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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Count it all joy!

 7-8"Listen now, you who know right from wrong, you who hold my teaching inside you:  Pay no attention to insults, and when mocked don't let it get you down.  Those insults and mockeries are moth-eaten, from brains that are termite-ridden, but my setting-things-right lasts, my salvation goes on and on and on."
(Isaiah 51:7-8 The Message)

There are times when we just feel like the world is against us - like all we live for and stand for is just ridiculed and considered to be silliness in the eyes of those around us.  These are the times when we need to re-read these words and take heart.  The unbeliever has no revelation of God beyond our testimony of a life "squared up" by living the principles God teaches.  It is the testimony of one that can affect the lives of millions!

Do you realize that mockery is really the highest form of honor we can receive?  Think about it - someone sees our the testimony of Jesus in us and finds it so convicting that the only thing they can do is to attempt to counterfeit it!  That is a true definition of mockery - to attempt to imitate or counterfeit!  This has been the pattern with humankind from the beginning of time - if we cannot have the real thing, we just try to get as close to it as possible!  Why else do you think we have "generic" everything on the store shelves?  Not only is it an imitation of the real thing, but it costs less!

I was once told that people make fun of what they don't really understand.  That is indeed true, but I think they also find what they don't understand a little "threatening" to them!  Their attacks are attempts to ridicule or deride the testimony of Christ within our lives that are often undertaken because there is a "threat" in the reality of Jesus they see in us!  As long as they are only presented with an "imitation" or the "generic Jesus", there is no threat to their way of life.  When there is any evidence of the reality of Christ in a person's life, it affects those around them.  The natural outcome of living by the teachings of Christ, allowing them to affect our conduct, is that others will sense the reality of Christ in us and be convicted by the evidence they see.  

I recall hearing my pastor years ago ask the question, "If you run into a total stranger this week, what characteristic of Christ will be the first thing they recognize in your life?"  Now, being wired the way I am, I wanted to raise my hand and begin firing off answers!  You know, the "pat" answers that we all know - the answers like:  "The unconditional love of Jesus", "The grace of God", or "The sweetness of Jesus' willingness to accept the sinner".  You probably could make your own list.  The fact is, when I really began to think that one through later on, I found that the "pat answers" really weren't all that "pat"!

In fact, I found that I pretty much had "conditions" on my love, "grace" was sometimes the furthest from my inclinations toward another, and "accepting" a sinner was almost impossible because they just didn't "fit" in my life!  Ouch!  Ummm....can you say, "Conviction"?  As I began to be honest about my own short-comings, God began to work with that honesty.  I am far from being able to love without "strings" attached (conditions), but I am getting better at it.  I have a lot to learn about grace, but I find that the more of it I am recipient of, the easier it is to understand how much another needs that same "slack" in their lives.  Accepting sinners for who and what they are is much easier when I get the first two pretty much in alignment with God's expectations.

So, the next time you are mocked for your faith, I would encourage you to not feel affronted by that counterfeiting of your faith, or the criticism of it.  In fact, you might just want to turn to God and thank him for the evidence of his life that is obviously "making it to the surface" in yours!  It is that evidence that is bringing conviction into another's and that is what brings God's grace into the lives of those most desperate to receive it!