To know who Jesus is, requires we develop a personal relationship with him, a relationship that will allow us to place our complete trust in him. It will move us away from the shallowness of what we called a Phariseetic faith in Jesus allowing us to endure and stand in the face of challenges. For there is no doubt, our relationship with Jesus will be challenged, and if we are not close friends with Jesus, we’ll stumble at the experience of persecution.
This was the case when Jesus revealed what it will take for his disciples to be his friend, and for them to have eternal life. And upon hearing the words of Jesus, many were offended turning away from Jesus because they had not developed the type of relationship that would have caused them to remain faithful when they come in contact with persecution.
Jesus said, “It is the spirit that quickens; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it was given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back and walked no more with him.” John 6:63-66.
But if we are a true friend of Jesus, regardless of what comes our way as Christians, we will stand, we will stand because our friendship with Jesus is not based on how men see Jesus in relationship to themselves, but because we understand Jesus is God, and understanding Jesus is God, we know serving Jesus is to serve God leaving us with the understanding we are God’s servants.
Therefore, as we look at the issue of persecution, we as Christians committing to Jesus Christ must make the conscious decision knowing to commit to Christ is to be rejected by the world who is against Jesus. We are to come to Christ with the understanding we are not part of this world, but of a future kingdom to which we are sent out into the world to proclaim so that those willing to stand for Jesus in opposition to the policies of this world will come to inherit eternal life.
As committed friends of Jesus, we need to become comfortable with the idea of being persecuted, we need to put aside our fears as we go about demonstrating our faith in Jesus Christ because it is when we begin to die to this world as citizens of the kingdom of Christ, we will begin to experience the glory of God.
Therefore, coming to Jesus or choosing to become a friend of Jesus should not be taken lightly. To learn about God’s kingdom, and to be able to perform the miracles, to cast out demons, raise the dead, and heal the sick, we must come to Jesus Christ knowing to serve him is to be rejected by the world with the constant threat of persecution hanging over our heads.
We must come to Christ understanding we are sent out into a hostile world among a hostile people to tell the world to surrender to Jesus the king; otherwise, they will perish in his anger. Knowing this is not a message the world wishes to hear, but whose response will be to ask, “Who are we to tell the world to repent?” And because the world will not hear our message, we must always be ready to face death because Jesus told us, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves be you therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and you shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.” Matthew 10:16-18.
Because of our message, and our affiliation with Jesus, we’ll quickly become unpopular with the world to become popular among the angels of God. And as we learn to endure persecution, we will discover there are no boundaries to what we can do in the authority of Jesus because we would have learned to trust Jesus in the face of death and persecution at which time faith will be perfected in us.
Faith will be perfected in us, and as followers of Jesus, we’ll be willing to face death without fear because we know who Jesus is based on our relationship with him. For by the gift of God to those believing in Jesus, God has given us the Holy Spirit who has revealed the person of Jesus to be God in person who created the world; by whose power we live and shall live again because we trust in him.
Therefore, working out our salvation, we are to understand the cost of stepping out in faith and accepting Jesus, it is to ask ourselves if are we willing to take up the cross and follow Jesus understanding to follow Jesus is to commit to death, to be nailed to the cross we carry, and to be rejected by the world. Knowing the moment, we commit to the cross of faith in Jesus, we are committing to endure persecution because we know what it means to believe in Jesus our king.
But the problem we have today as Christians, are the belief we will not face persecution; although, Jesus told us we would. Jesus said, “Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Because standing up for Jesus in this world is to face persecution and often times live a lonely life in a world to which we do not belong as Christians.
Persecution is a part of the Christian experience, even from those within our Christian community, it is to be expected, we are to count on it without allowing the fear of persecution to govern our faith and confidence in Jesus. For we know the persecution we experience is due to our relationship with Jesus Christ and because we are a part of his future kingdom. Matthew 5:10.
There is no doubt, reading about the life of Jesus and the promises, it is our deepest desire to do what God calls on us to do, but as we go about doing what Jesus calls on us to do, we are to expect resistance, plots against our lives, and death by our enemies because the mission on which we are sent is to advance the kingdom of God against the kingdom of the enemy who will do all he can to oppose Jesus.
But; although, we will face persecution, plots against our lives, and even death, we must hold to what it truly means to believe in Jesus. It is not to say we believe in Jesus; it is to do whatever Jesus commands us because we understand what it means to believe and because we trust in his authority. And when we learn what it means to believe and trust in Jesus, we will truly become a friend of God. John 15:15.
There is nothing more assuring than to know Jesus is committed to us regardless of who we are and what we have done. And because of his death, and willingness to go to the cross on our behalf, we know we can trust him. We know we can trust him because he rose from the dead as promised, and because we are witnesses to these things, Jesus commands us to go out into a hostile world with the proclamation of the gospel that the world may know he is God and our redeemer.
But if we are going to do these things, the greater works Jesus promised, we must have faith in the face of persecution, we must hold our ground not because we are trying to believe, but because we are in a personal relationship with God through his son Jesus Christ. Because it is through a personal relationship and the trust we have built-in that personal relationship with Jesus, we will find the power of God that will give us the will and purpose to stand in faith in the face of persecution because we know Jesus. And knowing who Jesus is, we’ll endure the plots of the world as we stand in faith in Jesus Christ. Matthew 24:13.