1 Peter 3-5, Psalm 34
Growing up, my nephew Rick and I were best friends, being only 4 months apart in age. I got married young (20 years old), and he was never married, so as we got older, though friends, we were not as close as we were when we were younger. A number of times, I tried to discuss the gospel message with him and it fell on deaf ears and was beginning to anger him. One time he angrily said that I had 5 seconds to say what I had to say and then he never wanted to hear about it again. Not my usual approach, but I told him that I loved him, but of he did not come to know Jesus that when he died he would be in hell. This led to a 20 minute argument and he distanced himself from me, not picking up my phone calls. I was labeled a Jesus freak and became the butt of their jokes in the house (he later told me). A few months later, my brother, his father, was unfortunately stricken quickly with cancer which rapidly spread to his brain causing stroke like symptoms. On the 4th or 5th day, I went to visit my brother in the hospital and my nephew knew it. He called me and told me that if I really believed all that stuff I had told him, he wanted me to kick his mother and 2 sisters out of the room, who would not leave his side, when I got there. Knowing they would ridicule and not allow me to present the gospel message if they were there. Purely by the Holy Spirit, and to Rick's shock, when I got there they all got up and said that I should spend a little time alone with my brother. He was completely aware, but the speech center in his brain was affected. Having difficulty communicating his words, I was able to give my brother, Eddie, the gospel message, and by a series of squeezing my hand if he agreed or disagreed, he accepted Jesus as his personal savior. This was the last day he was lucid, and died 5-6 days later. I sent 2 books on heaven to Rick after the funeral, one by Max Lucado, the other escapes my memory, but maybe Ray Rhodes. After this, he agreed to read the Bible and has been doing so now for 3 years. After around 1/2 year in the Bible daily, he gave his heart to Christ. Interestingly, he is at peace with the passing of his father, while his 2 sisters who will not consider the gospel message, grieve as though my brother died yesterday.
Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3:14-17, "But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you are blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil." For the most part we don't see persecution like they do in other parts of the world, where professing Christ could mean their lives. For us, we might be made fun of, ridiculed, not accepted, shunned, etc. When we come to Christ, there will be change in our lives, leaving behind much of the behavior which we might have been known for, and now exhibiting the fruit of a Christ centered life, but don't expect this to go unnoticed or respected. In 1 Peter 4:4, he said, "In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you." Peter was speaking of our previous life in the lust of the flesh. When we stop these activities, it will not be applauded by those still in them, but we answer to God, not man. He goes on in this letter to suffering Christians in 1 Peter 4:14, saying, "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." Jesus never said that the road would be easy in an earthly sense, but we who are in Christ are guaranteed eternity with Him.
Since we are citizens of heaven, but ambassadors on earth, we are to represent our King continuously. Our desire should be to plant seeds of the gospel message to those whose citizenship is still on the earth. This will most likely not be received well, especially by those closest to you, such as family, friends and co-workers. But if we truly believe that our eternal destination is wrapped up in one decision, whether one accepts or rejects Jesus, how can we remain silent. Are we more concerned with our popularity, being accepted, not causing commotion, etc. Whenever someone dies, the first thing we should ask ourselves is, "Where are they?" We all know many people who state that they believe, but there is no ounce of fruit in their lives and no evidence of their knowing Jesus personally. If Christ is the overflow of our lives, we should speak about Him to everyone we can, true believers need to be encouraged, those who claim they believe need to know Him and understand repentance and the gospel message, unbelievers need to hear the whole message. Jesus said, in Matthew 9:37, "...The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest". Despite the costs personally, let's all roll up our sleeves and count ourselves among God's laborers.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: