Gunning For Jesus?

Gunning For Jesus?
Robert Wurtz II

And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city. Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolvestherefore be as wise as serpents, and innocent as doves. (Matthew 10:14-16)

Our passage contains some powerful statements — sadly of which few Christians seem to take seriously. Why shake the dust off of our feet when we can try again later? And again and again and again. After all, doesn’t everyone deserve as many opportunities to respond to the Gospel as they want? Not according to this passage. Certainly the notion is completely foreign to the New Testament. I’m not saying people only get one chance to respond to the Gospel, but clearly our Lord’s attitude about it was much different than in modern times. Nevertheless, how are Christians supposed to respond to harsh rejection beyond shaking the dust off? Are they to take up arms and defend their faith? What is the nature of our commission? Jesus said it plainly, Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: therefore be as wise as serpents, and innocent as doves.

Sheep in the midst of wolves sounds like a slaughter waiting to happen. Sheep are basically defenseless creatures, especially when contrasted with a wolf. Understand that our Lord is not talking to men who are sissies; He is talking to rugged grown men. They were rough characters — believing that soon Messiah was going to lead a revolt that will likely become an Old Testament style blood bath. Nevertheless, they are hearing it said that they must take on the harmless disposition of sheep and doves rather than wolves and serpents. What a shocking thing in their ears! Can you imagine how confusing this was for Simon the Zealot? The Zealots were the world’s original terrorists! These people could kill without batting an eye. 

As a small child I read these words of Jesus in Matthew 10 from our old family Bible that decorated our coffee table. I’m not sure how many times I read this passage as a child; but is was enough to nearly memorize it. Long before anyone had a chance to interpret this words for me, I just took them in their plain common sense meaning. I was no theologian. As far as I was concerned, if Jesus said “suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not” — He surely intended me, as a child, to understand what He was saying. No concordance. No Greek dictionary. Just the common sense of a small child reading an archaic KJV. 

It didn’t take me long to realize that Disciples of Christ were not warriors. They were not to be crusaders wielding swords and killing people. In time I learned that disciples are called to be “witnesses” — a Greek word that has “martyr” for it’s root. You shall be my martyrs not warriors. When it comes to the Gospel, The sword is in His mouth — not in our hand. This is why in 70 AD when the Zealots brought about the first Jewish Revolt, many Christians who lived in Israel were forced to flee. They could not get caught up in the warfare of the times. Their Kingdom was not of this world. The Romans ruled Israel at that time and the Zealots wanted them out. When that rebellion was put down, another one took place in 135 AD under the false Messiah Simon Bar Kochba. Many Christians who were left in the land were mocked and considered traitors because they would not fight against Rome under this false messiah. And while this was all going on Christians were being killed like sheep to a slaughter all over Rome, because they refused to say “Kurios Caesar” a phrase making Ceasar a god. From the Colosseum at Rome to the being burned on poles under Nero, the seeds of the Gospel were watered in the blood of countless martyrs.  

But things changed a few hundred years later. In the early 300s AD Constantine became a Christian with a vision of the cross being a means of conquering. It was pure madness. For centuries Christianity was spread with the sword and gun (as it were). Even the Reformer Ulrich Zwingli died leading a charge in battle! As a “learned” man it makes me wonder what Bible he was reading. Certainly he was not reading our old family bible. Christians fighting in the name of Christ? God forbid. 

The time would fail to even begin talking about all the martyrs who have died for the cause of Christ. John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs has much written about it. The Martyr’s Mirror is another giant book of stories of martyrs. These are filled with horrific accounts of Christian martyrdom. I have personally stood in Oxford, England where Thomas Ridley and Hugh Latimer were burned to death for Christ. I walked the courtyard at Smithfield, London where countless Christians known abusively as the Lollards (meaning mumblers) were systematically burned to death. Some were killed in front of their children. Some were women that died. 

Right now there are images of Christians being killed in Iraq and Syria that are beyond vexing. Any human being with even a shadow of compassion would be sorely grieved beyond words. It is a throwback to the Middle Ages and even the time before Constantine. Nevertheless, should Christians in Iraq to arm themselves? In answer to this, my first thought is of the false prophet Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism. He died in a shootout and is still called a martyr! Amazing. You mean to tell me you can die with guns ablazing and be called a martyr? Maybe in Islam. What madness is this?

What should Christians who are persecuted do? Flee? Yes! Run for your lives (if you can). No harm in that. It says so in Matthew 10. However, this is not the same as taking up arms against a people who are killing because you are either a Christian or you will not convert to Islam. Imagine Jim Elliot and Nate Saint going to their plane, pulling a gun and blasting the people that were killing them. Moreover, imagine Paul saying, “I am now ready for battle. I have my sword and spear. The time of my test has come. Pray I can take as many of the pagans with me as I can!” Did he say that? Of course not! We are sheep. We are not wolves. Our weapons are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. Were not talking about police officers with weapons — were talking about Christians arming themselves to defend their faith and avoid martyrdom. That is a totally different ball game.



Shall we read the Bible, John Foxes Book of Martyrs, the Martyrs Mirror, Tortured for Christ, and a host of other accounts of Christian persecution, deathcamps and martyrdom and then say, “We are Americans.. pass me my 45 or my 30.06! I’m going to take as many of these pagans as I can with me.” Are we going to imitate Jesus, James, Stephen, Peter, Paul and multiplied millions of others or Constantine, Zwingli and Joseph Smith? Will we rejoice that we were counted worthy to suffer for the cause of Christ, as did the Disciples? To me it’s a no brainer. Could our love for life eventually trump our faithfulness to the image of Christ? 


