Monday, October 29, 2012

Exiles or Faithful Followers

Our attitudes and perceptions have a measurable impact on our accomplishments. If we see ourselves as abandoned, lost or forgotten we are more likely to lose heart, suffer depression, and give up. On the other hand, if we see ourselves as called, chosen, equipped and faithful, we are more likely to be motivated, empowered and courageous. So, I ask the question: Are we exiles or faithful followers of Christ?

Psalm 146:1-10 “Praise the Lord, my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God. He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—he remains faithful forever. He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. The Lord reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord.” (NIV)

God reigns forever and He is our help. He is our support and because of His faithfulness we have reason to praise Him. We cannot put our trust in human efforts. No matter how great and powerful or wise and understand human institutions appear they are powerless to save us. Their influence dies with them. The benefits and blessings recorded here for those who put their trust in God should encourage us to see ourselves as “Faithful Followers of Christ”.

God has not and will not abandon us. He lifts us up when we are bowed down. He remains faithful forever. The Lord loves the righteous. So, as long as we are committed to His Word, living according to His standards of right and wrong dedicated to His service, He supplies our needs. But, He frustrates the ways of the wicked.

You are not lost. You are not forgotten. You have not been driven into exile. The world has marginalized the “Voice of the Christian Message” not because it cannot understand the message, but because it does not want to adhere to the standard of righteousness it sets. Do you see yourself as a powerless exile or are you a faithful follower of Christ?

Persecution is not a new reality for Christians. From the very beginning those who have put their faith in Christ have been a target; yet, God upholds the cause of the oppressed.

Acts 26:14-18 “And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’” (NASB)

This passage from Acts reminds us that even the Apostle Paul was once a persecutor of the church. Even in the midst of his conversion he knew who he was persecuting. Paul called Him Lord.

God chooses His servants. He plans our lives. He directs our paths. He trains and equips us. He gives us our assignments. As long as we remain on the path God has chosen for us we are never exiles. God knows who you are. He knows where you are and He understands completely what you are going through. Begin to see yourself as a “Faithful Follower of Christ”. Give up the idea that you are somehow an “Exile”. If you have not abandoned God, He surely has not abandoned you. Scripture tells us, “As a man thinks in his heart so is he.”

Romans 5:1-9 “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” (KJV)

God never promised we would live a problem free life. He did promise we would be saved from His wrath. He also promised that He would not abandon us. Seeking His Kingdom and His Righteousness will meet ALL our needs in this life.

Hebrews 8:10-12 “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will imprint My laws upon their minds, even upon their innermost thoughts and understanding, and engrave them upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And it will nevermore be necessary for each one to teach his neighbor and his fellow citizen or each one his brother, saying, Know (perceive, have knowledge of, and get acquainted by experience with) the Lord, for all will know Me, from the smallest to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful and gracious toward their sins and I will remember their deeds of unrighteousness no more.” (AMP)

Our quality of life and our accomplishments for the Kingdom of God are both a matter of choice. We can accept and live under the covenant God has established or we can walk away from His offer and doom ourselves to a lifetime of exile. The wise choice is to be a faithful follower, but God gives us the choice.

Jeremiah 29:4-14 “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: ‘Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.’ This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘Do not let your prophets and fortune-tellers who are with you in the land of Babylon trick you. Do not listen to their dreams, because they are telling you lies in my name. I have not sent them,’ says the Lord. This is what the Lord says: ‘You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,’ says the Lord. ‘I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.’” (NLT)

Our stubbornness often forces us to live in exile when all God desires of us is our faithfulness. If you truly are living in that place of exile, how long are you willing to stay there? Have you built such a comfortable house and cultivated such a beautiful garden that you are willing to raise your children and grandchildren in a land of sorrow?

Yes, according to these verses, even living in exile we can have a positive effect on our communities, but however good our life in exile appears to be it does not measure up to the plan God has for us. Wholeheartedly seek God from the place of exile you find yourself in and God will not only hear your prayer – He will quickly bring you out of exile and restore you as a faithful follower of Christ.

The way you see yourself determines what you will be able to accomplish. How many years will you spend in the vanity and pride of exile before turning to Calvary and becoming a faithful follower of Christ?

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