Fight for Joy! Blog
Where Jesus Changes Everything
"Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ" (Philippians 1:27a). As followers of Jesus Christ we are to live lives that are consistent with what we say we believe, teach, and preach.
For me, life is about Treasuring Christ, Living the Word, Making Disciples, and Finishing Well. I am no where close to perfect when it comes to living a life that encompasses these four goals but I do, by God's grace, strive to meet them.
I came pretty close to finishing recently. I'm not too sure it would have been well but by God's gracious provision I have been granted an extension of life. Only God knows how long this extension will be. The Bible reminds us God is behind it all. Whether we're talking midlife surprises at 39 or open heart surgery at 45, His providence neither gets it wrong nor lets us go, ever.
So what happened? I recently had open heart triple bypass surgery--at 45. I spent a total of 11 days in the hospital with five of those days in ICU. For a little over a month I had been having chest discomfort and pain. My cardiologist finally decided a heart cathertization was in order. The cathertization revealed multiple blockages with the so called "Widow Maker" having a 99% blockage. I was only a few slices of bacon away from a major event followed by sudden death.
I was admitted to ICU, put on various intraveneous drugs meant to keep me alive until they could perform the surgery. I spent those two days between the cathertization and the open heart surgery thinking about the fact I was hanging--very literally--by a thread between time and eternity. I knew I could die at any moment yet strangely enough was at perfect peace. I give God all the glory!
By God's grace I'm still here. The Bible teaches us God is sovereign over our lives so much so that He has already determined the number of our days. Job writes, "You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer" (Job 14:5).
Paul said something similar in his letter to the Philippian believers. "[It is my] earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death" (Philippians 1:20). He recognized God's sovereignty over his life. He, therefore, stived to exalt Christ in life and in death.
My recent hospital stay brought this verse powerfully home. I have had to reassess my life and seriously consider whether or not this verse is my prayer also. It all ties into finishing well. "Whatever happens," Paul writes, "conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ" (Philippians 1:27). Whatever happens. In other words, if you live, conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. If you die, let it be said of you, "He conducted himslef in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ."
I must admit, there was a part of me that wanted to, as Paul wrote, "To depart and be with Christ" (Philippians 1:23). In fact, the first couple of days following my surgery when the pain was almost unbearable, I prayed to die. It is clear to me now, however, that it is God's will that I "remain on in the flesh" (Philippians 1:24). I believe this was out of necessity for my own sanctification, my ministry to my family as spiritual leader, and the gospel itself which I will continue to proclaim until that time when I do see Jesus face-to-face.
Anway, I learned a lot through this ordeal and God used it to reveal some things about myself that still need sanctifying. Perhaps I will share more at a later time. But for now, I'll leave you with this. During the 3 days I spent in ICU before my heart surgery, strung out on blood thinner and nitroglycerin keeping me alive, I thought I may die at any moment. After all, as I mentioned above, my life was hanging by a thread between time and eternity and only needed 1% to completely block off the Widow Maker. Sometimes I would look around the room to make sure no one else was in there with me...you know, no one from the unseen world.
Sometimes I would think about what it was going to be like to see Jesus face-to-face for the very first time. Then I'd pray for my boy and his mama. This went on until they put me to sleep Monday afternoon but I never told anyone...until now. "Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:50-58). Where is your hope?
“Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:43). I’ve written a lot on the subject of suffering. Perhaps this is because suffering is one of the few things all of us have in common. I am certainly no stranger to it and I suspect you aren’t either. And, if you’re like me, I doubt you enjoy or look forward to another opportunity to suffer!
In the midst of suffering we’re told by Jesus and the biblical authors not to worry. When it comes to our daily needs Jesus reminds us not to worry about tomorrow. Why? Because, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof”—King James speak for, “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:34).
A dear friend who is now with Jesus—Jack Kinsella—wrote, “All that is well and good and we understand it on the spiritual level. But somehow, sometimes that doesn’t seem to be enough. Sometimes, the weight of this old world and where it is going is crushingly heavy. Sometimes you just want to throw your hands up in despair and cry out, ‘I’m losing faith in everything. What’s the point?’”
