Weekly Devotional - July 12, 2015

“Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” (John 15:20)

Scripture Reading – Acts 26:9-20

Throughout His final instructions to His disciples, Jesus stressed that humility is one of the keys to being in Christ and producing fruit that lasts. As He did earlier (John 13:16), Jesus reminds them that they are not greater than He is. Our model of humility is Christ Himself who left heaven to come to earth as a servant, and seek and save the lost. He suffered great humiliation as He bore our curse on the cross. Christ, who was in heaven, was willing to subject Himself to all of this because of His humility and willingness to fulfill the Father’s plan. In the same way, we too must embrace humility. Bringing the gospel to the world cannot be done with heart full of pride. For it is not our agenda that is our priority. No. We orient our life around God’s plans and submit to His perfect will for our lives. There should be no argument from us. If Christ was willing to do the Father’s will at such a great cost to Himself and, if we are not as great as Christ, then we too should be willing to do so.

The consequence of living in humble submission to the will of God is persecution. Jesus was persecuted. He was falsely accused and found guilty in spite all of the evidence that proved His innocence. They treated Jesus as though He was a common criminal. They battered and bruised His body. Then they killed Him in one of the most cruel methods ever designed by humans. Christ died on the cross in agony. Yet Jesus faced this persecution with love—for us. He stayed true to the Father’s plan knowing that He would be glorified in the end.

Since the death of Christ until now, His followers have suffered because of their allegiance to Him. “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’” In 64 AD, the Emperor Nero wanted to rebuild a section of Rome, so he set the homes and buildings on fire. The fire was so great that it burned for six days. As expected, the people of Rome were furious that their homes were destroyed. They rightly blamed Nero for starting the fire. In order to save himself, Nero accused the Christians of starting the fire and, by doing so, unleashed a terrible wave of state-sponsored persecution against the church. Christians were arrested and some were crucified, while others were tied to poles and lit on fire. Still others were brought to the Coliseum where they were made sport of by being fed to lions and tigers. Even the apostles Paul and Peter were swept up in these persecutions and killed.

The witness of the early church was so tied to their persecution and death that the Greek word for witness (martus) became synonymous for martyrs, meaning those who are willing to die for their cause. We are to be ambassadors for Christ, and represent His kingdom to the world. As we faithfully proclaim His message no matter the cost to us personally, we can be confident that our suffering is not fruitless. The gospel, when served up to the world, even through persecution, means salvation for those appointed by God. Some will hear and will respond violently by persecuting you; they will think that they are doing a great service to God, but be encouraged. There will be others who will hear and recognize that the Good News is the voice of the Lord calling them to Himself (John 10:27). They will respond not with hatred, but with obedience. What price are you willing to pay so that the gospel will be proclaimed in your area?

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