Christ our Life (Part 4)

Christ our Life (Part 4)

Christ our Life

(Part 4)

Confession of Jesus

Our life should be so filled to overflowing with Christ Jesus that it will be natural for us to speak of Him wherever we may be. As Paul wrote, “Having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,” we also believe, therefore also we speak” (2 Cor. 4:13). Since we have a living faith in Christ Jesus, we must openly speak of Him to others.

Christ spoke of confessing Him in the context of trial and persecution. He warned His apostles, “You shall even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles” (Matt. 10:18). Jesus gives this promise to those who are willing to boldly confess Him before others: “Every one therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32). However, for those who are unwilling to confess Him, Jesus warns, “Whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven” (v. 33).

The early saints did not hesitate to confess Jesus before others even when they realized that their listeners would not always accept their testimony. The Book of Acts provides several excellent examples of public confessions before others:

Peter and John before the council (4:5-22)

The apostles before the council (5:26-40)

Stephen before the council (6:8-7:60)

Paul before the crowd (21:40-22:22).

Paul before Felix (24:10-21)

Paul before Festus and Agrippa (26:1-29).

Our confession of Jesus to others need not be in formal contexts, as in the examples above. Our sharing with others will usually be in private or semi-private situations. Are you anxious to share Jesus with others? Does Jesus so fill your thoughts that to speak of Him comes naturally?

If you are unaccustomed to bringing Him into your daily conversation, here are several suggestions: Occasionally, in your conversation, say, “If the Lord wills” or “the Lord willing.” Or you may comment, “The Lord would want me to . . . .” or “Jesus wouldn’t want me to . . . .” You may say, “The Lord has been so wonderful to me in . . . .” or “Thanks to God, I . . . .” Notice that bringing Jesus your Savior or God your Father into your everyday speech need not be artificial, forced, or awkward.

If Jesus is a constant Companion and living Presence with you, it will be altogether normal for you to bring Him into your everyday speech. Let Jesus be so close to you that you freely speak of Him. Speak “boldly, as [you] ought to speak” (Eph. 6:20). Speak clearly (Col. 4:4), with wisdom (v. 5), and with grace (v. 6). Christ said, “Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed” (Luke 9:26; cf. Mark 8:38). How can we be ashamed of Jesus who not only is Creator of all things and Ruler of the universe, but who also gave Himself for us?

The Body of Christ

Although we are primarily focusing our attention on the personal dimension of our relationship with Christ, there is also a vital corporate aspect that we should not overlook. While it is true that we come to Christ as individuals, those who have come to Christ constitute the body of Christ. Paul writes, “We, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Rom. 12:5). We are the members of Christ and of His body. He is the Head of the body (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18,24). Christ is not only related in a personal way with each brother and sister in God’s family, but He also sustains a relationship with all of the members of His body, as a whole. These members are His spiritual body (1 Cor. 12:27). They are His community or assembly (Rom. 16:16) and His flock (John 10:16).

Our life in Christ is one that is to be lived in community, with all others who are in Him (cf. Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-34; Eph. 4:11-16). Sadly, in this age of religious conflict and confusion, God wants us to be discerning and able to distinguish between genuine believers and false believers, between the true and the counterfeit. We cannot be joined with those who have never fully surrendered to Christ or those who have not been baptized into Him. We must not be united with others who refuse to walk in holiness, in sound teaching, in Scriptural faith, in separation from the world, and in genuine devotion to Jesus.

What about those who somehow find themselves alone, virtually isolated, without the sweet fellowship that Christ has planned? These disciples must do all they can to remedy the lack–by bringing others to Christ, by nurturing them, by finding other seekers, by moving to a location where true saints live, or finding some other alternative. In the meanwhile, recognize Christ’s ideal arrangement: Living personally for Jesus yourself and living in intimate relationship with others who likewise are living fully for the Lord.

Persecuted for Jesus

We seldom think about outright persecution for our faith in America, but the greater part of the world does not permit the religious freedom that we presently take for granted. This is true of the vast communist lands, the Catholic-dominated countries, and especially the Islamic nations. It was also true in the first century, therefore Jesus repeatedly warned that His followers must be willing to suffer for His sake. Notice several of these statements, especially noticing that the persecution is for the sake of Christ Jesus:

  • “Blessed are you when men revile you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me” (Matt. 5:11; cf. Luke 6:22).
  • “You will be hated by all on account of My name” (Matt. 10:22).
  • “You will be hated by all nations on account of My name” (Matt. 24:9; cf. Mark 13:13; Luke 21:17).
  • “They will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake” (Luke 21:12).
  • “All these things they will do to you for My name’s sake” (John 15:21).

