Our church is in the midst of a forty day fast. During this fast our Pastor has been preaching through a book that his father wrote, Come and See: Jesus is Alive
We have missed the last several weeks of services so I have been watching the services online at our church’s website. As I listened to our last Sunday’s service our Pastor made the statement that “when you take up a cross, you take up a curse.” This resonated with me deeply…
When you listen to our modern day preaching, especially from our American “mega” churches and many of our televised proclaimers, so many of them seem to focus on the blessings of a believer. I don’t think I have ever heard too many of them preach on the curse of a believer. No, they lean more to the preaching that Jesus became the curse so that we could have the blessing, but they claim that blessing to be “our best life now” and that’s just not biblical.
The blessing of God is not the best life here on earth. The book of Acts makes that perfectly clear as does the other sixty-five books.
But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren; to Him you shall give heed to everything He says to you. And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”
The blessing of Abraham promised to us was the blessing of being turned from our wicked ways. It was the blessing of repentance, of the forgiveness of our sin… and with that blessing comes suffering.
For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake…
When the apostles made disciples they did not promise them earthly blessings and worldly prosperity.
After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”
How those tribulations come will vary, but they will indeed come. It is through these tribulations that you discover if you indeed truly do believe.
In the beginning of the days of the nation of Israel the Lord left the Philistines and other nations to test and teach His children. They had to learn war and they had to learn conviction.
Now these are the nations which the Lord left, to test Israel by them (that is, all who had not experienced any of the wars of Canaan; only in order that the generations of the sons of Israel might be taught war, those who had not experienced it formerly). These nations are: the five lords of the Philistines and all the Canaanites and the Sidonians and the Hivites who lived in Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal-hermon as far as Lebo-hamath. They were for testing Israel, to find out if they would obey the commandments of the Lord, which He had commanded their fathers through Moses.
It’s no different for us today, we too must learn war and we must learn conviction. Our war is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:10-13) and the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh (2 Corinthians 10:3-6), but it is indeed war all the same. Our need to learn obedience to our God through deep stable conviction is just as important today in this New Covenant as it was in the Old. We are too easily deceived (2 Corinthians 11: 3, Colossians 3:6-8, 2 Timothy 4:1-5) and therefore we must be tested to be strengthened.
The devil has been trying to convince us that our God is a liar, that our God is holding out on us, that our God is not really for us since the beginning. When tribulations come that old serpent is right there with his demons of darkness to whisper into our ears, “See. I told you so. If He really cared, if He was really there, this would not have happened.“
Either we will choose to live our lives as if this world is all we get or we will choose to live our lives as if this world is simply preparation for the greater world to come. The decisions you make in life, especially in times of tribulation, tell the truth of which choice you are living.
When Jesus took up His cross He also took up a curse.
If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God)
He took up our curse. We were the ones worthy of death. We were the ones who were accursed of God, but He took it and redeemed us from it… and because of it the world hates Him. He set us free from the things that the prince of this world uses to control us. When we take our stand with Jesus we also take our stand against the world and all that it entails… culture, politics, religion, fear, death, love of self, etc and just as He was, we too will be persecuted.
When we take up our cross, we take up a curse. We are redeemed from the curse of God, but we exchange it for the curse of the world.
If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you…
Ravi Zacharias states in his book Why Jesus?, “If there is any passage of Scripture that accurately describes our modern day contempt for truth, our attachment to power, and our voluntary surrender to culture, it is this (Luke 23). It is not accidental that religious authorities, political appointees, and cultural symbols have come together to crucify Him once again in our day.
Barabbas was released… a cultural practice was fulfilled.
“We have a law”… political correctness was enjoined.
“He claims to be the Son of God… kill Him”… all at the behest and with the blessing of religion.
The irony is that he wanted to be owned by none of the three: culture, politics, or religion.“
When times of tribulation hit me and I begin to find myself questioning my God… He always takes me back to the book of Job. He takes me back to the words of my Jesus and to the words of the apostles and the sufferings that come with salvation. It just comes with the territory.
Job suffered through personal tribulation to his family, his finances, his health and words of accusation from those who called friends. Jesus suffered through hate coming from culture, politics, religion, and words of accusations from those who He called friends.
Who are we to think that in our salvation we too shall face suffering?
Who are we to think that we can take up a cross that is without a curse?
Who are we to think that we can saved out of this world and remain of it and be praised and loved by it?
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps…
1 Peter 2:21
As sinners saved by grace through faith our sufferings come from many different avenues and for many different reasons. Sometimes they are the result of our sin, sometimes they are seemingly undeserved, sometimes they appear to come out of nowhere… but regardless of where, why, or how they come they are purposed or at the very least allowed by our very Good God and they will bear fruits of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11) in us if we are His.