It can be a bit shocking to our ears to hear that favoritism is a sin. We tend to play favorites regularly and almost subconsciously:
Sizing others up
Comparing each other against worldly standards
Asking, “What’s in this relationship for me?”
While we might not think twice about the distinctions we make between people, God does. He says that when we show favoritism, we have “become judges with evil thoughts” (James 2:4). James exhorts us to “Show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory” (James 2:1). Favoritism is a sin. But why? What’s the big deal?
Why Favoritism Is a Sin
Here are just a few reasons we are not to show favoritism:
Our God shows no favoritism. None. He chooses those who are poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of His kingdom (v. 5). He shares His glory and riches with us, not judging us based on outward appearance or “success,” but on whether or not we cling to Christ.
Our God is “the Lord of glory” (v. 1). We cloud His glory when we judge fellow believers on anything more or less than their precious faith in Jesus.
Our God is King, and He has a “royal law”: to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. When we show favoritism, we break His law. And by failing in this way, we have become accountable for breaking all God’s law (vv. 8–10).
Favoritism is a sin, and the consequences are serious, even for believers. By forgetting God’s mercy toward us and withholding mercy from the poor, we will “be judged by the law of liberty” (vv. 12–13).
My Son’s Shining Example
There’s another way, though.
Our friends recently adopted a little boy from another country. When I shared the news with my son, Iren, he couldn’t wait to draw a card for “my friend.” Instantly this boy was “in.”
Iren’s response is a shining example to me of how I should be. He loved this other boy sight unseen. It didn’t matter to Iren that this boy has a different skin color, or that he doesn’t speak the same language. Iren didn’t care that this boy is from another culture. He didn’t ask if this boy was influential, rich, powerful, or stylish. Instantly, he was Iren’s “friend.”
Should I Only Be Friends with the Poor?
Does this mean we’re sinning if we build a close friendship with a popular girl? Not necessarily. (She, too, is your neighbor whom you’re commanded to love as yourself.)
Does this mean we’re super spiritual if we go out for coffee with a woman who doesn’t seem fit in at church? Not necessarily. (We could be doing it out of self-righteous self-love rather than out of love for God and for her.)
We can’t know another’s heart motives. But we can ask God to help us look past all this world values to what He values. We can rely on Him to love each person He places in our path in the same way as we love ourselves.
Combating the Sin of Favoritism During Social Distancing
It may be a while before we gather with believers on a Sunday morning. But even in this period of social distancing, we can search our hearts for the sin of favoritism. For example:
Who do we text or call during this time, and who do we overlook or ignore?
What social media accounts do we follow, and why? Do we feel better about ourselves by surrounding ourselves with “influential” people?
Spend a minute confessing your sin of favoritism to God. Then, as you click off this post and move on with your day, turn these truths over and over in your mind, and interact with God about them:
When you and I were poorly dressed in rags of self-righteousness, God covered us with His royal robes of perfect righteousness.
He did not choose you and me based on anything that made us stand out above others.
How We’re “Doing Church” During This Health Crisis
Yesterday was our third week worshiping with a small group of believers over Zoom. Our church is providing members with an order of service to follow in our own homes, and we’ve chosen to go through it with our small group each Sunday. While we can’t sing together (there’s a delay that doesn’t make that possible), I’ve loved discussing the passage together with personal application questions like,
“What are some things in life you are tempted to believe God is entitled to give to you?” (Oh boy . . . where do I start?!)
A Timely Word from Habakkuk
Here was yesterday’s order of service if you want to use it yourself next Sunday. It was a timely word from Habakkuk 3:16-19. You’ve probably heard this part before:
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”
Sounds glorious, as long as you’re reading the words and not testing them in real life. But Habakkuk understood exactly what it would mean if the fig tree did not blossom, if the olive trees and fields did not yield food. In an agricultural society, this meant death by starvation.
