Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

    by Rayola Kelley

As a writer, I am aware of the power of the pen. I know that the presentation of a matter can change minds and influence worldviews. As a result, my goal has been to present the truth in the right spirit. After all, if you change the meaning of a word, you can change the spirit and intent behind it.

In my observation of how information is now being presented in the various platforms of religion and entertainment, I have noticed the power of these presentations to influence the point of view of many.  The power does not necessarily lie in what is told to us, but in what they fail to reveal.

The problem is that when there is no balanced contrast between opposing views, information simply becomes propaganda, rather than the truth. This was made obvious by the Terri Shiavo case.  We received credible information, that would have changed the present view of many people which never was released through the media. Obviously, the information coming out from the secular media was nothing more than a propaganda ploy to influence people’s thinking, rather than to properly inform them, to enable them to draw wise conclusions.

As I listen to different presentations of Scriptural truths, I must admit that I am concerned that most of it is nothing more than propaganda designed to influence the thinking of others towards certain theologies or causes. Such propaganda is devoid of a right sprit; therefore, it is not the truth.

It is vital for Christians to discern whether something is truth for the purpose of education or whether it is propaganda, a perverted attempt to influence and possibly change what is already perceived as truth. One such presentation that Christians need to consider is Jesus’ sufferings. Today there is a lot of emphasis on this subject. But, we must consider if it is true or nothing more than propaganda. After all, it is up to us to discern such matters, not based on preconceived notions or religious sentiment, but according to the Word of God.

The Bible clearly does not emphasize Jesus’ sufferings. For example, the Gospel is that Jesus died for sin, was buried and rose again. It is the blood of Jesus that redeems us. Obviously, Jesus suffered, but what importance do His sufferings play in our redemption? To come to terms with the concept of suffering, we have to understand its purpose. There are four reasons people suffer. They are: 1) Consequences from wrong decisions and improper conduct, 2) getting caught up with causes, 3) suffering serves as part of the process, and 4) it is also a means of preparation. Let us consider each of these forms of suffering.

People who suffer because of consequences for wrong decisions or actions have no room to display self-pity. There are many people who are suffering because they refuse to take responsibility for their lives, and accountability for their ungodly ways. The Apostle Peter tells us not to think ourselves as suffering for the sake of Christ when we are paying consequences for our wrong conduct (1 Peter 4:15). In such cases, we need to repent, rather than act as if we are being noble about our sufferings.

Some people suffer because of what is considered to be noble causes. Many individuals have suffered because of religious beliefs, political views or moral causes. Some causes seemed quite noble, while others amount to nothing more than propaganda. However, falling into the traps of propaganda means that people are being led to the slaughter, due to their ignorance. It is vital as believers that we understand that the main spiritual battle involves our faith (Hosea 4:6; Jude 3). We must know how to stand for truth, stand against delusion, and withstand the enemies of the soul. After all, faith can only find its basis in the faithfulness of God, who never changes nor lies. Faith believes that what God says is true, will stand in the confidence of His character, and will respond in obedience because it will trust Him with the outcome.

Suffering for the Christian proves to be part of his or her process. This process is to establish the life of Jesus in each of us. Such suffering comes through tribulation and persecution (Galatians 2:20). Acts 14:22 tells us that Christians cannot enter the kingdom of God without many tribulations. Paul tells us that those who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). However, those who suffer with Him will reign and be glorified with Him (Romans 8:17; 2 Tim 2:11).

Finally, suffering is preparation for that which is greater. Once again, I am not talking about the suffering that we bring upon ourselves because of foolishness and rebellion. For the saints in Hebrews 11, suffering pointed to a greater resurrection (Hebrews 11:35). These godly saints never did receive the promise in this present life, but their faith enabled them to obtain a good testimony in the present world, trusting that God would provide something better in the next world.

For the patient Job, his reward was that at the end of his suffering and loss was a revelation of God. No doubt his suffering faded in light of his glorious God who is beyond comprehension and is too wonderful to describe with words (Job 42:5-6; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; James 5:11).

Now let us consider Jesus’ suffering in light of the four reasons mentioned. As you consider the whole scenario around Jesus’ journey to the cross, you realize that He fell into all four categories of suffering. In the first case, Jesus was suffering due to consequences. However, the consequences had nothing to do with His attitude or actions, but with all of humanity. He would take the sins of each of us on Himself, so that we could be forgiven and be redeemed back from the consequences of our sin.

Secondly, Jesus died for other’s causes. The Pharisees wanted to keep their religious kingdom intact. Pilate wanted to keep peace with the Jewish leadership, the crowd was presented with what appeared to be a religious cause, and the Roman soldiers were simply carrying out the cause of those in leadership. As you can see, it is easy to get caught up with the emotional fervor of causes.

In the third area of suffering, Jesus was going through a process that entailed obedience. He was carrying out the will of the Father. In His process of suffering in obedience, He was being perfected as man. Hebrews 5:8-9 confirms this: “Though He were a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which he suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” It was in His suffering as man that He became the author of eternal salvation.

The final reason for suffering is preparation for something greater. Let us consider the first three reasons for suffering. Jesus was suffering on behalf of man, but it was out of obedience to the Father. Such obedience is one’s reasonable service, which cannot be considered honorable or beyond the call of duty. Since He was suffering for the causes of others, there was nothing noble about His sufferings. It was accepted as a necessary step in the scheme of things. In fact, His suffering at the hands of man reveals more about the harsh reality of man and his sinful disposition, than Jesus’ commitment to the Father’s will. Since there was no real nobility in His suffering, He cannot be considered a martyr.

In the third situation, His suffering was part of His process. He was being perfected as man. This brings us to the realization that Jesus was being prepared. The preparation He was going through entailed something of greater purpose and significance. What was Jesus being prepared for? It is simple. He was being prepared to be offered up as the sinless Lamb of God.

Jesus’ sacrifice was about judgment. In fact, He faced three types of judgments. He faced the judgment before the religious system in the palace of the High Priest. The second judgment took place before the Roman authorities in the judgment hall called Gabbatha. God executed the final judgment on the altar of the cross at a place called Golgotha. In the palace of judgment, we are reminded that Jesus is indeed the King of kings. Gabbatha points to the fact that He is the ultimate ruler over all, for all the governments are on His shoulders. At Golgotha, there is no doubt that He is the ultimate sacrifice.

In fact, if you study the three G’s in Jesus journey to the cross, you will see that each one points to Him as this ultimate sacrifice. In Gethsemane, Jesus was being prepared as that sacrifice. At Gabbatha, He was declared to be without fault by Pilate. In other words, He was without sin, enabling Him to become the acceptable sacrifice. At Golgotha, He became the ultimate offering (Jn 18:1; 19:13:17).

Jesus came to be God’s offering. His suffering prepared Him in every way to be offered up on the altar of the world, the cross. On the cross, God would judge all sin. As a result, Jesus would become the ultimate sacrifice for you and me. In fact, He would become a sacrifice in every possible way for each of us.

In next month’s issue, I will show how Jesus fulfilled every sacrifice in the Old Testament. As you will see, Jesus’ journey to Calvary was not about His suffering, but the sacrifice He would present on behalf of every living soul. His suffering was simply the means by which to prepare Him to become God’s ultimate offering.