That’s a good question—“What’s the point?” I mean, really, what IS the point of suffering? Even if we try and write suffering off ultimately as a result of sin and the fall of man we still, if we are honest, have to admit we struggle over the question of why? Or, to stick with our aforementioned question: What’s the point?
On this week's addition of the Hal Lindsey Report, Hal honors his and my dear friend, Jack Kinsella. Jack went to be with the Lord on Thursday, 14 March 2013. The show is divided into three segments and Jack is featured in the last segment, at 13:15, just before Hal presents the Gospel. You can watch the video of the program below and also read my blog entry in memory of Jack by clicking here: Run Like Jack Ran. You can visit Hal's website here: Hal Lindsey.
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2). It was C.S. Lewis who said, “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?” The Bible teaches God’s approval comes by way of faith (Hebrews 11:1-2). In fact, the Bible makes it crystal clear that our faith, when perfected, is more valuable than anything we could ever imagine (1 Peter 1:7). Perhaps this is why the writer of Hebrews goes to great lengths to underscore the importance of living by faith. He teaches us about the nature of faith, the honor associated with it, and its way of seeing things. The entire eleventh chapter reveals the honor associated with faith through the lives of Old Testament saints. In the next chapter the writer describes living by faith in athletic terms—running a race. In so doing, he encourages those of us who name the name of Christ to run the race of life by faith, just like the Old Testament saints described in the preceding chapter.
“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these” (2 Timothy 3:1-5). It has been my custom for several years to write an article at the end of the year summarizing events from a prophetic angle. Normally, this article finds its way to the blog, email subscribers, and the newspaper around the first of the year. However, I see no point in putting off what I surmise to be the biggest end-times stage-setting event of 2012. And this despite the fact terrorist are this very moment reigning rockets down on Israel from Gaza with Israel poised to respond with overwhelming force any moment. So what is this stage-setting event of which I speak? Jan Markell of Olive Tree Ministries (www.olivetreeviews.org) refers to it as, “A birth pang of biblical proportions!” The rest of us refer to it as the 2012 U.S. election.
“For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it” (Romans 8:19, 24-25). My theological conviction has always been one that avoided any type of ecstatic spiritual experience. The reason for such avoidance has been primarily the temptation faced by many to consider such experiences as authoritative even when such experiences clearly contradict the Word of God. This has been especially true in matters related to so called near-death experiences. The Bible gives us an account of one man who “was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak” (2 Cor. 12:4). Yet today we have people claiming to have died and ascended to heaven only to return and write books and travel the world over telling about their heavenly experiences. I even heard a preacher at a funeral onetime use one of these extra-biblical “accounts” to prove to the grieving family heaven did indeed exist. I can remember walking away from that funeral thinking the Bible says heaven is a real place. Isn’t that enough? I guess my point is true Christian conviction and spirituality is anchored in God’s Word, not emotional or otherwise ecstatic spiritual experiences. Our authority is Jesus and His Word. With this in mind I want to share about a recent experience I had—to delve into matters I’ve always considered best to be avoided— with the hope it will help me to process the experience itself. Just keep in mind my experience is not authoritative in the least. The Bible is—so if I share anything that is remotely unbiblical, go with the Bible!
Earlier this week I was undergoing a routine treatment for a recently diagnosed condition. This would be my fourth treatment. I had not been feeling well in the few days preceding the treatment, so much so, that I considered canceling and rescheduling. But, against my better judgment I went ahead with the appointment. When I arrived in the treatment room I immediately noticed how warm it was. I even commented to the two techs that it felt hot. One responded she thought it was cold, the other that it was comfortable. I guess the patient’s comfort was irrelevant. Everything was pretty much routine except for my unusually high blood pressure. About five minutes into the procedure I told the tech nearest me that the room was starting to spin. I followed that up with an “I’m outta here” and immediately everything went black. But I was still fully aware. In fact, I was more aware than I was before blacking out. I don’t recall seeing anything but I could hear the most beautiful music and singing I have ever heard. I had no recollection of the treatment room, the two techs or having just blacked out. I was just standing there trying to listen to the music and figure out where it was coming from. Just then someone shouted, “Breathe!” Immediately I was surrounded by brightness. Everything was enveloped in this brightness. Whether it was light or something else I do not know. In retrospect, I’m thinking I was back the treatment room only I couldn’t see anyone or anything in the room other than myself. I couldn’t even see the chair I was reclined on but I could see me—my body, sort of at an angle. Again, someone shouted, “Captain, we need you to breathe!” Immediately I was back in my body (assuming that I was actually out) and the person shouting—one of the techs—came slowly into focus followed by everything and everyone else—now about 20 people— in the room, all working on me. When I came to I was completely disoriented. I didn’t know where I was or what was going on. I remember looking at the tech and saying something to the effect of, “I think I was dreaming.” I followed that with a request for the trashcan. As the reason for my visit slowly returned I began asking anyone who would listen about the music. But they all seemed more interested in making sure I was alright.