There were no backup plans. No restaurants, no grocery stores, no pantries. Our small group tried imagining such a dire situation, and we just couldn’t. Unfortunately, though, it’s reality right now for those in India.
Habakkuk’s Realities True in India Right Now
The entire nation is in the midst of a complete, three-week lockdown. They only had four hours notice before everything was shut down. Many of the 1.3 billion people there barely survive as it was. Now, with twenty-one days of complete lockdown, this spells starvation and death for many. Please pray.
Maybe this paragraph from yesterday’s order of service can help inform your prayers:
“In an uncertain world, we can find joy in the certainty of God’s faithfulness and sustaining care. Even if we are stripped of all else—our comforts, our security, our very life—we can never be separated from the saving love of God in Christ Jesus our LORD. The lack that we sometimes experience, the hardships we face, the chaos we go through—it all focuses our eyes on the Gospel, because the gospel is not simply about God giving his people many blessings, but about God’s power to grant us the right to be reconciled to relationship with our Creator. God, in his strength, has granted to us the right to see Him and to rejoice in Him, no matter what may come.”
Sidewalk Chalk Theology
Later in the day, our family took a walk. I was intrigued by how many signs we saw around the neighborhood.
One family had painted a sign that said, “We are all together,” decorated with colorful handprints.
Another used sidewalk chalk to mark off the distance of six feet and to encourage people to continue practicing social distancing.
One home featured a sign in their window saying, “Things will get better.”
That last one stood out to me in light of our focus on Habakkuk that morning. Things won’t get better for many. Hundreds of thousands will die. While I appreciated their desire to offer hope, it fell flat.
After the kids were in bed, I realized we could write messages of true hope on our sidewalks. So Trevor and I hunkered down under the light of the moon and covered our sidewalks with Scripture.
We live on a corner in the city, so we get a lot of foot traffic. Will you pray that many would receive comfort, hope, conviction—even eternal life in Jesus—through God’s Words?
I’d Love to Hear From You
How are you worshiping God each Lord’s Day during this strange time when we’re unable to gather together corporately to do so?
What are some things in life you’re tempted to believe God is required to give to you?
While you’re probably not facing starvation, what are you struggling with right now? Even if it’s “little” compared to what those in India are facing, how can I be praying for and supporting you?
In an effort to get the most out of each Lord’s Day, I’ve been sharing highlights on my social media accounts the past couple of weeks (here on Instagram, and here on Facebook.) Today I’m bringing my Lord’s Day to the blog. Here are a few highlights from this past Sunday, May 5, 2019.
An Apology from Our Worship Leader
Our worship leader, Nate Maxfield, apologized to us for not including more songs of lament in our services. “The lament is our song this side of heaven,” he said.
The Fig Tree: When Jesus curses the fig tree, He’s acting out a parable rather than telling one. This particular parable is against Israel, as Israel is often described in Scripture as a fig tree or a vine. (See Jeremiah 8:13 as an example.) In this moment, Jesus is setting up what’s about to take place in the temple.
The Money Changers & Pigeon Sellers:Who are these men whose tables and chairs Jesus flips over? “Money changers” were the guys who exchanged travelers’ money for Jewish currency. These money changers were charging exorbitant exchange rates in order to pocket some hefty change.
We also know from the Old Testament that pigeons were the offering the poorest of the poor offered to God. These pigeon sellers were taking advantage of the poor, hiking prices for pigeons way up.
In his sermon, Adam pointed out that this whole scene was a battleground for glory. The religious leaders of the day were incensed at Jesus. They were fighting Him–the true Temple, the true High Priest, and the true and final Sacrifice–for power and glory. Why? Because they–and we–don’t easily give up what gives us significance. They were using what God had intended to be a place where people from all nations were welcomed to meet with Him, as a means to personal gain.
Again, I was challenged: Am I using Jesus to attain my dreams and gain significance, or am I on board with His mission, bearing good fruit as I seek to share the good news of the gospel with my neighbors all the way to the ends of the earth?
