Be Steadfast Under Trials

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12-13)


The Supreme Court voted to legalize same-sex marriage this past week. The decision was the culmination of the moral revolution that has occurred in recent years. Although the decision may be disheartening, it was not surprising. The decision was not surprising to God and should not be surprising to us.

After being stoned and left for dead in Lystra, Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel to the city encouraging the disciples and urging them to continue in the faith, saying that, “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22) As the apostles encouraged the saints of the 1st century, I encourage you to continue in the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Supreme Court decision has not changed our mission to carry the gospel to all the nations for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The challenge facing us in America is whether we are going to embrace suffering or embrace the new cultural ideology. The fiery trial is coming upon the church to test us. We should not be surprised, but we should rejoice in Christ sufferings. It is a privilege not only to believe in Jesus, but to suffer for him. Will we stand the test?  Will we stand for Christ?

God is working in the midst of the moral decay of our country. We may not like the decision of Supreme Court, but we now have the opportunity to reveal our allegiance to King Jesus. God will use this court ruling to purify the church and glorify his name. God is never surprised by the world’s rejection of him or his people. He not only is not surprised, but has promised it. No teacher is greater than his master.

The church will be tested. We will be asked to capitulate to the world. We will be asked to go with the cultural flow. We will be asked to deny God’s Word. We will be asked, but we must never deviate from our allegiance to the Lord Jesus. Our kingdom is not of this world and our kingdom cannot be shaken.  “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Christ as Lord in the midst American Intolerance (1 Peter 3:15)

Garrett Kell, pastor of Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria, VA, wrote this following our recent presidential elections:

A great tragedy unfolded less than one week ago on Tuesday, November 6, 2012.

The tragedy was not found in the celebrations of elected officials or the concessions of defeat. It was not colored red or blue, and it wasn't wrapped up in meaningless campaign promises.

The tragedy of the 2012 election is that in this land of the free and home of the brave, many people were not allowed to vote. Their voices were silenced. Their votes were not cast. Their opinions not expressed. Why?

Because they were dead.

The great tragedy of the 2012 election is that roughly 33 million would-be voters had been murdered. From 1973 to 1994, roughly 35 million babies were aborted. That's roughly 35 million 18- to 39-year-olds who could not vote from the grave.
This is an unspeakable tragedy.  The numbers are shocking, but on average 7 babies are aborted every 3 minutes in America.  But Pastor Kell goes on:

  This is a tragedy that hits close to home. When I was 19, I chose to end the life of my first child through an abortion. My friend and I were in a scary place, we didn't plan to get married, and we had nowhere else to go. So we opted to end the life of our child.

   That child would be 16 today. They'd be excited about driving a car and, in just a couple of years, they'd be excited about voting. But they won't be doing any of that. We won't be sitting down together as I explain how to think about policies and the candidates who represent them. I won't be able to tell them about freedom and justice for all. I took that freedom away with my injustice.
I cannot undo what I've done in the past. None of us can. Only Jesus, who shed his blood for sinners like me, can heal those wounds. Jesus gives us great hope in the midst of this tragedy, and all the other tragedies we face in this life. 

    When we start the discussion of abortion this Sanctity of Life Sunday, we must hold two core truths side by side.  Abortion is an unspeakable tragedy and the shed blood of the Lord Jesus forgives that tragedy.  Abortion is not the unforgiveable sin.  There is no sin that cannot and will not be forgiven when people turn to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith.  

If you or a friend or family member, have been impacted by abortion, can I encourage to firmly grasp on to that truth? 1 Timothy 1:15 “This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”  Jesus came to pay the penalty of sin, including the sin of abortion.  
The Church is in a unique place in American History.  The State is becoming more and more hostile to the Christian Faith.  I believe Peter’s warning to the first century church is very applicable for us today.  “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? (Like fighting for the unborn) But even if you should suffer for what is right you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.” 
We will suffer so set apart Christ as Lord.

It is clear that the persecution that is happening against the church is only going to rise in the near future.  We will suffer.  We will suffer in our efforts to do good and honor the Lord and His Word. The recent healthcare law passed by Congress has approved the use of federal funds for abortions.  As Christians, we cannot support such regulations.  Christian Universities, Catholic Charities, and even secular businesses run by Christians are fighting this law. Most notably, Hobby Lobby, which has refused to honor this bill is being fined $1 million dollars per day for being eager to do what is good.  Persecution and penalties are going to come so how do we stand against them.  First, we set apart Christ as Lord.  We have to make a decision that no matter what happens in our lives, we are going to serve Jesus Christ as Lord. As Joshua said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Well beloved, “As for me and my church, we will serve the Lord.” We do not yet know how this aggressive secularism against the things of God will affect the church.  But regardless of consequences or penalties, we must set apart Christ as Lord in our lives.  So I pray this morning that I will offer some help in how we can set apart Christ as Lord in the midst of American Intolerance.  The first way from the text,

Be Prepared with Gospel Reasoning

Look back on how Peter starts to encourage the church in verse 15, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who ask you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” We must be prepared with gospel reasoning.  In order to be prepared we must think and study why we hold the position we do. Today as we look at the issue of abortion, I hope to provide reasons why we support the pro-life position from the scriptures and why we disagree with the pro-choice positions. (This will be posted on our church website later today, so if you miss anything you can find it there).

