Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Remembering and Being Inspired by His Suffering

“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained.” - 2 Timothy 2:8-9 (NIV)

These are the words that Paul told Timothy. He wanted to remind Timothy of the necessity of keeping Jesus Christ at the center of his mind. Paul reminded him that this Jesus has been, “raised from the dead” – and thus proven to be fully God, while at the same time a human “descended from David” – and thus fully man. So Timothy, as Paul might say, it is the suffering “God-man” that must be at the center of all things, and we must have such a view of him before us that it would cause us to be willing to suffer as well for the sake of His gospel.

What does such a view entail? It means seeing God for who He is, in all of His majesty and glory, discovering him anew from different angles as we read the Scriptures and experiencing him daily in our prayers and worship. And it means taking special notice of His suffering. The focal point of all of history is found in the One who took on flesh. And He suffered, and we should be living out our faith so boldly that we suffer along with him, thus identifying ourselves as His followers.

But I have a hard time believing that we can actually have that sort of view of him or even have a willingness and desire to suffer when our eyes are fogged up with temporal things and worldly distractions that never satisfy. I am guilty of this. Even the noble business of doing “ministry” may clog up one’s spiritual arteries and jerk your mind off of Jesus if you're not careful. Which is why Paul said to Timothy – remember Jesus Christ! And specifically - remember his suffering. Take hope from that, and consider it over and again in your mind.

We should have such a love and holy boldness for Christ (and such a clear identification with Him) that it naturally ought to bring a measure of persecution and suffering to us who live in world that is hostile towards Jesus. Let us evaluate our lives to see if we are suffering in any way because of our allegiance to and outspokenness for Christ.

I would go as far to say that in the same way the Fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) are necessary marks of a Christian life (as is faith, hope, and love – 1 Thess. 1:2-3), so is the idea that “suffering in some measure for the name of Christ” must also be a mark of an obedient Christian (2 Tim. 3:12). That’s bold to say – and may generate some comments. But where are we experiencing that hostility? I hate to say it, but if we are not suffering (in this sense), perhaps it is because we look like everybody else and are much too in love with and conformed to the pattern of this world (1 John 2:15-17; Romans 12:2).

Remember Jesus, beloved. Remember his suffering. For until we fully grasp how He suffered for us, we will never be inspired and inclined to live the kind of obedient life that God expects for those who are to be suffering as “aliens and strangers” to this world.

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