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Acceptance and Persecution

Growing up, I spent my time and energy seeking acceptance. No one wants to be left out. C.S. Lewis, in his masterful lecture, The Inner Ring, explained the nature of this futile desire to be on the inside. This deep seated, sinful desire was what led  me to seek acceptance by means of sports in High School. When I wasn't able to fulfill my desires there, I turned to sex, drugs and music. I found a niche for acceptance in the world through these things. Since it was the world with which I was trying to gain acceptance, I became more wicked than those around me. On October 11, 2001 the Lord gave me a new heart, brought me to repentance and gave me saving faith in His Son Jesus Christ. I was accepted by God in Christ--justified by His blood and righteousness. All the years I had run after acceptance with the world, I was rejecting the only acceptance that mattered. "My chains fell off, my heart was free." But, as any true Christian will acknowledge, this was the beginning of the long, hard pilgrimage every Christian must make to Zion.

I have noticed a trend lately in the American church. It exists even in the more doctrinally sound Calvinist churches. There is a desire to be cutting edge, hip and cool, relevant. There is an opposite extreme, of course, where some Christians try to be so counter-cultural that they purposely seek to be irrelevant in their appearance, style and musical preferences. It 's certainly not wrong to like  a particular style of art (provided its not depicting something immoral or perverse). It's not wrong to pick one dress style over another (provided it fits the biblical prescription of modesty), or one musical genre over another (provided the words are not morally or philosophically corrupt). But I sometimes fear that what lies behind the desire to be relevant "in the name of Christ" is really just a sinful desire to be accepted by the world. No one likes to be rejected. It would be some kind of weird spiritual masochism to purposefully want to be on the outside.

This morning I was reminded of the rejection that Christ promises His people. They will be outcasts in the world, and from the world, because of their acceptance and union with Him. In Matthew 10:25-26, our Lord taught the disciples, "It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known." We should never think that we will escape the persecution and rejection of the world if we are in Christ. If He was despised and rejected, we will be despised and rejected as well. If He was mocked and scorned, we will be so. If He was a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, we will be men and women of sorrow and grief. If the world hated Him, the world will hate us. This a central teaching of Scripture Jesus prepared His disciples for this rejection when He told them:

If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’ But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me" (John 15:18-25).

I continue to fight against the sinful desire to be accepted and the fear of man; but I return here--to the teaching of my Lord that prepares me for what He has promised me in this life. He has promised the rejection, persecution, hatred, and derision of the world, because He has chosen, accepted, cared for, loved and spoken tenderly to me in His sovereign grace. While we do not want to build unnecessary cultural barriers to the Gospel, let us ever be mindful of the way our Lord was treated, and the fact that we are not greater than our master. Don't forget the exhortation of Peter, "If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter" (1 Peter 4:14-16).

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