The reason that there is wide-spread disagreement even within churches is because there is no clear verse of Scripture that says, “Thou shall not have an abortion.” But that does not mean that Bible is not clear about abortion. The emphasis of the Scriptures is that life begins at conception and therefore, abortion would be murder, the taking of a life, which is explicitly forbidden in Scripture; (Exodus 20:13, “You shall not murder.”) Listen to the following verses: 

Genesis 1:27
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

The foundation of the biblical argument is that every human being is created in the image of God and therefore every human being has dignity and a right to life.  The crux of the entire debate is whether or not the fetus is a person and when that personhood is established.  The Bible is clear that a fetus is a little man or woman created in the image of God and deserved the right to live.

Psalm 139:13-16
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,16  your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

God is active while the child is in the womb; forming the child into a unique human being.

Isaiah 49:1
Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The LORD called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name.

Jeremiah 1:4-5
4 Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

God knows us and calls us while we are still in the womb.  We could spend hours dissecting other passages, but for the sake of time let me just say this: The weight of the biblical evidence is that life begins at conception.  So positively our gospel reasoning is that the Bible is very pro-life.  
But we also must be prepared with gospel reasoning to refute the arguments of the opposing side. My goal is not to provide exhaustive evidence against these positions, but merely to point out some flaws in their argument. 

  1. A Woman has a right to her own body – Although there is a lot of truth to this claim, a woman does not have an absolute right to her body.  For example, a woman cannot use her body as a battering ram to injure other people and she does not have the moral right to sell her body as a prostitute.  So although a woman has a right to her body in some cases, it does not mean she has a right to her body in all cases.  We should also note that this position assumes that the baby in the womb is a part of her body.  Now the baby is in the woman’s body and is sustained by the woman’s body, but the baby also is uniquely different than the woman’s body.  A genetic DNA mapping of the woman and the baby will show two unique individuals rather than two identical ones.  So the fetus is essentially not a part of the woman’s body as the child has a unique genetic fingerprint.
  2. The decision is between a woman and her doctor – This is a common view held by those in the pro-choice camp.  And this is one of the reasons, why men often are persuaded not to involve themselves in this matter.  This, they say, is a woman’s rights issue.  All I will say here is that the right to privacy does not trump the right to life.  We see that in every other facet of society.  What people do in their own homes is allowable unless it infringes on one’s rights to life.  And men should be able to speak on the issue of life because we should care about life.  Would the apostle Paul not be allowed to speak on the matter because he was male? Or Jesus Christ? 
  3. If abortion is made illegal, then women will resort to back alley abortion that will potentially harm their lives. – If abortion is made illegal, there will be some women who resort to unlawful and harmful abortion practices that may injure their life.  But if abortion was illegal, they would be breaking the law and the consequences would be by personal choice.  It is not the government’s job to protect people who willfully place themselves in danger when they break the laws.  This argument also implies that the lives lost of women who continue to pursue abortions are more important than the millions of children that would be saved if an abortion was illegal. We lose approximately 1.5 million children to abortion every year.   In a simple comparison, the argument does not hold water.

Those are only a few of the arguments of the pro-choice position. If we want to set apart Christ as Lord, we must prepare ourselves with Gospel Reasoning.  God has given us minds to think and reflect.  One of the greatest successes in the pro-abortion movement is that they have convinced people (and some Christians) to be pro-choice.  They may not personally believe in abortion for themselves, but do not feel it is their right to take the choice from someone else. If you are here and fall into the pro-choice side, can I challenge you to study the biblical evidence and work to protect life?  

Beloved, we are going to suffer for the position we hold.  One danger of a democratic society is the tyranny of the majority.  As the majority of our culture, moves away from biblical truth, we are going to suffer more and more persecution.  We are just beginning to experience tyranny of a Anti-God majority in our culture. Set Apart Christ as Lord by preparing yourself with Gospel Reasoning.  

Be Equipped with Gospel Respect

Secondly, we must be equipped with Gospel Respect.  Go back to verse 15, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. BUT do this (giving answers and reasons for our hope) with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” Christians are not always known for their gentleness and their respect. The public square often characterizes Christians who stand for Biblical truth as angry, arrogant and annoying.  But our convictions come for a God that is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 

We must portray a Christ-like demeanor and response when we suffer for what is right.  

Peter gives three reasons why we should have gentleness and respect. The first is so our conscience may be clear.  God has given us a conscience to help us determine to see what is right and wrong. The Holy Spirit speaks to our conscience to convict of sin and lead us to righteousness.  It is important to have a clear conscience. Listen to 1 Tim 1.18-19, “ Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.” The “these” that the some have rejected are faith and a good conscience which leads to a shipwrecked faith meaning a false faith or no faith.  We want to do things in keeping a good and clear conscience so we will protect our faith.” Peter wants you to act with gentleness and respect for the sake of your own faith.  

