Michael Youssef - Identity Transformation - Part 12
If you don't know who you are in Christ, you will find your identity in something else. But if you find your identity in Christ alone, your life will be radically transformed. That's why I'm doing this series of messages, entitled, "Identity Transformation". It will transform the way you live out your Christian faith. So, don't miss this life-changing message and don't live your life with an identity crisis. Stay tuned.
In the past three decades or so, there has been a new religion that has been sweeping across the Western world, United States and Europe. This religion has flourished for centuries all over the world, but it began to sweep Europe, and the U.S., and many Western countries in more recent times. Soon, it will be a global religion. They seem to be heading that way. This relatively new religion in the West has followers from all sections of life. Atheists belong to it, Agnostics belong to it, there are Roman Catholics in it, and yes, there are Protestants of all stripes belong to that religion. All have embraced its tenets and teaching.
The amazing thing about this new religion is it doesn't have a founder that you can point to. It has many high priests. It has lots of priests and priestesses. These include famous celebrities, politicians, and certainly there are some bishops in some churches and pastors who have embraced this new religion. This new religion does not recognize but only one sin. One sin. If you commit that sin, you would lose your job, easily. You would have your organization shut. You would have campus ministry closed. You become a pariah in society. You could become threatened with ostracizing. Why? Because that one sin being a very serious sin in their books, because of this one sin being the most offensive to their sensibility, because that one sin has no mitigating factors. That makes it very serious to them.
The news comes from all over the globe on a daily basis in Europe, and England, and United States, and the consequences of those who violate that sin. In England, I have somebody that I know who worked for British Airways, lost her job. In the United States, we read daily about highly respected people, including a company CEO, who've lost their job for committing such a heinous sin. What is that religion? Well, they give it a nice, benign, and smooth name, and they call it "tolerance". The religion of tolerance, sweeping across the land. If you read the fine print in that religion, it goes something like this: We are to be tolerant of every weird and devious behavior. We are to be tolerant of every religion, regardless of its vile teaching. We are to be tolerant of every sort of immorality.
Therefore, the only sin that we do not tolerate is the Bible-believing Christians who are so narrow-minded that they believe that Jesus is the only Savior, that Jesus is the only way to heaven, that Jesus is the absolute truth, that Jesus is the only revelation of the one true God. And yet, Jesus and his moral absolutes provided, whenever they accepted and whenever they practiced, societies flourished, societies blessed. History proves it over, and over, and over again. But to them, you commit this sin of exclusivity and you lose everything. I'm sure many of you probably asking the question, how in the world did we get down so far from our roots? How can a traditional Christian lands call the most loving people on the face of the earth bigots? How can they be persecuted for their belief and practice?
How can a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ who founded the whole hospital movements and brought healing to the globe, not just in the West, the Christians who alleviated the pain of millions of people, who created the education system and brought education to their whole globe, the ones who brought the message of love to loveless people, those who brought a relief from all sorts of sufferings, those who have brought hope to the hopeless, who exercise mercy to the merciless, those who love their enemies and pray for their persecutors, how can they now be treated as pariahs? Let me tell you how. I pray to God that everyone, young or old, listening to me will take notice, if nothing else mentally.
This is exactly how it happened in history. Listen carefully. It began when the churches back yonder became apathetic about their faith. It began when churches back yonder began to water down the gospel of Jesus Christ. It began when churches and church leaders became ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It began when apathy became a virtue. It began when we allowed the enemies of Christ to define Christianity. And the result? First of all, there was confusion among the blissfully ignorant, and then became intimidated, either to be silenced or to accept these redefinitions. Now, we are at a time when evil is called good and good is called evil.
So, what's the answer? It's no use raising the problem. What's the answer? The answer, my beloved friends, for every one of us individually and corporately, to shake off apathy, that we must begin by shaking off fear, that we must begin by trusting in the power of God alone, that we must begin by kneeling on the promises of God and staying there until God answers. We must not be concerned by all the silly differences that we have, differences that has nothing to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ, difference that has nothing to do with Christian doctrine, differences that has nothing to do with inerrancy of the Scripture, differences that have nothing to do with the centrality of Jesus Christ as the only way to the Father. And beloved, we must also learn to grow deeper in our knowledge and obedience to the Word of God. We must be willing to suffer. Yes, you heard me right, suffer. We must be willing at least to suffer for Christ. Hear me right, please.
As long as we value our comfort and our acceptability to the culture, as long as we cherish leisure and entertainment above the Word of God, above the truth of the Word of God, as long as our likes and dislikes placed above willingness to suffer for Christ, Satan is gonna have a heyday as he goes on a rampage, albeit still subtle. While we shy away and run away from any hint of suffering for the sake of Christ, Satan loves it. And the Apostle Peter exalts us that we should not be surprised by suffering for Christ. I'm not talking about all suffering, this is specific suffering for Christ.
I want you to turn with me please to 1 Peter chapter 4, beginning at verse 12. "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, 'If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?' So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good."
Peter said, verse 12, "Don't be surprised when you suffer unjustly for the sake of Christ, but rather rejoice and consider it to be a privilege or honor to suffer for Christ". Here's something I don't want you to forget. This is the same Peter, who's writing these words inspired by the Holy Spirit, is the same Peter who in Matthew 16:21, 22, and 23, there on Caesarea Philippi, "Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, and the chief priests, and the teachers of the law, and be killed but on the third day rise to life". Here it comes. Here it comes. "Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 'Never, Lord!' he said. 'This shall never happen to you.' Jesus said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You're a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of man.'"
