And they loved not their lives unto the death.
The Christian Martyrs Last Prayer - Jean-Leon Gerome - 1883
This post follows up on the previous one titled “EnTRUSTing.” I invite all who desire to be found approved before God to set aside time to consider the message presented here. It is a timely and critical message for those who aspire to receive the praise and favor of God. Many saints are being led into experiences at this hour where the Spirit would counsel them to not resist those who are evil. Some are heeding the word, and they will receive great grace as they entrust their souls to Yahweh. Others, tragically, are manifesting another spirit. They are rising up to defend self, in some cases hiring the ungodly, and looking to the arm of the flesh to deliver them. In doing so, their eyes are turned away from Yahweh as the Shepherd and Guardian of their soul (I Peter 2:25).
I know that the counsel I provided in the previous post is so far out of synch with the ways of this world that even sincere Christians will wonder whether it is right. In hearing of my advice to men and women to not give a defense of self, to not resist an evil one, some are concerned that perhaps there is some error in the counsel. In urging women whose husbands have filed for divorce, have hired lawyers, and are hatching schemes to defraud their wives of worldly goods, to not follow the course of the world in hiring their own lawyers, I know I have spoken things that seem unwise.
The rational mind says, “Surely, those who give no defense will be taken advantage of; they will be defrauded; they will be subjected to hardship and difficulties that could be avoided.” I do not deny that this will be the result for many, possibly the majority, of those who do not defend self. Christ is the ultimate example of this. He gave no defense of self. When the Jews were accusing Him of many things, He answered not a word. When Pilate asked Yahshua if He would not speak in defense of the charges against Him, He uttered not a word. The result was that He was condemned, sentenced to die as a criminal, and crucified between two thieves.
He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. Unjustly condemned, he was led away.
Christ embraced an afflicted path. He is the Pioneer of the faith of the disciples. He demonstrated the manner in which all His disciples must walk.
I Peter 2:21, 23
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..., and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.
The image of the disciple as a defenseless, meek, and submissive sheep has been replaced today with a doctrine of Christian militarism. The saints are encouraged in all areas of life to stand up for their rights. They are told that it is wisdom to set boundaries with others, even close family members, and to enforce those boundaries. Wives are exhorted to not become a doormat for their husbands. Men are told that they should not tolerate abuse at the hands of an employer, lest they be labeled as having a milk-toast character. Bearing up patiently while suffering mistreatment, or injustice, is reviled. The sheep of God’s pasture are told they must be more assertive, not permitting themselves to be preyed upon by others.
Such advice is handed out widely, and the masses of men and women in the church eat it up. It appeals to their fallen nature. No one enjoys suffering. Embracing a message of actively defending oneself against mistreatment is attractive to the soul of man. However, God’s ways and thoughts are not the same as man’s ways and thoughts. Yahweh sent His Son to portray before man a pattern to be followed; a life that He would approve. Christ did not assert His rights. He did not demand that others show Him respect. He emptied Himself, took upon the form of a bondservant, and washed the feet of His own disciples. When falsely accused He uttered no defense. When subjected to false judgment and crucifixion, He went meekly as a lamb to the slaughter. Some of His last words were, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
As an American, I live in a land where people believe they are entitled to many things. Perhaps this is the ultimate fruit of a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” It is the end result of a nation established on the principles that every man should be free to seek “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” We are a nation that began with a bill of rights, and a generation ago this pursuit of individual rights has come to include even the abomination of a woman being able to terminate the life of the baby growing in her womb. The sheep have become wolves. The preyed upon now prey upon others.
Whether consciously, or unconsciously, myriads of professing Christians have arrived at a state of mind that is foreign to the life and counsel of Christ. Even those who recognize the call to take up the cross and share in the afflictions of Christ, have been shifted from the original foundation of Christ and His apostles by the onslaught of the many words that spew forth a different message. The saint is conditioned through a constant barrage of words, images, and messages to avoid affliction and suffering, to defend themselves against those who would seek to harm them, and to use the same methods as the world in doing so.
I am reminded of a news story a couple years back of a large church in Colorado that employed armed security guards to patrol the property during services. A man on a killing spree entered the church with a gun and began shooting. One of the security guards, a woman, drew her gun, shot and killed the attacker. She was hailed as a hero, and the church was applauded for their wisdom and foresight in having hired security on hand.
The minds of the saints have been so indoctrinated with the ways and values of the world that many cannot see what an aberration this is from the life of Christ and those who were called as His disciples. Can you imagine Christ hiring security to watch over Himself and the crowds that gathered to hear Him? Were there threats to Christ’s life? Most certainly, there were. There were those who constantly sought His life. Christ entrusted His life to the care of the Father. Until the hour appointed for Him to suffer, the Father permitted no one to touch His Son. He will do the same for all who set their faith and trust in Him.
Therefore they sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.
On the very day that Christ initiated His ministry by reading from the scroll of Isaiah in the Synagogue in Nazareth, those who heard His words rose up and sought to kill Him. It was not soldier’s or armed guards that delivered Him. It was the Father.
All those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.
It is unbelief, a lack of faith in Yahweh’s oversight of His sons, that is partially to blame for men and women failing to entrust their lives to God today. The arm of the flesh is much more tangible. Like Hagar, the ways of the world appear fertile, promising to give us what we desire. Faith, on the other hand, though beautiful as Sarah, appears barren. The sought for answer from God often delays. Men who cannot wait resort to methods that promise more immediate results.
