Sunday’s Message | November 20, 2016
Series | Building A Church From the Ground Up
Message | The Perseverance of God’s Royal Priesthood (8/8)
23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen. 25 He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: “Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.”
28 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 Soon the whole city was in an uproar.
“Persecution is Satan’s reaction against Christians who choose to not keep silent about their faith. If we are keeping our faith to ourselves, why would Satan want to wake that up? Where we find a great harvest, we find a great persecution; where we find little harvest, we find little persecution.” | Nik Ripken
There is nothing like being unappreciated to put the brakes on good work.
When we know our boss likes our work, we do good work. When we are not appreciated, we tend to not work up to our full potential. The problem is, how do we know we’re appreciated? How can we tell the boss accepts our work and that we are useful in what we do? For many of us, the paycheck says it all. For others, the benefits differ: our personal relationship with the owners of the business may play a part, or there may be health benefits, or a very liberal time-off policy might give you the incentive to work because you know your this company – these people – value your time, as well. The signs of being appreciated are powerful motivators, and our perseverance in a lot of things depends on what we think the payoff is going to be.
The Work is Always Worth It
So, what about Paul and his coworkers in the Gospel of Christ? Some might conclude that working for the gospel of Christ is simply not worth the effort. The evangelists go out to preach Christ and a hockey match breaks out! Their lives may have been in danger. All the work they accomplished before may have been in jeopardy – would people leave the faith if they thought it might bring on riots? What Paul and his coworkers understood is that, the work of the Gospel is worth whatever the cost. Practically, that only makes sense if Christ is not just worth something big – He is everything.1
35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” | Hebrews 10.35-36
“Wait; even if I lose?” Good question. Maybe the Gospel has led you to vote differently this year than your friends or family expected, and maybe you’re not relishing sitting down with these people this year for a happy Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe the Gospel has led you to walk away from opportunities that people close to you expected you to take. When the explanation of “why not?” leads to Jesus our Savior, is the pressure on those relationships worth it? When it comes time to give a reason for the hope you have to those who you disagree with, will Christ be enough?
Is It Worth It?
The basic question for consumer-minded Americans almost always is, “Is it worth it?” Jesus has a great way of answering that. Only one verse says it all; The Parable of the Hidden Treasure in Matthew 13.44: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” Yes, he said sell everything to buy the field with the treasure, and the man still had joy. Yes, it was a complete exchange. Yes, it was worth it.
The basic idea has two sides: 1) We put all our hopes with Christ. No-thing and no-one is left in this world that holds our hopes and fears. But also, 2) Because Jesus himself is worth more than all of that. He is not only “enough,” He is everything. A life lived in a faith that may bring persecution is also a life of faith held by a Savior that beats death for you. He will keep you and never lose you.2 So, yes, He’s worth it.
How Do I Work As A Royal Priest of God?
1…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” | Hebrews 12.1
This is not an easy world to live in. Our times are getting darker, it seems. There is less certainty and less trust between family, between friends, between black lives and white lives, between the people and their government (which is, actually, people). When jobs are scarce and trust is thin, how do I keep running the race?
The message attached to this recap below walks through the Armor of God found in Ephesians 6.12-13. Feel free to listen, but here I am also going to boil down a couple of points from Jesus’ call to persevere in faith from John 14.6: “I Am the Way, The Truth and The Life.”
Jesus lived by a single rule when He was with us: he obeyed His Father in Heaven. Maybe you have grown up thinking that obeying God in everything is “too churchy.” Maybe it’s for other people: super-Christians like pastors (yes, I’m laughing). But Jesus meant us to follow Him:3 to who he loves in the way that He loves them. He is The Word of God, remember, and He showed us the way of being close to God in this world is pretty simple: obey Him.4 This way of life continually puts God’s interests ahead of our own, and it makes us priests of a sort: it makes us people who point others to Christ. It puts God’s interests ahead of our politicians, our music and movie stars, our advertising, our bullies, our abusers and our fantasies. If you’re looking for a way not to get lost in this crazy-upon-crazy world, follow The Way. We may end up starting a riot, but we’ll be in God’s hands while we do it.
Truth seems to be in short supply these days. Did Russia really mess with our election? Did I really get that job because I earned it? Does _________ really love me? There is no end to the questions that we cannot answer – and it takes a toll. Jesus is the one who stands on God’s Word as God’s Word and claims that you can trust him. As a Christian, part of “The Way” is “The Truth” – we do not shy away from the truth, nor do we do things that make others doubt our true intentions. We promote truth in our home, school, and our business by not lying. We promote truth by not putting our interests ahead of others. People are much more willing to trust us – and our work as priests leading people to Christ – when we are honest. The best part is, since Christ frees us from sin and holds our future, we are free to be honest. How much is that worth to your heart when you go to bed at night?
These all kind of intersect. So, when you are free to honestly live like Jesus lives, you have life. Not just a good life, but “abundant” life. Fulfilling. Complete. When God leads us in a life that is completely satisfying, we are not as easily led to believe that a political candidate, new boyfriend, or better-paying job is going to save us from our problems. When our life is full of Jesus himself, it will show others how worthless some choices are in this world. Again, it may start a riot, but when Jesus holds your life it cannot be taken away.
If there’s something to be thankful for, it’s that Jesus is The Way, The Truth and The Life. Every celebration – like the one tomorrow – is just a small part of the way we will be able to celebrate the Christ who saves us from death and hell in the future. If you have an opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, do so with the hope Jesus bought for you. Keep running and keep persevering, because Christ runs with you and keeps you persevering. He is worth everything, and all things will be made right when he comes again.
1 Revelation 22.12-13: “12Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Also, Colossians 1.15-17: “15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
2 John 6.39-40: “39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
3 Luke 9.23: Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
4 John 14.21: “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”