I still don’t know what to make of all of this. Maybe I got a glimpse into glory or maybe not. I know I blacked out. I know I stopped breathing. I know my heart did not stop beating so I guess I can’t say I was dead—although the tech later told me they had gotten the defibrillator just in case. But I was definitely somewhere else long enough to hear music and singing and then come back to where my body was waiting and apparently get back in it. The Bible says, “Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and it has not entered the heart of man all that God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9). The Bible also says “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). But there was no gain for me that day. Apparently, “to remain on in the flesh is more necessary” (Phil. 1:24) for the sake of others, namely Susanne and Christian. But this much I do know—The Bible is true and I am with perseverance waiting eagerly “for the revealing of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:19)—that day when I see Jesus. And I’d be willing to suggest on that day there will be no coming back, no matter how many times someone shouts, “Breathe!”
“Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord—for we walk by faith, not by sight—we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him” (2 Corinthians 5:5-9). If there is one subject most of us try to avoid, it is death. It seems most people would rather talk about anything else but life’s final mystery. Even Christians are guilty of avoiding the subject until its reality hits home. The truth of the matter is death is real. It seems I have been reminded of this over and over recently—from military death notifications, to news of friends entering their eternal reward, to news stories of total strangers meeting life’s final enemy. Although it is a mystery, it is also a reality—a reality we should not try to avoid—but consider with a sobering awe in light of what Scripture teaches. For the unbeliever (those who are not true followers of Jesus Christ), the Bible is crystal clear—eternal misery. However, for the believer, death means eternal joy. Furthermore, a proper view of death helps put everything else into perspective, for death could happen at any moment for any one of us.
First of all, death forces us to think about whether or not our faith is genuine. Do we have true biblical faith? Do we truly believe Jesus is our only hope of eternal life and that such faith prepares us to face death? Or is our faith better explained as feelings and experiences? Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die” (John 11:25-26). He then asked, “Do you believe this?” Do we believe that death takes us immediately into the presence of the Lord and eternal joy that we cannot even begin to fathom this side of heaven? Death forces us to think about whether or not our faith is genuine.
Secondly, death causes us to truly consider the brevity of life and the endlessness of eternity. Whether one lives eight years or eighty years (or any age before, between or after), life is indeed short. James tells us, “You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (4:14). Oftentimes, we fail to understand that life, which is described as a “vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away,” vanishes into an endless eternity. Everyone who has ever lived is alive now or will ever live, will spend eternity somewhere. That eternity will be one of two places—with Jesus and everything that is good or separated from Jesus and everything that is good. As followers of Christ, we know where and with Whom we will spend eternity. The only thing we don’t know is when we will face death. It could happen at any moment. We are all one heart beat and one breath away from eternity. Therefore, the prospect of death at any moment motivates us to live for Jesus everyday.
Another thing death causes us to do is to keep Jesus at the center of our lives. According to John Piper, it forces us to consider whether we are more in love with this world than we are in love with Jesus Himself. Does the thought of death cause us more pain because of what we may lose on this earth than it gives us joy at seeing Jesus face to face and being with Him forever? This is what Paul meant by, “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). One thing God has taught me over the years is that life can be lived to the fullest because of my faith in Christ. I am free to do what He calls me to do no matter how hard or dangerous such may be. However, no matter how full and rich this life might be, it is nothing compared to what is in store for me when I see Jesus. Like Paul, I’ve come to understand this world is not my home. I have a “desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better” (Phil. 1:23). And if death is the bridge to that “very much better” eternal life, then like Paul, I don’t care how God brings it to pass, but long for that moment when I see Jesus. I believe this is the one point where most Christians fall all over themselves. We hear it in such statements as, “I want to go to heaven but I’m in no hurry to get there,” or “I want to see Jesus but there’s a lot on this earth I want to see too.” If we truly understood the glorious truth that “In Your presence is fullness of joy [and] pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11), we would all pray for God to hasten the day when we see Him face to face.
