Friday, November 15, 2013

Defending the Gospel

"Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:

But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel."
Philippians 1:15,17

What do you do when someone you trust lets you down?
How do you react when someone you thought stood for righteousness 
caves to the pressure of unGodly bullies?
Where do you turn when someone you thought would never change...
would never alter their Biblical positions,
suddenly does a complete turnaround and succumbs to political correctness?
How do you handle it as tears flow from your eyes 
pulled from a deep-seated remorse for the sins of your Christian nation?

Tonight, I wept.
I felt those familiar, bitter pangs of hurt once again,
as I heard of yet another dignitary...someone I truly looked up to....
who has changed his Biblical position and interpretation in order to appease the masses.
This man, simply because of who he is, has amazing clout and powerful influence.
It the depths of my soul.
An anguish tears and gnaws and causes me to find a place alone with my God...
to pour out my soul and cry at His feet.
If we cry over these things, I just wonder what God feels like.
If our righteous indignation is stirred,
how must the One Who is righteousness personified be vexed?

Who can we trust?
Who will stand firm?
Who will stare evil in the face and still call it evil?

Who will defend the Gospel?

Some other versions of the 17th verse of today's passage read this way...
"knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel." NIV
"knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel..." NASB
"because they know that I have been appointed to defend the gospel." ISV
"because they know that I am placed here for the defense of the gospel." NET

The Apostle Paul was Divinely appointed to
defend the Gospel of Jesus Christ in his day....
during the time he lived.
God specifically chose him as he journeyed towards Damascus
in a determined state to set out and gather any Christians he could find
and ensure they were punished and persecuted for their faith in Jesus.

God looked beyond the circumstances and saw a man who was dedicated,
determined, and diligent in his intentions.
God saw a man who put his whole heart and soul into whatever his convictions told him were right.
God needed such a man.
One who would stand in the face of adversity and not crumble.
One who would speak the truth in love, even if it cost him his pedigree
and the approval of friends in high places.
One who would later say,
"Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ..."
Philippians 3:8
One who would defend the name of Jesus, even if it caused his execution.

So, God sent a blinding light from Heaven and caused it to fall across the path of Saul of Tarsus.
His life and even his name, from that moment, would never again be the same.
His name was changed to Paul, after he had a personal, individual encounter with our risen Lord and Savior,
Who gave him instructions as to what He wanted him to do.
He received a divine commission by God to change course...
to do a 180 degree u-turn....
to love and minister to the very ones he sought to persecute and put to death.

God's words to Ananias concerning him were these...
"Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto Me,
to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel..."
Acts 9:15

During the days of Esther, God needed someone who would stand up for His people.
Who would stare death in the face with a courage that is stronger than fear.
Who would esteem His purpose and will greater than her own comfort.
Who would take the risk of speaking the truth, regardless of repercussions.
Who would enter the court of her King husband and proclaim the plight of God's chosen ones.

When faced with the greatest test of her life,
her Uncle Mordecai asked her...
"and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"
Esther 4:14

Paul was faithful in his day.
Esther was faithful in hers.

Who will be faithful today?

It deals a devastating blow to the ranks of Christianity when a Christian recants.
When they compromise.
When they weaken.
When they decide to test a cheaper, easier-on-the-flesh route.
When they throw up their hands in the face of opposition.

I wonder if we realize the power of the influence of one.
When we make those choices to buckle to the pressures of this unGodly world,
do we really comprehend the impact of the repercussions?

The person who let me down will never know my name.
Our paths will never cross.
He will never lose a wink of sleep over the realization that he was the cause of my tears.
His world and my world are...well, worlds apart.
We will never associate or rub shoulders with the same people.

So, he will never know that his choice to crumble
to the acceptance of something he used to stand against
really had an affect on me and made me cry.

No man is an island.
No woman is either.
Every, single one of us possesses the intrinsic ability to wield influence.
It is an automatic.
Someone is tracing our footprints.
Someone pays attention to our choices.
Someone values our opinion.
Someone would be disappointed if we changed direction.

If we fail, if we give in, if we accede to an alternate line of thinking and mindset,
will we ever really know the full scope of the consequences?
Is there even a way to measure how many hearts it might break?

God is looking for vessels He can fill to capacity with His Spirit.
Vessels who are willing to stand alone, if necessary.
Vessels who will, like Paul, set their sails for the defense of the Gospel....
no matter what it takes, regardless what it costs.

Truth must be preserved in our generation.
Our children and the generations following must know that there is a Holy God in Heaven
before Whom we must independently stand and give an account of what we do and do not do in this life.
Accountability to Him is not optional.
It is an appointment we all must face.
" is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment..."
Hebrews 9:27

His truth must march on.
It is just too precious to let go and toss aside for anything less.
We can't afford to lose one soldier.
Each one is needed...right where they are.

So, what is your post?
Where are you stationed?
Are you surrounded by those of like mind,
in the midst of those who possess opinions that match yours?
Or are you appointed to a lonely outpost...
somewhere remote....
where nothing is familiar and no one thinks as you do.
Or worse yet, are you in a place of persecution
where courage takes on a whole new meaning?

We don't always understand our circumstances 
or why God places us where we are.
We do know that He makes no mistakes.
None of us are where we are by accident.
It is all a part of His Divine plan.

He knows where you...and I can be most effective.
He knows what it requires for us to stay strong...and steadfast.
His soldiers are perfectly-equipped for the duty He requires.

Perhaps you see no fruit or result of your faithfulness.
Maybe you see no need to continue to defend your post.
Sometimes, it can seem like there is no point to remaining diligent.

God doesn't always allow us to see what we are accomplishing.

Dad Smith told us a story about one of his posts in the military during World War II.
It was most unusual, in my opinion.
His job was to guard the trash.

Yes, the trash.

He had to be as diligent guarding that trash as he would have been diligent about
fighting on the front lines of a battle or defending the lives of fellow comrades.

He had to stay awake.
Watchful every moment....
in case something unlikely happened.
He was told that the enemy could try to sneak in...through that trash.

An unlikely event, but certainly not impossible or beyond the stretch of the opposition.

I have often admired the soldiers who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
at the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.
Soldiers whose remains could not be identified are buried there.
The soldiers who are stationed to guard the tomb are as diligent and as dedicated to their duty
as if they were leading live troops into hostile enemy territory.

They regard their post as sacred...and with utmost dedication.
It is one of the highest esteemed assignments in the military,
and very rigid, strict requirements must be met in order to "earn" this post.

The tomb has been steadily and continuously guarded
by the 3rd Infantry's Honor Guard since April 6, 1948...
24 hours a day, 365 days a year...
regardless of weather or outward circumstances.
Deserting their post is not on the radar screen of options.
They stand there in the face of rain, storms, wind, and heat.
The tomb must be guarded.
It is just that important.

We may think our post is unnecessary...
obscure....unimportant....or not nearly as needful as that of other soldiers.

God sees it in a different light.

You are where you are because God designed it that way.

Your job and mine is to defend His Gospel...the truth of His Word....right now...
right where we are.

We all have a job to do.
Each task is important.

It is going to take loyal and diligent determination.
Like the Apostle Paul had.
Like the 3rd Infantry's Honor Guard.

It is going to take a made-up mind.

Paul was "set" for the defense of the Gospel.
Am I?
Are you?

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