“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”(Romans 8:35a ESV).
I discovered a yellow jacket infestation the way many persons discover yellow jackets and it hurt. I was surprised to discover I retain the ability to run very fast, even at the age of sixty-one.
Twice now, in the early morning, nursing a slightly swollen hand, I have snuck up on their suspected hiding place armed with a garden hose laced with insecticide and emptied my spite where I thought it would do the most good, and waited. But each afternoon they remain as before, busy being, well, bees, of a sort.
Yellow jackets are tenacious.
The church seems beset by human yellow jackets; anti-Christian groups that are particularly vicious in their actions. Lawsuits have become commonplace, brought against Christians for prayer in public places, or for openly expressing heartfelt praise for God’s mercy as manifested in historic events or in our personal lives, or for practicing our beliefs by abstaining from and sometimes speaking against practices the world would say is fine and reasonable. I heard Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of Liberty Institute, an organization that defends religious freedom in America, say he believes religious freedom in America is under assault and we are at a tipping point.
Perhaps the anti-Christian groups believe Christians are the yellow jackets that must be eradicated. Yet Scripture says non-believers will exhibit, among other behaviors, “discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy” (Galatians 5:20b-21a NIV). In contrast, Christians guided by the Holy Spirit will exhibit “love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22b-23a NIV).
If the shoe fits (or the yellow jacket), wear it.
But it is not just yellow jackets we are contending with, is it? Gallup says three in four Americans say they are Christians (Gallup Daily tracking December 2014). The same survey reports more than half attend worship services at least monthly and 41% report they attend worship weekly. Yet abortions continue, gossip continues, immorality (as defined by Scripture, not by man) continues, pride continues, and the foolishness of humans to build their own gods continues unabated since the beginning of time. With a supposed three in four majority, how do we succumb to the philosophy of the world? The sheer numbers of persons identifying with Christ reveals we are our own worst enemies; all of the stuff we don’t admire in others cannot be confined to just one in four of us.
At church last week, two of our pastors spoke of the importance of being a follower of Christ and not just a fan of Christ. Followers imitate. Followers act. Fans enjoy, are mentally titillated for a while, may even enjoy a moment’s respite in the mundane and often difficult stuff of life, but fans do not last and do not gain peace or abundance of joy. Fans don’t change; but followers become someone else.
Do you want to be changed?
To the three out of four of us who claim to be Christians, renew your discovery of the God who loved you so much He died for you. Renew your discovery of relationship with a God who not only wants to be known by you but who will lead you in the work of discovery. Yes, it is work—you must seek Him, read His Scriptures, wrestle with difficult passages, finding the time to spend with Him though you don’t control any of time, and persevere when everything else you do wants and demands your time.
As for the one in four of us, become a witness to them because that is our mission. In the book of Isaiah it reads:
“A voice says, ‘Cry out.’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’
“All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:6-8 NIV).
Be confident in this: Truth is absolute and can be known because it has been revealed.
There are imposters in the world that will turn the truth into a lie if they can do so. Jesus said we will know them by their fruits. The Apostle John warned us, “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God” (1 John 4:1-3a NIV).
A friend of mine once said, “It is a poor carpenter who blames his tools.” Whose plumb line are you using to discover the truth? God has placed the question squarely in front of each of us. Recall the admonishment of Joshua to the Israelites: “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15a ESV).
Be alert for yellow jackets who seek to sting us when someone dares to speak a word of truth as given to us by God. Sitting on the sidelines is not an option. God wants to know where you stand. And so do His enemies.