Christian, are you using Jesus as a means to an end, or does your heart beat for His agenda and glory?
Korean Egg Bread
I love it when Trevor cooks. He made Korean egg bread for breakfast. It had us oohing between each bite. If you’d like to make it, watch this video and find the recipe in the description. Then, if you’re interested, check out for more pictures from our day on Instagram, and Facebook.
The singles in your church are hurting. Many (dare I say most?) of them have a strained relationship with the church.
There’s Pain in Your Pews
Since writing a book on singleness, I hear from singles often. Here’s what one thirty-nine-year-old woman has to say:
I’m convinced there is something very wrong with me! I feel like a complete outcast in each and every church. The weird thing is I don’t feel that way at work, which is a completely secular environment. Lately I’ve been crying all weekend and so grateful to be able to go to work on Monday morning because I know I’m valued and wanted there and I know I am contributing something as well.
This woman isn’t the only single who feels like an oddity in church. You might be tempted to think, Oh, toughen up! You think marriage is easy? But here’s why their hurt is our problem, too.
It’s a Family Responsibility
If you’ve placed all your trust in Christ as your righteousness, you’re now a tiny but vital member of His family and of His Body. There are millions upon millions of other members, and what impacts each of these people impacts you because we’re one now. Paul tells us:
But God has so composed the body . . . that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together (1 Cor. 12:24–26, emphasis added).
We have a responsibility to care for singles as we would our own families, because we’re not independent individuals anymore. We’re a part of something so much larger. Besides, in heaven there will be no individual marriage or families other than the family of God (Matt. 22:30).
So how can we care for singles as we ought? It starts with how we think about singleness.
Singleness Isn’t a Disease to Be Healed
Many people view singleness as a disease to be healed. I’ve been guilty of this myself. God’s Word, however, has quite a different perspective.
In 1 Corinthians 7, the apostle Paul addresses the whole church about the advantages and benefits of singleness. Singles, he says, are spared anxieties and troubles. (If you told a single that, they’d probably think, Ha! Paul obviously didn’t have a clue. I have plenty of troubles, and plenty to be anxious about!)
I don’t think Paul intends to minimize everything a single has to juggle in life. His point is that they’re not distracted by needing to please the Lord and their spouse. They have the freedom to be singularly devoted to the Lord.
Let’s be careful that we don’t adopt a “woe is you because you’re single” mindset when God celebrates singleness.
Let’s also be careful about how we “encourage” singles.
Steer Clear of Lousy Encouragement
I wonder, is your encouragement to singles actually encouraging them? Is it grounded in truth? Here are four examples straight from the lips of singles of hurtful “encouragement” they tend to receive from those in the church:
“God won’t bring you your spouse until you’re content in your singleness.” (Let’s think about this . . . when do we ever earn God’s gifts?)
“Oh, don’t worry, Honey, God has someone special out there for you!” (Does He? How do you know this? Scripture tells us that everyone will not get married and that singleness is good. A lot of unintentional hurt is caused by assuming that everyone will marry one day.)
“Marriage is how God makes us holy” and “I didn’t really know how much God loved me until I had kids.” (This makes singles feel like they’re not only missing out on a family but on sanctification! A better way to say this would be, “Marriage is one of the means God uses to help make us holy.”)
Another single requested, “Don’t remind us that marriage isn’t all happily ever after with the perfect prince/princess of our dreams. Single adults are intelligent people. We’re no longer the teenagers in the youth group. We’re not expecting Disney or Hollywood. Our dreams of marriage are normal and healthy, and being belittled because we still hope for marriage (the same way our now-married friends once did) is insulting.”
We’ve looked at our thoughts. We’ve considered our words. But what about our actions? One of the greatest ways we can bless singles in the church is by our hospitality.
Invisible No More
Here are a few ideas of how you can show hospitality to the singles in your church:
Invite them to sit with you rather than sitting alone. When I was single, Sundays were the loneliest day of the week for me as I sat surrounded by happy-looking married couples and families.
