Wednesday, October 2, 2013

We Are Free Indeed

I conducted a poll on Facebook today, The question I asked was “Do you feel your religious freedom is being stripped away?” And here are the results:
I am no mathematician, so I am sure the statistics are not correct, but Out of 306 face book friends, 10 friends answered the question, and only 1 out of 10 of these friends feels like their religious freedom is being stripped away. I was shocked by that to be honest. Though some of those who answered gave the answer I expected, and quite honestly I was disappointed that only 10 of my friends answered my question. So, I almost decided not to write this post because the results of my poll were not as expected. But I still feel very strongly about this, and I am sure many of my friends who did not answer would have answered yes. While I was typing this article, 2 more “yes” votes came in.

We see in the news more and more that Christians are being persecuted for their faith. Businesses are being boycotted because of their moral views. We are being told to keep quiet about our faith in our jobs, in schools, etc. It feels like very soon, being a Christian might just be illegal. But let me ask you this: Where does our freedom come from?

John 8:36
So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.

I want to remind you of a story you might have grown up hearing in Bible class. It should probably be the topic of many sermons these days. It is the story of Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego. If you have kids, you might also know them as Rack, Shack , and Benny, thanks to VeggiTales! These young men were taken as captives in Babylon. You can find this story in the first three chapters of Daniel. King Nebuchadnezzar had a gold statue built and ordered that everyone must bow down and worship his statue, and not to the Lord, or they would be thrown into the fiery furnace. IT WAS THE LAW!! But Rack, Shack, and Benny refused to bow down and worship any god but their own, and were thrown into the blazing furnace. Daniel did the same thing, and was thrown into a den of starving lions. None of them died. Their obedience to God over the government they were under proved them to be faithful followers and he rescued them.

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. Proverbs 29:25

Friends, it may seem like our religious freedoms are being taken away from us, but they are not. No one can take your faith away from you. You just have to ask yourself, “Do I serve God, or do I serve man?” Our government, or anyone who does not believe what we believe might be able to make it less easy to be vocal about our faith, but until they can take my voice away, they can not take my freedom away.

Do we want to be persecuted? Of course not, but we are not going through anything we have not been warned about in scripture:

Matthew 5:10-13
God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.

John 15:18-35
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’

We have been too comfortable, living in a place where we could have open faith, and I fear that it has created a bit of complacency (for lack of a better word), maybe even flippancy in us. We can talk about God, and post our nice little “look at me, I’m a Christian” things on Facebook. But I wonder, now that things are getting a little tougher, persecution is getting a little more serious than just being made fun of, how many people who call themselves committed Christians, can see it all the way through to the end. Will we be like Peter who says, “I will not leave you, even if I have to die” and turns around and denies his best friend when it gets real?

It is time to face facts. It is becoming increasingly less comfortable to be a Christian. It might cause you to lose your job, it might become illegal, it might get you killed. That is something we don’t ever want to think about, but I think it is important. WILL YOU STILL FOLLOW HIM? EVEN TO DEATH? He died for you! We must be very arrogant to think that we would never have to go through the same thing Jesus did. He was not exempt from persecution, why should we be?

Things might be getting very hard soon. Following Christ might just actually require that we make a sacrifice to follow him. Remember when he says, “Deny yourself. Take up your cross and follow me.”? Yeah, he meant that. Remember when he said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”? Yeah, he was serious. He is just saying that no earthly relationship should ever come before him. You might lose your spouse, or be disowned by your parents. When you decided to follow Jesus and thought you were signing up for a life of comfort, you were wrong. Nothing in scripture tells us that following Christ is easy. If you find it, please share it. Being blessed doesn’t mean that life will be easy.

The whole time I have been writing this, the phrase “gird your loins” has been playing in my mind. I didn’t realize it was actually in the Bible. It is in Job 38 (KJV I think). In other translations, it is saying “Dress for action”, “Stand up like a man!”, or “Brace yourself “
It isn’t easy to follow Christ, and we aren’t told otherwise. We are not misled. Gird your loins, people! Man up! Or put on your big girl panties!

Maybe we are being sifted as wheat.

Luke 22:31-32
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

Maybe this is separating those who truly want to follow Christ, and those who want to just go to heaven, but not sacrifice anything to do so. But no matter what the Government mandates as law, and no matter what your employer dictates as acceptable in the workplace, or what is acceptable in school, NO ONE CAN TAKE YOUR FAITH AWAY. No one can stop you from worshipping God. It might hurt a little. But ask Paul and Silas if the threat of jail and death kept them from living for the Lord. They never stopped telling people about the saving grace of God. Not even in prison, and people were converted because of their perseverance.

No one can take away your religious freedom. You can forfeit it. You can give in to the pressure and keep quiet out of fear. But that is your choice. And you can’t blame anyone else. He doesn’t promise us that following him will be easy but he does promise he will never leave us, nor forsake us. He does remind us over and over and over again, “Do not be afraid, I am with you till the end.” Just listen to these promises:

Isaiah 43:1b-3a
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

Hebrews 10:36-39
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For,
“In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”
But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

Psalm 31:23-24
Love the Lord, all his faithful people!
The Lord preserves those who are true to him,
but the proud he pays back in full.
Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the Lord.

Joshua 1:9
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

There are so many more than just the few I included. But the time is now. You need to decide. Are you going to be hot or cold, because anyone who is lukewarm will be spit out.