Finally, death causes us to constantly examine our priorities in life. Sometimes I think it would do us all good to spend about five minutes a day in a cemetery. Death puts it all in perspective. Are you living your life with biblical priorities in mind? Do you long to be present with the Lord even if it means being absent from the body (don’t worry; this world will get along just fine without you)? In the meantime, are you committed to living by faith until the Lord returns for His Church or calls you home? “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him” (2 Cor. 5:9).
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. You are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29-31, NIV). I saw a flock of sparrows today. They were in the middle of the road, scurrying about, each vying for a share in whatever food they had eyed. I slowed down, giving each an opportunity to fly away, before I drove my earth destroyer SUV through their dining facility. Sparrows—of their species, they are probably the most numerous—not to mention the most insignificant. “Yet,” Jesus said, “not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of [our heavenly] Father.”
I confess to you that most of the time I simply do not understand the ways of God. I have a list of questions to ask Him when I finally get to heaven. I added another question to that list this week. This week—it began with worship on Sunday morning. I preached on my favorite subject—the soon return of our Lord. Monday—it was a mountain top experience, having had the opportunity to minister to one of the airmen on base. Wednesday was pretty uneventful. But then came Thursday. I received an urgent call that no chaplain would ever want to receive. A military member’s five year old son had been critically injured in a freak accident and was being airlifted to the nearest children’s hospital. Long story short—it was not good. The doctors offered little hope. Five years old, and his little life was quickly coming to an end. The parents were in anguish and I was not faring much better. Why did this have happen? What good could God possibly bring out of this? After all, aren’t there plenty of old people God could call home? Even I would have been willing to go in his place. Why this child, who had just celebrated his fifth birthday the day before? This was certainly a faith-shaking event for everyone it affected.
On Friday, I woke up, still questioning God’s wisdom. “I can’t take this,” I thought to myself. Maybe I should just turn in my cross, go live in a monastery and wait for Jesus to return. Surely that would shield me from any further dealings with pain and suffering. Meditating on such verses as Romans 8:18, “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed to us,” or 2 Corinthians 4:17, “For momentary, light affliction is producing in us an eternal weight of glory,” did not seem to offer much comfort. I talked to my chaplain supervisor for over an hour. That conversation helped process some of the pain, but it did not help me make any sense out of this tragedy. The why questions continued—until I saw that flock of sparrows—“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.” This is the Word of the Lord!
We are not exempt from pain and suffering in this life. Tragedy and death knows no age. Yet, we must remember, God is sovereign. Not even the insignificant sparrow falls to the ground apart from His perfect knowledge—and somehow, life goes on. Somehow, this sovereign God begins to work these kinds of tragedies into His overall plan. Indeed, the suffering and pain of our present reality will pale when the glory of eternity is finally revealed. How can this be? Because the God we serve—Who controls even the sparrows departure—controls the events and circumstances of our lives. He knows and understands our pain. He feels our suffering. And He promises us no pain is without purpose. He is in control. Nothing catches Him by surprise. The Holy Trinity has never met in emergency session. He has it all under control. We just have trust Him, even when we cannot see our way clearly enough to make sense out of life. We must trust Him and His infinite wisdom. I saw a flock of sparrows today.
“All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed they were strangers and exiles on earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13-16). Hebrews chapter 11 is a very stirring account of faithful Old Testament saints. It is known by many as, “Faith’s Hall of Fame,” and “Heroes of Faith.” Each person mentioned in this chapter demonstrates the value of living by faith. At the beginning of the chapter, the writer defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (11:1). Therefore these heroes of faith had an assurance and a conviction that sustained them as they walked with God. For some, this journey of faith was marked by great success, whereas for others, it was marked by great suffering and affliction. In either case, they all courageously followed God, regardless of the earthly outcome. In fact, the Bible says, “All these died in faith, without receiving the promises” (Heb. 11:13). This seems especially odd, given the fact that many today are teaching that God wants us to have it all now. So who’s right? Maybe it’s all just wishful thinking?