If you’re in church leadership, examine your upcoming events and make sure they’re geared to all people in general, not just toward married people or parents.
Celebrate the milestones of the singles in your small group, like their birthdays or moving into their own place. One single pointed out, “Our accomplishments are often ignored; we don’t get showers, registries, and parties. We are no one’s priority, and that often makes us invisible.“
Ask a single at church if they have plans for the next holiday. If not, invite them to your home. A dear family did this for me one year when I wasn’t able to travel home for Christmas. They even bought me a present! Don’t forget Mother’s Day, as well. One of my single mom friends noted, “Single moms won’t spend money on themselves (many are at poverty level), and their children may be too young to know how to celebrate them.”
Come On In!
Don’t stop there, though. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has said, “It’s in our homes, not standing in the aisle after church, that we have the greatest opportunity to really practice the ‘one anothers’ of Scripture.” One anothers like:
Love one another.
Pray for one another.
Admonish one another.
Edify one another.
Care for one another.
Bear one another’s burdens.
I was the recipient of remarkable hospitality as a single. The hospitality that most reflected God welcoming me into His family was when an older couple invited me to live in their home when I was in my late twenties.
For the three years I stayed with them, I never felt like I needed to keep to my own room and not bother them. On the contrary, they treated me like I was their daughter!
I’m not saying you have to open your spare bedroom to a single. Maybe you do something more like what Eleanor has encountered:
The greatest blessing for me as a single person has been eating with a family from church every week and helping put their young children to bed. Nothing extraordinary, just what they would be doing if I wasn’t there.
Sometimes I barely talk to the parents while I’m there, because they’re so exhausted. I don’t always see them at their best. They don’t just have me over when it’s convenient. But they choose to truly let me into their lives and hearts, and that is a great blessing and a joy.
Single people will sometimes be lonely. Psalm 68:6 says, “God sets the lonely in families.” Maybe for one single, it’s your family.
Let’s Put Feet to This
Let’s not just write and read about how to help the singles in our church; let’s do something about it! But where should we start?
Identify the singles in your church and life. Not just those you’d like to hang out with but those God has placed in close proximity to you. Think broadly: singles who have never been married, widows, divorcees, single moms, and those who for all practical purposes are single because their spouse is absent.
Pray for them. Make this a priority, and try to pray for at least one single daily. (You might consider downloading an app like PrayerMate to help you remember.)
Engage them. Pick at least one single on your list, and come up with a plan to reach out to them. This is just a practical way to help you love your neighbor.
Ready, set, help! Not because singles need fixing, and not because you’re the savior of the singles—but because:
God welcomed you into His family when you had nothing to offer Him.
You are now family by blood—the blood of Christ.
When they hurt, you hurt.
Ultimately, give yourself to them, with a genuine heart, and watch how greatly God will bless you through their friendship in the process.
The American church tends to get a bad rap—and often with good reason. That’s why I want to tell you about a gem of a church that Trevor and I stumbled across on our way to Illinois this past Thanksgiving. A church that shattered the negative stereotypes of what the American church is all about. A hospitable church.
Happening Upon a Hospitable Church
Up until the day before, we planned to attend a different local church. But when my friend invited us to her church and then over for lunch at her pastor’s house, we were intrigued.
“You’re totally welcome,” she said. “We do it every Sunday. We spend the whole afternoon together, go back for a 5:30 p.m. service, and then make supper there. Leftovers, pizza rolls . . . nothing fancy.”
I wasn’t terribly keen on the idea of spending the entire day with strangers (I like my alone time!). But Trevor was excited about attending a church that made it easy for us to corporately set aside the Lord’s Day. So we said “yes.”
And that’s how we ended up spending all Sunday with perfect strangers. Believe it or not, I didn’t miss my alone time. That day was the highlight of our vacation . . . and even one of the top highlights of 2017 for us.
