Friday, April 24, 2015

Our Calling Opens Our Minds to the Truth / Persecution

All of us who have been called into God's truth, into His Church, have a precious gift. Without it, we would be blinded like the rest of the world.

"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:44). "So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Revelation 12:9).

"But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them" (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). "What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. Just as it is written: 'God has given them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear, to this very day' " (Romans 11:7-8).

Those of us who are called in this age have the opportunity to be part of the first fruits of God, those who will be resurrected and changed to immortality in the first resurrection at the return of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:51-52, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, Revelation 20:4-6). It is the Holy Spirit that opens our minds to the truth (1 Corinthians 2:10-16).

How precious is that?

One way to look at it is to compare the number who are called with the number who are not. The population of the earth right now is estimated at over seven billion. How many have been called to have their minds open to God's truth? We cannot even estimate how many have been called and have rejected the call, and even estimating those who have been converted and known the truth but have fallen away is hard because we cannot know how many never really believed the truth in the first place, though they seemed to "fit in" for a while (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43). But of those who have accepted God's calling and responded and today know and believe the truth and are either converted members of God's Church or are prospective members, even if scattered, perhaps there are 70,000 in the entire world. That is only a ballpark figure, a very rough estimate, but it can give us a perspective on how rare it is that one is called by God into His truth at this time. That 70,000 is about one out of a hundred thousand of everyone on earth today.

One out of a hundred thousand. That is how precious our calling is.

And without that calling, we CANNOT know the truth, not with the depth God requires of the first fruits, and probably not much truth at all.

Sometimes we may have a discussion with someone outside the Church of God on some point of doctrine, or on evolution, or even on God's existence. That discussion may take the form of a debate or argument. Sometimes that is a good idea and sometimes it is not (Proverbs 26:4-5). Often it becomes a waste of time, yet it is not apparent in the beginning that it is a waste of time. But occasionally, an open discussion with someone outside the Church of God may be the means by which God begins to call that person. But God must open that person's mind to the truth, or the discussion will not bring that person to the truth.

Those who are not called will not accept the truth. Sometimes, such a person may seem very reasonable. He has arguments on his side which seem to him to be logical, and he is willing to discuss questions of truth and doctrine very reasonably. It can seem for a while that if we just show him his error, the missing link in his chain of logic, he will see the light.

And it seems to work for a time.

But once the person is "boxed in" with logic and cannot escape by being reasonable, his strategy changes. He is no longer reasonable. He will end the conversation, shut us out, even avoid us. There is no longer a pretense of being reasonable or logical.

And in the future, if we can preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning with power such that our message cannot be avoided, such people will persecute us to shut us up. They will seek to kill us if necessary, or imprison us, to keep us quiet because they cannot answer what we say logically and they cannot justify themselves easily in their own minds. We will cause them to have a guilty conscience. So they will try to destroy our work of warning and preaching the good news and will seek to shut us up, permanently if necessary.

The human mind is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). It wants to justify itself and think well of itself. This can motivate a person to be reasonable and logical at first. He wants to think well of himself. He wants to think, "I have logic on my side, I can be very reasonable." He has already built in his mind an edifice of faulty logic, logic that seems right on the surface but isn't, so he can justify his behavior to himself. He has done this in his mind for years. So he can appear to be open-minded, even conceding some minor points that are proved to him. But when something important comes along, and he can no longer seem, even to himself, to be logical about it without accepting the truth, he will give up trying to seem logical and reasonable and will simply reject the truth. And if that makes him feel guilty or destroys his self-image of being reasonable, he may avoid the person who tells him the truth or may strike against him.

His whole approach can change before our eyes. The person who has seemed up to this point to be open-minded, intelligent, willing to discuss things reasonably, logical, and willing to learn, suddenly becomes non-communicative. He is no longer willing to discuss the matter reasonably. We have boxed him in with the truth, and he cannot escape it by seeming to be reasonable any more, not even with himself. His self-image of being reasonable and right is threatened, and he is no longer friendly with us. So he avoids us or strikes back at us. At the least, he avoids discussion of the matter. At the worst, he becomes angry and hostile towards us.

And that is a foretaste of the flavor of the persecution that is in store for the Church.

We have to face persecution to some degree. "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12). "He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it" (Matthew 10:39). "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). "They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service" (John 16:2). "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake" (Matthew 24:9).

We may have to suffer, but our precious calling is worth it.

Being willing to stand for the truth even when it is hard is one of the ways we overcome. "Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, 'Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death' " (Revelation 12:10-11).

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