This is the same Peter who said, "Do not be surprised when you suffer". Do you think these words and that incident on Caesarea Philippi is not burning in his memory as he was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write verses 12 and 13? This is the same Peter who found it strange for Christ to suffer is now saying it's an honor to suffer for Christ. He found it strange for the pure, sinless Son of God to suffer, and yet now he says, "Now it's a great honor to suffer for Christ. It's a privilege to suffer for Christ. IT's a joy to suffer for Christ," all because he witnessed the resurrection. I hear that 75% of the youth in America have no convictions, only feelings of what is right and what is wrong. I shudder, and that is why in this church we are absolutely committed to helping students to understand the privilege and the joy of not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, amen.
We must always remind ourselves and remind our families that suffering for Christ is not only a privilege, but it's always temporary. Furthermore, suffering for Christ prepares us for glory. Suffering for Christ helps us to see life in perspective. Suffering for Christ teaches us that there is an indescribable blessing that you cannot receive it any other way other than being insulted and suffered for Christ. Look at verse 14. "If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you". Jesus put it this way in John 15:18, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own". A man by the name of Herbert Samuel died in 1963, but he made quite a profound statement. Listen carefully. He said, "It is easy to be tolerant of any principles if you have none of your own". How profound.
And that is why now, more than ever, we have to teach not only what we believe. It's so easy to sing and it's easy to teach what we believe, but we must teach why we believe what we believe. Beloved, you and I have to understand that for 2,000 years of Christian history, there have been many who have thought that the disappearance of Christianity would make the world a better place. Little do they know that when finally the church of Jesus Christ is raptured from this earth, what they're gonna have and left behind with is hell itself. One of their own philosophers, Richard Rorty, put it this way. He said, "If Christianity will not wither away, then perhaps it can be privatized," and that's what they're doing right now, "and thereby removed from influence on public life, sort of like a localized an outbreak of a plague".
And yet, the history proves again, and again, and again that Christianity flourishes best under persecution. And so, the question is, what does a true Bible-believing Christian do? The answer is that we love them, and then love them some more, but never surrender the truth. Invite them to come to Christ, not in anger, but in love. Invite them to repent, not in self-righteousness, but pointing them to the righteousness of the only one who died for their sin. Invite them to see that you do not reject sin in other people's lives, but you also reject sin in your life. Plead with them as one who pleads with a person who's trapped in a burning house. Above all, resist the temptation, at any cost, of becoming ashamed of the gospel.
So, the first not only to receive, we receive a special blessing, a unique blessing, when we joyfully accept suffering for Christ. Secondly, he said, verse 16, he said, "Don't be ashamed of Christ, be ashamed if you suffer for the wrong things that you have committed". The shame that you should feel when you suffer as a consequence of your wrongdoing. The only shame you should experience is when you begin to reap the consequences of the things that you have sown. But even then, when you repent and turn to the Lord, he's not only gonna forgive you, he's gonna restore you and he's gonna use you again. But there's something here I don't want you to miss in verse 15. After he mentioned the list of evil things that people could do, even Christians, he adds a word here that literally pulled me out of my chair. He adds or includes meddlers. Meddlers.
I came to the conclusion, beloved, listen to me very carefully please, that we cannot malign others behind their back and get away with it. Don't think that you can impugn other people's motives and get away with it. Don't think that you can ruin or tarnish someone's reputation and get away with it. Don't ever think that meddling in somebody else's life is inconsequential. In fact, God includes meddling in the same list as adultery, and pride, and wickedness of all sorts. So, be forewarned. Be forewarned. It may be a last warning to some. Peter is saying that these subtle sins that harm our brothers and sisters in Christ, they pain the heart of God and tarnish your witness. In 1 Thessalonians, Paul calls them trouble-makers, agitators. Think about this. We ought to object to sin without being objectionable.
So, the first thing is suffering for righteousness has a great blessing. Secondly, suffering for our wrongdoing receives its just reward. And verse 19, thirdly, in the midst of suffering for righteousness, he will never, never, never leave you nor forsake you. Rather than taking the insult and the false accusation personally, look at it as an opportunity to deepen your trust in God. And when you trust in God in the midst of your suffering for him, he will free you from fear. When you trust in him when things do not make sense in your life, you will experience his presence with you in a unique way. When you commit yourself fully to him in the middle of injustice and unfairness, he will set you free from anxiety and from worry, why? Because you are walking with the Lord in obedience. And when you walk with the Lord in obedience, he is going to walk with you in your fiery furnace. He's gonna show up ahead of you in the den of lions and zip the mouths of the lions. He will appear to you in the midst of your prison, whatever it may be.
A very prominent underground church leader in China... and by the way, there are hundreds of thousands of these underground churches all over China, and they refuse to come out in the open. And this man has thousands of underground churches under him. He's a very prominent person. He came to America and they've outed him here. And they took him to all the megachurches, including some of the largest, if not the largest church in America, and they were just showing him this church and this church. And at the end of his time, they were asking him, "What do you think"? Here's what he said, "I am so amazed at how much churches in America can accomplish without God".
A.W. Tozer said that 95% of what goes on in churches will keep on going if the Holy Spirit is not there. I said to the Lord, "May this never be said of us. May it never be said of us, regardless of the cost". But there may be someone here today who's kind of a friendly to the Christian faith. You've never really received Jesus as your Savior and Lord. You've never really understood what it means to be all in. You kind of nod acquaintance to God, and nod an acquaintance with the church, and you understand that this is the only way for your eternal life. I don't want you to leave here without making that commitment, so I'm gonna ask you to pray with me.
Father, I thank you for these precious people who love you, who want to love you more with all their hearts. Father, I pray for a special anointing from heaven for a special unction on each of them. Father, I pray that you give them strength and courage to stand and not be ashamed of the gospel; Father, that you will polish their testimonies so that they will shine wherever they may go. For I pray this in Jesus' name, amen.