What made it so great? Yes, the songs and sermon were meaty and rich. Yes, the people were friendly. And boy, those homemade salted caramel cookies they served after service . . .
But what really sealed the deal was the hospitality we experienced after the church doors were shut.
Walking Into a Hospitable Home
We felt right at home from the moment we walked into the house and the kids took our coats at the door. The mom of the house showed me a messy but private bedroom where I could nurse Iren.
Trevor and the pastor talked and ate while I fed Iren. Then I came down, and different kids held Iren while I chowed down and talked with my friend.
I noted that the pastor was down-to-earth and accessible. He seemed a bit shy, but he was present with us all afternoon. He didn’t lead the conversation; he just sat on the couch with a drink, obviously enjoying the conversation and people.
Kids of all ages sat crosslegged on the floor. Men and women sat around the room in chairs—one woman knitting.
Conversation meandered here and there until I started a group conversation on parenting and rules. I was amazed to hear they’re not big on adding rules to their kids’ lives but on focusing on God’s two greatest commands: loving Him and loving others. I took lots of mental notes for when Iren gets a little bigger.
We went back to the church for evening service and then joined these same people in the kitchen for pizza and more fun, deep conversation.
Becoming a Hospitable Church
Trevor and I exited those church doors late that evening saying, “We want that kind of love, community, and hospitality at our church.”
“Let’s pray for that,” I said.
“Yes,” he replied, “and it starts with us.”
I am so grateful for his perspective. We are the church (Eph. 1:22-23). There is no need to sit around waiting for someone else to take action—not even the leaders. We can and should take ownership, initiate, and invite others into our lives and home.
How about you? Are you waiting for someone else to set the tone at your local church, or are you welcoming others into your life and home? Let’s be a hospitable church!
It was so good to get your email and hear that you’ve been a Christian for almost a year now:
I’ve loved it, but it is also pretty overwhelming as I am just developing as a Christian and so many things are being thrown my way. Things such as Anglican tradition, special holidays, different perspectives of the Word and Christ, ways to act as a Christian woman, you name it.
I am not sure how long you’ve been a Christian, but I am pretty sure it’s been longer than I have been. Do you have any tips or advice you could pass on, which will help me in my journey with God as a new Christian? Advice regarding getting through the Word of God, praying always, listening to God, applying God to every aspect of my life, etc.?
First, praise God for giving you the gift of faith in Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice for your sins. I’m so excited I have a new “sister” in the family of God.
I’m sorry that the excitement of your new life in Christ has been crowded out by others throwing lots of stuff your way.
Don’t ever get over Christ and what He has done for you.
My main advice is this: Don’t ever get over Christ and what He has done for you. Remember that you contributed nothing to your salvation. You were dead spiritually.
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him [Christ], having forgiven us all our trespasses (Col. 2:13).
Dead people can do nothing! God gave you the gift of faith in His Son. Without this gift, you would not have been able to see how beautiful His offer of salvation is:
By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8).
Guard yourself from believing that God will be more pleased with you if you read Scripture, pray, go to church, etc. Some Christians refer to these activities as “means of grace.” That’s because they’re not acts we do for God; they’re ways God graciously makes us more like Jesus.
So pursue these means of grace as gifts, not as duties. Here are a couple means of grace I’d start with:
1. Get involved in a solid church.
You need community; Christianity is not a solo sport. Here are three websites that can help you find solid churches in your area:
All Scripture points to Christ, so this is where you go to look for and at Him. Ask an older, godly woman who has walked with God awhile to teach you how to read and study God’s Word. Here are a few posts I’ve written on the subject that will help:
Then take a deep breath. It’s okay that there’s so much you don’t know right now. I’ve been raised on the Bible since I was a little girl, and there’s still so much I don’t know! Above all, set out to know Christ.
As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving (Col. 2:6–7).
One of my favorite quotes of all time is by Robert Murray M’Cheyne: “For every look at self take ten looks at Christ.”
