Devotions

Persecuted • Devotion #2: The Summer of “76”

Many years ago, I watched as a friend gave his life to the Lord. I had no understanding of what had happened, but somehow I knew he was different. You see, I had never been introduced to Jesus and without having a family connected with the church, I had no way of knowing the truth. My friend’s family came from a long line of churchgoers, so he fit right in and I am sure there was a celebration for his new birth. Throughout my teen years, I watched as others gave their lives to the Lord as this was the “Jesus movement” of the ‘70s. So many were leaving the party scene for the Jesus scene that I actually contemplated joining. Those that left, had a different way about them. It was a more joyous and sincere outlook on life. This intrigued me.

John 15:11 says, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

Intrigued, but not overcome, I continued to chase what the world had to offer. Occasionally, I would look back on that summer of “76” and think about those who had given their lives over to Jesus. Where were they now and what were they doing? Did they stay committed to Jesus, or did they succumb to the constant pressure of the world? Did they somehow get worn down from the constant cajoling that a non-believer would put on them? Did campus life finally get to them? Had they fallen back into the lifestyle they had before? Were they somehow persecuted for their beliefs or made fun of by others? Or did they find a peace that surpasses all understanding? It is where no matter what was thrown their way, they were able to endure it. It would be many years before I would experience what they most assuredly did back in the ‘70s and it was an eye-opener.

Philippians 4:7 adds, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Thirty years later, as I freely sat in a church for the first time, I finally experienced the joy so many had talked about years ago. My sin before me, as the Holy Spirit convicted me and I repented, receiving a full pardon for my transgressions, I now understand who Jesus is talking about in His sermon on the hill in Galilee so many years ago. The redeemed are those that Jesus speaks of in the Beatitudes. Only those who receive salvation will see the Kingdom of Heaven and only “they” will have the blessing of being persecuted for righteousness. Until that day of salvation, I could never have known who Jesus spoke about. While most people were intrigued by my instantaneous change, others were amused (thinking I was going through a phase), and yet others found no amusement at all in my new found faith. That very evening, I began a long list of calls inviting others to get to know the Savior and telling them of my new transformation. For most, this invitation was considered a nice gesture, but for others, it was an outright battle cry. There are those that I have not spoken to since that fateful night because of my testimony. Merely mentioning the name Jesus created a chasm that has yet to be spanned to this day. Yet, there are others who try and find a reason to knock me down a notch any chance they get. I guess it makes them nervous that I belong to the King.

Matthew 5:10 says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

While it hurts to lose friends because of your faith in Jesus, it quickly becomes apparent that it is yet proof, you are a child of God. I am no prophet, but I see a time coming soon when we will see persecution, unlike anything we have seen before. At the mere mention of Jesus’ name, we may find ourselves in a place of extreme danger, but remember, it only proves we are His. Continue to pray for those who are now your enemies and that they too can become a child of God. Hopefully, they will learn first-hand what it means to be persecuted for righteousness’ sake, and the only way to receive that righteousness is through faith in Christ.

Romans 3:22-24 records, “The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”



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