Wednesday, February 18, 2015

People of the Cross

It is the beginning of Lent, traditionally a time when Christians examine how they’re doing in the faith. A season of repentance and reflection leading up to the highest holy day of the year, when our Messiah gave His life, then took it up again. It seems fitting that I’ve been praying for the families of the Egyptian Christians who died as witnesses to their faith last weekend and meditating on what this means for us here in America. Twenty-one men, grabbed from a town in Libya, marched to the sea and beheaded because they were Christians…designated by the demonized Muslim murderers as “People of the Cross.”

That phrase, people of the cross, has stuck with me, reverberating through my soul. They, of course meant it in a demeaning way, but I’m thinking that it gets right to the heart of the matter. We are people rescued, identified, and directed by the cross of Jesus Christ… foolishness to Gentiles and scandalous to Jews (I Corin. 1:23).

What happened on that beach in Libya is a stark reminder that civilization is not always a defense against violence; that no one is promised a happily ever after; that God takes us seriously when we give Him our lives; and that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. I know that last is true, because the images of the kneeling men, their names, the unavoidable horror of what happened to them keep pushing to the front of my mind. Keep shoving aside my concerns about appointments, budgets, hobbies, weight loss, and myriad, mostly insignificant, things that keep me worried all day long. It’s as if those men, now with Jesus are asking, “On what are you spending your life?”

I’ve been around long enough to have attended numerous services with emotional altar calls. I’ve gone to the front on many an occasion, making my passionate declaration that God may use me as He sees fit. And of course, in the heat of the moment, I’ve meant it. Then the reality of living it out arrives, and I realize how often I slide into doing Christianity to benefit myself. Paying attention to the things which make me happy, rather than seeking to know what my beautiful Savior wants. Too often wasting time, wasting resources, wasting opportunities. Not spending my life, but frittering it away trying to be liked, trying to get ahead or trying to satisfy my human black-hole of want with the world’s goods.

And I know better. The past ten years have seen rapid changes, in economics, morality, technology—even our laws. We are poised at the edge of a future in which Christians—even in America—will be faced with difficult choices.* The Spirit has been calling us to deeper levels of trust in Jesus, and I kind of got busy with life and other things and just…kind of…let things roll to a stop. Sheesh! But I also know that God isn’t angry with me…He loves me enough to give me a swift kick to the seat of my pants when I need to wake up. And I’ve needed waking up.

So during Lent I’m asking, does my life show that I belong to Jesus? Or have I simply given God a tithe of myself, reserving the remainder for me, myself and I?  Have I fallen prey to the error that I can walk an aisle, say some words and then walk out to live as I please? If I have, then the most loving thing God can do is call me on it. It’s awfully easy to do, especially in America, where having to pay full retail might be considered a calamity, and entertainment beckons from every side. Listen, God loves America too much to leave us relaxing in a warm bath of luxury; lulled to sleep by Babylon’s siren song. We think we’re sitting pretty, but we’re wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. Those martyred Christians didn’t have much, yet they had everything, and they are calling us to wake up! To measure ourselves against the yardstick of Jesus, rather than America, and then repent.  

When I came to Jesus. I made an exchange—my mess for His perfection. I no longer belong to myself. I am part of a glorious company (though we don’t seem so yet). Therefore I must press on, not coast. I must seek Jesus as my absolute, utmost treasure, not my Sunday obligation. I must resist the allure of the world and all its treasures…just as Jesus did before me. He had the right answer when Satan offered Him all the kingdoms of the world. “away from me Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’”

Not everyone will die a martyr’s death, but millions have already. And Scripture tells us that many more will join them before it is all over. I don't know what God has for my future, but I want to go forward with one thing settled. I am a person of the cross and I do belong to God. He can do with my life whatever He wants, even if it means kneeling with me on a beach somewhere. I could never walk that road under my own steam, but Jesus can...He already did. He was the first and foremost Person of the Cross. And I'm with Him. 

*Things that make you go hmmmm: check out the history of 1930's Germany to se the striking parallels between what happened then and what is beginning to happen today.

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