It’s fine to explore some of these other things, but above all, keep the main thing the main thing. Or rather, the main Person the main Person: Christ Jesus, our Savior and Lord. As you do, I can say with Paul:
I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6).
Trevor Marsteller and I joined hands in the stately building of Missio Church on October 3 and covenanted before God and man to love each other ’til death do us part. We returned the following morning and held hands in a pew near the front as we listened to the Word of God preached to the people of God.
Many of these people were incredulous: “You’re on your honeymoon, and you’re at church?!” We might as well have sprouted horns on our heads.
“You’re on your honeymoon, and you’re at church?!”
If it had been up to me, I probably would’ve opted to pull the covers over my head and dozed as long as possible after the stress of pulling off an event of that size. Missing a Sunday here or there hasn’t seemed like a big deal to me, especially after such a life-altering event.
But Trevor is the leader in this relationship—not me—and when he explained why he didn’t want to skip church the day after our wedding, I was so grateful.
“If marriage is an earthly picture of a heavenly reality,” he asked, “why would we miss out on being pointed to that heavenly reality?”
And so we participated in our local church service the morning after our wedding—as we do every Sunday, even when we’re traveling. We showed up not because we believe church attendance merits God’s favor (hardly!) or sets us apart as more righteous than others (as if!), but because we love God, His Word, and His people.
Caring for the Bride of Christ
In a congregational meeting a few weeks later, one of our elders reminded us of how passionately Jesus identifies with His bride, the Church.
It was amazing to see this truth so clearly in Acts 9. In this passage, Jesus asks Saul, “Why are you persecuting me?”
When Saul asks who Jesus is, He again reiterates, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (emphasis added).
How could Jesus say Saul was persecuting Him when He was safe at His Father’s side in heaven by this time (see Acts 1:9)? Because as we treat Christ’s people, so we treat Christ.
As we treat Christ’s people, so we treat Christ.
Christ’s very Spirit dwells in His bride, and His bride is in Christ. We’re one now. He loved His bride enough to give His life for her.
So how can we claim to love Jesus without caring for His bride, the Church?
After hearing God’s Word preached on October 4, Trevor and I leaned over to each other and agreed, “We’re so glad we didn’t miss this.”
It might not always be convenient, but this new bride is grateful for a husband who so highly values Christ’s bride.
How about you? Do you have a careless or a careful disposition toward faithfully and eagerly attending your local church? If you don’t regularly attend, what’s your excuse for not prioritizing Christ’s bride?
When a Christian leader sins, you’ll want to unfollow them on Instagram and burn their books and reject every truth they ever taught you but apparently didn’t live themselves. Your stomach will hurt, your head will ache, and you’ll feel like throwing up. While your emotions are churning, here are six truths to remember that will serve as salve for your soul.
Six Truths to Remember When a Christian Leader Sins
Only God is good. Jesus said it Himself in Mark 10:18: “No one is good except God alone.” Boy, we forget this all the time, don’t we? We set men and women up on pedestals and follow them rather than following the God to whom they’re pointing. Always remember that anything good you see in a Christian leader—if it truly is good—is only a result of Jesus Christ making His home in them.
Truth is still truth, whether they lived it or not.Romans 1:18 doesn’t say man’s unrighteousness disproves the truth—He says it suppresses the truth. This is why God’s wrath is revealed from heaven, because He takes the truth very seriously! Truth is still truth—even if it’s hard to distinguish it through the lie of their life. It’s also entirely possible that they twisted the truth. Open your Bible, and search out truth for yourself. Don’t just do this when a leader fails but anytime a leader teaches or writes or preaches (Acts 17:11).
“But for the grace of God, there go I.” Be careful if you think you’re above ever stooping to that level. We’re warned in 1 Corinthians 10, “Let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man” (vv. 12–13). You will probably be tempted in a similar way someday. When that happens, God promises He’ll provide a way of escape (v. 13)—it’ll be up to you to take it. When that happens, run far, far away as fast as your little legs will take you. Don’t linger and dream about what it might be like to toy with sin just a little.
