Mar 9, 2020
Join us as we explore God’s ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.
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Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.
Here we are in the middle of Lent. My brother and I used to chuckle when my father talked about Lent from the pulpit. We'd point to our bellybutton and pretend to pull something from it, bellybutton lint. But Lent, those forty days of preparation leading up to Easter, represent an important time in the church year.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. The ashes represent our acknowledgment that we belong to the multitude of sinners called humans. We all sin and come short of the glory of God. When we examine our lives by his standards, we fall short.
I've been reading about first-century Christians a lot lately how they thought, what they did. The rituals they performed to join the early church and declare their loyalty to Christ. I'm not sure I could have gone through what they did. I'd like to think my love for Christ is deep enough and strong enough, but in the early church, associating with Jesus could literally cost everything. Many lost their jobs, homes, families, even their ability to go into the market place to buy the essentials for life, like food. Some lost their lives in under cruel torturous ways, burned, torn apart, fed to wild beasts and dogs—all to please the blood-lust of evil men.
Could I dip beneath the baptismal pool and declare I am willing to give all of that for Christ? They did. It's why they had those days of preparation. The church wanted them to take the time to count the cost of following Jesus. It would not be an easy road ahead once you belonged to the Kingdom of God. Jesus told his disciples the world would hate them because of the name they bore. So those forty days became a time of study, learning what the church believed about the teachings, death, and resurrection of Christ. And a time of introspection, determining whether one was willing to pay the price of following him. During those forty days, some decided they could not accept the sacrifice Christianity demanded.
I'm not sure we understand the demands of following Christ in this country. He still calls us to give everything. Following him means all we have, including our lives and livelihood, belong to him. But we haven't experienced persecution the way the early church did. Sometimes we think the world persecutes us here when they talk about Christians or demand we take down our nativity scenes, change the names of holidays, or rewrite history to obliterate the moral right of some of the events of the past. But that isn't persecution.
Those things fall into the category of the old "sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me," rhyme we learned as kids. Unfortunately, we have become so sensitive we think those words are the same as religious extremists dragging your children out of the house in front of you and setting them on fire. It's not the same. We think the insults we receive in this country can be as damaging as when your property is taken or destroyed, then your left beaten and bloodied in the street. It's not the same.
We think we know persecution. We don't. But Jesus still demands everything from us. Perhaps it's harder to be a Christian here because we don't know what it means to give everything to him. We have so much. He blessed this country with such bounty. We don't know what it means to sacrifice. I'm not asking God to pour out his judgment and take all that away, but I think we would find out quickly who the real followers are if suddenly life was at risk for following Jesus.
Here's the funny thing about all of this. Life is at risk. Perhaps we begin to feel that risk in the pit of our stomach as this coronavirus scare pushes around the world. Does it just give mild symptoms, as some suggest? Or is it the next killer virus, like the Spanish flu of 1918? Are you in the low-risk group or high-risk group?
Life is always at risk. But it's not our physical life we need concern ourselves. I'm not saying I want to take my last breath today, but I'm ready in case I do. I know, by God's Spirit's assurance, I will one day be with him in heaven. Whether I fail to wake one morning, or some disaster of natural or human-made design cuts life short, I know my destiny. The pain endured in this world is like the flicker of a candle in the wind compared to the joy we will know in the brilliant light and glory of our Savior.
These forty days leading up to Easter are a time to reflect, look inward, count the cost. The last few weeks increased fear in the world, but for those who know Jesus as Redeemer, there is no fear of death. It's just another chapter in life. Whatever this round of media coverage holds, whether hype, or hysteria, or coverup, or real, our role as Christians is still to carry the message of the one whose legacy is peace.
Dig deep and let the God of peace settle your heart in these days of preparation for a monumental Easter celebration.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible-based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.