The bottom line is this: either it is true or it is not true. Either it is all wishful thinking or there is a sure and settled heavenly hope. Newsflash—it is true! As followers of Christ, we have a sure and settled heavenly hope! Therefore, we can believe God. Our faith can be patient and endure sufferings, difficulties, hardships and even death. Why? Because God has something better—“Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and [it has] not entered into the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9). In other words, we haven’t seen anything yet! In fact, Paul wrote to the Roman believers and said, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18). Why? Because, “Momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17). Therefore, our faith can be patient and endure sufferings, difficulties, hardship and even death, because it’s all momentary, meaning it will last no longer than a lifetime. Paul says it’s not the temporal that is to be our focus—that is, those things we can see—but the things which are not seen, those which are eternal.
Are you a follower of Christ? If so, then you are going to suffer. Furthermore, if the Lord tarries, you will one day die without receiving the promises. But if you will look, just off in the distance, you will see them and welcome them. Remember as believers, we are all strangers and exiles on this earth. In other words, this world is not our home—“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20). As the Bible says, we “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.” The best is yet to come! Living in the light of eternity is not easy in this society. Very few people, even Christian people, do that. We cling to this life with a vengeance. We do everything we can to pack this life with all the good experiences, benefits and possessions that are conceivable. It’s a curse in some ways to live in a materialistic society. I’m always reminded of a story I read once about a well-known Bible teacher in this country who flew 35 hours into Kazakhstan to do a series of meetings with seventeen hundred pastors from central Asia, gathering together for their first ever pastors’ conference in the history of central Asia. He was to teach everything about the church, everything that God had planned for the church, six straight days of teaching these seventeen-hundred people. About the third or fourth day, the leaders came to him and said, “When do we get to the good part?” He admitted this was not what he wanted to hear—after three days of intense teaching they’re still waiting for something to be good? He said, “What do you mean the good part?” They said, “The part about heaven.” Wow! Here were a people who I believe understood hope! They understood this life is only temporary and the best is yet to come! And this was not wishful thinking, but a sure and settled hope!
“For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). The greatest event in all of human history, second to none, was the two-fold event of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we would have no hope of any kind. It is no wonder then, that for Paul, like all the writers of the New Testament, the cross of Christ represented salvation itself. In his letter to the believers in Corinth, he recalled how he had preached Christ’s death: “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”
Paul took great joy in proclaiming this message. He understood the secret of the cross. Earlier he wrote, “We preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24). What makes this so amazing is that Paul did not always hold this position. He had once been opposed to Christ and His message. To put it plainly, Paul had been an insolent, self-righteous, religious bigot. He sought to destroy anyone who believed the message of the cross. However, all this changed one day as he journeyed to Damascus. The Bible tells us that on that journey he came into direct contact with the crucified and resurrected Jesus (see Acts 9:1-18 for the full story). This encounter forever changed Paul’s life and thinking. He was converted. The one who had sought to destroy the message of the cross and all associated with it, now sought to proclaim its message!
What did all this mean for Paul? For him, it was the beginning of a lifetime of suffering on behalf of the crucified and resurrected Jesus. However, like the other apostles, he rejoiced, “that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). Paul saw profound meaning in his own sufferings (see 2 Corinthians 6:4-5; 11:23-28). His own trials connected him to Christ who had suffered on the cross and who had been resurrected. He wrote in his letter to the Philippians, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (3:10). He also understood that the suffering of Jesus on the cross is played out in the lives of all God’s people. In Philippians, he also wrote, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (1:29).
It is an ironic message, indeed. The gospel – the good news of eternal life and spiritual glory – is based on suffering and shame. However, the message of Jesus’ shameful death should inspire us to ever greater love for Him and His Church. We should desire nothing more than to preach, both by words and deeds, Jesus Christ and Him crucified. As the writer of Hebrews told believers of his day, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (12:2).
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