It seemed inevitable in the first century that those who lived for Jesus would be required to suffer for Him. Peter encouraged his readers: “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. . . . If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God” (1 Peter 4:14, 16). Paul wrote, “To you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil. 1:29).

When Jesus informed Ananias of His choice of Paul (Saul) as a special apostle, He said, “I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). After years of experiencing many forms of persecution, Paul expressed His contentment in them: “I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake” (2 Cor. 12:10). After the apostles had been flogged by the authorities in Jerusalem, the text says, “So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41).

Are you so bound to Christ that you would gladly lose your friends, forfeit your job, suffer the loss of your possessions, accept verbal abuse, or experience physical suffering for Jesus’ sake? Does He mean more to you than physical comfort, society’s acceptance, a large income, or love of family? Are you willing to “know . . . the fellowship of His sufferings” whatever the cost (Phil. 3:10)?

Those who are persecuted for Jesus’ sake must persevere through the suffering. The Lord said of the believers at Ephesus: “You have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary” (Rev. 2:3). Those who so endure are assured of salvation: “You will be hated by all on account of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved” (Matt. 10:22; cf. 24:13; Rev. 2:10-11).

In all of this discussion on persecution, bear in mind that the persecution referred to comes because of one’s identification with the Lord Jesus Christ, and not because of his own bad disposition or evil activities (cf. 1 Peter 2:12, 15, 19-20; 3:16-17; 4:15-16).

Willing to Die for Jesus

When we read of dying for Christ our minds may picture a scene in first-century Rome with Christians dipped in pitch, engulfed in flames. We may think of believers thrown to enraged and starving lions or disciples beheaded for their commitment to the faith and their refusal to curse the Lord and sacrifice to idols. Perhaps we remember that vast numbers of professing Christians were tortured and killed during the bloody Inquisition and slaughtered by Muslims during the Middle Ages. And we may think of the tens of millions who have been persecuted and killed in communist lands during the last century; surely some true Christians must have been among that number.

This martyrdom for faith in Christ is exactly what we should expect to find in history. Stephen was stoned (Acts 7:59-60), James was put to death with a sword (Acts 12:2), Peter may have been crucified (John 21:18-19), and Paul was also martyred for Christ (2 Tim. 4:6-8). Even an unknown disciple named Antipas was killed, and Jesus called him, “My witness, My faithful one” (Rev. 2:13).

The point we should notice is that the early believers were willing to die for Jesus’ sake. For instance, Paul and Barnabas were men who had “risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:26). Epaphroditus “came close to death for the work of Christ” (Phil. 2:30). Prisca and Aquila also “risked their own necks” for Paul, the servant of the Lord (Rom. 16:3-4). Paul knew that he continually faced death for His Lord:

  • “I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13).
  • “I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:24).
  • “We who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor. 4:11).

These believers were not suicidal; they did not particularly wish to die, as such. But they were willing to die for the One who died for them! “If we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord” (Rom. 14:8). Paul triumphantly stated, “Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” (Phil. 1:20b). We do not know precisely what the future holds. If you were living in Columbia, Arabia, China, Pakistan, or Indonesia, would you be willing to die for Jesus’ sake? If the coming years bring persecution closer home, would you be willing to die for Christ?

Waiting for Jesus

If a dear loved one traveled away from home on an extended journey, you would anxiously look forward to his or her return. Besides writing to this person and calling the person, you would pray for their safety and blessing, you would think about the person, and you would imagine what it will be like when you see the loved one’s face once again. In a much greater way, we should be looking forward to the glorious return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

When Jesus departed from this earth after his resurrection to new life, the angels announced: “This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Jesus Himself promised, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3). Jesus, our Lord, will come again—personally, bodily, visibly, in power and glory!

As we read through the new covenant writings, we receive a glimpse of the eager longing we should have for our Lord’s return:

  • “Our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).
  • Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13).
  • “Christ . . . will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him” (Heb. 9:28).
  • “You are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:7).
  • “Waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life” (Jude 21).

We do not merely look back to Christ’s incarnation or His earthly life in the first century. We do not only look to His redemptive death or subsequent resurrection. Nor do we limit ourselves to His ascension to heaven and His present mediatorial work and spiritual intercession for believers. This same Jesus whom we love and adore because He saved us in the past will come a second time–to resurrect our bodies, to save us from the wrath of God, and to usher in the eternal kingdom of God. We will “meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17; cf. 2 Thess. 1:10). Therefore, we not only have the joy of walking with Jesus presently, during our earthly pilgrimage. We also may “greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” as we look to the coming Day when we will see Jesus face-to-face and find total fulfillment in Him for all eternity (cf. 1 Peter 1:8-9; 4:13; 2 Peter 1:10-11; Rev. 7:14-17; 21:1-7). For this glorious Day I am looking–are you?

Richard Hollerman

(Please go to Part 5)

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