God still loves them. Their sin hasn’t “chilled” God’s love for them. Remember, He died for them while they were still His enemies (Rom. 5:10)! The fact that their sin was discovered by others is actually God’s mercy. Romans 2:4 tells us that God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance. If they don’t repent and trust in Christ’s righteousness on their behalf, you can be sure they’ll experience God’s wrath in the future (Rom. 2:5). But for now, He waits patiently, kindly, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9).
Repentance is a process. If you’re like me, you’ll expect that leader to repent immediately. To confess their sin and bring it out into the light and turn from it back to the Lord. That’s certainly God’s desire, too! But this won’t always happen right away.When King David (a man who genuinely loved God) had sex with another man’s wife and then had that man murdered in order to cover up his sin, it was at least nine months before he acknowledged, “I have sinned against the LORD” (2 Sam. 12:13). Pray that God would give the leader you looked up to godly sorrow leading to repentance (2 Cor. 7:10).
Not everyone who claims to be a Christ-follower actually is one. First John 2:19 tells us that only the person who finishes well was actually ever saved: “If they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” Not that believers never stumble (remember King David!). But if they really are Christ-followers, you will see them repent and return to their original faith in Christ’s righteousness on their behalf.
If you’ve ever had a Christian leader sin big time, what other truths have you clung to? If it hasn’t happened to you yet, is there someone you need to take off your pedestal? Remember, no one but God is ultimately good.
And don’t forget to pray for that Christian leader in your life. A great prayer is found at the end of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:13: “Lead [them] not into temptation, but deliver [them] from evil.” Which Christian leader can you commit to praying for regularly?
If Jesus says we can expect persecution (and He does), then I sure want to know how to prepare for persecution. So with the help of Thomas Watson’s book The Beatitudes, I came up with the following eight ways to prepare for persecution:
1. Get to know Jesus better. In the words of Watson, “A man can never die for him he does not know.” Are you satisfied with what you know of Christ, or do you long for an even closer friendship with Him?
2. Store up God’s Word in your heart—especially His promises to those who suffer for Him. Promises like Matthew 10:28-33, Mark 10:29-30, Psalm 91:14-16, 1 Corinthians 10:13 and Matthew 10:19-20.
3. Read the stories of those who have been persecuted for Jesus. Sure, some of the details may make you squeamish, but these stories will infuse you with courage and give you examples to imitate. My recent favorite is Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand, founder of The Voice of the Martyrs. There are so many more, like the story of Perpetua, a courageous woman who died in AD 203.
4. Don’t be so quick to always defend yourself; trust God to be your Defender. This is tough. We’re proud, and proud people tend to think they’re above suffering. Are you willing to let go of your high opinion of yourself and trust God with your reputation?
5. Replace fear of man with a healthy fear of God. Jesus puts it like this in Matthew 10:28, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul [men]. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell [God].”
6. Treasure truth. In a world filled with lies and confusion, wholeheartedly seek after truth and lovingly share it with others. Don’t be easily swayed by people’s words and arguments. Examine everything you hear against the truth of God’s Word to test whether or not it’s true (Acts 17:11).
7. Pursue righteousness. Jesus says “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (Matt. 5:10, emphasis added). Run from evil. Repent of your sin. Keep a clear conscience before God. Pursue Him.
8. Look for ways to deny yourself rather than always pampering yourself. I used to know a guy who regularly slept on the floor rather than in a bed. I’m not recommending that, but if you always choose the very best for yourself, you’ll have a hard time when you experience real suffering. Besides, Jesus told His followers in Matthew 16:24–25, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
“Before a man can die for Christ he must be dead to the world,” Thomas Watson said. The apostle Paul lived that way. In Galatians 6:14 he said, “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
How do you plan on preparing for the very real possibility of persecution? Tell me about it.