Secondly, our gentleness and respect is meant to serve those who are attacking us.  Peter says should be equipped with gospel respect so that, “those who speak maliciously against our good behavior will be ashamed of their slander.”  We will always be held responsible how we carry ourselves when we are mistreated.  We want those who slander and maliciously speak against us to come to repentance and the knowledge of the truth.  We also have a goal of their restoration with Christ.  I have learned this early in my ministry for as a pastor one of my jobs is to help people with sin, even when that sin is against me.  So when people slander me and speak malicious of me (even those of you in this congregation) I must respond with gentleness and respect in hopes that God would grant you repentance.  

Paul says this to Timothy:
24 And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” 2 Timothy 2:24-26

Beloved, we all need grace. We all need to grow.  But those who disagree with Scripture, we must pray that God would change their mind and heart for the sinful or worldly mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law nor can it do so and those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God (Romans 8).  

Thirdly, it better to suffer, if its God’s Will for doing good.  Ultimately, we trust the sovereignty of God.  And in his sovereign control, if we are persecuted, we call ourselves blessed.  This is testimony of the early church. This is testimony of Jesus Christ when he said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they are persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).

This past week Pastor Louie Giglio was invited and then dis-invited for praying at the President 2nd Inauguration.  He was asked to pray because of his work to combat human trafficking. Then later he was dis-invited because 15 years ago he made a comment that homosexuality was a sin and that people could be healed and can be forgiven in Jesus Christ.  There is much could be said about this recent event. I believe it shows that people who continue to hold fast to biblical truth will continue to be persecuted, but I also believe that the response from Pastor Giglio is one we can emulate.  He responded by saying: 

I am honored to be invited by the President to give the benediction at the upcoming Inaugural on January 21. Though the President and I do not agree on every issue, we have fashioned a friendship around common goals and ideals, most notably, ending slavery in all its forms. Due to a message of mine that has surfaced from 15-20 years ago, it is likely that my participation, and the prayer I would offer, will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration. Clearly, speaking on this issue has not been in the range of my priorities in the past fifteen years. Instead, my aim has been to call people to ultimate significance as we make much of Jesus Christ.

Neither I, nor our team, feel it best serves the core message and goals we are seeking to accomplish to be in a fight on an issue not of our choosing, thus I respectfully withdraw my acceptance of the President's invitation.  I will continue to pray regularly for the President, and urge the nation to do so.  I will most certainly pray for him on Inauguration Day.

Our nation is deeply divided and hurting, and more than ever need God's grace and mercy in our time of need.

He modeled gentleness and respect who those who opposed him.  And end this is all we are called to do.  We cannot change people’s mind; that is God’s job.  Ours is to stand for the Lord with Gospel Reasoning and Gospel Respect.  But also must be:

Be Grounded in Gospel Redeemer 

Peter reminds us that we also need a Redeemer. It is so easy for us to forget, especially when dealing with the volatile issues of the day like abortion or homosexuality, that we are sinners in need of a Savior.  Peter writes, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body, but made alive by the Spirit.” Beloved, we must never ever forget our desperate need for God.  We must always show the world that without God we would be destined for eternal death in hell for our sins. Sin separates us from God.  We often comfort ourselves that our sin is not as bad as others (especially in the conversation of abortion), but listen to Jesus, 

 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother[b] will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,[c]’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Jesus says that people are in danger of hell not because of murder, but the root of murder which is anger. The smallest of sins deserve the death penalty in the eyes of God.  We all are unrighteous because we all have sinned against the righteousness of a Holy God.  But listen to Peter’s words again, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”  Once for all. For those who are in Christ Jesus, all sin is forgiven, even the ugliest of sins is forgiven for the righteous died for the unrighteous. Why? To Bring you to God. There is no hope for any of us outside of Jesus Christ.  

So what are we to do in this era of American Intolerance against the church? We set Jesus Christ as the Lord of our life by embracing his forgiveness. And after we set apart Christ as Lord in our hearts, we speak.  We speak with gospel respect and gospel reasoning, but beloved, we must speak.  We must in any and every way we can speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.  

We end where we began by hearing from Pastor Kell, one who participated in abortion, he writes,

I have on my wall a picture of a 3-year-old boy in cowboy boots. He nearly wasn't with us today because his mother was in a difficult place. She was unmarried, pregnant, and scared. But my wife met with her, prayed with her, and took her to a Christian doctor who showed her the baby in her womb through a sonogram. That young mother had the courage to keep her child.

That young boy's smile reminds me that God can save children, one at a time. He does this by using his people to come alongside the struggling to lovingly show them the Christ who can walk them through any terrifying situation---even an unplanned pregnancy.

I believe the only hope to turn the trend of this tragedy is for people to turn their hearts toward the God who made them through the way paved by his Son Jesus. Jesus changes hearts, and changed hearts can change a nation. May God give us grace as a country, and may God give us courage to stand up in the midst of this tragedy so that, if he tarries, many more will cast votes in 2030.

Lord Jesus, we need your help.
So like Pastor Kell and his wife, when you have the opportunity to stand up for the unborn whether in a conversation with a family member or a confused teenager or a voting both.  Stand up.  James 5:20, “Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”