Wednesday, February 3, 2016, 8:45 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “In Holiness.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Mark 8:31-38 (ESV). What kinds of things must we suffer? (vv. 31-32a) And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. When Jesus walked this earth, he told his followers that they would suffer like he suffered. He said they would be treated in like manner as he was also treated. He told them that they would be hated, persecuted, mistreated, falsely accused, arrested, imprisoned, brought to trial, and that some of them would even be put to death on account of their faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, they were not to be afraid of what humans might do to them, but they were to remain strong in their faith and keep on sharing the full gospel message of salvation. When I was growing up in the church as a young woman, I was taught that the people of this world (the unsaved) would be the ones who would persecute and mistreat me. What I wasn’t prepared for was that most of the rejection and persecution I would face in my life would not come from the people outside the church organization, but from within. But, this makes sense, doesn’t it? Who were Jesus’ opposition and his greatest persecutors? They were members of his own family, of his own faith, of his own town, and they were the leadership of the temple. Who put him to death? The temple leaders and rulers, the teachers and preachers, the students of God’s word, and the shepherds of the people. Why did they hate Jesus so much? For one, they were jealous of him, because the people were following him and were praising him and his ministry. They were also fearful that their own positions of power, authority and influence over the people would be threatened by this man who was drawing so many people to himself. As well, they hated him because he didn’t follow all their human traditions and external rules and regulations passed down to them by the elders. He didn’t play by their rules, and he also healed people on the Sabbath. In addition to all this, he confronted them with their sin, and spoke the truth to them about their hypocrisy and their wicked hearts. He confronted sin in sinful humans, warned of judgment, and called people to repentance and to faith in Jesus Christ. And, he claimed to be God, which is who he is. They didn’t like any of what he did and said. So, they killed him. If we are following in Jesus’ footsteps, and we are also preaching the full gospel message of salvation, confronting sin, warning of judgment, and calling people to repentance and to faith in Jesus Christ, we, as well, will be hated and persecuted for our faith, our witness, and for our testimonies for Jesus Christ, and also because we stand on his Word and do not deny his name. And, much of this persecution will come, not from the unsaved world, but from within the church. Why? Because so much of today’s church has adopted the ways, thinking, values and behaviors of this sinful world. They have bought into the lies of Satan which say we must soft pedal the gospel so as not to offend people, so they will find us an offense, and will be trained in how to filter us out, and in how to encourage us to leave. What do you set your mind on? (vv. 32b-33) And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” When we decide to follow Jesus Christ with our lives, to go where he sends us, and to say what he gives us to say, and when we preach the unadulterated word of God regarding sin and our eternal salvation, we most likely will end up suffering rejection and persecution for our faith. As well, we may have friends, family members or people within the church, or our close friends who will counsel us that we don’t have to be so serious about our relationship with Jesus Christ. They will call us “hyper religious,” and will counsel us to lighten up, to have fun, and to let our hair down (an expression). They will try to get us to join in with them in their worldliness, and may even try to convince us that our witness for Christ would be better served if we immersed ourselves in our culture, rather than us living lives separate from (different, unlike) this sinful world, because we are becoming like Christ. They might try to shame us into a compromise of our faith and convictions so that we will be more acceptable to the world around us. They might even try to convince us that such dedication to Christ is “crazy,” “radical,” and “extreme,” and that we are not “normal.” It always amazes me how many who call themselves followers of Christ have no issue with the dedication of Christ’s followers in Bible times, but if a follower of Christ today shows the same or similar dedication in following Christ, they are tagged as “not normal.” And, pastors are being trained in how to watch out for those with such “strong convictions,” so they can “filter them out,” and encourage them to go someplace else where they will be a “better fit.” This is scripted. Many pastors are following this same dialogue. Yet, they are not following the teachings of scripture, but of man, and thus they are Satan’s voice to us, too. So, we must not give way to the pressures or persecution of humans who, although they may call themselves followers of Christ, and ministers of the gospel, do not have their minds set on the things of God, but of man. We must resist Satan, flee temptation, and draw near to God with full assurance of faith, and keep on obeying our Lord always. Would you come after him? (vv. 34-38) And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” So many people get this idea that salvation means merely an escape from punishment in hell and a promise of heaven when we die. Yet, Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave himself up for us. He died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to our sinful flesh, but according to the Spirit. His grace is not a free license to continue in sin without guilt and remorse. His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return. Coming to Christ means we are crucified of the Spirit of God with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” If we walk according to our sinful flesh (in darkness), we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live. True faith in Jesus Christ means death to sin and living to righteousness, not in sinless perfection, but walking according the Spirit, and not according to our sinful flesh. Amen! [See: Jn. 6:35-66; Jn. 10:27-30; Ac. 26:16-18; Ro. 6:1-23; Ro. 8:1-14; 2 Co. 5:15; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 2:8-10; Eph. 4:17-24; Tit. 2:11-14; 1 Pet. 2:24-25; & 1 Jn. 1:5-9.] In Holiness / An Original Work February 1, 2016 Praise the Lord all you saints! Worship God in holiness. Trust in Him! Do not faint! Believe in His righteousness. God is faithful in all things. He delivered you from sin. Follow Him where’er He leads. Witness daily. His words heed. Trust in Him! He is truth! He has not forsaken you. Rest in Him! Let Him lead! He will meet all of your needs. When you go through trials deep, He’ll be with you. He’ll not sleep. Walk with Him throughout your day. Read your Bible. Kneel and pray. Give to God all your heart! From His mercy ne’er depart. Jesus died for your sin! Walk in vict’ry. Live in Him. Jesus paid the debt we owe. From our lives His love should flow, Living for Him ev’ry day, Loving others, His words say.