Someday Christ is going to avenge all the blood of prophets and Martyrs, but that day is not this day. We may cry with those under the altar, “How long or holy and true…” or we may declare “Lord lay not this sin to their charge…”, but in some way persecution will test who we really are. This has always been so. If we are full of the Holy Spirit we can face these things. If the cares of this life trumps everything we have ever believed in or stood for, that will be discovered too. Remember, Jesus Christ will tread a winepress that will shed blood like rivers, but that is not now. He rides a white horse with a sharp sword in His mouth (as it were); but we are not Jesus and this is not the time.  

Working Out Your Own Salvation

Working Out Your Own Salvation
Robert Wurtz II

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:1213 NKJV)


Our passage is part of a letter written to the church at Philippi that was planted by Paul through the Divine direction of God. (Acts 16:6-40) Paul had been forbidden to preach the Gospel in Asia and then received a vision in the night that he was to come to Macedonia. Having then met the woman Lydia of the province of Thyatira and securing her subsequent conversion we have perhaps the beginnings of the church at Philippi.

Persecution

The context of our passage is important. It was written in times much like today when sexual immorality was rife, drugs and alcohol steer the minds of millions, and the persecution and mockery of Christians was in vogue. How will these believers survive? When their friends and family persecute them for their faith, how will they respond? How will they handle it when they look out their windows or pick up the newspaper and are vexed in their soul from day to day because of the ongoing wickedness that seems to prevail against all that is right. When stupified minds of men and women possessed with all manor of devils bring the fury of hell upon them, what will they do? Will they cave in and forsake Christ? Will they lose their testimony and respond in the flesh?    
The Hope of Glory

The church having been established we learn a great truth from verse 13, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. This is Paul reminding us that ‘it is God that worketh in us’… That is, it is Christ that is building the churches and we are merely the instruments of the work. The church at Philippi was to understand that this was God’s working. And if it is God’s working, the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. While everything is shaking under the huffing and puffing of a furious enemy, the House will remain. How? For it is God who works in you. Paul was careful to establish this fact in order to get the people’s eyes off of themselves and their own strength and get them on God. Paul did not seek to raise up a church of his own strength or for his own name to draw disciples after himself. He did not want the people dependent on him. He wanted them to stand independent of him. He brought the people to Christ and commended them to Christ so they would depend on Christ. This is our job as ministers; to see folk turn to God in true reconciliation until they see Christ as the sole source of salvation. This is utterly important.
Acting on the stage

Faking the Christian life is a most foolish thing, but it is nothing new. Paul acknowledges the fact that they that were of the church at Philippi ‘obeyed’, at the least, while Paul was present. But this alone can never do. There is a saying that refers to this that says, “Out of sight – out of mind.” It is a way of saying that when a person is gone – their influence over us goes with them. The risk is that folk would move into a mode where they ‘obeyed’ only when Paul or some other spiritual person was around that expected them to obey. This is performing for an audience. This is acting on the stage that lasts only as long as the audience is present. But Paul states, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence. This is the remedy for eye service and men pleasing. We should say and do the right things- those things that are of Christ no matter where we are or who we are with. If everyone backslides we have to keep doing what is right. If noone is watching we need to live right. 


It’s Your Soul

We read on in our passage, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. This is Paul placing the responsibility of continuing on in the faith on the person. He is writing from prison and cannot possibly superintend the spiritual lives of these beloved people, nor should he be expected to. Paul could not repent and believe for them and he could not receive for them. He could not obey for them. He reminds us here that he cannot do for others what they must do for themselves. As the old timers used to say, you can’t get to heaven on someone elses coat tail. Paul then brings the seriousness before our eyes when he states, with fear and trembling. These words ought to sober every mind. If we were in mortal danger would we not take care? How much more ought we to fear and tremble as we consider our everlasting soul. God cannot be fooled, therefor we ought to tremble and fear as we work out our salvation. Paul uses this expression when he reminds the Ephesians that they are to work, not with eye-service as men pleasers but with singleness of heart as unto Christ. We are to do the will of God from the heart. (Ephesians 6:56) This means that outward circumstances and associations no longer dictate how we live, but we live as genuine children of God. We have to live right no matter who likes it. Let the rebellious people damn their own souls God forbid, but don’t let them damn yours by following their reckless example. If you tremble for nothing else, tremble for your everlasting souls sake. 

God Before Our Eyes

From a prison cell Paul commends the people again unto God so that the truth of their salvation will be ever before their eyes. Our everlasting souls are our most precious possession. We ought to consider this. As Peter also witnessed we ought to gird up the loins of our minds and be sober hoping unto the end for the grace that is in Christ. (1 Peter 1:13) We should pass the time of our sojourn in fear. (1 Peter 1:17) That is not to say that we should be in terror as if God would come down and crush us; God loves us and He is determined to have us. (GW North) Yet it is easy to get careless if we are not watchful. When we think we stand we must take heed lest we fall. Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. It was never about Paul, it was never about any servant of God; it is God that is working in us. May we ever be careful and faithful to work out what He is ever faithful working in. We must by the grace of God live our lives in trust and obedience steadfast unto the end. No one else can do it for us. God is doing His part; are we doing ours?

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