughout the history of Christianity, heretics have come and gone preaching “another Jesus.” They started early; Paul battled with them almost continuously and was pretty harsh in his condemnation. Today we have all kinds of cults that preach “another Jesus.” The Bible instructs us to “test the spirits”, and “study to show ourselves approved.” But even for the illiterate and slow to learn, the Bible is clear that the Holy Spirit will teach us to be discerning. That is, if the “vail has been lifted” by Christ (II Cor. 3:14ff).

What then can we understand about those who are being deceived by false prophets and teachers. There are two movements inside the Christian Church that seem to be moving almost unnoticed; the “Emergent” church and “Contemplative” spirituality. The only explanation for these heresies gaining a foothold, is either the “vail” has not been lifted, in other words, being “born again” is a popular term with no substance, or Biblical illiteracy is rampant among too many Christians. However, there is a built in contradiction to this explanation.

The devil is so cunning in his work, that sometimes it takes a lot of effort and focus in detecting errors to which even leading personalities in the Christian world may fall prey. The book, “A Time of Departing” by Ray Yungen, identifies some Christian celebrities, and others, who have questionable associations and writings that at times do not have the ring of truth, and some that clearly are heretical. Faithfulness to the Word, and to Christ who delivered us demands that we be discerning. May our faithfulness be that of Revelation 2:10; “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

Comments

  1. To me, your life is the personification of faithfulness. Love you Dad!

  2. Rachael says:

    your blog is an act of faithfulness and constant encouragement to us. we love you both!

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