The amazing thing about the Bible is that I am unable to get a handle on it. Even now after reading it for so many years, I still come across verses that hit me like a blitzing linebacker. And no matter how comfortable I get with my “radical” Christianity, I am unable to shake the power of God’s word to pierce my soul. It hurts. It makes me question myself and my motives. It brings in the necessary fear that perhaps I’ve gotten stale or worse, religious.
Today is one of those days and it comes from a verse that has done it to me before.
Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…
2nd Timothy 3:12
It’s a striking verse for the American Christian, who truly doesn’t know what persecution really feels like. But it’s not the word “persecution” that causes me to stumble. It’s the link between “all who desire to live a godly life” and “will be”. Why? Because with a verse like this God calls my bluff. Am I living a life that is so passionate with desire for Him that I am facing persecution? Are truly all of my chips on the table for the bet of Christ Jesus? Or am I a faker? I have I gotten so good at American cultural Christianity that I’ve even tricked myself? Has the love of money and the deceitfulness of riches been like a slow drip IV and I haven’t even noticed it?
I sit back in my chair.
For this verse comes from a man who was imprisoned for his faith and sentenced to be executed. He’s been abandoned by most of his friends. He has felt the sting of seeing men he discipled and poured into forsake Jesus and return to the world. He’s seen his beloved churches struggle with people who specifically oppose him by name and call him a fraud. So I have no choice but believe him when he says:
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…
Paul lived a life so passionately for Jesus that it upset every thing he came in contact with. Evil could not be passive around him. False religions were provoked. Idols were offended. Pharisees were enraged. Academics were frustrated. And they poured out their anger upon him through flogging, stoning, and bringing him before the authorities. They would say that he was “turning their world upside down.” Yet, many were saved and Paul counted all of that worth it.
It would be easy at this point to say, “Well I guess I need to be more like Paul.” I think Paul would say that I’m missing the point.
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for sake sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
2nd Timothy 2:8-10
Remember Jesus. Remember that he is risen. Remember that the Logos is not bound. It’s only by the transforming power of the grace of God that Paul lived his life the way he did. He was enthralled with a Messiah who would die to forgive him and make him right. Forgive him for persecuting the church he now served. For killing Christians. He was broken by the love of this Jesus who gave him riches beyond measure and had seated him in heavenly places, not out of anything he had done but in sheer grace.
This brings us back to the beginning. It’s God’s very word that changes me. It’s God’s very word that will give me a passion for his Name so great, that I would stir up this little town I live in.
Lord, get rid of my love for this world. May I not grow complacent. Grow in my heart a passion for your Name. A passion that is willing to be embarrassed, rejected, and forsaken if it leads to that. I don’t want to chicken out. I don’t want to be a faker. I want to turn my world upside down.