For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: "For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him."
“You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But not a hair of your head shall be lost. By your patience possess your souls.”
Even those who love the Lord, have observed His power, and are close to Him, are prone to doubt His presence and watchful care over them when they are beset by some danger, trial, or enemy. Faith often flees away as we observe the raging of the wind and the seas about us, and we begin to sink beneath the waves. Consider how often Christ chided His disciples for their unbelief. Peter’s failure in walking on the waters provides one example.
And immediately Yahshua stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"
What storm is arising in your life at this time? Will you fix your eyes on the wind and the waves and begin to sink? Or will you keep your focus on Christ, entrusting your life, welfare, and entire being into His care? The disciples again doubted when they were crossing the sea of Galilee in a boat and a fierce storm arose threatening to swamp the boat and drown them all. The disciples were frantic with fear and anxiety, while Yahshua was asleep on a cushion in the boat. They awakened Him with the words, “Lord, do you not care that we are perishing?”
How often we are tempted to ask the same when we face some storm in life. I at times have been amazed as I considered this event recorded in Mark’s gospel.
And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Yahshua Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?" And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Hush, be still." And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, "Why are you afraid? How is it that you have no faith?"
Truly, the words of Christ appear absurd to the mind of man. Here were seasoned fisherman. They had spent their lives on the waters. They were skilled in the use of boats. Certainly these men had encountered storms before, and knew the dangers of them. They undoubtedly knew of others who had perished on the stormy seas. Here they were faced with mortal peril, their situation looking increasingly desperate, and Christ had not stirred to deliver them.
When the disciples finally call upon Christ to save them, He does so with apparent effortlessness. He speaks the words, “Hush! Be still!” and the wind and the waves are suddenly silenced, a great calm falling upon the waters. Then He asks the disciples, “Why were you afraid? How is it that you have no faith?”
Certainly, the counsel to cast one’s life wholly into Christ’s hands appears equally absurd to the mind of men and women today. We too have some familiarity with this world. We recognize peril when we see it. We know that if we are brought before the courts, and people are arrayed against us with lawyers, witnesses, and all the arguments they can summon to sway the courts to grant them their desire, that the natural consequence will be loss, injury, or suffering on our own part. We may be buffeted by the storm, observing that the possibility of a good outcome is quickly diminishing as our boat fills with water. We may wonder, “When will Christ bestir Himself to rescue us? Does He not care that we perish?”
With a word He could alter our environment. The storm could be immediately dissipated. But what if it be the will of God that we drink from the same cup of suffering that was presented to Christ at Gethsemane? What if the Father would walk with us through the fire, and the flood, rather than delivering us from the experience? Will we still trust Him?
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.”
These words do not mean that those who trust in Yahweh will not suffer in this life. What they testify is that none of these experiences will bring any lasting harm. As was Christ, so too are we perfected through suffering. We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Yahshua our Lord.
I was recently sharing with a brother in Christ on this subject. I mentioned that the Christian is often referred to as a sheep. This is the same animal used to testify of the meek nature of Christ. He was the Passover Lamb. He is the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the earth. Those who would follow “in His steps” will also be “accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
Sheep are defenseless creatures. They are not carnivores. They do not prey on other animals. Sheep have no fangs, no claws. Sheep are not cunning. They are innocent, and helpless. Sheep are easily slaughtered by those animals that would prey upon them. They are dependent upon a shepherd to protect them and guide them to safe pastures.
As Christians, we are to be as sheep. When wolves surround us, let us not try to fight them as a wolf would fight. Let us not use our mouths to tear and rend, nor even to defend. Let us raise our voices to the Shepherd of our souls. His rod and His staff protect us. When it is our time to be offered up as a sacrifice, let us yield ourselves willingly. Let us entrust ourselves into the hands of the righteous Judge who sits enthroned in the heavens. When we are called to lay down our lives, whether by surrendering our goods, our freedom, or our very lives, let us do so and thereby prove that we are disciples of Christ.
"These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.”
“Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.”
Christ is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep. Nevertheless, He will not keep His people from experiences of loss or suffering. He will not shield them from injustice, or wrong treatment. He has not even promised to spare them from death at the hands of their enemies. What He has promised is that none of these things will ever separate us from Him. Nothing we are called to suffer in His name will ever result in lasting harm.
Sheep may fight among one another, but it is not the will of the Shepherd that they do so. Sheep are not equipped to defend themselves against an adversary. They have but two things to do. They can cry out, letting the shepherd know they are being oppressed. They can also run. When one has the Good Shepherd watching over them, it is wisdom to run toward Him.
I closed a recent letter to a brother in Christ with the following words:
I know my own weakness and impotence. I have not much hope of delivering myself if I did mount a defense. I do not have the cunning, or the cutthroat mindset of the world and those who employ it. I am truly a sheep among wolves. When I think of contending with the fallen nature of man before the courts of this world, my heart despairs. Peace only comes to me as I lay my life in the Father's hands. He rules over all... I sense His pleasure when I place my life in His hands and express trust in Him.
I will close this post with a song whose lyrics were written by David, the sweet Psalmist of Israel. The music was composed by Keith Green, and it is Keith singing. This song has often ministered comfort to my soul. It is written as the testimony of a sheep whose heart trusts in his Shepherd. It is my confession, and I hope it is your as well.
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