Freedom House Church and Healing Centre

Born to suffer

Born (again) to suffer

Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in His suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing His glory when it is revealed to all the world.If you are insulted because you bear the name of Christ, you will be blessed, for the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you.If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs. But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by His name!For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God’s household. And if judgment begins with us, what terrible fate awaits those who have never obeyed God’s Good News? And also,

“If the righteous are barely saved,what will happen to godless sinners?”

So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for He will never fail you.

(1Pet. 4:12-19 NLT)

Christmas is only three weeks away! “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” says the song on the radio, in the mall and on the card we received in the mail. For some it is, especially if you’re a child that still believes in Santa Claus. For others, it is a trigger for painful memories - the death of a loved one, or a dysfunctional family that fought continuously because of the stress and demands the day brings. Whatever our thoughts are of the day, indeed the whole “Christmas” event - our joys and pains, memories and wounds can never take away from the fact that it is a celebration of the day God stepped down into a really messed up world to free it from the effects of its sin – disobedience to the Creator. The drunkenness of family members, the fighting between relatives, the gluttony of the gatherings, the disparity between the “haves” and “have nots”, all point to the reason Jesus came – to take away the “sins of the world”. We are a lost, broken, wandering people without a Savior and Shepherd!

Now, here is something to consider: Jesus knew when He came into the world to rescue it, that He would suffer – God knew it when He planned from the foundation of the world to send His Son; Jesus knew it when He was creating the world for which He would have to die; Holy Spirit knew when He was hovering over the waters at the beginning of creation that He would drive the Son of God, Jesus (God saves) to His death – for the world the Godhead was creating! He was born to suffer and die! God the Son, Immanuel, knew He was coming into this world to die (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:32-34). He knew the Old Testament passages that spoke of Him dying for the sins of humanity (Is. 53); and that the whole Jewish sacrificial system revealed His atoning work (Hebrews). If you read the Christmas bible passages, you will soon discover that from the moment He was conceived by the power of Holy Spirit, there was a death sentence on His life, culminating in Herod wanting to kill all the babies in the land under 2 years of age! He was born to suffer (Luke 24:25-26, 46; Acts 3:18; Acts 17:2-3)

Now, here is something else to consider: did Jesus really come so we could sing “O Holy Night” once a year together, and aspire to get that gift we have been coveting all year? You know the answer to that question…or maybe you don’t. Well, let’s see it from the eyes of Peter who heard every sermon Jesus preached, walked where Jesus walked, and chose to live as Jesus lived: “In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope… In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith…”(1Pet. 1:3-7). What is Peter saying? We have been born (again) to suffer for Jesus’ sake! The whole theme of his letter to these churches is to validate the suffering these Christians are experiencing because they are following Jesus. If you want to be like your Master, then you will have to “share in His sufferings” (same thing Paul says in Phil. 3:10). Actually, Peter says that we ought not be surprised by the trials we face for Christ, because they are part of the calling - we have been born to suffer for Jesus! This is so foreign to our “me” centered North American false gospel. We actually believe that Jesus came to give me a better life here on planet Earth – nothing could be further from the truth – this attitude is foreign to the first century believers who knew that following Jesus would certainly lead to persecution and/or death! Friends, where have we gotten off track! Jesus was born to die, and if we really want to be followers of His, we need the same attitude (4:1) – we who count ourselves as dead to the world and alive to Christ. When was the last time you ever experienced a form of suffering or persecution for standing up for Jesus, righteousness and Gospel truth? When was the last time you said to a hostile world that Jesus was the “only way” to the Father, or that the real meaning of Christmas is to celebrate God sending His Son to die for us to take away our sins and deliver us from the judgment of hell for refusing to turn to Jesus for life? When was the last time we really pondered why we were “born again” – to speak and demonstrate a gospel of righteousness, hope and freedom, no matter what the cost – even death or imprisonment? Have we ever praised God for suffering for being a Christian (a Christ follower) who is not ashamed of the gospel (Acts 5:41).

In Cost of Discipleship Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “when Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die”. When God called Mary to bear His Son, she had to die to the critical voices of being pregnant out of wedlock, as did her husband Joseph. Being the last of the Old Testament prophets to announce the arrival of Messiah and calling people to repentance, John the Baptist experienced beheading for calling the political leader to righteousness. Paul died, Peter died, Mary and Martha died, the Samaritan women died, Zaccheus died…they all died to their old life and chose to embrace the life that Jesus offered – a life of suffering, ridicule, insults and fiery trials, as our text today describes. All through history, followers of Jesus have been adding to the sufferings of Christ for Christ’s sake. Reformers, Protestants, even Catholics have been laying down their lives to follow the teachings of Jesus, and declare a gospel of righteousness through Christ rather than self-righteousness through works. The Apostle Paul tells the Thessalonians that they are destined for suffering (1Thess. 3:3); and the Corinthians (2Cor. 1:5; 2Cor. 4:8-18); and Timothy that anyone who desires to live a godly life in Christ will be persecuted (2Tim. 3:12). Peter states in our text that we suffer according to God’s will, and that this pleases God (4:19). Let these passages sink in! Three weeks ago, the devotional was on “facing opposition and hostility”. You may want to read that again for advice on how to face what will inevitably come our way. From the Christian grandparent who loses her granddaughter for standing up for the biblical definition of marriage; to the employee who refuses to support an ungodly organization the rest of the employees are supporting; to the doctor who will not assist someone to terminate their life early; to the politician who refuses to compromise to win votes. Suffering for Christ and His righteousness is on the increase, and will affect every follower of Jesus at some point who desires to live for Him! Of course, we can choose to remain quiet, never speak of Him, and ignore the Lord’s mandate to make Him known to a dying world. This will ultimately prove that we really have not known Him in a way that leads to everlasting life. Peter is writing to a church that is in the full throws of persecution – being tormented so savagely that it would make most of us sick to hear what was happening to them. In the midst of this, Peter says to the Christians, “Be very glad…you will be blessed…praise God for the privilege”. Jesus said, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (John 15:20-21). We are His and He is ours…we are in Him, and He in us. Suffering is part of the Christian life…indeed, it is our calling. He was born to die, and so are we.

Today’s passage reveals two important purposes to suffering: Number one, they come “upon you for your testing” (4:12 NASB). They prove that your faith is real – nobody will die for Someone and something they don’t truly believe in. Secondly, because “the end of all things is near” (4:7), God is purifying His church, the household of God through a judgment (4:17) - a “fiery ordeal” (4:12). In these last days, persecution will be used, indeed is being used to separate the true followers of Jesus from false ones. We need to ask ourselves if we have really been born again to suffer with and because of Jesus, or merely embraced a self-centered gospel where this Jesus guy will meet all my needs and wants. If the “glorious Spirit of God [truly] rests upon you” (4:14), you will be willing to share in His sufferings, and you will prove that you are the true church of Jesus Christ. So, let’s ask ourselves, “Have I been born (again) to suffer for His name’s sake?” It’s time to count the cost!

"Advancing the Kingdom of God by releasing Spirit-filled followers to serve Jesus in freedom and joy."

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